Results tagged ‘ Barry Bonds ’

Taking a Whack at 2014 Hall of Fame Voting

HOF2014

I have to say I’m glad I’m not one of those 600+ members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) who have put in the mandatory 10 plus years of service covering own slivers of the Major League Baseball fishbowl who have to parlay their thoughts along with slicing and dicing their own set in clay adverse and varied opinions about the nominated few and somehow find a cohesive way to whittle down their list of potential former MLB players for possible selection and immortalized in bronze forever within the hallowed halls of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
20140102-161419But wouldn’t it a hoot if I did have a envelope to send into Cooperstown. That my own personal baseball opinions could be voiced upon that black and white card of my 10 selected baseball heroes from the past that I personally would LOVE to see in bronze for eternity. The reality is I will never have that opportunity. I wasted my chance at being within that brotherhood long ago when I left my Sports Correspondent slot soooo long ago. But I would cherish and relish a chance to send just such an envelope into the mail and then sit back and see how many of my picks could/would get a phone call and the prestigious yellow jacket this summer.

I would consider such an envelope a huge responsibility both as a life-time baseball spectator as well take into account morally that I not only follow my gut reaction for such voting, but also toil and weather such stormy matters as if a finalist had used or ever abused the pre-PEDs mandates (McGwire) and testing regulations (Clemens/Bonds), whether a career-long DH (Martinez) merits a hearty Hall nod. Or maybe I might wrestle on a solid and concise benchmark for statistic considerations of both starters and relievers. I would hope I can show empathy with finalists who might have suffered in their careers by playing on mediocre teams (Morris/Raines) that did not parlay their own bits of success into playoff berths or shot in the World Series. Does getting a World Series ring (or 2) trump a player with a den full of MLB hardware?

And even if I did produce 10 ducks in my selection row, that the moment the selection process is finalized I could end up with a whittled down list maybe into the single digits and as low as 3 of my selections receiving that prestigious phone call on Wednesday, January 8th. But no matter the results, I know there will be chatter, both realistic and convoluted as some inductees and finalists will miss the cut and not meet both the required minimal votes for this summer’s Hall induction and possibly fall off the 2015 ballot due to lack of support or future consideration by the growing group of 600+BBWAA voters.

My first 5 selections will bode well with most voters, but my other 4 might ruffle some PED feathers or be called into question because of their non-God like stats, plus I added 1 Hometown hero to my selection list but that is what this voting blog post is all about……my personal Hall of Fame choices.

Without further ado, this would have been my ballot for the Hall of Fame Class of 2014:

1) Greg Maddux 355 W’s, 17 seasons of > 15 W‘s, 4 Cy Youngs. Could garner over 98.84% of votes
 2) Tom Glavine 305 W’s, 14 seasons with >200 innings, 5- 20 W seasons, 2 Cy Youngs
 3) Frank Thomas 7 straight seasons with .300 AVG,20+ HR,100 RBIs, 100 Walks, + 521 career HR
4) Craig Biggio 3,060 hits, 668 doubles are most by any right-handed hitter
5) Jeff Bagwell 7 100R/100 RBI seasons, NL ROY, Gold Glove, MVP, .408 OBP.

6) Mike Piazza 427 HRs, 12 X All-Star
7) Barry Bonds 762 HRs, 1,996 RBIs, 2,935 hits, 7 MVP, 8 Gold Gloves, 14 All-Star selections.
8) Jack Morris 15th (Last) year on ballot. His 3.90 ERA would be the Hall’s highest.
9) Lee Smith Was MLB Saves (478) leader when he retired. Great pressure guy.
10) Fred McGriff 493 HR were done clean and legal. 200+ HR in both AL and NL

Rays Trivia: What other Hall of Fame finalist besides Fred McGriff played for the Rays during his career?

Answer: Hideo Nomo who wore # 11 while going 5-8 in 100.2 innings in 2005.

So, Who You Got on Your 2013 Hall of Fame Ballot?

6hallfamers

Surprise, disappointment,and astonishment should reign supreme today when the hierarchy that is Cooperstown announces their enshrined class for 2013, I am suspecting a few gasps, a few hip-hip hoo-rays, and hopefully a few “it’s about time” noises from coast-to-coast. Be it the players nominated who played the game “old school” style, or player who went to historic lengths to press their imprint on their bronze plaque, the Hall of Fame class of 2013 will definitely have their pros and (almost) cons…and the various and widening shower of 360 degrees of both positive and negative opinions will rain down quickly as the selection become public.

thCAWIKYWNIt will be the first time we see via a voting tally what the fellowship of America’s favorite pastime truly feels about players who hustle, played the game within the chalk lines, and those who muddled them like a Southern rainstorm. Be you a pro-traditional sort, or one who yells to the rafters about the injustice of tainted stats possibly gaining iconic access into the hallowed halls, 2013 will definitely be the year of controversy and a first show of the river of divide that was the Steroid Era.

0-clemensI am truly expecting a few of the Hall of Fame voters to pronounce proudly they will not vote an accuser/abuser into the Hall even with monumental statistics that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were/are in the game higher echelon all-time. Dark clouds will definitely be in order on this day no matter the sky cover or the temps as heat will rise and more than a few opinions will rant and rave up a storm, possibly into whirlwind potential.

Even the recent acknowledgment of Mark McGuire of his ruse might not be enough to float him towards those hallowed chambers, and his long time farce might actually cost him another chance in 2014 if the voters decide he doesn’t even desire the lowest total possible for another single chance at admittance.

mike_piazzaThere are a few names not tarnished by the era of the needle who should hear the phone ring today be it a catcher who offensively changed his position, or a ornery cuss who reminded fans and the media of those long ago icons who blistered out over 3,000 Rawlings which should get him a front row seat on the podium in his first Hall of Fame chance. I’m hoping a shortstop who played in old Tigers Stadium who for years was overshadow by Cal Ripken Jr, but who played that old constant style of clean and concise defense his calling card while Ripken made his with the lumber.

Crime DogThere are so many different style of players,disciplines and even motivations who could get a chance today to hear their names echoed from sea-to-shining sea and with it the quick opinions running rampant on whose team caps they will adorn along with their smile on their bronze plaque. I want to think it is pure skullduggery and thievery if the “Crime Dog” is again robbed of a chance for election, but then I remember some think the skinny First Baseman who rocked 200 Home Runs in each side of the MLB didn’t hit that stellar 500 HR plateau and again will have to buy a ticket to enter the Hall.

DaleMurphyI expect a few names to bring a large amount of aggressive shock and awe that they are not only excluded once again, but possibly being a step closer to that critical vote percentage tipping point where their names may disappear from the ballot forever. Be he a “sure thing”, a player lost in the controversial shuffle, or one of those arraigned, tried and found not guilty in the court of law, but not in the public court of opinion.

If you gaze up at the opening photo montage on this post you will see the 6 names I would have selected on my personal 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. I struggled with expanding it to 8 names, but I’m sure the 2 people I juggled on and off the list will get the needed votes to be eligible again for the Hall of Fame eligibility in 2014, then I would check their names with no reservations.

Even with the disagreements, opinions and gambit of emotions from anger to excited, this is definitely going to be a Hall of Fame class we will be talking about the entire 2013 Major League baseball season…….So, who you got on your 2013 Hall of Fame ballot?

Bonds 2, Feds 0, Bottom of the Ninth Inning

 

ap-00ad357e8c524069851c699fe9393685.jpg

 

When his 15 Federal indictments first came down, it seemed like Barry Bonds would spend at least a few Summers in the confines of a Federally mandated corrections facility. Magically, or by a lack of solid witness to evidence match-ups, the indictment numbers suddenly began to lessen until 5 indictment remained when the case first went to trial.


It seemed like the U S District Attorney’s office decided to trim their previous indictment list to the best case scenario charges that could get a conviction to stick to MLB’s All Time Home Run leader like pine tar. The prosecutor seemed to have a solid game plan, sending 25 different witnesses to the witness over the last 2 ½ weeks to try and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, the intention and deception by Bonds.


In another interesting twist of fate, the Federal prosecutor today asked U S District Judge Susan Illston to dismiss another one of the Government’s once concrete charges. Within a minutes time, Bond’s total indictment had been trimmed to 4 now with the prosecution resting it case, and his defensive team about to take their whacks in the box.


The charge dropped today concerned Bond’s testimony back in 2003 when he was accused of lying to a Grand Jury in regards to his testimony he took nothing but vitamins from former Giants trainer Greg Anderson. At no time during the trial did the government prove with any clarity that Bond’s was given Tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) in either injectable or “Clear” or “Creme” form.


Swing and a miss by the government. It was a pure back-door slider that exploded through the box and they missed it big time.


STRIKE ONE!


ap-cde43e93f0f1444e9651bddfb4605c55.jpgThe 8 women, 4 men jury did not even get comfortable in their chairs before Bond’s defense attorney strutted to the front of the courtroom and announced the defense was going to rest, without calling a single witness.


A very brazen and confident move considering Bonds, if found guilty could be ultimately facing up to 10 years in prison for each charge. Reality is that according to Federal sentencing guidelines, Bonds could actually face only possible 15-21 months of Federal confinement if convicted.


 

 

The four charges still remaining  against Bonds are:

 

  1. Bonds lying about receiving performance enhancing steroids from Anderson.

  2. Bonds lying about receiving growth hormones from Anderson.

  3. Bonds making a false statements that only a “doctor” injected him.

  4. Bonds is accused of obstructing justice.


But even with these 4 charges still remaining on the board, the Federal prosecutor definitely had more than one “swing and miss” during this trial. Take Day 11 when the defense attorney Cristina Arguedas quickly brought up a contradiction in Bond’s former girlfriend Kimberly Bell’s Grand Jury testimony that she ” wrote her own diary”. Suddenly Arguedas threw another breaking ball that Bell testified during this recent trial that she and her “ghost writer” Aphrodite Jones collaborated on her diary.


STRIKE TWO!


Then in a great show of promotional skill, Bond’s defense attorney Allen Ruby had the entire courtroom on the edges of their seats as he proclaimed he was going to call 6 witnesses, including Bonds to the witness chair. But in a great P T Barnum moment, Ruby did not have to call Bond’s or nay of his witnesses to the stand as the defense team felt confident the government failed to prove its charges beyond a reasonable doubt.


In the entire trial, only one eyewitness account was given to show any intent or verification of any of the charges against Bonds. With Anderson still sitting in a jail cell on a contempt charge for refusing to testify, only this one singular eyewitness was called to the stand, and they did not know the substance injected into Bonds on that occasion.


ap-e7a0a5b99da14e80b9dc48a09c06200b.jpgThe jury could ultimately get their say in the case as early as Thursday afternoon as closing arguments will commence in the morning. In all likelihood the jury could come back with their decision, barring a split vote, as early as Friday afternoon just in time for the 1:35 pm PT home opener for the San Francisco Giants.


Ultimately the Federal government doesn’t seem to have given a solid and viable reason for the jury to ultimately convict Bond’s on all 4 counts. If Ruby or Arguedas can provide a solid, fact-filled closing argument with pinpoint accuracy, with Ruby possibly throwing one hard and tight in on the prosecutor’s hands.


With a current 0-2 count against the Federal government, a persuasive last pitch effort by the defense could provide a distinctive “called Third Strike” on the Federal prosecutor’s case. Might be the most important save opportunity in San Francisco since Giants closer Brian Wilson blew his last pitch by Ranger’s slugger Nelson Cruz, not 3 miles away.

 

 

C C to the Rescue

  


Jeff Roberson / AP

You know it is funny. Carl Crawford has been involved in three All star games during his career and for some reason people have forgotten all about his last two All Star appearances. For some reason they forgot about his solo HR shot in 2007 at AT&T Park during the All Star game in San Francisco, and they certainly  have misplaced their minds about his first appearance back in 2002 when he got to play in front of his home town fans in Houston, Texas at Minute Maid Park. Maybe it was the simple fact he went 0-2 in that  first game that left him unnoticed by the rest of the baseball world. Maybe they thought he was a one shot deal and would then go back into oblivion in Tampa Bay.

How many people outside of the Tampa Bay area know that Crawford has seven years of major league experience. The way some of the people acted online last night on Twitter, it was if he had just crawled from under some rock and finally got noticed by the rest of the country. It took an amazing play in the seventh inning to rob Colorado Rockies outfielder Brad Hawpe of a potential home run for everyone to open their eyes towards C C. You would have thought after the Rays run in the 2008 American League playoffs and during the World Series against the Phillies he would have made a recognizable name that would stand out to voters for the All Star game. But no, he was selected to this games as a reserve based on the player’s votes, not by the fans. And that is a horrible thought that we forgot Crawford on the Fan Vote.

And tell me that moment is not going to be a great attention grabber for people to look at his career. It is a bit of a shame that the players in your league (AL) have more respect and admiration for your abilities than the fans voting online or at the other 29 baseball parks. You almost wanted him for a moment to be cocky last night, but that is not his way. He just flashed that smile we have grown to love with the Rays and showed those dimples that have endeared him to us since 2002. He was truly humbled by the moment. He is truly one of those strong, silent types of guys, and it showed last night in the National telecast. But that also endears him to you. You have to admire and love the fact the guy first brought up his teammates on the AL squad before anything else. He is a total team player at heart.


Dillip Vishwanat / Getty Images

Crawford did show that part of his defensive game that people around the Rays have always known about, but has been brought into the light fully last night. He might have become a victim of his own  bursts of speed and easy glides to the ball in leftfield. He makes some plays look so routine that might handcuff other leftfielders in the league. And because he is unafraid to leave his feet to go either vertical or horizontal for the ball, people take that as a ho hum part of his game. But then again, I get to watch him 162 games a year and I am still thrilled with every catch he makes, even the easy ones. There is an art form to the way he plays leftfield for the Rays. He is very fluid in the the outfield, even towards the gaps.

And Crawford is the type of guy you want to win the Ted Williams All Star Game Most Valuable Player Award. He is so humble and thankful to just be playing the game of baseball that you cheer for him and want him to breed success.  And people outside of Tampa Bay  have not gotten to see him get better every season since 2002. Crawford has gotten improved every season in some form of his game. This might be the first season that the rest of the country has gotten to  really know his name, but here in Tampa Bay, we know if Crawford is on the base paths, it is “game on!”

And to think he began the 2009 All Star game on the bench and came on as a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning and stroked a single in his first at bat. But it was not until the seventh inning that Crawford might have cemented his name into All Star lore with the likes of then Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter’s grab of a Barry Bonds line drive in the 2002 All Star Game. For the next generation, Crawford will be on the defensive highlight reels for the rest of the country to savor and wish he was in their outfield (Sorry everyone he has a team option of $11 million for 2010).

But what does America really know about this guy? What is it that makes him so special to baseball? If you have to ask yourself either of those questions, you have not been watching a whole lot of ESPN “Baseball Tonight” or “Sportscenter” baseball highlights the last 5 years.  Even in the early stages of the 2009 season, a huge segment of the country outside of the American League  have not even woken up to the potential of Crawford until he stole those six bases again the Boston Red Sox at home back on May 3,2009. But did you know that right now Crawford (44) and team mate B J Upton (31) have become only the second set of AL teammates to reach 30 steals by the All Star break.



 

And that is only the tip of the type of the offensive iceberg in Crawford’s arsenal. Up to now there have been only five AL players All Time who have had more steals than Crawford’s 44 steals right now before the All Star game. And some of those names are the best basestealers in MLB history. Names like Rickey Henderson (Oak), Ron LeFlores(Det), Vince Coleman (KC) , Mickey Rivers ( NY) and Kenny Lofton (Cle). All of them considered the elite in the art of stealing bases, and Crawford is the new name to be added to that awesome list. 

Crawford’s 44 steals so far in 2009 is better than the team totals of eight squads in the MLB right now. Carl is enroute to winning his fifth American League stolen base title in seven seasons. He also stole his 40th base of the season on June 28th against the Toronto Blue Jays in only the Rays 78th game. In the last 15 years, only three other players have reached that mark in less than 78 games. And by hitting the 40 steals plateau for the sixth time in his career, he trails only current Los Angeles Dodger Juan Pierre, who has hit the mark eight times in his career. So you might see a slight pattern here. Crawford is trying to re-write a few of the record books in reference to his knack for stealing bases.

But stealing bases is not his only claim to fame people. He is also currently third in the AL in hits with 109, which is also the fourth best mark in all of baseball. His 109 hits before the break missed the Rays club record by one hit, and he set that record (110 hits) in 2004. And he was not even an All Star that season for the Rays. Crawford has 35 multi-hit games this season to give him the third best mark in the AL. He is in the top ten in AL hitting and is currently ninth in the AL with 58 runs scored prior to the All Star break.  This set of statistics also puts him in a special class as one of four AL players All Time to have 40 steals and 100 hits  before the All Star break joining again, Henderson, Lofton and LeFlore.

And if all of that is not impressive to you, take the fact he is tied with Toronto’s Adam Lind for the top spot in the MLB by getting a hit with two strikes on him 47 times this season. Crawford played in his 1,000th game earlier this season as a Ray and his totals of 341 stolen bases and 87 triples have not been topped since Ty Cobb played baseball. And if that is not impressive enough for you, since 1900, Crawford is only the seventh player to reach 1,000 hits and 300 steals before he turned 27.

This guy is magic on the field, with his glove or on the base paths. He is the type of guy you build a team around. But because he is not a flashy or even a mildly controversial player, he might fall through the cracks and not get the publicity. While Crawford might have missed out on the free publicity, he has been working his tail off every day for the Rays and finally got to taste the fruits of hard work and determination in 2008 when the Rays shocked the baseball world by making it all the way to the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. And Crawford stayed in the background during that playoff run accumulating a .295 playoff average while the Rays soared towards the World Series.

The best praise of the continued improvement of Crawford might have come from his own Al All Star/Rays Manager Joe Maddon after the All Star Game last night. Maddon told Fox Sports last night, “I’ve been talking to everybody all year about this. Carl, he has become a better baseball player since I first met him in 2006. He’s a better defender, a better thrower, a better baserunner, a better base stealer, and it’s all because of his work,” he added. “It’s because of him. His work ethic is that good.” 

After a glowing endorsement like that I guess all I can say now is that last night’s heroics might have also begun a timid and long trail towards the Baseball Hall of Fame for Crawford. He doesn’t have the numbers yet, but they are going skyward every game and will only get better. The country saw a Tampa Bay Rays pull a certain Home Run ball from beyond the wall to give the American League home field advantage in the 2009 World Series. No matter who gets there from the AL, they have CC to thank for the home field advantage.

Maybe the rest of the country will now pay attention to the guy we thought deserved a Gold Glove for his work in leftfield. Crawford has put up amazing numbers offensively for the Rays in his seven year tenure with the team. But little do people know that he also has 78 home runs and 473 RBI to go along with his steal totals. He might be the least known of the guy who have the total package in the major leagues. But because he the product of a small market team, he did not get great exposure outside of his broadcast region until the Rays hit the playoffs in 2008.

But winning breeds that type of exposure, and with that extra viewing to the rest of the country got to see the hidden gem in Crawford. Little has been written or even mentioned about his career Fielding Percentage of .991. The guy has made only 21 errors on a total of 2295 total chances in his career. Funny, in the 2008 Rawlings Gold Glove award, two of the three winners play centerfield (Torii Hunter, Grady Sizemore) and the other rightfield (Ichiro Suzuki). No one in the AL got the nod in leftfield. Hopefully in 2009 Crawford can also make a few strides in also pulling in a Gold Glove of his own. The catch in the All Star game might get him some extra consideration in 2009.

I might be biased since I have gotten to watch Crawford mature and take control of his game. He has grown into the kind of player who can change a game just by being on base. Crawford has transformed his game into making a simple walk an almost automatic double and put pressure on A L pitching staffs. Even with teams beginning to anticipate his moves, he is still getting adequate jumps and good base stealing opportunities this season.

He is the type of player who can make a hard play seem easy, and most of all he is the first guy to be there to give props if you do something amazing. His clubhouse presence and leadership have blossomed, just like his exposure to the rest of the country this season thanks to last night’s amazing catch. Maybe now the rest of America will remember his name and vote him into the All Star game in 2010 on the Fan’s vote, where he should be for years to come….count on it!

Are Maple Bats the True Bad Guys ?

This is the 2nd  installment of my little blog series on the epidemic of bat breakage in the MLB. If you did not read the first installment, I wrote it on 1/20/2008, and please feel free to check the archive for the blog.
 

 

Susan Rhodes is not a usual attendee to a baseball game. But why is it that on May 25, 2008, she was in the wrong place and the wrong time and met the barrel end of a tomahawking bat that shattered more than her jaw that day.  She was sitting 4 rows behind the Los Angeles Dodgers dugout, usually a safe place for everything but the occasional foul ball.  She ever saw the shard coming towards her, she was instead watching the play develop as the ball headed into the outfield. She suffered a concussion and the force of the bat fractured her jaw in two places. 
 

 

Broker bats have been commonplace ever since the advent of baseball, but the Rhodes accident along with Rick Hellings impalement and both players and fans injuries have brought a new danger to the game of baseball.  Even the men behind the plate, the umpires have not been ruled out as victims in this saga of wood and pressure.  So has America;s favorite pastime been invaded by a new dangerous trend, and is the maple bat the sole item responsible for this trend?
 

 

Babe Ruth’s hickory bats are long gone and now it seems that the old memory of those heavy and cumbersome pieces of lumber show a simpler time in the era of baseball. It now seems that the obsession with ash bats for the last couple of decades has dwindled and is almost a forgotten bat material to most major leaguers’. Thanks to the popularity of the maple bat during Barry Bond’s run to the home run title more and more players are opting for this potentially lethal bat type.  But we are not blaming Bonds for the recent problems, he did not design, test or even manufacture bat for a living, he just used them as a tool for his trade.



 


 

 

Atlanta Braves Manager Bobby Cox got a first hand account of the danger on June 19, 2008.  While Cox was sitting in the dugout, like Rhodes, he was watching the ball and did not see second baseman Kelly Johnson’s bat shard coming towards him in the dugout.  The bat ended up going above his head, but like Rhodes, he never saw the bat coming his way at any moment before it struck the dugout wall.
 

 

On June 24, players like Mariners’ pitcher Aaron Heilman and Royals catcher John Buck were members of a Major League Baseball committee to look into this new danger and try to decide what should be done for the safety of everyone in baseball.  Scientists and engineers have also been consulted on the ever growing problem.  By using the basics of science, they know the ways that according to MLB standards, a baseball bat should be shaped and hit. And they have studied the way it can react and also break under pressure.
 

 

Early in the annuals of baseball, bats also broke, but not at the regularity that they do today. The maple versus ash bat controversy did not exist because neither bat was developed at the time for use by baseball players.  As we mentioned before, at the time Babe Ruth was swatting balls into the grandstands, players used hickory bats every time up to the plate. During those days hickory was a common wood and it is still known today as a truly strong wood to use in industry.  But though time, batters wanted a lighter, more fluid wood to use for hitting, and the hickory bat became a dinosaur of modern bats.



 


 

 

Even though ash was not as strong as hickory, it did possess that lighter feeling in your hands, and could be sanded down easier to conform the handle to your touch and liking with simple sandpaper. The problem with most wood is that its overall strength can be totally compatible with weight.  So if you desire a strong wood to produce your bats, you will get a heavier model because of the weight. And in simple contrast, if you go lighter wood, you get lighter overall weight, but you give up some levels of durability under pressure. 
 

 

It is said that in the 1990’s, Toronto outfielder Joe Carter might have swung the first maple bat, and his shot to win the World Series for the Blue Jays might have been viewed by opponents  as the key to power in that decade. Because he was using a maple bat, players began to look into its cost and usage and began to request them by the dozens.  With maple now as an alternative, it was appealing because it showcased more strength without the cumbersome bother of weight . And because of it strength, it quickly got a reputation as the tool that would let you hit farther and longer in games.

 
 


 

 

Ash had a tendency to produce flakes of ash that came off the bat like snow, but it held together better and did not separate at the barrel end. Because of the flaking, players did not go through bats as often, and that was the main reason they stuck to them for so long. But in 2001, during Bond’s display of power and strength, players became  obsessed and craved this new bat type, and quickly put ash bats in the dark recesses of the locker room or garages of the players. 
 

 

For 50 years, white ash was the preferred wood for baseball bats, but with over 50 percent of all players using maple now, it was a quick and revolutionary change for the game.  Maple and ash bats all break a certain way because of their unique characteristics. Ash tends to flake or chip in smaller chunks and do not propel through the air, while maple has a tendency to break into larger jagged shards that are propelled by the stored up energy of the bat.  But can the change in breakage patterns be attributed to their cell difference and the size of their pores within the wood.
 

 

Scientists agree that the tree pores, which transports moisture inside the trees before they become bats shows that ash has more flexibility to it than maple samples. Ash wood has what is considered a ring porous character. within its grains you will find more avenues and pores that can carry moisture throughout the wood. And of you went into the region of its growth ring, where the grain doesn’t exist, you would see that it is more or less solid fiber.

 
 


 


Because the voids in wood are confined to certain areas, the growth planes are considered a weak area of the wood. When an ash bat hits an object, its cell walls would collapse, and that would produce the chipping and the flaking experienced with ash bats.  The barrel would just begin to soften and small flaking pieces would begin to fall off the bat. It makes for a great indicator of the lessen density of the wood and its possibility of breakage and snapping while hitting.
   

 

Maple on the other hand is considered ring diffuse, meaning that its pore are more evenly distributed throughout the piece of wood. that makes the bat barrel more durable than any other part of the wood, and you do not get the cautionary flaking or chipping warning that ash bats give you before they break apart while hitting.

 

 

 


Cracks form in both types of wood as a bat is used to hit a ball after ball after ball. But the same pore structure that makes a ash bat flake also produces cracks along the channel of the bat.  Meaning that it has a long way to go before a crack can materialize to actually crack a bat in half. And batters can see these cracks beforehand and exchange the bat before the process results in an explosion of the bat upon contact.   
 

 

I know we have all seen a hitter take the barrel end of the bat and bounce it off the ground or the plate to see if they get vibrations out of the bat that will be a sure sign of it breaking. It was an early warning sign of sorts for the wood to let the batter know it was about to take its last swing, or break apart during the hitting process. That made the ash bat a lot safer and more predictable before danger could happen. But it also could happen multiple times during a game, and the cost of replacing a box of bats might have been the deciding factor in hitters looking for alternatives. 



 


 

 

Because of the maple bats diffuse pores, cracks in the wood can grow in any number of directions. This could make them more apt to hide the cracks and breaks  as they break out towards the barrel. That is the main reason that maple bats produce such a large chunk or shard when they finally do explode after cracking. And sine they do not flake or ship, they do not ever send a warning sign to the batter that his bat is cracking or might end up in the stands or in the infield barely missing a opposing player.
 

 

But a culprit that might go unnoticed even by the hitter is that fact that the wood can take on different characteristics considering  how the bat was cut from the wood. A billet of  misaligned wood can  affect it subjectivity to breakage as well as force upon the wood.  A bat is considered stronger when the grain lines up with the length of the bat. Because of its dark nature, this grain is considerably harder to see in maple than in the light tones of the ash bat. Maple also has a tendency to not have as straight a grain as ash, which can be instrumental in fatigue and breakage when used to extremes.

 
 


 

 

If you do not have a bat that is cut with the grain, you will have a weaker bat. That might not be a scientific phasing for you, but it is a stark reality with baseball bats. But can that be one of the multitude of reasons that a maple bat and explode and send shards throughout the stands or infield.  Another factor take take into consideration is the fact that  the batter could hit the ball in a bad position and make the bat break upon his swing. Which would have nothing to do with the bats chemistry, or it’s compounds or porous material.
 

 

The bat comes into contact with the ball in a small area for only one thousandth of a second in most swings. The short time it takes to make that impact can sends upwards of 5,000 pounds of force through the wood.  If you hit the ball badly, or not within the are of the “sweet spot”  of the bat, you could get this stinging sensation in your hands. That is a visual sign from the bat that it is bending and vibrating to release the force without breaking in your hands.

 
 


 

 

If the bending is compacted into enough of an area, it can produce a bat break in any type of bat.  The bending of the bat can lead to its breaking usually in ash bats at the point of the least material, which on an ash bat, is its handle. The bat that Todd Helton had in his hand on the day that Susan Rhodes got injured broke at the handle and sent the barrel tomahawking into the stands towards her.  This leads to another concern about today’s bats. Could a narrower handle on the bat be a reason for the increase in bats breaking and exploding all over the ballpark.
 

 

Over 100 years ago, bat handles were a lot more thicker and more bulky than today’s bats used by every level of baseball.  Some say the advent of these small handles is a compliance to metal bats that are used at lower levels before players become professionals. Because the metal bats do not possess a thick, rugged handle players are unaccustomed to hitting with the extra meat on the handle. As time progressed, the handle also went through a series a changes to become more streamlined and comfortable to today’s players. 
 

 

The narrow handle makes a baseball bat made out of wood more prone to breaking and take away the sturdiness of the bat. To make modern bats more accustom to metal bats, did we make the breakage problem worse, or just provide another avenue for the bats to break upon force.  Because of the numerous injuries and episodes during 2008, the issue of the bats has come again into the limelight.

  
 


 

 

Again, another episode that happened in 2008, was on June 24, in Kansas City, as MLB umpire Brian O’Nora was hit in the head, while wearing his protective gear behind the plate during a game.  Think about this for a second. Here is a guy less than 3 feet from the epicenter of the bats explosion who had his protective gear popped off his forehead and sustained a gash upon his forehead. 
 

 

You do not want to think of the repercussions of him maybe not even having a safety device on and getting clobbered with that bat shard.  I would love to have a poll done of MLB catchers to see how many of them have to have trainers or medical personnel during or after the game take out splinters or small sharp wood chips from their equipment or their bodies. I think that kind of poll would not help the bat situation, because most catcher see that as part of the game, like a foul ball getting your fingers or cracking you in the inner thighs.

 

 


 

 

You have to wonder if engineers and scientists have a good theory on why bats crack and break. I know we see multitudes of bats breaking during games today, but is there any true data outsides of the hands of the MLB that can tell us . We know that the MLB has collected bats from 2008 and have analyzed and categorized their breakage and  the bats type of wood.  So is there real evidence that we have not seen yet that would show that bats are breaking now at alarming rates compared to the past.  And to what extent does the maple bat hold either a advantage or a danger as a bat of choice by the MLB players. 
 

 
Could there be a variable that since ash bats show their breakage points before breaking fully, that the safety factor of these types of bats provide more protection to hitters and others around the batter’s box. Whereas maple bats only show their weakness when struck and will not give any visual sign of breakage before the audible sign of the crack of the bat during a swing. There are probable a dozen of ways to reduce the number of broken bats that have either been suggested or advised throughout the years. 
 


Maybe the action of thicker handles, and the compliance of players to not shave down handles and make them customized after manufacture could be another solution. Maybe the MLB has to provide a maximum diameter for the handles of bats by the manufacturers. But would a thicker handle minimize the shards flying still throughout the stands and the playing surface.  If you thicken the handle you will make it safer.  But alone will this help some of the problem.  
 

 

Or is the fact that wood bats fail, that it is a part of the game to see bats splinter and crack. But some of today’s bats do not make a simple splintering or cracking, but produce a missile that takes on speed as it leaves the batters box.  So with that in mind, we have to face the reality that bats fail, and that maple bats will fail far more times than ash bat in the future.  MLB could be doing a study right now on wood types and maybe implementing restrictions on certain wood types that display more brittle properties in them. Or maybe even think of implementing a specification on the grain alignment to help them stopping breaking in alarming rates in 2009or beyond.



 


 

 

Individually, the teams could set up more protective netting in front of the lower level infield seats in stadiums with the premise to protect their fans.  I know that Detroit Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson suggested such a measure on his ESPN.com blog.  Because players have their attention and eye towards the batter, they have more ample time to dodge and even see the shards coming towards them. While spectators in those front rows have a tendency to look in other directions because of the multiple attention getting sights and sounds of the game.  
 

 

That might be a way of protecting the fans, but those people pay good money to sit in those sections and most know the dangers firsthand from foul balls and errant throws to first or third base. To suggest that they are the only ones in the ball park to be protected might not be viewed as well by fans above the dugout, or further down the foul lines in stadiums. And anyways, who want to sit there on the front row and have to look through a net the entire game. If I wanted to look through glass or netting, I would go to an NHL game, not want to watch the greatest game on dirt. 

 

 

 


 
 

The Dangers of Maple Bats is a Major League Problem

 

This will be the first in a 3 part series on the maple bat controversy.

 

  

 

 

The crack of the wooden bat during an at bat at a baseball game is one of the purest sounds echoing throughout the stands.  It can be one of the reason we come to the games, to hear that blast of wood send a sphere deep into the day/night with a chance for a home run. That same crackling of the bat is becoming a problem in Major League Baseball. It has set up a menagerie of actions and precautions to keep fans. players, and even the umpires safe from a new menace plaguing the game of baseball. 
 

 

Some have called for action concerning this plague, while others think it is just the revolution of the game and its equipment, and measures will be done in-house to correct the presumed dangers and possible injuries from it’s creation. Some think that Barry Bonds made this revolution take front stage after his  home run hitting display a few years ago. That the extra power and drive that Bonds got out of his maple bats might be the answer to renewing the promise of more homers in the majors.  But at what cost do we make those changes. Do we endanger our kids and even ourselves. Do we put the burden on the highly paid players to know what is right and hold them accountable if disaster does occur.

 

 
Here is s short story I have heard from the news wire services over the last year that might open eyes wide and make use take notice that we might be on borrowed time here if we sit within 150 feet of the plate. During a Class-A game in Modesto California, a Modesto Nut batter swung at a ball and cracked his maple bat during a line drive. what the crowd did not notice was the ball falling into left-center field for a single, but the spinning end-over-end bat heading towards the stands. 
 

 

This 24-inch, 26-ounce projectile was hurdling towards a group of eight kids sitting in the front row at John Thurman Field.  The bat ended up cradling in the netting that surrounds the seating area just behind home plate. The kids were frightened, but no worse the wear and quickly were chanting again for their ball club. But what was amazing is that the crowd did not follow the ball, but the bat in flight until it got caught in the netting. Most did not even know it went for a single until after the event was unfolded.

 

 
 

 

 

But Selig and the MLB’s 16-member Health and Safety committee  met on June 24, 2008 to discuss just this kind of destructive force that has entered the baseball world. But why did it take so long for the obvious to become a immediate problem for baseball. Was it after Don Long, the Pittsburgh Pirates hitting coach on April 15th in Dodger Stadium was cut through his left cheek by a shard of bat off his own hitter Nate McLouth. Or maybe one of it’s own employees’, Umpire Brian O’Nora, who was slashed across the forehead by a bat shard during the Kansas City Royals game. O’Nora was removed from the game after a large gash appeared on his forehead, he was treated and released later that night, but you got to remember, he was wearing protective gear and still got injured by the exploding maple bat.
 

 

Or maybe it was when it got close and personal to one of the team owners in the MLB. During an Arizona Diamondbacks game on May 15th, Diamond back CEO Jeff Moorad saw a piece of Matt Holiday’s bat come within feet of him and slam into a railing right next to him. Or could it have been the highly televised injury sustained by Susan Rhodes during a Los Angeles Dodger game. 

 

 
 

 

 

On April 25th, Rhodes decided to attend a Dodger game with a friends and was sitting four rows up from the dugout when Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton came to bat. Helton, who uses a maple bat swung on a pitch from Cory Wade and the ball was struck cleanly, but the bat exploded upon impact and sent a shard into the stands in the direction of Rhodes.

 

Rhodes was watching the ball fall into center field and did not see the shard tomahawking towards her. When she regained consciousness, she asked her friends what had happened to her. The Dodgers quickly dispatched paramedics to her side and took her to an on-site medical facility.Once stabilized, they offered to give her a ride to a local hospital emergency room, but she declined and wanted to seek attention closer to her home in Sherman Oaks, California. 
 

 

It was at her local doctors that a CAT scan revealed that she suffered two jaw fractures, one on the upper-left side, where the bat struck her, and the other in the lower right-side, where the force reverberated.  After three agonizing days, she underwent surgery to repair the damage and upon completion of the surgery, had her jaw wired for her protection and for faster healing of the injury. A post script to this disaster is that Helton was not even using his own bat, as he borrowed one from team mate Troy Tulowitzki before heading to the plate. Could his error have been using a bat he was not accustom to swinging, and the extra torque might have caused the bat to shatter?

 

 

 
 

Now this brings about a fine line about the dangers of attending a game. Rhodes is considering legal action after finding out that the Dodgers insurance carrier will not cover penny one of her medical bills. But that leaves to question if the assumed risk of attending the game is put into question by the actions of a player using a bat that can cause harm and damage upon breakage.  Warnings printed on the back of tickets and signs posted throughout the seating bowl now specify that bats as well as balls are dangers to spectators.

 

( Sign posted in Tropicana Field as you come up the stairs towards Section 138) ” PLEASE BE ALERT TO BATS AND BALLS ENTERING THE SEATING AREA. PLEASE DO NOT INTERFERE WITH BALLS IN PLAY. VIOLATORS ARE SUBJECT TO EJECTION”). The problem is, attentive fans- those watching the flight of the ball- are sitting ducks for bats spinning off into other directions. Yet, in terms of whether a bats or ball are equal in terms of risk to spectators, a local court attempted to conduct  a determination on the case brought by a woman hit during the 1998 playoff game between the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees. 
 

 

That brings upon another subject here, can a legislative body take upon itself the actions to extend or even mandate that a certain area of the ballpark be screened in for the protection of it’s constituents. Legislators could conceivably pass bills requiring the facility upgrades, but such an effort and cost would be stymied by about 100 years of case laws siding with the baseball team.  Because of  the limited-duty rule, the ball park owners need to only protect fans in the areas of the ballpark where injuries are “most likely to occur.”

 

 

 

 

This rule might be outdated since the advent of this rule was established before the advent of the more “lively” baseball after the 1920’s.  The possible effects of continuing development of today’s hitters combined with changes in equipment ( maple bats) and the overindulgence of the senses during games from scoreboard noise to crowd induced items ( cowbells) take away a fans attention in a second.  All of these elements make today’s stadiums more dangerous than the venues of the past.
 

 

It is said that about 65 percent of all major leaguers use maple bats during the season. It is said that 52-55 percent of the bats made by Louisville Slugger for the MLB players in 2008 were maple. People within the industry have said that if the maple bats are dried right and designed right, they should last a long time. But what can be done to make sure the drying process is not skipped, or the bats not subject to high humidity or extreme temperature changes. Do we install bat humidors now in major league clubhouses and only pull out two bats a day to use in the dugout and leave the rest to their humidity rejuvenated hotbox?
 

 

People have said that a truly horrendous and maybe deadly encounter with a maple bat might happen in the future. Is baseball and its players playing a bit of Russian Roulette with themselves and team mate and fans, or will the industry become more safety-oriented before 2009 and redesign or re-manufacture the bats prototypes.  At the June 24, 2008 meeting, the bat manufacturers were not invited to attend the meetings. the 16 man panel wanted to establish parameters before heading deep into the issue. Things that were under consideration were the additional netting down the baselines. If the players might be illegally modifying the weight-length ratios of the bats by sanding them down, or even planing off wood surfaces. And a primary discussion on if the kiln drying process might be making the maple bats too light for the collision with baseballs.

 

 

 

 
 

 

The last time that baseball changed to the allowable bat specifics was back in 1893, when they outlawed the flat-sided bats. Some people have suggested that Selig should consider a temporary restraining order on maple bats, banning them until safety assurances can be put into place. However, such a plan would be met by huge opposition and possible logistical nightmare. With the majority of players currently having maple bats in their possession, short of players sharing ash bats, Little League-style, there may not be enough bats to equip them in early 2009.
 

 

The dangers are real, and will increase as the hitter become stronger and the pitchers increase their velocity to the plate. A disaster will happen somewhere, sometime within the ranks of baseball. I am not sure if it will be a player, a coach or even a fan, but a major injury will call to arms this discussion again and call for reform. Baseball is trying to be proactive here and research and discuss the problem before it festers, but will it be too late.

 

 
 

 
 

 

Or will it take an action in the majors like what happened to minor leaguer right-handed pitcher Rick Helling. While pitching in the game for the Nashville Sound, he was impaled by in his left arm by a 15-inch shard  from the bat of New Orleans hitter Craig Kuzmic. The shard penetrated three inches into his arm. The wild part is that the pitch was fouled off and did not even enter the field of play, but split into four shards and propelled out of the batters box towards the mound. Helling was taken to an area hospital, but the injury was not considered life threatening and returned to pitch for the Sound later in the season.

 

 
 The maple bat because of denser cell structure, did not break like an ash bat.  Helling was taken from the game and was lucky to not have it hit any other part of his body. But shouldn’t that be the ultimate wake up call. A pitcher, one of the most vulnerable players on the field to ball hit up the middle is not in danger nightly from  a bat impaling him too. Change will come, and hopefully it will evolve before an injury set up a chain of events that will lead to hysteria and not to practicality. It is in the glove of Selig now, along with the MLB Health and Safety committee to bring this home….safe and sound.
 
 

Ken Griffey Junior Adds a New Role to his Career……. Diplomat

 

 

 


If there is one player I wish we could have found space and money for him in Tampa Bay for 2009, it has to be the guy who will go into the Hall of Fame having played for my second favorite MLB squad. With the  Tampa Bay Rays recent signing of  former Phillie Pat Burrell, it ends that secret hidden deep in my heart to see Ken Griffey Junior play and succeed in a Rays uniform. If you really consider what this guy has done in such a long and productive carrer, he is a one of those guys who I believe will be a  sure thing first ballot Hall of Famer, without a question.  I was justing looking forward to watching that swing 81 games a year at the Trop., but I will just have to buy the MLB Package and watch him play maybe in my second city, Seattle again in 2009.

 


From the days at Moeller High School in Cincinnati, where he was a twice voted the best baseball player of the year, to at 19, being the youngest player in the major leagues. The guy has always been at the top of his profession. And to even imagine that he had the chance to do it side by side with his dad is beyond words. Now that is something that I find truly amazing to me. I know I would have loved to play baseball or even box against my dad, or his uncle as a kid growing up, and  would have really learned how it was to play the Philly type of street/ parking lot football and baseball. But Griffey Jr. got to do it along side an All Star dad, while playing for the team that made his dad a star, the Cincinnati Reds is truly amazing to me.

 

 


He is one of the first player to ever be on a major league roster at the same time as his father and playing in the MLB. And if that was not a huge event, he also got to finally play along side his dad after his trade from the Mariners to the Cincinnati Reds. Both Father and son did appear in several lineups that season. And his  outward enjoyment of the game of baseball is clear to see by anyone watching him before, during and after the games. For the art of baseball with all of it’s simple parts and complicated segments never seemed to get him down or stress him out at all. He has always been that care free and smiling figure on the sidelines signing autographs or posing for photos with the fans. He respects the game and pay homage to those before him for letting him have the honor of playing this great game.

 


He is the essence of what you want your teams’ professional baseball player to be, and what you might want you own kids to become someday. He might go out with the boys’ to nightclubs and dinner while on road trips, but he also has been clean and clear to others that he is happily married and loves his lifestyle. The Daily pressures and expectations might take a toll on him, but  doesn’t show the effects or even the worry because when he hits that field for Batting Practice, he tries to convey a sense  of fun and pranks, almost child-like play, and  does not take anything serious around the ball field before the first pitch of the game.  How can you not like a guy with that kind of idealistic joy.  And how can he not be on your list of people in baseball to admire and respect.

 


And people tend to forget he was the youngest player to ever hit the 350 home run mark. He also still hold one of the best  career batting average marks ever in All Star play by hitting over .571 in the mid summer classic. And if that was not enough, the guy also won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves as a center fielder in the American League. He also hit a homer in 8 straight games once during his career, and  has hit a home run in every ball park in the American League, and still will be in uniform to maybe hit one in 2009 in the new Yankee Stadium. Depending on what team finally signs him in 2009, he might still also have a chance to hit a home run in the New York Mets new dig, Citi Park this coming season. If he does sign with the Mariners, he will not get a chance in Inter-league play to go beyond the Mississippi River in 2009. But if he did resign with the Chicago White Sox, he as an option of going back to Cincy during the Inter-league series form June 19-21, 2009.

 


But Griffey Jr. is entering a new phase in his playing career. Ever since 1995, when he broke his wrist while with the Mariners, small injuries and mishaps have taken him down a road he hates to admit might have derailed a lot of his career. Simple injuries have cost this guy a chance at maybe beating Barry Bond’s home run record. He was for years the heir apparent to the crown before his string of injuries cost him at bats and chances at homers over the years. In 2008, an errant foot locker left out in the area near his locker caused him to suffer a knee injury that plagued him the entire season. This off season he has taken measures to correct the injury and should be ready by the Feb. reporting date to again pratice and regain strength in the knee.

 


He is about to enter a second career of sorts for a few months in 2009, maybe setting himself up a bit with a life after baseball motivation.  I could see him maybe in a political role somewhere down the line, but did not think it would go hand in hand with his baseball career. Well seriously folks, for a few years there he could have ran for mayor of Tacoma or Seattle and won by a landslide vote. But recently, United States Secretary of the State Condoleeza Rice named Griffey as a Public Diplomacy Envoy. In accepting the honor, Griffey Jr. is challenged with a new goals and set of parameters. He is entrusted with the act of spreading the values of the United States by helping to spark interest  in America and  in our culture. Griifey also will share this honor with former figure skater Michelle Kwan and  former television star, Fran Drescher, better known for her role and voice as ” The Nanny.”



Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., who was appointed in 2007 to the same post will accompany the newly appointed envoys when they begin their adventures in January with a trip to Panama Since Griffey Jr. has played both on the U S Olympic and World Baseball Classic teams for the United States, he seemed like the logical and most visual player to ever be considered for the post.  ” Public diplomacy must be a dialogue” Rice said recently after a meeting with Griffey Jr.  “This dialogue must extend to every citizen in every country, especially to the young people.”  Because of his still boy-ish looks Griffey Jr. will convey a sense of All American values and be a great example of the type of person an American youth should use as an example for life. Griffey Jr. is excited about the position and is looking forward to his missions for his country.

 


Well-known athletes and celebrities, who exemplify the best in their sports and professions, and as a individual citizens, are appointed by the Secretary of the State to be American Public Diplomacy Envoys.  This special envoy not only reaches out to youth though sports and communications, but promotes the best aspects of American culture and democratic principles. So our latest diplomatic weapon to show people the values and great traits of our country has 611 home runs and has just reached 39 years of age. Griffey Jr is only the 3rd athlete to ever hold this position with the U S government.

 


He also got an honor a lot of people never knew about unless you lived on the west coast of America. In 1989, Ken Griffey Junior got to taste a chocolate candy bar named after him, and it sold over 1 million bars before they ceased production of the bar. Just another great fact about this very like-able baseball player. He has had countless  video games produced and released with his likeness and name upon the packaging. Who can forget the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 games with his name on them that we all played for hours in our family room around the country.


 

 


So what does the future hold for the great Griffey Jr in 2009?  You would think that during the World Baseball classic he would be doing the tours along the sites to promote and entertain the ideals of this great country, while maybe serving in some role for the United States team. But nothing is guaranteed for him in 2009 with the W.B.C. But what might be of concern now is where will he be reporting to after the classic is over in 2009? In a recent article online, it was stated that Tiger’s center fielder Curtis Granderson called Griffey Jr about his time in the 2006 WBC and asked his advice if he should play for the team.  It is not known what Griffey said to Granderson, but the player accepted a invitation to play for the U S team today, and he might be one of  the heir apparents to Griffey’s center field spot on the squad.

 


Now that the Tampa Bay Rays have signed Burrell, it seems that he will not be near home in 2009, unless the Rays can find a way to bring him on board at a reduced price, or maybe shave off some payroll in other areas of the team. Now personally, I would have been honored if the guy had chosen my Rays as his team for 2009. I think the guy is all class, and I got to meet him briefly before the ALDS becuase of an old friend who is playing for the Chicago White Sox. I found him refreshing and totally accessible, and he signed a ball for me without me even asking him for an autograph. We chatted a few minutes before he had to get into the locker room, but it  will remain as one of my best baseball moments. It will sit right along side of photo memory of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris  both holding me for a picture at Al Lang Field when I was young ( 1961 ).



No, the likely destination for Griffey Jr. might, and should be the place where it all began for him. He should be allowed to return to Seattle and help the Mariners during their rebuilding years and to finally play his last game in the stadium that he helped get built in the Emerald City. He has had that town in his mind ever since they drafted him in the First Round in 1987. He finally made it to the big leagues in 1989, and has not looked back since then. He was a part of the Mariners first post season berth, and still has a soft spot for the team’s ownership and the town in general.

 

 

I know I would love it if he was still playing in 2015 ( doubtfully, but I can dream) when I retire to Seattle to see this great player stride to the plate in his last at bat, in that last home game. I know it will be an end of a era of sorts not only in Seattle, but also in baseball. We might never see another player like Ken Griffey Jr. in our lifetime. There are a lot of ballplayers I grew up with that I see at Legends games and charity events throughout Florida during Spring Training, but the games I alsways have looked forward to were the contests against the Reds and the Rays to watch Griffey Jr. just hit the ball during B P . His troke is so pure and seems without effort at times. It is a wonder to just stare at the bat and watch it go through the zone to make contact with the ball.


 

 


Just as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig mesmerized and produced a baseball love affair  for my dad and millions of other fans who never even saw them play some 80 years ago, Griffey Jr. will be one of the true baseball icons we remember when we are sitting on the porch remembering the greatness about baseball in our old age. And you know the one thing I will remember most about this great guy…………..that boyish smile that starts at BP, and grows until the last out of the game. I have never, ever seen him get angry or even get ejected from a ball game, even though it  might have happened a few times in his career. 



Griffey Jr. deserves to be a first ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame after his career.  I think the guy has a few more productive years in him before he might even think about hanging up his Nike spikes and spending the rest of his life in Orlando, Florida with his wife and kids. But, you never know with baseball. In all probability he will be signed before Spring Training and report as usual to begin another great year on the diamond. And to see him having fun in the sport that has given him and us so much to always remember.


 

 

Odd Facts and Figures in Rays History

 

I am feeling a bit bored today and decided to write a short blog and list some interesting facts I have acquired over the test of time.

 

First, my trivia question for the blog:

What coach, associated with the Rays minor league system gave up Home Run  number 150 to Barry Bonds? 

 

Answer will be at the end of the blog.

 

I was cruising through a statistics site the other day and was looking for odd facts and figures and decided to see what former Rays helped Barry Bonds get the All[Time Home Run crown. Here is the list of victimized  ex-Rays pitchers I found:

Jason Jennings, Albie Lopez, Hideo Nomo,Cory Lidle,Casey Fossum,Joe Borowski,Steve Trachel,Dan Miceli,Brian Meadows,Dwight Gooden,Mark Guthrie,John Burkett,Brian Rekar,Rheal Cormier,Xavier Hernandez.

Unfortunately, some on this list got hit more than once by the Barry-nator during his romp through the history books. A few even got smacked hard.

 

Hideo Nomo served up 3 to Barry. Dwight Gooden got smacked for 3 during the 80’s, Cory Lidle gave up a multiple homer game to him in 2004,and former Rays and Marlin John Burkett got him another multiple homer game.

But the guy who seemed to be habitually hammered by Barry, was Denny Neagle of the Rockies and Reds. He gave up a total of 6 homers to Bonds, including a Multiple homer game on 7/30/1999.

I found it interesting the other day that the Rays now will not ask for the $60 million dollars from the Florida Legislature to help build the new open air stadium. They were originally slated to ask for the money as start up capital to secure the contractors for the project. It seems that the Pinellas County politicians were polled and were in agreement that the Rays were asking for too much in this close fiscal climate. The politicians said that other needs were more of a  priority than the team.

 

I agree that Child welfare and county services are needed more right now in this budget tightened situation. Just remember, the Marlins tried to get this same tax break last year and were almost laughed out of the capitol building.

I like Mike De Felice as the veteran backstop to Dioner Navarro. Mike was a extremely emotional player when he was last with the Rays, and had a few flareups, in a good way, with the Tigers a few years ago. The emotional firecracker that beats in his chest might be the right medicine to get some emotional strength and power out of both Shawn Riggans and Dioner. Mike has the veteran presence and the spirit to get even the bench fired up during the games. I remember sitting in my seat down by the Bullpen and seeing Mike come down in the late innings and make the entire bench come alive and seem a bit more controlled by his mere presence. This might not seem like the player needed to push either catcher, but it might be more for game control and organization than to put a hole under either guy this Spring. Josh Paul was a student of Joe Maddon’s system with the Angels, and I think he passed a lot of great information and knowledge to both catchers in the last two years.

 

Josh always commented about writing a book on catching. I think it would be a hit from the controversy surrounding him and the White Sox series in the past, and for his great preparation and historic knowledge of the position. I am not a ghost writer, but I would enjoy talking to this practical joker and serious ballplayer about anything concerning catching or the game.  I hope you write it Josh. I know I will line up for a copy.

The Edwin Jackson rumors will not die concerning the Seattle Mariners and the Rays fire baller. I might have a impartial reason for wanting Edwin not to go anywhere. I enjoy talking to him on the sidelines and receiving his 2006 Game worn jersey at the end of the year.

 

But for the purely baseball angle, I feel that the LA Dodgers organization gave up on him too early in his career. It seems that a pitcher needs to have about 200 plus innings in the minor leagues before you can get a grip on their type or need for your MLB squad. I think that Edwin in the second half of 2007 began to relax and take the game for what it is……… a bunch of hits and misses. He relied more an his ability than on his velocity and his game to him in the end. It was thought a year or two ago, that he might be the closer of the future for the Rays.

I think that would not serve him well. At worst, he would be a killer inning eater for long duty in the Bullpen. I would rather see him as a starter, but the squad will have its first year that the first two spots might be settled even before the pitchers and catcher report in Febuary. I hope he can hunker down and finally cement himself in the rotation for 2008.

 

 

Trivia answer:

The current Durham Bulls pitching coach Xavier Hernandez gave up number 150 to Barry in Houston on 5/2/1992 while Bonds was still a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

 

Post Script: 

 Also a member of the Barry
Bonds hit squad is current Rays announcer/ color analyst Joe Magrane who gave up a home to Bonds as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals on 8/11/90 at home.  It doesn’t seem like he has been out of the game that long. Joe still looks like he could throw 6 solid innings a start.

Last but not least, congrats to Goose Gossage for finally getting that great call from the Hall of Fame. He is only the fifth reliever in the Hall of Fame, with a lot of company to come in the upcoming years. Gossage received 85.5 percent of the vote to finally get that beautiful bronze plaque of himself and that signature mustache. Goose was a nine time All-star with 310 MLB saves for nine different team during his career.

 

Here is a truly impressive stat. Gossage got 52 of those saves when he got 7 outs or more. By comparison, today’s specialist relievers usually do not have to go that far in the earlier innings to get a save opportunity. that says a lot for the teams he played with, and the strength of his pitches.

Gossage will be inducted in that small hamlet in New York on  July 27,2008. He will be joined that day by five men selected by the Veterans’ committee: former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn,former Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, managers Billy Southworth and Dick Williams, and ex-Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss.

Congrats again to all the above men and lets all hit the hamlet of Cooperstown sometime in our lives and feel the thrill and chills of that great museum and ball field.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 287 other followers