After an off season of scandal, on again off again blockbuster trades, gigantic free agent signings, possible Minor League Baseball contraction, and the Mets being the Mets it is time to return to the diamond. Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training, the journey to October begins.
Expectations are high in the Bronx after signing Gerrit Cole. Houston is out to prove they can win without stealing signs, while the rest of baseball is out for revenge. The on again off again trade of Mookie Betts to the Dodgers showed how far Boston has fallen while searching for financial flexibility. The Red Sox continue searching for a permanent manager to replace Alex Cora after he was swept up in the fallout from Houston. Major League Baseball proposed eliminating 42 minor league teams, which immediately angered the communities potentially impacted, baseball fans, and even Congress.
The Mets once again managed to stay in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Yoenis Cespedes reworked his contract after the revelation that his injury was the result of a run in with a wild boar. The Amazin’s General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen, Cespedes’ former agent, now had to alter the contract he negotiated, but from the other side of the table. Carlos Beltran never made it to his first workout of Spring Training as Mets Manager. His involvement in the Astros scandal followed him to Queens. The Wilpons were unable to sell the Mets because they wanted to continue making team decisions once they no longer wrote the checks.
The Cincinnati Reds are poised to climb out of the cellar and into contention after an active Winter. (Kareem Elgazzar)
Anthony Rendon got paid by leaving Washington, Stephen Strasburg got paid to stay with the Nationals. Zack Wheeler left Queens for Philadelphia for a chance to win and a large paycheck. Madison Bumgarner left the Bay for the desert, while Hyun-Jin Ryu left sunny Southern California and moved north of the border. Josh Donaldson added his name to the slugging Twins lineup, a new age Murderers’ Row. The White Sox and Reds loaded up on free agents, vaulting themselves into contention. Hundreds of other moves happened. Time will tell which moves helped teams, and which teams will come to regret.
Baseball lost the legendary writer Roger Kahn. Few, if any, possess his ability to write about the game. He was baseball’s writer. His ability to put the passion and beauty of the game into print will be missed.
It was an odd and harrowing off season, but now Pitchers and Catchers are reporting to Spring Training. The world is a little more perfect because we are getting back to baseball.
Thanksgiving is most closely associated with football not baseball. The cool weather, football on television, and pick up games before the Thanksgiving meal. Baseball is over and Spring Training is months away. Thanksgiving is the best holiday, in my opinion. It is simple, come together with family and friends, enjoy each other’s company, and appreciate all the good in your life while stuffing yourself until you can barely move. The irony is obvious.
My family’s Thanksgiving menu usually looks like this: turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, cranberry sauce, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, rice, dinner rolls, pudding, cookies, brownies, pies including apple, pumpkin, and rhubarb, followed by a nap. My brain wanders after the sudden halt of baseball. Lost in my thoughts, I wondered, could I create the ultimate Thanksgiving team out of players with food names? The players would return for one game in their prime. The only catch is their names must be on the menu.
This Thanksgiving game will take place in Philadelphia on November 23, 1899 against the Phillies. The Phillies complete their best season playing in the Baker Bowl, finishing 94-58, third in the National League, 9 games behind the Brooklyn Superbas. Our menu team will assume the identity of the Boston Beaneaters, there is no greater food inspired team name.
Every baseball field is beautiful. The Baker Bowl has been lost to history, but there is never a bad place to play baseball. (The Winning Run/ DJ)
Phillies owner John Rogers wants to capitalize on the teams’ success and put a few extra dollars in his pockets. Manager Bill Shettsline is looking for one more victory in his sophomore campaign with the Phillies. Shettsline submitted the following line up.
Philadelphia Phillies Starting Lineup
2B: Nap Lajoie (Hall of Fame)
RF: Elmer Flick (Hall of Fame)
LF: Ed Delahanty (Hall of Fame)
1B: Duff Cooley
CF: Roy Thomas
C: Ed McFarland
3B: Billy Lauder
SS: Monte Cross
SP: Wiley Piatt
Philadelphia Phillies Bench
1B: Billy Goeckel
3B: Red Owens
RF: Pearce Chiles
Partnering against the Phillies this Thanksgiving is future San Diego Padres owner Ray Kroc. Kroc and General Manager Billy Beane lured Philadelphia Athletics Manager Connie Mack to Boston. Mack submitted this line up:
Boston Beaneaters Starting Lineup
RF: Billy Hamilton (Hall of Fame)
CF: Ty Cobb (Hall of Fame)
1B: Hank Greenberg (Hall of Fame)
LF: Jim Rice (Hall of Fame)
3B: Pie Traynor (Hall of Fame)
SS: Barry Larkin (Hall of Fame)
C: Spud Davis
2B: Cookie Rojas
SP: Rube Waddell (Hall of Fame)
Boston Beaneaters Bench
C: Mike Napoli
1B: Stuffy McInnis
2B: Pumpsie Green
SS: Luke Appling (Hall of Fame)
RF: Sam Rice (Hall of Fame)
LF: Zack Wheat (Hall of Fame)
CF: Turkey Stearnes (Hall of Fame)
P: Smokey Joe Williams (Hall of Fame), Catfish Hunter (Hall of Fame), Bob Lemon (Hall of Fame), Rube Marquard (Hall of Fame), Rube Foster, Pud Galvin (Hall of Fame), Rollie Fingers (Hall of Fame), Jeurys Familia, Brownie Foreman
Baseball is unpredictable. The Beaneaters and their delicious lineup appear to have the edge over the Phillies. However, even the best teams lose. Simulating the game would never perfectly create such a game. Instead take a moment to appreciate the long history of baseball, the men who have played, their strange names, and be thankful for everything good in your life, especially baseball.
Lost in the discussions about the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year Awards was the inaugural MLB Executive of the Year Award. The player awards are based on a player’s performs on the field. The Executive of the Year Award is based on a front office putting a contender on the field. Drafting well and player development are critical if an organization is to build a winning team. Executives are judged on long-term work not short-term performance.
There is no doubt Billy Beane, and the Athletics’ front office, has done more with less. Beane, the Athletics’ Vice President of Baseball Operations since 2015, is the inaugural MLB Executive of the Year. Each team has one vote, and baseball has spoken about Beane’s success in Oakland. Success has not come from large payrolls or big free agent signings, rather the opposite. This season Oakland became the first team to ever have the lowest Opening Day Payroll and make the Postseason. The Athletics must scratch and claw with every dollar to compete. One bad signing or trade can set the team back several seasons. Beane has made few mistakes. Oakland has 12 winning seasons and nine Postseason appearances since he became General Manager after the 1997 season.
Billy Beane has made the impossible seem routine in Oakland. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Beane’s tenure as Oakland’s General Manager changed baseball. The application of Sabermetrics has helped level the playing field for teams unable to afford large payrolls. The Athletics created a path for teams, like the Rays and Royals, to find success. Moneyball changed baseball. Teams are now spending time and money on analytics to maximize the production of their players and to scout their opponents. Oakland enjoyed several successful seasons before other teams followed their lead.
Winning the MLB Executive of the Year Award only adds to Beane’s trophy case. He won the Sporting News Executive of the Year Award in 1999 and 2012. He won Baseball America’s Executive of the Year Award in 2002 and 2013. Beane has built success from hard work, not flashy spending.
It is doubtful a traditional rebuilding in Oakland would have resulted in similar success. Despite their challenges, the Athletics are competitive almost every season and Billy Beane is one of the main reasons why. Beane is the biggest owner or front office executive since George Steinbrenner. When you think of Beane you think of the Athletics just as you thought of the Yankees when you thought of Steinbrenner. Most importantly, when you think of Billy Beane you think of winning.
The first few days of the baseball off-season do not feel strange. It is when the off season turns into weeks that the absence of the game becomes more noticeable. Yearning for baseball is good. Missing something you love is natural.
My love for baseball borders on obsessive. After umpiring games all weekend I listen to the Reds on the radio while driving home only to watch a baseball game, or two, from the comfort my the couch. The end of the season, and time change, makes me sad. While my body needs a break from the grind of umpiring, the sudden stop of the game is jolting. What do I do with all this free time?
The snow has not begun falling yet, but it will soon. Baseball is taking a short break. (Kurt Wilson/ Missoulian)
As the trio of Yankee fans, John, Bernie, and Kevin, recover from the Red Sox winning the World Series, we are also waiting for free agency to begin in earnest. Where will the big free agents land. Will Bryce Harper put on pinstripes? Did Manny Machado cost himself millions by not hustling in the Playoffs? Who will Craig Kimbrel close games for next season? Is Adrian Beltre’s next stop Cooperstown? Who rewards World Series MVP Steve Pearce for his efforts in October? Are there enough interested teams to drive up the market for Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin? Do teams believe Josh Donaldson and A.J. Pollock are part of a winning strategy? Is a team willing to sign Big Sexy, Bartolo Colon? Will the Mets new General Manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, continue the Queens tradition of overpaying players past their prime?
Once the cold settles in for its yearly stay winter begins to drag. Each free agent signing is dissected to the fullest. The itch for the game will return in earnest when the calendar turns to 2019. Allowing some distance between yourself and what you love is good from time to time. It is better to miss something or someone than to wish they were not around. I miss you baseball. A small break to rest my body from umpiring and to catch up on sleep from the World Series are good things. Enjoy your time away baseball, but please hurry back.
Second best is first loser.
I HATE this phrase…and here’s another.
No one remembers the team that loses the championship.
We are always looking for a GOAT to glorify and worship. It’s be the best or you’re worthless.
The idea that success is a curse, because those who have it are lionized and the constantly pestered is the original version of #firstworldproblems. Dave Dombrowski is a victim of this detrimentally simplistic mentality on the concept of success.
“Dombrowski took over a moribund Tigers franchise in 2002 and has led the team to four straight AL Central division titles. Detroit won the pennant in 2006 and 2012, and made three straight ALCS appearances from 2011-2013.”
The San Francisco Giants may have won three championships over that span but those intervening odd years were rather heart-breaking. The St. Louis Cardinals may be a candidate in this regular season comparison but didn’t quite make it happen. However, it’s besides the point. What’s worrisome is that you have a guy, in Dombrowski, who ran the front office well. Someone whom everyone believes is about to catch lightning in a bottle. Once over the hump, this is the sort of guy that could very well create a dynasty. Yeah, let’s give him the axe because it just hasn’t happened yet.
Perhaps I’m being over the top. A lot of our top World Series winning General Managers did it early in their careers and rode them into retirement (maybe not with the same team). Almost invariably, they had a decent career as a General Manager for another club before going to a team that was ready to get it. Perhaps Dombrowski will get his chance to run a front office for another team who wins it all for him.
But this got me thinking about trumpets.
I studied music as an undergrad student and learned quite a bit about perceived value. You learn things like how the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), amongst the classical brass instrument playing community (trumpets, French horns, trombones, tubas, etc), is synonymous with the pinnacle of trumpet performance. For half a century, CSO was dominated by a figure, the principal trumpet, Bud Herseth. If you wanted to be a classical trumpet player, you wanted to be him because he was, arguably, the best.
But you couldn’t learn from him because he never gave lessons. He also didn’t perform much outside of the orchestral repertoire decided by the CSO’s musical director at the time. This wasn’t the norm. His contemporaries, such as Arnold Jacobs and Vincent Cichowitz, who completed the brass section of the orchestra were musical masters in their own rights. Cichowitz was second trumpet to Herseth but gave lessons and influenced an entire generation of trumpet players. It’s not like Cichowitz couldn’t have been principal trumpet of another orchestra. He liked being in Chicago with everything else going for him, it could be argued that he was as successful as Bud Herseth.
What I’m trying to say is that Vincent Cichowitz was a badass but if you look at his position in the orchestra, you might think he wasn’t. He was “second best” but that doesn’t make him a second rate trumpet player. One of his students, Allen Bachelder, had a great career as a musician and eventually taught where I went to college. Some of Dr. Bachelder’s students have been very successful as soloists and band members.
The idea of shaking things up because a team may have become complacent seems appropriate only when you’re in a decline or wallowing in or at the bottom. I ran some numbers about place in the league standings and World Series appearances. Since 1969, the first place team in league went to the World Series 24 times and won it 11 of those times. Third place in the league had similar numbers. We’re also seeing the rise of more wild card winners but that’s also due to the expanding pool. Numbers don’t lie. However, we need to understand what they’re telling us. Dombrowski was on the cusp of having that championship. Maybe his next team will make that happen.
We lost a legend over the weekend. Al Rosen passed away at the age of 91.
Rosen delayed his baseball career after enlisting in the United States Navy in 1942. He saw combat in the Pacific aboard an assault boat during the landing on Okinawa. Rosen was a great player for the Cleveland Indians during his 10 seasons (1947-1956) in the Major Leagues. He won the 1953 American League MVP. After retiring he worked as the Present and CEO for the Yankees and Astros, and as the General Manager for the Giants.
In December 2013, The Winning Run named Al Rosen as the third greatest Jewish Baseball player of all time.
Placing higher than a Hall of Fame player and manager, a spy, and a player who helped to end the Curse of the Bambino, means Al Rosen was a special player. This assertion is correct. While he has not been honored with a plaque in Cooperstown, his legacy is not forgotten.
Al Rosen’s career was delayed by his service in the Navy (1942-1946) during World War II. His actions in the Pacific include navigating an assault boat during the initial landing during the Battle of Okinawa. His actions no doubt helped to end the war and return the world to peace.
The fans of the Cleveland Indians were given the opportunity to watch the third (Rosen) and fourth (Lou Boudreau) best Jewish players in baseball history to play together from 1947 through 1950. Rosen played his entire 10 year career with the Indians. While he was only a bit player in 1947 until 1949, Rosen exploded onto the American League scene in 1950 by leading the league with 37 Home Runs. He would remain a staple of the Indians lineup until injuries forced his early retirement after the 1956 season.
Along with being apart of the 1948 World Series Championship team, Rosen had a career .285 Batting Average, with 192 Home Runs, 717 RBI, and 587 Walks against 385 Strikeouts. He was selected to four straight All Star games, led American League in Home Runs twice (1950 and 1953), RBIs twice (1952 and 1953), and was named the 1953 American League Most Valuable Player.
It is the 1953 season which launched Rosen to the third spot on the list of greatest Jewish players of all time. During this season Rosen collected 201 hits, scored 115 Runs (League leader), hit 27 Doubles, 43 Home Runs (League leader), 145 RBI (League leader), Walked 85 times against 48 Strikeouts, had .336 Batting Average (2nd in Batting Title), with a .422 On Base Percentage, .613 Slugging, 1.034 OPS, 367 Total Bases, and had a 10.1 WAR (9.1 oWAR). Winning the Triple Crown is no easy task, it has only been accomplished 16 times in baseball history, and only five times since Rosen began his career in 1947. In 1953, Rosen led the American League in Home Runs with 43, RBIs with 145, and finished second with a Batting Average of .336. The heartbreak of this seasons was that the Batting Title went to Mickey Vernon who finished the season batting .337. Rosen hit safely in 31 of his final 32 games, including the final 20 games of the season in his quest to win the Triple Crown. Ultimately, Roses, despite going 9 for his last 15, could not catch Vernon who went 5 for his last 16.
Al Rosen served his country honorably during World War II, became an All Star Major Leaguer, and put together one of the finest seasons in history in 1953. His service to both his country and to the game of baseball have earned him the distinction of being the third greatest Jewish baseball player of all time.
Rest in peace Mr. Rosen. You will be missed.