One of the amazing aspects of a long baseball season is how the old cliche usually proves
correct: The best teams almost always lose at least 60 and the worst teams somehow manage to win 60 (though not this year for Diamondbacks, Orioles, Pirates, and Rangers).
Look at what happened to the Yankees after winning 13 in a row. After a punchless shutout loss to the Blue Jays on Labor Day, they have lost seven out of nine. Gerrit Cole, the $341 million pitcher, will have to be the stopper and he probably can fill the role. But the bullpen once the team strength looks shaky these days.
The soaring Tampa Bay Rays are not likely to be caught for the AL East crown but the Yanks still narrowly control the top wild card by two lost games over the Red Sox with the Jays only one lost game behind Boston.
The A's and Mariners still have a chance if they go on streaks. They are playing each other six times so that might be difficult.
In the NL, after winning 9 in a row, the Braves have lost 8 out of 12 and the Phillies are only 2 games behind them for the NL East lead. The slumping Padres - who last month fired their accomplished pitching coach Larry Rothschild - I never like scapegoating any individual in a team sport - still have a two-game wild card lead over the Phillies and Reds with the Cards and Mets still having outside chances if they go on a winning streak.
I am enjoying these close end-of-year battles - even if the length of the games is getting ridiculous. Might as well savor the competition if the rumor is true that there will be even more teams eligible for playoffs in the future. lf the money from TV and "new media" is there, I fear it will happen because $$$$ makes the reigning commissioner and the owners (and most players) drool.
Despite the nagging issues with MLB, nothing can kill my love of the game on the grass roots level. So on the last Friday in August, with the Red Sox on the road, I made a trip to Fenway Park to see the Kelly Rodman Memorial Summer Rivalry Classic.
Now in its 13th year, the event features high school and college players eligible for next summer's amateur draft in two seven-inning games. The idea has been the brainstorm of two experienced Northeast area scouts, the Red Sox' Ray Fagnant and the Yankees' Matt Hyde.
They may work for fierce rival organizations, but they each share a genuine interest in helping future players learn correctly the basics of the game. Over a few weekends earlier in the summer, the youngsters receive instruction and the chance to play games, culminating in the precious opportunity to compete on the hallowed diamond of Fenway.
A few Augusts ago I went to the Rivalry Classic the one time it was played at Yankee Stadium. I saw a rising high school senior from Arizona belt a homer in the lower right
field stands. His name was Cody Bellinger soon a NL MVP for the Dodgers. (Slow in his
recovery from two surgeries, he will have a chance to play in October and possibly turn his season around.)
I also saw in the stands a former Rivalry Classic participant following the action. His name was Mike Yastzemski, then an obscure unappreciated Orioles minor leaguer and by 2020 a contributor to the SF Giants' resurgence as they battle with the Dodgers this season to
escape the wild card sudden death game.
Since last year's game, the Classic has been dedicated to the memory of Kelly Rodman, a full-time Yankee area scout who died of cancer in March 2020 at the unconscionably young age of 44. No one who ever met Kelly will ever forget her. It was heartwarming if bittersweet to see her face regularly flashed on the Fenway videoboard.
I remember her participating one Sunday morning a few years ago as an instructor in a clinic sponsored in Newburgh, New York by The Baseball Miracles project founded by retired White Sox scout John Tumminia. She was a bundle of energy and life-affirmation as she led
pre-teenagers through drills and sprints.
A star softball outfielder at Eastern Connecticut State University, the native of Wallingford, Connecticut went on to play baseball in many places around the world before she turned to baseball scouting.
She coined the mantra, "Be Great, Today!" to inspire players in their daily effort to improve. There is a T-shirt with that motto and other apparel available by contacting
Last month at Fenway I saw some famous offspring competing. For the Bosox squad there was Pedro Martinez, son of Hall of Famer Pedro who was there to give support along with the youngster's mother. Pedro told me that he is primarly an infielder, currently in college in Lynn, Massachusetts, though he played outfield in the second seven-inning game.
For the Yankees, Carson Sabathia, a prep first baseman, looks like he is taking after his father in size and he displayed a quick power bat. I'm kinda glad, though, that both youngsters are not trying to emulate their famous fathers on the mound.
I noticed scouts from the Brewers, Pirates, Twins, and Tigers in uniform helping out in pre-game drills and providing guidance in the dugouts. Another rewarding touch was to see coaching third base for Fagnant's Bosox squad Kayla Baptista, a softball player from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
During one half-inning break, the public address announcer asked Brad Dubrowski, a Monmouth University southpaw just back from a successful summer season for Harwich in the Cape Cod Baseball League, to take a bow.
I am not sure where I first heard the phrase, "Competitors and Colleagues," to describe
scouting at its most generous. But I certainly sensed that feeling the last Friday of August in Fenway. And no doubt every season in the future.
Baseball remains the hardest game to master but there is joy in competition and solace in collegiality. So it was almost fitting that the games were split - the Yankees won the first game and the Red Sox the second.
TIME FOR TCM TIPS: There is not a heavy dose of sports-themed films in Sept. and they will be aired late in the month.
Three roller derby films will be on back-to-back-to-back on Th Sep 23 starting with "Rollerball" at 8p and "Kansas City Bomber" at 1015p.
On Su Sept 26, if you haven't seen it, make a point to see "Easy Living" at 1130a. Noir master Jacques Tourneur directs Victor Mature, a LA Ram football player who a cardiologist (Jim Backus) warns has a heart condition that could jeopardize his life.
Lisabeth Scott plays the scheming wife (what else is new?), Lloyd Nolan is the Ram owner,
Lucille Ball his secy. and get ready Jack Paar is the PR guy. I kid you not. And some of the Rams, including Kenny Washington, play themselves.
Coming up on Tu Sept 28 at 8a is Burt Lancaster in "Jim Thorpe All-American". Later that day at 630p, Harold Lloyd tries his hand as college football player in the silent movie "The Freshman". I'll note these films again later this month but mark your calendars now.
Even though they have added a lot of bells and whistles to the website and taken away the original music for Eddie Muller's Noir Alley series, a full list of Noir Alleys through the week before Christmas is available on the TCM website.
I highly recommend Fritz Lang's "Human Desire" on Sun Sep 19 at 10A esp. for the opening scene of Glenn Ford as a railroad engineer riding his first route since his return from
the Korean War. The viewer actually feels he/she is in the driver's seat. The triangle that develops among Ford, Gloria Grahame, and Broderick Crawford is pretty gruesome but after all it is Noir.
That's all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it! And especially in these
uncertain times, Stay Positive, Test Negative.