Category: Dullea of Game


First in War, First in Peace, Last in the American or National League


On September 30, 1971, the expansion Washington Senators concluded an abysmal 11 year run in the nation’s capital with a loss to the New York Yankees.  They finished the season with a 63-96 record, 38 ½ games out of first place.  During their stint, they finished in last place five times, lost the most games, and had by the far the lowest attendance in the American League.  The franchise was an unmitigated disaster.


Like any astute businessman, owner Robert Short assessed the situation, decided to cut his losses, and moved the team to Texas.


Despite the fact that this was the second time baseball had failed in the nation’s capital, by committing this transgression, Short was vilified in the press.  How dare he have the audacity to move the national pastime out of the nation’s capital?  Despite being in an untenable position, he then became DC’s persona non grata


This wasn’t the first time this had occurred. In 1960, fed up with a losing team and a non-existent fan base, owner Clark Griffith moved the Senators to Minnesota.  Congress intervened and mandated that an expansion team be created.  This time, perhaps preoccupied by the Vietnam War, no such legislation occurred.


Over the next 30 odd years, there was hand ringing on a massive scale.  The Washington establishment, led by businessmen, the press, lobbyists, and assorted hangers on made it their personal crusade to bring back baseball to Washington.  There were Congressional hearings, local rallies, mandates, etc.  Every year, Thomas Boswell, the esteemed baseball writer for the Washington Post, would justify his position.  It didn’t matter, he would argue, that baseball had failed twice in the past. The demographics had changed.  DC was the 3rd biggest market, near the top in disposable income, etc. etc.  There was a massive yearning for baseball, and it just had to be accommodated.


I didn’t buy any of their arguments, but no one listened to me.


In 2005, they got their wish.  The Montreal Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals.  After a 34 year absence, baseball was back in the Nations Capital.  Hip Hip Hurray!!  There was euphoria and the locals celebrated.  There were still minor issues to be resolved related to public financing would for a new stadium, but, the most important issue was that BASEBALL was back!


Now that the team has finished their third season and the euphoria has died down, let’s assess the situation.  Their three year won lost records have been 81-81, 71-91, and 73-89.  They have finished last, last, and next to last in their division.  The most worrying stat has been their attendance.  In three years, out of 30 MLB teams, their attendance has dropped from 11th to 21st to 25th.


25th out of 30 is very worrying, particularly for a city that supposedly was yearning for baseball for 34 years.  However, the apologists and justifiers have come back in full force.  The reason, they claim, for the low attendance is RFK Stadium.  It’s a dump, and once the new stadium is ready (2008) the fans will come back in droves!


Build it and they will come!


I’m not holding my breath.


The reality is that Washington DC is a one sport town.  It all revolves around the Redskins, and everything else is second fiddle.  There used to be a famous saying in DC that the second most important job in town was the President of the United States, behind the quarterback of the Washington Redskins.  The city has always had a passion for the team, and has only given lukewarm support to any other sport.


Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.  Unfortunately, there are two instances of baseball failing in Washington DC.  Congress intervened the first time, and despite that, the failure occurred again.  I grew up in DC and understood the pulse of the city.  Despite the fact that I was a huge baseball fan, I believed that based on history, Washington did not deserve a team.  This was harsh, but was my humble opinion.


Three years in to the third era, it’s not looking good.


I hope I’m wrong, but we’ll see if the Nationals succeed, and more importantly, if the city supports them.






They’ll play 18 in the regular season, but only once during spring training.  Yesterday’s 8-4 Yankee win over the Red Sox could be inconsequential, or it could be a harbinger for what is to come.


Both teams enter the season with question marks, particularly with pitching.  Bartolo Colon, who was offered a non-guaranteed minor league contract, pitched well enough to keep his team hopeful.  He will probably take the place of Curt Schilling, but at 35, with shoulder and elbow problems, who much does he have left?


With Josh Beckett nursing an ailing back, and Tim Wakefield’s favourite battery mate (Doug Mirabelli) recently released, the Sox will give the opening day start (in Japan) to Daisuke Matsuzaka.  The team is expecting more from him than 2007, when he went 15-12 with a 4.40 ERA.  John Lester is expected to be the fifth starter, and hopefully he is fully recovered from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.


The Yankees also have question marks with their pitching staff.  Is 39 year old Mike Mussina washed up?  He had career lows in wins (11), a very poor .311 BAA and a career worse ERA of 5.15.  If he can’t contribute and Andy Pettitte’s elbow problems flare up, the only proven starter is Chien-Ming Wang.  The other two prospective starters are extremely green.  Phil Hughes is 21 with 13 MLB games under is belt.  Ian Kennedy is 23 and has only pitched 3 times in the big leagues. 


The Yankees everyday lineup is relatively intact.  They will score runs, and the only health concern is Hideki Matsui, who has fully recovered from off season knee surgery.  Bobby Abreu reported to camp in great condition, and is one of three Yanks who drove in more than 100 RBI, along with A-Rod and Derek Jeter.  Jorge Posado, Robinson Cano, and Jason Giambi are also expected to contribute.


The Red Sox scored 101 fewer runs than the Yankees, and both David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez had major dips in their 2007 offensive production.  Ortiz HR’s dropped from 54 to 35 and Ramirez 20HR and 88RBI were quite ordinary, particularly for a player who was earning $20 million.  Perhaps at the age of 36 Ramirez is on the downward side of his career.  Ortiz was slowed by a bad knee, so we’ll see if the surgery he had in the off-season can alleviate his low production.


Many prognosticators are claiming that this is the year that the Blue Jays will overtake one, if not both teams.  It is very evident that the Yanks and Sox do not like each other.  When Julian Taveraz drilled Derek Jeter in the forearm with a fastball, was it retaliation for what occurred last season when Joba Chamberlain threw two 98MPH fastballs over Kevin Youkilis’ head?  Joe Girardi has a take no prisoners approach, and his hitters will definitely be protected.


With these two teams, it is always high drama and high theatre.   Now that the curse of the Bambino has been lifted, and the Sox have won two of the last four World Series, they are the team to beat.  The 20th century belonged to the Yankees, and their last World Championship was in 2000.  Maybe the 21st century will belong to the Red Sox.


They will play 18 times in 2008.  Both teams should contend, along with the Blue Jays.   The Yanks will score more runs, but the Sox have an edge (on paper) in the starting rotation.  The bullpens are relatively equal.  With Joe Girardi at the helm and Hank Steinbrenner providing a lot of bulletin board quotes, the 2008 AL East campaign should be quite interesting.






Demographic Shift


Gary Sheffield was recently lamenting the dearth of inner city kids who are playing baseball.  Recognizing the fact that baseball and American football are much more popular to underprivileged kids, Sheffield and Dontrelle Willis both conducted a baseball clinic for kids from an economically deprived area.  Sheffield reminded them of one important fact.  “Remember”, he said, “the colour of money is the same regardless of which sport you play”.


The times, they are a changing.  International players now comprise 28% of major league rosters.  The percentage of African American players is down from 29% 25 years ago to a current level of 8%. 


Baseball is both growing in popularity across the world while dying a slow death in the inner cities of the States.  In the 2007 All Star game, of the 66 participants, 20 were born outside of the U.S., including the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Canada, and Japan.  Latin America has been a feeding ground for MLB for quite awhile, but now we’re seeing an influx from Asia and South America.  The Dodgers and Padres recently played an exhibition game in Beijing, and MLB officials believe that over 150,000 people currently play baseball in China.  The most recent World Baseball Classic was won by Japan.  The time is soon coming where the United States will be surpassed as the country that produces the best baseball players.


I’m reminded of the outrage in the U.S. in 1988 when we did not win the Gold Medal in basketball.  Americans always believed that we were the dominant country in this sport, and it was our birthright to bring home the gold every four years.  We couldn’t quite comprehend the outcome when the team finished a dismal third, and came home with a bronze medal that resulted in some brutal criticism.  The U.S. Olympic Committee then decided to send the NBA “Dream Team” to the 92 Barcelona Olympics so that we could restore our rightful place at the top of the basketball world.  This did occur, but ironically, the move backfired.  The Dream Team was so popular that it started a basketball revolution around the globe.  Now, 20 years later, although the Americans still have the best individual players, we have been surpassed by other countries and can no longer win either the Olympic Gold or any other prominent international tournaments. 


As a kid growing up in New York City in the 1960’s, stickball was the most popular game played in the summer.  Because there were so few playing fields, the game was played in the streets, in between parked cars, with tennis balls and broomsticks.  Hitting the ball with a broomstick was a fantastic way to improve your batting eye.  Now, 40 years later, when I venture to the neighbourhood of my youth, not only is stickball no longer played, the youngsters do not even know what it is.


I have to admit that baseball is no longer America’s pastime.  It’s not even the second most popular sport in the country.  In many suburban high schools, baseball is not even the most popular spring sport.  Many kids would much rather play lacrosse, which has seen an incredible expansion in the last 25 years.


Europe now produces quite a few professional basketball players.  Latin America, Asia, and South America are the most prominent breeding grounds for baseball.  In America, with so many diversions, it will be interesting to see what happens in the next 20 years.  If so few kids are interested in baseball, the result will be a more pronounced demographic shift.  The 2027 All Star Game will undoubtedly have more foreign born players than American players.


What will then happen to our National Pastime?


Celebrity Madness



It’s been a slow sports week.  Not much has been going on, other than Andy Pettitte’s sore elbow, or Orlando Hernandez’ bunion, or Barry Zito’s 17.18 ERA.


It’s been so slow that it’s been difficult thinking of interesting things to write about.


Billy Crystal saved the day.  In case you haven’t heard, the Yankees have signed him to a one day contract and he will be in uniform today and play against the Pittsburgh Pirates.


Memo to Mr. Crystal.  Don’t go away mad, just go away.


Jack Nicholson was the original celebrity fan, long before it was in vogue.  Always an ardent LA Lakers fan, he was known and respected by all the players because he was a true fan.  In fact, he was such an ardent fan that he was affectionately nicknamed “The Cuckoo Man” by the NBA players.


Nicholson I could respect.  He was a die hard fan, and how could you not respect a guy who “mooned” the Celtics fans in Boston Garden during the NBA finals.


After Nicholson started showing up at the LA Forum, the avalanche then began.  Dyan Cannon.  Arsenio Hall.  Soon the Lakers seemingly had more celebrity fans than everyday average Joe fans.  Then it spread elsewhere.  Spike Lee and John McEnroe started going to Knick games at Madison Square Garden.  Jerry Seinfeld was spotted at Met games at Shea stadium.  It seemed like the cameramen spent more time showing the celebrities than showing the game.


Perhaps they were all “true” fans, but my cynical side thinks that most of them were more concerned with their Q rating than the outcome of the game.


The Yankees have crossed the line with this absurd signing.  Look, I get that Crystal is a huge baseball fan.  City Slickers was a great flick, and I enjoyed “61” and it’s perfectly acceptable if he wants to go to Yankee Stadium and support his favourite team.


I just don’t want to see him playing for the Yankees.


Can you imagine what the legendary Yankee, Joe DiMaggio, the personification of class, would think?  Just imagine him patrolling center field, and seeing this celebrity “never was” on the same field with him?  It makes a mockery of the sport, and denigrates the tradition of the most successful baseball franchise in history.


How about if I make a few other suggestions for stand-in Yankee players?


Robert DeNiro.  I guarantee that he’d be Joe Girardi’s kind of guy and there would be no brawls with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.


Rudy Giuliani.  Now that he’s out of the Presidential race, he’s probably got a lot of time on his hands.  If they put him at shortstop,  the University of Pennsylvania can no longer claim that Derek Jeter is the worst fielding shortstop in baseball.


Hillary Clinton.  Why not?  She now lives in New York.  She’s not doing so well in the race, and would probably love the publicity.  With DeNiro and Mrs. Clinton in the lineup, there is NO Way that anytime would want to start a fight with the club.


Elliot Spitzer?  Well, I’ll leave everyone to ponder that one.







Stale Ownership


Who’s your favourite owner?  Do you have one?  Can you name more than three?  George Steinbrenner immediately comes to mind, but he’s reportedly in ill health and has essentially relinquished day to day control to his son.  John Henry?  He looks, acts, and is BORING.  Peter Angelos?  If you ask Baltimoreans, the consensus would be that he is Public Enemy No. 1.


Baseball ownership is becoming either very corporate, evidenced by the Cubs (Tribune Co.) or run by individuals who prefer to remain behind the scenes and maintain their anonymity.  In the past, there have been some real characters that interjected their personalities and also introduced some popular enhancements and eccentricities to the game.


Before Ted Turner turned to more noble issues and decided to save the world, he was the proclaimed “Mouth of the South” and was known as “Captain Outrageous” when he was the skipper of the boat Courageous that won America’s cup in 1977.  He purchased the Braves in 1976, and during the 77 season he decided to manage the team, stating that “Managing isn’t that difficult.  All you have to do is score more runs than the other guy”.  The trial only lasted one day.  After signing free agent pitcher Andy Messersmith to a contract, Turner, who owned Channel 17, tried to convince Messersmith, who wore number 17, to change the name on the back of his jersey to, you guessed it “Channel”.


Bill Veeck had a long history as a baseball owner, and introduced many innovations during his era.  He introduced a movable fence to the cavernous Cleveland Municipal Stadium, depending on the circumstances and how it would benefit his team.  He hired a dwarf (Eddie Gaedel) to bat and try and draw a walk.  This particular publicity stunt lasted one game.  There was also the exploding scoreboard, the “disco demolition night”, and the time where the fans in the bleachers were allowed to make joint managerial decisions by holding up placards.  During the heat of the summer, he also designed short pants for the White Sox (which looked hideous) and hired ancient (at the time) 67 year old Paul Richards to manage.  When Harry Caray broadcast games for the White Sox, he did so from the bleachers and began the tradition in the seventh inning stretch of singing “Take me out to the Ballgame”.


Charley Finley, the owner of the Kansas City/Oakland A’s, was reviled by his players, but was also quite a maverick.  He introduced white shoes, and paid his players $300 each to grow moustaches.  He also tried to introduce orange baseballs, and wanted to quicken the game by changing the rules to a 3 ball 2 strike limit.  He also brought in a sprinter by the name of Herb Washington to be his designated runner.  During his tenure of running the Athletics, his team mascot was a mule that was paraded around the field, into hotel lobbies, and into the press room to annoy reporters.  There was a lot of animosity between Finley and the players.  There was a near mutiny in the 1973 World Series, when Mike Andrews, after committing a crucial error that cost the team a game, was forced to sign a false affidavit stating that he was injured.  The team threatened to boycott the rest of the Series, and he was then reinstated.



These owners were innovative, entertaining, controversial, and brought a lot of pizzazz to the ballpark.  You don’t see that during the present day era.   You may not have agreed with their antics, but it was fun wondering what was going to happen next.  Now that all the players all multimillionaires, and the sport is dominated by the players union, all of the owners eccentricities have dissipated.  Perhaps there is a correlation.  Maybe profit and greed have taken a lot of the fun out of the game, and the suits who own the club are primarily concerned with the bottom line.  It also seems that the eccentric players are also a dying breed, which is unfortunate.



The Final Three


In baseball, hope springs eternal, especially in spring.  The fans of three franchises have exhibited remarkable patience waiting for a championship for their teams.  Now that the Red Sox and White Sox have recently reached the Promised Land, the Cubs, Giants, and Indians are the three clubs that have gone the longest without a World Series title.


The Cubs are known as the lovable losers, and it is very understandable why.  They have not been to a World Series since 1945, and their last World Championship was way back in 1908.  Popular legend is that after a Billy Goat was ejected from Wrigley Field during game 7 of the 45 series, the owner placed a curse on the franchise, and they have yet to return to the Fall Classic.


The Cubs have been close on other occasions, but have never made it.  In 1969 a black cat walked in front of their dugout during a crucial September series with the Mets.  They then collapsed.  In the 84 best of 5 NLCS, they won the first two games against the Padres and then proceeded to lose the next three games.  Then there was the memorable Steve Bartman Moises Alou bungled play in 2002 when the Cubs were 5 outs from the Series.  Once again, the inevitable collapse then occurred.


The Indians have managed to get to the World Series more recently, but their last World Championship was in 1948 when they defeated the Boston Braves in six games.   In 1954 they cruised to the AL pennant with 111 victories, and were heavily favored in the Series, but were swept by the NY Giants in 4 games.  They waited 41 years to get back, but were defeated by the Atlanta Braves in 1995 and the Florida Marlins in 1997.


The Giants last World Championship was in 54 against the Indians.  They lost a very exciting 7 game series to the Yankees in 1962.  They then waited 27 years, and were swept in 4 games by the Oakland A’s in the 1989 earthquake series.  In 2002 against the Angels, they have a 5-0 lead in the sixth inning of game six.  Dusty Baker took Russ Ortiz out of the game and prematurely gave him the game ball, thinking the championship was theirs.  It was a big mistake.  The Angels stormed back, winning game six 6-5 and taking the title the next evening.   


The Indians probably have the best chance of getting to the Series this season.  Their pitching is excellent, anchored by Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona.   Their bullpen is solid and they will have a potent offense, led by Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, and Travis Hafner.  Look for them to battle the Detroit Tigers for the AL Central title.


With Lou Piniella at the helm, the Cubs will contend and look to improve on their 85-77 record.  They have a very strong rotation, with Carlos Sambrano, Ted Lilly, Rich Hill, and Jon Lieber.  The fifth spot is up for grabs.  With Alfonso Soriano, Derek Lee, and Japanese import Kosuke Fukodome in the lineup, they will have no trouble scoring runs.  They will just have to battle the jinxes that have befallen on the franchise since 1945 so that they finally can overcome their lovable losers tag.


The Giants will not contend, and are in a rebuilding mode.  They did not resign Barry Bonds, Omar Vizquel is on the disabled list, and they lost Pedro Feliz.  The only acquisition was Aaron Rowand.  There are question marks in the field and holes in the bullpen.  Their strength is in their rotation, with future star Tim Lincecum and young lefthander Noah Lowry.  They will need a much better performance from Barry Zito, who was a major disappointment in 2007.


There you have it.  The final three.  The fans have waited a long time, and the Indians probably have the best shot this year, but you can’t count out the Cubs.  You can count out the Giants.


The Litigious Society


I must confess that I haven’t read the Mitchell Report, so I can’t condemn Bud Selig for admitting the same thing.  Actually, I gained a modicum of respect for him for this admission.


Apparently, its 409 pages.  I’m sure it contains a great deal of legalize jargon, with lots of big words to impress the masses. 


I’m reminded of a classic quote in The Godfather, when Don Corleone is counselling his consigliore, a lawyer by the name of Tom Hayden.  Hayden decides to go to law school and avert becoming a made man after the Don tells him that lawyers with briefcases steal lots more money than do men with pistols.


What was Mitchell & co’s bill to MLB?  $40 million.  Wow.  Nice work if you can get it.  What did he provide?  Well, there were about 90 names of ballplayers that used performance enhancing drugs.  Hmm, either that works out to $444K per name, or $98K per page.  I think I’ll factor that in the next time I send the Falcons my bill for this column.


And what did these 90 names accomplish?  The average fan already knew the sport was riddled with drugs.  Both the bodies and numbers were vastly over inflated.  When Sammy Sosa hit his 66HR’s and Mark McGwire his 70 and they had that big love fest at home plate, what was the point?  To win the fans affection back after the 94 strike?  They would have come crawling back anyway.  The tide started to turn when Bonds, the arch enemy, hit his 73rd.  That’s when it was no longer acceptable.  The hypocrisy is so deep that it would overflow the Green Monster.


If MLB was going to spend $40 million on a 409 page report and get 90 names from it, they should have approached me first.  I guarantee I would have charged quite a bit less and gotten a lot of the same names for them.  I could’ve hired Detective Sipowicz from NYPD Blue, and had him shake down the two primary clubhouse rats who got pressured by the Feds.  We could’ve split the bill, and then it would have been easy street.


If you’re starting to detect a little bit of cynicism, I’ll tell you why.   It is my belief that all the major league teams are just as complicit and culpable as the players in this steroid fiasco.  The owners and teams should have been called out in the report, but weren’t.  And why, pray tell, is that??    Along with being a Director of the Boston Red Sox, Senator George Mitchell is also the Chairman of the Board of Walt Disney Corporation.  Why is that pertinent?  Well, Disney owns ESPN and ABC, which pay major league baseball a substantial amount of money for television rights.  Couldn’t that be construed as a conflict of interest?


Since I did admit that I haven’t read the report, maybe the MLB teams and owners have been criticized, in which case I stand corrected.  However, it appears to me that the players union is taking the blunt of the blame when both parties deserve equal culpability.  It should be blatantly obvious that the front offices across the sport both condoned this and turned a blind eye to it.  It just would have been nice if they had been called out on it.  It also would have been a good idea to hire someone who didn’t have direct ties to either party so that the report could have been a tad more objective.


To be honest, I couldn’t care less if these millionaire athletes decide to threaten their health for a little bit of glory.  What is bothersome to me are all the kids who emulate these guys and decide to take the same hazardous risks.  In that respect, maybe the end result is positive.  In the long run, the sport will be cleared up and the drug usage will ultimately cease and desist.


One ballplayer who deserve praise is Mark Grace, the former Cub and DiamondBack how played a power position (1B) in the height of the era and didn’t succumb to the temptations.  One year Grace hit 9HR’s playing full time in Wrigley Field, which is a hitter’s paradise.  Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez are two others, two future Hall of Famers who maintained their integrity.  You could always tell, just by looking at them.  It is nice to know that there are some honourable people in MLB.


The sport will survive this latest scandal, as it has in the past.  The game has always been bigger than those who run it, or those who decide that the end justifies the means.  Cheating has been a part of the lure of the game, whether it be the spitball era, or the stealing of signs, or corked bats etc.


However, the health of the players and the kids who idolize them never has.






The Phlop


It’s appears that the Yankess and Mets are switching roles. The Yankess have always been the traditional big spenders, eschewing their farm system to sign high priced free agents.  The Mets have been known to show fiscal restraint, and have opted to build their club through their farm system.


The tide is turning, and the roles have reversed.  The Mets are now signing the high priced free agents, including Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez and Billy Wagner.  They gave up four highly regarded prospects to get Johan Santana.  What did the Yankees do in the off season?  Not much.  Their lineup is essentially intact, and they were relieved that Santana went to the NL and was kept away from the AL East, particularly the Red Sox.


The Mets will have to convince both themselves and their fans that there are no residual scars from last seasons September collapse.  They lost a 7 game lead in 17 days and ultimately the division title to the Philadelphia Phillies.  The collapse brought the inevitable comparisons between them and the 1964 Phillies, who lost a 6 ½ lead in 7 days and blew the pennant to the St Louis Cardinals.


Gene Mauch was the manager of the Phillies, and is known as the manager with the most career wins without a pennant.  His 1,902 career victories are the 8th most all time, but he never won a pennant.  He came close on two other occasions (1982 and 1986 with the Angels), but unfortunately he will be best remembered for the Phillies collapse.


Between September 21 and 30, the Phillies lost 10 straight games.  Mauch essentially went with a 3 man rotation, but relied primarily on two pitchers (Jim Bunning and Chris Short) during this losing streak.  Bunning had three starts, Short and three, and two other pitchers (Art Mahaffey and Dennis Bennett) started twice.  Ray Culp, a highly regarded 23 year old, who was part of the rotation throughout the year, was not used at all.


The official version told to the press was that Mahaffey and Culp had sore arms, and that Mauch had lost faith in Bennett.


This writer has inside information which I would like to share with you.  I knew one of the players on the 1964 Phillies.  He confided in me that Mauch hated Ray Culp, and refused to pitch him because there was personal animosity between the two.  Culp was healthy, and could have contributed.  History may have been a lot different if Culp was utilized during this stretch.


The Phillies did win the division in 2007, but fell short against the Colorado Rockies in the playoffs.  They should be contenders for the NL East in 2008, along with Atlanta and the Mets.


Jimmy Rollins has laid down the gauntlet by stating that the Phillies and the Mets don’t like each other and there may be some “headhunting” going on.  Pedro Martinez, never one to shy away from chin music, was quoted as saying although he likes Rollins; he won’t back down from any potential altercations.


Two teams that are both very talented and are separated by 95 miles on the New Jersey Turnpike now both share a monumental collapse.  They are headed for a collision course.


I can’t wait.



The Rocket’s Red Glare


I misremember the specifics, but during Roger Clemens time in Boston there was one specific incident where he committed quite a public gaffe.  Kevin McHale, the Hall of Fame NBA forward, said it best when he commented, “They call him the Rocket Man, not the Rocket Scientist”.


It’s now much deeper, and much more troublesome.  Either Clemens was unwilling or unable to listen to his advisors, or perhaps his advisors were a group of psychophants who were only interested in telling him what he wanted to hear.


Clemens spent his entire career either intimidating others, or looking for confrontations.  He never shaved on the days he would pitch, so that he would appear more menacing.  There was the Mike Piazza bat throwing incident, and the Terry Cooney 1990 ALCS argument, and countless other times when Clemens, the biggest bully on the block, added to the mystique of his Texas gunslinger image.


Given that, perhaps an  act of contrition was an impossibility.  The bully can never back down.  It is part of the image, the aura.  Once the bully shows any sign of vulnerability, the game is over.  Pride cometh before the fall.


Baseball fans are quite forgiving, and have a very short memory.  Who remembers the principal participants involved in baseball’s cocaine scandal of the 1980’s?  One All Star player was quoted as saying the reason he slid head first was so that the cocaine vials in his back pocket would not explode.  Another All-Star was given a standing ovation after returning from exile.  A more recent example is the strike of 1994.  There were countless fans who vowed they would never come back to the ballpark.  Almost all of them did.


The truth shall set you free.  Confession is good for the soul.  Jason Giambi was the first prominent player to confess to steroid use.  He was initially excorciated  in the press.  Over time, all has either been forgotten or forgiven.


Andy Pettite, by showing remorse, wound up with much dignity and grace.  His conscience is probably clear.  The Yankees have welcomed him back with open arms.


What is so preposterous is that the Clemens team brought this entirely on themselves.  Congress didn’t ask him to come and testify.  His (or their) very public posturing and denials left them no choice.   It has been an utter PR fiasco.  One of the greatest pitchers of all time,  will probably face perjury charges and quite likely face jail time.  All because the bully wouldn’t back down, and decided to throw everyone close to him under the bus.


Clemens does have 118 complete games, but if he ever did need a closer to come in and take him off the hook, now is the time. 


The only thing that will save him is a presidential pardon.



Revenge of the Nerds


Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have recently concluded that Derek Jeter is the worst fielding shortstop in the Major Leagues.  Using a method called Spatial Aggregate Fielding Evaluation, or SAFE, they have come up with this earth shattering conclusion.


Who funded this grant, the Boston Red Sox??


Stop the madness!  There is no way that Derek Jeter is the worst fielding shortstop in baseball.  You could put a gun at my head and I still wouldn’t say it.


And I’m not even a Yankee fan.


 The nerds are running the asylum.  Don’t they have anything better to do in Universities these days?  Apparently not.  Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a computer scientist?  I rest my case.


The premise is so absurd it’s laughable.  I didn’t even want to write a column about it, but they have really gotten to me.  Count me amongst the conspiracy theorists.  Bill James, the godfather of sabermetrics, tried valiantly to get a job in Major League Baseball for 26 years.  After knocking on many doors, the Red Sox finally hired him in 2003.  All his minions have to be Yankee haters.


Baseball research has no business being conducted in universities.  I mistakenly thought they spent their time on more noble issues, like the theory of relativity.  And these U of Pennsylanvia guys came from Wharton.  Wharton!!  Isn’t that a business school?


I can see it now.  The head of hedge funds at JP Morgan is interviewing candidates who have graduated from Wharton to join his firm on Wall St. If I was the guy from JP Morgan, presumably I’d be a Yankee fan.  I’d also probably read both the sports and business pages.  Then why, I’d be asking myself, would they be conducting this nonsense at the most prestigious business school in America.  Talk about a great opening question that could put the candidate on the defensive.


I was going to do lots of research on to defend my position, but I’m not going down to the nerds level.  I do now that Jeter has three gold gloves.  I vividly remember the play he made to win the ALCS against Oakland.  There are many other special plays that I recall he made from years of watching him on TV.


Nerds go home!


Does he need to improve?  Yes.  He will turn 33 this year, and he has worked hard in the off season in an effort to improve his agility.  There are questions that he may have lost some range going to his left.  That I can accept.  I cannot and will not accept the conclusion that he is the worst fielder in Major League Baseball.


Now I know why there may be a subprime crisis on Wall St……