FROM YANKEE STADIUM – Robinson Cano, named for Jackie Robinson, homers twice. Jackies widow, Rachel, appears at the ceremonies here tonight, and continues to defy age. She is elegant, beautiful, and moves with grace and confidence. She is 87 years old -you would be hard-pressed to believe she is even 60. The night, with everybody up to and including the umpires wearing Number 42, is perfect (or would be if it hadnt dropped 15 degrees in the fourth inning!).
Presented with no implication of racism, nor with any other comment.
Bulletin news from the esteemed author and DL’d pitcher of the Toronto Blue Jays, Dirk Hayhurst. The Bullpen Gospels is no longer a cult classic. It is not only going to stay on the best-sellers’ list of The New York Times, it is going to move up on it. It is now considered the 15th best selling non-fiction paperback in the country.
MARVIN MILLER AND THE HALL OF FAME
The venerable organizer of the first successful players’ association in sports turned 93 today and if there was justice, he would be starting to prepare his speech for the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies over the summer.
As Joe Morgan so aptly noted on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, it is not just the players who should thank Miller for increasing rookie salaries from $8,000 to $400,000, and the top end of the equation from $100,000 to Eleventy Billion. The owners, despite doing everything possible to stop Miller before he started, then stop him while he was dismantling their plantations, then roll back his accomplishments, saw similar income explosions, and the growth of franchise values from a high then of around $12 million, to the fact that a couple of clubs are now worth a $1.6 billion.
That’s what the owners were fighting.
It is literally true that when Miller came to the MLBPA in 1966, the most expensive seat in any big league stadium was $3.50 or $4. The seat that now goes for a couple of grand in a luxury box, or for $1250 in the front row in the Bronx, was $4 – or less – before Marvin Miller almost single-handedly changed the nature of the business of the equation, and thus of the sport.
It can be rightly argued that fans don’t get to see players playing as long for one team as they used to (although I suspect a thorough study would indicate the change is a lot less than people think). They also don’t see many players spend their careers on the outside looking in, enslaved to one club literally forever, and never even getting to the post-season (Ernie Banks). The free agency that Miller rightfully won has not contributed to the small market/big market dilemma, it has only redefined it, and more importantly it has provided for the first time in the history of the game, the opportunity for less robust clubs to climb out of their holes through shrewd spending of the dollar (Cleveland in the ’90s, Tampa Bay today).
I don’t know what parallel there is to Marvin Miller among the players. I guess you’d have to start with Babe Ruth and double his longevity. Miller’s influence has been that strong. Was it painless? No. Was Ruth’s? The new game he created turned bunting, running, sacrificing, and hitting-and-running – and the men who excelled in them – into afterthoughts. It killed off John McGraw and “Inside Baseball” and for all we know led to the New York Giants moving out and the Dodgers going to LA, too.
But ask the players of today, and the fans of today, and the owners of today, if they’d really like to go back to, say, the ’60s, before free agency. It cost less to get in. And each team and each player lived on the margins of financial collapse. Is it just a coincidence that the geographical chaos of the time ended four years before free agency began? Between 1953 and 1972, Boston became Milwaukee, St. Louis became Baltimore, Philadelphia became Kansas City, Brooklyn became Los Angeles, New York became San Francisco, Washington became Minnesota, Milwaukee became Atlanta, Kansas City became Oakland, Seattle became Milwaukee, and Washington became Texas. Cleveland nearly moved. Oakland. San Francisco. Cincinnati. The Cardinals were going to Dallas.
In the 38 years since, for all the other turmoil, one franchise has moved.
Marvin Miller is a Hall of Famer, and with the special elections afforded Lou Gehrig and Roberto Clemente as precedent, he should be sent to Cooperstown now, not later – now while he can still enjoy it, and now while we can still honor him.
Flyovers, Steinbrenners, Bernie Williams ceremonial first pitches, Matsui’s Return – very nice events.
YANKEE STADIUM – For both the defending World Champions and the visiting Angels, the American League season in New York opens with traumas of different degree and seriousness. For the Yanks – particularly their employees and fans – comes the unexpected shock of seeing the old ballpark across the street in mid-destruction. It looks like the remains of a sunken ocean liner, and most of the heavy work has been done in the last week. “We stand here staring at it,” said a member of the team PR staff. “I was looking into my old office yesterday.” For the Angels the sadness is perhaps not as broad but certainly as pointed. This is the last stadium in which their late and beloved television announcer, my friend Rory Markas, broadcast. “We all thought about it,” said his ex-partner Terry Smith, “but none of us were prepared for it.”. Opening Day us supposed to signal renewal and hope in our sport, qualities that have seldom been as soothing as some of us here hope they are today.
Had to laugh over the weekend at the murmuring – even the predicting on line and on talk radio here in New York – that Ike Davis, the slugging son of the original set-up man of the Yankees, Ron Davis, would be imminently summoned to take over first base for the Mets.
In fact, righty-swinging Nick Evans, a potential platoon partner with Jacobs or Murphy, stands a much better chance of promotion – and sooner – than Davis.
May 26: Fernando Martinez, Mets
June 4: Gordon Beckham, White Sox
June 4: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
June 7: Tommy Hanson, Braves
So for those of you holding your breath (or your roster spots in fantasy leagues) waiting for Davis, Pedro Alvarez, Craig Kimbrel, Drew Storen, and even Stephen Strasburg and Aroldis Chapman, hope you’re prepared for a few months of zeroes. Some teams – like the Nats last year with Jordan Zimmermann – can’t resist. And we saw how that turned out.
How many teams can see their ace carry a no-hitter into the 8th and still create a handful of controversies out of it?
Fascinating to watch Jose Reyes, out nearly a year, so rusty and nervous that he stutter-stepped towards a grounder early in the Mets-Nats game Saturday afternoon, and barely made it in time to the bag on a 2-4 doubleplay. Yet by the 8th inning he was barehanding a grounder, and in the 9th, leading an abortive rally on an otherwise frustrating day for the Queens faithful.
Was Willie Harris of the Nationals insulted as a child by Mr. Met? For the umpteenth time he beat them on a game-saving catch with the bases loaded and two out in the ninth. Harris entered the game in the 7th for an injured Ryan Zimmerman (hamstring) and moved out to left just in time to kill the New Yorkers. Again.
Here at CitiField: Ryan Zimmerman replaced at third base by Willie Harris in the 7th. No injury obvious, certainly not a defensive decision. Not odder than Willy Taveras having driven in all four Washington runs (previous career high: two) and just missing a three-run homer.