Stan the Man

One of the most awe-inspiring baseball players of all time died last Saturday, Stan “the Man” Musial.  He was a great, great player for the St. Louis Cardinals with a lifetime batting average of .331.  He was also celebrated for his good sportsmanship, his refusal to complain, his good-nature, and.   his generosity to fans.  Sort of the anti-Lance Armstrong.

From his Washington Post obituary by Dennis Drabelle:

Stan “The Man” Musial, one of major league baseball’s most prolific hitters and a model of good sportsmanship during his Hall of Fame career with the St. Louis Cardinals, died Saturday. He was 92.

The death was announced by the team. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that he had Alzheimer’s disease.

The most beloved Cardinal of all, Mr. Musial led the National League in batting seven times in the 1940s and ’50s and was voted the league’s most valuable player three times. His lifetime batting average was .331, his total of 3,630 hits ranks fourth all-time, and he was a perennial all-star. After spending the entirety of his 22-year career with the Cardinals, Mr. Musial retired in 1963 with so many firsts to his credit that he may have carved out a new category: the record for holding the most records at one time. . . . [Read more…]

No one elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

For only the 8th time in history, no veteran ballplayer got elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Not the one with the home run record for both a single season and for a career.  (That would be Barry Bonds.)   Not the pitcher with the third-highest strikeout total in history.  (That would be Roger Clemens.)  Not a slew of other players with better records than some of those already enshrined in the Hall of Fame.  Why not?  This is the steroid generation.  From sportswriter Tim Brown:

On a day when 569 voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America could not agree on a single worthy candidate, Barry Bonds, the greatest hitter in the game, fell short by 221 votes. Roger Clemens, the best pitcher of his generation, missed by 213.

The outcome will be viewed as overdue justice or an outrageous injustice, depending on your heart and timeline. The system worked or it is irretrievably broken. The ballot was a statement. Or an exercise in mass confusion, coupled with dereliction of duty.

Near the end, Hall president Jeff Idelson, a good man in a difficult spot, withdrew a white piece of paper from a serious-looking envelope, arched his eyebrow and announced the result: bupkis. I’m paraphrasing.

We knew we’d get here. The tepid candidacies of Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro told us so. We didn’t know the degree to which it would leak into the wispier areas of innuendo, and neither Jeff Bagwell nor Mike Piazza cleared 60 percent. (Bonds and Clemens were under 40.)

via Judgment day: Steroid era dealt first big blow – Yahoo! Sports.

Is this “overdue justice or an outrageous injustice”?

Baseball post-mortem

I was glad to see that the Washington Nationals’ Davey Johnson won the National League’s manager of the year.  He also won the award for the American League back in 1997 when he managed  the Baltimore Orioles.  On the same day that reward was announced for getting the Orioles into the post-season for the first time in decades, he got fired.  That won’t happen this time, as the 70-year-old agreed to come back to Washington for one more year before he retires for good.  He took a bad, hapless, hopeless team and turned it, virtually overnight, into the winningness team in baseball.

And, along that line, going from old to young, the National’s Bryce Harper won Rookie of the Year.  He was 19 for most of the season and his infectious energy, as well as his penchant for getting on base and then stealing them, contributed greatly to the team’s successful season.

I was hoping for a trifecta for the Nationals, the home team I’m now following in my new home, but the team’s ace, Gio Gonzalez (not Stephen Strasburg, great young pitcher that he is) finished third in the NL Cy Young.  Usually winning more games than anyone, going 21-8, having 207 strikeouts, and a 2.89 ERA is enough to get you a Cy Young, but this year’s award went to the Met’s kuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who went 20-6.  Since the Mets were a losing team, I can see that this was a greater feat.   race despite having

Gonzalez led the Major Leagues with 21 victories, led the team in strikeouts with 207 and had a 2.89 ERA in 32 games. However, Dickey, who went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, led the NL in starts, complete games, shutouts and innings pitched. The Dodger’s Clayton Kershaw came in second, despite his lowlier 14-9 record, because he came out so well in the sophisticated number crunching of sabremetrics.


The World Series

The San Francisco Giants did to the St. Louis Cardinals what the Cardinals had been doing to everyone else, coming back from near certain elimination to advance to the World Series.  They are playing the Detroit Tigers, a team that has the thanks and admiration of most of the baseball world for humiliating the New York Yankees by sweeping them in four games.

So, fellow baseball fans, who do you like in the World Series that began last night with an 8-3 Giants win?  That is to say, who do you think will win AND whom would you like to win?

I think I will pull for the Tigers.  Detroit is a beaten down city that could use the boost.

The agony and the ecstasy of playoffs

The baseball playoffs are on another level of sports enjoyment.  These games are not relaxing, as baseball usually is, at least if you have a favorite team in the mix.  You find yourselves fixating on every pitch.  The games are intense, suspenseful, stressful.  To be sure, they are great fun, but they are draining and exhausting.  This year, in the first round, every one of the best-of-five contests went to five games, the first time that has ever happened.

I stayed up until well after midnight watching the Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Nationals, my new home team, jumped to a 6-0 lead after three innings.  But the Cardinals chipped away.  In the 9th inning, the Nationals led by two points, 7-5.   With two outs, the reliable closer Drew Storen on the mound, though with the bases loaded, the team and its fans could taste victory, especially after two strikes to low-in-the-batting-order Daniel Descalso.  But then he hit a two-run single!  The score was tied!  Once again, Storen, letting Descalso steal a base so with runners on 1st & 3rd, had the next batter, Pete Kozma, down to the last strike.  And he got a hit, putting the Cardinals ahead 9-7 for the win!

It could have gone so many different ways.  The Cardinals had two last-bat, last-strike miracles in a row.  But then again, this is exactly the kind of things that the Cardinals did last year, over and over again, in the playoffs and then in winning the World Series.  So now I’m going to pull for the Cardinals, though I’m not sure how many games I can take.

Nationals win NL East

The Washington Nationals, my home team now, after years of being bad, have won the National League East, contending with Cincinnati–another team that came out of nowhere–for the best record in baseball.  (The Nationals lost to the Phillies, but Pittsburgh beat Atlanta, arriving at the magic number.)  I’m enjoying watching the players come out of the dugout to spray the fans with champagne!

Nationals win NL East with Braves’ 2-1 loss to Pirates.