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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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Rousing End To Regular Season Sets Stage for October Playoffs

Monday October 5 will be a rare day off before playoff baseball begins with the AL Wild Card game at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday Oct 6 with the rambunctious Houston Astros invading Yankee Stadium for the right to meet the Kansas City Royals in the best-of-five American League Division Series (ALDS).

I must admit that I was rooting for the Yankees to go on the road for the Winner Take All game. They finished the season as losers of six out of seven games, three out of four to the Red Sox at home and a sweep in Baltimore at the hands of last year’s AL East champion Orioles.

The Astros played very well in Seattle and Arizona, winning both series but unable to sweep the Diamondbacks on Sunday that would have given them the home game in Houston. It was still a remarkable year for the young Astros who rose from seasons in the lower depths to lead the AL West for most of 2015 until the Texas Rangers, another horrible team in 2014, roared past them to win the title.

There is nothing like baseball when everything is on the line. Players who gather in Florida and Arizona in February, who live with each other more than with their own families, go on the field in late September and try to relax while playing games that will determine whether they make the playoffs or go home also-rans.

The Saturday October 3 game between the Angels and Rangers will go down as one of the most remarkable ones in baseball history. I have cited over the years in this blog “Lowenfish’s Law”: “No four-run lead in baseball is ever safe until the last man
Is out.”

It came true on Saturday when the Rangers entered the 9th inning at home in Arlington, Texas with a 10-6 lead. Rangers rookie manager Jeff Banister played with fire by bringing in his closer Shawn Tolleson for the FIFTH straight game. He immediately gave up two solo home runs to cut the lead to 10-8.

Infrequently used righthander Ross Olmerdorf came in and got a bad break immediately when Albert Pujols popped a ball down the right field that fell out of first baseman Mike Napoli’s glove when second baseman Roughned Odor collided with him. Four hits later, some with two strikes and two out, gave the lead to the Rangers who closed out a 11-10 victory.

The Rangers were already in the playoffs so it wasn’t a devastating loss. “Tomorrow is your best friend” remains one of the great adages in baseball, and on Sunday southpaw ace Cole Hamels, a trade deadline pickup from the Phillies, pitched a complete game 9-2 victory to give the Rangers the undisputed title of the AL West.

Attempting a sweep at Arizona, always hard to pull off on the road, Houston tied Arizona in the sixth inning but Diamondbacks slugger Paul Goldschmidt belted a two-run home run that proved the difference in a 5-3 Arizona victory.

There should be exceptional drama ahead in the wild card games. Houston’s homegrown stellar southpaw Dallas Keuchel is matched against the Yankees high-salaried Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday the Pirates, winners of 96 games, could find their season end because of the deliveries of the Cubs star righty Jake Arrieta who has enjoyed statistically the greatest second half of a season in baseball history.

Powerhouses Kansas City and St. Louis will have home field advantages when they take on the wild card winners, starting Thursday and Friday in the best-of-five league division series (LDS). Division winners Texas and Toronto and New York and Los Angeles will square off in the other LDS.

Playoff baseball is not the same as the daily grind of the regular season. I am pleased that my Orioles surprised a lot of us by winning the last two games over Toronto after the Blue Jays clinched their title in Baltimore. Even more satisfying was sweeping the Yankees this past weekend, forcing them to back into the home wild card game with Houston’s Sunday loss.

The pending free agent losses of slugger Chris Davis and effective southpaw Wei-Yin Chen made the victories bittersweet. Davis sure went out with a bang hitting two home runs in the last game of the season at Camden Yards. But what baseball teaches us is to enjoy the moments of triumph fully because losses of games, and personnel, inevitably lie ahead.

That’s all for now – in the meantime always remember – “Take it easy but take it!”
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