Results tagged ‘ Lou Piniella ’

NL Central 2012: Ryne Sandberg Versus The Cubs?

Fascinating that the St. Louis Cardinals have asked the Phillies for permission to interview their AAA manager Ryne Sandberg – and received it.

For the second consecutive year, Sandberg will not get the managing job with the team for which he starred. When new Cubs’ President Theo Epstein outlined his minimum standards for the next manager (experience as a major league skipper or coach) it essentially eliminated Ryno from consideration because his stints with the Phils last spring and last September do not formally rise to that level.

Yet oddly, the Cardinals are happy to at least kick the Sandberg tires. I’m not sure what it proves, but it would seem to suggest that the division of thought on Sandberg’s managerial potential may now split into those who have seen him, the Hall of Famer, willing to ride the buses of the Midwest League, and those who have actually employed him to manage their bush leaguers. Everything I heard as of March, 2010, was that the Wrigley Field job was likely to be Sandberg’s whenever Lou Piniella left. But by August, when Piniella really did leave, the Cubs had soured on Sandberg and no longer thought him viable. Off he went to the Phillies, and now they are willing to let him talk to a National League rival, and there hasn’t been a peep about Sandberg even getting a promotion to the Phillies’ major league coaching staff. Even stranger, is that before he took the Phils’ offer last winter, Sandberg interviewed for the equivalent job in the Boston system – with Theo Epstein, the same man who’s ruled him out in Chicago.

I’m reminded of Babe Ruth’s quixotic hope that the Yankees would make him their manager (they’d seen him do that with his teammate, Bob Shawkey, who had only one season managing in the minors before he got the job in New York in 1930). Perhaps the more apt comparison is Gary Carter’s campaign to get the Mets to consider him for any of their last few managerial openings.

If Sandberg doesn’t get the St. Louis job, the Cubs-Cards rivalry might still be ratcheted up by the inclusion of Terry Francona in the mix. While Epstein has said a few polite things about possible Chicago interest in Tito, the Cardinals are scheduled to interview him tomorrow. I still think St. Louis is leaning towards LaRussa’s third base coach Jose Oquendo (although I would have considered it more than “leaning” if they had brought Oquendo back into the dugout as bench coach), but it would be a fascinating dynamic if Francona got the Cardinal job and was pitted against his old cohort Epstein in Chicago.

Besides the headline names, the Cards and/or Cubs seem interested in a lot of the same men the Red Sox are interested in: Rangers’ pitching coach Mike Maddux, former Brewers’ interim skipper Dale Sveum, and Phils’ bench coach and ex-Reds and Pirates’ interim manager Pete Mackanin. If you want to follow all this on a day-to-day or even hour-to-hour basis, your best resource is the terrific MLBTradeRumors.Com site, which is a clearinghouse for every local newspaper story, every significant radio interview, and every last damn tweet on anything moving in the majors. It puts the ESPN’s and SI’s sites to shame.

So stay tuned to the prospect of Sandberg or Francona in St. Louis, and if you’re a Cub fan again tearing out your hair about Ryno, consider this Cooperstown fact. These are the Hall of Fame players who, since 1900, went on to manage “their” team: Honus Wagner (Pirates), Ty Cobb (Tigers), Walter Johnson (Senators), Tris Speaker (Indians), Nap Lajoie (Indians), Eddie Collins (White Sox), George Sisler (Browns), Rogers Hornsby (Cards and Cubs), Fred Clarke (Pirates), Jimmy Collins (Red Sox), Frank Chance (Cubs), Johnny Evers (Cubs), Joe Tinker (Cubs), Frank Frisch (Cardinals), Pie Traynor (Pirates), Mel Ott (Giants), Bill Terry (Giants), Gabby Hartnett (Cubs), Ted Lyons (White Sox), Joe Cronin (Senators and Red Sox), Lou Boudreau (Indians), Dave Bancroft (Braves), Yogi Berra (Yankees), Eddie Mathews (Braves), Red Schoendienst (Cardinals), and Tony Perez (Reds). That’s 26 guys, who managed a lot of years, yet won only 18 pennants among them — and 13 of the 18 were as player-managers and four of those were by Frank Chance. In other words, of the other 25 hometown heroes who later managed, they could collectively amass only five pennants as non-playing skippers.

Piniella, New Managers; More Fun With Minor Leaguers

It is a little unnerving to consider a baseball world without Lou Piniella – he’s been part of the major leagues, either as prominent prospect, trade chip, rookie of the year, grizzled veteran, coach manager, general manager, or broadcaster, almost continually since he didn’t make the Washington Senators out of spring training in 1964. 
Besides the obvious about Lou, you should consider that he was traded four times before he got his first major league hit, had the principles to honor a symbolic work stoppage in 1969 even though he had only ten big league games under his belt, was perhaps the most notorious arguer among the active players of his time, and managed to have a knock-down, drag-out fight with his ace reliever (Rob Dibble) while at least one tv news camera captured it, in the Cincinnati clubhouse.
I think Piniella would have happily managed until he was 80 if he had a bunch of guys like Dibble – nuts as he was – who cared enough to take a swing at him. There is a certain irony to the mindset that his retirement today in Chicago was just the capper to a season that saw Carlos Zambrano detonate, again. I got the impression that Zambrano was the least of Lou’s problems, and that Piniella had a lot to do with the attempts to resuscitate Zambrano’s status with the Cubs.
It was all the other guys with whom he’d had it.
SO WHO’S NEXT?
It’ll be Ryne Sandberg. The new ownership can’t resist, and nobody can argue Sandberg would be getting the job just for his name. He’s worked his way from the bottom up in the Cubs’ system, a rare thing for a Hall of Famer to do.
There has been a lot of new information about 2010 job vacancies flying around baseball’s seamy underbelly of rumor. I have now heard “Joe Torre, Mets” and “Ted Simmons, Mariners,” several times each, and the two old St. Louis teammates would be superb choices. In New York, where Jerry Manuel has done the best he could, the Torre situation is intriguing and disturbing. The club has financially hamstrung its executives ever since ownership got leveled in the Madoff scandal, so it’s hard to believe they could pay anything approaching the five million dollars Torre’ss getting from the Dodgers these days, unless Oliver Perez retires to a monastery.
As to Simmons, he’s the should-be-Hall-of-Fame catcher from the Cardinals and Brewers, and it is forgotten now because he had to leave the position so prematurely because of health issues, but he was one of the up-and-coming General Managers, in Pittsburgh in the early ’90s. More lately he’s been a valued bench coach at Milwaukee and San Diego and would, at the age of 62, be an unlikely, but inspired choice as a rookie manager next year.
SPEAKING OF MANAGERS:
We go back to this well – or perhaps it’s better described as “this bottomless pit” – of the prominent baseball figures of today, as they appeared on minor league baseball cards as recently as 1990 and as long ago as 1975.
In this edition, three of the 2010 managerial changes are fully represented in the bush league cards of 1987 and 1990. Most of what we’ll see is from the panoramic, 2,000+ card set issued, one team at a time, by the ProCards company.
And we’ll do these in chronological (well, 2010 chronological) order. Let’s start in Kansas City:
The former manager of the Royals, then a prospect in A-ball for the Indians, no longer has the job but still has the mustache. The new manager of the Royals (right), no longer has the mustache, but has long since stopped having to deal with his given name and goes exclusively by Ned. He, of course, had already been a major league receiver for the Brewers and Braves and would shortly begin his coaching and skippering career.
The wayback machine now takes us to the prom pictures of the two men involved in the managerial drama of the Marlins:
87FGonzalez.jpg
87RodriguezE.jpg
Fredi Gonzalez was in AA-ball in the Yankee system in 1987 and Edwin Rodriguez a notch further up in the Padres’ chain, long before one left the Florida dugout and the other entered it earlier this year. Have to say the years have treated them both pretty well. Rodriguez looks a little like the current president in the Las Vegas pose.
One side note here. In going through prospects to replace the current big league managers, I suggested that the Marlins might off Fredi and he would thus move to the top of the possibilities to succeed Bob Cox in Atlanta.
But back to our fun, and the most recent change, in Seattle:
87Wakamatsu.jpg
90Brown.jpg
I’m pretty sure it’s the angle of the photography at Cedar Rapids of the Midwest League in 1987 that makes it look like ex-Mariners’ manager Don Wakamatsu is trying to hit with a souvenir bat. Interestingly, his successor, Daren Brown, already had something of a manager’s stare-down in just his second season as a pro, at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 1990.
We have plenty more of these to go through, everything from GM’s to ex-GM’s to popular announcers, to superstars and possible Hall of Famers. I can be bribed into not sharing them, by the parties depicted, and you birds know who you are.

Hey You Kids, Get Off My Mound; And The Next Manager Is…

I have to agree with Dallas Braden – it was a sign of disrespect, or an attempt at gamesmanship, for Alex Rodriguez to cut back to first across the mound in the afternoon in Oakland. And I have to agree with Rodriguez that Braden’s temper tantrum in the dugout was bush league. And I have to agree with whoever investigates Braden’s comments that they probably already constitute a threat, or certainly something to watch in future meetings.

MANAGERIAL HEIR APPARENTS?
Here in New York the Cubs just completed a somnambulant series loss to the Mets and the listlessness of the team makes one wonder if Lou Piniella has just had enough of his underachieving, poorly-designed team. The irony here is that Cub starting pitching may not have been this good in decades – good enough that I entirely buy the idea of moving Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen, at least unless and until Carlos Silva or Tom Gorzelanny collapses.
But Piniella’s ennui and the unlikely fact that two other big league skippers are already official lame ducks has made me think, and put out a few calls, about who would be the likeliest successor to each of the current 30 big league skippers. There are some interesting facts to consider: none of the current managers were promoted to the big league job from having been manager of the team’s AAA affiliate, and only six (Gardenhire, Geren, Jerry Manuel, Riggleman, Trembley, Tracy) were promoted from their own team’s coaching staff (although Cox, Gaston, Girardi, Hinch, and Charlie Manuel were working in their organizations in other jobs when they became the boss). 
Thus 19 of the current 30 big league managers are outside hires, making predicting successors a dicey business. Still we’ll try – and none of these names are meant to suggest I know anything about any imminent changes – I’ll start in the NL and try the AL over the weekend. Where I have no clue, I’ll say so:
ARIZONA: No clue and given the last hire, it could come from almost anywhere.
ATLANTA: Maybe Chico Cadahia or Eddie Perez, but I think the best bets are two former Cox lieutenants, Fredi Gonzalez of the Marlins, and ex-Brewers boss Ned Yost. If the latter were the obvious choice, he’d probably be back on the staff, not an advisor in KC.
CHICAGO: It’s Ryne Sandberg. If Lou walked away suddenly there’d be a good chance Alan Trammell would be an acting skipper, but in any kind of orderly transition, it’s Sandberg.
CINCINNATI: No obvious candidate. Possibly Mark Berry – it would be nice to see AAA skipper Rick Sweet given first shot, but he may be a victim of his own development ability.
COLORADO: No clue.
FLORIDA: It would be Carlos Tosca short term, but the Marlins would probably like a name if they made a change.
HOUSTON: Very unlikely that any change would take place. Dave Clark would probably get another chance if Brad Mills runs screaming into the street.
LOS ANGELES: Mattingly. How odd will that look?
MILWAUKEE: It was a surprise that given how well Dale Sveum handled what could have been a sinking ship, coming in weeks before the playoffs in 2008, that he didn’t keep the job. Even now when Ken Macha goes, it could easily be not Sveum but Willie Randolph.
NEW YORK: Bob Melvin, Major League Scout. His managerial track record is pretty good. Ironically, the man for whom he took over in Arizona after the briefest off-season tenure in managerial history, Wally Backman, is the top minor league possibility.
PHILADELPHIA: No clue. 
PITTSBURGH: They like Carlos Garcia. How much, I don’t know. The Bucs (despite the 20-0 loss) have a serious conviction they are breaking through under John Russell.
SAN DIEGO: No clue.
SAN FRANCISCO: No clue. Last internal hire was Dusty Baker.
ST. LOUIS: Jose Oquendo, unless somebody else has grabbed him first.
WASHINGTON: Pat Listach. That may not be soon, but that may be the plan.

Milton Bradley Makes The Worst Teams In The World

Jack Zduriencik was one move away from completely rebuilding a shaken franchise in a little over thirteen months.

And then he made the move.
How much easier could this be to understand? You do not trade for Milton Bradley. You do not trade for Milton Bradley. You do not trade for Milton Bradley. 
He’s a “good teammate and a nice guy,” said the Mariners’ GM, hours after guaranteeing that all the startlingly good work he and his manager Don Wakamatsu had done in the last year would be washed away by some cataclysm (or “event,” as the nuclear plant engineers pleasantly call them) involving Bradley next season. Since April 1978, when his Dad filled out the name on his birth certificate without his Mom’s consent, there’s always been something. Tearing an ACL while having to be restrained from hitting an umpire. Bumping an umpire. Charging a third umpire. Suspended for the season by the Cubs. Trying to get to the press box during the game to confront the visiting announcer. Fighting with Eric Wedge. Fighting with Lou Piniella. Throwing the baseball bag on the field. Throwing a bottle back into the stands. Throwing the game ball into the stands – after the second out.
And by the way, we are talking about a player whose career highs are 34 doubles, 22 homers,  77 RBI, 17 steals, and a .321 average. This is not Albert Belle. This is not even Carl Everett. Statistically, this is a poor man’s Ben Grieve (my apologies to Ben Grieve).
And after signing Chone Figgins and Russell Branyan (and maybe even re-signing him), and dealing for Franklin Gutierrez, Jack Wilson, Cliff Lee, Ian Snell, and David Aardsma, all the good work by Zduriencik is undone by adding a player who is being described as looking for a “fresh start.” This’d be his seventh. 

FROM A RESEARCHER’S NOTEBOOK:

This was my favorite part of the annual SABR Journal – the curious things the late Al Kermisch found, presumably in pursuit of grander truths (an example from his last “From,” published after his passing in 2002: as a professional, Phil Rizzuto never played on a team that finished worst than third, and in 17 years, he was on 14 pennant-winners). I can’t hope to emulate the quality of Mr. Kermisch’s work but I do hope to touch the curiosity factor, both with nuts-and-bolts research and, in the case of my first effort, whimsy.
Meet the greatest name in baseball history: Phifer Fullenwider. 
Don’t go looking him up in the Baseball Encyclopedia; he never actually pitched in the big leagues (though he did make it to Spring Training one year, at a time when less than 30 men per team did so).
Fullenwider graduated with a degree in pharmacy from the University of North Carolina in 1908, but instead of to a drug store, he headed to the Carolina Association, where, as Baseball Reference’s superb minor league database indicates, he opened a fourteen-year minor league career with a 13-4 record for Charlotte. But it would be 1911 before he really broke through with a 26-9 mark for Columbia of the South Atlantic (SALLY) League.
And that impressive season leads us to this rather remarkable public domain image from the Polo Grounds in New York:
Fullenwider1912,jpg.jpg

That is none other than our Mr. Fullenwider, in the uniform of the Columbia Commies (had a different meaning then), standing in New York’s Polo Grounds, most likely late in the season of 1911, or possibly early in 1912. In those days before extensive farm systems, major league teams not only drafted players from minor league teams, but did so wholesale – and usually days after the minor league season ended. Thus it was not unusual for “bushers” to report to the big leagues – and apparently to bring their uniforms with them.

The Giants thought enough of Fullenwider to bring him to spring training in 1912. The camp was in Marlin, Texas, and the team picture indicates just how few prospects were included among the veterans:
1912 Giants.jpg
NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME

The bottom row is, left to right, Giants aces Red Ames and Hall of Famer Rube Marquard, an otherwise unidentified “trainer,” Fullenwider, and outfielder Josh Devore. The legendary John McGraw is second from right in the middle row (almost right behind his prized pitching prospect), and in the back are the only two guys not wearing the goofy hats: catcher Chief Meyers (fourth from the right) who is capless, and next to him, wearing his cap backwards, Christy Mathewson. For this team photo is nothing less than a 1912 manifestation of that which we purists fear may some day happen in the future – players wearing advertisements on their uniforms! Those caps are ads for “ANGER’S Ice Cream Cones.” And evidently Mathewson and Meyers are having none of it (and yes, that’s my boy Merkle, back row, far right).
But back to Phifer Fullenwider, and something even stranger than an ad for ice cream cones on his uniform.
Fullenwider1912.jpg
The one-time UNC pitching hero is still wearing his Carolina cold-weather baseball sweater. The thing is four years old at least, he’s the property of the defending National League Champion New York Giants,  they took him to spring training in hopes that he might pitch alongside Christy Mathewson – and nobody gave him his own Giants’ sweater!
As it proved, Fullenwider never would pitch alongside Matty, nor any other big leaguer. The records of 1912 are a lot less precise than today, but while nearly everybody else in that photo went on to win the N.L. crown again in 1912 and 1913, Fullenwider shows up pitching for Buffalo of the International League (where the Giants often sent their extra players, in an informal arrangement), where he would win 20, 19, and 17 games in the next three seasons and yet never get a call to the big time. After a 19-victory season at Atlanta in 1917, he apparently quit. A 1919 entry in the University of North Carolina alumni review notes that Fullenwider (“Phar. ’08”) “is a druggist, with the Rose Drug Co., of Rocky Mount. He will be remembered as a star pitcher on the varsity baseball team. He has a one-year old child.”
The game was not gone from his system, however. Phifer Fullenwider, at the age of 34, reapp
ears in the minor league record in that same city – Rocky Mount, pitching for the Tarheels of the Virginia League for two seasons, then Columbia in 1922 and Greenville in ’23. He’d finish up with a record of 194 and 146, with memories of a trip to Marlin, Texas with McGraw and the boys, and at least one winter of the greatest kind of hope and optimism. One wonders if he got to keep the Ice Cream Cone hat.
There’s one other note before we let Mr. Fullenwider out of the clutches of the researcher. He may not have gotten a big league game under his belt, but he did make it onto a baseball card. From the Contentnea Cigarettes series called T209, dating from the 1909 season — and a dandy it is, I might add.
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Some Mets Afraid Of Ghosts

I hate ghosts. They’re spooky. And I don’t respond well to spooky behavior.

                — Amy Poehler as “Maxine Walken,” Saturday Night Live, 2008



It is beyond tempting to give names to any of the three players involved, but as the New York Mets prepared for their road trip beginning in Milwaukee, those guys – and maybe more – are worried about ghosts.
The Mets are staying at the venerable Pfister Hotel and once again the 106-year old landmark has been cited as a place in which rooms might be booked by Supernatural Expedia. The local legend is that it’s one of the hotel’s founders, well-dressed and amiably, if somewhat transparently, still greeting guests from a perch on the 9th floor.
Cardinals’ infielder Brendan Ryan told a local television reporter that he sensed something from another world in his room at the Pfister: “It was more like a moving light that kind of passed through the room. It was very strange. The room got a little bit chillier. Strange things. Strange things.”
This is from a guy who has had to participate in the Bat-The-Pitcher-8th deal, so he knows his strange.
One non-believing Met has been egging on two of his teammates. One is a rookie who seems a little vulnerable to suggestion (and should really wonder if he isn’t being set-up for a Tim Hudson/Moe Drabowsky level of sophisticated practical joke while at the Pfister). The other is veteran whom the provocateur claims is seriously contemplating staying at another hotel and seems to have convinced himself he’d rather take his chances at Jack Nicholson’s place from The Shining.

Before you observe that the Mets should be more worried about trying to find the ghost of their offense, just in terms of the Pfister, there should be more practical concerns. The hotel was the scene of the most infamous fights in modern baseball history, which has twice been described to me with the phrase “Wild West Saloon Brawl.” The perpetrators were the 1974 Yankees, arriving in Milwaukee on September 30 for the end of the season with a slim chance to reclaim the lead in the A.L. East. Instead, backup catcher Rick Dempsey and backup utilityman Bill Sudakis, already jabbing on the plane, both tried to get through the Pfister’s revolving front door.
The breaking of the logjam at the door seemed to propel the two men into each other. The next thing that amazed on-lookers knew, furniture and players were flying around the lobby (the New York Times elegantly called it “brief but violent”). At least one vintage lamp was used like a javelin, and one version of the story has a chair being launched, either by Dempsey or Sudakis. Dempsey later told me that he knew if Sudakis, or somebody, didn’t stop him, he was going to kill Sudakis with his bare hands.
Unfortunately, the late Bobby Murcer decided he had to break it up with his bare hands. Murcer, a month away from being traded to the Giants for Bobby Bonds, also broke his pinky in the process and had to be scratched from the do-or-die game the next night. His replacement in rightfield, Lou Piniella, backed away from a tweener fly ball in the 7th, costing the Yankees the lead, in a game they would lose in extra innings – and in the process, be eliminated.
There should be at least a plaque in the Pfister about that. And if there really is a ghost, it should be of the 1974 Yankees’ post-season hopes.
YES, YOU WALK JETER TO PITCH TO MARIANO RIVERA, BUT:

As various announcers kept insisting with jaws agape that with runners at first and second, two out, Derek Jeter up, Mariano Rivera on deck, Yankees 3, Mets 2, top nine, that the Mets were insane to have Francisco Rodriguez pitch – even cautiously – to Jeter, two thoughts occurred to me:
1) What exactly would you do to K-Rod in the event Rivera got his bat on the ball and blooped a single somewhere, or worked out a bases-loaded walk (as he did)?, and…
2) Did anybody remember Joe Torre’s assessment of his outfield a few years back? That based on pure athleticism, his second most-gifted centerfielder would be Derek Jeter, and his first most-gifted centerfielder would be… Mariano Rivera?
EXTRAORDINARY IMAGE OF THE WEEK:

Jerry Manuel, whose obvious humanity earns him the respect and affection of virtually all who are privileged to know him, still can produce an occasional howler of a blooper.
On both Friday and Saturday, he insisted to the media that he was comfortable playing Ryan Church in center “because he’s played it in JFK.” We all assumed he meant RFK in Washington, because center at JFK Airport is around 18,000 square yards and has planes in it.

The Home Run Menace

Don’t be fooled by that alarming statistic out of the new
Yankee Stadium, namely that the Indians and Yankees shattered the record for
the most homers hit in the first four games of a new big league park: 20,
compared to the 16 hit in the bandbox in Las Vegas back when the A’s had to
open up there.

Don’t be fooled. The problem is much worse.

That raw number excludes the two exhibition games the
Yankees played against the Cubs at the start of the month. That raw number
doesn’t address the bazooka-like quality at the new park, of any left-handed
hitter holding a bat. That raw number doesn’t address the variety of weather
conditions in which the homers have been hit.

Through circumstances unlikely to be repeated, I have thus far
attended all the events at the new facility, and thus I can not only
report on the 28 blasts that rocketed out of the place in the first six games,
I can testify to them. Let’s start by noting that 21 of them have exploded into
rightfield (and only a few have “just made it,” pretty much invalidating the
three- or four-foot shortening of the fence at some points, as compared to the
old Stadium). A 22nd was absolutely blasted by Jorge Posada to
dead-center (and it may be awhile before we see anybody do that again).

Two more were fluke jobs against the Cubs by Cody Ransom to
the corner in left. One actually struck the pole. Judging by body language
alone, Ransom’s freak bases-clearing double in the 8th Inning Sunday
against Cleveland certainly appeared to Ransom, and probably to leftfielder
Shin-Soo Choo, as a ball that was curving into the stands, foul, by twenty feet
or more. Choo only sauntered toward the corner. Ransom didn’t even follow the
ball and was staring at the broken bat handle in his hands. From my seat I get
a full view of the third base foul line, from the plate to the wall. I know
that I looked down, convinced the ball was foul, in the seats, and by a lot.

Only four traditional in-the-seats homers were hit to left in the first two exhibitions and four regular season games.

For all the air-gun blasts of Mark Teixeira, Ransom’s
hitting patterns may be the best clue so far as to what’s going on here. There
seems to be a jet stream, left to right, at all times. I speculated here
earlier that it is probably a fabrication of the open-to-the-air ring in the
Upper Deck combined with the open-to-the-air entrances at street level in the
corners, from which the playing field is visible. I think it was bad enough
Sunday that it blew Ransom’s ball, left to right, and fair. I think it’s been bad
enough this month to blow several balls already heading to right, far deeper
than physics should’ve allowed.

This does not discount another juiced ball theory (although
this theory must be incredibly flexible, to explain why juiced balls being hit
to LF aren’t pushing through the wind) and presumably the Posada homer Sunday
would’ve been a clear case of interference, or maybe just a ball caught at the
fence, if the new Stadium measurement was precisely the same as the old one).
It should also be noted, as it was noted here, that as early as the middle of
the Yankees’ first workout in the place on April 2, righty batters like Xavier
Nady were pointing to the seeming jet stream, and trying to go the opposite way
in batting practice. Thus it would seem that the wind currents are either the
only explanation, or, far and away, the most important one.

The question becomes, as Lou Piniella posited it after his
first experience with a wind that scared him as much as the gusts of Wrigley:
“Will it change when the weather does?” Obviously the vagaries of the climate
in April are not equivalent to the contrast between any April day and August.
But of the first six dates here, none have been identical. Review them with me
game-by-game.

1. Cubs-Yankees, Friday April 3: Left-handed hitters Cano
and Matsui take left-hander Ted Lilly deep in consecutive innings. Ransom hits
the LF foul pole off Lilly in the 4th. It’s a night game, the air
heavy and dank, 56 degrees and falling, and it rains starting in the 3rd
inning.

2. Cubs-Yankees, Saturday April 4: It’s now a 1 PM start,
colder, drier, much windier. Alfonso Soriano hits the hardest ball yet to LF
off Andy Pettitte. Then Jeter goes the opposite way off Rich Harden in the 3rd,
and Teixeira touches him in consecutive innings for homers to RF that looked
like the Mets’ Party Patrol shooting t-shirts into the stands. Ransom hits the
fifth homer of the blustery afternoon into the LF corner off Chad Gaudin.

3. Indians-Yankees, Thursday April 16. It’s a beautiful,
sunny day with no excessive wind. 56 degrees – at least ten degrees warmer than
the second Cubs game - and it
feels warmer still. This time Posada (batting righty) takes Cliff Lee over the
wall in center. Damaso Marte gives up blasts to Sizemore (RF) and Martinez (LF).

4. Indians-Yankees, Friday April 17. Now it’s warmer still,
63 at game time. In a 6-5 game, six homers are hit, all into various distant
locales in right, including two by righthanded batters (DeRosa and Jeter).

5. Indians-Yankees, Saturday April 18. Again the temperature
jumps around ten degrees and it’s a preview of summer. We start later in the
afternoon (3:43 EDT) and there are no fewer than eight homers, six to dead
Right and another by DeRosa to Right/Right-Center. Counting the exhibitions, we
are already up to 25 homers in five games here.

6. Indians-Yankees, Sunday April 19. Now the weather
plummets. It’s 17 degrees cooler at game time and a breezy wind makes it feel
colder. And we still get three more homers, two to rightfield.

So basically at this point we have five different kinds of
weather conditions (six if you think Thursday and Friday are radically
different) and the only pattern, based on very skimpy evidence, is that we
might be seeing homers rise as temperatures do.

Uh-oh.

Steinbrenner Stadium Illustrated:

I earlier noted the one major architectural anomaly in the new
place and finally got a decent shot at it. All the other deck facings at each
tier are absolutely symmetrical except this one:

IMG_0709.JPG

Yep. The official Steinbrenner Box – although he has not yet
been seen in the perch that guarantees occupants are actually about ten feet
“closer” than anybody else. This is to say nothing of the direct view provided
into the Yankee dugout, which can be used to stare daggers at Joe Girardi.

Baseball Photo Of The Week:

Courtesy my friend T.S. O’Connell at Sports Collectors Digest:Nothing less than a photo of the front display at a
Woolworth’s store, apparently in the New York metropolitan area, in the spring
of 1952. He has figured out what would today be the estimated value of what
seems to be 231 unopened, pristine boxes of 1952 Topps Baseball Cards. He has
apparently not even included the value of two partial uncut sheets hanging in
the window, one of which shows a Warren Spahn card, and the other both an Enos
Slaughter and a Duke Snider.

Gaps In My Education:

This is driving me more nuts than usual. I abhor things like
“The Great Yankee Subway Race” – not on any kind of “purity” level, but simply
because people sit there and think there is some legitimacy to the competition
when it’s only an animation. Stories abound of a foolish Yankee employee of the
past who actually thought the outcome was performance-based, or somehow
randomly-generated, and who actually wagered on the outcome, not knowing that
his opponent could simply call up his friend in Scoreboard Operations and say
“Make sure the B-Train wins tonight.” Also, the “B” is the local version of the
“D” train – how could it ever win? And at many times of day the “D” terminates
two stops before The Stadium. Maddening, I tells ya.

But what I want to know is: what is the name of the piece of
classical music which serves as the soundtrack for the “race.” I may have known
it once, but that brain cell is long since hors-de-combat. Anybody know?

Johnny Damon, Baseball Historian

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Do not undervalue the historical import of Spring Training games in big league parks – especially brand new ones. Johnny Damon, videographer, records part of the Yankees’ christening of the second (third?) Yankee Stadium while coach Tony Pena apparently spots a guy who borrowed money from him in 1989.
For your record-keeping pleasure, Aaron Miles got the first exhibition hit in the place, Derek Jeter the first Yankee safety, Robinson Cano the first home run. The first celebrity in the stands was Paul Simon – and parenthetically he sat through the whole rainy magilla. And, yes, as suggested Thursday, the ball rockets to right field. Cano, Matsui, and Cody Ransom hit bullet home runs off Ted Lilly (notice: two lefties going to the shortened-by-wind short-porch in right off a lefty) and Miles and Reed Johnson both rattled extra-base hits into the corner. It’s going to be a take-it-to-RF ballpark.
Fly on the wall time – as caught by the stadium cameraman just before the man in the suit threw out the first pitch, and as the man in the Cubs’ cap was telling me that the new place was magnificent, and that the Yankees had managed both to “recreate the history of the old place, and capture the splendor of a brand new place.” Me? I just listened and learned.
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By the way, Lilly looked like crap, Wang didn’t look much better, Brett Gardner forgot to mosey down to the infield to cover second on a rundown play as they were running back Miles to second, and the Yankee bullpen (Rivera, Veras, Ramirez, and Albaladejo, pitched four hitless – oh, and the place looks pretty at night from the visitors’ dugout:
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