MLB Items July 2020

While I miss baseball and glad it’s soon to be back, this season is a farce. Sixty games instead of 162? And they’re going to call the team that wins it all the WORLD CHAMPS?Obviously, the fewer the games played (and with so many teams allowed to play in the postseason), the chances of the very best team winning the title are greatly reduced. Plus, all teams are not competing on a level field–some clubs, due to players choosing to sit this one out, are at a disadvantage already. And, sure, injuries are part of the game, but some teams are bound to be just plain lucky and experience little loss of key players due to the virus. The beauty of baseball is that over a long haul, the better teams rise to the top. That’s why I liked it better when only the VERY best from the N.L. and the A.L. got to advance, but those days are gone.

I hate the concept of wild card teams, but realize that money talks. Still, I can’t help being very old school on some baseball matters. That’s why I was so upset when a commissioner (Bud Selig) who brought in so many changes to the game which went against purist values still insisted he was a traditionalist. My argument was this: you can’t have it both ways–you can be a traditionalist and keep the game basically the way it’s been for decades, OR you can bring in changes, but then realize that you can no longer claim to be a traditionalist.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying baseball should never change– that players should still wear heavy wool or flannel uniforms and toss their gloves onto the field at the end of each half inning. Some change is certainly good and inevitable, but DRASTIC change such as bringing in more and more wild card teams dilutes the value of the World Series all too often.

Quiz (answer at end of this blog): Which of the following men has the a) best and the b) worst lifetime winning percentage (each one managed 25+ seasons and Connie Mack managed for 53 total seasons):  Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, Casey Stengel, and Mack.

I read a book recently that had some nice things to say about the Griffeys. It also related a story about how Junior used to always get his dad Old Spice for Father’s Day. Senior didn’t have the heart to tell his son he didn’t even like that cologne. And, if I recall what I read, one day when Junior was grown up, he came across a stash of a whole lot of unused bottles of Old Spice. When Junior became a father himself, Senior teased him by instructing Junior’s kids to make sure to buy their dad Old Spice each Father’s Day!

One thing about the book that bothered me, though, was the author’s stating that Senior could have a quick temper. Now, unless he was referring to getting upset with Junior when he was young and messed up (or some such thing), I think the writer got this all wrong. From 7th grade through our senior year, I (and a few friends I asked about this issue) never recall him losing his temper. He was easy going, pleasant, very mild mannered. I never saw him lose his temper on an athletic field or in the hallways of Donora High School. Watching him play in the majors in person and on TV, I never saw him even squawk at a bad call, and I sure can’t recall him getting ejected from a game–maybe he did, but, again, my impression of him to this day–and I’ve spoken with him quite a few times after our high school days (for example, a chapter of my book Fathers, Sons, and Baseball is devoted to the Griffey family)–is that he is very, very even tempered. He often returns to his hometown and is very generous with his time, never forgetting his old friends and classmates. By the way, the same was true of mild-mannered Stan Musial, so maybe it’s something in the Donora air or water, as one writer once joked.

Quiz Answers: The best WL% of the managers listed belongs to Bobby Cox at .556. Torre and La Russa follow with .538 and .536 respectively. Stengel, who managed some poor teams before he was hired by the Yankees, then managed the hapless Mets, had a WL% of just a bit over .500 at .508. However, the lowest WL% here is Mack’s .486. He had five seasons in which he won 100+ games and he won nine pennants and five W. Series titles, but he also suffered through TEN seasons with 100+ defeats. He had great job security, though, as he was one of the owners of the Philadelphia Athletics.

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