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Monday, March 31, 2014

"Gettin' Jiggy" with Miggy :-)

Opening Day is finally here, my friends!  Actually, the season began last night with the San Diego Padres hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers in a game that was blown by Brian Wilson (you know, the hairy guy who has been struggling for the past couple of years).  The Padres scored 3 runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to beat the Dodgers 3-1.

Before the season gets too far underway, I want to address two topics that I've been asked to write about and express my opinion (yes, someone out there is actually reading this blog regularly and wants my expert opinion on a few things!).  First is the $292 million contract that Miguel Cabrera signed with the Detroit Tigers through 2023, and second is my predictions for the 2014 season.

As many of you know, I am a big fan of Miguel Cabrera, and seeing him play in Cleveland last summer was a highlight for me.  The 2012 Triple Crown winner and 2013 MVP is one of those players that only come around once in a lifetime - that kind of player that you tell your grandkids about and whose baseball cards will be worth a lot of money someday.  But Miggy is also getting bigger (now reportedly up to 260 pounds), slower, and more prone to injury (last season he missed several games with back issues).  Ten years is a LONG time for anyone to commit to a player, especially one who is already over 30 years old.  It makes me think of the long-term contract that Alex Rodriguez signed with the Yankees a while back - I forget how that one turned out!  Then there's Albert Pujols - how did he do last year again?  The amount of money the Tigers want to pay Miggy doesn't bother me since baseball players are overpaid anyway; it's the number of years in the contract that I think is excessive.  Yes, he can prolong his career as a designated hitter, but 10 more years?  Really?  A little much, if you ask me.

Now as far as my predictions for this season, this may come as a shock to you, but I don't think I'm going to make any.  I know, it's kind of a cop-out, but with 162 games in a season, anything can happen.  Yes, I would love to say that the Nationals will win the NL East and the Pirates will reach the playoffs again, but so much can happen between now and September.  Look at the Atlanta Braves, who played so well last year and are now starting their season with half of their players on the Disabled List.  And how about the Toronto Blue Jays, who were supposed to be the be-all end-all last season - will they fare any batter than last year?  And without Mariano Rivera, will the Yankees suck this season?  Well they got 4 key players during the offseason - Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltrán, Brian McCann, and Masahiro Tanaka; but they only look good on paper at this point.  I could pull out all sorts of rankings and statistics and SABR-metrics numbers to support my predictions, but all I can do is tell you which team I would LIKE to see in the playoffs - not necessarily the teams that the bettors in Vegas are picking.  And really, after seeing our NCAA basketball brackets ruined after the first round of March Madness, can statistics really tell us everything?  So here are the teams I like and my un-scientific reasons for liking them.

AL EAST:  I'm going to root for the Baltimore Orioles.  They were a mess in the off-season and didn't get their act together until early March, when they signed a bunch of last-minute players and made some impromptu trades.  Yes, Manny Machado is starting the season on the DL, but we all know that one guy does not a team make, so why not root for the team that played so well during Spring Training?

AL CENTRAL:  I want to see the Kansas City Royals play in the postseason.  Really, I do.  They went 86-76 last year, and if it hadn't been for the 12-game losing streak they had, they would have contended.  I'm picking the Royals and I'm not changing my mind.  Sorry, Tigers and Indians!

AL WEST:  This is one division about which I never really cared.  I guess I'll pick the low-budget Oakland A's even though the Mariners now have Robinson Canó and the Angels have hottie Mike Trout.  They have great pitchers and very good defensive players, so they should do well.

NL EAST:  I don't know if this is jinxing my team, but I'm going to go ahead and pick the Nationals.  The Braves annoy me, the Mets are a mess, the Marlins have no one except for José Fernandez, and the Phillies might as well turn their clubhouse into a nursing home.  The Nationals have a solid pitching rotation (even with Doug Fister starting the season on the DL), guys who can hit, and a feisty new manager.  And we're going to 5 games this season, so they better play well!

NL CENTRAL:  How can you not root for the Pittsburgh Pirates?  Those of us who are sick of the Cardinals have embraced the Pirates and their never-give-up attitude.  Plus they're opening the season against the Cubs at home, so what more of a confidence boost does a team need?

NL WEST:  I am determined to not pick the Dodgers (since everyone else is), so I'm going to go with the San Diego Padres.  I don't think they will win their division outright, but I believe they can get a wild-card spot and make the playoffs with their decent pitching.  Now if they could only get rid of those ugly camo uniforms that they wear on Sundays during home games!

As you can see, my picks are purely based on my shallow opinions and do not carry any statistical weight whatsoever.  It took me exactly 20 minutes to come up with my selections - this way if I totally blow it, I won't feel like a total failure who spent way too much time analyzing data.

All I know is that it's finally time to play ball.  Time for seventh-inning stretches, racing presidents (and sausages), and injury reports (short ones, hopefully).  Enjoy the season, and keep checking in for my thoughts, insights, and of course, my unfiltered opinions.  Let's go Nats! :-)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

It's Almost Time!!!

First and foremost, I just want to say how much I enjoy writing my own blog.  Nobody edits what I write, so my opinions (not that I ever have any!) are unfiltered and honest.  I say this because I am the Washington Nationals' blogger for a local publication, and they're often editing my comments.  I had considered applying to become a regular contributor to the print edition of this publication, but I don't think they are looking for someone as opinionated and frank as myself.  Their loss.

OK,  now that I got that off my chest, let's talk some baseball!  Opening Day is just a breath away, and for those of us not following NCAA basketball (though I do have 8 teams left in my Sweet 16 bracket!), next Sunday and Monday is our version of "March Madness."  The rosters have been cut, the starting pitchers have been named, and fans in cold-weather cities are praying for warm weather next week.  Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith even spearheaded a campaign to make Opening Day a national holiday, claiming that too many people call in sick to work on that day.  Smith was able to get the required number of signatures required for his idea to be taken seriously, so we'll see where that goes.  I don't think it's necessary to call it a national holiday, because only 15 of the 30 teams will be hosting a game for the first series, so what happens when the other 15 teams host their own Opening Day after that - do we need a second national holiday?  My Nationals, for example, open the season in New York next Monday (March 31) but don't open at home until April 4.  I wouldn't call out sick on the 31st since I can watch the game from my work computer (shhh!) but would call in sick on the 4th (if I had tickets, which I don't).  It's a silly proposal from Ozzie.

So what do we have to look forward to this season?  First of all, the Yankees are no longer the team with the highest payroll in the Majors, which is quite refreshing.  That honor now goes to the Dodgers, so we'll see where they end up at the end of the season.  I'd pick the Dodgers over the Yankees any day, so I'm OK with them making a lot of money.  Let's just hope Yasiel Puig can develop a personality this year.

Also interesting to note is the expanded use of instant replay in the Majors.  A manager is allowed to formally challenge an umpire's call in certain cases (hone runs and stolen bases, not balls and strikes), and after the sixth inning, umpires on the field can ask for a second opinion if they themselves are in doubt of a call.  Who do they turn to for a second opinion?  The people in the Major League Baseball Replay Center, a high-tech facility with at least one umpire, one trained technician, and 37 high-definition monitors that will show every angle of every game.  When a manager challenges a call, umpires will appeal to the umpire working at the headquarters, and with the technician's assistance, will examine video of the play from different angles.  The review umpire will communicate his assessment to the on-site umpire and send the video to the home ballpark for broadcast on the scoreboard along with the text message description of the play.

How long will this take?  Less than 2 minutes, experts seem to think.  Now, I was opposed to this idea at first , thinking it would take away from the accuracy of umpires and the charm of the game, but after having seen it used twice in Spring Training games, I'm OK with it (it helps that both times it was the Nationals' manager, Matt Williams, challenging a call and both times he was right).  The first time I saw it, Bryce Harper was called out trying to steal second, when it was pretty clear (even to me, the blind one) that he was safe.  After Williams's challenge, the umpires reviewed the video taken by the Mets' camera people and determined their call was erroneous.  This took 1 minute and 47 seconds.  The second time, Denard Span caught a shoestring catch in center field and the runner was called safe.  Further review showed that Span not only caught the ball, but he held on to it after rolling on the ground a couple of times.  This one took exactly 2 minutes, but both instances were reviewed with the video from the local camera people.  Beginning Sunday, the videos will come from that fancy place in New York, and it should make the process a little more smooth (we hope).

Another thing that doesn't bother me about this expanded replay thing is the fact that managers probably won't be challenging calls during every game.  According to MLB.com, there were only 377 out of some 50,000 calls that merited review, which comes out to about 1 every 6.4 games (check that out - I did that math all by myself!).  Only 27 times did questionable calls happen twice in a game, which gives umpires an extremely high level of proficiency.

So as long as umpires keep doing their job as well as they've done it lately, managers shouldn't be challenging calls too much and baseball games shouldn't (hopefully) drag on much longer than they already do.  It's one of those things us baseball purists are just going to have to embrace, like the cotton-poly uniform, the use of batting gloves, and the high price of ballpark concessions.  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em and buy the overpriced beer.

Sunday night will bring us the first game of the season with the San Diego Padres hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers, who technically started their season in Australia last week, where they played 2 games against the Arizona Diamondbacks and won them both.  Most other teams begin on Monday, with games including the Mets hosting the Nationals and the World Champion Red Sox visiting the surprisingly-good-during-spring-training Baltimore Orioles.  My husband and I will be at Nationals Park the following weekend for the series against the Atlanta Braves, officially kicking off our 5-game season.  While we may not visit as many different ballparks as we did last year, we are ready to root for the much-improved Nationals and hope you are ready to root for your favorite team.  It's almost time, people; let's play some ball!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Baseball 101? I'll Teach It!

Spring Training is in full force, my friends – a time for tweaking your batting stance, working on your curveball, and writing a research paper.  The latter is what 19-year-old Josh Hart of the Baltimore Orioles had to do earlier this week.  Hart, an outfielder who was selected 37th overall in last summer’s amateur draft, was introduced to Hall of Famer Frank Robinson during a Spring Training practice, and Hart did not know who Robinson was.  So Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter told Hart to write a one-page paper on Robinson and have it on Showalter’s desk the next day.  Hart complied, and is now vastly knowledgeable in all things Frank.

With this story fresh in my mind, I decided to do my own little study to see if kids approximately the same age as Josh Hart had any knowledge of who Frank Robinson is.  I asked several students at Governor Thomas Johnson High School, and was disappointed to see that most of them had no clue.  18-year-old Jacob, a very smart Senior who wants to attend Duke University to study engineering, said “The name sounds familiar, but I don’t think I know who he is.”  Mickey, 17, asked “What class does he teach?”  The closest was one of our military academy hopefuls, who said "He's what that movie '42' was about."  To the defense of my students, some of the kids I questioned admit to not following baseball too closely, and they’re not being paid crazy amounts of money to wear a uniform and play 162 games a year.

So how important is it for current Major League baseball players to know the history of the game and the names of the greats?  I think if you’re going to have a job with such a high-paying salary, you should have an idea of who came before you, stood on the same field as you, and had a locker in your clubhouse that could even be the locker that you’re currently using (especially if you play in one of the older ball parks, like Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, or Dodgers Stadium).  These millionaires need to feel humbled by the greats who played before them.  Guys like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout need to appreciate the leaping catches that Kirby Puckett made in center field.  Sluggers like Miguel Cabrera and Michael Cuddyer should feel small next to Pete Rose and Joe DiMaggio.  Jacoby Ellsbury and Eric Young should take base-stealing pointers from Rickey Henderson or Lou Brock.

Here is what I think Major League Baseball should do:  They should have the annual player draft in Cooperstown, NY, so that prospective players and their families can tour the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and get a lesson in baseball history.  Most of these guys haven’t been to the Hall, so they haven’t seen the majestic room full of inductees’ plaques, the museum with the Babe Ruth room, and the movies and interactive displays that take you from the game’s beginnings to the record-breakers of the modern era.  Cooperstown is in the middle of nowhere, so your typical draft candidate probably hasn’t made the trip there before, but if he has the potential of being signed by a Major League team and can learn a thing or two about the game’s history, you bet he’ll take the trip to New York!

You don't like that idea?  Then how about Major League Baseball send me to visit all 30 teams so I can give the players a history lesson?  I can have Power Points and handouts and trivia questions and everything!  I like that idea better!

I know a lot of the current young players were born in the 90s, a decade full of PEDs and not much excitement.  They probably looked up to guys like Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire, and maybe even great players like Greg Maddux, Wade Boggs, and Ken Griffey, Jr.  But just like high school students have to learn about what happened in history 200 years ago, current baseball players should have some basic appreciation for the men who played before them.  They don’t need to rattle off the names of all the baseball commissioners (not even I can do that without some deep thinking and a check on Wikipedia), but they should have a general knowledge of the players from the past – Cobb, Ruth, DiMaggio, Gehrig, Clemente, Koufax, Seaver, Aaron, and Robinson (both Frank and Jackie). 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Off-Season in Review (with my comments, of course!)

Football season is over and the Olympics only go for two weeks – what comes next?  Why baseball season is just around the corner, of course, and for those of us who are tired of these record-cold temperatures, we’re hoping that the start of a new baseball season brings with it some warmer weather.
So once you’re done rooting for Lolo Jones, Bode Miller and Shaun White, it’s time to get geared up for the 2014 baseball season.  Before you don your Orioles shirt, Nationals cap, or Yankee pinstripes (ugh!), you may want to catch up on what went on during the off-season, after the Boston Red Sox won the World Series.  Well here’s a recap of what transpired since November in a nutshell (start your stopwatch – this should only take two minutes to read):
·        Detroit's Miguel Cabrera earned his second consecutive Most Valuable Player Award in the American League, took Players' Choice top honors and added a Silver Slugger as well. 
·        The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw won his second National League Cy Young Award in three years, and José Fernandez of the Marlins received the well-deserved reward of NL Rookie of the Year award.  (Remember him?  He’s that Cuban kid who spent time in immigration jail before successfully defecting by coming over on a makeshift boat that hit rough waters and a bunch of people fell overboard including his family.  And he can really pitch!)
·        Free agents:  Robinson Canó went to the Mariners, Jacoby Ellsbury is now a Yankee, Shin-Soo Choo signed with the Rangers, and Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka went to the Yankees.  Who didn’t see that one coming?  Oh, the Yankees also signed outfielder Carlos Beltrán and catcher Brian McCann; they’re clearly trying to buy their way to another World Series.  Whatever!
·        Trades: The Rangers acquired slugging first baseman Prince Fielder from the Tigers for second baseman Ian Kinsler, a doozy of a deal featuring All-Star talent and big bucks. The Cardinals followed by sending third baseman David Freese to the Angels for Peter Bourjos.
·        New managers:  Bryan Price in Cincinnati, Matt Williams in Washington (it should have been Sandy Alomar, Jr.), Brad Ausmus in Detroit, Lloyd McClendon in Seattle, and Rick Rentería with the Cubs -- and don't forget Ryne Sandberg in Philadelphia, a late-season addition.
·        Oh, and in case you didn’t realize this, the Orioles lost their closer, Jim Johnson, to the Oakland A’s.  I felt really bad about that one – despite Johnson’s blown saves last season, he was a good pitcher and will be hard to replace.
·        What about my Nationals?  They acquired starting pitcher Doug Fister from the Tigers and were able to avoid arbitration with pretty much every player who was eligible for it.  They also announced “Jayson Werth Garden Gnome Day,” which is pretty exciting.
·        Notable quote:  Curtis Granderson went across town from the Yankees to the Mets, saying “True New Yorkers are Mets fans.”  That one made me smile, since I started out as a Mets fan back in the 80s.  Too bad the Mets will suck again this season.
·        Three of the all-time great managers were honored with their election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame -- Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, all heading to Cooperstown in July.
·        In an election that again was preceded by considerable debate, the BBWAA elected three first-timers on the Hall of Fame ballot: pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and hitting star Frank Thomas.
·        Lucrative deals:  Lefty Clayton Kershaw agreed to the richest deal ever for a pitcher, signing a seven-year, $215 million contract through 2020.  The Tigers then signed AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to a one-year, $15.5 million deal, and the Rays signed David Price  to a one-year pact worth $14 million.

So there you have it – now you know what went on during the “Hot Stove” season and you can pretend like you know what you’re talking about when necessary.  Stay warm, enjoy the Olympics, and remember that Opening Day is only about seven weeks away!  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A-Rod, PEDs, and a Shocking Conclusion!

As I'm sure you've heard by now, New York Yankees' third baseman Alex Rodriguez has been banned from baseball for the entire 2014 season (post-season included, if the Yankees make it that far) for cheating, lying, and being a jerk (OK, those aren't the official reasons, but they describe A-Rod in a nutshell).  Rodriguez was involved in the Biogenesis scandal where 13 Major League Baseball players were suspended last season for having used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).  A-Rod was the only player to appeal - all others admitted their guilt, served their punishments, and moved on.  Not only did Rodriguez deny having been injected with PEDs by Anthony Bosch of Biogenesis, but he's gone on to sue everyone from his doctors to the Yankees to Major League Baseball.  It's one of those cases where the more you lie, the more you start believing that those lies are true.

What's my take on the A-Rod situation?  Honestly, I just don't care.  I have never liked "A-Fraud" (especially after reading Joe Torre's book), and I find the whole PED thing very disappointing.  I was heartbroken when Lance Armstrong fessed up to using PEDs (about as heartbroken as I was when I read that Sports Illustrated article depicting Kirby Puckett as a wife beater and women-groper).  Finding out that a previously-superhuman athlete is really a fraud is very deflating and discouraging.  I never felt like that about A-Rod (I just want him to go away), but there's a certain part of me that is expecting to feel like that in 2017 when my idol, Iván "Pudge" Rodriguez, is eligible for a Hall of Fame nomination.


While Pudge's turn won't come for another few years, this whole A-Rod thing has me thinking.  When an elite baseball player retires, the question of whether or not he will be elected to enter the Hall of Fame comes up. In the case of Pudge, the answer to that question is a bit complicated. Based on Iván's merits and statistics alone, he's a shoe-in.  He has the most games caught of any catcher, finished his career with almost 3,000 hits, won an MVP award, a World Series MVP award and was arguably the best defensive catcher of all time (go ahead, argue that one with me!).



But then there’s the PED problem (I know, I hate talking about Pudge and his possible use of PEDs!).  As we’ve seen in recent years, players with any PED associations are basically blackballed from Hall of Fame consideration no matter how strong their on-the-field performance was throughout his career.  No Bonds, no McGwire, and no Sosa in the Hall, but yes to Frank Thomas, who was never implicated in any PED scandals despite hitting a ton of home runs.  Basically, if the members of the BBWAA have morals and think you don't, you’re not getting into the Hall of Fame.  As someone who longs to be a member of the BBWAA, I have to agree.  The Hall of Fame is for the elitest of the elite; if you did something dirty that affected your performance, you don't belong in the Hall of Fame.  Like Pete Rose, who did not deserve to be banned from baseball for life but does not deserve to be in the Hall.  Sorry; Rose also wrote a good book, and I like the guy, but betting on baseball while you're an active participant is a no-no.
So where does Pudge Rodriguez fall in the PED-scheme of things?  He was not named in the Mitchell Report or as part of the Biogenesis scandal.  He has not been revealed to be on the famous list of 103 ballplayers who tested positive during baseball’s pilot testing program in 2004 (which was supposed to be anonymous but wasn't).  He has not admitted to any PED use.  So doesn't that make him a first-ballot shoe-in?  Not so fast.  Former teammate José Canseco wrote in his book (one book I actually don't care to read) that he personally injected Iván with steroids (even though we all know that Canseco is a big fat liar).  And when asked if Canseco's statements were true, Iván just said "Only God knows!"  What's THAT supposed to mean?  Hmmm...  Then there's the first team he played for, the Texas Rangers, where he played with known juicers Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro, and A-Rod himself.  Plus, those of us who have paid close attention to Pudge's body over the years (for different reasons!) noticed that he was beefier before the drug testing years and noticeably smaller once testing was implemented in MLB (not that it ever bothered me!).

All of this is circumstantial evidence at best, inadmissible hearsay at worst.  In the world of baseball, any more or less reasonable suspicions that Pudge did, in fact, take PEDs are more than enough to get writers to withhold votes.  So would I vote for Pudge if I was on the BBWAA?  I know some of my posts tend to be shallow and you all know how much I love Pudge, but since I would take my vote as seriously as everyone else, I'm not so sure I would vote yes.  At least not in his first year of eligibility.  Surprised?  I know; I shocked myself as well.  But unless something happens to change the current pattern of Hall of Fame voting or Iván does a better job of denying his use of PEDs, I think he will be on the outside looking in for some time, and I will no longer wish to join the BBWAA.  Sigh!

(I hope my priest reads this so he knows the extent to which I will uphold my morals.  Not even hottie Iván Rodriguez can sway me from trying to be fair and honest!).

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Are you Hall of Fame-Worthy?

Happy new year, my friends!  2013 was a great baseball year for me, since I was able to go to 5 Major League games in 4 different ball parks.  I'm not sure we'll visit that many this year, but Fenway Park is a definite possibility, so I'm excited about that.

With every new year comes the announcement of new inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and this year is no exception.  Over 600 members of the BaseBall Writers Association of America (BBWAA) received ballots this year (unfortunately I wasn't one of them, since they haven't decided to allow me into their exclusive club), and all the votes have been counted.  The winners will be announced next week on January 8, and this year's list of inductees promises to be a good one.

Heading the list of new candidates are pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, as well as first-baseman/designated hitter Frank Thomas and second baseman Jeff Kent.  Maddux and Glavine both get my vote, though I know it doesn't count for anything.  Greg Maddux pitched for 23 seasons with 4 teams, most notably the Atlanta Braves (1995 World Champions).  He had two 20-win seasons (1992-93) a record 17 straight seasons with at least 15 wins (1988-2004), won four consecutive Cy Young Awards (1992-95), and won 18 Gold Glove Awards, which is the most all-time at any position.  Maddux wasn't the most personable guy - he was kind of quiet and serious and very particular about who his catcher was (I didn't like the fact that he never wanted Javy Lopez to be his battery mate), but he was a darn good pitcher, and he deserves to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Tom Glavine, also a pitcher with the 1995 World Champion Atlanta Braves, pitched for 22 season with the Braves and Mets, won the Cy Young Award twice (1991, 1998), and was pretty good with the bat.  Glavine had five 20-game seasons, 14 seasons with 200-plus innings pitched, and six seasons with an earned-run average under 3.00.  Two Braves who played together being enshrined into the Hall of Fame together would just be storybook.  And you know how sentimental I am; I'm all about storybook!

So should anyone else be inducted this year along with Maddux and Glavine?  Nope!  Here are the other names on the ballot, with my reasons why they should be excluded.

Mouses Alou, Armando Benitez, Sean Casey, Ray Durham, Eric Gagne, and Jacque Jones - All first-timers on the ballot, but not of the same super-star caliber as Maddux, Glavine, and others.  Non-nerds are familiar with the Alou name, but ask a casual fan who Armando Benitez is and he may think you're referring to the guy who mows the neighbor's lawn or the successful owner of the local Mexican food restaurant chain.  All of them were good players, but not extraordinary players.

Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio - Both of these guys played their entire careers with the Houston Astros.  Bagwell was Rookie of the Year in 1991 and NL MVP in 1994, and Biggio (who still looks like a teenager) ended his career with over 3,000 hits (3,060, to be exact, which puts him 21st in the all-time hits list).  I used to have the biggest crush on him!  Anyway, both of these guys are Hall of Fame worthy, but not yet.  They should have been picked last year, so they could have been inducted together as Astros and had a Texas-sized celebration in Cooperstown.  They won't be chosen this year either, so they may have to wait until the Veterans Committee selects them in a few years.

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGuire, Rafael Palmeiro, and Sammy Sosa - NO, NO, NO!  Need I say more?

Luis Gonzalez -  "Gonzo" had a few good years, mainly with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  He ranks as the Diamondbacks' all-time leader in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, games played, runs, hits, total bases, doubles, home runs, RBIs, and walks.  I remember him best during the 2001 World Series, when he drove in the winning run in game 7 to lift the Diamondbacks to their first World Series title with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning.  It was very dramatic.  Gonzo should be in the Diamondbacks' Hall of Fame, but that should be it.

Todd Jones, Jeff Kent, and Paul LoDuca - Also first-timers on the ballot.  Jones pitched for way too many teams, Kent was a good hitter but not the best second baseman I've ever seen, and LoDuca was a decent catcher but not the greatest.

Edgar Martinez - Edgar has been on the ballot for 5 years, and while he played all 18 seasons with the Mariners and led the American League in batting several times, he was just not a very popular player outside of Seattle.  He was one of those guys who let his hitting do the talking, because no one ever heard him speak.  Good guy, great player, but he will never be elected by the members of the BBWAA.  That is the sad reality and one of the many reasons why I want to join the BBWAA!

Don Mattingly -  Poor Don has appeared on the ballot for like a hundred years now and he still hasn't made it.  The problem with Don is that he only played for 14 seasons, which is not as many years as other players on the ballot.  He was a very good hitter and first baseman, but he didn't play for the Yankees of the Golden Era of Joe Torre.  He's doing fine as a manager; perhaps he can make the Hall under that category someday.

Fred McGriff -  When did Fred McGriff retire?  I thought he was still playing!

Jack Morris and Alan Trammell - Both former Detroit Tigers have been on the ballot for over 10 years.  That makes me feel old!

Mike Mussina - Won't be selected because there are too many first-time candidates who are pitchers, and they were all better than him.

Hideo Nomo - Rookie of the Year in 1995, struck out a gazillion hitters (reached 500 career strikeouts before anyone else) and pitched two no-hitters. Hall of Fame worthy, but not as a first-time candidate.

Mike Piazza - This twelve-time All-Star and 1993 Rookie of the Year was a hell of a catcher.  If he was voted in this year I wouldn't complain.

Tim Raines - Played in the Majors for 23 years, and therefore should have had way more than 2,605 hits.

Kenny Rogers - Yes, he pitched a perfect game in 1994 for the Texas Rangers (with Iván Rodriguez as his battery mate, of course!).  No, he's not the one who knows how to hold 'em and how to fold 'em.  Yes, he was a hero in the postseason with the Detroit Tigers.  But again, he wasn't as good as some of the other guys on the pitcher-crowded ballot.

Curt Schilling - Oh, poor Schilling!  I love him!  He was part of so many dramatic moments - the Diamondbacks' World Series victory in 2001, his bloody sock with the Red Sox in 2004... I'm rooting for Schilling, hoping he makes it in next year or in the near future (especially since his video game company went bankrupt.  Curt needs some good news!).

Richie Sexson, J.T. Snow, Frank Thomas, and Mike Timlin - YAWN!  None of these guys were interesting to me when they played (except for maybe Thomas, but that was just because he looked good in his White Sox uniform - all big and manly and menacing).

Lee Smith - He's still on the ballot?  I swear he played like fifty years ago!

Larry Walker -He won a ton of Gold Gloves at right field and was the MVP in 1997.  But poor Larry is cursed with having played for crappy teams (until he reached the NLCS with St. Louis in 2004 and 2005).  He's one of those guys whose name will get lost in the shuffle.

So there you have it.  If Maddux and Glavine don't get elected into the Hall of Fame this year, I will change my Facebook profile picture to the Atlanta Braves logo for an entire month.  We'll find out on January 8th!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Freedom of the Press? Not in Frederick!

Hello, my friends!  Sorry  it's been so long since my last post - life was pretty busy with work, out-of-town guests, soccer games, and of course lots of playoffs and World Series-watching.  How about those Red Sox?  While I was rooting for the Cardinals (because I don't usually root for American League teams, plus the Cards had Carlos Beltrán and Yadier Molina in their lineup and José Oquendo coaching third base - all Puerto Rican), it's always nice to see a team win the World Series at home, and besides, how can you resist David Ortiz and his contagious smile?

So we're officially in the off-season, a time when General Managers start wheeling and dealing, free agents are signed, and salary arbitration is a hot topic.  New managers are hired too, as is the case with the Washington Nationals, who are formally announcing Matt Williams as their new manager.  As the Nationals blogger for my local newspaper, I wrote a little ditty about Williams and what I thought of him as a former player.  The post was published in the newspaper's website, but one of my sentences was edited.  Now, I know the newspaper has the right to edit any submission made to their website, but if you've seen the number of typographic and grammatical errors in our local fishwrap, you know the editing is not top-notch.  Besides, they have that legal disclaimer indicating that the views expressed by their bloggers are not necessarily those of the newspaper.  Doesn't that give me the right to say whatever I want (within reason)?  Here's what I wrote, with the removed sentence highlighted:

"Hey Nationals fans!  I hope you all had a safe Halloween – did you all see my son dressed as Jayson Werth?  Anyway, now that the World Series is over, the Washington Nationals can make it official:  Matt Williams has been hired as their new manager.

Williams, 47, becomes the fifth full-time manager in Nationals history. The team made the announcement on Thursday morning, and Williams will meet with the media Friday afternoon during a 2 p.m. press conference that will be televised live on MASN HD.

A five-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger award winner and four-time Gold Glove award recipient at third base, Williams played 17 seasons in the big leagues with the Diamondbacks (1998-03), Indians (1997) and Giants (1987-96).  I remember him most with the Giants, on the same lineup as Kevin Mitchell and Will Clark;  I guess that means I’m getting old!

Williams has spent the last four years on the Diamondbacks' coaching staff, serving one year as first base coach and the last three years as third base coach. This will be Williams' first big league managerial job, so going from legendary manager Davey Johnson, who was around for about 90 years or so, to a rookie manager will take some getting used to.

Williams was chosen over a handful of other candidates, including Randy Knorr, who is expected to return as Nationals bench coach and has been with the organization since 2005, third base coach Trent Jewett, Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus and Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale. My personal candidate, Sandy Alomar, Junior, was not even considered.  But I’ve always suspected that Nationals’ General Manager, Mike Rizzo, doesn’t seem to like Hispanics, so that came as no surprise.  Randy Knorr, however, had the endorsement of several Nationals players including Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, and Tyler Clippard, so I hope they can all adjust to the new guy coming in as opposed to working under a guy who has been there since the team moved here from Montreal.


And wasn’t Matt Williams included in that Mitchell report that listed players who had used performance-enhancing drugs?  I guess that shouldn’t affect your abilities as manager (look at Mark McGuire, who has excelled as the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals despite “mis-remembering” if he took PEDs or not).  So I’m going to be open-minded about Matt Williams – there’s no need to dislike the guy before the season has even started.  I just hope Mike Rizzo does SOMETHING during the winter meetings in December, they don’t re-sign free agents Dan Haren and Chad Tracy, and Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and Adam LaRoche recover nicely from their recent surgeries (Harper had the bursa in his knee repaired and Strasburg and LaRoche had bone chips removed from their elbows)."

 What's wrong with thinking that someone doesn't like Hispanics?  It was my opinion; that's why I said "I suspected."  I didn't go right out and say "Rizzo is a racist" (which I wouldn't say, because I don't know that for a fact); I just gave my opinion based on the fact that the Nationals' coaching staff is comprised of older white guys (since Bo Porter left in 2012) and their roster has always had less Hispanic players than other teams.  Just my opinion; no need to remove it from my blog post!  Besides, I've read blog posts from other Nationals fans and beat writers who have complained that the Nationals lack minority players and coaches, so I'm definitely not the only one out there with that kind of opinion.  

Thanks to all of you for allowing me to express myself in my own blog.  I appreciate everyone's comments and opinions and am glad that Blogger doesn't seem to care what I publish.  I would probably explode if I wasn't allowed to share my feelings with all of you!  Embrace the off-season, have a wonderful holiday season with your loved ones, and remember that Spring Training will be here before you know it!