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MLB16 Chin Music: Cubs Win Is Just More Cloudburst For Rainmaker Epstein

6 Nov

Those Sporting Gods are a funny bunch of deities. Not funny like a “clown,” oh no, but curious, like that monkey on PBS (“George”).

sportingmeetinggods-wc-1630-cv-poelenburgh-3mAt times they seem asleep at the wheel, having no interest whatsoever in the goings-on of sport, letting just about any Whosit on a hot-streak hoist the Title hardware (‘86 Mets, ‘06 Heat, ‘15 GSW, ’14 Seahawks), then, at other times, the Sporting Gods just can’t keep their all-guiding hands off of the controls.

It’s the latter practice that looks to’ve been in operation for major league baseball’s World Series 2016 that pitted two Title-starved opponents in the Cleveland Indians against the Chicago Cubs.

The Gods must’ve had themselves a good long laugh.

Not with the winning Bruins (4-3), the team most pre-season prognosticators pegged to take the title, but in affecting the crazy course by which the Cubbies finally navigated their way, once again (‘07-08), back to the champion’s podium.

As for the Indians, Mgr Terry Francona and Cleveland brass will have ’em back.

chancemcgraw-5-2-1911-gg-bain-loc-wc-66kEmphasis on the adverb ‘again’ as most people, even the raucous revelers on State Street, have no idea (interest) that there were times, like in the 1880s (Cap Anson, King “Hook-Slide” Kelly, John Clarkson) and then early 1900s (Chance, Evers, Tinker, Brown, Kling, Overall, Steinfeldt, Reulbach) when the name Chicago Cubs struck fear into the hearts of men, even the likes of Cobb, Wagner, McGinnity & McGraw.

First, the Gods put the Tribe out front (3-1), building hope for their frustrated fans who hadn‘t had a championship since Red River was in the theaters (“Yeeee-ha!” (‘48)), then they set the Cubs, who hadn’t even taken a pennant since that heart-wrenching year of 1945 (FDR – WW2), storming back to even it up at three, most of their wins coming on the road, no less, at Progressive Field.

And if that weren’t enough to trigger the PVCs, then the deciding game seven (7) goes extra innings (Zzzzz), has a rain-delay and had baseball writers pulling their hair out not knowing which title they were gonna’ post (’Cleveland, City of Champs!’ or ‘Cubs Win, Cubs Win, Cubs Win!’).

james-wc-4-27-8-k-allison-3-8mEven a kingly presence in the crowd (LeBron James) couldn’t turn the trick for the Tribe.

But if there are any fans in sportdom who can fully appreciate both the lows of losing the big match (Indians) and then the cathartic joy that comes with winning the Chalice of a Champion (Cavaliers), it would be those who reside in and around the Forest City, Ohio.

So after all their fun n’ games, why’d the Gods tab Chicago the winner?

If there’s one thing the Divinities will not tolerate, something they simply abhor, it is the haphazard stewardship of baseball records.

If you write about rounders often you will come to rely on the wealth of statistics made available on the web at baseball-reference.com. The same sort of repository exists for many of the major American merriments. When you cut through all the sabrmetric snooze (WAR, OPS, etc.), the site’s smorgasbord of stats is a tremendous baseball resource for which this user is grateful.

gold-medieval-ring-wc-sonofthesands-britain-146kBut when the boys who run the site brazenly decided in-Series to award championship rings to the Indians (appearing as a gold icon next to the relevant year in the “Postseason” section (all now removed)), as early as the close of game three (3) with Tribe up 2-1, the Sporting Gods decided on a winner: The Cubs. There’s that, and the fact that the Northsider’s dry-spell for a World Series winner (1908), whether based at West Side Grounds or Weeghman – Wrigley Field, had Cleveland’s beat by 40 years. Plenty parched.

— — —

He was near demigod status in his role shaping the Francona Red Sox teams that ended their own championship drought in 2004 and reigned again in 2007. But in doing the same for the parched pin-strippers on Chicago’s Northside (See Also; GM Jed Hoyer), Theo Nathaniel Epstein (b.12.29.73 (NY)) left behind the wunderkind tag and joined a select group of baseball executives (GM – PBO), builders who, when funded ($), create dream seasons and dynasties. It’s a membership that includes Branch Rickey (OH) and Ed Barrow (“born in a covered wagon in Springfield (Ill.)(Wikipedia)).” Big stuff.

inherit-tracy-wc-1960-ua-54kBut with progress comes a cost, a quid pro quo. You gain something, you give something up. For the Cubs and their followers that price may be the ‘lovable’ they’ve been serving up since 1945.

Spencer Tracy (“Henry Drummond”) spoke to this yin-yang thing in Stanley Kramer’s highly acclaimed Scopes Monkey Trial movie, Inherit the Wind (‘60):

Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it.
Sometimes I think there’s a man who sits behind a counter and says, ‘All right, you can have a telephone but you lose privacy and the charm of distance.
Madam, you may vote but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder puff or your petticoat. And Mister, you may conquer the air but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline.’”

The faithful, Cubs ownership in the Ricketts family and Manager Joe Maddon, both deserving of the Rainmaker tag themselves, the sports media, all have failed to consider what it will really mean to the Cozy World of Confine now that the Cubs have won their 3rd World Series championship.

epstein-wc-slingsby-9-8-10-688kThe red, white & blue Bruins have built so much out of “nothing” it became the most beloved brand in all of sports. Everybody likes the Cubs, even before 2016. The undying love they engender in their fans nationwide is admired on par with Yankees’ prowess in play.

Winning changes everything. Fenway fans in their 40s understand that. There’s a new expectation, standard in Bean Town and Chicago, too. Anything short of a World Series title gets an incomplete grade. Tension rises, especially amongst the fair-weather fan who jumped the bandwagon and has wherewithal of a wet peanut.

Finally breaking that championship drought (’04 (1918 v Cubs)) can be cathartic for those who still hold the pain from chances that got away (‘67, ‘75, ‘86). But it’s a different mood in Boston these days. Success is sweet but it can be a pretty girl with a fickle heart: Warm when in clover, cold when the chips are down.

And that’s half hyperbole.

The victory parade down Michigan Avenue in November, so thick with confetti The Fugitive could’ve eluded police for days, was a beautiful sight to behold.

chicago-mi-ave-wc-4-9-11-l-fuss-2-8mA man who knew a thing or two about progress was at the Allied controls when the Cubs were in spring training and about to embark on a season that would take them to what was to be their last NL pennant and fall classic prior to 2016 (1945). That man was U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – April 12, 1945 (d. Warm Springs, GA)):

This is what 4-termer FDR, the standard by which all Presidents are measured, had to say about progress: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much (Yankees & Cardinals), but whether we provide enough for those who have too little (Royals (2015) and Cubs (2016)).”

Hooray for progress!

.....canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: T.Epstein, wc.cca, 10.22.16, A.PardavilaIII; Sporting(MeetingGods), wc, 1630, CV.Poelenburgh; J.McGraw-F.Chance, wc, 5.2.1911, GG.Bain, LoC; L.James, wc, K.Allison, 4.27.8; gold-medieval-ring, wc, Britain, Sonofthesands; Inherit-the-wind, S.Tracy, UA, 1960; Epstein, wc, 9.8.10, S.Slingsby; MichiganAve., wc, Chicago, L.Fuss, 4.9.11, Canned-corn
Posted: 11.5.16 @ 9:57pm EST; Copyright © 2016

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MLB16 Chin Music: Angels Weep But Gods Still Favor Pujols & Trout

29 Sep

It won’t be the question that keeps Anaheim Angels’ braintrust fidgeting when their 2016 season ends with conclusion of Sunday afternoon’s game against the visiting Astros. More likely it will be the implementation, whenever that might be, of the painful answer they already know: Mike Scioscia has gotta’ go.

Mike’s a pretty brilliant baseball mind. No doubt on that point (.541 (17)). And in his day, a pretty nifty ball-player, too. A two-time All-Star and champion (1981, ‘88), he was a mainstay backstop with Southern California rival, the Dodgers.

scioscia-wc-12-9-15-a-pardavilaiii-5-2m-wintermtgJim Fregosi (1979-81) and Gene Mauch (1981-82, ‘85-87) made the Anaheim Angels of Greater Los Angeles Metro respectable but it was Scioscia who finally molded and managed them to that brass ring, the 2002 World Series title (v. SF). To date it’s the Angels only pennant and championship.

But if it’s not working, and it hasn’t been for six of the last seven seasons, it’s gotta’ be fixed, that is, if you (owner) still have designs on winning again.

It’s not just ‘not working’ at Angel Stadium, it seems to have slipped into reverse. From 98 wins (‘14), to 85 (‘15) to 70-whatever this 2016.

Apart from that well-meant but somewhat ill-advised Josh Hamilton signing, you can’t really lay much blame at the doorstep of Angels’ owner Arte Moreno.

scioscia-wc-4-7m-7-23-11-k-allisonNumber one, he’s forked out the moolah in massive amounts to top talent in recent years in hopes of re-capturing the glory of the early 2000s, stars enough to make a tiny All-Star team, contract-money enough to fund a tiny space program but results so small the hardware would barely furnish the mantel in a “Tiny House (ugh).”

Two, Arte’s loyal, especially to dedicated employee who brought a long suffering franchise their first championship. That’s a rare thing today, in big business or small. And then how was Moreno to know Vlad Guerrero would turn out to be post-season pedestrian (17g (‘05-08): 1.rbi, 0.hr, 7r).

The ouster of Scioscia is a move many in baseball have probably pondered at each season’s end since 2012. That year marked the Halos third consecutive absence from the post-season after having made the grade in six of eight seasons prior in that successful span from 2002 (WS) thru 2009.

Since that well-deserved World Series victory in 2002 the Angels have been ignominiously bounced from six of those playoffs, going 1-12 in four divisional series, just slightly better in the two American League Championships at 3-8.

Point being, the Angels post-title decline has been clear n’ steady. There have been respites by way of playoff appearances, some in bunches (‘04-09), one set-apart (‘14), none of them at their opening having conveyed a strong sense of World Series Wherewithal (See; Above).

morenofan-wc-j-miller-6-9-7-188kIn his defense, the Pennsylvania native (11.27.58) has had his share of untimely injuries (Hamilton, Weaver, etc.) and line-ups somewhat lacking in both pitching (starters – mid – close) and hitting, particularly contact men (.300), though, such bats are at a premium today in free-swinging MLB and Angels 2016 team-BA does trend well (.260 (6-AL)).

Current Halos’ GM Billy Eppler, a sabrmetrics adherent, has only been on the job a year and can’t be expected to shoulder much blame for current malaise, though, his number fixation (WAR, OPS, etc.) does not invite hope. Any administrative blame to be doled out must be born by Bill’s predecessor, Mariners current GM in Jerry Dipoto (2011-15), along with farm-system (Mike LaCassa) and scouting (Ric Wilson) directors. Get the big bucks, you get to bear the brunt.

But line-up deficiencies, whether they be in All-Star caliber or utility players, those workaday guys that can fly under-the-radar yet meet important team needs that don’t necessarily get quantified in sabrmetric – fantasy reports, plague nearly every team in both loops.

Even baseball’s 2016 version of the NHL’s Presidents’ Trophy winner (regular season’s best) in the Chicago Cubs (Did I just write that? Good sign, Bruins-backers), have an Achilles heel or two which Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein must lose a wink or two fretting over every nite they hit the hay (Zzzz).

pujols-4-14-12-laawc-1-26m-m-olearyTwo men you can’t fault for Angels “free-fall from ecstasy (Skowron)” are Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.

In four full and one partial season (99g / 2013) with Halos, Albert, finishing his 16th MLB run and a likely 1st-ballot HOF’er when he hangs up his spikes, has clubbed 490 (+/-) ribbies and 146 taters, 29 per, on average. Pretty terrific production for a man in his mid-30s.

How many more runs of bountiful the Sporting Gods afford Al is hard to predict.

He turns 37 in January but is seems a well tuned machine and wouldn’t surprise if he produced for 2-3 more years. But one thing this fan, and AP himself most assuredly, would not want to see is that career BA dropping below the .300 mark. It currently stands at .309 but he’s been well off that average since exiting the Gateway City and will likely fall below the hallowed marker with 1-2 more full seasons of play. It’s something to ponder, anyway.

trout-wc-7-24-11-501k-md-k-allisonMike, a fan favorite due to his easy adjustment to the majors, daring style of play and, though seems in need of work on driver attentiveness (“CHP Says…” / ocregister / 9.1.16 / Schwebke & Sudock), shows a spirit for the game and concern for others, finishes up his 6th season in Anaheim and stands as a strong AL-MVP candidate, leading the loop in OB% (.441), BBs (113), likely to reach the 30 and 100 plateaus in HRs and RBIs respectively and has surpassed the 100 mark in runs-scored for the fifth time in his relatively short MLB career. He’s presently leading in that latter category (122) in a year when it‘s a good chance that 20+ players will reach the century mark in runs.

It would not be hyperbole to write that the rise of Hamiltonism (See: Billy (198 runs in 1894)) is in no small measure due to the corresponding rise in Troutonics.

Back to Mr. Scioscia. He is an Anaheim legend and will have his number or name retired. But Mike and his betters should keep in mind that all good things come to an end and change, too often today instituted haphazardly for no good reason but to keep the pay-checks coming, can in fact work a real benefit, for the franchises and legends in question (See; Curly Lambeau, Tom Coughlin, Casey Stengel & Mike Babcock whose Red Wings record compares to Mike‘s own).

What the contract between Scioscia and Moreno states in its particulars (term, payout, etc.), this writer need not know. Such agreements, if wisely drafted, contemplate the multitude of circumstance, including the above postulated.

.....canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: M.Trout, wc, MD, K.Allison, 7.23.11; M.Scioscia, 7.23.11, wc, MD, K.Allison; M.Scioscia, wc.cca, 12.9.15, A.Pardavila, WinterMeet; Moreno-Fan, J.Miller, 6.9.7, wc; A.Pujols, wc, 4.14.12, M.O’Leary; M.Trout-Fan, 7.24.11, MD, K.Allison; Canned-corn
Posted: 9.29.16 @ 4:40pm, edit @ 10:17 EST; Copyright © 2016