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

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.

The Answer Man…He Delivers

One never knows how the decisions one makes early in life will turn out. What seems to be important as a youth may eventually dissolve into petty crap, while things not taken seriously when we are still squeezing zits may some day become really big deals. For instance, when I first went away to Punditry School, I assumed that it would be years and years before anybody actually would be interested in my opinions to the point of actually asking me to explain what they were. Now, decades and decades have gone by, and I regularly receive what Howard Cosell would have called a veritable plethora of electronic mail begging for my wisdom. Of course, I can’t answer them all because that would be more like an actual job, but I will share some of the more numerous questions and answers for the benefit of you boneheads out there.

Here is one from Justin Thyme in Middletown, Connecticut: I watch a lot of baseball on TV. Between and during innings I see a bunch of ads referring to 5G. I don’t know what that means, but I’m afraid to let anyone know that. Can you help?

Sure, Justin, no problem as we say in the biz. That’s one dollar more than 4,999.

Question number two comes from Greta Ryan in Bethesda, Maryland: There were certainly a large number of trades at this year’s deadline. Do you think some teams have helped themselves enough to make a difference? Greta,this most recent orgy of contract swapping creates a lot of hype and talk but leaves me uneasy. I think it most represents the kind of short sighted business thinking attributable to modern capitalism rather than baseball savvy, like advertising on umpires’ uniforms, abandoning the minor leagues, naming ball yards after fly by night corporations, and all sorts of other avaricious tactics. The idea was that, before the season begins, each team does its best to create rosters that can compete for championships, or at least be entertaining for it fans.

Stop snickering, you Baltimore people. Even then, the media folks begin speculating about what players with big contracts might “be moved” if their teams are “struggling” by mid season. Moved. of course, to a team that “has a shot at the post season”. Whereas, when I was a lad and people still read newspapers and listened to the radio, the Yankees were the only team that bought players during the season and the A’s were the usual sellers, every team potentially gets involved now. Not “getting help” is an indication that management has “given up” or “doesn’t care” and players on those teams are apt to get butt hurt. On the other hand, satisfying a need (to get a little sexy here) shows fans and players that you “are going for it now” and is often stimulating, at least for a while. It’s always a gamble, of course, but gambling is all very much okay in professional sports today, ain’t it? Not much thought is given to what the actual people who get traded feel about any of this. So, yes, Greta, look what happened! The Yankees did their thing, and it may have worked. Joey Gallo! Anthony Rizzo! Maybe Andrew Heany can pitch a few innings. Max Scherzer going to the Dodgers will certainly put them over the top, right? Daniel Hudson and Jake Marisnick to the Padres will not be making a big difference but the GM can say he tried. What the Chicago Cubs did, however, was downright cruel. Remember 2016? Screw it, man, this is now! Javier Baez, bye bye baby! Anthony Rizzo, take that leadership ability and shrinking batting average to the P.O.N.Y. League park where it can do some good. Kris Bryant, take your all around skills and versatility out of here! Bryant, at least, seemed to like the idea. Cubs owners, whoever they have been, have long known that they are going to get good crowds no matter how bad they are so let’s have a 13 game losing streak and save some dough. Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox. A pox on ’em. So it all leaves a sour taste but I’m happy for whoever is truly made happier

Christopher Gray of Ferndale, California has our third question: Don’t get me wrong. I make a good living as a UPS driver and I know that major league ballplayers are entitled to whatever salary they can attain, but isn’t it a bit “in your face” to see these guys with their gold chains dangling while they are playing what used to be a working person’s game?

Yes. Javier Baez lost an ear ring during a celebration the other day and it was a bit embarrassing to watch everybody look for it in vain. It is understandable that, for instance, a young person for the Dominican Republic might be a bit proud to suddenly have a lot of money to spend. If I was the manager, as likely a happening as Elon Musk buying us all season tickets, I would ban jewelry on the playing field. It’s unattractive except to thieves.

Our final question of the day comes from Tara Weathers in Donora, Pennsylvania: You really were ragging on the Oakland Athletics a couple of pieces ago. They are always good so what’s your problem?

Tara, my problems are many. In the case of the A’s, as usual it is ownership. Oakland California is one of the great cities of the United States. It is the birthplace or home of some of the greatest athletes in history. Consequently, Oakland has a sports fan base of some of the most faithful and knowledgeable people in the world. So, of course, those people get royally screwed regularly. Al Davis moved the Raiders to L.A., came back to Oakland long enough to get the Coliseum ruined for baseball, and now his son has pimped that team to Vegas. The NBA Warriors left San Francisco for Oakland and entertained a very solid group of fans for years and won some titles and then went back to San Francisco. Not Vegas, but still…The current owner of the baseball team wants a new stadium. They could have demolished the one Davis ruined and built a better one in the same spot but that idea appears to be dead in the water. He wants the city of Oakland and Alameda County to basically front the money for a huge building program not just for a ball yard but also a shopping and hotel complex that will make him money forever. If they don’t, he is threatening to also go to Vegas, which would be as close to Hell as baseball could get. The A’s should be in Oakland and, in this time of pandemic and almost certain economic trouble, he should build his own store.

So, folks, as you can see, this punditry business is hardscrabble and bitter. He never took my advice about how to speak coherent sentences, but Joe Buck still should have paid me. That’s how it goes.

Sunburned World of Sports

It’s a smell like burning oil eminent from the carcass of freedom and democracy these days. Fraudulent political demagogues repeat shameful lies in the lame pursuit of corrupt power and worthless riches while we, the ignorant mass of propagandized screen worshipers, seek distraction from wherever it may come. Many of our false idols have been athletes. We don’t really like it when they are revealed to be human. We prefer soft piano and strings with the pictures of their rising above us all to accept the gold.

The talented and thoughtful sports writer for the San Francisco Chronicle Ann Killion has aptly described the Olympics as a television show. I’ve seen it like that for decades now, calling it the Schmolympics while many friends regard my snide remarks as nothing more than my usual un-American ranting. This year, however, it is more starkly obvious. Yes. I admire most of the athletes for their skill and very hard work. No, I don’t dig the schmaltzy faux patriotism that comes gurgling across the airwaves. Nor the way that the television producers tend to emphasize whatever the United States participants are doing. The Japanese people didn’t want this but who cares? There is a lot of money at stake here. If Simone Biles wants to go all mental on us, we’ll just have to find another star. The pandemic is still hanging around, spoiling everybody’s party. Those nervous athletes need to suck it up and smile for the cameras. We’ve got sponsors that have bags of money and cryptocurrency to give us and we need it. We did the MLB and the NBA and the NFL without any slobs in the stands and we can do this too.

Climate change, wars during the pandemic, mass murders, it’s all making us a little crazy. I mean, why don’t we talk about the trade deadline instead, okay? Where will Kris Bryant go? Hey, look, the Oakland A’s got Andrew Chafin! Will the Giants get Max Scherzer? Do the Yankees still have a voracious appetite for small market stars?

Biles said, “I feel like I’m also not having as much fun. This Olympic Games, I wanted it to be for myself but I felt like I was still doing it for other people…doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me to please other people.” Some clods undoubtedly will say that she is being selfish.. Horse pucky. What has been woefully forgotten is that athletic games do start out as fun. That is still the best reason to play them. In this crumbling culture, there is no real fun anymore. Everything needs to be monetized. preferably under the control of soul lacking creeps like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates. And one other thing: it’s a whole lot better to play than to watch. Not enough of us seem to know that.

Shohei and the Juniors

The 2021 Major League Baseball season has been full of surprises both on and off the field but the very first mystery that needs be cleared up is, without doubt, why the heck are all of the umpires wearing those weird patches on their shirts that say FTX? I kept waiting for an announcer to clue me in, but so far even the great Hall of Fame guy, Jon Miller, has let me down. Unless, of course, I missed it. According to the corporate robots at MLB, my tedious research has revealed, “FTX is our first ever umpire uniform patch partner.” They go on to add that sports have been a proven marketing tool and that FTX is a cryptocurrency exchange. They don’t give us nickels for empty pop bottles, so here’s hoping that their enterprise goes right down the sewer.

Really, though, the most exciting development of the season so far, the Yankees losing notwithstanding, has been the emergence of Shohei Ohtani. The Babe Ruth comparisons don’t really jibe but oh my! as Dick Enberg would say. Since 2018, when he began his Anaheim career after a few good seasons in Japan, he has clubbed 81 home runs in 344 games. Currently, he leads the majors in homers this year. Plus, he pitches very well. I sincerely hope that all of you advocates for the universal DH are taking note of that. Now, as a member of the Baby Boomer generation that is beginning to crowd the cemeteries nationwide,I realize that we can’t go back. We can’t go back to the way things were before 1973 or even 2020. Designated sitters are entrenched in the game now, just like popcorn, beer, and mountains of statistics. People have been successfully brainwashed that pitchers batting is boring, even more boring than Dave Kingman. Coaches don’t teach bunting or the hit and run et cetera. It would take years to re-establish situational batting and all of that. Still, it does the heart good to see any pitcher that can rake. Thank you, Shohei.

Another very fun thing has been the juniors. Specifically, I mean Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and Fernando Tatis, Jr. They are both 22 years old and they are both very good. Guerrero has 32 homers and 79 runs batted in for the Toronto-Buffalo-Florida Blue Jays, playing corner infield spots and DH. He is big, six feet and two inches tall and a reported 250 pounds, so maybe his career won’t last as long as his dad’s, but he sure is fun now. Since 2019, young Tatis has hit 68 homers in 223 games and he does everything well except stay healthy. Plus he is a gifted shortstop, so the Padres are happy.

Those two are the best, but there are several sons of former major league ballplayers around these days. Toronto has kind of cornered the market. Besides Guerrero, they have Bo Bichette, a 23 year old shortstop who is the son of Dante Bichette, and Cavan Biggio, a 26 year old second baseman whose father is Craig Biggio , who was once a Killer Bee. Pittsburgh boasts Ke’Bryan Hayes,23, whose father also played third base for the Phillies, Giants, and Rockies. Cam Bedrosian, 29 years old, is a pitcher now for Oakland but previously for Anaheim since 2014. Raul Mondesi has a son named Adalberto, 25, who stole 24 bases for Kansas City last year and plays a good shortstop when healthy. Another junior, Delino DeShields, is at AAA Round Rock currently but has played for the Rangers since 2015. Daz Cameron, son of Mike Cameron, is playing some outfield for the Detroit Tigers at age 24. Ryan Weathers, the son of former pitcher David Weathers, has made eleven starts pitching for San Diego.

Why do I feel old sometimes? Well, there is also a grandson. Mike Yastrzemski is 30 and playing well in the Giants’ outfield, and I remember when grandpa Carl Yastrzemski was a rookie replacing Ted Williams for Boston.

So it looks like we will have interesting races for the next two months if the killer virus remains somewhat under control. If so, it will help us forget the runner on second in extra innings, sticky stuff, the horrible thing being done to Oakland Athletic fans, 7 inning doubleheader games, and how boring ESPN Sunday nights have become. I’ll save my rant about Joe Buck talking to All Star players while they are playing for another time.