Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Baseball and 9/11

Jose Reyes wore a first-responder cap
before the Mets game on  Sunday.
I'm not a Bud Selig hater. Without him there would be no team in Milwaukee, and while I don't like many of his decisions, I think he does love the game and is doing what he believes is the right thing. But his reaction to the flap over the New York Mets wardrobe choice for Sunday's game on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks has me mystified.

For whatever reason, Major League Baseball decided that teams had to wear their own caps with an American flag sewn on the side. This presented a problem for the Mets. The team famously hosted the first sporting event in New York after the attacks. Players wore hats representing many of the first responders—firefighters, police, EMS etc.—and were lionized for the gesture.

This year, Mets players wanted to repeat the gesture. But MLB said no. Joe Torre, now a member of the league office, explained that baseball wanted all the teams to do the same thing. Although that sounds more like the NFL than MLB, apparently the league has the authority to make that call.

The Mets weren't happy about it but complied under protest. The strange thing is that Selig is upset that the Mets went public with the dispute and "embarrassed" the league. Did he really think no one notice the Mets were wearing their regular caps or that no reporter would ask about it? And if Selig thought it was the right decision why is he embarrassed that it became public?

It seems obvious that in hindsight Selig knows the decision was wrong. No harm would have been done if the Mets had worn the special caps. The controversy was predictable and avoidable.

By the way, even the NFL allowed coaches to wear FDNY and other such hats on the sidelines of its game over the weekend.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Lucky Bounce Off the Roof

Brewers' fans are proud of the retractable roof at Miller Park. They often wonder why newer parks are built without the feature.

This season, the roof has allowed to team to suffer fewer rainouts than many other teams. That means they don't have to contend with as many late-season doubleheaders.

And now the Brewers have another reason to like stadiums with roofs. Pennants are often won by the team that gets a lucky bounce or two. 

After being swept at home by the St. Louis Cardinals, the Brewers looked like they might be headed for a rough September, after all. Then, last night in Houston they looked lost at the plate until a bit of luck jumpstarted the offense.

With the Crew trailing 2-0 in the seventh inning, Corey Hart came to the plate with two out and a runner on first. A high pop foul looked like an easy play for the third baseman. Easy, that is, until the ball struck a support beam on the retractable roof. Instead of the third out, the ground rules mandated it was just a foul ball. Hart singled and the Brewers were on their way to an 8-2 victory.

Add to that the Cardinals' 11-8 loss at home to the Reds and the lead was back to 8.5 games with the magic number reduced to 16.

It's safe to say The Brewers are thankful that the Astros decided to include a roof on their stadium.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Run Continues

At the beginning of the month, I wrote how there's nothing more exciting in sports than your favorite baseball team going on a hot streak. Little did I know that the Brewers were only at the start of an epic run: They'd won 27 of 32 games coming into Tuesday's game with the  hated St. Louis Cardinals.

Those are same Cardinals that Milwaukee always seem to be chasing. Now it's the Redbirds and their cantankerous manager, Tony La Russa, who are desperate for some wins. In fact, they need a lot of wins to even make a dent in Milwaukee's 10.5 game lead.

As exciting as that early run was, the chance to bury a bitter and put away the division before the second week of September takes the joy up several notches. Going into the season, I thought the Brewers had a chance to win the division, but I never imagined they'd be so far ahead, building the biggest lead in the team's history.

The off-season moves to shore up the pitching staff—bringing in Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke—have paid off. And then Doug Melvin, the club's general manager, took a bold chance in trading for New York Mets' closer Frankie Rodriguez. Not only was he able to rework a problematic contract, Rodriguez accepted his less-glamorous role as 8th-inning man.

That move shored up the bullpen and the team has ridden good pitching, timely hitting and some lucky bounces to the upper echelon of the National League.

It's been nearly three decades since Milwaukee has had a team playing at this level. The excitement just keeps growing.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Worthless Vote of Confidence

The Chicago Cubs pulled the trigger today and fired their general manager, Jim Hendry. It's not a big surprise. After all, the Cubs have a big payroll and are having a dismal season.

But the real clue that he was not long for his job was the vote of confidence given him by the team last week. The only more hollow words in sports are an athlete's vows of retirement (Brett Favre might be the poster boy for that, but he was hardly the first to do the retirement dance).

Do a Google search for "vote of confidence"+baseball+manager" and you'll find the word "dreaded" frequently used. It seems unlikely that the owners, general managers and others who pass out these assurances are really lying (at least most of the time).

My guess is that for the most part they tire of being asked everyday by reporters whether or not this manager or that GM is about to be fired. "No comment" just fuels the frenzy for an answer. Not answering doesn't work. Changing the subject, ditto.

So finally an answer is offered. Maybe the decision has already been made, but often I think the matter is still up in the air when the "dreaded" vote of confidence is given.

And that's when it's time to start packing up the office.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

T. Plush Havin' a Good Time

The Milwaukee Brewers are having a great year and, surprisingly, a part-time player has become the symbol of a team having a good time. The two big stars – Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun – get their share of attention, but it's Nyjer Morgan who is entertaining the fans and his fellow players.

Not since Gorman Thomas and Pete Vuckovich brought a blue-collar zaniness to the contenders of the late '70s and early '80s have the Brewers had a player who had the knack to just have fun. And fans get a doubleheader with Morgan, because along to provide the fun is Tony Plush, his alter ego.

For the uninitiated, the alternate personality was born in his youth when he and his buddies came up with nicknames for each other. Now Morgan, a speedy player who is getting his first taste of playing for a good team, is in the limelight with T. Plush.

And the fans are eating up Morgan's comic and baseball act. New T. Plush T-shirts sell out the day they arrive at the Brewers team store, and his videos go viral on YouTube.

Morgan credits the T. Plush persona with his reckless play on the field, whether running into walls or slamming into catchers. Sometimes opponents don't like the latter, but he has given the Crew a couple wins this season that way, so local fans won't complain. Stormin' Gorman, as Thomas was known, played the same way, once saying the fans paid to see him hit a home run, run into a wall or strikeout and they probably would get to see at least two of those on any night.

And then there's the crazy, off-the-wall interviews he gives after games. Wild answers to typical questions make them must-see TV. Maybe the Brewers have caught lightning in a bottle, but Morgan has the Brewers' fan's vote as most entertaining player in the league.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cardinals Easy to Hate

Is there any team easier to hate than the St. Louis Cardinals? I've written about their manager before, but on Tuesday night the team's catcher joined the dishonor roll.
The Cardinals seem to have a corner on arrogance and bad behavior. It starts at the top, of course, with Manager Tony La Russa. His constant whining and attempts at gamesmanship are tiresome. If there were a picture in the dictionary for "crank" it would be of him. 
He and his team seem to have a problem with every team in the league. A window into his true thoughts came after Tuesday night's game when he called the fans "idiots" before taking it back. I think we all know who the idiot is. And during the sereis he accused the Brewers of dimming the lights on an LCD board when the Cards came to bat. The umpires said they hadn't noticed anything.
If they are not throwing at hitters and then denying it (see Ryan Braun Tuesday night), the Card like to claim the other team cheats in some ways. But don't worry, the holier-than-thou Cardinals play strictly by the rules and it's just so unfair that no one else does.
La Russa's not the only offender. The newest member of the Evil Cardinals Club is Yadier Molina. His rage at the home plate umpire Tuesday night was inexcusable. His suggestion that the ump bumped him first is absurd. Hopefully, his outburst will cost him 10 games and put his team further behind the Crew. Good guys don't always finish last.
There is a positive side to all this of course. Nothing makes sports better than a winning team and a bitter rivalry. Was there anything better than the Packers beating the Bears in the NFC title game? La Russa's teams are always competitive and loathsome at the same time. Nothing will be better than beating them for the division. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Best Time in Sports

Casey McGehee needs to get hot for the Brewers.
There's nothing in sports more exciting than your baseball team getting hot at the right time. The anticipation for each game is thrilling. And unlike other sports, the games are virtually every day.

That's the case with the Milwaukee Brewers right now. They were a team full of questions heading into the All-Star break. They were in first place, or near it, most of the first half of the season. But the team had a split personality: They had the best record in baseball at home and one of the worst on the road.

Now, they have the look of a division winner. They won five of 11 on a road trip and now seven in a row at home since. In times past, a run like this would send me scurrying for the latest newspaper to read all the quotes about how great my team was doing. Now, I can watch every game and read about the streak  all over the Internet.

But the dynamic hasn't changed. The anticipation builds each day until game time. And then, as the winning continues, it just gets better.

Of course, the Brewers won't win every game for the rest of the season (and I hope I didn't break some superstition about writing about a winning streak) but as David Letterman might say, "This is more fun than humans should be allowed to have."

I just hope the fun keeps rolling right into October (make that November).

Friday, July 29, 2011

For Love of a Ballpark

The Milwaukee Brewers are sponsoring a contest asking fans to let the team know what they love about Miller Park. The winner gets season tickets for next season. It's a nice way to celebrate the stadium's 10th anniversary.

I don't live in Milwaukee anymore and haven't for the better part of more than three decades, but I make it to one or two Brewers' home games a year. There's a lot to love about the new ballpark. The wide concourses and seats closer to the field are a big improvement over County Stadium. Without a doubt, the thing I love most is the retractable roof.  Nobody likes a rainout, but it's even worse if you have only one day to see a game. I shake my head at the two new stadiums in New York that neglected to this feature.

Still, the contest started me thinking about what inspires love for a ballpark. For me it's not the amenities or the design. It's the memories of what happens there.

The picture I have in my mind of sitting in the upper deck at County Stadium with my Dad watching the early, bad Brewers teams are priceless. So, too, of seeing Robin Yount mature from the reed-thin rookie into the franchise's greatest player. And nothing tops the summer of '78 when the Brewers made the leap from perennial doormat to contender. (Although '82 is obviously the Crew's best year, I had to follow the thrills from far away in South Carolina.)

I am sure for a new generation of fans Miller Park is making indelible memories that pack the same emotional wallop as County Stadium does for me.

I didn't shed a tear when County Stadium was replaced. I knew it was time. But I'll always love the old stadium and the memories it left with me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Best Double Play of Year? U2

The playing field at Busch Stadium was completely
resodded following U2's  July 17 concert.
Best double play pulled of this year? The surprise winner is U2. The band had a hand in two games played in different states. Not bad.

The first part of the twofer occurred earlier this year when the Florida Marlines moved their home series with the Mariners to Seattle to give the band time to set up. Since Marlins games are sparsely attended, I guess the team figured they'd get more out of the concert and their share of the away gate.

U2's second out was apparently recorded Monday night in St. Louis where the Houston Astros had a bad game stumbling and falling while chasing a few fly balls hit by the Cardinals. The explanation for all the pratfalls wasn't just that the Astros are a bad team (worst in baseball by far), but that the field was a mess after a U2 concert. (There was nothing in the story that explained if the Cards also had problems.)

Who knew that all the grass on a field is pulled out to prepare for a rock concert. For me, it brought back memories of when Milwaukee County Stadium hosted rock concerts for the first time. It was 1975 and the Rolling Stones headlined a show with the Eagles, Beach Boys and Rufus.

After the concert,  the criticism was loud that the field had been ruined. I remember the Milwaukee Journal running photos of the outfield. Damage was clear. But then it was pointed out that damage from Green Bay Packers game was more widespread. The controversy died out and more concerts were held over the years. (I never attended any but I don't think it was the greatest venue to see a show. Unless you were sitting on the field, I would think the sight lines would be pretty bad.)

But surely the double play U2 pulled off in St. Louis and Miami will go down as a nice bit of band trivia for fans to talk about.

Monday, July 25, 2011

More Day Baseball?

The Cubs play more day games than anyone.
 Does anyone want to  emulate their record?
The Florida Marlins are finally going to play their home games in a stadium built for baseball next year. And the new ballpark, rising on the site once occupied by the Orange Bowl, will even have a retractable roof.

The obvious reasons for that are the heat and the penchant for late-day rain in southern Florida. Now fans will no longer have to ponder whether to make the trek to see the Marlins play in the midst of a thunderstorm. But the team has decided there's another benefit to the new park: more day games during the week.

As mlb.com reports, the location of the ballpark in a business district has the Marlins thinking games in the sunshine will be a draw for the workers in the area. The St. Louis Cardinals have long had a "businessman's special" staring time of noon. The theory behind it was that an extended lunch hour would be enough time to catch a game. I'm not sure how well that holds up now that games are much longer than two hours.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Innocence Lost

There's an interesting piece in The New York Times today in which readers recalled when their innocence about sports was replaced with the knowledge that the game and heroes they loved were imperfect after all.

The responses were interesting. Moments that left fans disillusioned included the trading of favorite players Rocky Colavito, Lou Brock and Tom Seaver), wife swapping between two players on the New York Yankees (Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson), and the moving of a team (Brooklyn Dodgers).

The responses started me wracking my brain to remember back to when I had illusions about the purity of the game. I admit I was stumped. No single trade or huge disappointment came to mind.

Sure, there were trades I didn't like (Gorman Thomas). And I was only 6 when the Braves left for Atlanta. I remember my Southern cousins breaking the news that it was going to happen. I do remember not believing them, but I don't recall being emotionally distraught.

Maybe because I was young when Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" came out in 1970, I learned that ballplayers were just people and not really special except between the lines. The book wasn't well received by baseball and Bouton was vilified for revealing the drinking, womanizing and other bad behavior that was part of a ballplayer's life on the road.

Somehow, I've always rooted more the quiet players who really did "just do it." Hank Aaron, Robin Yount, Rod Carew and Ernie Banks were among my favorites. They weren't flashy on the field and acted with dignity off it.

But mainly I think I was raised to think of ballplayers as talented athletes not heroes. My parents never talked put athletes, or anyone really, on any kind of pedestal. I think it's a good thing I absorbed that lesson because there have been chances to be disappointed over the years.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Blue Eyes Squinting in the Sun?

Are these eyes too blue to see in daylight?
Maybe John Fogerty had a point when he sang about a "brown-eyed handsome man" playing "Centerfield." Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers obviously thinks so. Ever since he told the world that his daytime hitting woes are all because he has blue eyes, the debate has raged.

Optometrists have weighed in on both sides. Many say there's something to Hamilton's complaint, while others says people with light eyes naturally compensate to the difference.  I admit I am skeptical that having blue eyes is a huge obstacle for hitters.

A number bloggers have looked at the stats of Hamilton and other blue-eyed players. One tracked Hamilton's year-by-year splits and Jason Bay's, another player with blue eyes. Bay has said he agrees that hitting during the day was tougher because of his blue eyes. (Although how any blue-eyed player knows what it's like for a brown-eyed player is a mystery.) Bay's day night-splits are pretty close.

I'm not surprised. It seems to me that Hamilton's problems are in his head, and I don't mean his eyes. This week he tried some fancy, custom sunglasses, but gave up on them after one hitless day. Last year, Hamilton hit 170 points higher during the day than he has this year. That says to me it has become a confidence issue.

Or maybe he just needs to squint a little more.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Run on Bobbleheads

Bobbleheads have become the top ballpark giveaway. It's been that way for a while. But the Minnesota Twins might have taken the dolls to a new level. The team offered a set of 25 of the collectibles representing the 1991 World Series winners.

The cost for was $391. One thousand sets were offered. They sold out quickly. That's nearly 400 grand in sales. The Twins say the net profits will go to its community fund. Of course, some of the buyers immediately put them for sale on eBay, looking for a profit.

I'm ambivalent about the bobbleheads. I have a shelf full of New York Mets lookalikes (well, some of them sort of look like their alter egos). The top giveaway when I was a kid was the common wood baseball bat. I used my Darrell Porter model till it the paint was worn off and the handle was chipped.

I understand they probably stopped giving out bats for fear of liability problems. And it's doubtful any kid today would be allowed to use a wood bat. I suppose the baseball giveaway was ended when one too many ended up being thrown onto the field during play.

It's interesting that almost none of the giveaways these days involve equipment that can be used to play the game. The only items that even come close are caps, wristbands and a water bottle. And the latter item is a stretch. We never had water bottles on the playground back in the day.

Added to my shelf this year have been Mr. Met (my wife, a lifelong Mets fan, calls it the evil Mr. Mets because of changes to his eyebrows) and Ike Davis, who was obtained last night. They join Johann Santana and Frankie Rodriguez, among others. Strangely, Most of the Mets honorees have been injured when their likeness was handed out. Although Mr. Met did appear at Opening Day this season on his special day.

I can't imagine any kid has as much fun with a bobblehead as I did with my bat, batting gloves and plastic helmet. But then there wouldn't be much a market on eBay for those items.

Blast from Baseball Past

The Wall Street Journal had a story on Monday about a group of self-described nerds who cling to a baseball board game that seems to transport them (at least in their minds) into the role of all-powerful baseball lord.

I enjoyed the article, which calls the game a "nerd magnet," mainly because I loved the game in question, All-Star Baseball, when I was much (and I do mean much) younger. It turns out ASB, as the nerds now call it, is older than its more sophisticated rivals like Strat-O-Matic and APBA.

ASB dates to 1941 when a former New York Giants outfielder and Yale baseball coach was inspired to create a game based on the statistics of major leaguers. The result, at least when I was younger, was addictive. The original set of player cards was based on all-time greats. Of course there were Ruth and Cobb, and Spahn, and Walter Johnson. But where else would I have heard of Eppa Rixey? Later, there were cards for modern players.

I remember receiving the game for birthday one July in about 1970 or '71. I remember it so well, I think, because my birthday is in February, so a summertime present was unusual, if not unique. Uncle David and Aunt Barbara stopped by out of the blue to drop it off. They had it all along, but forgot to give it to me. That didn't matter much to me. (Although, the fact they lived several blocks on the same street as we did, makes the explanation kind of mysterious.)

I was instantly enthralled with the game. I spent hours playing with friends or alone filling spiral notebooks with scorecards. But then like a light switch turning off, I stopped playing. There was no thought put into it. I just moved on to other pursuits.

Maybe if just once I felt as all-powerful over the players represented in the game as one of the nerds quoted in The Journal I would have stuck with it. But then again maybe that just means I am not that much of a nerd.

Monday, July 18, 2011

600 Ain't What is Used to Be

Jim Thome is on the verge of a milestone that just seven major leaguers have reached: 600 home runs. That's far fewer than the number with 3,000 hits. But somehow the buzz in much lower than it was for Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit.

Jeter, of course, plays in New York for the Yankees, so that accounts for some of the difference. And after steroid era, it seems the value of home runs has diminished. I can remember the hoopla surrounding Hank Aaron's 500th, and Ernie Banks was widely saluted when he reached that mark for the Chicago Cubs.

But Thome's march to the plateau seems to be getting less notice. It's not hard to remember the home run chase put on by Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Every at-bat was a media event. Batting practice by the sluggers was watches as intently as a World Series game.

After the bubble burst on that era, the numbers seemed more like pinball than baseball. After all, until the steroid era, only Aaron, Ruth and Mays had crossed the 600 barrier. The club will soon have eight members.

Unfortunately, the effect of the steroids era has been to tarnish even those might have never used the substances. Jeter has managed to keep a clean image, and, by all accounts, Thome name has never been associated with the scandal.

Still, for me, and I suspect many others, the distrust has been planted. I love the game, but any sense of innocence about the players has been lost. For me, now, it's hard to take the breaking of these records too seriously.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Is MLB Catching on to Joe West?

Managers like Joe Maddon won't be double-teamed anymore
by umpires Angel Hernandez, center, and Joe West.
It doesn't go far enough, but Major League Baseball has at last taken a little action against Joe West and Angel Hernandez, the two worst umpires in the game. To start the second half of the season, the two are no longer on the same crew.

It's far short of the firing both have long deserved, but at least their incompetence will be watered down some by working with three other umpires.

Besides the fact that West and Hernandez have an endless capacity for making bad calls, they both seem to revel in the power their position gives them. Photos of the two double-teaming to argue with managers are all over the web.

Once the screaming starts, they are too stubborn to walk away to defuse the situation. They'd rather get in someone's face and then toss the "offender" out. Just ask Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers who was ejected after his manager had pulled him for a new pitcher. Some lip readers say he said "horrible" to an ump on his way off the field. Touchy, touchy.

The old saying goes that the best umpires are the ones you don't notice. Joe West and his former running buddy Hernandez make too much news. Let's hope 2011 is the end of the line for both.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blyleven Gets His Due

After years of waiting, Bert Blyleven is finally getting his due. On Saturday the Minnesota Twins will retire his number and later this month he'll be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

When I was kid going to Brewers games, Blyleven was one of the visiting players I always looked forward to seeing. His pitching style was effortless and his curveball broke so much it just had to be an optical illusion. But it wasn't. It was often said by announcers at the time that he had the best breaking ball ever.

Still, a long career (22 seasons) and a lot of wins (287) weren't enough to get him into the Hall of Fame for years. A lot of the argument against him centered around the idea that he was just a compiler, someone who put up good numbers only because he hung around so long.

I am suspicious of the "compiler" argument. I have heard it used several times to denigrate the accomplishments of Hank Aaron. Yes, Aaron had a long career; almost all legendary players do. But he was a great player from the start of his career and had the grit to break the game's greatest record in the face of death threats and vile racial insults. And he he was in the two three in homers, RBI, runs scored and hits when he retired. In short, he is the definition of a Hall of Famer.

Blyleven, of course, is not Aaron. His winning percentage is not the best, but he often had mediocre or even hapless teams behind him.

While there are some number that (automatically) make a player worthy of enshrinement, like 300 wins, 3,000 hits (at least prior to steroids), I have always thought Hall of Famers can be spotted while they are in the midst of their careers.

Bert Blyleven seemed worthy then, and I am happy to seem him finally get the honor.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Clemens Gets a Reprieve

The trial of Roger Clemens on Thursday was shut down by the judge after just two days. And like the entire steroid era, the mistrial leaves us with more questions than answers.

I am not surprised that the trial of Clemens didn't go well, although I didn't expect prosecutors to present evidence that had been ruled inadmissible. That's a hard one to understand, no matter how much pressure they felt to get a conviction.

I doubt we'll ever know haw many players used steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. Nor do I think any players will ever be convicted of any crimes. And I doubt we'll ever really know how much management at the top levels of MLB discussed the problem even as they denied there was one.

I suppose they will try Clemens again, but with the all the long drawn out hearings and trial delays, the public cares less and less. It seems everyone in baseball -- fans, players, management -- wants to pretend it never happened.

Even mentioning the possibility that current players could still be using PEDs draws hoots from readers. Unfortunately, I think athletes in all sports are still looking for an edge. And with all the stories that have been written about the drug labs working to beat the testers, it's hard to believe that it all of it has stopped.

I guess that's the way these things go. Fans want to enjoy the game and not have it sullied by stories of bad conduct by players. That's why the first line of attack by fans and players is to blame the messenger, be it he media or Jose Canseco.

It's the baseball version of don't ask, don't tell. And we all know how well that policy worked.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Oh, Those Slings & Arrows

Cold weather is a fact of life
in many World Series games.
It's not always easy being a displaced Brewers fan living far from Milwaukee. Today is a great day to root for the Crew: Prince Fielder is the hero of the All-Star Game; and the team made a statement by trading for high-priced closer Francisco Rodriguez to add depth to a sometimes shaky bullpen.

Still, that didn't stop an announcer on WFAN from bashing my hometown. It's a common occurrence around here (Yankees' announcer Suzyn Waldman once whined for 10 minutes about having to accompany the team to Milwaukee. She complained about there being nothing to do. She's such an awful, biased commentator I was thinking she might use her off hours to practice.)

So there I was again in the car hearing an announcer talk about how horrible it will be for him to have to be in Milwaukee in November for the World Series. November! The very idea! The temperature, he said would be 29 degrees (The average high in the city is 46 degrees, the low 31. And in the early part of the month I am sure it's higher.) I guess he hasn't heard about the retractable roof over Miller Park. He needn't worry about frostbite.

I was talking to a friend about it and he mentioned that going to the Series is all about hanging outside and partying. I must have missed that memo. The World Series usually has a cold weather team involved (like the New York Yankees who win more than their share).

Aside from that, the Milwaukee bashers should think about leaving their hotel rooms and exploring the city. There's a world-class art museum, a fine museum and other things to see. And if drinking is the goal, um, Milwaukee has a reputation in that area, too.

If that isn't enough to do, they could always console themselves that they lucky to see the Series for free. That's not a bad job.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Are You Listening, Bud?

Another day and another bad idea from Major League Baseball. In his annual All-Star chat with fans, Commissioner Bud Selig talked about many things. Most of them were predictable (he evaded a question about the Dodgers and said no major realignment was "imminent')  but one was another one of those ideas that is just plain awful.

Selig said he wouldn't mind tweaking interleague play so that the designated hitter is used in NL parks. Conversely, pitchers would hit when NL teams visited AL stadiums. Selig likes the idea, he says, because NL fans would get a chance to see how game is played with the DH and AL fans would enjoy seeing pitchers bat.

I find that hard to believe. I know fans of both leagues and none of the Senior Circuit rooters have any interest in the DH. They find the concept, if it is brought up, loathsome. While some AL fans are affirmed backers of the DH, there are some who haven't warmed up to it after 39 years.

Personally, I was an AL fan first and the DH was OK back then. Because of the rule, I was able to see Hank Aaron play his final two years. He was well past his prime and in no shape to play the outfield, so DH was the only position he could have played.

Since the Brewers have moved to the NL, though, I have no interest in the Junior Circuit brand of ball. It's slower and lacks the strategy of the NL version.

Hopefully, this was just a trial balloon and Selig will hear it burst.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Who's Not in the All-Star Game?

Maybe I just don't pay enough attention, but I barely have an idea who's playing in Tuesday night's All-Star Game. Every time I scan the headlines on mlb.com or sports news outlets it seems there is a story about this player or that pulling out of the game.

My feelings about the game are mixed, but I usually watch it. Not being quite sure who's going to play (or if the players are really best in the game) is another knock against it, though. I know injuries have always caused changes to the lineups, but this year seems to be reaching new heights.

It used to be that the starting players stayed out on the field for most, if not all of the game. And even extra innings didn't bring on the "scrubs." In 1955, for instance, Stan Musial hit a game-winning home run in the 12th inning at Milwaukee County Stadium. And starting pitchers went three innings, unless the all-star hitters whacked them around.

Players named to the All-Star Game sound like Academy Award nominees: They love the "honor" but don't care much about winning or even playing. (Although, I think the actors really do want to win. I'm not so sure about the players.)

I foresee a time not so far from now hen so many players choose not to play that everyone in the league will be an "all star." Think of all those incentive clauses reached. The agents will have field day at contract time.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Jeter Smacks No. 3,000

Derek Jeter reached the milestone he's been chasing the last couple weeks by hitting a home run for career hit No. 3,000. He's the 28th player ever first to get that many hits while wearing the uniform of the New York Yankees. With the team's legacy of great players and teams that's an amazing feat.

More amazing to me is that despite Jeter's stellar play as a key player on several World Series winners, a debate has still raged about who is more important to the team, Jeter or Mariano Rivera, acclaimed as the greatest closer ever.

As Jeter closed in on the hit plateau, callers on sports-talk radio in New York stated their case for one over the other. Mike Francesca, the drive-time host on WFAN, sides with Rivera. After all, he says, Rivera has been almost perfect in the post-season and he is the difference between the Yankees and the teams they played.

The whole the argument rings false. Yes, Rivera came in and closed games, but without other players putting the team ahead there would have been no games for him to finish. And Jeter, the Yankees' captain, usually helped give the team those leads.

Championship ball clubs need more than one player to win. The Yankees always felt secure when Rivera came in to close out games, but they also knew Jeter was likely to get a key hit or make the right play in the field.

Maybe some caller made this point, but I never heard it: Both Jeter and Rivera were needed for the Yanks to the dominant team of the decade. That doesn't diminish the contributions of either. Together they helped propel the Yankees to greatness.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dick Williams, RIP

When Dick Williams came calling, pitchers like
Goose Gossage often didn't want to see him.
Dick Williams, one of the top managers of the '60, '70 and '80s, and a Hall of Famer, died today. Williams was one of those old-school tough guys who didn't take guff from anyone, even his employer.

As a kid, I loved the Oakland A's. Williams was their manager when they won two of their three straight World Series. The team featured colorful figures like Reggie Jackson, Bert Campaneris and Rollie Fingers on the field and Charlie Finley in the owner's box.

Everything I've read about Williams since paints a portrait of a disciplinarian who insisted things be done his way. He used that to take charge of the circus that was the A's back then. It didn't seem to matter whether Reggie stirred controversy or Finley was the center of attention, Williams kept the team winning; they were the best team of the '70s. (Sorry Big Red Machine, you finish second in my rankings.)

Maybe only a strict manger could have run a team like that successfully. In the end, it was too much for Williams. He quit the A's after three division titles and two world championships. He'd had enough of Finley and his style. For those who are too young to remember, Finley was part carnival barker (that was the fun part) and part George Steinbrenner (think tyrant).

Let 'Em Hit Gold

'My Man Godfrey' poked fun at the wealthy.
Baseball is serious about playing with gold.
Let 'em hit gold.

No, that is something Marie Antoinette said. It's what Major League baseball said today when it announced gold-infused baseballs would be used in this year's Home Run Derby the night before the All-Star Game.

Maybe it shouldn't surprise me that a sport played by millionaires on teams owned by people who are really wealthy would have lost touch with the average fan. You know, the ones who are struggling is this economy to make ends meet. The one who love the games, who spend the money on tickets, memorabilia, apps, and cable and computer subscriptions to see games.

The final round of the Home Run Derby on Monday night will be played with baseballs with 24-karat-gold-infused covers. The balls cost about $150 each, and MLB proudly points out that the lucky fans who catch the one will have a great souvenir. (Soon to be available on eBay!)

To me it seems absurd in the middle of the worst economy in more than seven decades to play a game (and one designed by the marketing department at that) with baseballs covered in real gold. Yes, I understand that the Boys & Girls Clubs of America gets a nice donation for every one of the balls that is hit over the will. But that charitable tie-in is not new.

What is new is playing a game with a symbol of greed and avarice.

The image of golden baseballs being launched into the stands seems like something out of a Depression-era movie. You know, like "My Man Godfey," where a rich guy pretends to be a bum and gets scooped up as part of a scavenger hunt. But that was a parody. Rich people searching for poor people to win a contest. The very idea!

But I suppose any sport that would think playing with gold baseballs is a good idea probably would not realize how silly it looks.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Give the Ump a Break

Brian Knight appears to have made a
good call, but  was criticized anyway.
I haven't been reticent to criticize the state of umpiring, especially as practiced by Joe West, Angel Hernandez and Phil Cuzzi (and boy does this trio need practice). But even when umpires make a seemingly good call they get bashed sometimes.

Such is the case with the final out in last night's game between the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays. C. Trent Rosecrans at cbssports.com used his space this morning to write about how a blown call ended the game.

The play in question happened with runners and first and second and two out in the ninth and the Jays trailing by a run. A base hit to short left was scooped up by Sox left-fielder Darnell McDonald who fired a strike to catcher Jason Varitek. Varitek had the plate blocked perfectly. Edwin Encarnacion slid in hard and was tagged and then called out by Brian Knight, the home-plate arbiter.

You'd think that would end the discussion. But on replays, Encarnacion's right leg sneaks past Varitek's shin guard. The problem is that no replay angle shows for sure whether his foot touched the plate or passed over it.

I understand the Blue Jays arguing about it. But media, and even bloggers, should try to be objective when calling out umps or players. Most who commented on Rosecrans' post said they couldn't tell if the runner was safe.

Sometimes even the men in blue need a break. Or at least a fair shake.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

All-Star Addiction?

Check out the price, and that's for a Lower Box seat down the line!
I admit it. No matter how awful the selection process, how meaningless the game I still watch baseball's All-Star Game each year. I am an addict. (Although if I did miss it I don't think I'd go into withdrawal.)

I know the game is not what it once was. Apart from the World Series, it used to be the only time you could see the stars from each league face off. And those stars seemed to play it like they wanted to win. There was no cheering when someone made a nice catch to send them back to the dugout. No one left the ballpark after their stint in the game was over to catch the ESPYs. Just thinking about the ESPYs makes the All-Star game seem suddenly important.

Some of that nonsense hasn't been seen the last few years. But the game doesn't have the thrills it used to. My earliest All-Star memory is a vague recollection of the 1969 game. Actually, what I remember most is the dugouts overflowing with rainwater and the game being postponed. They played that game on Wednesday afternoon.

It could be that the 1970 cemented my affinity for the Mid-Summer Classic: Pete Rose scoring the winning run by running over Ray Fosse (who knew he was voted as the starter in '71 despite being injured?) is an iconic moment. I was 11 and there was no doubt the game was for real.

I was at the '75 game at Milwaukee County Stadium. It was Hank Aaron's last appearance as an All-Star and had the odd coincidence of the co-MVPs having similar names: Bill Madlock and Jon Matlack for the National League. I think that was the first time I was sprayed with beer at a ballpark. The guy behind me had managed to get a six-pack and I guess it was shaken, not stirred, on the way in.

Through the years, I've always managed to see the game. When I worked nights I would tape it and watch it later. For several years now I've gotten together with my friend, John, and whoever else wants to watch the game.

It's become more about the tradition and camaraderie than the game. Maybe I'm not addicted after all. This therapy session worked. Thanks for listening.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Fourth at the Ballpark

Over the years, I've managed to take in several Fourth of July ballgames. For the most part, memories of the on-field play have faded. But some moments stand out.

In the early '70, ballpark promotions were more quaint than today. I remember one Independence Day when the Flying Wallendas of circus and high-wire fame were the star attraction at Milwaukee County Stadium (probably more than the Brewers were to many at the game that day). It was impressive to see them walk across a wire strung across the field.

The Wallendas performed their death-defying stunts with out a hitch. I can't remember a thing about the game. At least there's something about the day I remember.

The most iconic moment in baseball's July Fourth history is Lou Gehrig's farewell speech in 1939. It was a day that cemented the "Iron Horse's" reputation as a classy, indomitable player. By luck I was at the re-enactment of the event. I am pretty sure it must have been 1999, the 60th anniversary of the speech. The ceremony was emotional for fans and players.

On the other end of the spectrum, was my sojourn to Yankee Stadium last year. My wife, Lynn, and I were guests in the Legends Suites. It was unlike any other ballgame I've attended. I've been to stadium clubs and restaurants for dinner, but none compared to this day.

Entering the suites area was like being greeted at a resort. A line of employees welcomed us, showed us our seats (a couple of rows from the field near third base) and then explained how the buffet worked. Trust me, the buffet worked fine. The food was superior and there was even plenty for Lynn, a vegetarian, to eat.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Umpire Out for the Count

We have a new entry in the race for the title of worst umpire in baseball. Phil Cuzzi, who was already under consideration, added to his credentials on Saturday night when he allowed a batter a walk on just three balls.

This is the same ump who called a Joe Mauer double foul during a 2009 playoff game between the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees. That call was so bad it led to the addition of instant replay, which had long been kept out of the game because of the objections of purists.

Purists don't mind grievous errors by umpires because that's the way it was always done. That's just not a good enough reason to allow poor calls to stand.

Now, back to Saturday night. Cuzzi lost track of the count during a seven-pitch at bat. Cameron Maybin of the San Diego Padres took his base and came around to score the only run of the game. No one on the Seattle Mariners' bench protested. The Mariners' catcher didn't seem to notice. The fans didn't howl.

It reminds of me of the "Fifth Down" game when Colorado defeated Missouri in a key 1990 Big 8 (yes, it was long ago). The Buffaloes used the extra snap to score the wining touchdown.

Padres' Manager Bud Black says he knew what had happened, but wasn't going to argue about it for obvious reasons. Cuzzi's crew chief, Tom Hallion, was quoted as saying Cuzzi thought it was only ball three, but since the scoreboard had it as ball four, he figured he was wrong.

Say what? Cuzzi ceded his job to the scoreboard operator. It's past time for Major League Baseball to get rid of umpires who can't do the job. Joe West and Phil Cuzzi should be handed pink slips.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Baseball's Sweet Soundtrack

Ruth Roberts was honored at Shea Stadium in 1996.
Baseball has a long history of songs. Most of them are novelties and not great, but many of them are memorable. Some tunes have stuck with me over the years. "It's a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame," "I Love Mickey" and "Meet the Mets" all share a middle of the road sounds and lyrics that are corny, but evocative.

I never realized they all shared the same songwriters: Ruth Roberts, who died yesterday, and Bill Katz who passed away in 1988. I had never connected the songs before, but when I heard the same team had written all three songs, it made sense.

"Beautiful Day" will always trigger memories of my youthful "blue period" when I indiscriminately was a fan of the Chicago Cubs. Although New York Mets' announcer Ron Darling noted during the broadcast tonight that the song is used by the Los Angeles Dodgers, WGN used it in the 1970s to open Cubs' broadcasts. Who can resist a line like, "It's a beautiful day for a home run, but even a triple's okay?"

Dumbest Use of Steroids

As far as I am concerned, any player who used steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs would be ignored when it comes to Hall of Fame balloting. But at least I can understand why players would have used them. After all, they were competing against others who did, and athletes are always looking for an edge.

But for the life of me I can't wrap my mind around the idea of an actor using steroids for a movie about baseball. In case you missed, that's the claim made by Charlie Sheen about his starring role in "Major League." It's debatable whether anything that spills from Sheen's mouth should be believed, but it is an incredible statement.

Maybe Sheen didn't realize that Hollywood is in the business of make-believe. After all, he has had problems separating fiction from reality of late.

He says he used steroids to get some extra juice on his fastball (which supposedly went from 79 mph to 85 mph). He says he did for "ego." That part is believable. It makes me wonder if the other actors felt the same pressure. Probably not. I'm guessing they read the script and realized they weren't going to hit him when it mattered most.

In the end, like real players, Sheen says the drugs led to arm problems. Good thing for the producers he was able to come back for "Major League II." At least there won't be a debate whether Sheen cheated. I'd hate to see the Cleveland Indians' Series win vacated.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Baseball and Immigration

Baseball's midsummer classic is in Phoenix this year. Besides the heat (at least the stadium has a retractable roof) fans going to the game will probably encounter protesters reminding them of the state's tough anti-immigration laws.

The Arizona Diamondbacks had already been chosen to host the game before the issue exploded. When it did, players and human rights' groups urged MLB to move the game. That didn't happen.

Some Hispanic ballplayers have said they would avoid the All-Star Game this year. A U.S. senator has called for a boycott. There have been stories from time to time in the mainstream media, but the threat has not gained much traction. 

Commissioner Bud Selig, never shy about promoting the breaking of baseball's color line in 1947 (never mind that baseball had maintained that line and most in the game at the time would have just as soon let it stay in place), hasn't seen fit to speak out on the issue.

The NBA commissioner, David Stern, backed the Phoenix Suns when they wore "Los Suns" jerseys for a playoff game in May 2010. He called the gesture "appropriate." I wouldn't doubt that someone with an eye on the NBA's bottom line thought the league should have just ignored the issue. But to the Suns' and Stern's credit they didn't.

It's nice that baseball like to celebrate Jackie Robinson every year. MLB even stages a conference where racial issues are discussed.

Given that, it's stunning that Selig can't see a current issue that merits his attention. It's time for baseball's silence to end.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Everywhere You Click, Lists

The web is crazy for lists. Every sports site has them. At time they can be diverting. Bleacherreport.com has made a sort of cottage industry out of them.

The reasons they are popular are obvious: they generate page views because of their slide-show format and any crazy idea can be presented. Maybe we have David Letterman to blame.

But one kind of list is beyond me. That would be the Power Rankings that various sites post for baseball and other sports. Generally, they are like the standings, with a couple of teams flip-flopped, I guess to generate comments. And most of the comments are predictable. Home team fans offended by the placement of their favorite.

Whenever I click on them, I feel immediately like I have wasted a few minutes I can never get back. Baseball is great for generating debates that can't really be answered. The arguments over who are the best player, hitter, pitcher, and team go on with no real resolution possible. That's what makes them fun.

The opposite is true of the Power Rankings. Everyday the standings in newspapers and on websites pretty much tell you who the best teams are. And at the end of the season they take the field for another month or so of games to determine the champion.

It's all determined on the field by the players and managers. So why bother with Power Rankings?

Now, as to choosing the best player ever ...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Memories of Yanks-Brewers

I'm not a big fan of interleague play, but the series that starts tonight with the Brewers visiting the Yankees does bring back fond memories of a time in the late 1970s and early '80s when the two had a heated rivalry.

MLB.com recounted some of the highlights -- brawls and nasty words mostly -- that marked the teams' meetings back then. I remember some of that, but mostly I remember some amazing moments between two of the top teams in the American League.

The Brewers were still playing in Milwaukee County Stadium and starting in the summer of '78 the place was rocking every night. And when the Yankees with Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry and the rest of the Bronx Zoo came to town, the old ballpark was even more electric.

One series stands out above the rest. It was early July 1978 and for the first time since the club moved from Seattle there was a reason for the fans to be excited. Robin Yount and Paul Molitor were rising stars; Gorman Thomas and Pete Vuckovich were the kind of nasty, blue-collar types Milwaukee loves; and Larry Hisle, Sal Bando and the rest propelled the team into the pennant race.

Just before the big series, the Yanks had come to town for a doubleheader. George Steinbrenner was livid about the makeup date. He bellowed that the Yanks had played too many days in a row. The Crew sent the Yanks home to rest with two losses.

Ten days later the Bronx Bombers were back for three in a weekend series. Game one featured Guidry, 13-0, at the time on the mound. He was knocked around before being sent to the showers after six, down 5-0. The hitting hero was Hisle, who hit two out of the park; one in the first and the other in the sixth. From the upper deck, his first home run looked like it was shot from a cannon.

Saturday night games at County Stadium were an event back then. This games was extra special. My parents, my brother, his wife and her family got tickets well before the season started. It being Milwaukee, we tailgated along with thousands of others. No chance of missing the first pitch.

Game two was tense, exciting and, for the Yanks, ended the same. Hisle again was the hero, sending a towering two-run blast off Gossage to give the Brewers the lead and the win. The crowd was wild after that. Beating the Yankees and Gossage (back then closer pitched more than one inning) was like being in heaven (except there was beer).

There was no way I was missing the finale on Sunday afternoon. I went alone, scalped a ticket in the upper deck and watched the Brewers go for the sweep. They did not disappoint. They scored four in the first en route to an 8-4 victory.

That was the moment when everyone knew the Brewers were for real. They had swept the Yankees and beaten them five times in less than two weeks. From there it was a magical five seasons, culminating with a World Series berth in '82.

Monday, June 27, 2011

MLB's Money-Making Scheme

Would you pay just for the chance to buy these?
NOTE: My friend Jim Lynch is an actuary and wrote a blog post explaining how this works and why it can be a good opportunity for fans. I don't know if I totally agree with MLB doing this, but check out his blog.

Major League Baseball evidently subscribes to the theory that there's a sucker born every minute. And it's hard to dispute that assumption based on the MLB postseason reservations auction.

Fans are given the "opportunity" to purchase "reservations" for playoff games that their favorite team might play in. In other words, they get to pay money for the chance to buy the actual tickets. Oh, and if your team doesn't make the playoffs? Well, that's too bad. No refunds.

For years I have been disgusted by the ridiculous "handling fees" teams add to the price of each ticket. One year when the New York Mets added the fee (a few dollars per ticket) to playoff tickets, I called up the ticket office to complain. I was told that it was a lot of work to get the ducats sorted and sent out. I pointed out that I thought that was what the ticket office was for. Got nowhere with that bit of logic.

Then there's Stubhub.com, a fine service that allows fans with extra tickets to sell easily. And the buyers are given guarantees. But even Stubhub can't resist gouging consumers. If you choose to print the tickets out on your own printer (with your own ink and paper) you have to pay an extra fee. I haven't met anyone who thinks that sounds fair.

But I may have to rethink all this. If MLB can get fans to pay them, just for the chance to maybe get tickets later, it makes me wonder why they bother playing the games at all. If they work at it I bet they could get some fans to just hand over the money. They could save a bundle by not paying players or needing stadiums.

They might as well try. After all Bernie Madoff got the Mets' owners and others to fork over millions for nothing. At least he pretended to be selling something.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Return of Davey Johnson

Davey Johnson's most recent managerial stop
was with Team USA.
Davey Johnson is back as a manager. The Washington National turned to him after Jim Riggleman walked out on his team in the midst of a hot streak.

Johnson has an interesting history as a skipper. During 14 years at the helm of the New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers, his teams team finished lower than second place only twice. And one of those was a team he took over during the season.

Despite that, the former Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves second baseman is not always considered among the top rank of managers of his era. A lot of that stems from his days in New York. The Mets were the most talented team at the time. They broke through in '86 with their wild World Series win over the Boston Red Sox. On the field, I always thought they won despite sloppy play.

But from the title year it was down hill. The Mets continued to contend, but were dogged by undisciplined behavior. I always thought they were sloppy in the field (although Keith Hernandez was a superb first baseman). Off the field, the team caroused and made headlines for unruly escapades. Johnson's tenure ended with many saying the team should have won more championships.

After the Mets, Johnson was out of baseball for a couple years. Talk radio was awash with rumors that Johnson had been blackballed. But no evidence was found that it was true.

Johnson finally got another job Baltimore, but ended up in a feud with owner Peter Angelos (although he's not exactly the easiest man to get along with). Jobs in L.A. and Cincy produced typical Johnson records: fine teams but no titles.

Now Johnson is back in the dugout leading another young team. I expect the team will continue to progress, but how far he can take them this season will be interesting to watch.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Another Baseball Quitter

Earlier this week, I wrote about Edwin Rodriguez quitting as manager of the Florida Marlins. I couldn't remember a skipper walking out on a team after so short a tenure with no obvious push from his employer.

It's didn't take long for another manger to quit on his team. And Jim Riggleman's resignation from the Washington Nationals is even harder to figure. The Nationals, a perennial doormat, have been on a hot streak. They've won 11 out of 12 games and are above the .500 mark.

But, according to the club's GM, Riggleman was upset that the Nationals wouldn't extend his contract beyond this season. So he gave them and ultimatum. The team accepted his resignation rather than accede to his demand for the extension. (Riggleman says the only ultimatum was his wish to talk to the owner about an extension.)

Am I missing something? While I can understand the wish for job security, this could be a career killer for Riggleman. If he had stayed and the Nationals continued to play well he likely would have received a new contract. If the Nationals didn't want him around, surely another team would have jumped at the chance to hire a man who helped mold a young team into a group that plays hard and was on the rise.

If I was a general manger I would never hire Riggleman as a manager. I'd wonder if he was truly committed to the job and the team.

Maybe we really are becoming a nation of quitters. Politicians leave terms half finished; baseball managers quit even when their teams are doing well. Meanwhile, millions are begging for jobs and finding none available.

It really is hard to figure.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Law of Unintended Consequences

Sometimes a change comes with unexpected results. Take for instance the increasing use of relief pitchers over the last 30 years. With starters pitching fewer innings, more relievers are needed to pick up the slack.

More roster spots taken by pitchers means fewer slots for backup fielders and pinch hitters. That in turn puts more pressure on managers to use their benches in tight games and long extra inning games. So what to do about it?

One solution proposed by Jerry Crasnick on ESPN.com is to expand rosters to 26. There are other ideas. He quotes Detroit Tigers' Manager Jim Leyland as favoring a temporary increase in rosters for doubleheaders.

The logic behind expansion seems reasonable. The game has changed over the more than a century that rosters have mostly remained at 25. (The story mentions that rosters were larger for the first month of the season in the 1960s and at 24 for the 1986 season.)

But there are flaws in the idea. Many of the readers commenting on the ESPN story speculated clubs would use any extra roster room to add more pitching.

One idea that would give managers flexibility in the wake of minor injuries or an overused relief corps would be to adopt the NBA roster rules. Teams could carry say 27 or 28 players but only 25 would be active for any game.

Hopefully, Nolan Ryan's experiment in Texas to get Rangers' starters to pitch longer into games will succeed and teams will be able to carry fewer pitchers. I don't see that happening. So, if change is needed, let's try a revolving roster.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Everybody: Clichè, Clichè, Clichè, Clichè, Clichè

Jose Reyes and other players make me
 scratch my head when it comes to free agency.
The next time Jose Reyes comes to bat at Citi Field, Mets fans should change their "Jose, Jose, Jose" chant to "Clichè, Clichè, Clichè."

Reyes today uttered my least favorite baseball bromide. A free agent after this year and the subject of much speculation about whether he will stay with the Mets, the shortstop said he won't discuss a new contract until after the season.

He wants no distractions. And the cliche? Well, Reyes said on WFAN radio, "I want to be a Met" for my whole career. Really? Then I say get a deal done. Tell your agent to get the best deal from the Mets. And when he's done you'll sign. It's pretty simple.

Reyes is just the latest player to tell fans he'd really like to stay, without signing a contract. Prince Fielder has made similar comments about the Milwaukee Brewers. And C.C. Sabathia said how much he liked Milwaukee. In the end C.C. went to the New York Yankees who offered the biggest contract.

I find it tiresome to hear players utter nonsense like this. Can't these guys either say nothing or tell the truth. You know, something like, "I'm a free agent and I want the most money I can get. Sorry (insert home team here) fans, but you know you'd do it if you had the chance."

I have been told by almost everyone that the last part is surely what everyone would do. Even me. Well, I really don't think so. I actually find some things more important than money. And if I had the chance to decide between, oh, $100 million and $125 million, the least important factor to me would be money. Either way I'd be set for life.

I don't expect the players to agree. All I'd like is a little honesty. It's such a lonely word.

ESPN.com - MLB