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Weekly Pepper - Week 26

by Gregory Pratt, BaseballEvolution.com
September 30, 2008

Other Weekly Peppers:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25

Gregory Pratt can not believe he made it through the entire regular season while writing this weekly column. It wasn't always pretty but it was always fun. Now let's head to October, and write there!

Why Milwaukee Won Part I -- Is it too mystical of me to credit good karma from Eric Gagne for the Brewers' winning the Wild Card? "Brewers reliever Eric Gagne has said all along that he bears no ill-will toward the fans who have tried to boo him out of town all summer. On Thursday, he proved it with his pocketbook. Gagne footed the bill for 5,000 tickets to Thursday's Brewers-Pirates finale and then gave them away to fans via Brewers.com. The supply of seats was gobbled up in 20 minutes, according to the team." It's hard to dislike Eric Gagne, even if he is the best example of a reliever who made himself great with steroids and robbed a small-market of ten million dollars. He's just so likeable and polite and Canadian.

Why Milwaukee Won II -- 9 IP, 4 hits, 1 run, 0 earned runs, 0 HR, 1 BB, 7K.

Milwaukee Three -- I don't want to dumb down Milwaukee's Wild Card berth -- its first playoff appearance since 1982, for those of you keeping track at home -- but they clearly had the best starting pitching in the league until Sheets went down.  Their offense consists of some of baseball's finest young players: particularly Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and JJ Hardy. Coupled with their excellent defense, which Asher will tell you about until your ears bleed, that rotation was destined for the playoffs. They sure came close to losing it, which I thought at the time would be a travesty, but they managed to make it through with a little help from their friends in New York and a lot of help from CC Sabathia. Is Sabathia already the greatest mid-season acquisition of all-time?

Go-go White Sox -- The Chicago White Sox got swept by the Minnesota Twins last week, lost two against the Indians, and all-but-gave-away their division to the Twins.  But the Twins didn't want it, so the Sox wound up playing the Tigers on Monday to determine whether or not they'd be able to face the Twins in a one-game playoff. They managed to beat the Detroit Tigers even with Big Game Freddy Garcia putting in a strong performance. Tonight, they'll be playing Minnesota for a chance to come under attack from the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round of the AL playoffs.

Playoff Picks -- I hate the idea of making playoff predictions, but I think the Rays will beat the Sox/Twins while the Red Sox lose to the Angels, and then the Rays will beat the Angels in the ALCS.  In the NL, I think the Brewers win against Philadelphia and the Dodgers beat the Cubs. I think the Rays will win the World Series over the Brewers, who will have beaten the Dodgers. Of course, it's all luck for me and you. Congratulations to all the playoff teams and whichever of Minnesota/Chicago loses, too.

Old Workhorses -- Greg Maddux won his last start of the season to pass Roger Clemens on the all-time wins list, making me a very happy man. Randy Johnson threw a complete game two-hitter for his 295th win of his career in his last start of the season, virtually ensuring that he will be back next year to win his 300th game. Jamie Moyer pitched the clinching game of the National League East division for the Philadelphia Phillies, proving that he still has some "stuff" left in the tank. And most importantly, Mike Mussina won his twentieth game of the season, eliminating the stupidest argument of all-time against any player's candidacy for the Hall of Fame ("He never won 20").

Young Workhorses -- On Saturday, Johan Santana pitched a complete game shutout on three days' rest against the Florida Marlins to keep the New York Mets alive in the Wild Card race (they would be eliminated the following day).  On Sunday, CC Sabathia hurled a complete game victory against the Chicago Cubs to ensure that the Brewers would win their division;.  Also that day, Mark Buehrle threw seven innings of one-run ball to beat the Cleveland Indians and ensure that the White Sox would live to play again on Monday.  Roy Halladay, in his final start of the season, threw a complete game victory against the New York Yankees. Earlier in the year I bemoaned the lack of workhorse starting pitches, but I must say that I feel really good about the future of the major leagues so long as these men are alive and kicking. Sabathia, incidentally, became the first pitcher since Randy Johnson for the Diamondbacks in 1999 to threw double-digit complete games. I thought Halladay would be the man to do it, but his team wasn't in a pennant race.

Good to be Stark -- Jayson Stark has, for the first time in what feels like forever to me, written a quality article recapping the season. I particularly enjoy his section on the Least Valuable Player of the National League, the "Cy Yuks" of the NL, his "craziest games of the year," and "impossible stuff that really happened this year."

No, Jerry Manuel. You Are Not Cool -- Different men react to different situations differently. I reacted to Johan Santana's shutout on Saturday with a feeling of pride for one of my favorite pitchers; Jerry Manuel replied with this: "Wow, wow, wow. If I have to describe that, I'd say it was gangsta." Isn't this the same guy who planned for his meeting with the White Sox for the manager's position by fasting and praying? What the hell has happened to him that has made him sound like such an incoherent idiot?

Unloved Shea -- Just thought I'd pass around this testimonial to the New York Mets. I'm sorry to say I didn't bother to visit Shea when I was in New York a couple of weeks ago.

Sober Story -- I don't know whether you've seen it before or not, dear Reader, but several major league teams, including the White Sox and the Yankees, are in trouble with the league and the FBI for stealing Latin American prospects' bonus money and giving them steroids, among other things. I find these crimes especially heinous because they pervert the game of baseball, exploit the poor, and hurt people on a real individual level. Anyone who could play with peoples' dreams like this, who could toy with someone's health in such a brazen and callous manner, deserves to spend the rest of their life in prison. Such disregard for your fellow man is unacceptable.

History of the Week I: A Fun Question to Ponder -- This Baseball-Fever thread points out that September 25th was the 43rd anniversary of "Satchel Paige pitching for the Kansas City A's in 1965 (v. Boston). Satchel, at 59 years old (some say older), seemed like a pawn in yet another Charlie Finley publicity stunt. HOWEVER, he pitched 3 scoreless innings and gave up only one hit (to Yaz). Here's the question then: If given the chance (no color-barrier), could Satchel have pitched 30+ years in MLB? I'd say it's entirely possible if he became a middle-man/spot starter towards the end of his career (which is what he did from 1948-53). Would a MLB (sic) actually keep him on the staff for that many years? Who knows...but my question relates more to Satchel having the talent and stamina to keep going while posting (at minimum) respectable numbers. The historical record would seem to lean in his favor." At the least, it's another reason Paige is so much more compelling a character than just about anyone else who has ever pitched.

History of the Week II: "What If?" -- This B-F thread describes numerous "What could have been" baseball stories about legends who had a missed connection with different teams. My favorite is this one, about Walter Johnson and the Pirates: "Johnson had been attracting major league scouts from every team with his incredible fastball which he displayed while pitching in the minors. Amazed at the kid's blazing speed, and even more impressed by his control of it, a friend of Pirates' skipper Fred Clarke begged the manager to have Johnson shipped to Pittsburgh for a tryout. Clarke's friend had actually spoken with Johnson about coming to Pittsburgh for a look-see, and Johnson was more than willing to do so, but he was almost broke. All he needed was the nine dollar train fare to Pittsburgh. He would even be willing to have it taken out of his first paycheck if he made good. Pittsburgh's front office wouldn't hear of it, claiming that nine dollars wasn't that much money and if Johnson wanted a tryout badly enough, he would find a way to come up with it. Johnson, whose nickname, ironically enough, would later become 'The Big Train', missed the one to Pittsburgh that could have made him a Pirate. He eventually found a team that was willing to cough up his train fare and, needless to say, it was the best nine bucks the Washington Senators ever invested. For the skinflints in the Pittsburgh front office, it's said that Fred Clarke had nothing but contempt ever since."

History of the Week III: The Man I Wish I Was -- I was amazed when I first read about Ted Sullivan and thought you deserved the honor of doing so too, dear Reader, so allow me to pass this link about Baseball's Fullest Resume on to you.

History of the Week IV: A Brief Note -- Last Tuesday was the 100th anniversary of Fred Merkle's "boner." I hope it doesn't count as piling-on when I mention that it troubles me to see his mistake written about even after all these years.



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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