April 30, 2020

Now On MSNBC: Jason Varitek Punching Alex Rodriguez In The Mouth


Chad Jennings, The Athletic, April 30, 2020:
Jonathan Lemire has lived in his Brooklyn, N.Y. apartment nearly seven years. It's in a late 19th-century building that boasts exposed brick in almost every unit, and Lemire's brickwork is a wall that extends just off the kitchen ... For as long as Lemire has lived there, there has been a single nail sticking out of the masonry.

A month ago, Lemire finally hung a picture on that nail ...

Almost any day of the week, political junkies can tune into "Morning Joe" or "The 11th Hour with Brian Williams" and find Lemire – a White House reporter for the Associated Press and regular contributor to MSNBC – sitting in front of his brick wall, offering professional insight and political analysis, while just over his left shoulder hangs a framed picture of Jason Varitek smacking Alex Rodriguez square in the mouth.

"I look at it this way," Lemire said. "What the nation needs now in these trying times is an inspirational image of good triumphing over evil, and the comeback story of the 2004 Red Sox depicted in that image is something we can all look toward now and draw inspiration." ...

"Coming to New York [from Lowell, Mass.], being surrounded by the enemy – Yankees fans – has only heightened my Red Sox fandom," Lemire said. "To the point that both of my children, by the age of 2 or 3, any time they would see a Yankee logo would give it two thumbs down. I've actually had to discourage them in public from actively booing people wearing Yankees stuff. That might be the correct behavior, but it's not always polite behavior." ...

A small Brooklyn apartment with a wife and two kids doesn't leave room for a home studio ... Many other at-home contributors have gone on air with smart-looking bookcases in the background ... Lemire's best option was in front of his brick wall with that unseen, unused nail sticking out. ...

MSNBC provided some professional gear – an iPad on a tripod, a halo light shining bright, a laptop showing the on-air feed ... After a week or two, MSNBC offered feedback: Maybe Lemire could decorate the wall a little bit, add a touch of personal flair. ...

"Obviously," Lemire said. "I decided the most important image that I could put there … would be a picture of Jason Varitek hitting Alex Rodriguez in the face."

April 29, 2020

The Morning Of Mookie Betts's Debut

What do you remember about the day of your major league debut?

Mookie Betts:
I remember the hotel [in New York], walking in like, "Wow." When I first got into the room, I was wondering where my roommate was, because you don't have roommates here. My family came in [for the debut]. The morning of the game, we ordered breakfast at that hotel. I got eggs, bacon, some toast. [My girlfriend] Brianna was there. She got some fruit and eggs. My mom and dad were in different rooms. I just know that between the fruit, two orders of eggs, bacon and the order of toast, it was like $112. I was like, "I am never ordering food here again." That was the most memorable thing, other than baseball.
Betts was called up June 28, 2014 and debuted in Boston's 8-5 win over the Yankees the following night, Sunday, June 29. Not much of a JoS game story. This is the whole thing:
The professional level – AA, AAA, or the major leagues – doesn't matter. When Mookie Betts plays, Mookie Betts gets on base. In his major league debut, Betts singled, walked, and scored a run.

All nine Boston batters had at least one hit and seven of them scored. ... Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-3 and drove in 3 runs. ... David Ortiz cracked a long three-run homer in the third inning.

April 26, 2020

NESN Will Show All 2004 Postseason Wins, Starting Tomorrow Night


NESN will broadcast all 11 of the 2004 Red Sox's postseason victories, starting tomorrow night.

All games will begin at 8:30 PM ET.

The ALDS sweep of the Angels can be seen on Monday-Wednesday, April 27-29.

The still-hard-to-believe-it-actually-happened ALCS comeback from 0-3 to kill off the Yankees begins with Game 4 on Thursday, April 30. Games 5 and 6 follow on May 1 and 2.

There will be a quick detour on May 3 back in time to 1986 ALCS Game 5, in which Dave Henderson rescues the Red Sox from elimination with a ninth-inning dong and an eleventh-inning sac fly. That game begins at 7:00 PM ET.

Then it's back to 2004 on May 4, as Johnny Damon jabs two daggers into the MFY's hearts in ALCS Game 7. The World Series sweep of the Cardinals will likely air May 5-8, but those dates have not been confirmed.

NESN Being NESN, of course, there are three bonehead errors in the announcement.


ALDS Game 3 was not played "at Angels", because David Ortiz won the series on an opposite-field, extra-inning, walk-off home run. (As Dennis Eckersley can attest, walk-off hits can only occur in the winning team's home park.)

Likewise, ALCS Games 4 and 5 were played "at Red Sox", because, again - and these have become fairly well-known events - Ortiz clinched both victories with extra-inning, walk-off hits. (Three consecutive postseason home games, played over a 10-day period, the last two facing elimination, and Ortiz won all three games with extra-inning walk-off hits: two home runs and a single. A stunning, mind-bending achievement.)

Note to NESN: Copy-and-paste is not always your friend.

April 23, 2020

MLB Releases Its Report On 2018 Red Sox; Only One Person Is Punished: The Video Replay System Operator Is Suspended For 2020 And 2021

MLB has released its findings from its investigation into sign-stealing by the 2018 Red Sox. Commissioner Rob Manfred's Executive Findings states:
Following an exhaustive investigation into allegations of improper use of the video replay room by the Boston Red Sox, I have come to the following conclusions:

* I find that J.T. Watkins, the Red Sox video replay system operator, on at least some occasions during the 2018 regular season, utilized the game feeds in the replay room, in violation of MLB regulations, to revise sign sequence information that he had permissibly provided to players prior to the game.

* I find that unlike the Houston Astros' 2017 conduct, in which players communicated to the batter from the dugout area in real time the precise type of pitch about to be thrown, Watkins's conduct, by its very nature, was far more limited in scope and impact. The information was only relevant when the Red Sox had a runner on second base (which was 19.7% of plate appearances leaguewide in 2018), and Watkins communicated sign sequences in a manner that indicated that he had decoded them from the in-game feed in only a small percentage of those occurrences.

* I do not find that then-Manager Alex Cora, the Red Sox coaching staff, the Red Sox front office, or most of the players on the 2018 Red Sox knew or should have known that Watkins was utilizing in-game video to update the information that he had learned from his pregame analysis. Communication of these violations was episodic and isolated to Watkins and a limited number of Red Sox players only.

* I find that the Red Sox front office consistently communicated MLB's signstealing rules to non-player staff and made commendable efforts toward instilling a culture of compliance in their organization.
Watkins has been suspended without pay for the 2020 season and postseason and may not serve as a replay room operator for the 2021 season and Postseason. The Red Sox will lose their second round pick in the 2020 First-Year Player Draft. And Alex Cora is suspended for 2020, but for his actions in 2017. Manfred's only rebuke of Cora regarding 2018 is that Boston's former manager failed to "effectively communicate to Red Sox players the sign-stealing rule that was in place for the 2018 season". The report states that many players told investigators "that they were unaware that in-game sign decoding from the replay station had been prohibited in 2018 and 2019".

MLB interviewed 65 witnesses, including 34 current and former Red Sox players, and reviewed tens of thousands of emails, text messages, video clips, and photographs. From the Report:
J.T. Watkins, a member of the Red Sox' advance scouting staff, was responsible for attempting to decode an opposing team's sign sequences prior to and after the completion of the game, which was (and is) permissible under the rules. Watkins conveyed the sign sequence information he learned from his pregame work to players in a meeting prior to the game, or sometimes during the game. The issue in this case stems from the fact that Watkins—the employee responsible for decoding an opponent's signs prior to and following the game—also was the person stationed in the replay room during the game to advise the Manager on whether to challenge a play on the field. (It was not uncommon for those two roles to be combined in this manner by Clubs in 2018). Therefore, Watkins, who was an expert at decoding sign sequences from video, had access to a live feed during the game that he could have—if he so chose—used to supplement or update the work he had performed prior to the game to decode an opponent's signs.

Watkins vehemently denies utilizing the replay system during the game to decode signs. Of the 44 players who provided information, more than 30 stated that they had no knowledge regarding whether Watkins used in-game video feeds to revise his advance sign decoding work. However, a smaller number of players said that on at least some occasions, they suspected or had indications that Watkins may have revised the sign sequence information that he had provided to players prior to the game through his review of the game feed in the replay room. They largely based their belief on the fact that Watkins on occasion provided different sign sequence information during the game than he had offered prior to the game, and, based on the circumstances of the communication, they assumed that the revised information came from his review of ingame video. One player described that he observed Watkins write down sign sequence information during the game while he appeared to be watching the game feed in the replay room, circling the correct sign in the sequence after the pitch was thrown. Therefore, the narrow issue before me is whether Watkins on at least some occasions during the 2018 season utilized the game feed from the replay room to supplement or revise the sign sequence information that he had provided to players prior
to the game. After carefully considering all of the evidence, which is summarized below, I find that Watkins, on at least some occasions, utilized the game feeds in the replay room to supplement and revise sign sequence information that he had provided to players prior to the game. ...

I considered a number of factors in determining the appropriate discipline to be imposed on Watkins and the Club.

First, it appears that Watkins's communication of sign information evidently decoded from the replay station was episodic and was done without the knowledge of the Manager, the coaching staff, and most of the players. But, it was not the first time that Watkins was found to have violated MLB's rules. Watkins was a key participant in the "Apple Watch Incident" in late 2017, when the Red Sox admitted to using a smartwatch to communicate opposing Clubs' decoded signs from the replay room to the dugout. Second, unlike the Astros' 2017 conduct, in which players communicated to the batter in real time the precise type of pitch about to be thrown, Watkins's conduct, by its very nature, was far more limited in scope and impact. To the extent Watkins used ingame video to decode sign sequence information, the information he obtained was the cue for the actual pitch's sign among the many signs flashed by the catcher when a runner was on second base. The information was only relevant in circumstances when the Red Sox had a runner on second base (which was in 19.7% of plate appearances league-wide
in 2018), and Watkins communicated sign sequences evidently decoded from the in-game feed in only a small percentage of those occurrences. And even when Watkins utilized in-game video to revise his advance work, the information was only useful if the opposing team did not again change its sequence after Watkins passed along the information to players, and, only then, if the Red Sox baserunner was able to recognize the sequence provided by Watkins and also inform the batter through a gesture that was understood correctly by the batter.

Third, I find that Watkins used in-game video to decode signs during the 2018 regular season only. The evidence uncovered during the investigation is insufficient to conclude that the conduct continued in the 2018 Postseason or 2019 regular season. ... With respect to my decision that no Red Sox personnel other than Watkins should be disciplined, I considered that the Red Sox front office staff was unaware of Watkins's conduct and took appropriate steps to communicate to Manager Alex Cora and the video staff (including Watkins) that game feeds could not be utilized to decode signs. I do not find that Cora or any member of the Red Sox staff either knew or should have known that Watkins was utilizing in-game video to update the information that he had learned from his pregame analysis. Separately, Cora will be suspended through the conclusion of the 2020 Postseason for his conduct as the Astros' bench coach in 2017. ...

Watkins claims that all of the sign information that he provided to players during the game was based either on his advance work or information communicated to him by Red Sox players who had stolen signs while on second base. Certain witnesses, to varying degrees, said that based on a combination of factors, they believed that Watkins at least on occasion did use the game feed in the replay room to provide players with updated sign sequence information. Watkins admitted that he did communicate sign sequence information to players during a game in certain circumstances. Watkins said that if the opposing team changed pitchers, he would sometimes remind players of the sign sequences that the incoming pitcher had used in the past. According to Watkins, these reminders were based on his pregame advance work. ...

While most witnesses stated that they had no reason to believe that Watkins obtained sign sequence information from in-game feeds, 11 witnesses identified features of Watkins's in-game communications that indicated to them that Watkins had at times acquired the sign sequence information from the replay room during the game. Specifically: (i) six witnesses observed Watkins write out signs during the game, which they surmised was obtained from his reviewing the game feed in the replay room; (ii) 11 witnesses said that Watkins communicated the sign information in a manner that indicated that he had obtained it in game, for example by providing them with different sign sequence information during the game than he provided to them before the game, or by using language that led them to believe that he obtained the information from watching a game feed (e.g., describing what sequence the catcher was using "this inning"); and (iii) four witnesses said that Watkins used gestures or notes to communicate to them sign sequence information when a Video Room Monitor was present in the replay room, which led them to believe that he was engaged in prohibited conduct because he was attempting to conceal his communications.

Some of the witnesses who provided the incriminating information were in the group of witnesses that interacted most with Watkins on these issues. One player, who was interviewed twice, said that he had no doubt that Watkins utilized the replay room to decode signs on occasion, and said that he watched Watkins attempt to decode the sign sequence by writing sign information on computer paper while he watched the replay station in the replay room and then circling the correct sign in the sequence after the pitch was thrown. Another player said that he believed that 90% of Watkins's sign sequence information was obtained from his advance work, but that 10% of the time Watkins "obviously" updated that information from in-game video feeds. Watkins, for his part, vehemently denied that he utilized the replay review system to decode signs, and he offered several explanations for the statements of the witnesses.

Watkins said that he sometimes took in-game notes of sign information that baserunners obtained when they were on second base and reported to him. He insisted that any notes that he provided to players were based on his pregame advance work or information provided to him by players during the game. He also contended that any updated sign sequence information that he provided to players during the game was based on information reported to him by baserunners who had decoded signs when they were on second base.

Watkins admitted that he attempted to conceal his communications with players from the Video Room Monitor in the replay room but claims that such conduct was entirely innocuous. He said that he passed notes or used gestures when a Video Room Monitor was present because he did not want to "give the impression that we were doing something that we should not be doing." Watkins also claimed that players and staff were careful about what they said when Video Room Monitors were present because they were concerned that the Video Room Monitors would share Red Sox advance scouting information with other Clubs. ...

I believe that the evidence clearly supports a finding that Watkins, at least on occasion, utilized in-game video to decode sign sequences.

Watkins could not explain why witnesses would fabricate such allegations against him, aside from perhaps: (i) their confusion over the nuance of him providing pregame information during the game; (ii) a competitive incentive from witnesses now with other Clubs; or (iii) a lack of appreciation for his degree of preparation. He described that he had a "pretty decent" relationship with most Red Sox players and coaches, and he did not
think that any held a grudge against him. Witnesses consistently praised him to my investigators, commenting on his skill and degree of preparation, and the incriminating information came from witnesses both within and outside of the Red Sox. There is simply not a basis to believe that the witnesses who provided incriminating information provided misleading or false information. While I acknowledge that most of the Red Sox players and staff members said that they had no reason to believe that Watkins, who admittedly knew the rules, did not follow them, they also did not provide information that exonerates him. ...

I should note that virtually all of the witnesses described Watkins as a hardworking and diligent employee, who on many occasions reminded players of protocols that were in effect in 2018 and 2019, such as the rule that players themselves could not view the replay system in the replay room. In my view, Watkins was placed in a very difficult position by virtue of his dual role as the person responsible for decoding signs pregame and as the person responsible for operating the Red Sox' replay system (a structure, as I have previously noted, that was not uncommon within MLB Clubs). Watkins admitted that because he watched the game feeds during the entire game, he was able to determine during the game when the sign sequences he provided to players prior to the game were wrong. Thus, he was placed in the difficult position of often knowing what the correct sequences were but being prohibited by rule from assisting the players by providing the correct information. While this does not excuse or justify his conduct, I do believe that it created a situation in which he felt pressure as the Club's primary expert on decoding sign sequences to relay information that was consistent with what he naturally observed on the in-game video. ...

Based on the findings described above, I hereby issue the following discipline:

1. J.T. Watkins shall be suspended for the 2020 season and 2020 Postseason. When Watkins returns from his suspension, he will be prohibited from serving as the replay room operator during any game for the 2021 season and 2021 Postseason.

2. The Boston Red Sox will forfeit their second round selection in the 2020 First Year Player Draft.

3. Alex Cora will be suspended through the conclusion of the 2020 Postseason for his conduct as the bench coach of the Houston Astros in 2017. While I will not impose additional discipline on Cora as a result of the conduct engaged in by Watkins (because I do not find that he was aware of it), I do note that Cora did not effectively communicate to Red Sox players the sign-stealing rules that were in place for the 2018 season.

April 22, 2020

Joe Posnanski Hates The Song 'Centerfield': "Man Do I Hate That Song"

Joe Posnanski, April 21, 2020:
There has been some buzz on Twitter for some reason* about the John Fogerty song "Centerfield." It seems many people feel like this is a great song, perhaps even the best baseball song. I believe deeply, as Nick Offerman has said so eloquently, that everybody should get to like what they like without having to endure the taunts and carping of others. And so if you are one of those people who loves "Centerfield," I want to say to you: Enjoy it. Love it. Don't let anybody break your stride.

Man do I hate that song, though. I mean, seriously, what a malcontent. The coach has already decided to sit you, buddy — maybe because your homemade bat is terrible. You're not Roy Hobbs, OK? Buy a bat. And quit bragging about how new your shoes, we don't care.
The Reason: On Monday, Rustin Dodd and Andy McCullough of The Athletic listed the "Top 30 Greatest Baseball Songs Of All Time". The list featured songs by Pavement and The Strokes and Kenny Rogers, but "Centerfield" was nowhere to be seen. That's it. That's the buzz.

I applaud Dodd and McCullough for actually doing some work and unearthing songs that most likely have never been on a Greatest Baseball Songs list. Most lists like this are compiled lazily, recycling the same songs.

However, their #3 song is the aural excretion "Talkin' Baseball". It might not be my most hated song ever, but it sure comes up a lot in the conversation. The List states: "This song, objectively, slaps." I have no fucking idea what that means. And I don't care.

The following songs are not on that list (or any other, as far as I know). I like them.





More like "The Day Dock Went Hunting Reds"!

April 21, 2020

Review: Conspiracy Of Silence: Sportswriters And The Long Campaign To Desegregate Baseball, by Chris Lamb

[Draft Post: November 1, 2014
An Unfinished Book Review]


Every April 15, Major League Baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson's 1947 debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Players on all thirty teams wear Robinson's #42 (players once chose to wear it, now it's compulsory) and there are tributes at every ballpark to the man who broke – at long last – baseball's 20th Century colour line.

MLB manages (with the complicity of the mainstream sports media) to both pat itself on the back for its inclusiveness while simultaneously ignoring how it worked overtime for decades and decades to keep blacks out of organized ball.

Dodgers president Branch Rickey and Robinson are presented as the stars of desegregation, but, as Chris Lamb points out in Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball (University of Nebraska, 2012), that's because the popular story was told by Rickey himself and repeated by unquestioning sportswriters. (The movie 42 (released in 2013) dealt mostly in myth, ignoring the reality of, as The Atlantic's Peter Dreier writes, "how baseball's apartheid system was dismantled".)

What has been lost is context – and that is what Lamb provides. By looking closely at the decade before Robinson (1933 to 1945, specifically), Lamb charts the unceasing efforts of sportswriters at numerous black newspapers and the Communist Daily Worker (along with countless activists) to push the issue relentlessly, forcing organized baseball to finally confront its institutional racism.

Conspiracy of Silence has a slight academic tone, but that should in no way dissuade anyone from picking it up. It's both highly entertaining and deeply educational, and essential to understanding this important chapter of baseball (and American) history.

Lamb begins his story in 1933, when Heywood Broun speaks to the New York Writers' annual gathering and makes the case for desegregating professional baseball.

***

Regarding the Communist newspaper, Daily Worker, Lamb writes: "No newspaper was more insistent in demanding that baseball live up to its democratic ideals. No newspaper called more often for baseball to admit blacks. And no newspaper recruited more people to protest against the colour line."

Lamb's history gives us new heroes: Lester Rodney

August 1936
Writing for the Daily Worker, Lester Rodney "pounded away at the injustice, denial, and apathy that surrounded baseball" and "shamed the sport into defending itself against racism".

Lamb notes: "One cannot tell the story of the desegregation of baseball without including the Communists."
(Well, apparently, you can. MLB has been doing it for more than half a century.)
petition drives, prodded Landis to break his silence on the issue
"picketing, petitions, and unrelenting pressure"

Daily Worker founded in 1924
"superimposed the Capitalist hierarchy upon the U.S. professional sports establishment"
saw/presented athletes as workers who did not receive a fair share from their bosses
neither athletes nor factory workers had unions protecting their interests
Over the years, the newspaper became a "persistent and unwanted intruder" to major league baseball.

Rodney and other writers used Marxist ideology to show the players were nothing but property to the owners, and easily discarded if necessary.

The Daily Worker began its decade-long campaign on August 16, 1936 with a page 1 editorial: "Jim Crow Baseball Must End".
The campaign was equal parts education and confrontation.
Why was this allowed to occur in a supposedly free and equal country?
One week after the editorial, National League president (and future commissioner) Ford Frick said there was no ban on signing black players and that the responsibility was with team owners, not league executives such as himself.

***

Time and time again, management and baseball executives deny the existence of a law forbidding blacks from playing professional baseball. And that is true: there was no actual law.

But Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who ruled baseball with a dictatorial iron hand, passed the buck when it came to integration, saying it was up to the various teams. Management of the 16 major league teams passed the buck onto fans, saying that fans and players would have to be better educated and prepared for the sight of black and white men playing together and against each other. Lamb shows that in petition after petition, huge numbers of baseball fans had no problem with the idea of integration.

In 1939, National League president Ford Frick claimed that big leagues teams wanted black players but could not sign them until society became more tolerant. The general public allegedly needed more education. Until then, segregation was in the sport's best interest. Frick and others claimed that because there was no formal policy barring blacks, the responsibility for ending any color line belonged to the fans and society, in general. There was simply nothing organized baseball could do until then!

Frick claimed that segregation reflected the believes of fans and players, not the owners or club executives. Wendell Smith, a sportswriter for the Pittsburgh Courier went to the players and asked them (a) if they knew of any black players who could play in the major leagues and (b) would they play with and against them?
He interviewed players on every National League team when they came to Pittsburgh. Every player knew at least one black player who could likely succeed in the big leagues and most said they would have no issues with playing with black teammates and opponents.
Brooklyn manager Leo Durocher: "I've played against some coloured boys out on the coast who could play in any big league that ever existed."
Dizzy Dean on Satchel Paige: "Only his colour holds him back."
Smith's series on interviews ran all summer - and showed an unprecedented level of support - contrary to what Commissioner Landis and league executives claimed.

Other reasons given were that blacks did not want to play in the major leagues, preferring their own leagues. Owners appeared altruistic by claiming they did not want the Negro Leagues to go out of business if blacks were eligible for MLB.

Mainstream sportswriters contributed to the problem by simply ignoring the issue. Many baseball fans had no idea there was a growing movement to desegregate professional baseball. Some knew next-to-nothing about black baseball – and so, when executives claimed that they would sign a black player if one was good enough, fans assumed that baseball was lilly-white simply because no black players were good enough.

Bill Mardo, Daily Worker: "As long as mainstream sportswriters maintained their silence, the color line remained firm. Most newspaper readers didn't know there was a massive campaign to end Jim Crow in baseball."

The issue grew during and after World War II, as blacks fought and died alongside whites on the battlefield, but were second-class citizens at home.

The baseball establishment ignored black baseball, and ignored the long fight to crack the colour line. Most of the time, white sportswriters even ignored the fact that there was a colour line. Baseball continues to ignore this part of the story.

One example of how the mainstream deprived its readers of knowledge of black players came in 1937. Joe DiMaggio, in his second season with the Yankees, was asked about the best pitcher he ever faced. He answered: "Satchel Paige." While this promptly became a headline in the Daily Worker the next day, no white writer quoted DiMaggio anywhere.

Yet white writers would occasionally comment on the issue.
In 1938, Westbrook Pegler wrote a scathing column, saying that baseball "has always treated the Negroes as Adolf Hitler treats the Jews".

Landis had always claimed to be the final and ultimate authority, so if he opposed discrimination, as he claimed, why not simply end it in baseball?

On June 22, 1942, Daily Worker writer Conrad Komorowski interviewed Landis for 90 minutes in his Chicago office. While he initially refused to comment on various matters, such as a resolution passed by 80,000 Ford workers condemning Jim Crow in MLB, he eventually began to talk:
"There is no man living who wants the friendship of the Negro people more than I"
"So why not end the colour line?"
"No comment."
("And that is the answer - thus far - from the head of organized baseball in a nation at war for freedom, equality, and democracy.")

After the story appeared, Landis, for some reason, decided he needed to defend himself. He was apparently provoked by a comment made by Leo Durocher three years earlier.
Negroes are not barred from organized baseball by the commissioner and never have been ... There is no rule in organized baseball prohibiting their participation and never has been ... [If Durocher wanted to sign 1 black player or 25 black players] it was all right with me.
The next day, Landis denied the existence of any "rule, formal or informal, or any understanding, written, subterranean or sub-anything" against the hiring of black players.

Writer Fay Young asked the logical question: "Since no Negroes are barred, what keeps them out?"

Pittsburgh Courier, ever optimistic: "The Great White Father of Baseball has finally spoken ... Landis has left the issue to the owners and the fans. The end is in sight."

While Landis's comments were reported in a few mainstream newspapers, some, such as the New York Times, ignored them completely. One white writer, Joe Williams, criticized Landis for bringing the issue into the open, implying that it belonged safely behind closed doors.

One white writer who fired back at Landis was Dave Egan of the Boston Daily Record. His column was later re-published in the Defender and Daily Worker.
[I] waited for the fearless journalists to haul off and ask the Judge who in the hell he thought he was kidding, waited for somebody to say that his statement was a cruel contradiction of fate. ... But everybody, everywhere, keeps an uncomfortable silence and allows the statement of the judge to pass unchallenged, like a saboteur in the night. ...

We are fighting, as I understand it, for the rights of under-privileged peoples everywhere. We weep for the teeming masses of India. Down the years, we must have contributed millions to the suffering Armenians. We have room in our souls to pity the Chinese, the Arabs, and the brave Greeks. Could we, by any chance, spare a thought for the Negro in the United States? Do we, by any chance, feel disgust at the thought that Negro athletes, solely because of their color, are barred from playing baseball? ... I suggest that our national sport should be the very first to discourage discrimination and start practicing democracy.
***

Lamb's story ends with Robinson's first season with the Dodgers, a year in which Robinson would win the Rookie of the Year award and Brooklyn grabbed the National League pennant.

Even after Robinson was a member of the Dodgers' lineup, the process of truly integrating the major leagues was an extremely slow process, with teams moving at a glacial pace to place even one black player on their rosters. The following list shows when each of the sixteen teams debuted their first black player:
1947: Dodgers, Indians, Browns
1948: —
1949: Giants
1950: Braves
1951: White Sox
1952: —
1953: Athletics, Cubs
1954: Pirates, Cardinals, Reds, Senators
1955: Yankees
1956: —
1957: Phillies
1958: Tigers
1959: Red Sox
[Note: Hank Thompson was the first black player for two teams: St. Louis Browns (1947) and New York Giants (1949).]

***

In Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball's Color Line, Tom Dunkel presents the hidden history of a semi-professional team from Bismarck, North Dakota, that featured both black and white players in the mid-1930s.

Neil Churchill, who owned a Bismark car dealership, sought the best available players during the Depression, regardless of race. The famous battery of Satchel Paige and Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe spent several seasons in Bismark, and the fully-integrated squad was enormously successful.

Dunkel has done remarkable research, combing through countless small town newspapers, looking for any scrap of information, while also interviewing long-time residents of the town.

April 20, 2020

Steve Pearce, 2018 World Series MVP, Has Retired


Steve Pearce, MVP of the 2018 World Series, has retired, after 13 seasons.
It has been a good run. I have 10 years [of MLB service time] in there. Right now, I am officially retired.
Pearce hit three home runs, leading the Red Sox over the Dodgers in five games. Pearce was 4-for-12, with a double, three home runs, eight RBI, four walks, and five runs scored.

Pearce debuted with the Pirates and spent time with the Astros, as well as all five American League East teams (the sixth player to do so).

The Red Sox traded for Pearce in June 2018. He re-signed with Boston as a free agent for 2019, but remained unsigned after last season. Pearce celebrated his 37th birthday last Monday.


April 17, 2020

Some Information About Joe Buck's Discretionary Income

I will never be a member of The Joe Buck Fan Club, but his response is pretty awesome:

Sean Hannity Explains Which Ballpark Foods Are Easiest To Eat If You Are Wearing A Mask

"Pro-choice", eh?

Also: Dr. Phil, who is not an actual doctor, is as dumb as a box of lint.

But he's far more dangerous than a lint pile, because what he says could result in mass deaths. He apparently believes cancer from smoking cigarettes is contagious. (Spoiler: It's not.)

Baseball Scores That Have Never Happened

On August 20, 2018, Jeremy Frank posted a graph to Twitter that showed how often each possible score had happened in a baseball game (since 1871).


Sidebar: Frank's Twitter page (@MLBRandomStats) includes numerous interesting experiments, including simulating an entire current season with every outfield fence 100 feet tall, how many games could a team of 25 Barry Bonds (including pitcher and catcher) win, and what would Babe Ruth's 1921 season look like if he played his games in a ballpark with a 100-foot tall fence that was 450 feet from home all around.

Ruth hit .467/.575/.901, ending the season with a 40-game hit streak. He pounded 81 doubles, 28 triples, and 41 home runs. ... Knowing the deepest part of any current major league park is 421 feet (San Francisco), with Detroit and Boston having posted distances of 420 feet, how in the world did "1921 Ruth" crush 41 balls that cleared a 100-foot fence that was 450 feet away?!? (I'm about 25% convinced that Ruth was from another planet.)

Anyway. ... The most common scores have been 3-2 (11,976 games), 4-3 (11,560 games), 2-1 (9,771 games), 5-4 (9,102 games), and 4-2 (7,708 games).

The most common postseason scores (since 1903) is an extremely similar list: 3-2 (104 games), 2-1 (95 games), 4-3 (88 games), 3-1 (71 games), and 5-4 (63 games).

There have been 4,864 regular season games ending 1-0. ... There have been 132 games with a 16-4 score. ... A score of 14-13 has happened 57 times. ... Fifteen games have ended 20-7. ... Scores of 26-3 and 29-4 have each happened four times. ... There was one 19-19 tie.

From the chart, you can compile a list of scores that have never happened. (I would say the most likely scores to eventually happen for the first time are: 23-11, 22-12, 22-15, 25-9.

There have been scores of 23-1 to 23-15, except 23-11.

There have been scores of 22-1 to 22-16, except 22-12 and 22-15.

Baseball has never seen a 25-0 game (but there have been three 24-0 games), but every score from 25-1 to 25-13 has happened, with the exception of 25-9.

Baseball Scores That Have Never Happened

25-0, 26-0, 27-0, 30-0, 31-0, 32-0, etc.
26-1, 27-1, 28-1, 30-1, 31-1, 32-1, 33-1, 34-1, 36-1, 37-1, 39-1, 40-1, 41-1, etc.
27-2, 28-2, 29-3, etc.
29-3, 31-3, 33-3, 34-3, 35-3, etc.
27-4, 28-4, 30-4, 31-4, 32-4, 33-4, 34-4, 36-4, 37-4, 38-4, etc.
29-5, 30-5, 31-5, etc.
27-6, 30-6, 31-6, 32-6, etc.
29-7, 32-7, 33-7, 34-7, 35-7, 37-7, 38-7, 39-7, etc.
28-8, 29-8, 31-8, 32-8, 33-8, etc.
25-9, 28-9, 29-9, 31-9, 32-9, 33-9, etc.
26-10, 29-10, 30-10, 32-10, 33-10, 34-10, etc.
23-11, 26-11, 29-11, 30-11, 31-11, etc.
22-12, 23-12, 24-12, etc.
24-13, 25-13, 26-13, etc.
24-14, 25-14, 26-14, etc.
15-15, 22-15, 24-15, 25-15, 26-15, etc.
23-16, 25-16, 26-16, 27-16, etc.
17-17, 22-17, 23-17, 24-18, etc.
18-18, 21-18, 22-18, 23-18, etc.
21-19, 22-19, 23-19, etc.
20-20, 21-20, 22-20, etc.
21-21, 23-21, 24-21, 25-21, etc.
22-22, 24-22, 25-22, 26-22, etc.
23-23, 24-23, 25-23, 27-23, 29-23, 30-23, 31-23, etc.
and
All games with 24 or more runs allowed, except 49-33!

April 16, 2020

"Social Murder"


When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another such that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call his deed murder. But when society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live — forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence — knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which does not seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission. But murder it remains.
Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working-Class in England (1845)

Criminal Justice Matters, Issue 77, September 2009

Robert Chernomas and Ian Hudson:
The hallmark of conservative economic theory is that firms should not be constrained by the state in their pursuit of profit. State intervention is not necessary because firms must obey the will of "the market". ... Conservative economics assumes that decisions reflect individual preferences and free choice. ...

In the early days of capitalism, both economic theory and government policy were dominated by conservative ideas. The results were catastrophic. Edwin Chadwick, Commissioner of the Board of Health of Great Britain from 1848-1854, declared that the poorer classes in the western part of London were exposed to steady, unceasing and sure causes of disease and death peculiar to them: "The result is the same as if twenty or thirty thousand of these people were annually taken out of their wretched dwellings and put to death" (Dubos, 1950). This is the context of Frederick Engels' use of the term social murder in The Condition of the Working-Class in England in which he blamed the diabolical living conditions of workers in the "great towns" on the economic system ...

The people subject to these horrific conditions did not sit passively by and accept their fate. The next hundred years or so constituted a running battle to create institutions – either using the state, which passed protective legislation, or outside the state, by creating things like unions – to alleviate the more debilitating conditions of capitalism. In doing this they had to battle conservative theorists and the business class, who claimed at every turn that any of these profit-compromising institutions would destroy the economy. Progress was gradually made despite often-fierce resistance. The work week was eventually shortened, child labour outlawed, safety and health regulations instituted and state assistance to the destitute increased. The major gains, however, only came with the combination of the social disaster of the Great Depression, which galvanised the population to insist on state supports, and the full employment of the Second World War, which put the working class in a position sufficiently powerful to force their demands despite the resistance of business.

Since around 1980 this trend has been reversed. The protective institutions of society have been whittled away. As in the early nineteenth century this involves empowering the business class at the expense of the rest of society. ...

Death is only the most dramatic consequence of corporate power in our society. Increased corporate power, and the conservative economic policies that justify it, lead to inequality and economic instability. In an effort to reduce the size of government, and its accompanying tax "burden", governments have reduced many of their socially beneficial roles, from funding research and development to providing public education, which would have created a more innovative and socially mobile society. Government has created a less equal society after tax income distribution through tax reductions for the rich. Perhaps the most damaging conservative policies in this respect were in the labour market.

The 2008 economic crisis was started by the collapse of a deregulated financial industry, but this was only part of the story in the US where three decades of conservative labour market policy created profitability at the expense of most Americans. Starting in about 1980 unemployment benefits have become less generous, the real minimum wage has fallen, legislative changes have made it more difficult to unionise and free trade agreements have forced US workers to compete with those in the developing world.

These changes resulted in extraordinary exploitation and inequality. Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez calculated that between 1973 and 2000 average income of the bottom 90 per cent of American taxpayers fell by 7 per cent. Incomes of the top 1 per cent rose by 148 per cent, the top 0.1 percent by 343 per cent, and extremely well off in the top .01 per cent rose by an amazing 599 per cent (Piketty and Saez, 2003). This was not only undesirable from an equity standpoint, but it also placed the entire economic system in danger. Households responded to their declining wages by working more and going into debt to maintain their level of consumption. This proved a tremendous benefit to firms, which were able to maintain their sales without having to increase the incomes of their workers to do so. Of course, it also created the looming levels of US household debt that helped cause the current economic crisis.

The gulf between the promises of conservative economic policy and its results are becoming increasingly clear. While it promises economic benefits for the vast majority of the population, in reality income, power and privilege have been shifted toward those who own and control the corporate world and away from the majority. The current conservative policy environment has made our society less healthy, more dangerous, less stable and more unequal.

Robert Chernomas is a Professor of Economics at the University of Manitoba and Ian Hudson is an associate Professor of Economics at the University of Manitoba.

References
Dubos, R. (1950), Louis Pasteur, Boston, MA: Little Brown and Co.
Engels, F. (1987), The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844, London: Penguin.
Piketty, T. and Saez, E. (2003), "Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998", Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118 (1), pp. 1–39.

April 13, 2020

The 2020 Season Has Begun ... At The Athletic & B-Ref!

The 2020 major league baseball season is underway ... in the digital pages of both The Athletic and Baseball Reference. Both sites are using Out of the Park Baseball 21.

The Athletic
The Red Sox are 11-9, in third place, 1.5 GB the Rays. The Yankees are below them, at 8-11, 4 GB. ... (I was supposed to be at the Red Sox's April 15 game in Oakland. Boston has already won 6-4.)
Baseball Reference
The Red Sox are 8-10 and recently dropped back-to-back 12-inning games in Seattle. The Yankees sit atop the AL East at 10-7. ... (But not for long!)
Random Chance: OPS
The Athletic: J.D. Martinez leads the team: 1.001
Baseball Reference: Martinez is 12th out of 13 players: .520
Craziest Game
April 12, 2020 (B-Ref): Twins 20, White Sox 8 (12)

Infinite Boston

[Draft Post, July 16, 2012]

William Beutler:
In July of what might have been Year of Glad, one year ago this week, I traveled to Boston, Massachusetts with the express purpose of visiting as many of the landmarks and lesser known precincts that appear in, or provide inspiration for, the late David Foster Wallace's 1996 novel Infinite Jest as I could manage on a Thursday–Sunday trip. My reasons for doing so will become apparent at a later date, but for now I am pleased to present what I am calling "Infinite Boston": a ruminative travelogue and photographic tour of some fifty or so of these locations, comprising one entry each non-holiday weekday, from now until sometime in early autumn.
Main link
Intro post
First installment
Twitter

Beutler found and photographed about 100 physical locations which are mentioned or alluded to in IJ, or provided inspiration for fictional places. Some of what he will be posting pictures of: Ennet House, Comm. Ave., Ennet's T-stop, 412 Brainerd Rd., Poor Tony's childhood home, St. Columbkill's, what might have served as the inspiration for Antitoi Entertainment, Ryle's Tavern, Shattuck Shelter, and Kenkle & Brandt's Roxbury Crossing apartment.

Beutler acknowledges that he is not the first person to come up with this idea (a week or two after Wallace's death in September 2008, the Boston Globe printed a map of Boston with a handful of IJ-specific sites), but no one has gone into this much depth.


April 10, 2020

Posnanski's 100 Greatest Baseball Players: Babe Ruth #2

When Joe Posnanski began his project of writing about (and ranking) the 100 greatest baseball players of all-time, he wanted to make something clear: It doesn't much matter whether a player is #48 or #72:
I don't care much about the rankings. Yes, I spent many, many, many hours on them. ... But the point of this for me is not the ranking but the stories. Every one of these players has a fascinating story — about persistence, about confidence, about pure talent, about amazing moments, about the lengths people will go to become quote-unquote "great." The stories are what inspired me to do this bonkers thing. ... [T]here's no significant difference between a player ranked 72 and 48 and 31. I could swap them, for the most part, without it changing much of anything. So if you believe a player ranked 97th should actually be 53rd, well, it might be that way the next time.
Posnanski has Babe Ruth at #2. Looking at his list, Willie Mays has to be #1. (Or maybe it'll be Duane Kuiper.) I was surprised to see my name in his piece on Ruth:
"While Ruth, without question, is the greatest hitter that the game has ever seen," Frazee said, "he is likewise one of the most selfish and inconsiderate men that ever wore a uniform."

Frazee also pointed out that the Red Sox had to suspend Ruth several times for breaking curfew. It was well known by then that Ruth had punched a home-plate umpire after not getting a strike call. He broke his toe when kicking a bench after being intentionally walked. He twice went into the crowd to go after a heckling fan. It was less well known that he was an inveterate gambler who spent virtually every night drinking to near unconsciousness, hooking up with prostitutes and wrecking cars.

So Frazee sold him. He didn't want to sell him. He was, at times, as charmed by Ruth as most. He was entirely blown away by Ruth's talents. Frazee had turned down a $100,000 offer for Ruth before. But with his money situation getting desperate and Ruth's belligerence growing worse and his life going more and more out of control, he really didn't see a choice. And he was hardly the only one who felt that way. As Paul Shannon wrote in The Boston Post, "Popular as Ruth was, on account of his big-heartedness, (his former teammates) nevertheless realize that his faults overshadow his good qualities."

Or, as Allan Wood — author of "Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox" wrote, "It would have surprised no one if, for whatever reason, Ruth was out of baseball in a year or two."

In other words, Ruth was almost impossible to pin down. Was he a big-hearted oaf? Yes. Was he a womanizing drunk? Yes. Was he a friendly soul? Yes. Was he a manipulative son of a gun? Yes. Could he be magnanimous? Could he be cruel? Could he be childish? Could he be cynical? Yes is the answer to everything with the Babe.
There was no real need for Joe to quote me there. He could have made the same point in his own words. I'm thrilled he did not. Thanks for the plug, Joe. ... But, man, you really blew it by not having Ruth #1. Mays is a fine choice, but how many World Series shutouts did he pitch?

April 8, 2020

Watch Pedro Strikeout 17 Yankees At 1:00 PM Today/Thursday (Streaming @ MLB.com)


Pedro Martinez's 17-strikeout game against the Yankees on Friday, September 10, 1999, will be streamed live on MLB.com at 1:00 PM ET on Thursday. (It is also here!)

Pedro pitched a complete-game shutout. But that undersells the game by about a factor of 100.

One hit, no walks, and a career-high 17 strikeouts. No pitcher had ever struck out 17 Yankees in a nine-inning game. It is the only 9-1-1-0-17 pitching line in baseball history.

Pedro retired the last 22 batters after Chili Davis homered in the second inning. Boston won 3-1.

The Yankees led 1-0 after five innings. But Nomar Garciaparra walked to open the top of the sixth and Mike Stanley homered on a full-count pitch from Andy Pettitte.

Through five innings, Pedro had struck out eight. Not a bad night at all. But immediately after Stanley gave him a 2-1 lead, Pedro put his game into another gear. It was a gear Martinez, one of the greatest pitchers the game will ever see, rarely reached. By the time Pedro wrapped things up, the capacity crowd of 55,239 at Yankee Stadium was cheering like maniacs and chanting his name.

Scott Brosius started the bottom of the sixth by lining Pedro's first pitch to Troy O'Leary in left-center. The Yankees trailed by only one run and they had a win probability percentage of 37%. The defending world champions had 11 outs to play with, but this game was over.

Brosius's lineout was the home team's last fair ball of the evening. The Yankees could not hit a fair ball on any of Pedro's final 53 pitches.

B6
Brosius lined out to left.
Joe Girardi (ssffb) struck out looking.
Chuck Knoblauch (bbcb) fouled out to third.

B7
Derek Jeter (bfcfbffb) struck out looking.
Paul O'Neill (bfbbf) struck out swinging.
Bernie Williams (cc) struck out swinging.

B8
Tino Martinez (bb) fouled out to first.
Chili Davis (cfb) struck out swinging.
Ricky Ledee (sbs) struck out swinging.

B9
Brosius (csb) struck out swinging.
Darryl Strawberry hit for Girardi.
Strawberry (bcf) struck out swinging.
Knoblauch (cbcf) struck out swinging.

Over the final four innings, Pedro faced 12 batters and struck out nine of them. He fanned eight of the last nine batters he faced. He finished with a pitch count of 120.

Pedro faced 28 batters. Knoblauch was hit by an 0-1 pitch in the first and was thrown out trying to steal second. Every Yankee struck out at least once. Five of them struck out twice and one (Ledee) struck out three times.

When you talk about The Pedro Game ... it turns out there are several The Pedro Games.

My Game Story:
I was supposed to be at this game. I programmed our VCR and Laura and I took the subway from Washington Heights to the Bronx. Someone she knew from work was going to meet us with the tickets. The seats were in the upper deck, down the left field line. We waited. And we waited. I like to get to my seat with enough time to get my scoresheet ready. That would not happen tonight. We could hear the game starting inside the stadium. Shit. We waited some more. Cell phones did not exist. Where was this fucking guy? Working late? We paced around, listening to periodic cheering from the game. Finally, we gave up and walked back to the subway station along the now-empty sidewalk across the street from the game. We got home in the fourth inning. The VCR was whirring away. And we watched the rest of the game on TV.
This blog was about four years in the future. But here is a little bit of schadenfreude:




Buster Olney, New York Times:
Hitters gossip on the Yankees' bench during games, sharing information about the opposing pitcher's flaws. But there was no free-flowing exchange of thought last night, no tips, no insight. They said nothing in the dugout because there was nothing to say. Boston's Pedro Martinez humbled the Yankees in their home park in a manner never seen before.

Martinez struck out 17, the most ever against the Yankees, and Chili Davis had the Yankees' only hit, a home run, as Boston prevailed, 3-1. Martinez faced 28 batters, one over the minimum, and those making the loudest noises among the 55,239 at Yankee Stadium were Red Sox fans. Boston pulled to within five and a half games of the Yankees in the American League East, hoisted almost single-handedly by a pitcher with a sagging face, the body of an oversized jockey, and an arm and confidence of a comic book superhero. ...

Jimy Williams, the Boston manager, said it was the best pitching effort he had ever seen. David Cone agreed, less than two months removed from throwing a perfect game. Joe Torre, the Yankees' manager, mentioned Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax as he drew comparable efforts from his memory.

Said Martinez: "This is as good as it gets, I won't lie."

As if he could fool anybody. As if the Yankees had any chance. Derek Jeter was Martinez's first strikeout victim, on a 97 mile-an-hour fastball in the first inning, and Chuck Knoblauch was his 17th, the last out of the game, on a 97 m.p.h. fastball. Every Yankee hitter struck out at least once ...

It was as if the Yankees were swinging within a darkened closet, for Martinez was throwing all three of his pitches for strikes. His fastball was moving, Tino Martinez said, and he was spinning his curveball for strikes, and when you looked for the fastball, he would then throw his changeup, the ball dropping away as if Pedro Martinez were manipulating it like a marionette. ...

Martinez bounced his second pitch off Knoblauch's arm, but the Yankees' leadoff hitter was almost immediately thrown out stealing. Martinez then registered his first strikeout, of Jeter: in a sequence of three pitches, he ratcheted the velocity of his fastball from 93 to 95 to 97 m.p.h. Nobody was saying anything in the Yankees' dugout.

Martinez made perhaps his only mistake in the second inning, a fastball that tailed over the middle of the plate -- a pitch Davis anticipated, and whacked deep into the bleachers in right field. Later, Jeter would say, "We didn't have anybody on base -- except Chili, who was on base for about five seconds."

But Martinez threw a curveball to strike out Ledee and end the second inning, and there was a sense in the Yankees' dugout, Torre said, that the one run would be the only support Andy Pettitte would get. Scott Brosius struck out on a 95 m.p.h. fastball in the second, and Joe Girardi whiffed on a curveball; Tino Martinez, Davis and Ledee all whiffed in the fifth inning, the first of three innings in which the Boston pitcher struck out the side. ...

Pettitte walked Nomar Garciaparra to lead off the sixth and then Mike Stanley launched a home run into the right-field stands. Boston led, 2-1; it felt as if the score was 10-0, Torre said, with Martinez defending that lead.

Jeter, O'Neill and Bernie Williams, who may combine for about 600 hits this year [They finished with 591], struck out in order in the seventh, and Davis and Ledee were cut down in the eighth, Martinez's 13th and 14th strikeouts. A contingent of fans in the right-field stands -- fans of Martinez, waving the flag of the Dominican Republic -- cheered loudly. Somebody had been hanging K's for Martinez at the front of the stands above the left-field line, but those were ripped down.

The Red Sox scored another run in the top of the ninth, giving them a 3-1 lead. ...

Brosius swung and missed at a curve leading off the ninth. Strawberry pinch-hit for Girardi, and later, he smiled slightly when asked about his plan for his at-bat. "I didn't really have a plan," Strawberry said. "I had no clue."

He struck out on four pitches, the last a high fastball. Knoblauch was next. Martinez, who finishes as well as any pitcher in the game, was rocking and firing, and there was no doubt he would try to blow his fastball past the second baseman. He reached a 1-ball, 2-strike count, and Knoblauch fouled off a high fastball. Martinez threw another, Knoblauch swung and missed, and Martinez aimed two hands toward the sky jubilantly. ...

The Yankees' hitters showered and dressed rapidly, spoke softly and departed quickly from the clubhouse. There wasn't much to say.
Joel Sherman, Post:
This is how good Pedro Martinez was last night: David Cone's perfect game became the second-best pitching effort at Yankee Stadium this season.

Whatever Martinez lacked in being flawless, he more than compensated for in the degree of difficulty when you factor in the opponent, the hostile atmosphere, the time of year and the importance of the game. Cone's perfecto July 18 was against the lowly Expos, in his home stadium and without the overt stress of a pennant race. No Montreal batter had ever hit against Cone, providing a huge edge for the crafty righty.

The veteran Yankee lineup came in with 115 career at-bats against Martinez and that did not stop them from managing just two baserunners and striking out a franchise-record 17 times. That Martinez did this in the second week of September, in the Bronx and with his Red Sox team looking for him to lead it to the playoffs only amplifies an effort that is under-described by the word dominant.

"That is the best pitching performance I've ever seen. Ever," Red Sox pitching coach Joe Kerrigan said after Boston's 3-1 victory. "I've been in the game for 26 years and I've seen thousands of games in person and on television and that was the best ever."

Martinez's effort kept the Red Sox three games ahead of Oakland in the wild-card hunt. It also moved them within 5 games of the Yankees. Hideki Irabu brings his suddenly shaky repertoire to the mound today. ...

The whole league should be massed in its efforts to keep the Red Sox out of the playoffs. Unless facing the AL's most overpowering player in a short series excites you.

"We can do anything in a short series," Martinez said. "We just need our chance to get into the playoffs."

Martinez is making his playoff and MVP push, since the AL Cy Young already is a lock. In his last four starts, he is 4-0 with a 0.58 ERA. That is two earned runs in 31 innings for those who want to check the math. And in those 32 innings, opponents have managed 11 hits and struck out 58 times. ...

"For six months now and after 10 or 11 games, I've said this is the best game I've ever seen Pedro pitch," Kerrigan said. "Then he goes out and tops it."

A reporter than said, "It would be hard to top this."

Kerrigan laughed and replied, "I've heard that before, too."

But it really is hard to conceive how Martinez can be better than he was last night when he spotted his mid-90 mph fastball to both sides of the plate and was precise with his changeup and curve. He hit Chuck Knoblauch with his second pitch of the game, though Martinez disputed that the ball grazed the Yankee leadoff hitter, saying, "I thought he faked it pretty good." In the second inning, Chili Davis golfed a low fastball into the bleachers for a 1-0 Yankee lead. And that was it for the Yankees.

Their remaining hitters went 0-for-22 with 15 strikeouts and one hard-hit ball – Scott Brosius' liner to left in the sixth inning. Mike Stanley's two-run homer gave Martinez a lead. Then, in the top of the seventh, Boston loaded the bases with no out and did not score. The Yankees should have had all the momentum going into the bottom of the inning, especially with their 2-3-4 hitters up.

Martinez, though, struck out Derek Jeter, Paul O'Neill and Bernie Williams. Jeter waged a terrific nine-pitch at-bat, O'Neill a fine six-pitch at-bat and Williams struck out on three pitches. That began a spurt in which Martinez struck out eight of the final nine batters he faced. Knoblauch was the only Yankee who did not whiff over the first eight innings. But after Martinez fanned Brosius and pinch-hitter Darryl Strawberry to open the ninth, he threw a high fastball – pitch No. 120 – by a swinging Knoblauch for his career-high 17th strikeout. Martinez has struck out in double-digits 16 times this year, compared to six by the entire Yankee rotation.

Martinez' brilliance has been essential in a surprising Red Sox season. They lost Mo Vaughn to free agency in the offseason. That meant Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra and Tom Gordon needed to excel and go injury-free for Boston to seemingly have a chance. But Gordon was lost for the season in mid-June, Garciaparra has missed two extended periods with injuries and his run-production numbers are down from last season. And even Martinez spent a few weeks on the DL. In addition, he fought with management when Jimy Williams started someone else when Martinez arrived late to the park.

But the Red Sox have navigated all the injuries helped by Tim Wakefield and now Derek Lowe filling the closing role in Gordon's absence while Stanley and Daubach have helped Red Sox first baseman hit .280 with 28 homers and 85 RBIs in place of Vaughn. ...

They no longer have Mo. But the Red Sox are another team that has Mojo here in September. More important, they are the only one with Pedro.
Kevin Kernan, Post:
Like a tag-along younger brother, an old girlfriend still carrying a torch or a grumpy boss who happens to be the owner's son, these Red Sox just won't go away, not with Pedro Martinez in command.

The Yankees went into last night's game at the Stadium hoping to put away Boston. Instead, they ran into the buzzsaw that is Martinez, who exploded for one of the all-time great pitching performances against the Bombers in a 3-1 victory. The Red Sox came away with another nine innings of courage and now trail the Yankees by 5 games with 20 to go.

Martinez struck out a career-high 17 batters (the most ever against the Yankees in a nine-inning game) and allowed just one hit, a home run by Chili Davis in the second. That was the Yankees' first and last hit and their last base-runner as Martinez retired the final 22 men he faced.

Told that the 17 Ks were a record, Yankee first baseman Tino Martinez shook his head and said, "Wow. I'm just glad we got a hit."

He wasn't kidding. Martinez had perfect stuff and perfect command. His last pitch was clocked at 97 miles per hour.

"I played against the Mets when Doc [Gooden] struck out 16 Giants. [Martinez] was that on," Davis said. ...

Martinez' 17th strikeout came on a blazing high fastball that Chuck Knoblauch missed. Martinez struck out the final five batters and eight of the last nine. After Scott Brosius lined to left for the second out of the sixth, the Yankees did not hit a fair ball the rest of the night. [It was the first out.] ...

The last time the Yankees were held to one hit was May 27, 1995 in Oakland by Steve Ontiveros. This marked only the third time in the '90s the Yankees were held to a single hit.

Martinez struck out the side in the fifth, seventh and ninth. Only four Yankees hit the ball out of the infield and other than Davis' home run 10 rows deep into the right-field bleachers, the only other hard hit ball was Brosius' liner.

We All Want Robot Umps ... But What About Robot Fans?

The Taiwanese Rakuten Monkeys will play in front of 500 robot mannequins when they open the Chinese Professional Baseball League season on April 11 in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan.

General Manager Justin Liu: "Since we are not allowed to have any fans in attendance, we might as well have some fun with it." The mannequins will be dressed in team jerseys and hats, and wearing face masks.


I want to sit next to the cool guy who smuggled a fifth of whiskey into the park.


MLB Has A Plan For 2020: All 30 Teams Play A Shortened Schedule In Empty Stadiums In Arizona


The New York Post reports that one of Commissioner Rob Manfred's "numerous contingency plans" for the 2020 season is for all 30 teams to play an abbreviated season exclusively in Arizona, with no crowds at any of the games. A statement on Tuesday from MLB acknowledged the Arizona-Only plan as a possibility.

The Post's Joel Sherman writes:
MLB has yet to submit a plan for approval nor has it received a formal green light from any government or health entity on a variety of scenarios that it has mulled. However, the Arizona Project has some momentum because behind the scenes it has received support from key government and national medical officials, who see — among other things — the symbolic value baseball could have for the country.
The Athletic noted that if the proposal were to be adopted, some changes would be visible on game broadcasts. "The players would sit apart in the stands to promote social distancing. High fives would be discouraged. Same with mound visits."

In a separate article, Sherman writes:
Fueling the energy behind the one-locale plan is concerns by both management and players that playing games across the country during this coronavirus pandemic will be impossible. ...

As one person briefed on the plan said, "It is imperfect. It may be impossible. But we should study this in every way possible because it could be a plan like this or no baseball in 2020." ...

What is acceptable risk? There is not going to be a vaccine in the next month. ... [R]estarting the sport would still put a lot of people in one place at one time — and not just players. There is a need for coaches, umpires, TV crews, grounds crews, clubhouse attendants, doctors, trainers, workout specialists. Everyone will have to be fed and housed and commuted from one place to another, forcing an ever-wider pool of contact. ...

A player representative said, "Everyone wants to play as many games as possible, but only at the point that health and safety are adequately protected."

How many people will agree what "adequately" means?
The Athletic:
The trouble with devising a plan under the current conditions revolves around triangulating the public health issues, the labor issues and the logistical issues. Can federal officials assure the safety of the players and staffers? Will players commit to the plan? And how do you cram 15 major league games a day into one metropolis? The greater Phoenix area houses Chase Field, 10 spring training complexes and several college fields. Only Chase Field, home to the Diamondbacks, has a dome.
Sherman:
What happens if a player, coach, clubhouse attendant, etc., tests positive for the virus? Does that force a team-wide quarantine and, thus, a shutdown of the sport again? After all, if a team needs to quarantine, the other 29 teams can't keep playing without it. ...

[T]his is a sport in which — among other things — there is a lot of licking of fingers and spitting. The ball is shared. Someone has to clean the uniforms. Under even the most consolidated, isolated situation, there are going to be risks encountered.
What Do The Players Think?

The Athletic spoke to players and managers and heard a combination of excitement and apprehension (the safety of support staffers, the desert heat, the difficulty of maintaining quarantine and being separated from their families).

Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood:
I personally don't think that everyone would go for it. [It's] a possibility if we know for certain that that's the only way we can play baseball. Does that make sense? I don't have kids or anything like that. I'm down for whatever. ... If we agreed to it, I think guys would follow [any rules]. Because nobody wants to be the idiot that is like sneaking out or going other places and all of a sudden, boom, that person gets sick, and it's like, 'Now you just messed everything up.'
Phillies pitcher Zack Wheeler's wife is due to give birth to their first child in July: "I couldn't even imagine missing the birth and just ... going 'Hey, I'll see you in December' or whenever it is. That's not going to work."

Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery. The youngest of his three children was born only a few months ago: "I don't know if I could look at my kids just through a screen for four or five months. The same thing goes for my wife, not being able to be around her. That's a long time. But people have done it in harsh scenarios, I guess."

Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart: "I think it will be really hard to pull off. ... However, if that means we can be back playing ball earlier than first thought and eventually make it back to our regular home cities as things hopefully start to calm down, then I believe that it is something that I could absolutely get behind."

Cleveland manager Terry Francona: "Some of this would most likely be almost impossible. You can't keep players six feet apart the entire day. They're around trainers, for example. Someone might slide into a base."

Atlanta pitcher Cole Hamels: "I think we should do anything we can to get baseball back and into focus for the fans and world. Sports helps give people entertainment and something to look forward to, so they can get through tough times."

Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien: "I think it is an interesting concept ... but it is still a rough draft."

Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado: "If doctors OK us playing, it would mean they know this plan really well. And that makes me more confident about it."

Angels manager Joe Maddon: "I'll do anything. I'll play on the moon, I don't care. Whatever the schedule looks like, I'm good. The only thing about Arizona is that it's going to be really hot. Even at night, it's going to be really hot. Those games will be tough. You're talking 100-degree tough. That's the part that concerns me."

Anonymous player: "Playing in 125-degree weather is gruesome. Doubleheaders, 20 games straight, and we're going to be in the desert in the summertime? That doesn't sound like a good idea to me."

Anonymous Mets player: "That's hell. I mean we're talking 120 degrees every day and playing weekly doubleheaders and 20 days straight."

Royals reliever Trevor Rosenthal (sounds like a full-on member of The Trump Cult):
I think it's in the best interest of the nation ... It will provide us an opportunity to inspire and set an example for everyone. ... We are at war and this is what we can do to help fight for our country. Provide the hope and discipline needed to get through this difficult time. Baseball players are the most resilient of all athletes to answer this call.
Yankees reliever Adam Ottavino: "I don't have any good insight, but I would be in the camp of supporting the idea. I'm sure a lot would have to go right for it to actually happen, but I'm hoping it can work because I want to play."

White Sox reliever Evan Marshall: "I'm all in favor ... assuming they can house the players in some sort of quarantine village where we know our exposure is to a minimum. Owners want revenue and players want salary and the opportunity to compete, but common sense has to prevail."

Anonymous AL slugger: "From what I read there are a lot of changes and I personally think a lot of those changes are unrealistic to get a full buy-in from everyone involved. But I am open to the idea of it."

Eireann Dolan, wife of Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle: "What about the non-millionaire hotel workers, security staff, grounds crews, media members, team traveling staffs, clubhouse attendants, janitorial workers, food service workers, and the billion other people required to make that 3.5 hour game happen every night?"

April 6, 2020

'The Baseball Researcher' Tries To Date And Place A Seemingly Ordinary Old Picture

[Draft Post, December 2, 2011]

Tom Shieber (aka The Baseball Researcher) uses his detective skills to figure out the park and date of this picture:



A five-part series by Randall Brown about the game during the Civil War. "Blood and Base Ball": 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Caple: The Overrating Of Mariano Rivera

[Draft Post, September 27, 2013]

The Overrating Of Mariano Rivera
Jim Caple, ESPN
Before you bring the tar to a boil and gather more feathers, let me again cite the work of Project Retrosheet founder Dave Smith. He thoroughly and tirelessly researched games from more than seven decades and found that the rate at which teams win games with late-inning leads basically has not changed. Teams leading by one run after eight innings have gone on to win 85.7 percent of the time. That number goes up to 93.7 percent when leading by two runs, and 97.5 percent when leading by three runs.

Mull that over, and then please tell me why Rivera is so amazing for having an 89.1 percent career save rate (which, by the way, is lower than Joe Nathan's). Because, basically, Rivera was not used except in games the Yankees were going to win 88 percent of the time anyway. Actually, the percentages were usually higher than that. According to Elias, of Rivera's 652 career saves, just under a third (210) were with a one-run lead when he took the mound while 216 were with a two-run lead, 180 with a three-run lead and 46 with a lead of at least four runs. ...

Will Rivera reach the Hall of Fame? Undoubtedly. But other than being the greatest closer ever, his numbers aren't as overwhelming in that regard as many assume. I'm not a disciple of WAR, but even that statistic doesn't rank Rivera high enough to warrant the gushing. FanGraphs lists his WAR at 40.2, or 12.3 points lower than that of Jack Morris, who still isn't in the Hall after 14 years on the ballot. ...

I'm not saying Rivera does not deserve to be in Cooperstown alongside Hall of Fame relievers Goose Gossage, Hoyt Wilhelm, Bruce Sutter and Rollie Fingers. Personally, I would much rather have Rivera than Fingers, Wilhelm or Sutter. I'm simply saying that because of his limited role, his career wasn't as extraordinary as we're led to believe.

What separates Rivera from other closers is his great longevity. (Well, his longevity and playing in the narrative-setting New York media market.) Most closers are good for a handful of seasons, then break down from the physical and/or mental stress. Rivera never broke down, never produced ulcers in his managers. He was consistent and reliable throughout his career. But he was consistent and reliable while performing an easier task than pitching an entire game every fifth day or 200-plus innings during a season.

April 5, 2020

Against Cliches: Announcers Relying Upon Stock Phrases To Describe Unique Events

[Draft Post, January 2020]

I have written of my frustration with radio broadcasts of baseball games, specifically what I hear as inadequate descriptions of various plays. Numerous announcers, among them Joe Castiglione, describe certain plays in extremely similar ways, using identical words and phrases to describe plays and actions that, baseball being baseball, cannot possibly be identical.

In How Proust Can Change Your Life, Alain de Botton noted that Marcel Proust often "got very annoyed by the way some people expressed themselves", such as a fellow French speaker who used English expressions like "Bye-bye" or people who referred to the Mediterranean as "the Big Blue" and to the French army as "our boys".

Similarly, it is maddening that every time a pitcher attempts to keep a baserunner close, Castiglione robotically says "throw to first, runner back standing" (or if the runner must leave his feet, he gets "back in with a hand tag"). Foul balls are mentioned with no indication of which side of the field they were hit to, a ground-ball single past the shortstop (or second baseman) is described without letting the listener know if it was hit to the fielder's left or right. Being aware that your audience has no image of the game to assist them should be something a radio announcer learns on the first day of Announcing 101. (Some fans do watch the TV and listen to the radio, but many do not.) Actually, an announcer should know that many years before he attends any type of class. It should be so ingrained that an announcer shouldn't even have to remember it.

(Many, many years ago, when I was forced to listen to the Yankees on the radio, Michael Kay drove me nuts every time he said, in a casual and dull monotone, as if he could barely be bothered, "There's a strike." He drove me nuts plenty of other times, too – "of course". Similarly, John Sterling's supply of moronic catch-phrases was seemingly infinite, but his use of the meaningless phrase "There's a fast strike" was particularly grating.)

The cause of Proust's frustration was "more a psychological than a grammatical one". He believed these people were exhibiting "signs of wishing to seem smart and in-the-know around 1900, and relying on essentially insincere, overelaborate stock phrases to do so". Their "most exhausted constructions ... implied little concern for evoking the specifics of a situation. Insofar as Proust made pained, irritated grimaces, it was in defense of a more honest and accurate approach to expression."

The keys are "insincere stock phrases" and "little concern for evoking the specifics of a situation".

Gabriel de La Rochefoucauld was "an aristocratic young man ... who liked to spent time in glamorous Paris nightspots". In 1904, he decided to write a novel and eventually presented a manuscript to his friend Proust, asking for his comments. Among Proust's advice: "There are some fine big landscapes in your novel, but at times one would like them to be painted with more originality. It's quite true that the sky is on fire at sunset, but it's been said too often, and the moon that shines discreetly is a trifle dull."

Alain de Botton asks why Proust objected to these phrases? "After all, doesn't the moon shine discreetly? Don't sunsets look as if they were on fire? Aren't clichés just good ideas that have proved rightly popular?" And he writes:
The problem with clichés is not that they contain false ideas, but rather that they are superficial articulations of very good ones. The sun is often on fire at sunset and the moon discreet, but if we keep saying this every time we encounter a sun or a moon, we will end up believing that this is the last rather than the first word to be said on the subject. Clichés are detrimental insofar as they inspire us to believe that they adequately describe a situation while merely grazing its surface. And if this matters, it is because the way we speak is ultimately linked to the way we feel, because how we describe the world must at some level reflect how we first experience it.

The moon Gabriel mentioned might of course have been discreet, but it is liable to have been a lot more besides. When the first volume of Proust's novel was published eight years [later, perhaps Gabriel noticed] ... that Proust had also included a moon, but that he had skirted two thousand years of ready-made moon talk and uncovered an unusual metaphor better to capture the reality of the lunar experience.
Sometimes in the afternoon sky, a white moon would creep up like a little cloud, furtive, without display, suggesting an actress who does not have to "come on" for a while, and so goes "in front" in her ordinary clothes to watch the rest of the company for a moment, but keeps in the background, not wishing to attract attention to herself.
Even if we recognize the virtues of Proust's metaphor, it is not necessarily one we could easily come up with by ourselves. It may lie closer to a genuine impression of the moon, but if we observe the moon and are asked to say something about it, we are more likely to hit upon a tired rather than an inspired image. We may be well aware that our description of a moon is not up to the task, without knowing how to better it. To take license with his response, this would perhaps have bothered Proust less than an unapologetic use of clichés by people who believed that it was always right to follow verbal conventions ("golden orb," "heavenly body"), and felt that a priority when talking was not to be original but to sound like someone else.

Wanting to sound like other people has its temptations. ... [But] a personal imprint is not only more beautiful, it is also a good deal more authentic. ... If, as Proust suggests, we are obliged to create our own language, it is because there are dimensions to ourselves absent from clichés, which require us to flout etiquette in order to convey with greater accuracy the distinctive timbre of our thought.