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Thoughts As We Approach Memorial Day

Thoughts As We Approach Memorial Day

I began posting this entry while listening to an old-fashioned two-for-the-price-of-one doubleheader on the radio. Alas, John Sterling’s self-absorbed droning and I fear his fading eyesight made his play-by-play unreliable and so I switched to TV.

Ah for the good old days when you could turn down an annoying TV announcer
and listen to the radio. That's not possible any more as the TV broadcast is several seconds ahead of the radio feed.

It was a make-up twinbill with the red-hot Indians leading the Yanks 1-0 after 6 innings. Cleveland's ace JUSTIN MASTERSON completed a 1-0 shutout but the Yanks won the second game 7-0 behind a rookie southpaw VIDAL NUNO.

Both teams are surprising the pundits in the early going. In fact, at 10 games over .500 as games started on May 13 (and ended on May 17), the Yankees were leading the American League East. Solid starting pitching and the presence of Mariano Rivera at the back of the bullpen has enabled the Yankees to withstand the losses of the superstars (in salary anyway) of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson. Granderson is back now and perhaps Teixeira within the next month though Lyle Overbay has proven a very worthy replacement.

Cleveland’s pitching will be suspect throughout the year but reclamation project Scott Kazmir has begun to pitch well and so has Yankee retread Zach McAllister. And the Indians will hit with budding star catcher Carlos Santana (no relation to the guitarist), second baseman Jason Kipnis (a member of the Jewish tribe), shortstop Asdubral Cabrera and center fielder Michael Bourn, the expensive free agent pickup, providing some hope up the middle. Former Yankee Nick Swisher and former Oriole Mark Reynolds add to a potent lineup.

Vidal Nuno has been recalled by the Yankees since Andy Pettitte went on the dl again with an upper back injury. But the Yankees continue to win with VERNON WELLS providing a lot of pop in left field and he is still a good defensive outfielder. Players who can perform on both sides of the ball remain very valuable commodities.

I will have a lot more to report early next month. Am delivering a talk on "The Glory Years of the Baltimore Orioles 1960-1983" on Wednesday afternoon May 29 at the opening session of the 20th Annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture.
I never miss an opportunity to go to the Brigadoon called Cooperstown about 200 NW of NYC and 75 miles west of Albany. And I never miss a chance to talk about the Orioles the team I fell in love with when I lived in Baltimore in the early 1970s.

I've stayed with them through all the ups and downs of the last 40 years. The 2013 edition has some serious starting pitching issues that will have to be straightened for them to contend again. But it is consoling to know that with Buck Showalter managing and Dan Duquette as the general manager there are steady knowledgeable men at the helm.

The AL East as forecast will be one wild ride all year and might as well as sit back and enjoy it while of course agonizing from time to time.

For me May 2013 will go down as Cooperstown Month. I attended the opening of the "Diamond Mines" exhibit at the Hall of Fame on the first weekend in May. It was a special evening with tears flowing from so many on hand to see scouts honored at baseball's central shrine.

Hall of Famer Pat Gillick spoke eloquently as always about the vital role that baseball's talent hunters have played in constantly bringing new blood into the game. One of baseball's most devoted octogenarians Roland Hemond, who has been working in baseball since the 1950s, was equally moving in his praise of scouts. As was Roberta Mazur, director of the Scout of the Year Foundation who since the mid-1980s has been working to see scouts honored in Cooperstown.

"Diamond Mines" will return at least two years and hopefully will become permanent with its artifacts of stop watches, radar guns, and most intriguingly, scouting reports on at least 12,000 players provided by at least 300 scouts.

That's all for now - always remember: Take it easy but take it!  Read More 
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On the Impatience of New York Baseball Fans

Entry of May 20th

Suzyn Waldman, the Yankees radio color commentator, makes a very good point about the psyche of today’s New York baseball fans. “We play 162 one-game seasons in this town,” she says. The Yankees are hot now, winners of seven games in a row, most of them close games and thrilling come-from-behind wins at home. Yet boos still cascade from the stands whenever a Yankee reliever walks a batter.
I guess the memory is too fresh of the Yankee bullpen implosions early this season but it was just one or two games and not coincidentally, the reliability of the bullpen has improved during the winning streak. Yet there is no placating the demands of the Winnites who are not real fans in my opinion but have the outrageous sense of entitlement that has always made me loathe that kind of Yankee fan.

It is becoming just as bad on the other side of town. Winnites have been coming out in full throat ever since the Mets beat the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. Logic and humility should remind Mets fans that Red Sox blunders played a big role in that victory (the Rich Gedman passed ball as much as the Bill Buckner error) but of course there is nothing logical when it comes to sports passion and addiction. It is fortunate that the Mets’ recent defensive mishaps that cost them the last three games happened on the road but believe me, the culprits will hear plenty of Bronx cheers when they return to Queens next week. Even the New York Times is making a comparison to today’s Mets and the original blunderers of 1962. What is alarming about the Mets is that it seems they have nobody in their farm system who can play good defensive baseball. We’ll know more after they go into Fenway Park this weekend and face off against the Red Sox and their increasing loud and obnoxious Winnite fans.

As for me, I say that the Bronx cheers should remain in the Bronx where the term originated in the 1920s, probably coined after hearing those first set of Winnite fans who expected Babe Ruth to lead the Yankees to victory every game and every year. It didn’t happen, folks (Ruth won only four World Series rings as a Yankee) and it should not have happened. Especially when you consider that Red Sox owner Harry Frazee presented the Yankees with not only Babe Ruth but also Herb Pennock, Joe Bush, Joe Dugan and others. And Yankee gm Ed Barrow gratefully allowed Frazee, for whom he was field manager in Boston, to use a desk in his office for his theater work. (Learn all this and more in Dan Levitt’s fine Barrow biography from U. of Nebraska Press.)

**Speaking of Suzyn Waldman, as far as I know, she is the only radio broadcaster not to do one inning or even half-inning of play-by-play. She is playing Tonto to the Lone Ranger of John Sterling and for you old-timers I’d rather hear the voice of Clayton Moore any time. Even Yankee fans have told me that Sterling’s home run calls are increasingly buffoonish and worse, not accurate. Oh for the days of the Phil Rizzuto home run call – “It’s gone . . . holy cow, he called it foul!”

**Coming tomorrow – Reflections on the 50th anniversary of Major League Baseball’s commitment to expand in some version. I know I said this yesterday but this time I mean it!

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