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Tony

In a very round about way (starting with the tragic news of the passing of Tony Phillips), I learned something today about a player from my favorite era of baseball–the days when I actually collected cards, played Strat-o-Matic, and didn’t worry so much about things like mortgages, paying taxes, or who the next President was going to be.

For some inexplicable reason, the Oakland A’s of the late 80’s were one of my favorite teams–never over my hometown Twins, but…well, the years between the two World Series victories, the Twins weren’t all that much to get excited about. One player who played a small, but somewhat significant, role for those A’s team was catcher Ron Hassey, who was basically the personal catcher of Bob Welch.

Turns out, Hassey has a little known fact for his career that makes him unique from all other players in the history of MLB–he is the only player to catch two perfect games.

His first came in 1981, catching a perfect game from Cleveland’s Len Barker, the highlight in a season that saw Cleveland finish in second to last place (despite being above .500–they finished 52-51 in the strike shortened season). Cleveland beat the Toronto Blue Jays 3-0.

His second perfect game came 10 years later, in 1991, while playing for the Montreal Expos. The starter in that game was Denny Martinez.

Also playing in that game (for the Los Angeles Dodgers) was Alfredo Griffin–the third perfect game he played in, all for the losing team. Griffin had played for the Blue Jays in 1981 against Barker, and Griffin and the Dodgers had also been beaten by Tom Browning in a perfect game in 1988. This stat was unique in MLB until 2012, when Tampa Bay Rays teammates Evan Longoria, Carlos Peña, B. J. Upton and Ben Zobrist were defeated in their third perfect game loss in 4 years.

Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

Field of Dreams - Dyersville, Iowa

Field of Dreams - Dyersville, Iowa

More than a year after it was put on the market, the famous Field of Dreams set location from the 1989 movie was sold to an investment group call Go The Distance LLC.  They won’t be moving into the house–rather they plan to develop the 193-acre lot into a baseball/softball training and tournament complex, including a dome for indoor training.

The famous cornfields are visited by an estimated 65,000 visitors per year–including, in 2009, by the proprietors of this site. The field itself wasn’t actually all that impressive–but the ambiance was definitely impressive, and I could easily see charities and companies wanting to hold tournaments there.

Youth leagues, though, I’m not sold on yet–and having a training facility in a town of 4,000 in rural Iowa seems like a stretch.

I hope they can make something of it–but at the same time, even more importantly, I hope they don’t ruin the feel of the actual field that made the site famous in the first place.

Bud Selig is reportedly upset and “embarrassed” that the Mets went public with the fact that they were not allowed to wear special hats to honor New York City first responders to honor the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

This is a further example of how clueless the commissioner of Major League Baseball really is–he should be embarrassed that he and his office made the decision in the first place. And he should be even more embarrassed that the hats they wore in pregame were physically taken away from the players, after it was heard that they may conspire to wear them anyway–the players had given the league an out (tell the players they can’t, players do it anyway, fine the players, donate the money to a charity supporting first responders).

And he shouldn’t be surprised–especially in today’s modern world, where players are constantly tweeting and actually interacting with fans–that the players would go public about the situation.

MLB dropped the ball on this one–multiple times now.  And if Selig was smart, he would look in the mirror, and figure out a way to fix the situation.

Why do I not think that’s going to happen?

I had the opportunity to go to the Twins game against the Kansas City Royals last night, and even had the chance to sit in some of the “Pretty People” seats with access to some special areas within the park.

More on my thoughts on Target Field later.

One thing that really caught my attention was when the Twins distributed All-Star ballots for voting mid-game.

I always enjoy looking at the ballots to see what ridiculous mistakes they’ve made as far as including players who have been benched, are at different positions, and other things that MLB should be able to fix on the fly with their printing vendors, given their clout.

But I got last night’s ballot, and was shocked to find out that the Twins had taken the liberty of punching out the holes for all of the Twins players on the ballot for me.

My wife initially thought that maybe we had gotten a recycled ballot–one someone had punched, not submitted, and an usher might have grabbed and put back in the box–but looking around, everyone’s ballots were punched.

Now I’m a home town fan, and I would definitely vote for Joe Mauer, and probably Justin Morneau (even though Miguel Cabrera probably deserves the start), and maybe even Delmon Young just to irritate the locals that don’t like him.

But no way on earth would I ever vote for Nick Punto to play 3rd base in an All-Star game.  I’m not sure I would even vote for him to be the 3rd string hot dog vendor for the outfield upper deck sections at an All-Star game.

In fact, I’d rather vote for someone like Evan Longoria, just to make sure that Alex Rodriguez doesn’t get the starting nod.

I know the Twins have been pushing hard on All-Star voting–emails, radio commercials, in stadium stuff–but is pre-filling out ballots ethical?  Do other teams do this?

[NOTE: I did find some non-pre-punched ballots at a booth later in the game–so not all ballots are given out this way. And I don’t think the ballot I got at a game a couple weeks back were either.]

If this is common around all stadiums, it’s just further confirmation that MLB needs to kill off fan voting having anything to do with All-Star game rosters–especially if they’re going to continue with the asinine idea that the winner of the All-Star game gets home field advantage in the World Series.

Curious to hear your thoughts on this in the comments…

Oh, and by the way, Punto is currently 5th in voting for 3rd base. Orlando Hudson is 4th at 2B, JJ Hardy is 3rd at SS, Jason Kubel 5th at DH, and Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer are both in the top 15–meaning the only Twin on the ballot not showing up in the results is Delmon Young…

Coming into the 2010 season, there had been a total of 18 perfect games thrown in Major League Baseball history. That’s not just the modern history, either–we’re talking back to the days of Lee Richmond pitching for the Worcester Rubylegs back in 1880–a total of 18 games, out of probably some 350,000+ games played (no idea if that number is right, but my quick guesstimation put it at about 300,000).

The Major Leagues once went a stretch of 34 years (from 1922 to 1956) without seeing a perfect game, and as recently as the 1970’s, went an entire decade without seeing one.

During the 1990’s, there was an all-time high of four perfect games, including just the second time that there were perfect games pitched in back to back years (David Wells in 1998, David Cone in 1999; prior to that, Jim Bunning in 1964 and Sandy Koufax in 1965 were the only two to throw perfect games in back to back seasons).

So far in 2010, there have been two official, and one (as of yet) unofficial perfect game thrown.  In fact, these three games happened in less than a month (Dallas Braden on May 9, 2010; Roy Halladay on May 29, 2010; Armando Galarraga on June 2, 2010).

For those of you keeping track at home, the 1990’s had a record four perfect games, while the…2010’s(?) has essentially three perfect games less than three full months into the first season of the decade (and let’s not start with the whole “the decade doesn’t start until next year crap–I’m going by the first three digits of the year).

Add Mark Buehrle’s perfect game from July of 2009, and that’s four in less than a full year.

So what’s causing the rash of perfect games?  Is it a fluke? Is it the watering down of talent due to expansion finally catching up to hitters, as it seemed to with pitchers?  Are pitchers just getting better?  Are performance enhancing drugs–and/or the testing/banning of them–somehow coming into play? Is MLB finally making up for juicing balls after the strike shortened season in an attempt to lure fans back to the ballpark?

I really don’t have any idea what’s behind it–so I thought I’d put it out there to see if anyone has any other thoughts on what might be leading to this, whether or not the trend will continue, and if so if that means that the exclusivity of such a game will start to wane as more pitchers are able to throw them?

The Florida Marlins got beat by Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night. Not just beat, either–Halladay threw the 20th perfect game in Major League Baseball history, and the second already this season.

Of course, since the game was in Florida, there were only just over 25,000 fans in attendance for the game–about 8,000 more than for an average Marlins home game.

So what to do with the other 13,000+ tickets that weren’t sold (and probably were never even printed)?

Well, if you’re the money grubbing Marlins, there’s only one logical solution–sell them. At face value.

That’s right, for between (based on published ticket prices) $12 and $300+, you to can claim that you were there to witness history.

Or turn around and try to resell the ticket on eBay–try to get a Halladay autograph, package it with a Halladay trading card, make a nice little plaque, and turn yourself a nice little profit.

[phpbay]halladay perfect game ticket, 3, "", ""[/phpbay]

As an occasional collector of sports memorabilia, this seems…just dirty to me. As a fan, had I attended the game, I could see keeping that ticket stub, and making some sort of collectible. And I could see a truly passionate fan (of Halladay or the Phillies) buying some sort of memento. But in either case, having a ticket that was actually used would mean 100x more than having something printed after the fact.

What’s next, just print up an extra 50,000 tickets with May 29, 2010 on them, and sell them in the fan shop?  Maybe Commemorative Replica Tickets?

It would be slightly more palatable if the Marlins printed something extra on the ticket, indicating it was not used on game day–but the story makes no indication of that, and I doubt it would happen.

Which means, once again, the Marlins have found a way to sully MLB tradition, and the way the game should be conducted, in my eyes.

[Note: It’s possible this is a regular thing with many teams in MLB, and I’ve just not heard of it before–if that’s the case, just add it to the list of reasons for why I don’t think MLB will ever reclaim the #1 spot in my heart for sports, even if the NFL does manage to screw things up by having a lockout/strike in the coming year.]

The good news–apparently, four months ago (also known as the heart of the NFL Season), Bud Selig realized that a) baseball needed more parity, and b) his efforts (if he’s made any) weren’t going to cut it.  So he named a 14-person “special committee for on-field matters,” promising that all topics would be in play and “there are no sacred cows.”

Unfortunately for baseball fans, Selig apparently found 14 people even more stupid than himself to be on the committee.

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Torii Hunter made some comments recently that raised a few eyebrows, when he called Latino players “imposters” who are not black in a story published by USA Today:

“People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they’re African-American. They’re not us. They’re impostors. Even people I know come up and say: ‘Hey, what color is Vladimir Guerrero? Is he a black player?’ I say, ‘Come on, he’s Dominican. He’s not black.’ …

While he admitted that it was poor word choice, he declined to apologize for the comments.  And to be honest, I don’t think he has to apologize–in fact, when in the Dominican a few years back, I had a tour guide pointedly tell me that the reason that he disliked the Haitian kids that were begging us tourists for a dollar was because they were black, unlike him.  So I think a lot (if not all) Latino players would agree that they are not black–meaning, as he indicated, that the only problem with Hunter’s statements would be the use of that word “imposter.”

Aside from that, though, I think that Hunter did touch on one subject that is probably going to be an increasing problem with the way MLB is structured–especially if Latino players do actually “Take over [the game],” as Ozzie Guillen said in response to Hunter.

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Watching Sports Center this morning, to see if ESPN actually manages to cover a baseball game between two teams in flyover country–which may have been the best game of the 2009 season.  And, as normally happens on the rare occasions I tune in, I’m reminded of just why I hate what Sports Center (and ESPN in general) has become.

It’s bad enough that during Sports Center–the show that made its claim to fame by showing highlight after highlight of virtually all of the previous day’s sporting events–from the big game to the largely irrelevant ones–was repeatedly pimping their story on the history of the Pie to the Face in Major League Baseball.

Truly ground breaking sports journalism there.

But on top of that, they once again managed to put their ESPyaNkees slant on things–in the story preview sidebar, they managed to squeeze in a headline as a lead in to the story, entitled “Yankees Walkoffs.”

That’s right, they took a stupid story, and put the Yankees spin on it, because apparently Yankees starting pitcher AJ Burnett has pied several players in the face this season after walkoff wins, including Melky Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, and some rookie catcher that was a September call-up (Francisco Cervelli maybe?  I was so enthralled by the thought, time and effort put into the piece that I missed the name).

Glad I can once again go six months without checking out Sports Center…

As expected, the Washington Nationals made San Diego State University right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, giving them the opportunity to likely pay him $50+ million, thanks to Scott Boras.

But I heard an interesting take on Strasburg on the local sports talk radio station today–one caller said that, while talented, he is being vastly overrated, due to the competition level in the Mountain West Conference.

Granted, it was just a caller to a station in Minnesota–but the caller was apparently from Vegas, and apparently had an opportunity to watch Strasburg pitch in person.  He went so far as to add that the no-hitter that Strasburg recently threw–the first of his career–was not even that impressive, as it was against Air Force–the worst team in the conference, whom the caller suspected that there were several other pitchers that could also no hit.

So, while I’m not ready to say that Strasburg won’t make the bigs, and might not be a solid pitcher–but if I’m the Nationals, I’d also be pretty hesitant to throw away $50+ million on a guy who has thrown a lot of quality pitches against some pretty mediocre competition.

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