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“Giants Wise Not To Punish Underpaid Bumgarner” and Happier Stories + News of My Activities in Late April

I really want to focus on this blog about the late rush towards the top of my Columbia Lions in the Ivy League baseball race. And the Orioles’ fine start to their season.
But I have to get this off my chest first.

The headline of a Buster Olney story on espn.com this weekend read: “Giants Wise Not To Punish Underpaid Bumgarner”. If you haven’t heard, SF Giants’ star southpaw hurt his shoulder seriously in a dirt-bike accident incurred on the team’s day-off in Denver. He will be out until early summer.

Yet I am sick and tired of sportswriters and pundits referring to any millionaire ballplayer as “underpaid”. Bumgarner has the security of a long-term contract through 2019 even though his annual reported salary of $12 million is only a little more than one-third of the money than the Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw is reportedly making - $32=$33 million a year.

Even at a "paltry" $12 million a year Bumgarner is not going to the poor house any time soon.

Leaving aside the question of whether he should have been punished - it all depends on whether his contract prohibited such dangerous activity in season as well as out of season - Bumgarner’s action was dumb and reckless. It does not augur well for the Giants’ season to lose your ace until the early summer at best.

Now to happier baseball news. Let’s start with the late season surge of my Columbia Lions in the Gehrig Division of the Ivy League. They have won five league games in a row - six overall - including this past weekend’s two doubleheader sweep of defending Gehrig champion Princeton.

I had hoped to see a full doubleheader at Princeton’s sunken diamond Bill Clarke Field on Saturday, but unexpected rains limited the first game to only four innings plus one out in top of 5th. Columbia, behind solid pitching by junior co-captain Ty Wiest and surprising home run power from senior center fielder Shane Adams and sophomore shortstop Joe Engel, had a 8-2 lead when the day’s activities were suspended.

In much better weather on Sunday, Columbia was able to complete a sweep (without yours truly in attendance). They finished the first game with a resounding 15-2 victory and overcame an early 3-0 deficit to win the second game 21-5. Meanwhile in Ithaca, perennial contender Penn took three out of four from host Cornell.

With one weekend to go in regular season Penn leads Columbia by 2 games, Cornell by 3, and Princeton by 4. So the division title will be decided by two big doubleheaders between the Lions and the Quakers.

The first one starts Friday at 1pm at Columbia’s Satow Stadium just north of football’s Kraft Field in the Baker Field complex west of 218th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. The final two games of the regular season will start at 1pm Sat. at Penn’s Meiklejohn Field on the Philadelphia campus.

Those traveling to these games on New Jersey Transit or Amtrak should still expect delays. Train transit remains less than ideal on the north Jersey corridor.

Meanwhile, Yale took a giant step forward towards representing the Rolfe Division in the playoff by sweeping Dartmouth on Sunday and splitting on Monday. So the powerful Elis have clinched a tie for the half-pennant. They need only one victory over Brown or one Dartmouth loss to clinch their second straight Rolfe flag.
If there is no Penn-Columbia playoff, the best-of-three championship series will start at historic Yale Field the first weekend in May.

As a Columbia alum, it has been great to see my young Lions coalesce into a winning outfit at the right time of the season. Shortstop Joe Engel has become steady in the field and is showing surprising pop - he had never hit a homer in his college career until last week when he belted his first at Fordham and his second at Princeton.

Two of the Columbia co-captains have become potent sluggers in the middle of the lineup: junior third baseman Randell Kanemaru and second baseman Kyle Bartelman are delivering big hits. So are the emerging sophomore first baseman Chandler Bengtson and freshman phenom DH-LF-IBman Liam McGill.

Those Penn games should provide stirring competition because the Quakers are real hot, too. They pounded Princeton four times in a row with their big bats and used their good moundsmen and timely hitting to win the series at Cornell.

On the pro front, I am happy with the Orioles’ 13-5 start. Despite the loss of semi-ace Chris Tillman to shoulder discomfort - he may return to the rotation in early May - they are getting surprisingly good starting pitching with Dylan Bundy looking like the ace-in-waiting they have dreamed of for years.

Their other former number one draft choice, Opening Day starter Kevin Gausman has not stepped up as hoped but he tends to be a slow starter, this blogger says hopefully. And the Oriole bullpen has been outstanding even with star closer Zach Britton on the DL with forearm issues.

Brad Brach, from Freehold NJ and Monmouth University, has filled in admirably. His four straight saves (through the 6-3 come-from-behind home victory overTB on Mon Apr 24) were achieved by a TOTAL of 44 pitches. The Birds make their first trip to Yankee Stadium in 2017 this coming weekend and I’ll be sure to share some thoughts on that series next time.

Before I go, I have two appearances ahead, one in print and one in person, to share with you, dear readers.

**Starting Wed Apr 26, check out the National Pastime Museum website - tnpmuseum.com - for a piece I wrote on silent film legend Buster Keaton’s love of baseball.

**On Sunday afternoon Apr 30, I will be on a panel discussing Josh Gibson and Negro league baseball after a performance of Richard Jones’ play “Josh: The Black Babe Ruth.” The play starts at 3p and the panel starts immediately thereafter around 445pm. Location: Theater for the New City, 1st Avenue and E. 10th Street in Manhattan’s East Village.

Always remember: Take it easy but take it.
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Some Mid-April Thoughts on Ivy League Baseball, Game Length, and Orioles' Fine Start

Being a secular Jew who does not observe most of his religion's holidays, I had no
guilt pangs about going to a college doubleheader on Easter Sunday yesterday.

My alma mater Columbia salvaged the last game of its four-game series against division rival Cornell thanks in large part to long balls by slugging junior  Read More 
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