The Last Third

As we say goodbye to perhaps the last truly enjoyable World Cup in history, we need to realize that it is not a dream, it is a fact: the next one, in 2022, will be held in Qatar. Will the next Winter Olympics be staged in Death Valley? What the hell, it needs a little work but there are millions of euros and dollars and bitcoins to be made. They know about money in Qatar, a nation of 2.6 million people who enjoy the highest per capita income in the world. Football (soccer) in the desert! Oh well, we Americans have golf in the desert, don’t we? We celebrate diversity, at least on paper, but this is more like culture clash. Qatar is mainly under Sharia law. Alcohol consumption and illicit sexual relations are punishable by flogging. That might actually be preferable to what happens to miscreants here, who are often forced to endure game shows and televised poker. Apostasy and homosexuality are punishable by death. Apostasy, for all of you numerous  secular folks out there, would be equivalent, in the United States, to not liking barbecue.

How does FIFA make these decisions? Despite my access to Wikipedia, which knows everything, I don’t know. I suspect, though, that it is much like the way that the International Olympic Committee operates, in that wire transfers and luggage containing suitable forms  of currency insure that fairness applies in the selection of sites.

They don’t have any Putin or Trump types in Qatar. It’s a family affair, and guys like that are a waste of money. They have an emir, part of the Al Thani dynasty that has been ruling since 1825. The current dude is Tamim binHamad Al Thani and he gets his dough from natural gas and oil reserves.  The best thing that can be said about Qatar is that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates have cut off diplomatic ties with them.

Meanwhile, the major league baseball season slogs on toward the dog days. They call everything after the All Star Game the second half, but arithmetically it is really the last third. What significant things can be tallied after the first 98 games or so?

  1. THE KANSAS CITY ROYALS ARE DONE FOR
  2. FIRING MIKE MATHENY WON’T IMPROVE THE CARDINALS DEFENSE
  3. BRYCE HARPER WILL NOT WIN THE TRIPLE CROWN
  4. CLEVELAND WINS THE CENTRAL ON THREE WHEELS
  5. MILWAUKEE HAS PROBABLY PEAKED
  6. ATTENDANCE WILL CONTINUE TO FALTER IN MORE PLACES
  7. PRESIDENT TWEETY WILL ATTEND NO GAMES
  8. OAKLAND WILL CONTINUE TO BE A PLEASANT SURPRISE
  9. THE RAYS WILL NOT MOVE TO OKLAHOMA CITY
  10. WIN OR LOSE, BRUCE BOCHY WILL RETIRE IN NOVEMBER

Orange, Black and Blue

It’s a gloomy feeling around the breakfast table this last day of July. Yesterday the San Francisco Giants retired number 22, which was worn by Will Clark for eight years while he was one of the best first basemen and one of the best left handed batters in the National League. He was 22 years old as a rookie in 1986, a year that will forever be known as one during which the once proud but then lowly Giants began winning games again. The next season Clark’s career high 35 home runs led San francisco to the Western Division title, and his most memorable season came in 1989, when he and National league Most Valuable Player Kevin Mitchell tore up the league together. Clark’s National league Championship Series was one for the ages as he batted .650 and the Giants beat the Chicago Cubs in five games for the honor of being annihilated by the awesome Oakland Athletics in the World Series that was interrupted by the tremendous and scary earthquake that delayed game three for twelve days.

It was a delightful, festive occasion highlighted by a fiery but thoughtful and gracious speech by Will Clark himself and messages in person or by video from Roger Craig, Barry Bonds, Mike Krukow, Kevin Mitchell, Dave Dravecky, Orlando Cepeda, Willie Mays and others. The best was a video from Clark’s former coach and manager, Dusty Baker, who said, “I knew he was cool because when I called him on the telephone one time he didn’t answer but the machine played B.B. King singing The Thrill Is Gone…”

To describe the career of Will Clark with a recitation of a bunch of statistics would be a mistake. That is probably true for any player, of course, but Will the Thrill was truly and essentially a forceful personality. He was and is a winner. It was no fluke that the Giants transformed from a sixth place team with a record of 60 wins and 100 losses in 1985 to 83-79 in his rookie season although another rookie, Robby Thompson, helped considerably. He was the kind of player who made everyone else on his team better, partly because he demanded maximum effort from everyone concerned. When your first at bat in the majors results in a home run off Nolan Ryan you immediately gain attention and respect. Anyone anywhere who ever was the object of his game face, called The Nuschler (his middle name) felt the glare of a person who would not back down from any challenge. With the pregame ceremony including video highlights of Clark’s time with the Giants and then Clark’s speech, I found myself talking to the television, imploring the now 58 year old former star to show the current San Francisco team how to get mad in a good way. Stop thinking so much and take your frustrations out on your opponent. Their most effective pitcher, lefty Carlos Rodon, recently got mad at himself during a game he was pitching and kicked a bat that was loose in the dugout and the bat bounced off his teammate, Thairo Estrada. He apologized for the idiotic tantrum but the better action, as Will Clark would agree, would be pitch like we all know you can.

On this day of the passing of basketball legend Bill Russell one wishes for some lessons in Correct Anger Management. The current Giants are floundering. The fear as August begins is that the busload of executives and coaches employed by the team will feel the urge to join the party that the rest of the sheep are starting and be driven to buy Or sell. Rodon could be gone before the ink is dry on this piece. I don’t think they will trade half the bullpen and Coit Tower and all the espresso in North Beach for Juan Soto but they might. Someone very dear to me says she will quit on them if they trade Wilmer Flores and I would be tempted to join her if that happens.

The travails of a team that won 107 games last season and is now fighting to win as many as they lose is not really that interesting, but this whole loony business of baseball does interest me as an example of everything currently ugly and messy about the state of our system.

Why do so many of us have sports teams that we root for, or like, or in some cases obsess about? It seems a bit childish and sentimental, doesn’t it? It does, but there are basic animal instincts at work here. For all of our history, humans have survived and sometimes thrived by placing value on family and home. So, even though we may not enjoy school, if our school has a soccer team or a debate team or whatever, we tend to want that team to succeed. We tend to favor our neighborhood, our town , our state, et cetera. We feel good when they, including us, are recognized. That’s how I grew up favoring teams from Pittsburgh or Cleveland.

The weirdness begins when all that stuff becomes a business. If you live in Cleveland, do the owners of the Guardians or the Browns or the Cavaliers care about you the way you care about those teams? Maybe, to the extent that you can buy tickets, but are they worried about how you’re doing? Beyond that, do they even live in the same community themselves? That’s how we end up with athletes being bought and sold (like sheep) not because they grew up and played in the community but rather because they might induce people to buy tickets or at least watch the team on television. So loyalty, that thing that everyone talks about but few practice, stems from wins, losses, dollars, and cents.

Do the people of the San Francisco Bay area love Will Clark? Actually, yes, because over an eight year period they got to know him and because he is a winner. There was another Clark. He also wore number22. For eight years he played for the Giants as number 22, outfielder Jack Clark Then he went to St. Louis, New York, San Diego, and Boston. He was pretty good, but they didn’t retire his number. The Giants had a couple of good seasons with him on the team, but no championships.Will Clark also left the Giants. He spent five years with the Texas Rangers, a year and a half with Baltimore, and then 51 games with St. Louis before retiring. The Giants brought him back and retired his number after a while. It was good for business on the day before ESPN televised a game between San Francisco and Chicago and the announcers spent so much time talking about who was playing their last game for each team that I had to turn the audio off. Who will play for “my” team tomorrow? I’ll be watching. Old habits die hard.

Buyers and Sellers

As we head into that dreaded portion of the year known as the Second Half, the stomach is churning at the thought of things like Back to School retail sales, football training camps and the way too early expectation of short days and darker evenings. Fortunately, we have the All Star Game and the Home Run Derby to get us into the habit of enduring overly hyped events that mostly yield disappointments. I tell myself that if it were Spring all of the time, then Spring wouldn’t be so sweet.

It is also the time of the baseball season when all know it all pundits are expected to engage in monotonous speculation concerning which teams are within range of the now expanded post season playoffs to see if they can make it to the World Series. These teams shall henceforth be referred to as Buyers. Conversely, there are now 18 teams that will not be invited to the October festivities, and those will be at least potentially designated as Sellers. There is very little, in fact almost zero, speculation that a team that is currently losing more than it wins will reverse itself after August 2 and get hot or that a team that is currently among the 12 that will qualify for playoffs will suddenly lose its Mojo and start looking like the 1962 Mets. Admittedly, that’s more logical than what we used to hear back when everybody knew who Howdy Doody and Milton Berle was, such as”Well fans , the Sox are 19 games behind the Yankees here on July 4, but if Sherman Lollar and Jim Rivera break out of their slumps and Jack Harshman and Dick Donovan start pitching like we know they can, they could still give the Yankees a run for the money.”

These days all of the yack yack has to do with Juan Soto and whether or not the Nationals want to keep making him richer and richer or whether or not the all take and no give owner of the Oakland Athletics has anyone left to peddle to a contender in exchange for players making Minimum Baseball Wage. It’s all a bit crass and undignified, like the hawking of those embarrassing “City Connect” uniforms everybody has been adopting. So far, the San Diego Padres edge out the Los Angeles Dodgers in the race for ugly apparel in that regard, but back to our story. As usual, I have a proposal. If I were a negotiator for the players’ association, I would begin to take steps to get even for that idiotic lockout before the season began. What I would push hard for is a simple solution to all of the mid season and between seasons bullshit that players and fans have been putting up with for far too long. Here it is: the Universal no trade clause. I know, I know, I hear you, these guys are all millionaires (remember when a million was a really big deal before billion took its place?). Curt Flood, however, was correct. A well paid slave is still a slave. Under my rule change, if Soto wanted to remain in Washington, he could. Or, if a young prospect like Oneil Cruz chose not to help a team like the Phillies so that Pittsburgh could obtain Bryce Harper in exchange, he could say no. Chances are that most players would go along with any deal, but the way it is now only players who have already earned that specific right after several seasons can refuse. The good that would come of it is that rosters would attain relative stability, younger players would be compensated better, fans like those in Oakland would be more able to avoid feeling used, and more players could relax and play ball. Plus, a lot of excess noise on the airways would be supplanted. Again, these players are now very well compensated but how many highly skilled people do you know who can be suddenly jerked away from their homes without warning just because they are “owned”? And, if you really don’t mind, or one of the owners agrees to “sweeten the pot”, then it’s no problem.

The other mid season issues have mostly to do with rule changes that owners lackey Rob Manfred is considering. Bear in mind that change can be good and often is, but the results can also sometimes not be what was anticipated. For instance, replay review. Get it right , we all said. No more lousy calls, we all hoped. Well, what we did not anticipate was the length of time that everybody would stand around waiting for someone miles away to get it right. I personally have come full circle and would prefer extended times out while someone like Earl Weaver or Lou Piniella goes berserk. More entertaining and, come on, we are all human. Pitch clock? It seems inevitable, but it is only fair that, if speed is the issue, we also cut down on time between half innings that has become excessive so that bad hamburgers and beer can be sold to viewers who don’t need them. The hideous short ads while the game is going on won’t go away but perhaps they could be replaced with health tips (not from Tony Fauci) concerning obesity and the dangers of gambling. Which reminds me, this is not a rule change but a change in scruples: all of the ads urging people to throw their money away betting on games and variations thereof are disgusting and hypocritical. Banning defensive shifts? I’d much prefer training on how to beat them. Lastly, the Oaf Manfred rule about extra innings is an abomination, so it will likely be etched in stone like the designated sitter. My feelings about both are similarly etched. Have you noticed how much better the National League games are this year? Neither have I.

We will have a fun second half I am sure. I promise to get all warm and cuddly, especially if the Mariners keep winning.

]Fun and Games

Where can we turn in these days of turmoil, pestilence, angry mobs, quick triggers, and pepper shortages? For me, it’s the old reliable, that which used to be known as the national pastime (Statcast now has it ranked number seven, just below whining about the price of gasoline and just above shopping for underwear). Yes, I mean baseball. It doesn’t have to be going in person to one of our many major league ballparks. You don’t have to go to Omaha for the College World Series. You don’t need to buy a ticket to attend a game in one of our fourteen remaining minor league parks or sit on the bleachers at your local American Legion baseball yards. Goodness no, just get out there in your backyard and have a session of Whiffleball with the family. Oh. It’s too hot. Ah, well, just turn on the tube. Remember when we called it the tube?

Now, a quick word from Uber: Now that you can order anything from Uber Eats, can you eat anything you get from Uber Eats? Well, if you’re as smart as Uber apparently thinks you are, you might try. I don’t know.

Seriously, things are tough all over and getting tougher. It’s like we’ve become permanent teenagers: one apocalypse after another. To make matters worse, the Yankees are winning every blooming game they play and Aaron Judge is the new Roger Maris. We’re kind of back in the 60s. Heavens to Murgatroyd. Like the 60s, change is in the air. Manfred Mann and the other bosses are stirring the pot. Here come larger bases. Maury Wills and Lou Brock are old, old news. Here come robotic balls and strikes. Do you enjoy arguing with a robot? About as much as dialing customer service at any insurance company, I bet.

Now, a quick word from Geico: Having a gecko for a spokesperson means that you could save hundreds on car insurance without ever having to think at all. Call now and I guarantee you won’t hear from me because I only talk on TV. I’ve got a contract, and you don’t.

Here come pitch clocks and banning defensive shifts. Where’s Mike Hargrove when you need him? I’m in favor of players learning how to bunt and how to go the other way but that, like teaching pitchers how to pace themselves, would take far too much time in this day and age of instant gratification/mortification. So grin and bear it .

It’s being an unusual season but unusual is the new usual. One thing that no one seems to be talking about is the high number of injuries that just about every team has been dealing with. Back in March, the word was that spring training was really not necessary because these well to do athletes of the 21st century keep themselves in good shape between seasons with personal trainers etc, etc. Uh huh. Also, now that no one is stupid enough to let any pitcher exceed 100 pitches for starters or pitch at all more than three or four times a week for relievers, they don’t get hurt. Right. Might want to try letting them rest more often when they are growing up. No, the lockout was not good for the game. But when fans say good for the game they mean the game. For owners, it seems good for the game means dollars.

Now, a quick word from Budweiser: Freedom. Red, White and Blue. Clydesdales. We make the best American beer from France that you can buy. Slurp it up.

As we head toward mid season, there are many things to be thankful for amid all the stress and struggle. The Atlanta Braves are looking like the best team in ball again. The Pittsburgh Pirates are not winning a lot, but it finally is looking like they want to try again. Bob Melvin has the San Diego Padres looking like the top notch team that all of the pundits thought they were last year. Buck Showalter continues to show that integrity can be contagious. And how about those Cleveland Guardians? Bravo, Terry Francona. We are all hoping for a happy and healthy continuation of this season. Because it sure as hell isn’t happening most other places.

Quarterly Queries

Clearly, this first real episode of It’s All Just One League Now has some of us confused, even a bit dizzy. For instance, just yesterday Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais looked a bit like Charley Brown while attempting to make a pitching change. Some prominent batters have yet to locate their heretofore effective stroke. Several well to do performers have strained this or that muscle or tendon, perhaps due to the shortened training period this Spring while accountants, agents, owners and their management drones and a committee of players dickered and bickered over spreading the wealth. Even seasoned television and other media pundits seem a little off in their games. Everybody seems to still be trying to warm up. The fans, especially, have been rattled. Consequently, our mail bin has been overstuffed by anxious baseball fans wanting to obtain answers. Well, we here at Baseball Anarchy remain fearless. Let’s take a few moments as the 2022 season completes its first quarter of the schedule, what the corporate types refer to as Q1, to try to get to the bottom of things, just like the Cincinnati Reds.

Our first query comes from Carrie Oakey of Milpitas, California . Why can’t they start using the robot umpires to call balls and strikes right away? More and more every day I see men in blue blowing calls. One hundred miles per hour may not beat every hitter but these aging umps can’t seem to handle it. Robots would at least be consistent. Carrie, we here at B.A. have always been skeptical of technology and we don’t like seeing human beings being replaced by artificial intelligence , unless perhaps there were some A.I. assistance in opening our prescription containers. But there may be a way here to keep the human element alive while simultaneously eliminating most of the time spent grousing over balls and strikes . The Pacific Coast League, a venerable AAA minor league, used the robot behind the plate in a real game and a human ump was back there at the same time. So there was no loss of a job and the robot ball and strike caller didn’t need a whisk broom or a bag of fresh baseballs. With the ensuing lack of argumentation, the time saved could free up another six or eight quick advertisements so the owners and TV people don’t have to go on welfare.]

Next up is William Keeler of Brooklyn, New York, who asks. “what do you think about this talk of eliminating defensive shifts starting next year?” Mr. Keeler, there is only one word for that sort of talk and that word is balderdash. Ted Williams, among others, said that hitting a pitched baseball is the most difficult task in sports, and right now I believe that Max Muncy and Joey Bart probably agree. After well over a hundred years the astute minds that run our favorite game began to catch on that reaching base was getting a little too easy and , slowly but surely, they figured out that if they figured out where batters were apt to send the ball and then placed a person with a glove in those spots, they could make it even more difficult to reach base. Having observed some cricket matches in our day, we were not perplexed. The next adjustment, as coaches are fond of saying, would be for batters to find new places to send the ball. That hasn’t caught on much yet, but we hope it will. It’s right in the Constitution that all defensive coaches have an inherent right to place their defenders wherever they want to.

Reginald Mariposa of Wittmann, Arizona had a thought provoking question: ” The point has been made that there are just not as many young people playing baseball these days. As much as I appreciate the recent infusion of players in the major leagues from all over the world, I’m worried that right here at home in the U.S.A. we are not attracting young players like we once did. What can be done?” Well, Reginald, there is probably no going back. It seems like every activity that used to belong to kids is now organized, funded, and hovered over by every kid’s nemesis: adults. It’s hard for old farts like myself to imagine video games or any other activity that doesn’t involve running, jumping, and throwing being any kind of competition at all for something like baseball but there it is. Without getting all sociologist, it’s just a different world, affluent in some ways and culturally deprived at the same time. There are warm spots of hope, though. Like Kelsie Whitmore. Kelsie Whitmore is the first woman to join a professional league that is affiliated with Major League Baseball. She plays with the Staten Island Ferry Hawks in the Atlantic League. She plays left field and pitches, so far as a reliever. At 5 feet and 7 inches tall and weighing 140 pounds she is no Shohei Ohtani but she is pretty good. Women have mostly been softball players but Kelsie has mostly played hardball. Fast pitch softball is plenty tough and Whitmore won a scholarship to Cal State Fullerton’s good program, but she prefers baseball. She made Team USA (women’s baseball) at age 14 and compiled a 1.35 earned run average in five seasons. Former major leaguer Nelson Figueroa is her pitching coach at Staten Island and he says that she is really good and Edgardo Alfonzo, another former MLB star who manages the Ferry Hawks, agrees. The San Diego native may not make it to MLB soon, but she is inspiring others of her gender to give it a try. That’s encouraging.

Lester Ostrowski of Salem, Oregon is also worried. “Home run totals are down. Why do they keep messing with things like that? Players say the balls are different and don’t carry as well.I wanted to see Pete Alonso hit 60, maybe Aaron Judge hit 80. Now what?” Lester, there are still impressive records out there waiting to be tallied. relax. Most hard hit balls off change ups, best launch angles by a backup infielder, most pitches seen by a rookie third baseman who bats left handed. Just get a better computer and pay more attention.

Let’s all hope Q2 makes more sense.

Opening Daze

In case you didn’t get the memo, there is going to be, after all, a 2022 major league baseball season. I think some people still send memos although it is highly questionable as to whether or not anyone actually receives them. One thing that is unquestionable, dear friends, is that this season will be like no other season that we have ever witnessed. Mike Krukow, a former pitcher, and Duane Kuiper, a former second baseman who once homered in an actual game, are two of the most fortunate people in the world and they will tell you that themselves. They get to broadcast games played by the San Francisco Giants and they both love their jobs and do their jobs very well. Listeners or viewers will frequently hear either or both of them say that, if you come out to the ballpark, you are always liable to see something that you have never seen before. That will be a guarantee for National League attendees on Opening Day this week. National League teams will then join their American League cohorts in utilizing the designated hitter, which is something that the A.L. has been doing since 1973, when Richard Nixon was president and Willie Mays was a Met. So it is time for yours truly to finally shut up for good about this phenomenon. Several weeks ago I mentioned that while one of the aims of establishing the DH was to add action and run scoring by eliminating the spot in the batting order occupied by pitchers because they only worked once or twice a week and most of them couldn’t hit water if they fell out a boat on Lake Superior etc etc. However, I pointed out, in the 2006 season, American League teams scored only two tenths of one run per game more than N.L. teams that season. So I researched the 2021 season to see how the run scoring thing was progressing. In the 1,215 A.L. games played 9.2 runs per game were scored. In the league where pitchers batted, 1,214 games were played and 8.6 runs per game were scored. People say, with good reason, they are tired of watching pitchers strike out. Others among us say, we are tired of watching designated hitters strike out. I know there is more to it: bunting is not even practiced any longer, we are totally afraid that fragile pitchers might get hurt, it’s not done in the minors or college or Little league anymore, okay, I get it.

There are other rule changes coming as well. One is what I will call the Oaf Manfred Rule. That’s the one where, if we go to extra innings, there is a “ghost runner” placed on second base to start the inning. it’s been painfully explained that this might increase the chances for a quicker result despite the fact that both teams get the ghost. Sort of like sudden death without the sudden.

There could be other changes as well as time goes on so I have a few ideas. The negotiators would have to agree to them, of course, but if they agreed to that one, our chances are pretty good for mine too I would think.

First, we need a NO FLY ZONE. This rule would apply only in certain ballparks. I’m thinking Denver for sure although Toronto, Philadelphia and Cincinnati probably qualify as well. This rule says that any fair ball hit to the outfield is an automatic out. No more cheap home runs, faster games, and the pitchers will love it.

second, now that we’ve dealt with the so-called professional ballplayers who can’t hit, what about all those guys that can’t field or run? Let’s open up roster spots for Designated Runners and Designated Fielders. We’ll call it the Edgar Martinez and Dick Stuart Rule. Remember Herb Washington? That Charles Finley guy had some brains.

Finally, I have one that I know all fans will love, although the owners may provide some resistance. Mr. Manfred wants a time clock, let’s give him one. Not for the pitchers, though. This one is for the television folks. The Commercial Timeclock Rule. At the end of each half inning, the clock will allow no more than two (2) minutes for the next half inning to start. If more time than that elapses, the umpire crew chief will have to buy each manager a case of their favorite wine, beer, or other beverage. Watch those four hour games disappear.

Okay, I’m ready now. Play ball!

New Weird Order

Play ball! Okay, but how big should the bases be? We’ll worry about that later. Do we want robot umpires? Never mind, we’ve got a committee working on that. We need to make sure the Russkies can’t hack it or something. Will pitchers ever hit again? No, but damn, they never did much anyway. Why can’t every team make the post season? What do you think this is, the NBA? Can we get a new commissioner voted for by the fans, like maybe Bob Costas or Jim Kaat? Dream on, brother, this is the U.S.A., where ownership is everything.

Yes, the millionaires and billionaires have settled their differences, and they did it out of court So already life is better and the sports pages have become so much more readable. In less than a month we will have Opening Days. In less than a week, it already has become obvious that the Oakland Athletics billionaire owner has renewed his quest to make that team’s followers feel like fools. Goodbye, Chris Bassitt, thanks for making us appear to be legitimate. Oh, and another All Star, Matt Olson,so long, it’s going to be much easier going deep in Atlanta. Freddie Freeman, you may wish soon, wherever you go, that you had stayed down south.

It takes a lot of money these days to run a pro sports team, which is why the Saudis and the Russkie oligarchs have been welcomed into the club. I mean, every roster is now going to have 12 or 13 highly paid members who never swing a bat and most will have at least one guy who almost never plays defense. Some of us old farts will be able to tell our grandchildren that we actually saw Mickey Mantle drag bunt his way on base. Of course, they will probably look at us as though we are crazy, and many of us will be. Then we can tell them that we remember 1968, not just for the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy but also for the fact that Bob Gibson pitched 28 complete games in 34 starts. I remember thinking, when the designated sitter was introduced in ’73 that there would now be more and more complete games because the pitcher would not have to leave the game when he was pinch hit for. As Jackie Gleason, another ghost from the past, would say, “Hardy Har Har.”

Like the eloquent spiritual advisers of the day say, it’s all good, man. I may come off as a little bitter, but I welcome MLB back, even with its old and new flaws. It’s never been perfect, but it comes closer than most things. One last question, though. Now that Major League Baseball has become as crass and commercialized as professional soccer with advertising soon to appear on caps and uniforms, will uniform ads include those for betting agencies? The American Gaming Association reported that, in 2021, casinos “won” (their word) $53 billion dollars. That was an increase of 21 per cent over 2019, the previous best year, and much of it has been attributed to sports betting, which has become more and more a legal enterprise. I can see it now:Pete Rose recommends Wary Larry’s for your sports betting dollars.

Play ball!

Time Has Come Today

The Chambers Brothers anthem from the revolutionary (we thought) days of over a half century ago came to mind as I realized how Rob Manfred has accomplished what seemed to be the impossible: he makes Bud Selig, the steroid enabling Chevy salesman, look good. A man in his position ought to be able to at least appear to be sincere about coming to an agreement with the help as he works on his wealthy guy tan in Florida. What Manfred and the mostly faceless rich people he represents do not seem to realize is that the help is organized. Plus, even though things have changed a bit and a lot of baseball followers identify more with owners than with players, people don’t buy tickets or turn on their televisions or radios to follow the likes of Hank Steinbrenner as they count their money. They do those things to watch athletes play ball. We are missing Mike Trout, Max Scherzer, Brandon Crawford, and Luis Robert as we seek respite from war, famine, the virus pandemic, inflation. and Bill Gates.

The thought occurred as we heard the news that Derek Jeter, an all American hero if there ever was one, throw in the towel on his gig with the Miami Marlins. Jeter wasn’t specific about his reasons but it definitely seemed as though he soured on the whole mess. As sometimes happens when organizations are awash with excessive amounts of cash and real estate. the leadership has lost touch with why they have, despite themselves, succeeded. Baseball has always been a great game. It began to be called the national pastime because it was. Every town had teams and every place in all of the states across the country had people playing baseball at some level. That is no longer the case. The national pastime now is staring at screens while whining. Still, baseball can be saved. The thought that occurred was this: the time has come today for another Players’ League.

Professional baseball players have been organized long enough now that many of them have solid bank accounts. They are already much better organized than the owners and they apparently have much better business sense. There are many millionaire ballplayers. I know that billion is the new million but a million is still a big number. Only a billionaire could be arrogant enough to think that people in a country that has been wracked by one nasty reality after another are going to give two fried shits about their unpleasant, greedy attempt to squeeze even more out of their golden goose. The millionaires can solve this problem by starting a new league. It’s been done before

In 1890, the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players formed the Players’ League. It sprung out of the refusal by the National League, which formed and began in 1876, to change its stance on the salary ceiling. Sound familiar? John Ward led the players into forming their own league. Many star players were enticed into joining together with a plan to share gate receipts evenly between home teams and visitors, ditch the reserve clause that bound players to whatever team originally signed them forever, and purchase stock in their teams.

The National League responded in the traditional manner of smart business people. They declared war on the Players’ League. They bribed players to quit the new league. They lowered ticket prices. They initiated lawsuits over their golden goose, the reserve clause. They cajoled support from the press by threatening to withdraw advertising. They raided the American Association, a rival league, for players such as Billy Hamilton and Tommy Tucker.

The Players’ League won the battle for attendance in 1890 but all three leagues claimed to have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. After one season the Boston Reds were PL champs but the league disbanded after losing investors.

The difference now is that the players can be the investors. Obviously, they won’t have the dollars that the owners currently hold and ,you bet , there would again be war declared. But it would be a lot more fun and you could also bet that a nice TV contract would soon exist. And, best of all, there would be no place for stooges like Rob Manfred. There are things to realize.

The Sky Is Falling

Henny Penny was worried. The 2021 World series had ended and now there was serious talk about a lockout. Major league baseball and the players’ association had to negotiate a new contract. That made Henny nervous. There has not been a real “work stoppage”, as they call it, since 1994. That was the horrible season that stopped and never started again.

“I need something else to think about!” she said to Cocky Locky. She wished she could enjoy football. There were 33 college bowl games in December and then the college football championship games. Cocky Locky had been around for a good while. “Used to be just the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl…” he recalled. “Then came the Gator Bowl. These days there is even a Cheez-it Bowl. Sometimes, if they lose the bowl game, they end up with more losses than wins.” But Cocky Locky knew that Henny Penny wasn’t going to be a football fan. She would be asleep before halftime.

Cocky Locky was more concerned about the shrinking minor league system from which MLB was withdrawing support. “They’ve got revenue coming in by the trainload!” he cried. “They should be supporting young people in this country and showing professional baseball in as many parks as they can. Folks don’t love baseball because it’s on TV, it’s on TV because they fell in love with it by playing it and by seeing it up close in person. It’s much more than a television show. It’s a great game!” he crowed.

Turkey Lurkey agreed. He liked to see young stars like Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, and Fernando Tatis Jr. when they make it to the big leagues but also there were few things more fun than watching these stars as they develop and learn the game in the lower leagues. Turkey’s big concern was something else though. “They say that the universal designated hitter is a sure thing when the next contract is signed. Will that be the end of pitchers batting? What about the sacrifice bunt? The squeeze play? I don’t want to watch Home run Derby. I want baseball.” Ducky Lucky offered Turkey Lurkey a swig of his sarsaparilla.

“I agree with some of that,” quacked Ducky, whose favorite player was Joe Medwick. “There is something else that has me scared, though. It’s that it seems like all of a sudden gambling is okay. We are supposed to forget 1919, I guess. And why was Pete Rose banned? Does anyone remember? Now they are advertising places to bet during games. Are we pretending that some people don’t have real problems with that? Are players so rich and so averse to cheating that they can’t be tempted? It scares me, I tell you..”

Loosey Goosey had a big laugh. “You all are people brained. You don’t have the sense God gave a Senator. The world isn’t coming to an end because your stupid game isn’t going to be played. These millionaires and billionaires will make their deal by St. Patrick’s Day. Stop your whining and think.”

Henny Penny was not convinced. She scratched the ground and thought about what Foxy Roxy had told her. She said that all of the major league teams should be owned by the local city or state that they played in.. Ticket prices should be affordable to the lowest paid workers in that location. Salaries should directly reflect how the team does in the standings. Bonus money should be available based on achievement. Every player could be a free agent every two years. All post season games would be played in daylight. Henny Penny told the group about Foxy Roxy’s ideas and that they were all invited to her den to discuss it all. They were all very excited and off they went to Foxy Roxy’s den

None of them were ever seen or heard from again.

Tale of Two Cities

Despite the assumption of codger status, time seems still to travel differently. What I mean is that the future looks like a long time ahead most of the time while the past seems like it only just happened. Only last week Henry Aaron was a rookie and now he is gone, a venerated hero for a franchise that has lived in three different cities in my extremely short life. Spring training, on the other hand, is always a lifetime away. As the Atlanta Braves contend with the Houston Astros for the 2021 Major League Baseball championship, let us look back to July 30, a really very short time ago.

The Atlanta Braves had been considered a definite contender in the National League East division along with the perennially over hyped New York Mets and the 2019 World Champion Washington Nationals. They had every right to be discouraged on July 30 as they sat in third place, five games behind the Mets with a record of 51 wins and 54 losses. Their big, 23-year old superstar, Ronald Acuna Jr. was out for the season after 82 games and the young pitching staff was so far rather disappointing. Putting the whole league together on that day the Braves were in ninth place testing positive for the loser virus. The Mets were winning despite themselves. The Nationals were a bit lower than Atlanta at 48-55. The consensus among all of our Nobel Prize winning pundits is that if you are down at the trade deadline you “sell” and if you’re in real contention you “buy”. That’s slave owner talk for giving up and saving some dough or else capitalizing to have a chance at the big money. It’s kind of embarrassing but everybody seems to go along with it. The important thing to bear in mind is that division winners go to the playoffs no matter what their record and this division was most definitely up for grabs. Over in the N.L. Central division, the Milwaukee Brewers had a comfortable lead of 7 games over the second place Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis and Chicago were even further behind. On July 30, Washington beat the Cubs, 4-3, in the Give Up Bowl. The Cubs didn’t need Anthony Rizzo or Javier Baez anymore. 2016 was just ages ago. They didn’t need a closer anymore either.

The big mystery to me, though, was Washington. Two of the most highly prized players in the game, starting right handed pitcher Max Scherzer and sterling shortstop Trea Turner, were ditched. Both were sent to Los Angeles, where the Dodgers were surprised to be threatened not only by the San Diego Padres but also the San Francisco Giants in their quest to once again lead the National League West. It worked out well for the Dodgers. Scherzer had been 8-4 with a 2.76 earned run average for Washington and buzzed through his L.A. stint at 7-0 with a 1.98 ERA. Turner maintained his consistency, batting .338 for L.A after.322 in 96 games for the Nats. We may some day speak reverently of the players Washington got in return but currently they are all strangers. Catcher Keibert Ruiz is 22 years old and batted.273 in 29 games this season while pitcher Josiah Gray, 23, had a 2-2 record with a 5.48 E.R/A. Minor leaguers Donovan Casey and Gerardo Carillo also joined the Nationals. Washington won 17 games after July 30 while the Braves, a game and a half ahead of the Nats on July 30, won 37 and lost 20 and have kept on winning so far in the playoffs.

The Braves did not decide to crawl into a corner and lick their wounds. Their fans are party to the embarrassment of the chop and chants that ridicule and marginalize native cultures and that makes it difficult to root for them but it’s hard not to like Freddie Freeman, Brian Snitker, Eddie Rosario and company. I’m still wanting Dusty Baker and the Astros to prevail but there is no doubt that these Braves are a worthy opponent and it is good to see rewards for those who don’t quit. Rosario came from Cleveland for Pablo Sandoval, who was promptly released in one of those maneuvers only MBAs can understand. They also added Adam Duvall, back from Miami, and Joc Pederson from the Chicago Quitters to try to compensate for the loss of Acuna.It’s making for quite an interesting season finale.

OTHER OCTOBER REVELATIONS: As an accomplished baseball on television fool, it has become way obvious that all of the malarkey about “speeding up the game” is meaningless hypocrisy. You could fix dinner and clean a bathroom between half innings and not miss a pitch. As a result of paying close attention to all of the car insurance (and bundling!) ads, I just kept calling and switching until finally I am now being paid $313 annually to have the policy I ended up with, which one should never use to end a sentence. Also, the tire company using Clayton Kershaw has been replaced by the wacky racecar Webex ad as the stupid pitch of the year.

Hello, Goodbye

The end of the regular season in Major League Baseball always marks beginnings and endings but 2021 seems particularly more that way. Rob Manfred is the new clown prince of baseball, but Max Patkin was funnier. The man who brought us the A.I. runner on second base for extra innings surpassed the Chevy salesman who brought us the tie All Star Game with that move and added the relievers who had to face three batters plus the beginning of the end for minor leagues. This is a happy time for fans so let’s drop the negativity for now except for one last mournful cry of “I hate the designated sitter!” Pitchers batting is going the way of the hit and run play, the pitchout, and the sacrifice bunt so here is a fond thank you to San Francisco Giants hero Logan Webb who singled, walked, and homered while pitching the Giants to an 11-4 win, their 107th, which put the Dodgers in the Wild Card game. Go Cardinals.

Hello and welcome to Shohei Ohtani, speaking of slugging pitchers, and let us hope in the wee hours of the night when our wishes seem possible, that the Garden Grove Angels get some pitching before next season so that Anthony Rendon, Mike Trout, and Ohtani can contend for real. A happy salute also goes out to Dusty Baker for maintaining dignity and respect for the game while leading the maligned Houston Astros to another American League West title. Hats off to Alex Cora, another fine gentleman, for giving the Boston Red Sox some astute leadership as they face the Yankees. Some credit is also grudgingly due the New Yorkers for overcoming their terrible start. So there, I said it, now shut up.

Kudos as well for the Milwaukee Brewers, who for a while looked really strong but now look not so hot compared to the late sizzling St’Louis Cardinals. Hey, Brewers, you might have slipped in at least one win against the current World Champs in that last weekend series, but congratulations. Bryce Harper lived up to hype this time but let’s bear in mind that, like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, he plays in a P.O.N.Y. league yard.

I’m feeling sad for Juan Soto and his manager Dave Martinez. The Washington Nationals, just two years after winning it all, just totally, inexplicably, gave up and sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Dodgers for three autographed photos of Jay Leno and a young, talented team fell to the outhouse. Whoops, there I went getting negative again. While I’m at it, don’t worry, Baltimore and Pittsburgh fans, the ’71 and ’79 World Series are still on film.

This just might be the year that the Tampa Bay Rays go all the way. Lots of talent and smarts in that organization. They were actually able to trade talented young Willy Adames away because they had another very good shortstop named Wander Franco. I guess I will also have to suck it up and say that the Chicago White Sox looked good all year while I root for the Astros to beat them.