A cruel, unfair rep for Rick Renteria

Rick Renteria, fired by a second rebuilding Chicago team in six years.

It takes tough men to survive being executed as baseball managers by both teams in two-team major league cities. Rick Renteria’s in Hall of Fame company in that regard. Ladies and gentlemen, re-introduce yourselves to Rogers Hornsby, Leo Durocher, Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra, and Joe Torre.

The bad news is that Renteria doesn’t yet have the distinction that quintet enjoys. Hornsby, Durocher, Stengel, Berra, and Torre at least got to go to a World Series with one or both their same-city teams. (The Lip took a few Dodgers and a couple of Giants teams to the World Series; Yogi took the 1964 Yankees and the 1973 Mets to the World Series.)

Renteria is now the manager two Chicago teams trusted to shepherd rebuildings but not to take either the Cubs or the White Sox to the Series at all. Joe Maddon was handed the privilege of taking the Cubs to the Promised Land in 2016; the White Sox now aren’t far from reaching the Series at all.

If it happened to you, you might feel as though you were the right man to build the building only to run into a snooty, harrumphing doorman who decided you weren’t high class enough to step into the lobby, never mind get anywhere close to the penthouse. And don’t even think about trying the service entrance.

Renteria took his White Sox on a delightful romping dance to second place in the American League Central with not even a 3-8 irregular season finish spoiling. Unless it did in the eyes of the White Sox administration who might have thought only a deep postseason run would be enough to save Renteria’s grizzled hide.

The good news: the White Sox opened their wild card series with Lucas Giolito taking a perfect game to the seventh and with a home run-governed 4-1 Game One win. The bad news: The A’s outlasted the White Sox in Games Two and Three and the White Sox went home for the winter. Bloodied slightly, unbowed definitely.

Renteria took flak during his tenure for bullpen management, but it seems most likely the game that sealed his fate was Game Three. When he pulled his opener Dave Dunning with two on but two out, escaped with his life, but played musical bulls the rest of the way with the bulls unable to keep a 3-0 White Sox lead from imploding into a four-run Oakland fourth and two-run Oakland fifth, with nothing but an RBI single in the fifth in reply.

“[D]espite a still-thin pitching staff, the White Sox won 35 of 60 games in pandemic ball and reached the postseason for the first time since 2008,” wrote USA Today‘s Gabe Laques upon Renteria’s purge. “And that meant it was time for Renteria to go.”

You could say it was less Renteria’s fault than Maddon’s unexpected availability that prompted the Cubs to send him packing in 2014. You could have said it regarding the White Sox with more authority if Renteria’s bullpen management hadn’t become suspect enough even before the White Sox got bumped to one side by the A’s.

With an established core of young and somewhat-veteran position players and a nice harvest of nice young pitching coming, the White Sox bridge may now be one of the three or four top available commands.

But it doesn’t disinfect the stain laid somewhat cruelly upon Renteria: he’s like the Navy captain considered good enough to command the leading air group carrier—until it’s time to plot the battle of Midway.

Mully & Haugh radio co-host David Haugh is unamused. “White Sox reveal themselves a bottom-line, cutthroat organization by firing Rick Renteria after first playoff season since 2008,” Haugh fumed in a Monday midday tweet. “That is fine and Sox prerogative if they think that’s necessary to get to next level. Just don’t pretend culture or integrity matter—only winning does.”

There were those on the White Sox themselves who questioned the team’s clubhouse leadership. If you took veteran pitcher Dallas Keuchel at his word in mid-August, the question became whether Renteria kept his end of the leadership bargain or whether some White Sox players, no matter their success, might have backed away somewhat.

“We’ve got some guys coming out and taking professional at-bats, being professional on the mound and doing what it takes to win,” said Keuchel after a tough 5-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers.

We’ve got some guys kind of going through the motions. So we’ve got to clean a lot of things up, and if we want to be in this thing at the end of the season, we’re going to have to start that now . . . We have to show up every day, and even if there are no fans, we have to make sure that we are ready to go. And if we’re not ready to go, we have to fake it until we make it. [The loss to the Tigers] was one of the first games that I’ve seen very subpar play from everybody.

If Renteria didn’t swing the hammer when absolutely necessary or trusted his players to police themselves, it’s on the players who pulled back on the rudder just enough to slow the course just enough.

When George Steinbrenner dumped Yogi Berra infamously, sixteen games into 1985, The Boss purred, “I didn’t fire Yogi, the players did.” Crass in light of him having promised Yogi a full season’s work, but unfortunately true as often as not.

Maybe the White Sox just weren’t quite as ready for prime time this year as they may be next. Renteria still deserved the chance to see if he could graduate them all the way up from My Mother, the Car to Saturday Night Live.

Renteria isn’t likely to stay unemployed for very long. There are still some rebuilding teams (with or without having tanked their way into it) who might find him the perfect bridge commander. Maybe one of them will ignore the precedent, hire him to lead the rebuild finish, then give him a little finishing school on bullpen management himself and let him take the ship to the battle to take the Promised Land back.

Until then, he can amuse himself by the company he now keeps. There is far worse company he can keep than Hornsby, Durocher, Stengel, Berra, and Torre. Even if Torre’s the only one of the quintet still alive to let him commiserate if he chooses.

They were a little hard on the Bieber last night

Aaron Judge runs out the bomb he detonated off Shane Bieber on the fourth pitch of the game Tuesday night.

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone is fond of saying his team can turn on a dime. He’d much rather they keep turning on the Cleveland Indians the way they did to open their American League wild card set. As a matter of fact, Boone’s wards were a little hard on the Bieber Tuesday night.

The Yankees and the Indians opened in Cleveland the same night the first debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden went down. Depending upon where you peeked, the country had a hard time determining which wildfire was worse—the allegedly presidential debate, or the Yankees’ 12-3 demolition. The jury may be out until Election Day.

The Yankees could be seen as having had less time to prepare for Indians starter Shane Bieber than Trump and Biden had to face each other. They hadn’t faced the presumptive American League Cy Young Award winner all irregular season long, anywhere. They also went in having lost six of their last seven irregular season games and compiled an 11-18 road record.

Bieber had twelve season starts and faced four postseason teams—three of whom had winning records—seven times. Nobody took him long in any of his starts. Only once all year did he surrender a single run in the first or fifth innings. Nobody scored on his dollar at home all year.

Then the Yankees caught hold of him Tuesday night.

They needed only four straight fastballs to rip two runs out of him in the top of the first. American League batting champion D.J. LeMahieu saw a third straight fastball and lined a single to right field. Aaron Judge started his first plate appearance to follow seeing a fourth straight Bieber fastball. He finished it with that fastball, too, sending it over the right center field wall.

“We had a big, long hitter’s meeting,” Judge said after the game, “about all sticking to the same plan and just trying to work counts, get pitches to drive and I think, as a whole, we did that. That’s when this team is dangerous, when we go out there and we can just grind out at-bats. Any mistakes that are thrown up there, we hammer them.”

Bieber’s fastball sat so easily up or under in the zone to open that LeMahieu wouldn’t exactly call a three-pitch plate appearance a hard grind when pitch three sat right in the middle. Then the slender righthander who hadn’t surrendered a home run at home all irregular season long made the same mistake to Judge over the middle of the plate.

“The first inning didn’t go as planned,” said Bieber, showing a gift for understatement lacking too vividly in the presidential debate hall. “I wish I would have been with my off-speed stuff in the zone, and challenged those guys a little more. I forced myself into some bad situations and some bad counts on top of not having my best stuff and making mistakes. No excuses. It was not good.”

Neither was the rest of Bieber’s outing on a night Gerrit Cole struck out thirteen Indians in seven innings while walking nobody, had only one truly shaky inning (the third) and escaped with only an RBI double by Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez, then surrendered his only other run an inning after that, when left fielder Josh Naylor hit one over the right center field wall.

Cole otherwise looked even better than the guy who didn’t let five walks stop him from beating the Yankees in Game Four of last year’s American League Championship Series. The guy the Houston Astros let walk into free agency and right into the Yankees’ $324 million arms last winter.

In case you were wondering, only one pitcher before Cole ever struck out thirteen without walking a man in a postseason assignment—the late Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, in Game One of the 1973 National League Championship Series, and that was a game Seaver lost to the Cincinnati Reds, 2-1.

When he blew away the Indians’ middle infield, Francisco Lindor and Cesar Hernandez, on swinging strikeouts, before convincing Ramirez his only recourse was to pop one out to Torres behind shortstop, Cole let the Indians know early enough and often enough that they weren’t going to have a simple evening’s baseball to play.

Only nobody paid as much attention to Cole’s work or his marriage with postseason history as they might have paid if the Yankees hadn’t turned Bieber and a couple of Indians relievers into their personal batting practise pitchers.

They slapped Bieber for a single run in the third, two each in the fourth and the fifth. In order, it was AL home run champion Luke Voit doubling Aaron Hicks home with two out in the third, Brett Gardner doubling home Gleyber Torres and LeMahieu catching the Indian infield asleep with an infield RBI single pushing Gardner home in the fourth, and Torres with Gio Urshela aboard hitting one out in the fifth.

That was the 105th pitch of Bieber’s evening, corroborating Judge’s observation of the Yankee game plan at last. By that point, Bieber was probably itching to tell the Yankees what Biden told Trump during one of the president’s more insistent of his nightlong harangues, “Will you shut up, man?”

Interim manager Sandy Alomar, filling in for ailing Terry Francona, was kind enough to lift Bieber after that 105th pitch of the outing traveled from Torres’s bat to the bleachers. He didn’t tell the Yankees to shut up, man, on a night nobody could. But Alomar—whose guidance of the Indians into the postseason in the first place may actually get him Manager of the Year votes despite his interim status—did speak kindly of his still-young pitcher.

“Seems to be he was too excited,” Alomar said after the demolition ended at last. “He was the best pitcher in the American League this year. He had a bad game tonight.” That was like saying the Japanese navy had a bad set at Midway.

Even injury-hobbled Giancarlo Stanton joined in the fun. After striking out twice in four previous plate appearances on the night, the Yankee designated hitter squared off against reliever Cam Hill with one out in the top of the of the ninth and tore a 1-0 fastball—also arriving in the meatiest part of the zone—over the left center field fence.

The Yankee assault and battery almost wiped Chicago White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito out of the day’s memory bank, thirty-four days after Giolito pitched a no-hitter the too-easy way against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He went into the top of the seventh threatening to become the only pitcher other than Hall of Famer Roy Halladay to pitch a regular-season no-hitter (that was Halladay’s perfect game) and a postseason no-no the same year.

Former Cardinal/Angel Tommy La Stella said not so fast leading off the bottom of the seventh in the Oakland Athletics’ ramshackle ballpark. With the White Sox up 3-0 already, La Stella took what he could get on a 2-2 service and snuck a base hit right through the middle.

Even playing without their best all-around player, Matt Chapman, the A’s made things a little too easy for Giolito and the White Sox. It only began when they were foolish enough to send lefthander Jesus Luzardo, young, gifted, but inconsistent, against a lineup so full of righthanded bats it’s a wonder the Oakland Coliseum didn’t list when they batted.

“Nothing against him,” said White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson when learning they’d face Luzardo, “but we have been doing good against lefties. I guess they haven’t done their homework so hopefully we can go out and continue to do what we’ve been doing against lefties.”

They did. They got six of their nine Game One hits off Luzardo and chased him in the fourth inning. In the third, they had Anderson on second with two out, Jose Abreu at the plate with a 2-0 count, first base open, and previous called strikeout victim James McCann on deck, and A’s manager Bob Melvin elected to let Luzardo keep pitching to Abreu.

Abreu elected to hit the next pitch, a fastball Luzardo intended to sail toward the outer edge of the plate but disobeyed orders and arrived smack dab in the middle. The ball disappeared smack dab over the left field fence. “Obviously,” Luzardo said post-game, “the guy’s an MVP-caliber type hitter, so you’ve got to be careful. I made a mistake. That’s not where I intended to put it.”

An inning before that, Luzardo intended to throw Adam Engel an 0-2 fastball up and in, and the ball disobeyed orders then, too. That disobedient ball went up, out, and into the bleachers.

It’s been that way for the Billy Beane-era A’s every time they reach the postseason. His A’s have been a second-guesser’s delight. This time, the second-guessers get to guess why Melvin insisted on starting Luzardo instead of rested righthander Mike Fiers against the starboard-hitting White Sox. Saying as the manager did that the White Sox hadn’t seen a lefty with Luzardo’s kind of stuff all year won’t fly half as far as Engel’s and Abreu’s home runs did.

This year’s bizarro-world postseason is barely a game old and the A’s and the Indians face elimination games Wednesday. So do the American League Central-winning Minnesota Twins after the 29-31 Houston Astros beat them 4-1 in Target Field Tuesday. So do the Buffalonto Blue Jays (third) after the AL East-winning Tampa Bay Rays edged them 3-1 in Tropicana Field.

The only solace for the A’s, the Twins, and the Jays is that none of them suffered anything close to the assault with deadly weapons the Indians suffered. Those three aren’t presumed to be half as cursed as the Indians—the last time the Indians won the World Series was during the Berlin Airlift.

With the same pairs playing Wednesday, plus the National League’s wild card sets beginning the same day, it’s to wonder only what further strange brews are liable to boil and which boils get lanced. At least there won’t be a presidential schoolyard argument to detract from the main events.

Put a meal and a stewardess on that flip

You’re not seeing things. That’s Willson Contreras’s bat in flight after the Cubs’ DH sent a three-run homer about that high en route the right field bleachers Friday night.

If you’re taking tallies to determine the bat flip of the year, Chicago Cubs designated hitter Willson Contreras should be among your top finalists. His Friday night flip in the ballpark formerly known as Comiskey Park, in the top of the third, was an absolute work of art. Enough to make Tim Anderson, Jose Bautista, Bryce Harper, and Tom Lawless resemble nursery school finger painters.

If you’re taking concurrent tallies to determine the most brain-damaged delayed over-reaction to Dali-esque flips, Chicago White Sox pitcher Jimmy Cordero should hold a place among the finalists likewise. He threw a pair of high inside pitches to Contreras and the second caught Contreras flush enough in the back, just off the C that begins the spelling of Contreras’s surname on his uniform back.

Flipped his bat high in the air? Contreras’s flip off the three-run homer he smashed on White Sox starter Dylan Cease (and Desist)’s dollar was the only flip yet where you were tempted to say what you used to holler watching a titanic home run fly out: “Put a meal and a stewardess on that one!”

If you’re going to be Fun Police enough to want retribution for a bat flip that looked as though it took off from O’Hare International and not Contreras’s hands, the time to go for it was Contreras’s next plate appearance in the top of the fifth. Cease walked Contreras on ball one up and a little in, ball two up and away, ball three inside middle, and ball four down and away.

There was no way Cease wanted to feed Contreras anything resembling the fastball that arrived just off the middle of the plate and flew the other way into the right field bleachers two innings earlier.

There was also no way Cease was trying to throw one through Contreras’s assorted anatomy, even if you could make a case that ball one up and in might have been a subtle nastygram reminding Contreras it’s not nice to channel your inner Michelangelo when you’ve already hit a ball through the equivalent of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Might.

Maybe Cease got it when Contreras defended himself after the game. “I’m not going to change anything,” he told reporters. “I play hard for my team. I always want to do the best for my team. But if they don’t like me, that’s fine. I don’t play for other teams to like me, anyways. And if I have to do it again, I will do it again.”

But there was every way the White Sox—clinchers of a postseason berth at least, hopefuls toward snatching the American League Central title, even in this pandemic-truncated season of surreal—were feeling just a little over-punished on the night.

You tend to feel that way when Yu Darvish and company are shutting you out, Darvish not quite so nail driving as he’s been most of this season—during which he’s redeemed himself to the tenth power and into the Cy Young Award conversation—but effective enough to keep you to three hits and one walk and only two runners getting as far as second base under his command.

You feel even more that way, after Contreras’s bomb flip put the Cubs up 4-0 and Javier Baez’s leadoff launch over the left center field wall made it 5-0 in the top of the fourth, after Victor Caratini wrestled your relief option Gio Gonzalez to a seventh-pitch sinker that didn’t have enough weight to pull it quite to the bottom, and Caratini sunk it into the same bleachers Contreras reached three innings earlier. Not to mention Kyle Schwarber’s second-inning blast, making for the Cubs a four-bomb evening.

“The dog ate his homework,” pleaded White Sox skipper Rick Renteria. “Detention!” replied the umps.

When Contreras got drilled, the Cubs got riled. They hollered mightily from their dugout, enough to get the umpires into a confab that resulted in Cordero, White Sox manager Rick Renteria, and pitching coach Don Cooper the rest of the night off for bad behaviour.

Renteria tried the dog-ate-my-homework excuse after the game. A second-grade child had a better chance of making it stick. “The ball got away from him,” he insisted of Cordero’s cone job. “We couldn’t convince [the umpire] of that . . . There was no warning. They just gathered and ejected him.” As if a second straight up-and-in pitch was inadmissible evidence.

Cordero tried the same excuse. “It was just a bad pitch, a bad pitch to him,” he said after the game. “The ball sunk a lot, and that happened.” Sorry. Attempted sinkers that rise enough to get a man in the back don’t sunk a lot. Detention for you.

Understand that Cubs manager David Ross is just old school enough that it wasn’t programmed into his own playing software to deliver as Contreras did after hitting a hefty home run. But the man whose first major league home run came off an ex-Cubs first baseman named Mark Grace in Arizona late in a blowout, and whose last major league home run put the Cubs up by three in an eventual World Series-winning Game Seven, wouldn’t throw his man under the proverbial bus for his exuberance.

“It wasn’t to disrespect the other group,” Ross told reporters after the Cubs finished what they started, a 10-0 shut-and-blowout. “It was because we’ve been struggling offensively and he brought some swagger. He brought some edge. I loved every second of it. I don’t think he deserved to get hit at all.”

Why, Grandpa Rossy even had the pleasant audacity of comparing Contreras’s orbital flip to the one Anderson delivered a year ago April. When Anderson ripped Kansas City pitcher Brad Keller’s canteloupe over the fence and made of his bat a helicopter rotor while he was at it, got drilled in the rump roast by Keller his next time up, and objected vociferously. Drawing his teammates out of the dugout, getting both Keller and Anderson ejected by Country Joe West—who may or may not have remembered Anderson zapping him over an unwarranted ejection the previous season.

“All the hype is on the guy on the other side when he bat-flipped, right?” said Ross. “I thought Tim Anderson’s bat flip last year where he flipped it and looked in his dugout, that’s what you want. That’s what Willson did.”

Making the White Sox resemble hypocritical flip-floppers is also what Willson did. Their Andersons can flip until the flock flies home, but the opposing flock better not even think about it. The Fun Police are now reduced to the dog eating their homework. The dog looks better than the White Sox.

Was your cutout there? Bully!

Lucas Giolito, the big bully.

When Lucas Giolito’s Tuesday night no-hitter is remembered twenty years from now, and the coronavirus world tour has long been a not-so-pleasant memory, bank on one thing. Ten times the capacity of Guaranteed Rate Field will solemnly swear that their cardboard cutouts were at the game.

Much remarked for coming from a high school baseball team where his pitching teammates included Max Fried and Jack Flaherty, the Chicago White Sox righthander nailed thirteen strikeouts, walked a measly one, and threw 20 first-pitch strikes out of 28 batters faced.

Yes, it was the first no-hitter of the pandemic-truncated season other wise known as The Inner Sanctum of the Outer Limits of The Twilight Zone. And, it still counts as a bona-fide no-hitter now and for all time. But you’ll forgive me, I hope, if I’m not exactly in the mood to blast fireworks over it for ten good reasons.

The ten reasons are the number of Pittsburgh Pirates Giolito faced Tuesday night. They weren’t exactly the Big Red Machine, the Swingin’ A’s, the Pittsburgh Lumber Company, or this year’s Dodgers (who have yet to be nicknamed) Giolito had to face for the nineteenth no-hitter in White Sox pitching history.

They may not have even been the 1962 Mets, and these Pirates wouldn’t exactly go over big at the Hungry I or the Improv. Those Mets had Who the Hell’s on First, What the Hell’s on Second, You Don’t Want to Know at Third, and You Don’t Even Want To Think About It’s at shortstop. These Pirates barely fielded a cast of The Real Househusbands of Allegheny County. (That’s a joke, son. I think.)

These Pirates could accuse Giolito plausibly of bullying them. On Tuesday night, their lineup included nobody with an on-base percentage higher than .295. They have one .406 slugger (shortstop Erik Gonzalez, batting leadoff) and he has a .271 OBP. The collective OBP of Tuesday night’s Pirates was .234—fifty points lower than the 1965 Mets. (In due course you’ll see why I now mention that edition and not the 1962 comic opera—who actually had a team .329 OBP among non-pitchers.)

Come to think of it, said .406 slugger was the night’s only Pirates baserunner, reaching on a four-pitch walk to open the top of the fourth, right after James McCann’s sacrifice fly provided what proved the final 4-0 score. His reward for that walk was a first-pitch pop out behind the infield, a four-pitch strikeout, and an 0-2 line out to third base.

These Pirates strike fear in the hearts of nobody except their own fans watching on television and the cardboard cutouts that bother showing up this year. And maybe their own manager. What should have been shocking would have been if Giolito didn’t no-hit them.

“2020 has been a very strange year,” Giolito told reporters after the game from behind his mark. “Obviously a lot of weird stuff going on with COVID and the state of the world, so may as well throw this in the mix.” It’s baseball’s first-ever no-hit, no-run, no-fans-in-the-stands game.

“After the seventh, six more outs, looking at who I was facing, became very, very, very possible, and then we were able to get it done,” Giolito said. “Just staying with the same, like, mental routine for every single pitch. One pitch at a time. Full focus, full execution, straight through the target.”

It couldn’t have hurt that these Pirate targets were big enough that Dr. Anthony Fauci could have no-hit them if he’d thrown from halfway between the pitching rubber and the front of the plate.

For the longest time I thought the no-hitter Cincinnati Reds pitcher Jim Maloney threw at the Chicago Cubs one fine afternoon in Wrigley Field in 1965 was the single most ridiculous no-no I’d ever see or know. And that was a little more than half a month before Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax made those Cubs prove that practise makes perfect.

Until shoulder issues kicked into overdrive for him, Maloney might have been a genuinely great pitcher—but on 19 August 1965, Maloney did everything in his power to give the Cubs a break (those Cubs’ OBP, non-pitchers: .318)—and his Reds did everything in their power to get Cubs pitcher Larry Jackson on and off the hook.

Maloney’s good news: He struck out twelve in ten innings. His bad news: He walked ten. Jackson scattered nine Reds hits but a) only one of the nine came with a baserunner aboard (Vada Pinson, in the top of the ninth); and, b) the only one that mattered was Leo Cardenas hitting one into the left field bleachers with one out in the top of the tenth.

Then Maloney opened the bottom by walking Doug Clemens before getting rid of two Hall of Famers, Billy Williams and Ernie Banks, on a fly out to left and an Area Code 6-4-3. At least that time Maloney nailed the extra-inning no-no. Two months earlier, he lost one to the Mets when Johnny Lewis opened the top of the eleventh with a shot over the center field wall, and Mets reliever Larry Bernearth held fort in the bottom for the 1-0 Mets win.

Giolito is a pitcher who went from nothing special (5.68 fielding-independent pitching in his first three major league seasons) to a very good pitcher (3.29 FIP since last season opened) with outsize potential if he stays healthy. Unlike Maloney against the ’65 Cubs, Giolito wasn’t his own worst enemy Tuesday night, and he faced an aggregation who made those Cubs and the same season’s Mets resemble Murderer’s Row.

During the second inning, the power in Guaranteed Rate Field went out for a moment, a very brief moment. The power of the Pirates was already out to stay.

Yankowski: Vet, catcher, forgotten man

2019-11-11 GeorgeYankowskiFollowing is guest column by Douglas J. Gladstone, author of A Bitter Cup of Coffee, about one-time Philadelphia Athletics/Chicago White Sox reserve catcher George Yankowski, also a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. He, too, is one of over 600 short-career former major leaguers frozen out of the 1980 pension realignment that made 43 days the minimum major league service time for players to qualify for full pension benefits after their playing days ended.

—JK.

Major League Baseball (MLB) takes justifiable pride in supporting programs for active personnel and veterans.

For instance, in 2016, there was a regular season game played at the Fort Bragg military base. And there’s a refurbished single family home for student veterans on the campus of Baldwin Wallace University that MLB and the Cleveland Indians financially supported. Those are just two examples of the game’s support of military personnel, to say nothing of all the on-field recognition ceremonies that are always held at each stadium.

That’s why what is happening to my friend George Yankowski is such a head scratcher.

On November 19, George turns 97-years-old. George, who plays a round or two of golf every week, still maintains an active lifestyle. Oscar-nominated actor Gary Sinise, whose Sinise Foundation does passionate work on behalf of active duty personnel and retired veterans like George, will even be meeting him at the Villages in Sumter County, Florida.

Born in Massachusetts, George was a hard-hitting catcher for both the Watertown High School Red Raiders as well as the Huskies of Northeastern University, One of the original six alums inducted into the Northeastern University Hall of Fame in 1974, it was while attending Northeastern that Yankowski enlisted in the U.S. Army in October 1942, and left for Fort Devens in April 1943.

George wanted to become an aviation cadet, but ended up in the infantry and trained as a sniper. He sailed for Europe in 1944 with the 346th Infantry Regiment in the 87th Infantry Division. In 2014, Miami’s French Consul General awarded him the French Legion of Honor Medal.

He fought in Metz, France—and then moved to Luxembourg, Germany, where he took part in the Battle of the Bulge. He earned the Bronze Star and the Combat Infantry Badge for his frontline encounters during that famous 44 day campaign. George came home from the war in June 1945, and after a three month battle with hepatitis in October of that year, got officially discharged in January 1946.

Sadly, the contributions of a man who defended our freedoms and liberties fighting overseas doesn’t mean much to MLB or the union representing today’s players, the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA).

Originally signed by Philadelphia Athletics Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack, George appeared in six games for the Athletics during the 1942 season and 12 games for the Chicago White Sox during the 1946 season. But he is among the 626 retired players who aren’t receiving a pension for their time in “The Show.”

George is without an MLB pension because the rules for receiving MLB pensions changed in 1980. George and the other men do not get pensions because they didn’t accrue four years of service credit. That was what ballplayers who played before 1980 needed to be eligible for the pension plan.

Instead, they all receive nonqualified retirement payments based on a complicated formula that had to have been calculated by an actuary. In brief, for every 43 game days of service on an active MLB roster George accrued, he’d get $625, up to the maximum amount of $10,000 By contrast, the maximum allowable pension a retired MLB player who is vested can make is $225,000.

What’s more, the payment cannot be passed on to a surviving spouse or designated beneficiary. So none of Yankowski’s loved ones, such as his wife, Mary, will receive that payment when he dies.

These men are being penalized for playing the game they loved at the wrong time.

Though the current players’ welfare and benefits fund is valued at more than $3.5 billion, the MLBPA has been loath to divvy up more of the collective pie. Many of the impacted retirees are filing for bankruptcies at advanced ages, having their homes foreclosed on and are so poor and sickly they cannot afford adequate health insurance coverage.

George Yankowski was willing to take a bullet for us. To die for us. And how do we repay him? With a gross check of approximately $2,500. And that’s before taxes are taken out.

When he got his first check eight years ago, you know how he spent it? He used the money to pay for sorely needed dental work. Meanwhile, a member of the Boston Red Sox voted a full postseason share for winning the World Series received $418,000 last year.

Baseball has the money to pay the men like George. If the union goes to bat for them. MLB also cut a $10 million check two years ago to support the programs at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. That’s right—museum relics received financial support instead of flesh and blood retirees.

This is no way for the national pastime to be treating our war heroes. Or anyone else, for that matter.