Archive for the ‘Sports’ category

A real bummer, that.

September 25, 2013
Try a carrot?

Try a carrot?

Larry gets what Larry wants. Does this mean we’ll have to put up with his circus next time, too?

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Fly away …

June 28, 2013

Extra innings anyone?

Over the last few months, I’ve published a dream team for each city with a franchise in Major League Baseball, one for the Montreal Expos, and one for the Brooklyn Dodgers. All that work has resulted in the Dream Team rosters page, linked in the sidebar, which includes 32 rosters of 40 players each. I’ll continue to update them as each year passes, and my interest in baseball remains. I think it will, because this project has resulted in its stated objective: I really have deepened my appreciation for the game and its history.

I’ve been able to connect names and achievements with thirty-two cities. Baseball is “grounded” in my mind, in a new way. I’ve been able to imagine what it’s like to be a fan in each of those places. As an act of sporting “voyeurism” it’s been unmatched in my experience. “Fandom” is all about memory in general, and memories in particular. Each name and achievement I’ve encountered is remembered fondly by someone, somewhere, and that pleasure seems to rub off whenever I spend time with these teams. They’re one way to keep memory alive, and as a historian by training, that makes me feel great.

But even 32 all-time greats collections can’t contain the history of baseball in the post-war period. Some players, through no fault of their own, have slipped through the cracks. They played for too many teams, or happened to play a position previously occupied by a Hall of Famer in that town. Scott Rolen is the best player with that kind of luck; he’s one of the top 200 positions players since 1946, but his career was split between St. Louis, Philadelphia and Cincinnati, and none of those cities need a new third baseman on their dream teams. Tommy John and David Cone are pitchers in similar circumstances. But if you browse the “permanent” rosters I’ve produced and linked above, you’ll find that all three are listed on at least one team, even if they aren’t starting.

Here’s a longer list of “fringe” greats: Scott Rolen, Tommy John, David Cone, CC Sabathia, Mark Langston, Mark Teixeira, Frank Viola, Miguel Tejada, Rusty Staub, Rocky Colavito, Curt Simmons, Lenny Dykstra, Felipe Alou, Doug DeCinces, Gil McDougald, Danny Darwin, Reggie Sanders, Bartolo Colon, David Ortiz, Jon Matlack, Bill White, Lonnie Smith, Roger Maris, Chili Davis, Camilo Pascual, Robinson Cano, Fernando Valenzuela, Dusty Baker, Sid Gordon, Dick Groat, Burt Hooton, Enos Slaughter, George Scott, Bob Rush, George Kell, Tom Gordon, Dean Chance, Doyle Alexander, Ken Griffey Sr., Jeff Cirillo, B.J. Surhoff, Tim Wakefield, Curtis Granderson, Willie McGee, Ray Durham, Bill Doran, Rico Carty, John Valentin, Bobby Shantz, Bobby Murcer, Edgar Renteria, Mike Boddicker, Eddie Stanky, Chris Short, Rick Sutcliffe, Zack Greinke, Greg Vaughn, Jim Barr, Bill Hands, Lance Johnson, Phil Rizzuto, Bobby Bonilla, Kevin Millwood, Kevin McReynolds.

Some players, however, can’t even crack one of those 40-man rosters. And it’s not because they’re not good. The following players are some of the best in the post-war period, and they’re not listed on any dream team:

Johnny Damon (OF), Brett Butler (CF), J.D. Drew (OF), Tom Candiotti (SP), Placido Polanco (2B), Murray Dickson (SP), Moises Alou (OF), Paul O’Neill (RF), Ned Garver (SP), Bill Madlock (3B), Andy Messersmith (SP), Cliff Lee (SP), Smoky Burgess (C), Earl Torgeson (1B), Scott Fletcher (SS), Jose Valentin (IF), Harvey Haddix (SP/RP), Tino Martinez (1B), Elston Howard (C), Don McMahon (RP), Terry Forster (RP), LaTroy Hawkins (RP), Jim Brosnan (RP), Dave Veres (RP), Phil Regan (RP).

That gang can hang with any of the 32 groups I’ve created so far. Andy Messersmith, besides being one of the very first free agents, also coached the Cabrillo College baseball team. By the way.

And that’s the kind of knowledge that this project has provided me. Not important, but not trivial either. Just fun, basically. And isn’t that the point of a game?

Good game.

Good game.

The Dream Team Project: Abandoned Cities

June 25, 2013

Baseball might belong to the fans, but it’s owned by individuals (or corporations). As a result, teams move –not as often as they do in other North American sports, but some of the most significant milestones in baseball history have revolved around the decisions of owners to maximize their future earnings in greener pastures. In the aftermath, cities, like Montreal, get left behind. Sometimes Major League Baseball rectifies the damage. Charles O. Finley broke his lease to move the A’s to Oakland, and decamped from a city that had already issued bonds to build him a new stadium; to appease the U.S. Congress (and Missouri Senator Stuart Symington) the other owners promptly gave Kansas City a new team a year later. On the other hand, it took seven years of lawsuits to bring baseball back to Seattle. This paragraph (from Wikipedia) is worth your attention:

“After a winter and spring full of court action, the Pilots reported for spring training under new manager Dave Bristol, unsure of where they would play. The owners had given tentative approval to the Milwaukee group, but the state of Washington got an injunction on March 16 to stop the deal. PNSI immediately filed for bankruptcy — a move intended to forestall post-sale legal action. At the bankruptcy hearing a week later, Milkes testified there was not enough money to pay the coaches, players, and office staff. Had Milkes been more than 10 days late in paying the players, they would have all become free agents and left Seattle without a team for the 1970 season.With this in mind, Federal Bankruptcy Referee Sidney Volinn declared the Pilots bankrupt on April 2—five days before Opening Day—clearing the way for them to move to Milwaukee. The team’s equipment had been sitting in Provo, Utah with the drivers awaiting word on whether to drive toward Seattle or Milwaukee. The move came so late that Bud Selig had to scrap his initial plans to change the team’s colors to navy and red in honor of the minor-league Brewers. Instead, the Brewers were stuck using old Pilots’ uniforms, with the outline of the Pilots logo clearly visible. One legacy of the Brewers’ roots in Seattle is that to this day, their colors are still blue and gold, although the shades of blue and gold have been darker since 2000.”

Pilots_logo_1969

Sometimes the damage is slight. I can’t image there are many people still pining for the Philadelphia Athletics, or the Boston Braves, or the St. Louis Browns, but at the time, it must have felt like betrayal. Of those three teams, the first were by far the most successful. Here is their dream team, compiled from 1921 to 1954:

(more…)

The Dream Team Project: Seattle Mariners

June 21, 2013

In order to deepen my appreciation for baseball and its history, I have embarked on an effort to create a “dream team” for each franchise in the American and National Leagues, from the time it began play in its current location, or from 1947 (whichever is earlier). I present each team in batting order (the starting pitcher bats 9th), and include three more starting pitchers, five relief pitchers, as well as the best player, hitter, and fielder (and pinch hitter) not in the starting lineup.

* = Left-handed batter or pitcher. # = Switch-hitter.

Seattle Mariners (from 1977)

  1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF (2001-2012) *
  2. Alex Rodriguez, SS (1994-2000)
  3. Ken Griffey Jr., CF (1989-1999 & 2009-2010) *
  4. Edgar Martinez, 3B (1987-2004)
  5. John Olerud, 1B (2000-2004) *
  6. Bret Boone, 2B (1992-1993 & 2001-2005)
  7. Mike Cameron, LF (2000-2003)
  8. Dan Wilson, C (1994-2005)
  9. Randy Johnson, P (1989-1998) [*]

Player: Jay Buhner, RF (1988-2001); Hitter: Alvin Davis, 1B (1984-1991) *; Fielder: Adrian Beltre, 3B (2005-2009); Pinch hitter: Phil Bradley, LF (1983-1987)

Other starting pitchers:

  • Felix Hernandez (2005– )
  • Jamie Moyer (1996-2006) *
  • Freddy Garcia (1999-2004)

Relief pitchers:

  • Jeff Nelson (1992-95, 2001-03, 2005)
  • Arthur Rhodes (2000-2003 & 2008) *
  • J.J. Putz (2003-2008)
  • Michael Jackson (1988-1991 & 1996)
  • Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000-2003)

“Full of hopes and full of fears, full of laughter, full of tears, full of dreams to last the years …” The Seattle Mariners began playing baseball precisely at the moment I was ready to pay attention, and there is no dream team in this collection for which I have more affection than this one. Although it took the franchise 15 seasons to finish with a winning record, when success came, it came suddenly and in the most dramatic fashion. Lou Piniella managed all but five of the 21 players on this roster. One third of these players were on the team that rocked the Northwest in 1995, and very likely saved baseball in Seattle. A majority of them were on the 2001 team that defied my imagination. Three were on both (Edgar Martinez, Dan Wilson, and Jeff Nelson); three preceded the good times, and three arrived too late.

The most amazing thing about the “Refuse to Lose” years was the way the M’s continued to prosper even as their superstars departed: the Big Unit after 1998, Junior after 1999, A-Rod after 2000. Mike Cameron is symbolic of that success, and he starts in left only because, on this team, he can’t replace the Kid he so ably succeeded in real life. Amidst all the departures, however, one arrival made all the difference, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that the first Japanese player headed for Cooperstown leads off this lineup. Edgar defined “Designated Hitter,” and deserves to be in the Hall on that basis alone, but he is still the best third baseman the Emerald City has ever seen.

From the Kingdome to King Felix, the Mariners have much to be proud of. And when the good times return, this team will change again. I remember when I ran out Omar Vizquel and Harold Reynolds in the middle of my fantasy infield; I’ve got nothing against ESPN personalities, but I think you’ll understand why they can’t get in this team. The former is still the fourth best fielder in Mariners history, according to the statheads. Erik Hanson and Mark Langston could each round out the rotation (half of which is Venezuelan by the way), while this team could easily add a third Japanese player in Shigetoshi Hasegawa. At least Phil Bradley remains to remind me of the way it used to be.

628x471 the double 2

DSCN0098-0815

My oh my!!!

My oh my!!!

The Dream Team Project: Atlanta Braves

June 18, 2013

In order to deepen my appreciation for baseball and its history, I have embarked on an effort to create a “dream team” for each franchise in the American and National Leagues, from the time it began play in its current location, or from 1947 (whichever is earlier). I present each team in batting order (the starting pitcher bats 9th), and include three more starting pitchers, five relief pitchers, as well as the best player, hitter, and fielder (and pinch hitter) not in the starting lineup.

* = Left-handed batter or pitcher. # = Switch-hitter.

Atlanta Braves (from 1966)

  1. Rafael Furcal, SS (2000-2005) #
  2. Andruw Jones, CF (1996-2007)
  3. Hank Aaron, RF (1954-1974)
  4. Chipper Jones, 3B (1993, 1995-2012) #
  5. Dale Murphy, LF (1976-1990)
  6. Darrell Evans, 1B (1969-1976 & 1989) *
  7. Javy Lopez, C (1992-2003)
  8. Marcus Giles, 2B (2001-2006)
  9. Greg Maddux, P (1993-2003)

Player: David Justice, RF (1989-1996) *; Hitter: Bob Horner, 3B/1B (1978-1986); Fielder: Jason Heyward, RF (2010– ) *; Pinch hitter: Fred McGriff, 1B (1993-1997) *

Other starting pitchers:

  • Phil Niekro (1964-1983 & 1987)
  • Tom Glavine (1987-2002 & 2008) *
  • Tim Hudson (2005– )

Relief pitchers:

  • John Smoltz (1988-1999, 2001-2008)
  • Mike Remlinger (1999-2002 & 2006) *
  • Steve Bedrosian (1981-1985 & 1993-1995)
  • Eric O’Flaherty (2009– ) *
  • Greg McMichael (1993-1996 & 2000)

I knew a guy in college who was a big Braves fan. I thought we had something in common, since my native team and his had had almost no success when I met him. The years since then have proved mostly unkind to my team, but they’ve rewarded the Atlanta franchise with routine post-season appearances. Even so, this dream team feels unfinished. Chipper and Hank and Andruw and Dale are legitimately great players, but the rest of the positions appear to be up for grabs. Darrell Evans wasn’t even a proper first baseman, but there will be no room at third on this roster for generations. The Murph didn’t play much left field, but center fielders are fungible, and you can’t blame me for including his outfield companions; the Curaçao Kid’s defensive skills were unmatched, and 755 home runs speak for themselves. Rafael Furcal barely beat out Jeff Blauser for a starting spot; Ryan Klesko could easily replace Fred McGriff as this team’s “pinch hitter,” but I flipped a heavily biased coin, and the Crime Dog landed face up.

Pitching is the pride of the South. This starting rotation can chop down any lineup in my all-time greats collection, and it even features a knuckle baller! John Smoltz (who started the majority of his games) heads up the relief corps, and Knoxville and UT’s own Greg McMichael rounds out the bullpen. Of course, a team with great pitchers features great catchers; Brian McCann is currently tied (flat footed, as they say) for the job with Javy Lopez, and Joe Torre wasn’t far behind. If the Georgia native takes over behind the plate, then one of this roster’s eight links to the Braves’ only World Championship will be severed. If there’s any “justice” in the world, however, a heavy hitting middle infielder (or two) will bring another trophy (or two) to Turner Field.

Chop chop.

Chop chop.

The Dream Team Project: Detroit Tigers

June 14, 2013

In order to deepen my appreciation for baseball and its history, I have embarked on an effort to create a “dream team” for each franchise in the American and National Leagues, from the time it began play in its current location, or from 1947 (whichever is earlier). I present each team in batting order (the starting pitcher bats 9th), and include three more starting pitchers, five relief pitchers, as well as the best player, hitter, and fielder (and pinch hitter) not in the starting lineup.

* = Left-handed batter or pitcher. # = Switch-hitter.

Detroit Tigers (from 1947)

  1. Lou Whitaker, 2B (1977-1995) *
  2. Alan Trammell, SS (1977-1996)
  3. Al Kaline, RF (1953-1974)
  4. Norm Cash, 1B (1960-1974) *
  5. Kirk Gibson, LF (1979-1987 & 1993-1995) *
  6. Chet Lemon, CF (1982-1990)
  7. Travis Fryman, 3B (1990-1997)
  8. Bill Freehan, C (1961, 1963-1976)
  9. Hal Newhouser, P (1939-1953) *

Player: Dick McAuliffe, 2B/SS (1960-1973) *; Hitter: Miguel Cabrera, 1B/3B (2008– ); Fielder: Lance Parrish, C (1977-1986); Pinch hitter: Tony Phillips, 3B/2B/OF (1990-1994) #

Other starting pitchers:

  • Justin Verlander (2005– )
  • Jack Morris (1977-1990)
  • Mickey Lolich (1963-1975) *

Relief pitchers:

  • John Hiller (1965-1970, 1972-1980) *
  • Mike Henneman (1987-1995)
  • Willie Hernandez (1984-1989) *
  • Aurelio Lopez (1979-1985)
  • Doug Brocail (1997-2000)

The Old English D is a classic sporting symbol in America, but in this case, you might be tempted to say it stands for “dream.” There are only three players (out of 21) on this roster who did not get a taste of post season play with the Tigers, even though those seasons have been somewhat sparse in the post-war period. Six World Champions from 1968 are here, including “Mr. Tiger,” Al Kaline; seven more played for Sparky Anderson in 1984. Only two are current Tigers though, and one propelled the Motor City to a championship in 1945: “Prince Hal” Newhouser had his best years at the end of World War II, but he played enough of his career in the integrated era to qualify for this team, and I won’t miss another franchise’s all-time great pitcher.

Justin Verlander is not far away from replacing him in the starting lineup however. This is a well-balanced team, and in the realm of dreams, it could well be a powerhouse. “Sweet Lou” Whitaker and Alan Trammell both need to be in the Hall of Fame, and “Stormin’ Norman” is underrated as a first bagger; Willie Hernandez, Jack Morris and Kirk Gibson are players everyone should remember. Interestingly, the latter two’s most famous moments came in other cities; Minnesota native Morris followed up his glittering Detroit career with a World Championship in his home state, and two more in Canada, while Gibson hit one of the most famous home runs in baseball history. The Detroit Tigers dream team proudly features three Detroit area natives, however (including Gibson), and Willie Horton, who went to high school there, just missed making the team. So did George Kell, at third, while Brandon Inge and Mickey Tettleton could easily have been the chosen fielder and pinch hitter, respectively. As it is, I couldn’t deny either the “Big Wheel” or Tony Phillips a place on the roster. This group represents Detroit: tough and resourceful, it’s success has been well-earned.

Old-English-D

Fangraphs: “Appreciating Bill Freehan

The Dream Team Project: San Francisco Giants

June 11, 2013

In order to deepen my appreciation for baseball and its history, I have embarked on an effort to create a “dream team” for each franchise in the American and National Leagues, from the time it began play in its current location, or from 1947 (whichever is earlier). I present each team in batting order (the starting pitcher bats 9th), and include three more starting pitchers, five relief pitchers, as well as the best player, hitter, and fielder (and pinch hitter) not in the starting lineup.

* = Left-handed batter or pitcher. # = Switch-hitter.

San Francisco Giants (from 1958)

  1. Bobby Bonds, RF (1968-1974)
  2. Willie McCovey, 1B (1959-1973 & 1977-1980) *
  3. Willie Mays, CF (1951-52, 1954-1972)
  4. Barry Bonds, LF (1993-2007) *
  5. Jeff Kent, 2B (1997-2002)
  6. Matt Williams, 3B (1987-1996)
  7. Tom Haller, C (1961-1967) *
  8. Chris Speier, SS (1971-1977 & 1987-1989)
  9. Juan Marichal, P (1960-1973)

Player: Will Clark, 1B (1986-1993) *; Hitter: Orlando Cepeda, 1B (1958-1966); Fielder: Robby Thompson, 2B (1986-1996); Pinch hitter: Jack Clark, RF (1975-1984)

Other starting pitchers:

  • Matt Cain (2005– )
  • Gaylord Perry (1962-1971)
  • Jason Schmidt (2001-2006)

Relief pitchers:

  • Robb Nen (1998-2002)
  • Rod Beck (1991-1997)
  • Gary Lavelle (1974-1984) *
  • Stu Miller (1957-1962)
  • Sergio Romo (2008– )

Say hey! Have you ever seen a dream team like this? A father-son combo in the outfield, flanking Willie Mays, and Stretch batting second. Jeff Kent returns to hit behind the guy he couldn’t stand, and Marichal is winding up to mow down the opposition. The San Francisco Giants had for a long time lived in the shadow of their New York ancestors, until a park in the perfect spot helped them put it all together, but this roster brings together every era of Bay Area baseball and reminds us why so many trooped out to Candlestick, even for night games.

I doubt the position players are controversial choices, but you might not remember how good Chris Speier was, as he wore the Orange and Black during a time of transition for the franchise. Buster Posey is two “all-star” seasons (or one more MVP season) away from making this team. Kevin Mitchell was an excellent role player and is “next in line” for a spot on the hitting side of the roster. Pedro Feliz and Kirt Manwaring couldn’t really hit, but they were outstanding fielders, while Darrell Evans, Rich Aurilia, Jim Ray Hart, Jim Davenport, Felipe Alou and Chili Davis could each have made a team in this collection, but are beaten out by the Giants above. Panda’s future is bright, but we’ll have to wait and see.

The mound corps lacks the other two iconic players of the Giants current championship run, but I can back up the exclusion of Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson with numbers. Timmy was on this team as of 2011, but he’s off it now, and I think we all know why. The Beard’s reputation has been enhanced, shall we say, by his oddball persona; he pitched very well for Los Gigantes, but he didn’t pitch enough. And in any case, the five names on my list all have stellar resumes. I could make a second (and equally colorful) bullpen out of Wilson, Greg “Moonman” Minton, Al Holland, Scott Garrelts, and your choice: Felix Rodriguez (00’s) or Frank Linzy (60s).

I’ve encountered some grumbling online about the “bandwagon” behind our local nine, but this group is the rebuttal to that complaint; the San Francisco Giants are baseball at its finest.

park

Things are lookin’ up …

Semper rabidus: Rehab the Crab!