It has been 25 years since baseball banned Pete Rose for betting on his Reds. With a new Commissioner of Baseball due to arrive on the scence, does this offer Charlie Hustle any glimmer of hope that baseball will welcome his back into its fraternity before he heads to the Big Bench in the Sky? (Pete is in his 70's) The history behind the ban - and really the appropriateness - while not in dispute for the most part, is not fresh in the minds of most fans. Now what fans remember is that the man with 4,254 hits is banned from the Hall of Fame. The condensed version of his gambling on baseball is that as manager of the Reds, he bet on his team's games on a routine basis with the size of the bets ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. While Rose has admantantly claimed he only bet FOR his team, MLB investigator Dowd has said he believed it was likely that Rose did in fact bet AGAINST the Reds. Periodically a segment of the fan base begins a campaign to reinstate Pete Rose - my view is that perhaps in time, but "Not Yet....Not Yet." (my Gladiator reference of the day).
Which brings me to the other baseball betting "injustice" - the sad plight of Shoeless Joe Jackson. Joe was associated with the Black Sox as one of the Eight Men Out for taking $5,000, a hefty sum in those days, yet Joe was basically dumber than a sack of rocks and did not appreciate the implications of his deeds. At that time in baseball, gamblers were prevelant in and around the clubhouse and games were often influenced by this seedy element around the game...think "The Natural" and the pressure that beset Roy Hobbs by bookie Gus Sands. Joe paid a heavy price for being associated with the Black Sox, who although they were aquitted in court, we still banned for life from Baseball. Joe Jackson would have possibly been as great as Babe Ruth - or maybe even better - but the world will never know. As it stands, his career as a White Sox and his body of work was certainly Hall - worthy. If Rose is to be forgiven, I think Joe Jackson also has to be in the conversation.
Perhaps what Baseball needs is a wing of the Hall for those whose stats are worthy of merit, but for one reason or another, fell into disrepute. Spots for Rose, Jackson, Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, McGuire and others from the steroid era may need a place to call their own. It might be a good solution to a thorny problem.
In other news to note...
Will this be the first time since 1994 that the Yankees and the Red Sox will not be in the playoffs? It is going to take a great run from the Yankees to get in.
How about them O's? To me the Orioles are the surprise team in baseball - they have a monster lineup that has now been dinged further with the loss of Machado, but I am still amazed they have put themselves at the top of the AL (after the Angels) with an unheralded pitching staff. I don't know if they are built for the post season, but we shall see.
Speaking of the post season, I ordered by playoff strips from the Nationals...will I finally get to go to a World Series game? Here is hoping that I don't have to turn those tickets back in for credit on next year's tickets.
A damp Saturday here...nevertheless, the honey-do list will be calling. Have a good one!
Hello and welcome to another Wednesday of deep thoughts. Although you are reading this on Wednesday, I had to write my blog a few days early as we are headed to Ranger Texas to drop off my son off at Ranger JUCO. This will be a big change for Blake as Ranger is so much smaller than UTPA was last year. For those of you who do not realize the difference between a D 1 schedule and JUCO’s…don’t feel bad, as until the latest journey began for Blake…I was right there with you. D 1 teams do not play games during the fall, while JUCO’s have about a 40 game schedule. JUCO’s utilize double headers frequently to eliminate the need for overnight stay (normally). Because of this change, I will be mixing in some JUCO baseball during football season. When you think about it…fall offers some great baseball weather for Texas schools. September is still down right hot, but by the time October and November arrive, the weather cools down to a very comfortable level. There are many November days that offer mid 70 degree weather and are honestly much more temperate than the early spring. Of course, an occasional cold front can arrive and make things chilly, but no more so than spring. One of the big things that Ranger and other JUCO schools offer players is a chance to display their skills for MLB scouts and 4 year college coaches. Next Friday, Ranger will be playing an inter squad scrimmage that will have coaches from UT San Antonio, Texas State and Lamar University. I suspect that because this Ranger squad is loaded with sophomores that there will be many coaches watching practice and games this season. As this is my first go around with JUCO baseball, I don’t any experience…but I promise to share as the season progresses.
Unless you have been doing your best Rip Van Winkle…you have no doubt seen and read about the ALS ice bucket challenge. I know that my son was challenged by one of his ex-teammates and put the video on Instagram and twitter to document that he accepted the challenge. While this may seem silly to some, what is not silly is that the ALS Association has received $11.4 million dollars compared to $1.7 million dollars for the same time period last year. Almost $10 million dollars has been raised as a result of this challenge. Regular folks like my son have been instrumental in creating the viral wave of this challenge. Twitter acknowledges that 2.2 million tweets have been sent about the ice bucket challenge. In an age when we see so much stupid stuff going viral, it is great to see something like the challenge catching fire. This is something that a high school kid, Bill Gates and Conan Obrien can all do that makes a difference. I have been pleasantly surprised that the usual negativity and cynicism has not begun to emerge regarding this challenge. On Monday, I saw that Lady Gaga had accepted the challenge. I started to ignore the article, but I decided to check out Lady Gaga enjoying the ice bath…a bad decision on my part. Of all the challenges I have seen…Lady Gaga has to be the most odd. Of course, since it is Lady Gaga…why should I be surprised? What really troubled me were some of the comments on the article. Apparently there are some people that do not know what ALS is. While that is incredulous enough…I was stunned at the total douche-baggery within the comments. Some guy mistakenly takes the time to explain what ALS is and why the challenge was being done…and he gets ripped. Oh well, as we have all seen, there are trolls everywhere that love to do what trolls do. I say hell yeah to the ice bucket challenge. It is great summer fun, raising money for an awesome cause.
One aspect of baseball that I love is the interaction of the players/coaches/fans and the umpires. It is a great part of baseball tradition and something that I worry that technology could ruin. I am not opposed to instant replay per se, but only a bit worried how far baseball suits will go with regard to usurping the control of umpires. Years ago, I wrote a blog on TSN about the Brave’s minor league manager Phil Wellman going bonkers. I have said many times that for me, one of the beautiful things about baseball is the absence of a clock. You arrive at a ballpark not knowing what sort of game you will see, especially if you are attending a minor league baseball game. Minor league baseball is a bit unique. Unlike high school, college and MLB games, the flow of the minor league game is just different. I think for this reason, some minor league managers are not as constrained as are their coaching brethren. I know you have surely seen the video of Phil Wellman. You know…he was the minor manager that threw the resin bag like it was a grenade. That was the all-time manager freak out for me. Recently, I saw a minor league manager go that rivaled Phil Wellman. To have a classic meltdown, the manager has to do something that is somewhat unique. Leo Durocher and Earl Weaver used to kick dirt on the umps feet…Lou Pinella covered the base toss. Wellman’s signature eruption was the resin bag. Check out this video of Myrtle Beach manager Joe Mikulik. The argument began rather normal, but quickly escalated once the home plate umpire threw Mikulik out of the game. Mikulik has a reputation for being a rather vocal manager, but the show he put on was epic. His pantomime reminded me a bit of the classic ejection of Jim Leyland, but he took it to another level by sliding into home plate. For me however, what makes this a classic ejection is yanking off his shoes and shirt and placing them on home plate. For those few fans in attendance, they saw something that they will never forget. This was hilarious for me. Well done Joe!
Wellman's meltdown just for old times...
You just never know what you will see at a minor league game. The season is quickly winding down, go catch a minor league game before it is too late.
One thing that many will miss in this video is that the umpires allowed Joe to do his thing. What I really appreciate is that the umpires realize that they ejected Mikulik and that his show was for his team and the fans. What bothers me about some MLB umps is that their egos are so large that they would never allow a manager to go off like Mikulik did. Take for example the major league umpire named Tony Randazzo. In my opinion, baseball would be better off bringing up the minor league guys and get rid of umpires like Randazzo. This past week, Randazzo ejected Lloyd McClendon in back to back games. The first ejection was because McClendon was arguing balls and strikes. The second day, Randazzo was at 3B and ruled a check swing by Alex Avilla to be no swing. McClendon disagreed and gave a little wave in disgust. Randazzo reacted immediately to McClendon’s wave by throwing him out of the game. There is some history between Randazzo and McClendon that you will see in the following link:
I got a big laugh in reading a few of the comments to this article. The one that really got me was the one from Bautista Thumbs Up:
My grandpa, who is a college ump here in Cali, was watching the game and texted me the following: "That ump in the Mariners game is a cocksucker."
If you know you Bull Durham history, you know that there is one magic phrase that guarantees an ejection. For another umpire to use that phrase to describe another umpire, pretty much says it all. For my money, Tony Randazzo gets my douche bag of the week.
If you are sick of the Derek Jeter farewell tour…Joe Maddon is right there with you. There is no doubt that Jeter has been a great player, teammate and captain…but I feel for Maddon. Year after year, Maddon works to put a competitive team on the field…only to get little recognition from the home fans. It is no surprise that Maddon is than pissed off that the Ray fans sellout to say goodbye to Derek Jeter. He has to thinking to himself…where have you been? Joe Maddon may be my favorite manager in baseball, but he has to realize that half the population of Tampa used to live in New York. It is a shame how little recognition that Maddon gets for the job he has done in Tampa. I can’t help at wonder how great he would be managing a team like the Dodgers. Now, I am not trying to start any rumors…just saying.
That’s all I have today, but I will leave you with a bit of Jack Handey…
To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there's no music, no choreography, and the dancers hit each other.
Remember, kids in the backseat cause accidents; accidents in the backseat cause kids.
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a few deep thoughts of your own…
I know some of these are kind of late but I have been busy…..
Congratulations go out to Drew Brees who reached 50,000 career yards in the NFL. He also accomplished this in the least amount of games for those quarterbacks with more than 50,000 yards. Brees is 5th on the career yards list.
Congratulations also go out to Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox for their unanimous selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Torre has won 4 World Series and is the only manager to have more than 2,000 wins and 2,000 hits as a player. His record was 2,326-1,997, 5th on the career win list. La Russa won 3 World Series, guiding Oakland in 1989 and St. Louis in 2006 and 2011. He ended up with a record of 2,728-2,365, 3rd all-time . Cox turned the hopeless Braves into winners, winning 14 straight division titles and a World Championship in 1995. He finished 4th in career wins with a record of 2,504-2,001.
I Don't know about you, but I never considered manager Bobby Cox a clutch manager. For a coach to win 14 consecutive division titles and only win one World Series is beyond me. With the pitching and defense they had the team should have one more. In another word, if La Russa or Torre were managing the Braves at the time, an easy 5 to 6 World Series wins.
Andrew McCutchen’s big announcement:
Seattle Mariners are trying to make a statement with the signing of Cano, Willie Bloomquist, Logan Morrison, Corey Hart?
Arizona Diamondbacks were trading with anyone that would listen… LF Brandon Jacobs from the White Sox, A.J. Schugel from the Angels. Todd Glaesmann from the Rays, Mark Trumbo from the Angeks.
Even the Minnesota Twins were involved in the action by signing two free agents, Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco.
It's always been my favorite football league, perhaps because it brought a home team to my life at age 10. Up to then we had football on TV because the Giants were broadcast every Sunday at 2, with the Gillette 'To Look Sharp' march providing the intro and Chris Schenkel providing the call. It was fun but it wasn't a real home team. Neither were the Browns, broadcast later in the afternoon as the 'Greatest Show in Football'. We hadn't had one since the Redskins (soon to lose their storied name to the censorship of Political Correctness) left town.
But, voila! The AFL came around and we had a team. Nobody liked their name. Most preferred 'Minutemen', which rolls off the tongue a bit better. And the league was, of course, considered a joke by the NFL. But it was a dangerous joke because it meant competition, and the 'joke' part of it was surely put into the senior league's set of what would be known later as 'talking points'. Get rid of these guys before they become dangerous... translation: 'cost us money'.
When NBC gave the new league a TV contract the NFL knew it was in for trouble. When Sonny Werblin snatched up both Joe Namath and John Huarte for unheard-of money in 1964 it was their worst nightmare. They were in for a bidding war against people who could afford one. The AFL would no longer be made up of aging NFL castoffs and second-rate college talent.
In reality, the few good teams that existed even near the outset may have been competitive in either league. The early AFL was ruled by the Houston Oilers, who were led by George Blanda. He had been in pro football since 1949, having played college ball for Bear Bryant (at Kentucky!). He was clearly no kid, but he was also clearly no mere mortal, and no one knew he had his best years ahead of him (he would play for 24 seasons). He went on record several years ago as saying his Oilers could have beaten anybody. Maybe they could have.
They did, at least in the AFL, for two years. Then they hit a roadblock from cross-state in the Dallas Texans, who upset their bid for three AFL titles in a row. Those unknown Texans, property of league founder Lamar Hunt, would then confound the Metro area by leaving town with a fresh ring to become the Kansas City Chiefs. Whatever their motives, that title in Dallas would help make them the most successful franchise of the old AFL, as they'd win 3 titles in the league's 10 years of existence. Houston would win no more.
Starting in desperate straits, stocked with bargain-basement local players from Boston College and Holy Cross, the Boston Patriots never seemed to have a home. After a few seasons they had settled in Fenway Park. After their first season they would hire old BC All-American Mike Holovak as head coach. He would turn the team around with tactical brilliance that helped disguise their shortcomings. Quarterback Butch Songin found himself alternating each series of downs with a newcomer, NFL long-timer Babe Parilli, who had followed George Blanda as QB of Kentucky under Bear Bryant. The defense, which lacked speed in the backfield, would introduce the safety blitz as part of its standard package, often lining up in an 11-man front led by safety Chuck Shonta. They couldn't cover, but they sure could 'chuck' the receiver anywhere on the field. It worked. Within a year Parilli would be the unquestioned starter.
Out West, one team dominated the early years. They began as the Los Angeles Chargers, with uniforms that were clear and shameless emulations of their intracity rivals, the Rams. After one season they'd move to booming San Diego. Their 1963 team, coached by Sid Gillman and featuring true pro stars like Lance Alworth, Ron Mix, Walt Sweeney, Earl Faison and Ernie Ladd, demolished Boston in the championship game. It would be revealed decades later that the '63 Chargers had pioneered steroid usage in football. It worked.
The Chargers were always competitive in the AFL, but their star was eclipsed in the second half of the decade by both the Chiefs and the Raiders, now under former Gillman protege Al Davis.
Meanwhile, back East, fired Patriots' coach Lou Saban had moved to Buffalo where he had assembled perhaps the best team the AFL would see, though its run was short. The Bills had everything --- a great defense, great running backs, great receivers, great linemen, and a great quarterback, the one and only Jack Kemp. They'd win in 1964 and 1965, almost getting a shot in 1966 at the first Super Bowl except for a championship game upset by the mighty Chiefs. But the real story of 1966 was that the Bills had gotten that far because of a young quarterback in New York.
The Patriots, no longer competitive in 1965, had whipped overweight former Syracuse fullback Jim Nance into shape for the 1966 season. Nance would respond with over 1400 yards rushing in 14 games. He was unstoppable. When Boston went to Kansas City for a rare nationally-televised night game (called by Curt Gowdy the 'best game he'd ever seen') and tied the Chiefs 27-27, despite a later revelation that Hank Stram had stolen their playbook, it was clear that they were a contender for the first interleague title game.
Late in the season they faced East leader Buffalo at home and beat the Bills 14-6. Jim Nance's breakaway 65-yard TD run was captured brilliantly in black and white and put on the cover of Sports Illustrated, a major publicity coup for the junior league.
Clearly the undermanned Patriots could beat anybody with Nance. Anybody but a young and, to date, mediocre quarterback in New York. All the Patriots had to do to win the East was beat the lowly Jets. Joe Namath picked that day for his professional coming-out party and put up 38 points against Boston's slow secondary. The Patriots' dreams of facing an NFL opponent in January were dashed. Namath was reported to have been upset in the locker room following the game, knowing what the loss had done to Boston, saying "I didn't mean to do that to them."
The Chiefs would, of course, be humbled by the Packers in the first Super Bowl (not given the name yet). The senior league would crow. They'd crow more the next year as Daryl Lamonica's Raiders, no longer an AFL doormat, came to play after wresting control of the AFL West from the Chiefs and were as easily beaten by the Packers. Both games seemed to utterly prove NFL superiority.
What they really proved was Green Bay superiority. No one in his wildest dreams could have predicted that the Jets, still led by the now-brilliant Namath and upset winners of the AFL title over the mighty Raiders, stood a chance against a Colts team said to be stronger than Green Bay had been. It was likely a miscalculation. The Jets controlled the line of scrimmage in that early 1969 Super Bowl. Yes, Joe Namath was the best quarterback on the field next to Earl Morrall and an aging and injured John Unitas, but the Jets won the game where they were supposed to have lost it --- in the trenches. Likely, Oakland would have controlled those same trenches.
No one of course believed that, and the game was widely considered a fluke. That assessment would change drastically in 1970. The Chiefs managed to return, somehow besting Oakland and New York, and faced a Vikings team that had lost Fran Tarkenton, practically their trademark, and replaced him with Joe Kapp. The result had been a 12-2 season in which the Vikings had lost their first and last games, the latter being of no importance, then had beaten the Rams and Browns in the postseason. The Chiefs were the team that the Packers had manhandled a few years earlier. The Vikings were going to redeem the NFL and prove for all to see that 1969 had been a fluke.
The fluke turned out to be that Green Bay had represented the NFL in the first two Bowls. Minnesota was no match for Kansas City at any position. The Chiefs' win was likely the NFL's worst embarrassment since the Browns had come to the league from the AAFC in 1950 and proceeded to win the title over the mighty Rams. The AFL had won two Bowls in a row, both with dominating line play, the true mark of superiority. The leagues were 2-2 in Super Bowls. The Packers weren't coming back to restore order for the senior circuit.
The sad result of the victory was that it precipitated the merger of the AFL and NFL. Gone was the prospect of a true World Series between competing leagues, a mystery game that was as intriguing as any hockey match between teams from different sides of the Earth. And, of course, it happened just as the AFL demonstrated that it had reached parity.
It was the dream of such founders as Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams but was fought fiercely by Al Davis, who wanted to maintain the AFL's independence and was outraged that as the league's Commissioner he had been stabbed in the back by his owners who had conspired secretly with his rival, the monopolistic Pete Rozelle. The league that had opened up offensive football again was being sucked into a large mass it could not control, and the addition of Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh to the now-AFC further diluted the differences. Despite the presence of powerful Oakland, Kansas City, New England and Miami, all pure AFL stock, the 1970s would see five championships go to ex-NFL teams now playing in the AFC.
For genuine AFL fans such as yours truly, the last two real Super Bowls had become pyrrhic victories at best, and the last truly 'fun' league was gone forever. The NFL, like the government, deplores competition. One wonders what might have happened if Al Davis had gotten his way and the leagues had remained apart. Surely the Super Bowl would have meant more. The NFLPA and free agency may never have gotten traction with players involved in an interleague bidding war. But it's probably naive to think it would have lasted long. Money talks, and that's how the system works. It ain't perfect, but it's the best we've got, and attempts at perfection have proven disastrous.