A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Edinson Volquez

In 2008, Senor Volquez came across to the Queen City from the Texas Rangers to the Reds with the hope that he could make a difference. For the first half of the season, he did just that. Until July 20th, he was a man on fire (God, I love Baseball-Reference.Com). Save a 5-run shelling that he took on June 26th, he was sub 2.00 for his cumulative ERA. For a team that finished with 74 wins, he had 17 of them.
Prior to going to visit James the wonder surgeon, he was a man on fire, and then he was a man getting rebuilt with Tommy John Surgery. If it worked, he would come back unstoppable, but if it didn’t come back, he would be done from the sport. The risk and the rewards were there, but as a young talent with so much hype and hope, the opportunity had to be taken.
Apparently, Edinson decided that to get healthy again, he would take steroids and come back bigger and stronger than ever. Is this really a surprise in baseball? Unlike Mike Morse who admitted to using Deca Durabolin once and saying that his second bust was from the residual steroids, we tend to not be sympathetic for our athletes when they get busted. Take Manny Ramirez’s sexual performance enhancing excuse or Jose Theodore using a hair growth formula. Nobody believes Manny because HCG restarts the production of testosterone and hair growth formulas are masking agents.
Nevertheless, the issue with Edinson is simply a 1/3 pay cut in a season he was sitting out anyway. It’s not really a big issue because he has signed another contract with his old team that still wants to take their chances on his arm - $1.625 for an arm capable of winning that much for a lame Reds team is worth up to 10 times it with a Reds team that can - if it works. Smart GMs know that wins can come at a discount if they turn a blind eye to the veterans that they blackball for doing the same thing at a greater cost and expectation. Didn't we learn that with Guillermo Mota? And while there's a feeling of Volquez being blacklisted, his suspension didn’t affect any actual games that Volquez could have played - he was injured and out for the count anyway, so they were served during his time on the disabled list. Jackpot!
So today, the Reds and the player win. Life is good.
The Reds get to keep rebuilding for 2011 with the improvements of Ardolis Chapman, Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Scott Rolen, and Jay Bruce - it's all good and the young team keeps ascending. Not that I want St. Louis to face serious in-division challenges, but it would be nice to see more great young players make it to the majors – without steroids.
We want to believe in the natural progression.
And if they can't, smart GMs will play the game of Ollie's Bargain Outlet distracting the fans with cheaper ticket prices and a better than average chance for a trip to the playoffs. In the end, a strikeout is still a strikeout and a home run is still a home run. Gotta love baseball 2011.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hilton Smith

My wife and I watch a lot of shows like Pawn Stars and American Pickers. Today, we were watching Auction Hunters, which is a lesser knock off show that seems to fill that desire for antiques and what the stuff in the basement is worth. Obviously, the History Channel shows are much better than Antiques Roadshow, which is dull and filled with characters that have none of the charm of Frank, Mike, or Chum Lee.
In the end, you either have star power, or you have the hope of people bringing in interesting merchandise.
Today, some guy brought in a collection of Negro Leagues merchandise complete with Jackie, Hank, + Satchel. My wife informed me that I would have been drooling if they brought them in for me to consign. She's right. When it was appraised, the Negro Leagues expert said that the Hilton Smith autograph would have fetched big cash - $400 - if they had someone who knew who he was, so in remembering him, but not really remembering him, I looked him up, and here's what the Major Leagues Hall of Famer did:
In 1941, he went 25-1 for the Kansas City Monarchs. In the words of Crash Davis, that's a career. Hell, in each of his 12 years with the Monarchs, he hit 20 games won. Granted, it's hard to figure out all of the stats from the days in the Negro Leagues due to poor transcribing and accumulation of said statistics, but with that alone, he's awesome. However, he played in the shadows of Satchel, and as we all know, Mr. Paige was larger than life and left quite a shadow.
Nevertheless, he pitched in 6 East - West All Star games and whiffed thirteen batters in these shows to show off his "swagger" as one of the greatest pitchers of his day.
Against the white teams that the Negro Leagues stars would play against to show how great they could have been had mixed competition been allowed, Smith went 6-1.
When it was all said and done, he was a scout for the Chicago Cubs. As a result, even though he never made it to the Major Leagues, he made sure other people did.
Even more importantly, he worked as a teacher, sharing his life with young people, who could benefit from his knowledge and experience.
Does that make his autograph worth $400? Considering it was packaged with other autographs, pennants, and memorabilia, I would say that the $175 it fetched at auction was quite nice and it made the gentleman who gave it up to earn money for a missionary trip to the Ivory Coast all the more happy when he got $1200 after the auctioneers took 20% off of the original $1500 paid for all of it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jason Isringhausen

Jason Isringhausen used to be the closer with the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2004, he accumulated 47 saves. I know that I've always said that saves are over-rated, but let's be honest, it's nicer for the Cardinals to have Isringhausen or a guy like him at the end than someone temporary and unreliable like Juan Acevedo.
In the end, the thoughts here aren't about Jason's past or future. They're just about the fact that I can look them up online and I don't have to feel like my ISP is going to shut down on me and leave me completely without FOX, ESPN, Hotmail, Blogger, Facebook, and whatever other sites I go on every day. It's going to be there.
Let's be honest; in America, if the Internet came crashing down, we'd have a rebellion of everyone 12-25 who couldn't get into their status and there would be bloodshed everywhere. I'm sure a lot of people younger and older than that would get really irate as well. I know how I feel when I can't get into my Hotmail because they're updating the site AGAIN. I don't get angry about not being able to access the rumor mill. Sure, it's nice to know that Isringhausen is in comeback mode after injuries last year, but that's the kind of mindless activities that I use to fill what I do and don't do with my days.
In the words of Bruce Hornsby, that's just the way it is.
Baseball and Egypt have very little in common save a trip at the end of 1913 that took Chicago White Sox players on a tour of the world and landed them in front of the Sphinx for a classic picture. Nevertheless, the world didn't accept baseball, save the South and Central American world and Asia, so our gift was just marked return to sender, but at least we had pictures to prove that we tried.
Baseball and Egypt come together in 2011 as we here at this website think about how much our love of the game depends on communications with the outside world and the Internet. At this point, Egyptians are completely without these basic "rights" as they protest an oppressive government while we bask in the ability to look at the comings and goings of peripheral players that don't matter at all. our lives are completely different than theirs. There are no tanks on Park Avenue in Ephrata. There may be piles of inconvenient snow, but there are no riot police looking to bash our brains in for disagreeing with the iron rule of Hosni Mubarek. I would say that's a pretty good thing. Nevertheless, with the threat of rising gas prices, we will probably feel a ripple effect from a situation we'll never know.
That said, there is just something inside me that is thankful to live in a country where even though the right and left disagree, we're not coming to be on the verge of a civil war. If we want to get rid of Obama in 2012, we will. If we like him, we'll keep him. He's not basically going to run against himself and install one of his daughters as president when he's done in 20 odd years.
Life in America is pretty good, and I'm happy to say that my chief worry is starting lineups and baseball history.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Gil Meche

It was passed on to me from one of my friends that Gil Meche threw his $12million salary for 2011 back to Kansas City because, “When I signed my contract, my main goal was to earn it. Once I started to realize I wasn’t earning my money, I felt bad. I was making a crazy amount of money for not even pitching. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I deserved it. I didn’t want to have those feelings again.”
While it's a badge of honor, it's not like not taking the $12million leaves him applying for welfare. Also, according to NBC, "Meche made more than $50 million playing baseball, with most coming in the five-year, $55 million deal he signed with the Royals after leaving the Mariners."
And so today, we have to think about all of those albatross deals that take down a team forever as they sign a player that they can no longer afford. Vernon Wells who left Toronto for Anaheim, the only city desperate enough for him. Michael Young, who is still good, but who has become obsolete in Texas is awaiting to see where he will end up... Toronto perhaps. Moving through the connections, we think back to how Alex Rodriguez sank the Texas Rangers ship to be the highest paid player in baseball.
Thinking back, we can remember Carlos Lee, Denny Neagle, Mike Hampton, Juan Gonzalez, Kevin Millwood, Derek Bell, Hideki Irabu, Carl Pavano, Mo Vaughn, Barry Zito, Albert Belle, Gary Matthews, Alfonso Soriano, Kevin Brown, Travis Hafner, Daisuke Matsuzaka (I want the money back from the shirt and jersey I bought, too, Daisuke; you suck, and I just want to say that I know the reason why you threw so many pitches in Japan, too - your walks and WHIP).
Few players give back the way Gil Meche or Mark McGwire did when they realize that the end has come and they're still on the hook for a lot of money. It shows that they're going out like a class act instead of an ass crack.
These lists could go on all night and they do. You just have to look for them.
And for that, we still believe that there is hope in Kansas City - if they invest the right way for the future. Let's be honest... the now is dead in western Missouri.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bryce Harper

Last year, I got in on the ground floor of Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg. After life got in the way, and I wasn't able to blog anymore, I still called the television and watched in sheer joy as Strasburg made mincemeat out of the Pirates. When he went out for Tommy John Surgery, I wanted to cry and curse the Nationals for not learning from the Cubs treatment of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. Hopefully, they won't rush him back. Besides, even with Jayson Werth, there is no hope in Mudville... err Washington D.C. for a playoff dream next year. However, there will be soon. It's just that you can't kill a young pitcher with a heavy workload and lots of speed coming off his shoulder. It's just not good - unless you're Nolan Ryan, that is.
The future is...
We haven't heard that in DC since 2007 and 2008 as America got Obama shoved down their throats 24/7 and change was coming if it wasn't already here. The writing was on the wall. Bush was gone and everything was going to be nice again.
And this time, it's for real with youngsters like Strasburg, Drew Storen, and Bryce Harper, the number one overall pick to go with the number one pick from last year. This isn't signing some worthless malcontent loser from the Devil Rays like Elijah Dukes whose power potential was completely outweighed by his propensity to blame threatening his significant other teacher with violent threats. Like father, like son. Don't even get me started on Nyjer Morgan, either. No, this is building for the future to make all of the difference in the world for the future of baseball in the NL East as they try to move away from the memories of the Senators who were first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League East. Walter Johnson is still thanking his lucky stars for that one great 1924 season after setting the record for most 1-0 losses in a career due to the non-support that his club offered. I guess in that, he must feel a little bit like Elijah Dukes whose father spent most of his life in jail and ruined his potential to be the great player that Tampa Bay and Washington were looking for in him.
But alas...
The future is next year for Washington. The bat, the arm, the hope, the dream, the moving through high school to college 2 years early, the devastation on the minor league level, and the positive attitude. It's all there, and watching it in interview with Peter Gammons... man. I believe. I'm in on this 1. A lot of people seem to be as they see the stomping on that first baseman's ankle as an unfortunate mishap by a young kid who now seems to want to do everything right.
And we hope he does.
The future is everything.
We believe.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jack Frye

I've lived most of my life in the Reading, Pennsylvania, area (ranked #21 worst city overall in 2007), but fortunately, now I live 30 minutes from the city in what I like to refer to as Amish Paradise. It's a lot quieter out here for the most part, and that's a good thing.
Reading has really gone to seed in the past twenty or so years. I don't remember going downtown as a kid before going into the military, but after I came back from the Air Force in 1996, it just wasn't pretty. Now, it's a necessity for somethings, but mostly, I just stay on the edge of town where I need to be and am thankful that I don't have to live downtown.
However, we do have a couple of claims to fame. First and foremost is the Pagoda, which still looms as something to see. Despite the fact that they're still frequented, the outlets that once drew people in are now dime a dozen and spread out across the country, so it's not like they're that big of a deal. We have hockey now - the Reading Royals, and we've had baseball for quite some time. In fact, we're Baseballtown based on the strength of the Reading Phillies and their infinite promotions, which isn't such a bad thing because baseball is good and hopefully it gets kids hooked - even if they have to see baseball as something that comes with between innings games and cheering along when the scoreboard or the playing of Blur's "Song 2" tells them to. Thus, if one wants to fight with traffic for a good game and better fireworks, Reading is the place to be. Roger Maris even played here when he was an Indians minor league player.
However, back in the day, way back when (1883 to be exact), Jack Frye was the 2nd African American to ever play in organized ball. Of course, we all know that Moses Fleetwood Walker was first, but alas... many people don't know the silver medalist, but in this case, he was a catcher, pitcher, first basemen, and outfielder who played for 5 different teams up until 1891 in various cities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Reading was his first stop.
That said, in looking through a lot of different sites, it's hard to find that much information on the league and the team... at least at the point where Jack played. Nevertheless, as it was included in Shades of Glory, a National Geographic book on the Negro Leagues, I would say that it's pretty true and reliable. Thus, there seems to be a new relic to search out as the story of baseball by me goes on and on.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dizzy and Paul Dean

My wife is obsessed with American Pickers. There's no getting around it. We watch that and Pawn Stars on a regular basis, which to be honest are some of the only shows that we watch.
Last night, they picked up a much rougher version of this poster, which was more faded, and to be honest with you, it looked a hell of a lot better than the colorized version that is on the left.
That said, I was salivating despite the fact that I know that I can't afford it, and even if I did, I wouldn't have much of a place to put it without upsetting the delicate balance of the house that is decorated rather nicely, but all in all, is not geared much for antique baseball posters - no matter how great the subjects are, and let me just say one more time that this poster really is nice.
That being said, I have managed to weasel my way into having some of my baseball memorabilia in the main part of the house that isn't my office. For instance, my Mark McGwire McFarland figures in the living room. The first one is common, but the second one is unique in that he posed for it and then retired, so Todd McFarland left the prototype in my cousin David's office (he takes pictures of the figures for the website, or at least he did at the time - I would assume he still does) until he gave it to me. When he did, I was orgasmic. That's pretty much what happens when you get a baseball card that you need... though a real orgasm is better than that. Well, at least that's what my mom told me when I was in 6th grade. There's something about collecting baseball stuff that makes boys of men. My friend that I work with purposely drives himself crazy not opening too many packs of baseball cards at one time in order to leave him more surprises for later. I fall asleep and dream of opening cards. I don't collect regularly, but as happened the other night, I still dream of wax packs.
When I open cards, I always want my favorites. That's obvious. I can't say as I'm obsessed with all of the players on all of my teams, but more often than not, the Cardinals and Red Sox come up solid. In that, a part of me has always been a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Granted, I wasn't alive for the Gashouse Gang when Dizzy Dean was winning 150 games and posting a 3.02 career ERA despite World War 2 and injuries putting an end to his better days. Nevertheless, he is officially the final National League pitcher EVER to win 30 games (because unless a pitcher is uninjured and unbeaten, it will never happen again. Hell, 25 is damn near impossible enough). Granted, his brother Daffy, well Paul by birth certificate, was more pedestrian, but they were St. Louis in the same way that guys like Ozzie Smith and Mark McGwire were in their day and ages and in the same way that Albert Pujols is now.
And maybe as a Cardinals fan, I should just lay this on the line: If there be any doubt, the town of St. Louis and the state of Missouri should start collecting taxes to save the baseball club before anyone does anything stupid like deciding not to make the contract work. Albert is the Cardinals. If Matt Holliday got a contract for $120 million, Albert deserves at least $240 million. At least. And don't even get me started on Ryan Howard's laughable contract (because if it's a new day, it's a new opportunity to dis on Mighty Ryan).
Such is the state of life and baseball, but with 25 days to go until the deal must be done, the deal must be done. Oh yes...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cliff Lee

So what kind of Christmas present can you get after spending 13 prospects and $250million+?
In mid-December, the Phillies found out when they gave their fans the present that they yanked away from them the year earlier and sold it as a coup of enormous potential. They had just blown the playoffs to the Giants, who went on to win the World Series based solely on pitching. All the same, the Phillies had lost the NL Championship because their offense was lousy in the clutch. The Phillies had also lost Jayson Werth, who was viewed as a saviour to the team, but was now an overpaid price for the Washington Nationals allowing one to wonder if it's about money, opportunity, or love that a player accepts the chance to go to another team. I guess we'll just have to believe that it's the extra year that nobody who wasn't ruling the cellars of their division would have to pony more up to get.
Of course, we have to be happy for the big losers, i.e. the Yankees who missed out on their opportunity to lay claim to Lee. Thus, we see that the if you can't beat them join them mentality that brought Jason Giambi to the Bronx for a shave and a steroid nightmare wasn't convincing to Lee who in the past few years established himself as great since finding a way out of the baseball Hell that is Cleveland. At least he did it classier than Lebron did, but you knew that after being a revolving door for football teams, baseball players, and anything else of remote value, the populace would over-react and spew venom. Then again, we can't say that King James didn't kind of sort of deserve it.
So Christmas dinner was served and Lee was in the City of Brotherly Love, the fans were digging out their old jerseys or wishing that they hadn't used them to clean motor oil off of their garage floors, and life was good. The baseball gods were smiling because now the team had the big 4 to make them win the division. Roy Halladay and his perfect game and no hitter. Roy Oswalt and h is lost legacy that was brought back to life in a short stint in Philadelphia. And then there was Cole Hamels of the awesome 2008 and the lousy season after that. Sure, last year, he was back to form in ERA, but the 12-11 record shows that the team doesn't hit for him.
Thus, the true problems aren't solved because Howard has a big hole in his swing. Jayson Werth is gone. Raul Ibanez is older than dirt. Polanco is a singles man. Jimmy Rollins is washed up. Chase Utley has potential when he isn't fragile and injured. Sure, there are a few prospects coming up and Carlos Ruiz is a nice feeling for the hometown fans, but who is there to put a fear in pitchers come the playoffs? Ryan Howard isn't the man and no matter how much some fans complain and argue otherwise, what has he done in the clutch? Even Alex Rodriguez reinvented himself against Minnesota's bullpen, which I could pretty much break through on in any given high profile October game.
But I digress...
I'm not saying that Lee was a bad move. He'll do exceptionally and the fans love him, but... how much hard luck can the staff handle as the offense doesn't produce and Brad Lidge implodes in the closer role. Now those masseusse and psychiatric jobs will definitely be high pay as they hope to stave off the late inning sadness and try to be like the Orioles of the early 1970s were supposed to be the greatest pitching staff ever. Then again, there was the mid nineties Braves and the 1954 Indians.
No matter what happens, they'll be fun to watch even if the pink cap wearing sunny side up rooters of Philthydelphia will be screaming loyalty now that they're winning despite the fact that they were nowhere to be found in 2005, but what's new? That's Boston and New York, too. But such is the joy of being a baseball fan in a world of bandwagon jumpers.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mark Reynolds

In case there is any feeling that I loathe Ryan Howard above all other players, let me dispel that rumor. Sure, I feel that $25million for 5 years + enough extra for a 6th year to take it just under $140million for the package is ridiculous and laughable, but that doesn't constitute hatred. Sure, I laugh when he whiffs and I feel that sitting him out from time to time to not hit 200 strikeouts in a year (for that reason, I'm not impressed with Adam Dunn either), but that doesn't constitute loathing of a player.
Loathing is something special - Barry Bonds in 2001 was loathing. Ken Griffey Jr. as the opponent in 1998 wasn't loathing (though I came close to wanting it to be), but it bubbled under feeling that way until he vanished from the chase for Maris altogether. Albert Belle until his retirement was loathing. Pretty much the entire Yankee roster until they choked in 2004 (GREATEST CHOKE EVER) was loath-able. Hell, many of them still are, but fortunately, the worst have gone the way of the dodo bird.
Now, the hatred is reserved for Mark Reynolds and his mighty swings at... nothing.
According to the guys at MLB-TV, if he didn't sit out from time to time, he could not hit ball 300 times a year. Last year, he came to bat 499 times. He whiffed 211 times. That sucks.
In full seasons from 1921 to 1933 (and 70 at bats in 1920), Joe Sewell struck out 114 times. His career average was .312. In just under 8000 career at bats, Lloyd Waner whiffed 173 times from 1927 to 1945. That's it. Even as recently as 1948, Lou Boudreau only struck out 9 times in a season (560 at bats, .355 average). For him, it was "all future and no past."
For Mark Reynolds, the entire career of Joe DiMaggio from 1936 to 1951 (minus WW2) yielded 369 whiffs. For Reynolds, that isn't even 2 full seasons. Yogi Berra may sound like an idiot with some of his quotes, but from 1946 to 1964, he struck out 414 times. That includes 3 times in his last 9 at bats when he finally called it quits in 1965 as he was well past his prime. In his last 7 at bats, Reynolds struck out 5 times. He also sat 5 full games and came in to pinch hit in another game. There, he walked.
The Diamondbacks shipped him to Baltimore for 2 players after they signed him to a $14.5 million 3-year extension. That gives him $5million this season to shoot for the stars and whiff the incredible total of 250+ times (if Buck Showalter doesn't choke him out first).
MLB TV calls him the 7th best player on the hot corner. I think they're smoking crack.
We've reached critical mass in baseball on whiffs. Reynolds hit .198 for the year. His 32 homers and 85 RBIs led his team into last place (65-97) in a relatively competitive division.
He's not alone in his futility. Carlos Pena was also sub .200 with 150+ Ks - albeit for a winning team (the Rays). At least they're home run hitters - for what that's worth. BJ Upton and Austin Jackson can't say that for their major whiffs.
So yeah... Houston... we've got a problem. Too many strikeouts. It's gotta go. I don't care what the statisticians say. This is just futility.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ken Burns

I've always hated Keith Olbermann. As an ESPN analyst, I always found him to be a smug piece of crap, and that was only listening to him and Dan Patrick, another smug and annoying piece of crap. I was glad when he left the radio because I hated to be in the car for drive time and to have to hear those two spazzes tell me about sports news. Maybe it was the self righteous approach to the steroids era where all of a sudden all of these analysts who had formerly swooned over Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were cursing their souls to hell - kind of like Bob Costas on the 10th Inning of Ken Burns baseball.
The 10th Inning was meant to be so many things, but in the end, it was what it wasn't. I saw Albert Pujols, the greatest player of the generation for a few seconds, but I never heard his name mentioned. Hell, I saw Chris Rock more than I saw Phat Albert. Sure, there were some good parts, but in the end to reduce every single World Series victory (after the Sox in 2004) to a closer throwing a final pitch after sitting through the long version of the Bobby Bonds story in a transition into Barry Bonds... yeah. That was worth the wait.
So today when Keith Olbermann, who pretty much spent more time in the documentary on the history of the last 15-20 years of baseball than Larry Walker, Albert Pujols, and the curse breaking teams from Philadelphia into 2008 and from Chicago in 2005 COMBINED, was dropped from his show, I had to give a little bit of a smug self-righteous piece of crap smile to think that somewhere between pathetic ratings on MSNBC and good ol' Bill O' Reilly beating the man from Countdown, who had the "Worst Person in the World" on every night is now gone from his spot on cable news. If he could take Rachel Maddow with him, life would be complete, but this is about sports and those who tell the story of them, and for that, we turn back to Ken Burns and ask him to give us the fan version of Baseball, the way it was meant to be... sans Keith Olbermann. It could be like those fan edited versions of The Phantom Menace where fans cut Jar Jar Binks from the footage and leave the film all the more entertaining for it (I'd cut out the kiddie narrated scenes from the pod racing as well and just stick to the racing and not the announcer as well, but that's just me).
Give me the section on Pujols... a little more talking about those victories and some discussion on those two World Series wins, if only for the history in them. Please note Mr. Burns that I'm not asking for that much more on Mark McGwire... even though he deserves more footage than your self-appointed savior of the Latino race that is Sammy Sosa, but I'll accept that as a discussion on the Latino culture's inclusion in modern baseball and your catering to Cubs fans as opposed to anything dastardly like the exclusion of the other sections was.
Nobody will mind. It's clear to see that the last hope for Olbermann was his angry political rant show on ultra liberal cable news network MSNBC, and now that it's over... you can re-edit your 10th Inning for true baseball fans like myself.
I'm sure that Doris Kearns Goodwin won't mind.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Manny Ramirez

Ok, let's get this straight. Even Manny Ramirez gets a fourth chance.
In a sign that $2million a year for a formerly $20million a year player in free agency is a bargain, the Rays decided that giving Manny (who according to my wife didn't pay his child support when she went to a Cleveland Indians game way back when and heckled him for such) that money was nothing but upside.
If he screws up, it couldn't be worse than giving an outfielder with $2million value the money for 1 year (no incentives either!). If he's productive and healthy (because not being injured and cantankerous is pretty much everything), well then it's everything that Mannywood was supposed to be in Los Angeles except it's in the Tropicana and it's all comeback against the Red Sox who let him slip away.
It's hard to say everything about Manny that truly needs said. Something about using steroids and trying to blame it on sexual performance enhancers didn't have us believing. Hell, he's not on my short list of people who I would bat an eyelash over:
1. Cal Ripken Jr.
2. Derek Jeter
3. Ichiro Suzuki
4. Albert Pujols
5. Mariano Rivera
6. Curt Schilling
This is especially true when both he and Big Sluggi - the hitter formerly known as David "Big Papi" Ortiz, who is now just hanging around Boston for no good reason and past memories (but we do remember the good things and I've got your jersey to prove it) were nailed for the PEDs. I can literally remember being with my friend Dale sitting in the restaurant of an off track wagering place watching the news come up on a television screen. Oh... big sluggers nailed for steroids... hmm...
Hell, most things that Manny did had us wanting to ship him out as soon as possible. The Bill Simmons column on him explains everything in such vivid detail, you should just read that.
Two years in LA. Lots of money coming his way. The future is wide open, only it's not.
From 19 home runs in LA in 2009 to 9 home runs in LA and Chi-Town in all of 2010 in just over 270 at bats (those pesky injuries)... it's a curse... something like that. The year of the pitcher... or not. Not that 350 at bats the year before was much better. That's over $40million well spent.
So perhaps that's why Johnny Damon is getting more and the offer of incentives... potential upside (whereas Manny is all hope).
Manny turning it all around... it's a nice story. We want to write it. Really.
Scott Boras and Manny really want us to write it.
Will we?
Time will tell.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Derek Jeter

Back in the day, I never got Will Ferrell. He was the moron who did Saturday Night Live skits like the cheerleaders and the lovers, and I just found him to be horribly annoying. I saw Old School when it first came out and I didn't like it at all, but in hindsight, I was just on a really bad Match Dot Com date, and I have since watched it again and again, and I really liked it, but that was a gap in time, and I'm getting ahead of myself. Before that and somewhere in being made to watch Anchorman twice, I found some of it amusing, but by the end, I was bored again, and I refused to watch him for the longest time.
Then, I met my wife and she made me watch Elf, which may be the greatest Christmas movie ever. Christmas is finally here when I get to watch Buddy the Elf make his way to New York City to find his dad and have snowball fights and Christmas decorating extravaganzas and shower room singing with Zooey Deschanel (and who doesn't want that?).
Megamind, which was the best animation movie of 2010 - easily - featured the existential dilemma of being an arch villain to Brad Pitt's Metroman, who ended up not being able to be a villain because his dastardly plans to kill him finally succeeded. Somehow, he fell in love with Tina Fey's Roxanne Ritchie who fell back in love with him and got loved by the world after he defeated Jonah Hill (is that guy everywhere, or is it me?). As a lover of animated and PIXAR movies, I have to say I was rolling on the floor more than the bevy of nieces and nephews that we took to the movies that day.
And there are good movies and there are animated voices and there are bit parts and there are movies that are phoned in, and perhaps nowhere is that more noticeable than in The Other Guys, which also stars Mark Wahlberg, a great actor who also phones in the movie - save the part with Derek Jeter. If you don't want the part given away, read no further, but to see the cameo of Wahlberg as a former superstar cop being groomed for homicide who now rides a desk because he shot Jeter in a dark hallway before Game 7 of the World Series is perhaps the funniest scene imaginable. Afterward, the running gag of Wahlberg having shot Jeter and how that plays out is more than enough to make the movie worth your while, but it just isn't something worth owning.
That being said, once again, Derek Jeter, the hated Yankee that he is, plays his personality and star perfectly and does nothing wrong ("he's a bi-racial angel") unlike his arch nemesis on his right side of the infield ("it should have been A-Rod") stands as the potential of all things that a sports star can be - especially in New York.
After reading how Roger Maris was treated during his playing career and the majority of his life until George Steinbrenner of all people made every sincere gesture of respect and resuscitation to pull Maris out of the obscure doghouse of the past to bring him to Yankee Stadium and Monument Park, where he belonged is quite a powerful image. Jeter was handled perfectly and he handled himself perfectly.
For as much as I hate the Yankees (and I do), I find it harder and harder to hate Jeter - especially after he took that shot to the face catching the foul ball that beat the Red Sox in a meaningless all or nothing mid summer "classic." Sure, I'll hate on him in the playoffs, but I have had him on my fantasy team. Is that me going soft? Is it something only marriage could do? Marrying my wife still wouldn't have me wear a Yankees hat or shirt. Hell, I'd rather fall down a flight of stairs than ever go through that horrible scenario, but alas... I digress.
Somewhere in the image of Jeter rolling on the tunnel floor and calling Mark Wahlberg a dick, there is a hilarious moment that represents this generation of baseball perfectly. Who would have thought that all it would take to make it happen was a Will Ferrell movie?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Armando Galarraga

Is it any wonder that the man who was so "classy" in pitching a perfect game that got botched by a poor officiating call is now designated for assignment? Sure, he has upside. He pitched a perfect game, but so did Len Barker, the author of a 1981 perfect game against Toronto (3-0). But what else did he do? At least Dallas Braden mouthed off at A-Rod and his blue lipped world of Madonna obsession for daring to cross his pitching mound.
Now, Brad Penny's aging and injured self is on the team and he's been solid for years and years - when he's healthy. Armando really didn't contribute after that game. He got his Corvette and people hailed him the perfect sportsman, but being a great competitor doesn't win games, and Galarraga's final record was 4-9 with a 4.49 ERA. Take out the gem, and where does that leave him? Should we really feel so sad for the Venezuelan pitcher who had his 15 minutes of fame and will forever be #21 with an asterisk on our list of perfect games?
So if another team chooses to give him another chance, so be it. It's just that from August 20th to the end of the season, Armando never won again. Sure, there were a fair bit of no decisions and there were 2 hard luck decisions (2-1 losses to Baltimore and Kansas City), but still. Baseball is baseball. Ubaldo Jimenez will tell you that you can win some of those decisions and lose some. I'm sure his 19 win season last year hurts even more because he can't take a hurting to the Rockies who should be sued for lack of support worse than any deadbeat dad, but that's the game. Having 5 tough luck losses after his 15th win (3 runs or less allowed including a 1-0 loss to the New York Mets) really says it all, but look at the first part of the season (1 hard luck loss and almost all of his wins were close - there was never a blow out - his team did just enough or he got the shutout victory). It's like the glory days of Pedro Martinez all over again for Ubaldo, but with Armando, he's just not the pitcher that the other 2 guys are.
That said, this is baseball, and we believe in second chances. Surely, Jim Joyce got one in the Armando Galarraga story. Will Armando?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Joey Votto

If it's arbitration time, someone is getting rich and someone else is being told that they suck. Take Tim Lincecum for example. Ok, he's not a pretty guy, but he did pitch exceptionally until last year when I had him on my fantasy team. Compiling 2 MVPs in his full seasons and pitching well as a rookie, the future was ahead of him, but apparently, the Giants felt lowballing him was in order. Granted, we must take into account that this is baseball money and that doesn't apply to real world numbers that most of us will never earn in our lifetimes, but...
In the end, he took two years for $23million and bonuses and the chance to do it all over again in 2012 and 2012.
I know baseball is all about the money, but how do you trash your future franchise in the name of a couple of million - especially when most teams overpay for guys with a good season in a walk year?
So for the Red Sox waste $12million on Jon Papelbon, the Brewers give ugly swinging home run menace Prince Fielder $15.5 million. Even Mike Pelfrey and his quick start gets $3.9million. Money is out there. All you have to do is avoid the hearing and settle early or hope that your list of good deeds is better than the team's list of, "well you're no Babe Ruth or Cy Young."
Thus, for the Reds to sign Joey Votto for 3 years and $38 million. At nearly $13million per, the Reds figured that they wouldn't be able to handle the salary of Votto even though he has one MVP award to his name and one All Star appearance because the fans are smarter than Charlie Manuel who didn't pick him on his own. Maybe we can blame this on the fact that every team must be represented (Michael Bourne, Chris Young), but still... Even triple threat / MVP potential / runner up Carlos Gonzalez was left off the team.
But in looking at Votto, his home runs went up from 08-09 and the rate of home runs increased, but the RBIs stayed the same. Call it your teammates, or whatever, but still... His average has always been right under or above .300 and he is young, so here's hoping he explodes into greatness. When the starting first baseman in the NL is Pujols and the choice of backup is Howard or Votto, give me Votto any day.
So will the pay day pay off?
Will the NL MVP make good or implode when the pitchers figure out his weaknesses?
Only time will tell.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Roger Maris

Waking up yesterday morning to a story in the New York Times about how the U.S. and Israel worked together to release a worm into the Iranian nuclear program so that it couldn't get up and running has me contemplating exactly what is the point of the media. On one hand, I have to ask myself if this is something above "no duh." I mean really. Why on Earth WOULD WE NOT try to take out a hostile country's nuclear program that could hurt us or our friends? On the other hand, I have to ask myself if this is about some kind of attack on the U.S. as a whole. I mean, if this is top secret, and we'll assume that it is, what business does this have playing out in the media?
But alas, this is a baseball site, not a political outlet, and I use media attacks to lead into Roger Maris and the transition from the media loving players to attacking them viciously. Sure, there was Ted Williams before him, but was there ever an attack as concentrated and individually damaging as that, which was perpetrated against Roger for being "boring" (at least compared to Babe Ruth) and unable to stomach stupid questions (considering many NASCAR guys give the same kind of F U response as Roger and Cee Lo Green) and just unwilling to provide a day in day out story while pursuing the home run record that he was deemed unworthy of.
Currently, I am reading Roger Maris: Baseball's Reluctant Hero, and overall, it's pretty good. You can skip the first few chapters about how his grandparents moved to America from Europe and how his parents relationship started out in dysfunction (it ends in divorce - so it goes) and start about 30 pages into the book at chapter 4.
I've always been a Roger Maris fan since I first heard his story in 1998 as Mark McGwire pursued his record. It was sad to hear about the asterisk and the total devastation of what should have been a joyous race between Maris and Mantle (who had been hated in many circles for not being Joe DiMaggio - at least until Roger came along). Maybe the media made up for this with the race between McGwire and Sosa (and maybe the Curse of Not Being Babe Ruth made the media feel inclined to destroy them and everyone else who got close to Babe Ruth in a way that wasn't worthy - steroids be just a cover story).
But in the end, Roger took a pitch deep on the final day of the season and was branded forever with the asterisk that was there despite it's never been typed into the official record books and for 37 years he suffered in pain despite a momentary stay with the St. Louis Cardinals in 67 and 68. He then retired and died in 1985, a tragic end to a great human being. I wish I would have known his story sooner, but the fact that I do is a story I will continue to tell throughout the course of this blog.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes Maris or baseball. I've been reading it nightly in sight of a teddy bear that belongs to my wife. More than anything else, that bear reminds me of her, and when I think about it and her, I think about how wonderful she is to me. For our wedding, she knew that gifts are given between husband and wife (I didn't, so if you're reading, take note), and she gave me the Roger Maris PSA8 rookie that I always joked she would buy me if she truly loved me. When I took it out of the box, I was shaking, and I had no idea what to say. I felt like such a fool for not knowing that I had to get her a gift as well (we ended up putting a lot of money towards the things that she wanted for our home that we bought a few months later). I ran all over Toledo looking for something worthy of her and feeling totally freaked out on the night before our wedding.
Even now, I don't know if I feel worthy of such a great gift. I'll occasionally open the locked box and pull Roger out of his protective cloth bag - not all the way mind you - and look on his visage and think of all that his family went through in 98, all that he went through from 1961 until he left baseball a completely broken man, and how his wife came through for him above and beyond the call of duty (something completely left out of Tom Clavin and Danny Peary's aforementioned book).
Maybe Roger was the best way to give me a physical gift that came through to me, but to be honest, nowhere am I happier in the gift I was given than the "I do." And perhaps that's hokey, but alas... it is what makes me happy in life.
And that thought and her presence is what keeps me from feeling the news of the world in a way that makes me sad as I wait for spring and new life and no more snow - just warmth and good times.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ron Santo

When I was younger, I always thought that my dad's father died of yellow fever. I don't remember what actually killed him, but I was told later that it wasn't yellow fever. In much the same way of being confused by what I thought I heard, I always thought that my dad's favorite player when he was a kid was Ron Santo, but it was actually Richie Ashburn. I didn't learn the truth until I talked to my dad after Ron Santo died on December 3rd.
Interestingly enough, the Cubs have declared that my dad's birthday, his 64th, will be the celebration of Ron Santo's life and the new statue that will be displayed outside of Wrigley Field for this 3rd base great.
Santo and his 342 home runs and lifetime .277 average over 15 seasons (9 on all-star teams), were never enough for the Hall of Fame, but true fans know. Santo was a true fan of the Cubs, the team he became famous while playing on. He celebrated their trials and tribulations as a player and announcer and always seemed to believe that the Cubs would end their drought and the Curse of the Billy Goat, the stupidest curse in history, would be over.
All the same, heart problems, cancer, and losing both of his legs to diabetes took their toll on this baseball great first.
On August 10th, Chicago will play a low key game that very few people will care about. They're taking on the Nationals, and neither team will be fighting for playoff glory. It will just be another August game, but to the Wrigley Field and a few sportscasters and some die hard fans, we will take notice of a man who was truly great.
We're not asking for special favors like being let into a McDonald's in the wee hours of the morning to use the bathroom, which results in the temporary firing of an employee who gives into his star status.
We're not talking about a man who had questionable relationships outside of marriage and must wear a scarlet S on his chest as he tells neighbors where he lives in order to avoid jail time. Even football players fear the pokey. I know that I would.
We're not talking about a man who profiteers off of making animals fight each other to the inevitable death of one of them, but who deserves a presidential thank you to the coach who took his "chances" on hiring him again, despite the fact that there was nothing to lose in hiring a former all pro quarterback.
And we're not talking about how an entire town remembered his greatness because it led them to 2 Superbowl victories and moves them towards a third victory despite the fact that the only reason he's not in the slammer is because the evidence against him couldn't differentiate consensual violent sex and rape.
But Ron Santo is not Adrian Peterson, Lawrence Taylor, Michael Vick, or Ben Roethlisberger. He's just a baseball player from a different generation. He's not the kind of person that leaves the average person star struck. He's just a man and a great gamer from a different era who still inspires enough respect to be immortalized for all who care to find out the back story of a statue that will one day join other Chicago Cubs statues of Harry Caray, Ernie Banks, and Billy Williams - note that Ryne Sandberg isn't even on this list.
Somewhere is reverence for truth, justice, and the American way.
That's why baseball will always be the national pastime.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Addie Joss

The first time I saw Almost Famous, I was with my ex-girlfriend what feels like a million years and a million lifetimes ago. I don't remember thinking much of it at the time, but I came to love it shortly after she left. It wasn't pining over her. I can really only think of 2 incidents of pining over her in the time that she left - the first time was the first time that she was gone and it was just myself and her cat Tornado. She left us both. She had to have him, and she seemed happy to tag along into my life, but then when she got there, we realized that we were from different worlds. At that minute, it was just myself and the cat and it felt bizarre and depressing to be in that spot. Eventually, I had her take the cat, which she begrudgingly did.
The second time, I was in the midst of the depressed summer of 2002 after we broke up in April and I had too much time with my loneliness, and I went to drop off mail that had arrived for her at the apartment that we shared, but that was now only mine. In all the things the things that she did and didn't do in that time, it took me to change her addresses for her by returning stuff to the sender and posting the right address to forward things to. That time, I suggested we get together to talk, but we never did, which was a good thing. She got her mail, just like she got a box of stuff that was once hers. I always thought that she would come back for her Christmas stuff, but that was just wishful thinking. Our only Christmas together was miserable. In the end, I gave it to the woman who oversaw the apartments for her kid and threw away what she would never want. It seemed so wasteful at the time, but alas, sometimes, it's for the best.
In the movie Almost Famous, Elton John sings "Tiny Dancer," which is one of the greatest songs ever. At the time in March of 2001, I can remember listening to it and liking it, but I didn't really claim it as one of my own until it played at the right moment of my life - hiking back from Delicate Arch in Utah. It was in the same fateful walk that Elf Power's "When the Red King Comes" played. They were both mine. I never think of the ex girlfriend or things belonging to her other than Dave Matthews and The Barenaked Ladies, which I can differentiate from her in that other than when I consciously force myself to, I never think of her. There's no reason to. We never had anything much in common and our greatest moments were things that I've pretty much done with other people or that weren't that memorable to begin with - at least in the way that almost 9 years makes a person forget what happened.
However, I do think back to Almost Famous because I love the quote that is at the end where William Miller, the Cameron Crowe character asks Russell Hammond what he likes about rock music. The answer is "to begin with everything."
I think that I could answer the same thing about baseball. Everything. The game never disappoints me. If Aaron Boone hits a home run over the Green Monster in extra innings and I'm up until the wee hours hoping that the Red Sox make it to the World Series in 2003, then it's just a moment in communal misery that still says, "we'll get them next year."
If I choose to go to bed after the Arizona Diamondbacks can't score in the 8th inning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series and it looks like the Yankees will 4-peat, then I can wake up happy when I see ESPN's headline that a bloop single wins and it's instant jubilation and the need to make Yankees fans suffer.
For me, baseball is everything... the trajectory of a long fly ball to deep center field in the St. Louis night. August 30, 1998, marks a change in everything that I am and that I will be. It signals that I have come to the promised land, and I have seen my burning bush. My heart is not hardened, but it is actually made light because I have been shown direction in life by the plague of locusts (well, Mormon crickets) that have descended on the desert north of Fallon, Nevada. From North Nutgrass, Stillwater Reservoir, Foxtail Lake and all of the other water that lies east of Route 95 heading south into Nevada's heartland, they swarm and die against my windshield and the hood of my Ford Escort. Uncle Tupelo's music plays after I refuel my car with gasoline and my body with Coke and iced animal cookies. Good stuff. I am to teach. I am to go about my journey and become something more.
For 12 plus years, I have prepared and done just that. Every time that I think it's time to get out, something rescues me and keeps me moving forward. Every time that I think it's not going to work out, something keeps me moving forward. Like much of my life, I have proceeded forward in spite of my mistakes and the turmoil of life, but I have kept going.
In reading about my baseball heroes, I see tales of lives that were destroyed and ended before they could fully realize what they might have been. I have seen great careers cut short of being the greatest. Bob Feller and Ted Williams gave the early parts of their career to military service for their country. Christy Mathewson did as well, but his was to an earlier war, but all the same, he trained and swallowed mustard gas. He was never the same. Roberto Clemente hit his 3,000th hit and died in a fiery airplane crash trying to get relief supplies to Nicaragua. Jackie Robinson gave his life to the stress and turmoil of integrating the Major Leagues with the players of the Negro Leagues so no more African Americans would have to lose out to what might have been. And Addie Joss died of spinal meningitis not 3 years after pitching a perfect game and a no-hitter. He was 31. He could have been great.
So many people could have.
And yes, they are immortalized in hallowed grounds on Lake Oswego. I can see them there. I can remember their lives and what could have been.
I sit here now and think of what could have been in my life. Where once I taught high school kids, I moved on to college students and adult education. I said that I would never go back, but here I am now, ready to go back and be great again, to feel the things that I once loved about this all over again. To feel the mix of history, literature, and writing all come together into something special for me and to make them something special in students as I once did. To feel comfortable in my skin and my classroom. To exorcise the demons of failure once and for all.
It's time to think that my life is ready to be.
If I have baseball to thank for that, then all the better for the ghosts of the past are still powerful and still have much to teach us.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Vladamir Guerrero

There's something to be said for the waiting. As Tom Petty once said, it's the hardest part, but the old proverb says that good things come to those who wait. I'm hoping that's true since I keep filling out applications and sending out resumes in hopes of more and better employment, which should be something in my wheelhouse because now I have a Masters Degree, but alas... the waiting continues.
It continues for Manny Ramirez, too, but after his dismal showing in Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago, his suitors are non-existent in much the same way they were for Barry Bonds after his last season. This is a guy who hit .276 and 28 home runs in his final season. Never mind that he led the league with 132 walks, of which 43 were intentional (he had 120/232 official intentional base on balls in his 2004 season). In addition, his OPS was 1.045, which isn't slouch numbers, but that said, he was a steroids guy who was rather hated, so nobody wanted him other than San Francisco, who only wanted him long enough to set the HR record, and when that was done...
Now, nobody wants Manny. I guess that's because he's a steroids guy with a bad attitude as well.
For a second season in a row, nobody seems to want to take a chance on Johnny Damon, the adorable "Idiot" of the 2004 Red Sox, who gave it all up to go to New York for more years. Can't blame him, but the plan isn't panning out lately despite his .271 average and 51 RBIs for a season with Detroit. All in all, it was a better season than the one in Oakland before he went to Boston, but yeah... still up for grabs.
And we all remember Tom Verducci's telling of the Carl Pavano tale in his book about Joe Torre. We knew most of it already, but we got to read it from the perspective of the Yankees. Somehow, after injuries, he rebounded last year going 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA and 117 strikeouts. They're not shabby numbers, and they tell the tale of a man who rebounded from obscurity to make something of himself again, but alas, he's still out there in limbo.
And Jim Thome, while a full time DH is sitting on 589 home runs, which gives him a chance to hit 600 for a career, but other than rumors, he has no guaranteed spot on a roster.
Perhaps this is the era we're in where teams respect records by not signing players - or signing specific players, but alas, there are a lot of veterans, either steroids mirages or above average numbers inflated by the era who aren't signed.
And so it goes all the way to Vladamir Guerrero who reinvented himself in the regular season with Texas, but who phoned in the post season show as he had 6 RBIs, no HRs, and a 1/14 performance in the World Series. Clutch isn't the word for the guy who was once the best bad ball hitter in the game, but there is no home for him either.
Perhaps we're all on the Island of Misfit Toys, looking for a home and a solid job option for the new year.
Like me, I guess they just have to believe.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Trevor Hoffman

Oh, how the once mighty have fallen and left the game. Carrie Fisher began Star Wars as an ear muff hair cut having sweet little princess with a bad attitude standing up to the greatest villain in the galaxy. When it was over, she was wearing the metal bikini and kicking ass as a Jedi Knight, her real father and mother having been revealed. In between, she hooked up with Harrison Ford's Han Solo and found true love on Endor beside the Ewoks and Wookies.
Now, she's 75 pounds heavier and the new face of Jennie Craig.
And that's what life is. I've put 75 extra pounds on my frame too, and like Carrie, I dream about the future as I contemplate the gym that I will go to later today. That's life. Making up for the things that went wrong and moving to the future.
I can imagine that Trevor Hoffman feels much the same way as he goes into retirement. Sure, there are 601 saves to his total, but I have to say the same thing many baseball columnists have said - saves are over-rated. It's not like Rollie Fingers coming in for half of a game in the middle of a game. It's not Hoyt Willhelm's knuckle ball being called in to end Roger Maris's dreams.
In 6 years of post season appearances, Hoffman has 4 saves and a 3.46 ERA. That's not clutch. It's like Casey McGehee, his teammate said, “Sometimes he appears to be Superman. Hoffy’s human, too.” However, McGehee was defending his teammate who was imploding during the beginning of his final season.
Yet, this is the guy that crapped the bed for the Padres in 07 - blowing a 3-run lead in the 13th inning to send the Rockies - not the Padres - to the playoffs. Clutch.
"Hells Bells" to the pitching mound, he had to do something to make the pros after failing as a shortstop, consistently over-throwing first base, and he did well for the most part. In 5 All Star Games, he let up 6 runs. Slamming the door shut. In 1998, he let up a big fly to Scott Brosius and made Tony Gwynn angry since he was going to go to his retirement with no ring. He was already upset - remember, the moonshot off the upper deck from a guy who only ever hit 135 home runs in 3,141 successful hits.
I'll be honest... every time I saw Hoffman in a big game, it was as if he was folding like it was laundry day in my house. Not good at all. If you look through my past posts, you'll see how much I've downplayed relievers. Take a few good years from your young closer with a fierce attitude and don't pay big unless he can do multiple innings saves in the playoffs with a sub 1.00 WHIP and a 0.00 ERA (or damn near close to it). Other than that, these modern closers better be coming in and shutting the door.
I tell my wife often that when we have a kid, we'll be teaching him to throw left-handed since there is big money for a situational southpaw reliever. Now, more than ever, I believe that (barring the fact that he can't get even bigger money to be a left-handed starter).
Something about this post being done 2 days after the announcement says anti-climactic in the same way that most of his career does. Sure, the number is impressive, but numbers aren't everything. Quality not quantity. More is not better.
That said, good luck with the future Trevor, you're definitely a gamer... you're just not worthy of Cooperstown.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ted Williams

The snow has finished falling and minds turn to things that seem to matter in the moment - shoveling snow, which I'm procrastinating. For many people, after this will be useless entertainment news, but then again, isn't baseball meaningless entertainment news? It sure beats giving oneself an ulcer and a dose of extra hate thinking about breaking Randy Johnson to throw a 95 mile per hour fastball at Fred Phelps and his family (as if they were some bird just cruising through). But now that Arizona has decided that it needs to continue to be the forward thinking state and protect funerals from schizophrenic hate rants filled with anti-gay sentiment and death to America rhetoric, we can hopefully bring this funeral protesting nonsense to an end - even if it will take arresting the Phelps family and bringing the decision to the Supreme Court. As William Howard Taft once said, there are limits to freedom of speech, and with all forms of speech, academic, political, or blogging random thoughts, there are consequences. If it takes the biker gangs protecting the family of Christina Taylor Green from having to deal with the same thing that families of dead military members, Amish children, space shuttle victims, and various other "heathens" have had to endure, the time is coming to stop pretending this is about free speech. But alas, it's easy to support unpopular causes when it's politically correct to wrap our bodies in the Constitution like it was some kind of all purpose Teflon shield. When some would choose to care about everything and in effect care about nothing in their causes, we instead wonder how any sane minded person could condone this continued horror for the families of any tragedy, we instead look for the a "something good" to take us away from this need for hatred and misinterpretation of holy books to find something good, something that we can get behind.
And for the media, that's Ted Williams.
No, not the Ted Williams who hit .406 in 1941 and .388 in 1957. It's not the Ted Williams who gave up parts of 5 seasons to military service in Korea and World War 2. It's not the dedicated Marine who crashed his plane, but survived to come back and hit 521 home runs over his career (and only strike out 709 times - since 2007, Whiff King Mark Reynolds has failed in that way 767 times). While this Ted might not have a head attached to his corpse anymore and he only has 2,654 hits, he did give up 5 prime seasons to World War 2. If you add in 900 hits (conservatively), where does that put him on the list?
And if you brought that Ted back today, you know he would be swearing up a blue streak thinking that Ted Williams, the homeless voice is currently more searched on Google than the real Ted Williams. Ted would be even angrier at his namesake for usurping his rightful place in fame as the greatest hitter ever than he was at the press and some of his teammates who painted him negatively.
But alas, the world is a strange place and fame is fleeting. That's why the lesser Ted Williams has already been detained for fighting with his daughter (1 of 9 kids - mind you only 5 are willing to reunite with him in his time of macaroni and cheese voice-overs and Dr. Phil appearances). Will he get the full 15 minutes? Will he stay sober? Will he return to a life of petty crime?
All I know is that I've never watched the You Tube video - even when it first came out and it went viral (and all I could think of was some kind of exploitation - worse than the REAL Ted Williams' son exploited his father for autographs on memorabilia and hat wearing episodes at the 1999 All Star Game at Fenway).
It's a sad, sad world, but yeah... it's still early in the year, and we still need our diversions.
The real world is just too scary and it's nice that we can all feel good about someone getting his / her life together again.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ryan Howard

If it's winter, it's definitely time to be fanning the coals and keeping the warmth of the baseball season alive. There's just about nobody left on the free agency list, at least that is young and viable and capable of playing regularly without the worry of the disabled list, so thoughts turn to players who might go free agent next year - like Albert Pujols.
When Ryan Howard got a contract for $125million for 5 years to be the Whiff Prince (Mad Mark Reynolds being the undisputed king), one could only imagine how much Pujols would get.
We wonder too. Pujols is great. Howard is a mirage, but I'd still take his garden gnome for my baseball shelf.
Last off season, one of the more interesting trade discussions was the rumor of the Philadelphia Phillies looking internally and contemplating getting rid of Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols. As 1 of 5 teams that could afford him at the time (New York x2, Boston, Philadelphia, Anaheim), if St. Louis decides that they can’t and or shouldn't join the club (which would be galactically stupid), Philadelphia saw what I’ve seen all along: Ryan Howard, while seemingly a nice guy that you wouldn’t mind hanging out with, is a strikeout machine and a post season albatross.
His play against the Yankees two years ago combined with his playoff experience last year solidifies his worthlessness as a ballplayer. In 1999, while he hit 3 homers against Tampa Bay, he struck out 9 times against the overachieving Devil Rays. Last year, he hit one meaningless game 6 homerun and struck out 13 times when the series still had a chance to go Philadelphia’s way. In short, the hole in his swing is so big that we could fit the Liberty Bell in there and still have room left over. The past 2 years, he has 199 strikeouts in each year! In 19 years, Yogi Berra has 414 strikeouts. One year, he came to bat 597 times and only struck out 12 times. That same year (1950), he knocked in 124 runs. Ryan Howard put through 141 runs, which is a good number, but if he didn’t whiff as much, he could knock in more runs considering Rollins, Victorino, and Utley do get on board a tad bit.
Last year, the average was there, but they were all worthless hits that didn't do more than get a double. In 33 at bats, he had 10 hits, of which 4 were doubles. He had no RBIs. He had 17 strikeouts. He's a slug of enormous proportions, Rob Deer with a personality and a built in jersey buying fan club that wants to believe, but I never will. As the Phillies stack pitching at the front end, they have nothing for clutch and only Howard, who the other teams can pitch around or find his holes as they wait out the pitch counts on Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and Hamels in order to get to the emotionally fragile Brad Lidge for the win. People talk about the Phillies getting to the World Series, but without offense, I see nothing but heartbreaking Walter Johnson style losses.
As for Albert, the man is a machine, especially with protection (Halladay) in the lineup. In his first at bat last year, he took Aaron Haraang deep and solidified what should have been a solid season for the redbirds, but sadly, they phoned in the show and handed the division to the Reds. The Cardinals were and are just that good. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright are dealing yearly and Matt Holliday is being paid, so here’s to another division title. To get 200 strikeouts on Albert, you would have to go back to the end of 2007. In that time, the man has hit .327 twice and .357 once. If you’re including the whole 2006 season, you can see that Pujols hit .331. If you include last year's down season of .312 (same 100 runs, 100 RBIs, 30 home runs PLUS in all categories), he's still solid and then some. While he didn’t get some of the RBIs that Howard got, he also didn’t have much in the batting order in front of him. Even in swinging for the fences, he's far more reliable than Mighty Ryan.
So let’s see… would I want to trade Mighty Ryan for Phat Albert? Would I want to trade my Red Sox jerseys for Yankees ones?
Didn’t think so.
Gotta love the hot stove and thoughts of locking Pujols up with incentives for the next 10 with a contract that dwarfs Alex Rodriguez and his blue lips as Albert primes to take over the all time home run lead from Barry once and for all.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dallas Green

People count on baseball for all of the good things in life. Sure, there are incidents that are horrible and ugly with spitters, fighters, and cursing up a blue streak, but baseball is a sport that matters because it doesn't matter. It's not politics; right, left or in between. It's not a give and take relationship. It just gives and you either accept what it gives you or you mope. It has a history that is all its own. Nobody questions it that much and contemplates ulterior motives on it that much (save excluding African Americans, collusion, and strikes that need to be handled by larger than life authorities).
When baseball is at its best, George Bush is throwing a strike over the center of the plate and Mike Piazza is bringing the city of New York back to life. When America needs to heal, there is baseball. For this, we love it.
All the same, sometimes, baseball loses its players in horrific and tragic ways. For these times, we cry, but usually, we don't see these things.
Nevertheless, when the world cries and baseball cries, too, then we know that there is something wrong in the world.
And it is at times when Dallas Green, the former manager of the 1980 World Champion Phillies loses a grand daughter (Christina-Taylor Green) as part of the shooting that seriously wounded Gabrielle Giffords and many of her staff members and people present at a town hall rally AS WELL AS killing 5 other people, we all mourn.
The whack jobs from both sides making their noise... either in terms of gunshots fired or claims that anyone who joins the Tea Party is this kind of whack job, when clearly the gunman was a mentally ill man.... we just can't believe or support this type of insanity.
We wonder where and when it will all end and moderation will take back this country again. We wonder when the hate and the partisanship will end.
We look to the meaningless things in life to distract us from that: PIXAR movies, waterfalls, slot canyons, music, day trips to beautiful places, music, and Christmas decorations. But the decorations have all come down. The world outside is cold, and warmth is still a few months away. And so there is only one meaningful distraction that always makes it better, and for that, I sit here waiting for my wife to come home because this cold dark and insane world just feels too far away from the good things in life.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Matt Garza

On July 26, 2010, the Rays finally got a no hitter from one of their own instead of one of their opponents. Matt Garza was at the helm for the game as Tampa Bay defeated the Tigers 5-0. In the year before that, they were no hit four times (three in a year). This figure includes two perfect games (Dallas Braden on Mother's Day and Mark Buehrle) and a no hitter from one of their former players (Edwin Jackson, who managed to walk 8).
When the season was over, they had been to the playoffs, but were defeated by Texas in the opening round. Two years previously, they had been the unimaginable transformation team, blowing it against the Phillies, but making it to the World Series all the same. Now, their team was at a crossroads that exorcising the "Devil" from their woes couldn't help.
Carl Crawford was leaving because he wanted too much money and the Rays weren't willing to insult him with an offer (instead, the Red Sox nearly killed him when he freaked out hearing their incredible offer, but alas... baseball money has a way of doing that to people).
Carlos Pena and his 158 strikeouts in 484 at bats (gaining 28 home runs while batting .196) seems more memorable than he actually is (like that former lover who ends up in the all time greatest hits for a few nights of passion and / or a few awesome dates in the early days but ends up being more re-memorable for her antics and failures to live up to expectations when a better significant other comes into the game).
Jason Bartlett seems to be pretty important now, but it must be for intangibles because his stats scream average as he is only a 1.5 WAR player, and in looking to get those replacement wins, they can come cheaper through the minors and development.
Dioner Navarro is also a wash.
Dan Wheeler was a part of a lot of team's bullpens through the last decade or so, and there is sadness to Joaquin Benoit and Rafael Soriano packing up their bags and leaving, but in all honesty, besides Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, name some relievers that have lasted for more than a few seasons. I dare you. Past the K-Rod adventure outing (as much for father in laws as for opposing batters and for his own teammates), there is this fine list to check out. Trevor Hoffman doesn't rank on that list. Look at the all time saves list. Whose rookie card are you plunking cash down for? I have Gossage's card, had Eckersley's card, and would like Sutter and Fingers' cards. If I wasn't a Red Sox fan and it was about the value, I'd take Rivera, but as for the rest... largely forgettable players. That said, Jeff Reardon's note about his gun got him $170 and a permanent place in the memories of baseball fans, but all the same, that's not a good notoriety.
Most of these guys who are currently hurling from the bullpen are getting to the point where they're figured out. Why the Sox don't send Papelbon anywhere really is beyond me. Dan Bard is ready. Bobby Jenks is there just in case and he's an implosion as well.
Other former notables like Joe Nathan (who I have as good a chance as he does to make it unscathed through a game with the Yankees as he does) are done. Why pretend that closer is such a long-term big money position? There's only one man who has been clutch (it's paining me a hell of a lot to say that by the way) and deserves cash. The rest should be able to do 3 outs and done. This is closer 2011 - not in the days of Tug McGraw, Kent Tekulve, Dan Quisenberry, Rich Gossage, and Bruce Sutter.
As a result, Tampa Bay is calling the season to lose Carl Crawford and some other guys that could probably be worked around. With their revenue, they could make some signings, but instead, they call the game because their team is largely changed.
Hmm.... so let's think about that. Are they really that done.
Are they Pittsburgh who has not had a winning season since 1992 when they were 96 and 66. Barry Bonds still played for them and until Sid Bream motored home, there was still hope to relive 1979. But that said, they're done in 2011, too.
Last year, I wrote this article. It pretty much holds true now:
In 1909, the Pittsburgh Pirates brought a largely “forgettable” Dutchman named Honus Wagner to the plate while putting Howie Camnitz on the mound. They won 110 games with a rotation of starting pitchers that didn’t have an ERA over 4.0. It was a different time in baseball as Honus Wagner only had 5 home runs that year despite batting .339, which was only 11 points better than his career average, which was once bested with a .381 average. The Pirates went 110-42 that year and decimated their opponents in baseball, which eventually included the American League Champion Tigers and their “emotional” star Ty Cobb, who did pathetically in his only World Series.
They won against Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators in 1925, which wasn’t a stretch despite the fact that Walter Johnson is undeniably great. Washington was always said to be first in war and peace and last in the American League East, but that year and the year before were different as Washington went to the series with almost no pitching (save Johnson). And the 2nd year, he wasn’t able to hold the gates closes at the end. In 1927, the Pirates made it to the World Series again, but were no match for the Yankees offensive juggernaut and were dispatched of 4 games to 0 in much the same way that a cat toys with a mouse and ends him.
A guy named Bill Mazeroski made 1960 special with an “afterthought” home run (as Mickey Mantle put it, the only time that the Yankees were the better team and lost the World Series), and in 1971, the Pirates did the deed again beating the Orioles in another 7 game series. The last time the Pirates had glory was in 1979. The radio waves were blasting Sister Sledge and Willie Stargell and Dave Parker were family. The Allegheny, the Monongahela, and the Ohio’s convergence came alive for baseball in the same way that it did for the football dynasty that brought the steel town to sports prominence. Brooks Robinson wouldn’t be standing on third for that Orioles loss, but it was another cross state rivalry between Pennsylvania and Maryland decided in favor of the Quaker’s state.
Since that time, the sun hasn’t shined on the Pirates. The last good year was 1992 and despite being a baseball God with a relatively small head (physically at least), Barry Bonds couldn’t throw out Sid Bream at the plate and the Atlanta dynasty ended and the dreams of Pennsylvania’s other team seemed to die. Bonds went to San Francisco and made bank. Pittsburgh went to seed and traded pretty much everyone away to build for the future every time it seemed like they were going somewhere.
In the relatively small space of time since 1998, the Pirates have traded away Jason Bay, Tony Womack, Sean Casey, Kris Benson, Jason Kendall, Brian Giles, Matt Stairs, Bronson Arroyo, Pokey Reese, Jason Schmidt, Matt Capps, Ian Snell, Xavier Nady, Freddy Sanchez, Nate McClouth, Rajai Davis, Adam Laroche, Jon Lieber, Jose Guillen, and Mike Gonzalez + Derek Bell (but those last 2 were good trades). When Bonds left, he left Andy Van Slyke on the team and little else. The Pirates were never the same again. The Pirates have not won the division since. They did come 2nd in 1997 despite being 4 games under .500. That said, that was their best record since that time of Atlanta's rise to glory. They are now a record 17 straight seasons under .500 and this year doesn’t appear to be any better.
In fact, the real question is how long until Zach Duke, Andrew McCutchen, and Garret Jones, the current National League home run leader leave for greener pastures? Will it be in July? Will the Pirates fold in May? Right now, they’re 3-2 and Jones is hitting dingers (POST NOTE - he finished with 21), but how long can the team continue to win when the door is going to slam shut and the lights are going to go off. Can we hope for resurgence like the Tigers had when they went from 42-112 in 2003 to the American League Championship in 2006? That said, neither team has been as lowly as the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, but still… how bad can it get? Will the Royals come up for air first?
That said, I think of my cousin’s children who are still too young to understand consistent futility like the Pirates have seen. There is a history, but it’s just that – a history before even I was born (save the final months of 1971 and that magic 1979 season). How do you tell kids not to pin their hopes on the hometown team? For that reason alone, I want to give these kids hope, so I give them Garrett Jones, who has hit three mighty bombs past the wall.
Sage and Miranda, they’re still over .500. There is a chance.
Chances always exist, but let's be honest... the chance is for over .500 - not to make the season work.
For that, the Cubs have another pitcher, and now they have a chance for the first time since 1908.
Who knows?
This could be the year, Tampa Bay. Why are you calling it over before it started?
That said, Chris Archer's 15-3 with a 2.34 ERA between A and AA ball looks pretty nice in making us forget a guy with an upside of a just under 4.0 ERA.
And if this isn't the year, is it time to cry in your beer? Your fans didn't really support you anyway. You had Evan Longoria and still have him (as well as Ben Zobrist). You have David Price. You built for the impossible once. You can do it again.
So why are you quitting?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Zach Greinke

Like Mark McGwire, I don't believe in the magic of steroids to help someone hit home runs (but I do know that they help people recover and gain strength to play continuously),
I don't believe in I-ching - I've always wished that I could be in line with the Tao Te Ching, but alas... these are new years revelations.
I don't believe in Bible-thumping in the form of pointing to Heaven after a home run. It's a sports moment not divine revelation.
I don't believe in tarot and anything else that seems like it would be something associated with Ms. Cleo. That said, I believe in baseball superstitions - as long as they don't slow down the game.
I don't believe in Hitler and I have no respect for Marge Schott and those who do.
I don't believe in trades for Ivan DeJesus since they mean giving up Larry Bowa, and frankly, that's not a smart move.
I don't believe in Adam Kennedy as my day to day second basemen. He's just not what I want from my starting second baseman, and his stats prove it.
I don't believe in Buddha or starting pitchers who look like his twin.
I don't believe in mantra in the form of slogans thrown up on the Jumbotron in order to get fans to will their team to victory. That said, I do believe in rally monkeys and thundersticks, but once again, I have no use for waving towels. They're really cheap looking.
I don't believe in Gita. It's not like I'm Pedro Cerrano letting Jobu know what's what ("I'm pissed off now, Jobu. Look, I go to you. I stick up for you. You don't help me now. I say "Fuck you," Jobu, I do it myself. "), it's just that I've never really been one for trendy eastern religions.
I don't believe in yoga as an answer to baseball longevity. Ask Barry Zito if you don't believe me.
I don't believe in kings, who stay too long as the baseball commissioner and eventually just find their way into the position permanently since it just seems easier that way.
I don't believe in Elvis Andrus, and if you look, his World Series stats back me up on that.
I don't believe in the innocence of Don Zimmer, man, but I think Pedro could have handled that situation a little better.
I don't believe in Beatles in the way that some people do, but I will say that they've got some really great songs. The medley of songs from "Because" to "The End" stands out as does "Strawberry Fields."
I just believe in me,
Just my wife Heather and me...
And if I was John Lennon writing this song now, I would add that I don't believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy (the real life one or the one the Rock played), the Easter Bunny (though that took some convincing since I once saw a shadow of "him" on Easter Eve at age 5), the power of Obama to get anything done, or Zach Greinke.
The Brewers shouldn't either. One great, one good, and a few average ones don't make someone the great white hope of baseball - especially when they force the team to get masseuses and Stuart Smalley to help cope with confidence and anxiety problems on the big stage.
Didn't you people learn anything from Philadelphia and Houston's debacles with Brad Lidge?
That said, we should probably focus more on the positive of what to believe in. For that, I give you Crash Davis:
"Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Edgar Renteria

The snow now laying on my sidewalk, I procrastinate going outside as I choose to acknowledge the snow for what it is - something beautiful rather than work I have to do. My window affords me a view of the world, and while it's just an alley way, it's a place that is all my own and my wife's. This is our world and in the time it's taken to get this house into shape, we've made it quite homely and unique. Actually, she has done much of the work. This is her vision, and it's amazing.
In that, visions are good things. Goals and affirmations that lead to mantras of what is and what will be. This blog will be. My writing will return, and that too will be. As a 39 year old man, I see my life in terms of what is ahead instead of a retirement ceremony. As I look for better and supplemental employment to go with the classes that I teach and the Masters Degree in Education that I have just received, I know that while my future is limited due to my having a liberal arts degree (and while I can ask "Do you want fries with that," I know that McDonald's would probably see me as over-qualified while many colleges and universities see my not having a degree in 13th century British Poetry as meaning that I am under-qualified - despite the fact that I've taught writing for the past 6.5 years on the community college level.
But alas, the future is here and now, and as I think about my future, I know that Edgar Renteria sees his life in terms of the future and the past as well.
"That offer from the Giants was a lack of respect. A total disrespect, to play for a million dollars, I'd rather stay with my private business and share more time with my family," he said. "Thank God I'm well off financially and my money is well invested."
But since this is baseball money and this is the guy who won the World Series for the Marlins and this is the guy who hit the home run that put the Giants up for good in the final game of the 2010 World Series.
"I have received at least another offer since I was a free agent, but it wasn't what I'm looking for to continue playing," Renteria said. "If I got a good offer, I'm playing, and if not, it's better to stay at home."
This is also the guy who is 34 and hit into the final out of the 2004 World Series against Boston.
And while I would pretty much do anything but a handful of things for $1million a year and endorsements, this is baseball money he's looking to earn. The $3million that he could earn instead of the $1million that he was offered represents respect - respect for a man who batted 35 times in the World Series because he was considered second to Juan Uribe who completely phoned it in when he wasn't jacking his single home run. And while Renteria wants good baseball money for his World Series heroics, he wasn't that good in the League Championship.
But he is Edgar Renteria, and he is a mainstay on many teams, and now he will have a chance to be a $3million man for the Reds. Hopefully, this stay will end up better than Boston and the Tigers and more like his stay with the Braves.
And just like Edgar, I think about what my next stay will amount to. What contract will I get? What options will I have? Will they pay me incentives? Will fans wear my jersey? Will I get a shoe deal? Hell, I could use a pair of hiking boots that are good for hiking in the creek, a new pair of sneakers, they don't even have to be endorsed by an athlete, and a shiny black pair of dress shoes. You can't imagine what I'd do for a shoe deal right about now!
But teaching and writing arbitrary baseball blogs are not baseball money, which was just under $3million in 2009. The league minimum for the same year was $400,000 - chump change, I know, but when Alex Rodriguez is making over $30million, a man has to do what he has to do.
Thus, the question is am I good for $25... an hour?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Adrian Beltre

Today is a day for celebrations... not the kind like Alfredo Simon of the Baltimore Orioles has, complete with gun firing wildly in the air and giving decent gun-owning citizens a bad rap, but this is not mainstream America, and it seems that New Year Celebrations in the local parks of Dominican Republic are more like Kabul than Ephrata (the town I live that is smack dab in the middle of Amish country, the suburbs, the rural towns, the isolated housing developments, and the crime-ridden streets of Reading, PA. Yep... we've got it all, and I'm sure we've got our fair share of shooters to go with the street fireworks, but fortunately, this year, we didn't have anyone shoot their brother in law and his son.
Not knowing Newton can be deadly for those closest to us as we have to know that bullets will crash into the earth after they're fired into the air, but Simon seemed to miss that one, and when the bullets ended their flight... one dead and one wounded.
Fortunately, he surrendered and is looking at 3 months in the pokey according to one report, which is nice because that means he can come back and give the Orioles a new look. I'm sure Buck Showalter will be proud.
Yes... today is a day of celebrations for Roberto Alomar, and though I'm sure that his friendship with John Hirschbeck, the umpire he spit on, is truly best friends forever in only the way that an altercation can make two guys buddies, there is something that said... "is this in the best interest of baseball that this guy is in the Hall of Fame?"
I'm glad that Hirschbeck's son hung out with Robbie in the same way I'm glad that Juan Marichal delivered the eulogy for John Roseboro. Making amends is a part of life. We need to move on and come to an understanding of one another.
And when it all comes down to it, what is the crime for which baseball numbers don't add up to the Hall of Fame? Using a spitball? Refusing to play with African Americans? Being a drunken womanizer? Working for a casino? Swinging a bat at a catcher who threw by your ear? Racially instigated attacks on players and / or fans? Betting on games? Being involved in gambling? Cocaine usage? Amphetamines usage? Steroids usage?
As was by Ross Newham, formerly of the LA Times:
“Somebody said we are not the morality police, but yet I think we are. If we aren’t, who is? Part of our job is that we are custodians of the game’s history. I do look at the larger picture, and Palmeiro had a lot of good years, but that brings back to my feeling that otherwise he would be worthy of the Hall of Fame.”
And so the writers pick and choose who gets subjected to the rules of entry into immortality, we start to see a pattern of peripheral baseball writers and commentators like Bob Costas who cry themselves silly talking about how they could have missed the huge biceps of stars while they celebrated their achievements in the nineties and early 2000s. And Ken Burns gives him the video time to do so (while neglecting Albert Pujols from Inning 10, but that's another story). Now, they're going to make up for it... out goes McGwire, Gonzalez, and Palmeiro (so far).
But baseball didn't rush to judge Palmeiro when he went from the wild ride of the baseball steroids hearings (March 17, 2005) to his 3,000th hit (July 15, 2005) to his steroids suspension (August 2, 2005).
And 5+ years later, we still want to believe him... well, sort of, not really.
At least he wants us to believe him.
But baseball never bats their eyes when it sends him to his grave. They use him for celebration and not even three weeks later he is guilty and punished for using steroids. Of course, the fans hated him more and he never recovered, eventually vanishing into the same obscurity his career began in.
"I have never used steroids. Period."
And then there is the 2011 version...
"I am disappointed, obviously I am disappointed, I thought I would get more support. But I am grateful that I get to stay on the ballot for at least another year. Maybe I'll go up, maybe I'll go down. I thought I was worthy of a better showing than what I got, but I had a black mark against me my last year in baseball. That is hard to overcome. I know there were some voters that said, 'He's a Hall of Famer, but he tested positive. I can't vote for him.' That's the reality of it. And it is something I have to live with."
But this is a day of celebrations and after 14 years, Bert Blyleven can be the first "Flying Dutchman" in Cooperstown, and if it's only 287 wins and 3701 strikeouts keeping him out for that long, then who is good enough for first ballot election? I'm sure that Barry Larkin wants to know, but he like all the other players of the dead era (the one where most of my better condition baseball cards are from) is a victim of inflated numbers.
But is Blyleven really in that same category? He had some good ERAs, he won 2 World Series rings (one in each league), and he played for 21 years.
However, he was never sexy and stylin' in the way of some baseball players, and for that, let's celebrate with Adrian Beltre today since he'll be getting as much as $96 million for 6 years of service with the Texas Rangers.
And isn't that what it's all about?
Never mind that he has a career average of .275, which would be much lower if not for the 2 contract years where he played exceptionally (48 home runs and .334 in 2004 AND 28 home runs and .321 last year). So if it's another inflated total for a player that the fans can root for and wear his jersey... yep.
That said, next year's celebration won't be about sexy image - it will be about having to elect someone, but we'll hold off until the first week of 2012 to discuss that.
In the meantime, we'll wonder about all of those players from the glory years and the black and white pictures who seemed to exist before the media scrutiny and the chance to screw up big time, like Willie Wilson who in referring to his cocaine bust said,
"People think the game is glamorous, but I never wanted the attention—good or bad. I felt a lot of pressure trying to satisfy the club, the public, my parents. People wanted me to be a role model; even the judge said so when he sentenced me. I always felt your parents should be your role models. But I never blamed anyone else for what I did. The Royals have done a lot for me, and I don't want them to think about me now. I just want them to have a good season. I'll be staying by myself more when I return. I'm not going to yell or scream anymore, just do my job. I wish that's all there was to baseball."
And maybe that's true, and maybe it's not, but for guys like Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe who should be in the Hall of Fame, it's not time to celebrate yet. And for many of the players who never made peanuts in their careers, it's not time to celebrate.
But such is the sadness of the great game of baseball. Some achieve and shine while others are left on the fringes for those of us who truly love the history.