The arrival of the 2014 baseball season means 20 years have passed since the old Albuquerque Dukes won the last of their eight Pacific Coast League championships. The franchise joined the Triple A PCL in 1972 with a dominant team managed by Tommy Lasorda and featuring future big leaguers like Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Burt Hooton, Charlie Hough, Larry Hisle, and more. The Dodgers’ minor league system was well-stocked during the years the O’Malley family owned the Dodgers, and Albuqerque, often the final stop for players on their way to the majors, reaped the benefits time and time again. Continue reading
The 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was announced today, and as I wrote a couple years ago, there are few clear answers in Hall of Fame voting these days. This year presents an even tougher field to choose from than last year…all thanks to the “Steroid Era” and baseball writers’ reactions to it.
If you had a vote to cast, which players would you choose? Do you vote for suspected steroid users, or just those who appear clean? Do you vote for clear-cut Hall of Famers whose careers may have been tainted, or do you vote for marginal Hall of Famers whose performances were (as far as we know) never in question? Continue reading
Gehrig. Feller. Williams. Musial. Banks. Stargell. Yastrzemski. Bench. Yount. Ripken. The list goes on and on. Many of baseball’s all-time greats never changed uniforms in their lengthy big league careers. Of course that’s a rarity now, which makes present-day Yankees greats Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter all the more unusual.
I grew up in an era when baseball was changing dramatically. In the 1970s, as the DH rule and free agency hit baseball, longtime stars suddenly started moving from team to team. I remember thinking how strange it was to see Catfish Hunter become a Yankee, but superstars changing uniforms quickly became the norm. Continue reading
Today’s sad news that former All-Star Dave Parker is battling Parkinson’s Disease stirred a host of childhood memories.
I grew up watching “The Cobra.” I was a mediocre right fielder in Little League right around the time Parker was winning batting titles and Gold Gloves patrolling right field in Pittsburgh. For years he was one of my favorite players, both in his truly electric prime as a legitimate five-tool talent with the “We Are Family” Pirates of the late 1970s and later, when he resurrected his career following baseball’s cocaine scandal of the 1980s that also claimed another hero of mine, Vida Blue.
As a West Coast native, I was never a Pirates fan, but they were a fun team to watch throughout much of the 1970s. The late ‘70s “Lumber Company” lineup of Willie Stargell and Bill Madlock and Omar Moreno and more was impressive to say the least, but to me the true superstar was always Parker. Continue reading
Twenty years ago I had the good fortune of working in the front office of the old Albuquerque Dukes as Mike Piazza blazed his way through town on his way to the Dodgers and, I expect (steroid rumors aside), ultimately the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was a classic phenom – a late round draft pick taken primarily as a favor to Tommy Lasorda who blossomed into maybe the best-hitting catcher in baseball history.
However, I also remember Raul Mondesi, who had almost as meteoric a rise through the system and to the majors. He was yet another Dodgers product who became a Rookie of the Year, and yet another phenom. He had some very good years, but he never reached the greatness predicted for him when he arrived in the big leagues., and instead of a storied Dodgers career he ultimately wore the uniforms of seven different franchises. Continue reading
As fall turns toward winter I always start watching more movies, both at theaters and at home. At the same time, I’m in withdrawal since there’s no baseball to watch and the Giants’ off-season looks to be pretty quiet, so I started recalling my favorite baseball movies…especially since I’ll probably be watching many of these yet again in the coming weeks as I await the start of spring training.
I’ve seen dozens of lists of top 10 baseball movies and top 10 sports movies over the years, and usually have disagreed with them (as you no doubt will with mine – and you can vote on your favorite below)…but I don’t think I’ve ever actually done one. My list stretches to 15, but who’s counting? Continue reading
The Detroit Tigers, at 88-74, had the fewest wins of any division champion in 2012. They were tied with the National League Wild Card St. Louis Cardinals for the fewest wins of any playoff team period. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants were 94-68.
In 2012 the Tigers’ run differential on the season was +56, 13 runs fewer than that of the Giants.
Yet a stunning 23 of 28 ESPN “experts” picked Detroit to win the World Series, many of them in six games or less. Several based their picks on the Tigers’ “dominant starting pitching.”
Eight of 11 MLB.com pundits chose the Tigers.
At FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal also picked the Tigers. Continue reading
I was lucky enough to be at Game One of the 2010 World Series, when the mood outside the ballpark before the game was just amazing. Palpable excitement about a team that had survived its division race on the final day of the season and then rolled through the playoffs. This year was a bit different…this team did the opposite, rolling to a division title over the last couple months of the season but then needing miraculous comebacks to win both playoff rounds. There was less hyperactivity outside the park for Game One this year, at least before the game, but that all changed once everyone was inside and gametime approached.
As the FOX commentators droned on toward the end of Game 6 of the NLCS about how “there’s nothing like a Game 7 in all of sports,” one of my happiest thoughts was that I’d get to enjoy Game 7 without Joe Buck repeatedly touting the Sunday NFL broadcast schedule or Tim McCarver butchering historical facts like how Willie McCovey fared in his debut game (It was 1959, not ’58, and he didn’t hit three triples in that game. He went 4-for-4 with two triples and two singles against Robin Roberts. Any dyed-in-the-wool Giants fan knows this and so much more that the national broadcasters fail to recognize. And that’s true for fans of any team…these guys need to do their homework before they start throwing out historical anecdotes.).
Anyway, enough about MLB on FOX. I grabbed tickets for Game 7 while Ryan Vogelsong was throttling the Cards in Game 6. Despite some pre-game raindrops and a veritable downpour in the ninth inning, Marco Scutaro caught that final popup and my daughter and I got to enjoy one of the great moments in San Francisco Giants history in person…the 2012 National League pennant. On to the World Series!
A few scenes from the day, thanks to my trusty iPhone:
The news that grizzled veteran slugger Jason Giambi was interviewing for the Colorado Rockies managerial job – which coincided with the horrendous post-season fellow veteran slugger Alex Rodriguez has had with the New York Yankees – got me to thinking about Major League Baseball’s “Steroid Era” once again (of course, with the high-profile suspension of Melky Cabrera this season and the Ryan Braun controversy last winter, perhaps that era continues).
As we rapidly approach the voting period for the 2013 Hall of Fame induction ceremonies (something I wrote about last October), we’ve seen a lot happen to some of the standout names from that “Steroid Era” in recent months:
- Mark McGwire is completing his third season as the St. Louis Cardinals’ hitting coach, where he won a World Series ring last year and sees his Cards in the NLCS again this year.
- Jose Canseco continues to drift into oblivion, posting nonsensical Twitter comments (even including time travel!), failing to show up for autograph appearances at low-level minor league games, filing for bankruptcy, and now reportedly seeking a pro wrestling career. Continue reading