June 19, 2013
And here's the full roster.
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Saturday, July 25, 2009
I think I’d like to take back my prediction that this year’s induction weekend will draw about 15,000 fans. Downtown Cooperstown was PACKED today, with Main and Pioneer streets featuring wall-to-wall foot traffic. (And hey, it didn't even rain on what turned out to be a warm, sun-soaked day.) Given the number of people in town the past two days, I’d say that Sunday’s induction crowd will easily exceed 20,000 and might even pass 25,000. That’s certainly good news for the Cooperstown tourist trade, which has suffered badly this spring and summer in direct response to the national economic depression.
Working as a volunteer for one of the Cooperstown retailers that hosted a slew of sidewalk autograph signings, I soon realized how difficult it was to keep people on the sidewalks and out of the middle of the street. Unbelievably, one fan asked me why he couldn’t walk in the middle of the Main Street. I patiently tried to explain to him that walking in the middle of Main Street could result in being hit with a car! (That would seem obvious, no?) Frankly, the village should have done what it has done in recent years and completely shut down Main Street to vehicular traffic. That would have eliminated many of the safety concerns, while allowing people to walk freely in the streets and sidewalks without the same level of congestion. It would have also given the town the feel of a block party, a nice atmosphere to have for something as festive as induction weekend…
If you ever visit Cooperstown during Hall of Fame Weekend, you’re bound to see anything, from Babe Ruth look-alikes to banjo-playing figures in full Oakland A’s regalia. I also noticed some fans wearing specially made Colt .45s jerseys, an interesting sight considering that the Houston franchise hasn’t been known by that nickname for 45 years. Not surprisingly, the dominant colors seen on Main Street featured the green and gold of the A’s (Rickey Henderson’s primary team) and the red and blue of the Red Sox (Jim Rice’s club). I noticed only a scant number of Mets jerseys and caps, and almost no Yankee memorabilia, a decidedly odd occurrence on induction weekend…
One of the most comical sights on Saturday was watching Luis Tiant, the former Red Sox’ ace, trying to make his way onto Main Street for a scheduled autograph signing. Relying on a faulty GPS system, Tiant and his family became severely lost and arrived in Cooperstown about an hour late for the signing. Since Tiant was behind the wheel, he had to find a place to park the car himself, practically an impossibility at 4 pm on the Saturday afternoon of induction weekend. Luckily, when a spot opened up on Main Street, a considerate fan stood in the space, allowing Tiant the opportunity to turn his car around and take the parking spot. Tiant then calmly walked across the street, receiving a smattering of applause from some anxious autograph seekers…
One of the myths of Hall of Fame Weekend is that the focus is simply on the Hall of Famers and the new induction class. That’s simply not the case. In addition to the 51 Hall of Famers that returned to Cooperstown this weekend and the new induction class featuring Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice, there are a slew of other retired players who have descended on the village since Thursday. In order to give you a better idea of the wide range of retired players, here is a partial list of “who’s who” in Cooperstown this weekend:
*Paul Blair (“Motormouth” loves coming to Cooperstown)
*Ron Blomberg (once the subject of a Hall of Fame exhibit on the first designated hitter)
*Fred Cambria (former Pirate right-hander and onetime teammate of Clemente and Stargell)
*Dave Criscione (backup Orioles catcher from the 1980s)
*Jim “Mudcat” Grant
*Dave Henderson (a teammate of both Rickey Henderson and Rice)
*Denny McLain (he’s become a Cooperstown regular the last five years)
*Bob Scott (former Negro Leagues player)
*Art Shamsky (who has been embedded in marital controversy throughout the year)
*Bill “Moose” Skowron
*Lee Smith (whose affable personality doesn’t match his intimidating size)
*Dave Stewart (he still looks fit enough to pitch)
*Luis Tiant (problems with directions put aside)
At least two other players, Ellis Burks and Bill Lee, were scheduled to participate in autograph sessions this weekend but had to cancel their appearances at the last minute. Both Burks and Lee played with Rice at different times during his career in Boston.
I always wanted to know what it was like to be the first to know something. Tonight, I still haven't captured that feeling.
Via BTF, we learn that not only are the old Royals bad...so are their new guys. The construction of their lineup, which was intended to revolve partly around the thunderous bat of Mike Jacobs, has been among the worst in the AL. A lot of that is because of Jacobs himself, who is currently sporting a .313 wOBA and a shiny -.2 WAR. The 2009 Royals lineup reminds me of the 2008 Mariners lineup, and I shouldn't need any fancy stats to tell you why that's a bad thing. The opening line of the article is what led me to this comparison:
Mike Jacobs is a designated hitter who has been replaced in six of his last 13 games for a pinch hitter. This is not a good thing.
Remember when Jose Vidro was the Mariners designated hitter last season, despite his complete inability to...well, hit? The Royals are doing essentially the same thing by playing Jacobs at first base. They have admitted that he can't hit by pinch-hitting for him all the time, yet they play him at the second most offensive-minded position in the game. Forgetting the fact that a player who can't start on the Royals must not be the greatest player in the world, what are the Royals thinking? They pinch hit for the guy who is playing the position usually assigned to the best or second-best hitter on a team.
Jacobs can't hit, or at least this year he's not. They don't have to play him every day if that's the case. The Royals are playing him every day, but they are then conceding that he's not a good enough hitter to be counted on late in the game. Does any of that make any sense? Does anything the Royals do make sense? Hello?
The Royals aren't going anywhere this year or next. What they should do if they've lost confidence in Jacobs, as he says they have, is call up Triple-A slugger Kila Kaaihue. The Hawaii native hasn't put up the same stellar numbers this year as he did last, when he hit 38 home runs across three levels, including one in the major leagues. This year has been quieter, at .263/.396/.470 with a 69/71 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but still very productive. Why they haven't called him up get some experience is beyond me, especially since he's already on the 40-man roster.
Do any Royals fans have any insight into this situation?
There's a new Batted Ball Report available for those who have prepurchased the 2010 Hardball Times Annual. In this week's edition, we examine some recent outstanding batted ball events, like a perfect game, and develop a new system to predict career Win Shares. Want to guess how Albert Pujols' career is looking right now?
The last couple days have been abuzz with trades. The Rockies acquired middle reliever Rafael Betancourt while the Cardinals nabbed Matt Holliday. Lost in all the moves were some "small-fry" transactions that could have an impact on teams for weeks to come. Four of note:
Tigers recall Fien, activate Guillen
If the Tigers hope to keep pace with the suddenly perfect White Sox, the club will have to do better than their 443 runs on the year, good for 14th in the major leagues. Detroit's .693 OPS out of their left-fielders is good (bad?) for 24th in the bigs. Think the team would like to have Gary Sheffield's .286/.388/.481 line on the team?
To make room for Guillen, the club designated Josh Anderson for assignment. Guillen got off to a very poor start this season before going on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. Early speculation was that he would miss the entire year, but clearly, that didn't happen. With an MRI showing no structural damage, Guillen should contribute the remainder of the year. He went 3-for-7 with a solo home run in his return to the bigs yesterday, playing in a double-header.
Fien was recalled to enter the bullpen after Eddy Bonine started one of the doubleheader games. Fien has a 1.17 ERA in his last 10 Triple-A relief appearances and has whiffed 51 in 47.1 innings. With Joel Zumaya out of commission for a while, Fien could strike his way into a setup role.
Reds activate SS Gonzalez
It remains to be seen if Gonzalez has anything left in the tank. Once considered one of the game's best defenders at short, Gonzalez still can pick it, but certainly nowhere near his sensational 16.9 UZR/150 for the Red Sox in 2006. He missed all of 2008 with a fracture in his left knee. He got the 2009 season off to a .547 OPS before having surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. Gonzalez will contribute on defense, but the Reds need him to crank out home runs like he did for them in 2007 -- the Reds are 20th in the majors in home runs with 88.
Athletics call up Patterson
Eric Patterson takes the place of Matt Holliday on the roster. Acquired last year as part of the Rich Harden trade, Patterson can play second base and the oufield. He'll get plenty of chances to prove himself. In 148 at-bats career, Patterson is at a paltry .189/.271/.243, seemingly at odds with his .326/.392/.523 line in Triple-A. The 26-year old should see a lot of time at second as the club tries to evaluate if he can be their starting second baseman next year.
Friday, July 24, 2009
One of the best and most underrated events of Hall of Fame Weekend took place on Friday. Sponsored by the Major League Baseball Players’ Alumni Association, the Hall of Fame's youth clinic gave children ages five to 12 a rare opportunity to learn the game from some of its masters. Ten former major league players led approximately 160 children in a variety of instructional drills, including baserunning, pitching, outfield play, and catching fundamentals. Four headline names participated, including perennial Hall of Fame candidate Lee Smith, former Big Red Machine component George Foster, longtime Montreal Expos ace Steve Rogers, and old favorite Jim “Mudcat” Grant. (My nephew Brandon, who took part in the clinic, particularly enjoyed listening to Foster, who has become his new favorite player. After the clinic, we went to a local baseball shop, where Brandon soon asked me if the store had a section containing cards of Foster.)
As I watched from the third base dugout at Cooperstown's venerable Doubleday Field, I took note of how well organized the clinic seemed to be. Each group of youngsters spent 15 minutes at each station, as former players offered hands-on instruction, before moving on to the next post. The kids completed seven of eight stations, as some late afternoon thunder and lightning forced organizers to cut the event short by about ten minutes. The early termination didn’t matter; by then, the kids had received nearly two hours of instruction at the cost of exactly nothing. The event is completely free of charge.
Frankly, I’m surprised that more parents don’t sign their kids up for the experience. It’s a free clinic, featuring outgoing instructors who all have a desire to teach youngsters about the game. There are few scenes more uplifting than watching a 75-year-old Mudcat Grant telling five to 12-year-olds stories about his playing days while emphasizing the important of getting an education. Grant did this despite his continued recovery from recent knee and hip surgeries. Mudcat walked with the assistance of a cane, but aside from the effects on his gait, he still looks good some 36 years after last throwing a pitch in a major league game.
As an added bonus at the clinic, each child received a certificate autographed by each of the ten players in attendance. Brandon told me he’ll be framing his certificate this weekend, a good piece of advice for any of the other 160 kids who happened to roam the field at Doubleday on a humid Friday afternoon…
Each of the retired players wore the colors of his former team, except for Lee Smith. The six-foot-eight right-hander, best known for his relief stints with the Cubs and Cardinals, wore a cap and jersey for the Giants, for whom he currently works as a minor league instructor. Smith refuses to lobby for his election to the Hall of Fame; when asked about the issue by a reporter, Smith informed him that campaigning for the Hall is simply not his style…
Based on the crowds we’ve seen in Cooperstown on Thursday and Friday, there’s little doubt that Sunday’s induction will significantly outdraw last year’s paltry numbers. Local officials estimate that 20,000 fans will visit Cooperstown this year. Those numbers are almost always exaggerated, but I’d guess that we might see 15,000 in town before all is said and done. Last year, weekend attendance fell below 10,000, a tepid reaction to the induction of Goose Gossage and Dick Williams. With Jim Rice on this year’s induction docket, large numbers of Boston fans are expected to invade Leatherstocking country on Saturday and Sunday…
As fans walk down a crowded Main Street during induction weekend, they’re bound to run into at least one former major leaguer. As my nephew and I made our way to the local CVS, we saw Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry, who at one time was remarkably heavy but has lost a considerable amount of weight. Based upon a quick observation, Gaylord appears to have dropped 30 to 40 pounds from last year…
I'm always amazed at the cross-section of Hall of Famers and other retired players that one might happen to see gathered at autograph sessions. At 4:55, we walked into CVS, where we saw Orlando Cepeda, Bob Feller, Juan Marichal, and Ron Darling lined up side-by-side at a row of tables. Those four players span a stretch of seven decades, from Feller in the 1930s to Darling, currently a color analyst for the Mets, in the 1990s...
This has been the summer of rain in upstate New York. Morning and afternoon downpours surrounded the good weather that we received for the clinic. In June, it rained 24 out of 31 days, and I suspect we’re on a pace for similar numbers this month. The forecast calls for intermittent thundershowers on Saturday and Sunday, leading some locals to wonder whether we’re now living in a rain forest.