Tag Archives: baseballworldbjt

An ongoing analysis of and commentary on major league baseball teams, players and organizations and their performance and activity.

REINSTATE ROSE

The following column appeared in the March 15, 2015 edition of the Biddeford Journal Tribune. Today, it was announced that Pete Rose has petitioned the New Commissioner for reinstatement in baseball.

Ex-Commissioner Fay Vincent is quoted as saying that the issue is not Pete Rose, it …’ has always been the deterrent in baseball against gambling and is always perfectly successful.’ Sure Commissioner, just like your punishments against steroid and PED use have always been successful. Is there anyone in the world except Fay Vincent that believes baseball players don’t bet on games?

Pete Rose should be reinstated at least as far as his playing career is concerned. Anyway, here’s the column.

On the night of October 16, 1983, I was driving from my home in Connecticut to Quantico, Virginia, where I was about to begin my third week of three months at the Federal Bureau Of Investigation’s National Academy. In the car, on the way, we had listened to the end of Game 5 of the World Series and had heard the Baltimore Orioles beat the Philadelphia Phillies 5-0 to take the series and become World Champs 4 games to 1.

As my classmate, Larry Gwaltney and I, passed into and drove through Maryland on Interstate 95, every overpass was filled with people holding banners and signs and waiting for their heroes, the Baltimore Orioles, to pass through on their way back to Baltimore from Philadelphia. This was one of those few World Series of the modern era where the two cities involved were so close together the trip was an easy bus ride.

I remember thinking that the Oriole fan base must be very loyal to turn out like that so the team could get a quick glimpse of them as they passed by at 65 miles an hour. Since then, I have found that the Oriole fans are among the most rabid and loyal in all of baseball.

The other day, I happened to turn the television on just in time to catch the last few innings of a baseball classic on one of the sports channel. They were showing the same Game 5 of the 1983 World Series between the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies.

The Orioles had finished the season with a 98-64 record and had beaten the Chicago White Sox three games to one in the Playoffs. There were only two divisions in each league then. The Phillies had finished 90-72 and had beaten the LosAngeles Dodgers three games to one to make the series.

In the fifth game being shown on television, the Orioles were up 3 games to 1 and the game was being played in Philadelphia at the old Veteran’s Field with 67,064 fans present. Scott McGregor was pitching for the Orioles and they went up 5-0 on the strength of two homers by first baseman Eddie Murray and a homer and double by catcher Rick Dempsey. McGregor went all the way, shutting out the Phillies, as the Orioles became World’s Champs.

Rick Dempsey, a 34 year old, in his 15th year in the big leagues, with his third team, won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award based on his .385 batting average with 5 hits, 4 doubles and a homer in 13 at bats. Dempsey went on to play for three other teams before coming back to Baltimore to finish his 24 year career.

Quite often, the World Series or Playoff MVP is an unknown or unlikely player. In Dempsey’s case, his home run was the only one he would ever hit in 25 post season games, he was a career .233 hitter with just 96 homers in 5,407 at bats. Like a lot of veterans, over his career, he played better in the post season, averaging .303.

The Orioles pitching staff held the Phils to just nine runs in five games despite the fact that the Phils had a power house lineup. Joe Morgan, the former Cincinnati Reds second baseman and future Hall of Famer led off. Followed by all time hit leader Pete Rose who played first base or right field depending on the pitching with the great third baseman and another Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt batting third. Schmidt was held to one hit in 20 at bats by the Oriole pitchers. The Phils also had future Hall of Fame pitcher Steve

Carlton who lost Game 3 by a 3-2 score.

Jim Palmer, the great Orioles pitcher, and another Hall of Famer, who was in the twilight of his career, won Game 3 in relief.

Pete Rose, who was 42 years old and in his 21st year in the major leagues, the first 16 with the Reds, would play for three years after this season. He was Rookie of the year in 1963, Most Valuable Player in the National League in 1973, MVP in the World Series in 1975, won three batting titles and was named to 17 All Star Teams. At 42, he was still a force on the field and went 5-16 for a .303 average in the series.

As every one knows, he had more hits in his career than any player in history, 4,256, and was banned from baseball and the Hall of Fame for betting on his own team as a Manager. Rose has been allowed to participate in some ceremonial events since his original banning from baseball but the ban on the Hall of Fame still stands.

Whether Rose bet on baseball as a Manager or not does not change the fact that he produced more base hits than any other player in history and it is time baseball rescinded the ban on him being in the Hall of Fame. As a player, Pete exemplified the way the game should be played, 100% all the time. Hopefully, the new Commissioner will see fit in the near future to allow him to be placed on some ballot for the Hall. Of course, the way the Baseball Writers of America vote, making their own rules as they go along, that would not guarantee admission.

Pete Rose, the ballplayer, Charlie Hustle, belongs in the Hall of Fame. It’s time Major League Baseball woke up and put him there.

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SPRING TRAINING AT LAST

Spring training games finally started last week in both Florida and Arizona. This is a magical time of the year in either of those two locations for serious baseball fans. The only time of the year when you can wander into a major league facility, sit down in the seats and watch your heroes and a bunch of other guys you never heard of work out the kinks and get ready for the real thing which starts on April 5 this year and not even have to pay to get in.

At most training facilities, most of the fields that are used for workouts and practicing are located around the stadiums where the games are played and are open to the public free of charge or you can watch from behind the fence. If you are a real baseball nut, you don’t care if you are watching one of the minor league teams that share the camp with the big guys or watching the real thing, it’s baseball, the sun is out, winter is over and all you can look forward to baseball, baseball, and more baseball for the next six or seven months.

On March 23, the van carrying the Johnson team and all its equipment starts south from Sanford, Maine. This is our year to visit the Grapefruit League in Florida as we alternate years between Arizona and Florida so we won’t have to de-ice the car before we start. The last week or two of spring training is the best for me. The regulars are starting and playing most of the games by then and, even though the games mean nothing, the jockeying for starting positions and roster spots is getting down to the real thing.

We always leave for Florida with our winter clothes on hoping we will not need them when we get there. Two years ago, we sat with winter jackets on and blankets wrapped around us at two night games in Steinbrenner Field.

Whereas in Arizona, the spring training stadiums are uniformly relatively new and well kept, there is a bit of a contrast in Florida. Steinbrenner Field is a state of the art facility that looks like a new, smaller, regular major league stadium and seats over 11,000 and of course the Red Sox Jet Blue Park is almost new and the Orioles Ed Smith Stadium is a beautiful facility which has been refurbished recently. Then there are fields like the Blue Jays facility, Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, in Dunedin which is an older facility, built in 1990, with a capacity of 5,500 fans, which was showing its wear when we were there two years ago.

But even in the older ball parks, the atmosphere is conducive to having a good time. You can park in the VFW lot across the street, somebody’s yard or a similar facility and sit at large picnic tables inside the park while waiting for the game to start with a dozen of your new best friends. We actually sat at a table in Dunedin one time with 14 people we had never seen before and found we were all from Maine, two from Shapleigh.

Even with the season getting close, the players are more relaxed and willing to spend time with fans, young and old. Before and after games, a lot of kids get the thrill of their lives having a picture taken with or getting an autograph from a real major leaguer. Corey Hart, the Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder, became one of my favorite players when he was with the Milwaukee Brewers, when I watched him, game after game, sign autographs for kids until he had to race to get to his position when the game was about to start.

Being Red Sox and Yankee fans, we will see them play three times each and will also concentrate on the rest of the American League East. We will see a night game at Jet Blue between the Twins and Red Sox on March 30 after having a book signing for my book ‘From Beer To Beards, Boston Baseball’s 2011-2013 Roller Coaster Ride’ at Lee County Library in Estero at 4:00 that afternoon. If you’re in the area, stop in and say hello, we promise no high pressure to sell the book.

We’re also staying for opening day at Tropicana Field on April 6 to see the American League East Champion Orioles play the Rays. This will be the third time in the last five years we have seen the Rays open against the O’s and it will be different without Joe Maddon in the Rays dugout, Ben Zobrist at short or second for the Rays and Nick Markakis in right field for the O’s.

We always make it a point to visit the Ted Williams Museum on the first floor of the Trop, which is a great place to watch a game, and always leave after the game with a slight headache as there are more cow bells per capita in that ballpark than anywhere else in the world. There is no other experience in sports like a major league opening day and I am one of those people that think opening day should be a national holiday.

Spring training is a wonderful experience for any baseball fan either casual or rabid and leaving New England at the end of a winter like we have experienced makes it even more special. It seems like it’s been forever since the 2014 season ended but the 2015 season will be well worth the wait.

DEFLATE PACE OF GAME COMMITTEE

The Pace of the Game Committee, perhaps the worst idea in the history of baseball, has reared its ugly head again. According to Matt Snyder of CBS Sports, writing on September 22, 2014, the committee, was formed to focus on ‘ …. decreasing the time of games and improving the overall pace of play in the 2015 regular season and beyond. ‘ Former Commissioner Bud Sellig said, when the Committee was formed, said that, at that time, ‘ The game is at its highest levels of popularity,…’.

I may be a ‘ glass is half empty kind of guy’ but it would appear to me that if the game was at its highest levels of popularity that was not the time to be tampering with it. I have long been a fan of the concept of ‘ if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it ‘.

Nevertheless, Commissioner Bud Sellig and his brain trust didn’t pay any attention to my opinion and went ahead with their plans to explore ways of reducing the length of games. They installed time clocks on the field at the Talking Stick Field in the Arizona Fall League and tested new rules to reduce the time of games. They shaved a few minutes off the average game during the test period.

I, for one, don’t think that the average fan has a problem with the length of games. People paying the amount of money it costs to get into a major league baseball game today certainly don’t want their entertainment shortened.

Snyder went on to say, and this is before the testing in Arizona was completed, that ‘ A major part of the problem in game pacing this season has been the poor implementation of replay. If replay were streamlined and time between pitches was better enforced, a lot of the dead time in MLB games would be eliminated.’

Now Craig Calcaterra, on Wednesday’s NBC’s Hardball reports that the latest plan is to require pitchers to ‘ .. finish warmup pitches and be ready to make the first pitch 30 seconds before the end of all between innings commercial breaks ‘ and for the ‘ hitter to be in the box 20 seconds before the end of the break. ‘ Commercial time will not be changed.

The original goal to shorten the time between innings was to reduce it to two minutes. In the Playoffs last year, conducting my own unscientific survey, I found that the commercials between innings took between 2 minutes and 45 seconds and 3 minutes.

Apparently, and not surprisingly, as I predicted, the television time for commercials is more important than reducing the length of the game. Games averaged more than three hours this past season for the first time in history but there was no significant decrease in attendance. Since 2004, major league teams have average attendance over 30,000 every year for the first decade in history.

The new Commissioner should rethink the changes that have been made and are proposed to be made in the near future. Instant replay has not improved the game or the speed of play. Cutting a few minutes off the time of the game at a time when the game is at the height of its popularity makes no sense.

Instant replay eliminated one of the most entertaining parts of a baseball game, the theatrical arguments between umpires and players/managers and replaced it with boring periods with fans watching everyone wait around for a decision on a contested call. I have always believed that, in a game played by human beings, overseen by human beings, the few bad calls will even out over the course of a season and there is no significant advantage to any one team.

The game, as played before instant replay and the Pace of the Game Committee, was doing fine. It was, and is, our National Pastime and doesn’t need change. Baseball should let the air out of the political football that is the Pace of the Game Committee.