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Appreciating Miguel Cabrera (with corrections), Ken Singleton, & Other Musings on Cusp of Autumn + Late September TCM Tips

On Su August 22, Miguel Cabrera became the 28th member of the very exclusive 500 home run club when he homered to right field in Toronto off the former Met southpaw Steven Matz  (Not to worry about Matz who has had a fine year with double-digit wins for the Blue Jays.)

 

After the day game of Tu Sep 21, Cabrera is just 21 hits shy of 3,000 that when it makes it, probably early in 2022 season, he will be only the 7th member of that even more exclusive club. Albert Pujols was the last member to join, preceded (alphabetically) by Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, and Alex Rodriguez. 

 

Cabrera, a native of Maracay, Venezuela, rocketed on the scene as a 20-year-old on the 2003 World Series-winning Florida Marlins.  A Detroit Tiger since 2008, Cabrera's presence as a first baseman/DH has been an important factor in Detroit's return to respectability. 

 

The Tigers are ending the season winning series from all contenders. Though September results are usually suspect, Detroit has been playing over-.500 baseball since early summer. They may well have established themselves as a future contender in a wide-open AL Central. 

 

I recently heard MLB commentators John Smoltz and Carlos Pena rave about Miggy's preparation.  They said he goes to spring training with the goal of having experienced every kind of uncomfortable at-bat he will face once the regular season begins. 

 

Eg., a broken bat, a pitch on the hands, a pitch hit at the end of the bat, everything that will prepare him for the grind ahead. If you want to know why he is so calm at the plate on a two-strike count, he is prepared for everything.  No wonder he will finish his career with the very-rare-these-days batting average of over .300.

 

Here's another tribute -- to former Oriole (and earlier Met and Expo) outfielder Ken Singleton who since his retirement after the 1984 season has become an excellent color

commentator. 

 

On the Yankees' visit to Baltimore last week, Singleton probably delivered his last Yankee broadcast on the YES Network.  He almost retired after last season but was coaxed back with a shorter schedule in 2021. 

 

In an age of increasing happy talk in the booth, not often about baseball, Singleton was always an exception.  As a fan of the Orioles for over a half-century, I always ate up Singleton's stories about playing for irascible, savvy manager Earl Weaver. 

 

One year when he was barely hitting .200 on Memorial Day, Earl called Ken into his office.   "Are you sick?" Weaver demanded.

"No," Singleton replied.  

"Are you tired?"  

Same answer from Ken.  

"Well, I'm sick and tired of watching you at the plate," Weaver fumed.

 

Last week Singleton told two more beauties about teammates.  

 

One day when Nolan Ryan was scheduled to pitch, second baseman Bobby Grich phoned in sick. The day after, he returned ready to play.  Singleton said Grich's teammates dubbed his illness a case of 24-hour Ryanitis. 

 

Another time when the Orioles were mired in a losing streak, fiery catcher Rick Dempsey stormed into the clubhouse fuming about the team's lack of passion. 

"We're acting like this is a country club," he bellowed, throwing his glove into his locker. When it landed, Singleton chuckled, a bunch of golf clubs fell out of Dempsey's cubicle. 

 

I'm gonna miss Singleton's knowledge of the game and his stories and his refreshing lack of the entitlement that seems to be part of the Yankee DNA on all levels. 

 

The dog days of summer are over and the sprint to the wire on closing day Sunday October 3 is at hand.  The Cardinals in the NL have seized the wild-card lead by three games.  

 

Although they are playing the Milwaukee Brewers in six of their remaining games, they already won the first one on Mon night Sept 20 at Milwaukee.  They seem to have the momentum with veteran starting pitching led by veteran Adam Wainwright.  

 

The 3-2-5 double play that Paul Goldschmidt, Yadier Molina, and Nolan Arenado turned against the Mets in a tied game in the bottom of the 9th during the Redbirds

recent sweep of the New Yorkers on the road was a thing of beauty.  

 

I don't think either the Dodgers or the Giants want to face Wainwright in a one-game wild card playoff but it looks like that might well happen.

 

Meanwhile another bird team is in flight in the AL.  Not my Orioles, who have been

swept EIGHTEEN times this year on their way to their third 100-loss season in a row, but the Toronto Blue Jays.  

 

If Toronto gets effective pitching, they could keep their current razor-thin one game edge to host the wild-card game against either the Red Sox or the Yankees.  I think the A's and the surprising Mariners have too much ground to make up. They still have to play each other five more times, perhaps knocking each other out. 

 

The winner of the AL wild card will face the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS best-of-five.

The other series is pretty much set - the slumping injury-riddled yet potentially dangerous White Sox face the Houston Astros with third baseman Alex Bregman recovered from injury and in the lineup and manager Dusty Baker vying for his first World Series championship ring.

 

In the NL, the wild card winner will face the NL West winner, either the Dodgers, who have to be favored now with Clayton Kershaw back on the mound and a fairly healthy Mookie

Betts back in the lineup. Maybe the Giants, who NOBODY picked to contend in 2021, can still work their amazing magic with its enticing mixture of veterans and youngsters.

 

In the other matchup, the likely NL East-winning Atlanta Braves should go up against the Milwaukee Brewers who coasted to the NL Central title.  

 

Meanwhile perhaps there is perhaps a glimmer of hope in the Orioles future.  We'll take any flicker these days.  The Double A Bowie Bay Sox knocked the Yankees' Somerset Patriots out of the playoffs by beating the Pirates' Altoona Curve.

 

Starting Tu Sep 21, the Baysox will now face the conquerors of Somerset, Cleveland's Akron Rubber Decks in a best-of-five series.   And in low Single A, the O's Delmarva Shorebirds destroyed the Salem (Virginia) Red Sox's playoff hopes though not making the dance itself. 

 

"Never grow accustomed to the emotions of continuous defeat" was a plea that Branch Rickey often invoked to keep the losing teams he shepherded at the beginning and end of his career.   So I'm glad that at least at the minor league level, there has been some winning going on as the Baltimore organization tries to arise from its sinkhole of ineptitude. 

 

Here's a quick reminder that on Th Sept 23 TCM shows the 1970s fantasy "Rollerball" at 8P  and "Kansas City Bomber" at 1015P.  

 

Sunday Sept 26 at 1130A "Easy Living" (1949) with Victor Mature as a LA Ram with a heart condition who cardiologist Jim Backus (!) urges to give up the game.  There is an excellent cast including Lucille Ball, Lloyd Nolan, Jack Paar, Lisabeth Scott, Sonny Tufts, and Kenny Washington playing himself  (Don't blame me for the last scene, puhleeze!) 

 

It precedes Noir Alley's "Hell Bound" at 10A, a 1957 72 minute feature aka "Cargo X" and "Dope Ship".

 

Tu Sep 28 at 8A Burt Lancaster as "Jim Thorpe All American" followed by a classic 1947 noir set in prison, "Brute Force" directed by Jules Dassin starring Burt Lancaster. 

 

Later that night at 630p there is the silent film classic "The Freshman" as Harold Lloyd tries his hand at football. 

 

That's all for now - always remember:  Stay positive test negative, and take it easy but take it!

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How Can Red Sox, Dodgers, or Cardinals Lose? Thoughts on Baseball's Final Four

Winter has come for my two favorite teams, the Orioles and the Rays. To add to that misery, word just came that Manny Machado will need surgery for the ligament damage in his left knee. We cross fingers that he’ll be ready for the start of the season.

There will be a World Series with traditional teams competing and that is some consolation. It is likely that the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers will be the favorites and the choice of the biggest media outlets, but don’t count out the Tigers or especially the Cardinals. “Anything can happen in a short series” is the oldest of sports clichés, but like most clichés, it is true.

The Cardinals made baseball’s Final Four by eliminating party-crasher Pittsburgh.
St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright totally scuttled the Pirates in both game 1 and the deciding game 5 of the Division Series, both played in St. Louis. Hopefully, it will go down as a breakthrough year for the Buccos, who ended their horrible record-breaking streak of 21 straight losing seasons.

Among the newest ballparks Pittsburgh’s PNC Park ranks high among them. I’ve been there a couple of times since the ugly all-purpose cookie-cutter Three Rivers Stadium was demolished. PNC’s location on the banks of the Mononghela, Allegheny, and Ohio Rivers couldn’t be nicer and the corporate bank sponsor has remained the same since it opened, an amazing fact in itself.

Yet the Pirates couldn’t advance over the Cardinals. They will have to address its absence of offense in the off-season. The late-season addition of Marlon Byrd from the Mets gave them a needed extra bat but they will need more down the road to remain a consistent contender.

Byrd will be a free agent after the World Series and where he winds up in 2014 will be an interesting question. At the end of last year, he was suspended for 50 games for a violation of MLB's drug agreement and he had to play winter ball in Mexico to show baseball honchos that his skills hadn’t eroded.

HANDICAPPING THE LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES:
The Cardinals-Dodgers NLCSeries should be a beauty of a competition. Rebuilt Busch Stadium doesn’t have the charm or waterfront location of PNC Park but it hosts one of the perennially contending teams in baseball. And the Cardinals have succeeded with remarkably young homegrown pitching and many everyday players also developed on the farms like first baseman Matt Adams and catcher Yadier Molina, whose bat has improved and whose defensive skills are top-drawer.

Outfielders Matt Holliday, a trade pickup, and free agent Carlos Beltran are dangerous bats in the lineup. Beltran is the new “Mr. October” who has become the most feared offensive player in contemporary post-season baseball. He is also a free agent at the end of the World Series.

The Dodgers have two bona fide aces in homegrown Clayton Kershaw and free agent pickup Zack Greinke. They have the exciting Cuban defector Yasiel Puig in right field and the powerful Hanley Ramirez at shortstop. Their turnaround this season was remarkable.

At one point they were 30-42 and in last place in the NL West division. They then went on a remarkable 42-8 run that most likely saved manager Don Mattingly’s job and they won the division going away. (Mattingly wears #8 in homage to Yogi Berra who managed him briefly in New York in the 1980s.)

The Cardinals have the home field advantage and that might give them the slightest of edges in what should be a great series. But remember always about baseball: Youneverknow, youneverknow in baseball. And this series could come down to how the young closers for each team pitch – Kenley Jansen for LA, Trevor Rosenthal for St. L.

The Red Sox have the home field advantage over the Tigers and I feel that they are the one clear favorite in this year’s Final Four of baseball. They have a deep rotation with Jon Lester at the top and three other good starters in John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, and the underrated veteran Jake Peavy who could be moved up in the rotation.

The Red Sox have the hottest closer in Koji Uehara who has been lights-out since late June - except for the hiccup in serving up a walkoff homer to Jose Lobaton in the only game that the Tampa Bay Rays won in the Division Series.

I haven’t even begun to discuss the balanced powerful Red Sox offense that is ignited by leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury – another free agent after the World Series. At times injury-plagued, Ellsbury seemed healthy enough against Tampa Bay and he is running the bases with daring. I don’t think Tiger catchers Alex Avila or Brayan Pena can stop him.

The Boston lineup doesn’t have a weak spot down to the nine spot in the order with the young third baseman Will Middlebrooks. The Tigers got some great pitching by Max Scherzer and the revived Justin Verlander to beat Oakland yet again. But slugger Miguel Cabrera is ailing and though still very dangerous I think Boston will prevail in under seven games.

Let’s hope whatever happens the games are memorable and make us forget that winter is on the way.

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