7/16/41=56

7/16/41=56
When we think of records that seem to be unbreakable, one invariably always comes up. That would be the 56-game hitting streak of Joe DiMaggio. On July 16, 1941, Joltin’ Joe extended his hitting streak to that magical number of 56 games…unbelievable. So unbelievable that in that same year, there was s song (Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio by Les Brown, sung by Betty Bonney) written about it. Since that time, there have been many noble tries to eclipse that mark, but in reality no one has really come close. I remember watching Pete Rose take a hitting streak to 44-games in 1978. It was enthralling stuff to a 14 year-old baseball infatuated teenager. My friends and I used to watch this event unfold on a daily basis, and we were disappointed when it ended in August 1st of that season.
Of course, this has got me thinking. What other MLB records are ‘untouchable’? Before McGuire / Sosa, it was thought that the home run records of Babe Ruth (60 in 154 games) or Roger Maris (61 in 162 games) was unbreakable. Well, WRONG!!! In the summer of 1998, Mark McGuire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs gave us an unbelievable fireworks show, with BOTH of them eclipsing Ruth and Maris. In fact, between Mark and Sammy, they would surpass the 60 or 61 home run mark 5 more times. This would stand as the gold standard of slugging until 2001, when Barry Bonds hit 73 dingers. Of course, now I have to ask if the 73* mark will ever be broken…
Let’s give the pitchers some love also. The modern era (post-1900) record for strikeouts is 383, set in 1973 by one Nolan Ryan. A close second is the 382 K’s by Sandy Koufax in 1965. Randy ‘Big Unit’ Johnson came close in 2001 with 372, and there have been several other worthy mentions, but in my humble opinion I don’t see anyone breaking Ryan’s mark. As good as Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner are, and as good as I think Jacob deGrom may become, breaking Ryan’s record is a tall order.
And now on to Mount Olympus. Lou Gehrig was considered to be the Iron Man. His 2,130 straight games played was thought to be unbreakable, until Cal Ripken Jr. did just that on the night of September 6th, 1995. Ripken became the all-time Iron Man. Ripken would go on to set the new consecutive game record at 2,632. I also do not ever see this record falling.
Whenever I think of records and how they are considered untouchable, I am reminded of one Roger Bannister. You may have heard of him. Roger Bannister is the first human being to ever break the 4-minute mile. On May 4th, 1954, Bannister accomplished what many experts considered to be a ‘physical impossibility’. It was believed that the human pulmonary and respiratory systems were simply incapable of supporting such an effort, and that the human heart would just explode. The experts were wrong, and since that historic day, the sub 4-minute mile is almost routine.
Oh. My original point. On this day in 1941, Joe DiMaggio etched himself in the Mount Rushmore of baseball immortals with his 56-gamne hitting streak. Many have tried to equal it. All have failed. It is a record that I do not see ever being broken.

Joltin' Joe DiMaggio

Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio

2015 MLB All-Star Game…Something is Fishy.

The 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game is now in our rearview mirror. Kudos to the City of Cincinnati for hosting a great event for the baseball world. There are some elements of the two day baseball fest that I want to discuss.

Let’s start with the Home Run Derby. I generally do not watch the ‘skills competition’ in any sport, which would explain my revulsion at the shootout in the National Hockey League, as well as the compulsory 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 in their overtimes. But that is a debate best left to another forum. The Home Run Derby had become this tedious, almost mind-numbing exercise. I was not sure that an imposed time limit would help, but I was pleasantly surprised and quite happy to be wrong. I have to admit that it is better now. I am not going to say that the ending felt scripted, but really…Todd Frazier, the hometown kid, winning the competition by one home run with precious little time left on the clock? You be the judge.

Next up, the Pete Rose saga. If MLB wanted to instill a sense of insane frenzied emotion, why didn’t Commissioner Manfred announce that he was going to reinstate Rose? It would have been appropriate given that the game was in Cincinnati. At least that is what I thought at first glance. But then I thought about it a little more, and I drew a very different conclusion. If the Commissioner had done that, it would have basically allowed the spectre of the whole Pete Rose debate to hijack the entire event, and THAT would have been wrong. It would have taken the attention away from the people who truly deserved it, and that is the players on the field. Rose got some love, and a 1 minute 20 second standing ovation by being allowed to participate in the ‘Franchise Four’ ceremonies, and he was on one of the television promos. That should be enough for now. The Pete Rose soap opera will be best left to another time.

And now, for the game itself. I’ll get right to it….how did Mike Trout win the MVP award in this game? Yes, he opened the game with a leadoff HR off of Zach Greinke. Sorry baseball fans, but I was not impressed. Trout was the first batter Greinke faced. His adrenaline was pumping. He was not dialed in yet, and he had not settled down into his normal pitching rhythm. It is not a huge surprise that Trout took him over the wall. If you look at how Greinke pitched AFTER the Trout bomb, it is a very different story. My point is that a single home run at the very beginning of a game should not an MVP make. There were other performances that were much more worthy. How about Lorenzo Cain? He had a great night, going 2 for 3 with an RBI. Prince Fielder had a pretty good night with the stick as well. But thinking a little outside the box a little bit, an argument can be made that Zach Greinke could have been the MVP. If we break down what MVP actually is about, it is for the player who was the most valuable to his team. The HR that Greinke allowed had no bearing on the outcome of the game. It was also the only hit that he allowed, and that goes along with the 4 K’s that he rang up. Pretty valuable if you ask me. How about Jacob DeGrom of the Mets.  He strikes out three hitters on TEN pitches (9 is the absolute minimum)… In the All-Star game! Impressive, no? Who does that?

Don’t misconstrue my meaning. Mike Trout is a great player. He is possibly, okay, probably the best player in the Major Leagues now. He is deserving of all the accolades that he receives…almost. In my opinion, he was not the MVP of the 2015 All-Star game. But Trout has become the face of MLB, and MLB needs to sell that image. Who will sell more merchandise and tickets for MLB, Trout or Lorenzo Cain? DUH! In a time of sky-rocketing contracts and other distractions, MLB needs a fresh faced 23year-old stud outfielder like Mike Trout to be its representative. It is great for the game to be sure. In the wings are players like Kris Bryant, Alex Gordon, Andrew McCutchen, Brock Holt, Joc Pederson, and many others, but today it is Mike Trout….a great player. I am just not sure that he deserved the ASG MVP this year.

The 2015 MLB All-Star Game…There must be a conspiracy!

I want to discuss the Major League Baseball All-Star Game (to hereby be referred to as the ASG for the sake of my typing fingers…). Actually, it is the ASG voting that I want to talk about. I was raised on the principle of ‘One person…one vote’. Sounds fair. Sounds like democracy in action. Then I was reminded of the somewhat amusing quip  of ‘Vote early and vote often…’ Sigh. Isn’t that somewhat counter-intuitive? It has occurred to me that the voting for the ASG is more closely reminiscent latter. An individual may submit up to 35 votes. Yes kids, 35 VOTES! Why? The whole voting process has become convoluted. I read a comment (actually several comments) lamenting the selection of 6 Kansas City Royals to the 2015 ASG. The comments were let’s say, idiotic. They reeked of the nonsense that only a conspiracy theorist can spew out. Let’s take a look at a few, shall we?

‘The people from Kansas City must have found a way to cheat…’

Those Kansas City Royal fans must have found a way to hack the computer system!’

‘Major League Baseball wants as many Royals in the game as possible because they went to the World Series Last year. They want to cash in on the popularity of the Royals…’

‘They will do anything to keep A-Rod out of the ASG…’

‘I heard that the fans in Kansas City and St. Louis teamed up to get as many Royals and Cardinals in as they could!…’

Have you ever heard of such ridiculous drivel? While I do not agree with this 35-votes-per-person format. I prefer the one vote per person paradigm. With that said I would also say this. If people are so cranked up about Royals fans allegedly stuffing the ballot box, then do something about it. Consider the  2013 population of the Kansas City metro area is roughly 475,000 people. The 2013 population of New York City and its 5 boroughs is roughly 8,406,000. How is it that the Kansas City fans could outvote the New York fans? Each and every person who cared to do so could vote 35 times. Do the math. As I said earlier, the argument is more sour grapes than factual. If you wanted your guys in the ASG, then get out and cast your 35 votes! If you didn’t, than stop whining. There is no conspiracy. There is only a fanbase that is so enamored of its team that they got up, got out, and got their Royals in the game. Here is a dollar…go buy some tissues while I call the waaaahhhhmbulance for your hurt feelings. Next year, get out and  exercise your right to vote…35 times!

MLB…The Case of Charlie Hustle.

Pete Rose. The name is instantly recognizable. The name conjures up images of a Cincinnati Reds player crashing headfirst into a catcher at the 1971 All-Star Game. There are images of a gritty, tough ballplayer with a funny haircut. Images of a hustling, all-or-nothing leader. Images of disgrace…and no images of Cooperstown.
Everybody knows the tragic story of Pete Rose. MLB’s all-time hits leader, World Series champion, perennial all-star, and his fall from grace after agreeing to a lifetime ban for betting on his own team, always to win, while managing the Cincinnati Reds. Pete Rose has petitioned all the MLB commissioners since the ban to lift it, and it has always failed to be acted upon. Just today, Pete Rose petitioned new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred for reinstatement, and that is why this article exists today.
I am not going to get into all of the sordid details. There are endless records in other places where you can get that information. I only want to ask the question if enough time has passed for Rose to be reinstated? Should a lifetime ban in this case actually be a lifetime ban? Was what Rose did so egregious that he should be denied the opportunity to come home? Is it okay to have many players and other baseball figures who have done far worse still be included in the baseball family (Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, etc.), while Rose is a pariah?
The answer to these questions rests with the individuals. And once an individual has answered these questions, does the opinion matter? Let’s look at this. Even if the progressive new MLB commissioner agrees to lift the ban, it still does not get Rose into the Hall of Fame. The Baseball HOF is still a private institution, and they alone decide who is and who is not eligible for enshrinement.
And now, because you didn’t ask, I will offer up my own personal opinion. I believe that the lifetime ban that Rose agreed to (or was coerced in to?) was unjustified. The punishment did not fit the crime. Pete Rose had a gambling addiction. He bet on his own team to win, never to lose. It is highly unlikely that the action or inaction of Pete Rose while he was managing the Reds had any effect on the outcome of any game. He did not cheat. He did not use steroids, or any other performance enhancing drug. My belief is that then-commissioner Bart Giamatti wanted to make an example of Rose. He certainly did that. Now it is time to let it go. Lift the ban. Allow Pete Rose his proper place in baseball history as the all-time hits leader, and as one of the greatest players to ever play the game.
The case of Charlie Hustle is a sad one. Please let it be rectified in Pete Rose’s lifetime, while there is still time to do so. He has suffered the punishment. Now let him enjoy the accolades that he has earned.

MLB…The Sky Is Not Falling.

Sometimes I have a little too much time on my hands, and with the excess time, I will occasionally visit the team chatrooms of MLB clubs, just to read the various chatter coming from them. I have been doing this for a few seasons now, and every spring, the same thing just jumps off the pages at me. It is the proclamation of ‘The sky is falling! We are going to be terrible this year! We can’t pitch! The guys are not hitting! They raised the price of hot dogs! We’re DOOMED!’ Really?? Okay, let’s jump in the pool…
First off, we are two weeks into Spring Training! If teams are worried about winning these all-important exhibition games, perhaps they need to re-focus. Believe it or not, spring training is NOT about winning games! It is about getting things working again. It is about players getting into ‘game shape’. It is irrelevant how rigorous or passive a players’ offseason training regimen is, game tempo is different. Players need to adjust to that atmosphere.
Second of all, players are actually working on things such as timing and technique. It is during spring training that players and teams are working out their double-play sets. Players are working on skills such as bunting, stealing, hit-and-run, and many other things. Pitchers are focusing on things like pitch location and getting their ‘stuff’ working. Spring training is the time to work on the correct execution of skills and plays. Sometimes when you are simply working on things, there will be failures, and these failures will translate into losses. It doesn’t matter, because spring training games do not count in the regular season standings. I find it hilarious how people are getting crazy because their team is getting beat at this time of year. It-does-not-matter…
Next, the regular-season starters see only limited action in spring training. For example, a pitcher will not be pushed to 7 or 8 innings in the spring. He might go 2 or 3 innings, and as spring progresses, he will slowly be stretched to go longer. Nobody wants to get their regular season line-up hurt in a game that means nothing. It does happen, but it is hopefully kept to a minimum.
Lastly, we have the young prospects hoping to make a club. These guys are the ones who seem to give maximum effort all the time. Why? Because they have to! These players are hoping to catch the eye of the coaching staff and evaluators. This is why in a relatively large percentage of spring training games, the guys who are on highlight reels are players that you have never heard of. We have to remember that most of these guys are going to be sent down to AA or AAA ball in a few weeks, but the team wants to see what they have down on the farm. Spring training is the time to do that. Conversely, these are young players going up against other minor leaguers. Take from that what you will, but there are precious few AA hitters who are going to be taking Clayton Kershaw over the wall…
So, my friends, if your team is getting hammered in spring training games, try to keep it in perspective. A World Series was never won in a spring game in Vero Beach FL or Surprise, AZ, so relax. It is only spring training. The sky is not falling. The games that count are still a few weeks away.

MLB…Disappearing History.

MLB… Disappearing History.
I am not one to be macabre. I don’t like to walk around spouting gloom and doom, and I try not to associate with those who do. I know that there are plenty of ‘Debbie Downer’s’ and ‘Gloomy Gus’s’ out there. I would rather not deal with that.
Okay, so why the weird introduction to today’s article? It is because I just learned that Hall-Of-Famer Al Rosen has passed away at 91 years old. Al Rosen was a 4-time all-star with the Cleveland Indians. He was the third baseman on the last Cleveland Indians team to win a World Series in 1953. In that same year, he also took MVP honors. After his playing career was over, he was successful in the front office of several MLB teams. I most remember him as a front office man for the New York Yankees. He was one of a few Jewish players who are enshrined in Cooperstown (Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg , and Lou Boudreau …). He was exposed to the anti-Semitism that can exist in our game. He was a star in his day in spite of that.
What is really striking a chord with me is that since the beginning of 2015, we have now lost three significant pieces of our baseball history. Ernie Banks, Minnie Minoso, and now Al Rosen have passed away. These men are a part of the pantheon of baseball greats. Obviously, people pass on. Nobody lives forever, but it is still sad when one of these men passes away.
We need to keep our history alive. I believe that baseball is truly one of those things where the lore is passed from one generation to the next. I used to hear stories from my grandfather (who knew Hank Greenberg), as well as my father, along with neighbors, coaches, and so on. One of the ways that we keep our game great is to tell the stories and pass down the memories.
I close today with simply this….R.I.P. Al Rosen.

MLB…More Arm Issues

I am starting to feel like I am a jinx, and that this is somehow my fault. Yesterday’s column ‘Arm Issues’ addressed the alarming frequency of arm injuries among major league pitchers during MLB Spring Training 2015. Almost as soon as I posted my article, I heard about a few more candidates for trips to the disabled list. This is kind of proving my point…
First of all, we have an update on Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies. It turns out that he may not require Tommy John surgery. His diagnosis is a torn flexor tendon, and he said that he would try to pitch through the injury, however the team is not optimistic, and they fear that Lee will need surgery, and that surgery may be career ending.
Now to the rest of the updates on the rash of arm injuries…Marcus Stroman (Toronto Blue Jays) has a torn ACL and is gone for the season. Gavin Floyd (Cleveland Indians) has reinjured the elbow that had a stress fracture last season that put an early end to his 2014 campaign. Mike Minor (Atlanta Braves) has an inflamed rotator cuff. Jacob Turner (Chicago Cubs) has a mild flexor strain and a bone bruise.
Get better soon, guys!