A tremendous event happened in Major League Baseball recently, although you might not have felt it. Hell, you could very well have not noticed or even forgotten about it. I’m of course referring to the selection of Rob Manfred as the next Commissioner of Baseball, a title that will become official in 2015.
My thoughts on this choice are … well, nonexistent. As tremendous as the announcement is, given his predecessor’s lengthy tenure, Manfred’s selection elicited no emotional response from me. No anger, no surprise, no excitement, just … nothing.
This isn’t to say Manfred is unqualified for the job. After all, his resume includes Harvard Law School, a long history of working in labor and employment affairs, outside counsel to MLB owners during the ‘94 strike and MLB chief operating officer. Yet If anything, that’s part of why his selection is as thrilling for me to write about as watching a documentary about blenders. I understand why it’s functional and necessary, but that doesn’t make it interesting.
I don’t expect MLB commissioners to be as eccentric and indelible as Rube Waddell or Lou Gehrig, but a little character or a momentous accomplishment doesn’t hurt. Stubbornly racist as he was, Kenesaw Mountain Landis instantly etched his place in baseball history not just for banning the Black Sox for life, but doing so with the steeliness he had as a federal judge. Peter Ueberroth sailed into the job after bringing the Olympics to Los Angeles in 1984, which made him Time Magazine Man of the Year and served as a pinnacle event in the patriotic epoch of the Reagan years. Continue reading
As the wise philosopher Ron Burgundy once put it: “Boy, that escalated quickly.”
In perhaps the most dizzying trade deadline ever, the American League erupted in an arms race in mere hours. First, my Oakland Athletics made a what-the-hell-but-it-makes-sense-when-you-cool-down trade with the Boston Red Sox, sending Yoenis Cespedes in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. Lester, of course, almost guaranteed comes as just a rental for the playoffs, but given his exceptional stats this year and playoff gumption in Beantown he’s worth it. Gomes, a key part of Oakland’s youthful last-minute run to a division crown in 2012, returns with a fresh World Series ring in tow and a chance to get another by strengthening the outfield.
Of course, the immediate reaction was panic over losing Cespedes, who will be a free agent after 2015. Yes, he dazzled A’s fans with a highlight-reel glove and a bat that won back-to-back Home Run Derbies. But peel yourself away from those highlights, and the truth is that while he’s a dynamic player, he was still hitting in the .250 range, and brilliant plays don’t equal top fielding percentage. Considering how stellar Josh Reddick has been upon returning, as well as Oakland’s eye-popping run differential, they have enough depth to make up for Cespy’s absence. (Almost forgotten in this shuffle is the fact that the Twins benefited in a trade for once, acquiring lefty starter Tommy Milone for Sam Fuld, who has already made his presence felt in the reshuffled Oakland outfield.)
Only hours after that, however, came the biggest announcement of all: The Detroit Tigers, already stacked with aces, landing David Price in a three-team deal. I’m not going to even try to be neutral here: I hate, hate, hate that this deal happened the way it did, and I’ll take some space to explain just why. First, the more rational part. To put it simply, Tampa Bay didn’t come close to getting the return they needed for parting with the best pitcher in their young franchise history. Remember, the Royals had to send a package to the Rays that included Wil Myers just to get James Shields, so the crop for Price should have been even bigger. By all accounts, when the Rays were languishing in last, this was what they were rightly demanding from interested teams. My Dodgers, for example, would have likely had to deal both Joc Pederson and Corey Seager, a highly valuable outfielder and infielder who are among the best prospects in the entire game.
I’m a Minnesotan. Over the last week, the only sports headline that has come close to competing with the many Kevin Love trade rumors is the lawsuit filed by former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe against his former team.
Without going into every detail, Kluwe’s case deals with claims that his special teams coach, Mike Priefer, created a hostile work environment by saying things such as: “put all gay people on an island and nuke them until it glows.”
The Vikings coach denied it several times, but once it was corroborated by current Vikings player then Priefer admitted it. He was suspended by the Vikings for three games, which will be reduced to two if he completes sensitivity training.
Sticking with the NFL (this does lead to MLB, I promise), the league came out Thursday with its punishment for Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice, busted during the off-season for dragging his unconscious girlfriend out of an elevator (this is on video).
The NFL slapped Rice on the wrist with a two-game suspension for domestic violence. This is half the punishment that Rice would have received had he used performance enhancing drugs. These penalties, respectively for Priefer and Rice, make a mockery of both domestic violence and gay bashing.
It’s that time of year again. And if you’re an amateur GM like me, then the fast-approaching trade deadline means you are glued to www.mlbtraderumors.com (currently my home page on both my desktop and laptop).
We’ve already seen the Oakland A’s land the second best pitcher in Jeff Samardzija. They also picked up Jason Hammel, who has been having an amazing season.
With no glaring holes, and now the strongest rotation in baseball, the A’s look tough to beat. Should one of their players go down they still have as a trade chip Tommy Milone to dangle.
But that is just a couple of pieces and two teams. With this being a down year for a lot of teams (loving Boston Wrong this season personally) I see this having the potential to be a massive trade deadline. Continue reading
I’m not a huge All-Star game fan. I appreciate what the contest used to be back when Hall of Famers played half or more of the game and they went all out in an effort to win for their league.
I’m less a fan these days when the bigger emphasis is on glitz and making sure almost everyone has an opportunity to play. There’s even been talk from Adam Wainwright that he grooved the first inning pitch that Derek Jeter lined for a double – much like the talk that the pitch Cal Ripken hit out of the yard against Chan Ho Park in the 2001 game was soft-tossed.
That wouldn’t have happened in the old days. Continue reading
Hello again Brushback faithful! It’s only been a few weeks since my Max Scherzer piece, but it feels thrice as long given the extent of things packed into my college graduation summer. And trust me, I’m not saying that with any complaint. In addition to a whole bevy of personal projects that of course includes this site, I’ve completed the first chapter of the book I’m writing for the Sacramento Historical Society about the history of baseball in my city. In a poignant end to that first step, I spent all night into the wee hours of the morning wrapping up this chapter, an assiduous approach that recalled my many all-nighters spent working on papers in college. (To further cement the moment, I wrote to the music of Kid Creole and the Coconuts on infinite loop just as I had in the same finals that Max Scherzer inspired me through.)
As I spent the weekend in Yosemite National Park immediately after the chapter was submitted to my boss, I was understandably feeling pretty triumphant. These good vibes led to a humorous train of thought about how my successes in baseball writing are the closest I’ll come to achieving glory in the national pastime. I may never turn on a fastball for a legendary game-winning home run, or pitch a perfect game, but hell: Why can’t we baseball writers receive some love too?
How about a great baseball movie of the “Moneyball”/”61*” ilk to chronicle our struggles and triumphs? I envision a tense scene of the writer at his laptop, struggling to come up with the right word. He types and erases a couple in frustration, just like a batter swinging and missing pathetically at the first two strikes. But then, he digs in and focuses on that next word even harder. “The Natural”-style music cues up, and in slow motion he types out the perfect word. The announcer intones: “Holy cow, what an adjective!” OK…not exactly stirring stuff, but allow me a little indulgence over my accomplishments here! None of my teams have won a World Series since we all had mullets and George Bush Sr. was in one of the two highest offices in the land, so I’ll celebrate my little victories as I please. Continue reading
On some Major League teams this year Tommy Milone, with his six wins and 3.55 ERA, would be approaching the level of Ace. On this year’s Oakland Athletics squad, even with season-ending injuries to AJ Griffin and Jarrod Parker, he has been reduced, to the role of Triple-A insurance policy.
The A’s have been the league’s most dominant team this year, at least according to winning percentage and run differential. And Billy Beane is going for a trophy, as evidenced by this weekend’s acquisition of Ace Jeff Samardzija and middle-of-the-rotation guy Jason Hammel.
The deal coincided with an agreement between the Athletics and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority (which still needs approval from the Oakland City Council) whereby the team will remain in what I guess is now called the O.co Coliseum.
I love this. The market settles at least some of its differences with the team, agreeing to make some upgrades to the nearly 50-year-old venue by Opening Day 2015. The team makes a commitment to try to build on the strong first-half of the season by acquiring arguably the best starting pitcher available in this year’s trade market – giving up a stud shortstop prospect in the process of doing so. Continue reading
It was 1979 … my uncle was taking me to my first Twins game. It was also the first time I truly found a favorite player. The bad thing for my uncle is that his name was Eddie Murray. Murray went 3-5 with three homers and drove in seven RBI that day.
In 1983, my uncle promised to take me to a bunch of games because the previous year I’d broken my leg and wasn’t able to play or go to a single game. We ended up going to one game and then, for the rest of the games, he just paid for me to go on the bus. Why? Because we went to see the Baltimore Orioles and I was able to see Eddie Murray again. He was coming off of a monster year in 82, and sure enough he jacked another. I was just in heaven. All I could talk about was Eddie Murray. My friends were into Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Robin Yount, and Kent Hrbek. For me, it was Eddie Murray, George Foster, and Lance Parrish – but mostly Eddie Murray.
In 1985 I begged to get to go to the All-Star game, but my uncle said there was no way we were paying $45 for tickets to a baseball game.
I was pretty young, so I expected to get to go to another All-Star Game at some point. Side note… the game is here in Minnesota in 2014, and the average price is $450 for a ticket. Ugh.
I did get to go to a couple of games in 85 though. I saw the Brewers, the Red Sox, and I was able to see the Orioles again. Ken Schrom was pitching yet again for the Twins and Murray hit a Grand Slam. Continue reading
The reception that Tony Gwynn Jr. received upon his first at bat after the tragic loss of his father was beautiful. MLB.com writes about it, but putting into context the passion that Phillies fans have for the game, it’s meaning, and the players that play for them and around the country make them my favorite fan base in the entire game. Their reaction to Gwynn’s at bat last night was passion at its finest and respect for the loss of his father.
Devin Mesoraco has hit a homerun in five consecutive games played. I remember when Ken Griffey Jr and Don Mattingly had their great homerun streaks, and not to be mean to Devin, but they were superstars… . His stats are showing that he is riding the wave of his career. Will it last? His numbers are gargantuan compared to previous seasons… I for one hope he’s for real, and that we will not be seeing his name smirched for PEDS, but look what it’s come to! Because he’s not Griffey Jr. or Mike Trout a person can’t help but have a seed of doubt sewn in. I wonder how long the tarnish will be on the game? Continue reading
First off, an apology for my long absence from this site. The past few weeks were a mind-numbing blitz of final schoolwork and graduation events, which left me without the time I need to write substantial pieces for the sites I contribute to (I only managed a quick article at Last Token Gaming). Luckily, in that time I landed my dream job, as I was commissioned by the Sacramento Historical Society to write a book about the history of baseball in the city (and my efforts here at Brushback were crucial to me getting it, as I sent my Clayton Kershaw contract extension article as one of three writing samples).
And, let’s be honest, I probably wouldn’t have had much enthusiasm to pump out an Artful Dodgers column during this recent juncture. Their mediocrity was so repetitious and unchanging it would have made for equally listless commentary. And while I’m new to enjoying hockey, I’ve gotta say watching the L.A. Kings grab their second Stanley Cup in three years in a white-knuckle 2 OT finale was a treat. Maybe when the winning goal was broadcast on the Dodger Stadium jumbotron it gave Dem Bums a modicum of inspiration to win a championship before we reach the 30th anniversary of the 1988 title. After Kershaw’s no-hitter, it seems it may have done just that…
Anyway, this piece isn’t about the Dodgers, but rather a single player I deeply admire, Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers. I’m glad to be writing this all the more after his first ever complete game recently against the Chicago White Sox, but that’s honestly irrelevant to the fact that even if I had had the time to write for Brushback in the past few weeks, I wouldn’t have been able to write this particular piece until only after I had graduated from UC Davis. That’s because, to put it simply, Mad Max helped inspire me to get to that point during my two years at university at a critical moment. But how does a Detroit Tigers pitcher inspire a lifelong Californian to finish his history degree, especially when I’m not a Tigers fan and the specific instance of inspiration came against my beloved Oakland Athletics? It sounds convoluted, but work with me here!