August 31, 2005
See ya next year?
Wow! A pitching performance by two aces in an America League baseball game. Who would have guessed that would happen? I don't know how many of you stayed up to watch the end of the Angels/A's game last night, but I know I did. Barry Zito and Bartolo Colon pitched so well that it reminded me of the Game 7 in the '91 World Series between the Braves and the Twins. As did Smoltz for the Braves and Morris for the Twins, Zito and Colon both pitched 9 strong innings.
August 30, 2005
Very clever broadcast on FSN West. They rolled back the clock and showed the game in black and white, 2 cameras, no graphics and gradually added in the bells and whistles. Vinny was obviously having a terrific time. The only downside: the video quality of a color camera shooting in black and white stunk. No contrast to speak of. Or maybe it was that lousy way back when...
August 29, 2005
My Greatest Baseball Day!
It was nice to read Bill Plaschke's article in the Sunday Times about Dodger pitching great, Don Newcombe. It reminded me of a day I experienced at Dodger Stadium a couple of years ago and one which I would like to share with you now.
August 25, 2005
Feedback on Mr. McCourt, Please
It looks as though Dodger owner Frank McCourt will return to "Talk of the City" for future conversations. So I'm soliciting questions. And comments, please, if you heard the interview. Too softball for you? Not enough trade talk? Throw me your toughest curve.
August 24, 2005
Cy Young - Who to choose?
For the past month I've been watching the National League competition for the Cy Young Award and with roughly 32 games left, I'm at a loss as to who I would choose if I had to vote. Let's take a look at the contenders and, hopefully with feedback, you can help me decide.
He Who Holds the Conch Shell
Who would you want as the leader?
On the face of it, it is a simple question. But it's anything but simple. Choose between Milton Bradley and Jeff Kent. Can you do it in a heartbeat? Did you have a moment of uncertainty? Would you rather not choose?
Issues of race relations aside-- and that's pushing quite a load to the side-- the bizarre truth is, the National League West pennant is still up for grabs, and the only question worth asking seems to be can the Dodgers get it together to win the division and make the playoffs? For the real fan, the Boys in Blue could make like the Oakland A's of the '70s if they want, as long as the end result extends the season beyond October 2.
August 23, 2005
Frank McCourt on Talk of the City!!!
At last! The Big Man himself in Chavez Ravine joins us on "Talk of the City" this Wednesday, August 24th, 2 PM. Mark your calendars and take down the phone number. (866-893-5722) The Dodger owner will talk about trades, stadium remodeling, you name it. Do call in.
August 21, 2005
Royalty In Name, Not Deed
It’s easy to find baseball wise men who’ll tell you that Kansas City’s market size, coupled with a 32-year-old stadium that’s now the second-oldest in the American League, doom the Royals to the sort of failure they've endured all this season.
Don’t believe it. Money is an obstacle for the Kansas City Royals, but it’s not an insurmountable one.
The Minnesota Twins play in a cramped, domed ballpark just a little newer and certainly not nicer than the Royals’ cozy, outdoor Kauffman Stadium. But the Twins have found a way to pay for a much better team. Kansas City’s payroll this season is about $36.9 million, while the Twins have a payroll of $56.1 million … a number that hasn’t changed much for three seasons. If the Twins win the wild card (and they’re in the race), it’ll be their fourth straight playoff year.
According to Nielsen, Kansas City is the nation’s 31st media market with just under 900,000 TV homes. But that’s only about 100,000 fewer TV homes than San Diego, and the Padres have a payroll of $63.3 million … about 70% more than the Royals pay. The Padres find ways to draw in revenue even though they’re boxed in by the Dodgers and Angels to the north, Mexico to the south, the desert to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
But the Royals don’t need to increase their payroll by 50% or more to be competitive. Just a little more would help. The Cleveland Indians are carrying a payroll of $41.5 million, while the Toronto Blue Jays are laying out about $45.7 million. Both teams are in the thick of the wild-card race.
The Indians and the Blue Jays - and the Twins and Padres, for that matter – have been adept at scouting and signing young talent, and at trading veterans for younger players whose skills are high while their salaries are low. That’s the best way to win on a budget.
The Royals’ ability to do the same is unclear.
Trading Carlos Beltran before he became a free agent last year eventually yielded three players on the Royals roster. But only one player remains from the trades of Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon several seasons earlier. And the Damon trade also cost the Royals second baseman Mark Ellis, who now starts for Oakland.
And there's more to worry about. Kansas City's #1 draft pick – Nebraska slugger Alex Gordon, college’s top player last season – wants a big signing bonus and bigger major league contract. The Royals are hesitating. If Gordon returns to Nebraska Monday for his senior year, the Royals lose his draft rights … and their losing streak will continue.
August 19, 2005
Hope and Despair
There should be no reason to hope the Dodgers can make the playoffs this season. They’re 10 games under .500 on August 19th. They’ve endured three straight losing months, something no LA Dodger team has ever done and still finished with a winning record.
But this bad LA team is also only four games behind San Diego in a division that’s been just as bad as they are. And a four-game lead can disappear as quickly as a slumping rookie from a roster.
In 1959, the third-place Dodgers trailed San Francisco by 4 1/2 games on August 23rd … and won the pennant. In 1965, the Giants again led the Dodgers by 4 1/2 games, but this time on September 16th. The Dodgers clinched the pennant 16 days later. In 1983, LA trailed the Braves by 6 1/2 games on August 13th. By the end of the month, they were in first place for good.
The first-place Angels, now ahead of Oakland by 2 1/2 games, seem to have fended off the Athletics’ furious rush for now. But if you’re worried that maybe the lead is fragile, you’re probably a student of Angel history.
The Angels found themselves in first place as late as August 1978, August 1984, September 1985, September 1995, August 1997 and September 1998 … and missed the playoffs all six times. Most of those leads were puny, but not the one in 1995. That year, the Angels were up by 8 1/2 games on August 25th. The lead vanished in less than a month. A few days later, so did the pennant.
Despite the history, there’s good reason to think the Angels will go to the playoffs while the Dodgers go nowhere. But in every dugout, there’s always plenty of room for a little hope and a lot of despair.
August 18, 2005
It's best to start with the easiest part. The Kansas City Royals have eliminated themselves from playoff contention, mathematically or otherwise. They could bring Dick Vermeil over from Arrowhead Stadium and even he could not make these guys feel good about themselves-- heck, this would be a tough challenge for Tony Robbins. Happiest man in America these days? Tony Graffanino, who was saved from the wretched mess in KC by the Boston Red Sox, and he has played well for Boston, which means he has the fans on his side, at least for now. Must be heaven.
Also on the outside looking in: Texas, Detroit, Seattle, and Tampa Bay, with Baltimore hanging on in the AL, and Colorado, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati in the NL, with Milwaukee and the Cubs on life-support.
What with a week's vacation and a work trip to New York, it's been a while since I've posted a blog. However, I think regular readers of this blog will forgive me when they learn that I fulfilled a life-long dream and watched a game at Yankee Stadium. Now it should be noted that I am not a Yankee Fan, its just that I've always wanted to visit the stadium where some of greatest players who ever played the game called home. I visited Memorial Park and saw the plaques of Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle and Berra, I ate a pastrami sandwich, drank a couple of beers, took a lot of pictures and, with John Rocker in mind, I rode the Number 4 Subway to and from the game. Derek Jeter hit a homer in the bottom of the 8th inning for a 9 to 8 lead and Mariano Rivera came on in the 9th for his 32nd save in a victory over the Texas Rangers. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, I was not at the game where the young fan jumped from the second deck on the netting behind home plate. Asked later by authorities why he did it, he told them that he had been dared to do it by his friends. Some friends huh? With friends like those you definitely don't need enemies. I sat there in the park and looked at the jump that he'd taken and tried to play out that conversation in my head. "Hey Jimmy, we dare you to jump over the railing onto the netting behind home plate". "Nah, someone else do it, I crawled out on the beams of the Verrazano Bridge the other night remember". "No way Jimmy, its your turn, what are you chicken, besides, I jumped down onto the subway tracks the other day and besides, no one dared you at the bridge so it doesn't count". "OK, I'll do it, but will you guys pay my fine when I get caught?" Sure Jimmy, we'll pay your fine, here have another beer." Yes, the young man was intoxicated, go figure, and he was arrested and he's barred from Yankee Stadium forever. I had a great time with some good friends and I've checked another of baseball's Holy Trinity off of my list. Now I have to watch a game at Fenway and visit Cooperstown and then I can die a happy man.
August 9, 2005
The Baseball Man
Gene Mauch was and always will be my favorite manager. He wasn't a character like Casey Stengel or Tommy Lasorda. Mauch always seemed to be wound a little tight, and he took losses hard-- real hard. And there were plenty of losses, 2,037 of them to be exact, which might have crumbled lesser men. In the early years of the Montreal franchise, sometimes the only cold comfort I had as a fan was in knowing that our manager was considered one of the smartest men in baseball. Of course, there were moments when it seemed that Mauch was intent on showing everybody just how smart he was, but there was no doubting that he was prepared for anything in every game he managed, and while he was with Montreal, I never heard him complain about what he had to work with. He seemed to thrive on the challenge.
August 8, 2005
Vote For Fred
I have had to ask myself this question: How can it be construed that Rafael Palmeiro let down his teammates and/or the fans when what he might have been doing kept him in the lineup? Was he not making his employer happy, an employer who would ask him to take cortisone shots or undergo surgery and lengthy rehabilitation if it were all for the good of the team? How many letters to the editors and newspaper and Internet column inches have been devoted to roasting J.D. Drew of the Dodgers this season-- actually, even before the season started-- for his peculiar ability to be injured? Can we agree that there are some Dodger fans out there who would want to see Drew in the lineup every day and wouldn't really care how that happened? Seen a Yankee game lately? How about those cheers for Jason Giambi?
August 3, 2005
How to Pronounce "Stanozolol"
Start with “Stan” … as in "Stan the Man” Musial … the great St. Louis Cardinals star who ranks among the best hitters in baseball history. Musial was a great hitter, but not a great slugger until he was 26. That year – 1948 – he hit 39 home runs … more than double what he’d hit in his best season to date. Musial paid a price for power, but it was cheap … : About ten extra strikeouts a year for an additional ten to 15 home runs. Musial hit 475 home runs in his 23 years in the majors … not bad for a guy who topped out at 6’ 0” and 175 pounds. Maybe Musial could have hit more if he’d been bulked up on steroids, but in his day, the biggest performance enhancer was a thick T-bone steak.
Put emphasis on “Oz” … as in the “Wizard of Oz” – the Cardinals' Ozzie Smith. Would steroids have made Ozzie’s glove more steady? His hands faster? His feet more agile? Maybe … but Ozzie chose to use a different performance enhancer … : Thousands and thousands of ground balls during practice.
Then comes a long “O” … as in “Oriole” … like Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken … the quartet of Hall of Fame Oriole sluggers who would become a quintet if Rafael Palmeiro is elected. Baltimore has had ten teams reach the post-season. Each one had a Brooks or Frank Robinson, a Murray or a Ripken on the roster. By the way ... : All four players depended on a performance enhancer. It was called a “uniform.”
And finally “Lol” … as in “lots of luck” … which is what Rafael Palmeiro will need to make the Hall of Fame now that a source tells “The New York Times” that the Oriole first-baseman tested positive for the notorious steroid stanozolol.
August 2, 2005
Thanks For The Memories
I have very clear memories of just about all the Hall of Fame sluggers in baseball’s 500 home run club who’ve played over the last 40 years.
I remember the Braves’ Henry Aaron snapping a line drive homer into the left field bleachers off Sandy Koufax way back in 1966. I saw Willie Mays – back in San Francisco after being traded to the Mets – hit a line drive that cut through the cold air of Candlestick Park and disappear into the darkness in 1972.
I remember not minding that the Phillies’ Mike Schmidt ripped a 1st inning home run against the Dodgers one night in the late 70’s; after all, he hit ‘em off everyone anyway, so you might as well mark down a Schmidt home run in the scorebook before the game even starts and just go from there.
Willie McCovey’s twisting line drive homer that looked like it was headed to me in the upper deck at Candlestick in 1977 … Eddie Murray’s three-homer night in Anaheim in 1985 (after #2, I yelled “Hit another one, Eddie, so I can go home!” and he did and I did) … a lazy fly ball by Ernie Banks that just kept going until it landed in the pavilion at Dodger Stadium in 1970 … a Frank Robinson opposite field shot for the Dodgers in 1972 …
Reggie Jackson and Harmon Killebrew didn’t hit home runs when I was in the stands (although I remember a Freeway Series line drive shot from Reggie), but I have very clear memories of them hitting long blasts on TV.
That’s why I’m so surprised that until today, I had no clear memory of Rafael Palmeiro doing anything.
Does he rock the bat back and forth like McCovey did? Swing from the heels like Willie Mays? Are his home runs long blasts like Schmidt’s, or compact line drives like Aaron’s? Does he hustle around the bases like Killebrew did after he launched a home run? Or does he admire his work like Reggie? Does he slide hard like Frank Robinson? Brighten the day like Ernie Banks?
I couldn’t tell you. But after today’s announcement that he’ll be suspended for ten days for violating baseball’s steroid policy, I CAN tell you the one clear memory I now have of Rafael Palmeiro doing something.
I have a clear memory of him saying he “never intentionally” used steroids.
Maybe it’s true. Maybe Palmeiro really DOESN’T know what’s in the nutritional supplements he takes. It seems irresponsible and potentially dangerous, but maybe that’s the way he is.
And maybe there’s a simple explanation for why Palmeiro hit only one home run for every 34 at bats during his first seven seasons in the majors, then hit one every 15 at bats after that. Maybe it has nothing to do with steroids and everything to do with just getting better … even though every hitter with 500 home runs showed flashes of huge power much earlier in their careers.
So now I have my memory of Rafael Palmeiro. It’s not much, but it’s important to me. After all, it let me remember all those other players … the ones who always intentionally played baseball with honest effort and great skill.
August 1, 2005
Hall Pass Revoked?
While not a scholar of the US legal system, it seems to me that Rafael Palmeiro could be in a lot of trouble. In addition to the fine and suspension Major League Baseball will impose for his admission to using a banned substance (steroids), he could face legal action for perjuring himself to a Congressional Investigative Panel. I'm stunned because of all the players that testified in front of the committee, I believed Palmeiro was telling the truth when he denied, emphatically, ever using steroids. It's a shame because just two weeks ago Palmeiro became one of only three players to amass 3000 hits and 500 homeruns in a career. So, the question I'm asking is; what does this do to Palmeiro's Hall of Fame chances? Should a guy who voiced so vehemently that he didn't use steroids only to test positive weeks later be considered for the Hall of Fame? Based on his career statistics, he's a First Ballot lock, however, there are players with stats that are just as impressive and they're still waiting for their Hall Pass; Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose for example. The next few weeks are going to be very enlightening as Palmeiro is the most high profile player to be caught utilizing MLB's new testing standards. He's got a lot to do to placate those fans who trusted him, teammates who stood by him and ownership that backed him. How he weathers this storm will be telling as to whether or not the Hall calls.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Season
It's that time of the season when the message boards of every contending team are gripped by panic, and good men like Bill Stoneman and Paul DePodesta are reminded once again by the fans that they have not done enough to help their respective clubs. For Stoneman and the Angels, the A's are right on their heels, and for that matter, Texas is still lurking around. For DePodesta and the Dodgers, the Padres would not let them die, and so they remain contenders in the Division That Nobody Wanted To Win, where the Arizona Diamondbacks get a shot at making the worst-to-first dream come true and the Colorado Rockies have to wonder what might have been if not for a package of deer meat.