Ralph Branca, RIP: Dignity after infamous defeat

Ralph Branca, in his better Dodger days . . .

Ralph Branca, in his better Dodger days . . .

“I lost a ballgame, but I gained a friend.” Thus did former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca describe the aftermath that really mattered when it came to surrendering baseball’s still most famous home run, a sweet friendship with New York Giants outfielder Bobby Thomson that was compromised by an ugly revelation in 2001.

Thomson died in Georgia at 86 in 2010. Branca died this morning in a Rye, New York nursing home at 90. About a decade before Thomson’s death, Joshua Prager revealed in the Wall Street Journal that there may have been more to the 1951 Giants’ stupefying comeback to force the fabled pennant playoff than met the eye. Or, perhaps more to the point, the eye in the sky.

The hardware chronicles, 2016 continued . . .

Uncontroversial NL MVP Bryant . . .

Uncontroversial NL MVP Bryant . . .

Concerning the rest of Hardware Week, a few sobering observations:

* Kris Bryant, the National League’s MVP, was a no-questions-asked solid pick. And yes, it’s rare that a guy follows a Rookie of the Year campaign with an MVP and a World Series ring. Maybe the least controversial award pick this year was Bryant. But if they’d given the award to one player across the board, Bryant would probably have finished second to Trout. And there’s no shame in that.

Is it time for the Angels to trade MVP Trout?

Mike Trout, shown on an Angels' throwback day in 1962 uniform . . .

Mike Trout, shown on an Angels’ throwback day in 1962 uniform . . .

In early August, it looked as though Mike Trout, once again, would produce an off-chart season for a team whose chart indicated the need for a visit to the ICU post haste. And I observed the Angels were far better at promoting the living daylights out of Trout than building him a team that knows as much as he does about how to play the game to win.

Two different ex-Mets become two different Braves

The Braves get a pitcher/acrobat by signing Bartolo Colon (lower left) . . .

The Braves get a pitcher/acrobat by signing Bartolo Colon (lower left) . . .

The rebuilding Braves decided a little senior leadership on the mound was what their budding pitching corps needs. So they signed the two oldest active major league pitchers this week. R.A. Dickey, the knuckleball specialist and erstwhile Cy Young Award winner (2012), signed for one year and $8 million guaranteed. And Bartolo Colon has signed for one year and $12.5 guaranteed.

Both signings ensure the Braves’ younger arms will be mentored by former Mets. If they happen to win some games while they’re at it, that’s a plus. But you won’t find two pitchers who left the Mets in more differing conditions when they did leave.

Could Miller Time mean trade time now?

It could be Miller time on the trade market . . . could . . .

It could be Miller time on the trade market . . . could . . .

The good news for Indians fans is that their team is likely to compete for another postseason run in 2017. The bad news is that there’s already speculation over whether the Indians might or even should consider trading Andrew Miller while he’s under team control for two more seasons and his iron is white hot.

If you can believe the phrasing, MLB Daily Dish‘s Mike Bates wrote over the weekend just finished that Miller “is simply too good, and too valuable to keep.”

How to keep watching baseball without baseball being played

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, baseball season in terms of games played is done. And while (we presume) Chicago continues making a red, white, and blue racket over the Cubs’ extraterrestrial triumph, it doesn’t mean baseball goes dormant while lesser games (the NFL, the NBA, the NHL) play.

Here’s the schedule of things to come between now and spring training, courtesy mostly of CBS Sports:

▪ 3 November—All eligible players became free agents. Under recently-renegotiated rules, eligible players automatically become free agents on their first eligible day, which is the day after the World Series ends.

The stove is warming up, for contenders especially

While the world joined Wrigleyville in toasting the Cubs, the rest of this postseason’s contenders got busy preparing for 2017. The Mets, for example, who almost outlasted Madison Bumgarner in the National League wild card game, until a near-obscurity named Conor Gillaspie ruined it, don’t seem to be wasting time.

Anticipating the opt-out by Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets picked up Jay Bruce’s 2017 option, worth $13 million. Bruce came to the Mets in a non-waiver trade deadline deal with the Reds and started sluggishly as a Met before heating up down the stretch.

Montero’s complaint, timed terribly

Why would a guy who came up big twice with the bases loaded this postseason complain?

Why would a guy who came up big twice with the bases loaded this postseason complain?

Somewhere up from the depth of Chicago’s loud, raucous, bigger-than-Woodstock celebration of the Cubs’ transcendental triumph there came a small voice of dissent. Miguel Montero, the no-questions asked hero of National League Championship Series Game One and the man who drove home the eighth and final Cub run of World Series game seven, was not amused by his usage during the Cubs’ postseason run.

Beneath the big smile he flashed during the Cubs’ celebrations Friday beat the heart of a man who believes he could have and should have been allowed more chances to contribute more.

Journeyman Ross came and went with very different bangs

Game Seven: David Ross, about to meet Andrew Miller's ball for a date over the center field fence . . .

Game Seven: David Ross, about to meet Andrew Miller’s ball for a date over the center field fence . . .

Willie Mays didn’t get to retire like a champion, and neither did Mickey Mantle. Nor did Henry Aaron, Ernie Banks, Yogi Berra, George Brett, Lou Brock, Harmon Killebrew, Stan Musial, Babe Ruth, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo, Mike Schmidt, Ozzie Smith, Billy Williams, and a small passel of Hall of Famers.

How many major league baseball players get to retire as well as David Ross?

The Indians, the little team that almost did

Kluber (left), Francona, and the Indians proved the little team that could have but . . .Somewhere in the middle of the party enveloping Wrigleyville, which isn’t likely to re-open until spring training, at minimum, the heart of every Cub fan knows without having to say it. They ended baseball’s longest championship drought the hard way.

And they ought to congratulate the Cleveland Indians for making the Cubs absolutely earn it, no matter what surrealities came into play in Game Seven or, frankly, in the entire World Series. Rarely has any team robbed of so much taken a World Series to the absolute final out with so little left to expend from their bold selves as the Indians took.