Dec 31

Saying Good-bye To 2012; Saluting The Giants And Dickey And Farewell To Carter

With 2012 in the ninth inning, let’s take a look at some of the more interesting and important baseball stories of the year.

There were many to choose from, ranging from the feel-good, to the sad, to the historic, to the inane. There are dozens that will fall into the category of being a trivia question answer, but let’s settle on ten:

1) GIANTS WIN THE SERIES:  This might be my favorite because I like the way they play the game. Their blueprint is pitching and defense, which is always the best way to build a winner. The Giants simply play the game the right way. And, when they lost their best hitter, Melky Cabrera, to a suspension for using performance enhancing drugs, they declined to bring him back for the playoffs when it would be tempting to do so. And, when ace Tim Lincecum struggled and was taken out of the rotation, instead of crying he shut his mouth and went to the bullpen.

2) SELIG STRONGARMS DODGER SALE: There’s no denying Frank McCourt wasn’t a terrible owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it was still his team and he was on the verge of negotiating a contract with FOX that would ease the team of its financial problems. For some reason, this wasn’t good enough for Commissioner Bud Selig, and certainly not an exercise in fair play when other ownership groups have been as miserable, or worse. The sale was to a group headed by Magic Johnson, and one of their first moves was the horrible acquisition of Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford. Meanwhile, the baseball team in Flushing …

3) THE YEAR OF THE PITCHER: There were three perfect games thrown in 2012, by former Mets prospect Phil Humber, Matt Cain and Felix Hernandez. There were four other no-hitters last summer, including the first by a Met in Johan Santana. It took a blown call to change a hit into a foul ball. Perhaps the best performance by a pitcher was the yearlong mastery of Mets knuckleballer R. A. Dickey who won 20 games and the Cy Young Award and for his efforts was traded to Toronto.

4) THE BIRDS FLY AGAIN: After 14 straight losing seasons, including the previous four in last place in the AL East, the Orioles flipped their record from 69-93 to 93-69, with 29 of those victories coming by one run. The Orioles also won 16 straight extra-inning games, and took the Yankees to the limit in the AL Division Series. They did all this with a patchwork rotation and losing their best player, Nick Markakis, for most of the last month of the season.

5) COMEBACKS IN ALL FORMS:  The Oakland Athletics came from 13 games behind to overtake Texas to win the AL West. They closed the season with a six-game winning streak, including a three-game sweep of the Rangers to win the division. St. Louis also rallied to beat Washington in the playoffs, and San Francisco came from behind to beat Cincinnati and the Cardinals.

6) MIGUEL CABRERA WINS THE TRIPLE CROWN: For the first time since 1967 when Carl Yastrzemski did it for Boston, there was a Triple Crown winner in Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, who hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBI.

7) WASHINGTON SPITS ON BASEBALL:  For the first time in over six decades, there was a playoff team in Washington. The Nationals played inspired, team baseball for much of the season and were led by young ace Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals,  trying to protect their investment, opted to shut him down after 159.1 innings, which gave the arrogant impression they believed they’d be back again. More than a few baseball executives were pleased when the Nationals’ pitching collapsed in the playoffs against the Cardinals.

8) THE MARLINS BLOW IT UP: Speaking of bad ownership groups, the Dodgers had nothing on the Marlins, another example that pennants aren’t won in the winter. The Marlins moved into a monstrosity of a new stadium with Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and new manager Ozzie Guillen. It all fell apart in June and the Marlins finished in last place. Guillen was fired and Reyes, Buehrle and Josh Johnson were traded to Toronto. The Blue Jays also added Dickey and Melky Cabrera to raise the question: Are they the 2013 version of the Marlins.

9) THE LOCALS FALL:  The Mets collapsed in the second half to finish with their fourth straight losing season. The Mets have done nothing this offseason – save signing David Wright – to indicate things will change. Meanwhile, the Yankees got a brilliant season from Derek Jeter, who broke his ankle in the playoffs. Also, while their season was sliding away, Alex Rodriguez was trying to pick up women from the dugout.

10) SAD LOSSES:  I Googled the list of baseball deaths in 2012 and was staggered by the names I recognized from my youth. The most important name was Marvin Miller, the former head of the Players Association who, more than anybody, was largely responsible for today’s economic structure in the game. Then, there was Gary Carter, whom Mets fans will always remember.

Dec 27

Kudos To Braves

Did you see what the Atlanta Braves are planning for next year?

A return of the screaming savage logo on their batting practice caps. Political correctness be damned, and I love it.

Screaming savage logo is back

There are fewer things more offensive to me than the political correctness movement. Fortunately, no professional football or baseball teams caved and changed their nicknames because of PC. The Washington Bullets changed their name to Wizards.

As if a team nickname would prompt somebody to go ballistic. The Bullets got their name when they were in Baltimore, which is close to where ordnance manufacturers are located.

But, the PCers found it offensive and Washington caved and changed the name. Fortunately, the Braves, Indians, Chiefs and Redskins held their traditional ground.

To me, more offensive than the names is the weakness in changing your ground to placate the disgruntled let’s-find-something-to-bitch-about rumbling minority.

For the most part, team names are either territorial as something to identify the team to the city in which it plays or create a fearsome image.

I can’t, even for one moment, believe an organization sat in a meeting room and said, “let’s find a name that will offend this group of people.’’

I can, however, envision them coming up, or revising, a logo that will sell, sell, sell.

 

 

Jul 26

Marlins Deal Ramirez; Where Were Mets?

I don’t know about you, but I had to laugh when I heard about the Hanley Ramirez trade, and also news the Marlins might be shopping Jose Reyes.

Evidently, the Marlins put a lot of thought into the Reyes signing.  Or, at least a minimum of good thought.

I look at the prospects the Dodgers gave up for Ramirez and Randy Choate and wonder where the Mets were at the time. Surely, they had prospects equal to that of the Dodgers, but the Marlins didn’t want to trade within the division.

It’s simple actually, but it does tell you how screwed up the Marlins are as a franchise. Word is they are taking offers for Josh Johnson, and the Red Sox are at the front of the line.

There’s a week remaining before the trade deadline and already some primetime names have moved. Wonder who’ll be the first to raid Flushing?

Mar 31

Injuries to the forefront as Opening Day nears

Much of how the Mets perform this year will be contingent on their starting rotation and core players getting significant playing time because the depth is weak. GM Sandy Alderson said as such earlier this week.

SANTANA: Might not be ready.

The biggest name is Johan Santana, who is earmarked to make the Opening Day start, but despite not having a setback – at least not one the organization will admit to – nobody has etched his start in stone.

After nearly two years, what’s the rush now? Especially if the weather is cold and rainy Thursday, why push the envelope? Even Santana is as healthy as the Mets are claiming, then there’s no reason not to push him back a start or two for him to further build his arm strength. What could it hurt?

Meanwhile, David Wright, who has missed nearly all of spring training isn’t in baseball shape. His legs aren’t there. Neither is his stamina. Yes, he could play and gut it out, but why take the gamble?

Andres Torres does not look good in center field. The word is awkward. He’s over in the minor league camp now. He might get enough at-bats by Thursday, but he’s not running fluidly.

None of the three are 100 percent. There are times throughout the season when a player will play with aches and pains. That’s part of the job. But, these three are trying to recover from injuries which sapped a considerable amount of time from them. They clearly could use more time. With how the Mets have handled injuries in the past, they should opt for caution.

It’s a long season, so don’t make it any longer by risking a significant injury.