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"Tomorrow Is Your Best Friend" and Other Tips On How To Deal With A Looooong Baseball Season

May 13, 2017

Tags: Bobby Valentine, Tug McGraw, Curt Motton, Ivy League baseball: Penn's Jake Cousins and Tim Graul, Mark Melancon, John Fuller

The drama of the major league baseball season is enfolding before us in all its glory and agony. And the best advice for dealing with the inevitable peaks and valleys remains: "Tomorrow is your best friend." I heard the phrase first when Bobby Valentine managed the Mets at the turn of the 21st century.

Of course, it helps to get off to good starts as the Orioles and Yankees have done in the AL East and the Astros in the AL West. On the other hand, the road will be very difficult for those who have stumbled mightily in the early going, esp. the Giants in the NL West and the Blue Jays in the AL East.

Yet unlike football and even basketball, baseball plays by far the most games. There are still well over 120 to play. In a very impatient society, the best advice is to chip away day-by-day, inning-by-inning, pitch-by-pitch and perhaps the winning feeling will return.

Remembering the late relief pitcher Tug McGraw's mantra, "You Gotta Believe," never hurts. Yet for most of us I'm afraid the late great Oriole reserve outfielder and scout Curt Motton said it more realistically: "You're never as good as you look when you are winning, but you could be as bad as you look when you are losing."

Inclement weather continues to plague the Northeast. I don't recall a spring that feels more like fall and even winter. Impressive Houston's Saturday afternoon game against the Yankees was postponed early, and Derek Jeter Retirement of Number Day will now actually be part of a single-admission Sunday doubleheader.

Weather has impacted the Ivy League baseball playoff between defending Rolfe division champion Yale and Penn champions of the Gehrig division. These games won't be played until Tues May 16 and if necessary Wed May 17.

Penn eliminated Columbia, 6-3 in a single play-in game last Sunday May 7. Senior right-hander Jake Cousins pitched six solid innings and slugging senior outfielder Tim Graul did what all visiting teams must do on the road, contribute to a first-inning lead by slugging a two-run homer.

If forecasters are right, almost summery weather will finally bless us during the week of May 15 and I hope beyond. It is a very exciting time for baseball followers.
College and high school tournaments are starting in about a week. More on that in next installment of this blog.

Before I close, a special tip of the cap to Mark Melancon, the SF Giants new closer who really cares about the history of his team. On Monday May 8 before the start of the Giants' 3-game series against the Mets, Mark treated over 30 members of the New York Giants Preservation Society to a pizza lunch on Monday May 8.

We gathered at the foot of the John Brush steps below Edgecombe Ave. in Harlem just above where the Polo Grounds stood. Mark and his agent, John Fuller, listened with obvious sincerity to all of our stories about how we fell in love with the Giants as youngsters and how we sustained those memories even though the team left for San Francisco after the 1957 season.

For now, always remember: Take it easy but take it!

Thoughts On The Eve of A Dream Cubs-Indians World Series

October 24, 2016

Tags: Kyle Hendricks, Clayton Kershaw, Dartmouth-Columbia football, Ryan Dempster, Jon Lester, Aroldis Chapman, Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, Javier Baez, Andrew Miller, Bobby Valentine, Corey Kluber, Stetson University, Jacob DeGrom, Francisco Lindor, Anthony Rizzo

There was no drama this past Saturday night in the sixth game of the National League Championship Series. Kyle Hendricks, who has emerged as the number two starter on the 103-game-winning Cubs, shut down the Dodgers on two hits in 7 1/3 innings.

Meanwhile, from the very first inning Chicago bats pecked away at LA ace Clayton Kershaw. He yielded five runs in five innings as the Cubs rolled to a convincing 5-0 victory that propelled the Windy City Nationals into their first World Series since 1945.

For Dartmouth alums who had to be forlorn when my alma mater Columbia earlier in the day beat the Big Green, 9-7 - for its first Homecoming football win since 2000 - Hendricks’ performance provided a great consolation. The onetime Texas Rangers farmhand became a Cub a few years ago in a trade for the now-retired right-hander Ryan Dempster.

Hendricks has been a revelation in 2016, moving into the second spot in the rotation behind southpaw ace Jon Lester and ahead of last year’s Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. With the experienced John Lackey in the fourth slot, you can see why the Cubs ran away with the NL Central this year. The trade deadline addition of Cuban fireballer Aroldis Chapman has also shored up the back end of the Chicago bullpen.

I haven’t even mentioned the Cubs’ versatile offense that was occasionally shut down by both the Giants and the Dodgers in the playoffs but not for very long. Second baseman Javier Baez is emerging as a star - he was co-MVP with Lester in the NLCS. He can play anywhere on the field, a trait that manager Joe Maddon finds especially useful.

Baez is too much of a hot dog for many people including me but if he delivers he will play and get plenty of airtime. But let’s not just yet crown the Cubs as World Series champions for the first time since 1908.

Cleveland has endured a drought almost as long as the North Side Chicagoans. The Tribe hasn't won a World Series since 1948. They came very close in the 1990s losing two close Series in that decade - to the Braves in 1995 and the Marlins in 1997.

They have looked very sharp in the post-season, sweeping the favored Red Sox in three games and beating the Blue Jays in five in a very close and gripping ALCS. They have the American League reigning Cy Young award-winner Corey Kluber looking very much like an ace. He attended Stetson University in Deland, Florida, as did Jacob DeGrom, the Mets star pitcher who appeared in last year’s World Series.

A major story in the Indians’ rise centers on the left arm of Andrew Miller, a tireless reliever who has appeared this post-season as early as the fifth inning and as late as the ninth in a save situation. I cannot recall a pitcher of this magnitude who has been traded so often.

A top draft pick of the Tigers about 10 years ago, Miller didn’t develop as a starter fast enough to suit Detroit. He was traded to the Marlins, then to the Red Sox where Bobby Valentine in 2013 during his one stormy year as Boston skipper converted him to a reliever.

He was traded to the Orioles at the 2014 deadline and helped my Birds to reach the ALCS where they swept away by the Royals. Miller then signed a four-year deal with the Yankees that obviously did not have a no-trade clause.

So late this July he wound up in Cleveland for four prospects, two of whom are considered future stars - outfielder Clint Frazier and pitcher Justus Sheffield. It is a deal that the Indians are very happy with.

There are many likable players on both teams. Smiling Tribe shortstop Francisco Lindor is a delight to watch on both sides of the ball. Earlier this season in response to the controversy surrounding Cleveland's longtime Chief Wahoo logo, he said, "I don't know much about it but he is smiling and I like to smile."

When asked after the Cubs' clinching 5-0 victory on Saturday what he planned to do with the double play ball that ended the game, first baseman Anthony Rizzo pulled it out of his pocket and said, "I'm gonna sleep with it."

It will be cold in Cleveland this week but hopefully not too wintry. I hope the elements remain playable when the Series shifts to Chicago for the weekend. Some fan base will be extremely happy come early November. Congrats to all of them in both cities and to the players and the management for getting this far.

I hope for a seven game series that Cleveland with the home field advantage just might win. But I don't know and neither do the know-it-all analytic people. That's why they play the games - to find out who is best.

That’s all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it!

Thoughts On The Eve of A Dream Cubs-Indians World Series

October 24, 2016

Tags: Kyle Hendricks, Clayton Kershaw, Dartmouth-Columbia football, Ryan Dempster, Jon Lester, Aroldis Chapman, Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, Javier Baez, Andrew Miller, Bobby Valentine, Corey Kluber, Stetson University, Jacob DeGrom, Francisco Lindor, Anthony Rizzo

There was no drama this past Saturday night in the sixth game of the National League Championship Series. Kyle Hendricks, who has emerged as the number two starter on the 103-game-winning Cubs, shut down the Dodgers on two hits in 7 1/3 innings.

Meanwhile, from the very first inning Chicago bats pecked away at LA ace Clayton Kershaw. He yielded five runs in five innings as the Cubs rolled to a convincing 5-0 victory that propelled the Windy City Nationals into their first World Series since 1945.

For Dartmouth alums who had to be forlorn when my alma mater Columbia earlier in the day beat the Big Green, 9-7 - for its first Homecoming football win since 2000 - Hendricks’ performance provided a great consolation. The onetime Texas Rangers farmhand became a Cub a few years ago in a trade for the now-retired right-hander Ryan Dempster.

Hendricks has been a revelation in 2016, moving into the second spot in the rotation behind southpaw ace Jon Lester and ahead of last year’s Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. With the experienced John Lackey in the fourth slot, you can see why the Cubs ran away with the NL Central this year. The trade deadline addition of Cuban fireballer Aroldis Chapman has also shored up the back end of the Chicago bullpen.

I haven’t even mentioned the Cubs’ versatile offense that was occasionally shut down by both the Giants and the Dodgers in the playoffs but not for very long. Second baseman Javier Baez is emerging as a star - he was co-MVP with Lester in the NLCS. He can play anywhere on the field, a trait that manager Joe Maddon finds especially useful.

Baez is too much of a hot dog for many people including me but if he delivers he will play and get plenty of airtime. But let’s not just yet crown the Cubs as World Series champions for the first time since 1908.

Cleveland has endured a drought almost as long as the Cubs’. They haven’t won a World Series since 1948. They came very close in the 1990s losing two close Series in that decade - to the Braves in 1995 and the Marlins in 1997.

They have looked very sharp in the post-season, sweeping the favored Red Sox in three games and beating the Blue Jays in six in a very close and gripping ALCS. They have the American League reigning Cy Young award-winner Corey Kluber looking very much like an ace. He attended Stetson University in Deland, Florida, as did Jacob DeGrom, the Mets star pitcher who appeared in last year’s World Series.

A major story in the Indians’ rise centers on the left arm of Andrew Miller, a tireless reliever who has appeared this post-season as early as the fifth inning and as late as the ninth in a save situation. I cannot recall a pitcher of this magnitude who has been traded so often.

A top draft pick of the Tigers about 10 years ago, Miller didn’t develop as a starter fast enough to suit Detroit. He was traded to the Marlins, then to the Red Sox where Bobby Valentine in 2013 during his one stormy year as Boston skipper converted him to a reliever.

He was traded to the Orioles at the 2014 deadline and helped my Birds to reach the ALCS where they swept away by the Royals. Miller then signed a four-year deal with the Yankees that obviously did not have a no-trade clause.

So late this July he wound up in Cleveland for four prospects, two of whom are considered future stars - outfielder Clint Frazier and pitcher Justus Sheffield. It is a deal that the Indians are very happy with.

There are many likable players on both teams. Smiling Tribe shortstop Francisco Lindor is a delight to watch on both sides of the ball. Earlier this season in response to the controversy surrounding Cleveland's longtime Chief Wahoo logo, he said, "I don't know much about it but he is smiling and I like to smile."

When asked after the Cubs' clinching 5-0 victory on Saturday what he planned to do with the double play ball that ended the game, first baseman Anthony Rizzo pulled it out of his pocket and said, "I'm gonna sleep with it."

It will be cold in Cleveland this week but not too wintry. I hope the elements remain playable when the Series shifts to Chicago for the weekend. Some fan base will be extremely happy come early November. Congrats to all of them in both cities and to the players and the management for getting this far.

I hope for a seven game series that Cleveland with the home field advantage just might win. But I don't know and neither do the know-it-all analytic people. That's why they play the games - to find out who is best.

That’s all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it!

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Story of baseball's reserve system and the men who fought to change it
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