Friday, September 28, 2007
Not that benching Howard is an option given how brutal the playoff scramble is this year in the NL. No, the Phillies will gladly take his .265/.391/.567, 43 homers and 128 RBI no matter how many strikeouts accompany it, thank you very much.
Yet contrary to Anderson's public reticence, Leftwich claims during their time as cellmates the chemically enhanced trainer shared one shocking anecdote after another about Bonds and BALCO. Among the revelations, according to Leftwich:
• Desperate to combat the testicular shrinkage that can occur with steroids use, Bonds injected human growth hormone directly into his genitals during the 2002 playoffs — with disastrous results for both him and the Giants.
• In early 2003, owing to the performance-enhancing drugs coursing through his body, Bonds suddenly began lactating, forcing doctors to excise his mammary glands.
• Wary of taking steroids since the BALCO flap broke, Bonds, intent on maintaining his edge, now supplements his diet with "Barry's brew," a homemade high-energy drink made of elk semen that has yielded its own troubling side effects.
As the 2007 regular season — and Bonds' time with the Giants — draws to a close this week, the sordid details threaten to further tarnish Bonds' legacy.
Fun, though. Especially the anagrams of the authors.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
After the strike of '94 did away with the pennant races and the World Series, the wild card took effect in 1995, with the Yankees and Rockies the initial lucky recipients. The drama of late-season baseball has been transferred from occasional but memorable all-or-nothing contests between great teams, to annual lower-stakes games between the good-to-mediocre. Could be an apt metaphor for the culture at large.
1. A wobbly Bob Hope sang "Thanks for the Memories" from home plate afterWhy did my favorite team's triumph in the Last Great Pennant Race rate so low for me? Because I knew even then that it was only a minor victory. The NLCS loomed, and I was fully aware that a 104-win season meant absolutely nothing if my Bravos couldn't take four of the next seven from the scruffily inferior Philadelphia Phillies.
the game was over;
2. Albert Belle beat out Frank Thomas for the AL RBI crown, which sort of
pleased me because I was then in the process of developing a lifelong loathing
for Frank Thomas for some reason;
3. I impulsively keyed a car in the stadium parking lot that had parked
with its bumper touching that of my precious 1987 Chevy Cavalier RS;
4. The out-of-town scoreboard showed the Braves win over the Rockies and
the Dodgers posting a large lead over the Giants, which I would later learn held
Still, I'm still inclined to come down on Froemming's side of things, mostly because Pappas' general position remains "given the situation he should have given me the call" as opposed to "those were strikes!" Pappas is just like any other human being, so in the past 35 years I have little doubt that those pitches have moved closer and closer to the strike zone in his mind. It's over, Milt. Let it go.
Larry Stahl, a .232 career hitter, stepped to the plate as the only Padre between Pappas and perfection . . . with the count full -- just the second time all game that Pappas got to three balls on a hitter -- Hundley gave the sign for a third straight slider.Wait, Milt Pappas has just retired 26 men in a row, has an eight run lead, and is 1-2 against a guy with a career line of .232/.292/.351, and Hundley called for three straight sliders?!! What kind of game plan is that? How about three straight heaters? I'd even take two sliders and a heater, but for God's sake, why is he throwing junk at a guy who is only slightly more likely to do anything with a fastball than my aunt Ruth would have been?
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
. . . Darling is part of what has to be considered major league baseball's top three-man broadcast team, along with play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen and analyst Keith Hernandez. The SNY trio is funny, insightful, and -- most importantly -- brutally honest. When the Mets blew yet another pennant race game to the Washington Nationals Tuesday night, Hernandez trashed stars Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes, holding little back as their defensive gaffes helped New York lose yet another critical contest. Darling willingly chimed in that pitcher Jorge Sosa was inexplicably, inexcusably out of position on a play. It's the sort of stuff fans need to hear . . .
Ecko's attention whoring notwithstanding, such an outcome seems like the most appropriate one in terms of reflecting the history of all of this. Shooting it into space would have been stupid. While my normal sensibility would be to let an historical artifact stand unadorned (I have been greatly disappointed by recent efforts of "interpretive centers" to deal with controversial issues) giving it to Cooperstown branded with an asterisk seems to capture this particular ball's uniquely historical nature.
There are a lot of milestone balls, and all of them more or less look the same. This one will stand out and, in its own way, more accurately reflect the time which produced it than a clean, but slightly scuffed ball ever could.
Major League Baseball wants fans to believe it is actively engaged in catching players who use performance-enhancing drugs. The sport drew headlines last week by announcing it "hopes" to have a blood test available next year to catch players who use human growth hormone.
Too bad the test most likely won't be ready for years to come.
The notion that baseball is "doing everything we can" to catch players who abuse the rules, as an MLB spokesman said last week, is a gross exaggeration.
So now, apparently, the test of baseball's seriousness regarding PEDs is how quickly its ownership and management -- which consists of art dealers, media executives, car salesmen, and an increasingly senile shipbuilder -- develops a scientific test which has heretofore eluded chemists, scientists, and Olympic doping officials who have been dealing with this stuff for decades. Such a criticism, it strikes me, is akin to saying that the NAACP isn't serious about advocating for its members because it hasn't yet stopped racism. Sure, baseball -- like the NAACP for that matter -- may have some serious flaws as to how they go about addressing these concerns, but rapping them for not yet solving the chronic and possibly intractable problems they face is asking a bit much, no?
But the Merc goes on:
The United States Anti-Doping Agency is the organization that works with professional sports leagues and the United States Olympic Committee to thwart the use of banned drugs. The agency's research budget to develop new tests was a paltry $2 million in 2006. In contrast, Major League Baseball's revenues were $5.2 billion last year . . .we'll know baseball and other professional U.S. sports are getting serious about catching future cheats when baseball's contribution to the agency's research budget is greater than, say, Barry Bonds' salary ($15 million in 2007).
Setting aside the fact that there is no mention of the contribution of football, hockey, basketball, or the Olympic Committee -- baseball, it seems, is solely responsible for stopping PEDs -- how are baseball's gross revenues, or even the salary of its marquee players, relevant to its contribution to Anti-Doping efforts? I make a decent living as an attorney, and I have broadleaf growing in my front lawn. While I'm sure the problem will remain a chronic one, I've tried to address it as best I can. By the Merc's logic, however, I am not serious about it unless I pour a couple thousand bucks into the effort. The relative risk posed by my weed problem and the benefits gained by solving it are irrelevant, it would seem.
The World Anti-Doping Agency used a test for HGH at the most recent Summer and Winter Olympics, but not a single athlete tested positive, suggesting that the test needs to go back to the labs for further work.
I'll concede that it's improbable that no Olympians were doping, but doesn't this beg the question of whether it's reasonable to criticize baseball for failing to have an effective HGH test? If the World Anti-Doping Agency -- an organization tasked with eradicating PEDs from an event which has been a PED magnet for decades -- is still getting fooled, how can we expect baseball to have cracked this nut by now?
Look, PEDs are a problem, and baseball was admittedly late to take note of it. However, as the example of the Olympics, football, cycling and, indeed, the whole damn war on drugs shows, the use of illegal drugs is not a problem that is going to instantly go away. To pretend that it could if we simply developed the right test or passed the right law is silly, and by criticizing baseball's alleged lack of seriousness on this basis is in and of itself unserious.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Not so for the Florida Marlins:
Pitching coach Rick Kranitz has left the Marlins because of what sources described as a dispute over his salary for next season . . .[Fredi] Gonzalez had said Sunday that he expected the entire staff to return. Beinfest said Kranitz last week was offered a contract and raise for 2008, but would not elaborate. Kranitz's current salary is not publicly known, but a source said the Marlins offered him a $5,000 raise. Kranitz thought he deserved more, the source said. Another source said at least one other coach wasn't happy with his raise but was not angry enough to leave.
Look, if you're a pitching coach and your pitching staff goes from fifth best in the NL to dead last in one season you should count your blessings that you're not getting canned, and making a fuss over a bubkis raise may be inadvisable. That said, it reflects pretty poorly on the Marlins as an organization that they are so publicly nickeling-and-diming coaches. Unless of course they are simply broke in which case maybe they should consider a move to a better market.
Oh wait . . .
From 1960 to 1993, the Indians never played a meaningful game in September. They never won more than 86 games. In those 34 seasons, they had six winning records and 18 different managers.
We had a stadium where the sinks leaked, the toilets didn't always flush and parts of the old runways smelled like an animal died but no one could find the corpse. We had one good year of "Super" Joe Charboneau in 1980. We had Larvell Blanks being so upset with manager Frank Robinson that the infielder known as Sugar Bear threw his uniform in a trash can and lit it on fire. We had Bozo the Clown once throwing out the first pitch. We had deodorant being given out to fans on Mother's Day. We had 70,000 fans for Opening Day and barely 5,000 in the stands for the games the rest of April . . .
. . . But most of us never had a team like this when growing up, and it helps to remember that.
For fun, let's look at how the world champs from the past decade wound up the regular season (record is for the final 20 games):
2006 St. Louis Cardinals: 8-12
2005 Chicago White Sox: 12-8
2004 Boston Red Sox: 12-8
2003 Florida Marlins: 14-6
2002 Anaheim Angels: 11-9
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks: 12-8
2000 New York Yankees: 5-15
1999 New York Yankees: 13-7
1998 New York Yankees: 13-7
1997 Florida Marlins: 8-12
Three teams won it all despite finishing below .500 in their final twenty, with the 2000 Yankees serving as the gold standard for backing their way in.
Does it help to be hot late? Sure -- seven out of the last ten champs were playing winning baseball as the season wore down -- but it's not essential, and none of the current crop of contenders should be written off simply because they back their way in.
UPDATE: OK, maybe we can write off the Padres. Which only helps my point here, because the Phillies are 13-7 in their last 20. Helps my point in the previous post too, as Philly is a much larger television market than is San Diego.
Thanks to robust advertiser demand, Fox has pre-sold about 90% of its spots in the World Series and the American League Championship Series, and TBS is more than 80% sold for all of its games in the postseason divisional-baseball series and the National League Championship Series.
"A number of categories are driving the spending, including consumer electronics, automotive and entertainment companies," said John Rash, senior VP of Campbell Mithun, the media buyer.
Helps to have both New York teams, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles represented in the playoffs. By the way, that sound you hear is the Fox brain trust rooting for Philly to pass San Diego for the Wild Card.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Meanwhile, Mark Cuban sets his sights on Upper Deck and the Yankees . . .
Bonds received preferential treatment before he wore his first Giants uniform. Shortly after first signing the outfielder to baseball's richest contract, six years and $43.75 million, the Giants showed in a surprising announcement just how willing they were to do Bonds a favor. They were giving him Willie Mays' number.
The Yankees never offered Mickey Mantle No. 3 (Babe Ruth's number), and the Braves never considered giving Andruw Jones No. 44 (Hank Aaron's number). A retired number is a retired number. But Bonds was going to wear 24, the number the great Mays wore during his cherished career as a Giant.
Though Bonds never got to wear 24 - fans and columnists complained, and he settled on 25, which his dad, Bobby, wore - the groundwork was laid. Bonds wasn't just a special player on the field but someone who'd receive special favors off the field from an organization going to great lengths to satisfy the game's premier player.
But Felipe Alou, the proud, disciplined father, ultimately decided not to come and watch Moises Alou, his son, scald hits for a team that is wrestling for a division title. Alou is a special assistant with the San Francisco Giants, and he said he felt uncomfortable being in attendance as a Giant who has an obvious interest in one of the Mets.
“It’s kind of awkward when you’re working for another team, even if it’s your son,” Felipe said.
In other words, though it's a position for a man who has been important to the Giants for decades, it's a figurehead position. One in which, one presumes, Felipe can do as much or as little as he'd like, and if the choice is between doing absolutely nothing and constantly calling Brian Sabean with advice, Sabean would likely prefer the former.
Friday, September 21, 2007
What that means for his soul is between him and his God. It's a net plus for the Brewers, however, as Braun is 2 for 4 and, as of the top of the eighth, has scored the go-ahead run against the Braves.
Don't believe me? Here's a list of the largest companies in Cleveland and an assessment of their suitability as a naming rights partner:
The Progressive Corporation: "Progressive Field" is probably the best of the bunch -- very New Dealy/WPA, no? Unfortunately, Progressive is known for offering quotes of its competitors along with its own quote. If you call the ticket office at Progressive Field, who's to say that they won't tell you that your entertainment dollar would be better spent that evening by going to see Portia Surreal at the Velvet Dog ?
In the Czech Republic, that is:
Krč Altron worked hard to hang on to the crucial third-place slot in the Extraliga baseball league, keeping them out of harm’s way, or rather, out of the path of Draci Brno during semifinal play. Now, as the playoffs begin, the team must contend with MZLU Brno — and likely without star right fielder Tomáš Čása . . .But the possible loss of Čása — a .313 hitter with five outfield assists — to graduate school in the Netherlands could weaken the chances of Krč’s modest lineup against MZLU’s Leoš Kubát (7-1, 1.01) and Vojtěch Jelínek (3-0, 1.60).
But hey, relegation!
The playoffs pit 12-time champion Draci Brno against fourth-place Arrows Ostrava, while Krč tussles with MZLU. Winners of each five-game series advance to the Czech World Series in October. Meanwhile, the league’s bottom-dwellers battle it out to avoid being cast into next month’s relegation series against top teams from the second division.
If things don't work out in Texas, Sosa plans to play somewhere. He is confident other teams would call him . . . And if not, Sosa could go back to what he was doing during his year away from baseball. "When I wasn't playing, I was having a good time too," Sosa said. "I was living la vida Sosa."
Thursday, September 20, 2007
But while I'll admit I'm having trouble relating to the guy, I wish him well all the same. What's more, if this guy insists on trying to reacquaint himself with the game after being away so long, it's the least I can do to provide him with a general overview of how the game has changed in the past 37 years that will help him ease back into things:
- Since you've been gone, the Yankees have gone from bad to good to OK to bad to good to obnoxiously good to overrated yet annoyingly still good;
- When last you cared about baseball, the Pirates and Orioles were the class of the game. That has changed somewhat;
- Two state of the art stadiums opened up in 1970; Three Rivers and Riverfront. The state of the art was in a pretty sorry state in those days;
- While it wouldn't be known until later, the PED story of the year in 1970 involved something way cooler than steroids and HGH;
- In 1970, the All Star Game didn't really matter, yet guys slammed into each other as if their life depended on it. Today, it theoretically counts for a lot, yet the people who should care about the outcome the most can't be bothered to try;
- In 1970 the Major League umpires union was able to actually do something positive for its members, staging a one-game strike during the NLCS which led to a pay increase and recognition of the union. In 2007 it will be a major victory if the umpires aren't forced to submit to lie detector tests, loyalty oaths, and semi-annual body cavity searches;
- As is the case today, the average Major League baseball player in 1970 made multiple times the salary of hard working everyday Americans. The difference is that in 1970 that multiple was around four while today that multiple is around forty-seven;
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Tornante Co, run by Michael Eisner, former chief executive of Walt Disney Co. and buyout firm Madison Dearborn said in a statement that the price was "more than a full and fair price" for the baseball card company.
"If Topps shareholders feel differently and vote against our deal this week, we wish them well, but our price is final and we will not increase it," the investor group added.
Shareholders are due to vote on the deal on Wednesday. A number of proxy advisory firms have advised investors to vote down the deal, including Proxy Governance Inc, which argued the deal did not appear to place a fair value on Topps.
Seems the difference in value comes down to the existence of gum stains and some worn corners on the stock certificates. None of this would have been an issue if someone at Topps had remembered the hard lessons of 1971 and not used black borders. Sources close to the transaction opine that a deal may still be reached, however, if Torante and Madison Dearborn are willing to throw in a stack of commons that would fulfill many of the outstanding items on the shareholders' want-lists.
(LaCock goodness stolen from Josh Wilker, and will be removed if he deigns it so)
Normally when a team performs that poorly, the manager will talk about the progress he saw as the season progressed, maybe going so far as to make a modestly optimistic prediction for next year. What say you, Ken Holtzman?
The playing fields . . ."would reach the level of high schools in our country." The teams were "chosen at random and in a strange manner." As for the players, Holtzman said, "none can reach even semipro baseball in the United States."
"There is no chance that baseball will succeed in Israel," Holtzman went on. "People here relate to baseball the way people in America relate to soccer. They see it as something very boring, and it will never catch on. You can't make a big impression because there is no culture of baseball, and the facilities are the worst possible."
Holtzman also heaped criticism on league organizers, whom he accused of rushing into the first year of play without proper preparation on the ground. "They opened the league a year too soon," he said. "They should have waited."
Ok then, it sounds like Kenny wasn't fond of his time in the IBL.
The landscaper with whom Holtzman seems so upset is Geller Sport, Inc., a New England company which was given the "field engineering" credit for the IBL. A quick review of Gellar's athletic facility CV reveals an arguably thin client list, but in their defense, they are clients who are likely able to be a bit more liberal with the sprinklers than those in Ra'anana and Modi'in. Holtzman had to expect some divots, right?
What about the overall criticism of the IBL, its organization, and management? The IBL's Director of Baseball Operations, you may recall, is none other than Dan Duquette. Members of the league's advisory committee may be familiar to some of you too: Bud Selig, Wendy Selig-Prieb, Randy Levine, Andrew Zimbalist, and a man whose reporting I pumped up in this space merely a week ago, one Martin Abramowitz.
These are all people who should kinda know what they're doing. As such, if Holztman's criticisms are even 50% accurate, and the talent and organization of the IBL leaves as much as he says is to be desired, it seems like these folks have a lot of 'splainin' to do.
a) Give it to the Hall of Fame as-is;
b) Brand an asterisk into the hide of the ball with a hot iron, and deliver it to Cooperstown in that condition; or
c) Blast it into space on a rocket.
Ecko says he's doing this to "democratize the debate over what to do with it . . . the idea that some of the best athletes in the country are forced to decide between being competitive and staying natural is troubling."
I know what you're saying: "Blah, blah, grandstanding, attention-whoring blah."
But don't doubt the Ecko! This isn't the first time he has purchased a rarity at auction and followed it up with grand promises. Last year he was the winning bidder on two white rhinos, which he pledged to place in a permanent safe-haven. Seems that there was no truth to that rhino steak party rumor those dudes from FUBU were spreading, and the rhinos are now living as large as anyone can expect to live in a place like Oregon.
So I guess what I'm saying here is that if you vote for (b) know damn well that Ecko ain't playin'.
Monday, September 17, 2007
It was called "Baseball 101," and the participants heard from virtually every member of the coaching staff as they explained the aspect of the game they coach. It was also an opportunity to reach out to a different portion of the fan base. This was the first time the event had been held, and Al Maldon, vice president of external affairs, said that the team would continue to sell women on baseball and softball.
After the clinic, Nationals TV broadcasters were the featured guests at a lunch for the participants. Carpenter and Don Sutton, as well as reporter Debbi Taylor, spoke and took questions from the audience. Sutton talked about his playing days, but emphasized a record he claimed to hold that the female audience would appreciate. "I was the first player to bring a hair dryer into the locker room," he said.
In other news, as long as you are a football player, you can be accused of a double murder, plead guilty to obstruction of justice charges in connection with that murder, testify in a murder trial against your buddies who were standing next to you at the time of the killings, and a few years later, quietly settle the wrongful death claims brought by the orphaned children of the murder victims and still sign a lucrative endorsement deal with Under Armor.
Barry Bonds, however, is still marketing poison.
Despite losing, he said, he enjoyed that World Series. "We didn't play with (Jack) Clark or (Terry) Pendleton, who were about 60 percent of our RBIs and our home runs," he said. "I'm not making excuses, because injuries are part of baseball. But God almighty, it was kind of embarrassing some of the nights the lineup we had to put out there."
Herzog's voice grew louder. "Now, let me ask you something," he said. "Am I right, they're building a new stadium, but it's going to be an outdoor stadium?" That's right, Whitey. "Oh, jeez," he said. "I can remember playing those games in Bloomington (outside at Metropolitan Stadium). Gawd dang that place was cold, because that wind was predominant, came from the right-field corner to the left-field corner, and we were in that third-base dugout. That was something. "When I saw that they finally passed that thing to build a stadium, I was hoping they would build a nice, retractable roof stadium.
"You know, I was talking to Red Schoendienst the other day, and he said they had
just had their 50th anniversary of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves," Herzog said. "Now, how many of those gol-darn guys are still living? Think about that! They all got to be 80 or more! When you think about that, that's something.
Oh, and to answer Whitey's question, seven of the eight everyday starters from the 1957 Braves are still living (R.I.P Eddie Mathews and Bill Bruton), but four of the five starters and the relief ace have gone on to the great bullpen in the sky. Overall, the mortality rate for guys who played for the 1957 Braves is 44.7%. It's 100% for managers, with Fred Haney's death in 1977 really skewing that number.
"Now, you think about this 20th anniversary. How many of those guys do you think
will be around 30 years from now?"
Friday, September 14, 2007
Lou Weisbach has a solution: sell seats to fans on a multiyear or permanent basis, just as if they were real estate. Here's how it works: Fans contract with teams to own their seats for a set period - from five years to ten years to perpetuity - at a fixed price, paying in a lump sum annually. The teams, in turn, get a reliable source of cash flow to pay down debt or fund new stadium projects.
. . . Fans could then pay up to trick out their seats just as they would invest in improving a home, with leather cushioning and seat-side instant-replay screens. Stadium Capital will also help establish secondary markets for fans to sell their seats at market prices. So if the team does well and demand for seats rises, fans can cash in.
If you think the mortgage industry is in trouble now, just wait until companies start extending interest-only ARM loans to Marlins fans who want to install a La-Z-boy on the club level of Loria Stadium.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Another obstacle is a 1922 Supreme Court ruling that granted baseball an anti-trust exemption and monopoly status. One of the effects of the 1922 ruling is that owners can block any franchise shift . . .The only recourse in overturning the 1922 ruling is to get Congress to write new legislation and have the President sign it into law. There seems to be no incentive for anyone in Congress, though, to overturn the ruling to put another team in the area, nor does there seem to be any willingness from any owner to sue his fellow owners.
The 1953 case of Toolson v. New York Yankees, Inc. represented a strained "well, we don't suppose Congress meant to include Baseball when it wrote the law" analysis that simply wouldn't fly with today's Supreme Court. Later cases characterized the exemption as "an anomaly" (Flood v. Kuhn in 1972) or went so far as to actually hold (on the trial court level anyway) that the exemption doesn't apply to relocation (Piazza v. Major League Baseball in 1993), only to have the court punt to Congress in the former instance or have the case melt away due to a settlement/payoff in the latter. The other sports -- hockey, football, basketball, golf, boxing -- have repeatedly tried to get the same sweetheart deal from the courts in the past, and have been rebuffed every single time because, unlike the Supreme Court in 1922, latter courts have tended to, you know, actually apply the damn law.
UPDATE (November 7, 2008): My thinking about all of this has evolved in the 13 months since I wrote it. Fresher takes can be found here and here.
The Dodgers will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 2008, with a float in the Rose Parade and a star on the Hollywood
Walk of Fame.
"Baseball truly became a national pastime when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles," Jamie McCourt, who owns the team with her husband Frank, said Wednesday. "Many Angelenos fell in love with baseball when they fell in love with the Dodgers."
Each month of next season the Dodgers will highlight a decade of the team's history in Los Angeles. In April, they will mark the 1950s, in May the 1960s, in June the 1970s, in July the 1980s, in August the 1990s and in September, the team will host a reunion of Dodger players.
Beginning Wednesday, fans can vote online for the top 50 moments in Dodgers' history and the all-time Los Angeles team, with results revealed next year.
SS: Maury Wills. One of the most overrated players ever, but at least he occasionally posted an OPS+ above league average, which is more than one can say about Bill Russell. Things I didn't know: Pee Wee Reese hung around for on season in Los Angeles. Intellectually I knew that he started in 1940 and lasted for 18 or 19 years, so I probably should have deduced that he made the move out west, but I can't bring myself to picture him in a hat that doesn't have a little B on it.
RF: Reggie Smith. Didn't play in L.A. as long as some other guys, but had some fine years.
CF: Willie Davis. Of course, we're only in year one of the Juan Pierre Epoch, so Davis is probably just keepin' it warm . . .
LF: While he was really only the primary starter in left for one season (1987) I gotta hide Guerrero somewhere. Sorry, Dusty, Kirk, and Tommy.
Ah, the pitchers. This is much easier.
MGR: Walt Alston. Yeah, Lasorda has a couple of years in L.A. on Alston, and yeah, more people tend to associate L.A. Dodger baseball with Lasorda (Alston first made his bones in Brooklyn) but Alston had the decency to pass away twenty-three years ago. Lasorda is still alive, and if he gets voted on to that all-time team, that's just going to give him an opportunity to spout off about some damn thing or another, and who wants that?
Fun fact: Did you know that, despite winning nine pennants, the Los Angeles Dodgers have only won 100 games twice? I was surprised to see that. In that same 50-year span, the Yankees have won 100 games nine times. The Braves have won that many games six times. The Orioles and A's five times. The Reds, Tigers, Mets and Giants did it three times. Like the Dodgers, the Phillies did it twice, followed by a handful of single-timers. If you had asked me that two hours ago, I would have bet serious money that the Dodgers had done it more than any of those teams except the Yankees and the Braves.
At this point I think it's safe to say that I've gone about as deep into the Dodgers as I care to without the participation of Alyssa Milano, so that, as they say, is that.
But if the example of the Dominican Republic has taught us anything, it has taught us that talent, while abundant, doesn't simply hang low from the trees, waiting for scouts to pluck it. The teams that have had success in the Dominican are the teams that have really worked the island, spending countless hours scouting and countless millions on baseball academies and signing bonuses.
There are no free lunches when it comes to developing talent.
Think, for a moment, about how different our view of steroids in sports would be if we never knew that Barry Bonds said he took performance-enhancing drugs. Can you picture how this nation's lack of knowledge on a topic as important as steroid use might have played out? . . . Instead, we know . . . Parents know. Children know. Coaches and teachers know . . . The U.S. Congress knows and has held hearings that have revealed to us the true character of at least two other former heroes, McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro . . .What the Chronicle did — unwittingly of course, by just breaking the news — was trigger a nationwide awareness of a steroid problem that has trickled down to our children in numbers far too large to ignore.
But no one should be surprised. There's cheating in the NFL? That's news? Wouldn't it be more newsworthy if there were no cheating in the NFL? New England, in particular, has developed a bit of a history for this kind of antic. Once every 25 years, the Patriots produce a head coach who decides that he must use all the technology available to him to win a football game.
What say you, Christine?
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
"If I felt good at the end of the year, it would be hard to walk away," Glavine said. "But I also know I want to be home more, too . . . Last year, it was more about whether or not I was coming back here. This year, I think it's whether or not I'm playing the game of baseball. That's a different decision, and I think it's a bigger decision for me to make."
I can't tell if the Post was cherry-picking quotes to make it sound like Glavine is more likely to stay or if the MLB.com story came from a different, backpedaling interview with Glavine. It sounds to me, however, that the fundamental questions have changed for Glavine, and unlike prior years he is now actually considering his will to play. Yes, he implies that falling short of a championship might lead him to come back again, but it's not like Glavine doesn't already have a World Series ring and, perhaps more importantly, played the key role in the deciding game of that World Series.
If I had to bet, I'd bet that Glavine retires this fall. He has his 300 wins. He has accomplished everything he can in the game. And, while the New York press often says that he has established a new home-away-from-home in New York, the prospect of leaving Atlanta a few years ago had him in tears, and the family still lives there.
If I'm Tom Glavine, I'd think that it's a good time to go home.
"This is the worst summer I've had because I was too soft," said Guillen. "I was kind of worried about what people were going to say about me. I could care less what people say as long as I win."
Yeah, it's been a shame seeing Ozzie keeping it all bottled up inside. It's always the same with those strong, silent types, playing it close to the vest, keeping that stiff upper lip until, one day, all of those suppressed feelings come flooding out in words or deeds that will soon be regretted. I mean, just look at the tragic repression and clipped words of this tortured soul, obviously in anguish over what people will think about him:
Oh, shut the [deleted] up!" Guillen barked. "I know you like A.J. but there's no reason for you to make lineups and [deleted]."
"I don't care what A.J. thinks," Guillen said. "I make the best lineup. I want to find out what Toby Hall can do for this ballclub, find out right away how we are going to use him. I never said A.J. was in a platoon."
"Believe me, I'm tired of you guys and this bull[deleted] every god[deleted] day."
North cut Guillen off: "Hey, Ozzie, clean up your mouth. Clean up your damn mouth when you're talking on the radio and talking to me. Have a little respect, all right? Don't go talking to me like you're talking down to somebody."
"Don't you ever talk down to me. Don't ever talk to me like I'm some ... Yeah, you better hang up the damn phone."
Thank God he's seen the error of his ways and plans to let loose going forward. In other news, if you're looking for any White Sox beat writers, they're easy to spot: they're the ones with mile-wide smiles wearing industrial-strength flak jackets.
It never fails. Someone gets on their high horse about PEDs, and the next thing you know they're the ones in the cross-hairs. Of course, I'm talking about anti-steroid crusader, Dale Murphy:
Murphy, who lives in Alpine, Utah, and has eight children, regrets that he was not more vocal [about steroids] at the time and believes the silence hurt the next generation of players. He fears that they believe they can get away with cheating because they have seen their role models do it. That is part of his motivation for creating the foundation.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Now, with the wild card, several communities keep on running a baseball fever in September, regardless of how big a margin the division leaders boast . . .
. . . Are today's fielders much better than they were 10 to 50 years ago? I think so. Today, sensational catches -- especially by outfielders -- happen with astounding regularity. The trademark play of this decade is the leap at the fence, changing a potential home run into a putout. I've never seen so many great catches . . .
. . . Have you noticed that major league careers are getting longer? The increase is because of a couple of factors. First, the big money is a real incentive to stick around an extra year or so -- even if skills are starting to diminish. Second, most of today's players keep in better condition than their earlier counterparts. And, with the larger salaries they can afford personal trainers or their own workout facilities.
Notice the absence of paeans to an alleged Golden Age in which every pennant race mattered, when they clearly did not? Notice the failure of a knee-jerk "the men in my day could pick it better than any of these loafers today" rants? Notice the ability to acknowledge the fact that players today make more money while avoiding use of the words "greedy," "pampered," or "spoiled"?
You see none of those things because unlike so many others, Harwell, despite his years, continues to look at the game with a clear and objective mind. At the same time, his decades and decades of experience allow him to toss in an old Babe Ruth story just for the hell of it, showing that it is possible to both celebrate the old and praise the new. If only the fogeys half Harwell's age could do the same thing, the state of baseball writing and commentary wouldn't be so damned wretched.
By the way, reading these columns, I get the impression that some editor at the Free Press gave Harwell a dictaphone and told him to record whatever the hell occurred to him whenever he felt like it and that he'd have one of the interns transcribe it for publication. Allow me to say that if this was the case (and even if it wasn't) this was the single best decision an editor has ever made in the history of newsprint.
The venue -- including a covered open-air patio and a small building with dressings rooms, food service area, restrooms and office space -- could accommodate 60 more events at the stadium. A smaller venue lowers the cost, making it more feasible for groups to rent part of the stadium.
I suppose that's a reasonable and efficient use of real estate that lies fallow all but 70 some nights a year, but here's hoping they don't trot out Raley's famous $8.75 draft beers when the class of 2011 graduates from Rio Americano High School.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Major League Baseball itself is leaking the names.
Think about it. On Thursday, it's revealed that Mitchell has a list of 45 guys he wants to talk to. The names came from somewhere, and a list of athletes affiliated with Signature is just as good a guess as any. The players, however, are telling him to pound sand. The very next day the trickle starts. Could it be that someone affiliated with baseball is working the spigot in the hopes that fears of exposure would motivate cooperation?
I stand by my belief that the Mitchell investigation is a whitewash and a sham, and if I were representing players I would tell them to stay the heck away from it. That said, if you were a major league ballplayer who knew his name was on some steroid/HGH list, wouldn't you be thinking that it would be better for that story to break after you had already spoken with Mitchell so that you could release a statement -- and have MLB release one too -- that focuses on your cooperation and candidness? Especially when the alternative is "Neither Shlabotnik nor his agent returned calls seeking comment?"
Like I said, just a theory, but I'm having trouble imagining anyone with a better motive.