Weekly Pepper - Week 5

by Gregory Pratt, BaseballEvolution.com
May 5, 2008

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In the last seven days, Gregory Pratt wrapped up the second semester of his first year in college (except for his finals this week), received State Department documents from the 1930s, had (and hated) sushi for the first (but not last) time in his life, re-named his column after his favorite baseball training method, had a couple of good drinks, and an epiphany of sorts on being comfortable in the world. Of course, he watched a lot of baseball, too, and now he's simply trying not to look so far into the future toward days without formal academic obligations that he overlooks his exams. Have no fear, however, because Gregory Pratt has the ball lined up.

The Rehabilitation of Rafael Furcal -- Coming back from a year ruined by injury, Rafael Furcal is playing brilliant defense, lighting up the base paths, and hitting the ball all over the field for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I'm glad to see it. Furcal has always struck me as a hard-worker who has had real-life problems to work through, but who has never given up on the game of baseball that he so loves. Good to see him succeed again.

A Ball for the Devil -- In 2006, I remember Jon Garland fielding a comebacker and walking toward first base to toss it for the third out of an inning. When he reared back to throw it, he accidentally dropped it behind himself and the inning continued. Ozzie Guillen had a great laugh when it happened, and I imagine everyone but Garland thought it was hilarious. That was the first thing I thought of on Saturday night when Raul Ibanez tried to throw the ball to second base from left field and beamed it right into the ground just in front of him. I don't even know what to say to that.

Doctor Doctor -- When I tell people who don't love baseball that I love baseball, they often ask me what's so great about the game. My answer to the uninitiated comes from a great philosopher who once wrote that "history, physics, geometry, aesthetics and psychology" converge in baseball to make a joyful experience. Last week, a good friend of mine who does not understand the game asked me what's so aesthetically pleasing about baseball, and I would simply point him to Roy Halladay and let him watch the movement on that man's pitches to understand what's so beautiful about baseball.

Chase Utley -- You are ridiculous! (As a Chicagoan, I can say that. And that's all that needs to be said.)

Hambone -- Josh Hamilton is my hero. There is no one for whom I root harder than he. I was coached in high school by someone whose son played with Hamilton in the then-Devil Rays' farm system, and all he is is a good kind kid who has made mistakes and has worked hard for what he has now. He's been amazing, and there's room in my heart for the flawed hero. It makes me wish the Texas Rangers were a good team for him, and those fans. All he has to do is stay healthy and keep working hard to achieve his potential. 

Whiplash -- Miguel Tejada is having himself a hell of a season, and a small part of me wonders if the Astros will be able to slug their way near or to the top of their division like the 2000 White Sox. I doubt it, because as I wrote in my Astros preview, they have no pitching besides Roy Oswalt. In such a long season, it is hard to be good without at least a decent pitching staff, but they're doing well for now. Good for them, and for Tejada, who is nowhere near done despite his newfound age. I just wonder whether he'd be a Gold Glove first baseman someday.

Rampaging Moose -- Okay, so Mike Mussina isn't exactly rampaging in the way that, say, Max Scherzer or Tim Lincecum are, but he's put his twelve strikeouts to use in winning three games proving that he still has something left in the tank after all these years. For my money, he's a Hall of Famer. I just hope he has a respectable year when it's all said and done. I happen to think his candidacy will (or should) lead to a re-analysis of how pitchers in the modern, juiced-player juiced-ball small-stadium era should be judged. Not that I think it would be a crime for him not to be inducted, but I think he will ultimately deserve it as a good pitcher who has pitched well all of his career and for good parts of it numbered amongst the very best in the league.

Dreaming of Grandeur -- Dear Brandon Webb, / Please win 30 games this season. / Please? / Your fan, / Gregory Pratt. (I'd like to see someone win that many again.)

Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz -- When John Smoltz comes back to the Atlanta Braves this season, it will be as the closer. His career, along with those of Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, is almost over, and there's a very good chance that this is the final year for all three of them. It might even be Bobby Cox'. I hope that it is, and if there's any justice in this world, they'd all be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the exact same time, with Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz receiving total votes in that order, but each getting enough to make it in. It would be perfect.

Narcissist's Victim -- Last fall, I wrote an article for the Chicago Flame entitled, The Truthless Power Slut: Why Larry Craig Deserves No Sympathy after the Senator was caught disturbing the peace in Minnesota, so to speak. Today, I declare that Roger Clemens deserves no sympathy and, in fact, deserves scorn for being the stupidest baseball player in the game today. Whereas Mark McGwire walked away and Barry Bonds took a defiant, if often-silent stance, Clemens indignantly played a game of Who, Me? plus filed a bogus defamation lawsuit and hired a publicity-whore attorney to "clear" his "good" name. I wish I could go into his head when he decided to fight Brian McNamee, George Mitchell and everything that is decent and truthful in our society with his blatant lies. What did he think? That McNamee had nothing? That it was easy to win a defamation lawsuit? That no one would dare question the great Roger Clemens' claims of character? I've never been fond of Clemens, and I lost almost all the "respect" I had for him when he played that tape of his conversation with Brian McNamee when they were supposed to be discussing McNamee's ill child, so it amazes me that he can still find ways to shock me, as the story that he engaged a country singer from the time she was fifteen and even partied with her and Monica Lewinsky on occasion did. What an absolute idiot this steroid behemoth is.

Asphyxiation -- Watching Andruw Jones' career break like a bastard curve, I can't help but think about steroids. Atlantans, especially, criticized the Braves for not bringing Jones back. They argued that John Schuerholz did not make a "good-faith" effort at re-signing him, that he was wrong to tell Scott Boras, as I wrote here, that players have a value and Jones' contractual desires went way beyond, and that such an icon should not be turned away for budgetary concerns, but I wonder whether Atlanta knew, from its scouts noticing Jones' diminished bat speed and power to perhaps having an idea that he was off steroids and that his career was heading off a cliff, and decided that it would be better to cut him loose. They certainly didn't want anything to do with him anymore. It's just an idea I had, and it is certainly not far-fetched. Jones isn't worth what Boras initially wanted, and he's looking very much like a burnout at this stage in his career. But you know what? I'd still put him in the Hall of Fame if he retired tomorrow. He was a great baseball player and the best defensively of his era, at the very least.

Buzzie Bavasi -- God bless Buzzie Bavasi. I hope he's resting in peace, and he's another man who I believe deserves to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. If we're going to have executives in the Hall, anyway. I recommend reading his book, Off the Record.

Franco Talk -- Congratulations are also in order for the now-retired Julio Franco, who had himself a great career.

History of the Week -- There's a restaurant in Chicago called The Negro League Cafe. The history shown at the place makes it worth a trip, and I would encourage all of you to find places such as this one to explore in your own towns. I think we lose sight of the fact that many of the Negro Leaguers are dead and that very few remain. I think there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about Negro Leaguers and the Negro Leagues in general. I think every baseball fan should go down to the Negro League Museum in Kansas City. And to this broad call to attention do I devote my history of the week.

Gregory Pratt is a political science student 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.