Tag Archives: MLB

Al Dark and the summer of 1974.

al dark

Loves the Mercury Cougar.

Alvin Dark was fired by owner Charles O. Finley in 1967 and here he was taking his grief, again, in 1974. The Oakland ball-club had just lost to the Sox, 3-2, and Charlie O. was throwing a tantrum of epic proportion in the manger’s office. Dark knew that the players had heard some of the one-sided conversation and hoped that his embarrassment would light a fire under their asses.

“I’m playing to win!” screamed Charlie, veins protruding from his neck and eyes popped out as if he was being squeezed by an anaconda. This was, after all, the jungle.

“If you don’t start playing aggressive baseball I’ll kick your fucking ass out of here!” “We won the World Series two years in a row without you and we can win again without you!”

Al understood what was going on– Charlie was from Chicago and hated losing to the Sox more than getting a root canal or a coat that wasn’t plaid. Dark was a Christian so he didn’t raise his voice or even curse. He just sat there, eyes staring directly ahead in an omnipresent out-of-body experience that lasted about 30 seconds until he snapped out of it.

“We’re not wrestling with the mysteries of the universe here, Charlie, it’s just a goddamn….”

Dark stopped himself in mid-sentence and privately scolded himself for the blaspheme.

Mr. Alvin Dark walked the parking lot of the Coliseum alone, the primordial universe spread before him. He slowly lowered himself into a green ’74 Mercury Cougar and started flipping through radio stations with impunity. Thoughts began to develop and unfold as he forgave Charlie for his paradigm of curmudgeon behavior. The song “Thankful for what you’ve got” poured out of the speakers as Dark thought, ” It’s not that the celebration becomes less fun as we get older, it’s more purposeful. Our intentions adjust with the weight of responsibilities and existential dread….and the slow erosion of joint cartilage.”

Dark put key to ignition and foot to pedal as he drove away, leaving an empty parking lot…and the primordial stars to themselves.

Interview with former Oakland Athletic and Texas Ranger Jim Umbarger…

umbarger

“Umby” in 1977.

1. Let’s start at the beginning- you were drafted by the Cleveland Indians but opted to go to Arizona St. instead. What prompted this decision?

I had a great high school senior season; but I only had three college scholarship offers – ASU, USC, and UCLA. UCLA didn’t have a very good program, but I really enjoyed meeting assistant coach Glen Mickens (who is now retired in Hawaii keeping baseball score books). I almost signed with USC, but I had sent a letter to Bobby Winkles (later the A’s manager in 77), who had assistant coach Fred Nelson do some research on me, and they offered me a full ride. I had read the Sports Illustrated article in 1967 about the ASU national championship and knew that’s where I wanted to go.

The Dodgers had called and spoke with my mom the week before the draft and told her if I’m still available by their first pick (20th) they’ll take me; but their Florida scout convinced them to pick Rick Rhoden.
Before the draft the sports editor of our school paper asked me who I’d like to be drafted by, and my reply was, “Anyone but the Braves and Indians.” Both were terrible at the time. The day of the draft I was in chemistry class when I good friend peeked through the door window signaling two fingers for the second round and mimicking four fingers over her mouth, the Woo-Woo. My heart sank – a double-whammy of not being in the first round, and by Cleveland. When their scout called to want to meet with me I told him don’t bother, I was going to college. But he came to visit and they offered me $20,000. and $8,000. for college; a joke. My third/last season at ASU my foot got cut very badly and I didn’t have my high velocity, so the Rangers picked me in the 16th round (I think 356). But Harley Anderson, their scout, had watched me for five years and knew I would get better. I signed for $15,000. plus $7,500. incentive. My foot healed, I pitched great at AA Pittsfield and got it all a year later.

2. You made your ML debut with the Texas Rangers in 1975… with the first batter faced being future HOFer Rod Carew. Can you take us through the gamut of emotions you must have been feeling?

I remember it very vividly; opening night at home, 28,000 at Arlington Stadium; my dad flew in from L.A. (it was near his birthday). We were losing 7-1 with one out and a runner on first in the seventh. Naturally I was quite nervous. I went into my stretch position and my left knee wouldn’t stop shaking (I thought sure I’d get a balk call). First pitch, perfect curve right on the corner, but the ump (Bill Haller) calls it a ball. Second pitch, exact same thing… right on the corner, ball two. I’m thinking this is a tough league and if they’re not going to call those pitches strikes than I’ve got no chance. The standard nickname for a curve was “Uncle Charlie” (I don’t know why). Mine was so good that Dave Nelson called mine “Lord Charles”. And Earl Weaver told me at a formal spring event in 81 that Steve Stone, and Blyleven and I had the 3 best in the AL. I would have added Tanana’s curve. Bert’s was the best I ever saw… it would break twice! Tanana made the best transition I ever saw. Throwing across his body so much, it was clear to me his arm would blow out sooner than later, but when it did he learned the discipline to keep it low and change speeds quite well – I wish I was that smart. Anyhow, I throw a fastball inside at the belt and Carew grounds to second for a force-out. Two out, Lyman Bostock is at the plate. I throw the same three pitches – two great curves on the corner that were called balls, and a fastball at the hands for a grounder to second. Inning over, and I get a loud standing ovation as I’m trotting off the field. P.S. – Carew was 3-for-22 and ended up not playing against me.

….And did you have much of a relationship with manager Billy Martin?

jewwwy holtz

“Super Jew” Ken Holtzman

Managers don’t usually have close relationships with players – it’s tough to fire/trade/release friends.
Billy was a genius on the field and a maniac off. I recall a few times coming to the clubhouse early and he’d be on the training table with 3 or 4 ice packs on him. Standard Napoleon complex with some momma’s boy/Italian tough guy blended in. But Billy was not afraid of using rookies – Sundberg and Hargrove were prime examples. Our first spring games of 75 we flew to Mexico City to play their two best teams. Opening night I relieved to start the 5th or 6th inning and struck out the first four batters I faced and got the next two out. I had a great spring – 16 innings, 16 K’s, 4 walks. A left-hander with control??? Uh oh, look out. But Ken Holtzman made it look the easiest – 5 or 6 curves, 70-80 tailing fastballs away – the ultimate “pitch to centerfield”. Doubt he ever broke a sweat. Too bad he retired early because of too much travel. Speaking of sweat… one night game in august 76 in Arlington, I lost 14 pounds in two hours, changed my undershirt three times. Right after the season ended, I took a hot date to an all-you-eat high-class steak place in Dallas and ate salad, bread, baked potato, and 6+ t-bones. I only stopped because it was getting late.
But the worst manager I played for was Billy Hunter in 78. My 77 season was awful, but I worked hard that winter lifting weights and drinking protein shakes and came to camp ready to impress. Corbett noticed and he and Hunter made a $100. bet – Corbett that I would make the team, and Hunter (the manager who makes that decision) that I wouldn’t! Opening game at Ft. Lauderdale against the Yankees, I was clocked at 93, and I blew away their starting lineup (Reggie, Rivers, Munson, White, Piniella) for three innings. I continued to have a great spring, and made the team.

3. You were traded to Oakland prior to the 1977 season…did you have any contact with Charlie Finley during this time? What was your experience like in an Athletics uniform and how did you feel when they sent you to the minors that very same season…was it due to battling injuries?

DA 1977 redux

Richie “Wampum” Allen

Before I answer I want to state that it was clear to see there were many young talented guys – Mitchell Paige, Wayne Gross, Rob Picciolo, Rick Langford, Mike Norris, Bob Lacey. One of the coolest experiences I ever had was with Richie Allen one Sunday morning sitting in the dugout – he was in a 3-piece suit and talking about his mom. I always remembered him from a quote in the late 60’s, that he loved playing, he just wished the stadium seats were empty. I had strained my elbow tendon at Royals Stadium in May of 76, and it wasn’t fully healed. And unknowingly I had a serious case of depression.
Charlie traded for me because I pitched a great game (losing 1-0 in 11 innings) one night in June 76 in Chicago on local TV. Spring of 77 I was not at my best and there were “trade winds” in the air. I had not signed my contract yet and AL Pres. Lee McPhail came to Pompano to speak with me for some odd reason. Understand that free agency was created in July 76 (I was at the meeting in Philly), I signed that spring for four years and a lot of money, and I invented the bonus money for being traded clause, and two months later received $25,000. Turns out, I was a rent-a-player, Charlie and Brad Corbett had pre-arranged that the Rangers would get me back after the season. I had some discussion with the players association as to whether I should get another 25k for being sold back to Texas, and contractually I probably could have won, but I didn’t want to rock the boat, so we didn’t proceed in that direction. It’s a great game, it’s a tough business.

4. You were involved in the longest professional baseball game (33 innings) in which you pitched 10 scoreless. Can you take the readers through the madness a bit and explain the emotional ups and downs you must have had over those 2 days?

Craziest night ever – full moon, cold wind blowing in from left, scheduled to start at 7:30 but a problem with the lights delays until 8:00. The mound was chewed up, so I pitched all 10 innings out of a stretch, and I had great stuff. I’m nocturnal, so coming into the game at 2am was right up my alley. Two hours and eight minutes later, ten more innings passed and the umps finally said let’s suspend the game (we had a 1pm game 9 hours later). Dave Huppert caught the first 31 innings! (go try squatting for almost eight hours!) In 2006 the Pawtucket club held a 25 year reunion – with limos, nice hotel, big luncheon (with a PowerPoint showing pictures and music from 1981), and a game where they introduced us on the field by positions.

5. Finally… what was life like for Jim Umbarger after baseball? Aren’t you a bit of a golf nut?

Yes, very much so; though the appropriate term may be fanatic or addict. I’ve played in over 400 charity celebrity tourneys (the best were hosted by Frank Quilici in Minneapolis). Next year will be our 30th annual tourney here in Phoenix that Lou Klimchock and I initiated way back when. I was fortunate enough to eventually get real with myself and achieved the steps to becoming a full-time teaching professional. And in 2009-10 I wrote a 280-page book about some of the horrible golf instruction that is prevalent. In 2013 I wrote a 150-page autobiography (just for my own amusement).
In case any of the readers have ever wondered why so many pitchers are drawn to playing golf, here’s my take. Baseball is great, pitching is great. But pitchers are frustrated from depending on the defense and offense and umpires and managers to determine their fate. Golf is a game of personal responsibility, each shot and each score is up to the individual, which pitchers enjoy.

In 2014 I watched a lot of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (and Geoff).This next take is from him and doesn’t apply to the readers who have made it this far, but in case they have any friends who have a short attention span, here’s some recommended readings… Of Mouse and Man, Five Shades of Grey, A Tale of One City, and my personal favorite – The Grape of Wrath.

Former MLB guys on the Arizona alumni committee who put some effort into our annual golf tourney – Ethan Blackaby, Cisco Carlos, Jack Heidemann, aforementioned Lou Klimchock, Leon Brown, Kevin Kobel, Ken Rudolph, Bart Zeller.

1910_T210_Old_Mill_Casey_Stengel

Casey Stengel, “The Ol’ Perfessor” in 1910.

Nowadays, retired and having turned 62, my life is all about Maggie, my 16+ yo Australian herder collie, the smartest, most sensible, loving, quickest, best being I have ever known. I play some celeb tourneys, watch a ton of true life crime shows, and yell at the stupid politicians. To keep my mind sharp I solve expert level Sudoku.

A major highlight of my life I will excerpt from my personal autobiography. “The highest compliment I have ever received occurred in late-May that year. For you baseball fans, pay attention here; if you are not a baseball fan, you may skip the rest of this paragraph. In 1970 and 71, I was a very good high school baseball pitcher. During my senior year in 71, I had the honor of Casey Stengel coming to watch me pitch three different games. I happened to pitch well those games (and most of the others), and I was usually informed afterwards that Casey was there in attendance. Unfortunately, my team, the U. S. Grant High School Lancers (in Van Nuys, California), lost our semi-final playoff game in the Los Angeles City playoffs in mid-May. At the time, I was being recruited to play college baseball at UCLA and USC (Southern Cal for you southerners). I attended the championship game that was being played at Dodger Stadium and during the third inning, my date, Kathy Brigham, and I started walking up the aisle to visit the concession stand. As it turned out, Justin Dedeaux and Casey were sitting a few rows higher up from where we were sitting. Justin was the USC recruiter and had been contacting me to play for them. So Justin sees me and says, “Hi Jim, there’s someone here I’d like you to meet. Jim, this is Casey Stengel. Casey, this is Jim Umbarger. Casey, we’ve been talking with Jim about playing for USC and we think he’s going to be a fine pitcher someday”. Casey’s simple and immediate response was, “He already is.” I was flabbergasted then, and I still am today. When Casey died in October 1975, I cried. And nothing anyone has ever said, or will ever say to me, could top Casey’s off-the-cuff, from the heart, comment. Thank you “Ol’ Perfessor”. I have cried a few times at different times of my life at the wonderful compliment and memory from a great guy.”

Mark Ellis retires…The Fro mournes.

ellisMark Ellis quietly retired last week as one of the best defensive second baseman of all time. (5th best all time fielding percentage.) Mark not only was a solid player on both sides of the ball, but he was refreshing as a stoic gamer in an era of clowns and sideshow men who hang on because of beards, salaries, tattoos, bobble heads and other assorted bric-a-brac.  Mark was a real throw-back with a refreshing demeanor…play the game well without the nonsense.

I first encountered Mark in 2001. I was living in Sacramento at the time and the AAA River Cats were brand-spanking-new and the talk of the town. I, being a Oakland fan, thought I was dreaming as I lived mere blocks from their newly opened ballpark. I would walk or bike to the games after work more often than not with my girlfriend at the time, and he was one of our favorite players.

One of my favorite ballpark moments happened with Ellis–a simple moment, yet mere months before he was traded and never to be seen in an Athletics uniform again. It was Opening Day 2011 at the Coliseum. My girlfriend and I had long since taken separate paths…and I was by the dugout when I saw Mark and gave him but he sharpest nod as I threw him a baseball with all the zeal I could from 30 feet away. He caught it with one hand, signed it, and as fast as he has received it he fired it back to me as I caught it with one hand as well in a quickly forgotten moment of Zen mastery. The triangle was complete.

It’s easy to choose your baseball heroes…yet sometimes the universe chooses them for you in an act of randomness, justification, existentialism, stupefied vocation or something unspoken and equally nonsensical. Mine just happened to be one of the greatest second baseman of all time.

Brian Kingman does some time travel.

bk

loves girls with cars….well, at least in 1975.

BK,

I just noticed you were born on July 27th. I was born on July 26th, 1975….you were a young buck just starting out in Boise at that time…
A 19 year old punk just a day shy of his 20th birthday…out on the road, away from his parents and living his baseball dream. Do you remember what you did that day? So fucking long ago…. 
July 26, 1975….let’s see if I can successfully do some time traveling back almost 40 years to the Northwest League. Normally this would next to impossible, however
through the magic of the Internet I was able to find a newspaper clipping that helped to spark my memory.
On Thursday July 24th I was within two outs of a no-hitter in Boise Idaho, but ended up with  a one hitter in a 7 inning game against the Portland Mavericks. Jim Bouton played for the Mavericks that year but he wasn’t with the team at the time we played them. If he had been I would have run through a brick wall to meet him! (editors note: Kurt Russell’s father owned the Portland team and the actor actually played for the unaffiliated team in 1973…a few years before Brian was in the league.)
I believe we played the Mavericks again on Friday, July25th. Only in the minor leagues would you leave around midnight, take a long bus ride and play the next day, but that’s what we did. We were off to Bellingham, Washington to play the Dodgers. So on Saturday July 26th, 1975 – Your Birthday- I would have been in Bellingham, between starts, and trying to figure out what the hell to do for entertainment after the game in a small town (population probably around 40,000 back then). The usual strategy for minor leaguers who constantly find themselves on the road and without a car, is to meet girls who have cars, and other coveted assets that can be shared and enjoyed. For more on this topic refer to Life in The Minors or perhaps even Ball Four.
Dave Stewart was on the Bellingham Dodgers. I remember him being mostly a relief pitcher at the time. I remember there was a team in Seattle as well, that played in the same ballpark (Sick Stadium) as the Seattle Pilots had several years earlier. Most baseball fans have never even heard of the Pilots because they only lasted one season, 1969. The only reason I remember
this is because Jim Bouton included his season with the Pilots in his epic book Ball Four.

1

“Stew” looking mean.

Bouton resurfaced in the majors as a knuckleball relief pitcher in 1969 with the Seattle Pilots and later the Houston Astros. This period is well documented in Ball Four. Although Bouton was moderately successful as a knuckleball relief pitcher, after the backlash against Ball Four, Bouton disappeared from the majors. Although gone from the major leagues, Bouton continued to pitch for professional and semi-pro teams. He eventually made it back to the majors with the Atlanta Braves for five games in 1978 at the age of 39
After making it back to the major leagues he wrote this in a Sports Illustrated article: “Actually, I thought I’d play about five more years, Hoyt Wilhelm pitched until he was 48, but by the time I got called up, I knew I wouldn’t even stay around that long.” (Bouton was 39 at the time)

The most hated Oakland Athletics (according to my readers)

jj

The “winner!”

1.) Jim Johnson –This one doesn’t surprise me as it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind. I disagreed with the signing from the very beginning because A) I don’t believe in giving closers big money B) despite having 50 saves in Baltimore the year before, (hands down the most overrated statistic in sports) he still managed to blow 9 games…a horrible percentage. C) He just looked like a creep.

I was spot-on as the fans quickly grew tired of pitches that had zero movement and blown saves in bunches. Eventually he was run out-of-town until signing with Detroit who grew tired of him as well and sent him to AAA Toledo to waste away in the city known for unemployment and the smell of shit in the air…a fitting ending to the season for Johnson and perhaps an omen.

2.) Daric Barton — This guy never had a nickname, yet as far as I was concerned it should have been “The Cockroach.” (He was deemed “Churro Vendor” by this blog because readers thought that it would be a better suited job.) Barton was acquired in the trade with St. Louis for Mark Mulder (Dan Haren was also acquired in the trade supplying 43 wins and an All Star appearance, so the trade worked out pretty well overall.) and was slated to be the Athletics first baseman for years to come. The only problem was that he couldn’t hit a lick, but for some reason stuck around for EIGHT seasons, being shuttled back and forth to Sacramento (AAA) so much that he sort of became their unofficial mascot. The cherry on top of the shit-heap was when he was put on waivers twice in one week and not one team claimed him. 

geren

Geren and his perpetual, smug asshole face.

3.) Brian Fuentes/Bob Geren — Yet another closer that didn’t live up to his deemed position. His goofy face, big ears and screwy delivery added to the fire when the blown saves started to add up. Things got so bad that my mother, a neophyte baseball fan, would storm out of the room whenever he came into the game.  A reader of this blog summed it up perfectly when she sent this response: I hate Brian Fuentes with a passion. He is a horrible closer. He blew 4 saves in eight days when he was with the Rockies. I cried a little when I had found out we picked him up in 2011. My dad kept trying to say he was good, and he was briefly, but I just told him to wait. It quickly turned into “OH (f-bomb)! Fuentes is coming in. There goes the game.” The only saving grace was when he criticized then manager Bob Geren’s (probably the least liked manager in Oakland history and an ex-Yankee, so who really gives a darn!) “unorthodox managing”, handling of pitchers and “zero communication.” Then ex-closer Huston Street piped in saying of Geren that “he is the least favorite person I have ever encountered in sports.” Ol’ Bob was let go after the 2011 season leading to the signing of another Bob (Melvin) and Fuentes’ career was over soon there-after.

Honorable mention:

Arthur Rhodes (yet another stinky closer.)

Luis Polonia (not sure about this one as he was busted for raping a woman as a Yankee. Perhaps the reader hated dripping jheri curl mullets.)

Nick Swisher (was sort of a lovable hick/douchbag until he got Yankee-itis and then began thinking he was a much better player than he really was.)

Jon Lester (more Yo hangovers)

Jeremy Giambi (strip clubs, drunkenness, a scolding by Brad Pitt in the locker room and the prancing “non-slide.”)

Bobby Crosby (a high pick that couldn’t do much of anything after his rookie year and even had his dad criticize Billy Beane in the media.)

Buddy Groom (dumb name, psycho looking face, and one of the worst LOOGY’s of all time.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark McGwire, my childhood, and why he should be in the HOF despite the “Boomers” that keep him out.

1985-mark-mcgwire-rookie-card

Whoa…this card stirs up a lot of emotions.

It’s strange; when most baseball fans talk about iconic cards of their youths they will usually cite a  1952 Mickey Mantle, 1968 Nolan Ryan or even a 1984 Don Mattingly rookie. That is all well and good; I enjoy baseball’s past and have spent countless hours and even days researching it. The most iconic card in my youth, however, was the 1987 Topps Mark McGwire.

You see, he was my favorite player on my favorite team; that’s not much of a stretch for a kid growing up in Northern California. When I look at this funky piece of cardboard with a blurry photo of a young, lanky, hunchbacked McGwire with the tacky, 1970’s Dad’s den border, I feel that it represents a couple of things that my generation encompassed so well–mass production and the willingness to do anything at all costs to achieve economic success in an era of unemployment and despair. (In this case “success” can be translated into “baseball success” through PED’s which equals economic success, my generation didn’t have the leisure of  the metaphorical PED in the workforce due to the “Boomers” taking all the corporate sectors that they inherited overseas in order to pay the rabble pennies on the dollar. In effect, fucking over China, Indonesia and El Salvador’s working poor and their own people as well. We are forever destined to bat .260 and never have a set position…so much for the “hippy generation.”)

“Popularity of era” is a part of becoming a HOFer…that is why Mark McGwire should be in there. PED’s or not, he was a HUGE part of those 90’s Athletics teams that people love and will talk about forever. Not to mention the class he showed to Roger Maris’ family when he broke the home run record.. (who was vilified as well by the fascist MLB brass…the asterisk instilled by then commissioner Ford Frick still has not been removed due to Maris breaking the record in the then-newly instilled 162 games. The feeling and overall jealousy of the new generation (now old as dirt or perhaps dead…do you see a running theme here?) was further recognized when HOFer Rogers Hornby said, “It would be a disappointment if Ruth’s home run record were bested by a .270 hitter”. Isn’t it strange how the players in an era with the least talent in an era where they didn’t even have to face black players are the biggest shit talkers!?)

goof

One of the greatest power hitters of all time.

There is a lot of talk about Tim Raines for the HOF..let’s get real…his stats are solid and then as the 90’s become a reality he becomes sort of hanger-on and a non entity. No one cared outside of Montreal. (and then again...they didn’t even care) It’s akin to giving the handicapped kid a pat on the back.

It’s all about IMPACT, era and the impact of that specific era. Just ask Derek Jeter, who was never even close to being the best player on his team, (or Pee Wee Reese for that matter.) yet Jeter will be a first ballot HOFer based on “good looks,” a great interview and a legion of mooks from Brooklyn who think they can be an MLB player because he did it. (Miguel Tejada was infinitely better in his prime.)

Here’s what I remember:
Multi-ethnic “sources” saying over half the players on every team used, and that MLB even tacitly encouraged it. I remember a reporter mentioning McGwire having androstenedione displayed openly in his locker, then said reporter getting raked over the coals by players, other reporters, and even the commissioner of baseball–Bud Selig.

Players linked to steroid use have been resoundingly rejected by Hall of Fame voters in recent years, shunned as synthetically enhanced frauds. But drawing an integrity line in the sand is a tenuous stance at a Hall of Fame with a membership that already includes multiple cheaters. Baseball has always had some form of hypocrisy when it comes to its exalted heroes. In theory, when it comes to these kinds of votes, it’s true that character should matter, but once you’ve already let in those who cheated, how can you exclude anyone else?

Here are a few:

Gaylord Perry (class of 1991) had a disregard for the rules that was far more patent and unashamed than any steroid user. Perry doctored baseballs with spit, Vaseline and other substances to confound hitters. All of baseball knew what Perry was doing even if he never admitted it — until writing a tell-all book after his retirement.

Don Sutton (class of 1998) Late in his career, Sutton was often accused of scuffing. In 1978 he was ejected and suspended 10 days for defacing the ball, but when he threatened to sue the National League, he was let off. Was teammates with Gaylord Perry for a while. “He gave me a tube of Vaseline,” joked Sutton. “I thanked him and gave him a piece of sandpaper.” Umpires took the allegations seriously, and sometimes gave him a good going over. Once, he left a note inside his glove for the men in black. It said, “You’re getting warm, but it’s not here.”

Whitey Ford (Class of 1974)… Ford used his wedding ring to cut the ball, or had catcher Elston Howard put a nice slice in it with a buckle on his shin guard. Ford also planted mud pies around the mound and used them to load the ball. He confessed that when pitching against the Dodgers in the 1963 World Series, “I used enough mud to build a dam.” He also threw a “gunk ball,” which combined a mixture of baby oil, turpentine, and resin. He kept the “gunk” in a roll-on dispenser, which, the story goes, Yogi Berra once mistook for deodorant, gluing his arms to his sides in the process.

Things are becoming a bit strange in the baseball world due to the advent of the internet and the basic human emotion of being a follower in a world of followers. (or they may do it to seem intelligent; I know this blog has been attacked by many lard-ass “experts,” with mustard stains running down their shirts, living in their mom’s basement and if they’re lucky MAY have a book published with a small run that no one will read.)  I’m starting to see a lot of followers who have no ideas of their own embrace idiotic “statistics”, nostalgia where there never was any, forced moral platitudes and just overall madness. I would die of shock if anyone had an original idea that was absolutely and irreducibly their own. Let’s hope the future generation/s gets it right when the novelty of being angry about a specific (and fun!) era finally dissolves after the Boomer HOF voter generation is finally dead. I have a feeling that the children of the future, because of their gradual and inevitable loss of civil rights, may find fault in the faceless men in the ivory tower who cashed in their billions and instead find compassion for the men simply trying to please them.

Thoughts on the Ben Zobrist trade.

Hard to understand what Billy is doing in Oakland. Turning over the entire roster and then trading away a top prospect for what? A couple of decent guys with no real upside down the road? This is a very strange trade that somehow makes sense through the fog known as the 2015 offseason. Zobrist is the WAR poster boy–and this blog doesn’t put much stock in a statistic that NO ONE knows how to compute (yet clueless nerds seem to bring up endlessly) and ultimately makes no sense. WAR doesn’t work because it says Ben Zobrist is about as good as Miguel Cabrera or Robinson Cano. Bill James, the ultimate statistical guru agreed with my assessment recently:

“Well, my math skills are limited and my data-processing skills are essentially nonexistent. The younger guys are way, way beyond me in those areas. I’m fine with that, and I don’t struggle against it, and I hope that I don’t deny them credit for what they can do that I can’t.“But because that is true, I ASSUMED that these were complex, nuanced, sophisticated systems. I never really looked; I just assumed that the details were out of my depth. But sometime in the last year I was doing some research that relied on these WAR systems, so I took a look at them, and … they’re not very impressive. They’re not well thought through; they haven’t made a convincing effort to address many of the inherent difficulties that the undertaking presents. They tend to get so far into the data, throw up their arms and make a wild guess. I don’t know if I’m going to get the time to do better of it, or if it will be left to others, but … we’re not at anything like an end point here. I assumed that these systems were a lot better than they actually are.”

Why was he acquired? Because he can do the one thing that gets Billy Beane hotter than a truck stop hooker–play multiple positions.

Yunel Escobar, who is the epitome of a lazy player with little desire, stoked my own desire in the laziest way possible. A shrug. A “who cares?” My desire to drink hot apple cider and return to bed was an infinitely stronger emotion. I barely knew the guy EXISTED. There was also the incident in Toronto where he wore his eye-black emblazoned with the words ‘TU ERE MARICON.’

jaso

John, you will be missed.

The words can be translated to mean “you are a fag” or a “pussy.”

Strange considering one of the players he was traded for–John Jaso–is sort of a poster boy for gay men as the “cutest baseball player.”

You can’t make this shit up. We here at the ‘Fro certainly don’t condone that sort of behavior, and I’m sure most Athletics fans would agree. Paying money and being at rapt attention for a lackadaisical homophobe is far down my list of enjoyable pursuits, right above getting kicked in the nuts after a bad date.

assessment: starting SS with the other horrible acquisition, Marcus Semien being moved to 2nd base.

In the end, this isn’t a BAD trade. We acquired two starters for an often concussed catcher and two minor leaguers that may never even see the AAA level. I may even learn to appreciate Zobrist’s ability to “pick and grin” or run down flies for the ONE season he will be in Oakland. The fans will probably love him for his “gamer” style of play.  On a more personal level this trade just didn’t do much for me because I have no affection for the players acquired or traded away. C’est la vie. The life of an A’s fan.

“Home Run” Baker had a huge dong.

The following was re-printed from Robert W. Creamer’s book, Babe: A Legend Come to Life.

hr baker cardBecause of the Babe’s prowess, there were the inevitable stories that Ruth was exceptionally well equipped sexually, and a male nurse who took care of him in his terminal illness was impressed by the size of Ruth’s genitals. One teammate, asked if he had an exceptionally big penis, frowned a little and searched his memory and shook his head. “No,” he said, “It was normal size, judging from locker room observation. Nothing extraordinary. Del Pratt’s was. And Home Run Baker’s. My god, you wouldn’t believe Home Run Baker’s. It looked like it belonged to a horse. But Babe’s wasn’t noticeably big. What was extraordinary was how he kept doing it all the time. He was continually with women morning and night. I don’t know how he kept going.”He was very noisy in bed, visceral grunts and gasps and whoops accompanying his erotic exertions.  “He was the noisiest fucker in North America,” a whimsical friend recalled.

So long, J.D., you will be missed.

donaldson

This trade hurt; J.D. was easily one of my top 5 favorite Athletics of all time.

 

“We needed to do something that wasn’t timid.”

–Billy Beane

Billy Beane waltzed into the saloon again with guns blazing as he traded Josh Donaldson to the BlueJays for Brett Lawrie and 3 prospects, 2 of which are supposedly ML ready. I saw this coming when Kyle Seager, an inferior third baseman, signed a huge contract with the Mariners–all but pushing the A’s out of the picture for an extension during arbitration. Donaldson also had endeared himself to his already rabid fan base by calling owner Lou Wolff a cheap son of a bitch on Twitter, or in his own words, “they have plenty of money, my friend. they just tell everybody they don’t.

The fans are predictably upset and tired of the Oakland owners playing with MLB’s piece of the profit-share pie for ultimate profit. There is an underlying stench of betrayal, lack of loyalty and an overall disregard to the fan base. Donaldson was the Athletics most popular player and maybe the most popular 3rd baseman in franchise history. (sorry Chavy!) J.D. was very likable with his defensive hustle, power when the game was on the line and awesome trademark mullet/mohawk/rat-tail combo. He was visibly shaken and spoke to reporters about the trade: “I’m so shocked, I just got off the phone with Billy Beane, and I guess they got an offer that they couldn’t resist. I’m definitely a little emotional about it. Oakland is my home. At the end of the day, it’s a business, as much as it hurts emotionally. The guys in that clubhouse are my brothers.”

Brett-Lawrie-2

Our new guy…40 ounces to freedom!

I was/am a huge fan of J.D., and although I’ve analyzed the trade with a heavy heart, I am trying to stay positive and see the pot of gold through the rainbow, or as the Dalai Lama says, “In order to carry a positive action we must carry here a positive vision.”

1. It is no secret that Beane loves pitching, and the two minor league pitchers we received in return (Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman) put up some good numbers last year. You can be positive both of these gentleman will start a handful of games in an Athletics uniform next season all but assuring Jeff Simardizija or Scott Kazmir will be traded in a packaged deal for oh, say….Justin Upton.

2. Brett Lawrie plays 3rd base with a little bit of second sprinkled in…the dude has a shit load of tattoos and epitomizes the word “bro” more than anyone in my own personal life. The ladies might see him as a “sexy scumbag.” As far as on-the-field he is much younger than Donaldson (25) and is just a notch or 2 below J.D. on the offensive and defensive side. A major concern is his history of injury. He is definitely serviceable with the talent to be really good.

In the end Donaldson says this to the fans of Oakland:

“To the fans of Oakland: Thank you for all the memories on and off the field I truly am blessed to have been part of it. We have had a lot of great memories together and the memories I will have will always hold a special place for me. Everyday I wore that uniform with pride, and gave you all that I could. Thank you again!!”

Strap yourselves in Oakland fans….this is just the beginning.

Hot Dog Eating a Hot dog.

john kilduff

John Kilduff–Rickey Henderson 1980 Topps rookie

As longtime readers know, I like to incorporate different facets of life into this blog, mostly from the realm of modern art and literature. It tends to get a bit tedious talking about baseball players and stats and free agency and Bud Selig’s ego and PED’s and Hall of Fame voters and the widening strike zone until I’m blue in the face. We’re getting closer to the Christmas holidays, I drank too much Crown Royal and I’m feeling a bit silly.

John Kilduff was a loco personality. He hosted a “painting show” that I would watch late at night here in Los Angeles while sucking on the hash pipe. I was supposed to be writing a thesis on “Modern Art and Capitalism,” but this show seemed more interesting and vital at the time. I couldn’t tell if the guy was gifted or if he was a charlatan looking to make a buck, (he turned out to be both) and I loved it. Some of his work had titles like, “Hot dog eating a hot dog,” and “African-American titty burger.” All this talk is meaningless, you simply must see for yourself…