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

The Best Football Practice Ever

Mid October in western Pennsylvania brings those days that can be stifling hot in the afternoon but perhaps blessedly cool at night. Football weather. Ben Franklin Junior High School was holding practice after school as usual and there I was, perspiring and waiting for the coaches to call for the wind sprints that would mean it was just about time to head for the showers. Football games could be fun but practice was drudgery and I wanted the shower and, more than that, I wanted to remove that tight fucking helmet that gave me headaches every day. Suddenly we could hear yelling that was coming from somewhere other than the coaches. What was it? Word passed quickly. The Pirates won! Really? Yeah, really!

Bill Mazeroski had led off the bottom of the ninth inning in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series and Pittsburgh beat the New York Yankees, 10-9, and were the new World Champions!

I was in Catholic school the year before and one of the teaching nuns had told us that the Blessed Virgin Mary had appeared before a young girl and told her that, in 1960, something was going to happen to change the world for the better. No one knew what that would be and some speculated that it would mean that there would be world peace and Russia would become a Christian nation once again, but, no, here it was, plain as could be: the Pirates won!

There was extra bounce in my steps as I walked home from practice. I couldn’t wait to see my friend Bob McWilliams. Bob was an all right guy, smart, great athlete, industrious , a good student. But he had three flaws: a very hot temper, boastfulness, and, worst of all, he was a Yankees fan. He had loudly and forcefully bragged about how the Yanks were going to make mincemeat out of their National League rivals. I would not be so bold as to taunt him, but I sure did want to see the look on his face. Neither of us could be objective about it then, but in reality that Pittsburgh team had an edge on the Yankees because they went through that season with few injuries, had very good starting pitchers, and, except for Dr. Strangeglove (Dick Stuart at first base), they were very strong on defense with Don Hoak at third base, Bill Virdon in center field, Mazeroski at second base and, of course, a guy named Roberto Clemente in right field. They also had a tough as nails relief pitcher named Elroy Face. He threw a fork ball, which I could neither describe nor throw.

My brother Paul jumped into his Pontiac and headed for Pittsburgh right after he got off work to join in the big party and I can only imagine how much fun that was. It was a big deal. The last time the Pirates had been in the World Series was 1927. That gave them the privilege to get smoked by the Yankees in four straight games. Then came a long period of relative mediocrity prior to the late 1940s when the franchise really hit the skids. The low water mark was 1952, when the Buccos won 42 and lost 112. Ralph Kiner was the big draw in those days, lofting home runs over Kiner’s Korner and leading the league in homers year after year while the Bucs lost and lost and lost. Murray Dickson somehow won 14 games (and lost 21) for that 1952 team but on that roster were young guys like Dick Groat, Bob Friend, and Vern Law.

They started to get serious about it in the mid fifties. Kiner’s Korner was dismantled and defense became part of their game as Virdon, Clemente, and Mazeroski helped Friend and Law trim their earned run averages and the team slowly but surely emerged as contenders. In 1958, the Pirates finished second, eight games behind Milwaukee. In 1960, they finished seven games ahead of Milwaukee. Those Braves had Joe Adcock, Henry Aaron, and Eddie Mathews, but Pittsburgh outscored them 734-724. Those Braves had Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette, and Bob Buhl but the Pirates outpitched them.

Casey Stengel saved lefty Whitey Ford for the third game since it would be played at Yankee Stadium after the first two in Pittsburgh. So the Pirates jumped on right handed starter Art Ditmar in the first game for three first inning runs and held on to win behind Vern Law, 6-4. Then New York started making Bob McWilliams a prophet by routing Bob Friend, Clem Labine and others 16-3 in the second game. On to New York, where Ford shut out the Bucs ,10-0, on four hits. Game four was huge. If the Yanks won, the prospect of not returning home was real. Bill Skowron homered off Law in the fourth inning to make it 1-0. Then Law took over. He had two hits, including an RBI double in a 3 run fifth inning. Virdon’s single drove in Law and Smoky Burgess and the Pirates went on to win,3-2. Roy Face relieved Law in the 7th after a Johnny Blanchard pinch hit single and retired all eight batters he faced. The fifth game put Pittsburgh in the driver’s seat as they won 5-2.Pirates manager  Danny Murtaugh wasn’t fooling around. After Bob Cerv singled and took second on Hoak’s error, he intentionally walked Mickey Mantle–in the first inning!

Back to the Iron City for game six. Bob Friend was clobbered again and Whitey Ford pitched another shutout. 12-0 Yankees. Bob Turley startedthe seventh game for New York. Rocky Nelson started at first base against the righty. Nelson, a journeyman first sacker who was around for spot starts and late inning defense in relief of the slugging Stuart, smacked a two run homer in the first. In the second, Stengel lost patience with Turley after Burgess led off with a single and brought on Bill Stafford. Hoak walked and Mazeroski beat out a bunt to load the bases. Law hit into a pitcher to catcher to first base double play and Stengel looked smart as ever. But Virdon hit a two run single to right to make it 4-0.

In the fifth inning, Bill Skowron, whose autographed picture I went and got at a Loblaw’s supermarket even though he was a Yankee, homered off Law to make it 4-1. In the sixth, the seemingly inexhaustible Law surrendered a single to Bobby Richardson and a walk to Tony Kubek. Once again, Murtaugh turned to Face, who also was not inexhaustible. Mickey Mantle’s single scored Richardson, and then Yogi Berra cracked a three run homer to put the Yankees ahead, 5-4.

A significant thing happened in the seventh although it did not involve a run scoring. Burgess singled, and Joe Christopher ran for him.

In the top of the eighth, with two out, Berra walked.Then Skowron singled. Blanchard singled to score Berra with Skowron taking third. Clete Boyer, that fine fielding third baseman who seldom got hits but often hit it far when he did, doubled and Skowron scored. So Stengel let his reliable reliever Bobby Shantz bat with a 7-4 lead and Shantz lined out to Clemente for the third out. In the bottom of that inning, Gino Cimoli pinch hit for Face and singled. Cimoli had been a good addition to the team because Virdon wasn’t hitting left handers well and Cimoli ran well and could handle any outfield position. Then Virdon hit what looked like a double play grounder to Kubek at short but the ball took a bad hop and hit Kubek in the neck. Put the ball in play, boys, because you never know. Joe DeMaestri replaced the injured Kubek. Dick Groat singled to score Cimoli and it was 7-5. Jim Coates replaced Shantz and Bob Skinner‘s sacrifice bunt moved runners to third and second. Clemente’s infield single scored Virdon to make it 7-6. Then Hal Smith, the catcher who replaced Burgess when he had been run for, cracked a home run and the Pirates took a 9-7 lead. Ralph Terry replaced Coates.

Murtaugh brought in Bob Friend, so successful during the regular season but so ineffective in two World Series starts, to finish off the Yankees. He didn’t. Richardson singled. Dale Long, a former Pirate who had struck home runs in eight consecutive games for them back in ’56, was now another in a long line of lefty slugging aging hitters that the Yankees like to pad their roster with, singled to right as a pinch hitter for DeMaestri. Harvey Haddix replaced Friend as Yankees fans licked their lips. Roger Maris fouled out to the catcher Smith. Mantle singled to score Richardson with Long going to third. Gil McDougald ran for Long and scored when Skowron grounded out to short. So it was 9-9, but just for a while.

The world had been wicked for a long time, but now it had corrected itself. And Casey never managed another game for the Yankees, but he did a great job in 1960. Except perhaps for that Ditmar thing.

Sweden Looks Good In N.L. West

Here we are now, more than halfway through the baseball season, and I need to catch up. I’ve been so entranced by the World Cup going on in President Aqualung’s summer home  that I totally missed LeBron James’ signing with the Los Angeles Lakers. Was that before Brazil beat Mexico?

There are some great races going on, though, aren’t there? ESPN’s favorite teams, the Red Sox and Yankees, figure to be neck and neck all the way to October with an excellent combination of new faces and veterans, new managers and packed ballparks. I wish the Sunday crew could be Dave Flemming and Tim Kurkjian along with Jessica Mendoza, replacing those boring, humorless men she is working with presently. While I’m wishing, I wish Matt Duffy could get traded to a contender that plays in a real ball yard. The Rays somehow have once again come up with a good team, but there have to be people somewhere in Florida that enjoy baseball, and they deserve a better site. I will go out on a limb and predict that Chris Sale, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez and company will prevail with Alex Cora leading the way but I do have an awfully strong bias despite Aaron Boone. It’s become surprising when the Orioles or Blue Jays win any game, and Neymar is skilled but his theatrics are worse than Ronaldo’s.

 

Cleveland has a comfortable lead despite uninspiring play and it feels as though a team like Russia or Japan could liven things up in that division. Seattle has been the Uruguay of the A.L. West, quietly knocking teams off without a lot of hype. As much fun as it has been to follow the rousing success of Houston, the Mariners have made things pleasantly interesting whereas the Montebello Angels have been the Germany of the division, all expectation and no greatness. Here’s hoping that the Shohei Ohtani experiment succeeds again when he gets back in there because he is truly fun, unlike Disneyland.

The East Coast baseball pundits forgot to tell the other teams how good the New York Mets were or what a Hall of Fame outfielder Michael Conforto is but they are always ahead of the curve. You will find no speculative remarks here about what might happen before THE TRADE DEADLINE but the way things look now the Braves are for real and Philadelphia is almost there. As for the apparently cursed Washington team, they had better stop getting injured and start living up to expectations or they will be forced to change their  nickname to Senators. Miami was expected to be like Egypt but they have been a little more like Iran.

It’s great to see Scooter Gennett leading the league in batting average and it’s also great to see Cincinnati within shouting distance of Chicago. Like Tom Seaver, Matt Harvey was traded to the Reds near the end of his career. I wonder if Joe Maddon wishes he had Jake Arrieta rather than Yu Darvish? I have been off the Brewers bandwagon since Harvey’s Wallbangers but one has to like the way that team is put together. Tough call in that division, but it won’t be the Pirates. They are starting to remind me of the Oakland A’s, bringing up interesting young players who will eventually play somewhere else.

 

While the Cubs may be equivalent to Spain before it is all over, it’s hard to put a World Cup tag on any National League West team. The title is there for the taking, so maybe Belgium. It’s a four team race for sure with the Padres making life miserable at times for the contenders. I’m leaning toward the Dodgers at this point but Arizona started winning again when Paul Goldschmidt starting hitting again and when A.J. Pollock plays they are better on offense and defense so…but the Giants might be getting Cueto and Samardzija back so…it may come down to penalty kicks.

Brave New World Series

There is a bit of a push going on now to get the baseball world even deeper into the 21st century by eliminating the calling of balls and strikes by human umpires. The idea, which you may recall was the same idea when replay umpires hidden in a cavern beneath the bar on the ground floor of an 88 story skyscraper in New York City were appointed to review certain plays that managers chose to appeal, is to “get it right.” Well, that certainly was a noble idea. Like many noble ideas, it hasn’t really worked, but everybody gets another beer break. And it fits in well with the direction our society as a whole is going.

Look at all the time that had been wasted while the likes of Frank Robinson, Earl Weaver, and Lou Piniella snarled from the dugout or even marched on to the playing field to contest the balls and strikes that mere humans were calling to the detriment of their players. My goodness, isn’t it better now that the invisible gods of video recording can look at all angles, throw the Ching, and pronounce the scientific facts? Well, of course it is. It’s fair (or foul)! And it’s the future, which is always better. We are sold on the fact that robots are better than people, perhaps even for sex. Those pot bellied umpires don’t need the work. In San Francisco, New York, all major and minor cities, the neighborhoods of old are being replaced by towering buildings with impressive views of other towering buildings. Inside some of those tall structures, the rich will bed down with other rich folks and they will have robots repairing their driverless cars, robots shopping for their bland food, and robots setting up their electronic viewing rooms. They can choose to watch Korean television if they like and watch Kim Jong-un, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, tell his victorious people that they no longer need to fear a nuclear strike from the United States. Or they can choose to watch the latest version of MLB, as long as it isn’t on Facebook Watch.

Can a robot throw Bruce Bochy or Don Mattingly out of a game? Sure!  “Mr. Boatchee, please step on the moving gray line and remove  your shoes. You may spit”

No reason to stop with the umps. Players are antagonistic, temperamental, and prone to injury. Our new wave of fans by and large prefer video games anyway. Why shell out millions of dollars to schlubs like Mike Trout, Max Scherzer, or Bryce Harper when a new VGX1157R will work for years with just a few battery charges and still produce 32 degree launch angles at exit velocities of 101 mph ? I can dig it.

 

 

Some Pleasant Surprises

It’s the middle of June and the baseball season is rushing by faster than the president’s lawyers can make up stories. It’s a weird biological thing the way a year seems like forever when you’re ten years old and a month  seems like a minute when you’ve got a few decades in the books. Let us pause, then, before Labor Day is suddenly upon us, and take a look at some of the pleasant surprises going on around the major leagues, both with individual players and with teams.

The Milwaukee Brewers placed Scooter Gennett on waivers in the spring of 2017 even though he was a serviceable infielder  who was 27 years old and had batted .279 for them with 35 home runs and 160 runs batted in over four seasons of play after they had drafted him in 2009. Now he is one of the few stars in the Cincinnati Reds dugout, having upped his offensive out put considerably. In a season and a half with the Reds, Gennett has hit .311 with 39 homers and 114 RBI.  The Reds have a hitter friendly home field , but Milwaukee is pretty friendly as well. So I don’t know if the Reds are truly surprised or not, but it certainly has been pleasant so far for them.

 

Gorkys  Hernandez is 30 years old and seemed to be nearing the end of the line with his baseball career in 2017 as part of the musical chairs outfield routine that the San Francisco Giants were staging during their dismal 98 loss season. This spring, the odds were against Hernandez even making the roster. Andrew McCutchen had come aboard, Hunter Pence had a big contract that  meant that he would probably hang on despite his decline in production, Gregor Blanco was back, and some youngsters from the minors were going to be given every chance to bring the Giants what they needed, which was some power hitting. Hernandez is a pretty good if not great outfielder with good speed but , as in previous trials with Detroit, Miami, Kansas City , Pittsburgh and Miami, the bat was not an asset. He had a good enough second half last year to finish at .255, but with no home runs in 348 plate appearances. Somehow, due in part to injuries to other players, Hernandez has suddenly blossomed as a power threat and established himself as the regular center fielder for the Giants. He is currently batting .285 with seven home runs, which makes him a slugger by San Francisco standards.

The Los Angeles Dodgers did not appear to have room for one time all star Matt Kemp this season but they got him back in a trade with Atlanta that seemed to have more to do with salary dumping  and other contract issues that only an MBA could understand. Kemp is now 33 years old, but he had seemed to be in decline in recent seasons  due mostly to injuries. Kemp was simply brilliant in 2011 when, playing for the Dodgers, he batted .324 with 39 home runs, 115 runs, 40 stolen bases, and 126 RBI. Plus, he possessed a very strong throwing arm, could play any outfield position, and was a fierce competitor. Injuries took their toll after that and in 2014 he had what then appeared to be his last full season in Los Angeles, batting .265 with 25 homers and 89 RBI. They gave up on him ever returning to glory and shipped him to the San Diego Padres. Kemp did pretty well for the Padres but they changed their minds about what direction they were taking, as the general managers say. and in 2016 he was traded to Atlanta. In 56 games there after 100 with LA, he totaled 35 homers and 108 RBI. Last year, he helped the young Braves roster develop and contributed a .276 average with 19 homers in 115 games. So here he is back in southern California kicking ass. As of today he is hitting .338 with 10 homers and 41 driven in after 63 games played. The Dodgers, with all of their troubles, have to be happy.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise has been Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford.          As noted, the Giants had a miserable season in 2017 and it was especially difficult  for Crawford, who endured a sudden and unexpected death in his family. He has always been a brilliant defensive shortstop and , over the years, developed into a solid hitter as well. His numbers were not terrible in 2017 but they fell off somewhat as the Giants fell into disarray. Now he is playing like the MVP of the National League. In April, he floundered with a .189 batting average with 3 runs batted in.In May and June, so far he is ripping it at a .439 pace that has brought his numbers overall to .338 with 8 homers, 30 RBI, and absolutely filthy defensive work. He, and the Giants, are quite happy at the moment.

The nominees for pleasant surprises as teams are Seattle, San Diego, Atlanta, and Detroit. Detroit? Well, the Tigers came out of spring training looking like a AAA team and then Miguel Cabrera got hurt. Ouch! Here they are, though, in second place with a 31-36 record and now the big guy is back. San Diego is in the same boat. We tabbed the Padres as the only sure non contender in the National League West, but they too are 31-36 after a thoroughly miserable start and they are in the fight, at least for now.  As for the Braves, they are tied for first in the N.L. East. That might  be due to all of the injuries suffered by the Washington Nationals early on in the season but, at the same time, the young Braves have been good and are having fun. That’s the idea, right? Just ask the Astros. Also, Astros, what the hell is up with the Mariners? Just when we all decided that they were no longer contenders BOOM! It’s a great game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Has Joe DiMaggio Gone?

My fellow Americans, seldom in the history of this great nation of ours has so much excitement, so much preparation, so much energy been brought forth and, especially, so much media hype been wasted on the damned  major league draft. How must Rick Monday feel today? Wasn’t he the first guy drafted back in 1965, when Volkswagens were cool and we all thought war was temporary?  I mean, it’s crazy enough that the NFL and the NBA televise their drafts with all of the speculation and expert analysis and heart rending interviews, but now baseball too? And as we have seen with The Apprentice, Dancing With the Stars, and countless other time wasters, if you put it out there, people will watch. Here is what no one connected with the “show” will say: most of these players are never going to make it to the big leagues. Also, remember when it was more fun to watch a ballgame than to watch people sign contracts? Okay, I’ll change out of my cranky pants and move on.

 

Last Saturday, the Chicago Cubs beat the New York Mets, 7-1, in 14 innings. The interesting fact sheepishly told by the AP account was that the Cubs accomplished this victory despite striking out 24 times. I checked the boxscore. Yep. And go to hell, spellcheck, boxscore is a word. Break it up when you write something interesting. There was another 14 inning game that night. The Nationals beat the Braves, 5-3.  In this game, Washington lead off batter Trea Turner struck out five times while going 0-for-7. Before this, Turner had impressed me as a bona fide top of the lineup guy. Wow! It just so happens, however, that I had caught a game on Fox that Tom Verducci was working earlier that same day. Therefore, I now have come to realize that this is, as he said, Today’s Game. Along with defensive shifting, 13 pitchers per roster, and $12 beers,  we all should stop being curmudgeonly and accept that, in Today’s Game,  this is what comes with getting what we really want, which are home runs. Okay, Mr. Verducci, I am with you. Please, though, give us crotchety old folks some slack. It’s just that, when we were growing up, striking out was bad. Whiffing was not cool and led to jeering, not cheering. One of the major steps forward in life for me , after learning to walk, was putting the bat on the ball and making it go somewhere. My baseball playing days were not that long and, by high school, the best I could do was play slow pitch softball, teenagers playing an old man’s game but having fun. Striking out was really not cool there.

 

I played in the C.Y.O. league on the St. Joseph the Worker team. We had a guy named Danny McCart who was big and slow but could hit the ball a mile. Sort of a Hank Sauer or Gus Zernial type, although he probably fielded better than those two. So he was our big power guy. There was a problem, though. The field where almost all of our games were played had no outfield fence or any fence at all, unless you count the backstop. Consequently, most of Danny’s majestic, long, arcing drives were caught by outfielders for outs. I was envious of his power, but I soon figured out that line drives that make infielders knees buckle were more effective. So this has stayed with me.

 

Something else has stayed with me during this lust for long balls era. Joe Di Maggio struck out 369 times in 13 seasons while hitting 361 home runs as a right handed batter playing his home games at Yankees Stadium. Ted Williams struck out 709 times in 19 seasons while thumping 521 homers. I guess they set a bad example, but guess what? Even players who were not All Stars or Hall of Fame candidates had similar ratios. Verducci pointed out something that should have been obvious to me by now but wasn’t. He said that the average pitcher in Today’s Game is striking out batters at the same rate that the legendary Sandy Koufax did. So I’m trying to go along with you, Tom, but in my dreams there are starting pitchers hurling 16 inning shutouts with about five strikeouts.

This Just In (RNA)

regurgitation news agency

Trading markets around the world reacted in shock and anger to the agreement among leading world powers to ban both the import and export of bullshit.  Unnamed sources in China almost came out and said that the communist nation is one of the signers of the purported agreement.

 

Standard and Poor’s 1500 gainers showed media stock plunging while a source with the U.S. Treasury Department, speaking on condition of anonymity since no one has decided who to blame, termed the deal “…exceptionally risky…”

U.S. President Donald Tweety claimed that hoarders are only hurting the cause and warned that they will be punished.  “No matter how much you have, someone can always make more..”, he added.

In Canada, no one did a thing.  Sarah Palin addressed a supermarket parking lot full of  disgruntled manure salesmen in Akron, Ohio but was shouted down by Roseanne Barr, who had flown in from Miami to address a convention of near beer devotees.

In Stockholm, Sweden, people got drunk.  Everyone at FOX News had a corn dog.

Across the Atlantic, the Queen had a good day without relieving herself for the second week in a row. The French, largely exporters, said that they had been asked to sign the agreement but, instead, said up yours.  Italy, insulted by being ignored in negotiations, had no comment. Latvia farted.

Tails You Lose

We interrupt this important message about Robinson Cano and how the limousine riding him to Cooperstown just blew a couple of tires for an important message to all of you youngsters out there playing ball: DON’T SLIDE HEAD FIRST,ESPECIALLY INTO FIRST BASE. Thank you. Yeah, I know about Rickey Henderson, the all time best base runner.Henderson had a titanium rib cage, however, and instincts that mere mortals lack. My feeling has always been that I would much rather step on the fielder’s toes at first than have him step on mine. Spikes hurt. Also, you don’t get there any faster. On the rest of the bases, again, feet versus hands. Now go work on your launch angle so that you never have to slide at all.

Last week the Supreme Court, which has lost a lot of prestige ever since Diana Ross retired, ruled that it is okay now for states to regulate and tax sports betting. A full century after the Black Sox scandal that helped an inferior Cincinnati team to win the World Series, the filthy pukes that make large sums of money from hapless working stiffs who are desperate to make a quick buck are now legitimized all over this great land of ours. Hold on, you say. It was hypocritical, you say, to ban gambling because everybody does it anyway. Well, not everyone. Some people have brains. Well, come on, Mr. Holier Than Yins, I guess you never joined the office pool during March Madness. There is a large difference between small friendly wagers and what we are experiencing with nationwide betting, sanctioned or not. It all started when states began replacing actual taxes with lotteries, where millions of suckers occasionally help one lucky fool get rich. It’s not really a gamble, folks. The house always wins. And many people have had their lives ruined by addiction to gambling, just like with booze, tobacco, and other drugs. As with most of the clothing worn at a royal wedding, it ain’t pretty underneath.

What was so bad about what happened in 1919? Why did Pete Rose get banned for life? Tightwad Charles Comiskey paid his Chicago White Sox players so poorly that some of them, notably Ed Cicotte, Lefty Williams, and maybe Joe Jackson, made a deal with gambling pros to throw the Series in exchange for some of those dollars Comiskey didn’t want to pay. Therefore, all of the players not involved, all baseball fans, and everyone involved in professional baseball took a severe stomach punch. That’s how the modern game of long ball got its start, but that’s another story. If the ticket buyer can’t have faith that it’s a legitimate contest, why participate? There are always exceptions, as with the severely brain challenged folks who enjoy Donald Trump’s wrestling bouts.

So I take it as yet another sign that the tired old empire is in decline. No one cares where your money comes from, but if you want to borrow some, take off all your clothes and fill out this 18 page form.

Can’t Get My Fix

I admit it, I’m very lucky. For one thing, I was born in the United States, where everyone can have bananas even though none are grown here. Those Guatemalans are pretty nice folks, and so are all of the many others who do things just for us. And there is so much leisure time! Even if I can’t afford to travel very much or to go to see a Broadway musical about cats or slavery, there is always television, where I can sit and watch uplifting shows about criminal investigations or hysterical situation comedies with people of almost every ethnicity who never seem to have money problems and stuff. Plus television brings us live sports, like major league baseball, and it’s all free as long as I pay the cable bill and the electric company and am willing to watch commercials about cars and beer and insurance and the right poisons to buy for my lawn so that I never have to put up with weeds and things.

Except for today, when the Giants were playing in Philadelphia and the game was “free” on Facebook. Am I not smart and with it enough to have joined Facebook? Yes, I’m there. What do you think, I’m not hip? Data collection companies do us all a great service, providing the means to see what people we don’t even know had for lunch. It was a bit unnerving to realize that having a day off and paid for cable service wasn’t going to be enough for me to enjoy watching Ty Blach, Brandon Belt, Pablo Sandoval and company go down to their fourth consecutive defeat at the hands of Odubel Herrera, Carlos Santana, and the rest of the new improved Phillies. The Giants have caught on to the trendiness of not worrying about strikeouts very well, but they still have some catching up to do with the hitting home runs that is supposed to go with it, and I wanted to witness another day of double figure fanning because that’s even more exciting than reruns of The Big Bang Theory.

So I brought up Facebook on my computer. Now, admittedly, my setup is not what they call state of the art, which never refers to sculpture. My machine is more than two years old, the operating system is older than that, and my provider is hundreds if not thousands of miles away. So it’s probably the equivalent, all things considered, of a 1948 Hudson. That was a pretty good automobile in its day but modern electronic equipment has a life expectancy more in line with a cold mosquito. Nevertheless, my team of legal experts and I agree that, if you are going to squeeze all competition off the map and be the only possible option a person has to obtain a product, you have an obligation to actually provide that product for all of those who have been denied any other option, especially if they didn’t previously require your venue. Boy, are we suckers!

First off, I had to search on Faceschnook before a button was found to click on to get this “free TV”. By the time I received a picture the Giants had a 1-0 lead. There was no sound, even though Duane Kuiper promised me yesterday that he would be there. No sound, and the “picture” reminded me of the early days of consumer television, when brave adults were risking falling off their rooftops while “adjusting” the antenna. It was choppy at best. Oh,but there was something working quite well. To the right of the “action” was a column containing lame comments from viewers all over the world. Great! Then it quit streaming altogether. After 18 minutes of being as patient as I could be, I gave up. Maybe Suckenburger will make another cynical apology. Maybe he can kiss my ass.

MY ACHING ELBOW!

Back when I was studying Anthropology, which was just before museums were discovered, the instructor asked that any of us in the class who had ever had surgery please raise a hand. Despite the fact that most of us were either in our twenties or younger, about a third of us raised a hand. He then gave us, or at least me, a shock. Back in the prehistoric time that we were studying, he said, that would mean that we were dead. Left behind for the good of the many, and perhaps a predator, our time would be over.

These times are anything but prehistoric, unless you live in a place like Albania or Nevada. Even though we may often seriously desire to leave some people behind, we don’t do that now, at least not officially. We just say that they can’t afford health care, most likely because they were stupid enough to be born poor. Nowadays, professional athletes and their employers can most definitely afford health care, the best that money can buy.By the looks of major league baseball rosters, it appears that they are getting a lot of it. Is it doing much good? Good question. Baseball Anarchy, in its never ending desire to get to the bottom of things, perused the rosters of the 1200 or so players in the National and American Leagues and came up with some interesting if disturbing numbers.

On May 3’2018, there were 172 injuries listed among the thirty teams. The injuries were serious enough that players were placed on either the  ten or sixty day disabled list in 157 instances. There were many famous names on those lists, such as Troy Tulowitzki, Adam Wainwright, Yasiel Puig, and Madison Bumgarner. Some of the injuries were what we could call workplace accidents, such as Bumgarner getting a broken finger from a ball drilled back to the box that he instinctively stopped with his hand or Puig  sliding into Joe Panik at second base resulting in thumb surgery for Panik. Somewhat startling, however, is the fact that the vast majority of the injuries  appear to have resulted from simple wear and tear, Lots of sprained this and strained that. Now, one would expect those hurts in a weekend slow pitch softball league, which was where yours truly discovered what a hamstring was, as well as lower back strains.The big leagues, however, are full time for prime specimens.

Are these training issues? Should more time be spent on the yoga mat and less time be spent in the weight room? Are nachos, pizza, and beer still the favored diet of ballplayers even after they become millionaires? Do players really truly believe that Gatorade is superior to clean water? One thing that changed for the better in sports is that the investment in players and the corresponding requirement for bottom line efficiency means that more concern for the welfare of those investments, I mean players, exists, both on the part of management and on the part of the players themselves. Back in the day, pitchers disappeared because they had “sore arms”..Players retired at 31 or 32 because they didn’t want to go through it all anymore for maybe fifteen to twenty five thousand dollars a year.

Now that half of the rosters consist of pitchers, I suppose that it is not surprising that 110 of the 172 players injured that day were pitchers. That’s 64 per cent for those of you who need calculators. Maybe it should not be, but it is surprising as well that 27 of the 172 injured have had or are expecting to have what is called Tommy John surgery. My snide joke used to be that, if you want your young child to be assured a good income for life, teach him or her to pitch left handed. Now I will amend that to advise teaching them to perform surgery on the various body parts that are ravaged by throwing breaking balls. It’s become a real problem for teams like the Giants, whose starting rotation now consists of Who, What , When, Where, and Why.

The Texas Rangers lead the majors with 11 injured players, all on the disabled lists. That includes three fourths of their infield plus our old friend Tim Lincecum, who is on the 60 day list with blisters. The Washington Nationals are next with ten, including half of their infield. The Giants and Yankees are tied for third with nine each, and then come the Dodgers and Mets with eight each. So wealth can’t buy you health, but it can help out with your depth.

Now that gambling has become so mainstream, perhaps there will be a new way to do that too. Let’s set the over/under line on roster moves.