So, you might know, I work for NBC Sports. And NBC Sports is a television operation. I don’t think I need to go through the amazing roster of broadcasting talent at NBC — you know all the names. Costas. Michaels. Emrick. On and on.
Point is: They sure as heck don’t need me doing television.
But, what the heck, I’m doing some anyway. They have me working with production talent way above my level, and we’re producing some things together. This is all in line with some of the changes I mentioned in the last post — for now I’m doing some 90-second essays that NBC is producing into cool little pieces (the cool part being the excellent work of the producers).
As part of the transition, I’m going to post these videos here on the blog. I’m posting one I did last week on Wrigley Field. Comments are … thoroughly unnecessary. When it comes to my video work, I tend to work out of the George McFly playbook: “What if they don’t like them? What if they tell me I’m not good. I couldn’t take that kind of rejection.”
I’ll just assume the best.
And, oh yeah, there will be another Poscast. I believe.
So, you may or may not (or may) have noticed that production on this site has gone way down. There is a reason for this – well, actually there are a lot of reasons. The main reason is that we have some pretty cool things brewing at NBC Sports that will come out over the next couple of months (well, I think they’re cool) and so things are a bit jumbled right now. This blog will probably undergo a couple of changes in the process – changes for the better, I believe. You’ll see. Anyway, that’s one reason. Once we get through the numerous changes, productivity should return to the previous insane pace.
Another reason is that I’m now working on my book about Tom Watson’s rivalry and friendship with Jack Nicklaus. The book doesn’t have an official title yet (note to self: Come up with a title) so that is taking up a lot of my time and will for a while.
Another reason is that I have started playing tennis again with some urgency. I’ll explain when I get a chance.
Another reason is that … well, hey, you know, there are a lot of reasons.
I do have some things coming – huge piece on the first-place Royals (of course), something Pixifoods, something about my tennis inspiration, something about my the Surface Pro 3.
Oh, and as for the Top 100 – I was going to post a list of the remaining 40 players in my Top 100 but I heard from a bunch of you that you didn’t want me to do that and would rather wait for me to write the full essays on them. So, that will have to wait for a while. I might even take some of your suggestions and build my next book around it. We’ll see where it goes.
When the Detroit Tigers traded Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals back in December for a a middling left-handed pitching prospect and some change, it was, well, baffling. Here we are a few months later, and it’s no longer baffling. Yes, it’s self-destructive. It’s ruinous. It’s loony. It might be the trade that changed the entire face of baseball for 2014. Baffling just isn’t nearly a big enough word now.
Let’s do a quick review:
Last year: The Nationals were sixth in the National League in runs allowed, gave a struggling Dan Haren 30 starts and finished second in the National League East and out of the playoffs.
This year: The Nationals lead the NL in ERA (more than a half run lower than last year), they are six games up in the in the National League East, and Fister is their best pitcher.
Last year: The Tigers were third in the American League in ERA, Fister made 32 starts for them (the Tigers went 18-14 in those starts), and the team won 93 games, won the American League Central and reached the ALCS.
This year: The Tigers are 10th in the league in ERA, Fister’s starts were mostly taken up by since traded Drew Smyly (team went 6-12 in his starts) and the player acquired in the deal, Robbie Ray (1-4 in his starts). Detroit finds itself one and a half games behind the Kansas City Royals.
Before we began talk about why Thursday felt like SUCH a disastrous day for the Kansas City Royals – and, possibly, your hometown team too — we should probably offer two qualifications. One, Major League trades are hard things to pull off. They sound so easy on talk radio and fantasy leagues. But in real life, a thousand things have to come together, enthusiasm has to be spread all over the teams, momentum has to drive forward. Any tiny blip can nix the whole thing. A thousand trades are talked about for every one pulled off … and that ratio goes up exponentially when talking about major trades. Teams may really, really try to pull off a trade and for any number of reasons it just doesn’t happen. So that’s one.
Two, the Royals might not have been able to change their fate no matter what they did. The Royals, it seems to me, are the very essence of an eh-not-bad team. The lineup is average-conscious and cannot score runs. The pitching staff is pretty good but bullpen heavy and it relies heavily on a No. 1 starter who, best anyone can tell, will not be around after this season. A move, even a bold one, might not alter that at all.
So I have three – no, wait, just thought of another one, so four – theories about the Baseball Hall of Fame’s decision to reduce the time a player can spend on the ballot from 15 years to 10. I am not opposed to this rule, by the way. I have long thought 15 years was too long for a player to be on the ballot. And I am absolutely for some changes in the Hall of Fame process.
But the Hall of Fame isn’t changing the rule now based on my idle thinking. They are sending a message.
The question is: What is the message?
This would qualify as: Overthinking it.
We spent the last couple of days as a family watching the Indiana Jones movies. Well, the girls saw “Raiders of the Lost Ark” a year or two ago, and they kept asking to see “Temple of Doom” and “The Last Crusade,” and I kept putting them off. A friend had told me that she let his young daughter watch Temple of Doom when she was 8 or 9 and she kept having nightmares afterward.
In retrospect I can see why: Temple of Doom wasn’t nearly as fun as I remembered it being when I was a kid. It’s dark (literally dark; so much of it is in the Temple) and there are a lot of disturbing images in there and it’s not nearly as funny as the other two*.
*I am of the belief that there have been three Star Wars movies made, two Godfathers and three Indiana Jones movies.
There is something about the Kansas City Royals hitting that has been bothering me lately. Well, let’s be honest, there’s something about the Kansas City Royals hitting that has been bothering more or less everybody – that is that they do not score runs. They are tied for 14th in the American League in runs scored, this one year after finishing 11th in the league, this one year after finishing 12th. They have fired hitting coaches and hired legends to be interim hitting coaches and hired other guys to be assistant hitting coaches and fired assistant hitting coaches and asked legends to come back and who knows what else. Everything changes. And nothing changes in Kansas City.
Lately, it has become clearer to me why nothing changes.
When I talked with Oakland’s super-smart Director of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi, he explained in pretty specific terms what the Oakland A’s want. They want hitters who do not strike out substantially more often than they walk. They want hitters in their prime years. They want hitters who have a verifiable skill – that is, they are good against lefties, or they are good against righties, or they can hit home runs with some regularity, or they make pitchers work. These all sound obvious, but … we’ll get to that in a minute.
We can start here: For a long time I have believed that Ned Yost would not be the manager for the Kansas City Royals when they actually contended for the World Series. He always seemed to me a transitional manager, a pro who works well with management, follows the plan, does not hesitate to play young players and so on. That’s important for a terrible team. That also goes only so far. When the Royals were ready to actually win games, I figured that, one way or another, Yost would be replaced with someone who could match up with the best managers in the game and could instill a sense of confidence.
Yost filled that transitional role with Milwaukee. And just like in Milwaukee, Yost’s Royals teams gradually improved.
In Yost’s fifth year with the Brewers, they finally had a winning record.
It took Yost four years in Kansas City.
Red Klotz died Saturday. He was 93 years old. He lost more games than anyone in basketball history, and he won also more hearts along the way than anyone in basketball history. He had his pants pulled down, he was drenched by buckets of water, he fruitlessly chased basketballs through intricate dance routines. He sank more long jumpers, I’ll bet, than anyone who ever lived.
The last time I saw him, at his home by the water in Margate, New Jersey, he and his lovely wife Gloria asked me to come back again and, next time, bring my children. “This is a home for children,” he said. I kept meaning to go back.
This was the story I wrote about the man who lost more, and in the process won more, than anyone I’ve known in sports.
When I was a kid, the Cleveland Indians ALWAYS won when we went to the ballpark. No, really, always. I don’t remember how many years the magical stretch lasted or how many games it involved, but it seemed pretty remarkable at the time. My Dad favored doubleheaders because my parents have always liked bargains — double-coupon days, buffets, doubleheaders, bat days, refunds, cap days, jacket days, etc. I know we went to at least five consecutive doubleheaders where the Indians swept. I know it.
Well, I don’t “know it.” But I believe it. I went back nervously to Baseball Reference because it seems unlikely that the Indians even swept that many doubleheaders. But it’s easy to forget: Teams played A LOT of doubleheaders in the mid-70s. it turns out the Indians swept 18 home doubleheaders in my childhood years, including two against the Yankees. I remember being at both of those. My childhood delusions live on!
In any case, by 1978 I know our family winning streak was very much a part of our baseball experience. And I vividly remember a Friday night in July, on the way to the ballpark, we talked confidently about how the Indians HAD to win because we were coming. It was July 7, I now know, and I’m pretty sure it was my first night game. My Dad was not much for night games (no bargains there). We only went that night because of a promise. He had taken my brother David and me to the July 4th game against Baltimore*, only we never got there. We got started late, and we got caught up awful traffic, and my Dad couldn’t find a parking spot (the crowd of 36,000 or so seemed like a million). At some point, in frustration, he begged us kids to just go bowling. In return, he promised to take us to the Friday night game. So we went bowling. It was just as well: The Indians lost, further confirming our belief that we were blessed.
*We had gone to the Independence Day game in 1977 (July 3rd against the Royals — a 6-3 victory!) and my Dad liked the bargain of fireworks after the game. It wasn’t QUITE the bargain of a doubleheader or bat day, but it was close.