Feb 20

Pete Rose Not In The Cards

There is nitpicking, there is pettiness, and there is Major League Baseball policy, which is in a category by itself. There’s no other way to explain my reaction to what I just read.

TOPPS baseball cards, of which I have tens of thousands, banned Pete Rose from its 2013 set. TOPPS not only won’t have Rose’s picture on any cards, but also won’t put his name on the back in a feature called “Career Chase,’’ where a current player is listed to how close he is to the all-time record. Since Rose has the record with 4,256 hits – his name won’t be found.

urlRose was banned from baseball for gambling on the sport, including on his own team, and because TOPPS has the exclusive right to produce MLB-licensed cards, Rose is ineligible to be listed. According to the letter of the contract, TOPPS is within its right to omit Rose, but this comes off as petty and vindictive by both the card maker and MLB.

The object of the game is to hit the ball, and nobody did it more than Rose. It’s like when Stalin had his opponents’ names and pictures stricken from the Russian history books. Stalin had them killed and names erased, but it doesn’t alter the fact they existed. MLB and TOPPS can’t issue an edict on Rose otherwise.

Rose exists and excelled at his game. In the process, he generated millions of dollars in ticket sales, memorabilia and souvenirs for MLB. If MLB wants to ban Rose from holding a baseball job I have no problems with that. However, banning Rose from all things baseball is petty and cruel spirited.

The Hall of Fame is a baseball museum, and despite its strong ties with MLB, it is still a museum. History is not neat and clean, it is messy and tumultuous, and its characters not always emblematic of the best human stock. The Hall of Fame is loaded with those who drank, cheated on their spouses, were racists who never wanted Jackie Robinson in the game, and even murdered.

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Jan 11

Will Pete Rose Get Another Hit?

Well, now here’s a sign the apocalypse is upon us. Pete Rose, baseball’s career-hits leader, is about to host a new reality series.

The cameras will follow around Pete and his wife, former TV exercise queen Kiana Kim, to capture the daily doings of the every day couple. It should be as real as the Kardashians

ROSE: As we remember him.

Of course, this would have been more compelling had it been done when he was playing, or better still, managing the Reds. But, there’s a reason for Rose doing this other than money, and that is to be a continuing thorn in the side of Bud Selig.

I always liked Rose, always thought he should be in the Hall of Fame, primarily because his gambling was done when he was managing. I know this is contrary to my views on steroid users, but it is something I can’t get over, probably because he was one of my favorite players growing up.

I thought Rose was betrayed by then Commissioner Bart Giamatti. One of the contingencies of his agreement was that Major League Baseball would not state Rose gambled on baseball, but five minutes into Giamatti’s press conference he said Rose gambled on baseball.

That is probably one of the reasons why Rose so vehemently denied gambling for years. It also irked me that they banned him from the sport, yet in the ceremonies for the all-time team they paraded him out there. Of course, that was to avoid the embarrassment of not inviting him since  it was a fan vote.

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Nov 12

Bringing back Feliciano not a given

One of the Mets’ most interesting off-season decisions will be what to do with Pedro Feliciano. The departure of Hisanori Takahashi doesn’t necessarily mean bringing back Feliciano is a formality.

FELICIANO: Not a given he'll be back.

Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel wore down Feliciano, pushing the envelope with him against right-handed hitters over the past three years. Feliciano led the league in appearances for three straight seasons with 86, 88 and 92 in 2008, 2009 and last year, respectively.

“The Mets over used him because they didn’t really have any other better options against right-handed hitters,” one scout said. “There were signs he was wearing down. He’d be better off strictly against lefties.”

He’ll be 35 in 2011 and if he doesn’t have more of a refined role, there are concerns he could wear down. In three more innings pitched last season than in 2009, Feliciano’s ERA rose by a third of a run, and he gave up 15 more hits and 12 more walks.

Feliciano, as much as he wanted an expanded role, proved vulnerable against right-handed hitters with a .336 average against compared to .264 from the previous year.

Feliciano’s pre-All-Star ERA was 2.34, but his post-All-Star ERA was 4.50, including 5.23 in July and 6.75 in August when the season slipped away from the Mets.

The shelf life of a reliever is short to begin with, and considering his age and that there are breakdown signs already, don’t be surprised if the Mets cut him loose and looked for a younger, cheaper arm elsewhere.

Oct 15

Upgrading the minor league system

Whomever is the next Mets’ general manager, I hope he puts a premium on upgrading the minor league system. Although not as bare as in previous seasons, the minor league talent is a concern, especially when placed in comparison to the final four teams in the League Championship Series.

While each had added talent through trades and free agency, a thread of the four finalists is having a strong core in the minor leagues. They wouldn’t be here without the talent that rose through the system. Here’s hoping the new GM wants to upgrade the scouting and development, as those or the keys for long term success.

The Mets benefitted from their minor league system this year with Jon Niese, Ike Davis and Josh Thole, and have young talent looming below like Jenrry Mejia.

In the case with the Mets, with so much payroll earmarked to veterans tied to bulky and expensive payroll, its a sense of relief to have guys like Davis and Thole, productive players on the cheap.

The game today is still heavy with free agency, but the long term successful franchises build with a homegrown core, and the Mets should be no exception. With 2011 perhaps a write-off season as they clear money off the books, it should provide an opportunity for future growth from the minor league system.

Oct 08

Something with your morning coffee ….

This Day in Baseball History

This Day in Baseball History

Now, here’s something everybody should remember. In a playoff game at Shea in 1973, Rusty Staub homered twice in the Mets’ 9-2 rout of Cincinnati, but that got lost in the dust around second base.

Pete Rose, who played with the temperament of a boiling teakettle, slid hard into second base and came up swinging at Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson in a classic playoff moment.

The Mets would win that series and go on to lose to Oakland in the World Series.

Growing up in Ohio, Rose was always one of my favorite players, but even so I never saw the reason for him to go after Harrelson. But, you had to admire Harrelson, who despite being outweighed by over twenty pounds, held his own in the brawl.

I’m sure you guys have some thoughts on that day.

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They Said It

They Said It

Not a power hitter, Derek Jeter hit his 18th postseason homer last night to tie Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson on the all-time list as the Yankees beat the Twins, 7-2, in Game 1 of the ALDS. A point of clarification, however, Mantle hit all of his in the World Series, a record that should never be broken.

I covered Jeter from 1998-2005, and learned to appreciate his ability to perform under pressure. No question, Alex Rodriguez has more pronounced baseball skills, but if he had Jeter’s composure under the gun there’s no determining what he would produce.

Jeter is a very special player, one who’ll, if he stays healthy, get 3,000 hits and go into the Hall of Fame. Even if he didn’t play another inning, he’s already in Cooperstown.

Last night was another October moment for him, and he had the park buzzing.

Said Jeter: “It felt just like the old place. We couldn’t have drawn it up any better for us.”

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BY THE NUMBERS

$1.5 billion: Cost of the new Yankee Stadium