Friday, December 31, 2010

Where have you gone, Kirby Puckett?

If only Kirby Puckett could be remembered solely for his on field exploits.

I really think that having baseball taken away from him must have been the cruelest thing possible for someone who so seemed to love playing the game. And I wonder how much that might have changed his personality and led to his problems.

I love this card, it's truly one of my favorite baseball cards of all time.

Tim Raines should be in the Hall of Fame.

Many great baseball writers have extolled the statistical virtues of Tim Raines, and I really have nothing new to add along those lines. I can say that I watched a ton of games with Tim Raines playing, both as an Expo and a White Sox, and if he doesn't get into the HOF there's something wrong with the voters.

Living in Canada, TSN (The Sports Network) broadcast a lot of Expos games. Jim Van Horne and Ken Singleton were the main crew that I remember, although I do recall Duke Snider doing some Expos games on the CBC. I really enjoyed Jim and Ken, they were an excellent broadcast team that added a lot to the games.

The Expos in the Buck Rodgers era were a team of almosts. Good teams that were missing one or two pieces that might have taken them into the playoffs. But, they were fun to watch. Aside from Raines there was Andre Dawson (until 1986), Tim Wallach, Mitch Webster, Hubie Brooks, Andres Galaragga, Dennis Martinez, Pascual Perez, Floyd Youmans, Tim Burke...the list goes on.

I well remember the 1987 season. Raines had gone unsigned as a free agent due to collusion, Dawson had signed with the Cubs, and it seemed like the Expos were doomed to a bad season when they lost their first 5 in a row.  But all was not lost. Raines wasn't allowed to resign with the Expos until May 1st, and on May 2nd he made his season debut by going 4 for 5 with 3 runs, 4 RBI, 1 walk, a double, a steal, and a game winning Grand Slam in the top of the 10th inning against the defending champion New York Mets. And for good measure, Gary Carter struck out in the bottom of the 10th for the 3rd out.

That win improved their record to 9-13, and they would go on to win 91 games and finish only 4 games behind the Cardinals in 3rd place. It was a fun season.

Later on, when Raines had moved on to the Sox, I sent a couple of cards his way and asked for him to sign them. Here they are.

Baseball cards.

I collected cards as a kid for a few years. Living in Canada we got the O-Pee-Chee versions of Topps cards, the main difference being that they were usually bilingual, and they tended in many cases to be on better, whiter, card stock. I had lots of hockey and some baseball, but I didn't keep them around. At some point I sold them all.

Then in my early 20's I started working at and then managing a sports card store. This was in 1993, so I started back into collecting a few current things. I'd already found the Conlon Collection and collected those, as well as the Topps Archives sets and the Ted Williams Card Company stuff. I mainly collected players I liked, the only new sets I got into at the time were the 1993 Studio, and the 1993 Flair.

I also had access to AAA baseball, with the Vancouver Canadians playing at Nat Bailey Stadium. So for a while I'd go to the games and collect a few autographs along the way. The C's were with the Angels at the time, so we had quite a few good players come through. Jim Edmonds and Garrett Anderson were the 2 best known, and then of course there were the players on the opposition. More on the minor league stuff later, as when 1994 and the strike rolled around Vancouver was the scene of the last pro games in Canada & the USA.

Back to collecting favorite players. I'd read about Turk Wendell, and liked what he was about. So once I'd collected a few cards, I sent them off to Iowa with a SASE, and sure enough got them back autographed. Even got a club issue head shot included. Eventually I sent a baseball along as well, and that also came back signed. 

Here's 2 of the cards and the headshot, when I figure out where my baseballs are I'll take a shot of that as well.

I think I chose well with these cards. I have some others signed as well, but they're hiding somewhere. One where he's brushing his teeth, and one where he's hopping over the foul line.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Baseball stats prior to 1947.

So, it's almost 2011. It'll be 64 years since the color line was finally broken in baseball.

Isn't it about time to draw a statistical line in the sand? As far as I'm concerned, pre 1947 stats are relics of a different time, and shouldn't have much meaning anymore.

I'm not saying that those players or stats should be forgotten completely, but they should be put away and segregated. Sent to the back of the bus if you will.

Of course, the question then is what becomes of those players that straddle the line? Do you separate their careers into two, or count them on one side or the other?

My thought would be to decide which era a player belongs in based on which era they played the majority of their games in. So Ted Williams, despite starting his career prior to the color line being broken would be considered a post color line player. Joe DiMaggio would be a pre color line player, because the majority of his career was prior to 1947. Bob Feller, like Williams, would be post color line.

Yes, this means there should be 2 record books. 1947 and onwards should be considered the modern age of baseball, pre 1947 a different time and a different game. A dark age.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Designated Hitter.

Baseball needs to get both leagues on the same page. Enough of having one rule for one league, and another rule for the other. It's stupid, and it gives the National League a huge advantage in inter-league play & the World Series.

So here's what I'd do. Take the Designated Hitter rule and....apply it to both leagues.

Guess what you purist morons, watching pitchers hit SUCKS. Double switches suck. If I never had to witness another pitcher feebly waving at a curveball, I'd be happier than a kid in a candy store with a $20 bill.

The DH has been around for what, 37 years now? It works. It adds offense to the game. It adds years to players careers.  And not having it in both leagues is wrong. Imagine if the AFC had 12 players per team, and the NFC had 11. Pretty dumb idea, isn't it? Well, what's the difference with MLB?

American League teams are used to having 9 hitters in the lineup. When they go and play in the National League park, they have to remove one of their key offensive components and replace him with a useless pitcher. Whereas when the National League team comes to the AL park, they get to ADD a component to their offense. That pinch hitter who can't field much anymore (hello Matt Stairs), all of a sudden he's a big part of the offense.

Stop listening to the purists. What other parts of baseball do they prefer to be "pure" anyways? Shall we go back to 1946? Is that "pure" enough for the purists? 4 finger gloves? Spitballs being legal? One dirty ball for the entire game? No batting helmets? Sharpening your spikes and gashing a guy on the double play? No. Baseball has evolved over time. The DH is a good part of that evolution. Make the National League use it. NOW.

Steroids, cheating & Cooperstown

In my opinion, baseball has always rewarded cheaters. Whether it's stealing signs, corking bats, throwing the spitter, the phantom tag at 2nd, emery boards, sandpaper, leaving a tiny bit early from 3rd on a sac fly, framing the pitch, whatever. If it gets you an advantage, and you can get away with it, do it.

So, when all these holier than thou types talk about players like Bonds and Clemens and how they shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame, I have to shake my head. If steroids had been around 80 years ago, players would have used them. It's not like there's never been drug use in baseball before steroids. Bennies, booze, marijuana, LSD even. As far as I'm concerned, if a player is doing it to try and perform better, let them ruin their health.

Face it, players used steroids to try and get better, and by getting better they could make more money. And money is what it all comes down to. That's why the owners turned a blind eye, that's why the league turned a blind eye, and that's why it would be a complete joke to keep players out of the HOF that belong there based on the stats they put up.

Which brings us to Pete Rose. Yeah, let's go there. Pete Rose was banned from baseball for gambling on baseball. He denied that for years and years. He flat out lied, and claimed he didn't bet on baseball. And then he admitted that he had in fact bet on baseball, but that he'd never bet on his own team. Sorry Pete, but after years of lies, no one can believe you.

Pete Rose bet on baseball, and lied about it. He cheated on his taxes, and did time for it. He does not belong in the HOF.

Chewing liquorice?

Yeah, that's a Turk Wendell reference. I've always liked the weirdos in sports, baseball in particular. And Turk had his weird habits. Despite those, he had a decent career, and I also liked him because I sent him some cards to sign, and he signed them, and I sent him a ball to sign, and he signed that as well. And I still have those kicking around somewhere, so when I find them I'll post them.

So who am I you say? Just a 40 year old guy from Canada. Stick around, and maybe you'll learn a bit more.