Thirty years ago, the Mets and the Red Sox locked in mortal baseball combat, in a World Series. It ended with the Mets on top of a baseball world that didn’t necessarily love that edition of the team, and the Red Sox having been kicked to the rocks below after having gotten close enough, yet again, to a Promised Land determined never to let them set foot upon it again, or so it seemed.
No, silly, the son of the Hall of Fame outfielder did not shoot across the field with nothing on but the stadium public address system. But Earl Averill, Jr.—an outfielder-catcher who died 13 May at 83 in Tacoma, Washington—accomplished something in 1962 that neither his father nor any Hall of Famer managed to do.
. . . and what would be a little spring training without a few little controversies, actual or alleged, here and there?
■ THE CHANGELING—That would be new commissioner Rob Manfred, for whom it seems everything short of shortening the basepaths (oops! don’t give him any ideas!) is on the table, whether it’s outlawing defensive shifting, coming up with new rule adjustments to (it is alleged) speed up the game, or even returning baseball to the 154-game season. (The American League went to 162 games after its first expansion, beginning in 1961; the National League did likewise starting with its first expansion in 1962.)
Jonathan Papelbon isn’t the first and probably won’t be the last professional athlete to go lewd and rude in the heat of a moment’s frustration when fans crawl all over him following a moment’s failure. But it doesn’t put him squarely in the right to suggest that Joe West, an umpire who is not allergic to the limelight, the grudge, or the self-appointment of being a law unto himself, was squarely in the wrong for escalating a simple misbehaviour into an unnecessary toxin.
Ryne Sandberg laboured long and hard to earn a shot at major league managing. He’d wanted it with the Chicago Cubs, for whom he’d been a Hall of Fame second baseman, and he’d gone deep into the Cubs’ system for his chance only to be snubbed—despite several seasons’ success, a reputation as a teaching manager, and a parallel reputation as a no-nonsense competitor—for a guy who didn’t last much more than a full season.
Is it me, or is nobody questioning the Cleveland Indians’s sanity for hiring Terry Francona as their forthcoming manager the way only too many questioned the Boston Red Sox’s sanity for hiring Bobby Valentine as his since-putsched successor?
Well, maybe the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s Terry Pluto comes the closest: “The only question that I had about Terry Francona managing the Indians was this: Why would Francona want to manage the Indians? But it’s clear that he does, and he must see more hope for the team in the near future than most of us do.”
The absolute latest regarding the Boston-Los Angeles blockbuster-in-waiting: the key seems now to hinge on the Red Sox getting beleaguered pitcher Josh Beckett to waive his no-trade clause, and to choose not to exercise his 10-5 rights to block the deal.
If Beckett gives the green light, however, this trade will be—as only too many are saying with the trigger waiting to be pulled—the single largest waiver-deadline blockbuster in, perhaps, baseball history: Beckett, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford, and utility infielder Nick Punto the the Dodgers, for first baseman James Loney, second baseman Ivan DeJesus, Jr., outfielder Jerry Sands, and pitching prospects Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa.
There is no justice in Mudville, often as not. On the one hand, Matt Kemp seems not to have been suspended over Thursday’s comedy in Pittsburgh. On the other hand, his manager, Don Mattingly, has been, for two games, in hand with an undisclosed fine. Baseball government got it half right. Nobody should have been suspended except, perhaps, Thursday’s plate umpire Angel Campos.
Officially, Donnie Baseball got his two-game siddown-and-shaddap for—get this—”excessive arguing.” Joe Garagiola, Jr., who serves as baseball government’s vice president for standards and on-field operations, announced it Saturday; the game’s top cop, Joe Torre, who just so happens to be Mattingly’s managerial mentor and former Yankee boss, met Mattingly Friday to prepare him for, apparently, the worst.
Cliff Lee did indeed hit the waiver wire and the Los Angeles Dodgers put a claim on the Philadelphia lefthander Friday, giving both sides 72 hours to work out a deal before the Phillies can pull him back from the wire.
The Phillies insist Lee “isn’t going anywhere,” according to general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., but Lee’s salary in a year when he’s in demand but has had his struggles would be a too-attractive salary for the Phillies to shed with other big but untradeable contracts still on the team.
The Milwaukee Brewers, with apologies to Dave Anderson, died with their boots. They were buried at the mercy of the St. Louis Cardinals’ seemingly bottomless bullpen. The officiating minister was a fellow who once seemed so burned out by baseball that he thought a ring on his cell phone while sitting in a Burger King, buried in the San Diego organization, informing him he’d been traded to the Cardinals, was a practical joke, at first.
Nobody’s laughing at the Rev. David Freese now. But everyone except citizens of Milwaukee might be laughing with the National League Championship Series’s most valuable player.