It’s October and I can’t resist writing about one of my true loves – not politics – baseball.
It’s been another remarkable regular season. Baltimore and Washington make the playoffs. The Orioles and Yankees stay within a game of each other for the last two months of the season. Washington benches their stud pitcher Steven Strasburg for the last month and the playoffs because they believe a pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery should not pitch more than 160 innings. Amazing stuff.
Here’s another shocking story, courtesy of Hanan Fishman of Partmaker. Tsuyoshi Nishioka signed a $9.5 million dollar contract with the Twins after winning the 2010 batting average title in Japan. He broke his leg in the first week of 2011 and never could pull his game together. He spent 2012 in the Minors, batting .258. Minnesota owed him $3,250,000 for his last year on the deal, but he declined the payment.
“I take full responsibility for my performance, which was below my own expectations,” he said. “At this time I have made the decision that it is time to part ways. I have no regrets and know that only through struggle can a person grow stronger,” he said in a statement. Never heard that from Kevin Brown.
R.A. Dickey, knuckleball pitcher of the New York Mets, has had a Cy Young worthy season at the age of 37. He went 20-6 with a 2.73 Earned Run Average, five complete games and three shutouts. He also wrote Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball, a fascinating autobiography–and he really wrote it himself. The guy is an accomplished writer of prose and poetry. He is one of only two National Leaguers to win 20 this year and he did it for a mediocre Mets team.
I love R.A. Dickey, but there is one pitcher in baseball who truly dominates and is worth the price of admission – Justin Verlander of the Tigers. Not only is he the best in the game, but he does it with a joy and passion that is truly a delight for anybody who loves the game.
Miguel Cabrera of Detroit and Josh Hamilton of Texas have had amazing hitting seasons with Cabrera winning the Triple Crown, the first time anybody has accomplished the feat since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Both guys had major substance abuse issues – Cabrera with alcohol, Hamilton with drugs. Both guys possess fabulous talent, had wrecked their careers, and found their way back. Hamilton is a free agent after this year. May these great players hold their lives together.
The Chicago Cubs, after 104 years of futility, have suffered probably their worst season ever. Theo Epstein took over and got rid of the team’s best players under the theory that he would rather start over from the bottom than just be mediocre for years. The Cubs will rebuild from the Minors following the approach of Washington and Oakland. Sign as many power arms as you can and develop the kids into pitchers. Trade for hitters or sign them out of Cuba. There is a lot of wonderful baseball talent in Cuba waiting to sneak out. Post Fidel, we will see more of it.
Question: Is there a remarkable season for your favorite sports team you love to reminisce about?
It has been a great season. I had no idea how significant Cabrera’s season was until the last month or so. Growing up a Detroit fan, I was always a fan of Barry Sanders. Although no championships came from the Lions playoff runs, he was always exciting, win or lose. (Today’s Lions have a spark of hope, but lack the star power Barry brought to every game.) – It only takes a few great athletes to make a season great.
I’m a Giants fan. Their 2010 “season of torture” was a thrilling, anxiety-filled ride culminating in an improbable World Series Championship. Truth be told, no one thought they’d make it to he playoffs so most fans felt that beating the Braves, Phillies, and Rangers was icing on the cake. Looking back, no one really knows how it happened (aside from great pitching and peaking at the right time).
This year, the Oakland A’s are an even more amazing David and Goliath story. They overcame a 13 game deficit on June 13 to move into to sole possession of 1st place for the 1st time on the last day of the season, by sweeping the powerful and highly paid Rangers. The powerful hitting Rangers controlled 1st place since April 9 and never lost a third game in a row until the last game of the year against the A’s. The A’s were 8-2 in their last ten games, all started by rookie pitchers. They played .680 ball since the All-Star break. Payroll is the 2nd lowest in the AL. The A’s 2012 story is another amazing example of the unpredictability of baseball that makes it so much fun to follow. Baseball is the stage upon which heart, passion, and sheer determination can triumph over all else. If you’re a fan of the underdog, the A’s are your team this year.
You will have to search intently before you find a team as classy as the ’38 and ’39 Wolverines of Tommy Harmon, Forrest Evershefsky, Ed Fruittig et al both as athletes and students. The only gratuities they received was the training table, and coach wouldn’t let them get behind their peers in earning a legitimate degree. It is hard for me to get excited about pampered, so-called, amateurs and farm candidates for the professionals. And if college has become a bit boring, watch 22 fat millionaires chase an inflated pigskin is the lowest form of entertainment. And then we get a covey of young kids who find playing ball a great career, turn in a season to really remember. The Nationals brought excitement back to baseball. They have finished their season on top and even if they don’t go any farther, it is enough. In a town crazy about football, baseball is number uno.
IN your mention of remarkable story’s you forgot to mention Mike Trout of the Angels. 19 years old with unlimited potential. what is really remarkable is that the Angels had Trout-rookie of the year, probably 2nd in MVP, Jared Weaver..probable Cy Young winner, All star Trumbo, Pujols, Tori Hunter and could not make the playoffs. Love Mike Scoscia but his time might be over.
Living half-way between Baltimore and Washington, I am absolutely amazed at having two play-off teams 1/2 hour away and especially two teams usually at the bottom of the pack!! Miracles never cease!! Could we be on the way to a “Capital Beltway” World Series?
I’m sure most of you mid-westerners would choke at the thought. Should be a great play-off season!
I did choke at the thought. However, I concede that would be pretty amazing.