Monthly archives: January 2003
LETS GO METS ESPN
LETS GO METS
ESPN has been running a series called "Hot Stove Heaters" this winter, previewing each and every team. Today, Bob Klapisch pens the 2003 scouting report for your New York Mets. He also adds a column about Ty Wigginton; so too, for that matter, does The New York Times.
Perhaps the best news for Mets fans is their promising farm system, which was analyzed by minor-league guru, John Sickels:
This comes as good news indeed, especially after the Mets lost the one, long-standing player who came up through their system, Edgardo Alfonzo, to free agency this winter.
AIN'T A DAMN THING CHANGED
Rob Neyer has an article on the AL East today that taught me something new. Did you know that since the D-Rays entered the league in 1998, the standings in the AL East have remained the same each year? Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, Devil Rays: it's the same ol' song. Curious. Not suprising, but what are the chances?
Here is Neyer's take on the Yanks-Sox fighting it out for first place:
IS THAT COLLUSION I SMELL?
Murray Chass has a long article concerning the collusion in today's New York Times.
Mike Carminati weighed in with his take earlier in the week.
NYC BASEBALL MOMENT Last
NYC BASEBALL MOMENT
Last night, I was on the uptown side of the 50th street station on the 7th avenue line during rush hour. As I moved to my usual spot on the platform, I heard a street musician across the tracks on the downtown platform, strumming an accoustic guitar, singing the Simon and Garfunkel classic, "Mrs. Robinson." Dude had a pleasent, high-pitched voice, and since there were no trains rumbling through the station, I could hear him fairly well.
I sung along with him until something strange happened. When he got to the "Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio?" part, he didn't say Joe Dimaggio. I had reached my usual waiting place at the platform, and bent my ear to hear better. Sure enough, he replaced Joe Dimaggio with "Jackie Robinson."
"He just said, Jackie Robinson," I said out loud to no one in particular. A woman who was leaning against the wall, turned her head to me and smiled. When he sung Jackie's name again, we both reflexively looked at each other. That was the extent of our exchange before the uptown local rushed into the station.
MILLAR SAYS HE WON'T GO
This is the story that just won't end. The Boston Globe has the latest on the Kevin Millar charade:
Millar wants to have his cake and eat it too, and it looks as if the Sox may get their man yet. But haven't I said that before?
THE BENOVOLENCE OF KING GEORGE
Hal Bodley caught George Steinbrenner in one of his more benevolent moods in this article for Baseball Weekly:
On Joe Torre:
On the Yanks:
MEET THE METS: PUFF, PUFF PASS
Here are a couple of puff pieces from today's Daily News. One on Michael Piazza, who is refreshed after spending time in Europe this winter, and another on Maurice Vaughn, who is ready to rock and roll after gearing up with the Ohio State Football team.
ON THE LOW
Rob Neyer has a good article about how Sandy Alderson has surreptitiously taken control of the All-Star Game:
Neyer on Sandy Alderson
Hmmm. We are sure to hear more about this as the season unfolds.
NICE NAME, KID
While perusing Aaron Gleeman's Top 50 Prospects (Mets 3, Yanks 0) article at Baseball Primer, I was laid out when I read that Boof Bonser, a right-handed pitcher in the San Francisco organization, made the list. Not that I'd ever heard of Boof Bonser before, but I know that I'm likely to forget him anytime soon.
What a great baseball name. Cecil Fielder's son, Prince Fielder, a young home-run-hitting hunk-of-love, has a pretty good name too, but Boof Bonser is my cherce for the prospect with the coolest sounding name..
Incidentally, here is some of Gleeman's analysis of Bonser:
The braintrust over at Baseball Prospectus also has an informative piece on this year's crop of prospects that is worth checking out.
Speaking of names, earlier this week I was dicking around the Baseball Encyclopedia and found the baseball name this side of Orval Overall. None other than Creepy Crespi. You could look it up.
Jerome Holtzman has a piece on former major-league hurler, John Curtis, who once carried a perfect game into the 8th inning, and is currently working on a book about perfect games, along with another former pitcher, Mark Grant, who is now an announcer for the San Diego Padres.
Here are a few notable reactions Curtis and Grant have recieved for their project:
ED LINN, ANYONE?
I mentioned earlier in the week, that I'm reading one of Ed Linn's books on the Bronx Bombers, "Steinbrenner's Yankees." For all the Yankee and Red Sox fans out there, Don Malcolm has an article about Linn's book "The Great Rivalry" at Baseball Primer. I snooped around Big Bad Baseball.com and found several more articles on Linn by Mr. Malcolm, including a nice obituary, and excerpts from "Steinbrenner's Yankees," "Hitter," (with Ted Williams) and "The Hustler's Handbook," (with Bill Veeck). Click away and enjoy.
Last but not least, there are two good articles by Alan Schwarz that are worth a peek at. The first profiles Dodger manager Jim Tracy, and compares him with the low-key legend, Walter Alston.
The second, which was published yesterday, covers a true baseball lifer, Tony Siegle, who has worked for 22 general managers in a 38-year career in the front offices of the major leagues.
I would have liked to know why exactly Siegle will never become a gm, but he certainly has worked for some interesting people, including: Paul Richards, Frank Lane, Harry Dalton, Al Rosen (twice), Jack McKeon, Brian Sabean, Ed Wade, and Omar Minaya
Here is portion of Siegle's expertise in rating the men he's worked for:
DRAMA QUEENS No matter
No matter what Bobby V eventually says, it will pale in comparison with the histrionics that characterized the Yankee teams of the late 1970's. The Bronx Zoo Yankees would make for a great movie. It may be redundant to make a fictionalize version of a team that was so theatrical in it's own right, but that's okay. If they can make full-length features out of Scooby Doo and Josie and the Pussycats, they can make one on the 70's Yankees too.
I doubt it would ever happen in George's lifetime, but it's a cinch for a comedy classic. Too bad that 70's Retro is now passZ. I picture the Bronx Zoo movie to be a cross between "Slap Shot" and "Boogie Nights"; "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "The Turning Point."
The costumes and soundtrack alone would be worth the price of admission. Get a group of terrific spaz method actors, and you're set.
Ed Linn's book "Steinbrenner's Yankees" details the Billy, George, Reggie years expertly, and provides excellent fodder for a script. Here is an example that caught my funny bone the other day.
It is spring training, 1977. Reggie has just brought his star with him to Yankee camp, after the Big Red Machine had swept the Yankees the year before. Already, the camp was fraught with tension. But Reggie doesn't appear in this scene...
Cast of Characters:
George: Michael Gambon? No, Mark Holton who played Francis in "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" is more like it.
Gabe Paul: Think William Holden in "Network"
Billy Martin: Harry Dean Stanton
Ed Linn sets the scene:
Let's imagine the following confrontation as a scene from The Bronx Zoo movie.
PARKING LOT EXT. BALL PARK. FLORIDA
The Yankee players slowly make their way to the team bus. About half of the team has dragged ass out to the parking lot.
INT. STADIUM HALLWAY
The hallway is empty, but we hear oncoming footsteps.
George (off-screen): I don't give a fuck. This shit has got to stop right now. Do you hear me, Gabe? I've got to stop it right now!
INT. LOCKER ROOM DOORS
George bursts in, followed by Gabe Paul. There are a few players still lingering, the clubhouse man and a few reporters remain as well. Billy is standing in the doorway of the manager's office.
George: I want to talk to you right now. You lied to me!
Billy: I don't want to hear it. I don't want to hear that shit anymore.
George: You heard what I said! That thing is going to stop right now!
Billy: You fat bastard, I don't give a shit what you say. I'm going to do it my way.
George: You lied to me! You told me you were going to ride on the bus.
Gabe: Hey...hey, watch yourself Billy.
Gabe steps toward Billy. George stands ten feet away, incredulous with fury.
George: (softly, to himself) What did you say? What did you say?
Gabe: Billy, don't talk to him like that.
Billy: Then YOU can tell that fat bastard to go fuck himself. Hear me? He can go fuck himself!
George: (Moving in) You don't talk to me like that, goddammit! You don't ever talk to me like that.
Billy: I'll talk to anybody like that.
Billy turns and strides into the trainer's room. George steams after him, Gabe by his side. We wait a beat and several players in towels, along with a couple of trainers, exit the trainer's room. But they do not go far; the remaining men in the locker room sit still and enjoy the fireworks.
George: (os) You lied to me, and not only about the bus. You promised to play the starting team all the way today, and you fucking lied about that too.
INTERIOR: TRAINER'S ROOM
George and Billy stand at opposite sides of the trainer's table in the middle of the room. Paul is behind George.
Billy: Don't tell me how to manage my ball team, you lying sonofabitch. I'm the manager, and I'll manage how I want to manage. It was an EXHIBITION game! An ex-hib-i-tion game. This is not a game where you leave your blood and guts on the field to win...There are things I gotta find out now!
George: Well, you should have already figured them out. That is what I've been telling you all along! The season begins in a week and you don't have this goddamn team ready.
Billy: For christsakes George, you don't prepare for a 162-game season the way you prepare for a 10-game football season.
Billy slams his fist in a bucket of ice water. The ice cubes splash up, and George gets soaked.
George: I ought to fire you! I should fire your ass right now.
George wipes his face and frantically digs ice cubes out of his jacket pockets.
Billy: You want to fire me, fire me! But leave me the fuck alone.
INT: LOCKER ROOM
Gabe Paul exits the trainer's room and motions to one of the coaches.
INT. TRAINER'S ROOM
Billy and George are standing at opposite sides of the room. Billy is coiled; George fumes. Gabe walks in with Yogi.
George: (to Yogi) You're the manager.
Yogi: Now take it easy, George.
George: You want to be the manager? You're the manager.
Yogi: Billy's a good manager. You don't want to go doing anything because you're mad now.
George: The job is yours!
The Next morning.
INT. HOTEL HALLWAY.
We see George; brisk and manicured, walking down the empty hallway. He checks is watch, and knocks on Gabe Paul's door.
Gabe lets George in, and Steinbrenner barrels straight passed him.
INT. HOTEL HALLWAY
Billy Martin, pale and disheveled, walks down the same hallway. When he knocks on Gabe's door, Billy looks around nervously.
CLOSE UP: Gabe putting the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door.
INTERIOR: YANKEE TEAM BUS
Billy Martin sits in the front seat of the crowded team bus. Art Fowler and Yogi Berra sit behind him.
According to Linn:
Cue: Organ Music.
Tune in again next time for more of the Bronx Zoo Chronicles.
TOP OF THE WORLD,
The Red Sox are going ahead with their plan to add 280 barstool seats on top of the Green Monster in left field. Both Dan Shaughnessy and Tony Massarotti give their take on the Red Sox's money-making ploy to significantly alter one of the most famous monuments in all pro sports.
NOT SO FAST
According to the Associated Press, the Red Sox may be willing to bend their policy of not negotiating with players during the season, for ace hurler Prince Pedro Martinez. Is anyone suprised?
DOG PILE ON THE RABBIT
Apparently Mo Vaughn skipped the Mets Caravan two days ago because he wanted to avoid questions about his weight. But the hefty slugger did have lunch with Fred Wilpon at Gallagher's Steak House yesterday and briefly spoke with the press. He joined his teammates (new and old) in jumping all over the Mets' former skipper, Bobby Valentine.
According to the Daily News:
Seems like killing Bobby V is even easier than abusing Vaughn for his girth these days. Fortunately, Bobby V won't remain silent forever. He'll wait for just the right moment, and pow: the beat writers will be in 7th heaven.
After all, Hell hath no fury like a Piazzan scorned.
CORRECTION I recieved an
I recieved an e-mail from Yankee fan Jeff Lindy, correcting my final tally for the Yanks-Sox series last season.
I ended yesterday's article with:
Jeff, set the record straight:
Good looking out Jeff. Thanks for picking it up.
My Favorite Things of
My Favorite Things of 2002
IV. Eggs Gets Hitched
The most memorable weekend of baseball in 2002 came in late July when my brother Benny Eggs got married, and the Yanks hosted the Red Sox at the Stadium. Eggs married a Mets fan of all things. Actually his wife isn't too committed either way, but her family is hardcore, Long Island, shot-and-a-beer, You Gotta Believe, Mets fans. It all makes sense because Ben, who is two and a half years younger than me (he turned 29 on January 15th), rooted for the Mets when we were growing up.
Our father was and is a defacto Mets fan, if he remains much of a fan at all. Benny Eggs followed suit. Maybe he just liked the way their uniforms looked and the way the player's names sounded. I don't know why he chose to be a Mets fan. I do remember that Joel Youngblood was one of his early favorites, notable because they shared a similar smooth, baby-faced complexion.
Ben didn't remain a Mets fan, or develop as a sports fanatic per se---not at least until the current Yankees run (or the Knicks run that preceded it in the early to mid '90's). He was immersed in the sporting culture growing up, but he wasn't a card collector, or a stat head, or a baseball junkie. He was distracted with other things, deeper things.
Ben was an introvert, a bright kid who appreciated the game, and enjoyed playing it. Plain and simple, Benny Eggs was a gifted, graceful athlete, a natural. He also has a gift as a natural comic and mimic. Bone-thin, and small, with big round brown eyes, and sandy-brown hair, Ben was quick and agile. Plus he usually had lady luck on his side. Whether we played football or Go Fish, Ben Eggs got the breaks.
When we got grown, Eggs and I actually lived together for a while, way out in Brooklyn. This was a few years ago, when we were both in our twenties. From 1996-2001---I left Brooklyn and moved to the Bronx just in time for the Subway Serious in 2001---we must have watched 70-80% of the Yankee games that were televised. Fuggin Ball-game-watching-bachelors. Two fat bastids. Ben had come back to the game, as naturally as he strayed away from it, but this time he chose the Yankees as his team, as naturally as he once pulled for the Mets.
There is a scene in "Stand By Me" where the lead, played by Will Wheaton, is sitting on the train tracks early in the morning by himself, while the other boys are still sleeping. Previously, the night ended on a down note as River Phoenix bawled his eyes out cause he had it rotten all over. Wheaton looks almost exactly like Benny Eggs did at that age.
Anyhow, Wheaton is sitting quietly on the tracks when a deer crosses the tracks about 10 yards away. The deer stops and looks at Wheaton, who looks back and smiles gently back at the deer. The deer slips off and the moment is suddenly, irrevocably lost, but the connection was made, and Wheaton soaks it in quietly.
This is what I'd call a Benny Eggs moment. Eggs is one of those guys that kids and animals are irresistibly drawn to. Is it any surprise that his favorite player is none other than ol' Sweet Pea Sensitivity himself, Yankee center fielder Bernie Williams? I thought of the scene from "Stand By Me" a couple of years ago when Bernie did something incredulous, or flakey during the middle of a game, and it struck me how beautiful it was that he shared a kinship with my younger brother. The two of them are right out of the Buster Keaton School of subtle deadpan physical humor. James Agee once wrote that Keaton seemed to posses a "mulish imperturbability under the wildest of circumstances." This applies nicely to both Bernie and my brother.
Are we naturally attracted to players that look like us? Or at least those who we think act like us. It makes sense right? After all, people tend to choose dogs that look like themselves. (That's a classic street-watching New York pastime in and of itself.) I know I have an inherent attraction to Shawn Green, and Mariano Rivera cause they're Cool, Calm and Collected Flaco Super Stars. Ben Eggs has Bernie, though they don't look alike at all. What they share is a disposition, a sensibility. Eggs loves other players as well---Mussina and El Duque come to mind, but he has rucchmones with Bernabee.
Eggs asked me to be his best man at his wedding and I proudly accepted. It was the first time I ever had that job so I won't lie: I was stressed. Not uncomfortable or unsure, just anxious. The Red Sox were in town to face the Yanks, which didn't help matters. I mean I had known that the Yanks were going to host the Sox for months, so I knew I would be feelin it. Why couldn't they have played the dopey Indians or something? Something less...involved.
But no, it had to be the Sox, ripe for me to weave into indelibly into the memory of my brother's wedding weekend. Oy fuggin Vey.
It was the fourth series between Boston and New York, with the Sox holding an 8-3 lead. Many of the games had been tense and entertaining; Shea Hillenbrand won a game at Fenway early in the season hitting a bomb off a disbelieving Mo Rivera. What I remember most is the little smile that Rivera wore, like, "I can't believe that little shit beat me. First Game 7 in Arizona, now this? New fucking obstacle everyday, huh Lord?"
Going into the series on the weekend of July19-21, the Yanks held a slim two game lead on the Sox.
The wedding took place at my mother's house in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. It's actually my stepfather's place, and this was the fourth wedding it would host. The first was when he married my mother in the mid 80's; next came my twin sister in the early 90's, and then in successive summers, my step sister, and Benny Eggs.
My stepsister Maile was married in the middle of July as well, and had uncommonly good luck with the weather. Cool and low humidity in the middle of July? Stop. But she got it.
So it couldn't happen again, right? Eggs was going to have to take an L in that category, right?
It sure looked that way to start.
All of my mom's siblings (2 aunts and an uncle with various lil cousin off springs) came to the States from Belgium to represent Eggs. It was the first time the lot of them was here in the States at the same time. The fact that Benny Eggs' wedding is what brought them here, lets you know a lil something about the Thin Man. He's got a lot of Belgian in him. My British friend Mike Fox used to call Eggs, "Benny, The Blonde Jew."
They were all up at the house when I arrived on Friday night. All the Frenchies. It had just started to rain. Muggy and rainy. Mussina v. Pedro at The Stadium, and my old man is taking both families out for dinner at a restaurant by the Hudson over in Verplank---the same place that is catering the wedding the next day. The game was delayed by the rain. When we got to the restaurant a heavy fog lay over the Hudson, and it was actually quite beautiful.
This place had a couple of dinning, banquet rooms, and a big bar with a panoramic view of the river. They had TV's but I didn't care if the game was called. I wasn't going to watch it anyhow.
After dinner, the bride's family got involved with the Karaoke portion of the restaurant and my family reluctantly followed. You never saw fish out of water like my Belgian Mersplucah, naturally rigid, contained, in a middlebrow bar watching Karaoke. The bride sang a song to Ben Eggs, and the only thing that marred her gorgeous performance was a neurotic need to apologize for how lousy she thought she sounded.
I took it all in while keeping an eye on the T.V. The game had finally started after being delayed for more than an hour. Mussina was pitching in the second inning.
I wound up driving back to the city that night with my old man---we left straight from the restaurant. As fate would have it, we hit a traffic jam just north of Yonkers. The rain had stopped, and it was hot. At least I didn't have to suffer through the tension of the game. We were stuck on stupid for so long in that traffic I figured the game would be over by the time I walked in the door.
No such luck. Not only was the game---one of the precious few that CBS carried---still on, but there was a raging party taking place three flights up. I knew that because Salsa music from somewhere was causing my furniture to reverberate. Not the ideal environment to unwind and prepare for the big day.
Pedro was still pitching. There were two outs in the 8th inning and Boston lead, 3-2. Fug. That can't be good. Dominicans Revenge! They're killing me all over.
With a man on, Bernie laces a double off the mighty Prince P; Boston skipper Grady Little yanks Martinez from the game. In comes Ugie Urbina, who had been killing the Yankees all year. The same Ugie Urbina that could have easily been wearing the pinstripes himself. Ugi: the anti-Rivera.
Fat ass Jorgito Posada comes up for the fourth time of the night with the go-ahead run on second. As usual, Martinez had dispatched Posada swiftly, and viciously; at the end of the night Posada was 4-34 lifetime against Pedro. After facing Martinez, Posada can be in a funk for day's even weeks. It's not just that Posada is embarrassed by Martinez, he's undressed and emotionally and mentally violated by him too.
Posada had whiffed all three times he faced Pedro and he whiffed against Ugie too. The Sox added a run in the 9th and Urbina set the Yankees down in order, with the usual array of horseshit gestures and exclamations. The Sox were now 9-3 against the Yanks and Urbina had earned his 5th save against New York.
I didn't fall asleep for a while after that. Sure, I was keyed up about the wedding, giving a speech, making sure everything ran smoothly, but I was also cursing that som'bitch bastid Ugie fuggin Urbina and his cocky ways. 'He's gunna get his,' is all I could come up with. When in doubt, be spiteful, just like the Red Sox fans, right?
Fox carried the game the next afternoon, a 1 pm start. El Duque, probably Eggs' favorite starter was pitching. The wedding started later in the afternoon, around 4:30-5:00. The weather cooperated. If it wasn't as brilliant as it had been for Maile's wedding, it sure wasn't raining and it wasn't too sticky either.
I did my best to steer clear of the game; it wasn't that hard with all the business swirling through the house. The first time I checked the score, the game was in the bottom of the 4th. Johnny Damon had just jumped against the left center field wall and snagged a Shane Spencer blast that was destined for Homersville; but as he bounced off the wall, the ball popped out of his glove and fell back in play safely. Yanks 5, Sox 2.
Later, I caught the Sox making a comeback against Our Man From Havana. I turned it off. The next time I checked in I saw Posada miss a tag at the plate, which gave the Sox a 6-5 lead. How many times does Posada botch plays at the plate (re: Roger Cedeno stealing home when the Mets played at the Stadium earlier in the year)? I gotta concentrate on my speech, and this fuggin guy is killing me.
I bit a small hole in my lip, turned the damned thing off, and went to get dressed. From there on out, I only tuned in on the radio from my sister's room where the groom and his men were sweating it out.
Mariano was in and then just as quickly he was pulled. An injury? Nu?
The first guests arrived. In comes Mendoza. I couldn't take it anymore.
When my uncle Fred, the Yankee fan, and his son-in-law Scott, the Red Sox fan walked up the driveway, they anxiously asked what the score was. I told them to get bent: the Yanks were down and I was done for the day if I was going to keep my wits about me.
They informed me that Soriano had tied the game with an RBI single in the 8th. (I later read that Dustin Hermanson had thrown the kid a fastball on a 0-2 count; hey, I know he'd just been activated from the DL, but had he been paying attention at all?)
I popped upstairs during the cocktail hour a few more times, only to find that the game was still going on. They were now in extra innings.
When the ceremony began, the game was still undecided, and my attention was on more pressing matters than the game. The ceremony was lovely, the sun was shinning, and as my mom later said in her toast, "Ben's famous luck served him well once again."
The Yanks won in the 11th on Robin Ventura's infield single. Soriano scored the winning run and the Stadium celebrated at the same time that we celebrated Benny Eggs's marriage.
I was more exhausted that I had anticipated being the following day. Emily and I slept in.
The Times headline put it best: "Soriano Delivers On An Afternoon Filled With Tension."
I figured we could expect more of the same in the finale, and I was in no mood to put up with Sterling and Steiner for another 4-hour marathon.
We made lunch, read the paper and zoned out to horseshit Sunday TV. When I finally checked the score it was 8-7 Boston in the 8th. Another nail-biter.
As it turned out, the Yanks started the game off with a bang against Boston pitcher, John "Old Man" Burkett. In the first, Soriano, behind 0-2, reached out and lined a single to center off a waste pitch. When he attempted to swipe second, Jeter smacked a ground ball into left for a single, Soriano hustled to third. The throw came too late to get Sori, was wild, and the kid scored. Giambi creamolished the next pitch into the right-centerfield bleachers, and the pitch after that was hit even deeper into the bleachers by Bernie Williams.
But Boston had chipped away, with Nomar and Manny hitting two homers apiece. Jeff Weaver, still new to the Yanks, had another rough outing; even Tony Clark hit a 3-run bomb off of him. It was the first time a Yankee pitcher had ever given up five homers at The Stadium.
By the bottom of the 9th, I was worked up into a fever pitch. Emily sat on the couch in my living while I paced back and forth with a stickball bat in my hands. Ugie Urbina came in to close it out for the Sox. I told her all about what a putz he was, how one day he was gunna get his.
He had to go through the heart of the Yankee order. Giambi lead off, and swung and missed at Urbina's first two offerings. He took the next two pitches and then fouled off a nasty slider that was in on his hands. The at-bat started at 4:13 pm and lasted until 4:20. The count went full, Giambi fouling off pitches, staying alive. On the 11th pitch of the at-bat, Giambi tried to foul another ball off, but instead he tapped a slow roller toward third. The Sox had the shift on against Giambi, with only one fielder on the left side of the infield; it took a great hustle play by third baseman Shea Hillenbrand to keep Giambi from reaching second.
Enrique Wilson came in to run for Giambi. Up comes Bernie Williams. Once again, Urbina gets ahead 0-2, this time with off-speed stuff in the dirt. Ugie tries to spot an 0-2 fastball on the outside corner, but it's up in the zone and Bernie laces it into right for a single. Trot Nixon, the right fielder, with his eye on Wilson going to third, missed the ball, which snaked under his glove, past him into deep right field. Wilson wobbled taking a huge turn around third---Weeble Woobles but they don't fall down---and scored easily. Bernie to third.
The game is tied, still no one out. So the Sox walk the bases loaded and take their chances facing Posada, who still hadn't recovered from Pedro on Friday night, and was 0-13 in the series. Grady Little yanked Nixon from right, and replaced him with infielder Lou Merloni, who became the third infielder on the right side. Manny Ramirez moved from left field right behind second base, in shallow center, and Johnny Damon played nickel back in right center.
Urbina was in a tight spot. The count went full, and wouldn't you know it, but the som'bitch bastard walked fat ass Jorge to end the game. Sweet Justice.
The Yanks ended the weekend four games ahead of the Sox, a lead they wouldn't relinquish. The Sox were then 9-5 against the Yankees for the season, but New York went on to win 4 of the last 5 meetings. Excuse me if it felt like like Deja Vu all over again.
411 For the skinny
For the skinny of the Jose Cruz Jr. signing, look no further than John Perricone's Only Baseball Matters. Nuff' said.
MEET THE METS
The Mets held their annual winter caravan yesterday, which included the unvieling of their new, bright orange BP jerseys.
Though Mo Vaughn was conspicuously absent, Cliff Floyd, Al Leiter, Tom Glavine, Mike Piazza, and of course, team mascot and number one goombats John Franco, were all in attendance. Too bad Ian Strombringer aka Tank Pratt isn't around any more.
For the first time since the end of last season, Piazza spoke about the team's new manager, and indirectly, their old one as well:
Tom Verducci has a good column about the historical significance of Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez playing in the same division.
The Daily News ran an article today about Al Leiter, who spoke eagerly about the prospects of working with Tom Glavine (a topic I touched on yesterday):
Finally, Newsday has a puff piece on my man Cliff Floyd, for those of you who are interested.
YANKS INK ACEVADO The
The Yankees continued to strengthen their bullpen yesterday, signing right-hander Juan Acevedo--- a product of the Mets farm system---to a minor-league contract. Ostensibly, Acevado, who served as the Detriot Tigers closer for most of 2002, would compete for set-up role in the Yankee bullpen. There is a chance he won't make the opening day roster, but as the saying goes, "You can never have enough pitching." According to espn:
Mike C from Baseball Rants thinks this is another good pick up for the Bombers.
WEAVER MAY GET SHOT
Joel Sherman reports today that the Yankees are leaning toward using Jeff Weaver in the starting rotation and putting Jose Contreras in the pen to start the season. I know there are a lot of things that can happen between now and opening day, but this sounds like a sensible plan to me.
Travis Nelson, who runs Boy of Summer, has a good link to one of the Yankees few viable pitching prospects, youngster Julio DePaula.
I am currently reading Ed Linn's book, "Steinbrenner's Yankees" which I owned as kid, but lost at some point along the way. It just arrived from Barnes and Noble.com and I'm eating it up accordingly. Linn, who is most famous for co-writing "Veeck as in Wreck," "Hitter" (with Ted Williams), and "Nice Guys Finish Last" (with Leo the Lip), covers the Bronx Zoo Yankees in a brisk, readable manner. The more I refresh my memories of those turbulent days, the tamer George's recent outbursts seem in comparison (the Mark Newman situation notwithstanding).
Bob Klapisch contributed another piece on the Madness of King George this past Sunday:
The strange story of Kevin Millar continues to unfold, and evidently, it's not out of the question that he may wind up in Boston after all. According to the Boston Globe:
In the past year, Red Sox Nation have dealt with the passing of several men who were vital to their beloved team in fashion or another: Ted Williams, greatest hitter ever; Dick O'Connell, arguably their best GM ever, and Ned Martin, who for 31 years worked as the television and radio voice of the Home Nine. This weekend, Jack Rogers, longtime traveling secretary of the Sox, who has charted pitches in the press box for the Sox since he retired in 1994 died. Dan Shaughnessy paid tribute in his most recent column.
DAUBACH CHANGES SOX
Former Red Sox super-scrub Brian Daubach has been invited to spring training with the Chicago White Sox.
Here is how Mike C from Baseball Rants views the move:
Both Gordon Edes (Boston Globe) and Bill Madden (Daily News) criticized the Florida Marlins for giving Pudge Rodriguez a one-year, $10 million contract, over the weekend in their Sunday columns.
According to Edes:
In case you missed them, make sure to check out Rob Neyer's two (frick and frack) very funny and convincing columns regarding the future of the Astros' old second baseman/newest center fielder, Craig Biggio.
LAST WORD ON LIEBER:
LAST WORD ON LIEBER: JOE G GIVES HIS BLESSING
When former Yankee catcher, Joe Girardi speaks, Yankee fans should listen. Joel Sherman reports that Joe G thinks the Bombers did the right thing in signing Jon Lieber, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery:
SALIERI'S NEXT MOVEMENT?
One day, there will be books written about the current Yankee Dynasty; there will be books that cover the Mets, and their relationship to the Yankee team, too. Perhaps the 1995-2002 run won't inspire the volume of writing that the Bronx Zoo Era, and the Amazin Mets of the 80's did, but we can expect the exploits of Bernie, and Fonzie, Piazza, Jeter and Paul O'Neill to be given their just due some day. The recent crop of Yankee players may not be as wild, irreverent or quotable, as the som'bitches of yesteryear, but they've been more successful on the field.
Since the middle of 1997, the Yankees and Mets rivalry has been comically represented by the various fortunes of the two Italian guys from the Tri-State Area: Joe Torre and Bobby Valentine. Now, with Bobby V fired, and Art Howe taking his place, the Mets are sure to experience a drastic change in personality.
But back to Valentine for a moment. His time in New York constitutes a memorable chapter in the history of the Mets and the Yanks. For every good break Torre received, Valentine seemingly got a bad one. I can't tell you how many times over the years I turned away from a Mets game when something awful went wrong (uh-hum, Armando), just to tune in to the Yankee game just in time for some late-inning horseshit magic.
Torre, sure of himself, settled, reserved, has been the antithesis of Valentine, who is combative, and bold----alternatively unctuous and charming. I always had the feeling that Valentine still thought of himself as the super-prospect whose career was derailed, unjustly, horribly, by the leg injury in California. He never seemed to be over the fact that he never made it as a player. Or maybe he was but he managed with vindictive, almost paranoid energy. A young man's energy. Known as a top-step manager, I always got the feeling that Valentine was cock-blocking his players.
The STATS Inc. 2002 Scouting Book report on Valentine put it bluntly:
Compare that with their assessment of Saint Joe:
Watching the Mets lose in spite of his best efforts, while the Yankees did everything but fall ass-backwards into victory, I couldn't help but think of Bobby Valentine cast as Salieri to Joe Torre's Amadeus. Only Mozart isn't a genius boy wonder, and it's not his peerless talent that set him apart. Joe Torre's Mozart would be played by Abe Vigoda or maybe Paul Sorvino: The Lifer, The Sage, A Real Brooklyn Joe. It was Torre's peerless good fortune, mixed with competence and patience that have made him a success.
But Bobby V was the young stud, who had excelled in so many things so earlier---he was an outstanding football player, a terrific dancer, and also once won a pancake-eating contest. Valentine has been compared with other strategists like Gene Mauch, Tony LaRussa and Buck Showalter. He's Mozart and Salieri all wrapped up in one. With a hint of Billy Martin thrown in for flavor.
I noticed the similarities between Valentine and Salieri in Pauline Kael's review of Milos Forman's 1985 film:
Valentine was back in the news this weekend, having turned down a analyst job at ESPN. According to Bob Raissman in Sunday's Daily News:
There were a couple of articles on the Mets' super-prospect Jose Reyes over the weekend in the local papers. On Saturday, the Times reported:
A photograph accompanies the article, which shows Reyes, in shorts---sunglasses resting on the bill on his cap---taking batting practice. A switch hitter, the photo captures Reyes from the left side; at first glance, the following through, the form doesn't look unlike Junior Griffey. There are four Mets executives in the background, casually dressed, monitoring the session.
It took me a few moments to recognize that Art Howe was one of the blurred figures in the background. He is standing a few feet away from the other execs---which included Steve Phillips---hands clasped behind his back, shoulders drooped slightly. He looks strong in his passivity; reflective, observant. The papers in New York have already made the comparisons between Howe's hands-off approach and the laid-back success Joe Torre has enjoyed. It is an easy analogy, but a fitting one. What stuck me about the photograph isn't how much Howe looked like Torre but how much he didn't look like Bobby Valentine.
He doesn't have to be Joe Torre to have a Joe Torre effect.
On Sunday, Michael Morrissey filed an article on Reyes too:
ALL TOGETHER NOW
The Mets have invoked the spirit of the Yankees quite convincingly this off-season, not to mention some of their ex-players. Whether it's intentional or not---and I can't believe it's pure coincidence, it's there. Joining Mike Stanton, David Weathers, Rey Sanchez, Al Lieter, and even bench-coach Don Baylor, is former Yankee reliever, Graeme Llyod., who was signed to a minor league contract by the Mets Friday.
According to Newsday:
FRED, SANDY, TOM GLAVINE, AND AL
I sure hope that Al Leiter and Tom Glavine can remain healthy this year because they would be one of the more appealing 1-2 combos---or book-ends of a top three---New York has seen in a few seasons. Certainly the most quotable. With Glavine, living on the outside part of the plate, and then Leiter busting you in on the hands with the hard, heavy stuff, they'd compliment each other nicely. Leiter and Glavine are like a two-headed incarnation of David Cone. Leiter is demonstrative, and emotional---all schoolyard---on the mound; affable and easy with the media. Glavine is the calm, poised professional, and a big union man to boot. Put them together and you get a riff on our old friend Coney.
Although Tom Glavine doesn't throw nearly as hard as Koufax did, he has made his reputation living on the outside corner, and he will one day join Koufax in Cooperstown. Here is more from Leavy:
THE OTHER GIAMBI: BREAK
THE OTHER GIAMBI: BREAK OUT OR BUST?
Nate Silver has an sharp analysis of Peter Gammons' candidates to have a breakout season in 2003. While Silver admits that "lists like these are little more than a grownup's version of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey," he has fun giving Gammons' choices the once over using something called The PECOTA system:
There is a link to the complete PECOTA glossary in the article as well. Here is what Silver writes about Jeremy Giambi, whom many people feel will have a productive season for the Boston Red Sox:
ALL THE KINGS MEN
ALL THE KINGS MEN
The suits at the Yankee Command Center are playing musical chairs, as VP of Baseball Operations, Mark Newman was replaced by Gordon Blakely, formerly VP of International and Professional Scouting. According to the Daily News, Newman's request for a lesser role:
Bob Klapisch reports that the old Bronx Zoo George is back, and barking louder than ever:
The return of the old George is not a welcome sight for veteran Yankee fans, but it should be greeted with open arms by the rest of the league. If history tells us anything, the more meddlesome Steinbrenner becomes, the more trouble his team will encounter. If the Yankees can't be beaten on paper, then maybe they will implode from the pressure cooker coming out of Tampa. You think Joe Torre is going to earn his keep this year? Oy. Pass the pepto.
MORE ON LIEBER
Mike C, over at Baseball Rants has posted the latest installment in his history of relief pitching, an excellent and thorough chapter which covers the 1970s. (There is another good article on relievers at Futility Infielder.)
I recieved an e-mail from Mike yesterday giving me his take on the Yankees newest starter, Jon Lieber:
Keven Kernan writes another insipid tribute to local hero Gil Hodges in today's Post. I don't doubt that Hodges was a wonderful player, a good manager and a fine man, but I'm sorry to say that alone doesn't qualify him as a Hall of Famer. New Yorkers, in their inimitable, grandiose fashion, may feel that their love for him is enough. It's not. Here is a typically unconvincing argument offered up by Mets long-time radio voice, Mr. Schlitz himself, Bob Murphy:
I question that Hodges' statistics merit his being elected to the Hall, even though he did lose vital years to the War. And that Tom Seaver thinks he was the best manager who ever lived, means 100% Dick to me. I'm not down on Gil Hodges so much as the weak, sentimental case that has been made on his behalf.
WINDY CITY RIVALRY
I've never been to Chicago, and know precious little about the rivalry between the North Side Cubbies and the White Sox of the South Side. I've always pulled for the Cubs in a distant, sympathetic way. The White Sox? I never had much of an opinion either way. But last year I began wondering why the White Sox and their losing legacy has been so over-looked. The Cubs and Red Sox are famous because of their suffering? What about the White Sox has regulated them to misfortune's stepchild? I asked the Cub Reporter, Christian Ruzich for his thoughts on the White Sox-Cubs rivalry.
He sent me an e-mail yesterday:
My Favorite Things of
My Favorite Things of 2002
I started reading baseball books seriously again after the Yankees beat the Mets in the Subway Serious in 2000. I felt compelled to try and put the Yankees run into some sort of perspective, and that led me back to the bookshelf. For the past few years I've enjoyed digging into the subculture of baseball literature, and last year was no different. Perhaps the most significant discovery I made was when I acquired my cousin Gabe's collection of Bill James Abstracts. His mother was selling the house he grew up in, and when he went to clear his things out, I told him to give me any and all of his baseball books if he was going to throw them out. Well Gabe came back with a treasure chest, complete with Bill James' Baseball Abstracts 1984-88, and The Bill James Baseball Book: 1990-92.
I was familiar with James in name and reputation only, but had never sit down and read any of his work. Needless to say, perusing the Abstracts has been a rewarding experience. I'm not a science of math guy by nature, but I found it hard to resist James' irreverent and authoratative prose. I especially liked the biograhical information, and James' even-handed, emperical approach to statistics. I also loved revisiting the 1980's, and reading about the teams and players I grew up with from an adult perspective.
I don't think I actually read any of the James books from soup to nuts, but I picked them up and put them down often. Collections of essays are often my favorite books to read, and re-read. I can only assume the Abstracts will be as well used, and invaluable in the coming years as the Roger Angell and Tom Boswell compilations have been and continue to be.
While discovering Bill James was paramount to my baseball education last season, I didn't stop there. Here is a list of the other baseball books I read:
The Way It Is by Curt Flood and Richard Carter
Why Time Begins on Opening Day by Tom Boswell
Poorly Written But Informative:
Shut Out by Howard Bryant
I recently finished Jane Leavy's acclaimed new biography on Sandy Koufax, and hope to post a review in the coming weeks. I hardly have enough time to keep up with all the promising books I've got waiting in the wings. A good problem to have, for sure.
Nice Guys Finish Last by Leo Durocher and Ed Linn
LIEBER AND PUDGE SIGNED
LIEBER AND PUDGE SIGNED
The Yankees completed a two-year, $3.5 million deal with right-handed pitcher Jon Lieber yesterday according to a report to espn.
There was noise about the Yankees screwing the Red Sox again, which proved to be exaggerated. According to Joel Sherman in the Post:
I asked some National League friends what they made of Lieber. Christian Ruzich, who runs The Cub Reporter said:
I also asked my cousin Gabe, the Mets fan, if Lieber was a better version of Steve Traschel, and he replied that Trashcan never won twenty games pitching in Wrigley Field.
As for Pudge Rodriguez, he turned down a 3-year deal from the Orioles and signed a 1-year, $10 million contract to play for the Florida Marlins in his home town, Miami.
According to espn:
Dave Hyde, columnist for the Miami Sun-Sentinel gives his take on the signing here.
For what it's worth, the NL East now sports a nifty group of recievers in Pudge, Piazza, Mike Lieberthal, Michael Barrett, and uh-hum, Maddog's boy, Javey Lopez.
SPOILED JOCKS BETTER THAN LOUSY WRITERS
Michiko Kakutani reviewed Norman Mailer's new book on writing, "The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing" yesterday in the New York Times. Next time you hear someone killing celebrity jocks, consider the emis* according to Stormin' Norman:
Yeah, just ask Mike Hampton.
* Emis is the Yiddish word for "the truth."
LOOKING AHEAD Much has
Much has been made this winter about the Yankees' surplus of starting pitching, but only Jeff Weaver, Jose Contreras and Mike Mussina are signed passed this season. Tyler Kepner reports in today's New York Times that "the Yankees are close to adding another starter to the mix."
Maybe they can get Don Gullet to fill the fifth slot.
Speaking of ex-Yankee hurlers, Jim Beattie co-GM of the Balitmore Orioles is busy these days. There is a report on mlb.com which suggests that the Orioles may be close to signing former Blue Jays outfielder Jose Cruz, Jr. and free-agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez to one-year deals. That would keep things lively in what should be a much improved AL East this year. Stay tuned...
MO' MINNIE MINOSO Last
MO' MINNIE MINOSO
Last week I wrote to Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated's top baseball man, and asked what he made of the curious case of Minnie Minoso. Here is his response:
I searched around the net for the skinny on Minoso and found several articles of note.
The Baseball Library has a good overview of Minnie's career, complete with important dates, and career achievements. The Black World Today offers a look at Minoso as a Latin pioneer, Andy Trenkle makes a case for his selection to the Hall of Fame, and Jules Rothstein writes about what an all-around mench he is.
Finally, here is a tidbit from Sam Plummer, a long-suffering Cubs fan, and close family friend, who I've known since before I knew how to walk. I saw Sam over Christmas and mentioned my interest in Minoso. He started singing what I mistakenly remembered as a piece of classical music, only he replaced the lyrics with the names of the Go-Go White Sox from the 1950's. I was set straight in an e-mail I recieved from Sam this afternoon:
BOSTON BANTER While the
While the Yankees will have a busy even challenging year with the additional media attention Hideki Matsui brings with him from Japan, the Red Sox are second to nobody when it comes to media frenzy. In fact, although the Sox are comprised mainly of reserved stars like Nomar Garciaparra (who felt the heat late last summer in the local papers), and Manny (puff-puff-pass) Ramirez, not to mention stand-up-guys like Trot Nixon, Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek, they have shown more signs of being like the old Bronx Zoo over the past few seasons than their counterparts in New York.
Superduperstar pitcher Pedro Martinez, never one to keep his feelings to himself, started the ball rolling last week.
MORE ON MILLAR
The saga of Kevin Millar continues to unfold and it now appears highly unlikely that the Red Sox will be able to pry the former Marlins first baseman from Chunichi Dragons. According to Gordon Edes:
Ed Cosstte, over at Bambino's Curse noted:
In addition, the Red Sox are close to signing former Twins first baseman David Ortiz, according to the Boston Globe:
For more on the Sox, check out Tom Verducci's analysis of their bullpen-by-committe strategy, and Peter Gammons' take on Theo Epstein's rocky winter.
YOU DON'T SEND ME FLOWERS...
Sean McDonough, son of the late Will McDonough wrote a tribute to his father and his supporters, in the Globe over the weekend.
In his Sunday Notes column, Gordon Edes noted:
THE GIANT FROM SOUTHIE
THE GIANT FROM SOUTHIE
I primarily remember Will McDonough working the sidelines for CBS on football Sundays, when I was a kid. Aside from his distinctive Boston accent, pock-marked skin, and goofy ears, he never stood out to me; just another fugly, old guy talking head. But I became a bit more familiar with him over the years, periodically reading his column in the Boston Globe, and recognized his status as one of the top insiders covering the NFL.
Howard Bryant offered a revealing portrait of McDonough, and his relationship with longtime rival at the Globe, Peter Gammons in his informative, yet maddingly uneven book, "Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston:"
Just as a note, my copy of "Shut Out" is an advanced uncorrected proof, which should explain the few grammatical errors.
CURSES Dan Shaughnessy returned
Dan Shaughnessy returned to the baseball beat on Friday with a column evaluating Theo Epstein's off season thus far. Shaughnessy noted that while the rookie GM has taken the high road as far as the rivalry with the dastardly Bronx Bombers are concerned, some of the Red Sox players feel a bit differently:
Ed Cossette, who pens the excellent Bambino's Curse blog, loved Johnny Damon's pluck (or nerve or chutzpah), and as a Red Sox fan I suppose it's nice to hear some of the old fire from a player. As good a player as Damon is---why the Yanks signed Ro White without even making an offer to him last season, I'll never know---and as soothing, and reassuring as his needling may feel to Red Sox Nation (give him credit for giving the people what they want), didn't we hear a lot of this kind of tough talk out of him last season?
Red Sox fans love to tweek ever-sensitive Yankee fans (present company included), and Damon is happy to play the part of designated shit talker. Quite frankly, he doesn't have anything to lose by throwing rocks at the throne; instead he simply enhances his popularity within Red Sox Nation. That's good for him, but Johnny: come back to me. Talk to us when you've won...anything.
The Twins signed their lovable, and huggable center-fielder Torii Hunter to a four-year deal on Friday according to espn.
The good fellas at Twins Geek weighed in on the move, as did Mike over at Baseball Rants.
Last fall, Rob Neyer wrote a sensible column about why it would behoove the Twins to consider moving players like Hunter:
Were the Twins moved to sign Hunter, an enormously popular player, after the White Sox traded for Barolo Colon this week? I'm can't say. But they didn't over pay him. I don't know if Hunter will continue to improve as an offensive player, though there is no reason to expect he'll fall off defensively for several years. Regardless if the deal makes the best baseball sense or not, it's good to see the Twins fork over the dough for one of the game's most irresistible, and personable young stars. It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
QUICK TAKES Terry Pluto
Terry Pluto writes about the Bartolo Colon trade from Cleveland's perspective, and Bob Hohler reports how Casey Fossum is one Red Sox who is happy about the deal that kept him in Boston.
Bob Klapisch also filed an article on the Godzilla Matsui press conference for espn.
INCORRIGIBLE YANKS FOIL BOSOX
INCORRIGIBLE YANKS FOIL BOSOX AGAIN; DUQUE TO EXPOS
The Yankees traded El Duque Hernandez to the Expos yesterday, in a three-team trade which featured Bartolo Colon moving to the White Sox. In addition, Expos recieved another pitcher, Rocky Biddle, outfielder Jeff Liefer and cash from theYankees, who in turn picked up right-handed reliever Antonio Osuna, and minor leaguer, Delvis Lantigua. The White Sox also got $2 million from the Yanks.
Most importantly, the Yankees prevented Colon from landing in Boston. Here's the skinny from the papers in Boston and New York...
The Globe reports:
Here is how Bill Madden called it in today's Daily News:
Tony Massarotti, adds a "cry-me-a-river" opinon piece in the Boston Herald:
To add insult to injury, the Sox have also apparently lost former Marlin Kevin Millar to Japan after all, according to report in Baseball Weekly.
Over at espn, Jason Stark has a good piece on the method to King George's Madness. Here is an excerpt:
For the Chicago angle on the trade, here are two articles from today's Chicago Sun Times (one, and two), as well as Rob Neyer's take on how Colon changes the shape of the AL Central.
DUQUE: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY
El Duque was one of my favorites. It's hard to resist a guy with such an enigmatic past, not to mention a beautiful pitching delivery, especially when he was m-o-n-e-y in most every big game he pitched for the Bombers. When he arrived midway through the 1998 season, who knew what to make of him? Hideki "Boo Boo" Irabu was already proving to be a major disappointment, even though I always thought he was funnier than hell (with all the straight-shooters on the Yankees boasted, they needed at least one screw up). But if Irabu looked like a combination of Ralph Kramden and a second-rate Elvis impersonator, El Duque came across like Yul Brenner. There was something inherently serious and grave about Hernandez, while Irabu proved to be nothing more than a tempermental clown.
El Duque has quite a temper too, and it's another reason I've enjoyed watching him so much. Knowing that Jorge Posada had spent most of the day instigating Hernandez into a competitive fury, and then watching the two red asses have it out during the course of a game, was a sincere delight.
There is an excellent account of Hernandez's life and career in Cuba titled, "Duke of Havana: Baseball, Cuba, and the Search for the American Dream," by veteran newspaper men, Steve Fainaru, and Ray Sanchez. The book reads more like a Graham Greene novel of political intrigue than the average baseball biography, but it's very well written and offers a compelling portrait of Hernandez as a complicated, even haunted man (the relationship Duque had with his older brother is especially revealing).
BASEBALL HASN'T BEEN BERY,
BASEBALL HASN'T BEEN BERY, BERY GOOD TO MINNIE
I didn't know much about Minnie Minoso, so I dipped into my 'lil baseball library to see what I could find. I also ran Minoso through Google.com and discovered not only are there books on Minoso's career, but two that are written by Minoso himself (with some help of course): "Extra Innings: My Life in Baseball," and "Just Call me Minnie: My Six Decades in Baseball." That's good news. I have some book hunting to do, which gives me at least one more thing to look forward to this coming baseball summer.
Here is what I dug up from my selection of books:
Bill James makes an argument for Minoso as a Hall of Famer in his book, "What Ever Happened to the Hall of Fame":
James then shows a chart ranking the 16 Hall of Fame left fielders in both Hits and RBI from the age 28 on. Only Musial, Yaz, Lou Brock and "Orator" Jim O'Rourke had more hits than Minoso, who is ahead of Ted Williams and Billy Williams and Pops Stargell and Goose Goslin. And only Musial, Yaz, Pops, and Teddy fuggin Ballgame had more RBI.
James made some of the same points in the second edition of the Historical Abstract. Excuse the repetition:
If James made a case for Minoso as a Hall of Famer, Allen Barra asked, then why is he so ignored?
From his insightful but all too brief article, "Minnie Minoso: The New Latin Dynasty":
How tough was it for Minoso? According to Jules Tygiel, in "Baseball's Great Experiment":
Here is Minnie Minoso himself from Danny Peary's, "We Played the Game":
"Minnie Minoso was one the funniest guys I was ever around," Les Moss told Danny Peary, "When he thought an umpire made a bad call, he'd argue in half English and half Spanish and you wouldn't know what the heck he was saying."
In this regard, maybe Minoso had an emotional outlet that the American-born black players didn't.
James compares Minoso favorably against Enos Slaughter---apparently the ideal partner, and Larry Doby.
"Minnie is to Latin players what Jackie Robinson is to black players. He was the first Latin player to become what in today's language is a 'superstar,'" said Orlando Cepeda.
Now that the former players have something to say about the vote, you would hope that Cepeda, and Ted Williams were not alone in their acknowledgement of Minoso's significance.
Personally, I can't wait to read more about him. I'll keep you posted when I do.
MEANWHILE, AT THE HALL
MEANWHILE, AT THE HALL OF JUSTICE
There are several good articles on the Veterans Committee which have been published recently that are worth investigating.
The first, "A Brief History of the Veterans Committee," written by Neal Traven for Baseball Prospectus, is a concise overview, and a great place to start, especially for those who aren't one hundred percent sure what the Veterans Committee is all about.
Tom Verducci from SI, also wrote an insightful piece, delineating the newly revamped Veterans Committee's selection process:
Marc Hugunin applied Bill James' Kelter List to the group of twenty-six players up for consideration by the Veterans Committee over at Baseball Primer. For general reference, those questions are as follows:
1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
2. Was he the best player on his team?
3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?
4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?
6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?
8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?
11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?
13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
OK, those are the questions, here is Hugunin's conclusion:
I have no problem with Santo or Dick Allen going in, and I love Joe Gordon, so I've got no beef there either. I expect Marvin Miller, who is on the composite ballot, to be respected properly while he's still around to experience it. The man seems bitter enough; let him enjoy his just due. No matter how much I'm fascinated by Curt Flood, I don't know that I'd put him. Believe me if they ever did, I'd never be happier with a selection that I may have reservations about; even though he's dead, Flood deserves all the public tribute and recognition that he can get.
But the more I've thought about it over the past couple of weeks, the more convinced I am that Minnie Minoso is a Hall of Famer. I had read Allen Barra's profile on Minoso last summer in his collection, "Clearing the Bases," and was duly impressed, both with Minoso's talents as a player, and his importance as the first dark-skinned Latino to play in the major leagues. Barra asked a pertinent question: why is Minoso, the Jackie Robinson of Latin ballplayers not in the Hall of Fame? Especially when his numbers are comparable to say, Larry Doby.
My father has wondered out loud for years why Larry Doby has been so overlooked in comparison with Robinson? This is coming from a man who modestly asserts that he's "second-to-none as a Jackie fan." The point is not to take anything away from Robinson, but to note just how neglected Doby is in comparison. Being the first black player in the American League has to amount to something, no? But if Doby has been shortchanged in some way by coming in second to Robinson, then Minoso doesn't place at all.
It just seems odd. Especially considering the socially-sensitive culture we live in. Where are the Latin protest groups? How come no one is fighting the good fight for Minnie Minoso? This seems particularly alarming when you consider how popular he was during his heyday in the 1950's in Chicago with the Go-Go White Sox.
"There is a reason they call it the second city," opined my old man.
Casting all aspersions aside, it's a pretty big deal when the first black player in Chicago, an effusive, and personable star, has a remarkable career in many ways, only to be summarily dissed by the baseball establishment. I can't figure why the media hasn't picked up on it. The only thing I can guess is that perhaps Minoso is seen in retrospect as something of a clown. The old dude who kept coming back for a couple of at bats. Or maybe he's not keen right now because he isn't hard enough. There is no edge. And if no one is going to come out and straight up say Minoso was an Uncle Tom, maybe that's what they are thinking. How cool is that? How tough is that. It's a similar brand of scorn and neglect that greeted in some quarters as Louis Armstrong throughout his old age. I may be completely off, but I'm at a loss as to why there isn't more support in the media and amongst baseball fans for Minoso.
GRAND OPENING The Yankees
The Yankees held what is being called the biggest press conference in team history yesterday, to introduce their new left-fielder, who coincidentally is the most popular player in Japan, Hideki Matsui. John Harper writes today in the Daily News that the "press conference was...big...flowery," and "reeking of self-congratulation." Nothing suprising there.
Bob Raissman adds another piece in the News about the effects the Japanese media will have on the Yankees this season. He quotes Lou Pinella, who has had plenty of experience managing a Japanese phenom: "Let me put it this way, Joe's going to earn his money this year," Piniella said. "He's going to have to spend more time dealing with the media."
Joe Torre interrupted his vacation in Hawaii to attend the affair, and bristled at the recent criticisms Boss George laid on him, and his staff (Harper is one of the first local columnists to predict that Bronx Zoo-like craziness could be in store for Torre and his team this year; Jack Curry hinted as much in the Times yeserday too):
Hey Joe, never let em see ya sweat, babe.
COLON BLOCK PARTY
The Yankees may still have something to say about Montreal starter, Bartolo Colon after all. Here is an excerpt from the backpage cover story in today's Daily News:
The Boston Globe confirmed the story, adding:
CLOSE BUT NO MILLAR? WHAT GIVES?
There are conflicting reports this morning regarding the Red Sox possible aquisition of former Florida Marlins first baseman, Kevin Millar.
According to the AP:
But in today's Boston Globe, Bob Hohler and Gordon Edes are praising rookie GM Theo Epstein for pulling off "one of the shrewdest acquisitions in recent Red Sox lore":
The Globe usually gets things right, so I assume Millar is in fact going to Beantown. I'll update the story as it unfolds...
ROBBIE REDUX Bob Klapisch
Bob Klapisch updated the piece he wrote on Robbie Alomar for the Bergan Record last week for espn today. It is essentially the same article, but worth looking at if you missed it the first time round. Alomar predicts, "I'm going to have a great year," and I tend to agree with him.
Silly me. I thought the root of Alomar's problems was the fact he, not Mike Piazza, was the gay Met. Just a horseshit hunch, but if the shoe fits...
MY FAVORITE THINGS・OF 2002
MY FAVORITE THINGS・OF 2002
II. The Best Game I Sorta Seen
I was as happy as any Yankee fan could be when Boss George brought Jason Giambi to the Yankees after the 2001 campaign. Although I understood the sentimental attachment fans had for Tino Martinez, I felt Tino's career as a Yankee was a perfect bridge between superstars Mattingly and Giambi, and therefore didn't feel overly emotional about his leaving.
I attended the first home series of the 2002 season at the Stadium and strained to hold my tongue in the face of the boo's that cascaded down on the Yankees' new slugger. Let them have their say, I reasoned with myself, while I was secretly stewing. They miss Tino, and are entitled to have their say. Whatever. I really wanted to lash out and call the boo birds a bunch of ignorant slobs, but why fight nature's cycle? It was only a matter of time before they would be showering Giambo with cheers.
Later in the spring, I developed a case of dizziness as a result of a stomach virus. It was a minor version of what native New Yorker, Jamal Mashburn, power-forward for the erstwhile Charlotte Hornets, contracted during the playoffs. New York is a tough town for dizziness. Everything is in motion. Needless to say, the subways and crowds of pedestrians became a temporary challenge.
This was the condition I found myself in when I went to see the latest "Star Wars" installment during it's opening week in late May. I had plans with some of my closest friends to catch an afternoon showing at the Zeigfield and then catch the Yankee-Minnesota game later that night (my girl caught up with us for the second leg of the tour at the Stadium). Well, standing on line for the movie on 5th avenue was unsettling in and of itself, but when the movie started, I knew I was in for a long day. The entire first reel of the movie was not meant for those with vertigo, however mild my case may have been. I closed my eyes a lot, and breathed deeply. The deep breathing proved problematic, as there was a toddler next to me with enough flatulence to knock a buzzard of a shit wagon.
When we made it to the Bronx, it was already raining lightly. Our seats were in the upper tier section out in left field, which didn't help my stomach settle down any. Or the dizziness. But as uncomfortable as I was, part of me was fascinated by the strange sensation of being so unnerved by the open space, and sitting so high up. I'd catch the flight of a bird sail past, and feel like I was going to fall over. I'm not one to leave a game until the final out is recorded, but I resigned myself to leave when I couldn't take it any longer.
The Yanks fell behind early, but came storming back, handing Mike Mussina a cushy 8-3 lead, which he promptly pissed away. After six full, I had had enough (of the vertigo, not the Yanks), so Em and I left our gang, and headed home with the Yanks now trailing, 9-8.
The score remained the same when we got back to my place. Emily and I were embroiled in some deep emotional strudel at that time, so I blew off the end of the game in favor of hashing things out with her. Just as we were falling asleep the phone rang. My friend Liz, who was still at the Stadium, reported that Bernie had just hit a solo shot to tie the game at 9 in the bottom of the ninth. It wasn't the time to get overly excited, so I gave her specific instructions not to call again unless she had good news to report.
She didn't call back.
I checked my answering machine in the morning. Nothing. That was that, I thought.
Emily and I picked up where we had left off the night before in the Land of Total Heaviosity, talking for hours, exhausting us silly. Eventually I stepped out to get the papers, get the papers. It was still raining.
As fate would have it, when I turned the tabloids over to check the back pages, I discovered that Jason Giambi had hit a grand slam in the bottom of the 14th to win the damn thing for the Yanks. Holy fuggin sheet. I was way too excited for Giambi to feel badly for having missed it myself. Later, when I saw the replays I imagined Joe Torre greeting Giambi like Paul Sorvino welcoming the young Henry Hill outside the courthouse after his first bust in "Good Fellas": "Hey, you broke your cherry!"
Cue: "Rags to Riches."
I was only sorry that I wasn't there to give the big fella his props in person. But then, he didn't have to deal with too many boo bird after that night, did he?
ON AND ON・
Travis Mutchell, who covers the Yankees with a sharp eye, and an even sharper wit, has reached the 5,000-hit milestone at his site, Boy of Summer. I want to take the time to not only give him a shout of hearty congradulations, but to recommend his page to anyone with even a remote interest in the Bronx Bombers. Even if you hate the Yanks, check it out. It's good and good for you.
DAMNED YANKEE Newsday reported
Newsday reported last week that despite the persistent rumors, super-prospect Drew Henson has no intentions of leaving baseball for a career in football. That's too bad because right now Henson doesn't look like much more than one of George's boffo busts.
In his latest chat rap, espn minor-league analyst John Sickels commented, "I have several questions here about Henson. I'm very concerned about him...he's shown no growth as a prospect at all, and in some ways has gone backward. If he doesn't turn it around this year, I don't think he will."
THAT'S A WRAP
According to the AP, "The Venezuelan Winter League canceled the rest of its season Monday because it can't guarantee security, supplies and media coverage during an anti-government strike."
David Pinto has a great link to instapundit, for anyone who is interested in reading more about the tumult in Venezuela.
Pinto also tracked down a lengthy article on baseball in Latin America from the Star-Tribune yesterday that is well worth checking out.
TELL ME SOMETHING I DON'T KNOW
There is a piece in today's Boston Globe suggesting that the Red Sox have more interest in Javier Vazquez than in Bartolo Colon. Duh. The Boston Herald chims in too.
LOOKING AHEAD Here are
Here are two articles that look forward to the 2003 season: one by Peter Gammons of espn, the other by Tom Singer of mlb.com. We'll check back in October to see what to make of it all.
VETERAN UMP PASSES AWAY
VETERAN UMP PASSES AWAY
Durwood Merrill, an American League umpire for 23 years, died Saturday at the age of 64. Jerome Holtzman contributes an obituary for mlb.com.
This story is a keeper, if you haven't heard it already:
JOSE, CAN YOU READ?
JOSE, CAN YOU READ?
Alan Schwarz has a nice appreciation of Jim Brosnan's seminal book "The Long Season" (1960) in light of Jose Canseco's pending tell-all biography. Schwarz notes that Bronsan's book opened the door that Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" would kick down nearly a decade later:
BILL JAMES, YANKS IN FULL EFFECT
Bill James' fingerprints are all over the Red Sox bullpen reconfiguration this winter. Theo Epstein didn't need to be convinced by the sabertmetrics guru either, reports Gordon Edes in his Sunday column in the Globe.
In a seperate item, Edes offers a look at the Yankees financial muscle. "Baseball historian Glenn Stout, who collaborated with Richard A. Johnson, curator of the Sports Museum of New England, on the definitive history of the Red Sox, "Red Sox Century," last year did the same for "Yankees Century," another seminal work. Stout addressed the subject of the Yankees' purported financial advantage over their rivals in an essay titled 'YANKEE$' Here's an excerpt:
SHINJO'S BACK: GODZILLA'S IN TOWN
While Yankee fans eagerly await the unvieling of Hideki Matsui at the Stadium tomorrow, the Mets signed outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo to a one-year deal worth $600,000 over the weekend (he can earn another $400,000 in performance bonuses based on plate appearances). My cousin Gabe and I are both very pleased to see the androgynous (re: girl) Shinjo back with the Mets.
Here is a take on the deal from a Phillies fan's perspective, courtesy of Mike's Baseball Rants:
THE CHICAGO WAY A
THE CHICAGO WAY
A Movie Review
I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the movie musical, like slapstick comedy, is a virtually lost art form. "Chicago", the filmed adaptation of Bob Fosse's revue, has opened to rave reviews from the critics, suggesting their still may be life in the musical idiom after all. (That Sean Penn's pratfall in "I am Sam" stands as the best pratfall in recent memory doesn't bode well for the return of slapstick anytime soon.)
I saw "Chicago" this past weekend in Greenwich, CT, which is a story in itself. My girl and I took in a late afternoon show with the local geriatrics, and we had the grave misfortune to be seated behind Quasimoto in a cardigan with a swollen prostate, an itchy scalp, and a twitchy neck to boot. I've never seen a respectable member of an upstanding community fidget so damn much during a movie. Emily and I took turns sitting behind the knuckle-dragger so he wouldn't ruin the entire movie for either one of us.
"Chicago" is an evocative and well-crafted musical, which feels like a movie, not simply an adaptation of a stage play. It is nowhere near as frenetic as "Moulin Rouge", for which I was thankful. The director Rob Marshall offers some stunning visuals, but the editing is still too rapid, too cutty for my liking. It's as if either the director, a) doesn't trust the images---or the audience's attention span---enough to linger on a single shot for too long, or b) the hyper-activity of the editing is intended to make up for the short-comings of the actors. Perhaps, the brisk cutting was a conscious choice of style and pacing, but it distracted me from the performances.
"Chicago" moves at a brisk, lively pace. Renee Zellweger, an actress I don't have much affection for, is more than game, and she delivers a winning performance, overcoming her limitations as a musical/theater actress by the sheer force of her willingness to enjoy herself and please the audience. Catherine Zeta-Jones, on the other hand, is so intent on blowing everyone away, that she comes across as wooden, mechanical. It's not that she isn't trying. If anything, she's trying too hard. She can sing, and dance, but it feels like work; Cyd Charisse, she's not. Even her dramatic scenes feel hollow (something she does have in common with Charisse). She's a bitch, without the bite.
Richard Gere has developed into a polished actor; the gray suits him. (I think his role, as the corrupt cop in "Internal Affairs" was a turning point.) Gere's first number is a bit shaky---I half-covered my eyes for fear of being embarrassed on his behalf, but he recovers nicely and handles the role with aplomb, and humor. It was nice to see Queen Latifah in the supporting role as Mama Morton, though she isn't really a singer or an actress, and John C. Riley, expertly cast, is once again, on the mark with a sympathetic, and earnest performance as the nice guy who finishes last.
Musicals never really die off completely. They keep coming back because even if they aren't well made, there is an audience for them. They are a truly great American invention after all. "Chicago" is likely to satiate old-time musical lovers and attract younger audiences as well.
DOBY AND THE TITTY
DOBY AND THE TITTY PITCH
I was perusing Danny Peary's oversized, oral history, "We Played the Game: 65 Players Remember Baseball's Greatest Era--1947-1964" (1994} this weekend, looking for the lowdown on Minnie Minoso. I happened to run across an entry from Mudcat Grant, a player I recently encountered in Terry Pluto's "The Curse of Rocky Colavito", and I wanted to share this entry because it sheds some light on Larry Doby, president of the Nice-Guys-Finish-Second Club, and offers a good Satcial Paige anecdote. (Aren't they all good?)
Next to Grant's entry, is a photo of a young Mudcat in 1958. Resting his hand against his cheek, Grant's wide face is open and curious. There is a restraint there, but it barely conceals a sense of pride, and accomplishment.
The caption reads: A personalbe, outspoken right-hander from Lacoochee, Florida, Jim "Mudcat" Grant reached the Cleveland Indians in 1958 and would become the American League's first black starting pitcher.
TOO HOT TO TROT
The political unrest is Venezuela may impact it's native players from returning to the States for the upcoming season. After Houston outfielder Richard Hidalgo was attacked earlier this winter, slick-fielding short stop legend, Chico Carrasquel was car jacked last week and roughed up some too.
Here is an excerpt from a column in Saturday's New York Times delineating the turmoil in Venezuela:
・LUCKIEST MAN ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH・
Lou Gehrig ain't got nuthin on me. I received the following e-mail from my girlfriend, Emily, in response to a brief article I posted last week, in which I basically gushed about our baseball-friendly relationship:
And you can't beat that with a baseball bat.
ROBBIE'S RETURN As dispiriting
As dispiriting as Robbie Alomar's 2002 season was for the Mets, it wasn't a complete suprise, considering Alomar is considered an overly-sensitive player, and he played on a rutterless team. However, it is just as likely that Alomar will return to form this season, in spite of playing at Shea Stadium. Alomar has traditionally bounced back from his off-years. On top of that, he will be playing for a contract this season. How much more motivation could a Met fan ask for?
Alomar was one of my favorite Yankee-antagonists during the 90's, and I sure hope to watch him regain his Hall of Fame form this coming season.
Bob Klapisch profiled Alomar in his column yesterday for the Bergan Record:
CHOCK FULL OF SPIKE
Here is an item that appeared in the current L.A. Weekly:
BETTER PLAY LIKE MICHAEL JACKSON CAUSE THAT SHIT IS OFF THE WALL
Bob Ryan, offers a characteristically spirited take on the proposed addition of seating on top of the Green Monster. Here are some excerpts from his article in today's Globe:
COMINGS AND GOINGS I
COMINGS AND GOINGS
I may not have Shane Spencer to kick around anymore, but if everything falls into place, my girl may just be able to have her favorite girl back in a Mets uniform by opening day.
ESPN has an article on another utility player of note in the New York area, none other than Randy Velarde. I've always had a soft spot for Velarde, who came up through the Yankee organization, only to be moved just as they began their championship run. If the Mets sign him to play third, next to my man Rey Sanchez, I just may have to become an official Met fan.
For those of you who like to read the obits, Baseball Primer pays tribute to all of the baseball people who passed away in 2002. There were some big names on that list of course, like Ted Williams, Enos Slaughter, Hoyt Wilhelm, Dave McNally, Dick O'Connell, and Jack Buck. But there were some lesser players of note too, including Darryl Kile, Joe Black, Darrell Porter, Johnny Roseboro, Dick "Dr. Strangeglove" Stuart, and Jim Spencer.
On another somber note, Boston Globe columnist, and Boston-native, Wil McDonough passed away last night at the age of 67.
FIRST A FORFEIT, NOW
FIRST A FORFEIT, NOW THIS
ESPN reports today that "Commissioner Bud Selig will probably brief owners next week on his plan to have the league that wins the All-Star game gain home-field advantage in the World Series."
David Pinto offers an excellent critique of yet another dud from Bud:
A FEW OF MY
A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS...
At the end of every year, journalists often put together various "Best-of" lists for the year. Instead of compiling a top 10 for the year 2002, I thought I'd write about my 5 favorite moments. But then I recalled how thoroughly MLB dicked up their greatest moments last season, and noticed that my favorite moments weren't necessarily moments at all. They are more like stories.
Regardless, over the next week or so, I will post my top-five favorite baseball stories of 2002.
My Lil' Friend
The best thing that happened to me last year was the relationship I developed with my girlfriend, Emily. We started going out last January, and are roughly the same age (I'm 31, she just turned 30). By the time baseball season crept around, Emily was well aware of my interest in the game (it's hard not to notice; subtle, I ain't). Quite Frankly, she thought I was touched-in-the-head, crazy. Especially when I was kept up by a Yankee loss for the first time.
She thought I was putting her on. I wasn't. She wasn't pissed, as much as she was perplexed.
Then the most pleasant surprise occurred. Not only did Em tolerate my obsession with baseball, but she also showed a genuine curiosity in learning more about the game. This was totally unexpected. I have learned to regard sports and relationships much like the division of church and state. I don't anticipate the woman I'm involved with to give two shits about sports---in this case, baseball, and I don't try to inflict it on them, or attempt to convert them either. The same way I wouldn't expect them to teach me how to knit and watch the Lifetime network on a Sunday afternoon.
So long as I'm able to carve some space for myself, I'm happy to keep my games to myself. Or have them as part of my Guy time (though I do have plenty of female baseball buddies too). Fortunately, the baseball season is long enough to create few scheduling conflicts. Let's face it, if I blow off my girl in the middle of June to watch the Yankees play the Royals on a Friday night, the relationship is what Woody Allen once declared, "a dead shark".
Initially, Emily was more amused watching me watch the game, than the game itself. I am not a passive fan. I pace around the apartment, usually with a stickball bat, or a mitt, or a ball in my hands, talking shit to the players, bellyaching about the announcers, cheering the home team, and goading the opposition. What she responded to was my enthusiasm. I suppose it didn't matter what the source of it was---Em was attracted to the fact that I had something to be so passionate about.
But after a while, she began to ask questions, and became more interested in the complexities of the sport itself. I couldn't believe my luck. There were afternoons last year when Emily turned to me and said, "Can we watch the game?" I don't know, can we eat ice cream and have sex all afternoon? Good Lord, Woman, Hell yes we can watch the game.
We attended several games during the season (including the famous Giambi extra-inning grand slam affair against the Twinkies...more on that later). Emily's presence softened the blows of not being able to get the YES network on cablevision for an entire year, and the Yankees first round playoff loss. She now has her favorites---Giambo and Bernie, and even has the chutzpah to chide other guys too: "Shinji," she proclaimed one day, mispronouncing Tsuyoshi Shinjio's name: "He's a girl."
When the Yanks landed Godzilla, her response was, "Is he a friggin girl too?"
We are currently enjoying our first Hot Stove League, and having a nice winter. Emily continues to put up with me. I think she's looking forward to going to the Stadium again too.
Not for nothing, but I have been known to spend portions of my weekend laying around on the couch catching up with the latest horrors the Lifetime Network has to offer. But I haven't learn to knit・yet.
GIVE THE KID HIS DUE
There weren't many players that made my skin crawl more than Gary Carter did when I was growing up, as a Yankee fan in the ｀80s. I still think Carter is an ingratiating putz, but I have no problem with him being a Hall of Famer. I flipped through some of the old Bill James Abstracts last night and found some interesting comments on Carter in his prime years:
Historical Abstract (2001 edition):
PLOP, PLOP, FIZZ, FIZZ:
PLOP, PLOP, FIZZ, FIZZ: OH, WHAT A RELIEVER AIN'T
Goose (Gossage) and Bruce (Sutter) came up short once again in their bid for the Hall of Fame, but the case for the closers should heat up next year when Dennis Eckersley becomes eligible for consideration. Here is Tom Verducci's take, in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated:
For those who are interested, there is a wonderfully thorough series of articles on the history of relief pitching over at Mike's Baseball Rants, which are written with skill and care. Well worth purusing.
My cousin Gabe gave his take on this subject in a letter I printed earlier in the week.
I'M SO GLAD WE'VE HAD THIS TIME TOGETHER...
Here are Rob Neyer's pick of the top 10 players not in the Hall of Fame:
1. Ryne Sandberg
Minnie Minoso is a player who isn't talked about much, which is a disappointment considering his achievements, and the fact that he was the first black Latino to play in the Majors. Allen Barra wrote an appreciation of Minoso in his book "Clearing the Bases". I've loaned my copy out, but when I get it back, I will post excerpts of the article.
Here is a belated, breakdown of Roger Clemens' new contract with the Yankees. Rob Neyer addressed Rocket's staus with the Yankees in his latest column:
BLUFFIN FOR BARTOLO? Theo
BLUFFIN FOR BARTOLO?
Theo Epstein's Great Arm Chase has apparently hit a snag, according to an article in today's Boston Globe. But I won't be convinced Boston is out of the running for Colon, or Javier Vazquez until they are traded to team not called the Red Sox.
RED ASS REDUX
Orlando Hernandez is not the only member of his extended family with a volatile temper. According to a report from espn:
Maybe the old man was a Pro-Castro Cubano. Either way, some things are funny enough without needing to comment on them too tough. I thought watching Livan leg out a triple late last summer against the Braves---complete with a crash-landing, half-slide, was as good as it got.
I stand corrected.
STEADY EDDIE: COOL, CALM
STEADY EDDIE: COOL, CALM AND COLLECTED
Eddie Murray was not available to address the media yesterday when he was elected to the Hall of Fame. He was attending the funeral of his sister Tanja, 38, who died last Thursday after a long battle with kidney disease. He did released a statement that read in part, "The elation I feel by being recognized for my achievements on the field is overshadowed by the anguish of losing someone so dear to me."
There is little doubt that Murray is a deserving Hall of Famer, regardless of his cold relationship with the press throughout the years. That much was proven yesterday. But it is ironic that Murray was unable to bask in the glow of his own success, because of the emotional welfare of his family. Murray always put family and team first, and himself a distant second.
Tom Boswell contributed a column on Murray today in The Washington Post, aptly titled, "A Silence that Speaks Volumes." Here is what Boswell wrote about Murray in an 1983 article on the Orioles Championship season, "Bred to a Harder Thing Than Triumph" (from the collection, "Why Time Begins On Opening Day",1984):
David Falkner caught up with Murray in spring training of 1985, and wrote an revealing profile on the slugger in his book, "The Short Season." (1986):
Murray had the "team" concept instilled in him from an early age. He was one of 12 brothers and sisters.
Murray's older brother Charles signed with the Astros organization, and after his rookie year formed a pickup team of professionals during the off-season---including Dock Ellis, Bobby Tolan and Bob Watson. Murray was the batboy.
Murray's childhood experiences brought a strong sense of humility to his talent. Tom Boswell continued:
In Kevin Kerrane's book on scouting, "Dollar Sign on the Muscle", an Oriole official explained how the team landed Eddie Murray:
Murray played for Cal Ripken Sr. in the Orioles minor league system, was mentored by Lee May when he reached the big club, taught himself to become a switch-hitter, and later became a role model for the younger players like Cal Ripken Jr. He told David Falkner:
Murray's single-season numbers are not as spectacular as several players who aren't in the Hall of Fame, notably Jim Rice, Dale Murphy and Don Mattingly. But he plugged away, steadily, surely, and ended up with the magic milestones of 3,000 hits and 500 homers. The popular perception of Murray is that of an aloof, surly superstar. But on second look, he was one of the more valuable clubhouse superstars of his era. Just don't expect him to waste too much time boasting about it. Unlike Gary Carter, a media darling of sorts, Murray was content let his actions do all the talking, regardless of what was written about him. That alone makes him exceptional, even in the rarified air of Cooperstown.
"ALL THEY DO IS
"ALL THEY DO IS GIVE OUT AWARDS..."
Boss George was in town yesterday accepting an award from The Sporting News as "The Most Powerful Man in Sports."
"It may seem like I'm Simon Legree," Steinbrenner said referring to the fictional slave driver in "Uncle Tom's Cabin", "but I'm not."
Of course, George couldn't resist taking another shot at Larry Lucchino's "evil empire" quip.
Steinbrenner also intimated that future Hall of Famer, Rocket Clemens was being wooed by the Sox, but "Roger wanted to stay with the Yankees," Steinbrenner said. "Here's a guy that sacrificed an awful lot of money and a lot of things he could have had somewhere else like north of here - he didn't like the snow - but he's coming back."
KID CARTER PUMPED
Gary Carter doesn't have to whine any longer. Like Sally Field he can finally say, "You like me, you really like me!" According to the Daily News:
Carter also told Bill Madden:
Carter couldn't resist bitching just a little. It has always been part of his game, so why change now?
Bob Klapisch has a good column today regarding his Hall of Fame ballot, "Impossible to figure who's in, who's out."
Klap makes a case for the Goose, as does Kevin Kernan in the Post.
The Envelope Please There
The Envelope Please
There will be cocktails at the Carter residence after all. As expected, Kid Carter and Eddie Murray were elected to the Hall of Fame this afternoon: Carter was on 78% of the ballots, Murray topped that with 85.3%.
This is how the best of the rest faired:
Bruce Sutter 53.6%
I was a little bit suprised at Ryno's poor showing. So was Rob Neyer in his on-line chat today:
"I figured [Sanburg] he might get in, but if he didn't he'd certainly come close.
But he didn't come close at all. Which is something of a shock if you were a fan in the 1980s, because then everybody thought Sandberg was a lock. I think that Sandberg, like Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell suffers from comparison to the bloated hitting stats of the last decade...
I've been doing this long enough that the actual arguments for the players don't interest me as much as the bizarre arguments. Today alone, I've now had somebody tell me that Sandberg is the greatest second baseman ever, and somebody else tell me that if Sandberg had played for the Mariners, he'd already be completely forgotten.
The truth is somewhere between, of course. He is one of the ten or twelve greatest second basemen ever, and so I guess now he joins Ron Santo as a Cubs infielder who the BBWAA screwed."
Neyer also commented on the voters' ambiguity towards relief pitchers, Sutter, Goose, and Lee Smith:
"It's funny, the "closer" has been around for approximately 25 years now, and yet we're still trying to figure out if they're really worth anything. Everybody says they're hugely important, but the Hall of Fame voters apparently haven't yet been convinced. To answer your question, though ... I don't believe Sutter was great for long enough, and I don't believe Smith was great enough at all. I can understand the arguments for both of them, but to me Gossage is more deserving."
DOWN TO THE WIRE
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Baseball Primer has two new Keltner List evaluations this morning: one on Andre Dawson, another on Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris.
Check em out.
COUNTDOWN TO ECSTACY Murray,
COUNTDOWN TO ECSTACY
Murray, Carter...and Ryno? The first two appear to be locks to make it to the Hall of Fame later today, and it wouldn't come as a shock if Sandburg made it too. Here are the ballots from two more writers: Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, and Jayson Stark of ESPN. The Kernan piece is an especially good reason why baseball writers may not be the best choice to vote players into the Hall. Dale Murphy and Donnie Baseball get the nod over Bert Blyleven (?), who is profiled by Jim Caple . Kernan's case for his picks doesn't exactly leave the reader with confidence in the voting process.
BARTOLO CLOSER TO BEANTOWN?
The Red Sox have reached an agreement in principal with free agent third baseman Bill Mueller, according to the Boston Globe. "Muller's deal, believed to be worth about $4.5 million over two years, is significant because the Sox would be unlikely to make such an investment on a backup infielder." Which means the Hillenbrand-for-Colon talks are hot once again.
"'I think today we're finally making some progess,' said a source close to the negotiations. 'I think both sides want to get this done. But where it leads, who knows?'"
In another interesting comesmetic development, the Globe noted:
"...Preliminary work is under way for construction of seating atop the Green Monster at Fenway Park. The team's request for a permit to built 312 seats of a deck above the storied Wall is pending with the city, which is expected to isse a ruling this month. Until then, the Sox said, they have been cleared to begin an early phase of the project. 'We have been authorized to do further preliminary work, and that is all that is going on at this stage,' team spokesman Kevin Shea said."
HE ALMOST HAD IT
HE ALMOST HAD IT MADE
A Look at Curt Flood
Looking at the list of players up for election by the Veterans Committee, no one interests me more than Curt Flood. Minnie Minoso is appealing for reasons greater than his game as well. Minoso was the first dark-skinned Latino to play in the majors, the first black ballplayer to play for either Chicago team. Further, Minoso was 28 before he got regular time in the bigs. Think about if Vladimir Guerrero or Alex Rodriguez hadn't even played a full season yet.
While Minoso had a warm and gregarious personality, Curt Flood was a more striking, sardonic figure. "Curt Flood, [is] the brooding Othello his sport," wrote Tom Boswell. Flood's baseball accomplishments may not merit his selection, but his act of defiance against the owners and the reserve clause, have put him in the running. If not the Hall of Fame, then at least, the Hall of Chutzpah.
"Very few guys have ever had an appreciation for who he was," said Frank Robinson. "A guy with a whole load of guts."
Flood may not be a Hall of Famer, but he may be one of the most fascinating characters it has seen in the last 50 years. His importance can't be denied, yet it has also been misconstrued. Flood has been immortalized by some, but more often ignored, and officially unrecognized.
"Flood is on the Veterans Committee ballot this year ... and as a player Flood doesn't have much of a case.
"In his New Historical Baseball Abstract Bill James rates Flood the 36th-greatest center fielder of all time. And Bill is a big Curt Flood fan. Curt Flood was about as good as Andy Van Slyke, and Clyde Milan, and Kenny Lofton.
"Yes, I know that Flood challenged the reserve clause, and he certainly deserves credit, along with a large measure of fame, for taking that risk (a risk that essentially killed his career). But it seems to me that Flood has gotten the credit and the fame that he deserves. If you don't know who Curt Flood was now, you're not going to know who he was even if he's in the Hall.
"Curt Flood was one hell of a ballplayer, and one hell of a courageous man. But I wouldn't put him in the Hall of Fame."
For another opinion on Flood, here is what Bill James wrote about him in the updated "Historical Abstract":
"By the Win Shares method, Flood rates as the best defensive outfielder in baseball history, per innings played. This claim comes with several caveats. Andruw Jones rates as far better than Flood, but that's just on a few years worth of data, and he'll look different with time...
"Flood, of course, rates higher than he probably ought to because he skipped the decline phase of his career. There are other guys who rate even with him in his prime years, like [Greg] Maddox and [Paul] Blair and the DiMaggios, but as they aged, their per-inning productivity naturally dropped. Flood was a great defensive outfielder; I don't know that I would especially want to argue that he was the best who ever played.
"Did Curt Flood sacrifice his career to enable today's baseball players to make millions of dollars a season? Read literally, absolutely not. A lot of people seem to forget: Curt Flood's case ended, for the players, in a solid defeat. Curt Flood carried the banner for baseball players as they marched down the hallway to a doorway that never opened. In a literal sense, all Flood gave to baseball players was the certain knowledge that that door wouldn't open.
"Of course, all nations honor patriots whose death do not lead directly to victory, and it is traditional for unions to honor the sacrifices of those who fight the good fight, regardless of their won-lost record. I just always notice this, that a lot of people actually seem to think that the Curt Flood case led directly to free agency. It's a confusion of history, vaguely equivalent to thinking that Frederick Douglass wrote the Emancipation Proclamation or that the Axis Sally bombed Pearl Harbor."
I'm not exactly sure why James is such a hard-ass Reactionary here. It's not exactly Flood he's objecting to but the perception of The Flood legacy; still, I think James' objections are over-stated. Literally speaking, Flood's case against baseball did not lead to free agency. Marvin Miller wrote, "Curt Flood didn't actually change the game, though he was a positive force and an example for others who did." But James is pissed that there is a popular notion that Flood did initiate free agency. He's angry at the public's need for manufactured (Liberal) heroes, at the expense of the facts.
I can appreciate that, but isn't it more compelling to look at Flood as one of the more complicated and fascinating cases of the modern era?
James says that Flood carried the banner for ball players down a hallway that never opened, but what does that mean? That literally speaking the reserve clause was not overturned on the grounds that Flood argued?
Marvin Miller, in his caustic, and often bitter autobiography, "A Whole Different Ballgame" describes the reaction of Flood v. Kuhn.
"I must also point out that Justice Thurgood Marshall, in a separate dissenting opinion, correctly pointed out that if the Supreme Court had decided to overrule the 1922 and Toolson decisions (and thus subject baseball to antitrust regulation), that wouldn't automatically mean that Flood would win his case. Flood was suing on the basis that his treatment by baseball was a violation of antitrust laws, so first he had to establish that baseball was covered by antitrust laws, and only then would it become necessary to establish how baseball violated those laws. To show that what baseball did to Flood was in violation of the law would have been the easy part."
Neyer contends that James is a big fan of Flood's, so maybe he doth protest too much because Flood is one of his favorites; we always rip the ones we love. Ultimately of course, the reserve system was eradicated, though it had much more to do with Miller's ability to win binding arbitration with Major League Baseball, than with Flood's court case. The players achieved free agency, even if it didn't co-inside with a victory for Curt Flood.
Flood's defeat wasn't as black and white as James suggests. The Supreme Court ruled against Flood 5-3 on June 6, 1972. But, according to Marvin Miller:
"Chief Justice Warren Burger recognized the error of baseball's exemption, but wrote that the lives of too many people would be affected by a reversal of the error. I don't think I've ever read such criticism of a majority decision of the court by the very justices who formed the majority. The majority described their decision as an 'aberration' and an 'anomaly.' Their criticism was correct, but their decision was, unfortunately wrong...The Washington Post described the decision aptly when it noted that 'tradition had once more won out over logic.'
"I think it is worth taking a look at the dissenters on that Supreme Court. Two of the justices, William O. Douglas and William Brennan, felt that baseball's judicial exemption from antitrust laws was wrong. In perhaps the most strongly worded statement connected with the case, they wrote, 'Were we considering the question of baseball for the first time on a "clean slate," we would hold it to be subject to federal antitrust regulations....' They added that the 'unbroken silence of Congress should not prevent us from correcting our own mistakes.'
"The efforts of Curt Flood and the Players Association were not wholly lost. First of all, we presented a good case in the trial court. The arguments against the reserve clause had never before been made so lucidly or so forcefully. Much more important---what Flood v. Kuhn really accomplished---was, in the much-used phrase of the 1960's, raising the consciousness of everyone involved with baseball: the writers, the fans, the players---and perhaps even some of the owners...
"Many outside of the immediate power structure of baseball did begin to understand that the reserve system was wrong and that baseball as we know it might not vanish if it were abolished or drastically reformed...
"What did we do wrong? For one thing, the players themselves could have taken a more visible and active part in the trail...It was foolish to overlook the media appeal of big-name athletes. They could have been seen attending the trail, going in and out of the courthouse. That, I think, would have given the Players Association more of a human look to the public and shown that ballplayers were capable of demonstrating courage and solidarity off the field as well as on."
"If I had 600 players behind me there would be no reserve clause," Flood told the Associated Press in 1973.
Miller continued, "Why didn't I encourage it? Well, for one thing the trail was held during the season, and I was reluctant to urge players to do anything that would distract them their jobs. For another, it was in the back of my mind that a great many marginal players might be the targets of owner revenge if Flood lost: A utility infielder who was active in the union and made a public show of support for Flood might find himself losing a job to a utility infielder who wasn't active in the union. Union reps had a tough time as it was; they tended to be traded more often than players who were less active in the union.
"But there was little element of risk to the major stars, and they were the ones we needed most. To my knowledge, not one of them attended a single session of the trail. This was as much my fault as the players'...To be honest, I wasn't as certain of the unity and solidarity of the Association then as I became a few years later. By the time Flood v. Kuhn came to trail in 1970 I had been executive director only four years, and we had not been tested by our first strike. We had been unified to an extent by the players' refusal to sign contracts in the winter of 1968-69, and the players had remained firm through successful negotiations on both the pension plan and the first collective bargaining agreement. But we were still feeling our way as an organization; for instance, I think it would have been different in 1973, after the players had stuck together during the 1972 strike.
"That was undoubtedly a failure of leadership---my leadership. And it was yet another example demonstrating that players, like other people without leadership, always seem to fail to act in their own best interests. Fear aside, it must be remembered that players are profoundly affected by the press, and one can't minimize the impact of the media working in conjunction with the owners, hammering away on the theme that without the reserve clause, baseball will fall. Flood's suit was painted as an attempt to undermine the entire sport.
"It was also true that many players simply didn't care. They may have wanted Flood to win, but they felt that they had their careers to be concerned with, and that was that."
Tom Boswell offered a poignant look at Flood in an article he wrote about the 1971 Washington Senators (from "How Life Imitates the World Series"):
"For Curt Flood, nothing is more painful than thinking back to April 1971. It is like asking the survivor of a shipwreck to recount his weeks adrift in a lifeboat.
'Pressure,' he said softly. 'Pressure and tension...that's what I remember. It was tough. I had been out of the game for over a year because of my lawsuit against baseball and the reserve clause. That spring was a big year for me, the first chance I'd had to play.
'I knew all along that those few weeks were the time that was going to decide whatever was going to happen to me right down to this moment, actually,' said Flood.
"Flood, dressed in black that spring, was a solitary Hamlet-like figure--one slender, rusty, center fielder standing against a century of baseball tradition. Not one other player in baseball took his side. Like a leper, he was not vilified, simply avoided.
"Flood only returned to baseball from Denmark because owner Robert Short's contract offer of $110,000---half of it in advance--offered some hope of keeping his head above water financially.
"But, two weeks after that Opening Day, Flood had given up hope. His court case had suffered another defeat and would have to be appealed to the Supreme Court--more expense. His wife was seeking support for their five children---an expense he could no longer meet. And his batting average had sunk below .200. His spirits were far lower.
"Flood fled to Madrid, later tended bar for more than a year on the island of Majorca.
'After I went back to Europe, I had plenty of time over the years to think about whether I gave up on my comeback too soon, ' Flood says now. 'I'm sure I was right. Those young kids were running all over me.'
"Now, Flood, born in 1938, looks older than his years. He is frequently on the defensive, as though questioners were trying to catch him in some innocent mistake to make him look like a fool.
"During the 1979 season, he returned to the baseball scene briefly as a radio color announcer for the Oakland A's---a bizarre connection since Charlie Finely is the No. 1 victim of the free-agent system that Flood helped create.
'You seldom see a man's basic character change, especially a strong character like Flood, a genuinely thoughtful rebel,' said [Mike] Epstein. 'But when you see Curt Flood today, you see a man who has been tied to the mast and has taken one lash too many.'
"That is as close to a candid comment on Flood as anyone on the baseball scene is likely to make. His continued financial precariousness, in an age of free-agent millionaires, is a bitter irony that cuts several ways.
"Despite all his suffering for his convictions, Flood at least has the solace of seeing that his ideal of justice triumphed--although he speaks very softly on that subject, too.
'I believe that free agents have helped the game,' he said. 'It was the only equitable thing, that everyone get a fair share. Someplace along the line in baseball history, the people on the field, the actual entertainers, had to be included in the picture on a fair basis.'"
The lawsuit against the baseball is the pinnacle of Flood's career and his life, but it isn't the only thing that contributed to Flood being a tortured soul. To view him as a mere victim would be shallow, and belittling. He had a dark, messy complicated life. Flood was a husband with 5 children, but a playboy, jock too. In his autobiography, "The Way It Is" (written with Dick Carter) Flood gives much more lip service to the playboy lifestyle than his wife or his experience as a father. I can only imagine he paid a price for that. He was a ladies man, smoked, drank and lived life hard; he eventually lost his marriage and family.
But he was also thoughtful, intelligent, creative, and willful. The youngest of six kids, Flood was raised in the tough section of Oakland during the post war years. "We were not poor, but we had nothing," Flood wrote. "That is, we ate at regular intervals, but not much. We were not ragged. Both parents lived at home. In the conventially squalid West Oakland ghetto where I grew up, most other households seemed worse off.
"To achieve these triumphs of stability, my parents held no fewer than four underpaid jobs at a time," continued Flood. "By day, my father was a hospital menial. At night, he moonlighted at the same employment. My mother was also a full-time hospital worker. In the evenings she attended to her own cooking and sewing and cleaning and frugal shopping, and tried to make sense of her children's conflicting reports about the accomplishments, accidents, broken promises, arguments and threats of the day."
The Flood children all showed an aptitude for drawing. Flood explained that his father "spent more on sketchpads than on Christmas trees. All the kids could draw. Carl and I even seemed to have the makings of artists. It rewarded the parents in their comings and goings, their interminable labors, to see three or four of us sprawled on the living room floor, engrossed in a pastime so remote from the meanness of the streets."
If Curt's talent set him apart, his age worked against him. Sometimes the baby of the family is pampered and gets all the love, and other times they are ignored and have to fight extra hard to get noticed at all.
"Because we were without direct parental supervision most of the time, our affairs were governed by a pecking order in which size and seniority ruled. As undisputed occupant of the lowest position on the totem pole, I amassed a huge inventory of grievances at an early age.
The young Flood also proved to be a gifted athlete. "When I was nine, I became the catcher for Junior's Sweet Shop, in a police-sponsored midget league. Carl was the pitcher. The coach was George Powles, a white man who later became famous for having developed a phenomenal number of outstanding athletes, most of them black. Among the major-league baseball players coached and encouraged by George at McCylymonds High School or on his various sandlot and semiprofessional teams were Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Billy Martin, Joe Morgan...He also helped the basketball super star Bill Russell...
"If I now see whites as human beings of variable worth rather than as stereotypes, it is because of a process than began with George Powles...The beauty of George was that you did not have to adulterate your blackness to win his confidence and approval. He neither preached nor patronized. He emitted none of the smog of the do-gooder embarked on a salvage operation. After the games, he would bring the whole gang of ragamuffins to his pleasant home (a palace!) to plunder his wife's refrigerator. He recently expressed astonishment when somebody told him that I remembered those visits as high points of my childhood. He protested that I had just been one of a crowd of kids and that there had been nothing extraordinary about the doings and that no fuss had been made over me because of my special talents. On reflection, he allowed that ice cream, cookies and comfortable furniture might have made an impression of me. But this had not been noticeable at the time. I was a cool cat."
But nothing Flood experienced growing up in the relatively benign racial climate of Northern California* prepared him for the humiliation and degradation he was to experience playing in the South. Flood's minor league experience in the mid 1950's was atypical: brutal, unforgiving, and lonely.
Frank Robinson told Mark Kram last summer, "You really had to endure and overcome. What I remember is that it was a hard, hard grind, and you had to have the strength to handle it or you would not survive. I know it was prepared Flood to stand up for himself because I know how it prepared me."
Flood wrote, "What had started as a chance to test my baseball ability in a professional setting had become an obligation to measure myself as a man. As such, it was a matter of life and death. These brutes were trying to destroy me. If they could make me collapse and quit, it would verify their preconceptions. And it would wreck my life.
During the early weeks of the season, I used to break into tears as soon as I reached the safety of my room. I felt too young for the ordeal. I wanted to be home. I wanted to talk to someone. I wanted to be free of these animals whose fifty-cent bleacher ticket was a license to curse my color and deny my humanity. I wanted to be free of the imbeciles on the ball team...
My teammates despised and rejected me as subhuman. I gladly would have sent them all to hell. More than once during that horrible season (1956, North Carolina), I was tempted to strike out so that our cracker pitcher would lose another game. More than once, I almost threw the ball away or dropped a fly ball for the same vengeful purpose.
If I did not sabotage the team (and I never did), it was only because I had been playing baseball too long and too well to discredit myself. And I was too black. Pride was my resource. I solved my problem by playing my guts out. I ran myself down to less than 135 pounds in the blistering heat. I completely wiped out that peckerwood league. I led it in everything but home runs---although I hit 29...The better I did, the tougher I got. I no longer wept in my room.
Toward midseason, when I had established myself as a star, I attended to another matter of importance. During the pregame practice one evening, a little black kid jumped onto the field, grabbed a loose ball, and climbed back into the stands. One of our lint-head pitchers screamed, 'Hey you black nigger, come back with that ball!' Then he jumped into the stands, took the ball from the child and returned to the field, flushed with triumph. I was waiting for him
'Don't use that word around me,' I said. 'You owe me more respect than that. White kids steal baseballs all the time without interference, you wool-hat son-of-a-bitch. If you ever come near me again you'll be sorry.'
Flood was sharp and cool. He embodied the sense of cool that is associated with Miles Davis, and the jazz musicians of an earlier generation. Expressing his rage and contempt through a detached, calculated cool. Flood was part of the 60's generation, and as his success grew, so did his willingness to speak his mind. He was not alone of course, playing alongside Bill White, and Bob Gibson and Lou Brock on the great Cardinal teams of that era. I don't think he was especially political until the decade drew to a close, and well, it would have been tough for an introspective and aware guy like Flood to resist becoming politicized.
Flood was greatly influenced by an older white couple he was introduced to by his high school art teacher in 1962. Jim and Marian Jorgensen were warmly disposed, dusty-old radicals who took had an instant rapport with the young ballplayer.
Flood wrote, "I was a cool customer of twenty-four, mentally quick, passably articulate, culturally and politically underdeveloped, veneered with a brittle gloss of big-league savvy. My attitudes inclined to the gutter-tough and the dugout-cynical. An inner confidence had propelled me over many obstacles to a highly perishable success. I had no idea where this confidence might take me next, or even whether it would remain serviceable. I had begun to realize that it derived from a delicately balanced, ruthlessly controlled arrangement of raw nerves, the vulnerability of which was becoming more evident under the stress of a discordant marriage. That the Jorgensen's found me likable moved me, as it should have. I needed them more than I knew. I needed new dimensions more than I knew. On that evening, these needs may have expressed themselves as an open-minded, open-hearted eagerness. Marian remembers eagerness as part of it.
"John Jorgensen was thirty-five years older than I," and had the "directness of a man who had discovered years earlier that he could face the world without fear and, therefore, without guile," wrote Flood. "Johnny Jorgensen was a master craftsman, owner of an industrial engraving plant. He was an indifferent businessman, unwilling to waste energy on the techniques of management. And acknowledged genius in the painstaking art of designing and engraving industrial stamping dies, he made an ample living that way and then rushed home to Marian, where the meaning was."
Flood would eventually go into business with Jorgensen; he learned how to make engravings himself. "Johnny and Marian and I were closer than friends, freer and easier than family...My mother and father and sisters and brothers often joined us there and so did numerous ballplayers. The place was a sanctuary of warm fellowship, a joy and comfort beyond description."
In late 1966, Jorgensen was horrifically murdered in his plant one night. Flood, in Los Angeles at the time, was briefly considered a suspect. "After bugging our phones and following us around for two weeks, the police finally caught the murderer. He was a black adolescent who had gone on a psychotic rampage after being dismissed from a job. He had never seen Johnny until the moment he stumbled into the plant and lashed out in mindless fury. Then sent him to an institution for the criminally insane."
Flood, who had lived with the Jorgensen's when he left his marriage fell apart, persuaded Marion to move to St. Louis with him, and she became his defacto secretary, business manager, care-taker.
Though Flood doesn't discuss his wife and children much at all, he does write about his older brother, Carl. Carl, a more talented artist, and a better jock, than his younger brother, had taken the wrong path in life. He couldn't resist the street life, hanging with thugs, or falling prey to the clutches of heroin. Carl ended up in prison for armed robbery.
Carl Flood is the ideal coulda-been-a-contender character. In prison he taught himself 4 languages, won chess tournaments, and awards for his abstract painting. Marion Jorgensen didn't have enough of challenge taking care of Curt Flood, so she became Carl Flood's guardian angel too, devoting tireless energy to reducing his sentence, trying to save him too.
What makes Flood appealing to Romantics and Liberals alike is the simple fact that he fought the Law and the Law won. Sometimes, we can look back over the events of a man's life and project or fantasize that everything led to one crucial event. This is easy with Flood, and his fight against the reserve clause, regardless of whether he did it consciously or not.
Flood was the right man at the right time. Or the right man at the wrong time, whichever you'd prefer. In Ken Burns' "Baseball", Flood said, "I am a child of the sixties." Flood was aware that by taking on MLB his career was all but over. I also think he understood that he was the most prominent baseball player to ever challenge the reserve system, and that it was his duty to act accordingly.
The themes of anger and isolation are conveyed so powerfully with Flood. Having to live with consequences of his righteous stand, and dealing with the anger the results must have stoked is ripe with dramatic potential. No wonder he evokes allusions to Shakespeare.
In an excellent profile in the Philadelphia Daily News last August, Mark Kram interviewed Flood's second-wife, Judy Pace-Flood, who said he did not die a bitter man.
"'This is not Greek tragedy,' she says. 'Although some people would like to portray it as such. He had a giving heart.'
"Europe was a place where Flood always found a certain degree of tranquility. He had gone to Denmark instead of playing for the Phillies in 1970. When he was done with the Senators, he settled down on the Spanish island of Majorca in the sunny Mediterranean. There, Flood worked at his easel, played classical guitar and began writing a second part of his autobiography. [He apparently never finished it, either.]
According to Pace-Flood, 'He loved it in Europe because it was so far removed from the problems that existed for a black man then in America. He was at peace there."
I don't know that Curt Flood truly belongs in the Hall of Fame, even though his decision to sacrifice an all-star career for a collective good is one of the Hall of Fame acts in baseball history. It is a true shame that Flood is virtually ignored by the Players Union, and too-often misconstrued, or flat-out ignored by the general public.
I do feel strongly about this: Curt Flood is one of the few ballplayers who is more compelling off the field than on it. His life would make a great movie.
"Politically sophisticated blacks were trying during the late forties and early fifties to organize the ghetto's paralyzed indignation, but their activities did not penetrate to our level. That sort of thing came much later. I recall little discussion and no excitement in 1954, when the Supreme Court supposedly outlawed the segregation of schools. By then I was sixteen. I think that I would have been aware of local reaction, had there been much. Just as the ghetto warps its victims, it also insulates and lulls them."
Curt Flood, from "The Way It Is"
STILL STANDING Murray Chass
Murray Chass wrote about how George Steinbrenner almost bought the Cleveland Indians from the Stouffer family in early 1972, in his Sunday column in the New York Times, "The Best Deal Never Made":
"No one knows what the outcome of a Steinbrenner ownership of the Inidans would have been. What we do know is that a year later Steinbrenner and partners bought the Yankees, and 30 years later, 30 years from last Friday, to be exact [which was also the anniversary of the Yankees signing Babe Ruth in 1920], Steinbrenner holds a unique place in Major League Baseball.
"Respect him of detest him, the 72 year-old Steinbrenner is the only owner from 1973 still on the job. The other teams have had a total of 71 owners or ownership groups, and the Yankees have had none. Put another way, in 30 years the other 29 teams, including six post-1973 expansion teams, have had a combined 94 ownership groups, and the Yankees have had one...
"Steinbrenner has enjoyed...rewards in two different periods of his ownership, when he initially restored the Yankees to championship status in the 70's and in the current period of World Series success, four championships in seven years.
"However smart the decisions and judgements of the owner and his baseball people have been in those periods, they have been fueled by the revenue that was available to the Yankees but would not have been to the Indians. No cable-television outlet in Cleveland has ever given the Indians $493.5 million over 12 years, as the Yankees have earned. That money was especially critical in the 90's."
Gordon Edes wasn't as kind to Boss George, and took Steinbrenner to task in his Sunday column in the Boston Globe, while painting a sympathetic portrait of Larry Lucchino. Will McDonough , in turn, wasn't nearly as generous with the Red Sox president.
Peter Gammons jumped in the mix with a relatively scathing take on the Boss:
"OK. OK. OK. They Yankees have a great team. They are going to win. George has bought the championship and they'd better damn well win. He assumes it, and so does everyone in New York.
"All of which brings it down to this: what happens if their pitchers pitch in October as they did last October, when the Angels hit the New York pitching so brutally that if you took Anaheim's series OPS, it meant that every batter they sent up in that series was turned into the statistical equivalent of Jason Giambi by the Yankees pitchers? Every win is something that will be assumed, expected...
"This Yankee team should be very good, but we don't know how private people like Jeter and Bernie Williams will take to the 50 member media entourage that will be following Hideki Matsui. We don't know that Mariano Rivera, Steve Karsay(coming off back surgery) and Chris Hammond are what Rivera/Mike Stanton/Ramiro Mendoza were two years ago. We don't know what kind of cross-culturalization support Contreras will have in what will be a very difficult lifestyle change.
"As good as they've been, the Yankees could easily have been knocked out in the first round of the postseason three straight years. In fact, in the first round over the last three years the Yanks are 7-7 against the A's (2000 and 2001) and Angels (2002).
"Oakland could win it all this fall with their Big Three, or if Boston ever got in, they could as well if Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe are at full throttle ... and that's without thinking about Bartolo Colon, whom Expos GM Omar Minaya says "would make the Red Sox better than the Yankees on paper right now" because Boston arguably would have three of the AL East's four best starters, with Toronto's Roy Halladay being the fourth.
"If Torre and Yankees GM Brian Cashman and senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman are allowed to do their work, the Yankees will be fine; they won four world championships on talent, character, logic and good management, not a madcap spending pattern that puts them 50 percent above the next highest spender. But now this is the '80s George, sending representatives to Nicaragua and suggesting their jobs were on the line if they didn't bring back Contreras, firing scouts and office staff to save money, cutting back on health benefits ... then throwing around $166 million (they're over $100 million in salary commitments in 2004 and 2005) so someone will write that he's a great man because he wants to win at any cost, in this case for the little people.
"What Steinbrenner has bought is no room for error. If the Yankees win, fine. George Steinbrenner will have bought New York a championship. That was expected and demanded.
"If the Yankees don't win, he will fire a lot more little people and plant stories about Torre and Jeter and Cashman and Mike Mussina. But in the end, if the Yankees don't win, it will be Steinbrenner who will be the laughingstock of the baseball world. What a shame. What a way to live. Or win...
"Few teams ever enjoyed winning more than the 2002 Angels. Even if the Yankees sweep the 2003 World Series in four games, they or their fans will never experience what the Angels experienced."
John Perricone, from Only Baseball Matters, took exception with Gammons' conclusion, though he claimed the article was [fairly] well-written and accurate:
"Let me tell you something. The Yankees went 16 years between championships as I was growing up. Their last title prior to this run was in 1981. Now, I know if you are my dad's age you've seen enough championships to last a lifetime, but I came to baseball late. For the most part, all I knew as a Yankee fan was Don Mattingly watching the playoffs on TV just like me. Then in 1996, Jeter and O'Neill and Williams and Cone and Leyritz and the rest of these guys put together a season of magic, a postseason of miracles, and a World Series for the ages. So don't tell me that Yankee fans can't feel what the Angels just felt. That's horseshit.
Now Steinbrenner is wrong for trying to hang on to it for as long as he can? He knows it won't last forever. Spend now, because when his core of championship players, with drive and character and heart is gone, he'll be starting over just like everyone else, and money can't buy character. You can use it to surround character with talent, and that's what he's doing."
SIMPLY A MATTER OF TIME...
Reports circulated this weekend regarding a possible 3-way deal between the Mets, Red Sox and Expos, that would bring either Bartolo Colon or Javier Vazquez to the Sox and ship third-baseman Shea Hillenbrand to New York. The Times first reported the story on Saturday, but The Boston Herald indicated it still has a way to go.
Regardless, I fully expect Theo Epstein and his bosses to work out a deal for one of Montreal's two stud pitchers some time in the near future. (My guess is that they'll snag the less expensive Vazquez.) There is talk that the White Sox have what it takes to land a Colon---their owner has been known to make big moves in the past, but the Red Sox are clearly a team one a mission. If you pay attention to Larry Lucchino, it is a Holy, Righteous and Just, mission, but a mission all the same.
David Pinto (Baseball Musings) had this to add about the proposed deal:
"Hillenbrand is exactly the kind of player the Mets are looking for at third: he hits right-handed, is only 27 years old, makes less than $500,000 and is coming off an All-Star season. To get him, though, the Mets would have to satisfy Montreal General Manager Omar Minaya's asking price for ColZn or Vazquez.
I think there are a lot of questions as to whether Hillenbrand is really an all-star. He does have some interesting characteristics:
He's a right-handed batter who doesn't hit lefties very well (career OPS: .640 vs. LHP, .775 vs. RHP).
He's a Fenway player who hits better on the road (career OPS .650 home, .838 away).
He's shown very litte selectivity at the plate. Among players with at least 1000 AB over the last two years, Hillenbrand is tied with Christian Guzman for the fewest walks in the majors, 38.
He's an okay third baseman. He ranks tied for 10th in defensive win shares at third base among players with 100 games at the position last year, but more than once I've seen him make poor plays at the position.
So the Mets would get a cheap third baseman who may or may not be very good. If the Red Sox can pull off this trade and get Vazquez, they'll have a 1-2-3 punch in their rotation equal to or better than Oakland. It's not clear what the Expos will get, but it looks to me like a big win for the Red Sox and not such a great deal for the Mets."
MORE HALL OF FAME CHATTER
The latest Hall of Fame profile from Baseball Primer is on the hotly-debated career of Jim Rice.
Bill Madden detailed his Hall of Fame ballot in his Sunday column in the Daily News.
Madden wrote that there are six active players he would vote for induction if their careers ended today: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Sammy Sosa and Tom Glavine. He added that Mike Piazza, Rafael Palmeiro and Robbie Alomar are not far behind.
I'm not sure if Madden assumes that Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines are practically retired, but it's curious he didn't mention either player. As for Pudge, Junior and the Big Hurt:
"A few weeks ago in this space it was discussed how Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas have had their routes to Cooperstown detoured by injuries and decline. This is why the Baseball Writers Association and the Hall of Fame have made 10 years the minimum requirement for election consideration. That brings us to Mariano Rivera, who is still nearly three years away from being eligible. Incredibly if something should happen to end his career prematurely, Rivera would not be eligible for the Hall of Fame despite all of his postseason brilliance. By the way, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have a few years to go, as well."
David Pinto, had an interesting posting regarding local favorite, Gil Hodges:
"Hodges for Hall? Jed Roberts pointed out this article on OpinionJournal.com, touting the late Gil Hodges for the Hall of Fame:
'They're looking at the wrong man.
'The Hall of Fame, that is. While the entire baseball world fixates on the ban on Pete Rose, a true injustice goes almost unheralded: the exclusion of Gil Hodges from baseball's Hall of Fame. The good news is that when members of the newly revamped Veterans Committee cast their ballots this month, they will have the perfect moment to right this wrong.
'Over 18 seasons, the Dodger first baseman hit 370 home runs, had seven straight seasons where he drove in more than 100 RBIs, won the National League's first three Golden Gloves for his position and was an eight-time All-Star. He played in seven World Series, where he twice hit game-winning home runs. As a manager, moreover, Hodges led the 1969 Miracle Mets to their first World Championship.
But the Hall of Fame isn't supposed to be just about numbers. Rule No. 5 states that voting should be based not only on the player's stats but on "integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.'
"Yes, that's what rule 5 says, but I believe it's a moderating condition. So if you have someone on the bubble, maybe his character pushes him over the edge. Of maybe you have someone like Rose, who would otherwise get in, but his poor character keeps him out (as a warning to others).
"So it seems to me, the question should be, 'Is Hodges on the bubble?' Gil was a regular for the Dodgers from 1948 through 1961. Let's look at the most win shares over that time:
1948-1961 Win Shares
Mickey Mantle 401
"Given this list, it's hard to believe that Hodges was on the bubble. Look at Snider. They were teammates all during this time, and Snider put up 60 more win shares. Robinson was out of baseball by 1957, and Hodges barely beats him out. Mantle, Mathews, Mays and Williams beat him handily with fewer seasons played during the time period.
"Gil Hodges was a good ballplayer and a great man. If he had lived and was able to establish a dynasty with the Mets, I think he'd have a better chance of getting in as a manager. But I just don't see him as qualifying as a Hall of Famer based on his playing days. It's a nice sentiment, and it's good that someone remembers him well. The veterans committee has certainly made worse picks. But I just don't think he belongs."
Closers Getting Closer?
Rollie Fingers and Hoyt Wilhelm are the only two relievers currently in the Hall of Fame. I don't know how much better you need to be than Goose Gossage; perhaps things will begin to change next year when Dennis Eckeresly enters the equation. I've always felt that Sutter and the Goose deserve the nod. But it brings up the ambiguity that surrounds evaluating closers.
My cousin Gabe, for one, has always felt that closers are over-rated. Not that they aren't important, but that the notion of a star closer is often hyped way out of proportion. (Look at the bullpen by committee that the Red Sox have assembled this winter: Mendoza, Fox, Timlin, Rupe, Howry, Banks and Embree. When asked this weekend if he was comfortable with the absence of a traditional closer, Larry Lucchino said, "Bill James has been one who has argued there are other ways of using a bullpen, and I'm pleased with the guys we've taken.")
Here is yet another thought-provoking letter from Gabe:
Yet all I really want to say is 'thpptttt'.
The article speculates about the impermanency of the
Lee Smith, the all-time save leader who is on the
I'm not sure what defines a good closer,
As always, to me the question is not why good closers
Sometimes I wish I were a more mathematical person,
The smaller your sample, the less impressive it is to
How the role of closer has assumed such mythic
Jack O'Connell, contributes to the conversation in his Hall of Fame piece for the Hartford Courant:
"I continue to support Gossage, one of the most intimidating relievers in the game's history, and Sutter, who perfected and popularized the split-finger fastball to the degree that he was the first reliever who shortened the game for opposing managers. One look at Sutter warming up in the bullpen, and the manager in the other dugout felt he was headed for the ninth inning, even though the game might still have been in the sixth.
Smith has the glaring statistic of 478 career saves, most in history, and is the career leader in saves for two franchises, the Cubs and the Cardinals. Just as Gossage, intimidation was part of Smith's game while, again like Gossage, underneath he was a teddy bear. Smith's 71-92 record is a blemish, but he spent many years on mediocre teams. He also holds the bogus record of most consecutive errorless games by a pitcher (546), which is ludicrous because for many of those "games" he was around for only an inning or two.
That alone might be why relievers get short shrift from the writers. There are really no stats that accurately measure a reliever's value. Won-lost record and ERA are unsatisfactory gauges because inherited runners who score are not charged to a reliever's record, and the closer is most often faced with a save-or-lose scenario. While I admit that Smith was exceptional at what he did, I cannot vote for him in front of Gossage or Sutter. If they have to wait, so should he."
Hall of Fame selections will be announed at 2 pm tomorrow.
I hope Kid Carter's wife hasn't planned too big of a "suprise party" for him this year, because it might be too much for him to have to cancel it again. All kidding aside, I think he should finally make it in this time round.
TRAIN CHAT Last night,
Last night, I was taking the 1 train home to the Bronx, passing the time engrossed in Dick Lally's "Pinstriped Summers". I couldn't resist picking the book up the day before when I saw it at the Strand, because Lally covers the CBS, and Steinbrenner years (though 1982). Knowing precious little about the Mike Burke, Horace Clarke Era, I thought it was about time to do some investigating.
At 59th street, a heavy-set man in his 50's sat next to me, and pulled out the Daily News. The Yankees first-round playoff loss was voted by the News as the most disappointing sports story of the year. Putting my book down, and looking over this guy's shoulder at the story, I couldn't help adding my two-cents.
"103 wins, and that's a disappointing season?" I said. "Even the damn papers are spoiled around here."
Turns out the guy is a Yankee fan, and lives in the Bronx as well. So we spent the next half an hour talking shop. I peppered him with questions about the CBS Yankee team. It was my good fortune that I was able to get a seasoned fan's perspective, to help add balance and shape to my impressions of players like Fritz Peterson, Joe Pepitone, Danny Cater and Tommy Tresh.
Eventually, we got around to talking about the Hall of Fame. I asked him who he thought should make it via the Veterans Committee: Santo, Dick Allen, Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, Joe Torre, or Minnie Minoso.
He smiled warmly and the first thing he says is, "Hodges." Having read Rob Neyer's recent response to the Hodges debate, I'm fairly convinced that Hodges is a sentimental favorite more than the most deserving candidate (though Tom Verducci noted that Hodges' slugging and on-base percentages were better than Eddie Murray's). Neyer compared Hodges career with that of Joe Carter, and Rocky Colavito: very good, but not truly great. (Another friend who is just shy of 50 told me yesterday that Colavito was much more of a star, a feared-slugger, than Hodges ever was.)
My fantasy is that if he can put together another couple of solid seasons, Tino Martinez may find similar sympathy twenty-five years down the line.
I asked my friend, "Why Hodges?" And before he recited Gil's accomplishments, his smile grew warmer. "Cause he's a Brooklyn boy."
Which is as good an explaination as any as to why New Yorkers of a certain vintage would like Hodges to be in the Hall, it's just not enough, in and of itself to merit the selection.
Last night, for no reason at all, I sat down and wrote out a list of current players who would be Hall of Famers if their career ended today. I came up with it off the top of my head, and I'm sure that there are a few other players who are close (Biggio, Larkin, Sheffield to name a few), or too young (Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez) that I didn't mention. Still, I was amazed by just how many future Hall of Famers we have in our midst.
Just About There:
I'm sure I've ommitted some deserving names, but the point is, we're watching some great players. If this isn't a Golden Age, it is at least a great age for Stars. When was the last time so many future Hall of Famers were active at the same time?
Most of the players mentioned above are in the declining years of their career, even those who are still productive like Palmerio, McGriff, Maddux and Clemens. Piazza, Alomar, Frank Thomas and Bagwell had sub-par years last season, by their own lofty standards (Alomar was mediocre by anyone's standards), but still may have a few terrific years left in them.
Junior Griffey and Pudge Rodriguez may be the most intriguing names on this list because they are still comparitavely young. For the past few seasons, baseball fans have been waiting for these two to regain their status amongst the game's elite. Injuries have tortured them. Barry Bonds and Randy Johnson are great examples of modern ball players who have improved with age, so the carrot is on the stick. If they can do it, why can't Junior and Pudge?
Eric Neel wrote an interesting piece on Griffey a few weeks back called "Hoping for the return of the spectacular". Neel neatly described the young Junior, and what he's become:
"He wasn't solid or profesional, he was spectacular. [I couldn't help but think of this description watching Michael Vick play this season.] He was arguably the best player in the game. It was more than that: The game, the whole sweet spirit of it, seemed wrapped up in his brilliant, easy style. (Yeah, that's a bit much, but that's the way his game was; it made you want to say too much, made you wish you could find the words---make up new words if you had to---to say too much and then some.)...
All of a sudden, you're thinking about him in the past tense, and the poetry of his swing seems forever lost. It's a strange, vertiginous feeling. The shift from something effortless and great to something labored and common, even when it's played out in small acts over a few years, is steep. There are two pictures of Griffey in your mind now, one laid over the other, with almost no overlap...
Hitting a baseball is different than hitting a punching bag, or George Foreman's chin, and you're enough of a student of Bill James to know that 33 isn't exactly the peak age of offensive performance, and declines are usually just what they look like: declines.
So, romance aside, you know there is a chance it won't get better from here, and it might get worse. Maybe greatness is just that: burning hot, withering fast...you know, fleeting...Maybe we're drawn to it because we have an unspoken sense of how rare it is. Maybe the pangs you feel watching him swinging and missing these last couple of years, or thinking that he might be done now or soon, are the true measurement of how great he was."
Neel is on to something when he says, "Maybe greatness is just that: burning hot, withering fast." Perhaps "Brilliance" is a better word, because there is something to said about longevity being the mark of greatness as well. Though Griffey's style may have been more lucid, couldn't the same be said for Dick Allen, Bobby Bonds or even Darryl Strawberry?
I've never been a Junior Griffey fan, and his inability to mature personally has made him difficult to pull for. There is a lingering sense of entitlement with Griffey, as if he's still carrying around an adolescent chip on his shoulder. Maybe the game got harder when his body started to age some, and suddenly the game wasn't "effortless" any longer. Maybe we are judging Griffey too harshly, because as we all know, baseball is anything but easy.
Since I have it handy, here is another bit from Dick Lally:
"It is baseball's great illusion that is it not a difficult game to play. When a player repeatedly fails to perform well, it destroys that facade of ease. It makes it painfully clear that the game of our youth, like normal life, is a hard and difficult business. Ther are too many daily reminders of that sort of thing. Booing implies many things, including: 'Don't screw around with my dreams; don't take away my escape.'"
I don't know if Griffey's body has broken down due to poor work habits. I can only speculate. I do know that if he adopts the kind of single-minded focus, and dedication Barry Bonds has displayed throughout his 30's, we just may be talking about him catching Aaron again sometime soon. Bond has achieved a level of superiority that is virtually unrivalled in the history of the game, but I never get the sense that it comes easy to him. If anything, his genius is combining tremendous natural talent with an obsessive work ethic.
Personality aside, I find it increasingly difficult to root against greatness (though I'm still having issues with Frank Thomas). I think I'd appreciate Junior even more if the game was more of a grind for him. It's been nothing short of depressing to see one of the game's bright stars fall so far, so fast.
For more on the Hall, peep Don Malcom's site Big Bad Baseball for a lengthy article on Mattingly and Mex Hernandez, "Donnie, Keith, Steve and a Mystery Guest (the R rated version)".
Also, check out the return of Tom Verducci, with his piece on the Hall of Fame ballot (Eddie Murray: yes, Ryno: no go.)
My friend Mindy is an avid Yankee nutjob has been gorging herself on Yankee history this winter. She especially loves Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle. We've been swaping stories for weeks now, and I recently suggested that she may want to check out the Museum of Television and Radio as a place to do some more learnin'.
I recieved an e-mail this morning:
Here is my report on the Museum:
Okay, first let me say that it is a good thing I didn't go to this museum before because between watching the films and all of the baseball reading, I would have never gotten any work done and would have been out on the street weeks ago.
So, I started light and looked up an old interview that Whitey and Mickey did on the Ed Sullivan show. There, of course, is a story behind the interview. It was during the 1955 World Series against the Dodgers, and the Yankees were down 2 games to 3. It was the night of the 5th game and Whitey was scheduled to pitch the next day. So Sullivan asks him who is pitching tomorrow and Whitey replies, "I am, and then Tommy Byrne will be pitching the next day." This reply sparked such an outcry because of Whitey's arrogance in assuming he would win the game and that there would even be a game 7. Of course, Whitey did win the next day's game, and as we know, the Dodgers went on to win game 7.
The interview was kind of disappointing, though, because it lasted all of 45 seconds. Whitey said maybe two sentences and Mickey said, at most, one sentence. That's alright.
The next two clips I got were the 50s and 60s from the Ken Burn's Baseball Series. Very exciting. It was great to see the interviews and clips on Mickey and Ted Williams. Stuff on Joe D. and Yogi. Jackie Robinson had a nice portion and so did Willie Mays. The home run race of 61, obviously, and then all of the crazy changes in the 60s. You know the shtick since you already saw it. I liked it very much.
The final clip I saw was game 7 of the 1952 World Series against the Dodgers. I got to see a Mickey Mantle home run, a Jackie Robinson triple, and all three starting pitchers, Lopat, Reynolds, and Raschi. It was so cool to see all of these guys that I have been reading about！little Scooter and Yogi and Billy the Kid (who hit a couple of singles). I'll have to find another game where Whitey's playing (he was in the Korean War in ｀51 and ｀52).
The game I wanted to see most, though, was the 1961 All Star game. I couldn't find it. Aside from all of the amazing players in this game, there is just one moment that occurred that I know would give me a giggle. The day before the game was to be played in San Francisco, Mickey and Whitey flew out a day early to get in a day of golf. They didn't have anything with them so the Giant's owner, Horace Stoneham let them go to his club and buy whatever they needed to play and put it on his tab. They each ran up a $200 bill. So later that night, Whitey went over to Stoneham to give him the money and he decided to have some fun and make a bet with Whitey. Wrong move. He told Whitey that if he got out Willie Mays in tomorrow's game then the bill would be cleared. However, if Willie got a run off of him, they would owe double (making it $800). Of course Whitey could never pass up a challenge, which scared Mantle to death because Mays used to KILL Whitey. So, the next day Whitey starts the game, Willie steps up, Mantle is in center field. First pitch, foul, second pitch, just barely foul, third pitch！Strike. Mantle's response: he started leaping up and down, yelling and yahooing, and twirling all over the field like he had just won the world series. The writers became suspicious because this was around the time of the big competition "who is better！Mantle, Mays or Snider." Mantle and Mays were actually good friends, so when Willie looked at Whitey, like "what the fuck is that crazy ass doing?" they finally told him the story and Willie started laughing hysterically.
Anyway, I just wanted to see the clip for Mantle's reaction to Whitey striking out Willie Mays.
I just have to add that the two moments where I smiled the most and that really touched me during the Ken Burns clips, were: 1) Bobby Thompson's home run and the reaction of the Giants (players and fans) and 2) Seeing clips of Ted Williams play his last game with his infamous home run. Isn't that funny? Neither included the Yankees. Huh.
I may go back tomorrow. I have a feeling I am going to be very wild.
IT WAS 30 YEARS AGO TODAY...
Today marks the 30th anniversary of George Steinbrenner buying the Yankees. To think that he did it for less than he's currently paying Raul Mondesi, Ro White and Sterling Hitchcock is staggering. The Post has an article commemorating the sale today. At the end of the piece, George, now 72, said he wouldn't be running the team forever. "This year has taken a toll. Ive been very tired, but I still get the steam up when I have to."
Yeah, just ask Jeter.
BILL JAMES WATCH
I have to admit that I'm fascinated that Bill James is working for the Yankees arch-rival. I will be keeping tabs on him throughout the year. The first interview I've encountered since he's been in Boston was posted on mlb.com this week.
ROCKY REDUX: DON'T KNOCK
ROCKY REDUX: DON'T KNOCK THE ROCK
In the footnote for a review I recently posted on Terry Pluto's "Curse of Rocky Colavito", I wondered whether or not Pluto would need to revise his view of the Indians as lovable losers in light of the organization's recent success. If I had done just a little bit of fact-checking I would have discovered that since the publication of "The Curse of Rocky Colavito", Pluto has written two more volumes on the Indians: "Burying the Curse: How the Indians Became the Best Team in Baseball" (1995), and "Our Tribe: A Baseball Memoir" (1999).
Speaking of Rocky Colavito, the former Tribe slugger is one of 26 players up for HoF consideration by the newly revamped Veterans Committee. I doubt whether he will be elected, still I did run across another story involving Rocky, which may be of interest.
Colavito, in the final year of his career (1968), was released early in the season by the L.A. Dodgers, and picked up by the Yankees on June 15th. This was the CBS Yankees, in the midst of their decline. But the Yankees in 1968 weren't so awful, and they played above their heads, grasping for respectability. In late August, they hosted a 5-game series against the Detriot Tigers. The Yankees won the first three games, but had to face Pat Dobson and Mickey Lolich in a double-header to end the series on Sunday. Due to an unfortunate quirk in the schedule, it would be the first of three straight double-headers. Three days, six games. Oy.
According to Dick Lally's book, "Pinstriped Summers: Memories of Yankee Seasons Past" (1985),
"The team was about to suffer a severe case of the pitching shorts...Colavito was gifted with one of the great right arms in baseball history, a rally cippler. On balls hit to him in right field, enemy base runners realized that any thoughts of taking an extra base put them in a no-man's land. Invariably they either stayed put or were thrown out. It was this majestic cannon that Houk turned to that Sunday afternoon, and its pitching performance provided the team with a lift that would last the season.
The Tigers took three and one-third innings to dispose of left-hander Steve Barber in the first game, scoring five runs on seven hits and three walks. When Houk strode in from the dugout to lift his battered starter, the stage had been set for Rocky's Moment: runners on first and second, one man out, and the Yankees on the wrong end of a 5-0 score. Not another Tiger crossed the plate. Throwing nothing but overhand heat, Colavito pitched two and two-thirds innings of scoreless relief, giving up only one hit: a double by Al Kaline. He walked two and struck out one. The Yankees, meanwhile, obvioulsy inspired by the sheer audacity and success of the gamble, cut and slashed their way to six runs and the ball game, Rocky getting the win. It was only the beginnning. In the second game, with his team trailing 3-2, Colavito, now safely positioned back in right field, hit a game-tying home run off Mickey Lolich. Pandemonium. The shot left New York with no other options but to win that game, too, and sweep the doubleheader.
They finished that day at .500, but that was unimportant. What was important was the way they reached that mark: using a storybook performance to beat a powerful Tiger team. It was the sort of day what would rekindle the self-confidence that this club had once taken for granted. It gave them the motor to make their late-season charge, a run that would at one point have them as high as third place. Finally, as if the very effort of this push had exhausted all their reserves, they faded in the final two weeks of the season. They finished in fifth place with a record of 83-79. No one of the team could remember when so little had meant so much."
Here is a good idol-worship page on Rocky, for anyone who is interested. It gives those of us who are too young to have seen Colavito play, a good visual sense of what he meant to all those kids like Pluto.
The good people at Baseball Primer have been running a series of engaging articles on the Hall of Fame. Using a series of questions devised by Bill James ("The Keltner List"), Eddie Murray, Dale Murphy, Dave Paker, and Tommy John and Kim Kaat, are all given the once-over by Baseball Primer's competent staff of contributors.
Rob Neyer has two very good columns that focus on the candidates for the Hall as well.
The Hall of Fame will announce it's newest members next Tuesday; the Veterans Committee make their choice known on February 26th.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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