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:
Kevin Millar, breaking his silence regarding his stalemate with a Japanese team that may require the intercession of Major League Baseball to end, confirmed last night that he will not report to the Chunichi Dragons and has told the team he will not play in Japan. The first baseman/outfielder also reiterated his hope that a resolution can be reached that will allow him to play for the Red Sox
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:
"Joe has done a great job, but he and his staff will have their hands full this year because they have a lot of important decisions to make," says Steinbrenner.
..."We want Joe to have a good team, and he will," says Steinbrenner. "He's a good manager ¡ª the best I've ever had."
On the Yanks:
"You've got to pay ¡ª we're not the only ones, but we're the No. 1 guy," says Steinbrenner of the new tax. "It's aimed at the Yankees; it always has been ¡ª since the 1920s. I read the other night an article about Clark Griffith, the original owner of the Washington Senators. He said then 'we've got to do something about the Yankees winning every year.' He led a movement, and it wasn't successful then.
"If we do our work properly ... New York is a great place to play, and your fans support you. This team belongs to the people. They support it with their hard-earned money, and I mean that truly. They pay to see them play and deserve to have their team be a good one." Steinbrenner refuses to take credit for the recasting, although he had to approve the expenditures. He says it was a team effort, a culmination of hours of work by his baseball advisers. "I'm very proud of my people; it wasn't just one guy's effort."
..."It's going to be fun watching some of these fellows, how they fit in. It's not like going to the card game with the same deck of cards you had the last couple of years. We're going to have a lot of people in new roles. I can't guarantee we're going to be a better team, but I think we've done a pretty good job. Just getting to the finals, getting to the World Series is something. It's so difficult."
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
Is having Alderson serve as a sort of "All-Star Czar" the perfect solution? No, it's probably not. But the fact is that whoever's in charge is going to be criticized, and if anybody can take the heat without flinching, it's Sandy Alderson. It's also worth noting that the Commissioner's Office or the American and National League offices have always technically had jurisdiction over the rosters. It's just that they've generally preferred to pass the buck.
Alderson might not be the new Harry Truman. But you're not likely to catch him passing a buck.
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:
Besides having a really strange name, Bonser is a massive human being that throws very hard, striking out a lot of guys and walking his fair share too.
The Giants decided to start Bonser at Double-A last year and it turned out to be a mistake. He struggled with his control and gave up 3 homers in 24 innings before he and his 5.55 ERA were demoted back to Single-A. Once back in Single-A, he did very well, striking out nearly 10 batters a game and limiting opponents to a sub-.200 batting average. There was some cause for concern even though he was pitching very well, because his velocity was down slightly from past years. His fastball was still clocking in above 90, but not at the usual 94+ that he was capable of in the past.
Bonser did a lot of good work with his curveball and change up last season, possibly because he was less able to just blow people away with his fastball. The loss in velocity is still a concern, as is the drop in his K rate.
After striking out 11.2/9 in 2000 and 12.0/9 in 2001, Bonser's K rate dropped quite a bit in 2002, as he struck out 9.8/9 in Single-A and 8.6/9 in Double-A. Drops in K rate as a player progresses through the minors is often to be expected and Bonser is still striking out a ton of batters. He did not improve his control in 2002 and he walks too many batters right now.
Bonser has a ton of potential, but the Giants have lots of good arms in the system and he'll have to cut down on the free passes at some point and work on finding that extra zip on his fastball again.
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.
According to James Buckley, Jr. of Santa Barbara, Calif., perfect games occur once every seven to eight seasons. Buckley's "PERFECT," published by Triumph Books last year, is an analysis of the 16 perfectos and also includes perfect games broken up with two outs in the ninth.
Buckley estimates that since the birth of the National League in 1876 there have been about 180,000 games. A perfecto surfaces once in approximately 22,000 games, or .00005 percent.
Here are a few notable reactions Curtis and Grant have recieved for their project:
Greg Maddux: "My definition of a perfect game would be throwing every pitch where you want to throw it. And, you know what? So what if you give up a hit or a run or two."
Mike Krukow: "When I first came up, Rick Reuschel was sitting in the clubhouse with me and he said, 'One game I want to throw before I quit, is a 14-hit shutout where I get lit up, and I just figure a way to get out of it. And here's the rest of the scenario. You have nothing that day. Nothing. Not only that but the umpire's strike zone is miniscule.'
"That's the way it was in 1987 in the fourth game of the playoffs against the Cardinals. We were down two games to one and we had to absolutely win this game. Every inning was a puzzle. My only mistake was an 0-2 pitch to pitcher Danny Cox. We won 4-2. And because of the pressure in that game, what it meant to our organization, what it meant to me as a player, and how I got through nine innings with nothing, that was my idea of a perfect game. It wasn't a 14-hit shutout but it was getting it done with nothing."
And finally from Roger Craig, former big league pitcher, pitching coach and manager:
"I've gone into a game with the bases loaded, thrown a bad pitch, and the batter hits into a double play. And you come into the dugout and everybody pats you and says 'Nice going! Great pitching!' But it was a bad pitch. I knew it. The catcher knew it and the umpire knew it."
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.
[Siegle] has negotiated the waiver jungle as one of the best rules men in the business. Recent years have brought a new revenue-sharing luxury-tax lexicon that he knows as well as English, which it does not resemble. Siegle never has been a general manager, probably never will, but he sure has some stories to tell, having worked in the trenches for 22 of them over the years.
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:
Most Innovative: Omar Minaya (Expos)
"Look at what he's had to do with this team, whether it's building the organization or budgets or the Puerto Rico thing. He's handled it all really well in a very tough position. People have no idea what goes on around here."
Least Waiver Knowledge: Al Rosen (Astros and Giants)
"Al was worse than Omar -- just kidding. (Laughs.)
Worst Waiver Snafu: Frank Lane (Brewers)
"I just get the paperwork from Frank Lane after he trades someone for Bobby Pfeil. Now Lane's a living legend, I'm just starting out. I go to Shirley, the secretary, and say, 'We can't make this deal. We don't have waivers.' She says, 'You better go tell Mr. Lane.' Yeah -- easy for her to say.
"I tell Lane that this is an interleague trade and we don't have waivers. He says, 'Young man, you have just saved this organization a lot of embarrassment. Shirley, call Philadelphia, tell them we can't make the deal -- and tell them who told us we couldn't.'
"I had just come over from the Phillies. It was one of my proudest moments in the game. Ever since, I've been known as a rules guy."