Something to do as we contemplate the irony of Aroldis Chapman escaping from Cuba to sign with a team that in the 1950’s had to change its name to the “Cincinnati Redlegs” to avoid somebody mistaking them for communist sympathizers.
Some of you will get this instantly. Others will say, “can’t be!” The rest, should just get a kick out of it…
Who is this, captured in the endless sweep of photographing anybody in a big league uniform by Topps Chewing Gum in the 1956-1996 era?
1) I’ve been looking for this one for a long time. Never did locate it within the since-dismantled archives at Topps here in New York.
2) Yes, he’s in the uniform of the one-season franchise, the 1969 Seattle Pilots (although there are 1970 Pilots photos too – the franchise moved to Milwaukee just before opening day, as part of a bankruptcy collapse).
3) No, he never played for the Pilots, but yes, he did play in the majors briefly, but even most of his many admirers probably don’t know that.
4) Lefthanded hitting outfielder-first baseman who quickly gave it up after his brief big league stint six years later, and then moved into coaching and managing.
5) Got a big league managing job, in fact, when the man his team had hired in full anticipation that he would make the leap from wonderful pitching coach to wonderful manager, turned out to be not quite that much of a skipper.
6) Managed in two World Series but never won a single World Series game on the road.
7) Yet won both Series… okay, you’ve got it now.
Fresh from a .317 season in the New York/Penn League in 1968, he was actually in the Pilots’ first big league camp as a non-roster invitee – and was just 18 years old when that photo was taken in Arizona in March, 1969. Yes… it’s legendary Twins’ manager Tom Kelly.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere that annually, Terry Francona lets me sit with him, on the bench, during a spring training game. This is half out of friendship and half, I think, to remind me how little I actually understand about managing – or baseball itself – compared to the pros.
Having acknowledged that, and presented the caveat, I’d still like to point out that actual major league managers have done the following things in the last few days:
Mike Scioscia sent poor Brandon Wood back to the minors – having given him, I believe, three starts during two weeks in the bigs, during which he hit the ball with authority and acquitted himself well in the field – so he could bring back Reggie Willits on the premise that “some of the outfielders are a bit nicked up.” This after explaining that previous plans for Wood were scuttled because Gary Matthews had played so well, and despite the fact that Chone Figgins and even Wood himself can play the outfield. The logical extension of this utterly illogical handling of one of the game’s premier prospects must be that the Angels hope to waste all of Wood’s options and wind up selling him on waivers, or possibly to the Samsung team of the Korean League.
Joe Girardi benches Hideki Matsui against Jon Lester Monday, even though Matsui had been hot, and particularly so against lefties. He thus instead DH’s Jorge Posada, who promptly sends himself onto the DL, requiring Joe to pinch-hit for Posada with… Matsui.
And though the Diamondbacks might be the coldest team offensively in the majors, and though he has one guy who can play first and third, another who can play first and left, and a third who can play third and second (poorly), when facing Jeff Weaver in the latter’s first major league start since 2007, Bob Melvin leaves Tony Clark on his bench. Batter-Vs-Pitcher numbers are sometimes misleading. But Clark was 7-for-11 lifetime against Weaver with two homers. The D-Backs got five hits off Weaver.
What’s worse is, if early in the week, Melvin happened to stand on a piece of paper that had fallen from the stands with the words “Play Tony Clark against Weaver” written on it, and his team had scored a run during the inning, he might’ve made the line-up change out of superstition.
Managers know 50 times as much as we do. Just not every second.
Postscript: Melvin deserves less tweaking, and I recall my snark. Tony Clark was put on the disabled list this afternoon (Wednesday) with continuing wrist problems. Presumably Bob knew about this Tuesday. It certainly denies us a chance for Melvin to take a re-test: Clark has four career homers against the pitcher Arizona faces tomorrow night, Chris Young.