On Plesac’s agents dumping him

Zach Plesac

Zach Plesac, earning his D.A.* of the Month award 26 August.

I promise, I have more important things to ponder. Things such as whether next year’s rule changes really will do anything substantial. (If what I saw watching the Las Vegas Aviators host the Tacoma Rainers Wednesday night says anything, don’t hold your breath. Even with the pitch clock and strict obedience thereto, the 8-7 Aviators loss still took about three hours and ten minutes to play. Thank 37:19 minutes worth of between-innings time for the real culprit: broadcast commercials )

Things such as whether Aaron Judge will reach not 60+ home runs but maybe 70, at the rate he’s going. (He parked 56 and 57 in Fenway Park Tuesday night while his Yankees beat the Red Sox 7-6 in ten innings. He left himself four short of Roger Maris, the Yankee single-season record-holder, in game 143 of the season, if you still really care about such arbitrary things.)

Things such as whether the coming expanded postseason will prove a convoluted mess on top of its going in as a true competition dilution. (Why is Commissioner Rube Goldberg more interested in arbitrary time-of-game tinkering than he is in adjusting divisions, eliminating regular-season interleague play, and restoring real pennant races? He still doesn’t get it: 2:15 minutes worth of commercials after each half inning elongate games more than pitchers or hitters adjusting after every pitch, in-inning pitching changes, or mound conferences ever did.)

Things such as the Rays making history by putting the Show’s first all-Latino team on the field to commemorate Roberto Clemente Day, and clobbering the Blue Jays 11-0 while they were at it. The leading lashers: Randy Arozarena (3-for-5 including a double, a run scored, and a run driven home), Yandy Díaz (a three-run homer in the second), and Manuel Margot (a three-run double in a six-run ninth).

But no. I have to ponder a very rare instance of a player being dumped by his agents instead of the other way around. And this is because Zach Plesac, Guardians pitcher, did something dumb once too often for their taste.

On 26 August, Plesac surrendered two long balls already when he had Seattle’s Jake Lamb 1-2 in the bottom of the seventh. Then he fed Lamb a meal fit to pad a Mariners lead into 3-1 after Lamb fed it over the right center field fence. Plesac spun around on contact, bent over a bit as he watched the ball fly, then punched the mound in abject frustration.

Uh-oh. Even as the Guardians struck back to bust the tie and hang in to win off a three-run eighth, that punch took Plesac out for the rest of the season thanks to the fractured hand that resulted. This was the last thing the American League Central-leading, postseason-bound Guards needed.

It also proved the last thing Creative Artists Agency needed, too. About two weeks after the Guards put Plesac on the injured list, CAA dropped him as a client. “Three strikes appeared to be enough for CAA to say ‘you’re out,’” writes the New York Post‘s Jeremy Layton. “Plesac, despite a 3-11 record in 2022, has pitched decently for Cleveland (4.39 ERA), and is eligible for a big arbitration payday in the offseason. Still, the agency clearly decided the juice was not worth the squeeze.”

This is the pitcher who co-violated the team’s COVID protocols in 2020, having a night out  in Chicago including dinner in a restaurant and a card game at a buddy’s place, without getting team clearance first. The Guards ordered Plesac and co-partyer Mike Clevinger to issue statements. Then he went on Instagram and said the incident being reported in the press made it the media’s fault.**

This is also the pitcher who incurred a thumb fracture in May 2021. Was he hit by a comebacker? Was he hit by a pitch while batting in an interleague game in a National League ballpark? Nope. He suffered the injury . . . while ripping his jersey off and apart after he was battered for five runs (only three earned) during a Guards loss to the Twins. It cost him a month and the Guards another team migraine.

Not many players self-destruct as publicly, spectacularly, or ridiculously as Plesac. He’s  probably cost himself a considerable enough piece of the arbitration payday he might have expected otherwise this offseason. Maybe that will finish sending the message CAA began.

If Plesac’s agents can dump him merely for being a repeat jerk, why don’t other baseball agents—and teams, for that matter, whether trading, releasing, or letting them just walk into free agency—drop those guilty of far more grave behaviours? They’ve done it before, in various ways, and they can and should do it again.

Especially regarding such behaviours as domestic violence. A player being a repeat jerk is just that. Domestic abusers are many things more serious. Calling them mere jerks would be an unwarranted compliment.


* —Dumb Ass.

** —When you like us, we’re the press. When you hate us, we’re the media.—William Safire.

Smarts in Houston, suicide in Cleveland

Shohei Ohtani

Ohtani took perfection into the sixth, where a bunt couldn’t do what a subsequent base hit did . . .

Shohei Ohtani didn’t just flirt with perfection Wednesday, he almost seduced it. A twelve-punchout performance on the mound; a two-run double to finish the first-inning carnage against Astros starter Jake Odorizzi; a perfect game broken with one out in the seventh. And his Angels in sole possession of the American League West’s penthouse. For now.

But right before Astros catcher Jason Castro fisted a base hit over second base into short center with one out in the Houston sixth, their own second baseman Niko Goodrum tried to break the would-be perfecto in a manner that usually brings the wrath of the Sacred Unwritten Rules chauvinists down upon the miscreant. On 0-1 leading the inning off, Goodrum tried to bunt an Ohtani slider up the third base line.

This time, the chauvinists didn’t rain acid down upon Goodrum. For one thing, the Angels put an overshift on against the lefthanded-hitting Goodrum. Just why the Angels thought a .133/.133/.200 slash line on the season to date required an overshift escapes for the moment.

But Goodrum did exactly the right thing receiving so much free, delicious real estate upon which to hit. His team down six, and knowing he wouldn’t be wasting an out with a bunt, Goodrum did absolutely nothing wrong sizing the scenario up and dropping a bunt toward that free territory—except the ball bounding over the chalk into foul territory halfway up the third base line.

Which was the spot to where Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon ran from his positioning adjacent to second base and grabbed the ball just in case, with Ohtani also bounding over from the mound. Back on the mound, Ohtani and Goodrum wrestled to a 2-2 count before Goodrum swung and missed at a nasty curve ball hitting the outer edge of the zone.

Maybe if Goodrum had pushed a successful bunt up the line and landed on first base practically on the house, the SUR chauvinists would have gone nuclear. Maybe. It’s become a little more acceptable according to the SURs to drop a bunt if the other guys are silly enough to think an overshift is a good way to keep a batter below the proverbial Mendoza Line from breaking it up the old fashioned way.

Come to think of it, Ohtani himself put on a demonstration of one of the only other times it’s wise to bunt—if you think you can get a base hit out of it without a full shift against you. With one out and nobody on in the Angels’ sixth, against Astros reliever Cristian Javier, the lefthanded-hitting Ohtani faced a slight overshift, slight enough to move Astros third baseman Alex Bregman to a more standard shortstop positioning but still leaving him room to move if he wanted to drop one.

On 1-2 Ohtani chopped a beauty toward the third base side of the mound and blasted out of the box. Javier pounced as best he could but he threw a rising sailer over and past the upstretched mitt of leaping Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel. It was an exercise in futility, considering Ohtani would have beaten a cleaner throw by about a step on the play, and considering the Angels stranded him on first for the inning.

Goodrum and Javier have a teammate who understands, ahem, perfectly about perfecto-breaking bunts. Justin Verlander had it happen to him, while still pitching for the Tigers on 21 June 2017. He took a perfect game bid against the Mariners into the sixth, with the Tigers up 4-0 to that point.

With one out, Seattle’s swift center fielder Jarrod Dyson squared, bunted one between the mound and first base, and ran himself into a base hit. Unlike Goodrum’s attempt Wednesday, Dyson’s successful bunt that day kicked off a three-run Mariners inning that pushed Verlander out of the game. It also preceded a four-run Mariners seventh at the expenses of Tigers relievers Shane Greene and Alex Wilson.

That was the part that roiled Verlander far more than any perfecto-breaking bunt ever could. “It was a perfect bunt,” Verlander said of Dyson. “That’s part of his game. I don’t think it was quite too late in the game given the situation to bunt, especially being how it’s a major part of what he does. So I didn’t really have any issues with it. It wasn’t like I got upset about it.”

Goodrum played smart baseball, even if his bunt bid bounded foul before he finally struck out swinging. Even if the Angels finished what they started, a 6-0 shutout to take two of three from the Astros in Houston after losing three of four at Angel Stadium to open the season. At least neither manager, Dusty Baker (Astros) nor Joe Maddon (Angels), fell asleep at the proverbial switch Wednesday.

Dallas Keuchel

. . . but Keuchel looks to be praying for mercy amidst an unconscionable nine-run second/ten-run total beating before he was lifted too little/too late.

That dishonour belonged to White Sox manager Tony La Russa in Cleveland earlier in the day, in the first game of a doubleheader. Despite a well-enough rested bullpen thanks to a week-opening pair of rainouts, a pen that hadn’t exactly been overworked in a preceding set against the Rays, either, La Russa inexplicably left his veteran starter Dallas Keuchel in to take an early ten-run beating on a day Keuchel’s stuff didn’t exist from the outset.

Keuchel had enough trouble trying to shake off a first inning during which a pair of White Sox defensive miscues helped cost him a run before he surrendered a hit. He never got out of the second alive: a leadoff throwing error; four straight singles two of which pushed runs home with the bases loaded; a grand slam; three straight singles more, a wild pitch advancing the first of those Guardians to second and the third sending another run home; a run-scoring ground ball turned into another White Sox error; and yet another RBI single.

Finally, La Russa got Keuchel out of there and brought in Tanner Banks. He got a prompt step-and-throw double play at first and a ground out right back to the box for the side.

Joe and Jane Fan can bleat all they want, as one or two I saw aboard social media did, that sometimes you just have to take one for the team, sometimes you just have to try to  “save” your bullpen even if it means getting murdered, and it’s just one April loss against a long season to come, and the goal is to win two of three, innit?

“I’m 100% certain LaRussa knew Keuchel didn’t have it,” said one such fan, in fact. “Sometimes the decision to leave guys in or take them out is more about 162 games than 1 game. As is the case here. He was hoping Keuchel could survive that inning and make it thru an inning or two more.”

A Hall of Fame manager, even coming out of retirement for one more turn, knows he should be thinking of every game until or unless his team is eliminated mathematically from a pennant race. He should know well enough when his starter doesn’t have it. Knowing that, and knowing he had a reasonably rested bullpen, just how does a conscientious manager not get that poor starter the hell out of there before the game goes from a small leak to a flood?

Keuchel came into the game throwing little more than meatballs and matzo balls as it was, before Jose Ramirez—the Guardians third baseman flush with a yummy new contract extension—stood in in that second inning with the bases loaded, three Guard runs in, nobody out yet, and sent a hanging 1-1 cutter over the left field fence.

If La Russa “knew” Keuchel didn’t have it before that, it shouldn’t have been allowed to go there in the first place. Especially if he was going to go to Banks to clean up the mess. Banks hadn’t pitched since the previous Sunday. He also hadn’t surrendered an earned run in his three previous relief gigs. And what did he do when La Russa brought him in?

After getting that step-and-throw double play to end the second inning before the Guards could have made the case against their human rights violations any worse, Banks threw three more hitless, shutout innings, before Matt Foster and Anderson Severino finished with only one further Guards run to come—when Steven Kwan singled Myles Straw home off Severino in the ninth.

There was a time when La Russa would never have let a game get that far out of hand that soon if his starter didn’t have it going in. That’s part of how La Russa became a Hall of Fame manager with three World Series rings in the first place. “The manager didn’t get them ready to play,” La Russa said of his team after that blowout loss, and before the White Sox lost the nightcap, 2-1. “I take the heat for that.”

Lucky for him and them that there is still a long season to play yet.

The swath of Kwan

Steven Kwan

Against easy pickings, Kwan owned the season’s first weekend. The competition to come isn’t liable to be that agreeable.

The baseball team formerly known as the Indians launched their season against the Royals in Kansas City. Though the launch began with a pair of low-scoring losses (3-1, 1-0), it concluded with a 17-3 blowout win and a 10-7 three-run win. Meaning that the Guardians out-scored the Royals 30-9 for their trouble.

Meaning, too, that they, like every American League Central team not named the White Sox, opened 2-2. But the Guardians opening was important for things that didn’t happen almost as much as things that did, including:

The Hope Memorial Bridge, whose Guardians of Traffic sculptures inspired the team’s new name, didn’t collapse. No known tidal wave arose from Lake Erie to flood or drown the city. No crash of thunder, lightning, and rain poured onto the city. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame didn’t induct Lawrence Welk, as an early influence or otherwise.

But a Guardians prodigy made nineteen trips to the plate during the four-game season-opening series without striking out even once, without missing the chance to send runners home in three such plate appearances, and with extra base hits in 15.8 of those season-opening plate appearances.

The only mistake center fielder Steven Kwan made during those first four games of his life, and of his team’s life as the Guardians, happened in the bottom of the seventh Monday, when Kwan saw himself throwing Royals outfielder Andrew Benintendi out at the plate on a bases-loaded liner by Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier.

Kwan’s foresight forgot to inform him the ball actually needed to be in his glove before he could make the throw he saw in advance. Rookies make such mistakes all the time. The ball hit the heel of the glove instead, allowing Benintendi to score before Kwan’s outfield partner Myles Straw threw Royals first baseman Carlos Santana out on a tight play at second base.

The Guardians escaped further damage by inducing an inning-ending double play, then loaded the bases on the Royals in the top of the eighth on a leadoff double and a pair of walks alternating with two air outs. Like any rookie, Kwan was more than anxious to atone for his seventh-inning slip, particularly because it allowed the Royals back to within a run. Unlike many rookies, Kwan performed the perfect atonement.

He slashed a 1-2 hanging curve ball into the right field corner for a bases-cleaning triple  and put the Guardians up 9-5, a lead they’d pad by a run with a ninth-inning run-scoring ground out. Good thing, too, because Benintendi thanked Kwan for the seventh-inning miscue enabling his run when he batted in the bottom of the ninth and, with touted-enough Royals rook Bobby Witt, Jr. aboard with a leadoff walk, planted one over the right center field fence.

Guardians relief pitcher Emmanuel Clase retired the next three Royals in order to secure the 10-7 win. But who needed him? Kwan finished the game and awoke the next morning as the talk of about 98 percent of baseball and its watchers, many of whom were only too well prepared to name him this season’s American League Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, and Silver Slugger awards, and to the Hall of Fame, post haste.

Not so fast.

Yes, Kwan reached base fifteen times during the four-game set. No player ever did that in his first four major league games. Yes, Kwan is also the first major league player since the Great Depression to have a five-hit game in only his third major league game. Yes, too, he faced 82 pitches in his first four games and never once swung on and missed a single one of them.

And, yes, especially, Kwan seems as grounded as the day is long, the product of agreeably down-to-earth parentage, a young man unlikely to let something like smashing precedents go to his head and find room aplenty to bounce around.

But, as Akron Beacon-Journal columnist Ryan Lewis warns, there’s more likelihood that the grounded Kwan returns to earth than there is for him making Ted Williams resemble Ted Cruz. “Kwan is obviously not going to continue to hit .692 forever,” Lewis writes.

But until his fortunes reverse just as severely as what he’s shown so far, he has his place in the No. 2 spot in the lineup. It means that for the time being, the Guardians have Myles Straw locked into center field and Kwan in one of the corner outfield spots. That leaves the other spot to Oscar Mercado, Amed Rosario and Josh Naylor, once he’s able to return from an injury—though Naylor could also time at first base with Bobby Bradley struggling to get going. All of a sudden, at least in the short run, the Guardians’ outfield has some answers.

USA Today writer, Steve Gardner, is even more cautious, handing Kwan an award . . . a “Tuffy Award,” named facetiously in honour of a 1994 Cub, Tuffy Rhodes, a modest journeyman who opened that season immodestly, becoming the first in Show to smash three home runs in his first three season’s plate appearances, and off a former child prodigy named Dwight Gooden.

From there, Rhodes hit only five more bombs the rest of that season. He finished his Show career with thirteen home runs and 45 extra-base hits total over 675 lifetime Show plate appearances. Then he went to play in the Japan Pacific League—and hit 464 home runs in thirteen seasons (including tying Sahaharu Oh’s single-season JPPL-record 55 in 2001) before retiring after the 2009 season.

“[W]hat’s not to like about someone with an .800/.857/1.000 slash line?” asks Gardner, the slash line combining Kwan’s short-spring training performance to his regular season premiere? Then, Gardner answers:

Playing time certainly doesn’t seem to be an issue for Kwan in the near future. And with that kind of on-base percentage, he should remain near the top of the lineup. The question is how much else he will be able to provide over the long haul.

Kwan hit twelve homers and stole just six bases last year in the minors. And at 5-9, 175 pounds, there’s still doubt about how much power he’ll ever have. It’s not impossible, of course, but it’s more likely that he’s a closer comp to Nick Madrigal than Jose Altuve.

Beating up on Royals pitching to start the season is the tide that lifts all boats along the shores of Lake Erie. At the risk of incurring the wrath of Kwan (and the rest of the Guardians), the journey is about to become much more difficult.

The Guardians get to slap Cincinnati pitching silly for their next two games, the Reds having said—after the owners’ lockout and the eventual new collective bargaining agreement was supposed to have started putting a big dent in tanking—“That’s what you think,” dumping key parts of their pitching staff, outfield, and infield alike.

But then the Guardians get to tangle with the defending National League West champion Giants, the defending American League Central champion White Sox, and the tied-for-second-in-the-AL-East-finishing Yankees. One after the other. No team or its most immediate rookie star gets to face the pushovers all the time.

In The Godfather (the novel, not the film), Don Vito Corleone mused how true it was that great misfortune sometimes led to unforeseen reward. There’s always the chance, for Kwan and his Guardians, that great immediate reward leads to too-often-foreseen misfortune, if not disaster. But his opening act was incomparable, invaluable fun.

It’s Miller time . . . for retirement

Andrew Miller

The Cubs won the 2016 World Series but, until they did, Cleveland relief pitcher Andrew Miller may have been that postseason’s biggest star.

Andrew Miller’s mother once hoped he’d parlay his high 1500s SAT results into a college degree from Masschussetts Institute of Technology. Mrs. Miller would just have to settle for her brainy son becoming a lefthanded pitcher who helped revolutionise relief work, and who helped articulate the folly of the owners’ lockout from December through almost mid-March.

Miller had long proven that the best, most valuable relief pitcher in the bullpen isn’t necessarily your “closer” earning “saves, particularly with the team then known as the Indians (now the Guardians) in the 2016 postseason plus the second half of 2016’s and most of 2017’s regular seasons.

But during the foolish lockout, the 36-year-old Miller also helped clarify that the players refused to suffer tanking any more gladly than tanking teams’ fans do.

“All during these negotiations,” Peter Gammons wrote in The Athletic as the lockout finally came to its end, “Miller drove home the players’ insistence that tanking and ideas that diminished competition were contrary to their beliefs. He consistently called ‘increased competition a core goal’ of the negotiations. ‘Anything that points towards mediocrity is the antithesis of the game and what we’re about as players,’ he said.”

Miller announced his retirement Thursday, after a considerably distinguished sixteen-season pitching career, in which he shifted himself from a nothing-special starting pitcher who couldn’t harness his repertoire into a game-changing relief pitcher who used his stamina and his wipeout slider to show both the uselessness of the save-centric mindset and resurrect an ancient–and then-controversial, too—idea about relief work.

Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel thought nothing of bringing prime relief (Joe Page, Allie Reynolds, Bob Turley, to name three) in earlier than the latest innings when he managed the Yankees. He hammered the point that the time to reach for a stopper happens any time, even in the earliest innings. Miller’s Indians manager Terry Francona, whose new toy came from the Yankees in a non-waiver trade deadline deal, used Miller in just that way the rest of 2016 and all the way through the postseason.

It finished what Miller’s four-year/$36 million deal with the Yankees in December 2014 started: making a mostly non-closing relief pitcher into a star. He stayed with the Yankees until that trade deadline. For the second half of 2016, right up to the moment he ran out of petrol in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series (an RBI single, plus David Ross’s last major league hit–a leadoff home run), Miller was the Indians’ best relief pitcher.

According to fielding-independent pitching, which accounts for the things within a pitcher’s control as traditional earned-run average doesn’t, it wasn’t even close: his 1.53 FIP was 80 points below the next-lowest in the pen, Dan Otero’s 2.33 . . . and 1.78 below designated closer Cody Allen.

The ancient beer commercial proclaimed, “Now—it’s Miller Time.” The skipper for team known then as the Indians proclaimed, “Now—it’s Miller Time,” whenever he needed a stopper in that postseason. Quick: Name the only two relief pitchers ever to win a postseason Most Valuable Player award without being their teams’ primary closers. Answer: Miller, in the 2016 American League Championship Series; and, Rob Dibble, in the 1990 Natoinal League Championship Series.

Miller was just as deadly in 2017 (1.99 FIP) until he developed patellar tendinitis in his right knee, his landing knee, in early August, returning that September. He ran out of fuel again in the postseason, this time against his former team, the Yankees, in the Indians’ division series exit.

In due course he signed with the Cardinals, but he fought injuries and the inconsistencies they provoked. He never really looked like the force of nature he was in 2016-17 again, except during three brief postseason trips with the Cardinals. In fact, his entire posteason relief FIP—seven postseasons, 29 games, and one trip to the World Series—is more sparkling than his regular-season career marks as a reliever and as the starter he first was before he discovered life in the bullpen with the 2011-12 Red Sox:

Andrew Miller—Fielding-Independent Pitching (FIP), Career
As a starting pitcher 4.78
As a relief pitcher 3.02
As a postseason reliever 2.43

He’d shortened his delivery into a partial slide step to help him put more bite on that slider. He also paid close attention to just how he and his fellow relief corpsmen were handled, fuming over an early-season set in Chicago during which Valentine seemed almost indifferent to how the April chill affected their pen preparation.

“The Red Sox returned home . . . and when Miller got to the park, he was upset about the usage of Rich Hill—who had already worked through a couple of operations in his career,” Gammons wrote.

Miller talked about how Hill had gotten up “close to eight times” and finally got in to face one lone batter in the bottom of the eighth inning, and Miller said, “there ought to be some kind of punishment for doing that to a pitcher, particularly someone with a medical history.” Miller turned a corner in his career that season under [2012 Red Sox manager Bobby] Valentine and there were no public issues. But he felt a teammate had been jeopardized and for 24 hours remained in that window.

“The problem still seems to be,” I wrote in the 19 March edition of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America’s Here’s the Pitch newsletter, “that enough managers pay too little attention to the pitch volume relievers throw in the pen before they come into games . . . if they come into games. Some of those managers still think a relief pitcher hasn’t “pitched” unless he’s been in a game. Those men may well throw more innings’ worth of pitches in the pen than they’ll ever throw on the game mound.”

Apparently, there was at least one relief pitching thinking along the same lines in 2012. Rest assured, Miller’s probably not the only such reliever with the only such thoughts. The need to monitor relief pitchers’ warmup work carefully and manage it prudently remains profound if rarely appreciated.

Miller’s Cardinals teammate Adam Wainwright, himself now approaching the end of a splendid pitching career, appreciates Miller as both a relief pitcher and an advocate for the greater good of the game as one of the players’ union’s main negotiators.

He changed the game and he kind of took that relief role back to when it first started, guys who could do two, three innings–and he was the guy who did it in the postseason. I have an appreciation for what he did for the entire game of baseball. As many hours as that guy put in for the union over these past few years is kind of staggering. He may retire and that means this whole offseason he still spent sixteen hours on the phone a day, for us, for who’s next–that means a lot.

Miller is also the kind of young man who appreciates such things in life as fine wines and (this endears him to my guitar playing heart even more) the woods used to make guitars. The relief force who has worn the uniforms of the Tigers, the Orioles, the Red Sox, the Yankees, the Indians, and the Cardinals also has a calm appreciation for baseball’s history and signatures.

“I’m usually pretty quick to be able to step back though and see how lucky I have been,” Miller told the Post-Dispatch. “The hard times were necessary for me to grow and to be able to appreciate the highs along the way. Ultimately, I was able to play for many great franchises, wear historic uniforms, and play in some amazing ballparks.”

Pondering such appreciation causes me to ponder that I’d love to find a way to suggest Miller in retirement could bring his considerable weight to bear, as a baseball thinker as well as pitcher, on behalf of a forgotten player class: the now 504 pre-1980, short-career major leaguers who were frozen out of a 1980 pension realignment that made pension vesting possible after 43 days’ major league service time

All those players have received since is an annual stipend negotiated by former Players Association director Michael Weiner and former commissioner Bud Selig. The original stipend was $625 per 43 days’ major league service time, up to $10,000 a year. Somewhere during the lockout, the stipend—whose February payment was delayed pending the lockout settlement—was hiked fifteen percent. Now, it’s $718.75 per 43 days’ major league service time.

It’s hardly close to what those pre-1980 short-career men deserve, but it’s something. The further bad news is that those monies still can’t be passed to those men’s families upon their deaths.

Many of those men were active union members supporting the battles for players’ rights and respect, which compounds the original injustice. Several of those players have said they believe a perception that most were mere September callups factored in their original freeze-out. Well. I’ve been looking it up. So far, the majority of such players either made even one of their teams’ rosters out of spring training or appeared on rosters as early as later in April, or May, or June, or July, or August.

Articulate, intelligent, sensitive Andrew Miller, entering a richly-earned retirement, would be an invaluable voice of influence on behalf of those men, if he could be made further aware of such an injustice.

The Guardians are coming

Jose Ramirez

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer imagines Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez as a Cleveland Guardian.

Cleveland’s Hope Memorial Bridge is named for stonemason William Henry Hope. He helped to build the Guardians of Traffic sculptures into the pylon columns at either end of the bridge that marries Lorain Avenue (west side) and Carnegie Avenue (east side). He helped build all eight such statues around the city.

He was also the father of comedy legend Bob Hope, once a partial owner of the Indians.

The bridge born as the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge was renamed for the elder Hope—and listed in the National Register of Historic Places—after local engineer Albert Porter threatened but failed to get the pylons and guardian statues removed as “monstrosities . . . we’re not running a May Show here.”

Naturally, the social media swarms who think they know an awful lot more than what actually do know were unamused to learn that the Indians—wrestling with the name change several years, from almost the moment they decided Chief Wahoo needed to go—decided to rename themselves the Guardians starting in the 2022 season.

They’re keeping the team colours. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer published a rendering of Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez as a Guardian. The new look is not unattractive. Neither is the new logo of a baseball with the stylised G on the meat of the ball and a wing flapping from the rear.

With exceptions you could fit in your living room, or maybe even in the Indians dugout, the swarms couldn’t figure out exactly what “guardians” had to do with Cleveland. It’s to wonder what they thought when they finally accepted that “guardians” have a singular meaning that isn’t confined to just the two on either end of the bridge leading traffic past Progressive Field.

Some of the swarms agonised that the team hadn’t renamed themselves the Spiders, as a different, ancient Cleveland franchise once did. Well, now. The Spiders existed in the National League from 1887 through 1899. Their franchise record: 827 wins, 938 losses. The Indians have been star-crossed quite enough without being renamed for a team that never won a single pennant. (And, for a team whose record in its final NL season was—wait for it!—20-134.)

Others thought the renaming should be after the Cleveland Buckeyes, who played in the Negro American League from 1942-1950. That might have been more plausible, not just to honour Cleveland’s entry into the game that is now recognised (long overdue, and by everyone except either recalcitrant racists or witless purists) as part of major league baseball. The Buckeyes played two Negro Leagues World Series and won one. (They beat the legendary Homestead Grays in the 1945 set.) If you must rename your team for another old, defunct team, best to rename it for a winner.

Still others thought the new name should be the Cleveland Rockers, tipping the beak toward the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which is in Cleveland. (A song by rock and roll legend Ian Hunter, “Cleveland Rocks,” was the theme song of television’s The Drew Carey Show.) There were also those who thought the Colorado Rockies might have had an issue or three with that. But never mind.

Enough of the swarm thought the team’s introductory video for the new name had little enough business being narrated by Tom Hanks. Never mind that Hanks once featured in the baseball film hit A League of Their Own. Never mind, too, that Hanks started his acting career in Cleveland in the first place and has a particular affinity for the city.

“Cleveland natives are very defensive of their city,” writes Jim Swift of The Bulwark. “While I may have preferred the Indians, I will gladly be a Guardian against posers like [Senator] Ted Cruz, [National Review editor] Rich Lowry, [and former president] Donald Trump (who tried and failed to buy the Indians). Sad!”

It’s not as though the team just pulled a Guardian rabbit out of its hat. “We heard things like loyalty, pride and resiliency in being from Cleveland,” Indians president Brian Barren said to Plain-Dealer writer (and author of The Curse of Rocky Colavito) Terry Pluto. “They’re protective of our city. They’re protective of the land and everything about it. Those all became part of what Guardians really started to evoke from an emotional standpoint.”

Do we have a candidate for the single most asinine alternative name suggestion? Unfortunately, I do. Unless I see one even more ridiculous, the dubious winner goes to Don Wardlow. Renowned as the first successful blind broadcaster in professional baseball history, Wardlow is an active social media denizen, a still-irrepressible baseball fan and commentator, and a personally engaging man who’s prone now and then to demonstrating wisdom by walking the other way from it.

After acknowledging that “Guardians” make sense to people who live in Cleveland (“I guess”), Wardlow wrote this: “Everybody_ of a certain age, even people who don’t live in Cleveland has heard of Dime Beer night which is why I thought the name Dime Beers would be great. I don’t know if the phenomenon of the burning river is as memorable as Dime Beer night is.”

My first reply was, “Something tells me people have been trying to FORGET Ten-Cent Beer Night for decades. But I suspect you knew that.” To which Wardlow rejoined a) not everybody; b) “many” minor league teams continue “Thirsty Thursday” dollar-or-two beer promotions; and, c) that the irrepressible humourist P.J. O’Rourke “coined a name for the kind of people who want to forget and destroy fun pursuits like dime beer night. He calls them ‘The FunSuckers’.”

Wardlow wrote like a man who didn’t remember what fun pursuits really made the original Ten-Cent Beer Night on 4 June 1974 so “memorable.” (It just so happened to be my late younger brother’s birthday in the bargain.)  It was a not-so-regular riot, Alice. The Indians might have done better to postpone the event for a different game.

The Indians hosted the Rangers in the old but hardly forgotten Municipal Stadium. (Known colloquially as the Mistake on the Lake.) A week earlier, the two teams played in Arlington and included a bench-clearing brawl among the festivities. Rangers infielder Lenny Randle plowed Indians pitcher Milt Wilcox coming to tag him on the first base line while running out a bunt to trigger the scrum; Randle steamed over nearly being hit by a pitch prior to the bunt.

Lingering bad blood between the two teams was probably not the best condition to proceed with a promotion bound to get around 25,000 people (the night’s attendance) bombed out of their trees before the second inning.

The Rangers led the game 5-1 in the middle of the sixth. When Indians left fielder Leron Lee hit a liner up the middle that nailed Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins in the breadbasket and laid him out on the ground, the already-bombed fans began chanting, “Hit him again! Hit him again!” That may have been the most benign behaviour of the night.

A woman hit the field and flashed in the on-deck circle. A naked man ran out to second base right after Rangers designated hitter Tom Grieve hit his second of two home runs on the night in the fourth. Fans ran onto the field continuously during the game, at one point firing hot dogs at mid-game Rangers first base insertion Mike (The Human Rain Delay) Hargrove. The plague of the locusts didn’t drive the ancient Egyptians half as crazy.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Indians tied the game at five, with two out and the potential winning run on second, and Indians second baseman Jack Brohamer due to hit. And all hell broke irrevocably loose.

A fan ran out to Rangers left fielder Jeff Burroughs bent on stealing Burroughs’s hat, and the hapless Burroughs tripped and fell trying to prevent the theft. Rangers manager Billy Martin thought Burroughs had been attacked and hustled his team out to help him. A larger mob of fans swarmed out to the Rangers, prompting Indians manager Ken Aspromonte to order his team out to help the under-siege Rangers.

Some of the rioters began throwing steel chairs and seats somehow ripped away from the stands. One of the chairs hit Indians relief pitcher Tom Hilgendorf in the coconut. Another rioter picked a fist fight with Hargrove. Other rioters were determined to be carrying knives and other weapons.

Finally, both teams helped each other off the field before they could have ended up like massacre victims. The drunks continued their mayhem, tearing up the bases, tearing up the field, and throwing cups, rocks, bottles, radio batteries, hot dogs, food containers, and folding chairs around. Even umpire crew chief Nestor Chylak was a victim: he was hit in the head when a rioter threw a stadium seat at him.

That game-long mistake on the lake resulted in the game forfeited to the Rangers. Indians outfielder Rusty Torres, who’d pinch hit safely in the ninth and stood as that potential winning run, had just survived his second of three fan riots during his playing career. He’d been a Yankee when heartsick Senators fans broke RFK Stadium in the top of the ninth, causing a forfeit to his team near the end of the final Senators game ever; he’d be with the White Sox for their equally infamous Disco Demolition Night in 1979.

Some fun. Wardlow’s thought that the Indians changing their name to the Dime Beers would have been “great” was written to a group devoted to baseball nostalgia. Forgive me if I simply can’t be nostalgic about the arguable most chaotically decadent and destructive night in major league history. If there’s a proper word for that kind of nostalgia, I probably can’t say it in civil company.