Hideki Irabu, RIP: The Troubled Dream

Hideki Irabu, a troublesome and troubled Yankee . . .

Did Hideki Irabu’s various crashes and prolonged burn finally cost him what mattered most, in turn costing him his life at 42?

Once an overhyped Japanese import in a Yankee uniform, Irabu was living mostly quietly in a well-to-do southern California suburb when, two months before his suicide Thursday, his wife, Kyonsu, left him and took their two little daughters with her. A neighbour told reporters the former pitcher seemed very down, not his usual “perky” self, since those departures.

The Mets Look Smarter Than They've Looked for Several Years

Now that Met fans can speak of him retrospectively, wisdom should inform one and all of them that Carlos Beltran was, when healthy, one of the better lights among Met clubs that so often disillusioned from high expectations. And, yes, it’s time to quit blaming him for the onset of one of the Mets’ more heartbreak-shepherding eras.

File this under your Mets Keeping It Real tab: If he’d swung and missed on Adam Wainwright’s breaker in 2006, the screaming would have been variations on the theme of what the hell were you swinging at?!? When you’re fated to be the final out of a lost pennant, you can’t win for losing. Especially after your tenure from there is pockmarked by injuries that often made people forget how productive you were (and are) when healthy.

"That's telling me I was incorrect in my position . . .": Jerry Meals

“It’s a shame,” Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Wednesday, “because Jerry Meals is one hell of an umpire.”

Meals is also one hell of an honest ump, based on remarks he made later in the day Wednesday about his call that enabled the Atlanta Braves to win a marathon, 19-inning, 4-3 game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Turner Field. The Braves won after Julio Lugo, tagged above his right kneecap on his thigh by Pirates catcher Michael McKenry, was called safe by Meals, inexplicably.

The Human Factor Be Damned

This is exactly what the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose surprising graduation from the National League’s near-two-decade doormats to legitimate National League Central contenders has been one of the season’s sweet surprises, don’t need.

Never mind pitching coach Ray Searage tweeting an outraged Tweeter, “Deal with it.” If the Pirates hold to that attitude and push it to one side, it will say plenty about the makeup of this year’s edition. But first the Pirates are going to let their feelings be known about home plate umpire Jerry Meals absolutely blowing the call on the run that won a game for the Atlanta Braves in the bottom of the nineteenth. And enough of everyone else are asking when baseball government is going to wise up and sanction instant replay.

The Curse of Murray Chass?

I’ve heard of a lot of baseball curses—from the Curse of the Bambino plaguing the Boston Red Sox until 2004 to the Curse of the Billy Goat that’s supposed to have plagued the Chicago Cubs since 1946 (tavern owner Sam Siamis was denied bringing his beloved goat into Wrigley Field, or some such thing)—but I’ve never heard of a curse tied to a baseball writer.

The Minnesota Twins and their fans may be tempted to change that. On 24 July, here is what Hall of Fame baseball writer Murray Chass (formerly of The New York Times, now writing for his own Website) wrote about the Twins returning to the thick of the American League Central hunt:

Humbled at the Hall

The greatest second baseman of the post-World War II era who isn’t named Joe Morgan pulled up eight votes shy of making the Hall of Fame his first year of eligibility. One of the absolute best pitchers of the same era needed fourteen years and a sabermetric review of his career to make it at last.

Roberto Alomar accepts his induction to Cooperstown . . .

Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven are no-questions-asked Hall of Famers now. The former’s is a triumph of reason over aging hysteria; the latter’s, a triumph of sound analysis over surface skimming.

Jim Bouton's Forgotten Postscript

Which is worse? A baseball commissioner trying to suppress a from-the-inside book written by an active player? An opposing team burning a copy of the book?

When Jim Bouton’s Ball Four reached the magazine-excerpt stage and, then, full publication, in 1970, the former Yankee fastball standout, reduced by arm miseries to knuckleballing, marginal Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros middle reliever/spot starter, had both happen. But if you wonder whether Bouton shriveled into a shell and disappeared as a result, you don’t remember much of his post-playing life. Not to mention the book he published a year later.

Fielders of Nightmares?

“I don’t know what to call it,” said Hall of Fame center fielder Richie Ashburn, about his final major league team, the 1962 Mets, “but I know I’ve never seen it before.”

Ashburn should only have lived long enough to see the Lake County (Illinois) Fielders, an independent minor league team, playing in the North American League, whose 2011 season can be called surrealistic only in the most polite terms possible.

The Man the Ballot Stuffers Forgot

No All-Star break ever seems to pass without at least one mention (including mine) of the 1957 ballot box stuffing scandal, the one that cost the fans the All-Star starting lineup vote until 1970. Everyone remembers the seven Cincinnati Reds voted to the starting lineup. Everyone thus also remembers that, somehow, Stan Musial sort of snuck through the stuffing to make the starting lineup. And, that commissioner Ford Frick removed Gus Bell and Wally Post from the starting lineup in favour of Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

The Government Balks Clemens Home

In legal terms alone, Roger Clemens is off the hook, for now and possibly forever. Incensed on the second day’s testimony that prosecutors showed the jury evidence previously ruled inadmissible, federal judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial.

And, because it did occur on a second day of trial testimony, there is a very real likelihood that Clemens will not face prosecution for perjury after all. There’s a law against double jeopardy–in fact, it rests squarely within the Supreme Law of the Land—and either Walton or another judge may rule that bringing the case back to court equals just that.