MLB15 Chin Music: Giants Formula No Secret

26 Mar ..........Posey.wc.cca.Cbl62.

Three World Series titles in five seasons (2010, ‘12 & ‘14). That’s impressive stuff.

And very satisfying too, especially for older Giants‘ fans, when you consider it took the East Coast transplants 50+ years to nab that first California-based crown after relocating (NYC) with the Boys in blue (LAD) in 1958.


Ask some fans what they think of Bruce Bochy (Mgr) and GM Brian Sabean’s modern-day masterpiece in sport engineering and you’re likely to get the all too typical tight-fisted line: ‘It’s okay, but it’s not a dynasty.’

Some will dole out compliments like rare gems. Ugh.

But if you don’t toss the City of San Francisco a bouquet on this occasion, you’re not ‘baseball.’

What these Giants & Co. have accomplished is nothing short of tremendous, back-to-backs be damned. It’s in high league with the Belichick – Kraft Patriots and Popovich – Holt (Buford) Spurs: a formula for long, sustained success.


It’s all reminiscent of baseball dynasties of old: 40s Cardinals (1942, ‘44 & ‘46), 1910s Red Sox (1912, ‘15, ‘16 & ‘18) and San Fran’s down-state rivals, Dodgers, who started winning titles not long after hitting the LAX tarmac (1959, ‘63 & 65).

In besting their 2014 Series opponents the upstart Royals, no slouches themselves in giving the champs all they could handle (4-3), San Francisco proved to be more than that opportunistic club who just happen to get hot in a less-than-stellar playoff field.

Uh-uh. These guys have a system.

Brass Tacks

It’s no secret that it all begins with the money-bags, so to speak.

But you’ve gotta’ keep a scorecard to keep current on who exactly holds trump card for the Giants since Bob Lurie parted with ownership in January of 1993.

From what I can gather through a fairly haphazard search, Charles Bartlett Johnson appears to be Giants principal owner, having acquired controlling shares (‘11) after the death of Sue Burns (d.2009), who was the widow and heiress to the estate of her husband Harmon “Buzz” Burns who was principal investor of an assemblage that acquired Giants in 1993 and who then died in 2006. Peter Magowan was also an investor and managing partner from 1993-08, a post then assumed by later investor Bill Neukom who held it through 2011, when Larry Baer became chief money manager (CEO / MGP).

Who says rule by committee, or carousel, can’t make it all gel?


The hands-on general manager is Brian Sabean who’s been wheeling & dealing in the post since 1996. It constitutes the longest running tenure of any horse-trader in MLB.

Sabean will engage in high-end free agency from time to time: Livan Hernandez (‘99-02), Kenny Lofton for a brief but useful stint (‘02) and Barry Bonds being the biggest name (’93-07). And that willingness to spend some has continued into the championship era.

In 2015, San Francisco is 4th in estimated payroll at $169.5M yearly, not far behind Boston ($178+) but well off the pricey pace of the Yankees ($211+) and largesse kings, the Dodgers (273.4) (

There was Aubrey Huff (3B), signed at tail-end of a fine 13-year career (’10-12), who contributed to SF’s first WS title (‘10) in both the regular and post-seasons.

Pat Burrell (OF / 1B) was another star on decline the Giants signed up. He too contributed to the 2010 Pennant run, though, the tank ran empty by playoffs.

The Barry Zito signing is a memorable one.

The southpaw CY winner (‘02) brought a pretty penny in the 2006-07 free agent market when he exited Oakland for greener pastures. Barry averaged around $17M per in his 7 seasons with the Giants (‘07-13) but saw his ERA balloon and, excepting a bounce back in 2012 (15-8), saw his win-% take a dive.


Sabean’s faired better with free agents Hunter Pence and bridge pitcher Jean Machi.

In 2+ seasons in the Bay since coming from Philly, Pence has been steady at the plate, a regular face in Bochy’s line-up, playing a full state in both 2013 & ‘14 and played out of his cleats in Royals Series, batting .444 with 7 runs and 5 RBIs.

The 33-yr. old Machi bounced around baseball for a decade before signing with Frisco (‘11). His first foray into the post-season (‘14 / 7.94) was nothing to write home about (Venezuela), but his regular-season contribution over 2+ seasons is substantial: 126 IP, 2.71 ERA, 106-31 SO/BB.

Like the Zito (K), the Tim Lincecum deal proved another pricey – dicey outlay.

After taking consecutive Cy Youngs (‘08-09), Tiny Tim was re-signed & rewarded by the Giants with just compensation. From 2010 – 14, “The Freak” had a salary that averaged just over $16M per season. And then like Barry, Tim got the yips, going 61-62 with and a 4.09 ERA. SF has won three titles in his on-going term.

The Madison Bumgarner contract takes some sting out of the dour deals.


The big, 25-year old left-hander and 2014 World Series MVP has been notching more Ws than losses (67-49 / 3.00), limit’s the free-pass (1-to-4 BB/SO) and looks a veritable bargain, re-signing at an average of $11M yearly for the next five.

The recently departed Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval (BOS / $18M (6y)) may offer a twist on Branch Rickey’s famous line, “sometimes the best (deals) are the one’s you don’t make.”

The 3rd-bagger’s absence will be felt. Pablo was a steady presence at the hot corner, fine production and key cog in Giants ‘12 and ‘14 title machinery (.500 / .429 (WS)). But his scoring was just fair-to-good (74rbi / 62r (avg)) while the glove never spun gold, though, it’s fair to say awarding, especially for leather, can sometimes be less-than objective.

It’s also fair to say that assessing the soundness or deafness of a particular contract from 100,000 arm-lengths away, can be a somewhat dubious endeavor.

So what does one glean from all this?

The Giants have been willing to dole out ducats to build & sustain a winning way which, while no guarantee of championship(s) (See: LAD & LAA), can’t be dismissed through sabermetric smoke & mirrors if a significant & sustainable success is sought by the brass.

Posey Primer

Every dynasty has one: a primer. A player that ignites the charge to championship play. He serves as base material from which victory is forged and all will coalesce.

The St. Louis Cardinals have Yadier Molina.

In New England it’s been Tom Brady, while the Ravens had Ray Lewis.

Spurs primer has been Tim Duncan.

Blackhawks recent title take began with Toews, Kane and the wily, Marian Hossa.

The Joe Torre Yankees took off with Jeter & Rivera.

And for the Giants it’s been Georgia-born catcher, Buster Posey.


It should be no surprise then, that the start of San Fran’s World Series run coincides with Buster’s rookie campaign when he was awarded the NL’s Rookie-of-the-Year.

The numbers are impressive but not suspiciously gaudy.

In five seasons, Posey’s averaged 68 runs, 20 dingers and 80+ RBIs per, digits which would bump up slightly had he not been taken out of action early in 2012 due to a home-plate collision with Scott Cousins (FLA). It left the 2-time All Star with a broken ankle, out for the remainder and spurred on a new base-running rule that takes Buster’s name and is designed to limit home-plate havoc.

As a back-stop, Leesburg’s finest is not quite in class yet with Johnny Bench or Yadier, not many are, but he’s skilled, commits few errors, has led the NL in Caught Stealing category (’12 (38)) and holds a not-too-shabby career-% (31.9).

And lucky is the Manager with a capable man behind home plate who can also make good contact with his bat. A career .308 hitter, Buster, who’s set to turn 28 on Friday (3.27.87), won a batting title (and MVP) in 2012 with a whopping .336.

But nothing speaks to a top-flight catcher like the one that can coax pitching staffs to win championships. And on that count, Mr. Posey is a highly decorated ace.

Vive la Bochy!

They say when you’ve got your health you’ve got everything.

Unfortunately for most of us it’s not until we suffer that serious illness or debilitating condition that that sentiment really hits home.


If he didn’t already (he’s closing in fast on 60 (4.16.55)), Giants skipper Bruce Bochy has taken that sentiment to heart, no pun intended. A whole new perspective, no doubt.

Bruce underwent an operation last month to have stents inserted after he’d felt out of sorts following his club’s annual physical exam given during spring training (“Giants Bruce“ / ESPN (AP) / 2.20.15).

It’s a very serious, highly skilled procedure but a fairly common one today as Mr. Bochy was up & around, out of the hospital and back on the diamond in fairly short order.


Not yet amongst that inglorious hierarchy of manager ejectees the likes of Earl Weaver (94) or Paul Richards (80: 1-every-23g (, the native of France (BB’s father served in US Army (Wikipedia)) was a catcher (1978-87) and has a full appreciation for the unhealthy art of umpire argumentation and antagonization (64 +/-).

That appreciation will have to find a new outlet of expression.

This 2015 MLB season will mark Bochy’s third decade of managing (1618 – 1604). We who love baseball, even as some of us know Hank O’Day’s (HOF ’13) 1908 “Merkle Boner” ruling to be entirely correct (Cub Power!), want to see the Giants frisky version of Walter Alston occupying the San Francisco dugout for many years to come.

...........canned corn

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo Credits: B.Posey, Cbl62, 4.4.11, wc.cca; B.Posey, B.Edwards, 3.21.09, wc; SF.Fan, S.Kelly, wc, 6.6.14; B.Sabean, wc, ptwashburn, 2010; H.Pence, 9.26.12, wc, Ami221; M.Bumgarner, wc, SD.Dirk, 9.3.13; B.Posey, wc, Cbl62, 4.4.11; B.Bochy, wc, Cbl62, 4.4.11; B.Bochy.ejected, 6.23.07, wc, dennis; canned corn.
Posted: 3.25.15 @ 9:36pm EST
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A Favorite Patrick Willis Moment

14 Mar ........Willis.Rodgers.9.9.12.wc.M.Morbeck.326k


There are three kinds of sport fan:

1) The ‘means to an end’ers,’ i.e., gamblers, fantasy fanatics, saberheads, most brass and I suspect more than a few writers and media personalities;

2) The family fan, as in spouses, parents (drive & attend), anyone close to an athlete or sportician who gives support in friendship; and

3) The bona fide fan (BFF).

The BFF is likely indoctrinated into the faith by a parent, older sibling or a teacher at school, participating in both the organized and pick-up forms of play, attended major sporting events if Mom & Dad had the loot and watched it on the tube with regularity.

They’ll often display their passion for the games in wearable team merchandise and can be engaged easily on the sporting topic.

This scribbler falls under #3.

My dad played rounders, as most boys did in the 20th century, but hung up his glove early, the kind of mitt that had a leather string for a web.

My mentors were a grandfather who followed the likes of Sisler (Browns) and Hornsby (Cards) in St. Louis’ golden age of baseball when the two were spittin’ out hits like Gatling guns, and an older brother who lived the life, whether it be baseball, b-ball, football or any form of “folly,” i.e., Tudor® Electric Football.

My brother Kev coached my first football team when I was nine and we then formed our own league: Tudor® Electric Football. He painted the players himself with a great eye for detail: helmets with logos, sock’s had stripings. In today’s lingo, it was awesome.

Why the stroll down memory lane?

On Tuesday, the San Francisco 49ers announced that their 8-year, All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis is retiring from the game. It’s an event that requires a different reflection than the typical numbers-crunching and all-time ranking.

When you consider that Pat has probably played the game since he was 9, giving and getting bone-jarring hits most the way, stepping down at 30 seems A-okay.

But an 8-year career for a player the caliber of Mr. Willis, arguably the best linebacker, heck, best defender in the NFL from ‘07-10, feels a bit premature, especially since the NFL is not exactly brimming over with tackling talent in 2015.

It’s not hard to fathom why Pat decided to exit the game, considering he suffered game-altering injuries in recent years, physical changes that’ve taken toll on that proverbial step, coupled with the changes that’ve been going on in miners-land this off-season, including notable roster moves (F. Gore to Indy) and a new head coach in the promoted Jim Tomsula (’07) to replace Jim Harbaugh (UM).


San Fran stalwart NaVorro Bowman, the man who was heir to Willis’ linebacking throne but who sat out all of last year’s campaign after a torn ACL suffered in the 2014 NFC title game, will be returning shortly but may not recognize his own team.

Willis has his reasons, and we’ll have our memories.

Having been a resident of the Midwest and South during Mr. Willis’ career, I didn’t catch most of his games as did NFC West fans. But I do have one special remembrance that is indelibly etched into this writer’s mind. And curiously, it involves another fairly recent retiree and star of note, Brett Favre.

It happened in Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on the afternoon of September 27, 2009.

Vikes were sporting their new signal-caller in Favre, were 2-0 and hosting the Mike Singletary coached 49ers with Shaun Hill under center (recently signed with MIN for 2015) and Willis leading the defensive charge.

With Minnesota trailing 24-20 and just 1:30 remaining in the 4th, Vikes started from their 20. Nine plays later had them on 49ers 32 with just 12 ticks left on the clock. On 3rd and 3, Favre lofted a rainbow pass into back of the end zone where receiver Greg Lewis performed one of the greatest tight-rope acts in history of the NFL to haul it in for what would prove to be the game winning score.


But it is not Minnesota’s 27-24 victory, one which set them on path to play to the NFC title game (v NO) and which may be the Mississippian’s most exhilarating game-closer in his storied career, that has deposited Willis’ image in my memory bank.

Sometime midway through the second half, Patrick was involved in a play that was the epitome of sportsmanship and a display of the best that football has to offer.

Some of the details are sketchy, but the Vikes were in possession, driving, and Favre threw a run-of-the-mill short out pass to his left side, which the receiver (?) caught and ran downfield for a somewhat sizable gain, if I recall correctly.

After connecting with his receiver, Brett decided to give his new owner Zygi Wilf more of his money’s worth ($25M) by laying a downfield block. The recipient was none other than All Pro stick-man, Patrick Willis.

And what a block it was. Favre laid the linebacker out flat. It was a sight to behold.

But did Patrick jump to his feet, cry foul in wounded pride and feign anger at the wily QB for putting him on his keister? Heck no, he took it like a pro.

The defensive star clearly respected the effort, and along with the referee, helped the slightly dazed-in-disbelief QB to his feet, straightened out Brett’s disheveled shoulder pads, gave him the customary pat and sent the signal-caller on his way.

It was terrific, and it was pure football.

A simple, rather routine play that is long forgotten by 99.95% of those who watched, but beautiful in its encapsulation of the spirit that on occasion can make the sport special.

As that mythical Le Mans (’71) endurance driver “Johann Ritter (Fred Haltiner)” once said to his gorgeous, supportive wife “Anna (Louise Edlind)” when contemplating his own decision to exit the death-defying racing profession, “It’s the right time to stop.”


Apparently, it’s the right time for Patrick Willis to hang up his cleats and “go onto the next thing (A. Revere)” in his life. “Mrs. Brown” would wholeheartedly approve.

Steven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credits: Willis, Rodgers, wc.cca, M.Morbeck, 9.9.12;, wc.cca, johnmaxmena; Willis, 8.30.12, S.Bowles, wc.cca; Levis.Stadium, wc.cca, usbduong33, 8.4.14; Favre, wc.cca, 10.24.10, M.Morbeck; A.Revere, wc.cca, 1947, 20th-Fox.
Posted: 3.13.15 @ 11:56pm EST

Kentucky and the Myth of Perfection

7 Mar ......Calipari.1.8.13.c.malder.wc.350kb

Like the lure of the siren’s song, never what it appears to be, but who among us can resist (J.Seinfeld)?”

And so it is with the lure of a perfect season in sport.

Oh, how wonderful it would be to hoist the hardware without nary a single loss. So we fans and those in the press who cover the merriments, believe.


But ask someone who’s accomplished the feat. They’ll give you the low-down.

That would include a member of the 1972-73 Super Bowl winning Miami Dolphins or Bob Knight’s undefeated, NCAA champion Indiana Hoosiers (‘75-76).

Those were heady, by-gone days.

The question & answer might go something along this line: Q: ‘What’s it like to go undefeated for an entire season? A: It’s great, but not that big a deal. It’s the championship that makes it special, the icing on the cake, so to speak.’

The Patriots almost found that perfect place in history.

They ran the table in the 2007 regular season (16-0), won their playoffs (2-0) but then lost a close one late to the Giants in the big game (14-17 (SB42)). It’s a run New England (and NYG) should be proud of but proves the point: it’s the title, not perfection along the way that gives the achievement, the journey, the memory, that extra-special aura.

As of this write the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team stands at 30-0, having pulled their fat outta’ the fire in a nip n’ tuck road win in Athens earlier this week, where the host Bulldogs gave the Wildcats all they could handle in a 72-64 visitor’s win.

Though the 2013-14 Wichita State Shockers entered last year’s NCAA as an undefeated (34-0), this John Calipari Kentucky team has a feel that’s closer to the 1990-91 defending national champion UNLV squad, coached by the recently deceased Jerry Tarkanian, also started the tournament undefeated and looked near unbeatable.

.......Rupp.arena.1.2.13.c.malder.thmbThe common ground is not in the scoring punch.

Those Runnin’ Rebels often buried opponents with scoring barrages.

But in the point parade, these Wildcats practically bring up the rear, nationally ranked 30th in PPG (75), a chilly 41st in field-goal % (.471) and top scorers Aaron Harrison (11.3) and freshman Dev Booker (11) barely averaging double-digits. Another frosh Karl-Anthony Towns is balanced best at 9.6 ppg and leads the team in rebounds at 6.5 per contest.

It’s on defense where Kentucky emulates those terribly terrific Tarkanian Vegans.

Nobody puts the clamps down on opponents like these bluegrass b-ballers. Most won’t clear the 60 mark (PAPG (#2): 53.2), due in large part to a miserly field-goals allowed % (FGAP) that would make Ebenezer Scrooge proud (#1 / .344).

Contribution, in a broadly shared responsibility, seems the watchword for UK.

The prevailing myth amongst sport fanatics is that a team with perfect record is best prepared to capture the NCAA crown. Run-the-table in the regular season slate (UK v. UF, 3-7 (2pm EST)) and sweep through the largely meaningless, money-grab, conference tourney. Seems reasonable enough.

And that’s why myths are for the movies and Harry Potter novels.

It didn’t turn out as planned for Wichita State in last year’s NCAA, nor those Runnin’ Rebels in 1991 who sought to build a dynasty in the Silver State.

“The best-laid plans of mice and men, often go awry (Burns).”

........Burns.Robert.wc.ccaBeginning 1991 NCAA tournament play as defending national champs and sporting a sparkling 30-0, UNLV must’ve salivated with anticipation in eyeing Duke as their semifinal opponent, the team they’d dismantled just a year earlier, 103-73, to claim their first title in the most lopsided championship score in tourney history.

But the Blue Devils proved prepared and pulled off one of the great upsets in history, going toe-to-toe with the titanesque Rebels and grabbing the 79-77 victory, and then going on to top perennial Kansas in the final (72-65) to claim their own first crown.

A regular season loss, or two, along the way to the NCAA are not all bad.

A well played but losing effort can stoke the mettle forge that’s needed to run the talent laden gauntlet come March Madness, pin-point weak spots and help deflate over-pumped egos (2 psi?) that grow large with perfection. Makes for a safer driving state.

I’m not saying Kentucky aught lose a game intentionally (tank) or play anything less than their best ball. Heck, no. That’s something Earvin Johnson may advocate and a topic of high-spec in NBA and NHL, but strictly bad play for those with heart and sporting soul.

It wouldn’t help anyway. Mess up the mojo. Besides, the Cats crave el perfecto.

What I am saying, is that if the Wildcats happen to suffer a loss before the big dance, it’s not the end of the world. It may in fact work to their benefit, act as a healthy dose of preventive medicine.

The sporting gods have grown stingy. We haven’t had a perfect season in quite a spell. They were always rare but have become as uncommon as Haley’s Comet. Maybe we’re due for one, or maybe they’ve decided to do away with ’em all together. One can never know these things.

Whether Kentucky has what it takes to make a perfect season, a championship run or some other team’s stars align in mid-March, whatever the fates hold, the gods will crown a winner the night of April 6th and that’s as certain as spring.

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: J.Calipari, wc.cca, C.Malder, 1.8.13; J.Calipari, wc.cca, 11.5.14, K.Allison, MD; Rupp.Arena, wc.cca, C.Malder, 1.8.13; R.Burns, wc.cca; Straight.Shooter.brand, citrus.fruit
Posted: 3.6.15 @ 11:28pm EST

MLB15 Chin Music: Harper Time

1 Mar .............B.Harper.3.12.11.wc.MissChatter.1.66m

I can feel it. The ice is about to break on this winter and unless you sell salt or woolen mittens for your livelihood, it can’t happen soon enough.

The thought of breaking ice takes me back to that Northern Exposure episode about cabin fever when the long winter in “Cicely (Alaska)” had libidos running high and fuses burning short. What a show. Now it’s Law & Order syndication saturation. Whoop-de friggin’ do.

Ice break also means veteran big leaguers & invitees got their gloves neatsfoot’d, set to venture to destinations South (AZ / FL) for baseball’s annual spring rites.

.............B.Harper.7.31.13.wc.Stegas4.thmbStaying in that break, or make it, vane, 2015 should prove one or the other for Washington Nationals’ outfielder star-in-the-making, Bryce Aron Max Harper, an alternate poster-boy for this upcoming campaign, if you’ve grown tired of Misters Trout, Bumgarner, Kershaw and Cabrera‘s faces gracing your mags.

Not make or break in the contractual sense, mind you.

Back in December, “Bam Bam” signed a 2-year extension ($7.5M) to the 5-year deal he inked when he was the first player chosen in the 2010 MLB draft.

But rather, make or break in the, ‘Will this guy ever live up to the hype?,’ sense.

When the 19-year old Harper finally arrived in the nation’s capital in 2012, it coincided with the National’s rise to prominence among the senior circuit’s contender class.

Old sage Davey Johnson was DC skipper that season when Harp took the NL-ROY award (.270, 98r, 22hr, 18sb), turned heads with an aggressive, sometimes cocky manner, and the Nationals nearly won 100 games (98-64) for the first time in franchise history (Expos) in capturing the Eastern crown but then fell to the Cardinals in the LDS (3-2).

In that short playoff, the Percheron-necked Harper didn’t exactly set the world on fire (.130, 2r, 2rbi, 1hr) but did put up comparable scoring stats to HOF-bound Mr. Jeter in his own rookie foray (‘95) in what would prove an annual event (ALDS: .412, 2r, 1rbi).

It is Mr. Harper’s 2014 post-season that should’ve set tongues a’ wagging.

.............Nationals.wc.SGS.lettermarkIn the 4-game series loss to eventual world champion San Francisco (1-3), Bryce batted an impressive .294 (5-17) with four extra-basers, including 3 home runs.

Clutch play is a special trait.

It resonates with teammates, fans and managers alike, but not surprisingly rides the bench in the minds of today’s sabermetrician, which may help explain, in part, why Mr. September, Clay Kershaw remains a favorite, while Misters Schilling, Morris, McGriff, Garvey and Hershiser must all still buy a ticket to enter the Hall of Fame.

Bryce has passed the clutch test which, admittedly, has been more of the ‘quiz’ variety (2 series), but a test is a test, right? Right.

If the 2-time All Star wants to keep turning heads, stay on the same page with Manager Matt Williams, help take his club deeper into the playoffs and garner one of those mid-mega-deals sometime down the road, he’ll need to meet these three goals in MLB15:

1) Stay healthy

No career-threatening injuries to this point, Harper nonetheless still incurs enough bangs and bruises, pulls and strains, to hit the disabled-list with some regularity. He’s yet to play a full major league season and has been on the decline in attendance (139, 118 and 100g (’14)) as he suffered a thumb injury in early ’14 that necessitated surgery.

You don’t want mess too much with ‘what works,’ but a little savvy in sliding technique and fielding finesse can go a long way in a longer season, too.

2) Cut down on strikeouts

I know, I know, the round-tripper is what parents hope to see when they take out a 2nd mortgage and finance their kids trip to a major league ball-park today. Ugh. But Harper’s strongest suit is not power, it’s run production. When he gets on base he often finds his way home. The nine triples his rookie campaign alone are testament to that fact.

............Nationals.9.17.13.T.Evanson.wc.thmbBut in abbreviated seasons, his strike out totals are 120 (139g), 94 (118) and 104 (100). If he doesn’t shorten-up his swing, get better command of the strike zone and cut down on his wiffs, if he doesn’t become a tougher out (OB%), his value drops and dingers turn desperate. Despite the power Bryce has displayed at times, he is a 15-20 homer guy. In the run department, he should be in the 90 to 100 range.

3) Maturation

Though seeming centered spiritually off the field (Bryce got engaged in 2014 (K.Varner)), Harper has shown a public disdain for managerial authority on more than one occasion and seems to carry a small chip on his shoulder when at the ball-park and related venues (“That‘s a clown question, bro®”). The press can be an irritant, no doubt.

Wound-up tight can come in handy when reporters deal dirty, or, if the intensity is channeled into a competitive spirit on-diamond that promotes team success.

But when it enables a divisive individualism at expense of the cooperative spirit that leads to team progress, it’s a bizarro Bozo that leaves nobody happy.

Winning Rookie of the Year is no guarantee of a long, memorable career.

When you peruse the past ROY winners list, you’re left with the feeling that it’s no better than 50-50 they‘ll leave a sizable mark on the game. That’s better than the typical rookie but then expectations are raised after you raise the trophy.

You’ll remember Rick Sutcliffe (‘79) and Ozzie Guillen (’85), but Jerome Walton (‘89) and Pat Listach (‘92) may not ring a bell to most fans outside the Midwest.

Whether Bryce Harper goes big bopper (HRs) or OB% superstar, he’s gonna’ have to make his mind up soon because that window of opportunity is gonna’ start to close fast, and open up wide elsewhere, i.e., el conexion cubano. Es verdad: el beisbol es internacional.

...........canned cornIt’s time to get healthy, make contact, fully mature and be all the ball-player you can be. It’s Harper time, crisp & clean and alcohol-free. Play ball!

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credits: B.Harper, wc.cca, MissChatter, 16m, 3.12.11; B.Harper, 7.31.13, wc.cca, Stega4; Washington.Nationals, wc.cca, SGS/T; Nationals.Park, wc.cca, 9.17.13, T.Evanson; canned.corn
Posted: 3.1.15 @ 2:31 pm EST

75 Great Films You’ll Never Watch

23 Feb .............WaterlooB.40.Japan.49.wc.cca.561k

Ever wonder if the mere act of appreciating a thing, might give you a stake in it?

Could simply admiring, say, a song, a book, a good meal, a crafted table, sports team or a movie, vest the connoisseur with something beyond taste or a shown preference, maybe a smidgen of stake, or, at very least, let them share in the creator’s vision and product?


I’ve been pondering this fanciful notion for a time, but decided to put it to prose when I began compiling my great movies list in honor of the upcoming 87th Academy Awards to be held on February 22nd at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

Solitary admiration just didn’t seem to cut it, not for these babies.

Appreciation of someone else’s work won’t vest you with an ownership interest (IP), of course, no profit nor name in the credits, but something along the lines of spiritual stock, greater than your run-a-the-mill, self-satisfaction one takes from recognizing quality.

Kinda’ kooky, huh? Not entirely.

Take sport. Without fan investment, the games & players are just so much extra-curricular activity, just like an unadorned “Mona Lisa” is nothing more than an odd looking female in frame hanging in a French chateau somewhere.

Appreciators turn baseball into America’s national pastime (until Manfred is done with it, and what it will be then, god only knows) and make Klimt’s “The Kiss” a modern classic.


Everything’s connected: creator, the work, the audience and valuation.

This spiritual stake is not unlike the equity some Packers’ fans hold in their Green Bay football club by way of limited stock shares. An ownership interest vesting the holder collectively with certain powers & rights (select votes, etc.), but more importantly, a valuable connection in mind & purpose.

And so it is with the fine flicks listed below, where I take micro-stock in declaring their value to the world, maybe the universe, in posting by wireless transmission.

Most of these movies are either too old, or never did get the big studio sell. That doesn’t make them any less memorable, timeless and well worth viewing, as much as all of this season’s Best Picture nominees.

A Cry in the Dark (88)
A Family Thing (96)
Alfie (66)
American Graffiti (73): Soundtrack medley stars
Amores Perros (00)
Atlantic City (80): Lancaster & Sarandon are a treat
Barfly (87): Rourke & Dunaway are unforgettable
...........Sarandon.5.3.08.wc.thmb.D.ShankbeneBody and Soul (47)
Bound for Glory (76)
Bringing Up Baby (38)
Crime in the Streets (56)
Cross of Iron (77): WWII from Axis side
Das Boot (81): Submarine movie un-matched
Drugstore Cowboy (89): Good as Midnight Cowboy
Fat City (72): Keach portrays the anti-Rocky
Harold and Maude (71)
Hell Is For Heroes (62)
Hobson’s Choice (54)
I’m No Angel (33)
Ironweed (87): Nicholson & Streep
Knife in the Water (62)
King Rat (65)
...........Leigh.WaterlooB.40.wc.cca.thmbLa Strada (54)
Lonely Are the Brave (62)
Los Lunes al Sol (02)
Matewan (87)
Midnight Run (88)
Miller’s Crossing (90): Tops Good Fellas
Monte Walsh (70): A real cowboy classic
Murder My Sweet (44): Equals The Maltese Falcon
Murphy’s War (71)
My Brilliant Career (79)
Paisan (46)
Paper Moon (73)
Papillon (73)
Ruggles of Red Gap (35): Laughton’s Gettysburg recital
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (60)
Sidewalks of London (38)
The Bicycle Thief (48)
The Breaking Point (50): Hemingway’s favorite Hemingway
...........MurderMy.D.Powell.44.wc.thmbThe Clock (45)
The Corn is Green (45)
The Day of the Jackal (73)
The Hidden (87)
The Hitch-Hiker (53): Ida Lupino directs
The Incredible Shrinking Man (57)
The L-Shaped Room (62)
The Last Detail (73): Nicholson’s hidden gem
The Last Picture Show (71): An American masterpiece
The Last Round: Chuvalo vs Ali (03)
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (62)
...........McQueen.DIL.ryangrigg.wc.thmbThe Magnificent Ambersons (42)
The Man Who Would Be King (75)
The Mark (61)
The Naked Prey (66)
The Night of the Iguana (64)
The Party (68): Sellers was a genius
The Pope of Greenwich Village (84)
The Red Shoes (48): So good it could be a faith
The Search (48)
The Set-Up (49): Ryan (boxer) & Totter (wife) are superb Station Agent (03)
The Sundowners (60)
The Third Man (49): It’s own genre
The Verdict (82)
The Year of Living Dangerously (82)
They Made Me a Fugitive (47): British film noir beauty
This Sporting Life (63): Sporting cinema visceralia
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (74)
Trouble Along the Way (53): Shirley Jackson knows “winning”
Twelve O’Clock High (49): Battle speech (Peck) Patton-esque
Viva Zapata! (52)
Washington Merry-Go-Round (32)
Waterloo Bridge (40): Taylor & Leigh will break your heart
Winchester ‘73 (50): Rifle-ricochet resonates

Steven Keys
Brass Tacks
Photo credits: Waterloo.Bridge, 40.Japan, 49, wc; This.Sporting.Life, 63, R.Harris, fair-use; Bringing.Up.Baby, 38, DC.Geist, wc; S.Sarandon, 5.3.8, wc, Shankbene; Waterloo.Bridge, 40, V.Leigh, wc; Murder.My.Sweet, 44, D.Powell, wc; S.McQueen, DIL, ryan.grigg, wc; Waterloo.Bridge, 40, R.Taylor, wc.cca.
Posted: 2.22.15 @ 9:59pm; edit 2.23 @ 2:16am EST

MLB15 Chin Music: Robby Red Flag

13 Feb .........Rose.wc.Kjunstorm.

They are the cornerstones in the foundation upon which modern baseball was built and its legitimacy rests: the prohibitions on gambling, performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and a valuable stewardship over its historical record book of achievements.


And in just a little over a month at the helm of America’s national pastime, MLB’s brand, spanking new Commissioner, Rob Manfred, has taken chisel & hammer to hands and appears ready and eager to begin breaking said cornerstones, filling the breach with mixture of one part appeasement, one part pandering and one part indifference.

Last week in appearing on ESPN radio’s Mike & Mike (2/6), Rob took to micro-phone to answer queries on the role he envisions in his new job (a promotion in-house) and various topics of curiosity, including Pete Rose case and PED’s effect on Hall of Fame voting.

Bloom Coming Back?

“I have heard from [Rose’s] lawyer, and I do anticipate having a conversation about that (Rose’s reinstatement to baseball)…it’s a conversation I’m willing to have (“Pete” / WCPO / Noble / 2-7-15).”

While a Rose reinstatement doesn’t assure his induction into Cooperstown by Veterans (“Expansion Era”) Committee vote, just by ending the ban, forgiving his misdeeds, would send a squishy message on gambling at the worst possible time, when sports betting is getting the big push (See; NJ & NBA’s Silver).


Rose’s lifetime ban was never punitive at its crux. It’s over-riding purpose has always been a standard of deterrent to those who’d contemplate the dangerous co-mingle of sport and gambling. On this point there can be no half-measures.

Is it possible the Commissioner is just working PR to give impression his office has a heart, though, not sure what’s hearty about it, and always “willing” to listen, not seriously contemplating a reinstatement? If yes, even flirting with possibility of Rose’s return to MLB-sanctioned events is a bad play, and no good for Pete.

An 8th-grader can recognize importance of finality in a rendered verdict. Legally, some rulings are made without prejudice, remaining open to review when certain criteria are met, while other rulings are with prejudice, forever final.

And that would be the clear message intended and widely supported when Cmsr. Bart Giamatti (d. ’89) negotiated a lifetime ban of Pete Rose in 1989.

Preserving the game’s integrity in keeping it free from illicit drugs and connections that lead to disastrous results like game-fixing (Black Sox), setting a standard for kids and players both, is far cry from the mawkish moralizing Rose campers would claim.

No one person, not Ruth, Jackie, Roberto, Sandy, not Ripken nor Rose is above the game, no matter their popularity or symbolism.


Celebrity sells, but it is the good name of the game itself, not the individuals, that give life to their fame. And I fear that Mr. Manfred, with the game in his hands, skates on thin ice in expressing “willing(ness)” to engage Rose for possible return to baseball.

What’s kept baseball free of the fix since 1919, so it appears, is the bright-line ban (life) which anyone connected to the pastime caught dirty on gambling, will receive.

If that line gets blurred with a Rose return, heaven help us, for if the corrupt co-mingle begins again (fix), we won’t hear about it this time around. Too costly.

And if you think Rose the manager never bet on his Reds team to lose (’84-89), you’re either not a baseball fan or pining for your Pete collectibles to regain that “rosy glow.”

That this betting “maroon,” who put his legacy, family, club, fan trust, MLB, all in peril by his self-obsessed, reckless behavior, would deviate from his gambling gorge to set a standard at which he’d not go below, is fairy-tale Brothers Grimm would’ve scoffed.

PED Clear

When holding court with ESPN reporters that same Thursday, the Hall of Fame topic again tested Manfred, this time concerning candidates denied election because they’re believed to’ve used PEDs, whether on “credible evidence,“ reasonably discerning use by observable facts & logic or “literally nothing (“Commish” / Stark / ESPN / 2-6).”

Rob believes it wrong to exclude an otherwise stat-savvy, typically Percheron-necked, Hall of Fame aspirant, on what the voter may “surmise” is a drug-enhanced record of performance.

Problem #1 with Manfred Mode: What to do with men like McGwire and Canseco who had wherewithal, for whatever reason(s), to admit they used PEDs?

That’s the “proof” of enhancement (confession) Rob requires, yet now they’ve failed his test, even though they’ve shown, if not good character, something closer to it than the plethora of former players still too selfish or shy or scared to come clean. But the Mum-Men keep ‘taking the 5th,’ so to speak, and come out heroes in Robby’s world.


Problem #2: There’s good chance, when urine testing, you’d “never (have) failed PED tests,” considering HGH blood draws and BPP (biological passport program), WADA’s anti-doping stratagem, random form, anyway, didn’t begin in MLB until 2012, years after most the rejected-suspected candies had exited, i.e., Bagwell, Piazza, Bonds, Clemens.

Luck of the (no) draw, no doubt.

Having “evidence” before rendering a verdict on someone is a good thing, to state the obvious, in whatever venue of inquiry, be it legal, social or abstract. It’s fundamental to fairness: due process, Magna Carta and all that jazz.

Everyone’s been smeared, wrongly accused, one time or another, and it hurts.

But it’s an unbalanced scale of justice Manfred applies that demands customary proof to deny election (failed test), yet disregards two facts: 1) there was no reasonable means to acquire said “evidence” to ascertain player physical states w/ any degree of accuracy, pre 2012, discounting out-moded, random urine tests (‘03); and 2) It was players themselves, by their union (MLBPA), who stymied serious testing for over a decade, maybe longer.

That second point vitiates any argument that requires positive test “proof” to deny election on PED grounds, making reasonably discernable conclusions, not only permissibe, but the responsible manner by which Hall voters aught cast.


If the players wanted clarity they could’ve gotten it by voting approval for blood draws in the 90s. They chose doubt & suspect and the pro-test, clean players were muscled out.

The chickens have come home to roost for all players, dirty and clean. It’s the bed they made and they can sleep in it. Manfred, for some reason ($$?), wants to make-up that bed, give ‘em new Spider-Man sheets with hospital corners, to boot. Bully for him.

That gets to problem #3 with Manfred’s “Bart Simpson” take.

Hall of Fame votes or record book lines, for that matter, are not Constitutionally protected rights, Congressionally mandated entitlements or issues of fact & law judged in common law jurisprudence where “innocent until someone proves you guilty” is courtroom motif.

A plaque in Cooperstown is like an MVP, it’s an honor, a gift, whose award or denial can be based upon a standard permitting reasonable deduction and not bridled by shifting mores, profit motive, genuflect to the number-god nor over-narrow definition of “proof.”

Baseball will always turn a tidy profit. That’s in stone.

No matter the inroads NFL makes into consumer hearts, rounders is so engrained in our culture, so presenced worldwide and, like its gridiron kin, a legally-sanctioned monopoly, it will never be wanting. The money spigot always gushes. At winter meetings it’s just a question of how much growth is acceptable. That’s where the greed comes into play.


What that means for the Commissioner is that he (maybe a she someday, especially if there’s a baseball version of Condoleezza Rice with dogged supporters, keen on the post) need only be concerned with one, simple task: securing the game’s integrity.

Maintain and amplify with crystal clarity the dead-serious prohibition on gambling and PEDs and the dire consequences that await any who arrogantly skirt the bolded rules.

Rather than change course, Manfred could take page out of Little League’s book.

On Monday (2/9), Stephen Keener, CEO of Little League International, a body overseeing sporting and business interests of over “7000” affiliates world-wide, announced that 2014 US champ Jackie Robinson West (Chicago), would vacate their title, giving runner-up Mt. Ridge (Las Vegas) the crown (S. Korea 2014 world champs), because of rule violations involving an active rostering of players outside acceptable boundary lines.

It was a hard decision, said Keener (ESPN 2.10), due largely to the kids, although, one must suspect some of the youngsters, on the cusp of manhood, had an idea of what was afoot and should not be entirely insulated from blame-attachment. We have seen similar before (age deflation, soap-box rigging, etc.).

Keener explained in simple terms why it had to be done: “To protect the integrity and uphold the standard.” Simple, strong, clear and brave.

But lonely are the brave and R. Manfred is today, in some circles, a popular man.

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: P.Rose, K.Junstorm, wc.cca, 1.11.08, Las Vegas; Rose, K.Junstorm, wc.cca, 1.11.08, Las Vegas, thmb; Manfred, A.Pardavila, wc.cca, fanfest, 7.14.15; KM.Landis, wc.cca, Underwood, 11.15.20, Chicago, Milw-Journal; Ba.Bonds, wc.cca, 11.15.07, USMS; R.Clemens, wc.cca, mx5tx, 2005; P.Rose, wc.cca, cleverswine, 2005.
Posted: 2.13.15 @ 2:22pm; edit 5:49, 2.14 @ 12:24am EST

Homer or Hater, History Will Love These Patriots

4 Feb ...............Brady.wc.cca.A.Campbell.

Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.” Gen. George S. Patton (’43), as portrayed by George C. Scott (“Patton (’70)”).

Things were alot clearer back in 1943, not always better, just more clear.


What’s clear today is that America “love(s)” the New England Patriots, winners of Super Bowl 49 over the defending champion Seattle Seahawks (28-24). They just don’t know it yet. Too many in too high (& low) places too busy tearing ’em down (Deflategate).

But this is just what the doctor ordered for what ails the Patriots and the NFL.

And you can also chalk one up for passer-QB who looked to be on his last legs.

Patriots’ five-star field-general Tom Brady threw for four TDs, set a Super record for completions (37 / 50) and joined 49ers QB Joe Montana as only players to take the MVP trophy three times. Had Seattle not gone from “boom“ to bust, linebacker Bobby Wagner (10t / 2a / INT) might’ve been only the 4th middle-man defender to claim the award and follow teammate Malcolm Smith, the ’14 recipient.

A Seahawks victory would’ve heralded a new era in the NFL, one where manager-QB, i.e., Russ Wilson, Joe Flacco, displaces the 5000-yd passer as top dog.

It didn’t happen, but it’s coming.


It’s just a matter of time before pass-machines like Brady, Peyton & Eli, Rodgers, Romo, Brees, Ryan, Rivers, Cutler, Stafford and their ilk ride off into the sunset with not many of their set waiting in the wings.

We saw the writing on the wall last year in SB48 when Hawks demolished Denver (43-8) in what seemed to’ve been the final, major chapter in the great Peyton Manning story.

And with run-QB dominating the college scene so certainly that a third-stringer can come off the bench and run his team to a title (OSU’s Jones), the patent pro-passer is soon to become, if not a dying, a very rare breed, indeed.

But rather than “ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive” and bask in the glow of an NFL standard-bearer‘s success, the cherry topic has been hijacked once again by those who would scandalize & deconstruct a great game, choosing instead to pile-on Seattle’s proven head coach Pete Carroll as a means to second-guess & scapegoat the pain away.


Apart from a minor melee in the game’s waning moments as Seattle saw it slip away, Super Bowl 49 was a truly splendid showcase, a back n’ forth barnburner, decided only in the final minute when Seahawks QB Russ Wilson, 2nd & goal w/seconds left, tossed an errant pass through hands of Ricardo Lockette to be intercepted by johnny-on-the-spot safety Malcolm “blessed” Butler to clinch it for New England.

If you buy the blowhard line, Carroll blew the game in play-call.

And if that sounds familiar, it should.

It was just a few weeks back when Packers’ Super coach Mike McCarthy had his reputation drug through mud by similarly thin-skinned malcontents (See; NFCT15 ‘Cheese-Melt’).

The complaint: ‘Hawks should’ve run Marshawn Lynch (24 / 102y) for go-ahead TD rather than a pass play. This skewed thinking, even as Lynch got stymied at the 1 on prior play and the grapevine holds that ML had been less-than reliable in his five, 1-yd goal-line run attempts in ‘14 (1-5).


Most football folk know all too well that one-yard away from pay-dirt can play like one-mile through hell against a determined defense. It helps explain why the pass play, even with a capable run-threat, has been preferred goal-line call since Don Coryell (STL) brought Sid Gilman’s (SD / AFL) wide-open pass-attack to the NFL in early 70s.

NBC announcers Al Michaels and Chris Collingsworth must shoulder most the blame for igniting the flame of discontent on the play call, and then fanning it.

Like two compulsive school-boys, these two veterans of TV broadcast put Pete Carroll & staff right, smack dab in the cross-hairs of pointed & petulant criticism.

Al: “Amaaaazing.”
Chris: “I’m sorry, but I can’t believe the call.”
Al: “Me, neither.”
Chris: “I can’t believe the call…I cannot believe the call…a guy (Lynch) that’s been border-line unstoppable this part of the field (wrong)…I can‘t believe the call.”

Run vs pass debate is as trivial as it gets in post-game analysis. Paper vs plastic but not near as practical. ‘Bag it and move on’ is the preferred choice of most.


What‘s most curious in all the mealy-mouthed, Monday morning criticism of the Hawks’ brain-trust was how Seattle supporters, bandwagon-variety, no doubt, are cannibalizing their mastermind in Carroll, architect of the Seahawks championship rise to power.

Wilson is championship-caliber, that’s in the book, but he’s clearly still learning the finer points of his trade, like finding his target’s bread-basket or calling post-snap audibles.

As for Lockette, had he brought his gripper hands we might’ve had “Simultaneous Catch-gate,” Part II (See; GB-SEA ’12).” That would’ve been a hoot.

But there’s been a slight shift in mood by Tuesday.


Fans and reasonable (media) minds are starting to tire of the finger-pointing and Seattle whine, reminiscent of the Wisconsin vintage in 2012 (“Simultaneous Catch”) a particularly bitter blend. Ugh.

In the investigative state, Deflategate has already worked to add more unwashable tarnish (Spygate) onto Patriots legacy trophy, regardless of the League‘s final finding.

But even if the NFL finds a failure-in-standard (psi low) constituted a violative act with intent to gain an unfair advantage, a string of determinations hard to fathom at this point, such a wrong, given SB49’s result and likelihood that every player has, on occasion, converted a shenanigan into gamesmanship, will not place very high on most folks’ totem pole of misdeeds, the outraged Mark Brunell sect, notwithstanding.


On the tsk-tsk templar, with top spot constituting highest degree of culpability (violent crimes, game fixing & PEDs), lowest eliciting a stern finger-wag (taunting), deflation of game balls rides below cheap shots and just above faux crowd noise (ATL).

When historians compile & catalog events of time to rank NFL’s greatest teams, most are guided by comparative viewpoints informed in logic & fact, weeding out extremes, those mindsets captured by contemporaneous bias / prejudice, i.e., haters & hangers-on.


The Lombardi (60s) & Lambeau (20-40s) Packers, Walsh-Seifert 49ers (80-90s), Brown’s Clevelanders (40-50s), Noll’s Steelers (70s), Halas’ Bears (40s) and whomever Chamberlin coached (Canton / Frankford), are indisputably top-tier. These are the teams that birthed the dynasty tag. No doubts.

The 2nd-tier might include Steve Owen’s Giants (30s-40s), Landry’s (70s) and Johnson-Switzer Cowboys (90s).

Third-tier: Shula Dolphins (72-74), Parker-Wilson Lions (50s), J.L. Howell’s Giants (50s), Ewbank Colts (50s), Neale Eagles (40s) and Shanahan Broncos (98-99), with some subjectivity in play.

And where will the Belichick-Brady Patriots end up in the pantheon of greats?


Even with some tarnish, they’re clearly well-positioned to join the elite, given the titles (4), SB showings and, like their b-ball peers, San Antonio Spurs, their unprecedented longevity in success. They could find themselves in with the cream of the crop (top tier) once Tom hangs up his cleats and Bill turns in his head-set, which could be years away.

But this week, the Patriots are big winners and the whiners merely bottom-feeders in need of a good, firm (figurative) slap.

The General would’ve agreed.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: T.Brady, wc.cca, A.Campbell, 9.14.14; T.Brady, wc.cca, 10.11.09, J.Beall; Patriots pocket, wc.cca, P.Keleher, 11.8.09; P.Carroll, 12.29.13, wc.cca, M.Morris; R.Wilson, 11.11.12, L.Maurer, wc.cca; NFL wikiproject; Patriots wordmark, wc.cca, 60-92; NE Patriots SB trophies, 10.05, P.Keleher, wc.cca; P.Brown, wc.cca, Bowman, 1952; B.Belichick, wc.cca, 8.28.09, K.Allison.
Posted: 2.4.15 @ 12:45pm; edit 5:11; 2.5 @ 1:07am; 2.6 @ 12:29pm EST


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