Buck Showalter faces a challenge with the Orioles, though the subsequent credit and blame he receives will be disproportionate.
Dave Bristol, the manager of the 1980 Giants, once made an announcement to his team: “There will be two buses leaving the hotel for the park tomorrow. The two o’clock bus will be for those of you who need a little extra work. The empty bus will leave at five o’clock”. This is not only funny, but clearly laid out the manager’s expectation: everyone needs extra work. Given that a manager’s major contribution to his team is not in-game moves but in setting a professional tone for the 25 men in his charge, this is exactly the kind of attitude you want. Unfortunately, the 1980 Giants went 75-86, finished 17 games behind the Houston Astros in the National League West, and Bristol, 47, never managed again. A manager can ask, cajole, joke, plead, or beg, but you’re only going to so far with Johnny LeMaster as your shortstop and Terry Whitfield as your No. 5 hitter.
History shows that trading established veterans for propsects rarely works out.
Some truths are eternal. About 93 years ago, the Philadelphia Phillies traded their right-handed ace, Pete Alexander, to the Cubs. Alexander, 30 years old, was in his seventh season. He had two ERA titles, and had led the NL in wins five times, including the four seasons prior to the trade. Overall, his career mark was 190-88 with a 2.12 ERA and 61 shutouts, a category which he led in annually. Pete Alexander and his sidearm sinker and curve were deadly. The Phillies were fearful they were going to lose him after the season—not to free agency, which didn’t exist, but to the military. They resolved to get whatever they could for him. That turned out to be a catching prospect, Pickles Dillhoefer, a middling right-handed pitcher, Mike Prendergast, and $55,000.
The Boss could be many things, both good and bad, but no owner ever cared more about winning.
In last night’s chat, I wrote that George Steinbrenner was a tyrant who could be arbitrarily generous or a generous man who could be arbitrarily tyrannical. Google up all of the thousands of words that have been written about the man since Tuesday morning and you will see variations of that thought, his dual nature referenced again and again. As Charles Dickens might have written, he was the best of guys, he was the worst of guys. When a man’s life is measured, which should count for more, his best moments or his worst? There is no easy way to answer this question, lest we go down some Citizen Kane-like road of exploration of the many facets of the man, and even that, as Orson Welles skillfully showed, is a journey that is inevitably inconclusive. My own personal view of morality is that cruelty is cheap, especially when those who suffer the blows cannot strike back because they are in some way our subordinates. Anonymous charity does not excuse, erase, or offset capricious cruelty. It merely sits alongside it, a parallel column of good behavior that cannot bleach sin. Redemption, reschemnshion—this ain’t football, and the penalties don’t offset.
Or, getting used to what Willie Bloomquist can't do.
In 1935, when Casey Stengel was managing with the Dodgers, the best teams in the league was the Cardinals. The Dodgers weren’t nearly in the same class. That winter, Cardinals GM Branch Rickey released two former starting outfielders, Jack Rothrock and Ernie Orsatti. The Dodgers were not deep in outfielders, or ambulatory humans for that matter, and Stengel was asked if his club would try to sign the two free agents.
Further explaining to a disgruntled reader (and content thief) why Dusty Baker rarely settles on the right leadoff hitter.
Sometimes you get an email that is worth responding to not because the reader raises good points, but because he doesn’t. Such is the case with reader Greg (not a subscriber, so one of you did a copy ‘n’ paste job—c’mon, ‘fess up) and last week’s discussion of Dusty Baker’s leadoff men.
The Reds skipper has spent the bulk of his 18-year managing career trying to find the modern-day Ralph Garr to hit atop his lineup.
It’s an affront to Managing 101: Whether you look at the batting order as a way to set up the offense or simply as a vehicle for distributing the most plate appearances to your best hitters, it has long been accepted baseball doctrine that your leadoff hitter should have a high on-base percentage. Yet, every day you can look at the box scores and see Orlando Cabrera and his .276 on-base percentage taking the first hacks of the day for Dusty Baker’s Cincinnati Reds. Drew Stubbs opened the season in the leadoff spot, occasionally yielding to Chris Dickerson, but when both started slowly, Cabrera got the nod and has been rooted at No. 1 ever since.
The Red Sox could be playing in the wrong division in the wrong season as 95 games might not get them into the postseason.
Should the Red Sox pick up their pace by just a few games, they could find themselves in a unique place in the standings. While a handful of teams, such as the 1942 Dodgers, 1954 Yankees, and 1980 Orioles have found themselves locked out of the postseason despite winning 100 or more games, no team has ever won 100 games and finished third. The Sox, currently on a pace for 95 wins, would need to win 60 of their remaining 94 games to be the first, an unlikely but not impossible 103-win pace over a full season.
Giving up draft selections as compensation for signing free agents has often proved to be disastrous.
When Frankie Frisch, Hall of Fame infielder and manager, became a broadcaster, he became known for bemoaning walks. “Oh, those bases on balls,” he would cry whenever a pitcher put his team in a tough spot by throwing four out of the strike zone. If he was around today, he might be saying, “Oh, those compensatory draft picks.”
It is a time to say thanks to and reflect on the baseball players who contributed to war efforts over the years.
One reason often cited for the birth of the super-hero comic book fad in the late 1930s was that the gaudily dressed characters, gifted with miraculous powers, could solve the problems of the world with a punch, unlike everyone else, who had to sit around and endure the nerve-wracking wait for the rise of Fascism to evolve into World War II, and then for World War II to have a positive resolution for the democracies. The idea of Superman being able to punch out a tank, or even deliver a love-tap to Adolf himself (or failing that, Joseph Goebbels) was reassuring to the younger set and far easier to understand than the movements of massive armies in faraway places.
A look at the expansion teams and why they have or haven't won it all.
By popular request, the last set of capsules covering teams with the longest wait since their last World Series win. In the previous installment, we reached all the way back to the Cubs. For this final entry in a series that I feel like I undertook back when I was about 13, the expansion teams that have never won: