icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Reflections on the Baseball Lockout + Why "La Boheme" Remains An Evergreen

Here we go again in baseball.  Labor-management relations at a standstill.  

Everything old is new again.  


"Defensive lockout," according to commissioner Rob Manfred, is necessary to make an agreement.  And war is peace.  And slavery is freedom.


It is a more complicated issue than billionaire owners versus millionaire players so I wish that short-hand description could be scrapped.   But it does come down to money

and plenty of it.  


Average salaries in baseball have been dropping in recent years and so have median salaries which is a more important figure.  Other pro sports have passed baseball in

the median quality - the midpoint between the richest and the least hightly-paid player.


It will be key for the players that two of their union leaders, the newly-enriched free agents Max Scherzer and Marcus Semien, keep their less financially-endowed brethren informed of developments.  They likely will but the prospects for a deal look far away right now.


I have a suspicion that those fans who bellow the loudest about greedy players would probably be the first people to jump in line to get the most money out of misguided owners.

Over time, they have never been able to stop themselves from putting that shiny free agent on the mantelpiece when huckstered by clever player representatives.


If you want more historical background on owners' inability to control themselves, check out my first book, THE IMPERFECT DIAMOND which was updated in a second and third edition.


In my intro, I noted the late satirist Mort Sahl's comment that Richard Nixon's memoir

"Six Crises" should have come out in a looseleaf edition so you could just add the crises.

So goes it with the baseball labor story except in 2021 total attendance is not up and it may

not return if there is any protracted shutdown.


I suggest that there better be some agreement before the Super Bowl - which is late this year, Feb. 13, because of the expanded 17-game NFL schedule.  Otherwise, spring training games and the regular season starting on March 31 will be impacted.


I was wondering why the Braves hadn't resigned Freddie Freeman, their leader and first baseman and lifelong Brave.  Then I discovered that his agent is Casey Close, a former

U of Michigan player and briefly a Yankee farmhand who became Derek Jeter's player agent and is now a big mover and shaker in the sports business firmament.  


It is not only Scott Boras trying to get top dollar from owners. In fact, in some ways Boras is admirable because as far as I know his Boras Corporation is not yet connected to a huge conglomerate as most agents like Casey Close are.


As for me, I will try to ignore the power plays, egos, and greed on both sides.  I applaud versatile Chris Taylor for re-signing just before the lockout with the Dodgers who realized they made a mistake in letting another grinder like Kike Hernandez get away last off-season to the Boston Red Sox.


I love grinders, players who know how to win and do the "little things" that don't appear in box scores.  In fact, as one wise person recently said, "There are no little things."


My cheering for the rest of the fall and winter will focus on Wisconsin Badgers men's

basketball who improved to 8-1 earlier today (Sat afternoon Dec 4) convincingly beating state rival Marquette 87-73.  Johnny Davis is an exciting player coming into his own and the rest of the team is playing good team basketball.


I'm also following closely, and in person when I can, my other alma mater, Columbia's women's basketball which has started 7-2 in the pre-Ivy League season. They are a versatile and speedy team and fun to watch under coach Megan Griffith who played for

non-contending Columbia teams and assisted at great Princeton winning teams.


Methinks she and all good coaches imbibe the great Christy Mathewson saying:

"I have learned little from winning. I have learned everything from losing."


Picked for 3rd in pre-season polls, the Lions will play their top rivals Princeton and Penn at home, respectively, on F Jan 7 at 7p and Sa Jan 8 at 5p.   They open league season at home Su Jan 2 at 1p against Yale.  Check out gocolumbialions.com for ticket info and other stories.  


In closing, I want to rave about the "La Boheme" I attended late last month at the

Metropolitan Opera.  It was my first foray to live opera since before the pandemic.


The orchestra and chorus under Korean woman conductor Eun Sun Kim making her NYC debut never sounded better.  The story of the irrepressible bohemians in 19th century France never fails to captivate.  


I wasn't familiar with any of the singers but they all performed with elan in the long-running Franco Zefferelli production. 


Conductor Eun Kim returns to the Met for four more "Boheme"'s on May 16, May 20,

May 24, and May 29 all at 8p.  There will be four other "Boheme"'s in January.


Sunday afternoon Jan 9 at 3p, a welcome innovation for opera.  Why should ballet and concerts have the audiences Sun afternoons to themselves?


There will be the national radio broadcast on Sa Jan 22 at 1p, and two weeknight performances at 8p, Jan 13 and Jan 18.


For Bohemeatologists, if I can coin a word, the 1926 silent movie "Boheme"

directed by the notable King Vidor, airs on TCM early Mon Dec 6 at 1:15a. 


Speaking of TCM, its Star of the Month is Ingrid Bergman, aired mainly on Weds.  

I caught her the other night in "Gaslight" 1944, directed by George Cukor, and her performance opposite convincing bad guy Charles Boyer, was so riveting that I passed up the first half of Wisconsin-Georgia Tech game.


"Gaslight" marked the debut of 18-year-old Angela Lansbury as a sassy maid in the

Victorian household.  The next year she had a haunting role in Albert Lewin's "Picture of

Dorian Gray" opposite Hurd Hatfield and with George Sanders. 


Her haunting rendition of the little yellow bird song remains constantly with me. "Dorian Gray" might be found on TCM On Demand.


Mentioning Lansbury makes me think of the recent death of Stephen Sondheim, 91.

More on him and his impact on so many people, including the New Yorkers who burst out in song when they learned of his death, next time. 


As well as reflections on the incomparable David Frishberg, 88, who mastered jazz piano and vocals and lyrics and composition. And through "Van Lingle Mungo" and "Matty" made a lasting contribution to baseball.  


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

ever, stay positive and test negative. 

Post a comment

A Special Sendoff to WFAN's Steve Somers, A Deserved Honor for Scout Billy Blitzer, and In Memory of Royals Scout Art Stewart

To those outside the range of WFAN's 660 AM or 101.9 FM's frequency, Steve Somers' 

name may not ring a bell. 

But to those in the New York City area and those with access to the audacy.com streaming link, Somers was renowned as the last of the original on-air voices of the nation's first 24-hour sports radio station. 


The outpouring of praise and love for him as his 34-year WFAN career came to an

end in mid-November was genuine.  Media columnist Andrew Marchand in the New York Post put it very well when he noted the irony that it took a fellow from San Francisco to give the station its first true New York voice. 


Starting as the overnight host "under the covers, talking S-P-O-R-T-S," Somers became the utility player extraordinaire in the later years of his career.  Working many different shifts, I'd call him the Kike Hernandez/Chris Taylor of NY sports radio.  


Somers' well-written opening monologues were informative and humorous, qualities very rare in a medium too often drowned out by shouting and superficial statistics from both hosts and callers.  Somers' persona was genuinely caring and compassionate.


How fitting that his last special one-hour afternoon show began with a call from Jerry Seinfeld, his longtime fan, and ended with Bernie Williams calling in to say that as a Yankee player he always felt the fairness and insightfulness of Somers' commentaries. 


Always nice to see class and professionalism applauded.  And somewhere in the burgeoning world of new media I am hoping we'll hear again before too long that original and thoughtful Somers' voice.    


I'm happy to report that for the first time in the long history of the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), a baseball scout will be honored.  Billy Blitzer, recently retired after a 40-year career with the Chicago Cubs, will receive recognition at the BBWAA annual dinner at New York's Hilton Hotel on Sa January 29. 


Among Blitzer's noteworthy signees were shortstop Shawon Dunston, the first pick in the nation in 1982, and southpaw Jamie Moyer, a sixth round pick in 1984 who like too many of Chicago signees went on to greater success elsewhere.  Moyer wound up winning 269 games, only 28 for the Cubs.  


On a sadder scouting note, Art Stewart, the Chicago-born Kansas City Royals scout who initally worked for the Yankees, passed away on November 11 at the age of 94. 


Among his many accomplishments, Stewart was instrumental in guiding Hall of Famer George Brett and Bo Jackson from the amateur ranks to the majors. He always gave full credit to area scouts and the solid organization built by the late Kansas City owner pharmaceutical magnate Ewing Kauffman.


His book "The Art of Scouting" is a worthy contribution to understanding the most essential and often misunderstood business of player evaluation and development. 


There will be more stories about Blitzer and Stewart and many other scouts in my own work-in-progress tentatively entitled "Homage to An Endangered Species."   


In the meantime always remember:  Take it easy but take it!  And stay positive and test negative.    

Post a comment