Monday, July 30, 2012

Time to panic: It's "trading deadline" time...

                             Ah, the trading deadline...the time of the year where all the contending teams scurry around, looking up and down their minor league roster for a  (maybe) future star as trade bait for the teams' immediate needs.  Maybe a pitcher, maybe a hitter, usually a player whose best days are behind them (hello, Ichiro) .  It's also the time of year for teams to decide if they're actually IN contention.  This year, with the expanded Wild card format, more teams will be, in theory at least, ready to make a deal.  Most of the time, however,  the young players don't turn out to be that great.  Maybe they'll last a few years, or become role players, but usually, you never hear from them again. Unless, of course,  they eventually end  up as coaches and managers in the Minor Leagues.  Other times....

                    It was 1990, and the Red Sox found themselves in contention, but they needed some help.  More precisely, bullpen help.  That help came in the form of Larry Andersen of the Houston Astros.  Andersen had been around the league a bit, pitching for the Indians, Mariners, Phillies, and in 1990, The Astros, mostly as a set up man or long reliever...  He was 37 years old at the time, but still had good stuff and actually helped the Sox win the AL Eastern division (although he kind of blew up in the actual playoffs against the A's).  He would have a few more years in the bigs afterwards with the Padres and back with the Phillies again (I think he may be the only player to be on both the 1983, and 1993 Phillies pennant winning teams) then retire in 1994.  Oh, and who did the Sox  give up for him?  No one really, just somebody named Jeff Bagwell.  Yeah, THAT Jeff Bagwell, as in the future Hall of famer.  I believe this was the move that eventually got Sox GM Lou Gorman canned.

           The Sox would recover, of course, but it did change things considerably in Houston, as Bagwell helped keep the team in contention for most of his career, culminating in the Astros only World Series appearance in 2005, although, to be fair, Bagwell didn't play in it much, being injured at the time and had  just 1 hit in 8 at bats.  It would also be his last year in the bigs, ending a career he could look back on fondly; 1991 Rookie of the year, 1994 MVP, appearing in four All Star games, and so on.  As For Mr. Andersen, he was mainly remembered for being a prankster in the clubhouse, although he did have some pretty good years.  After all, you don't make in  to your '40s in the Majors by sucking.  There may be some irony in Andersen's last season, 1994, also being the year Bags won the MVP.  I kind of always thought 1994 was a wasted year anyway, with the strike and all.  Having no World series that year really ticked me off.

                  So all you GM's out there, beware.  Double check and make sure you don't just "give away" the next Jeff Bagwell.  It's easy for me to say...I don't run a team.  Hell, I would trade for players just because I like their name.  Placido Palanco, for example.  How cool a name is that?  Sounds like what the guy on the Dos equis commercial should be named. I would have signed Oscar Gamble, and in his contract would be a clause in which he could NEVER cut his 'fro...I would have signed Darren Daulton just to have his wife in the stands.  She was a looker...But seriously, you don't want to be the GM who trades a guy who ends up hitting .297 lifetime, with 449 homers and 1,529 RBI's which Bagwell did in 15 years , all the while doing so with one of the most uncomfortable batting stances this side of Phil Plantier,  or, if I can do a "call back", Oscar Gamble...I'm not going to mention him for a third time, because if I do, he will appear, "beetlejuice" style in my Brooklyn apartment, and I will have to explain the bit I do onstage about him...   

Monday, July 23, 2012

Don't call me Bobby, whitey...

                                              Here's a movie idea: Say there was this guy who played baseball from the late '50's to the early '70's, who was the first of his race (Latino) to make it to the hall of fame due to his great fielding and lifetime (.317) average.  Let's also make him part of two of the  greatest world series ever played, had him be in the first all-black /Latino line-up ever, play in a game where his pitcher that day threw a no-hitter on LSD, and to top it off, was a great humanitarian, who died while trying to take supplies to an earthquake ravaged'd watch that movie, right?  So why oh why has Hollywood not made the Roberto Clemente biopic yet?

                             Seriously, when you see some of these biopics, you have to wonder.  A year ago there was "Killing Pablo" about a drug dealer, "William and Kate", about a Royal couple who have only recently appeared in the public eye, (way to give it time, guys) and of course, "Moneyball", about a team who actually never won anything and who may be moving out of the city they're playing in right inspiring.  Look, I don't care how good or bad these movies are, it's the principle of the thing.  "Clemente" deserves to be made, even if I have to write another stern facebook message to Jonathan Sayles to get it done.  (forgot about the facebook biopic)

                 All you'd need is a late twenty something Hispanic athletic type to play the lead.  There may be one or 4,000 of those lying around.  Someone to adapt a screenplay from one of the many biographies written about him, and a director who's a baseball fan.  I chose Sayles because of his movie "8 men out", which was of course about the 1919 BlackSox scandal.  Hell, I'll even play one of the players, or better yet, manager Danny Murtaugh.  I can deliver his immortal line when he was asked about whether or not he was making a political statement being the first manger to field and all Black/Hispanic line-up: "The nine best players I had available all happened to be black.  Next question".

                    Of course race will play a huge part in the film.  For a lot of his career, broadcasters insisted on calling him "Bobby", perhaps to make him more appealing to the white listeners/viewers.  Even at the very end of his career when he smacked his 3,000th and final hit, one of them said "They're all waiting for Bobby to get # 3,000."  I'm sure if some of these folks had their way, they would have figured out how to gentrify his last name too, something along the lines of "Clements" or "Clemens".  Come to think of it, they'll probably have a movie about that cheating asshole Clemens before they have one about Clemente, because steroids are SOOO interesting (sarcasm detector).

                   So while you're all waiting patiently for the upcoming Tupac Shakur biopic (couldn't they have gotten him and Biggie out of the one with one film?...just sayin'), ask yourself,  who really deserves one.  Some one who may or may not have been responsible for the death of a rival rapper, or someone who died trying to prevent the death of several thousand people.  Either way, I'm reminded of one of the many great lines from the movie "This is Spinal Tap", where the band's manager Ian Faith answers David Saint Hubbins' question about why their latest album "Smell the glove is all black: "Death sells".

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pinch hitting for your ancestors' memories, eminent domain...

                             While walking in my neighborhood recently, I noticed a sign that read "First home game since 1957".  It was an ad for the new Brooklyn Nets basketball team, and the sign referred to the old Brooklyn Dodgers, who moved to L.A. at the start of the 1958 season.  I almost threw up.  Yeah, I get that it'll be the first professional sports franchise to play in Brooklyn for over half a century, but  talk about apples and oranges.  The Dodgers were the olde town team, beloved by all the locals, even when they were bad, which was often.  The Nets are strictly a power play move to cram more revenue into an already crowded area.  Developer Bruce Ratner, with the help of a certain Russian billionaire, helped destroy a vibrant community by using  unethical tactics and eminent domain. You should see the monstrosity they built to house the's hideous.

                   To me, the only real (semi) professional team Brooklyn has are the Cyclones, the Mets A ball minor league team.  Playing in Coney Island with the amusement park in the distance, the Cyclones are pure Brooklyn; unpretentious, fun and a little scary (well, the boardwalk can be late at night if you walk down the wrong way), and while it's mostly future stars on the team, you'll occasionally see a player or two on rehab assignment...I remember seeing Moises Alou there circa 2006, just three years removed from his "Steve Bartman" meltdown while a member of the Cubs in 2003.  Yeah, that Moises was on a lot of teams.  Side note:You know that his dad and two uncles made up The Giants outfield briefly in the '60s?  Yup. Felipe, Matty and Jesus.  You think the "Nets" are gonna have cool facts like that.  Of course not.  They'll just regale us with pointless stories about which one of them is boinking a Kardasian sister.

                  Anyway, The Brooklyn Dodgers won their only World series title in 1955, and were referred to as "The boys of summer"...not to be confused with that terrible Don Henley song.  Actually, did I even need to write the word "terrible" there? BTW, my sister interviewed Henley for her college paper back in the '90s, and unlike the Cyclones, HE was pretentious.  Kept pronouncing literature as "literator".  When you think about it, that's more ignorant than pretentious...where was I? Oh yes, their only championship in 1955... well they did actually win a lot of National league pennants, losing most of them to the evil empire, like a lot of National league teams.  As for their old home, Ebbets field, it's now a housing project. In fact the only way anyone could tell that Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, and Roy Campenella once played there, is a small plaque on the building itself.

             Yes, I did grow up in the Boston area rooting for the Red Sox, but as a Brooklyn resident for the past decade, a part of me wishes that the team who played on the corner of Bedford avenue and Empire blvd was still around.  For one thing, it would take me like 10 minutes to bike there from my apt.  I mean, I like the Mets and all, mostly because I've used to Psycho therapy to remove any memory of 1986, but they're in Queens.  I'm really into the whole Brooklyn pride thing, and I know it's a different sport, but I just can't root for the Nets.  It's safe to say, I'm actively rooting against them.  So unless the Mets move to my borough, the only Brooklyn team to me will be the kids spending their summers in that park off of Surf avenue. Well, them and the Brooklyn Bombshells from the Gotham Girls Roller Derby League, those gals can hit!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bring me the head of Tony LaRussa

                                      Back in the 1970 All Star game, Pete Rose decked catcher Ray Fosse to score the game winning run in a meaningless exhibition game, and although it was kind of a dick move ( Fosse's career was never the same), I actually miss that kind of passion.  These days, the mid-summer classic actually means something, with the winning league having home field advantage for the World series.  So with all the Wild cards and close races, that means there's a chance for almost every team  (except maybe The Royals, who ironically are hosting the game this year)  to play in the series.  Problem is, no one cares.  All Star games in any sport are all kinds of ho-hum, but at least baseball seemed to give a shit.  Not any more.  Half the players either are "hurt" or don't bother showing up.  Last year, when Derek Jeter, Mr. good guy himself, refused to appear in the game, it really said something.

                           It's getting to the point to where even the home run hitting contest garners more attention.  Sure, the announcement of the players is still cool, especially for first timers, but you can just look at the expression of players like Carlos Beltran, and almost hear them thinking, "Damn, I almost had 3 days off"...And to top it off, the best story of the year, R.A. Dickey, isn't even starting the game.  What a headline that would have been; late bloomer makes good.  Instead, Matt Cain gets the nod.  A fine pitcher, but c'mon.  I know LaRussa said he wants to bring Dickey in later in the game to throw hitters off, and Posey isn't used to a knuckleball (ummm, neither is anybody but Josh Thole, numbnuts), but please...why does LaRussa even care anyway?  He's retired.

                Of course, there's also the argument on whether or not fans should be allowed to vote for the starting line ups.  I think they should. However, and this may sound completely unethical, but maybe what they should do is try and pull off what that show "Last comic standing" did a few years ago...let the fans vote, but have their votes be utterly meaningless, only pretend that they actually do matter.  Scummy, yes, but who really gets hurt, besides the players pretending to be.  Don't get me wrong, I'll still watch the game.  It's a thousand times more entertaining than the Pro Bowl, which I don't think exists anymore (having an all star game after the season is over is pretty stupid anyway), not to mention the Basketball (no defense) and Hockey (ditto) ones.  It's just...damn, I miss crazy people like Pete Rose.  Never thought I'd say that.  The man was a borderline sociopath, who'd run over his own mother to win a game, but at least he CARED.  Not to say that someone like Adrian Beltre doesn't, but it's more controlled.

          They always show the great All-Star moments, with Ted Williams walk off home run in 1941, and then his trek onto the field in 1999 in Fenway.  Reggie Jackson of the A's hitting a mammoth home run off of Doc Ellis in the 1971 game in Detroit. Dave Parker of the Pirates throwing a bullet home to nail The Angel's Brian Downing (with help from Expos catcher Gary Carter, of course) in the 1979 classic.  Tori Hunter robbing Barry Bonds of a home run, and so on...but I'll always remember that 1970 game, even though I was only 1 when it happened, for sheer chutzbah.  Maybe Robinson Cano should do the same to Buster Posey that Rose did to Fosse, as a form of AL revenge.  Hey, Posey's used to getting into season ending collisions (too soon?).

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The most interesting man in the world (of baseball)

              Everyone loves a late bloomer story, especially about someone who over came so much adversity.  Even before his break out season this year, R.A. Dickey had already written a book entitled "Wherever I wind up: My quest for truth, authenticity and the perfect knuckleball", which was released at the start of the 2012 season, a season that would see R.A. make his first All-Star team at the age of 37 with a 12-1 record.  Many people, including myself, believe he will actually start the game, making him the first knuckleballer to do so since Dutch Leonard in 1943 (Not to be confused with the turn of the century pitcher of the same name, who was lefthanded and posted the lowest ERA in modern baseball in 1901 at 0.96)

               When he came up with the Rangers, his stuff was nothing special, so when he decided to try throwing a knuckleball, which was actually a hard forkball he had been working on, the Rangers let him do it.  The initial results were not good, as he let up 6 home runs in his first start with the new pitch.  He was then sent down to the minors and eventually released.  Over the next few seasons he spent time with the Brewers, the Twins and the Mariners with mediocre results.  Then in 2010, the Mets signed him to a minor league contract.  This time, though, he was ready.   A call up to the big leagues led to a 11-9 record and 2.84 E.R.A.  The Dickey era ( not to be confused with E.R.A., of course) was under way

        Another thing that people like about the man is his honesty.  He admits to being sexually abused, having an alcoholic family, and thought about committing suicide in 2006 (although in his defense, the Rangers were terrible that year). Amazingly well-read and not pretentious about it, R.A. also likes to climb mountains, take spiritual journeys, and other things not associated with the modern ball player...he is in fact, the baseball version of the guy from the Dos equis commercial.  The fact that he kind of looks like an extra from "Deliverance" also adds to the mystique.  It's not like looking at a Greg Maddux or Ron Darling, guys who just "look smart"...just saying, his long hair and moustache look is straight out of the backwoods...

    As of this writing, Dickey is the only knuckleballer in the game, although if the history of  baseball is any indication, he won't be for long.  It's a copycat business, after all, so once something is successful, teams will try to find a way to duplicate that success.  So don't be surprised to find a bunch of over the hill early '30s types trying out the pitch.  Hey, it worked for Tim Wakefield, and he pitched until he was 73 (actually, 45).Charlie Hough, Phil Neikro, and others also pitched until they were almost 50.  All you need is patience, and a good manicurist.  Hell, my dad used to throw one in college, and he had tiny hobbit hands.  Point is, you can't throw 95 mph forever...unless you're Nolan Ryan, of course, so if nothing else, R.A. is showing there's another way to be dominate.  How dominate?  How about 2 one hitters in back to back starts.  Eat your heart out Johnny Van der meer.