I wrote to Travis from "Boy of Summer" yesterday to get his reaction to the loss of Mike Stanton, and R. Mendoza. Here is what he had to say:
Liked your writings on the losses of Mendoza and
Stanton. I liked them both too, though I can see why
the yanks cut them loose. Stanton's getting old (will
be 36 in early June) and lost his ability to finish
batters off (only 44 K's in 78 IP, down from about
1/IP throughout his career). His ERA stayed
relatively low, but he's gonna have problems if he
doesn't find whatever he used to use to strike batters
out. He might have been worth it if he'd accepted the
$2.5 mil/year contract, but definitely isn't worth
risking more than that. Incidentally, as a Christian
myself, his "God Squad" membership actually made me
like him more, and certainly had to have some hand in
his willingness to be accountable when he blew one.
I think they'll miss Mendoza more. There aren't a lot
of guys out there who give you ~100 relief innings
with an ERA 20% better than league average and never
bitch about wanting a closers or starter's job.
Someone will get themselves a nice reliever in Mendoza
next year, but again, if it costs them more than $3
mil/yr, they're getting ripped off.
I'll miss them too, but there are always guys out
there like Chris Hammond who can do what you want for
what you want to pay. I just wish for once we could
get one of these patented Leo Mazzone reclaimation
projects *before* his pricetag goes from sardines to
So there's my take
I'm usually leary of mixing Religion with, well, almost anything, so I was struck by Travis' comment that Stanton's faith "certainly had to have some hand in his willingness to be accountable when he blew one." I like to believe that a ballplayer can be a man of integrity without neccesarily being devotely religious, but on second thought, Travis could be right. I don't want my own prejudice to discount the fact that Travis may be on to something. Of course not knowing Stanton personally, I can't say for sure, but it made me think of Andre Thorton, the Cleveland Indian slugger of the late 70's and 1980's.
In October, 1977, Thorton lost his wife and one of his children in a horrible car accident. Thorton had turned to Christ when he was still in high school, but after the accident he became more outgoing with his faith, and began leading a prayer group on the team. It wasn't met with open arms by rest of his teammates, but Thorton wasn't out to "shove religion down anyone's throat." According to Terry Pluto's book, "The Curse of Rocky Colavito", "Thorton's ministry grew, not just with the Indians but in the entire community. He organized youth groups and worked with various churches.
'Andy probably had as big an impact on my life as anyone I've ever met because of how he lives his faith,' said Mike Hargrove. 'They tell you that Christians are passive, but Andy is just the opposite. Andy would say that God gave you a special talent, and it was up to you to play as hard as you could. And how he continued to play after the tragedy---that was an inspiration to me.'
Those who know Thorton realize that he can be intimidating because he is so honest and has almost a spiritual presence.
'When I introduced my wife to Andy for the first time, she told me that she wasn't sure if she ever wanted to see him again,' said [Duane] Kuiper. 'I asked her why. She said, "It's those eyes. He looked right through me." That is how it is with Andy. When you meet him, he looks you right in the eye, almost as if he's looking right into your soul.'
Again, I don't know if this is the case with Mike Stanton. But perhaps his faith does account for his willingness to be a stand-up guy (does it also explain his reputation for being a class A bench jockey, I don't know). Thanks to Travis for making me take a look at the limitations of my own preconcieved notions.