Here are several links from the past week that will make your final Monday of the year a bit more bearable:
- “Wait, Manny [Ramirez] was in the Rangers’ organization this year?” Indeed, Grant Brisbee of Baseball Nation reminds us. That and other kerfuffles are examined as Brisbee takes us through “the forgettable stories of 2013.”
- Beyond the Boxscore’s Alex Skillin thinks that a solid bullpen may be constructed on the cheap with some of the relievers who remain on the open market.
- The next post is dedicated to editor Nick Frankovich as well as other fans of the Tribe — Bruce Bialosky, William Daroff, Sheldon Green, and Gregg Rickman. Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times profiles how close the 1918–21 Indians came to achieving dynasty status. Here’s Jaffe summarizing what went wrong:
Part of the problem in the early years was their manager, [Lee] Fohl. He just wasn’t very good. After Cleveland dumped him, the Browns picked him up. He ran the most talented unit they ever had, and he still couldn’t quite deliver. Then he went to the Red Sox when they were totally starved of talent. They got worse the longer he was there and got better as soon as he left.
Fohl consistently got the least out of his teams. The Indians probably should’ve made Speaker their manager sooner than they did.
In 1921, injuries clearly played a role, especially on the pitching staff. If [Jim] Bagby’s arm was just a bit stronger, they could’ve repeated. (Oddly enough, it’s not clear how much it cost them to lose [Ray] Chapman [to a fatal beaning]. Even in 1921, the 22-year-old [Joe] Sewell was a fine offensive force at shortstop.)
Oh, and there is one other lurking variable: Ruth. What if the most talented player of the 20th century had come along at any other point in that century (or at least been in the NL at the time)? His pitching helped them miss the 1918 World Series, and his bat helped push them back in 1921.
The main answer is this, though: it’s mighty tough to be a dynasty. Sure, if they had the right manager all the time, and they didn’t have injuries in 1921, and if timing worked out better. Sure, you can point to all of that. But that means if everything worked out perfectly, maybe they could’ve done had a pennant-winning run. Well, how often do things work out perfectly for any team in just one season, let alone four straight?
For all the preaching about cheating, no one has differentiated one form of cheating from another. A splitter killed a batter, one Hall of Famer wrote a book about throwing one 50 years later. The day after Sammy Sosa was caught with a corked bat, I participated in a two hour ESPN special in which one writer demanded Sosa be suspended; never mind that one of Ted Williams’ teammates regaled me with a story about Ted’s corked bats, and we all laugh every time we think about the superballs out of Graig Nettles’ bat. …
Some writers say their eyes are judge and jury. Some go by hearsay; Ken Caminiti told many that Jeff Bagwell was a juicer, and it is accepted, yet one time Caminiti, a sad character, cornered me at a Players Choice Awards function and ranted about Steve Finley also being a steroids guy, which I do not believe. In any way. Or care, because Caminiti turned into one of those “everyone did it” persons. …
Oh, we also have players who have tested positive for amphetamines. Are they now supposedly ineligible for Cooperstown? Greenies and beans were rampant in the Fifties, Sixties, Seventies and Eighties, eyesight’s were affected and the ability to ramp it up again helped career home run totals creep past 400 or 500 or 600. I love watching the grainy film of The Mick, head down, rounding the bases, or Don Larsen jumping into Yogi’s arms, but baseball was not played in a Franciscan ordinary; did the Giants really find an edge in the ’51 playoff?
- It is increasingly evident that Yasiel Puig is reckless away from the basepaths too. The 23-year-old Cuban sensation was pulled over on a Florida highway after his car was clocked going 110 mph in a 70-mph zone. Back in April, while still a minor leaguer, Puig was pulled over in Tennessee for driving 97 mph in a 50-mph area.
That’s it. Have a walk-off 2014!