Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Old Clips and Current Clips on Baseball

Excerpts from the Sports Illustrated edition dated 4/6/09, entitled Baseball Preview. Anything else on the cover, aside from C.C. Sabathia, I am unable to discern.

Clips from Baseball Almanac.

And a personal opinion. (You know about opinions, they're like a bunghole, everybody has one.)

Let us begin where most seasons, advertisement wise, begin. The spring training.
Here is a conversation with Ted Williams's driver, Joe Lindia.

Lindia told a story: In one of Williams's last seasons as a player, the Red Sox trained in Scottsdale, Arizona. Lindia went out to visit. One day, Williams said they should take a ride. They drove to the far edge of the town and went to a seedy motel. Williams directed Lindia to a certain room at the back. Lindia had no idea what was happening. Williams knocked on the door. An old man, looking as seedy as the motel itself, answered. "Joe," Williams said, "say hello to Ty Cobb." (Leigh Montville)

When the Minnesota Twins play on TV, Jake Mauer Sr. draws the shades at his house on Big Goose Lake, 35 miles north of Minneapolis, and settles into a chair 3 feet from his 56" television screen. ('Cause like some of us, he's an umpire at heart. He wants to see the strike zone, not invent it.)

Yer Out!
"Strike Three!" and I jump.
I'm in a big slump.
I'm down in the dump.
Can't get over this hump.

You cross-eyed old ump,
You're as blind as a stump.
Make me look like a chump,
You horse's rump! by Charles Ghingna

(back to Mauer's dad)

Macular degeneration
has robbed Jake of his vision, but by turning his head just so, he can, with his peripheral vision, see his grandson Joe step up to the plate. If Jake sees Joe overstriding or carrying his bat too low, he snaps photos on his digital camera and calls him later, with comments. However, Jake (age 75) adds proudly, he rarely sees flaws; what he sees is "the greatest hitter I ever saw-and I saw Ted Williams." Kelli Anderson

Jack Brett, 58, has a reputation for hardness, but he is almost rapturous when he talks of his second-born, Ken. "He looked like the statue of David when he was growing up," Jack says, "When he was just a little boy, his stomach was so strong that you could see the plates, the muscles. Even when he was five!"

Brett's sons are a major reason why
bumper stickers in El Segundo proclaim the town BASEBALL CITY USA. Jack has fathered four professional ballplayers, two of them major league All-Stars. And one of them is quite likely to wind up with a bronze plaque at Cooperstown. Funny thing, nobody expected it to be George Brett. - John Garrity

You want to fast-forward the calendar so you can see Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime. You want to find out just how great a player he will someday be when he actually gets serious about baseball. Not serious like Will Clark-serious, walking around with an I'm-looking-for-the-cure-for-cancer expression wrinkling his brow. Just, you know, serious. Like, paying attention to who's pitching. Learning the names of some of the opposing players. Little things. Unless, of course, that's the whole secret to the 20-year old Griffey's success: that he doesn't unnecessarily complicate the fundamentally simple concept of hitting the ball with the bat and catching it with the glove. E.M. Swift

A fellow like me is wandering outside of the park, marveling again that the only statue at Wrigley is not of Hack or Tinker or Evers or Chance- Cubs all- but of bloated, grinning announcer Harry Caray, holding out a microphone to an invisible crowd, singing silently in the seventh inning, Let Me hear Ya...the legend on the base reads. A ONE... A TWO.. A THREE. It's perfect, really, just the Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey years ago. Deejay Steve Dahl, who concocted the event and wore a military helmet during the detonation, says now that sox fans and Cubs fans can accept the endless losing because "we're happy just to be outside for a few months." Rick Terlander.

Back to Umpires

"The thing that surprised me most in baseball is the amount of integrity that most umpires have. It actually took me a while to believe what a good game they'd give you the next night after a blow-up." - Earl Weaver

A little ditty appeared on the same screen as the aformentioned Earl Weaver quote. The ditty inspired some thoughts. It is in one of my thoughts that I should go on.

(the ditty begins...) Baseball is a simple game played by nine, managed by one, and kept under control by an umpire. An unattributable quotation summed up the profession nicely with, "It's the only occupation where a man has to be perfect on Opening Day and improve as the season goes on."

(my need to interject) Only if you are, indeed, talking about one (1) umpire. But if you are talking about the group as a whole I think you're giving the umpire too much of the benefit of the doubt.
As far as being perfect, get over yourselves. Is that why you think you can interpret the rules instead of just follow them?

I've got a hankering to go all Richard Pryor on umpires. Especially when I witness an umpire completely blowing a call in person. There is nothing better than seeing it in person. Although, High Def and instant replay are gaining ground.

But, and there is always a but, if they are doing their best to improve each and every game, without the attitude, then I commend them 100%.

On an April night in 1965, the Astros flew from their spring training home in Cocoa, Fla., to Houston, where they based directly to the brand-new Astrodome to drop off equipment. Larry Dierker, an 18-year old rookie, bounded from the clubhouse into the concourse-level seats that night, taking in the multiple miracles before him: the air conditioning, the grass growing indoors (artificial turf was not laid until the following year), the translucent roof (greenhouse by day, planetarium by night)- the whole otherworldly quality of this $32 million marvel on the Texas prairie. "It was," Dierker says, "like walking into the next century." - Steve Rushin

Larry Dierker has and always will be a(n) Houston Astro. From being an 18-year old prodigy and a successful ballplayer, he has always had a job. From announcer to manager to announcer, the Astros just love this guy. His quote about the Astrodome iust may have been the luckiest statement in the history of economy if you consider how much he got- and continues to get -for those words.

(thanks to SI, Baseball Almanac)

Kevin Marquez

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Like it That Way

I like that the Giants came from behind (at AT&T) to beat LA's Dodger's 5-4, on April 27, 2009.
After jumping out of the gates with 3 runs in the first inning and not scoring again until the 8th inning that was some thing to hear over the airwaves ('Giants' baseball on KNBR').

I like that Brian Wilson got a chance to redeem himself and he made the 2 runs they got in the 8th enough to hold of the dreaded Dodgers.

"That guy's good luck," said TV analyst Mike Krukow. As the television camera captured a smiling Barry Bonds sitting with Owner William Neukom, his wife, and high-fiving Larry Baer and his wife.

I liked seeing that. Because the idea of bringing Barry Bonds back into the fold, in any capacity, is a monumental thing. Barry was a damned good San Francisco Giant. Everything he did was for the San Francisco Giants and the organization should never forget that.

When it comes to using any kind of substances that are said to enhance your performance you are always forewarned of the risks involved. Now whether you believe that what it is you are taking is harmful or not you are no doubt advised about the consequences. Barry and his constituents between the foul lines thought the risk was worth the reward.

It cost Ken Caminiti his life, but how far did he take it? Did he ignore the information he was told and choose instead to go to any lengths to become the most super human being he could possibly be? Did he mix these substances with alcohol and or drugs, figuring he was some kind of invincible and it couldn't possibly hurt him? Maybe we don't know all the facts but one thing is sure, some guys who may not be liked by the general public (Bonds and Jose Canseco) knew how to do what it was they were doing. They made sure they had all the facts before implementing these substances, regardless if they were a form of steroid or not. Canseco knew full-well it was steroids and he saw to it that everything he needed to know about these substances was first-hand knowledge before he instructed others on how to handle them. It is Jose Canseco who is the one former player Major League Baseball has to consider as it's top advisor. Jose Canseco is the expert on the subject of performance enhancement drugs.

Some players may not have known what they were sampling was steroids. And the consequences didn't bother them because they would rather play a game between the foul lines than have to listen to some blowhard bark out orders just for the sake of hearing his/her own voice. You know, the mindless tasks some people (in positions of authority) are wont to assign so it looks like they're in-charge.

Barry Bonds is someone the Giants should most definitely consider bringing back into the fold. As an instructor on the art of hitting, are you kidding? He'd be fantastic! And he'd be allowed to re-join Vida Blue, J.T. Snow, Will Clark, his godfather Willie Mays, "Big Stretch" Mc Covey, Orlando Cepeda as a permanent member of the Giants' family. And we all know his TV announcer buddies, Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow would love to have the "Big Guy" in the booth as often as possible.

Kevin Marquez

Friday, April 24, 2009

Why is Roger Snell Trying to Erase Babe Ruth's "Called Shot"?

Snell's book "Root for the Cubs: Charlie Root & the 1929 Cubs" focuses on Root's early life and the 1929 season, when a sore-armed Root lifted the Cubs on his back and took them to the 1929 World Series. One they lost in 5 games to Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics.

According to Snell, Charlie Root pitched 3,198 innings in the 1920s and 1930s, almost all of them for the Chicago Cubs. This was enough to make him the all-time leader of the Cubs in games pitched (605), games won (201) and batters faced (13,266). Enough to throw 166 complete games; and enough to help take the Cubs to the World Series four (4) times in the space of ten years.

But, as Snell puts it, Charlie Root is remembered mostly for one pitch.

Charlie Root threw the pitch from the mound at Wrigley Field on October 1, 1932, in Game 3 of the World Series. It was sent skyward and over the fence by larger-than-life Babe Ruth.

Now Snell says there is no authoritative account that Ruth ever pointed that he would hit the next pitch from Root out of the park. Out of the many sports writers at the game, only Joe Williams of the New York World-Telegram reported that Ruth had pointed to center field, indicating that he was going to hit a homer for the sickly kid in bed. (Uh, excuse me, that was the Lou Gehrig story.) Snell says that report has since been ascribed to hyperbole.

Let's check the definition of hyperbole, shall we. (1) obvious and intentional exaggeration. (2) an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, as "to wait an eternity." So Joe Williams was a prankster? A guy known for his bullstink? Snell does not elaborate on this so I'm like the guy on the ground after a shooting when Dirty Harry walks up to him and gives him the line about how many bullets he shot only to have Harry aim and point at him, after he begged, 'I gots to know!' so Harry pulls the trigger only to hear a click from his gun, proving he had no more bullets. I too 'gots to know' more about Joe Williams.

Before you destroy this fantastic story, Senor Snell, I want to believe IT DID HAPPEN.

William Nack's piece in SI's Baseball Preview issue (dated 4/6/09) is how I like to think of Babe Ruth.

In the midst of these storms, the apolitical Babe minced happily around the bases. Everything he did in those days, from smoking cigars to smoking fastballs, smacked of hyperbole. He ate too much. He drank too much. He womanized to a fare-thee-well. And when he hit yet another of his titanic shots, the reporters covering his games wrote the prose of excess. In journalism this was the age of alliteration. The Babe's homers were described variously as "the wicked wallop" and "soaring socks." Even Ruth caught the alliterative fever. He had three favorite bats in 1927: Black Betsy, the titian-colored Beautiful bella and the ash-blonde Big Bertha.

Sorry Roger Snell (no relation to Pirate lefty Ian Snell) I need more proof. Call me Judge Ito, I'm not convinced. It ain't happening for me, probably because I don't want to believe anything else could be true. I just need more proof.

(thanks to, Roger Snell and SI for the information used in these thoughts)

Kevin Marquez

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

2009 National League Western Division: Which Team Flashes the Leather?

In order of ESPN mag's 4/6/09 issue...

Los Angeles Dodgers. The team that signed Manny when nobody else could be bothered. Manny, wanna hear more about this guy? Sean Casey, the former Red who ended his career in Boston had this to say,"If slumps are between a player's ears, which I think they are, then Manny is slump-proof, because mentally he's always the same."

Dodger batting coach and former New York Yankee, the accomplished Don Mattingly says: "The thing I love more than anything about Manny, and the thing I try to tell our players, is that he puts in the work, he gets himself ready to play, but once the game starts, he actually has fun. When he hits a home run, I swear, on the bench, it's like he's never hit one before in his life. But when he strikes out looking, he's still smiling, coming back to the bench saying, 'He throws me there again, he's asking the ump for a new ball.' Man, the game is hard, but to him, it's still a game. I wish everybody could be like that."

About the Dodger fielders...Orlando Hudson (2B) solidifies the middle infield. But while Kemp is a great athlete, his circuitous routes in center field can lead to misplays-and that's a bigger problem when you factor in a certain leftfielder's occasional defensive indifference.

2) Arizona Diamondbacks During the winter, the team let veterans Adam Dunn, Randy Johnson, Orlando Hudson, Brandon Lyon and Juan Cruz get away. Can Eric Byrnes come back to play the way he did in 2007?
As for their defense, ESPN mag has this to say: Chris Young and Chris Snyder are two of the best at their positions. But losing Hudson, at second base, will hurt. Felipe Lopez and Stephen Drew form one of the game's worst middle infields.

3) San Francisco Giants ESPN mag has this to say: Like the Mets of old, the 2009 Giants have good pitching, a weak lineup and a big home ballpark, all of which gives them a chance to double the 14 games they lost last season when holding foes to three runs or less.

The single-season record for games lost when allowing 3 runs or less is 42, st by the 1968 New York Mets.

The good news? The 1968 Mets became the 1969 Miracle Mets.

As for the defense: Like many converted shortstops, Emmanuel Burriss might prove to be a slick second-baseman. But the outfielders are all mediocre. Best thing about this defense? The rotation which is loaded with strikeout pitchers. (Sigh.)

Colorado Rockies
The Rockies failed to re-sign Matt Holliday, who went to Oakland for Huston Street and a couple of prospects. Holliday's replacement is Seth Smith, the guy who backed up Eli Manning at Mississippi and never took a snap in four years. Smith's assignment figures to be a lot tougher. Glove story: Whatever hitting edge Ryan Spilborghs has over Willy Taveras (now with the Reds) he gives much of it back in centerfield. The rest of the defense is undermined by Brad Hawpe and Garrett Atkins, both of whom should be playing first base.

San Diego Padres ... The 2008 Padres became the first NL team since the 1959 Chicago Cubs to steal the fewest bases (36) while allowing the most swipes (168). Glove story: The Pads are decent in most spots, but age has slowed down Brian Giles, 38, (except, of course, when he plays the San Francisco Giants. As I have not seen a hint of that!) in rightfield. They might be tempted to play 2006 first-rounder Matt Antonelli at second for his bat, but he doesn't hit nearly enough to make up for his awful defense.

With prognostications you have to figure some of what is said will materialize and the rest is purely speculation, even if it is based on facts. Because you cannot ever count on the ball bouncing the same way every time, right?

And so far, the Padres, everybody's doormat going into the season, have proved to be competitive. Defense will win or lose games no matter how much offense a team has because you still have to make 27 outs. And even then you must get those outs without creating opportunities for your opponent.

So, as with all prognostications, we shall see.

(thanks to ESPN the mag for their input)

Kevin Marquez

Friday, April 17, 2009

Yo Sabean, Don't You Guys Do Your Homework?

As the Giants bobble balls hit to them and stumble while running the bases entering Week 2 of the 2009 season, I keep hearing Mike Krukow on KNBR's Wrap (with his fellow announcers: Jon Miller, Duane Kuiper and Dave Fleming) complain about the shortstop play of Edgar Renteria.

Then I happen to stumble across SI's Baseball Preview Issue AND another article in the ESPN magazine entitled Smell the Glove that speaks all about the importance of catching and throwing the ball without error. And while the SI version calls Edgar Renteria a septuagenarian the ESPN article (by Eric Neel) discusses the factors that make up numbers that evaluate a player's defensive capabilities.

Now, before I lay out some more facts, isn't this enough to make you wonder why the Giants didn't go whole hog for Manny Ramirez and to hell with Edgar-he plays like an- "Old Guy?"

In Eric Neel's Smell the Glove he goes on to say: Used to be we would talk about a player's being good or bad with the glove, but we wouldn't get too specific. Now "we" have some very specific formulas that determine each player's defensive contribution. Or, in the case of Bobby Abreu or Adam Dunn, their defensive damage.

By the calculations of John Dewan, author of The Fielding Bible Volume II, Abreu is one of the worst rightfielders in all of baseball. (Forget that Golden Glove he won in 2005. Those awards, voted on by managers and coaches, are often influenced by a player's defensive reputation and even his offensive performance.) Over the past 3 seasons, Abreu has made playes on 29 fewer balls tahn a league-average rightfielder would be expected to make, costing his teams (Phillies and Yankees) 19 runs. Toronto's Alex Rios, the highest ranked at his position, got to 26 more balls than the average rightfielder and saved his squad 49 runs (or nearly 5 wins) during that same span. Dunn, meanwhile, reached 31 fewer balls than an average leftfielder would and cost his teams (Cincinnati, and briefly Arizona) 39 runs.

Their offensive output is so significantly undercut by their defensive deficiencies that the market judged them as one-dimensional major leaguers.

The rise in fielding metrics corresponds to a technology-driven explosion of information about batted balls in play. Companies like Baseball Info Solutions and STATS, Inc., track where a ball is hit, how hard it's hit, who fields it and how (or if) he converts it into an out.

The game is once again evolving. Fielding analytics are becoming an integral part of how contracts are structured and how teams are built. Defense was long considered the undiscovered country of sabermetrics. As these measures become part of baseball's conventional wisdom, defense enters another province.

Then there's SI's Baseball Preview Issue.

For the Detroit Tigers...
Jim Leyland and Adam Everett went like this: "You can field a ground ball, right?" Leyland asked his new shortstop, before issuing a warning: "You know, we can get Luis Aparicio..But he's 74 years old, and it might be tough for him to come back. So you're our guy."

Last year's shortstop, Edgar Renteria,isn't half as old as Hall of Famer Aparicio, but he fielded his position like a septuagenarian. According to the statistical analyst David Pinto, Renteria's lack of range cost Detroit 16 runs, second-worst in the majors. Those same metrics show that Everett was baseball's best fielding shortstop in 2006, the last season he was healthy.

Giant fans, what does this tell you? It tells me they don't do their homework and are so stubborn as to keep the blinders on and get only who they deem feasible and necessary. When the smart move was to go all out for Manny Ramirez, providing Ramirez wanted to play at AT&T, which if he didn't makes this point moot.

(thanks to Eric Neel's excellent ESPN article and SI for focusing in on the details.)

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Umpires Are Women Without the Curvy Shape

How many times did you go out of your way to make your favorite girl feel as good as she could possibly feel and she returned the favor by saying, "Did you think I'd like that?" Or after being with her a while you learn what she likes and doesn't like. You try so hard not to do those little things that bother her and try even harder to remember those little things she adores and she comes back at you, "You've changed. What happened to you?"

The things we do for love. The adjustments we make, changes in tolerance levels for unmistakable behavior and benefits of the doubt given all for the sake of love. Love makes us do unbelievably silly things. Things we wouldn't do at any other time in our lives all

Major league umpires
have a way of interpreting the rules that doesn't compute with what is written in black and white in the rule book. Like females, umpires have an uncanny ability to put a spin on things and leave reason out as a way to further frustrate the person or people involved.

An umpire will take it upon himself to make a ruling even if there's the slightest hint of doubt all for the sake of showing everyone that he knows what he's doing. When if he asked for help he'd be showing everyone the most important thing, which is he wanted to get the call correct.

On check-swings, it's imperative the umpire check with the first or third base umpire to assure the batter did or did not swing. For the home plate umpire to ignore any assistance is stubborn and simply put, unacceptable.

Now with the implementation of instant replays, the umpire should go to the video EVERY CHANCE HE GETS to show the fans and players that his number one priority is to get the call right. The umpires need to leave their egos at the door, the one they came through before they put their uniforms on.

Those of us who love baseball have had to tolerate the incompetence of these attitudes-in-need-of-adjustment, also known as umpires, for some time now. And if the fan can overlook this type of unmistakable behavior for the sake of a game they cannot do without, well, the players should be damned glad the game has that hold on us.

I'd say the same for the women in our lives, but I'm sure they're thinking it's us men who are lucky. With some things you just can't win, so you take the next best thing.

Kevin Marquez

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's ALREADY Time to Take a Break from YOUR San Francisco Giants

I saw an article in the Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview edition (4/6/09) about a new baseball movie that should interest the Gigante fans.

A well-written piece by Melissa Segura describes what goes on into making a film of care and dedication. Sure, all the movies had a modicum of the aforementioned but did they really care when you think of all the kooky, corny, cheesy stuff that was NOT allowed to hit the cutting room floor?

Segura reminds us...Hispanic characters such as Pedro Cerrano, the Jobu-worshipping slugger in Major League, are usually there purely for comic relief. That changes with Sugar, a film that poignantly explores the loneliness, cultural disconnection and cut-throat competition experienced by a Latino prospect thrown into the cornfields of Iowa on his first minor league stop.

Segura continues... Apart from its masterly storytelling, the film's greatest strength is its authenticity, much of which comes from Algenis Perez Soto. He plays Miguel (Sugar) Santos, a Dominican pitcher who, armed with a biting knuckle curve, is trying to pull his family out of poverty. The 25-year-old Perez Soto was a shortstop in San Pedro de Macoris (where else?). He gave up his big league ambition but continued to play pickup baseball and softball, which is how film-makers spotted him and asked him to audition.

The movie was written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who cowrote the stark, critically acclaimed 2006 drama Half Nelson (which Fleck directed).

If you like baseball flicks, this sounds like something that'll tug on the heartstrings enough to appreciate and probably make you smile.

(thanks to SI's Melissa Segura for this heads-up!)

Kevin Marquez

Monday, April 13, 2009

You Have to Help Yourself and Your Teammates

Okay, it may be time, for those who don't know any better or are just fickle fans, to think last season (for Tim Lincecum) was a fluke.

Unfortunately, in baseball, it is the pitcher who gets charged with the loss even though-more often than not- it's a (teammate) position player's inability to make a play (defensively) that really caused the defeat.

On Sunday, April 12, 2009, Giant left-fielder, Fred Lewis' inability to catch a duck fart/snort and later misjudged a liner that went over his head by less than the length of his glove-hand had he extended it fully.

You always here about how a pitcher can help himself. How he fields his position and how he executes sacrifices or comes through with a base hit with runners on base. Tim Lincecum came up with runners in scoring position and took a called third strike right down Broadway.

fans are aware that there is very little margin for error since their lineup has not yet established itself. If they get runners in scoring position with less than 2 outs or even WITH 2 outs they have to find a way to get 'er done!

The series in San Diego was painful.

Painful because the sportstalk radio hosts will be Mannying-up, now that the Giants aren't scoring any runs. The painfully obvious will be revealed until the Giants catch and hit the damned ball on a more consistent basis than what was shown vs. the Padres.

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Here We Go Again

Before I bark at Bruce Bochy let me flashback to a little This Day in Baseball, April 8th.

1969: The Montreal Expos played their first regular-season game- the first international contest in major league history- and defeated the New York Mets, 11-10 at Shea Stadium. (The Mets would go on to win it all, this was the year of the Miracle Mets.) Expos pitcher, Dan McGinn hit the expansion team's first home run. (McGinn was a punter for Notre Dame University the year before, so you know he was quite the athlete.)

1975: Frank Robinson became the first black manager in major league history by making his debut as player-manager of the Cleveland Indians. He hit a home run in his first at-bat, as a designated hitter, to help beat those damned New York Yankees.

1987: Pitchers Phil Niekro and Steve Carlton of the Cleveland Indians teamed up to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 14-3. Niekro recorded his 312th victory and Carlton pitched 4 scoreless innings in relief. It was the first time in modern history that two 300-game winners pitched for the same team in the same game.

Now to Bruce Bochy...

Since Bruce Bochy took over the helm for the orange and black, what the heck is going on when the Giants' pitchers face opposing pitchers?

They lead the league in offering up tasty morsels to their foes on the hill. And this year has picked up right where they left off last year. On Opening Day, Jeff Suppan laced a double down the left-field line for an RBI.

Last Night, Opening Night, Milwaukee's pitcher, Yovani Gallardo waved his magic wandy and a ball sailed into the night, inside the foul pole, for a round-tripper by the opposing pitcher.

Two (2) games, two pitches with significant contributions. Que Pasa Bochy? What happens to the Giant's pitchers when the opposing pitcher steps into the batter's box? Because ever since Bruce Bochy has been manager it's been happening all too much.

(thanks to the Fresno Bee for This Day in Baseball)

Kevin Marquez

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

We All Have Our Own Opinions

In the March30, 2009 edition of Sporting News magazine, Ken Burns has his say baseball history.

And like barroom chatter, the article just makes me want to throw in my own opinions on Burns' offerings.

Burns goes on to say...History will remember this as it remembers every era. After all, there's no asterisk next to the Cincinnati Reds. They won the 1919 World Series, but we know it was thrown by the Chicago White Sox. There's no asterisk next to Babe Ruth, even though he didn't have to bat against Satchel Paige, play at night, fly to the West Coast or deal with the kind of media scrutiny the players do now.

Right away I'm thinking, about the travel, some players nowadays probably couldn't handle the rails and or bus trips. The accommodations may not have been top notch depending on the type of frugality displayed by the team's owner.

Media scrutiny? Most of today's players are always speaking in the first person. They are too self-absorbed to be bothered by any of the media attention because whatever angle the media comes at the players they (the player) will think of it as propaganda aimed only to shoot them down. Neither party is facing facts and accepting that they are responsible to their crafts.

The media is all about digging up as much dirt as possible and the player about making as much cheddar/cash as possible. Some players are good at saying what they think is the right thing to say. Unfortunately, the true media hogs who long to play in New York (so they can see themselves
everywhere) find out how tough it can be when their skills deteriorate. And since substances- to enhance their performance- are no longer accepted in the big leagues, these players will have wished they toned their act down.

Which brings me to Babe Ruth. Ruth had no say as to who he played against. He only played. That argument works the same way with the Negro stars. Who's to say if they competed against players closer to their ability that some would have been lost in the shuffle while others may have shined. Some players rise to the occasion while others who may not have been good enough made the team because the team needed a set number of players to fill-out its roster.

In Ruth's day, it was all about the owners being shysters. And although no one has come up with evidence proving the players' of Ruth's era used some performance enhancer it was the prejudice of owners and the Commissioner that
limited a league that could have been better had the best been allowed to play regardless of skin color.

Doubt about the "legitimacy" of the Major Leagues and the questionable Negro League numbers is something I'd like more information on. I wonder, as any baseball fan must, just how accurate the Negro League numbers would have been, had those players (worthy of being in the Big Leagues) been allowed to play. And if so fortunate to play, in a league that kept track of such things, would the numbers have seemed so unattainable?

We will never know but we do have the ability to check the history as we deem necessary (if such a thing piques our interest). I know I'll always leave that light on.

The 2009 baseball season has begun. Enjoy!

(thanks to Ken Burns for the inspiration of my opinion)

Kevin Marquez

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hammerin' Hank Aaron in Recent interview with TSN's Steve Greenberg

The Sporting News' Steve Greenberg interviewed Hall of Famer, #44, Hammerin' Hank Aaron.
We will get to that in a moment, after I look up trivia regarding the Oh Henry candy bar.

I looked up the history of the Oh Henry candy bar and got a couple of nuggets I'd like to share with you. Because I thought the bar was like Baby Ruth for George Herman Ruth and Oh Henry
was for Hammerin' Hank, Henry Aaron, the Hall of Fame hitting machine.

There was a promotional effort in the 1970s to re-introduce the candy bar among consumers in honor of the Milwaukee/Atlanta Brave Hall of Famer, Henry "Hank" Aaron.

Henry Rodriguez, a former Montreal Expo and Chicago Cubs outfielder who on May 23, 1995 was traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Montreal Expos for Roberto Kelly (now a Giants' 1st base coach.) In 1996, as an Expo he belted 36HRs and in 1998, as a Cub he hit 31 more homers. This Oh Henry struck out way more than times walked. He fanned 803 times and walked 276. Anyway, Rodriguez, Henry had an honor bestowed upon him whenever he hit a "big fly." The fans would toss Oh Henry bars onto the field (I guess Canadians like that sort of thing, what with the hat trick in hockey) and it carried over to the Wrigley Field crowd when Henry Rodriguez was a Cub. (I recall going to a day game at the 'Stick. A bee-yoo-tee ful day and Ole Henry belted a couple of homers at Candlestick Park and all he got then was the dove clap by two fans who also began the booing for the pitcher. The pitcher? Kirk Rueter. Woody got booed. I expected the wind to gust but instead the temperature rose and the wind stayed away.)

Steve Greenberg's interview, in the March 16, 2009 Sporting News magazine...
Who's the best player in the game today? The player I think I like the best is the kid over at second base for Philly- (Chase) Utley. I love him. He's always got things under control. He's a throwback.

A whole lot of people-maybe most people-say Willie Mays was the best player of your era. Should he come before you in the pecking order? I don't know. He was flamboyant in what he did.

You are first all-time in RBIs, extra-base hits and total bases; third in hits; fourth in runs scored. You were named to 24 All-Star teams. No one else has numbers like yours. I was not flashy. If you saw me Monday, I might go out and hit three base hits, a home run. Tuesday I might have two base hits, a home run. I did it on a more consistent basis than anybody else. But other than that, I didn't try to catch the ball down below my waist. Willie was very flamboyant. He did a lot of things that people would pay to come see.

Would you have been tempted by steroids? Can you imagine it? I don't know. I probably would've had as much temptation as anybody else. I'm not exempted from that. I probably would have been tempted to do it. The reason for that is a lot of dollar bills. A lot of money was floating out there. You have to remember that if a young kid was coming up in that era, and he's sitting over in the corner and looking over at Barry's chiseled physique, with muscles like Popeye's, he's going to say, "Hey, what do I have to do to start looking like that? Start hitting home runs? Start pitching like somebody else?"

The last quote by Hammerin' Hank says it all. And those with the privilege of voting for who gets into the baseball Hall of Fame should know this. Live it and breathe it, because if a player of Hank Aaron's stature says he wasn't exempted from it, isn't that good enough to reconsider that the player was only trying to do the best he could do to help his teammates win and play the game the way he thought it should be played. To do his best, regardless of the extenuating circumstances.

Listen to Hank, you privileged few who vote. It's not about your personal feelings. Never was. Vote for those who changed the game. Those who added to the game something that before them was only an imaginary field of dreams.

(thanks to Steve Greenberg for asking Hammerin' Hank the questions that pertain to today's game.)

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Some Old and Some New

Kevin Frandsen didn't show Bruce Bochy, or his coaches, enough to warrant making the Opening Day roster. But with a 162-game schedule the end is not near. Frandsen will start the year in Fresno, with the Triple A affiliate. Some way, somehow he'll be back.

The Giants will start the season with only 2 catchers. Bengie Molina and Pablo Sandoval as his backup.

I see former Giants' manager, Herman Franks, passed away at 95.

I remember he was the manager of my beloved Giants when I first took to following baseball. With Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal it was rather easy to like this team. Maybe Herman didn't roll the dice as much as he should have or just figured he had all these Hall-of-Famers, it might be best to just let 'em play, the Giants always seemed to finish the season in second place. In every season as a Giants' manager from 1965 thru 1968 they finished 2nd.

This was back before playoffs, which they most assuredly would have made. But back then, the team who ended the season in first place in one league played the first place finisher in the other league for the World Series.

That's the thing about determining who was the best, especially in clutch situations. The game is different today with all the opportunities teams have to make the playoffs (and that includes the NBA and NFL).

In today's brand of baseball there are two stages of playoff games before the World Series. You have the division series and then the championship series. The Division series is a best of 5 (3 games takes it) and the Championship series is best of 7 (4 games decides it.) Then the World Series is another best of 7. So you can see where some teams may play the maximum of games and get several at-bats.

The Championship series began in 1969.
The Division series began in 1981 and resumed after the strike infested 1994 season.

So before then there were many great ballplayers who never had the opportunity to display their gifts in postseason. Players like Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson and Ernie Banks shined in the regular season but didn't have the benefit of the wildcard.

Back to Herman Franks. I remember all the stories told about him and since everyone pretty much had the same thing to say about the guy you had to believe nobody exaggerated. He reminded me of the actor who played the Otis Campbell character on the Andy Griffith show that starred Andy Griffith, of course, and Don Knotts.

That's not to say Franks was the town drunk but he certainly was a character.

In another day and time he may have had more to show for what he did as a manager. Unfortunately, for Herman Franks, that's a never-ending line shared with many other players and managers who played during his time, before and after.