A voice from the past embodies the attitudes of the present.
Among the more obscure items in my library is a two-volume collection of The Diary of Our Own Samuel Pepys by Franklin Pierce Adams, or FPA. Adams was a newspaper columnist and radio personality (primarily on Information Please). If he is remembered today, it is for being a member of the Algonquin Round Table and--here comes the baseball connection--as the author of the poem Baseball's Sad Lexicon, which begins, "These are the saddest of possible words, Tinker to Evers to Chance." As a subsection of his column, Adams ran the Diary, a parody of the journal of the actual Samuel Pepys. As with its 1600s antecedent, it detailed the travels of its author, though perhaps less interestingly. However, from time to time Adams found reason to comment upon baseball and ballplayers, as in this entry from March 2, 1927, just before the subject was about to embark on one of the great seasons:
This morning Mr. George Ruth come to town, and told the pressmen that he would not accept less than $100,000 a year, and I hope he gets it or more, as I think he attracts more money than that to the parks where he plays. But Lord! how weary it maketh me when petty persons compare this salary to the President's, or to their own, saying "How hard I work, and how little I earn!" But this man chooseth to be a writer or a truckman, and that one a ballplayer, and if so be he is fortunate enough to have the qualities that a great public will play to see displayed , who is anybody to complain of that? For all I would have to do, I tell myself, to get a larger salary than Babe Ruth's would be to be a greater ballplayer, and if I am not, I have no right to complain, nor do I, but say, "Huzzah for Mr. Ruth!" Heard this afternoon that he hath accepted $70,000 a year, and that will make many persons happy, forasmuch as they will jusify their own incompetence by saying he is losing $30,000 a year, which is more than most of us have to lose.
Looking for a player who actually behaved the way Brian Sabean thinks Scott Cousins did.
When Brian Sabean went off on Scott Cousins, I tried to think of a player who had acted with malice aforethought in trying to hurt someone, who was enough of a psychotic to want to maim or kill someone on the baseball
Earlier today at BP, Emma Span took a survey of the state of the art in post-game clichés. As I always am when this topic comes up, I was reminded of the efficiency with which Phillies lefthander Don Carman dispatched this issue. In 1990, Carman, who was pitching in middle relief after a few years in the rotation (and leading the National League in losses in 1989), probably didn’t have much call to speak with reporters, but just in case, he posted a sign above his locker:
UPDATED: I am sorry to say that Killebrew passed away this morning. In his honor, here is one fan's all-time Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins batting order. I have made no effort to normalize the stats, but you can easily imagine that if I had done so, Killebrew's 1960s and 1970s production would zoom past those of his predecessors, hence his placement here as cleanup hitter.
Ever have a moment that makes you doubt your sanity, just for a second? Although my days of collecting baseball cards are far in the past, every once in awhile I will break down and buy a pack or three, or even a whole set. I suffered such a relapse over the weekend while standing near a point-of-purchase display at my local Target emporium, and grabbed a few packs of Topps "Opening Day" cards. These were oddly loaded packs. Though there were only seven cards to a wrapper, instead of getting three Paul Zuvellas and an Ed Hearn, as used to be my lot (anyone want to buy 42 Paul Zuvella cards cheap?), I got a Roy Halladay, a Justin Verlander, and just star after star.
One of said cards was Troy Tulowitzki, the great Rockies shortstop. I held the card up to admire it--how can you be a baseball fan in 2011 and not be a Tulo fan, not covet him for your team? I imagined Tulo in Yankees pinstripes, in Red Sox togs, leading Joe Maddon's Rays back to the postseason, hitting home runs and playing short--wait a second. I did a double-take. Here i's the card:
Casey Stengel discussion at the wonderful Museum of the City of New York.
UPDATE: If you make an advanced reservation and mention "Baseball Prospectus," you will receive your tickets at half-price. To make a reservations, attendees should call 917-492-3395 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (you can choose to prepay or pay at the door).
Perhaps you have not devoted much thought to the Museum of the City of New York except to think, "What the heck are they doing with all those prepositions in there?" I have an answer for you: this Thursday evening at 6:30 PM, they are talking baseball with an evening devoted to the Hall of Fame manager of the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees, and Mets (not to mention the Toledo Mudhens, Oakland Oaks, and a few other teams) in which yours truly will be making remarks and taking questions along with a panel of experts. Herewith I reproduce the info. Tickets can be reserved at the Museum 'o the City site. Hope to see you there:
Sad news today, as Hall of Famer Duke Snider has passed away at 84. I am too young to have seen Snider play, his career having ended in 1964, but what I can say is that I have often replayed a snippet of video I have from an old Mets highlights video showing him parking one at the Polo Grounds during his 1963 sojourn with the second-year expansion team: though on his way out of the majors, Snider still had a beautiful left-handed swing.
During Snider’s career and after, much was made of two environmental factors that worked in his favor. First, he was the sole left-handed slugger in a lineup of right-handed hitters—think of the championship ’55 Dodgers. There were Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, and Carl Furillo, all righties. Only switch-hitter Junior Gilliam and light-hitting outfielder Sandy Amoros got in many swings from the left side. As such, opposing managers tended to shuffle their lefties out of the way whenever the Dodgers came to town, granting Snider more at-bats with a platoon advantage than he would otherwise have seen. The other advantage he had in his favor was tiny Ebbets Field; Mickey Mantle once said that had he played there he would have hit a thousand home runs. He wasn’t joking and he probably wasn’t exaggerating either.
Consumed with coaxing Baseball Prospectus 2011 to life as I am, I haven't had much time to write for the site lately, but I don't want to let Bob Feller's passing go unremarked upon here at BP. So many others have already written wonderful things, especially, as always, Joe Posnanski (who has been good enough to provide us with the forward to this year's book). To his portrait of an unabashedly outspoken pitcher, World War II veteran, and elder statesman, I want to add this recollection of my one encounter with the man.
Back in 1999, Feller appeared at the Yankees' annual Old Timers Day. I'm not sure why he was there--they invited him, I guess, and he accepted. As Posnanski discusses in his piece, Feller apparently didn't turn down many invitations. Dressed in his Indians uniform, he held court in the center of the Yankees clubhouse. Despite being just six feet tall, far shorter than the young athletes around him--and by "around" and "held court" I don't mean that the players crowded around him like they did Ted Williams at the All-Star game. We in media paid attention to him. The players didn't seem to notice he was there--he was an arresting presence. He was going on 81 at the time, but there was nothing decrepit about him, he hadn't shrunken with age, but stood proudly erect.
A "Best-Of" team for notoriously unlucky, small-ball lovin' manager Gene Mauch
In 22 full seasons of managing, Gene Mauch’s teams led their leagues in sacrifice bunts 14 times and finished second thrice more. In many seasons, the race for the bunt title, such as it was, wasn’t even close. In 1979, Mauch’s Twins dropped one down 142 times—and those are just the successful bunts. There must have been many more attempts. The second-place team had just 79 bunts, and the league average was only 68. In 1982, the Angels had 114 bunts. The league average was 54. In 1986, the Angels had 91 bunts against a league average of 46.
But for shortstop Roy Smalley, who had 23 bunts in 1978, the players listed here didn’t do a great deal of bunting. The reason is simple: as eager as Mauch was to give up an out to move a runner over, these were his real hitters.
A "Best-Of" list for the most intense manager of the 1970s and '80s.
Last time I posted one of these rankings, I said that Chuck Tanner was the feel-good manager of the 1970s. Billy Martin was the feel-bad manager of the 1970s, but his teams won a lot more games. As always, the format here is inspired by Bill James’ Guide to Baseball Managers, a tome in which he created several of these “best-of” teams for historical managers. Martin was one that he skipped. The difficulty in ranking Martin’s players is that in eight of 16 managerial seasons, he either started the season but didn’t get to finish it or entered at mid-season to bail out someone else’s mess.
The "best-of" team for eternal optimist Chuck Tanner, manager of the 1979 champion Pirates.
Chuck Tanner was the feel-good manager of the 1970s. Before taking over the Pirates, he was best known as the happy manager who could keep Dick Allen focused enough to play (most of the time). He was also cited for unorthodox strategy, bunting or stealing at unusual times and using odd defensive alignments. He won one World Series with the 1979 “We Are Family” Pirates. In 18 other seasons of managing he failed to make the postseason, though he did have five second-place finishes. He was unable to mount a sustained rebuilding of the White Sox. Fired by Bill Veeck, he was signed to a three-year deal to manage an Oakland A’s team that had been devastated by trades and free agency. He lasted a year, at which point Charley Finley dealt him to the Pirates for catcher Manny Sanguillen. This put him in charge of a Pirates team that was coming off of a 92-70 second-place finish and had won the division in six of the seven years before that. He took the team he inherited to one last championship, then watched it fall apart under him at least in part from the rampant drug culture that overtook the clubhouse. “Some guys make so many rules that before they know it they’ve got a dozen problems,” Tanner said, explaining his no-rules philosophy. “I always remember the players are human beings first.”
Unfortunately, human beings need leadership or they slip. Tanner’s last Pirates team went 57-104 and he was let go as the club shifted from private to quasi-public ownership and, not coincidentally, Tanner had to give testimony in the trial of the club's favorite pusher. Ted Turner made him the highest-paid manager in baseball, giving him $500,000 a year to manage the Braves under general manager Bobby Cox. He was dismissed 39 games into the 1988 and did not manage again. He finished with a record of 1352-1381 (.495). The word most used in association with Tanner was “optimist,” but given the losing record, the Pollyanna act doesn’t seem to have been justified.
Soon-to-be Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog's best-of team.
As you know, these best-of rankings were inspired by Bill James Bill James Guide to Managers. This is the first time I've put together a list for a manager who James covered as well. I pointedly did not consult the book before doing this, so as not to be influenced, although since I'm going by measures such as VORP, TAv, WARP, SNLVAR, and WXRL and James was using his own criteria, there wouldn't have been much chance of that anyway. I did deviate from my system in one place below, which I'll cover in the notes. Before proceeding to the list, I just want to say that if you weren't around at the time, it's almost impossible to conceive of how much fun Herzog's Cardinals teams could be, and how frustrating if you were rooting for the opposition. Given the home-run heavy nature of the current game (yes, even this year), Whitey's Cards, with six switch-hitters and 200 and 300 stolen bases a year, seem like an impossible fantasy now. He was the most creative, aggressive manager of his day and his elevation to the Hall is long overdue.