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

Thanks For Writing

The end of the 2018 season left me in such a ragged state that I needed to check into the Billy Idol Clinic for Ego Restoration and Eyebrow Renewal. This kept me away from the keyboard for over a month and thus some readers became concerned as to my welfare. Thanks to both of you.

Blogs come and blogs go but the things  that remain forever are the comments. That’s a fortunate thing because it enables an otherwise blocked  scribe to find fuel with which to slog forward. By the way, while I was there I was able to come across a sure fire stocking stuffer that will delight the aging rocker wannabes on your list. You can purchase an authentic, preserved chunk of one of David Crosby’s livers for just $19.95 and it is enclosed in  realistic plexiglas for mounting. I’m not sure who to give them to but I bought three.

So let’s quit farting around and start addressing some of the issues raised by those comments.  Here’s one from Kay Syrah in Petaluma, California : “Everyone else who  talks or writes about baseball is filling our minds with rumors and guesses about  what team is going to sign what free agent or what trades we can expect to see made during the winter. You don’t do that. What’s wrong with you?”   Well, Kay, it certainly is speculation season It may just be my imagination, but it seems these days that there are more people talking about doing things than there are  folks actually doing things. Whereas some of us used to go out into the snow and fire snowballs at trees and  utility poles to practice utilizing the strike zone during the off season, today’s young fans are perhaps firing up their cell phones  and making calls to other pretend general managers and pretend  player agents and talking deals. Just not that interesting.

Barney Holzapple of McKeeesport, Pennsylvania wanted to know, “What do you think of the new Hall of Fame selections? Should Will Clark have been voted in? Lee Smith and Harold Baines  seem to deserve it”   Barney, if Omar Vizquel isn’t there, it ain’t what it says it is.

Finally, some anonymous troll said I should quit griping about the lack of baseball games and take up some of what he or she says are “cool” winter sports like hockey, basketball, or the National Felons League. Actually, there is lots of what Americans call soccer to watch. And high school basketball is okay.

A Ghostly Visitor

Old Uncle Ebenezer felt a shiver. The final out in the World Series had been recorded, and he felt as though the temperature in his little apartment had suddenly dropped by ten degrees. He pulled his aching bones out of his lumpy easy chair and hobbled to the wall thermostat to turn it up a few notches. The arthritis in his fingers made it difficult and Ebenezer decided that he would not wait until an hour before bedtime. He moved toward the kitchen, where his bottle of  Jameson Triple Distilled rested in the cabinet above the sink. With slightly shaking hands he poured himself a double.

The television was still on in the living room when Ebenezer awoke from his slumber  and he muttered something  possibly profane but clearly unintelligible as he switched it off and  made his way to the bedroom and buried himself  under the sheet and blanket while fumbling for his pillow. He could hear the wind howling and his neighbor’s dog barking but it wasn’t long before he was fast asleep.

The night was as dark as the night had ever been. The wind had brought rain and the steady beating of water on the roof and against the glass helped Ebenezer  drop into a deep sleep. After an hour and three quarters, however, the call of nature roused the old man from his rest and he rose to make his way to the toilet. He was surprised to see that the light in the bathroom was on. Ebenezer liked his nightlight in the bath and was too frugal to deliberately leave the overhead light burning. He was a bit groggy from the whiskey but , after relieving himself, he felt suddenly alert. Then, his eyes opened wide in  amazement. There was a form, somewhat shaped like a human, sitting in his easy chair.  Without his spectacles Uncle Ebenezer was not certain what he was witnessing and he was rendered speechless for a few moments before shouting, “Hey!. You there! What the hell are you doing in my living room?”

The shape responded by  quickly taking the form of a gaseous cloud and rising up to the ceiling. To Ebenezer’s astonishment, the cloud had a voice and spoke!  “Do not be afraid, old dude. This is not an apparition. Well,it is, but I’m real. My name is Doubleday. I have been monitoring your stress level and, if you agree to my conditions, we can help your condition.”

My uncle was aghast. “What condition? How do you know anything about me?”

Doubleday spoke again. “You are not my only client. There are many bereft souls out there. So let’s cut to the chase. The goal is to work for the good of the game. If you adhere to that I can grant you temporary powers to achieve what both of us, many of us, want”

Ebenezer was no longer groggy. In fact, he made his mind up quickly. “Okay, how about this. Make me the executive officer for the MLB Players’ Association.”

The next thing Ebenezer knew, he was traveling all over the country and visiting every major league clubhouse. He went from player to player carrying a cardboard box. Into the box each player dropped gold chains and necklaces and other useless jewelry. These were all taken by Ebenezer and exchanged  for tickets to MLB regular season games and the tickets were  given away in each franchise location to young boys and girls who could not otherwise ever afford to attend a game. Then, just as suddenly, Ebenezer was back in his apartment. Doubleday was there, too, in the form of  a floor lamp.

“Good job, old dude. So you get another wish.” Ebenezer did not hesitate. “Make me the commissioner of baseball!” he pleaded. In the blink of an eye Ebenezer was sitting at a large desk in a New York office. He was speaking informally to a group of sports reporters. “Today I have taken three bold steps to improve both the image and the reality of our game. First, by executive decree, we  will be banning all cell phones and other mobile electronic devices from all of our ballparks while games are being played. Second, we are repealing the designated hitter rule forever. Last, from now on, all player salaries will be determined by where their teams fall in the standings.”

Before you could say Stan Musial, Ebenezer was back home again. Doubleday was there to greet him. “Well done, dude. So you get one last wish and then I have to split.” My uncle did not hesitate. “I want to be president of the United States!”

In the oval office, Ebenezer was holding a press conference. With him were Mike Trout, Madison Bumgarner, and David Wright. “Today, my fellow Americans, we are proud to announce that we have directed the FCC to establish commercial free television of all MLB games henceforth.”

And then he woke up.

 

What Fun!

I was not one of the seventeen people still watching when the Dodgers finally ended it but, as Joe Buck might say, “How about that Dodger Stadium organist!”

This is the latest from Baseball Anarchy with hints of vanilla and caramel rye. You may have seen the reports that, when the Yankees swept the Cincinnati Reds in the 1939 World Series, the composite time of the four games added up to less than what it took for the third game of this series. I would like to add that a total of 12 pitchers were employed in that entire series. That seems to be what we are averaging for every five innings these days. A stalwart performance by Nathan Eovaldi was rewarded with a sad loss.

I have to say that one week prior to Halloween is a lousy time to play home run derby and perhaps the point that John Smoltz keeps trying to make will finally get across to management. Eighteen inning games can occur more readily when  half the rosters are full of pitchers and pinch hitters, pinch runners, and defensive replacements are quickly used up. It also is no help when sacrifices are sacrileges and everyone is trying to launch the ball into the stratosphere rather than  just moving base runners, of which there were many, along. In that 1939 World Series, I would add, a total of 42 strikeouts were recorded.

And now a quick word from Google Assistant:

Q. What is the difference between Google Assistant and a pencil with a piece of paper?

A. The former costs a lot more than the latter.

Dave Roberts comes across as the guy who is your friend even before you know it. He makes you a better person by aggressive example. He doesn’t think he is better than you are, he just wants to help you succeed. So you have a tendency to walk through walls for him.  Alex Cora comes across in much the same way. He seems to be a little smarter about ball I think. They’re both good.

I’m already making plans about my free taco on November 1st but first I would like to see a few line drives and some good base running, wouldn’t you? Along about the 14th inning, I started begging Alex Cora to ask for a forfeit so that some of his players would be ready for Saturday’s game. It’s probably bad taste to single out Cody Bellinger, Manny “Macho” Machado, and Ian Kinsler but come on, you guys.

And now, a quick word from Roman, your E.D.  fixer upper: You can last all game long and extra innings too without embarrassing visits to a doctor!

Okay, now I have to have my nap before Game Four.

 

 

Adults Only Fall Classic

Just a few more days and no more than seven games  to go and then the television can go into hibernation until next March. Like many others, I reckoned that the American League Championship Series would be the real contest to see who was best. The NLCS proved to be quite interesting, however, even beyond the somewhat bizarre pitching strategies employed by Dave Roberts and, especially, Craig Counsell. My feeling in September  was that the Milwaukee Brewers had made a mistake by stocking their roster with too many infielders and not adding a starting pitcher or two but, oh Lordy, what a bullpen that is! And to think that not so long ago I tried to make a joke about starting a game with the “closer”. It was also bizarre to see an L.A. Dodgers team that pulverized teams with home runs. Echos of Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett describing  2-1 and 1-0 games over and over back in the days of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale went through my weary head as the likes of  Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger nearly erased all memories of the days when a Dodger hitting more than ten homers was considered big power.

Boston does look like the better team, though, and that’s been true all season. They have that wonderful assortment of outfielders although one of them, Mookie Betts, will apparently become an infielder in Los Angeles thanks to the designated sitter rule. If Chris Sale is healthy  I like the Red Sox pitching a little better than the boys from LaLa Land. The Dodgers are a bit better late in the game if Kenley Jansen is okay, which he certainly has been lately. Health had a lot to do with the defending champion Astros falling short. Mitch Moreland was hurting for Boston but  Jose Altuve was obviously not himself in the field and on the bases. Xander Bogaerts may not hit quite like  Manny Machado but he is very good and did not prove himself to be a dickhead the way that Machado did in the last round. Here’s hoping that Machado signs with either the Yankees or Dodgers for next year to make it even easier to root against them. Boston’s closer, Craig Kimbrel, has very impressive career statistics despite that odd style of his. Just before each pitch, he resembles  a drunk who is looking for the lighter he just dropped. It works, though.

This should be a very interesting series for all of us who are not too old or too young to be there or to watch it on television. Every single game will begin after 8 o’clock PM in the Eastern time zone. The first two are in Boston and I sure hope that it doesn’t snow. Out in Mountain or Pacific time zones, not so bad and we’re glad Colorado didn’t make it because it WOULD snow. This is a game that is meant to be played in daylight whenever possible. I know, it’s all about the wonderful folks who bring it into our modest little homes via television. We wouldn’t want to not be on at “Prime Time”, which has become a joke in this day and age. I got the baseball bug watching 23 year old Johnny Podres shut out the Yankees in 1955, when my  bedtime was, as it probably should be now, 9PM. At least the youth of today will be spared having to see ads for erectile dysfunction pills available online or that obnoxious and grammatically challenged woman hawking Jim Beam. So two in Beantown and then three in L.A. and, if necessary, two more in Boston October 30 and 31. It’s a great game, but the people in charge aren’t doing much to show it. Go Sox!

Beginning of the End?

The average attendance at a major league baseball game in 2018 was 28,830. Not so long ago, that would have been considered good. That has been reported as a drop of 4 per cent from the previous season and it is 14.4 per cent down from a high of 32,785 in 2007, or right before  what the big banks and the un-regulators are calling the Great Recession. Six teams—Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Miami, Baltimore, Minnesota, and the Chicago White Sox drew their smallest attendance since they opened their newest home ballparks.

No one wants to mention the fact that many people have been priced out of going to a big league game but I believe that it has to be a fact. Of course, for many others it is not a problem. You can see them sitting there up close to the action, feeding their faces  and playing with their phones. Are these really baseball fans or just the people who can afford the “baseball experience”? I don’t know, but it makes me wonder. What I do know for sure is that it is a far different crowd than  I would see when I lived in the San Francisco of the 70s, either at Candlestick Park or Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. In 1973, just over one million tickets were sold for the Oakland A’s  season as they won the second of three World Championships in a row. Those were the A’s with Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Campy Campaneris, Vida Blue, and Catfish Hunter. The Giants finished third in the National League West that year and claimed a little less than 900 thousand sold tickets to see the likes of Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Chris Speier, and Bobby Bonds. Their average attendance was just over 10,000 so we could bring our own food and beer and buy a cheap seat and then move to a better one after everyone got settled. We had fun. The only bummer was traffic after the game (we weren’t stoned before the game) but we did not pay $30 to park the car.

It may ultimately be good for the game if some of the money goes out of it. Now, what the owners and their commissioner consider “good for the game” are ticket sales, television money, and sales of gear. The bills do need to get paid, but what I am thinking of as good for the game are things that maintain competitive balance, advance quality of play, and make the game more attractive to young players and old farts like me who would like to  attend once in a while.

It is perhaps coincidental that strikeouts topped hits this season for the first time ever  and batting averages sunk to the lowest level since 1972. Launch angle enthusiasts and those who feel sexual excitement over 3 and 2 counts and pitching changes might want to consider the real thrills involved in things like triples, squeeze plays, and stolen bases. Late inning rallies can actually be more fun than all of the machinations involved with making sure you’re ahead after six innings.

There are many, many fun and exciting players out there today: Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Francisco Lindor, Starling Marte, and on and on. Beyond the economic problems, the game needs a bit of a jolt. Right now, it is dangerously close to a basketball game dominated by the blowing of whistles.

 

Wrong About Right

For sixty seven per cent of the major league baseball teams, the season is over. In a short time we will add a few more. Has it turned out the way that you thought it would? No? Well, as sure as the skid marks on Brett Kavanaugh’s tighty whiteys, neither did it turn out the way any of the rest of us thought. That’s what makes it fun.

For instance, right here in this space on March 30, yours truly wrote, ” Atlanta and Philadelphia should continue to improve but I doubt that they are scaring Washington yet.” Perhaps Washington still isn’t scared but now we get to see how they treat Dave Martinez after brooming Dusty Baker for winning the division by 20 games. In addition, tension mounts as the baseball world anticipates the next destination for Bryce Harper, the greatest player alive who hasn’t won jack shit. My personal hope is that Harper becomes a Yankee while Andrew McCutchen signs with a team that shows him some respect. He is from Florida, you know.

Also in this space, concerning the Houston Astros, I penned (well, nobody pens anything anymore but it’s a nice word) on March 24, ” Every other team in this division looks like wankers in comparison.” Plus, on July 15, Baseball Anarchy declared, “Milwaukee has probably peaked.”

However, I’m not always wrong. Because, also on April 23, I wrote that there was”  …very little doubt that the Dodgers will not waltz to another title.”  It was more like a jitterbug. And, to boot, “The team that could give the Dodgers the most trouble in this division is the Colorado Rockies.” In a stunning reversal of form on July 15, my prediction became that “…Oakland will continue to be a pleasant surprise.”

So don’t worry, folks, I’ll still be a know it all next Spring.

It’s been a great season for surgeons, Christian Yelich, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, Alex Cora, Max Scherzer, Blake SnellBob Melvin, Khris Davis, Justin Verlander, and Statcast among others. J.D. Martinez got the Arizona hitting coach fired by moving to Boston. It’s been a bummer for  Chris Davis and most of the other Orioles, Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto, and most of the other  Giants, and millions who were deprived of the ability to watch several games thanks to filthy Facebook Watch.

Now, it is the post season season and, despite FOX TV sports, this should be fun.

 

 

Therapy Session Revealed

It is the 21st century, after all, so in the spirit of full disclosure and forthright honesty I have decided to tell all, or nearly all, about my recent sessions with a mental health professional. I will call her Dr. Schmidt, although for obvious reasons that is not her real name. Here, then, is a partial transcript of the sessions.

 

BA:  I woke from a deep sleep and I felt very troubled. I dreamed that I was on a cross country trip on a Greyhound bus. Seated next to me on one side was that guy who does the Chevy commercials.  On the other side was the dude who does the Verizon ads who is always interrupting people he doesn’t know. Finally, just the other side of Oklahoma, I decided to move up front, right behind the driver. And the driver was Flo, that crazed Progressive insurance woman.

 

Dr. Schmidt: Why do you think that that was distressing?

BA: Well, it got me thinking. The Chevy guy kept asking me what three things I wanted most in a new truck even though I kept telling him that my 1984 Toyota had everything I needed. The phone dude kept hammering me with shit about things I have no use for. I think it means I’m watching too much baseball on TV. But the season isn’t over for another week and then there are playoffs. All the same ads over and over! I don’t want Nacho Fries!

Dr. Schmidt: Perhaps you could find another hobby. What other interests do you have?

BA:  Yeah. No. I like reading, cooking, other stuff. But I can’t give this up. I’m afraid I’m having some kind of personality change. It’s weird.

Dr. Schmidt:Can you be more specific?

BA: I’ve started tolerating Alex Rodriguez. I’ve begun to accept things that I never thought I would. Like, maybe it’s okay that pitchers  take up half the roster and don’t have to work out of trouble. Maybe Tony LaRussa was right. Bryce Harper. There is one sign that I am still healthy.

Dr. Schmidt: What is that?

BA: Now I can’t think of it. This is bad. I even went off on a riff about defensive shifts. I was thinking that putting corner infielders and outfielders in foul territory might speed up the game and get outs that  aren’t being gotten now. Can I have some water?

Dr. Schmidt: What’s a corner infielder?

BA: And what the hell do they mean that Coors is cleaner? Crisper? Colder?  How do  you walk into a refrigerator and have one beer that is colder than the others? So I’ll probably be okay after the World Series. The Yankees can’t win it, can they?  I mean, I like Aaron Boone and Giancarlo Stanton and C.C. Sabathia and those guys, but it has to be the Sox, right? Unless it’s the Astros.  Short porch my ass (excuse me) and at least TBS for the American League but then Joe Buck oh my God!

Dr. Schmidt: Mr. Anarchy, I think we have to try to focus here.

BA: And the Dodgers, for crying out loud! Are they sure they don’t need a few more guys like maybe Felipe Vasquez? I don’t know that the DH is such a bad idea. Buck Showalter got a bad rap…

Dr. Schmidt: I’m afraid our time is up.

What a Load of Crap

Donald Trump will go down in history as the first president of the United States to attempt to simultaneously run the National Football League. What a great job he did with United Football League back in the day, too, remember? Most of the world has caught on to his game by now. He is the schoolyard bully type, the one who sets a fire in a waste basket in the school room so that no one will notice that he just crapped in his pants. Then he blames someone else.

Let’s be clear, I have no use for the game of football anymore. It finishes a huge distance behind futbol, or soccer, in my estimation. If I wanted to watch people deliberately hurting each other for money I would move back to the city. I do have respect for people who play and have played the game, however, and that includes Colin Kaepernick and anyone else who has suffered the slings and arrows from the Tweeter in Chief. Phony patriotism is one of the sure signs of a demagogue. Now, for the first time in my life, Nike has done something right. The Swooshtika spreaders have apparently incurred the wrath of the misled and ill informed by launching an advertising campaign featuring Kaepernick. Instead of just doing it, we are all encouraged to believe in something even if means sacrificing everything. I’ll bet that phrase took lots of time to get polished but we’ll give the Nike crew the benefit of the doubt on this one. I won’t make jokes like “What if I believed the world was flat and sacrificed my future in physics or something?”

I have taken a vow to push back against the use of the phrase “pushing back” but I got out the old thesaurus and decided to use the term “reply”. Or maybe “oppose”.What Trump and other authoritarians want is for all of us to do whatever we are told to do and just knock off the high minded opinion stuff and, especially, any organized action that demonstrates that we fell for the idea that we were supposed to be free. So if they say that protesting any incident of perceived police brutality really means that we have crossed over a big line that separates the good from the bad then we should believe them. Of course, the reality is that police brutality exists because many people, especially those in power, enjoy it and perhaps quietly  approve of it because the only way that our system can thrive is if the haves keep the have nots in their place, munching on Papa John’s  lousy pizza and washing it down with Coors or Budweiser pissy beer.

The Free Agent

I realize that things change with time because there are constant reminders. Potato chip bags don’t open with  a bite, or even with my hands . The same hands that used to open any jar with ease now require assistance. That penny on the sidewalk can stay there now. Everybody, it seemed, used to play baseball and youngsters identified with and dreamed of being like the best players in the game. These days, it seems like not so many people are playing the game and the heroes are the owners and general managers. Yuck.

Dan Topping and George Weiss were never heroes to me. Augie Busch, Charles Comiskey, forget it. Don’t get me started about George Steinbrenner or David Glass. No, I can’t gush the way that Alex Rodriguez does about all those shrewd rich guys who get Shohei Ohtani at a low price or know when to send an aging star packing before he costs more than he’s worth.  The people that inspire me and make me smile are people like Andrew McCutchen. However, the thought of seeing him in pinstripes, even if it is only for a few weeks, does not have me chuckling.

The Pittsburgh Pirates never should have traded McCutchen. When they did, I was happy that he went to San Francisco, but only selfishly because the Giants needed a good outfielder and I would be able to see him play more frequently. He said all the right things at the time but it had to be tough on Steel’s dad to leave the place where, thanks in large part to him, baseball became fun again after years and years of losing. He got off to a slow start with the bat this season, but Cutch is a steadying influence on the field and in the dugout  and everyone knew that he would eventually come around . His adjustment to playing right field full time rather than his accustomed center field also was  less than smooth at times, partly because right field in San Francisco is windy and difficult. Again, his demeanor and professionalism were reassuring. Still, beyond that professionalism and stoicism, it was possible to detect a bit of sadness and discomfort in McCutchen, who had to be missing his role as The Guy in Pittsburgh.

Andrew McCutchen was a first round draft choice of the Pirates in 2005. When he was 22 years old, in 2009, he played 108 games for the Pirates and was one of the best rookies in the National League. He batted .286 with 12 home runs, 54 runs batted in, and 22 stolen bases. Pittsburgh won only 62 games that first season and only 57 the next but it was obvious to all that they had a good one in center field. In 2011, they got up to 72 victories and in 2012 the Buccos flirted with .500 before finishing 79-83. The big breakthrough for Cutch and the Pirates was in 2013. The years and years of losing ended as Pittsburgh finished with 94 wins, two games behind St. Louis in the Central Division. They beat Cincinnati in the wild card game but then lost to the Cardinals in the Divisional Series. Andrew McCutchen was the National League Most Valuable Player with  superb center field coverage, a .317 batting average and a .911 OPS. In the next two exciting seasons, the Pirates would again finish two games behind the Cardinals. They lost the wild card game in 2014 to eventual champion San Francisco, and the 2015 wild card game to the Cubs.Respectability had indeed returned to Pittsburgh. At the core of the rejuvenation was McCutchen. When he signed the six year contract that expires after this season, McCuthen said, “I will remain the same, show up every day and give it 100 per cent for my team, do everything I can to help my team win.”  And he did.

The Pirates fortunes slid back in 2016 and ’17 as McCutchen’s performance went from great to merely very good. They had good young outfielders available and were in the mood to save money. McCutchen went to San Francisco. That’s not the kind of move that  a team with a solid, winning tradition makes. It’s not the kind of move that a team with a loyal fan base makes, either, because this is a player who is a shining example for young fans and players of how to conduct yourself on and off the field. You ought to keep him aboard as he ages and begins to lose some of the skills that made him so great and helped your team finally succeed. Give him some days off and keep him around to do his thing as younger players develop. So there he was, a bit lonesome in San Francisco, and the Giants did the “smart” thing on the last day of August. They, too, should not have traded him.  A player of high skills, still just 31, treated like excess baggage while a temperamental loser like Hunter Strickland, who should have been released a year ago, takes up space in the bullpen.

McCutchen will soon become a free agent. The Yankees will have no use for him but can be proud that they forced the once proudly dreadlocked warrior to shave his face. Some lucky team will sign him. I hope that whoever does sign him will show the respect for him that Cutch always has for the game.

 

The Answer Man

It’s not easy being a self appointed expert. For instance, Jeff Sessions. Here at Baseball Anarchy, we are not in danger of sudden dismissal, so therefore we can keep it going as long as anybody cares. To be sure, as sure as truth is truth, many of you care. That’s why we receive so many questions. It is our mission in life to answer these as best we can. The following are some of the best.

 

From Rusty Gates, in Topeka: Okay, so there is a trade deadline every July 31. I’m confused by the fact that some players get traded in August as well. What’s the deal?

Answer:Rusty, it can be confusing. As you know, major league baseball is a really big business. Therefore, management is a little more difficult than managing, say, your local Dairy Queen. Millions and millions of dollars are at stake, talent evaluation is crucial, and legal expertise is required with contracts for players. Tickets need to be sold. Back in the day, the way it worked was, if the Yankees were worried that somebody like Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle might have sprained his ankle badly on a water sprinkler or something, they could just open the safe and send a bag of money to a team like the St. Louis Browns or the Kansas City A’s and pluck a Norm Sieburn or a Joe DeMaestri and go on about the business of winning a pennant. Sometimes they would have to include a player they wanted to be rid of like Billy Martin. Now, with free agency. the amateur draft, and revenue sharing, it is much more difficult. Teams in contention feel the need to add to their rosters because confidence in the players already assembled is a thing of the past and players like Dallas Keuchel get all upset if you don’t “…make a move” to strengthen your chances to play in October, as they say. Teams out of contention are wont to rid themselves of expensive players that they may have gambled on incorrectly  who are also about to become free agents. Any feelings that the players have regarding having to move to a different team are still largely ignored. After all, now they make enough dough to live wherever they want, and wives and children don’t have contracts. So before August, it has mostly to do with “prospects” who can help the out of contention teams  in exchange for “established stars” that might help contending teams succeed. The established stars, such as Manny Machado, are also referred to as “rentals”. Buster Olney and others even get into the international signing money aspect but , for brevity’s sake, we won’t go there. In August, a player cannot be traded without clearing waivers. Say what? So, if the Giants want to trade Andrew McCutchen, or the Mets want to trade  Jerry Blevins, those players must first be offered to every other team before any deal can be made. If a team claims the player, “waivers” can be revoked. Let’s have a drink.

 

From Cheryl Gettis in Oshkosh: Is it me or does the pitch count thing seem to be getting out of hand to anyone else?

Answer:It’s not that long ago, Cheryl, that war was not considered a permanent thing and that baseball managers and coaches watched the way a pitcher was throwing more than counting how often he did. I think we are approaching the day when pitching prospects have Tommy John surgery in high school just to use it as a base line, so to speak. For me, it is telling that pitchers now build up their arm strength to achieve 100 pitches per outing rather than nine innings, which is considered cruel and unusual punishment. Madison Bumgarner or Max Scherzer is blowing the opposition away and we are supposed to believe that they can’t finish. It’s considered smart and useful for batters to run up counts and foul off lots of pitches so that the starter approaches the century mark before the fifth inning. Can we consult Bob Gibson on this? Yet, it is the bullpen, full of hard throwers  who can actually pitch a whole inning, sometimes two days in a row, that we are really to fear because they are all “lights out”. so why are we in a hurry to get to them? I’ll have another cold one.

 

From Bill James in Biloxi:  The 2018 Boston Red Sox are on pace to challenge the best winning percentages of any team in baseball history and they have a wide lead over the Yankees in the A. L. East. Are they really that good?

Answer: Yes.

From Jess Tellme in Yreka CA: Isn’t it great the way that MLB has been so creative with special jerseys and caps and stuff for different holidays and the players’ weekend with nicknames and the Little League look?

Answer: No.