I’m curious as to what MillersTime baseball fans reactions are to this year’s 60-game season. Are you watching any of the games? What are your observations? What do you like and dislike?
Also, Joe Posnanski, who as you may know is one of my favorite baseball writers, has a column this morning that argues against continuing the expanded playoff system beyond this year: See: Joe Posnanski in The Athletic. What do you think?
Use the Comment section of this post to let me and others know your thoughts.
“The goal here is simple: We want you to take a moment and tip your cap to the Negro Leagues. We want you to take a moment to commemorate those baseball players who were denied even the hope of playing in the Major Leagues. They played baseball anyway, played it joyously and with breathtaking skill, played it because they loved the game and wanted to show their talents and because they refused to be defined by the segregation that marked baseball and America.
“Normally, for a campaign like this, you make the case and then ask for action.
“But I am asking for action first because you can feel the power of this moment. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues. And in celebration, we want you to take a photo or a short video of you tipping your cap to the Negro Leagues — it can be any cap at all — and add a few words and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We want you to join an extraordinary group of people who have already sent in their photos and videos and thoughts — we are officially launching the campaign this week at tippingyourcap.com and I think you will be a little bit blown away by some of the people you see joining us in this celebration.
“And then we hope you will tip your cap, challenge your friends and family to tip theirs, send us your photos and videos, post them on your social media platforms, and also consider donating some money to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.
“One hundred years ago, in 1920, a group of men met at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City — right around the corner from where the museum now stands — and created a league for African Americans and dark-skinned Latin players who did not have a league. This centennial year was going to be a very special year for the Negro Leagues. Major League Baseball and the Players Association donated $1 million to the museum and announced what was supposed to be a yearlong celebration, including a day when every MLB player would tip his cap to the Negro Leagues players who helped baseball become a true national pastime.
“Obviously, the global pandemic shattered those plans.
“But it hasn’t stopped the goal. As Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Museum, says, those Negro Leagues players didn’t spend time feeling sorry for themselves. They played ball, even when denied a place to sleep, even when restaurants turned them away, even when they were told they couldn’t use a gas station bathroom. They played doubleheaders, tripleheaders, sometimes even quadrupleheaders.
“They played in big towns and small ones, they played in big league stadiums and on rock-strewn fields, they played in front of enormous crowds of people dressed in their church clothes and in front of sparse crowds of people who came to root against them. They played under makeshift lights that sounded like lawnmowers eating up sticks and they played exhibitions against Major League players, who mostly came to understand just how good they were.
“And so, as a tribute to their spirit, we have created this campaign. We hope you will be a part of it. Take a photo or video. Send it in. Encourage your friends. Visit the website. Donate if you can.
“Now, we can talk about why the story of the Negro Leagues matters now more than ever.
“More than a dozen years ago, I wrote a book called “The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America.” In it, I traveled around the country with Buck, who played and managed in the Negro Leagues and who dedicated his life to keeping the memory of those players alive.
“We were good!” Buck used to say, and it always warmed my heart that
by the end of his life people believed him. That wasn’t always true.
When Buck first started telling the story, back in the 1960s and ’70s
and ’80s and into the ’90s, people would shrug when he talked about how
good those Negro Leagues players were. They would roll their eyes. He
used to say that in those days more people would tell him how it was, an astonishing thing if you think about it.
“I would tell them, ‘That’s not true, I was there,’” Buck said. “But they wouldn’t listen.”
“When Buck and a few others started the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, it was a one-room office in a nondescript Kansas City office building. There were no visitors … there was nothing to see. The few archives were locked in filing cabinets. It was more an idea than a place, more a dream than a reality. Buck and the other co-founders used to take turns paying the monthly rent.
“Their goals were modest: They wanted only to share the story of these great players who were never given the opportunity to display their talents. It was such a rarely told story at the time. When I was writing “The Soul of Baseball,” I came across a story about a dark-skinned Cuban player named Luis Bustamante, who played in the early 1900s. Even now you can find almost nothing about him, even though John McGraw reportedly once called him “the perfect shortstop.” Bustamante was apparentlly an alcoholic, and he died young … it’s unclear how he died.
“According to one story I read, he died by suicide and left behind a note that said, simply: “They won’t let us prove.”
“Those five words are so haunting — and so important. For years, even after the Negro Leagues stopped, Buck found that people still refused to believe just how great so many of those players were. It’s hard to understand how anyone could miss the obvious. In the dozen or so years after Robinson broke through, an extraordinary collection of dark-skinned players played in the Major Leagues — Doby, Campanella, Paige, Irvin, Mays, Minnie Miñoso, Aaron, Banks, Roberto Clemente, Frank Robinson, Bob Gibson, Willie McCovey. These are not just great players, they are, for the most part, inner-circle Hall of Famers, some of the greatest players in the history of the game.
“Every one of them would have spent their career in the Negro Leagues had they been born a few years earlier.
“So what does that say about the great players who were born a few years earlier? Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Turkey Stearnes, Ray Brown, Mule Suttles, Martín Dihigo, Ray Dandridge, Willie Wells, Buck Leonard, Biz Mackey, Newt Allen, Hilton Smith, Sam Bankhead, on and on and on.
“Buck found himself telling the story again and again to impassive faces. He kept meeting baseball fans who simply could not accept that these players who were denied their chance could have been the equals of the legendary major-league players fans had grown up believing in. Buck kept meeting people who had their own impressions of the Negro Leagues as a ragtag collection of semipro players who mostly clowned around and found them unwilling to take the players or Black baseball seriously.
“Negro Leagues baseball was probably the third-largest Black-owned
business in the country,” he used to tell people, and he would talk
about the pride that echoed throughout Black communities because of
their baseball teams. He would tell of his personal experiences of
playing baseball with Paige during the day, then going to see Count
Basie or Billie Holiday perform in the evening, and how extraordinary it
“And people didn’t listen … until Ken Burns featured Buck O’Neil on his “Baseball” PBS miniseries.
“Burns, Buck used to say, was the first prominent person he met who said, “Please just tell me your story.”
“If you have seen “Baseball,” you know just how magical Buck was.
“And you know what? After that, people started listening to him. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum became something more than just an idea — it grew into this beautiful place on the corner of 18th and Vine, a famous place in the world of jazz and baseball.
“Buck died in 2006, just a couple of months before President George W. Bush awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I know that if he was with us today, in this unique American moment, he would be doing all he could to lead the charge for social justice. He was the most optimistic person I have ever known, and he believed deeply in the power good people have to change the world. I know he would be, once again, telling that timeless story of those players who followed their dreams, even when everything was against them.
“I’ve seen the world change so much,” Buck used to say. “People
always ask, ‘Were you sad that you couldn’t play in the Major Leagues?’
We didn’t even think about it. There was no reason to think about
something that wasn’t possible.
“You have to remember, when Jackie went to the Dodgers, that was
before Brown vs. Board of Education. That was before Sister Rosa Parks
said, ‘I don’t feel like going to the back of the bus.’ Martin Luther
King was a sophomore at Morehouse. Jackie Robinson went to the Major
Leagues and that’s what started the ball rolling. And Jackie was a
product of all those players who didn’t get that chance, who played
baseball because we loved the game.
“So, yes, we still have a long way to go. But we also have come a long way. That’s why I tell their story. Those players changed this country. They’re still changing this country.”
I don’t want to try to summarize Joe Posnaski’s blog this morning, other than to say it’s definitely worth the few minutes it will take you to read it. Don’t get lost on the details of his solution. Just focus on how he is thinking of a whole new way to imagine a 2020 baseball season.
This morning’s baseball ‘news’ is that both sides remain deadlocked after MLB rejects the lastest Players Association proposal. I suspect (hope?) there will be some last minute agreement between the players and owners. Likely an 80+ game season without fans, at least initially, in three realigned divisions with an expanded playoff scenario, with many built in safety measures , re COVID-19, and with a pay scale that won’t satisfy either side but will allow the game to continue.
My two cents, without getting into the weeds of the negotiations – who’s right, who’s wrong – is that both sides need to step back, take a longer view of where the country is now, where baseball may be headed, and come together to preserve some semblance of the game for now.
As is so often the case, Joe Posnanski, one of my favorite baseball writers, hits on what is essential in his blog post yesterday: The Future of Baseball.
Joe’s wordy, but knows and loves baseball and most often seems to get things right. This article is not another lecture about baseball as a dying sport, but really a plea for understanding what is at stake.
In part, he writes:
“What you see, I believe, is a shortsightedness, a submission to the moment, a perpetual fight over the game’s riches. This last part, in particular, has played out over the last few weeks while a global pandemic rages on, and do you think most people care if it’s the owners or the players who are at fault? No. Most people just see that people can’t come together, even now, for this game that they’re all supposed to love.
“So who can blame someone for asking: If that’s how they treat this game, why in the hell should I care?
He writes about Dayton Moore, a friend with whom he disagrees about many things, but about baseball, Joe thinks Moore gets it right:
“THIS is how baseball should be thinking about everything, not just now but always: How can we celebrate baseball? How can we reach new audiences? How can we bring live, exciting baseball to more communities (and for less money)? How can we show young people how much fun the game is to play and watch and follow? How can we get into communities? How can we make a difference? How can we draw more young people?
“There aren’t easy answers. But there are no answers if you don’t take the time to ask the questions. If I was commissioner, I would put Dayton Moore in charge of the game’s future.”
While baseball fans wait to see what will become of the 2020 season – if any games are gong to be played and under what circumstances – most sports writers are digging deeply to keep readers engaged (and no doubt keep their jobs in the process).
One sports writer, one of my favorites, Joe Posnanski, has been on a year long project of writing a column on each of the Top 100 Players in Baseball (The Baseball 100: A Project Celebrating the Greatest Players in History). Initially, Posnanski had planned to get to the number one player on the 2020 Opening Day. But he slowed down his columns and only recently published the last two, identifying The Greatest of the Greatest (in my lingo).
As some of you probably know, Posnanski has been writing in the somewhat new The Athletic (subscription required, but worth it imho) which is now the on-line, go to home of some of sports best writers. Posnanski himself has won virtually every baseball writer’s award given, some multiple times, and has his own blog, JoeBlogs – Baseball and News and Life(again, subscription required, $30, also worth it).
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a couple of worthwhile reads while awaiting baseball to resume, as well as in need of a break from the COVID-19 ‘news’, check out Posnanski’s final two columns on the two best players ever:
Frank Deford died on Sunday at the age 78. For sports fans (not just baseball fans) of my generation, both his writing and his speaking about sports was as good as you could get. His ability to put you at the scene of an event, to explain the importance of a moment or something larger, and his use of language to do so was, for me, mesmerizing.
There have been a number of articles and tributes to him already, and I suspect many more will be written over the days to come. This one, by Joe Posnanski, tells about the impact Deford had on one of our current best sports writers (in my opinion) and why he believes “Frank was the greatest sportswriter there ever was.”
Bucky Dent connecting for a three-run, seventh-inning home run off the Red Sox’ Mike Torrez that all but clinched a division title for the Yankees in a one-game regular-season playoff at Fenway Park. Dent had only four other homers all year. (AP Photo)
Generally we don’t know the names of most baseball umpires, which is as it should be. I think the best baseball umpires are the ones that fade into the background and let the game be the centerpiece.
Steve Palermo, from Worcester, MA, was one of the good ones and was popular with almost everyone.
But he may have made one really bad call.
Check out Joe Posnanski’s column, written yesterday when it was announced that Palermo died at the age of 67.
Let me know if you think Palermo made the right or the wrong call.
Also, in case you don’t know much about it, or need a refresher, check out the NYTimes article about the game and the disaster that struck the Red Sox that day: Bucky Dent’s Improbable Cloutby James Tuite, Oct.2, 1978
We had heard a good deal about the new Nationals/Astros spring training facility — The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Thus, when I saw that the Sox would be playing the Nats there, I of course got tickets and met my cousin and some other friends there Mar. 7th.
We had tickets behind the Sox dugout, and, for some reason, the Sox brought most of their starting players. The weather was perfect, and we got to see both first string Sox & Nats players as well as those trying to make the teams. The Sox won, of course, and even if it doesn’t matter who wins Spring Training games, if you’re a Sox fan, you never want them to lose.
Indeed it’s a good park. I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the place. It has 6,500 seats and another 1500 spectators can sit on a grass berm beyond left and right field. The stadium seats are largely in the shade, thanks to good planning and to some over hanging shade structures. There’s an open air concourse that goes from the left field fence all around to the one in right, and you can walk along it without missing a pitch. The only fault I could find with the park was the small scoreboard in the outfield which made it hard to see the names of the players, etc. (But that could also be a factor of my aging eyesight.)
The facility is on 160 acres of what use to be a landfill, trash dump. There are 12 practice fields, six for each team. The Astros have one which is the exact dimensions of their home field, and the Nats have two that are similar to their park in DC. The facility was built quickly, in 15 months, and cost about $150 million, $50 from the state and $100 million from a new county hotel tax. We had heard horror stories about the traffic getting into the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, but thanks to advance word and advice from my cousin, we approached it from the north (?) and had no trouble parking.
There are now four teams that have their Spring Training facilities in the area – Nats, Astros, Cards, and Marlins – so if you have the time and interest, spending a week or so in the Palm Beach area in the month of March will allow you to see those teams as well as ones that come across the state from the West Coast.
Then it was on to the West Coast to see other friends and three Sox games, one against the USA World Baseball Classic team, one against the Os, and one against the Rays. Of course, the Sox won all three, and even if the games don’t count for much, if you’re a Sox fan, you always want to see them win.
But the real reason to go was to see Fenway South, i.e.,Jet Blue Park, where the stadium is said to be a replica of Fenway Park in Boston. Built five years ago, after much negotiation with the ‘powers’ in Ft. Myers, the Sox got a new $77.9 million stadium outside of the city on 126 acres, including six practice fields (one with the same dimensions as Fenway) and a rehabilitation center. The funding came, in part, I think, because Lee County was afraid the Sox would move away, and involved some kind of public-private partnership, where much of the public outlay came from a “bed tax” on hotel rooms in the area.
While the main ball park itself has the same dimensions as the one in the north, it didn’t feel so much like Fenway in Boston. Yes. It has a Green Monster, with seats and a net in the middle of the wall, a former Fenway scoreboard that has to be manually updated with the use of a ladder (there’s no room behind the scoreboard to change the score between innings, etc.), a Pesky Pole, a triangle in center field, and a lone red seat (longest HR in Fenway).
The 11,000 seat stadium is quite open and shady, but it didn’t feel anything like Boston’s Fenway to me. I couldn’t tell exactly, but the right field configuration didn’t feel like the Fenway I know and sitting on/in the Green Monster (game vs. the Rays) only faintly resembled the one in Boston. In the game vs the USA team, we sat just to the left of home plate and had an enormous amount of room in which to stretch out. Against the Os, we sat beyond first base and by the end of the game our necks were sore from looking to the left.
Still, it’s the spring home of my heroes, and, like most spring training facilities these days (15 in Florida and 15 in Arizona), you feel close to the players, the weather is delightful (away from the cold and snow of the north), and you get the opportunity to see both starting players and those who are trying to be starters, or will be in several years.
I’ll definitely return. Anyone want to plan next year’s trip with me?
You may also know of my two favorite current sports’ writers, Joe Posnanski and Thomas Boswell, from whom I learn something every time I read one of their columns.
And so, check out Posnanski’s latest column, wherein he writes about the best age to get your kids/grandkid involved. While the article does focus on Theo Epstein, I post a link to it primarily for the discussion about getting the next generation involved.
What really matters in determining how well a baseball team is performing?
Isn’t pitching supposed to trump (excuse me) hitting?
Didn’t the Sox spend gazillions of dollars to beef up their starting pitching and their relief pitching?
And aren’t strikeouts important?
So it’s only 22 games into the 162 game season, but a few things pop out if you follow the Sox:
Their record is 12-10 which has them in second place in the AL East, 1.5 games behind the surprising Orioles.
They are next to last in ERA (4.43), giving up 103 runs (98 earned), only Houston is worse in these pitching categories.
They have struck out the most hitters in the AL, 223, but have also given up the most walks, 88.
They only have six saves.
They have the highest hitting average in their league (.278), the most hits (218), the most doubles (63), the most triples (7), and the most RBIs (107).
Most important in this area is they lead the league in runs with 114, 18 more than the second place Tigers and 19 more than the Orioles.
So maybe their record of fewest home runs so far, 17 vs the Orioles 33, isn’t hurting their run scoring.
Their fielding has been pretty good as they are near the top of the league with a FPCT of .987 and only 10 errors.
Their record in stealing bases tops the league, 20 (out of 22 attempts), and they’ve thrown out six of nine stolen base attempts.
It sure seems that hitting is trumping pitching, at least so far as the Red Sox are concerned in the early going of this season.
Actually, the most interesting thing about the season so far for me is something that Joe Posnanski, one of my favorite sports’ writers has highlighted — teams are striking out almost one out of every four times they are at the plate, the highest rate in the history of baseball, and, he writes, that’s not a bad thing.
Teams seem to believe, he says, “Hit the long ball. Steal bases at a high percentage. Draw walks. That’s still the winning formula.”
If you haven’t had a chance to read one or both of these, head there now.
If I am overstating the importance of the insights these two articles bring, feel free to let me know.
And as for this post and the title above, “There Are All Sorts of Truths”, I refer you to Joe Posnanski’s review of the new film 42 about Jackie Robinson.
I reviewed it earlier, “42” – A Home Run, and I stick by my review. But Posnanski fleshes out the film even further and explains, in more detail than did I, the strengths and weaknesses of the film.
Bottom line: he likes the film as an emotional, introduction to Jackie Robinson, but, he writes, “If you are looking for shades of gray storytelling about the most consequential sports story in American history, this isn’t your movie.”
The end, as it always seems, came swiftly, and, if not a surprise, the reality that Youk’s nine years as a Sox (Red) was over brought some sadness to everyone connected to the the Red Sox Nation.
For those of you who follow the Sox as well as for those of you who might have been surprised by the trade, the ending was bittersweet, to repeat a tired phrase.
Whether it was inevitable, whether it was obvious, necessary, what baseball is all about, what baseball has become, what it will mean for Youk, for the Sox (Red and White), we’ll simply have to wait and see.
But already lots of articles, lots of pictures, lots of videos, lots of tweets and lots of blogs have already claimed to explain what happened and to catalogue Youk’s rise, accomplishments, injuries, and current difficulties.
The one column that told me something I didn’t know or feel, or perhaps explained something better, more clearly than anything I’ve read in the last few days was from long time sports writer Joe Posnanski.
“What percentage of the time do you make an out? It’s simple and it’s naked…And this bluntness is why I love Kevin Youklis as a player, ” writes Posnanski in his blog this morning.