Archive for May, 2012

Originally posted on The Sports Fan Journal, May 30th.

 

It’s storm season, and a familiar forecast is on the horizon. Barry Bonds is looking for a way back into baseball. Now stop for a second and think about that: how oddly correct it is…because he never really was officially kicked out. But in all truth, the all-time home run king was all but thrown out the Major Leagues with a style that only Uncle Phil and Jazz could really appreciate. Since the end of 2007 when he became an unceremoniously unoffered free agent, despite coming off a season that was still far from the norm of an average ballplayer, there’s always been an air of excommunication around Bonds and the MLB.

Now he’s looking to rebuild the bridge that was broken apart while he was standing on it. With the meat of his legal trials for obstruction of justice behind him, he’s looking to repair his place in baseball; a place that is one of the most enigmatic of any ever established in sports, overall.

Barry’s back…and business has picked up right where it left off around him. Will he finally step out of the game’s shadows though?

It is truly an amazingly complicated scenario. Despite never being charged with violating the policy, Bonds sits at the head of the “guilty by public opinion” table of steroids violators from the last decade of baseball. This is an era that has had ramifications of the past, present and immediate future. Perhaps more than anybody else, Bonds has been the most hotly pursued of all, because he was the game’s ultimate villain, and has kept the role long after he took his elbow armor off for the last time. Not since Ty Cobb nearly 100 years before him had a player been so seemingly universally loathed, yet undeniably dominant. Despite always being one of the best players in the game since first arriving, he went on a tear like no other player in history, and took the record book by its throat. While many other alleged, and revealed, performance enhancement users fell by the wayside over time, Bonds pushed on higher and higher.

 

For more on what’s in store for Bonds, and baseball’s moral future, check out the rest of this piece at The Sports Fan Journal here: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/the-possible-return-of-barry-bonds/

Originally posted May 18th at The Sports Fan Journal

 

What’s in place in LA is impressive, but what’s to come should be mind-blowing.

Now that the ink is dry on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ purchase, it really has set in that it’s a brand new day for one of baseball’s most iconic franchises. It feels like it’s been years since Manny Ramirez’s arrival supercharged baseball in Dodger Stadium and made it a focal point for the first time since the Hideo Nomo/Mike Piazza days. But it’s been a long time since there was some legit, annual winning baseball for them. In recent years, there have been some mediocre times in a tough division, which was finally capped by the financial freeze brought on by the ugly divorce of ex-owner Frank McCourt.

But the circus was run out of town when the team was sold off to two very uniquely successful figures, in two very different ways. When Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten headed up the group that paid an all-sports record of $2 billion to get the rights to the Dodgers in March, it shined a light on a dim area around a team that really should never be too far away from the spotlight. Magic’s Midas touch in life is undeniable; from reviving and raising the Lakers to a new standard on the court, to becoming one of the most enterprising businessmen in the LA area. Kasten is the architect of the 1990’s Atlanta Braves dynasty and set in motion the transition of the Montreal Expos into the Washington Nationals, which is now beginning to bloom in his leave. All things considered, could you really pick two better guys to rebuild a franchise reeling out of control?

However, idealism only goes so far, and the actual work of putting together not only a perennially competitive Dodger club is going to take some real focus….

 

For the rest of this piece, including not only how aggressive the new regime could be in free agency, but how many different ways it will go about it, head over to The Sports Fan Journal here: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/los-angeles-dodgers-2-billion-plan-magic-and-stan/

 

And for more from me and my no-takes, full takes and take offs, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

 

The St. Louis Cardinals are all about legacy. It’s impossible to go to and not be reminded of the long line of Cardinal greats that have defined the organization over its 121 year history. From the mini statues outside, to the retired numbers below the scoreboard, to the video clips of the history of the team that play throughout the game, all the way BACK outside to the biggest statue of them all, Stan Musial, which greets fan approaching each of the last two incarnations of .

With the retirement of Tony LaRussa’s #10 last Friday night, the legacy of Cardinal greats gained a new immortal. He joined Rogers Hornsby (no number), Ozzie Smith (1), (2), Musial (6), Enos Slaughter (9), Ken Boyer (14), Dizzy Dean (17), (20), (24), (42), (45) and former owner Gussie Busch (85). In addition to those, a microphone was appropriately retired for late broadcaster . It is a truly elite class of figures in not only the organization’s history, but history of the game.

LaRussa deserving had his #10 retired, however there are a few other omissions that need placement in Busch as well.

 However, the working policy of late has been to only retire numbers of figures that are entering the Hall of Fame. While this is a great policy that truly makes the selections that are forever immortalized as the class of all Cardinals secure, it overlooks a major part of what makes the organization what it is: a ton of great, great players. These are the guys that, when looking back on an era, can’t help but mentioned as often as their Hall of Fame teammates. And the Cardinals are a with more of those guys than nearly any other .

Along with the long line of era defining non-HOFers, there is a curious string of long-enshrined members of Cooperstown that are still missing from the ranks of retired Cardinal figures. What gives there? If there’s going to be a rule, it needs to apply overall. Service time be what it is, there’s some clearly defined Cardinal greats that are missing. There are also eras of legendary guys that are backlogged because of it.

So who are the some of the most obvious on lookers that aren’t fully acknowledged for their fantastic individual contributions to Cardinal history? Here’s a few of the primary candidates, along with why they should be mentioned, as well as why they aren’t still.

(Cardinal years in parentheses)

Mike Shannon-Third Baseman/Announcer: (#18, 1962-Present): Shannon was a member of some of the greatest teams in the franchise’s history in the 60’s, but his greatest contributions came after the field was behind him. Along with Buck, he formed one of the best commentary combinations in the history of the game, and has followed in the legendary footsteps ahead of him very well, providing many memorable calls of his own as well now. This is probably a foregone conclusion at this point, but it would be good to get done while he is still contributing to the team.

 

For more candidates that should be acknowledged along the walls and halls of Busch Stadium, as well as two eras of the team that have definite all-time greats that may never be properly honored, head over to St. Louis Sports 360 here: http://stlouissports360.com/tonys-10-retired-cardinals-numbers-active/

 

Also for more on the Cardinals of the present and their road to try to add more decorations above Busch, follow me on Twitter @CheapSeatFan.

Originally published at The Sports Fan Journal, May 8.

This has been a season of surprises thus far across Major League Baseball. The Nationals are dominating the NL East. The Pujols-less St. Louis Cardinals haven’t skipped a beat…while the Pujols-plus Los Angeles Angels can skip a beat(ing). There’s a lot that’s different in an unpredictable way, yet still enough has stayed the same: Matt Kemp and Josh Hamilton are doing work.

In the spirit of the election year it is, let’s get into the spirit of it all: who would you rather have leading your club? To truly figure this out, have a look at these two candidates that have stepped apart from the pack thus far. Both are do-it-all, Gold Glove, in their prime, leaders of five of the six Triple Crown categories in baseball this year. And both have their teams with the best record in each of their leagues while embarking on their respective tears. So they aren’t just eating at tables by themselves; it’s rubbed off on everyone in the same fitted as them as well.

Entire games won’t suffice; it’s nearly a moment to moment battle between Hamilton and Kemp for superiority this year.

So, the question begs: who would you cast your vote for as cream of the crop this year? There’s little that one does that the other doesn’t, and in regards to what can be done on the diamond, that’s basically pitching and throwing t-shirts into the stands. But if we’ve got to choose…here’s what’s on the table:

For the rest of this piece, including a world more on every subject around the sporting world, head over to The Sports Fan Journal here: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/the-case-for-matt-kemp-vs-josh-hamilton/

And for more from me on far more battles around the diamond, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Exit the Sandman….

Posted: May 4, 2012 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
Tags: , ,

Everybody wants the hero the ride off into the proverbial sunset on top. It’s what we are conditioned to expect. So when the story deviates from that path, it’s upsetting; we feel cheated like the story we defaulted to expect was stolen from us. That’s the case of what apparently is happening with Mariano Rivera. And it sucks, royally.

See, this isn’t how this was supposed to go. It was hard enough to accept the fact that he was leaning heavily towards leaving on his own terms already. Mostly, it’s been difficult because there really is no evident point that he should quit. He is just as dominant today as he was when he first showed up, as astonishingly good 8th inning guy in front of John Wetteland. Then, in year two, he ascended to the throne and rebuilt the crown, not only becoming an elite closer, but setting the absolute standard for the position forever. Now, there are folks that are “The Mo Rivera of _______”; that type of amazing.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to end for the master of all, well…., baseball endings.

He has stayed at the top of the game so long for his remarkable resistance to injury. So to see him fall due to one just doesn’t seem right. For me, it feels far worse than the “cheating” that the steroid era guys did even. Mostly because nobody has done it more pure than Rivera has. He’s a throwback that’s ahead of his time as well. He’s throws at a low speed in high speed times. He thrives with one pitch in a time where the average arsenal has expanded to at least four. He’s one of the last of those that will ever wear number 42 on any jersey outside Jackie Robinson day. And most importantly, every time closed out a ninth inning, at any part of the season, he set a new all-time record for the future.

But what’s to come of that now? A torn ACL, in batting practice in the American League no less, has taken out the greatest pitcher of his era. That’s not a hero’s death, that’s not how he goes out. He’s supposed to walk off the mound in Yankee Stadium in October after getting his cyborg on one more time and making an impossible escape look like Kindergarten level work. He should be carried off the field on teammate’s shoulders, like when he set the all-time saves mark he was born to own, instead of hurried off in their arms holding his leg.

That’s life however. The day had to come, and it shall be what it is. You always have to remember the greats for what they did over what they do eventually. That’s what makes them great, that unforgettable air they leave behind. So if save 608 was the last time we see that mythical cutter live, so be it. The Legend will loom much larger than the shadow of its last day. It’s just a shame that last day had to run up on us all like it did.

 

For more on the plight of the Sandman and where the Yanks go from here, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

The Return of 4Eva…featuring Derek Jeter

Posted: May 2, 2012 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
Tags: ,

Derek Jeter’s got to slow up one day….right?

Quite often, we get really big into memories and appreciating folks when they say it’s over. Quite often, that means we’ve somehow forgot who they are, or more importantly, what they were. In the Bronx, Derek Jeter has decided that path doesn’t work for him; we are going to remember him NOW for what he’s still doing. And somehow, at 37, he’s playing like its 10 years ago still every night.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, because really, he’s never left. His 3,000th hit showed the consistency that’s been there since day one. That steadfast level of greatness is really what defines him, not the rings, nor the big moments that get put on replay regularly. Without it, none of those moments happen.

But at this point, it’s a victory lap he’s on…and he’s taking his time. There’s nothing more for him to do that will take him to any higher level of greatness, so he’s just decided to act like declines don’t exist. He caught a lot of flak for putting the proverbial gun to the Yankees’ neck a few winters ago, and demanding a deal that was suitable for who he is. Folks at the that time said, he was getting paid “Just to be Derek Jeter”, like he’d been dipped in bronze and placed in Monument Park already, instead of actually still getting dirty on the infield. It was all rather insulting to watch go on to a man that’s not only cemented himself as the greatest shortstop of his generation, but also a legit claim at all-time.

DJ is sonning the rest of the shortstops that are young enough to be his sons nearly, leading the AL in average at 37.

Instead of wasting away, in year two of that new deal, he’s come back with the type of vengeance that would make Bruce Wayne nod in approval. Every time he takes a swing it’s like ‘Forgot About Dre’ is beating through the sole earpiece in his helmet, and he’s eating up every word of it. So far in 2012, he’s outplaying every shortstop in the game, many of whom were still sitting in booster seats when he started his run in the Bronx in 1995. Today, he’s sporting a .383 average and leading the Major Leagues in hits. At THIRTY-SEVEN.

This late career maintaining he’s doing has him ready to get pretty high up the mountain of the baseball gods; and for a change, as an individual. The ultimate team player, if he averages only a 150 hits per year for the rest of his current contract, he’ll sit at just over 3,500 for his career. That places him in some pretty good name dropping company, just behind Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron and Stan Musial. What’s more? Those 150 hits would be 59 less than he’s averaged per summer over the last 17 years, so generously estimating, let’s go ahead and say he’ll hit that mark easy. If he stays at his average pace, he lands at fourth all-time.

It just goes to prove, everybody’s gears don’t grind to close. And you can appreciate excellence while it is still going on. The way The Captain’s going, there should be a good amount of time to come for any ceremonial love. Right now, he’s got work to do. Catch up youngins.

 

For more on the day to day wonderings of my mind from foulpole to foulpole, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.