Most fans of the game have seen this clip, or the famous picture of Jackie Robinson barrelling down on home as Yogi Berra blocks the path. The play was in the 1st game of the 1955 World Series, a series that the Brooklyn Bums would win. Robinson was called safe, although it looks that he slides into Berra’s glove. Berra upon hearing the call, immediately blows up on Umpire Bill Summers. Berra’s argument was that Summers vision was blocked by Berra and therefore didn’t get the best of looks. Berra would claim that his glove had tagged the top of Robinson’s sliding foot. The call and run wouldn’t matter in the long run as the Yankees would take Game 1 6-5. Robinson, self described as “old, fat and gray,” was 36 and in the twilight of his storied career. The 1955 season had been his worst as a pro – .256 8HR 36RBI 12 SB – and he was running on fumes entering the World Series. The Dodgers win in 1955 would be the only time that Robinson’s team had been on the winning side in 6 attempts. – $
One of baseballs best personalities… the reason thet you should never let Earl near a live mic after a loss..
165 – 87 2.76 ERA 2396 Strikeouts
A hall of fame career all but wrapped up by the age of 30 thanks to an arthritic elbow. Sandy Koufax threw for over 300 innings 3 times (311, 335, 323) in a remarkable 4 seasons during his unprecidented 5 year run from 1961-66, a run that would see him win 3 Cy Young Awards.
Seen here towards the end of his career icing his left elbow in a bucket of ice, a common sight in the Dodgers training room. The days before orthoscopic surgery where ice, heat and “rubbin’ a lil dirt on it” cured all aches and pains.
aka Rapid Robert, Bullet Bob, and the Heater From Van Meter
Career Record: 266-162 3.25 ERA 2581 K’s
– Signed his major league contract for one dollar and an autographed baseball.
– Bypassed minors and made major league debut as a 17 year old in 1937 in a relief appearance.
– Struck out 15 batters in his first career start, 2 weeks later he would strike out 17 batters.
– First pitcher to win 20 games in a season before the age of 21.
– Threw 3 No-Hitters (Record at the time) and 12 One-Hitters.
– Missed 3 years of prime due to service in navy for world war II
– Elected to Hall of Fame on first ballot in 1962, only Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth had higher voting percentage.
– When he was 66 he could still throw 70mph, more if he didn’t want to comb his hair for a week.
A Sad Day in Mudville
As I sit at my computer and hammer out my inaugural column for Low n’ Away, I feel the need to provide a certain degree of context: It is shortly after 4:00 on the afternoon of January 9th, 2013; a date significant for the fact that, for the first time in 17 years, the Baseball Writers Association of America failed to elect a single player to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
My hope is that today acts as catalyst for change to the Hall of Fame’s selection process. The Hall’s current procedure (and that which has been used since the museum’s inception), stipulates that no voter may cast his or her ballot for more than 10 players in any given year. Setting aside the discussion on Performance Enhancing Drugs for the moment (there will be plenty of time to get into that argument later), this year’s ballot was populated by no less than 16 players with a legitimate case for inclusion into Baseball’s Hall – and that’s before you consider Aaron Sele’s sterling candidacy. Without making some badly-needed amendments to the selection process, it seems inevitable that many of the players we grew up idolizing will begin to fall off the ballot, without ever sniffing inclusion to the most famous establishment Cooperstown, New York has to offer.
The 2013 ballot was highlighted, for the first time, by baseball demigods who answer to the names of Clemens, Sosa, and Bonds. They were joined by a player who played three premium defensive positions and who amassed 3060 hits and collected the most doubles by a right-handed hitter in the history of the sport. They were joined by one of four players to ever slug 500 home runs and deliver 3000 hits. They were joined by a man who sits 10th all-time in Home Runs, and who put the sport on his shoulders and carried it from the brink of irrelevancy with a home run binge for the ages during the magical summer of 1998, just four short years after the game’s devastating strike. They were joined by the greatest offensive catcher in baseball history. They were joined by one of the five best first basemen of the live-ball era, a man with a collection of awards so prolific that he must surely use his silver sluggers as paperweights. They were joined by one of the great workhorse pitchers of all time. A man to whom three different organizations gave the ball in game one of the World Series, and who delivered the most memorable pitching performance I have ever seen, with 10 innings of shutout ball in game seven of the 1991 World Series. They were joined by an outfielder with three batting titles, a first baseman with as many home runs as Gehrig, a designated hitter with a slash line to make George Brett blush, and the man with the best strikeout to walk ratio of the modern era and arguably the best postseason performer of all time.
The voting members of the BBWAA perused this list of inimitable performers – men who filled the summers of my childhood with indelible, awe-inspiring feats of baseball heroism – and collectively said “no thanks”.
Next year, the names of Bonds, Bagwell, Clemens, Biggio, Piazza, McGwire and company will be joined by the likes of Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux. These players, along with many others, will comprise a ballot so full it should pre-emptively change into turkey pants right now. (For the record, my 2013 ballot, were I to have one, would consist of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Jack Morris, Rafael Palmeiro, and Larry Walker).
Short of swift, vital changes to the selection process, the Hall of Fame faces the very real risk of having Hall of Fame-caliber players coloured by PED suspicions hang around year after year, receiving less than half the vote. Until the writers know what to do with such players, the ballot will continue to swell with highly qualified players unable to achieve election, or worse, failing to receive even 5% of the vote and dropping off the ballot altogether.
The takeaways from today are five-fold:
1) The Hall needs to absolve its outdated rule limiting voters to the selection of a maximum of ten players per ballot;
2) A consensus on what to do with PED-tainted players will not be reached for a very, very long time;
3) We face the very real possibility of having a Hall of Fame that excludes the all-time hits leader (Pete Rose), the all-time home run king (Bonds), a player with the third highest average in the history of the sport (Shoeless Joe Jackson), and a player with more 60 home run seasons than any man living or dead (Sosa);
4) The Veteran’s Committee is going to have their hands full 20 years from now; and
5) The only people that should feel worse than baseball fans on a day like today are the hotel and B&B operators of the greater Cooperstown area.
July 28th will be a lonely day in the jewel of upstate New York.
This blog will be more baseball heavy than anything else, however, it’s not every day that a sports legend suits up for what could be his last game.
All the money in the world. That was typically the response that was given. The question: What would it take to go across the middle against Ray Lewis? Ray has a sort of mystique about him, the same type of mystique that Kevin Garnett has about him. He doesn’t just walk or run on the field. He lurks, prowls, roams, hunts, pursues. That if you say a bad word about him, he will HUNT YOU DOWN. If you say his name 3X into a mirror in the dark he will show up and gut you – no wait thats the Candyman or James Harrison. Ray Lewis became an ordained minister just to put the fear of god into people. Okay so I made that last one up, but it’s not totally unrealistic. It takes a real man to lead 11 men into battle every week for 16+ weeks- a battle where men collide with car crash results, a battle that is only won by those 11 men performing their job without flaw. Ray Lewis has been the ABSOLUTE definition of that leader since Day 1. I’ve often joked that I would follow Ray Lewis and Kevin Garnett into any type of battle or war… thinking about it now, maybe it wasn’t that much of a joke. That’s how great of a leader he is.
RayRay has been the face of the Baltimore franchise since he was drafted and the team relocated to Baltimore. He has been the most feared defensive player this side of Lawrence Taylor and the original Minister of Defense, Reggie White. He has teamed up with and led some of the most devastating defences in the past 20 years. Not to mention that he has played Batman to Ed Reed’s Robin since 2002 (I also know that somewhere in Baltimore Ed Reed just got a bad shiver for being compared to Robin, sorry Ed) The current version of the Ravens feature not only Lewis and Reed, but also Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata. That’s 4 players with 90+ ratings in Madden 13!! It’s like a Justice League of defensive players. His numbers and accolades speak for themselves:
• 2000+ tackles, 41.5 sacks, 31 interceptions
• Quickest player to both the 20 sack/20 interception club and the 30 sack/30 interception club
• The only member of the 40 sack/30 interception club
• 13x Pro Bowler
• 7x AP First-Team All-Pro, 3x Second-Team All Pro
• 2x AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, 2X AFC Defensive player of the year
• Super Bowl Winner and Super Bowl MVP
• Holds the records for: Most Pro Bowls by an inside linebacker (13) – Record 10x AP All-Pro selection for inside linebacker and tied for most times for linebacker with LT – Record for most games started at inside/middle linebacker (227) – Most interception return yards for an inside/middle linebacker (503) – Most seasons played at inside/middle linebacker (17)
• Member of the NFL 2000’S All Decade Team
Ray Lewis is one of those once-a-generation players, the kind of player that you tell your kids and grandkids about. The kind of player that other players get compared to – “He’s the next Ray Lewis…” Lewis is one of those guys that you start making his case for the best inside/middle linebacker of all-time. Personally, I have him behind Butkis, but ahead of Singletary. His peers recognized him as #18 on the top 100 NFL Players of All-Time. He’s the guy that you want to be when you’re playing pickup ball with your buddies. He’s the guy you emulate when you play in high school. Everybody wants to get the team fired up like RayRay does. How he leads the Ravens out there every week with The Dance, followed by some form of pregame speech to the defense. The way the others snarl and bark back at him is like watching a pack of dogs getting ready to be fed. You think he’d be the one to feed them; instead he’s the hungriest dog in the pack. He’s the guy that will get you to run threw a brick wall at any cost.
I’ve been actively watching football since Terrell Davis and the Broncos ran all over the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII (’97 season). I grew up an Eagles fan, and despite their best efforts this season, I’ll probably always be an Eagles fan. I have my pops to thank for that one. However, unlike baseball and hockey where my home town actually has a team to cheer for… well sometimes… I really have no REAL allegiance to any NFL team, except for the Eagles due to inheritance. It is because of this that I become rather promiscuous with whom I cheer for from time to time. One thing that has never wavered though since I begin watching football has been my love for the Eagles, and my absolute respect, fear, admiration and love for Ray Lewis. There have always been two things that I can look forward to on Sundays from September to January: watching the Simpsons and watching RayRay put a hurt on somebody. It’s hard to believe that one of those is coming to an end (although the Simpsons have been running on fumes and name recognition for years now). With every season that’s passed I’ve begin to worry about the inevitable day when Ray hung up the cleats. Unlike Ed Reed who threatens retirement every season, Ray has never held it over anyone’s head. That’s why it came as a shock when he declared that this postseason would be his last ride. I always thought that he would make a comeback and play one last season; especially when this season was a right off for him with torn triceps. Even torn triceps couldn’t keep him down, telling GM Ozzie Newsome to “leave him off” the IR and thus ending his season. It’s similar to the way that MLB and Yankee fans were almost cheated from witnessing the great Mariano Rivera’s swan song. Some players have played well past their primes and almost tarnished themselves in order to achieve personal accolades and records or just to hang onto the game they love playing. Some walked away too soon or could never reach their full potential because of injury or futility. It’s hard to imagine players getting better with age, especially in football. But Ray Lewis proved it wrong. His last 5 years were almost, if not better, than any 5 seasons of his career.
So if this Sunday really is the last time that I get to see #52 parade out of the tunnel in Raven purple – although the black on black is the best uni in sports – Dance the last dance of his career and fire up the defense for one last time. At least he did it before he burned out, and definitely before he faded away.
Now that the RA Dickey trade is official with the knuckleballer inking a 2 year extension, the Jays lineup and rotation is really rounding into shape. The only 2 questions that still remain in my books are:
Who is our everyday 1B? and
Who is our everyday 2B?
Last season we saw E5 move across the diamond to man the not so hot corner and he did admirably to say the least. E5 started 66 games at 1B in which he had 637 defensive chances (putouts + assists + errors) and had a .995 field percentage. Adam Lind started 57 games, had 587 defensive chances and also had a .991 field percentage. Now there is no secret that Edwin isn’t a true 1B, he lacks the ideal height and his footwork leaves a lot to desire. Lind on the other hand is cast from the ideal 1B mould; 6’4, lefthanded, and fluent footwork around the bag. But that’s where Lind stops holding something over E5. Edwin’s bat alone ensures that his name is on the lineup card every game, so much so that they even played him in LF. Edwin really looks like a prototypical DH in the AL, who could see some playing time around the field (1B, 3B, LF) if need be. Lind unfortunately has played his way out of an everyday role, and maybe out of TO… in my opinion. Let’s forget about his ridonkulous 2009 season (fluke of flukes) entirely and look at what he’s done the past 3 seasons since:
2012: 321 AB – 11 HR – 45 RBI – .255 AVG – .729 OPS
2011: 499 AB – 26 HR – 87 RBI – .251 AVG – .734 OPS
2010: 569 AB – 23 HR – 72 RBI – .237 AVG – .712 OPS
Okay.. so Lind can hit the longball fairly well and can put up RBI’s when put into a positon… but the dude DOES not get on base! Lind cannot hit for average any more and he surely can’t draw walks, not topping 40 walks once in those 4 years. We already have JP as our black hole of OBP, we can’t have 2 of them.
So what do we do.
Free agency is an option yet the field for one bags is pretty sparse. Adam LaRoche and Lance Berkman are clearly the best of the lot but to sign one of them is gonna cost ya. LaRoche has been offered 2years @ 25 million by the Nats, Berkman hasn’t really had any huge offers and in fact has even mentioned retirement… but who knows. After the 2 of them, pickings be slim. Enter the Aubrey Huffs, Carlos Penas, James Loneys and Casey Kotchmans of the world. *shudders* I cant see AA spending fat cash on LaRoche, but Berkman would be an interesting option if the money is right. Plus it would give us a decent option @ 1B and give us a left handed bat via the switch. Personally I dont see any of this happening… but hey… I always foresaw JP playing 1B with at d’Arnaud C.
The option I like and wouldn’t mind seeing is giving David Cooper a shot. I mean the kid raked in the PCL (yes I know all about the inflated offensive stats in Vegas) and can he really be worse then Lind offensively? I really wish he was a little taller though… and he’s a lefthanded bat. I’m not saying cement him as the opening day starter, but allow the kid to get a good shot out of spring training. Maybe having someone sniffing around his job may light a fire under Lind’s ass.
Either way its a good bad position to be in. Even if we swap Lind, E5 and Cooper between 1B and DH we should be alright with the makeup of our lineup.