Weekly Pepper - Week 17
by Gregory Pratt, BaseballEvolution.com
July 28, 2008
Other Weekly Peppers:
Gregory Pratt is busy.
Francisco Liriano claims that the Minnesota Twins are keeping him in the minors
to limit his major league service time and consequently delay his arbitration
eligibility. His agent is asking the players' union to investigate the matter,
but I'm with the Twins on this: baseball players make no bones about their being
mercenaries ("This is a business!"), and I think it's okay for management to
play the same game. Of course, there's a strong argument to be made that it
would be in the Twins' best interest to bring him up right now so that he can
make a difference in the race against the Chicago White Sox, but if they think
they can compete without bringing him up immediately, then who am I to
tell them otherwise? All I know is this: mercenaries should not expect to be
treated as if they were nuns, and I applaud the Twins for doing what they think
is right against the MLBPA's objections.
Lowe Esteem --
I was playing pool on Saturday night, when I looked up and saw that Derek Lowe
was one-hitting the Washington Nationals on my friend's television set. He's
done well for himself this year. I won't say he's "underrated" or anything, but
he's a good pitcher who doesn't get as much attention or respect as he deserves.
I think he's better than Brad Penny even at this stage in their careers, and I
hope Clayton Kershaw takes time to learn from him in the time in which their
careers coincide. Kershaw got the first win of his career Sunday following Lowe
for what I hope is the first of many times.
While I have Dan Haren on my
fantasy team, I did not realize until this weekend just how good he's been. How
good? He's leading the National League in ERA. I don't think it's going to last,
as I expect someone like Tim Lincecum or Edinson Volquez to take that crown, but
he has definitely been a quiet ace in the shadow of Brandon Webb.
New Rule --
"1000 strikeouts" is not a
"milestone." It is a fine personal achievement, it shows that you've been in the
majors for enough time to show you're a "legitimate" major league starting
pitcher with a career to be proud of, but it does not mean anything beyond that.
Ryan Howard strikes out that many times in a season, and you don't hear him
bragging about it.
Yankees on the Market --
The New York Yankees traded
minor-league outfield prospect Jose Tabata with pitchers Dan McCutchen, Jeff
Karstens and Ross Ohlendorf to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Xavier Nady and Damaso
Marte. I hope those guys all become something at the major league level, because
I'd like to see a winning Pirates team in my adult lifetime. That said, I'm
happy for the New York Yankees, who I'm hoping will win a playoff spot,
preferably a Wild Card behind the Tampa Bay Rays, and I think these guys will be
solid additions. Maybe Nady more than Marte, who I am going to be watching
closely, as he has a reputation for being a man who cannot pitch in the most
competitive of circumstances -- "million dollar arm and ten cent head" -- and I
suspect that that is still the case.
The Bronx is not the same as
Pittsburgh or Chicago, where he previously had problems, for that matter. He
sure looked good striking out David Ortiz on Saturday afternoon, but we'll see
whether he can be the man the Yankees need him to be.
I remember when I was a debater
in the Chicago Debate League with Scott Glab as one of my judges. We were
talking about the future of the Cleveland Indians, back in the days when Andy Marte's future was as bright as a Kennedys, and I thought of that short
discussion on Marte's future (and the depths to which he has fallen) while
watching Homer Bailey get lit up by the Colorado Rockies this week. His stock
has definitely fallen, and he has had an ugly major league career so far, but I
hope that he can get over it and make something of himself. Hawk Harrelson
occasionally muses about preferring to draft pitchers with lesser stuff than
objectively better pitchers because their sense of "competition" is keener and
they are more likely to work hard and "compete" for their spots, but it is
true that baseball is a game of adjustments, and that is something that
Bailey is going to have to do now. It is entirely possible, on the other hand,
that his agent and his family are pushing him to be mediocre now, so that
he can conserve his arm until Dusty Baker gets fired and he can go pitch without
Minor Deals --
Jon Rauch got traded to the
Arizona Diamondbacks by the Washington Nationals to shore up the bullpen, and I
do not see it being a great addition to the Diamondbacks unless Rauch has a bat
deep in his equipment bag somewhere. Randy Wolf got traded to Houston for
reasons that only Ed Wade can understand. Casey Blake is a Dodger now, for
what is, I think, the most interesting package dealt so far. The Indians got two
minor-leaguers with potential for the decent third-baseman/outfielder, and I
particularly like Jon Meloan, who might well be a good pitcher someday. He has
great strikeout numbers, but is mediocre in every other aspect of the pitching
game, which might well be something that good coaching can cure. Carlos Santana
is a decent prospect, too, but Meloan appears a more interesting high-reward
Minor Deal II --
Manny Ramirez is tired of the
Red Sox and willing to accept a trade. It is unlikely that anyone will be
willing to part with the prospects necessary and take care of his
contractual demands, so this is just another silly encounter for ESPN to talk
about. And you know what I think is bad for baseball? ESPN, which featured I
think four Dodgers-Cubs games in a two-week span a small while ago and
continually features the same old matchups between the Red Sox and the Yankees
and someone not either of those teams. It's embarrassing and disrespectful to
baseball when more people have the "honor" of watching Derek Jeter play lousy
defense than do Hanley Ramirez play lousy defense.
History of the Week --
Goose Gossage was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday along with Dick Williams, Larry Whiteside, Dave Niehaus, Walter O'Malley, Barney Dreyfuss, Bowie Kuhn, and Billy Southworth. I don't have a problem with any of these guys in the Hall of Fame if the Hall is going to give space to broadcasters, owners, and relief pitchers, so I recommend reading all of their Hall of Fame pages, and their Wikipedia pages. I am especially interested in Dick Williams' career because he is one of the game's great managers and characters, but is often overlooked in favor of "flashy" contemporaries like Billy Martin, so I specifically recommend
this article, although my favorite incident of his career -- and maybe my favorite 70s World Series moment -- is best-covered by the
It was still 1-0 in the eighth
when Joe Morgan drew a one-out walk off Fingers and went to third on Bobby
Tolan's single. That brought up Bench, who was still looking for his first RBI
of the Series.
On a 2-1 pitch, Tolan stole
second as Bench took ball three. On the bench, Dick Williams was thinking.
"Suddenly I remembered
something that Billy Southworth had done when he was managing," Williams said.
"I turned to my pitching coach Bill Posedel and told him, "If this next pitch is
a strike, I'm going to go out there to the mound and act like I'm giving Fingers
hell because he shouldn't be giving Bench anything to hit with first base open.
"I'm going to wave my arms and
act like I'm calling for an intentional ball four. But instead I'm going to tell
them to throw the damn ball right down the middle of the plate for strike three.
Bench will never know what hit him."
The pitch was a strike and
Williams went to the mound to explain his plan. He then told Fingers, "Be sure
you throw a breaking ball, because if it's a fastball and somebody figures out
what we're doing, Bench can hit the shit out of it."
He also warned Tenace not to
jump back behind the plate too quick. Morgan, standing at third base, warned
Bench to be ready but it was too late. Fingers threw a slider on the outside
corner and Bench took it for strike three.
Fingers called it the best
slider he had ever thrown.
This game of ours is a great
game. Starting soon -- perhaps as soon as next year -- I am going to start
attending every Cooperstown induction ceremony, because I think all
baseball fans have a duty to protect the game and honor it, and that'll be my
way. Until then, congratulations to those inducted and those who had the
pleasure of enjoying their careers live.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.