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The 2010 regular season ended on October 3, the 59th anniversary of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round The World.” I remember the moment in 1951 vividly. A few minutes before 4p, I was a 9-year-old, even then a crazed baseball nut listening to the game on my parents’ Crosley floor model radio in the living room. But not Russ Hodges’ famous call on WMCA but rather on the WMGM or WHN 1050 AM Dodger broadcast. Not sure why because I was a Giant fan not a Dodger fan.

October 3, 2010 didn’t provide such dramatics but there were two extra inning games that really didn’t mean anything and yet showed how major league players want to win not lose any particular game.

**That sense of pride and integrity is something that symbolizes baseball at its best and should always be extolled.

In a totally meaningless game, the Washington Nationals averted a sweep in the last series of the year by the New York Mets, winning a 14-inning game in New York, aided by a rare and characteristically inept performance by Oliver Perez, the Mets’ $36 million bust. The next day the Mets ownership father-son duo of Fred and Jeff Wilpon fired gm Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel and promised to create a new “culture” for the organization. Always easier said than done and yet it is probably a good start.

Also on October 3, 2010, the Tampa Bay Rays beat the cellar-dwelling Kansas City Royals in a 12-inning game though they had already clinched the AL East an hour earlier when the Red Sox beat the Yankees for the fourth time in six games. The Rays, playing the last week without their indispensable run-producer Evan Longoria, had tied the game in the 9th on a two-RBI double by Carlos Pena off the Royals’ All-Star closer Joakim Soria who had not blown a save since May. Pena finished the year batting under .200 and yet still gave them big RBI, plenty of walks and stellar first base defense.

Pena, multi-talented left fielder Carl Crawford, and outstanding closer Rafael Soriano can all be free agents after the World Series and Soriano picked the last week of the season to announce that he had shifted his agent to Scott Boras who never tires of pronouncing that baseball is awash in money and he would hate to have a player turn down $50 million that “he could use for his family, his community and his church.” (Saw the quote in a Playboy interview in mid-2009.)
On the other side of the irrepressible labor-capital conflict, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg continues to insist that his team payroll will go down next year. Yet the Rays managed to hold off the Yankees and win the AL East title for the second time in three years. Quite an accomplishment!

The Red Sox had to be content with the consolation prize of knocking the Yankees into the wild card. It says here that Terry Francona deserves to be manager of the year for keeping the Red Sox in the race through most of September despite season-ending injuries to key contributors Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis and serious ailments to many others.

The latter two will be back next year to bring their talent and heart and soul to the Bosox but Ellsbury could well be traded because he hardly played at all this year and was publicly critical of how the Red Sox handled and perhaps misdiagnosed his multiple rib injuries. Ellsbury’s year had mentally got off to a rocky start when during the offseason of 2009-10 Boston obtained aging Mike Cameron to play center field. Cameron had his share of injuries too and did not finish the season.

For someone who I guess got a certain masochist pleasure in bemoaning the Woerioles owned by Angelose-lose-lose, I hereby retire my nom d’agony Masochist Mel to the inactive list and maybe even the permanently retired roster. Upon the hiring of new manager Buck Showalter in early August the Orioles suddenly caught fire, pitched much better, played better defense and had some timely hitting though a genuine middle-of-the-order run-producer remains their greatest need. Big decisions loom in the off-season of course but the spirit of winning has at last returned to proud Charm City Baltimore after so long an absence. What a relief that is at long last!!

Among some of great tidbits I gleaned about Buck’s first two months on the job: **”There are times he almost looks like Earl Weaver on the bench.” –Oriole telecaster and former star pitcher Mike Flanagan.

**He removed a picture above his desk of a sold-out Camden Yards because the O's were in the field and the bases were loaded. Not a vision he wanted to show the world. –source: Yankee YES network broadcaster Michael Kay

**Kay added Buck’s advice to an overweight Andy Pettitte early in his minor league career:
"There are four ways to leave this game.
1. Talk yourself out of it.
2. Eat yourself out of it.
3. Party yourself out of it.
4. Play yourself out of it," obviously the most recommended one.

**I attended the first game of a hastily scheduled doubleheader at the Mets new stadium listed as Citi Field but I still call New Shea.
There were definite improvements in the ambience of the ballpark. Responding to many complaints by Mets fans, the team has hung many more photos of past great Met contributors including 1969 stalwarts Cleon Jones and Ron Swoboda. Another nice touch are the giant Topps cards that greet you at the top of the escalator to the first stands with the day’s starting lineup. Now if only there was consistent and hopeful play on the field night after night.

R.I.P. Ben Mondor, 85, the man who in the late 1970s saved the Pawtucket, Rhode Island franchise of the Red Sox in the International League. Will never forget Mondor telling an audience at a SABR meeting in the 1980s that he didn’t believe in tricky promotions to draw fans. “I will open up my gates at 3:30 in the afternoon if you want to see how a shortstop and second baseman work on the double play,” he said.

Take it easy, but take it. Ciao for now until the next round of playoffs. I’m not in the predicting business but would like a Rays-Giants or Rays-Reds WS.
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