December 27, 2016
"Casablanca" is on TCM now as I write my end-of-year blog. Quite fitting in the year that Theo Epstein orchestrated the Cubs to their first World Series title since 1908. As is well known, Theo's grandfather and grand-uncle created the story of the Bogart-Bergman-Henreid-Rains classic (I've read that there wasn't really a script).
Today December 27 (more…)
December 11, 2016
Did anyone really expect that there would be another labor shutdown in baseball? Hey, man, this is the 21st century - the age of labor peace in baseball is upon us after the bitter battles of the last century ultimately cancelled the World Series of 1994.
Remember the old line? The warring sides of owners Reinsdorf, Selig & Company versus Fehr, Orza, and The Living Specter of Marvin Miller did something that neither World Wars I or II could do - cancel a World Series.
That was then, and this is happily now where the new Basic Agreement signed on the eve of the Winter Meetings assures more peace through the 2020 season.
This is not to say that the baseball business has no problems. Poor attendance and poor stadiums in Oakland and Tampa Bay remain very serious issues.
The rumor is that MLB would love to return to Montreal and maybe even enter Mexico City. There are reportedly billions of dollars in Portland, Oregon - including some from the Nike treasury - salivating over the prospect of obtaining the Athletics.
Yet no decision is imminent.
For his role in labor peace and pushing for expanding playoffs and its resultant TV
bonanza, retired commissioner Bud Selig was elected to Cooperstown's Hall of Fame during the Winter Meetings.
I think Bud's plusses obviously and justifiably outweighed the minuses of his role in the collusion against free agents in the 1980s and his looking the other way during the rampant invasion of PEDs in the 1990s.
As for the actual player transactions at the meetings, held for the first time at the new National Harbor casino resort outside Washington D.C. the consensus is that the
Red Sox bolstered their starting pitching staff by trading for Chris Sale, the outstanding left-hander of the White Sox.
I wonder though if his temperament off the mound could be an issue when he makes his home in the pressure-filled confines of Fenway Park.
Remember that Sale is the fellow who was in the middle of a revolt of the White Sox last spring training when team management banned first baseman-DH Adam Laroche from bringing his teenaged son into the clubhouse.
Laroche, who clearly was on the downside of his career, suddenly retired rather than face that indignity. Last I heard he and his son were doing plenty of hunting and fishing.
Sale was also the fellow who was so distressed at wearing a retro uniform last season that he cut up not only his own uni but some of his teammates’ jerseys, too. Sale reportedly said that he only wants to win and this new-old uniform was just a sign that the team was more interested in marketing than winning.
For this act of childish insubordination, Sale got slapped on the wrist and suspended for only one game. We’ll see how this volatile temperament plays out in Boston. He undoubtedly has great talent, is young, and has a team-favorable contract.
But I always shy away from predictions in December. Let the countless number of "analytic" rags/websites proclaim that because the Orioles did nothing except add a couple of minor league outfielders, they will finish 10 games under .500 in 2017.
We haven’t even turned the calendar year and doomsday is already predicted for the Birds. Just like last year when the Birds finished 16 games over .500
Now if I were running the team, I’d have extended brilliant closer Zach Britton before 2016 and started to buy out some of Manny Machado’s arbitration years. In case you haven’t noticed, fans have no control over these things. So we wait and hope.
Meanwhile I am keeping my rooting chops in shape by following both basketball teams of my two alma maters, the Wisconsin Badgers and the Columbia Lions. Trending up right now are the men of Madison and the women of Morningside Heights.
The Columbia women, under rookie coach Megan Griffith (a former Lion player and Princeton assistant), are 7-2 with a do-it-all star forward in junior Camille Zimmerman.
The expected-to-do-well male Badgers are 9-2 with a heavily senior squad. They have many great stories as well as great players.
Senior guard Bronson Koenig has become very visible as a role model for the Ho-Chunk tribe of native Americans. His lineage comes from his mother's side.
Senior forward Nigel Hayes has supported many of the causes associated with "Black Lives Matter" activists.
In a fascinating pure basketball story, sophomore center Ethan Happ, a first cousin of Toronto Blue Jay southpaw J. Happ, is a potent inside force on both sides of the court. But it remains to be seen if he EVER attempts a basket from outside the paint!
Ivy League and Big Ten seasons don’t begin until after Christmas but watch this space for more news. I maintain hopes that Columbia men and Wisconsin women with new coaches and young teams show progress, too.
And always remember: Take it easy but take it!