Get the Net…


I am glad that all of MLB’s 30 teams have extended the safety netting at their ballparks for the 2016 season. Why? Because I don’t believe that attending a baseball game should be a contact sport.

Okay, okay. I know that it is a spectator’s responsibility to pay attention at all times. It says so in the disclaimer on the back of every game ticket. It is announced at the beginning of every baseball game at every stadium. It would also seem that it is just plain common sense that if there is a possibility of a baseball or a shattered bat making a bee-line for your unprotected melon, that you might want to pay attention. But that is not the world in which we now live.

How many times does the average person look at their center-of-their-universe cell phone over the course of their day? Think about it. The answer is astonishing. I actually researched this question and found that the number landed somewhere between 110 to 150 times per day. That’s incredible, right? People are so wrapped up in text messages, e-mail, Instagram, Snap Chat, and Facebook that it is a wonder that they have time for anything else. That is our world of today. Social Media rules the day, and sadly for so many people, it has replaced the real world. With that said, the average length of a MLB game is 2 hours and 58 minutes. In our social media-text message centered world, how many people do you know that can simply shut the damn phone off for almost three hours? If you are honest with yourself, you will find that the answer is probably close to zero.

That is hardly the only distraction at the old ballgame. If you made the trip to the ball park with your family in tow, guess what? You have that distraction! Did you notice the huge, new multi-million dollar scoreboard? Distraction. Do you like peanuts, popcorn, and Cracker Jacks (or hot dogs, beer, ice cream, or…), or the person carting them around? Distraction.

There is yet another factor, and it is this…there is the possibility that even if you are paying attention, you may not be agile enough to protect yourself against flying objects from the field. How many times have we seen a batted ball or a broken bat go sailing into the stands and strike a fan who was paying attention? Quite a bit, I’m afraid. A foul ball is still a batted ball, and a ball can leave the MLB bat at well over 100 MPH. Is the average fan quick enough to get out of the way? Maybe, or maybe not. We have all seen both.

My point in all of this is that for most people, it is not as easy as ‘just pay attention’. It really isn’t, so with that said do MLB venues have a responsibility to ensure fan safety? No organization wants to have an unsafe environment where fans are afraid to attend the games. There is no revenue in empty seats, so isn’t in MLB’s best interests to make things as safe as possible? Even if there is no legal obligation to do so, I believe that they should. If MLB is all about the ‘fan experience’, shouldn’t fan safety be a part of the experience?

Lastly, about the netting…Does anybody really believe that it will somehow degrade the view? I submit that if you are not sitting in the very first row with the netting tickling your nose, the netting will make absolutely no difference in your ability to see the action on the field. If you are sitting 20 rows back, is the average fan even going to notice? Even if you did notice the nets when you first got there, the nets will quickly just fade into the visual background.

People ultimately have the responsibility for their own safety, and a huge part of that is being aware of your surroundings, and people should be prepared to react to the ever-changing landscape. However, sometimes they are not. I think that it is prudent and reasonable for MLB and it’s teams to do whatever they can to keep the game safe for the fans.

RIP, Yogi…

RIP Yogi….

I hate writing articles like this. Every time I do, it us because we have lost another piece of our baseball past, our baseball memories. Yes, I know that it is inevitable, just as the sun rises every day, people die.

Lawrence Peter ‘Yogi’ Berra was born on May 12, 1925, in St. Louis, Missouri. He broke into the Major Leagues in September of 1946, and played through 1963 with the New York Yankees. He finished his playing career in 1964 as a member of the cross-town rival New York Mets, plating in just 4 games for them. He had reasonably good statistics over his career. He played in 2,120 games, scored 1,175 runs, had 2,150 hits, 358 HR’s and 1,430 RBI. He had a career batting average of .285. Looking slightly past that was something more. Yogi Berra had an excellent eye at the plate, so good in fact that he only struck out 414 times in his entire MLB regular season career! That is pretty impressive. Yogi Berra was an excellent defensive catcher as well. He had a fielding average of .989 as a catcher.

Yogi Berra was the American League MVP 3-times, and he was elected to the Baseball Hall Of Fame in 1972 By the time that his career in baseball was done he had participated in 21 World Series and won 13 Championship rings (10 as a player).

Alright, enough statistics… Yogi was famous for his ‘Yogi-isms’ as much as he will be remembered for anything else. To coin an old phrase, he had a million of ‘em. I will not give examples here, simply because there are so many of them that I will never finish this article. Yogi was a character, and in a world that is sometimes too sterile and politically correct, we could use a few more Yogi Berra’s.

Yogi Berra was not a big guy, standing only 5’8”, but he weighed 194lbs. He was incredibly strong in every way that you want your catcher to be. Personally, I share a lot of those physical similarities with him. He was a little taller and a little heavier than I was when I played, but as a fellow catcher, he was a player who I studied and emulated (along with Carlton Fisk…). I could relate to Yogi Berra, as I  was short, stocky, strong defensively, and could be a bit of a character, too. Even though he played for a team that I dislike intensely, I had a tremendous amount of respect for Yogi.

I don’t want to get into his acrimonious split with the George Steinbrenner Yankees, and I am not going to rehash the countless stories about him as a player and a manager/coach. Everybody who knew him or knew of him has their own individual memories of him. Yogi Berra was not only a baseball icon, but he was an American icon as well. When you mention the name of Yogi Berra, everybody instantly knows whom you are talking about. Just a little factoid here…did you know that Yogi Berra served in the U.S. Navy during World War 2, and that he took part in the Allied invasion of Normandy? Well, he did! Also, he was in fact the inspiration for Hanna-Barbera’s famous picnic basket stealer, Yogi Bear.

As his health deteriorated over his later years, he was moved into an assisted living facility, and he didn’t speak very much, but in the case of Yogi Berra, he really didn’t need to.

R.I.P. Yogi…



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!

MLB…Arm Issues.

If you have been paying attention to 2015 Spring Training, you will see that Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers is having a little bit of elbow discomfort. The injury that Darvish has is being described by the team is an elbow sprain. It seems that this term on many occasions morphs in to a UCL injury (ulnar collateral ligament), and very rarely does it have any other outcome than Tommy John surgery. The outlook for the Texas Rangers was not good to begin with, and now with their ace most assuredly gone for the season, it has become dismal. Anyway, I was thinking about the amount of pitchers that are succumbing to UCL injuries, and asked myself if the frequency of this particular injury is now higher than it was 10 or 20 years ago? It certainly seems that way. In the past few seasons we have seen this injury to Matt Harvey, Joel Hanrahan, Stephen Strasburg, Jose Fernandez, and now Darvish along with several others. Why? Is it because today’s pitchers are bigger with different mechanics? Is it because they throw harder with what is termed as ‘maximum effort’ on every pitch? Is it because most pitchers have been at it for a long time, from the time that they were kids thru the time that their arms simply just let go? Perhaps it is a combination of all of these factors…

My point of all of this is not to get into the weeds of the bio-mechanics of cause and effect. It is more the simple question of what, if anything, can be done to diminish the frequency of this plague-like injury? I am not a doctor ( and no, I do not play on on TV either…), so I really don’t have an answer. Would limiting a pitchers work in the off-season or spring training be helpful? Darvish had done only minimal work in spring training this season, and now he is gone. I do not think that overwork is the issue here. Players have off-season conditioning programs which are generally effective, but in the case of these injured players, not so much.

In the case of the Texas Rangers, they will lose one pitcher, but he was their ace, and the one thing that they could have hung their hat on this season. We probably not see him again until mid-2016. That is going to be a long drought in Arlington Texas. What did the loss of Matt Harvey (Mets) and Jose Fernandez (Marlins) mean to their teams? In the long run, if MLB keeps losing it’s marquee players, they are going to want to do something to protect the product. The question again is ‘what’? I am hopeful that somehow it will get figured out. Players are having their careers dramatically altered, if not ended by UCL injuries. I would like to think that we have some of the best training methods and best sports doctors in the world. Surely they would have some input.

I wish the best for Yu Darvish, and going forward, any other player who suffers a UCL or any other injury. I understand all too well that it is part of the game. My hope is that there will be an answer to the question of injury reduction.