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When Robert Mueller Is More Ray Mueller Than Don Mueller and Other Thoughts On Cusp Of New Baseball Season (corrected version)

I wasn't expecting too much from former FBI director Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's influence on the 2016 Presidential campaign.  But wasn't expecting so little either. And it looks like there will be a real and necessary battle for the public to see the full report. 

 
So Robert Mueller is no Mandrake the Magician after all.  That was sweet-swinging right fielder Don Mueller's nickname - one of my early New York Giant heroes with a career .296 BA and .390 SA and an astonishing low number of walks and strikeouts. 

 

He put the ball in play did my man Don Mueller. I recall his winning a game by singling to left field when they were trying to walk him intentionally.  It was mid-1950s, the year when they allowed the catcher to step outside the batter's box to receive an intentional walk.

 

Who knows how the 1951 World Series would have turned out if Mueller could have played?  Alas, he broke his ankle sliding into third just before Bobby Thomson's momentous playoff home run. Mueller was 7 for 18 when the Giants swept the Indians in 1954.

 

Ray Mueller, a little older than Don, actually had a better career than I remembered - 14 years mainly as a backup catcher, hitting .252 slugging .368. But pretty much a nondescript career which over time might be where Robert Mueller's role in history winds up.

 
An electoral repudiation in 2020 of our current pre-fascist Presidency will serve our society best.  I try to buoy myself by the inspirational quote I saw on the Illinois Wesleyan University website:  "The past is immutable, but history is up to us."    

 
Meanwhile. more sad news hit the New York area baseball community when veteran baseball writer Marty Noble, 70, collapsed and died at the Mets spring training base in Port St. Lucie this past weekend. 

 
His long-form baseball writing was always incisive and leavened with humor. For many seasons he covered the Mets for "Newsday" and later mlb.com. I noted in my last blog his recent penetrating piece on Tom Seaver that appeared on the blog "Murray Chass On Baseball". 

 
He deeply appreciated baseball scouts. I once told me how the legendary Cardinals scout George Kissell walked speedster Vince Coleman  - the Cardinal star who became a so-so Met - to an outfield wall to demonstrate the many bounces a ball took. Marty also wrote a gem about the life and times of the great scout Al LaMacchia.

 

HERE'S ANOTHER SHOUT-OUT FOR COLLEGE BASEBALL:

As the Orioles face a likely 100-loss season or worse, I'm taking solace in the good Ivy League start of my Columbia Lions. On this excruciatingly windy past Saturday, senior southpaw Josh Simpson (Stafford, CT)  hurled a complete game 3-0 shutout.

 

Simpson struck out seven and got stronger as the game went on.  Imagine that, analytic Kool-aid guzzlers. He even faced the same lineup three times and threw 110 pitches.  

 
Columbia fell 4-3 in the first game of the Sunday double header as the Big Red scored all four runs in the 5th inning off junior southpaw Ben Wereski (Orchard Park, NY Buffalo suburb). Ben was brilliant for the first four innings, striking out 8 of the first 11 batters. Cornell junior reliever John Natoli (Fairfield, CT) blew away the Lions in the late innings, striking out the last six batters. 

 

Columbia rebounded in the second game to win 13-8 and thereby capture the series. They came from behind three times with the big blow being Fresno Calif.'s senior first baseman Chandler Bengtson's grand slam. 

 

Senior righthander Ethan Abrams (Encinitas, Calif.) pitched four solid relief innings. Always nice to see pitchers like Abrams and Simpson regain form after serious arm surgery. Here's an abiding hope that the TJ epidemic declines as parents and coaches don't let youngsters throw too hard too soon. 

 
Another big weekend looms this Sat and Sun as perennial contender Dartmouth comes to town. It will be strange to see former standout Lions third baseman David Vandercook in a Dartmouth uniform as assistant coach. But glad he's moving up in his chosen career.

 

Weather should be warmer but there is always a potent breeze off the Hudson River so football attire is never out of place at Satow Stadium just north of the football stadium at the Baker Field complex. First game on Sat. is 1130, single game on Sunday starts at noon.

 
IMO the college baseball season is too short, but academic schedules and the existence of pro minor leagues make change very hard. However, once you get used to the sound of the metal bat - hard for baseball purists I know -, the game is the same and often played with more fundamentals than you see these days on the major league level.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baseball Musings On The Eve of the College World Series

I’ve had about 10 days to recover from the unfortunate end to my Columbia Lions’ baseball season. They did throw a scare into the University of Miami Hurricanes in the Miami regional, winning three of five games including a remarkable 3-0 shutout of Miami fueled by the stalwart pitching of freshmen Bryce Barr and Zack Bahm.

However, in the rubber match on the last night of May, Columbia ran out of rested pitchers and fell behind 4-0 before they came to bat. It was 14-0 by the 4th and the final score was the football-like 21-3.

Still, nothing can take away from the great run that the Lions made in the 10th season of coach Brett Boretti’s reign. Columbia set program-high records with three Ivy
League championships in a row and 34 victories in a 51-game season.

Boretti was recently named the manager for USA Baseball’s tryout camp in late June for its under-18 team this summer, and his star has never been brighter.
“To overachieve you must overbelieve” is just one of Boretti’s memorable aphorisms.


Major kudos are due to the five seniors who provided incredible leadership and solid play in the 2015 season: Right fielder Gus Craig, designated hitter Joey Falcone, center fielder Jordan Serena, third baseman David Vandercook, and southpaw Mike Weisman.

The Co-Ivy League Player of the Year, Craig was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 30th round of the MLB amateur draft, the 905th player picked in the nation. He joins his former teammate fellow outfielder Dario Pizzano CC ‘12 in the Seattle organization.

Before games of June 10, Pizzano put up these impressive numbers at the Double A Jackson Generals franchise in Mississippi’s capital:
.316 BA, 3 HR, 28 RBI, .834 OPS (On Base + Slugging) – once again he is
showing a good eye with 18 walks and only 18 strikeouts in 210 AB.

Southpaw David Speer CC ’14 is pitching to a 2-3 record with 2.48 ERA for Cleveland’s Lake County franchise in the Midwest League. In 33 1/3 innings,
he has given up 35 hits with 8 BB, 2 intentional BB, and 32 strikeouts, almost
one per inning.

Two more Lions were picked before the draft ended on June 10th.
Junior righthanded starter George Thanopoulos in 35th round by the Mets.
Jordan Serena 35th round by the Angels.

Best wishes to all of them as they have a chance to follow their dream!

If you can tolerate the sound of metal bats, and I know it is hard for those of us raised on wood to accept it, the College World Series should be an absorbing one beginning in Omaha on June 13. Last year’s finalists, victorious Vanderbilt and runner-up Virginia, are returning and could meet in the final best-of-three series from June 22-24.

Miami, conquerors of Columbia, cruised past surprise Super Regional entrant Virginia Commonwealth to make the Elite Eight. As did top remaining seed LSU and
formidable Florida.

Texas Christian (TCU) dramatically eliminated NC State in the regional and survived a 16-inning rubber match with Texas A & M in the super-regional to make Omaha.
Unseeded teams that made the double-elimination tourney are Arkansas and Cal-Fullerton.


MLB MUSINGS
After losing 10 out of 11 games, the Yankees ran off 7 victories in a row until they lost a Wed June 10 day game to the Nationals. It was the first game without ace closer Andrew Miller who went on the DL with a strained flexor muscle in his forearm. The Yanks still have command of the AL East race but Toronto, always a streaky team, has now won eight in a row and Tampa Bay is hanging tough.

My Orioles are trying to scratch their way to the .500 mark and beyond. Their trademark defense has finally settled in, not coincidentally with the return to the lineup of shortstop JJ Hardy. Not since Cal Ripken Jr have the Birds had a shortstop doing all the little things to help his team win. Crossing fingers on his health.

The return to the lineup of catcher Matt Wieters after Tommy John surgery is another welcome sight for the Birds. Wieters is a free agent at the end of the year and he may only be auditioning for his next employer.

Nonetheless, I refuse to wallow in resigned negativity. Wieters provides great defense and an occasional big blast from his switch-hitting bat - his return is truly welcomed.

Now if only we can get Jonathan Schoop back at second base with his superior defense and occasional big bops, too. Ryan Flaherty is an excellent defensive sub for Schoop - his footwork and quick throws are wonderful to watch. Flaherty’s competence at every position in the infield is another big plus, but his left-handed bat is an iffy proposition.

Interesting Quirk I have noticed in the early going of 2015:
Rangers’ reliever Ross Olmendorf has taken to an exaggerated full windup not seen since Paul Byrd a few years ago. Don’t know how long this journeyman can keep it up – he may be the most intelligent player in the big leagues, a Princeton grad who has worked in high level government positions with the Department of Agriculture.
But his full windup is sure a pleasant antidote to the no-windup cookie cutter kind of pitchers I see too often.

That’s all for now – always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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