At home at fenway

Keeping on eye on Dustin, Papi, Youk & a few good books

A Joel Hanrahan Primer

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 16, 2013

Hanrahan

I can’t believe it.  I haven’t yet posted a Joel Hanrahan Primer.  I did one for John Farrell and another for Ryan Dempster.  The notion of a Hanrahan post floated around in my head for 2 weeks.  And floated right out of it.

The thing that kept popping into my noggin was Hanrahan’s 1.39 career WHIP, which he registered before arriving in Beantown.

Make no mistake.  1.39 is high.  Never mind that his 2013 WHIP is already 2.357.  A career 1.39 is not what you expect from a purportedly excellent closer.

1.39 approaches the Boston WHIP of 1.53 for John Lackey — still a Dead Man Walking until he proves otherwise.

1.39 is miles from Papelbon’s 0.77 in 2007 and Foulke’s 0.94 in 2004.  Hanrahan may statistically resemble Alfredo Aceves in 2012, when there was absolutely no one else to close.

What this all means is that the bearded one puts a lot of runners on base.  He gives up hits.  He walks batters.  A lot.  Not good.

John Farrell did the absolutely right thing on Saturday when the game was tied 1-1 in the top of the 9th. Johnny pulled Hanrahan after he walked the first two Ray batters.  Thankfully, 38 year old Koji Uehara  took care of business that night.

As he pulled Hanrahan for a lack of command, Farrell was influenced by JH’s implosion against the Orioles two nights prior.  The Sox led that one 5-3 when JH was handed the ball in the 9th.   We lost 8-5. 

There may be gremlins in the attic. But what else should we expect from a guy who has never played for a fan base that would drink strychnine if it meant having a solid rotation and a dependable bullpen.

Here are a few nuggets on Mr. Hanrahan.

This is no way to prepare for Broadway, Joel

There are great Baseball traditions in D.C. and Pittsburgh, the two towns that Joel Ryan Hanrahan has called home in the Bigs.  But these cities lack fans and W’s.  His Bucs finished 15th in NL attendance. In the standings, they finished last twice and 4th twice.  His Nats finished 13th and 14th in attendance while finishing last in their Division twice.  Combined, they lost 99 games or more in 3 of 6 seasons.   His teams have had as few as 57 W’s in a year.  They were, overall, 461 – 671, with a .407 winning percentage.  Welcome to the bright lights, Joel.  Try not to feel the pressure.

From Here to There to Millionaire

Hanrahan was drafted by the Dodgers in the 2nd round of the 2000 draft, well ahead of Cliff Lee and Brandon Webb and well behind Adrian Gonzales and Boof Bonzer.  He left the Dodgers organization through free agency in 2006 after 7 years in the minors, signing with Washington.  He was traded in June 2009 to Pittsburgh in a 3 player deal that included Nyjer Morgan, Mr. Tony Plush himself.  He is aged 31 years, with his best years possibly behind him.  But his $7 million salary this year is more than his combined salaries in the last 5 seasons.

The Good, the Wet and the Ugly

JH is from Norwalk, Iowa, which earned an unofficial record with 9 inches of rain in 24 hours on June 9/10, 2011.  Two movie studs grew up in Norwalk, i.e., Jason Momoa (Conan the Barbarian) and Brandon Routh (Superman Returns).  In addition to being just 11 miles from Des Moines, Norwalk is 27 miles from Van Meter, home of Bob Feller, and 50 miles from Boone, home of Jerry McNertney, the ugliest man ever to play pro ball, according to Jim Bouton.

Riding the Roller Coaster

On July 19, 2011, Hanrahan’s team, the Pirates, were 7 games over .500 and in 1st place with a .5 game lead.  On Sept. 28 of that same year, the Bucs were 18 games under .500 and 24 games out of 1st

The Big Fella in a Melting Pot

Andrew Miller is the tallest Boston reliever at 6’7”.  Clayton Mortenson is the lightest at 185 pounds.  Alfredo Aceves is the most loco with infinite peccadillos.  Joel is is the beefiest at 6’ 4” and 250 lbs.   The average BoSox reliever is 6’2” tall and 213 on the scale.  This ‘pen is a cauldron of diverse birthplaces, including Osaka, Yokohama, New Jersey, Florida, Mexico, Saudi Arabia….and Iowa.

Go Sox.

XXXXXXXXXXXX

2007      Wash     Manny Acta                       73-89     1,943,182            4 of 5     14 of 16

2008      Wash     Manny Acta                       59-102  2,320,400            5 of 5     13 of 16

2009      Wash     M. Acta/ J Riggleman      59-103  1,817,266            5 of 5     13 of 16

2009      Pitt         John Russell                       62-99     1,557,833            6 of 6     15 of 16

2010      Pitt         John Russell                       57-105  1,613,399            6 of 6     15 of 16

2011      Pitt         Clint Hurdle                        72-90     1,940,429            4 of 6     15 of 16

2012      Pitt         Clint Hurdle                        79-83     2,091, 918           4 of 6     15 of 16

Advertisements

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, RED SOX | Leave a Comment »

George Brett prefers Pine Tar to Hemorrhoids

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 26, 2013

Pt and P H

When July 24 arrives this summer with it should come 30th anniversary remembrances of the Pine Tar game.

Talk about a different world. 

George ruled the roost.  Billy was the skipper.  Berra, trim and bespectacled, coached at 1st base.  Don Zimmer’s corpulent form was poured into pinstripes as he stood in the 3rd base coach’s box.

These were the Yankees of Winfield, Nettles, Piniella and Rags.  They were destined to go 91 – 71 and finish 3rd, 7 games behind Baltimore and 6 behind the Kitty Kats.

These were the Royals of Brett, Wilson, White, U.L., Hal McRae and 44 year old Gaylord Perry in his final tour of duty.  KC would finish under .500 at 79 – 93, good for 2nd place and 20 games behind the Pale Hose.

Haven’t at least 34,000 different people told you that they were at the Pine Tar game?  Some of them were kidding.  33,944 was the official count.

It was a scrappy game played by two teams that had faced each other in the ALCS 4 times in 8 years.  With George holding a grudge that he hadn’t won all 4.

It was a scrappy game, as I said.

KC scratched out one run in the second on a Frank White ground out.  NYY answered with a Winfield solo shot in the bottom of the 2nd.  Frank White got his 2nd RBI in the 4th on a single.  White and Slaught hit back to back triples in the 6th for a 3 to 1 KC lead in the 6th.  Baylor tripled in Campaneris and Piniella, and then Winfield singled in Baylor all in the bottom of the 6th.  Yankees 4, Royals 3.

Thus, with the Yankees ahead by 1 run with 2 outs in the top of the 9th, George Brett did turn on a shoulder high fastball thrown dead  red from the hand of Rich Gossage and Mr. Brett did blister a high line drive that landed 10 rows deep in the sunny right field grandstand.  It was a laser.

Beautiful.  KC takes the lead.

Oh, but then Billy Martin acted on something 3rd baseman Graig Nettles told him before the game.  Nettles had told Billy that Thurman Munson had once been called out in a game for placing pine tar too far up his bat, and that Brett’s bat looked just like it.  Nettles suggested Martin use the rule against Brett should he hurt the Yanks with a big hit that day.

The rest is history.

It was a unique year for the Yankees.  They played .562 ball and finished 3rd.  Winfield killed a seagull in Toronto and was arrested.  Righetti no hit Boston but was converted to a closer.  Martin gets Brett called out on a technicality and gets reversed.

There were also some peculiarities to the Pine Tar TV broadcast.

Bill White and Frank Messer started the broadcast.  White was replaced by Rizzutto in the middle innings.  Bobby Murcer, who had been driven from the playing field to duty in the booth by George, took  Skooter’s place in the 6th and finished the game with Messer.

Early on, White asked Messer if he thought Lou Piniella would someday manage in the bigs.  Messer said, “No, he won’t manage.  Lou says he doesn’t want to stick around the game after he retires.”  Of course, Lou went on to manage for 23 seasons with the Yankees, Reds, Mariners, Rays and Cubs.

At another point, White comments on U.L. Washington’s cleats:  “U.L. is wearing New Balance baseball shoes.  You don’t see a lot of those.  They do make a fine sneaker, though.”  Today, Miguel Cabrera, CJ Wilson and Curtis Granderson are web-site poster boys for New Balance, a dominant brand.

Skooter had his Skooter moments, too.  When someone noted the misty weather conditions, he said it reminded him of that Johnny Mathis tune.  When Bert Campaneris got an infield single, Skooter exclaimed, “Campanella beats it out !  Hey, did I just say Campanella ?”  When a Bobby Murcer Day was mentioned, Skooter asked that somebody please give Murcer a solid gold spittoon for his Skoal shots on his day.

When Bud Black began to unravel somewhat in the 6th,  Messer observed that “This young man does not have a complete game in 11 starts this year….he may have a history of running out of gas.”  Maybe so.  He would go on to have 3 CG’s in ’83, far below Ron Guidry’s league leading 21.  It was a different world.  3 CG’s in 2012 would have been a top 5 performance in the A.L..

Wondrously, ironically, baby faced Don Mattingly, getting just his 100th career plate appearance in this game, prompted Bobby Murcer to say, “He’s a good defensive first baseman.  He likes it in Columbus (the minors) but he knows the majors are the place to be.”  Bobby did not recall that Mattingly had a .332 BA in 5 minor league seasons, I guess.  He had a glove….and a stick.

Credit Murcer with seeing the protest coming.  After Messer’s call of Brett’s pine tar home run….”Uh Oh!  Uh Oh! It’s gone !”, Murcer immediately explained that Martin was telling the umpires that Brett had broken a rule and could be called out, and he explained why.  Bobby was on the money.  And as it turns out, George Brett should have been called out.

Murcer concluded the broadcast saying, “You know, Frank, you and I may have been a part of history today.  I just talked to some people with 50 years in the game and they’ve never seen anything like this.”

Amen, Bobby Mucer.  May you rest in peace, brother.

Today, George Brett says he’s happy for the entire incident.  “Instead of being remembered as the guy with hemorrhoids in the 1980 World Series, I’m the guy with the pine tar bat.  I’ll take it.”

Go Sox.

Posted in BASEBALL, NEW YORK YANKEES | Leave a Comment »

Around the bases: Tito, Tigers and Trials

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 7, 2013

TITO

The New Idiots

There is an interesting story by Albert Chen in the March 4 issue of Sports Illustrated about the new look Cleveland Indians.  Chen tags them the strangest, most fascinating camp in Arizona.

Nick Swisher twirls a baton, hugs groundskeepers and bubbles with enthusiasm in the outfield.  A former fireballing first-rounder named Scott Kazmir, now skinny and wan, seeks a roster spot.  Daisuke Matsuzaka, the 32 year old Japanese hurler who once elicited $103 Million from John Henry’s coffers, is present.  There is also Jason Giambi, the 42 –year-old former MVP who once had p.e.d.-related tumors removed from his privates.  There is Michael Bourne, the free agent speedster that should have been grabbed long before the Tribe got him.  And there is Mark Reynolds, a 1B/3B/DH man that could K 220 times, but might also deposit ball over fence 40 times.

And this is Terry Francona’s new team.  There he is, stuffed into an Indian uniform and smiling broadly on the SI contents page.

After going 68-94 last year, the Tribe could rise with Francona and a new bunch of idiots.

There will be a happy clubhouse.  There will be loosey goosey players hitting it, catching it, throwing it.

Go Tito.  Go Tribe.

Amen, Westmoreland.

Today comes the news from Paul Doyle @ The Hartford Courant that former Red Sox top prospect, Ryan Westmoreland, has retired at age 22.  He has twice had brain stem surgery to correct a cavernous malfunction and it has been determined that it is impossible for Ryan to continue his dream of a MLB career.  The kid was said to have a tremendous upside although fate only gave him 60 pro games at Lowell in 2009 (.296, 7, 35 with 15 doubles).   There is a good message in the following words from this young Rhode Islander for anyone who has taken a hit in life:

“I believe that there is a plan for me that will utilize my experiences, however painful some may have been, to do something special in my life. It is time for me to find that path, and to pursue it with the same focus and effort that I pursued the dream of playing professional baseball.”

Amen, Ryan.  And thanks to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal for his piece on Westmoreland yesterday.

Be assertive, Jerry.

The Chi Sox circulated a new video to their fan base this week, the intent being to fire up the bugs for 2013.  “To make an impact” featured hitting, throwing, running, sliding and leaping action from Alexei Ramirez and Paul Konerko while Hawk Harrelson makes the call.  Other than praising off season workouts, I’m not sure what they are saying.  The 85-77 White Sox finished a smidge behind the World Series bound Tigers.  I hope the Chicago players shake up the Central Division better than their marketing folk are.  Compare ”Impact” to “162 Chances to Restore the Faith”, the 2013 tag line of the last place Red Sox.  Maybe take a Dale Carnegie class, Mr. Reinsdorf?

Young Tigers rising from the ashes

2013 is the 45th anniversary of the 1968 Detroit Tigers World Championship, the first Detroit crown since 1945.  The Kitty Kats went to camp in Lakeland after having been eliminated by the Red Sox on the last day of the 1967 season.  Ernie Harwell asked 26 year old Bill Freehan about the team’s chances in 1968.  He answered, “I am convinced we can do it.  We have some real good young talent.  Our young guys went through something last year that they had never been through.  I’ll tell you what, if we can stay healthy, yes, we can win it this year.”   Freehan led his team to the ultimate victory, becoming an All Star, a Gold Glover, and finishing 2nd in the MVP voting only to team mate Denny McLain.

Keep the faith.

Go Sox.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, RED SOX, Terry Francona | Leave a Comment »

A John Farrell Primer

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 1, 2013

Farrell n GM Farrell pitch monmouth beach

Here are 9 quick hits to better understand the new Red Sox Skipper as we prepare for the restoration of order in the AL East.

THE SIMILARITY ENDS THERE
Farrell was born in New Jersey on Aug., 4, 1962. On the same day, 600 miles away in Ohio, little Roger Clemens was born. Both babies would grow to stand 6 foot 4 inches tall and weigh 205 pounds. Over their MLB careers, the right-handed birthday boys combined for 5,027 K’s, 7 Cy Young Awards and 390 wins. All of Farrell’s stats are apparently legit.

A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW
Bobby Valentine will be a tough act to follow for many reasons not the least of which is the number of games from which he was ejected. While he was exploring the meaning of life and sarcasm in Beantown, Bobby was ejected from 6 games by 6 different umpires. Farrell was boring by comparison, getting chucked only twice in 2013 with the Jays.

NUMBAS, NUMBAS, NUMBAS…
Farrell made his MLB debut and got the win on August 18, 1987, the same calendar date that Tony C gets beaned, Brooks Robinson hit into the third triple play of his season, and Black Sox Buck Weaver was born. Then again, it is also Roberto Clemente and Bob Zupcic’s birthdays.

THE STREAK STOPPER
On August 26, 1987, Farrell stopped Paul Molitor’s 39 game hitting streak. Farrell K’d him, doubled him up 6-4-3, grounded him out 6-3, and let him reach first in his last at bat on an error by Pat Tabler.  Molitor was on deck in the 10th when Rick Manning hit Doug Jones for a walk-off single. This was the 7th longest streak in history, the 5th longest since 1900.

THOSE WHO CAN’T DO – USUALLY TEACH…BUT NOT ALWAYS.
Gray ink is the HOF measurement that reflects how much a player finished (or didn’t) in the Top 10 statistically during his player seasons. Farrell has a gray ink total of 3…..vs. 185 for the average HOF’er. He made the Top 10 only in 1988 and 1989 for CG’s (1x), Shut Outs (1x), Losses (1x), HBP’s (2x), ERA (1x), and Fielding (1x). And those HBP’s aren’t good. But that’s OK. Terry Francona’s gray ink total is 2. Sparky Anderson’s is 1. Earl Weaver is Zero. So it doesn’t matter, right? Then again….Casey Stengel’s is 44. John McGraw’s is 50. Joe Torre’s is 71. And Gil Hodges is 128.

THE COWBOY
Farrell’s athletic career at Oklahoma State (1981 – 84) yielded four Big-8 championships and 4 College WS appearances. Farrell went 20-6, 4.51 with 168K’s in 219 IP, plus a no-no vs. Missouri Southern. He is in the OK State BB HOF along with Allie Reynolds, Pete Incaviglia, Robin Ventura, Jerry Adair and Mickey Tettleton, among others. OF COURSE, The Cowboys Football history is more glamorous with former Stillwater residents Pappy Waldorf, Bob “The Blond Bomber” Fenimore, Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas all in the College Football HOF.

IS THERE STILL A BEACH THERE?
Yes, there is. Farrell originally hails from Monmouth Beach, NJ, which has 3,279 residents, a median HH income of $94,583 and one square mile of beach. The beach doesn’t look as it did before Super Storm Sandy, though. See the Reuters photo above.

HE HAD THE K THING GOING
Over 6 starts in 1989, Farrell K’d 10 or more dudes THREE TIMES. A nice run for a guy with just 4.6 K’s per 9 IP in his career. On August 11, he K’d 10 Brewers, baffling every Trebelhorn Man except Yount and Surhoff. On August 17, he rang up 11 Athletics, TWICE whiffing Canseco, McGwire, Parker and Henderson. On Sept. 5, he smoked 10 O’s, having an especially good time with Mike Devereaux, who he made look bad FOUR times.

IT’S JUST NOT FAIR
Farrell made something slightly north of $1.2 Million in total as a player. The fellow the Sox sent to Toronto for Farrell, Mike Aviles, made $1.2 Million last year as a super sub. Aviles is signed to a combined $5.25 Million in ’13 and ’14.

Go Sox.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, RED SOX | Leave a Comment »

Francona & Shaughnessy explain 2011….finally

Posted by athomeatfenway on February 18, 2013

Francona

On Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011, Terry Francona stood in front of the Palace Hotel in Manhattan waiting for DeMarlo Hale. His team had lost 12 out of their last 15 games and were hanging onto a playoff spot by a thread.

Francona was approached by a stranger with a foreign accent who said, “You must win today.”

“Hey asshole, what do you think we’re trying to do?” said the stressed out manager.

Security intervened. The foreigner turned out to be a diplomat. Apologies, introductions and a friendly photo taking followed. No damage done. But the incident speaks volumes. Tito had flared in a way not inconsistent with the captain on a sinking ship — and for good reason.

The Sox had blown a 9 game lead over Tampa in a disastrous September during which the pitchers didn’t pitch, the hitters didn’t hit and the fielders didn’t field.

And unlike earlier rough spots, Francona, who is usually a master at damage control, only made things worse.

But why?

That is the question some Red Sox fans, myself included, have been asking since Sept. 28, 2011. How could a team that was capable of 100 wins be 39 games over .500 from May 1 through August 31 and play like the ’62 Mets in September?

Francona, The Red Sox Years by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy goes a long way to providing the answers. It may be fair to say that the answers have been previously spoken or written many times by others. But this book lays out the chronology and context for the narrative in a way no one has before.

The trick the authors turn is in making the reader understand the forces that were acting upon Tito and the team.  It was not just that something was wrong with the Sox, it was that most everything was wrong.

It was a perfect storm. Veteran coaches had left and with them went the established connection points to the team that Francona used to discuss bad behavior or poor play.    This was a critical change.  If you read Michael Holley’s book about Francona, Red Sox Rule, then you know that Tito used peers, coaches and team leaders to keep the team on track.

Problems emerged every where. Youkilis said there was a festering conflict between position players and the pitching staff. Three starters (Lackey, Lester & Beckett) had enormous egos, all having pitched a WS clincher by age 26, and they formed a narcissistic clique that became unconcerned with management and team. Aging players were in the final year of their contracts and grew discontented. Players placed personal rewards above team success. Rumors broke out about Theo Epstein going to the Cubs as G.M. Injuries abounded. The medical staff was cluttered and nervous. The owners were fixated on playing all 81 home dates in order to maximize revenue even as Hurricane Irene threatened. The bullpen ran out of gas. All of the above…..all at once.

The tipping point came on Saturday, August 27, the day before Irene punished the Massachusetts coast. After a long road trip the owners insisted that a day-night doubleheader be played. Not hiding their unhappiness, the players performances thereafter landed in the outhouse, never to rise again in 2011.  Or in 2012.

A lot has been said about how Francona criticizes Lucchino, Werner & Henry in the book. There are several instances in which the ex-manager reveals their shortcomings but I didn’t read anything new or surprising. I’d have been surprised if Tito had written that Larry is a paternal cuddlebunny, another Johnny Pesky.

Larry is a bit of a tough guy. Theo can be manipulative. Henry is a geek. Werner is best suited to running NESN. So what. That sounds like the expected case.

Terry comes off as a flexible and devoted boss.  He’s not going to quote Winston Churchill like Theo. He is going to drop F-bombs. He may even moon you, as he mooned Theo and the coaches in the privacy of the manager’s office one day (when PR chief Pam Ganley barged in).

He’s down to earth.   He honors the 15 men who managed him as a player, spelling out which valuable lesson he learned from each one in a lovely Acknowlegdement at the end of the book.  These men were his highschool, minor league and big league skippers.  Even the one that scared the heck out of him, Dick Williams.

I like that about Tito. He’s a true diamond lifer who will never take himself too seriously or place his value high above his brothers and sisters.

He is the greatest Boston Red Sox manager in my 47 years of fandom. He’s probably the best in the history of the Sox.

No one was better at handling the press. Or difficult personalities.

This book is a must read. Don’t miss it.

Go Sox.

Posted in BASEBALL, BASEBALL BOOKS, Boston Red Sox, Terry Francona | Leave a Comment »

Jackie joined a winning team in ’47

Posted by athomeatfenway on February 14, 2013

  

Rickey added a winner.  Period.

Rickey added a winner. Period.

I have been catching the offerings on MLB Network, ESPN Classic and other sports verticals. Three days ago I read with great relish the back-to-back scheduling of Henry Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Buck O’Neil and Bob Gibson on separate interview shows hosted by the late & great Dick Schaap and highly skilled Roy Firestone.

On that meandering day I heard Buck O’Neil explain that poor attendance drove the Dodgers to sign Jackie Robinson, and that good attendance was the reason that the Red Sox and Yankees were not motivated to integrate.

It’s interesting to examine Brooklyn’s intentions for hiring Jackie because the Dodgers not only were the first….they were the best. Rickey’s team signed a series of major black stars including Robinson, Campanella, Black, and Newcombe. With a heroic black and white nucleus, they played in the World Series 6 time in 10 years.

It is interesting to examine Brooklyn’s intentions because they have often been attributed to motivations of social justice and morality.

But was poor attendance in Brooklyn the catalyst for change? That seems to be possibly true at first blush….but…..not exactly true. I checked it out.

1947, Jackie’s first year in Dodger flannels, was a banner one for Brooklyn. There were 1,807,526 paid admissions to Ebbets Field. That set a new franchise record that would not be broken until 1959, when the Alston men played in the 78,000 seat L.A. Coliseum.

1.8 million is a staggering count for 1947, especially compared to the earlier war years. 1.8 million is THREE TIMES the paid attendance of 1944 (605,905).

Furthermore, Brooklyn ranked #1 in total attendance in the National League for 1947.

There is no question that Jackie created a passionate interest in what occurred in the little 35,000 seat ballpark built by Charles Hercules Ebbets. But was Robinson the driving force? Was the boom in Brooklyn really a spike in a trend ?

A little digging reveals that the 1.8 million of ’47 was actually just a smidge above ’46. The Jackie-less Dodgers of 1946 pulled 1,796,824 while Robinson batted .349 for the Montreal Royals. (That year, Montreal also rostered Al Campanis, of all people).

So Jackie’s MLB advent resulted in an immediate home attendance increase of only one half of 1%.

Further digging shows that the Dodgers were a team on the rise for the 8 years prior to Robinson. In 5 of the 7 years immediately prior to his arrival, the Dodgers ranked 1st in the league in attendance. Plus 1 year ranked 2nd, and the other 3rd.

1939 was the year that the Dodgers leaped to the top in ticket sales. A position that would last through the Ebbets Field years and well into the Dodger Stadium era.

So what happened in 1939 ? Leo Durocher replaced Burleigh Grimes as Skipper. The Dodgers improved from 69 wins to 84 wins. From .448 to .545.

Durocher brought his feisty brand of “I come to kill You” baseball in 1939. Plus, in the 3 years that followed Leo’s coming, the Dodgers added Pee Wee Reese, Joe Medwick, Pete Reiser, Mickey Owen, Kirby Higbe and Whit Wyatt, thus bringing depth of white talent to the roster. A team that was a loser from 1932 to 1938, the nadir of the Great Depression, became a winner.

The Dodgers didn’t need Jackie Robinson to drive attendance. They were already a good team that was highly ranked in ticket sales and on the diamond.

But Jackie did bring something that cannot be overvalued in our game. Jackie led a new decade of winning. He was the best player in the league. An inspiration to teammates and fans.

In Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy’s new book, Francona, the Red Sox Years, Theo Epstein is quoted as saying, “The only way to successfully market a baseball team is by winning.”

Jackie was the cardinal rule. He was insurance for continuing success. Pennants, baby.

And the time was ripe for change.

In the late 1930’s, MLB players were asked if they were ready for black players to join them in the big leagues. 80% of them said yes, according to Ken Burns’ landmark 1996 documentary, Baseball.

The time for change and acceptance had arrived in the minds of the majority.

No, it wasn’t an attendance problem that compelled Rickey to sign Jackie. There was no attendance problem.

And it was not good attendance that prevented Tom Yawkey, Dan Topping and Del Webb from signing Robinson, Satchel Paige, or Willie Mays. It was something else. The same belief system that festered in the DNA of K.M. Landis and J.G. Taylor Spink, two of many baseball bigots.

Go Sox.

Posted in BASEBALL, Brooklyn Dodgers | Leave a Comment »

It should be Morris, or no one

Posted by athomeatfenway on January 9, 2013

Jack Morris
Going on record 6 minutes before the BB HOF announcement. I’m saying that not one ballot 1st timer, including Piazza, Schilling and Biggio, should get in. They will wait. The BBWA will reward the fella who has been waiting 15 years in Jack Morris, who was certainly the stud you did not want to face for a decade. And Bagwell should go in soon, too.

Ultimately, Schill, Smith, Piazza Raines and McGriff should go in. And I think they’ll go in before Biggio does.

But I do not expect a big class in 2013.

Go Sox.

Posted in BASEBALL | Leave a Comment »

A Ryan Dempster Primer

Posted by athomeatfenway on December 20, 2012

Dempster n Ben

So who is Ryan Dempster, the 35 year old moundsman ?  We know he was a long time Cub.  Many say the man is very hittable.  How will he fare in Fenway, you ask ?  No one can say for sure, but here are 9 insights into the man to help you build a vibe and feng your shui.

 

CARL HUBBELL LIKES DEMPSTER

And why shouldn’t he ?  They are both All Star Game K specialists.  Hubbell is famed, of course, for striking out 5 consecutive future HOF’ers in the 1934 classic.  In 2008, Dempster made his only ASG game appearance in the 9th inning whereupon he K’d Ian Kinsler, Dioner Navarro and JD Drew.  It’s not Ruth-Gehrig-Foxx-Simmons-Cronin, but it’s close, isn’t it ?

 

NO PUCKING FILM CAREER – YET.

Ryan played in the 2002 NHL All Star Game Celebrity Challenge on film producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s Bad Boys team.  Ryan passed the puck to Phil Esposito, Bobby Farrelly, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jari Kuri and Alex Trebek, among others.  According to imdb.com, Dempster has yet to parlay Bruckheimer into anything more than playing himself in the 2009 Cub documentary, WE BELIEVE.

 

THE PRICE OF MEDIOCRITY

Ryan has made at least $76 million in his career to date.  Add to that a new 2 year, 26.5 Million contract with the Red Sox.  All for a guy with a 1.43 career WHIP and a 124 – 124 WL record.  Then again, there was 2008, when he went 17-6, 2.06 and finished 6th in the CY voting.

 

IT’S A LONG WAY HOME

Gibsons, British Columbia is where Dempster was raised.  Gibsons is 3,270 miles from Fenway Park; 2,270 miles from the Ballpark @ Arlington; 3,475 miles from Marlins Park; 2,512 miles from Great American Ballpark; and 2,219 miles from Wrigley Field.  Ryan could have added Seattle to his list of MLB home.  It’s only 169 miles from Mom and Dad.

 

THIS IS THE GOLDEN AGE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA IN THE MLB

Since Jim McKeever & Henry Mullen broke in with the Boston Reds in 1884, there have been 31 players in MLB history who, like Dempster, were born in B.C..  For whatever a recent surge in BC players might say about expansion and expanded rosters, Baseball Almanac recognizes 15 BC’ers who are active today.  They include prominent names like Jeff Francis, Brett Lawrie, Jason Bay, and Justin Morneau.  Plus Adam Loewen, Trystan Magnuson, Scott Mathieson, Keving Nicholson, Mike Nickeas, Scott Richmond, Michael Saunders, R.J. Swindle, and Blake Hawksworth. Larry Walker could well be the best B.C. hitter historically.  Dempster the best pitcher.

 

A #5 FOR A #5

The Rangers and Marlins made a prescient trade on Aug. 8, 1996, when they traded Dempster even up for John Burkett.  Both players pitched for 5 different teams over 15 years.  Their career ERA’s are a tick apart, Burkett at 4.31, Dempster at 4.33.  In 2002-3, Burkett finished his career with the Red Sox in the #5 rotation position, the same position that is destined for Dempster in Boston. 

 

#46 IS A MIXED BAG

22 Red Sox players have worn #46, most notably Bob Stanley, Josh Reddick and Jacoby Ellsbury.  Not too shoddy, right ?  Then again, so did Dwayne Hosey, Devern Hansack and Steve Barr.  Dempster should fit in somewhere in the lower-middle of this spectrum.

 

 

1918 K’s

It was fun watching Wakefield climb to #57 on the all time strikeout list, passing Catfish Hunter  and others who were decidedly better hurlers than Wake.  In the next 2 years, Dempster could raise his K total from 1,918 to 2,100, from position #83 to #59.  But unlike Timmy, he won’t pitch until he is 44 so he’s not headed to rarified climes.  Still, 2,000 K’s is impressive on its own.

 

 

NO POST SEASON COULD BE A GOOD THING

Ryan has been up and down in 2 playoff appearances.  The Cubs let him relieve in the 2007 NLDS, when he pitched just 1 inning vs. the D Backs, getting 3 outs with 11 pitches, including 2 strike outs.  Nice !  The following year, the Cubs gave him a start in the DS against L.A. in which he walked 7 and didn’t make it out of the 5th inning.  That effort was punctuated by walking Furcal, Ethier and Manny, whereupon James Loney took him yard for a grand slam.

 

 

Go Sox.

 

 

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, RED SOX | Leave a Comment »

The Ever Popular Rico Petrocelli

Posted by athomeatfenway on December 19, 2012

Rico 1 Rico 2

Rico Petrocelli, the Brooklyn boy who became an all-time fan favorite in Beantown spent the evening of Dec. 17 with 180 rabid fans at the World Series Club dinner in West Hartford.  http://www.worldseriesclub.com/

Rico was a multi-sport star athlete in High School.  NC State, Cal & Wisconsin all offered the young quarterback a full scholarship.  But he was too smart to bite on a football career.  He was also a power pitcher in High School.  8 MLB clubs were after him until he snapped a ligament in his throwing arm.  The interested teams dwindled to 4.  The Sox signed him as an amateur free agent on June 2, 1961.

Rico’s talk at the WSC was frequently related to the tale of 2 teams:  the 1967 and 1975 Red Sox.

Rico roomed with Dalton Jones when the Sox were a young and undisciplined team.  They formed a keystone combination that was mostly in place from 1964 to 1969.

When Rico & DJ came up to  Boston, the Sox led the league in batting average but committed the most errors with 330.  They finished 8th.  3 years later they made 142 errors and approached the summit of baseball.

In 1967, the team was coming off 190 losses in two years.  According to Rico, they could not field, throw or run.  Dick Stuart (’63-’64) was a prime example of fielding incompetence.  “For every 3 RBI he got, he allowed 4 unearned runs to score.”, said Rico.

In 1966, when the Twins were top-top, the Sox beat them only once, and they needed an error and an unearned run to make that happen.

The 1967 Sox hated Dick Williams because he was a stickler.  Williams stressed fundamentals right from spring training.  He had a conniption when Conigliaro air mailed a throw over 3rd into the 15th row of the grandstand.  He roared.  He laid down the law.

And things started to change in Boston.  After 8 consecutive losing seasons some magic took hold.  O’Connell, the new General Manager swung some deals.  The discipline-oriented Williams established order.  A young batting champ and slugger named Yaz reported in fantastic shape from an off season of heavy conditioning.

The pitchers were pitching, the hitters were hitting and the fielders slowed their rate of making errors.

Rico pointed out, “We came out of the All Star break and went on a 10 game winning streak.  That’s when it happened.  We never looked back.”

That streak was July 14 to 23, 1967.  The morning it started, the team stood at 42 – 40.  They went 50 – 30 the rest of the way, a .625 clip.

The big difference between the 1967 and 1975 Red Sox was the tension level. 

The ‘75 Sox were laid back.  When Manager Darrell Johnson wandered out to the mound to pull the pitcher, they’d tell him to get back in the dugout…and he did !

One of the closest friendships that Rico continues to keep with a ’75 teammate is with Luis Tiant.  “Luis Tiant should be in the Hall of Fame.  He belongs.”

Tiant was Mr. Laid Back himself, speaking in a calm, high pitched voice.  He enjoyed creating special nicknames for his mates.  Petrocelli was Salami for obvious reasons.  Bob Montgomery was Mr. Ed because he had a head the size of a horse’s.  Carlton Fisk, due to his imposing & squarish build, was tabbed Frankenstein, and Tiant delighted in doing the Frankenstein walk with extended arms when he teased Pudge about it.

PARKING LOT

–When asked about how it was to face Koufax, Rico said, “The ball whistled when it went past.  You had no chance.”

–When asked what moundsman he hated to face, Rico said, “Well, there was this guy named Nolan Ryan who threw 98, but when he needed to crank it up he threw 102.  Sure, when Nolan was pitching and I got in the on deck circle, he just used to get this little smile on his face.”  A contented smile, to be sure.

–Rico has 4 sons: Michael, James, Bill and Danny, and improbably, one of them is 6 foot 7 inches tall.

–On John Lackey:  “If he had been on one of our Sox teams and had stared down his teammates like he did (in 2011), we’d have freaking choked him right there on the mound.”

–On Ted Williams:  “Ted came to spring training.  I talked to him many times about hitting.  I should say HE talked to ME about hitting.  You didn’t talk to him about it, he did the talking.  And he was always loud.  Ted was a loud person.  It was like he had 3 lungs.”

Gotta love Rico.

Go Sox.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, Carl Yastrzemski, Fred Lynn, Luis Tiant, RED SOX, Ted Williams | Leave a Comment »

Jim Murray: Funny Man, Deep Man.

Posted by athomeatfenway on December 18, 2012

Jim Murray

I guess most Editors would say that Jim Murray’s fame & success as a columnist emanated from his clever ability to turn a phrase.  His depth of character and street-wise upbringing were equally important.

 

There is no doubt he was a phrase turner.

 

On George….

“I always regarded Steinbrenner as Heaven’s punishment visited on the arrogant Yankees for their sins of pride.”

 

On Pete Rose…

Pete liked his women flashy.  Just go find the nearest beehive hairdo, the shortest mini, the wad of chewing gum being cracked, and you would find Pete Rose’s women.  They had probably been cheerleaders in their youth and were not too intellectual.”

 

On the Indianapolis 500….

“Gentlemen, start your coffins.”

 

On John Wooden…

“He was so square he was divisible by 4.”

 

Jim Murray came from a unique place.

 

He grew up in Hartford and West Hartford, CT.  His uncle, a card playing, crap shooting, scamming hustler was his strongest role model.  He gave the kid quite an education on angle playing by the time he reached puberty.

 

Murray graduated from Hartford Public High and Trinity College.  He soon wrote for the Hartford Times and New Haven Register.  Fate brought him to Time magazine, where he was the Hollywood reporter in the glamorous 1940’s and ‘50’s. 

 

He lunched with Cary Grant.  He sunned poolside while his buddy went in a movie producer’s house to have anonymous, casual sex with Marilyn Monroe.  He knew that Bogie was the farthest thing from a thug.

 

While based in L.A., Time called upon him to write the odd profile or cover story about sports figures such as Ben Hogan, Mel Patton, Patty O’Brien, Bob Mathias, and Bobby Layne.

 

Thus was Murray drawn into Time-Life’s plans to launch a weekly Sports magazine.  He joined in the design, writing, photography and editing of the December 1953 and April 1954 Dummies of Sports Illustrated, and remained on hand from its debut in August 1954 to 1961, when he left to become a newspaperman again. 

 

His last S.I. story was about the Lakers and was titled Ten Tall Men Take a Trip.  In the years to come, he continued to write about roundball, the sport without audience.

 

His career as a columnist at the L.A. Times is legendary.  14 times he won the NSSA’s Sportswriter of the Year Award, 12 of them consecutively.

 

While doing so, he detailed many things, including, but not limited to, television’s transformation of sports from insignificant past time to the new American Religion; professional basketball’s evolution from a sport without a following into a powerhouse; the emergence of team owners who were more interested in celebrity than profitability; Boxing as it journeyed from blue collar entertainment to the Art of Ali.  Collegiate Coaching as it morphed from true scholar-athleticism to arrogant win-at-all-costs fuglyness.

 

Murray comments on all this in 21 short chapters. 

 

It isn’t all sports and roses.  He explains how he lost a son to the drug culture of the 1970’s.  Ricky Murray failed to wake up after drinking a soda that had been laced with codeine for recreational purposes at a party. 

 

He shares how just months after Ricky’s death stole the light from the eyes of his wife Gerry, she was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed within a year of her son. 

 

He describes how he lost his left eye and later the vision in his right eye, and how the L.A. Times supplied him with an assistant to make his life feasible and his work meaningful.

 

Murray is patently honest.  He admits his shortcomings.  He knows what mistakes he made.

 

He has Sports in perspective, as shown in his concluding paragraph.

 

“The ancient Romans described the secret of successful rule as ‘Bread and Circuses’…..I covered the Circus.  I felt privileged to do so.   Some of the happiest hours of my life were spent in a pressbox.  Sure, I helped keep the hype going, the calliope playing.  I can live with that.  That’s what I am…I would have made a lousy President.”

 

Jim Murray, An Autobiography, was published in 1993.  This book supports the theory that if you want to read a well written, funny, enlightening sports book instead of a dull research-laden one, or a disastrous speak-into-the-microphone player autobio, you need only stick to the guys and gals who wrangle words for a living.

 

Don’t miss this book.  It’s an A+.

 

RIP, Mr. Murray.

 

Go Sox.

 

 

Posted in BASEBALL BOOKS | Leave a Comment »