Results tagged ‘ Davey Johnson ’

Bryce Mantle?

So as the spring training games begin, Bryce Harper (1-for-2 against the Astros this afternoon) now says “I want to be up here. I want to play, and I want to play in D.C.” This after Davey Johnson was publicly pushing for him to be on the Opening Day roster and General Manager Mike Rizzo confessed Johnson had convinced him to “keep an open mind.” Thus the most amazing question of the spring isn’t about whether or not Harper is going to open the season with the Nationals, nor the one that goes “are the Nats seriously considering it?” The answer is: what happens if it doesn’t work?

The historical “comp” is Mickey Mantle, who worked his way from a wild-armed shortstop in a pre-Spring Training special showcase camp of top minor league prospects for the benefit of Manager Casey Stengel, to the Yankees’ Opening Day lineup in 1951 (batting third, in an outfield also featuring Joe DiMaggio and an even-more prized youngster that spring, 56-game big league veteran Jackie Jensen). The comparison between Harper and Mantle as players is speculative at best, but the useful history might be what happened when Mantle made the Yankees out-of-nowhere as a 19-year old rightfielder – and then failed.

When Mantle was sent down to AAA Kansas City after the game of July 13, his numbers didn’t look all that bad. In 69 games, he’d batted .260, logged nine doubles, five triples, and seven homers, and driven in 46 runs, while stealing seven bases. But American League pitchers had begun to deny him fastballs late in May, and in his last six weeks before the demotion Mantle had hit just .211. The rest is history: Mantle said he got to Kansas City, called his father to say he now doubted he could cut it, was surprised to find his father in his hotel room a few hours later. Instead of the pat on the back he expected, Mickey saw “Mutt” Mantle begin to empty his son’s clothes into a suitcase and tell him he wasn’t a man and he should come back home and join him in the copper mines.

That worked.

Mantle drove in 50 runs in 40 games and returned to the Yankees on August 24th: six homers, 20 RBI, .284 in his last 27 games.

But Mantle’s demotion came 61 years ago. There was no internet, no cable, no tv sports news to think of, no radio call-ins, no blogs. The Yankees who didn’t get sent to the minors that season included Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, Ed Lopat, coach Bill Dickey, and manager Casey Stengel. They were the two-time defending World Champions and, frankly, it is possible that a lot of Yankee fans had no idea for days or weeks that Mantle had even been sent back to the minors.

That will most assuredly not happen if Bryce Harper struggles in the majors – if he bats .211 over 100 agonizing at bats and Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson decide they have to send him to AAA. The coverage would be intense, uninterrupted, and brutal, and it would not stop the day Harper went to Syracuse or Harrisburg. It would be relentless.

Thus the question isn’t whether or not the Nats are thinking of taking Bryce Harper north or summoning him early in the season. The question is how much time they’ve spent game-planning the worst case scenario.

No Replay, No Problem – And The Vet Vote

Two things to consider about the General Managers’ decision not to make a decision on expanding videotape replay: A) whatever it is, baseball has almost always done it, and B) once it’s been done, baseball has almost always done more of it, later.

This is just a brief list of the things the game’s protectors and magnates have guaranteed would never, ever, happen to the great traditions and sanctity of our private world:
1. Overhand pitching
2. Integration
3. Videotape replay
4. Night games
5. Batting helmets
6. A players’ union
7. The American League
8. The banning of the spitball
9. Farming out players to the minors
10. Universal radio broadcasts. Well, okay, radio, but no television. All right, television, but never cable.

Video replay did not celebrate its first anniversary late this season; it celebrated its tenth. In October 13, 1998, third base ump John Shulock threatened to eject me and my six-inch NBC monitor from the reporter’s well next to the visitors’ dugout at Yankee Stadium for Game Six of the ALCS, because he thought some of the Indians players might have been able to see a replay of a call Ted Hendry didn’t do a very good job on at second. Seven months later, on May 31, 1999, the venerable ump Frank Pulli decided he couldn’t decide whether Cliff Floyd’s blast in Florida was a home run or not. So he went over to a tv cameraman and asked if they’d show him some replays. Pulli decided that per the grounds rules, Floyd’s blast had been incorrectly called a homer and was in fact a double, and he so ruled. The National League got mad at him. 
Replay was fully and suddenly introduced in 2008 – by this year it played a vital role in the regular season and the World Series. Now the GM’s have demurred. Within eighteen months there will be a video replay rulebook issued to every ump and manager and included in every media guide. You watch.
FOR YOUR HALL OF FAME CONSIDERATION:

Everybody except me seems to have a vote in one of the 87 committees that may elect some managers, umpires, and executives, to Cooperstown next month. I’m in favor of putting in all deserving candidates and I really don’t care if we put it to voice vote at Dodger Stadium one night, just so long as we honor the deserving.
So here is a yes/no on each of the candidates, without getting into the woods of who’s doing the voting or how:
Manager – Charlie Grimm: No. Longevity, not results.
Manager – Whitey Herzog: Yes. 
Manager – Davey Johnson: No, but close.
Manager – Tom Kelly: Yes. Rebuilt that franchise.
Manager – Billy Martin: a controversial Yes. There’s an amazing stat on him: he only had nine full seasons of managing. Eight of those nine teams finished first or second. 
Manager – Gene Mauch: I’m sorry, no. Presided over two of the worst collapses in history.
Manager – Danny Murtaugh: You know what? Yes. Two World’s Championships, and in his last stint (1970-75) he won the second of them, and a division in four of the other five years.
Manager – Steve O’Neill: No. See Grimm.
Umpire – Doug Harvey: Yes. 
Umpire – Hank O’Day: No. There are about a dozen deserving umps. Not him. Whoever you think was right in the Merkle game, his ruling was wrong. It was either a New York win or a forfeit, not a tie.
Executive – Gene Autry: No. Bringing the A.L. to Southern California would’ve been done 20 years before he did it, had it not been for Pearl Harbor.
Executive – Sam Breadon: Yes. Saved the Cardinals from bankruptcy or moving in the ’20s, built a dynasty with Branch Rickey.
Executive – John Fetzer: No.
Executive – Bob Howsam: No. The Frank Robinson trade gets you into Cooperstown?
Executive – Ewing Kauffman: No. An elegant, dedicated man.
Executive – John McHale: No.
Executive – Marvin Miller: Yes. For good or for ill, his impact for changing the game was comparable to Babe Ruth.
Executive – Jacob Ruppert: Yes. The Yankees were a joke before him.
Executive – Bill White: Yes. Could qualify in this role, or as a player, or as an announcer. Get him in there!
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