Is Baseball Over?

Is baseball over, finished until next year’s Opening Day activities?  Did the sport cease as soon as the World Series winning team finished spraying themselves with champagne?  Not in Tim Kurkjian’s (see below)opinion.  While ball games won’t be played, Mister Kurkjian (baseball reporter and fan) has provided us with a list of activities that will furnish baseball fans with important information from now until teams report to training camp in Florida and Arizona. Here is his list of events to look forward to until then –and a comment on each.

TimK

Nov. 4 = Gold Glove winners announced.  No, Dick (Dr. Strangeglove) Stuart, is STILL not a candidate.

Nov. 5 = BBWAA (baseball writers) Awards finalists announced.  No, Pete Rose will STILL not win something.

Nov. 5 = MLB Executive of the Year announced. No, Connie Mack does not STILL  own the A’s.

Nov. 6 – 9 = GM meetings in Carlsbad, California.  Will anyone from the Orioles arrive?

Nov. 7 = Defensive Players of the Year announced.  No, “Marvelous” Marv Throneberry is STILL not a favorite.

Nov. 8 = Silver Sluggers announced.  No, Eddie Gaedel is STILL not available because he did not swing a bat.

Nov. 12 = Rookies of the Year announced.  No, Roy Hobbs and Sidd Finch are STILL not available.

Nov. 13 = Managers of the Year announced.  No, Earl Weaver cannot  return to the Orioles.

Nov. 14 = Cy Young Awards announced.  No, Bobo Newsom will NOT win for either league.

Nov. 15 = MVP Awards announced.  No, Mike Trout is NOT sitting by his phone, again.

 

Nov. 19 = Comeback Players of the Year announced.  No, Kirk Gibson was not available for the Dodgers this year.

Nov. 20 = DH of the Year announced.  Eddie Gaedel is a real dark horse here, too.

Nov 30 = Non-tender deadline for arbitration-eligible  players. What?!

Dec. 9 – 13 = Winter meetings in Las Vegas.  And where will you be at this time of year?

Jan. 11 = Arbitration deadline.  Did you submit YOUR salary for arbitration?

Feb. 13 = Pitchers and catchers report.  This is my brother and my annual “end-of-Winter-and-beginning-of-Spring” celebration.  Yes, it’s arbitrary, but it can be a wonderful weekend to celebrate our coming Favorite Season.

 

Bottom Line = Don’t abandon your interest in baseball “cold turkey”.  There is always something to think about, discuss, and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last of the Whiz Kids

1950 was the first year I followed The Philadelphia Phillies, daily, in the morning and afternoon newspapers.  (Remember them?)  Baseball fans got their money’s worth that year.  The Phils won their 2ndpennant in 68 years.

WHIZKIDS

How did they do it? 14 of the 32 men who played (at least a game) for the Phillies were 25 years old or younger.  Four of their eight position players were among them (and averaged 150+ games in a 154 game schedule).  Four of the six primary starting pitchers were also members of the team, nicknamed “The Whiz Kids” because of their youth.  (see above picture)  Fans looked forward to many years of success from such a young, talented group.  But it was not to be.  We’re talking about Philadelphia sports, remember.  But we did have 1950.

The Phillies stayed at the top of the NL standings all year.  Then came September and their multiple game lead over the League began to deteriorate.  Brooklyn’s “The Boys of Summer” gained on them.  Did anyone expect less?  Robinson, Reese, Snider, Campanella, Cox, Furillo, Hodges, Newcombe, etc. were not going down easily.

With one game in the season remaining, the Phillies held a lead of one game.  The season’s final contest would be played in Brooklyn. Robin Roberts started the game for the Phillies –his third game in a week.  Two youngsters were hurt and the veteran pitchers were not as talented, in spite of their experience.  Roberts, as expected, pitched the entire game –10 innings.  In the bottom of the 9thinning with the game tied , Richie Ashburn (the Phillies center fielder) threw out a runner at the plate.  In the 10th, Dick Sisler –Phils outfielder and son of Hall of Famer, George Sisler—hit a three run homer, and the pennant belonged to the Phillies.

Their reward?  The World Series –against The New York Yankees who were in the second year of what turned out to be a 5 consecutive year Championship run.  Joe DiMaggio was still available, not quite ready to turn Center Field over to Mickey Mantle.  Yogi Berra was behind the plate catching a wonderful pitching staff.  Their fourth best pitcher would pitch game four  He was a rookie: Whitey Ford.

The Phillies staff was hurt, tired, or relatively inexperienced.  For game one, Manager Eddie Sawyer –with Roberts too tired to go—chose a relief pitcher to start the game.  He had seen the pitcher in the minors and brought him to the Phillies. (More about his year later.)  The Yankees got one run.  Final score:  Yankees 1, Phillies 0.

Game two featured Robin Roberts starting, tired or not.  He held the Yankees to one run –until DiMaggio hit a home run.  Final score: Yankees 2, Phillies 1.

For game 3, Ken Heintzelman, an 11 year vet, started for the Phillies.  In 1949, he had won 17 games.  In 1950, he won 3.  Maybe he had enough gas left in the tank.  For the better part of 8 innings, he did.  But in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees scored.  Final  Score: Yankees 3, Phillies 2.

For game 4, manager Sawyer was forced to use a rookie, Bob Miller, who had a fine season, winning 11 games.  He lasted one third of an inning.  DiMaggio and Berra drove in 3 of the Yankees five runs.  The Phillies were shutout until the ninth.  Final Score = Yankees 5, Phillies 2.  The Yankees swept the Series.

Konstanty

While outclassed in the Series, how did the Phillies win 91 games and the NL pennant?  The Whiz Kids’ youth was in their favor.  Plus, they had Jim Konstanty. (see above)  He was a minor league pitcher brought to the majors by Phillies manager, Eddie Sawyer, in 1949.  He threw a slider and a change up (which he sometimes called a palm ball).  He threw a fastball, too, but “they hit that”, he said. In 1950, Konstanty was the NL’s MVP, the first reliever ever so honored.  Why?  He pitched in 74 games and totaled 152 innings pitched.  Those are not misprints.  In 1950, relievers were brought in to finish a game.  And there’s more.  His ERA was 2.66.  He won 16 games and saved 22.  He helped the Phillies win 38 of their 91 victories.  That accounted for over 40 % of their wins.

 

RR + RA

And the Phils had 2 Hall of Famers on their side.  Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn. (see above)  Roberts’ 20 wins in 1950 were followed by 5 more consecutive 20 win seasons.  In 1952, he had a season for the ages. Something the Phillies wouldn’t see again until Stave Carlton arrived.  His accomplishments in that year?  A record of 28 – 7, with an ERA of 2.59, pitching in 39 games, 30 of them COMPLETE games, and totaling 330 Innings Pitched.  In the Phillies’ 136 year existence, only Carlton and Pete Alexander put up numbers like Roberts.

And the Philles, in 1950, had Richie Ashburn, as well.  Yes, there was Willie, Mickey, and The Duke in the ‘50s.  But Ashburn should not be forgotten.  He caught 400+ fly balls in more years than the other 3 HOFers combined. And he hit, too.  Even when he played for the Mets when they arrived in NYC. He hit .300+ 9 times.  And thanks to his ability to draw walks, he had a .400+ OBP 5 times.  Twice he won the batting title: in 1955, he hit .338 –better than Mays and Stan Musial; in 1958, he hit .350 –again better than Mays and Musial.

Waitkus

And they, also, had “The Natural” playing first base.  No, not Robert Redford; the real one.  The man who, in 1949, was shot in a hotel room in Chicago and was (along with Bobby Thomson) the inspiration for the book.  Eddie Waitkus (see above)was his name.  A year after his “accident”, in 1950, playing for the Phillies, he appeared in 154 games, hit .284, and (thanks to his walks) got on base 237 times and scored 102 runs.

So, there you have it: thanks to a  parade of youngsters, Konstanty, Roberts, Ashburn, Waitkus, and a few others –32 men played for the Phillies in 1950– they  were a Pennant winner…and they would be again (in 30 years).

Now for the sad part. Thirty of the thirty-two Whiz Kids now reside on the wrong side of the grass.   Only 2 are still with us.  They are the Last of their teammates.  So, a bit must be said about them.  Curt Simmonswon 17 games for the Phillies in 1950 (as a 21 year old)  –and could have won more, but the military needed him in early September for a conflict in Korea.  Plus, he also missed all of 1951.  But starting in 1952, he returned to MLB and played 16 more years.  He won 164 more games.  Plus, in 1964, as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, along with Bob Gibson, his team  defeated the New York Yankees in the World Series.

Curt’s teammate in Philadelphia., Bob Miller, a winner of 11 games in 1950, returned to the Phillies and pitched 8 more years.  He won another 31 games.

Now, Curt, at age 89 and Bob, at age 92, deserve a moment of your time to show  appreciation for what they did for the Phillies in their youth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baseball Awards, 2018, Part 2

This is the second of 2 articles to discuss baseball’s annual awards.  The Cy Young winners and best managers will be done today.  The MVPs and Rookies of the year were done last time.

Cy Young, AL:  A few pitchers deserve mention: Charlie Morton had an even better 2018 than his year previous (15 – 3, 201 strikeouts and a 3.13 ERA); Luis Severino weathered the media capital’s pressure ( 19 wins and 220 Ks); Gerrit Cole liked pitching in the AL ( 200 IP, 276 Ks, with a 15 – 5 record); and Corey Kluber had a fine year, as usual (215 IP, 222 Ks, and 20 wins).  But I think the award will be a 2-man race: Blake Snell and Justin Verlander (what a surprise, I know).  Snell’s resume includes: 31 starts, 180.2 IP, 221 Ks, a 21 – 5 record, ERA 1.89, WHIP o.97, and WAR of 7.5.  Verlander’s stats include: 34 starts, 214 IP, 290 Ks with only 37 walks, a 16 – 9 record, ERA 2.52, WHIP 0.90, and WAR of 6.2.  To put the debate succinctly: I choose Snell’s margins in Wins, ERA, and WAR over Verlander’s edges in IP, Ks, and WHIP.  For me, it’s Blake Snell’s (see below) stats slightly over Verlander’s stats and name recognition.

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Cy Young, NL:  With apologies to Miles Mikolas, Kyle Freeland, and Mike Foltynewicz who had fine years, the award is a 3 man competition.  Jacob deGrom, Aaron Nola, and Max Scherzer (yes, another “surprise”).  All 3 had well over 200 IP, 200+ Ks, and great WHIPs. Two had 17-18 wins, and the other pitched for the Mets.  Scherzer is third in ERA and WAR.  Nola had the best WAR.  deGrom had (by far) the finest ERA.  My choice For winner is Jacob deGrom  (see below).  For anyone gasping for air at thar choice, remember 2010 and Felix Hernandez. He pitched for the Seattle Mariners, who had a record of 61 – 101.  His record was: 13 – 12, with over 200 IP and Ks, plus a league leading 2.27 ERA and won the Cy Yound Award.  Maybe history will repeat itself –a pitcher with few wins, but an outstanding season can win the Cy Young award.

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Manager of the Year, AL:  In his first year as a Manager, Alex Cora (see below) led the Boston Red Sox to their winningest  season ever (108 games).  The old franchise record was 105 wins in 1912 when Tris Speaker blasted 10 home runs and Smoky Joe Wood won more games (34) than Walter Johnson.  It was a LONG time ago.  Mookie Betts and J. D. Martinez had wonderful years. Plus, while Chris Sale was limited to 158 IP, Rick Porcello won 17 instead of losing 17 (2017) and David Price won 16, not 6 (2017).  Bean town was happy.

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Manager of the Year, NL:  For Craig Counsell (see below), it was his fourth year as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers .  His wins have gone from 61 to 73, then 86, and, in 2018, 96 including a Playoff victory.  He was successful in spite of having only one pitcher with 10 or more wins.  He got fine seasons from Jesus Aquilar and newcomers, Lorenzo Cain and Chritian Yelich.

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As baseball completes its season and Winter approaches, I’ll leave you with the words of Rogers Hornsby: “People ask me what I do in Winter when there’s no baseball.  I’ll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for Spring.”  Ouch.  And Merry Christmas to you, too, Mr. Hornsby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

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Baseball Awards, 2018

This is the first of 2 articles to discuss baseball’s annual awards.  The MVPs and Rookies of the Year will be done today.  Next time, the Cy Young winners and best managers will be discussed.

MVP, AL:  The race for this award often comes down to a 3 man race.  But consider a 4th: Alex Bergman (Astros).  His slash line is: .286/.394/532//.926.  Add his EBH (83) which includes 31 homers.  His walks (96) are higher than his strikeouts (85) and his RBIs (103) and RS (105) are over 100.  His WAR was 6.9.  Remember him. But the 3 names that will probably be considered most frequently are: Mookie  Betts, J. D. Martinez, and, as usual, Mike Trout.  To avoid a blizzard of stats, I’ll just point out all 3 players had a slash line over the ideal of .300/.400/.500.  In fact, Trout had the highest total of OPS (1.088).  But I think Mookie Betts (see below)  will come out on top, and Trout will have a top 3 finish.  Not bad for a GOAT player.  And for those who love the stat WAR, Mookie bested Trout by 10.9 to 10.2.

1Mookie

 

MVP, NL:  The race here will again come down  to a 3 man race: Christian Yelich, Javier Baez, and Nolan Arenado.  Baez has begun to play down his reputation as a (too) free swinger, and had a wonderful year.  Arenado had another fine year with a bat, and his excellent fielding cannot be overlooked.  But I think the winner should be Christian Yelich. (see below)  His slash line is fine (.326/.402/.598//1.000).  He stole some bases, too (22 on 26 attempts).  He came close to the Triple Crown and, for good measure, he had 6 hits in a game, twice, in 2018.  And, perhaps, by coincidence, his Brewers had the best record in the NL.  Yelich also had the highest WAR score (7.6).

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ROY, AL:  Here are some fine AL Rookies who arrived in 2018.  Daniel Palka  CWS   (124 games; 27 HR; .240 BA).  Brad Keller KCA (140.1 IP; 9 – 6; 3.08 ERA).  Lou Trivino OAK (74 IP; 8 – 3; 2.92 ERA).  Joey Wendle TBR (139 games; 7 HR; .300 BA).  Diego Castillo TBR (56.2 IP; 4 – 2; 3.18 ERA).  Ryan Yarbrough TBR (147.1 IP; 16 – 6; 3.91 ERA).  The Rookie of the Year race could be between: Miguel Andujar NYY (149 games; 27 HR; .297 BA).  Gleyber Torres NYY (123 games; 24 HR; .271 BA).  And the Winner = Shohei Ohtani (see below) LAA(as a hitter: 104 games; 22 HR; .285 BA and as a pitcher: 51.2 IP; 4 – 2; 3.31 ERA).

3Ohtani

 

ROY, NL:  Here are some fine NL Rookies who arrived in 2018.  Brian Anderson MIA (156 games; 11  HR; .273 BA).  Jesse Biddle ATL (63.2 IP; 6 – 1; 3.11 ERA).  Shane Carle ATL (63 IP; 4 – 1; 2.86 ERA).  Caleb Ferguson LAD (49 IP; 7 – 2; 3.49 ERA).  Jack Flaherty STL (151 IP; 8 – 9; 3.34 ERA).  Reyes Moronta SFG (65 IP; 5 – 2; 2.49 ERA).  The Rookie of the Year race could be between:  Ronald Acuna ATL (111 games;  26 HR; .293).  Juan Soto (116; 22 HR; .292 BA).  And the winner = Walker Buehler (see below) LAD (137.1 IP; 8 – 5; 2.62 ERA).

4Buehler

 

Next time, the 2nd, and final part of “Baseball Awards, 2018.”                    

 

 

 

 

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The Third Place

1thirdplaceRay Oldenburg , a sociologist, is credited with establishing the concept of “a third place.” (see his words above)  His books have included “Celebrating The Third Place” and “The Great Good Place.”  The first two important places in a person’s life are their home and a work place. But it is the “third place” where people go to recharge their emotional, intellectual, and social batteries.  Such places are informal, voluntary, and encourage interaction and communication.  They are where “people can gather, put aside the concerns of work and home, and hang out simply for the pleasures of good company and lively conversation.”

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Third places can be a general store, coffee shop, barbershop, bookstore, library, or a bar like Television’s “Cheers.” (see above)  For example, Senior citizens habitually congregate in a conversation spot in my supermarket.  Another third place is a rehab center near a local hospital.  More is going on there than mere physical rehabilitation.

When I was a youngster, I was taken to a VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) post by a uncle.  It had meeting rooms, a hall for group meetings and presentations, … and then there was their basement.  It contained a looong bar, a large television, a pool table which was always in use, a dart board for both relaxation and competition, and there were snacks.  I had my fill of cheese and crackers and cokes.  My Uncle and friends had beverages with a higher alcohol content. It was my first association with “a third place.”

After high school, I worked for a number of years in an Insurance company.  There were no computers and every piece of paper had to be manually filed.  It was a mind-bendingly boring job –but the pay was poor.  Do you remember when the minimum wage was 1.25 an hour.? That’s right, math majors: that comes out to 40 hours work for a salary of $50 a week salary. I quickly realized college would be part of my future so I saved what I could.

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The high point of my “work” week was the Thursday evening bowling league. (see above)  Every department (eg, underwriting, actuarial, records) had a team,  which together created the  league.  The best bowler averaged 180.  (The same as my Father when our extended family had a night out.)  My fellow employees went to dinner and then talked as much as they bowled during the evening.  The “third place” was more enjoyable and educational than my work place. And it paid almost as well (ie, nothing).

Where is your “third place?”

 

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Memorable Words from TV

1HBlake

Television has been around for a long time.  When I was a child, it was black and white.  Movies started the same way.  Then TV and movies became colorful.  Here are some quotes from and about television.  Feel free to add your own to this collection.

M*A*S*H= “Look, all I know is what they taught me at Command School.  There are certain rules about a war and rule number one is ‘Young men die.”  And rule number two is “Doctors can’t change rule number one.’”  Henry Blake (see above)  (McLean Stevenson)

 M*A*S*H =  “Due to conditions beyond our control, we regret to announce that lunch is now being served.”  Public Service Announcement

George Lopez = “I’m a big fan of reality shows.  I thought the first one, Dukes of Hazard, captured white people perfectly.”

Gilligan’s Island = “Anyone who says money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop.”  Eunice Wentworth Lovey Howell

Leave It To Beaver = “A man never gets so old that he forgets how it was being a little boy.”  Ward Cleaver

The X-Files= “The truth is out there.”

Groucho Marx =  “I find television very educational.  Every time someone turns onthe set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

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Taxi =  Reverend Jim: Can you guess how many drugs I did?

Elaine: A lot.

Reverend Jim: Wow! Right on the nose! (see above)  Christopher Lloyd

Taxi =  “If you find yourself in a confusing situation, simply laugh knowingly and walk away.”  Christopher Lloyd

Miami Vice = You’ve got to know the rules before you break them.  Otherwise, it’s no fun.”  Sonny Crockett

Ted Turner= “Nuclear war would really set back cable TV.”

Star Trek = Live long and prosper.

Star Trek: The Next Generation = Make it so!

Game of Thrones= I drink and I know things.  Tyrion Lannister

The Simpsons =  “D’oh!”

Alfred Hitchcock=  “Television is like the invention of indoor plumbing.  It doesn’t change people’s habits.  It just kept them inside the house.

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The Prisoner = Number 6:  “Everybody votes for a dictator.”   (see above)  Patrick McGoohan

Elementary =  “If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth.” Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller)

Jerry Seinfeld =  “I will never understand why they cook on TV.  I can’t smell it, can’t eat it, can’t taste it.  At the end of the show they hold it up to the camera: ‘Well, here it is.  You can’t have any.  Goodbye.”

 

 

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PIXAR: A New Dynasty

1PIX

“Steamboat Willie” (see above)  was a landmark event in the history of film animation. It was the first time Mickey Mouse (or any other cartoon) had synchronized sound and image. Silent animation’s time was up. Disney studios became an empire. Its production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) brought in over $400 million (worldwide). Other successes would follow.

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Animated cartoons continued production. And in 2001, Academy Awards were given, for the first time, to the Best Animated Feature Film of the year. Since then, the Disney Animation Studios have won Oscars in that category 3 times. Their winners were: Frozen, Big Hero 6, and Zootopia. Five other studios have also won the award. One of my favorite animated films (Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) was produced by Aardman Animations (in England). Even Tim Burton gone a couple nominations for Best Animated Feature for his work. One was for another favorite of mine: Frankenweenie. (see below) (Yes, it was about a dog. No surprise there.)

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But the big winner in this category has been Pixar. In the 16 years that Academy Awards have been given to the year’s best Animated Feature film, Pixar has been in the spotlight more often than anyone. They have received 11 nominations for Best Feature and have won an Oscar 9 times! These achievements have far surpassed any other film studio. Their 9 winning films were: Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up (my favorite), Toy Story 3, Brave, Inside Out, Coco (see below).

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Up (see below) featured my favorite animated character (Dug, the dog, who could talk –thanks to a special collar he wore). He and everyone else who has helped produce Pixar’s 20 animated films have brought in (for the company) a total of $ 13,149,500,000!!

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It looks like –when it comes to producing Academy Award winning Animated Feature Films—the new dynasty, surpassing Disney and everyone else, is: Pixar! Surprise!

PS = What has been YOUR favorite Pixar film?

 

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