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

What We Learned From A Fun Series

As predicted, the 2019 baseball season ended with a really entertaining and interesting seven game World Series. The Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals were evenly matched and each game provided their rooters with the excitement that comes from knowing that you are never out of it. We who watched on television learned a lot this time around.

In my case, I learned a lot about the two teams and a lot of the players from watching each game while  I also learned a lot about life from watching the ceaseless and repetitive, to say the least, commercial advertisements.

For instance,  my suspicions were confirmed that Anthony Rendon, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Max Scherzer, Michael BrantleyTrea Turner, Alex Bregman, and Kurt Suzuki are all hard nosed, highly competitive ballplayers. I already knew about Justin Verlander.

Also, I learned that there is one absolute certainty about the 2020 presidential race in the U.S. If he just makes one move, Donald Trump is in. All that he needs to do is to reject the evil banality of Michael Pence as his running mate and choose between either Jim Beam or Jack Daniels. That’s a lock.

Despite my earlier impression of Dave Martinez, he does seem to have a bit of a temper. What Joe Torre said may have been correct on that call at first base in Game Six. The umpire made the right call, perhaps, but it was a call that should not have been made. Too Mickey Mouse for the World Series. And look, the catcher on a play like that needs to make his throw right through the runner’s neck if we are going to be anal about interference. So the safety call is no call and Joe, I’ll bet you secretly agree.

After seeing that ludicrous Hankook tire ad 14,612 times since April, I’m here to tell you that I will never buy a Hankook tire for the rest of my life even if I have to walk to work. And isn’t it wonderful to see all of the advances made by women, like how now they can make the same kind of pseudo macho booze commercials that were once limited to males. Wow.  Another  eye opener is that never in my life previously did I realize that the purpose for having insurance companies is so that they can provide clever humor between and sometimes during innings. It’s nice to know that our hard  won premium dollars go to such a worthy cause.

Both managers were splendid examples of intelligence, sportsmanship, and respect for the game. Their teams showed character and resilience, a couple of overworked words that actually ring true in this case.

One team has to win and one team has to lose. Grousing should be at a minimum, even in Milwaukee, where they were just a few outs away from winning that wild card game despite Christian Yelich being sidelined. There remain good feelings about baseball now despite controversies like the ball being jet propelled and the dominance of money.

It’s different in many ways these days and not all bad like geezers like me think. I know that more and more citizens are safely using marijuana now. Otherwise, how could things like chicken wings and  toasted cheddar chalupas not only get sold but also delivered? Happy off season everybody.

This Should Be Fun

The annual Fall/Winter baseball classic is here and this one looks like great fun. It’s especially fun for those of us who cringed in horror all season long at the thought of a Yankees versus Dodgers World Series. There is no doubt that these two teams, Washington and Houston, are the best to survive the regular season and playoffs. It’s also fair to say that Los Angeles had the best team in the National League during most of the season, but that’s not how you get here. Some people will say “What’s up with you, hating the Dodgers and Yankees? That’s not rational. Their fans deserve some fun too, don’t they?” Well, no they don’t. It’s good for the rest of us to see them have to go off to their beach houses or casinos or whatever and wank away while we enjoy the post season. All you rational people out there can go ahead and feel superior but you’re not having as much fun as I am right now, admit it.

Just as it was for the Cardinals-Nationals series, it is quite enjoyable to not have a personal favorite here in World Series. It’s really hard not to like the Nationals in the Post Harper era. Dave Martinez is smart and sincere and has the ticker trouble to prove it. Anthony Rendon is finally getting some well deserved recognition. The Ryan Zimmerman story is having a pleasant chapter. It is always encouraging to see those involved in an astute assembly of capable athletes reaping rewards for their efforts. Trea Turner is another who will be displaying his talent and efforts for a national audience. New stars Victor Robles and Juan Soto are welcomed to the biggest stage. Veteran pitchers Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and, especially, Max Scherzer will hope to avoid the necessity of a somewhat shaky bullpen. Howie Kendrick will be at first, second, or wherever needed . This is a fine, worthy ball club.

On the other, probably favored, side, The Astros are also a very well constructed baseball organization. Go right up the middle for the main reason–Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. Alex Bregman has been getting all of the MVP chants but those two have been and will be the very foundation of it all—offensively, defensively, and emotionally. This team lost Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel but they still have the three headed monster of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Zack Greinke for starters. The relief corps is a shade better than Washington’s but Roberto Osuna is anything but a sure thing late in the game . I kind of like the idea that neither team has the so called “lights out” closer. You know, like Kenley Jansen or Aroldis Chapman.

As for those two aforementioned other teams, an extremely close friend of mine likes to dismiss Clayton Kershaw, who never orders the Grand Slam at Denny’s, as one who chokes in the post season, and there is plenty of evidence to confirm that. I still don’t agree, however. I think it’s just that most of his regular season starts at his advanced age have been coming against the mediocre to destitute likes of San Francisco, Arizona, Colorado, and San Diego. Also, many very good players and people have donned the Yankees pinstripes. It’s the organization that I can’t stand. So, what’s up with Spike Lee? I thought he was kind of like a man of the people. Yet there he is wearing that ugly cap.

Vindication Day

Happy Birthday Kolten Wong and a happy day indeed for anyone not connected emotionally or otherwise to the Atlanta Braves or the Los Angeles Dodgers. It is vindication day for those of us who are so glad that the St. Louis Cardinals finally have a manager who realized that Wong was the best choice available to play second base. He was always the best option defensively and now, playing regularly, he has become a potent offensive weapon as well. I found the Cardinals-Braves series particularly enjoyable because I could root for both teams. We had the fiery and tough seasoned veteran Yadier Molina, the stalwart steady veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright and the all around superb first baseman Paul Goldschmidt for St. Louis versus the talented young men like Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna,Mike Foltynewicz and Mike Soroka for the Braves with veteran stars like Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann. Despite the lopsided final game, the series made for some great theater.

Of course, all of the well paid pundits had the winner of that series pegged to be sacrificial lambs as the Los Angeles Dodgers launch angled their way to the World Series that they finally would win. Oops. The teams that made what were considered the most important winter free agent acquisitions, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado finished fourth (Phillies) and fifth (Padres). Those two can probably be highly paid big fish in winless ponds for a while, but looky here! The Nationals versus Cardinals will play to advance to the World Series in another match that enables me to root for both teams. Anthony Rendon has been the best Washington has had for a good while now and it’s good to see him on the big stage. Max Scherzer, like Wainwright and Justin Verlander, is the kind of gutsy, tough, shrewd hurler we won’t be seeing much of if things in baseball stay the way they are now. And special congratulations to Trea Turner, Howie Kendrick,and Adam Eaton, gamers who have what it takes to win.

Today we will see if the Houston Astros or the Tampa Bay Rays qualify for the chance to knock off the Yankees. There will be many fun moments ahead.

What’s Your Hurry? Here’s Your Hat

Okay, let’s get this miserable thing over with. They are ready for hockey in Pittsburgh. The San Diego Padres did what all bright, far sighted management teams have always done. They broomed their field boss. The home run and strikeout totals are farcical beyond even the so called Steroid Era. The commissioner has become so adept at spinning caca la baca that he could be a White House press secretary. Detroit and Baltimore have been relegated to the International League. The San Francisco Giants used 13 pitchers in one game the other day.

Alright already, there have been some good things. Out of all the names of outfielders that Farhan Zaidi pulled out of his hat to audition for the Giants this season, one of them, Mike Yastrzemski, was a good one. It was truly heart warming to see the 28 year old rookie walking the field in Boston with his grandpa and Carl Yastrzemski made a damned good honorary first pitch. Of course, the Giants also brought back a couple of early rejects after September 1, Mike Gerber and Chris Shaw, so their fans could watch them strike out a few more times, but it’s been that kind of a year. It’s also been good to see the Atlanta Braves develop into a strong team again, a great mixture of youth and Josh Donaldson and Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis. They still need to lose the “chop” before they start building another stadium, though. Minnesota surprised the hell out of a lot of people, especially me, and new success is always enjoyable to witness. If the Twins advance in the playoffs, will all those balls still be leaving the yard as winter approaches? Terry Francona won’t let anyone drive a wooden stake through Cleveland’s chances very easily, but losing Jose Rivera might have been fatal. I do appreciate the St. Louis Cardinals. As is normal under Bob Melvin, the Oakland Athletics are admirable.

Once the playoffs start, I’ll be likely to regain some enthusiasm as the dismal dark hours of no ball at all threaten to darken the sky. This has, however, been a tough slog. I will need to find a team to root for. It won’t be the Dodgers or the Yankees. I do appreciate Aaron Boone, though.

I’m A Loser

Why do we care? What does it matter whether or not one team wins or loses? What makes one team our team and another team the hated enemy and several other teams ones that we are completely indifferent about as far as success or failure? It’s not logical.

There is geography, of course. There is an ocean of red visible in the stands at every St. Louis Cardinals game that makes it obvious that the locals love their Redbirds, even when they had Mark McGwire. Just recently, Albert Pujols returned to St. Louis  for an inter-league game as a Garden Grove Angel and  the reception for him was warm and wonderful. That’s a good thing and it comes close to being logical. We are constantly reminded by player agents and team bosses, however, that professional sports are businesses so that a certain coldhearted  detachment is advised.  We loved you yesterday, but what are you going to do for us tomorrow? Willie Mays, the greatest ever, got traded. The Dodgers left town, etc.

As a young lad, I was about as provincial as could be. I was absolutely positive that I lived in the best house on the best street in the best city of the best state in the damned best country on the best planet in the universe, which was also likely in the higher echelon of universes.  Long before All Star game voting reached the ridiculous level it has these days, there were  ballots printed in newspapers for fans to select their favorites at each position. I believed in the integrity of the game et cetera but, since I lived in western Pennsylvania, I tended to be prejudiced in favor  of Cleveland and Pittsburgh  players when casting my vote (not plural). The Indians  came through and ousted the Yankees in 1954 and that got me really interested even though  the (then hated) Giants  swept them in the World Series.  When the Pirates won it all in 1960 the world had finally begun spinning the way it was supposed to spin.  Come on, though, that’s kid stuff, right?

It’s never going to happen, but I’ve always fantasized that the ideal  setup for pro sports would be to have a variation of the way they did it in Green Bay, Wisconsin. For each geographical location there would be local ownership, not by big money interests alone but by people who were truly “fans” vested in local things. Do you think  that the Packers would still be in Green Bay  if the likes of Donald Trump owned them? No, and the real fans in Oakland  or Miami or Pittsburgh would not be getting regularly hosed, either. Okay, enough of that, we’re adults, right?

There are other factors that make us, as more sophisticated, worldly adults, root for various teams too. There is the “underdog” factor, which before 2016 made so many of us root for those lovable Cubbies, right? Trump just tweeted “Losers!” to the thought of  wishing an underdog well. Or we might be rooting for individual players to do well for one reason or another. Ernie Banks deserved to play in a World series. Mike Trout  should have chosen a better team to receive large paychecks from so, if the Angels got close, maybe. Or we might just want a certain team to win just to keep the competitive juices flowing. Or we might want a few teams to get beat just for a change. The worst possible reason, albeit one that I fear occurs frequently, to root for a team is that we have bet money on it. The president would approve of that, I’m sure.

Whatever tribal or intellectual or sentimental motivations we may have, it’s still fun. Usually.

Sentenced to Death

It’s happy birthday time for Frank Howard and Anthony Rizzo and August 8 is also a good day to try to make succinct expressions concerning the baseball season as it speeds away from us with an exit velocity of approximately 110.7 miles per hour. First, however, we have an important announcement from your Baseball Anarchy team.Despite our best efforts to be fiscally conservative, recent increases in tariffs on parts of speech have presented us with huge challenges to maintaining an acceptable financial position. Costs on non English words have really gone through the roof. Adjectives in particular are more costly due to hoarding on the part of the advertising industry, and gerunds are just about out of the question as we attempt to stay afloat. Nouns and verbs are somewhat stable, but the overall result is that we have now had to succumb to the pressure and therefore a tiny bit of advertising copy will need to appear with each segment. These ads will be in all capital letters so that the reader can tell the difference, which is more than you can say about most venues. Thank you.

Here, then, are our one sentence appraisals of each team in MLB as we do our best to compete with the onrushing avalanche of football nonsense.

Dodgers: Their home games in the playoffs will be embarrassing to most fans thanks to the noise.
Giants: Emotional turmoil reigns as Bruce Bochy is placed on a raft and floated out on the bay toward the future.
Padres: As usual, the key words here are huh? and what?
Rockies: We hope that Bud Black gets a chance for a revival and that Charlie Blackmon finds new walk-up music.
Astros: They are so good that it’s almost boring.
A’s: This team continues to be the best in baseball at succeeding without a real ballpark or a responsible ownership.
Rangers: Hooray for Hunter Pence and aren’t they glad the Mariners exist?
Angels: Perhaps a glimmer of hope for those who like winning and not just watching Mike Trout.
Mariners: If the majors had relegation, they would be off to the Pacific Coast League.

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Diamondbacks: This is a mystery team in search for a new identity but Ketel Marte is a good start.
Cubs: They are the total opposite of a set line up team but the talent is not to be ignored.
Brewers:They would be having a hard time even with a healthy Lorenzo Cain but they also have kept a pulse.
Cardinals: Still my favorite in the Central but nothing is certain.
Reds: They are now very interesting so wait ’til next year.
Pirates: The ballpark and the fans deserve a more interested management.
Twins: A pleasant surprise early but now the surprise will be if they keep it going.
Indians: Did we all make the mistake of dismissing a Terry Francona led team again?
White Sox: We’re in pieces, bits and pieces.
Royals: They are on their way back.
Tigers: Relegation bound, to be replaced by the Toledo Mud Hens.

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Braves: Atlanta is hoping this great young squad wins now so they can start planning their next ballpark.
Nationals: Like the Braves, a good blend of youth and experience but they may be just a bit short.
Mets: What the hell is going on here—winning?
Phillies: In need of a good calming influence like Andrew McCutchen.
Marlins: Give ’em half a decade, they’ll get there.
Yankees: All they need is Whitey Ford.
Red Sox: The importance of pitching has seldom been more evident.
Rays: Get this team a place to play that doesn’t hurt players!
Blue Jays: Can we move the Rays and Jays to Vancouver or somewhere and go with 29 teams?
Orioles:Perhaps the saddest story of decline in baseball.

Dogged by Dog Days

Here we are in the last week of July. The days are getting shorter, although not so much as to really notice yet. Like the first cluster of gray hairs on the scalp, the indicators that the end is coming are starting to arrive. Everybody’s bullpen is tattered and torn. Football summer camps are sprouting like liver spots. Speculation about possible player trades before the deadline in a few days is getting really, really old and tiresome. Some teams, like the Dodgers and Yankees, got off to such good starts that their division races have become boring. Others, like Cleveland and San Francisco, have gotten newly energized and are looking for the stretch drive to show that they still have what it takes.

The commissioner and MLB Network combined to send me a nice packet of Kool Aid and I enjoyed it, although the pitcher that I made it in was smirking rather than smiling, or so it seemed. I now have come to realize that the new age is perfectly natural and fitting. Sure, the days of 20 game winning hurlers are gone, but I’ll bet that many so-called purists were moaning and crying about the lack of 30 game winners back in 1919. Plus, now that pitchers only have to try to go five innings every five days, none of them ever get injured, right? Oscar Jones might have pitched 377 innings with 38 complete games in 41 starts for the 1904 Brooklyn Dodgers, but he didn’t have to do post game interviews on live television or fly in airplanes, did he? Now that each team carries a baker’s dozen of pitchers, we never have to endure position players taking the mound in relief, do we? And the frequent occurrence of 16 or 18 inning games isn’t a result of only having four bench players, is it? No, I get it now. Everybody just go out there and toe the rubber and give it all you have for as long as you can and then we’ll pick you up. The fact that you went 7-10 in 28 starts will be considered at contract time, no sweat. We’ve got arms in the pen, baby, or maybe in left field. It also does not bother me anymore that a player like Duane Kuiper or Nellie Fox would probably have 12-15 homers if he was playing this year. Remember the old ad campaign where players smiled and said, “Chicks dig the long ball..”? That got dropped as the steroid stories got more embarrassing, but now a new campaign will be starting with the altered saying, “Chicks dig the short walls,” although it should probably say “People enjoy small, intimate ballparks where fly balls soar majestically into the night air while fireworks and louder than loud “music” accompanies them.

Furthermore, I think it’s great that players not allow themselves to get so worked up about the game in progress that they can’t exchange profundities with the announcers in the booth while it’s all happening, although I did see one shortstop drop his positioning cue card while he was talking to Joe Buck. I’m sure that Bob Gibson and Billy Martin would approve. No one is asking Pete Rose, but I wonder how the Old Peckerhead feels about MLB’s total embrace of gambling now with the partnership with Draft Kings and other assorted venues that separate people from their cash. “More ways to win,” I’m sure he would say. Well, it’s well over 90 degrees and I need some more Kool Aid. Ah! A limousine has just pulled up outside the office and here come Aaron Judge, George Springer, and Buster Posey with a package just for me. Right on time! Thanks, MLB!

Mr. Sunshine

Another Fourth of July has come and gone. Among other memories, it always reminds me of my favorite all time figure in baseball. No, I don’t mean George Steinbrenner, the famous crook who ran the Yankees for so long and was born on that date. I mean Chuck Tanner, who was born on that date in 1929 to German and Slovak parents in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Tanner had an eight year major league career that was mostly unremarkable except for the fact that he hit a home run in his very first at bat, pinch hitting for the venerable Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn on April 12, 1955. It took a few years for Tanner to  make it to the big league club after he was signed in 1946  when he graduated from Shenango High School. The team had moved in ’53 from Boston to Milwaukee  where 43,640 Opening Day fans cheered his home run that helped put Spahn and the Braves ahead as part of a three run eighth inning rally. Ted Kluszewski had put the visiting Cincinnati Reds ahead 2-1 with a two run clout off Spahn in the top of the inning.  A 21 year old outfielder named Hank Aaron contributed a triple  to the winning rally. Despite humble beginnings and less than superstar ability, magic moments followed Chuck Tanner throughout his life, especially after his playing career when he became a very successful manager.

Tanner’s managing career reached its pinnacle in 1979 with the We Are Family Pittsburgh Pirates. That team had a storybook season helped by  trades in season that brought them infielders Tim Foli and Bill Madlock to solidify a lineup that already had included  Dave Parker at his peak and Willie Stargell, who at 39 had enough left in his tank to play 113 games and blast 32 home runs, many of which were vital, clutch hits. The starting pitchers were not bad but not great, either, and it was innovative at the time the way Tanner used his deep bullpen No starter won more than 14 games but relievers Grant Jackson, Kent Tekulve, and Enrique Romo appeared in 345 innings combined to help the Pirates win the National League East by two games ahead of the strong Montreal Expos. Then they swept the Cincinnati Reds in the N.L. playoff for the pennant and went on to face heavily favored Baltimore in the World Series. The teams split the two opening games in Baltimore and then moved on to Pittsburgh, where the Orioles won the third game 8-4 and the fourth game 9-6 to take a 3-1 Series lead into the fifth game, which would be the final game at Pittsburgh. Before that fifth game, manager Chuck Tanner informed his players about his mother passing away and mentioned that she no doubt would have appreciated it if the Series did not end in Pittsburgh. Down 1-0 after five innings, the Pirates struck for seven runs over the next three innings to send the Series back to Baltimore. The Orioles had won their division title by eight games over the Brewers and then swept aside the Angels in the playoff in four games. They had Jim Palmer and Scott McGregor ready for game six and then seven if necessary.  John Candelaria and Tekulve combined to blank the Orioles, 4-0 in the sixth game and then  Stargell slugged his third homer of the Series and Pittsburgh won again, 4-1, using four pitchers. Cornball as seems, the Family prevailed, but that is the kind of guy Chuck Tanner was. He was referred to as Mr. Sunshine  because of his relentless enthusiasm. The man just loved baseball and it rubbed off on others. In his youth in New Castle, the family had no electricity until he was in tenth grade and they also did without indoor plumbing. His grandfather apparently worried about his future because he told Tanner that, “You’ll be a bum. All you want to do is baseball, baseball, baseball.” When he played for the Braves, he was known for his hustle. Playing outfield, he would race to the dugout after the third out and reportedly often made it to the dugout before the lumbering first baseman Joe Adcock.

After his eight years of playing Tanner’s less than Hall of Fame batting marks were a .261 batting average with 21 homers and 105 runs batted in. In 1957 he had his most productive season, batting .279 in 117 games. What was not so fortunate for him was that he was traded from the contending Braves to the seventh place Cubs during the season. That was the year that the Braves knocked off the Yankees in the World Series, and the World Series dough might have doubled what a reserve outfielder  was making in those days. He probably smiled about it.

Then his exciting managerial career began with 8 seasons in the Angels’ system. He was named minor league manager of the year in 1968 and 1970. After the Chicago White Sox fired Don Gutteridge in 1970, Tanner got his first big league managing job. The highlight there was 1972. The Sox had improved their record by 23 games in ’71 with the likes of Jay Johnstone, Carlos May, Rick Reichardt, and Tommy John (the pitcher, not the surgery) but still were far out of the race.  In 1972, the White Sox acquired Dick Allen and everything got better. Allen, who grew up in Wampum, Pa., which is about a two and a half stones  throw from New Castle, was now 30 years old and, while a truly talented hitter of All Star caliber, he was considered by some to be an indifferent defensive player with perhaps a bad attitude. True to form, Chuck Tanner saw the good in the western Pennsylvania  neighbor. Allen, on his  fourth team in four years, was the American League MVP with 37 homers and 113 RBI and the White Sox contended all the way before finishing second to  eventual World Champion Oakland in the A.L. West.. Tanner was innovative with his pitchers in a different way that year. He had both Goose Gossage and Terry Forster in the bullpen but  knuckle ballers Wilbur Wood and Stan Bahnsen started 49 and 41 games respectively and Tom Bradley started 40, but I don’t know if he was a knuckler as well.

Managing the Oakland A’s in 1976, Tanner had another second place finish as the A’s  dynasty began to crumble in the wake of owner Charles Finley’s unfavorable reaction to free agency. That team showed Tanner’s love of the stolen base as they swiped 341 in 464 attempts. Then the Pirates wanted Tanner, who considered managing the team that played fifty miles from his home a dream come true. Finley balked, and a historic trade of sorts occurred as the Pirates had to give Finley Manny Sanguillen and $100,000 to get Tanner. Mr. Sunshine had his dream come true.

Fireworks, Bozos, and Replays

The foresight of our fondling forefathers cannot be denied. Whatever day that was in 1776, they were gathered near the future home of the Phillies not just to boo the Brits but also to set forth for all time the standards of freedom that could be enjoyed by all of the white people of this great continent for as long as they were willing and able to fight for them.

Somehow they knew that future generations would endure so long as certain freedoms were obtained and held dear. Here today we celebrate the fact that these freedoms persist. We will cite just a few of them.
1.The freedom to barbecue. More specifically, the freedom to consume as many hot dogs as possible, and the freedom to decide that chicken wings are actually nutritional.
2.The freedom to blow things up and set things on fire. Sparklers are the gateway weapon but there is nothing like the sound and fury of exploding gunpowder to signify all that we stand for and it looks so cool in the night sky. Our dogs have to be made of stern stuff, just like the dogs of 1776.
3. I believe it was Thomas Jefferson himself, although perhaps it was Ben Franklin, who predicted that, in future days, the freedom loving people of these United States would find a way to exploit the dead and wounded of this, our most important war by selling vast amounts of Toyotas, Volkswagens, and Chevrolets plus mattresses on long weekends so as to increase our wealth and consequent ability to fight more wars. Some historians have noted that John Hancock envisioned Taco Bell as the bell in Philadelphia was cracking.

It is a reminder as well that France has always been our ally, which brings me to the World Cup. This has, for the most part, been the best and most competitive tournament we have witnessed in our twenty years of observing the Women’s World Cup. There have been more good teams with deeper rosters this year than in any previous tournament and it’s been unforgettable good fun. Whether it is Holland or the United States that prevails come Sunday, the winner will have definitely earned it. The only drawbacks have been a)the increased rough and tumble play and flopping that mimic the men’s game and b)the use of the video assistant referee, or VAR that halts play and makes everyone wait for too long for the attempt to “get it right”. A continuous flow of play has always set soccer apart from other whistle happy sports to the delight of fans and the consternation of television executives. Now we have to override the human element with robotic interference that doesn’t add anything but anguish and boredom. I’ll take a wrong call any day. I don’t know about the NFL because I don’t follow it, but replay review is totally ridiculous in basketball and has proven to be a farce that wastes time in major league baseball. Where are we headed with this? Umpires are threatened with extinction. We don’t get to see the veins in the necks of managers pop out as they argue bad calls with other human beings. Will our games be played by robots as well eventually? Have you seen Rollerball? One last futbol note: the difference between Donald Trump and Megan Rapinoe is that, for one, Rapinoe is actually good at what she does and, two, even with the expletives she actually means what she says.

The Elias Sports Bureau has reported that 1,142 home runs were struck in the MLB in the month of June. That breaks the previous record for a month by 7. That record was set in May. It’s kind of like global warming. Also, a year after strikeouts exceeded hits for the first time ever, whiffs are ahead again, 21.871 to 21,554. Kind of like bankruptcies. If you peruse the MLB highlights programs you will mostly see one ball after another leaving the yard. Home runs were once very exciting. That was because they were relatively rare. Teams that were otherwise lousy would employ a Hank Sauer or a Ralph Kiner or a Gus Zernial so that the home crowd could have something to hope for other than victory. Now we are once again being subjected to the brainwashing that the Home Run Derby (along with the hot dog eating contest) is an exciting thing to watch that we won’t want to miss. I think I’d rather have a colonoscopy. At least they drug you for that. How about a suicide squeeze tournament? Hitting the cut-off man competition? Did Henry Aaron flip his bat? It reminds me of a high school basketball game I once attended. The game was out of hand and I was headed for the facility when I heard a big roar from the crowd. I turned back to see what the fuss was about. Somebody had dunked–successfully! Now his team trailed by only 83-38. Twisted values. Thomas Jefferson would not have approved.

Around the Metaphorical Horn

It is impossible for those of us cursed with an insatiable hunger for baseball news to get through a day without being inundated with manic speculations concerning the uprooting of major league rosters that will be occurring in the next few weeks. What great fun we all can have! We can pretend to be management material for a multi-million dollar business but, instead of fantasizing about replacing,say, those slacker truck drivers with self driving robotic vehicles that always show up for work ready to roll, we can imagine ourselves having enough cash on hand to “rent” or perhaps even “own” a guy like Madison Bumgarner, who might be that one addition to our team that will get us into that wondrous land of fame and even more cash, the playoffs! Of course, these fantasies can change with every passing day. For instance, in the case of Bumgarner, what if our new dude isn’t very good anymore? MadBum is just a little over 30 years old, but he really hasn’t been very good since 2015, so he may end up plodding along with the rest of his San Francisco teammates, pining for the good old days while still maintaining a good credit score.

While we are on the topic of roster additions, Manny Machado, a cinch first ballot Hall of Jerks candidate, has turned yours truly into a San Diego Padres hater all by himself. Well, maybe not hater, but I don’t wish them well. For decades I was neutral about that team, but no mas.

Summer is here and it’s time to feel good about some players who are bringing smiles to our faces. Max Scherzer, the old school pitcher with the occasional black eye who is keeping the Washington Nationals within shouting distance of the Atlanta Braves is one of them. Also, just about that entire Braves team, an invigorating collection of youth and experience. Josh Bell and Brian Reynolds of the Pirates are giving the Pittsburgh fans reasons to show up, or at least turn the tube on. Does anyone else still call it the tube? I meant the big rectangle. The Minnesota Twins are giving American League Central customers a reason to not ask for their money back. Hunter Pence, no relation to the stone faced clod of wayward marl who rides in the car behind the slanderer in chief, has been given a chance to revive his career in Texas and has come through very pleasantly indeed.

It’s feeling like 1955 again. I mean, there isn’t a grandfatherly general in the White House, and not everyone is buying a Chevy. On June 21 of that year, however, the Yankees and Dodgers were in first place. Brooklyn’s record was 47-16 after ace Don Newcombe moved his record to 12-1 by defeating Warren Hacker and the Cubs. The score was 7-2 in 11 innings and Big Newk went all the way. Hacker was a slouch, being lifted with two out in the eleventh. Roy Campanella was batting .339 and hitting clean up for the Bums. They had a 12 game lead over the second place Cubbies after that game. The Yanks had a more modest two game lead over the White Sox after running their record to 43-23 by beating the Kansas City A’s 6-2. Mickey Mantle hit his 17th home run. The looming World Series between those two teams is the only real resemblance to 1955 but it does seem to be what’s coming. It would be the first such meeting since 1981, another year in baseball infamy.