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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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Watching "Laura" During Astros-Yankees Playoff & Other Thoughts on October Baseball

You learn something new from a classic noir film every time you see it - it's like finding a new harmony in a great piece of music. During Game Two of the long-awaited Houston Astros-New York Yankees American League championship series, I switched during the interminable commercial breaks to TCM's (Turner Classic Movies) showing of Otto Preminger's classic 1944 film noir "Laura". 

 
I had seen the film at least a few times, but the dialogue never seemed fresher. I had long remembered early on when detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) is fiddling with a hand-held ball-bearing puzzle game called "Baseball".

 
This time I picked up something else. When supercilious Hollywood gossip columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) gets annoyed at detective Andrews for doodling with that game, Webb snaps: "Where do you get that? Something you confiscated in a raid on a kindergarten?"

"It calms me down," Andrews coolly replies.

 
I must admit, unlike Dana Andrews' detective Mark McPherson, baseball rarely calms me down. It stimulates me greatly, especially when the Orioles are playing. But in a post-season where I only really care that the Yankees' 10-year World Series-drought continues, I have enjoyed a lot of the games.

 
I am drawn in by the evident tension on the faces of the players.  This is not a time of year when "tomorrow is your best friend," a phrase I first heard from Bobby Valentine.  Every pitch is important in the post-season, and the best managers plan every game as if it is the seventh game of the World Series.

 
Obviously Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts hasn't learned that lesson.  He will return in 2020 and probably beyond because his LAD have won the NLWest division seven years in a row. But the Nats knocked out his Dodgers in the first round in a memorable climactic game in Los Angeles. 

 
Back-to-back homers by free agent-to-be Anthony Rendon and 20-year-old sensation Juan Soto tied it in the top of 8th off Clayton Kershaw, a great pitcher who is not used to being a reliever and is becoming a poster boy for October failure. 

 
Then in the top of the 10th veteran Howie Kendrick sent fair weather Dodger fans scurrying for the exits with a grand slam home run to dead center to cement a 7-3 victory.  I know it was a long game and LA fans always scurry to their cars at the first opportunity. It still struck me that the mass exit was extremely bush and insulting to the home team. 


Perhaps because I'm not emotionally involved with the Mets, I am happy for the Nats.  They exorcised their playoff ghosts by winning their first post-season series ever by beating LA.

 As I file this post, the Nats are one game away from their first World Series ever. 

 

By leading the Cardinals 3-0 in games, they are avenging their crushing loss to St. Louis seven years ago - when they couldn't hold a four-run lead in the 9th inning of the deciding game.

 
I'm someone who likes good starting pitching and Washington is loaded with great arms:  Former Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer, former number one overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg, the newly-signed free agent southpaw Patrick Corbin (who grew up a Yankee fan but wasn't offered enough $$$$ by Yankees), and the crafty veteran Anibal Sanchez.

 
If the Houston Astros can beat the Yankees in the ALCS - currently tied at one game apiece -  they also have big ticket starters in Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole (another onetime Yankee fan who chose to play at UCLA and later sign as free agent with Houston), and Zack Greinke. (Greinke suffers from a social anxiety disorder and it is painful to watch him do the required TV interviews with the press - I wish there were a way that he could respond in writing to questions from the probing scribes.) 

 

I'd rather take my chances with strong starting pitching and a couple of good relievers than using several pitchers just waiting for someone to not to have their best stuff that day. I am not a fan of "The Opener," a reliever who pitches an inning or two at the beginning and the rest of the bullpen completes the rest of the game.

 

The Yankees may do that in at least one of the upcoming games. They have not recently invested mega-bucks in starting pitchers.  It will certainly be interesting to see which philosophy wins out - the aces prepared for the long haul versus the ever-revolving door for relievers. 

 

It could be that the veteran Masahiro Tanaka and the young Luis Severino provide the innings that the Yanks will need to make their first World Series since 2009. Whatever, the old canard will still apply:  "Anything can happen in a short series."

 
Before I close, here's a tip of the cap to the Israeli Olympic baseball team that made the Tokyo 2020 competition by winning the European-African elimination tournament last month.  They beat out such amateur powers as Italy and the Netherlands.  

 

Danny Valencia, the former infielder with Twins-A's-Orioles, was perhaps the most recognizable member on the scrappy Israeli team.  I am proud to add that outfielder/DH Robb Paller, a mainstay on my alma mater Columbia Lions three-peat Ivy League champions of 2013-15, was also a key contributor to the victory. 

 
That's all for now but remember as always:  Take it easy but take it.

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