Tag Archives: can of corn

MLB17 Chin-Music: Derby Downtime Induces Cubs Late Season Delivery

1 Aug

Say hello to the new new Chicago Cubs! That’s no typo, I’ll explain.

The new Cubs were 2016 MLB champions. The new new Bruins are the current version that seems to have shaken off the malaise that had permeated their clubhouse from May into early July. When they needed runs on the scoreboard they couldn’t score ’em, when they sought to stop their opponents from crossing home plate they couldn‘t shut ’em down.

But the Northsiders recent run of winning ball (13-3) has seen them bounce the Brewers, season-long NL Central stalwarts, from the top perch last week, a change in divisional standing reinforced this past weekend when Chicago took 2 of 3 closely fought contests at Miller Park.

The change from enigmatic defending champs into a club with clout can be traced back to the 3-day Derby layoff in mid-July.

So begins the separation process where the eventual division champ comes into focus (some flag-grabbers have been crystal clear since springtime) and the also-rans start to fade in the dog-days of late summer.

Notice I didn’t write All-Star game layoff.

MLB’s mid-season shindig hasn’t been about its best ball-players for many moons now, not since Bud Selig & Sponsors decided at the height of the steriod surge (90s) to highlight the home run, putting muscle over what really matters, League rivalry and showcasing the variety of baseball skills from mound to mitt to making contact with the bat, be it single or space-shot.

Coming off their excruciatingly long awaited (1908) World Series win that had much the nation applauding, in relief more than anything, and Chicago’s worthy opponents, the Indians, shaking their heads (were up 3-1), the Cubs actually began their trophy season in fine enough form, going 13-11 in April.

But starting in early May and going to Derby time the Cubs looked downright pedestrian in a group not exactly brimming over with contenders.

Besides Milwaukee there hasn’t been much to crow about in either Midwestern bracket, be it Senior or Junior circuit, although Indians and Royals have, like the Cubs, fought their ways back into respectability at or near 10-games over (.500). All of which means this state of parity will ensure that the wild-card and half the division races will go down to the September wire.

The Bruins, like most clubs in 2017, have had their share of injuries. Blame, however, for their inconsistency lay in untimely hitting (7th in both runs (477) and RBI (454) (NL)) and dead bats (.244 BA (13) / 877 SO (9)). The champs can, as in 2016, still generally generate the 4-bagger (141 (5)).

Team pitching’s been better than average (4.00 ERA (4 / 4.35 MLB)) even as staff stars Jon Lester (8-6) and Jake Arrieta (10-7) have regularly struggled. Encouraging signs as stretch-run nears are, 1) KC closer pick-up, tall Wade Davis (6’5 / 20sv / 2.12) is nearly always closing when given the chance which ain’t often this season; 2) middle-relief in Duensing (L), Edwards, Rondon & Strop has been effective with most ERAs around 2.50 (Hector 4.31 / 5hr) with fine ratios (BB-to-SO / H-&-R), and 3) team run-stoppage (401 (12)), a rank 4th best (Numerical ordering of league ranks around the web confuses and needs clarity) that lags behind League darlings the Dodgers (317) yet shows understanding of its necessity, especially come post-season.

The champs have been feeding off their new title like a baby feeds off its Mama. That’s good for awhile but now it’s time for the Wrigleyites to get onto solids, stand on their own two 2017 feet and take seriously the task of doing what their famous tough-as-nails forefathers did in 1908: Win their third pennant and 2d consecutive World Series championship (v. DET (4-1)).

Will today’s Central standings hold for the duration? Chicago has the edge over Suds City in experience so it’s certainly within realm of possibility that they’ll have the mental wherewithal to hold on the rest of the way. All one need do is get their playoff ticket punched for, once you’re in, regular season records mean little. That Pennant flag is up for grabs and ANYTHING can happen.

And ‘anything’ these days usually means the Los Angeles Dodgers fold-up their title-hunting tent pretty early (See; 1988). Senators (Nats) haven’t faired much better since they reconfigured in the nation’s Capital.

National League contenders Arizona (60-45 (3 games)) and Washington (62-41 (3)) are in the City of Big Shoulders to start the August slate and should prove a good test of the Cubs re-discovered moxie: Real or transitory?

But Milwaukee’s a feisty crew, appearing equal to the task of unseating their I-94 rival to the South. They’ve given up the lead but that mark of contendership does not wear-off easily. And if any ball-club knows how to stop a separation process (See; beer) it should be a team from Milwaukee tagged the Brewers.

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credit: JoeMaddon, wc.cca, A.PardavilaIII, 10.20.16; AnthonyRizzo, wc.cca, B.Grey, 8.1.12; Bryant-Machado-Reyburn, wc.cca, MD, 7.15.17, K.Allison; Cubs, 1908, G.Lawrence, wc.cca
Posted: 8.1.17 @ 4:22p EST; Copyright © 2017

MLB17 Chin Music: Will Joe’s Cubs Need a Merkle Boner to Complete This Repeat?

17 Apr

“Merkle’s Boner:” It didn’t catapult the Chicago Cubs to the 1908 Series, their 3rd in as many years, but it did by way of that game’s 1-1 tie, provide the Bruins with a means, an opportunity were the National League schedule and standings to end in a tie (Cubs & Giants) requiring a playoff (4-2 CHI) to save their bacon.

In a nutshell, the Boner was a base-running blunder committed by Fred Merkle of the New York Giants in a stretch-run contest at the NYC Polo Grounds (9.23) versus their neck n’ neck nemesis, the defending World Series champion Cubs. It denied his the New Yorkers the win as Merkle had failed to fully advance and touch second-base on a teammate’s hit, preventing the runner from third and his cross of home plate from constituting the game-winning run.

At its essence is this lesson: Baseball, all organized sport, is a game of rules to be enforced, chief among them being the act of completion by its participants in letting the world know that the ball has been caught, the runner tagged or bag reached to finish the play, providing necessary clarity. No loose ends.

— — —

Merkle was born in Watertown, Wisconsin in 1888 (Cubs-land), not far west of Milwaukee, hometown of Al Simmons (b.1902). By all rights, Fred was a rookie when he miscued, having majored briefly in ‘07, a bit longer in ‘08 – 09 and finally full-time in 1910. He had a 16-yr career, was a quality major leaguer (.273), played in five (5) World Series, all losses, including one with the Cubs in 1918 (BOS) and could be argued was somewhat blameless in the blunder.

I can’t write to exactly when the rule of completion began to lose support, but it had, explaining in part why League officials had denied Cubs’ protest of the Pirates’ Warren Gill having pulled the same act a few games prior, even as a rule was on the books. But the point was made, a directive laid down for future enforcement and announced to relevant parties (teams) and crews.

Boner-game umpire and former player Hank O’Day needed no formal announcement for the stepped-up watch as he’d umpired the earlier Pittsburgh contest and made the call in ruling Merkle out for failing to complete the play (umpire and former pitcher himself, Bob Emslie, claimed to have not seen it).

Whether Giants Mgr John McGraw took the news to heart, instructing his team or considered the League position to enforce the completion of play to be an affront to his sensibilities, I do not know. Given Merkle’s on-field base-running (stop-short), a man who appeared possessing of an astute baseball mind, I’d hazard a guess it was the latter. What I do know is that notice had been given.

Like a double-stranded DNA virus, stubbornness is forever in all our blood-streams, countered in some by common-sense or today’s conformity craze often manifested in cliques & consumerism. But John, the talented player (1890s Orioles) and teacher, was stubborn as a mule in an age that seemed to pride itself on the trait (segregation, disdain for protective gear, safer stadiums, etc.).

Fred was the key figure in what you can call G1 of the Merkle Series. The 2d (G2) being the post-season playoff back at the Polo Grounds (10.8) where the brave Cubs (Pirates 1/2 behind) showed the baseball world who was boss in taking the tie-breaker without much trouble, 4-2. That was on the diamond. Big trouble occurred in Chicagoans having to field pre-game death threats and then fend off locker-room attackers to make an escape for their lives. The Bruins lived, then went on to best the Tigers again in the Series 4-1 to make the dynasty.

But it was the Boner-ball itself which would have an incredible story to tell, at one point tossed into the stands by Joe McGinnity to keep it away from the Cubs seeking to make the force before Merkle could return to complete it. With some strong arm tactic from the determined and tough as nails Bruins bunch, the ball was retrieved, handed to 2d-bagger Johnny Evers who made the formal force out which O’Day was obligated to enforce, nullify the run and declare the tie.

For the best firsthand account of what happened before, during, immediately and days after (playoff) the Merkle boner, Evers’ personal narrative is required reading and found in that early baseball classic, “My Greatest Day in Baseball” by famed sportswriter, John P. Carmichael (A.S. Barnes & Co., 1945).

If the greatest pitching staff in history (Brown, Pfiester, Lundgren, Taylor, Reulbach, Cole, Overall (1906-10)) was the wind behind the sails of the dynastic Cubs, it was the smart play of its infield in Bronzed trio of Bear Cubs Tinker (Mgr Federal champion Whales (1915)), Evers (Chalmers MVP Miracle Braves (1914)) and 1B-Mgr Chance, as also overlooked 3rd-sacker Harry Steinfeldt and catcher John “Noisy” Kling, that constituted the tar & nails keeping it all ship-shape.

Did Evers have a bias? I wouldn’t be surprised. But the same goes for any Giants or New York scribe who might weigh-in. Bottom-line, John was in the best spot to tell it like it was. And what a tell! Merkle melee has to be the greatest moment in MLB annals, at least on par with Ruth’s called shot (‘32), Jackie’s debut (‘47) and Rose’s slide home to win an All-Star (‘70). Movie material, for sure.

Merkle’s Boner is more than an infamous miscue. It created four maxims:

1) MLB is a rules-bound game;
2) Completion of play is not just quaint, it’s part of the product;
3) Failure to enforce the rules will be the game’s ultimate demise; and
4) The 1906-10 Chicago Cubs are the greatest baseball team in history.

— — —

Can Joe Maddon’s Cubs match their tough-as-nails forefathers to win a handful of pennants (4) and that not-all-too-common back-to-back Series tandem?

The knee-jerk would say, ‘No, it’s too tough, and they not tough enough.’

To the first part, the 2017 Cubs appear as well-stocked and managed as anyone. And as they’ve done it once already (ring it), that air of confidence puts them in the top tier of hopefuls. To the second, not many of us are as tough as they were back in the dead-ball days. Not many as sentimental, either.

Bruins are off to an inauspicious start at 6-6. A come down off their 103-win season in 2016 would be no surprise. Teams today just ain’t what they used to be (Cubs 1906-10: 116, 107, 99, 104 & 104). If the pedestrian play keeps up, the dog-days (June 20 thru August) will be a real mettle-test for the Northsiders.

But with their talent, sound skipper, a tenacious spirit to defend their title and a little bit o’ luck, these Cubbie bears can make it back to the fall classic in 2017. And if they go through the Bruce Bochy Giants to get there, all the more fun.

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credit: ChicagoCubs, wc.cca, 1917, sports logo; F.Merkle, NYT, C.Conlon, wc, 1912; CoogansBluff, wc, MerkleBonerGame, 9.23.1908; J.McGraw-F.Chance, wc, LibraryofCongress, GG.Bain, 5.2.1911; J.Evers, wc, 1910, LoC, P.Thompson; J.Maddon-B.Bean.VPSR&I, wc, 10.26.16, A.PardavilaIII; Can-of-corn
Posted: 4.17.17 @ 2:19pm EST, edit 6.21; Copyright © 2017

MLB17: Cubs Atop, Everything Old Is New Again, Even 19c. Championships, SABR-Snobs

9 Mar

Set to defend their first MLB title since 1908, the Chicago Cubs have stepped off cloud nine and back onto terra firma to begin their quest for a 2nd title-in-tandem (1907-08) by taking to spring training in their longtime Arizona locale.

Success has a way of opening passage ways in the mind heretofore unexplored and the Cubs brains must be booty-laden with new discoveries. Not likely, though, that franchise history is big on their brains, not since their World Series win over the Indians (4-3) and subsequent victory parade that wove its way through the Windy City last November.

What else is not on the Cubs’ brains is pre-season predictions.

Spring training will trigger in the mind of baseball writers a slew of topics to typically include new roster additions, departures and the all important pitching rotation with ancillary arms in relief included.

To those media who matriculate in the sabrmetric school, the last degrees of winter and early buds of spring will always lead to, ta-da, the ranking, i.e., ‘Who‘s #1?’ It’s click-bait and best served when the entrée has cooled down (all-time greats) and won’t burn the palate with rank predictions.

Almost any other March in any other year the question of who is baseball’s pre-season best would be a small curiosity.

But if you have to ask ‘who’ in this particular spring (See; Cubs), even in rhetoric, you may be better suited to the mock draft department, all leagues and associations, where the minutia of musings on the ephemeralia of college hopefuls never ends, if you can find a seat. Crowded in there.

It can’t be denied that the legion of Bruins fans numbering more than the ancient Roman and Yankees empires combined, coupled with story-driven media, will be, on regular occasion, reveling this season in that long, glorious Cubs chronicle of great teams and players, right up until the present version take to the post-season in hunt for that dynasty-affirming, fairly elusive, back-to-back World Series win (See; SF, LAA, LAD, KC, PIT, MIN, CHW, STL, BAL, etc.).

The Cubbies have hit, pitched, fielded and run those bases all the way back to elite status, making it entirely appropriate now to take those moth-balled memories, some sweet, some bitter, out of storage to put on display to keep reminding us from where we came and then where we hope to go.

William Hulbert

Feeling Western baseball was getting the high-hat treatment from Eastern snobs, Chicagoan William Hulbert (1832 – 82) founded and, after its initial campaign (1876), assumed presidency of both the White Stockings (Cubs) and the National League, holding the fledgling 8-team organization together through its toughest times in bravely tackling issues in game-fixing and scheduling indifference by banishing offenders, and corralling destabilizing players on the money chase in instituting movement restrictions, i.e., the first reserve clause.

1876 – 77 White Stockings: The first MLB championship

Al Spalding
Deacon White
Ross Barnes
Cal McVey

Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson (1B – Mgr, 1876 – 96)

When recounting the history of the National League Chicago baseball club (1876), first known as the White Stockings, then Colts, Orphans and today’s Cubs, or for that matter the chronicle of major league baseball itself, it begins with Adrian “Cap” Anson, the profession’s early notable batsman, manager and personality. His numbers, no matter disingenuous efforts by contemporary sabrmetric tinkers & twiddlers to deplete, do remain, as his tenure (1871 – 1898), stellar benchmarks (1939 (HoF)) for baseball hopefuls.

Noteworthy in Anson’s career is having managed the Stocks to five (5) championships in seven seasons (1880-86), the major’s first dynasty. That’s championships, NOT pennants, for where there’s one pennant-winner in a season there necessarily must be an opposite organization with their own flag-waver, both of whom meet in an official, culminatory contest. And when a team does all that the schedule permits, even with no money-grab playoff or opposite League face-off (which is no perfect test, anyway (See; Cubs 1906 & Pats 2007-08)), and compiles the best record of the assemblage (8), THAT is a championship as worthy as any World Series won in 2017.

Those achievements would tarnish after his death (1922) as Cap’s role in setting the color barrier, in particular the ban of Fleet Walker, the first American black player to roster in the majors (Toledo 1883-84). Though his stance is of record, Anson’s impact is much debated. Of no debate is that no Caucasian of note, in sport or politics, called to break the ban until Mr. Rickey, testament that we are a product of our times. Do we then strike all names from MLB annals pre-1947? What thinkers had done since Gutenberg’s press was to balance the good against bad, expecting that Anson today would regret his greed. And given that the mass of sport media in 2017 would enshrine misdeeders Clemens & Bonds if given the chance, striking such a balance should come easy.

1880 – 86 Stocks: Five (5) championships, three in-a-row

Larry Corcoran
Fred Goldsmith
Michael “King” Kelly
Frank Gore
Abner Dalrymple
Tommy Burns –
Ned Williamson
John Clarkson

1890 – 1900 Colts – Orphans

Clark Griffith
Bill Hutchinson

Frank Selee (Mgr. 1902-05 (d.1909))

Former Braves championship manager (x5) shaped the Cubs’ roster that would, under Frank Chance’s leadership, gel into the greatest team in baseball history.

1906 – 1910 Cubs: Four pennants, back-to-back WS titles (1907-08), the Merkle Boner game (9.23.08), its resulting tie-breaker playoff at hostile Polo Grounds (10.8) taken by the Bruins (4-2) and “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon (Franklin P. Adams)” in Tinker to Evers to Chance (’10) 

Joe Tinker
Johnny Evers
Frank Chance
Jack Taylor
Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown
Orval Overall
Ed Ruelbach
Frank “Wildfire” Schulte (.994 outfield 1908)
Heinie Zimmerman (triple-crown winner)
Harry Steinfeldt (3B) & Jim Sheckard (46 sacrifices ’09)
Johnny Kling (catcher)
Carl Lundgren
Jack Pfiester and King Cole

1914 – 15: Chas. Weeghman Park (Wrigley) opens – Whales (Federal)

1918 NL Pennant (L v. Boston (4-2))

Though falling to the Speaker – Ruth – Red Sox, the Bruins scored more runs and fashioned a lower team ERA than the Beaneaters.

Hippo Vaughn
Claude Hendrix
Lefty Tyler
Charlie Hollocher
Fred Merkle
Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander (1918-25)

1921 – 22: Bill Wrigley acquires majority holding in the Cubs; First-bagger Ray Grimes sets the consecutive-game RBI streak at 17 in 1922.

1929 – 1945: Pennants (5), Hack-Attack and Ruth’s called shot (‘32 WS)

Joe McCarthy (Mgr. 1929 WS)
Charlie Root
Kiki Cuyler
Rogers Hornsby
Hack Wilson (191 RBI in 1930)
Lon Warneke
Charlie Grimm (player-Mgr. 1932, 35, 38 (H) & 45; ashes on Wrigley (83))
Billy Herman
Dizzy Dean
Bill Lee
Claude Passeau
Stan Hack
Bill Nicholson
Phil Cavarretta
Andy Pafko

Gabby Hartnett
Mgr. – player 1938 World Series: “Homer in the Gloamin’”

With the 1938 season closing and Pirates clinging to 1st place, the leaders headed to neck-breather Chicago for a key 3-game clash where catcher Charles “Gabby” Hartnett won G2 on a thrill by clouting a 9th inning tator at twilight (gloaming (Scottish)), inspiring his Cubs to sweep that series and St. Louis to grab the flag. Sadly for the Faithful, inspiration waned as the Yanks swept Chicago in four.

1950s Lean Years

Hank Sauer (MVP 1952)
Ernie Banks (MVP 1958-59)

I met the great Ernie Banks in his baseball gloaming, aka, twilight (Are you paying attention?), in the summer of 1971, not long after he’d retired from the game and was holding a signing for his new book titled, Mr. Cub, on the sidewalk outside a store in my suburban Chicago town of Glencoe. My parents provided well for me and my five siblings, always top Christmas and birthday gifts, but getting a toy or $15 (?) book on short notice off-holiday was out of the question. I’d eventually get Ernie’s book, still have it, but not until the next year. So, I being 9 yrs old, wanting his autograph, a bit bold but lacking in full discretion, asked Banks for his signature on my Mickey Mantle Rawlings® ball glove. The legend obliged, sans that signature smile. But I, not satisfied (‘Hey, hey, let’s (get) two!’), put an ever-so-small piece of paper no bigger than a JFK 50 cent piece, onto the table for another mark. Well, Ernie Banks was not pleased, not pleased at all. But I was pleased as punch and skedaddled home. I lost that scrap signature but still will with regularity gaze and smile upon the Mantle glove with Banks name in green-felt pen. Thanks, Mr. Cub.

Ken Hubbs Cut Short

Were he alive today he’d be 75 (12.23.41), but promising young 2nd bagger Ken Hubbs, whose slick field and capable bat won him a gold glove and 1962 ROY honors, along with his small aircraft passenger Dennis Doyle, both tragically died in plane crash near Provo, Utah on February 13, 1964 enroute to Doyle’s home and wife who’d recently given birth, in Colton, California.

Durocher’s Revival (1965 – 72)

Leo “The Lip,” who’d rostered with Murderers’ Row (‘28-9), Gashouse Gang (34), guided the Bums to a flag (41), Giants to glory (54) and then returned the sorry Cubs back to respectability, takes most the flak for their late season swoon in 1969 when their All-Star laden squad appeared headed to their first World Series in almost a quarter century. And poppycock to that. Durocher gets his share, of course, but cry-babies and clueless vets must bear most the burden for the old man. Those of us who remember (I was just a gerbil then, but I do recall Gramps telling me, ‘Hey Steve, Kessinger went 4-for-4 yesterday!) point no fingers but form a half-smile at what might’ve been and the joy that was.

Ernie Banks
Billy Williams
Fergie Jenkins
Ron Santo
Don Kessinger
Glenn Beckert
Randy Hundley
Don Young
Bill Hands
Ken Holtzman
Phil Regan
Ted Abernathy
Jim Hickman
Dick Selma

1970s Malaise

Bill “Mad Dog” Madlock: BA titles 1975-76
Rick “Bid Daddy” Reuschel: 1973-81, 83-84

1981: Tribune Company buys Cubs

Dallas Green Unstitches ‘Loser’ Tag

It seemed to come outta’ nowhere, the super and ultimately sad season of 1984. If ‘Big Brother’ was watching he must’ve had a good laugh on us Chicago Cubs fans, with unexpected help from corporate Commissioner and Evanston native, Peter Ueberroth who saw fit to give 2nd best NL record-holders but nite-game capable, the San Diego Padres, home field which proved decisive in the short series (3-2). The Cubs were sunshine supermen in G1 (13-0) and G2 (4-2), then should-be HOF’er Steve Garvey and electee (07), Tony Gwynn took control for San Diego, frustrating the Northsiders and their fans once more.

Jim Frey
Don Zimmer
Harry Caray & Steve Stone
Ryne Sandburg
Rick Sutcliffe
Leon Durham
Thad Bosley
Greg Maddux
Bob Dernier
Ron Cey
Henry Cotto
Gary Matthews
Lee Smith
Tim Stoddard
Steve Trout
Larry Bowa
Dennis Eckersley
Richie Hebner
Jody Davis, ♫ catcher without a peer (H.Caray) ♫

1989 NLCS (L 4-1 v. SF)

Don Zimmer
Ryne Sandberg
Andre Dawson
Shawon Dunston
Lloyd McClendon
Mark Grace
Greg Maddux
Jerome Walton
Dwight Smith
Mitch Webster
Rick Sutcliffe
Mike Bielecki
Scott Sanderson
Mitch Williams

1998 NLDS (L 3-0 v. ATL), Mgr. Jim Riggleman

2003 NLCS (L 4-3 v. FLA)

Call it reasonable fan interference, meaning, Steve Bartman wasn’t obliged to remain seated with 1) real chance of being hit by a foul ball, and 2) expectation no Cubs player could’ve snagged it. As such, no ejection. But because Alou did have a chance to grab the wall-straddling foul-ball, hence his protest, umpires were obliged to call fan interference yet cowered from their duty in not charging the out to eventual rally team, Florida. But Cubs were 88-74 in 2003, making fans unbridled expectations unreasonable and the outcome digestible.

Dusty Baker
Sammy Sosa
Moises Alou
Mark Grudzielanek
Corey Patterson
Alex Gonzalez
Kenny Lofton
Mark Prior
Kerry Wood
Carlos Zambrano
Matt Clement
Joe Borowski
Aramis Ramirez
Kyle Farnsworth
Mike Remlinger

The Piniella Years

2007 NLDS (L 3-0 v. AZ)
2008 NLDS (L 3-0 v. LA)

The Ricketts (09) – EpsteinMaddon Years

2015 NLCS (L 4-0 v. STL)
2016 WS (W 4-3 v. Indians)

Dallas had a certain touch in managing (PHI ‘80 WS) and generaling (CHC ‘84, 89), but Theo Epstein & Joe Maddon have a clobber between ‘em, like in that Weavers’ song ( If I had a hammer…), forging winners like a blacksmith did a wheel frame for proper strength and balance in the long journey. Yee-hah!

Joe Maddon
Anthony Rizzo
Dexter Fowler
Jon Lester
Kyle Hendricks
Travis Wood
Ben Zobrist
Hector Rondon
Addison Russell
Trevor Cahill
Javier Baez
Kris Bryant
Jason Hammel
Aroldis Chapman
John Lackey
Jake Arrieta

Play ball!

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credits: Cubs-logo,1914, Wjmummert, wc.cca; E.Banks, Bowman, 1955, wc; K.Bryant, wc, 7.9.14, M.Haas; W.Hulbert, NYPL, wc; Chicago-White-Stockings, 1885, wc; Cubs, 1906, wc, BPL; G.Hartnett, Goudey, 1933, wc; GlennBeckert, wc, 1967, TSN; H.Mason-D.Green, SABRO, wc, 8.1.09; can-of-corn
Posted: 3.9.17 @ 11:10am EST, edit 3.10, 6.20; Copyright © 2017

MLB17 Chin Music: With Cubs Ascendancy, Baseball’s Spotlight Swings Midwest

4 Jan

Now that the Chicago Cubs have rediscovered their long dormant championship flair, a find expedited by an ownership (Ricketts) that acquired top managerial (Theo Epstein & Joe Maddon) and player talent, the 2017 MLB spotlight swings Midwest, back to the region where major league baseball was first imagined (Hulbert), empowered (NL – 1876) and then came to thrive.

Champions for the 9th time (Cap Anson (6), Frank Chance (2) & Maddon (1)), the new & improved Northsiders seem to have a vision, egos largely in check, are still wearing their classic blue-pinstripes and still lovable even as ticket prices climb. All of it is, of course, a friggin’ nightmare for Cubs regional rivals (Pale Hose, Redbirds, etc.). But then teams of substance love a challenge, right? Right.

cubs-wc-18k-1957-78-sportslogoThe toast of that “toddling town,” the “big shoulder(ed)” Bruins who last November won their first World Series since 1908, that being the 2d in a back-to-back (1907), making it the first dynasty in the World Series era, the same year “Take Me Out To The Ball-Game” made the stadium scene, currently hold the biggest championship sandwich in all of sport. Chomp!

Cubbies (you can still call ’em that) took MLB’s first title in 1876 when the great Al Spalding (Byron, IL) was a top moundsman precedent to launch of his sporting goods empire, and have sandwiched in that 140 years all the good & bad included therein, by way of their 2016 triumph over the hearty Cleveland Indians.

Baseball may not’ve been invented in the old Northwest Territory but its people and their passions certainly played the major role in turning the game, and its entertainment value, into America’s great national pastime.

While the White Stockings (Cubs), led by legendary men like Spalding, Fred Goldsmith, Ross Barnes, Deacon White, Anson, King Kelly, Larry Corcoran, George Gore and John Clarkson, were dominating the new National League in taking 6 of its first 11 championships, including 3-straight (1880-82), 250 miles southwest, German immigrant made-good-in-beer, owner Chris von der Ahe was building his St. Louis Brown Stockings of the rival American Association, a team featuring Charles Comiskey and Bob Caruthers, into an equally titanesque team, one that dominated their fraternity in fashioning their own early dynasty in winning four-straight AA titles (1885-88).

cubs-wc-bpl-1906-196kLook at the line: Harry & George Wright’s Cincinnati Red Stockings (1869), Chicago wheeler-dealer William Hulbert who first conceived of the major league and then worked to keep it alive (1875-6), acting with iron-fist as defacto Commissioner, the White (Cubs) and the Brown Stockings (Cardinals): Boston, New York, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Providence, they all had their glory, some of it sustained, but until Babe Ruth suited up for the majors (Red Sox / Yankees), regardless of what John McGraw might say, west of the Appalachians was where the game’s ‘main office’ would remain until the 1920s.

Since the Yanks gave up their World Series monopoly (1963), the joy of winning has spread from coast-to-coast. Good for baseball, good for fans, worldwide.

Today, it’s the Cubs who stoke Midwestern pride. And as the Bruins are the most popular sport franchise in the nation, even before they raised their latest championship banner, or will come April, that state means plenty.

Their biggest off-season news, exit of table-setter Dexter Fowler to St. Louis. Cubs will miss his run production (84 – 125g) and playoff pop. What they won’t miss of the 30-year old are his SOs (124) and low OBP% (.393).

cubscelebrate-wc-11-3-16-a-pardavilaiii-7mCardinals: Though the Yanks had rebirths in more recent times (70s / the Joes), from 1926 to the present it’s been the Cardinals who, while never fashioning back-to-backs, have been the consistent standard of excellence in the major league game on par with the Highlanders.

Tigers: It’s been 30+ since Michigan’s pride won a WS in that transcendent 1984 when Sparky Anderson & Co. jumped out early and never looked back (.614). Two flags and a half dozen playoffs under Jim Leyland left the franchise hopeful yet frustrated. Aces remain in the aging Verlander and Cabrera, purse-strings tighten on big payroll and Tigers’ ownership seem content to lick their wounds for now.

Indians: Like Detroit, after Mike Hargrove’s two pennants and two WS losses, Tribe lowered expectations for a time. Now back on a mission with the same man who helped quench Red Sox championship drought (x2), hoping Terry Francona can get his club back to another Series, up 3-1 and able to close the deal.

Royals: Cast-off from Milwaukee, Ned Yost has managed KC to two flags in three years and a World Series win (‘15), Royals first since 1985 when Dick Howser skipped, Brett hit, Saberhagen won and Quisenberry closed. Stumbled a bit in 2016 but kept heads above water (81-81) and expect to contend again.

arrieta-wsg6-11-2-16-a-pardavilaiii-3-2mBrewers: Kick themselves for thinking Yost the wrong man (fired 2008, 83-67). For a club priding itself on thrift, even if it means one flag in 47 years (‘82), they should kick themselves, hard. Good call on Fielder but at 5’11” and near 300 lbs., how long could it last? Wisconsin taxpayers still waiting for a return (WS) on their Miller Park investment (2001). Patience is a virtue, until it’s not…Mark.

White Sox: Cubs southside rival (1901), Sox play in a park (Guaranteed Rate) whose name changes for dollars, making it occupant’s poor play seem of lesser importance. Champs in 2008, Pale Hose now remind Chicagoans of ‘85 Bears whose single SB win stands as both a testament to excellence and unfulfillment.

Reds: Last pennant, 1990 (win).

Twins: Last pennant, 1991 (win).

Pirates: Last pennant, 1979 (win).

canned-cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: RizzoCelebrates, wc.cca, 11.3.16, A.PardavilaIII; Cubs-logo, wc, 1957-78, sportslogo; CubsTeam, 1906, Boston-Public-Library, wc; Cubs-Celebrate, wc, 11.3.16, A.PardavilaIII; J.Arrieta, wc, 11.2.16, WS-G6, A.PardavilaIII; can-of-corn
Posted: 1.4.17 @ 11:17am, edit 3:06 EST; Copyright © 2017

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

MLB15 Chin Music: Harper Time

1 Mar

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

Chin Music’14: Selig’s Legacy? Rose, Receipts & Records

28 Aug

It’s funny, some people‘s priorities.

Two weeks ago the grand old game announces its biggest change in leadership in 20+ years and who does Sports Illustrated see fit to grace their cover but the ephemeral state of Mo’Ne-mania. Oy vey.

.......Selig.wc.cca.10.31.10.3.6m.CJCosS.M.Mullen

On August 14th baseball’s owners selected a new MLB Commissioner to replace Allan Huber “Bud” Selig who’ll be stepping down shortly after conclusion of the 2014 season.

The new man’s name: Robert D. Manfred, Jr.

Born in New York State (Rome) around 1958 (couldn’t verify) and educated at Cornell (BS) and Harvard (JD), Rob’s not well known to the general public but as the current COO of MLB is no doubt a familiar face to the cufflink crowd and the media set.

........R.Manfred.wc.cca.7.15.14.fanfest.A.Pardavila.3.5m

Word from ESPN’s T.J. Quinn and Tim Kurkjian is that Rob is an experienced attorney in labor matters and sharp as a tack (“really bright“). That’s fine.

As for the out-going Selig, when he hands in his executive washroom key and calls it a career, Milwaukee’s favorite son (b.1934) will have served the 2nd longest tenure (1992 – 15) of the nine Commissioners. Only the legendary Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1920 – 44), the original baseball Czar who blazed the trail and lowered the boom on the 1919 World Series fixing Black Sox (‘20), served longer.

For Rob, it’s wait & see as he’ll take the reins just prior to Alex Rodriguez likely return.

For Bud, it’s some well deserved R&R, time with family & friends, periodic corporate boards, occasional speaking engagements and finally time to warm-up the VCR player and watch The Rockford Files tapes that’ve been gathering dust all these years.

And how will history treat #9, the man who brought major league ball back to beer-town (‘70) and then guided America’s national pastime for so many years? For a man whose dedication to the job is second only to Kennie, he oughta’ have a legacy, right? Right.

Bud’s legacy in three words: money, Rose and records.

Money Maniacal

Big money can be good news or bad, depending on the circles in which you travel.

If you’ve been a financial partner with MLB during the reign of Selig, like say, an owner, an employee, a shareholder in one of baseball’s many business ventures, Allan will be hailed as the best money manager the game’s ever seen, hands down.

Baseball’s annual take? Somewhere around 6 billion. Not too shabby.

But if you’re outside the “circle of trust,” i.e., unadorned fan, Selig’s unabashed, pointed pursuit of profit-taking has altered your game in some not entirely un-destructive ways.

If there was anything constant, unique, quaint or subtly satisfying about major league baseball, Selig either altered it to the point it was unrecognizable (all star game) or sacrificed it altogether (day-time World Series) in the name of money maximization.

Major league baseball is a for-profit enterprise, has been since 1869. That owners want a man-on-point who maximizes profits is, in the abstract, a rational tack to take.

Yet baseball is not abstract. It’s special state as national pastime and concomitant antitrust immunity mean that business as usual won’t always cut the mustard in the sacred game.

The Commissioner has always had a duel role: he serves at behest of the owners to make a tidy profit, yet, must also balance that pursuit with the best interests of, not just MLB, but with those who make the game a valuable commodity in the first place, the fans.

Inter-league play

Debuting in 1997, this novelty wore off fast.

When Yankees face Mets or White Sox the Cubs, it’s practically just another ball-game now. Most saw the malaise coming, which explains why commissioners from Landis to Vincent refrained. Prior to inter-league, the rare AL v. NL meet in World Series and exhibitions (taken very seriously by players & fans alike) was special and highly anticipated. But ‘special’ merely waves a red-cape to the bullish agent-for-change.

Night World Series

Culturally, nothing exuded modernaire Americana more than the World Series skip: boxing your pencils (school) or closing shop (work) to take in an afternoon fall classic.

I was lucky to’ve attended one of the last day Series in 1982, held at, coincidently, Selig’s old stomping grounds, Milwaukee County Stadium: Brewers vs Cards. A classic match, mine was a crisp October afternoon, as I witnessed Brew Crew forge a thrilling victory in G5, only to see STL win in 7 when Bruce Sutter’s split-finger proved difference-maker.

But those days are long gone, thanks to Bud and predecessors Kuhn, Giamatti & Vincent, though Selig’s been in the dark his entire tenure. The LCS & WS are now exclusively night affairs that end near midnite (Zzzz). The last day World Series was played in 1987 as Twins hosted the Cards in HHH Dome (G6); the last outdoor fall classic day-game was in ‘84 at old Tiger Stadium for Game five as the Padres and Garvey & Gwynn came a’ calling.

All Star Game (Home Run Derby Week)

Baseball means different things to different people. By mid-season it means one thing for every player, manager, announcer and vendor in the stands: a grind.

The 162-game MLB regular season starts with spring training (Feb) and culminates with mid-October’s fall classic. By July the guys are prit’ near pooped and in need of a break to re-charge batteries and spend quality time with family & friends.

The All Star game‘s been around since the 30s. Players know the score. Some took it seriously, others were glad to miss out on the honor (See; Above). When the game was a semi-serious exhibition it passed muster with most. Then Selig & Co. started to fiddle.

I don’t know if it was the hellacious hissy-fit thrown by a 100 hot-headed Milwaukeeans (and their barrage of beer bottles) after 2002 game was declared a tie, or All Star revamp was a natural course of things for today’s corporate chiseler who leaves no stone un-turned, but what used to be an enjoyable diversion is now an over-baked ham ($).

The pre-game home run derby now over-shadows the game itself which’s become anti-climatic, though I suspect even kids are bored with this muscle vestige of the steroid era.

And the fiddling didn’t stop there.

Tweakers decided to attach a carrot in form of WS home field for best League, not best record, in hopes of inspiring heartier play. But to think All Star participants in July are motivated by a carrot in October, realizing there’s chance he may end up helping a hated rival in the Series in some extended sense of League spirit, hit’s the height of absurdity.

World Baseball Classic

This one had market saturation written all over it from get go (‘06).

The format can be electric. World Cup of soccer is captivating, Little League (LLWS) has made its worldly mark (S. Korea ‘14) and I hear-tell cricket is a global success story, too. But not every international venture thrives, i.e., Olympics and FIBA World Cup, both of which need a return to amateurism. Fat ($) chance.

Strengths: WBC (Wasn’t that a belt?) can showcase individual talent and gives those developing baseball nations another place to grow & measure out.

But like All Star angst, the US roster is always hit & miss, and treads on the League play that every nation from Japan to Mexico puts at a premium. Time to pull the plug.

Calculated Leadership

Instant Replay

Easy to appreciate why Allan Huber caved to cry-babies and gave ‘em their instant replay bottle. On a different metaphorical plane, IR is the 400 lbs gorilla that’s been banging on the door for years and fed a steady diet of replay-bananas by video TV producers.

But sport was never intended for exactitude, not like heart surgery or bridge building.

Proponents ask, ‘Don’t you want to know the truth (and not that polite)?’ Sure I do, but not at the cost. Presently, it slows the game to a crawl, killing momentum and interest. And in a sport that already pushes fan patience to the limit, that’s untenable.

And when IR is combined w/micro-management like the new Posey rule (HPCR), it’s a cocktail for frustration that some sportswriters seem bent on using as verbal ammunition in an early offensive against umpires to win their ultimate replacement w/ technology.

Umpires will, on occasion, make a mistake and need their performance monitored for quality, but an occasional helping of blissful ignorance (no-IR) is good for the digestion.

PED Wars*

Don’t tag Bud with this depressing development.

As a legacy, PEDs is everyone‘s inheritance, from Little League to MMA, Hong Kong to Halifax, anyone who’s partaken, pushed, protected (union lawyers & player reps) or piped-down when they could’ve & should’ve spoken up.

Selig did not introduce PEDs to players nor rationalize their cheating role. His burden to bear is the delay in taking action on a clearly present plague (90s), and then when action finally occurred in ‘06 (Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program), implementing an out-dated mode (urine) and even now seems half-measured (spring-only blood draw).

Players union (MLBPA) has been the roadblock to resolution and bears blame for current insufficiency of testing (See Also: NFLPA), leaving open the window of opportunity. It’s why leadership is key: higher-ups who possess the know-how, character and wherewithal to use their bully-pulpits to push for progress, as unpopular as it may be at the time.

Record Book Jumble*

Professional baseball goes way back, the year 1869, to be exact.

History then has always been a big part of MLB, with fans and owners alike (Charlie O. Finely the exception (orange ball)). Even while names like John Clarkson and Buck Ewing rarely make Sportscenter, the fact is, sometimes they do. Other games have their colorful pasts and some teams honor it proudly (Packers), but in no other sport has history been as much a part of fan life, daily musings and (pre-Selig) League policy, as it has in MLB.

The stories, pictures, records, they all bring it home. Championship, individual, team, seasonal, career, however you break ‘em down, it’s those markers in time, name and number that are the bread & butter, the heart & soul of America’s oldest merriment.

But history’s a dirty word to some in 2014.

Formerly an honored guest, it’s fallen on hard times, displaced by obsession w/math, science and PC. While JFK certainly put a premium on “systematized knowledge (See; NASA),” he was the last President to promote the importance of embracing our past.

This state helps explain why Bud will be handing to Rob one sticky-wicket in the mess that’s been made of the MLB – Elias record book. Nobody wants to touch this one. Ford Frick (1951 – 65) took flak for asterisking Maris’ 61 (‘61), but at least he cared to act.

There are record books, and then there are record books, and baseball’s is the grandest. Since PEDs began making waves in baseball’s sea of numbers in late 80s, some of the most cherished marks have capsized: s/s hits (262 / Ichiro ‘04); s/s HRs (73 / Bonds ‘01); s/s slug-% (.863 / Bonds ‘01); s/s OB-% (.609 / Bonds ‘04) and career HR (762 / Bonds).

Putting the book right in striking or asterisking known or reasonably suspected PED’ers will face stiff opposition, a fight Selig shied from. Some may even claim an intellectual property right to holding their ill-gotten marks. But nobody said the job of Commissioner was easy. And then MLB doesn’t really have a choice.

Until the record book is set right, baseball is just wrong.

Pete Rose*

While leaving the record book in sorry state may be his biggest breach, holding firm on the Rose lifetime ban is Bud Selig’s single biggest achievement. Nothing else comes close. And you can expect his successor Manfred to hold the line on Rose as well.

Consider that the ban is as much a part of baseball as home runs, both of which, coincidently, took off in the same era (Roaring ‘20s). Remove it, and MLB sinks.

........B.Giamatti.1989.R.Stewart.wc.cca.HS-fair.use81k

Not forgetting his sudden death in 1989 shortly after negotiating and instituting the Rose ban, Bart Giamatti did, nonetheless, have a slightly easier time of it than would Selig on the fan front. Pete hadn’t yet built up the large following back then that he has today, a number that grows with every autograph he signs, and Pete signs a truckload.

Beyond the “hustle,” the gritty game he exhibited in play days, Rose has become a cause célèbre for anyone with a gripe on baseball, government or authority in general.

The ban’s purpose: maintain a standard that sends a clear message that, if connected to MLB, don’t bet on the game, ever, for if you do and are caught, you’re banned, forever.

........P.Rose.wc.cca.Kjunstorm.1.11.08.4.5m.Vegas-CP

Those who love the game of baseball know that no one man, no matter his glorious play or keen managerial talents, is bigger than the game itself: not Ruth, not Gehrig, not Jackie, not Mantle, not Clemente, not Jeter, nobody.

Besides, the polarizing, semi-tragic figure that Pete Rose has fashioned himself into carries more cachet outside baseball than in it. Yet, he seems to’ve taken-up the reverse image of Groucho Marx’ famous line and made it his mantra. Pete: “(wants) to belong to (a) club that (won’t) accept (him) as a member.” Something tells me that’s not what the legendary comedian had in mind.

* Manfred-watch topic

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: M.Mullen & B.Selig / 10-31-10 / wc.cca / JCoS / 3.6m; R.Manfred / 7.15.14 / wc.cca / fanfest / A.Pardavila / 3.5m; B.Giamatti / wc.cca / R.Stewart / HS-fair-use / 81k; P.Rose / wc.cca / Kjunstorm / 1.11.08 / Vegas CP / 4.5m

Posted: 8-28 @ 1:43pm EST

Edit: 8-28 @ 4:38, 5:10pm; 8-29 @ 12:40am