Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thick as a Brick

After the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to win the 2013 World Series, making it a total of three World Series championships in ten years (2003, 2007, and 2013) I couldn’t help but think about Bobby Valentine, the Red Sox manager for the nightmarish 2012 season.
My memories of Bobby Valentine have former manager of the Dodgers, Tom Lasorda, bragging about the young infielder. In fact, Valentine was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1st round (overall 5th pick) of the 1968 amateur draft. Coincidentally, it was Ted Sizemore, another infielder in the Dodger system, who captured the 1969 Rookie of the Year award.
(Since the inclusion of African-Americans into the game of baseball the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers have been a factory of players who won the Rookie of the Year award. In 1947, Jackie Robinson won it, 1949- Don Newcombe, 1952- Joe Black, and 1953- Jim Gilliam. From the years 1947-1953 all of the Rookies of the Year were African-American with the exception of Alvin Dark in 1948.
Once again in the early 1980s the Dodgers had a hold on the Rookie of the Year award with Rick Sutcliffe winning in 1979, Steve Howe in 1980, Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 and Steve Sax winning in 1982. It was either a Dodger or an Oakland Athletic that captured the Rookie of the Year honors. You can look it up!)
Then I recall Bobby V going to Japan to manage and for all accounts had an experience that elevated his stature as a manager. The charismatic former infielder and Texas Ranger manager must have looked good to the Red Sox brass as they extended their laurel and hearty welcome.
Did I mention that Bobby V is Ralph Branca’s son-in-law? Ralph Branca served up Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World.” How thick of a skin do you think this guy has? But to be sure, both Bobby V and Ralph Branca are thick as a brick to think Valentine was improperly ousted by the Boston Red Sox.
I don’t know how ‘Bobby V got screwed’ when it seems like he called out people he could have kept behind closed doors and he made visible things you just don’t do if you are in position of authority, which a manager is for a baseball team. Discretion was not a glimmer of Bobby V’s method in handling a ball club that had talent with an assortment of attitudes that needed attention.
Valentine’s smug mannerisms throughout the 2010 season certainly rubbed me the wrong way I can only imagine how Sox fans felt. I had a hard time believing this guy, Bobby V, was being sincere. I saw a man filled with disdain who was frequently pointing the finger of blame.

Fitting Jethro Tull lyrics to "Thick as a Brick,"
in regards to Bobby V and his father-in-law.

Your bread and water’s going cold.
Your hair is too short and neat.
Ill judge you all and make damn sure that no-one judges me.

You curl your toes in fun as you smile at everyone -- you meet the stares.
You’re unaware that your doings aren't done.
And you laugh most ruthlessly as you tell us what not to be.
But how are we supposed to see where we should run?
I see you shuffle in the courtroom with
your rings upon your fingers and
your downy little sidies and
your silver-buckle shoes.
Playing at the hard case, you follow the example of the comic-paper idol
who lets you bend the rules.

Take the child from him
Put it to the test
Teach it
to be a wise man
How to fool the rest.

Of course
so you ride yourselves over the fields and
you make all your animal deals and
your wise men don't know how it feels to be thick as a brick.

Kevin J. Marquez

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Eyes Wide Shut is No Bueno Behind the Plate

Every article about every stellar pitching performance begins with the type of command the pitcher had, the sheer dominance. And I suppose, during the inception of what we now know to be baseball, when the game was getting its bearings straight(as to the best rules to make for the fairest competition) there may have been any number of things that aided and abetted a pitcher's sway. Some of which were most certainly not fair to the hitter but they were within the realm of the rules.

Back then and even moreso now I think how a home plate umpire fixes his strike zone throughout the game is paramount to the ultimate decision-making plays that take place in any outstanding pitching performance. Somehow, though, baseball wants the umpire to blend in with the background of the game. Which harkens back to the tired notion "if you don't notice him, he did a good job," which is every bit as belittling as telling a youngster, "Children should be seen and not heard!"

I just think that when you tune into a ballgame (on the telly) with all of the information the screen provides: name of teams, inning, score, number of outs,runner(s)on and the bases they occupy... why isn't the name of the home plate umpire there for ALL TO SEE? Isn't the home plate umpire a vital part of each and every baseball game? Let us once and for all recognize this person's significance. It may be the kick in the pants these guys need to take the initiative to improve their skills (abilities of determining what is or is not a strike) to a higher level than the mediocrity they are currently displaying a majority of the time.

Thank you and enjoy the games.

Kevin J. Marquez

Monday, August 26, 2013

One Fond Hope

Let's get this out of the way right up front -- this has been a disaster of a baseball season. It's bad enough that here it is the last week of August and the Giants are languishing in last place in the NL West -- one season removed from winning yet another delicious, thrilling World Series championship in 2012. For weeks we have known that there will be no Giants World Champions repeat in 2013.

But what has made the disaster far worse has been watching week in and week out as the hateful Dodgers climbed up from inside a little hole at the lowest point of the cellar (30-42) in mid May all the way up to first by going FORTY TWO AND EIGHT over the past three months. 42 wins and 8 losses. Ridiculous. That really has been just about the most horrible thing one could ever have imagined. And as a result, like the rising whine of a swarm of approaching locusts, we were treated to the spectacle of legions of fair-weather Dodger fans suddenly jumping on the winning blue bandwagon -- fans who were barely paying any attention in May or who were contemplating various ways to kill Don Mattingly and/or looking to score some coveted Angels tickets.

So as we close out August I know even some of us diehards here in the 415 are starting to eye the 49ers schedule with impatience. But me, well, I still have one fond hope for this baseball season. And this is the part where I share that not so secret hope with others.

Let's start with the Giants. The non rational part of my brain imagines the Giants suddenly catching fire and closing out the season on a terrific run of winning baseball. A winning streak like we haven't seen all season. If The Giants managed to go, say, 23-9 over their last 32 games, they would finish the season dead even at 81-81. It's been that kind of season where it would take a remarkable run like that just to claw up to .500. Finishing there would also have the salutary effect of having us finish in the middle of the pack -- most likely in 3rd place. SO much better than the cellar. Yeah yeah, I know all too well a .500 finish for the Giants isn't likely. Please see the the title of this post. But finishing someplace other than last IS certainly possible. But this post isn't about the merely probable or attainable, I am aiming higher -- I'm rooting like hell for .500! Let's go!

And the Giants fighting their way up to .500 is not even the most important part of the fond hope. And I think you all know where I am going with this. I mean, come on, the Dodgers' sustained winning streak was absolutely one of the most unlikely things I have ever seen. I don't think any of us have ever seen a team stay THAT ridiculously hot for THAT long -- certainly not a team that was on pace to lose 95 games. I don't know if the Dodger turnaround set some kind of record -- but it's got to be close. They damn near broke the all time road winning streak number (held by the New York Giants).

So what happened? Well, MAYYYBEE the Dodgers really were that good during all that losing in April & May and were playing way way below their potential. [Hard to believe that though as for the most part they featured the same lineup that was so very lackluster over the latter half of 2012.] Or maybe somebody at Dodgers HQ made a deal with the Devil/Lola a la "Damn Yankees." Or maybe Mr. Puig really is that good and the addition of ONE player turned their whole team rightside up.

But I think it's much more likely that while Puig energized them and the Dodgers have played better they also have had everything fall their way. And some reversion to the mean is coming.

Now to be completely honest, I have been expecting a Dodgers slump since sometime in June. And though Mr. Pythagoras agrees with me -- he's a temperamental old cuss and he's been giving us all the finger for the past couple of months. Will he finally come around? Well this past week, finally, FINALLY we saw perhaps the beginning of a reversal. The Dodgers had been winning at an .840 clip (the eye popping 42-8 record I mentioned earlier.) However, this week, the Dodgers went just 4-3, a much more terrestrial .571 record. They lost consecutive games & lost a *series* for the first time since May.

Yes, I realize that it would take a collapse of BIG proportions for the Dodgers not to win the NL West this year. Having said that, LA has to play the Snakes 4 more times this season -- in Phoenix -- and the Giants get 7 more cracks at them (3 at home, 4 in LA). That's 11 games against teams that really, REALLLY want to Beat LA. And if the losses start happening more frequently, the doubts start creeping in... well we have seen teams collapse horribly before. And there will be no Wild Card from the NL West, so if the Dodgers don't win the division, they'd be out of the post season altogether, even after their historic hot streak. NOW WOULDN'T THAT BE A GREAT WAY TO END THE 2012 SEASON? Why yes it would.

Here are the numbers -- 1.) Dodgers lose ~ two out of every three games the rest of the way... Let's make it 9-23 over the last five weeks. LA would end up with an 85-77 record, which will put them in second place, provided that 2.) Arizona finishes 20-13 the rest of the way, giving them an 86-76 record. (The Snakes finishing close to that mark is probably the least unlikely thing in this entire post.) And for fun 3.) the Giants have gone on a 23-9 tear to finish at 81-81 to end the hangover season.

Of course, more losing by LA or more winning by AZ takes the pressure off the other part of the formula. Complicating matters is that LA has 2 series apiece (home/away) against the mediocre Rockies and Padres. (Hey, nobody said this was gonna be easy.)

On the other hand, in addition to the 11 games against AZ and the Giants, LA does have to play three on the road against the Reds, who are fighting for their lives in the Central and who are very tough in their building.

Another factor in all of this is that The Dodgers feature several players who were part of the historic 2011 collapse of the Boston Red Sox: Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett (DL) & Nick Punto. Who's to say they can't bring a little of that Epic Fail mojo to the LA stretch drive? And don't underestimate the effect our sleeper agent Brian Wilson will have on LA's fortunes. Things are not always what they seem, my friends. The Beard may be down there on a covert mission. Shhhhh.

So that's it -- my Fond Hope for the end of the 2013 baseball season is that the stars re-align such that the hateful Dodgers are denied the post season. It's a stretch, but it could happen. And it delights my black and orange baseball heart tremendously to imagine all the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Southland if that should happen. Mmmm, those salty tears would taste so so good. Yes, friends, Schadenfreude is a real and powerful thing.

It's true that a big rounded scoopful of Schadenfreude at the Dodgers' expense is certainly not as satisfying as another World Series title for the Giants. But on the other hand, it would be pretty damn satisfying. And as a finale to this weird regular season, I would certainly take it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Back of the Baseball Card

A common phrase repeated in baseball circles is how one needs only to look at a player's baseball card to see the type of ballplayer that particular individual was when performing on the diamond. This applies to Tim Lincecum. The Giants' brass knows this and may refer to the back of #55's baseball card when it comes time to negotiate a contract to keep the beloved hurler in the city by the bay.

I think baseball cards are fascinating because, as a boy trying to learn something about a game that arrested my interests from any outlet of recreational activities outside my home, this was the beginning to discovering facts about those who played the game well enough to make the big leagues.

I remember how the 1960s had shortstops who were there because of their ability to field the position as nobody ever hit double-digit home runs. And if there was such a player he would be recognized around the league as someone who was changing the game. Every kid would want to get a bat with his name on it because chances are he wasn't as proficient fielding as he was hitting if this shortstop was knocking 10-20 homers in the big leagues.

Shortstops like: Don Kessinger, Bud Harrelson, Bobby Wine, Maury Wills, Hal Lanier, Enzo Hernandez, Gene Alley, Dal Maxvill or Terry Harmon were all punch and judy hitters with respectable gloves. Then in 1969, another shortstop not known for his slugging prowess belts 22 home runs. That player was Campy Campaneris, the former Kansas City-Oakland Athletic. Remember him and that ridiculous nickname Monte Moore attached to him. "Beep, beep, the Roadrunner!" Moore would say again and again. What happened that year?

Then you look around the league and in Boston there was shortstop by the name of Rico Petrocelli who blasted 40 homers that season. He usually hit around 15 homers a year so 40 was a freakish display of power. Was something happening that would change the game forever? Probably not for another 20 years or so (wink, wink) would suspicions ring doubt into the minds of baseball fanatics.

But you could see a trend happening simply by looking on the back of someone's baseball card and noticing how a player would hit 1, 3, 4, 2, or 5 home runs and then all of a sudden 22. (Golly gee Wally, did they eat cans of spinach like Popeye?) Just the sort of thing that captured this boy's imagination into the world of baseball.

It's what got me hooked for life.

Kevin Marquez

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What was Mark Twain's quote about the San Francisco Weather?

"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." - Mark Twain

Does that sound familiar, Giants' fans?

All the years in Candlestick where the "routine" pop fly was out of a Steven King novel and it tormented anyone who dared to put on the cream colors with orange and black trim.

Back when the Giants called Candlestick Park their home nobody wanted to play for the San Francisco Giants. Oh, they knew that the game was a business and if some team needed a player on the Giants' roster and your name was asked about, as possible trade bait, then you had to suck it up and play for the Giants at their dreaded home ballfield at Candlestick point.

In interviews with former Giants you hear all the right things being said but they all, tongue in cheek, have some sort of comment or body language that tells you exactly how treacherous playing in San Francisco was. (We, as humans, have a tendency to laugh at things that may have been uncomfortable or was perhaps stressful at an earlier time in our lives.)

Baseball is a humbling game. It's tough enough to play 162-games a year. Now throw in the element of unforgiving, unexplainable, inclement weather and you- as a ballplayer- can't find a glove big enough or apply plenty of stick 'em to the piece of leather you have come to play defense with as long as you played baseball.

It's unfortunate really because the fans love their Giants. Always have. And the one unexplainable reason why Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Jim Ray Hart, Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, Jack Clark, and Will Clark never won a World Series championship comes down to the unpredictable winds that blow in the City by the Bay.

In this 2013 baseball campaign the Giants have been witness recently to seeing very reputable defensive players befuddled by the interesting route balls took with the help of Mother Nature. And it dawned on me when Gregor Blanco trapped the opening batter's fly ball (in Tim Lincecum's game after his no-hitter) that it was the damned wind that kept the Giants from attaining more glory in America's pastime.

Kevin J. Marquez

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

This 2013 campaign is like a two-headed Greek Mythology called Clay-Bro Ker-yoyo!

Left-hander Clayton Kershaw and Right-hander Bronson Arroyo have an ownage over the San Francisco Giants like nothing I have ever seen or heard of before this season. It's the most unlikely, unbelievable, Greek Mythology type of episode that keeps playing out as a painstakingly haunting tragedy with absolutely no moral decency whatsoever.

Children raised to be Giants' fans have to be looking at this two-headed monster in horrifying disbelief. What a way to break into the great game of baseball having the likes of Arroyo and Kershaw dominating in the one-sided fashion that they have been accustomed to (when facing those dressed in orange and black colored uniforms).

This two-headed monster has nowhere near the same effect over other major league teams. That's not to say they don't fare well when facing other teams because they have made very good careers in major league baseball. Unfortunately, they don't dominate like they do when facing their favorite team of prey, the San Francisco Giants. The San Francisco nine are a mere target for the two-headed monster to try new things out on, before facing tougher more formidable foes.

When I listen to a game broadcasted between the Arroyo-Reds or the Kershaw-Dodgers it's really sickening. I get the feeling the real Giants' players were replaced by clones who were made to look and dress like ballplayers but are incapable of producing anything remotely positive in the way of run support for their unfortunate, un-armed, and underdog pitcher.

This season has revealed how the World Games was just too many innings for the professional ballplayer to endure, a Panda who knew he had one more year on his contract in which to get into playing shape and this two-headed monster that shall forever rule the orange and black must be destroyed before children have no other choice but to change their alliance to the team their parents had hoped they would follow.

It is up to the general manager and his collective group of scouts to come up with a solution to overthrow the great two-headed beast. When such a force effects the allegiance of our youth it is time for something super to override this impending e-vil.

Something has to be done to de-throne this 21st century version of DaVinci's sketch of an allegory of Pleasure and Pain as a two-headed man, known as: Clay-Bro Ker-yoyo!

Kevin J. Marquez

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why isn't Richie "Dick" Allen in Cooperstown (the Hall of Fame)?


Richie “Dick” Allen was one of the finest yet most controversial players ever to wear a Philadelphia uniform. When you have antagonistic scribes and contentious, ignorant fanatics that root, root, root for the home team, could it be any other way?

According to an article dated 4/29/09, by Cody Swartz, Allen had a world of talent but didn’t produce as he could have. Much of the blame goes to Allen and not enough to his teammates, managers, fans and the media.
Allen was left alone to struggle with racism while in Little Rock, Arkansas playing in the minor leagues without being assigned a father-figure, mentor type who could provide him personal support (segregation was in full bloom during this time in the United States. It would have been good if he had a support system, not only for his peace of mind and well-being but also to have someone else witness that such behavior was alive and well and in need of attention in the United States of America.)

It had become fashionable to say that Richie “Dick” Allen was a victim of the racism of his time. Nicholas Zettle, whose article “Revisiting Dick Allen” says that the Phillies were callous to send Allen to Little Rock, in 1963, with no support network and that the press often treated Allen differently than had it been a white player who did similar things.

Allen was a second generation of integration. There was a struggle with understanding a person’s culture when you have writers who harbored a bias and prejudice that didn’t allow their readers the option of freedom of choice to interpret things as they may have been versus how they were instructed to understand the situation as explained by an opinionated writer.

The writer brings up an excellent point when he writes: We tend to uphold the glory of the careers of the best black major league baseball players of this era, while placing less of an emphasis on the daily struggles they faced while doing their jobs…That by doing so it may have suggested to Americans, in general, major league baseball’s integration processes were completed.

Yielding headlines to sell papers? Inaccuracies are what the writers wanted the fans to believe because that is what they believed. They chose to stereotype rather than investigate and discover the truth. Blacks were not given a platform to express themselves. Due to an unmitigated gall that must have given the writers some sort of entitlement to speak for others (through the dense fog of prejudice) about a race yet to be explained and most assuredly misunderstood.

The short-sightedness and confabulation of the facts distorts the possibility of most people’s comprehension when reading this drivel and having the cognitive ability of piecing together something not before surmised therefore encouraging a new way of seeing how poorly a race had been treated. In other words, this was a clear case of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

Philadelphia was the last National League team to integrate blacks onto their roster (1957). During Allen’s time there (1963-69) the trades made by the Phillies usually involved sending blacks to teams for aging veterans whose best days were almost entirely behind them. Many of the young players who had been mentored by Allen so by trading them for players past their prime was yet another way of making Allen feel like his time with the organization was not as important as other players on the roster.
Here he had a chance to share his experiences with those in hopes they would not have to endure what he himself did and the organization interrupted that bond by dealing those players away. There was a reason why Philadelphia was one of the last teams to integrate and it was unfortunate for those players to have to live through the growing pains of uneducated, ignorant, narrow-minded, short-sighted individuals in positions of authority within the front office of this National League baseball team.

Tim Whitaker notes that throughout almost this entire ordeal, Allen’s race was kept quiet in the newspapers, and Allen played beneath a bizarre cover in which his struggles could not be openly admitted. (This is very accurate. I recall when I first tuned my transistor radio to KSFO 560AM, to follow the San Francisco Giants, whenever a player was called up from their AAA farm club there was never any mention where the player was from or his ethnicity when that player was African-American.)

Richie Allen didn’t always know how to handle the structure of major league baseball; he didn’t always know who his real friends or enemies were; he did pull a number of staggering stunts to force his way out of Philadelphia in an era in which baseball players had no choice as to their employers.

Clay Dalrymple, a catcher for the Phillies during Richie Allen’s first few years in the big leagues said the Philadelphia Daily News was the biggest instigator. Kashatus wrote: Whether or not they consciously stirred controversy, the Philadelphia Daily News was personally responsible for the negative attitude and behavior of the fans after 1964. The writers’ emphasis on racial division within the Phillies clubhouse became a self-fulfilling prophecy by 1968, as Allen’s rebellious behavior to force a trade fragmented the team.
Couldn’t anyone within the organization understand why Allen resorted to such behavior? When confronted with the various racial encounters didn’t someone come to the realization that the racial segregation was very much in existence and was a significant factor in Richie/Dick Allen’s retaliatory actions? Imagine the outcome had someone or more than one person stepped up on behalf of Mr. Allen?

In 1967, he severed the ulna nerve in his right wrist pushing his car up a hill during a storm. Allen’s wrist would require 5 hours of surgery and the doctors game him a 50-50 chance of ever playing ball again. He courageously returned even though false rumors leaked out that his hand was hurt during a bar fight. He received hate mail and his children were harassed in school. Why? Because a black man couldn’t possibly get hurt doing something as civilized or urbane as pushing a non-functioning car in foul weather. How did the Phillies support their superstar ballplayer?
Is it any wonder that Allen came up with the quote, “I can play third, outfield, first-base, anywhere but in Philadelphia!” Or when the time came that he was traded for Curt Flood, to St. Louis, that the trade exemplified slavery to Flood and liberation to Allen?

Glen Macnow (whose book “The Great Philadelphia Sports Debate,” says that Allen had a way of overshadowing his play on the field with his off-filed issues. Is that because this is what the media thought that particular fan base craved? What off-field issues are Macnow speaking of? Does he mean the incident with Frank Thomas, a racist who referred to Richie Allen as Mohammed Clay? He came at Allen with his bat and hit Allen’s shoulders only after Allen stung Thomas with his fist. Or do we speak of Allen’s wrist injury that the media allowed to be blown out of proportion?

It has been said by those close to Richie “Dick” Allen that he had issues with arriving to the park in time to get his work in before the game. I’ve read several books about the Negro ballplayer and how many of them- including Hank Aaron, don’t put a whole lot of emphasis on time because of the manner in which their fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles,and grandparents were remunerated. If you make someone feel like their time was irrelevant to their efforts or that no matter how well they performed they were still made to feel “left out,” wouldn’t you expect some sort of reaction by the person always getting the short-end of the stick?

After being subjected to racial slurs and having no part of the organization protect him from the abuse he had to feel stuck in Philadelphia. (Unlike what was going on in St. Louis, for example. I recall a story by Tim McCarver. McCarver grew up in the south and didn’t have a clue as to how to treat African-Americans until Bob Gibson enlightened him. Now I know Gibson is an imposing individual but I’m sure he was intelligent enough not to bully McCarver but rather compare and contrast. McCarver said the team began to play as one once everyone was on the same page socially and then fundamentally to play the game of baseball. They all had to tune into the game of life outside the foul lines before it all clicked. By saying “it all clicked” I am also speaking of the media throughout St. Louis. Jackie Robinson’s battle with the color line had some unforgettable moments in St. Louis. The fans had to be enlightened as well and when they saw how their team played as one they united and made it a place African-Americans would be comfortable playing. Vince Lombardi did that in Green Bay. He wasn’t interested in skin color only men playing together and believing in God, family and what’s good for the team.

(Having said all of this, I now can see why Richie Allen was glad to leave Philadelphia and Curt Flood had to say, “No!”) Feeling stuck in Philadelphia had Allen scribble messages in the infield dirt. The fans who were misinformed about the man from the “get-go” were perturbed and this got to the office of Bowie Kuhn, a commissioner who wasn’t much of a hands-on guy so he reacted by ordering Allen to stop it. The next game Allen scrawled in his response, “Why?” Next up was the umpire who no doubt got his orders from the Commish to which Allen responded, “Mom.” This was Allen’s way of saying his mother was the only one who could tell him what to do.

The interesting thing to me is that Bowie Kuhn didn’t need to know why Richie Allen was scribbling words in the dirt only that it needed to stop happening. If he really cared about the man he would have stopped taking other people’s words for it and found out for himself. It would have been the best thing he could have done for the game, one of its better players and a place once referred to as the City of Brotherly Love.

“To be a Philadelphia sports fan is to be an eternal pessimist,” says Dave Coskey, President of Marketing for the 76ers and Flyers.”You go through life expecting the worse because, all too often, bad things happen,” from The Great Philadelphia Fan Book,” by Glen Macnow and Anthony L. Gargano.

In “Another View- Dick Allen” by Craig R. Wright, Wright interprets Bill James’ evaluation of Dick Allen as something in which James goes to great liberties to shed the worst possible light on Dick Allen’s career. When Chuck Tanner was managing the Chicago White Sox during Allen’s time in Chicago, Wright asked Tanner if Allen was a disruptive presence on the team and he showed Tanner what James had written. “He’s full of shit,” snapped Tanner as he referred to Bill James’ off-target assessment of Dick Allen.

In “To Every Thing a Season: Shibe Park and Urban Philadelphia,” Bruce Kuklick asserts “As much as he could, Carpenter opposed a black presence in the majors and certainly at Shibe Park,” and charges that the Phillies “were racist on principle” and “willingly hurt the quality of their teams.”

Glen Macnow’s book, The Great Philadelphia Sports Debate, calls (Richie) Allen the “all-time what could’ve been player,” in franchise history. He received unfair criticism for the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies decline because he did his part. When you bat .318, hit 29-HR, 91-RBI. In the last month of the season, when the Phillies were up by 6 ½ games with 12 to go and went on to lose 10 in-a-row, Allen batted .341, with 5-HR, and had 76 total bases.

What cost the ’64 Phillies was the manner in which manager Gene Mauch handled the pitching staff. And the bad karma he received for his mishandling in-house events. Mauch came off a bit ethically dilemma challenged. That is, whenever he is presented with two equally good or bad options and the correct decision isn’t immediately apparent he has a knack for making what turns out to be the wrong choice. Rather than call Frank Thomas into his office to discuss his displeasure with Thomas’ attitude and penchant for using racial slurs as well as his efforts on the baseball he chose to let the Philadelphia media try to wing-it based on what little knowledge they had on the subject and what some players had told them. This is why Mauch threatened to impose a $2000 fine on any ballplayer that had anything to say about the matter. Sadly, their way was to make the incident a white man against a black man thing in a city that was the last in its league to integrate Negro ballplayers onto their roster. Needless to say, all hell broke loose and Richie Allen was the unfortunate recipient of bad press that would begin in Philadelphia and last throughout much of his playing career.

Richie Allen won’t go down in the annals as the first black who played for the Philadelphia Phillies but he may as well have been. The player credited with being the first Negro(John Kennedy)played in only 5 games which is as limited as any Negro was afforded during the integration phase of African-Americans into major league baseball. It was only that Allen was so gifted that he was given such an extended opportunity to play for the Phillies.
In much the same way the New York Yankees would defend their position of not signing African-American ballplayers it was the Phillies’ cop out, as well, their belief that the player had to be of major league caliber. Insert laugh track here, when you consider both organizations had plenty of players who both belonged to and came from the “good ole boy” league. (And as luck would have it, both teams suffered the consequences of taking this route. The Yankee dynasty would hit a lull while the Phillies were perennial cellar dwellers.)

From 1965-1967, after making three straight All-Star teams, Richie Allen’s adjusted OPS (On-base percentage plus slugging average. The abilities of a player both to get on base and to hit for power)was 166.
Comparing that to some of the other stars of the mid-1960s:
Hank Aaron – 156 OPS
Willie Mays 154
Roberto Clemente –150
Orlando Cepeda- 144

Name OPS+
Dick Allen 165
Hank Aaron 161
Willie McCovey 161
Frank Robinson 161
Harmon Killebrew 152
Willie Stargell 152
Roberto Clemente 151
Willie Mays 148
Frank Howard 147
Carl Yastrzemski 145
Al Kaline 140
Boog Powell 140
Billy Williams 139
Tony Oliva 137
Ron Santo 136

Those are adjusted OPS numbers between 1964 and 1973. Seventeen Hall of Famers played 1000 or more games during those ten years. Dick Allen had a better OPS+ than all of them.

Looking only at his record, it is a little surprising that Dick Allen hasn’t been elected to the Hall of Fame. He won the 1964 Rookie of the Year and the 1972 AL MVP. He was a seven-time All-Star, a high .300 hitter with remarkable power. His career numbers suffer slightly because his prime years took place in an era of low offense, but by any reasonable measure Dick Allen was a great hitter.

For that, his career was somewhat unique: the few players who can boast peak ability similar to Allen generally have much better career lines than he did. Only Johnny Mize is a fair comparison to Allen: both players had brief but brilliant careers:
Dick Allen 1749 351 1119 .292 .378 .534 156
Johnny Mize 1884 359 1337 .312 .397 .562 158

And to be clear: Dick Allen’s career was short, but it wasn’t that short. Chuck Klein played fewer games than Allen. So did Joe DiMaggio and Tony Lazzeri and Earle Combs and Lou Boudreau and Hank Greenberg and Ralph Kiner and Kirby Puckett.

Conservatively, Dick Allen was one of the top forty hitters of all-time. And that’s very conservative. He averaged 31.68 Win Shares per 162 games, which is higher than any first baseman except Lou Gehrig. Dick Allen won a few major awards and was the best offensive player in the game for ten years. His career line is a little low, but his peak is remarkable. His statistical record is the record of a Hall of Fame player. (from Dave Flemings article)

I think it is very unfortunate that Richie Allen has not been elected into Cooperstown, New York. The location of baseball’s Hall of Fame. And a big reason is due to the opinions of people like Bill James.
On December 4, 2008, Dave Fleming wrote an article, “Dick Allen and the Hall of Fame,” and it points out how Bill James wrote something in his (James’) Historical Abstract: Bill James once wrote that Dick Allen “did more to keep his teams from winning than anyone else who ever played major league baseball.” In his Historical Abstract, Bill added that Dick Allen was the second most controversial player in baseball history, behind Rogers Hornsby.
Then Fleming goes on to give examples of how extreme this comment by James was. But many people with the power to vote for those to enter the Hall of Fame read this James piece. How many of those readers were swayed to vote one way or the other, enough to make the player fall under the parameters of the 75% needed for entry into Cooperstown? The point is, why do the sports writers have so much say as to who enters the Hall of Fame?
Why don’t umpires have a vote? If you were an umpire and you umpired during a particular player’s career, say a minimum of three (3) years, let the umpires have their say. They are qualified in determining which player did or did not have sportsmanship. Isn’t that what the naysayer writers are saying why this player or that player SHOULD NOT GO INTO THE HALLOWED HALLS?

An umpires vote, like the vote of one’s peers, has a significant impact versus some hack who sustained a bitterness towards a player simply because he felt that player should kiss his ass.

Kevin J. Marquez


http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/fanblogs/123695834.html (Revisiting Dick Allen by Nicholas Zettle and co-written by Tim Whitaker)
Bill James (in The Politics of Glory) www.billjamesonline.com
(Article by Cody Swartz on 4/9/09)
September Swoon
Richie Allen, the ’64 Phillies, and Racial Integration by William C. Kashatus

http://www.billjamesonline.com/article914/ (Dave Fleming article)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I Expect Things A Certain Way

You and I expect things certain ways. If other things take the place of what we have come to expect then we ask, "How can this be?" in a most befuddled manner.

Reality has a startling way of smacking the bejeezus out of you, doesn't it?

Now when I speak of those baseball players whose home field is AT&T Park some might immediately burst into an outrage because of the stank that has been emitting its foul odor since mid-May of 2013.

There is an Orange and black funk that has become an epidemic. And I know for many folks it's contagious following baseball no matter how bad the team you root for is playing and continues to play. But I propose we do something else with our daily lives.

Those of us who can.

Those who can't, best of luck listening to announcers who come off as very lackluster and seemingly disinterested. (Of course, there is the possibility of me hearing them as such. Perhaps they may think they are sounding like someone who is very interested in what is going on. Unfortunately, after watching the baseball they have been subjected to- BECAUSE IT IS THEIR VOCATION- a job most people wouldn't mind having, our Giants broadcasters have become exposed to a "whatever the hell you want to call it" epidemic.

It is running rampant in the City by the Bay and for all of those people who take great joy in wearing the cap of any other major league club other than the orange and black continue laughing, smiling, cajoling, etc., anything that makes you feel like because you are wearing a hat other than orange and black this contributes to the STANK of the 2013 Giants campaign which makes the scent of low tide unbelievably refreshing.

We all expect things to be a certain way. You win and you lose and it is how you play the game. But how the Giants are playing the game of baseball is atrocious. Just plain brutal, in that they are far too generous in their abilities to give away runs on defense and then they leave their teammates stuck on base when it's their turn to bat.

Those who wear hats other than the hometown colors is something they feel the need to do because perhaps they don't get enough attention in their miserable lives. Only, right now, it is me who is miserable because my team, the lid they aren't wearing, is stank!

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Not Yet at Rock Bottom

The 2013 San Francisco Giants on June 27 are still falling into the abysmal spaces of Never Never Land and will continue to do so until they play a mistake free game and come out on the winning end.

Last night, with Tim Lincecum on the mound and doing an admirable job their world was sent spinning into a bottomless pit of errors and overall bad baseball.

In the bottom of the 6th inning Lincecum got the lead-off hitter, Mark Ellis to hit a grounder to Pa-bloated Sandoval at third base. Sandoval snatched the wicked hop and then threw a bouncer to Buster Posey at first base. Buster is not a first baseman who excels in digging out low throws. Pa-bloated is a player who has to take the shoe shiner's word for it when he asks if his shoes were shined. He had time but for some reason hurried his throw to first and instead of one out no one on base it was runner on base NO OUTS.

Then the catcher, Hector Sanchez, got into the act. Ellis broke for second on an outside pitch to Sanchez, in essence a pitchout, and Sanchez just dropped the ball. Later in the inning, when Andre Ethier also broke for second, Sanchez exhibited a puss-armed throw that floated like a butterfly before it bounced in front of the fielder attempting to catch and tag the on-coming runner. Sandwich a couple of hits and 3 runs are scored. The last one on a wild pitch by Lincecum, who once again got no defensive support from his fellow 8 players. The wild pitch was a case of Tim Lincecum trying too hard to make what wasn't working work.

I think it's time to stop listening to Giants baseball. Take a break, get away from the orange and black. Go on a sabbatical. Learn to do a Tibetan monk chant. I need a new hobby. Not root for a sport where the umpires or referees have a hard time not being homers. Where tag plays and fair/foul calls are relatively easy providing you put yourself in a position to make the call. As for the strike zone, I need a break from, "he's got a small strike zone tonight." Or "seems the strike zone is shrinking." And on and on and on with the descriptions of someone who just doesn't know a strike from a base. A bat from a ball. Easy is made difficult and difficult is "throw in the towel."

Goodbye June. How about "Goodbye Pablo." We can't take your gross negligence on keeping yourself in shape and the instant some other club shows an interest in you we are getting a suitable substitute from that club to replace you. Similar to when the Giants bid farewell to Matt Williams and we got Jeff Kent in the deal. Let's shoot for the moon and if we miss we will still hit a star. Know what I mean?

Perhaps I'll get back into baseball for July. Maybe not.

Kevin J. Marquez

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

This Too Shall Pass

During this slump, where the Giants fell from a few games over .500 to one game below, how many home runs by the opposing ball clubs have hit the dang foul pole?

How many times have the Giants' batters fouled one off and the poorly hit foul pop managed to stay in the field of play where the opponents' fouls reach the seats?

After hurting his hand making a head-first slide, Brandon Crawford was anemic at the plate. That is, until his last couple of at-bats in the Tuesday night game (6/25). So hopefully he has snapped out of his funk. A funk he achieved by not sliding properly.

Marco Scutaro had the misfortune of being hit-by-a-pitch and getting "mallet-finger" but he seems to possess an incredible pain threshold and has made it back into the lineup. Unfortunately, when you miss a day or two nobody notices. When you miss a few days the fans begin to notice. When you miss more you begin to notice that your batting swing is not what it was before the pinkie finger on his glove hand was struck by an errant toss of the opposing pitcher.

Pablo, WOW! To look at him is to just be in awe that a person that size can hit the way he can. And he is athletic enough to field his position competently. But it has become apparent that his teammates are over-compensating for the growing Panda like the other night when Brandon Belt fielded a ball in which Pablo was there as if Belt didn't expect him to be there. And the jokes are incessant when speaking of Sandoval. "He's had trouble with the hammate bones and the ham he ate." The guy looks very much like the Babe, with those skinny legs, the big gut and his trot around the bases. Only the Babe did it when he went yard. (And as for filmography, all films in the Babe's day had that problem. Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, all the celluloid heroes in those shadows on the wall had that fast-forward thing happening.) If they tried speeding up the film it'd probably make Pablo fall. Damn, if he did he'd probably Pop!

The bullpen has been dreadful. First George Kontos gets sent down then Jean Machi does so bad it's time to bring Kontos back up. Then they call up this kid Dunning. In the Tuesday night game Dunning loses his focus and attempts to pick off the runner on first even though the batter (Fife) has shown little aptitude for hitting a pitch. The ball rolls away from Brandon Belt and the runner on third scores making the game 6-2.

When you are mired in a slump every mistake is blown out of proportion. As was the case on June 25 at Chavez Ravine. 6-2 ended up 6-5. If not for the inexcusable errant toss to Belt, the Giants would have tied the game in the top of the 9th inning.

Oh well, this too shall pass.

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, June 21, 2013

My Flashbacks are a Reminder of How It Should Be

Last night in AT&T a batter for the Florida/Miami Marlins made no attempt to get out of the way of a pitch. The kind of pitch that was a little off of the plate and yet because the batter had a chance to become a runner he just stood there and "took one for the team."

Just then I went into flashback mode. Remember May 31, 1968 when Don Drysdale had a consecutive scoreless innings streak going and he was facing the (San Francisco)Giants' Dick Dietz with the bases drunk? He plunked ole #2 and Dietz dropped his bat and began trotting to first only to hear some loud mouth in blue tell him something along the lines of "Not so fast."

Henry Wendlestedt, who had been umpiring since 1966, told Dietz that since he made no attempt to get out of the way he would not be awarded first base. It was within his rights as the home plate umpire. Only, if my memory serves me well, I recall Dietz contorting his body back away from the ball. Only the ball missed the plate by too much for Dietz' attempt to look anything but futile. Unfortunately, for Dietz, he was standing in the strike zone as there was no chance of that ball missing him, no matter what he did.

Wendlestedt saw the opportunity as a chance to put his name in the baseball annals forever. It was at the expense of one game and at the time a record. But some people will do whatever they can to serve themselves if it has a chance of reaching historic proportions. And if you think about it, even the novice baseball fan during the 60's and 70s knew who the hell Harry Wendlestedt was, especially those followers of the orange and black.

Back to Thursday's game. June 20 2013. Why didn't the home plate umpire make the same call? I mean the batter (Dietrich) did absolutely nothing to get out of the way of a pitch just off the plate. In fact, according to play-by-play man Jon Miller, he leaned into the pitch. C'mon man, if you "lean into a pitch" you damn sure should not be rewarded by being awarded first base!

That umpire, Lax Diaz, should be reprimanded. Fined. Whatever means of paying the price for such a lack of attention to detail. (Note: The umpire's name was changed from Laz due to the effort he exhibited on the Dietrich "taking one for the team" at-bat).

(thanks to a book on Dodger Stadium by Mark Langill for the easy access to Wendlestedt's claim to fame. The pictures in this book fall in line with the Rod Stewart lyrics, "Every Picture Tells a Story.")

Kevin J. Marquez

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Damn Giants, Snap Out of It!!

Angel Pagan goes on the disabled list after aggravating his injury hitting a game-winning inside-the-park home run at AT&T. The way to get on the DL, if ever there was "a way."

Ryan Vogelsong foul tips one off his throwing hand and injures his pinky finger.
Marco Scutaro would also have a thrown ball by the opposing pitcher clip his pinky finger, on his glove hand.

Santiago Casilla had some surgery to clean out a cyst of some kind on his leg. Which leg, I couldn't tell you. When I looked up the Giants website and asked for an injury update I got the New York Yankees on some fantasy website.

I'm telling you this time of year is nonsense incorporated. We fans are seeing why the Giants had those currently playing due to the numerous injuries, are not starters. Players like Nick Noonan, Brett Pill, Juan Perez and now Tony Abreu are only here to take a little of the heat off of the starters.

Andres Torres seems to have picked up the pace. Brandon Belt, what can you say about this guy. He seems to get opportunities but his at-bats are adventures I don't think the average baseball fan either feels entitled to or wants anything to do with.

Joaquin Arias rose to the occasion last year when Pablo was put on the disabled list, one of his annual assignments.

Pablo Sandoval, I saw where Scott Ostler had something referring to Pablo's weight and I was interested in his follow-up but for some reason, like the injury report, that too is not available. (In the article it mentioned "we" the readers, would find out on Tuesday. Today is Wednesday and still no follow-up to his half-assed article.)

Ramon Ramirez, Jose Mijares, Jean Machi and Sandy Rosario all need to do their jobs. Pitching will always be the key to this team and with Vogelsong and Casilla still weeks away the Giants cannot, or rather would prefer to not have to, keep going to Triple A, Double A or even Single A to acquire help for pitching innings.

If the pitchers don't snap out of their season-long funk you can kiss this season goodbye. See George Kontos.

Listening to Jon Miller and Dave Fleming when the going gets tough is appalling and hardly informable. I don't need the obvious stated to me when something goes wrong. When Tim Lincecum is giving up hits that are being "muscled into the outfield" and then one of his outfielders misplays a ball that rolls all the way to the fence I, as a listener, would say it wasn't meant to be for #55. He surely didn't get any help from his defense. And it's not like the Fire Department was notified about the explosion their offense created in Pittsburgh, June 11th. I don't know if the umpire was squeezing him because it has become such a common occurrence I don't think the announcers know a strike from a ball on any given night, and they may feel like they've gone to that well one too many times.

Yes, it is frustrating and infuriating to hear the ESPN constant replays of Sport blurbs when the NBA doesn't have it's championship series live over the radio for all to hear. The same mindless banter about how Lebron is not doing something and two virtually unknown Spurs ripped the nets with 16 or so three-pointers. And if I kept it on KNBR, 680AM I would have heard the same lame callers, that call damned near every night and the usually scheduled KNBR employees telling me something I already know.

There's No way out of this asylum, you know?!? And now with the NHL featuring two of the original 6 teams, is there a radio station where I can get the play-by-play rather than go to some over-priced sports bar where the people don't know "lighting the lamp" from Aladdin's lamp?

Damn Giants, snap out of it! Time for Tony Abreu to earn a spot on the roster, as well as the aforementioned pitchers (Ramirez, Mijares, Machi and Rosario). I don't expect much from Pill, Noonan or Brandon Belt even if Belt does have a proclivity for hitting late-inning homers that significantly change the outcome of a game. Gee, I just convinced myself to just endure Belt. Don't expect any more than you've gotten so far. It doesn't seem likely to get any better. Just good enough to wonder what it would be like if Belt could get red hot. But that would probably be better served in a Sleep Train commercial, I suppose.

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, June 6, 2013

My Apology to Sandy Koufax

In light of the on-going critical boredom of ballplayers being accused of using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) I would be remissed if I did not apologize to Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax.

In my best, or worst, "Get Smart" approach of "Could it be...that the greatest left-handed pitcher used something other than ointments for his left arm?" I recently read an article by Jane Leavy, dated September 9, 2002, entitled "The Chosen One," that makes me feel as impetuous as Jane Hathaway frequently accused the dashing nephew of a rich uncle-who struck oil shooting at some supper- of being.

Those aforementioned situation comedies (in the 1960s) may have described my attempts at giving examples of those who may not have played within the framework of the rules either in society or their chosen sport this article does divulge some hint that the things Koufax took may not have been legal. But in light of his intense pain I can understand why he did what he did.

Here are some excerpts of the article (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1026710/)

Koufax made his major league debut on June 24, 1955, in the 5th inning against the Milwaukee Braves, with the Dodgers trailing 7-1. A mop-up man...The public address announcer mispronounced his name - "Koo-fax"- as Johnny Logan stepped up to the plate. Logan hit a bloop single. Next was slugger Eddie Mathews, who surprised Koufax by bunting back to the mound. Koufax calmly threw the ball into centerfield. Now batting, Hank Aaron. He walked on four pitches. Bobby Thomson-that Bobby Thomson,slayer of Dodgers dreams-followed Aaron to the plate and became the first man ever struck out by Sandy Koufax.

When Sandy Koufax was a rookie, there was no such thing as sports medicine. You didn't rehab injuries. You lived with them, grew old with them. Ice was for martinis, not elbows. Every pitching arm is doomed. Soft tissue and bone can give only so much. The firt intimations of his arm's mortality surfaced on Aug.8, 1964, in Milwaukee. That night Koufax won his 17th game and became the first National League pitcher in the modern era to strike out 200 hitters in four consecutive seasons. He also singled and scored to begin the winning rally. Reaching base proved costly, however. He jammed his left elbow diving back into second to beat a pickoff throw.

X-rays were ordered. Robert Kerlan, the noted orthopedic surgeon and team doctor, took one look at the film and pronounced the bad news: traumatic arthritis. A diagnosis without a cure. Arthritis is an acute inflammation of a joint, usually associated with old age. Pitch by pitch, season by season, the cartilage in Koufax's elbow was breaking down. His arm was old even if he wasn't.

Kerlan knew the long-term prospects weren't good. Pitching is trauma. The human elbow may be one of God's great inventions, but He didn't anticipate a major league fastball during those first seven days. Maximum stress occurs just as a pitcher cocks his arm and begins to accelerate it forward. In that instant the elbow is subjected to what doctors call "maximum load," as two contrary forces, momentum and inertia, converge on the joint. It causes ligaments to stretch like saltwater taffy on a hot summer day.

Today arthroscopic surgery allows professional athletes and middle-aged golfers like Koufax to recover in a fraction of the time they once needed. Dr. Frank Jobe, Kerlan's partner and successor, performed the first elbow reconstruction in 1974, less than a decade after Koufax retired. Tommy John, the surgical pioneer, returned to baseball and pitched for another 14 years. Jobe says, "If you had said to Dr. Kerlan, 'Why does [Koufax's] arm hurt?' he'd say, 'Because he throws so hard.' That's true. What he didn't know was that [Koufax] threw hard enough to stretch a ligament. It wasn't torn, but it was stretched enough to allow two bony surfaces rub together. It must have just killed him."

March is the crudest month for pitchers: when rested arms renew the annual struggle for controlled velocity. Today pitch counts and early outings are meticulously monitored. Pitching a complete game in spring training is unthinkable, even without an arthritic arm. But on March 30, 1965, Koufax did just that. The next morning his roommate, Dick Tracewski, was at the sink shaving when Koufax walked in. "He says, 'Look at this.' The elbow was black. And it was swollen. From the elbow to the armpit it looked like a bruise. It was a black, angry hemorrhage. It was an angry arm, an angry elbow. And all he says is, 'Roomie, look at this.'"

Koufax returned to Los Angeles to see Kerlan, who told him he'd be lucky to pitch once a week. Eventually, and irrevocably, he would lose full use of his arm. Koufax told the doctor, "I'm trusting you to keep me going. I'm also going to trust you to say when you think I should quit."
Palliatives were all that medicine had to offer: cortisone shots in the joint, Empirin with codeine for the pain (which he took every night and sometimes during the 5th inning) and Butazolidin, an anti-inflammatory prescribed for broken-down thoroughbreds, so poisonous to humans that it was taken off the market in the 1970s. It had one major side effect. "It killed a few people," Jobe says.

Koufax regularly used a salve called Capsolin, derived from red-hot chili peppers grown in China, to mask the pain. Players called it the "ATOMIC BALM" - thick, gooey stuff that is no longer marketed in the United States. Most pitchers diluted it with cold cream or Vaseline. Koufax used it straight, gobs of it. Nobe Kawano, the Dodgers' clubhouse man, always made sure he washed Koufax's laundry separately. But once, when the Dodgers donated used jerseys to a local Little League team, the lucky kid who got number 32 ran off the field screaming, "I'm on fire!" He wasn't the only one. Lou Johnson wore one of Koufax's sweatshirts one cold night in Pittsburgh. First he began to sweat. Then his skin blistered. Then he threw up.

If heat was Koufax's salve, ice was his salvation. They didn't have ice packs then; they just plunged your arm in a bucket of ice and waited for frostbite to set in. Trainers fashioned a rubber sleeve for him out of an inner tube-the height of medical technology-that was later donated to the Hall of Fame.

Who could have predicted that by season's end Koufax would pitch 335? innings and set a major league record by striking out 382 men (an average of 10.25 per game). He never missed a turn.

In the 1965 World Series (Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Minnesota Twins) he came out of the bullpen to pitch Game 7, his third start in 8 days. He was a two-pitch hurler. Catcher John Roseboro came out to the mound to ask Koufax why he kept shaking off his signals. "He said, 'Rosie, my arm's not right.' Roseboro said, 'Well, what'll we do kid?' He said, 'F--- it, we'll blow 'em away.'"

In the ninth inning, his 360th of the season, protecting a 2-0 lead, Koufax faced the heart of the Twins' order: Tony Oliva, Harmon Killebrew, Earl Battey and Bob Allison-a two-time batting champion, a six-time home run leader, a four-time All-Star and a one-time Rookie of the Year, respectively. Oliva grounded out; Killebrew got on with a single. Koufax then struck out Battey and Allison-his ninth and 10th K's of the game-and left Killebrew stranded at first base, looking on in admiration.

In conclusion, I apologize for thinking that Koufax may have cheated in what he used to help his arm and it may be that he did but the effort is matchless and for that I applaud him.

(thanks to the SI article for bringing clarity to my accusation.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Saw a Story the Other Day, Went Like This...

Looking up some old clippings of the late great Jim Murray (formerly of the LA Times) and came across something he wrote about Sandy Koufax. It has a remarkable familiarity to it about ole number fifty-five in orange and black. Take a look-see for yourself:

"...Sandy wanted to be an architect, and there are still days when he feels he has made a terrible mistake- almost as if Frank Lloyd Wright had decided to become a rodeo rider."

"The trouble was, Sandy Koufax was such a natural pitcher that baseball couldn't afford to let him turn to mere bridge-building. Sandy's fastball was so fast some batters would start to swing as he was on his way to the mound. His curveball disappeared like a long putt going in a hole. Koufax has never pitched an inning of minor league ball, which doesn't make him unique but makes him a member of a very small club. As a result, he has learned his craft slowly. And it's as exasperating as hay fever: one day you have it, the next day you don't. Sandy thinks it is basically a problem of rhythm. You don't know till you hear the music of the first pitch smacking in the catcher's glove-or off the center-field fence-whether you're going to dance or trip over your feet."

Later in the article after rattling off some of the statistics Sandy Koufax had accumulated Murray says: "Sandy is now sure he wants to stay in baseball. And the batters wish he'd go build something."

Anything written by Jim Murray is worth reading. If you enjoy a good chuckle look him up. But be warned, that chuckle could turn into an emergency gasp for life-saving oxygen. You read Jim Murray at your own risk.

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, May 17, 2013

Seems Like it is Always About the Officiating

In the National Basketball Association you cannot believe your eyes with the types of fouls called or missed.

In the National Hockey League you have refs skating at a frantic pace to keep up with the phenoms and there is the appearance that most of what is called is what the stripe-shirted fellow thought he saw. Even with the best video replay usage to date, in the NHL like with all leagues, there are some things the guys on the field of play (at that particular place) have to get right. Whether it's getting the proper positioning for making a call or just refraining from blowing the whistle because the doubt you have kept you from being an over-caffeinated Barney Fife, you cannot expect the replay to cover your blown call.

While the video may not lie, it certainly doesn't always tell the whole truth of what happened.

Sure, baseball has its flaws. Most of those have to do with the umpire's reluctance to admit to their wrongdoing. If they owned up to their mistakes (as Jim Joyce did when he missed a call that would have been a perfect game) everybody would accept their reactions, however overzealous they may be.

But I still think baseball is the least effected in the post-season because the umpires rarely are out of position. It all depends on the strike zone of the home plate umpire. This is why there has to be a grading period throughout the year. With 162 games being played by 30 teams, totaling 4,860 games, the powers that be must be doing their homework to see that the best home plate umpires are in the post-season. This is first and foremost to assuring the baseball world that the BEST TEAM has a chance of proving such a declaration is accurate. (The combination of the local and national media folk insistence as well as our own take on the subject).

In 2010 and 2012 when the San Francisco Giants got their pitching staff together and those talented hurlers began to hit their spots no call by the official/umpire was going to deter the outcome of the game. In baseball, you can get into a cruise control that makes calls by the umpire seem almost incidental to the game. You most certainly cannot say that in the NBA, NHL and Holy Toledo, especially the National Football League.

If the best teams are playing one another how can you miss calls and expect the team on the short-end of the call to come out ahead? Field position, getting to the free-throw line, short-handed due to erroneous calls made by people who thought they saw something and the video replay couldn't verify what they thought they saw. Holy Putty Tat!!

Baseball has a leg up on the other sports. Provided they do their homework during the regular season and the best umps, specifically the home plate umps, are chosen to show the world what is and is not a strike. If baseball slacks and doesn't work out all the kinks during the regular season then that leg up is man's best friend relieving itself and we all suffer.

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, May 10, 2013

Human Error Acceptable. Unwillingness to Correct Missed Calls- Not Acceptable

An error that is corrected before it can cause damage is an error nonetheless. (I got that from the good people at:http://www.cs.wright.edu/~dkender/hfe306/Error_files/frame.htm)

All of this discussion about replacing umpires with robots and modernized video equipment is just blather for the time being. We humans are a sensitive bunch so it'll be some time before those who officiate games are replaced by an efficient insensitive person who functions automatically.

Don't we already have referees or umpires who fit this description? Robots are always thought to walk and talk in a monotonous manner while lacking human emotions. So add the "insensitive" and you meet the qualifications for a robot and or some unhappy soul of a person.

Human error doesn't bother me, heck, I can't walk and chew gum at the same time. I barely take my eyes off the stairs I am walking down and inevitably I'm a You Tube sensation for everyone to laugh at until their breath is lost! (That, makes me laugh.) What I can't stand is the attitudes of these umpires who think the players are showing them up.

Who do they think they are? They are those who must have the leeway to bully ballplayers around. And that has everything to do with who is in charge of the umpires.

If an umpire chooses to be smug and emote the vibe that they don't make mistakes, or wouldn't think of correcting them even if in fact they did miss a call, then it is entirely up to their immediate supervisor to notify them that this isn't the Major League baseball way.

We need the emotions of everyone on the field of play.
We need the continued good efforts and hustle of all officials.
We need to feel like the arbiters in professional sports are the best there are.
We need to know a game will not be won or lost because of an official.
(Some of us would like to be able to bet on games but that's another story.)

What we don't need is the half-assed efforts of someone who shies away from looking at a replay for fear of being exposed as THE ONE WHO BLEW THE CALL.

The unwillingness to get the call right because of some attitudinal miscreant(s)in blue is unacceptable.
Nobody, not even family members, bought a ticket to see the officials.

NOTE TO FANS: (Family members, I'm sure, attend games their kinfolk officiate. But they too want to see a well-officiated game. And you have to feel for these people when their relative blows a call. They're the ones slinking in their chair and it's BAM, with the sunglasses! The last thing they need is to be recognized or videoed by someone sitting nearby.)

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, May 9, 2013

This Day in Baseball (May 9), Was Roberto Clemente a stud for the Pittsburgh Pirates? John Klima's Story on Paul Pettit, Five-Stars

This day in baseball for May 9th has some eye-opening accomplishments. I would like to share those before I speak of the 2013 San Francisco Giants.

At the Polo Grounds, Carl Hubbell wins his 4th straight and his 20th in a row, subduing the Cubs, 4 - 1. The game is scoreless for six innings. Hubbell matches the mark of Rube Marquard, who won one game in 1911 and 19 straight more in 1912.

1938 - At Boston, Jimmie Foxx drives in five runs on a pair of homers to pace the Red Sox to a 15 - 3 drubbing of Cleveland. Jim Bagby is the winner.

1943 - Due to the poor grade of rubber cement used to make baseballs because of wartime rubber shortages, a different type of baseball is put into play today with dramatic results. In eight games, six home runs are hit compared to a total of nine homers tallied in the season's first 72 games.

In his first game outside of New York City, Jackie Robinson has two hits and scores twice in the Dodgers' 6 - 5 loss to the Phillies. After the game, the Dodgers give their young first baseman a vote of confidence by selling Howie Schultz, Robby's back-up, to the Phils for $50,000. The next day, Branch Rickey announces he's giving up his attempts to pry Johnny Mize away from the Giants.

Heralded Giant rookie Clint Hartung makes his first pitching appearance and throws six shutout innings of relief against the Braves. He will start 20 games and compile his best record at 9-7. He will also play seven games in the outfield and bat .309 for the year. But the Braves win today, 6 - 2, behind Warren Spahn.

The first-place Giants win their 7th in a row as Sheldon "Available" Jones stops the Cubs, 7 - 2. Aided by ten walks and homers by Sid Gordon and Willard Marshall, the Giants pin the loss on starter Ralph Hamner, who allows one hit in three innings.
1950 - Ralph Kiner of the Pirates hits his second grand slam in three days - and the eighth of his career - and adds a 3-run homer to drives in seven runs as the Pirates beat Brooklyn, 10 - 5.
1953 - At Boston, the first-place Yanks beat the Red Sox, 6 - 4. Mickey Mantle hits one homer off Bill Werle and is robbed of another when Jimmy Piersall makes a sensational catch at the Sox bullpen in right-center field.
Roberto Clemente's defensive gem and Ted Kluszewski's leadoff, walk-off, 12th-inning blast over Forbes Field's right field screen give Pittsburgh's Ron Kline a complete-game, 1 - 0 victory over Philly ace, and future Hall of Famer, Robin Roberts. Neither Kline's nor Klu's heroics, however, could have come to pass without Clemente's 4th-inning-ending eye-popper which turns what appears to be a sacrifice fly off the bat of Chico Fernandez into a double play. Clemente catches the ball and fires a perfect on-the-fly strike to the plate to nail a sliding Granny Hamner.
The Pirates' most dangerous hitter, Roberto Clemente, leads his team to a 9 - 6 decision over San Francisco, going 3 for 4 with a home run and 4 RBI, but his scariest shot comes before the game and travels about 60 feet. Les Biederman of The Sporting News reports: "Gino Cimoli can attest that Roberto Clemente hits the ball as hard as any batter in the league. Cimoli was pitching the final turn in batting practice before the night game with the Giants at Forbes Field when Clemente hit the last pitch before the Giants stepped into the cage. It was a liner that caught Cimoli on the left side below the heart and he went down in a heap. The Pirates outfielder walked off under his own steam. X-rays failed to reveal a fracture although Cimoli had a badly bruised side from the terrific impact of the ball."
1966 - At Minneapolis, the Yankees (6-20) edge the Twins, 3 - 2. Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, and Joe Pepitone, with the game-winner in the 9th inning, hit homers for New York.
1967 - Cardinals outfielder # 9 Roger Maris hits his first National League home run on the ninth day of the month in seat 9 of section 9.
1971 - At San Francisco, the Braves and Giants split a pair. After the Giants win the opener, 5 - 2, the Braves take the nitecap, 6 - 5, in 11 innings. Orlando Cepeda connects for a grand slam and solo homer for Atlanta, while Willie McCovey has a 3-run home run for SF. The Braves win it in the 10th when Ralph Garr scores after collecting his 4th hit.
1972 - Career triple No. 160 for Roberto Clemente puts Pittsburgh up, 1 - 0, on Atlanta and the Bucs never look back. Clemente comes home on Richie Hebner's single and solo home runs from Willie Stargell and Dave Cash provide Pittsburgh's next two runs. Cash's 8th-inning RBI double supplies additional insurance and reliever Bruce Kison responds with a perfect 8th and 9th to nail down the 5 - 2 win for starter Dock Ellis.
The Reds' Johnny Bench slugs three home runs and knocks in seven runs in a 9 - 7 defeat of Steve Carlton and the Phillies. Bench homers in the 1st, walks in the 3rd, and homers again in the 5th and 7th. It is the second time Bench has hit three home runs in a game against Carlton; the first came on July 26, 1970. Bench ties a major-league record with four consecutive homers, having hit one in his final at-bat the previous night in the Reds' 7 - 1 win.

Baseball has such a rich tradition and history that there are many things you can read to put yourself back-in-time to a day when things were simpler. I know they had their difficulties like you and I but in reading about baseball it's the old-time stories that'll fetch your interest. Seems the writers had a way of capturing the readers interest although the recent book about the Milwaukee Braves also has that same knack for pulling the reader into the story and making them feel like they were there.

John Klima, who wrote "Bushville Wins" (after a comment Casey Stengel made about Milwaukee) also wrote about a player who signed for the biggest bonus before ever having played an inning. Entitled, "Deal of the Century," about Paul Pettit. The guy turned out to be a pretty decent player and when his arm was damaged Bobby Bragan offered him a position at first base and the guy lit the league up. But the "good ole boy" owners put him on some sort of unwritten blacklist and he wasn't picked up by any team, therefore retiring from baseball. Best story I have read in a while.

Kevin J. Marquez

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Introductions Into Games are Beyond Cheesy

Have you heard these introductions to Giant games? Some are clever, darn near spot on. While others are revolting to have to hear more than once (depending on how many times the Giants play the team in that particular series).

What do I mean when I hear the word "cheesy"? What does anyone mean when the mere utterance of the word sounds like a throat lozenge that regurgitates up out of the throat versus sliding down the sore pharynx.

Words like: styleless, tasteless, unfashionable, unbecoming, unseemly, outmoded, inferior, overdone, unrefined, and or inappropriate.

The Padres usually get an obnoxious opening and I think the Padres give the Giants a battle every time. Even if the Giants come out with a winning series record it wasn't like every game was a 9-0 victory (which equates to the losing team forfeiting).

Their current intro for the Philadelphia Phillies makes this Giant's fan wonder, 'What if the Phillies win?' It's so pathetic. And wouldn't you know, the Phillies win the first two games by identical scores of 6-2.

Show a little decorum when you do these introductions, KNBR, 680AM. Don't be so pro-Giant and anti-opponent. It just doesn't sound good. Anything remotely close to "homerism" should be left to those organizations that don't care how pathetic incessant gushing sounds.

Kevin J. Marquez

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Some Umpires Just Cannot Call Balls and Strikes

C.B. Bucknor is not very adept at calling balls and strikes. Never was and never has been. You naturally give someone the benefit of the doubt, and in looking at his biography I can see he is a thoughtful person who is socially responsible to where he was born (Jamaica, West Indies). I am not judging him as a person nor do I have the God-given right to do such a thing. But I can judge him as an umpire based on his inconsistencies and inability to stick to the same strike zone from the top of the first inning to the bottom of the ninth.

Yesterday's game between the Giants and the Diamondbacks had C.B. behind the plate. Whenever the Giants' broadcaster tells you who the home plate umpire for that game is, C.B. Bucknor is a name that makes the savvy fan cringe. Unfortunately, Tim Lincecum had the daunting task of having to pitch with C.B. behind Buster calling balls and strikes.

Tim Lincecum throws a batting practice fastball when C.B. is behind the plate because the five-sided slab of whitened rubber set at ground level at the front corner of the diamond doesn't have the corners. It may as well be a pitcher's plate. Whether it's horizontal or vertical depends on the inning, I suppose.

In listening to last night's game, on more than one occasion both Jon Miller and Dave Fleming mentioned how "that's not a call that has been made for most of the game," or "wait a minute, it's coming. Pause. Ball?" Interpretation, from this listener, if you've listened to Jon Miller and became acquainted with his explanations for rules and regulations within the game of baseball and he has nothing further to add it's akin to ammending the current rule book. He doesn't have the authority to do such a thing. But he should because he understands the strike zone much better than a few of these incompetents who don't give fans of baseball the confidence they (the umpires) know a strike from a ball.

I'm not defending Lincecum. His fastball is no longer as intimidating as it once was but if he is not being allowed to do his job to the fullest of his capabilities because the thing he is constantly working with- THE STRIKE ZONE - is varied according to whomever is behind his catcher then there is something to be said about that as well.

Most of us are human, right? We have to cut anyone- giving one hell of an effort- some slack so we go the "consistency" route. It doesn't do the batters and pitchers on that day any good. Their livelihoods are effected tremendously due to their numbers (those that determine their availability for their current team's starting lineup or if their skills are deteriorating to "trade bait" status) not being up to par. Fact is if you can't do the job within the framework of the rulebook, which has to be the game's bible to an umpire, then find another line of work.

How they are grading umpires is suspect at best. Because more umpires have conflicting strike zones than do not. I'm all for individuality but it's head scratching when the Monday umpire's strike zone is worlds apart from Tuesday's, Thursday's, Friday's, Saturday's and Sunday's. Know what I mean?

Kevin J. Marquez

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why Los Angeles Dodgers Fans Hate the San Francisco Giants

I saw this commentary by Nick Ostiller and had to share it with my compadres-San Francisco Giants fans- as food for thought the next time them bums are in the city by the bay.

1. Shot Heard 'Round the World.
Every Dodgers fan has probably heard this and it never sounds good. Cue up the Public Address announcer before the National Anthem. We want to hear Russ Hodges say more than "Bye Bye Baby!"

2. Jackie Robinson.
He got traded to the Giants but refused to show up. All Dodger fans are endeared to the man even though some may have never learned to love him when he was playing. Perhaps only those who were taught the legend that was Robinson by their relatives. (Whatever the case, it's heartfelt so I chose to leave it in.)

3. Marichal vs. Roseboro
My understanding of this story was that Roseboro was barking the good bite. Constantly harrassing the Dominican Dandy. The Dodger catcher was much bigger than Juan so #27 felt the need to knock on Roseboro's door with his bat.
This isn't a reason for Dodger fans to hate the Giants. If it is they weren't told the story in it's entirety. Self-defense, is a situation where you just have to take it for what it is. Fear strikes us all differently and our reactions reflect this behavior.

4. Beyond Baseball
People from Southern California usually find the Northern California folks less appealing due to their being the stereotypical ultra-liberal hippies while the people from the laid back lands of the North consider those who inhabit SoCal as a superficial La La landites, always behaving like there's a camera rolling or a star with their name in it somewhere beneath their feet.

5. End of "Fernandomania"
When 20-year-old Fernando Valenzuela won his first 8 big league games leading to the 1981 World Series title, Fernandomania began. And becoming the first pitcher to win both the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young award, in the same season. But the Dodgers were swept in the final week of 1990 by the San Francisco Giants and Valenzuela would never pitch another game for Los Angeles again. Now thems grounds for some real hatred. No bueno? You better believe it!

6. Juan Uribe
All that he did for the 2010 Giants World Series winning club and all that he has not done since wearing Dodger blue.

7. Brian Johnson
Can you believe there are actually fans miffed at Johnson's game winner in extra innings at Candlestick. Hey, it's baseball. Things happen out of the ordinary when so many innings are played throughout the year. The fact that they cannot get over Johnson's climactic home run is an excellent reason to show this homer (during the 7th inning stretch of any home game versus the Dodgers), after the Bobby Thomson homer with Russ Hodges bellowing "the Giants won the pennant!" over and over (before every game). You cannot NOT play that video of Thomson's blast. Especially Hodges' call. Perhaps it IS rubbing it in. But it feels so good when you are on the winning end. It's the American way!

Have the Dodgers stopped playing Kirk Gibson's homer off of Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series? I don't think so. I don't think that or any great fantastic finish ever goes away. In mind, as a visual, these moments are a part of every day conversation as the memory lives.

(thanks to Nicky Ostiller for the outlandish explanations as to why the fans of the orange and black are disliked. Can never get enough of this stuff. Fuel for the fire works for this rivalry. When you put the 2010 season in perspective it was the comeback win versus the Dodgers when Pat Burrell lost one in the seats as did Juan Uribe that fueled the teams' burst into the playoffs. Last year was "Backs against the wall." That's why more love should be given to Tim Flannery's tune "21 Days." Because that song captures the season so beautifully.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Hitting Really Has a Hold On Me

In an article posted by Carl Steward, 4/8/2013, in the San Jose Mercury, Steward goes on to say that the walk-up music for Marco Scutaro right now would be the Coasters' "Searchin'."

Says Scutaro: "I was fine in spring. I just lost the feeling. It's going to come sooner or later. You just keep playing, keep fighting. That's why hitting is so hard. It's a feeling sometimes, and you have to wait a while for it to get back. You just keep searching."

"I know what I'm doing wrong," Scutaro continued, "I don't want to do it, but my body doesn't want to cooperate. I'm jumping at the ball. Timing-wise, I'm just kind of jumpy at the plate. I don't let the ball travel."

Actually I've been in this very situation. Just couldn't contain myself. Itching to pull the trigger I cannot watch the ball go into the catcher's glove. I'm following the ball and measuring my swing and I just have to murder the darn thing.

I wouldn't say the song is "Searchin'" I'd say it's more like the Smokey Robinson tune, "You've Really Got a Hold on Me."

Baby, I don't want you, but I need you (here's the part where I just have to swing the damned bat)
Don't wanna kiss you, but I need to (like to let the ball go by but I just can't)
You do me wrong now, my love is strong now (the wide one isn't my friend but my hand-eye thinks it has a solution)
You've really got a hold on me
(You really got a hold on me)
You really got a hold on me
(You really got a hold on me) (after I hit a weak grounder to the third baseman. Or even worse, a roller back to the pitcher)

You have to get a feel for how the ball is moving. By watching it into the glove you get a sense of timing as you bend your knees, take a deep breath and await the next pitch. Or as Scutaro says, "I have to get my rhythm back. The student of the game that he is explains himself. "During the season, it's going to happen sooner or later. You're going to get off. (Song is your choice.) That's what you fight the entire year, hitting-wise. You just try to make adjustments every day."

One hundred and sixty-games, from April to October, is a long season. All kinds of things to deal with. But losing and the finding the rhythm can be an uncomfortable one seeing as how we all need a certain amount of balance incorporated in our every day lives. Movements must flow like a boot camp cadence or the shinbone will become a device for finding furniture in a dark room.

(thanks to Carl Steward of San Jose Mercury for his article about Marco Scutaro)

Kevin J. Marquez

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bruce Dreckman: Two Thumbs Down (for his home plate umpiring performance on 4/3/13 in Chavez Ravine)

I listen to the Giants on KNBR 680 AM radio. The play-by-play in last night's 5-3 win over the Dodgers was done by Jon Miller and Dave Fleming. And for the entire game Miller and Fleming remarked how home plate umpire, Bruce Dreckman was not calling the pitch across the knees. To all baseball fans if the pitch is where they said it was THIS IS A STRIKE!

Now, let us go to the pitcher who started the game for the San Francisco Giants. He was Tim Lincecum. A player who struggled mightily in the 2012 season but who raised his game to a new level as a relief pitcher in the post season. And despite all of his woes last year and during the spring training season we are all trying to get a read on this beloved hurler for our esteemed Giants.

After watching him in the Cactus League I determined that if he has an umpire incapable of consistently calling balls and strikes that he would not fare well. Well, last night he got one of those buffoons behind the plate and he managed to make it through five innings (which qualifies a starting pitcher for a "win") with his team leading at his departure and at the end of the game. Tim Lincecum wasn't getting the "across the knees" strike therefore having to raise the zone and putting his pitches in harm's way. Only three hits were allowed. Tim Lincecum proved that he could overcome the adversity of an umpire with a shaky strike zone. And for that, I tip my cap.

Seven walks. Were they? Take away a portion of someone's livelihood and you force that someone to make adjustments on the fly. Heck, most people can't walk and chew gum at the same time. NOW put a pitcher in the unfriendly confines of Chavez Ravine with a heckling crowd and add someone dressed in dark blue, in the vicinity of home plate, misjudging how pitches are crossing the plate or landing in the catcher's glove and you know the man was focused. Throw in a passed ball by Hector Sanchez and a boot by Buster and you know number 55 was bound and determined.

I listened to the game trying to picture what it must have been like in Los Angeles where a major league umpire had the power to determine whether a pitcher had to get the batter out on his skill and guile or whether a batter had a chance to step into the batter's box, grip the stick and rip. And Bruce Dreckman chose the grip it and rip mode. Fortunately, it was the Giants who took advantage by ripping two homers (Panda and Pence).

And to put the cherry on the sundae my cousin's name was selected for the Grand Slam inning (Anita South). Unfortunately, for her, our man Lincecum led off with Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro following but they went 1-2-3. Earlier in the game Lincecum had a battle with his opposing pitcher, Josh Beckett and was able to hit a grounder up the middle to bring in the tying run. Scutaro made a stellar defensive play with Brandon Crawford following that up with a web gem that I'm sure ESPN played over and over. Anytime you get a player with the blazing speed of Carl Crawford you must get the spotlight. And if they did not, for shame.

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, March 22, 2013

What Makes the Best Catcher?

I recently read an article with the following (URL: http:/thecutoffman.mlblogs.com/2012/08/24/evaluating-how-catchers-control-their-opponents-running-game/MLB Blogs network) and basically the writer is miffed that Buster Posey is seen in a better light than Yadier Molina.

Here is what he had to say about Buster Posey: Buster Posey still has a lot of work to do on his defense. No catcher has gotten his pocket picked more than the Giants young backstop this season, which may have something to do with his ankle injury from a year ago. He's a little bit slow getting out of his crouch in ordr to make a snap throw to 2nd, and base runners have taken that as a license to run wild. He may just be the best offensive catcher in baseball, but until Posey improves on defense any thoughts of him winning the MVP award are a little far-fetched.

Who won the 2012 MVP? Furthermore, one thing you must understand when you look to the traditional statistics or advanced metrics that something has to be said about a pitcher who is incapable of keeping the runner within a reasonable distance from first and second by the time he lets go of his pitch.

Is this news? We all know that for the most part the Gold Glove Award goes to the most productive player at his position with fielding a close second. A player would have to absolutely stink out loud to win a Gold Glove award and those who voted would have to get called out when made aware of his floundering fielding percentage. But I think the year when Rafael Palmeiro won the Gold Glove award and played no games in the field is appalling. In 1999 Raffy was a designated hitter. Look it up! He has no fielding statistics for that year and yet, he got the Silver Slugger and Golden Glove. Which, once and for all, proves that the Golden Gloves usually goes to the best hitter for that particular position. I feel for those first-basemen who were scooping balls du jour, in 1999, and like Palmeiro's stats it just didn't happen. What those voters- whose duty it was to vote for the gold glove that season- did was shameful. They chose not to vote and presto Palmeiro is handed a Golden Glove award. Why were those cursed with the choice not held accountable?

So I can understand the author's angst. Catcher is a tough position because of all that goes into it. Blocking pitches, blocking the plate as you prepare to get slammed into, the constant up and down, twisting and turning with gear (that you can't go lightweight on because there is a reason for the thickness of the stuff. It is worn to protect you from foul tips or any accidental play where the ball glances off of something into you. Don't wear the hockey mask without the padding or you may end up with a premature exit like Mike Matheny. I contend that Matheny may still be playing if he didn't switch to the less-padded hockey mask.)

AND you have to be on the same page as your pitcher. The two of you (known as the battery) have to be simpatico (being on the same wavelength) so as to not allow the opposing team to perhaps steal your signs due to your body language or communications running amok. You have to give the other team the impression you are ON to their game and you know exactly how to get them out. Those of us who have played the game, at any competitive little league level, know when you get the batter to over-think his/her approach with each at-bat that there is a really good chance he/she will not be at his/her best when stepping up to the plate. Because when you get the opponent to question what they are doing you have WON the battle and that's when you trust your pitcher to do his thing. This is also where the catcher can shoot a little casual conversation into the matter. Some heartfelt stuff like, "You don't seem to be yourself today, is everything okay?" Or to bring a little levity to the situation, because, afterall, you're on the winning side and it's time for laughs. "What do you do if you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?" or "Isn't it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do "practice?" Sometimes it's worth the effort in that he spills the beans. Or he may just as well rip off expletive after expletive taking himself further out of the game to which you and your batterymate go for the jugular. Either way it seems like a win-win to me.

(thanks to MLB Blogs Network for the inspiration for this opinion)

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, March 1, 2013

All-Time Hits and Home Run Leaders Thoughts

Every now and then a baseball fan needs to take the time to look up the numbers their favorite players put up and compare them to others thought to be great. And with the infusion of the performance enhanced age of baseball you can see how the more current ballplayer surpassed those greats from yesteryear.

To fully appreciate these numbers you have to be a historian because when a World War was taking place chances are your favorite player was serving the country so his numbers won't be a bloated as those thought to have used PEDs. (And unlike former President Bill Clinton, if a ballplayer crossed the Canadian border to dodge-an artful device to evade, deceive, or trick being in the war, Major League baseball would have blackballed that player for life. I am not sure there IS a book on such a topic but if there was a book I would have to log onto Amazon.com and see how much they would be charging for the book. Only I wouldn't know for sure what the contents of the book were because this site doesn't do a decent job on informing you of the book's contents. In the words of Don King, "Only in the United States.")

When you look at the All-Time Hits leader you see Pete Rose in first place with 4,256 and Ty Cobb second with 4,189, and Hammerin' Hank Aaron in third place with 3,771. All three of these players did not miss any time due to military service.

Surveying the All-Time hits list and the All-Time Home Run list I couldn't help but see some of the most heralded names surpassed by players not nearly as decorated (i.e. as legend has it or by awards received). And my initial feeling that maybe the voters of who gets into the Major League Hall of Fame are onto something didn't waver a bit because nobody could ever convince me Barry Bonds wasn't the greatest hitter I ever saw no matter what he did to his body to elevate his game. I never saw Babe Ruth or Ted Williams so I can only go by those accredited writers' words I have read as to their interpretation what the Babe or Ted Williams did. I did see Hank Aaron and let my biased opinion of Willie Mays blur the vision that was Hammerin' Hank. Because when it was all said and done Aaron is right up there with the greatest hitters of all-time, even if he didn't miss a day due to the military service or played in bandboxes his entire career.

Speaking of missing time due to the military service this is something that cannot go unnoticed. Hank Greenberg missed 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944. In 1941 he did play in 19 games. In 1945 he played in 78 games, long enough to drive in 60 runs. Ted "the Splendid Splinter" Williams missed 1943, 1944, 1945. In 1950 he played in 89 games. In 1952 he played in 6 games. In 1953 he played in 37 games. And look up his numbers. He hit .400 three times in his career even if it was during a shortened season you can see that he did not waste any at-bats. Furthermore, when you see that Frank Thomas and Willie McCovey are tied with the Splinter at 521 career homers you must understand why.

You see a player like Joltin' Joe DiMaggio whose numbers appear shrunken you must realize that he too missed 1943, 1944, and 1945 due to WWII. Joltin' Joe ended his career with 2,214 hits just 3 ahead of the beloved Hall of Famer Willie McCovey. Or that one-time Giant Darrell Evans had more hits than DiMaggio with 2,223 all-time hits.

Then I see Louis Henry Gehrig finished his career with 2,721 hits. Fans of baseball know it took a dreadful disease, one named after Larrupin Lou, to get him off the field. You know who is right behind him? Rusty Staub, also known as Le Grande Orange. A player who made his career playing solid baseball on expansion teams. From the Houston Astros to the Montreal Expos. This guy finished his career as a solid pinch-hitter. Nobody ever accused Le Grande Orange of cheating. And if anyone has any dirt on him please don't share it with me.

Currently Albert Pujols is tied with Stan Musial and Willie Stargell with 475 homers. I never read anything about Wilver Stargell supplementing his diet to benefit his performance and recalling his look as a player I'm sure the word diet was used often. But his only obstruction to more stardom was the unfriendly confines of Forbes Field. When the Pirates moved to Three Rivers Stadium that's when #8's career got going. Stan "the Man" Musial did miss the 1945 season but other than that had a stellar career with the St. Louis Cardinals. Pujols, nobody has accused him of using PEDs but can anyone really be sure. I mean because he was the polar opposite of Barry Bonds, a man those with pen and paper abhored, it's hard to say whether he was guilty or not guilty of taking PEDs. I'm not sure a hack would keep such information on someone he/she liked a secret or willingly spill the beans on someone they detest. I, like many other people, can only speculate. I mean what ethnic background is Pujols? Who are the guys getting busted left and right by major league baseball?

(People banned under Commissioner Bowie Kuhn
After Landis died in 1944, there was a long lull before the next banishment; indeed, during Bowie Kuhn's tenure (1969–1984), only three players (or former players) were banned for life.
• Ferguson Jenkins of the Texas Rangers was banned in 1980 after a customs search in Toronto, Ontario, found 3 grams (0.11 oz) of cocaine, 2.2 grams (0.078 oz) of hashish, and 1.75 grams (0.062 oz) of marijuana on his person. (Jenkins missed the rest of the 1980 season, but was reinstated by an independent arbiter, and retired following the 1983 season. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991.)
• Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, both retired and both in no way involved in baseball anymore, were banned in 1983 after they were hired by casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as greeters and autograph signers.[3] (Kuhn opined that a casino was "no place for a baseball hero and Hall of Famer"; Mantle and Mays were reinstated by Peter Ueberroth in 1985, and Mantle died in 1995.)

(Although all were reinstated it is interesting to note that with all the talk of baseball and integrity how Ferguson Jenkins who, judging by the goods he was caught with, looked like he was set up for some kind of PAR-TAY! still got the support of those hypocritical writers to make it into Cooperstown.)

(Thanks to ESPN. ESPN.com provided some of the facts for this opinion)

Kevin J. Marquez