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Weekly Pepper - Week 12

by Gregory Pratt, BaseballEvolution.com
June 22, 2008

Other Weekly Peppers:

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Gregory Pratt learned this weekend that his cousin made his Little League All-Star team, and so he is very proud of him. Greg Pratt has spent a fair amount of time teaching his younger cousin, who is the closest thing he has to a brother, how to play the game of baseball the right way. He will be in Indiana for the next three days to catch his games.

Every Rose Has Its Rod -- I wholeheartedly recommend this ESPN the Magazine article to you, dear reader, as it is a well-written account of Pete Rose's friendship with Alex Rodriguez. It started when Rodriguez wanted to talk to someone about hitting.  Rose says: "If I wanted to talk to somebody about hitting, I'd talk to me, too," and it has evolved into a constant dialogue between them. The most interesting aspect of the story might be the contrast between Rose and Rodriguez, who are both desperately committed to being the very best in the game, but have approached it from very different angles. Whereas Rodriguez watches video of himself constantly, Rose "told him he got 4,256 career hits without watching a single frame of film. He said he never hit off a tee, barely lifted a weight, and had an offseason program that consisted of playing full-court basketball. He told A-Rod every game was a 'four at-bat war,' that he was a 'grinder,' that he remembered every pitch a pitcher ever threw him. He told him he didn't buy into this notion of 'hitting inside the ball or outside the ball,' that his only goal was to hit the thing hard someplace." Of course, there are all sorts of humorous moments in the piece that make it worth reading. This is my favorite: "Well, I mean, Petey* was in an 0-for-20 slump one time, and asked me what he should do. So I told him, 'Go call [Dave] Concepcion. I've never been 0-for-20.'"

No Justice in this Game -- The final "Hall of Fame Game" at Cooperstown was scheduled to be played this week, but was cancelled as a result of storms. I can not believe how little respect Major League Baseball has for itself under Bud Selig, and I can not express how terrible I feel to watch ultra-rich baseball players and a bloated baseball league conspire to cancel a sixty-eight year old tradition because of "scheduling problems." Fans give the league their money, their time, and their attention -- fans give themselves, their families, and in some ways their lives to this great game, and yet those men who are entrusted to protect the game's good name and legacy have engaged in a systematic sellout of the game's records, its ballparks, and its fans for money and media. We have gone over this before: Bug Selig's MLB has rewritten the record books by allowing and encouraging steroid users with winks and nods through the 1990s and 2000s and by allowing smaller and smaller ballparks to be built, making it much easier to hit homeruns. Now they have cancelled the "Hall of Fame Game" and we are all poorer for it.  

No Justice in this Game II -- Over his last seven games, Greg Maddux has an ERA of 2.13 while allowing 39 hits in 42 2/3 innings. He has zero wins since May 10th. In Living on the Black, John Feinstein chronicles Tom Glavine's run toward 300 career victories, and the frustrations of numerous ballplayers in the clubhouse (most notably Billy Wagner and The Relievers) as Glavine received no-decision after no-decision after no-decision. I wonder if the Putrid offense has a similar conscience.

Dontrelle Derailed -- When Dontrelle Willis was traded to the Detroit Tigers and given a contract extension, I knew that the Tigers were making a mistake, as I think Willis is done being good for a while, if not forever, but I had no way of knowing that he'd be so bad that he would get demoted to A-ball. I feel nothing but sympathy for Willis, as he is a great guy, a team player  and a true competitor worthy of everyone's respect. If this is the end of his major league career, then he has nothing to be ashamed of, but I hope he can make it back.

Zambrano -- Carlos Zambrano is on the disabled list after feeling some discomfort in his shoulder against the exciting Tampa Bay Rays, and he had a memorable "tantrum" when told the news. (He banged up the showers at the ballpark. I put tantrum in quotations because I do not think there's anything wrong with his being upset about missing a start, but I am not sure what other word describes it). I hope he gets well soon, but I have often worried about his arm blowing out because of all the innings he throws, in addition to how hard he throws with so little composure.

Happy Happy Birthdays -- Billy Werber, the oldest living ballplayer, just celebrated his hundredth birthday last Friday. I'm honored to have read of him, and for once can say I enjoyed something Tim Kurkjian wrote.

Old Time's Sake -- Babe Ruth's daughter made her last-ever visit to Yankee Stadium this week, to present Alex Rodriguez with the Babe Ruth Award, and I bet the Bambino was watching from somewhere.

Brutal Honesty: Installment I -- Ozzie Guillen on Jim Edmonds after Edmonds hit two homeruns in the same inning during Saturday's Cubs-Sox game (source): "He just had a good day. I don't want to promote the guy who's just hitting [.238 and stuff]. He just had a good day. Good for them. I think I'd rather have him out there than [Alfonso] Soriano. Believe me, I do. Jim is a veteran player who knows what he's doing. He swings the bat well and they got him because someone got hurt or whatever the reason is. Hopefully he doesn't have another game like that against us. Jim is Jim. Jim is not going to scare me. I will pitch to him another time. He just hit a couple of home runs. Good for him." (Well, it's the truth, isn't it?)

Not Always the Best Policy: Installment II -- Sox players and management spent the days leading up to the Cubs-Sox series at Wrigley Field ripping the Cubs (John Danks said Wrigley Field "stinks," Guillen said Wrigley had "rats" as big as pigs, and Kenny Williams wished Cub fans a "Happy [100th year] Anniversary").  That's all fine and well, but they're going to have to put up a better fight at US Cellular Field next series, because the Twins and the Tigers are sneaking up on them and divisions/ballgames aren't won in the press box, whatever Orlando Cabrera might think.

Managers Feeling Blue: Installment III -- John McLaren (Mariners), Willie Randolph (Mets), and John Gibbons (Blue Jays) were all fired this week. Randolph's firing was absolutely classless, as they should not have flown him out to Anaheim only to boot him after a victory; if anyone deserves to be fired in New York, it's Omar Minaya for constructing such a mediocre roster. McLaren deserved to be fired, as did general manager Bill Bavasi, who also received the long-due axe, but no one deserved the "honor" more than John Gibbons. His clubhouse has a history of conflict, and it can not be the players' faults that no one has ever been able to get along with him. No ballclub can compete when a manager so clearly lacks the respect of any of his players. Maybe I'm biased because I admire Cito Gaston, his replacement, but I don't think I am. Ask Ted Lilly about it.

General Managers Turning Red: Installment IV -- When Bill Bavasi got fired, he was asked about Erik Bedard.  After giving a small talk about his pitching style, he was asked why Bedard doesn't go deep into ballgames, and replied: "You gotta ask him. You gotta ask him. Good luck. And he's gonna have some stupid answer, some dumbass answer." It sounds like sour grapes, and probably is, but that doesn't mean it's not true is it? In Toronto, JP Ricciardi called out Adam Dunn after a fan called in to him on a radio show to say that Dunn might be a worthy trade target: "Do you know the guy doesn't really like baseball that much? Do you know the guy doesn't have a passion to play the game that much? How much do you know about the player? There's a reason why you're attracted to some players and there's a reason why you're not attracted to some players. I don't think you'd be very happy if we brought Adam Dunn here. We've done our homework on guys like Adam Dunn, and there's a reason why we don't want Adam Dunn. I don't want to get into specifics." Are his remarks appropriate? No. But what I would like to know is this: Are they accurate? The fourth post here suggests so, but Dunn disputed the criticism, calling Ricciardi a "clown" who "push[es] paper" in the front office, and Ricciardi apologized, but how many other people share this view of Adam Dunn in the major leagues? I do give kudos to Dunn for his unique comeback: "I can eliminate one team. I'm not changing dollars to loonies and toonies just yet."

History of the Week -- For this week's history, I am simply going to direct you to this page about the Hall of Fame Game, and let you eat your heart out.  

*Greg's note: Petey is his son, whom you can read about here.



Gregory Pratt is a political science and history double-major at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His political commentary can be found at the Office of the Independent Blogger, and he can be reached at gregory@baseballevolution.com.

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