Category Archives: a baseball life

RULE 5 IS GOOD, BUT……….

At the Winter Meetings following the World Series, major league teams must decide on the 40 players they want to protect in a special draft that is commonly referred to as the Rule Five Draft.

The rule is basically a good idea as it prevents teamsimages (25) from stockpiling players in their farm systems and it gives hope to minor league players who may be languishing behind a all star major leaguer playing the same position. Depending on age when they signed, players become eligible after three or four years

Historically, players such as Roberto Clemente (above) who as we know turned into the steal of the Century for the Pirates, R A Dickey (left),download (9) Dan Uggla, and Jose Bautista (below) revitalized their careers after being taken in this draft. Last year, the Rangers caught lightning in a bottle when they selected images (26)Delino Deshields who became the Texas Rookie Of The Year. For major league teams, the price of a selection is a mere $50,000…….but there’s a catch……
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A BASEBALL LIFE – THE JOURNEY OF TERRY COLLINS

When Terry Collins walked across the field at the conclusion of  last night’s contest to shake handsimages-17 with Dodgers manager Don  Mattingly, (right)Don-Mattingly he had just completed his 1680 th game as a major league manager. The final chapter of a man’s baseball life had been written and you could just sense the relief and gratification that only comes from a long uphill climb that led his team (or family as he calls them) to victory and a chance to compete for a spot in this year’s World Series.

In the 1970’s, Terry Collins was a minor league shortstop playing first in the Pirates organization and then later with the Dodgers. He never had a major league at bat. However, a turning point in his career came when Peter O’Malley, then the owner of the Dodgers offered him a chance to manage. 

Back then, the Dodgers were not the mega corporation they are today and O’Malleyimg19808750 (left) emphasized the family culture that surrounded his teams. For example, when the Dodgers won the World Series in 1988, he took not only the team but virtually the entire staff, including the groundskeepers, to Hawaii for a vacation. At the time, Collins was on another assignment for the Dodgers. When he returned home, he was welcomed with a trip to Italy replacing the one he missed for his entire family. Terry Collins never forgot the way the Dodgers treated him. More importantly, he picked up on those values and voice as the manager of the New York Mets stressing the nature of team building and family. 

No doubt, last night was a bittersweet moment for a man who beat the parents who raised him (so to speak). To a man, the Mets reflect the character of their leader in the dugout. But, this didn’t happen overnight. Actually, it began before the first game of the season when Sandy Alderson, images-28the Mets General Manager, stunned the Mets fanbase by declaring that the Mets would win 90 games this year. With a team of young talent, Collins tried to downplay the whole thing while the media pressured him every day. But inside the clubhouse, Collins was already building the structure of his team – one that would accent a quiet confidence.

Well, we know the end result. The Mets did, in fact, win 90 games. But it was Collins’s leadership that brought them together and through images-9the tough times – like losing their captain David Wright (right) for several months, as well as Lucas Duda – their only bona fide power hitter until Cespedes came along. And then of course,images-23 there was the ongoing saga of Matt The Brat Harvey who on more than one occasion caused a disruption off the field as well as in the clubhouse. Collins, known for having a temper, never lost it. More importantly, he never lost his players.

His is one of those stories you only find in baseball. One thousand six hundred and eighty games – and finally he is a winner.


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CC SABATHIA – MANNING UP

Every once in a while we get a jolt that reminds us that the men who play the boys game we love so dearly are just that……men…..who like us all have frailties. We may tend to look at (and want to believe in)  the caricature we see on the playing field day in and day out as though they were some kind of a wind up toy you send out there until the batteries fade or die out completely. That mirage often coincides with the image of baseball as America’s Pastime and pastoral ambiance. It works well until it doesn’t……..

You might recall, for instance, the piece I wrote about Wilmer Flores who was captured on camera New York Yankeesweeping when he thought he was being traded to another team, when in fact all he was doing is expressing his humanity. It is in this same vein that I believe we should look at the events of the past few days pertaining to CC Sabathia.

CC Sabathia is a man who carried the Yankee’s pitching staff on his back from the Championship season of 2009 through last year when a knee injury and resulting surgery virtually left him for dead with many scribes (including myself) wondering if he would ever pitch for the Yankees again. In truth, he probably struggled with his  need to to learn how to pitch again without his 95mph fastball as much as the illness that was challenging him. These are the stories we will never know……the why and the how……and have no right to know (Shame on the story in the N.Y. Post today). 

All we need to know is that CC is taking care of business for his family and loved ones. Are we shocked and disappointed about the timing of his move forward to rehab with the Playoffs looming? Of course we are, but you can be sure that everyone in that Clubhouse supports his decision to a man because they are the “robots” who go out there to perform for us……….and they get it because they know what it’s like to be on stage in “The Show”.  Good luck CC and we look forward to seeing you on the mound next year……….healing and healthy.

SUMMER BEACH READING – BASEBALL (RECOMMENDATIONS)

My usual preference for casual reading is a good legal thriller written by authors like Michael Connelly or John Grisham – but I’m always looking for a good baseball read. Here are four selections that I found to be not only entertaining but revealing about the game and the men who have played it.

The very first book I read about baseball occurred during my teenage years. I remember that it opened my eyes to a side of baseball few were aware of and certainly no one was writing about.images-33 Jim Brosnan’s  The Long Season not only was a smash hit for a pedestrian relief pitcher but a vanguard approach to baseball writing later exploited by Jim Bouton and others. A easy quick and entertaining read.

The other three books are a bit deeper but are equally as entertaining.images-40images-34 Two of these are written by Jane Leavy, both are exhaustively researched and offer an intriguing look into two enigmatic baseball personalities – Mickey Mantle (left) and Sandy Koufax (right). Reviews of each book by The New York Times are here: Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle.

Perhaps the most disturbing but equally entertaining entry comes from Richard Ben Cramer joe-dimaggio2and his definitive biography of another baseball icon – Joe DiMaggio. What makes the book better than your normal biography though is how Cramer brings the reader directly into the times and culture of DiMaggio’s era. Here’s the N.Y. Times review.

Finally, to read these (or any other) book……..think about giving the free app  Overdrive a close look. You can link directly to your local library and download a book to your mobile device……..it works and it’s free. Download info Here.

 

AND FOR SOME, THE DREAM NEVER DIES…….

My previous post highlighted a side of life we seldom see or think about for the 1,200 players who make it to “The Show”. Now, let’s take a look at the ones who never make it….the ones who are still chasing the dream.images-22

Meet Mike Hessman  (right) a veteran of 19 years in baseball’s minor leagues. A few days ago, he hit his 433rd home run as a minor leaguer playing for the Toledo Mud Hens. A grand slam no less.  His compelling and complete story is chronicled here. 

He’s often likened to Crash Davis, a fictional character in a well known movie. For Mike Hessman, he can only dream of making the money Kevin Costner did in that role.

And you don’t always get the girl like Costner did .18s0dimd5mghgjpgInstead, more often than not you get to play along with a amateurs marketing genius and help to conduct a mock funeral on the field  (Left) or toss water balloons at teammates. This all makes for family fun at Minor League Ballparks across the country, but a closer look at the economics of minor league baseball reveals a much deeper concern……..

Many players receive less than the minimum wage. A salary of $1100 a month (that’s $6.87/hour) is not uncommon plus they receive this only for the months they are actually playing. There is no compensation during the off season when they are expected to stay in baseball shape. A daily allowance of $20-25 as “meal money” hardly translates into another requirement – that is to eat healthy.

Indeed,  It’s A Harsh Life  (must read)  images-26and once again we need to remember that these are PEOPLE and not robots or wind-up toys. Hat’s off to Mike Hessman………and I hope #500 is on the way…….

ON THE 0.000003428 PERCENT OF THE U.S POPULATION……..I

On any given day, the above percent of the United States population can be classified as Major League ballplayers (40 man roster X 30 teams). In scientific notation, that number would be represented as 3.428 X 10 to the negative seventh power. Trust me, it’s a very small number. Factor in the populations of Latin American countries and the number becomes even smaller.

More than likely, everyone reading this article (including myself) dreamed one day of playing in the “Show”. The allure of playing a boys game before millions of adoring fans, making tons of money, staying in first class hotels……with the possibility of “retiring” at the age of 40…….come on…..who wouldn’t want that?

But something changed in baseball this week – at least for me. Subconsciously, images-28I had realized it before but the sight of seeing Wilmer Flores sobbing with the news he heard from fans in the stands that he had been traded from the Mets (the team that signed him when he was 16) to Milwaukee was enlightening.

It simply reminded me that the men and sometimes boys who play this game we loveimages-11………..are not robots or wind-up toys. They are human beings who have feelings. They are men who play on teams that log as many as 43,000 miles  in the air, often traveling overnight following a night game……..getting five or six hours sleep and it’s back to the ballpark for a day game.

In many ways it’s a lonely life too. Most have wives or significant others,images-13 family with children, pets, friends and relatives who remain behind during a extended road trip. And when the well accepted “business” aspect of the game intrudes on this life with a trade to another team…………and suddenly your life is changing and there’s a house to sell, a new house to buy, children uprooted from schools and friends, your newly made friends left behind………the list is endless…….it may be time to pause for a moment to reflect on the dream we had to consider how much the sacrifices these “players” make along the way…….

Which brings us full circle back to Wilmer Flores and the emotions he displayed images-37that night in Queens…………and while his reaction was open and captured on camera……..you have to wonder how many PEOPLE who play this game haven’t felt the same way leaving their bags unpacked and waiting for the call that says…….”Thanks for your service but you need to catch the next flight to Denver”……….