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"Winter Has Come And I Do Wish Tampa Bay Had Hit A Little More" (corrected version) + Ups and Downs of Wisconsin Badger Football

The end of a baseball season, even one as short as this one, always brings melancholy. With Daylight Saving Time ending at Sun at 2AM, the days will grow short, too. For a half-filled-glass kinda guy, it will be suck-it-up, hope-for-better-days time.  

 

There is no doubt that the LA Dodgers deserved to win the Series. Smooth shortstop Corey Seager was a worthy MVP for his offensive production and fine defense.  

 

LA hit and pitched more consistently than the Rays whose lack of offense except for the rookie Randy Azorarena was disappointing if not appalling. Randy was also handled fairly easily with men on base.

 

For a season to end with shortstop Willy Adames taking the last two strikes in a three-pitch punchout from the nearly-flawless Julio Urias was tough to handle.  Highly touted prospect Wander Franco may be replacing Adames in 2021. I would have liked Willy to have gone down swinging. 

 

Or manager Kevin Cash use a pinch-hitter for him.  It was Cash's first World Series as a skipper and he didn't seem to manage with urgency. He could have pinch-hit more often for great defender/weak-hitting catcher Mike Zunino. 

 

I was glad Zunino got his first World Series hit in his last AB in the Series.  And gotta love a guy whose parents were both catchers - they met when father Greg, now a Cincinnati scout, was playing in Italy and his mother Paola was playing for the Italian national softball team.

 

Props to Mike for thanking his wife when interviewed after a big game earlier in the playoffs. But backup Michael Perez might have been used more.  I know during the regular season every time he came up against the Orioles he seemed to deliver a big hit.

 

The classic game was the fourth one, a back and forth affair that ended on a game-tying single by reserve Brett Phillips and two rare errors by Chris Taylor bobbling a single in center field and Will Smith muffing a relay throw not realizing that Arozarena had fallen down between third and home.

 

The real turning point int he Series came in game 5 when the Dodgers immediately scored two runs in the top of the first to wrest whatever momentum the Rays might have had from the previous night's victory.  

 

The old cliche came true again:  "Momentum in baseball is the next game's starting pitcher."

Tyler Glasnost simply did not rise to the occasion in game 5.  After Manuel Margot was caught stealing home to end the bottom of the 4th after the Rays scored two runs, it was up to Glasnow to pitch a shutdown top of 5th.

 

He couldn't do it. He gave up a solo home run to Max Muncy to give LA breathing room.

Props to the Dodgers for scoring so many runs with two outs. More than I've ever seen. 

 

Where Kevin Cash is really being roasted is for yanking Blake Snell in the final game after the 2018 Cy Young-winner had thrown only 73 pitches with nine strikeouts in 5 1/3 superb innings.

 

Snell deserved to face Mookie Betts for a third time despite the infuriating "advanced metric" that said it is a no-no. Even Betts said after the game he was glad Snell was gone.

 

Somewhere in this land and in baseball-loving nations around the world, here's a hope that young pitchers are growing up dreaming of pitching in big games and embracing the challenge of going through an order three times or even more.  It is called pitching.

 

Lord knows what kind of season and what kind of country we face in the weeks and months ahead.  As a Wisconsin Badger fan, I first suffered the loss of a basketball season where Greg Gard's unheralded squad won the last eight games of the season and a share of Big Ten title when the pandemic hit.

 

Football got off to a flying start last Friday with Grahem Mertz's nearly-perfect five touchdown game against Illinois.  And then he tested positive for covid-19 as did his backup QB and coach Paul Chryst and several other players and staff.  The game against Nebraska has been canceled with no makeup planned and Mertz will be out for at least two more games.

 

I haven't even mentioned that the Dodgers' leader and big run-producer Justin Turner tested positive, a result known in the 2nd inning of the last game.  But he wasn't removed until the 8th inning. He was then allowed, unmasked, to join the post-game celebration.

 

In a country where our POTUS is behaving similarly, I worry about the validity of polls showing his likely defeat.  We've been through that before. "We're all in this together" doesn't apply for at least 40% of the country and probably a majority of athletes. 

 

So let me return to my half-filled-glass state and hope for the best in our country and also for some kind of satisfying regular season in 2021.  With also fewer minor league teams axed. Alas, there is no indication that any reasonable solution is at hand.

 

Nevertheless, always remember:  Take it easy but take it!       

 

 

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Oh For The Days When Spring Training Wasn't Filled With Anger + Thoughts on Columbia Women's & Wisconsin Men's Basketball

I'm trying to keep an even keel about all the anger from MLB players directed against the Houston Astros for their now-revealed high-technology methods and Keystone Kop execution that probably aided their World Series triumph of 2017. 

 
This is February, the slowest month of the sports year now that the Super Bowl is over. The build-up to college basketball's March Madness has not shifted into high gear. And the NBA basketball and NHL hockey playoffs are still a ways off.

 

So reporters are desperately looking for stories. Angry players are providing plenty of copy from Florida and Arizona.

 

It says here the protests won't amount to much because it will be impossible to prove exactly how much the signals affected game outcomes. The anger has almost made lament the pre-free agency days of baseball.

 

In the years when the reserve clause ruled baseball (through the 1976 season), spring training stories were usually about holdouts of players not satisfied with contract offers. 

 

In the vast majority of cases, they were one-year contract offers. Usually the pot was sweetened a little bit by management, and on went the regular season without interruption. 

 

The old system was obviously unfair to the players economically but it provided stability for the owners and for the fans could deeply identify with their favorite players. 

 

It was interesting if somewhat bizarre to watch Red Sox co-owner John Henry's press conference the other day trying to explain why Boston had traded star outfielder and recent AL MVP Mookie Betts to the Dodgers.

 

He spent a good deal of time reminiscing about Stan Musial, his favorite player growing up in St. Louis.  He waxed rhapsodic about how Red Sox fans felt the same attachment towards Ted Williams.

 

Both stayed with their original team forever. John Henry even noted that Musial turned down in 1946 a huge salary increase by spurning an offer from the short-lived Mexican League. 

 

Henry professed his approval of Betts' wanting to get "market value" for his services.  Yet neither finance mogul Henry nor his partner TV mogul Tom Werner (a former San Diego Padres owner who I remember most as the man who hired Roseanne Barr to sing a disastrous National Anthem) addressed in any great detail the real reason why Betts was traded. 

 

They didn't want to pay any more "luxury tax" into MLB coffers that a long-term contract to Betts would have required. They insisted that they didn't think a draft pick at the end of this season would be sufficient.

 

Yet the return for Betts seems questionable.  Two minor leaguers and a young outfielder Alex Verdugo may have a high ceiling but who will start season on the disabled list. 

 

To add to Red Sox questionable decisions, they selected as Cora's replacement Ron Roenicke (brother of former Oriole left fielder Gary Roenicke). Ron enjoyed only moderate success in prior MLB managerial jobs with the Brewers and Angels.

 

The Red Sox will face more bad news when beleaguered commissioner Rob Manfred announces the results of his investigation into Red Sox malfeasance during Alex Cora's reign as manager, especially their 2018 championship season. 

 

With too many stories in baseball resembling the troubling wider political world these days, you can see, dear reader, why I try to find solace in the college basketball seasons of my alma maters. 

 

The Wisconsin Badgersmen and Columbia Lions women have given me considerable pleasure. Picked for sixth in the 14-team "Big Ten", the Badgers have a chance at a top three finish and another trip to March Madness. 

 

They are maddeningly inconsistent to be sure. One center with the combined talents of Nate Reuvers' sweet touch and Micah Potter's toughness might be an All-American.  But last I looked cloning players has not been approved yet by the NCAA.  

 

With just eight players getting regular playing time, the Badgers have overcome great adversity to keep hope alive. First, there was the pre-season loss of  assistant coach Howard Moore whose wife and daughter were killed in a horrific auto crash - Moore himself is recovering slowly from his serious injuries and a subsequent heart attack.

 

Then last month, the streaky but talented swing man Kobe King abruptly left the team. The Lacrosse, Wisconsin native's reasons were sketchy at best.  Not being appreciated beyond a basketball player was one of them.  

 

Under coach Greg Gard's firm and steady hand, the Badgers have regrouped and are on their first three-game Big Ten winning streak of the season.  That's a modest number of course, but the flashes of offensive production from the likes of juniors Brad Davison and Aleem Ford and consistently tough defense have me pulling my chair up close to the TV these days.

 

I thought the Columbia women would be worth watching in 2019-20 and I have not been disappointed.  Under youthful coach Megan Griffith, Columbia class of 2007 grad and former assistant at league powerhouse Princeton, the Lions last weekend swept two Ivy League opponents for the first time since 2011, Dartmouth and Harvard.

 

There is now a four-team tournament in the Ivy League and Columbia has a chance to make it if they continue to grow and play hard and smart and well. 

 

Last year's rookie of the year, forward Sienna Durr from Grinnell, Iowa has stepped up her all-around game. 

 

Guard Abby Hsu from Parkland, Florida is a strong candidate for this year's rookie award.  The only senior on the squad, feisty guard Janniya Clemmons from Accoceek, Maryland outside DC, is another solid presence.

 

Both point guards sophomore Mikayla Markham from Manasquan on the Jersey shore and first-year Carly Rivera from Arlington, Virginia are getting plenty of playing time. They are sparkplugs for a frequently-employed full-court defense.

 

Tigers on the boards and adding a lot of energy to the team are first-year Caitlyn Davis from Norwalk, Ct. and sophomores Lilian Kennedy from Buford, Ga. and Hannah Pratt from Boca Raton, Fla. 

 

Unfortunately, the Columbia men have fallen into the Ivy League basement. It's a familiar story - close losses and no conistent scoring except from senior guard Mike Smith who hasn't had a lot of help and winds up taking too many shots.

 

After a good start to the season, the Wisconsin women have fallen near the bottom of a tough Big Ten conference. Hopefully, both teams end the season with good efforts and confidence-building results to give hope for better days ahead for both teams. 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 


  

 

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