Weekly Pepper - Week 7

by Gregory Pratt, BaseballEvolution.com
May 19, 2008

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Gregory Pratt's first week of summer as a college student saw him nearly bankrupt himself on great Cub seats, tickets to a Billy Joel concert, research documents, dinner with friends, and various other small expenditures. It also saw his confirmation as a Catholic, the revitalization of a life-long love for breaded foods, and the kind of sleep human beings can only have when at peace with their selves. Mr. Pratt had forty-two different engagements, making the last week by far the busiest of his life, but he somehow managed to have some time for the game of baseball. He's breathing, isn't he?

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Manny Ramirez -- There was a time when I hated Manny Ramirez for "dogging it" on the field, urinating in the Green Monster, cutting off Damon's cutoff throw, falling in love with his own longballs, wearing his hat the way he wears it, but over time I have softened toward the Boston slugger, and I have now come to appreciate him as one of the game's all-time great characters. If you don't know what cemented this feeling for me this week, you ought to Google around for "Manny Ramirez" + "high-fives a fan after making a great catch, then throws the ball back in to complete the double play." That's just awesome, and all that needs to be said.

Wagner the Dog -- I love Billy Wagner, and I think he's made a sound case for being one of the game's all-time great closers. I rank him higher than Trevor Hoffman, if you want to know the truth about that. When I saw that he had a fit in the locker room after his teammates wouldn't meet the press, I felt a great deal of pride. Baseball players owe it to their fans, teammates, coaches, ownership, and the press to be professional about interviews, and for Wagner to stand up and take the initiative made me proud(er) to be a fan of his.

Lidge on the River Kwai -- Not sure why I haven't mentioned this before, but Brad Lidge has quietly put together a brilliant season, blowing no saves and having a 0.50 ERA in eighteen innings. I wish him the best, even if I don't trust him to keep it up. We'll just have to wait and see. I'll be happy to admit that I'm wrong if I am.

A Headline Not Inspired by a Film -- George W. Bush said in an interview this week that Roy Halladay and Chase Utley would be the two players he'd start a franchise with right now if he had to take a pitcher and a position player for a new league. What stood out to me, though, was the spelling of Utley in the transcript: "Ottley." Someone in the media doesn't watch baseball! (This story also reminds me of a fellow aspiring-politician at the University who joined me at the softball game I wrote about last week. When he saw two friends playing catch, he said, "Oh...they're... enjoying a primitive version of softball." Someone cleared it up to him and said, "I think they call that 'catch.'" That's why he'll never win an election.)

On Again. Off Again. Gone Again. Berkman! -- Sir Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros is swinging a stick that's out of this world! Okay, okay. Cheese aside, I want to acknowledge the greatness of his season, and I do hope he keeps it up. But I'm most interested in his attempt to hit .400 and Chipper Jones', too. I believe that it is possible to hit .400 in this day and age, and I hope that either of them can do it this season. I think it'll be done eventually, but the sooner it happens the better. We've already waited long enough.

Goodnight Saigon -- Peter Magowan announced that he is retiring from the Giants front office this week. I say good luck -- you weren't all bad, but I'm still glad to see you go. Please turn in a sheet of paper with everything you know about steroids in baseball before you leave the stage completely. Please?

"Oswalt That Ends Well" -- That's what I'll write when the season is over, if Roy Oswalt can manage to get his numbers this season in line with his career and remain healthy after he recovers from the hip injury he suffered this week. I'm starting to worry that this will be an off-year for Oswalt, who is one of my very favorite pitchers, and that saddens me because this is the time to cash in on run support! He's a money pitcher with the guts of a bulldog, and I admire him very much.

You Know You're Getting Old When... -- ...you know that you will remember X young player not from "your" team when he was just a young player in the beginning stage of his career. Last season, I closely followed Alex Gordon's year and this season he is on my fantasy team and root-list. I only recently realized that he is the first "hot prospect" I can recall knowing about (Tim Lincecum is the other), and now that I am a grown man who has to do more than lay in the grass all day (here), I feel old knowing that I am already conscious of the game's future in its present and past. That's good, because there isn't another game on Earth whose present and future owes so much to its past as this one, or where it blends so naturally.

We Must Lower the Coste of Living -- This article about Chris Coste's autobiography, "The 33-Year Old Rookie," is worth a look at. It is an inspiring story of one man's resilience in the face of adversity. Maybe I feel a little extra empathy because I was a 17-year old rookie in high school due to family circumstance before my senior year, but it's a good article that I think anyone can enjoy. I intend to buy the book.

Us -- Alright, kind of an awkward observation, but am I the only one who thinks the song "Us" by Regina Spektor would make a great entrance song for a closer? We can't all have "Welcome to the Jungle" can we? Not all of us can be Eric Gagne. Not even Eric Gagne is Eric Gagne anymore. If I ever enter a baseball game as a closer, and am allowed a song, this will be it.

History of the Week -- There were several matters to which I could have devoted this HOTW, but I want to write about the recent revelations regarding the 1918 World Series, as it seems to have gained limited traction with fans. I didn't realize how "in-the-dark" people were until Keith told me that he hadn't heard the story that the Cubs threw the 1918 World Series. Does that get your attention? No, there's nothing conclusive, and there likely never will be, but historians recently discovered a ton of documents from the Black Sox Grand Jury and from these came news that those players got the idea to throw the series from the Cubs of the year before. Is it true? I don't doubt it, because there have been rumors about other World Series being fixed, including 1918, and I think it's important to understand how much power gamblers had in that era. Here's more from this article

Now, it cannot be said for certain that gamblers got to the '18 Cubs. But Eddie Cicotte, pitcher and one of the eight White Sox outcasts from the '19 World Series, did say in a newly found affidavit he gave to the 1920 Cook County grand jury that the Cubs influenced the Black Sox. Cicotte said the notion of throwing a World Series first came up when the White Sox were on a train to New York. The team was discussing the previous year's World Series, which had been fixed, according to players. Some members of the Sox tried to figure how many players it would take to throw a Series. From that conversation, Cicotte said, a scandal was born.   The Cubs were 84-45 that year and serious favorites. Cicotte is not alone in suggesting they had been paid off. The lost diary of Charles Comiskey's righthand man, Harry Grabiner, supposedly indicates that the 1918 World Series was fixed. The reporting of baseball columnist Hugh Fullerton -- the man who eventually blew the whistle on baseball's gambling problem -- also suggested that something was afoul in 1918. Fullerton's accounts of those games repeatedly point out bizarre baserunning mistakes and defensive flubs.   The box scores support his descriptions. The Cubs were picked off three times, including twice in the decisive Game 6. That game was lost, 2-1, on a 2-run error by Cubs right fielder Max Flack. Game 4 had been tied, 2-2, in the eighth inning, when Cubs pitcher Shufflin' Phil Douglas gave up a single, followed by a passed ball, followed by an errant throw on a bunt attempt that allowed the winning run to score.

I know that there are all sorts of doubts about the integrity of our game today, but these have always existed in different forms and that is important to understand. It is only the game itself that has remained beautiful through the ages, as its ethics have been hideous by various judgments all throughout its existence. With players today transforming their bodies into 10% scum, 90% steroid and players in the past selling their failure to the highest bidder, one might wonder what we can trust. All I know is this: When there's nothing left to believe in, you can believe in me.

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.