erik lundegaard

Baseball posts

Wednesday February 06, 2013

Quote of the Day

“[The New York press] never let me forget it. They called me 'Sappy' and 'Playboy,' and when I said I loved baseball they saw fit to ridicule that, too, and when I had to chasten some of their heroes, people like Del Webb and Leo Durocher, they never failed to take their side. But I don't embarrass easily. If you are sober and diligent and forthright, there is no reason to be embarassed.”

--Albert Benjamin “Happy” Chandler, the 44th and 49th governor of Kentucky, a U.S. Senator from Kentucky (1939-1945), and the second Commissioner of Major League Baseball, as quoted in “1947: When All Hell Broke Loose in Baseball,” by Red Barber. Some say MLB would not have integrated in 1947 if Chandler had not been commissioner.

Jackie Robinson, Happy Chandler, and Don Newcombe

Commissioner 'Happy' Chandler, living up to his nickname, standing between Jackie Robinson and Don Newcombe.

Posted at 03:12 PM on Feb 06, 2013 in category Baseball
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Monday January 21, 2013

Stan 'The Man' Musial: 1920-2013

How underrated was Stan Musial? When Ken Burns broadcast his 18-hour documentary on the history of baseball on PBS in 1994, he didn't get to Stan Musial, who debuted in September 1941, until after he'd dealt with the following subjects: World War II, Jackie Robinson, the failure yet again of the Boston Red Sox to win the World Series in 1946, integration, the death of the Negro Leagues, the rise of Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, Bobby Thomson's shot heard 'round the world, the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, the movement of teams out west, the broken heart of Brooklyn, Maz's shot heard 'round the world (from a NY perspective), Roger Maris and 61*, and the rise, such as it was, of the New York Mets. Then it was 1963. Then he got to Musial.

I remember watching the doc back in Sept. 1994. When the words “The Man” flashed on the screen as we were in the early 1960s, I thought: “Wait a minute, we're just getting to him now? WTF?” Burns in his doc is like Alvy Singer in “Annie Hall”: He has trouble leaving New York. And Musial, with seven batting titles in the '40s and '50s, with more extra-base hits than anyone in baseball history upon retirement, is great, sure, but he plays in St. Louis. What's the story there? There's no story there. The story of baseball was always elsewhere in the mind of Ken Burns.

Then he gives him four short minutes. Short shrfit. At the least, we get George Will's great quote:

Baseball is rich in statistics but it's hard to find one more beautiful than Stan Musial's hitting record. Stan Musial got 3,630 hits: 1,815 at home, 1,815 on the road. He didn't care where he was. He just hit.

Where does Musial rank in various stats? Here:

  • Hits: 4th with 3,630
  • Extra-base hits: 3rd with 1,377
  • Runs: 9th with 1,949
  • Doubles: 3rd with 725
  • Triples: 19th with 177
  • Triples, post WWII: 1st
  • Runs Created, 3rd
  • WAR: 9th
  • Offensive WAR: 7th

I like his K-BB ratio. In his career, he struck out 696 times against 1599 walks. He's 6th in games played and 578th in strikeouts. Ted Williams had fewer plate appearances but struck out more. Ted Williams. 

Musial, easy-going, had a smile that reminded me of Gene Kelly.

Stan Musial and Gene Kelly: Separated at Birth?

He's the reason why Ken Griffey, Jr. is only the second-best player to come out of Donora, Pennsylvania. He will be missed.

Stan Musial at the plate

Stan Musial at the plate.

Posted at 08:17 PM on Jan 21, 2013 in category Baseball
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Saturday January 19, 2013

Earl Weaver: 1930-2013

“On my tombstone just write, 'The sorest loser that ever lived.'”
-- Earl Weaver, manager, Baltimore Orioles, 1986

Did Earl Weaver, who died today at the age of 82, ever manage anyone but the Orioles? People talk of players no longer being with one club but what about managers? That's even rarer. Even before free agency, even with good managers, clubs let them go. Billy Martin managed the Twins, Tigers, Rangers and Yankees all before 1976. Joe Torre managed the Mets, Braves and Cardinals before his 12 years with the Yankees. Casey Stengel managed the Dodgers and the Boston Bees/Braves before taking over the Yankees in 1949.

Earl Weaver? Just the Orioles. Two stints: 1968-1982; and 1985-1986. He missed out on their last championship year, 1983, but according to him he wouldn't have had much to do with it anyway. Earl Weaver, Topps baseball card“A manager's job is simple,” he once said. “For 162 games you try not to screw up all that smart stuff your organization did last December.”

I hated him growing up. I was in Minnesota, home of the Twins, who were one of the best teams in baseball in the late 1960s and early '70s. They would've been the best but for Earl Weaver's Orioles. We faced them in the playoffs in 1969 and '70, when I was 6 and 7, and never won a game. Best of five. Three and out. They were too good. I remember one playoff game when Killebrew and Oliva hit back-to-back homers, and my brother and I, alone in the house, tore it up in celebration, then had some 'splaning to do when my parents returned from volleyball and a picnic at Pearl Park. But we were losing... Killebrew and Oliva... The Twins still lost that game and Chris and I were grounded. October magic. 

Weaver was famously short and famously short-tempered. He was Billy Martin before Billy Martin without being such an asshole about it. He believed in good pitching, good “d,” and the 3-run homer. He got it all. He was the manager of the only team in baseball history, the 1971 Orioles, to have four pitchers win 20 games (Pat Dobson completes the set). He was the manager of some of the best fielders at their position in baseball history: Paul Blair in center, Mark Belanger at short, Brooks Robinson at third. Plus he had the pop: Frank Robinson, who retired fourth on the all-time homerun list; Boog Powell, who was like Harmon Killebrew's taller, fatter, less talented cousin; plus everyone else. They could all hit. 

I remember a game we went to once in ... 1971? We took our grandmother, my mom's mom, who was visiting from Finksburg, Maryland. That's in Carroll County for those who care. Jim Kaat pitching for the Twins. First pitch? Don Buford hit a homerun. Final score? 8-0. “A manager should stay as far away as possible from his players,” Weaver once said. “I don't know if I said ten words to Frank Robinson while he played for me.”

He seemed ancient then, as did another gray-haired manager of the time, Sparky Anderson; but Weaver, for all the white hair, was only 40, while Anderson was in his 30s. Did the white hair help them get managerial jobs despite their age? One wonders. A guy who's 40 takes over a ballclub today and I think of him as a punk kid.

I wonder what he did in his retirement? Did he still care about the O's? Did he watch the Jeffrey Maier game in '96? I would've liked to have seen Earl Weaver jumping out of the dugout at that call.

Eminently quotable, he said said one of my favorite lines about baseball. “Don't worry, kid,” he assured a young writer, Tom Boswell, who was worried he's done something wrong during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner”; “we do this every day.”

Posted at 10:34 AM on Jan 19, 2013 in category Baseball
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Friday January 11, 2013

Edgar Martinez Dissed on HOF Dissed List

The Baseball Writers Association of America announced the results of its Hall-of-Fame balloting the other day and no one got in. It's indicative of an age that is clouded by big numbers and PED accusations and admissions.

Here are the results from BaseballReference.com:

PlayerVotes2013%2012%
Less than 75% of vote, but still on ballot.
Craig Biggio 388 68.2% 1st Yr
Jack Morris 385 67.7% 66.7%
Jeff Bagwell 339 59.6% 56.0%
Mike Piazza 329 57.8% 1st Yr
Tim Raines 297 52.2% 48.7%
Lee Smith 272 47.8% 50.6%
Curt Schilling 221 38.8% 1st Yr
Roger Clemens 214 37.6% 1st Yr
Barry Bonds 206 36.2% 1st Yr
Edgar Martinez 204 35.9% 36.5%
Alan Trammell 191 33.6% 36.8%
Larry Walker 123 21.6% 22.9%
Fred McGriff 118 20.7% 23.9%
Dale Murphy** 106 18.6% 14.5%
Mark McGwire 96 16.9% 19.5%
Don Mattingly 75 13.2% 17.8%
Sammy Sosa 71 12.5% 1st Yr
Rafael Palmeiro 50 8.8% 12.6%
Less than 5%, will not be on next year's ballot
Bernie Williams 19 3.3% 9.6%
Kenny Lofton 18 3.2% 1st Yr
Sandy Alomar 16 2.8% 1st Yr
Julio Franco 6 1.1% 1st Yr
David Wells 5 0.9% 1st Yr
Steve Finley 4 0.7% 1st Yr
Shawn Green 2 0.4% 1st Yr
Aaron Sele 1 0.2% 1st Yr
Reggie Sanders 0 0.0% 1st Yr
Jeff Cirillo 0 0.0% 1st Yr
Woody Williams 0 0.0% 1st Yr
Rondell White 0 0.0% 1st Yr
Ryan Klesko 0 0.0% 1st Yr
Roberto Hernandez 0 0.0% 1st Yr
Royce Clayton 0 0.0% 1st Yr
Jeff Conine 0 0.0% 1st Yr
Mike Stanton 0 0.0% 1st Yr
Jose Mesa 0 0.0% 1st Yr
Todd Walker 0 0.0% 1st Yr

Some Twitter jokes about Aaron Sele's one vote. On the plus side, Jose Mesa, the bain of the Mariners relief corps in the late 1990s, and I'm sure still unforgiven in Cleveland for 1997 Game 7, got bupkis. Same with Jeff Cirillo, brought to Safeco in 2002 after four straight NL seasons over .300. He promptly delivered the following line at Safeco for two years: .234/.295/.308. We kept waiting for him to follow through. In some ways, we're still waiting for whoever has replaced him to follow through. We've been waiting for more than 10 years. Or 35, depending.

Now it's the players who are waiting. Remove the taint of PEDs, based solely on the numbers, and you have eight sure-fire Hall of Famers on this list: Biggio, Bagwell, Piazza, Clemens, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro. No brainers. But they were too little brain, too much brawn.

I guess some didn't see Biggio's numbers as first-ballot worthy. Maybe. But he would've gotten my vote. Bagwell and Piazza have the taint on them without any proof, which feels awkward. They're guilty until proven innocent. Are others? Is Greg Maddux next year? Frank Thomas? Junior in 2016? Bonds and Clemens would've gotten in before their suspected use began. Should they go in anyway?

I don't agree with those who say that steroids, HGH and other PEDs are the same as greenies (1960s) and cocaine (1980s). Those allowed you to play a little longer at your natural state. PEDs warped your natural state. You hulked out, and the record books hulked out with you. It's now misshapen beyond belief. There's a taint on it: 73 and 762, for example. .609 and 1.421, for example. And those are just the numbers of Barry Bonds, the man who became, at the retirement age of 39, the greatest hitter of all time, better than Babe Ruth in 1920. It makes us angry, thinking about it. And Barry won't like us when we're angry. But then he's never liked us. 

As for my man Edgar? He dropped a bit in the voting: 0.6%. He keeps hovering mid-30s. Will he ever get higher? People are making cases. Joe Posnanski, prognosticating on the site SportsOnEarth, writes, “I'm still hopeful that people will appreciate just how good a hitter Edgar was as his time on the ballot begins to run out.” Amusingly, the art accompanying the article includes pics of 11 players and none are Edgar. Not only is he not making the Hall of Fame, he's not even making the list of guys who aren't making the Hall of Fame. So it goes. So it's always been.

My take on Edgar's quiet, glorious career can be found here. The Jim Lefebvre quote still astonishes me.

No Edgar on Hall of Fame dissed list

Edgar Who?

Posted at 09:49 AM on Jan 11, 2013 in category Baseball
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Wednesday November 28, 2012

Marvin Miller (1917-2012)

Marvin Miller, the labor lawyer who became Executive Director of the Major League Baseball's Players Association in 1966 at the age of 49 (my age), and who led the MLBPA out of the era of the reserve clause (a player bound to a team for llife) and into the era of free agency and riches, and thus revolutionized the game, died yesterday at the age of 95.

Most of the encomiums in the sports press come in the form of lamentations that Miller isn't in the Hall of Fame. Rob Neyer has a good piece on that as well: “Who Kept Marvin Miller out of the Hall of Fame, Anyway?” He suggests you cut back your anger at the owners; it was the players.

My favorite line about Miller, though, has always been Curt Flood's from Ken Burns' “Baseball” documentary: “The moment we found out that the owners didn't want Marvin Miller, he was our guy.” Would that every industry had its guy.

I read Miller's autobiography, “A Whole Different Ball Game,” in 1996 and wrote the following review, for no one, but I offer it here now. Rest in peace, Mr. Miller.

*  *  *

A Whole Different Ball Game

When discussing the history of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) my mind tends towards the Danis Moore skit from “Monty Python's Flying Circus.” Danis is a Robin Hood figure whose theme song goes something like this:

Danis Moore, Danis Moore
Riding through the land
He robs from the rich
And gives to the poor
Danis Moore, Danis Moore, Danis Moore...

After awhile the rich he steals from have nothing, and the poor, surrounded by wealth, reject his meagre offerings. The theme song is then amended:

He robs from the poor
And gives to the rich
What a bitch!

Confronted by this fact, Danis (John Cleese) looks confused. ”This economics thing is a bit more complicated than I thought,“ he says.

Marvin Miller, executive director of the MLBPA, and the man most responsible for ending the reserve clause and bringing free agency to baseball, admits no such thing—and with some reason. Yes, the poor of baseball (the players) became rich as a result of Miller's leadership, but the rich (the owners) did not suffer a subsequent loss in income. On the contrary, their industry and individual franchises grew at the same astronomical rates as player's salaries.

So who suffered? The fans, perhaps. Baseball is still one of the cheapest entertainments around, but owners' tendencies to squeeze every ounce of juice from baseball has led to some increasingly suspect innovations. The DH rule. Night-time World Series games. Expansion teams. More divisions and playoffs, so the post-season is extended, so all prime-time World Series games are played in the cold and dark of late October rather than the sun and warmth of early October. And now we have interleague play.

Miller may try to talk like a fan, he may whimsically mention growing up in the shadow of Ebbets' Field and loving the Dodgers, but his position as Executive Director of the MLBPA from 1966 to 1984 necessitates a different perspective than that of the average fan. Mention 1981 and what do most fans think of? A strike. An awful, botched season. Asterisks in the record book. What does Marvin Miller think of? ”It was the most principled strike I've ever been associated with; it was the Association's finest hour.“

Does Miller even write about the fans in this book? Only once that I can recall. In the 1960s, Pittsburgh owner Dan Galbreath was urging Pirate players to sign more autographs and make more public appearances: to be more appreciative of the fans. Pirate star Roberto Clemente then relayed a dream he had the night before, about the days when he would be too enfeebled to play the game, and how the fans, unable to let him go, would buy him a rocking chair and sit him between the stands and the right field foul line where he could rest easy during his retirement.

”You know, Mr. Galbreath, was that dream is?“
Galbreath hesitated. ”No, what?“
Clemente replied firmly, ”It is bool-sheet!“

Granted, fans can be fickle. Granted, fan support is nothing next to a good retirement package. But without fans there would be no Major League Baseball.

It's ironic that this great union man, famous for finagling owners out of their secured and exalted position as Lords of Baseball, should, in his autobiography, convince me that a third group, the fans, have been barred from the labor-management table.

His autobiography is almost a disservice to the man. He keeps taking cheap shots at Bowie Kuhn (”Bowie was in the clouds, all right, but it was cloud nine“) when the actions of the former commissioner speak, in petty, retarded fashion, for themselves. Every slight bothers Miller. At his Hall of Fame induction, Catfish Hunter thanked the owners without mentioning the Players Association. Mike Marshall, an iconoclast, was the only rep to vote against free agency in 1976 and he has yet to explain himself. Reggie Jackson's autobiography fails to mention the Union. Miller can't abide any of it.

There are some interesting and surprising takes on different baseball matters. He rails against agents and the players who are foolish enough to give them astronomical amounts of money for what Miller considers a few hours of phone work. He blames Don Fehr for letting players lose touch with their own labor history. He also admonishes current players, some of whom are making more by themselves than all professional baseball players were making when Miller took over in 1966, to periodically reflect on how it all came about. Ever the pragmatist, he admits, ”it's unlikely to happen.”

The book itself is structured poorly. A chapter on Bowie Kuhn takes us all the way up to 1984 when we haven't gotten out of the early days of the Union yet. Surely, a chronological approach would have been more effective.

But there are small moments. I enjoyed his report on the difference between two presidents of the United States: being impressed with John F. Kennedy's command of facts and intelligent, curious nature; and being dispappointed when Ronald Reagan read a general greeting “that a 10-year-old could have mouthed off the top of his head” on 3x5 index cards. He's good on owner arrogance, on the cheapness of Calvin Griffith, and how the media was often in lockstep with the owners, particularly in the early days. He writes: “I was mocked in print before I even had the job with facetious questions, such as 'Will managers be forced to seek Mr. Miller's permission to yank a pitcher or send a utility man back to the minors?'”

Then there's his takedown of Commissioner of Baseball Bowie Kuhn:

Kuhn must be singled out as the most important contributor to the successes of the Players Association. His moves consistently backfired; his attempts at leadership created divisions. His inability to distinguish between reality and his prejudices, his lack of concern for the rights of players, sections of the press, and even of the stray, unpopular owner—all combined to make Kuhn a vital ingredient in the growth and strength of the union.

In his book, Marvin Miller has made me realize what should have been obvious a long time ago: that the Commissioner of Baseball is selected and paid for by the owners, and thus looks out for owners' interests. It made me wonder how other industries are regulated (surely not by the owners of the industry). It also made me hope that someday Major League Baseball will get itself a real Commissioner: someone who will look after, not only owner and player interests, but fan interests as well.

--November 1, 1996

Marvin Miller and Curt Flood, testing the reserve clause

Marvin Miller and Curt Flood, testing the reserve clause.

Posted at 07:57 AM on Nov 28, 2012 in category Baseball
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