The Rise and Demise of the Five Aces

The Washington Nationals say Stephen Strasburg won’t be limited in his 2012 starts but will be limited in his total innings’ workload this season. They’ve clearly learned a lesson or three from Strasburg’s almost-lost 2011, following his rookie splash of 2010. They may have learned it in decent part from the wizened gentleman who is only their second pitching coach since they relocated from Montreal. A gentleman who knows only too much about the destruction, actual or potential, of talented young pitchers who might be overworked, overused, overextended, and finally overcooked.

Steve McCatty has been there. Done that. Bought the Billy Martin bar coasters.

It Might As Well Be Spring . . .

To hell with the calendar. Every real American knows spring begins in that blessed spell when pitchers and catchers report and the position players aren’t all that far behind.

Walking the plank to Pittsburgh . . .

* A.J. PIRATE?—It’s looking more and more as though the Empire Emeritus and the Pittsburgh Pirates have a deal to send A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh in exchange for a pair of minor leaguers. Ridding the Yankees of a talented headache on the mound, though from most reports a good guy in the clubhouse.

Gary Carter, RIP: Sense, and Unsense

We didn’t expect, we merely hoped, that one way or the other Gary Carter would conquer the enemy that finally took him down Wednesday. Knowing Carter, perhaps one of the better things we can think of his death at 57 is that at least he was granted that one final Valentine’s Day, to spend with the wife he loved proudly over thirty-seven years of marriage.

Gary Carter leads Wally Backman (6), Kevin Elster (2), and jubilant '86 Mets to pile on the mound celebrating their World Series win.

Pick Allen for the Hall?

There are those who continue to press a Hall of Fame case for Dick Allen, too. To many, it’s as off-the-wall as it comes, considering the trajectory of his career knitted to the controversies that bristled around the uncommonly talented third/first baseman.

Statistically, Allen belongs. There’s no question about it. It only began with his rookie season; he wasn’t just the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1964, he may have posted one of the ten greatest rookie seasons of all time. In fact, Allen’s rookie season does compare rather well to Joe DiMaggio’s.

A Would-Be Hall of Famer . . .

An off-the-wall Hall of Fame pick? Everybody has them. Or so you’d think, based on who’s picking whom as a Hall of Famer and who’s arguing against those choices. Lots of people pick Minnie Minoso (I’m one of them, by the way), and lots of other people think that’s a pick somewhere between the surreal and the snickerable. Lots of people put up with a lot of abuse for years over picking Ron Santo, but it turned out he was a bona-fide Hall of Famer and, at long enough last, a Veterans Committee group agreed well enough that Santo’s going in, albeit posthumously, this year. The previous sentence could be applied to Bert Blyleven, too, with the codicil that Blyleven didn’t have to wait until he had gone to his reward to accept his plaque, though he’s well on record as regretting only that his father didn’t live to see it happen. And how about all of us still pressing Tim Raines’s Hall of Fame case?

Around the Horn and Back Again . . .

Phil Garner.

*¬†ASTRO-NOMICAL RESURRECTION?—¬†Murray Chass has an interesting analysis of the Houston Astros’ collapse from 2005 World Series team to the worst season in franchise history in 2011, with a little help from former Astros manager (and now Oakland Athletics special advisor) Phil Garner (We lost our leaders in the clubhouse. They were also star players.) and freshly-minted general manager Jeff Luhnow. Not to mention the shenanigans that delayed Jim Crane’s original bid to buy the Astros, before anyone thought of strong-arming him into accepting the Astros as the team to have been named later in, figuratively speaking, the deal that made a National League team out of the Milwaukee Brewers.

A Devilish Angel

Fifty years ago, a rakish, flaky, and talented lefthanded pitcher, who thought he’d reached his final end in the Baltimore Orioles organisation, sat at his parents’ home in Trenton, New Jersey. He’d just returned from pitching winter ball in Venezuela, helping lead his team to the playoffs. Now, he pondered a meager, minimum-salary contract offer from the Los Angeles Angels, who’d plucked him from the Baltimore Orioles organisation in a minor league draft the previous November.