Thursday, October 31, 2013

Congratulations Red Sox

As a baseball fan, I would like to congratulate the Boston Red Sox as 2013 World Series champions.  While I was watching the postseason unfold, I could not help but think that the Red Sox winning it all was meant to be.

From the day of the bombings, the team and city seemed to rally around each other and have that never give up attitude.  Be Boston Strong.  Just about every Red Sox hitter was struggling at the plate during the playoffs at one point, but when a hit was needed, someone delivered.  Then another Red Sox delivered after going for 0-8 or similar just before delivering in the clutch.  And then another.  It all added up to a championship on the home turf, so near to where the bombings took place.

In honor of their championship, I will share their anthem.  Casual baseball fans would think that it is Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline", which is played at each home game.  The Red Sox team anthem is actually "Tessie".   The origin goes back over hundred years.  To learn more about it, here is the background of the song and the Royal Rooters.

And here is the song which was remade by the group, Dropkick Murphy's:

And this song is played immediately after each win at Fenway Park. So, this is also fitting.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Card of Week: Carlos Beltran 2007 Topps Walmart

Last week I did a member of the Boston Red Sox for my card of the week. So to be fair, this week will be one from the St. Louis Cardinals
2007 Topps Walmart
Carlos Beltran is my favorite Cardinal player not only because he his a good player and person, he has local ties also.  The veteran outfielder has proven himself on the field with a solid career.  He has won the Rookie of the Year award with Royals, is a eight time All Star and three time Gold Glove winner.   On top of that, Beltran is one of the best ever hitters in post season play. He is on top or near the top of every offensive category for post season career.
For the 2013 season, MLB has honored Beltran as the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award.  This award is given out each year to the player "who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and indvidual's contribution to the team".
Locally, Beltran is a former player of the Lansng Lugnuts.  He played very briefly for Lansing, but he has had the best career of any Lugnut in MLB history.
For the card itself, this card was inserted in random packs only distributed at Walmart.  Each card from the 54 card set is designed differently.  Each has a design from a baseball card set of the past.  This Beltran card is one from the Post cereal sets of the early 1960s. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Thoughts on the Tigers Managerial Rumors

Since the resignation of Jim Leyland as the Detroit Tigers' manager, there have been several names mentioned and rumored as possible replacements.  I am going to give you some of my personal thoughts.  Of course, I am no insider, just a lifelong fan who has an idea of what is going on.  So, take it for what it is worth.
Okay, so what do we know for sure.  We know that former managers Ozzie Guillen, Dusty Baker and Eric Wedge have all publicly shown interest in the position.  I would basically ignore these type of news items. Many people have interest, including even me, but it doesn't mean that the interest is mutual.  Until you hear one of these ex-managers getting interest from Tigers, just ignore.
We also know that Tigers' hitting coach Lloyd McClendon has interviewed for the job.  He was once a manager in Pittsburgh and has been a part of Leyland's staff in Detroit during Leyland's entire tenure with Tigers.  This gives McClendon some good qualifications for the opening.  But, I do not see him as a legitimate candidate.  He is not highly sought after among MLB teams and his time as manager in Pittsburgh was not exactly successful.  I believe this is just a courtesy interview by GM Dave Dombrowski for his own employees.  And as for Gene Lamont, I think Lamont's managerial ship has set sail several years ago.

We have also learned that Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach has interviewed for the job.  If you don't know of him, here is some background on Wallach.  He was an All Star third baseman for Montreal and the  Dodgers.  He also managed Dodgers' AAA club and was named the league's manager of the year.  He has played for or coached under well respected managers such as Dick Williams, Tom Lasorda and Bill Virdon.   All of this makes him a very good option for the opening.  Another note about Wallach is that he and Dombrowski spent time together in Montreal, so there is familiarity between the two.
I still believe that Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo is a legitimate candidate.  He once was a Tigers prospect, managed in the minors and is highly regarded as a future manager.  He, of course, is in the World Series.  So any interview will have to happen until after the series and thus any announcement for Tigers replacement will be not named until then.
The Lovullo item is a hunch of mine and I could be wrong.  There also could be some darkhouse candidate out there and be named as Leyland's replacement any day.  Remember, the Prince Fielder signing came out of nowhere.  Dombrowski is a smart man and have total faith in him.  My guess it will be Wallach with heavy consideration for Lovullo.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Jim Leyland in a nutshell

While I was surfing the internet and reading about Jim Leyland's legacy as a manager. I came across this video.  This 30 second video embodies everything Leyland is and what he stands for.
Jim Leyland video

As he argues with the umpire, it shows his passion for the game and his competitive spirit.  It also showing him defending his players.  Every player wants and respects a manager who will be there for them and Leyland did that, almost to a fault.

When "God Bless America" is played he stops and honors America. This shows his respect he has for others and USA.  After the playing of "God Bless America", he resumes his beef with the umpire.  Because he is the type of person who will fight for what he believes in to the very end and not change.

After watching it all, one can't help but laugh at the end and as anyone knows who has listened to Leyland before, he has a great sense of humor.
Baseball will be lacking just a little without having Jim Leyland in one of it's dugouts, but as Leyland said on Monday, "it's time".  On behalf of all fans of baseball, I would like to say, thank you and good luck in your future endeavors.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Card of the Week: John Farrell 1988 Topps Big

With the Red Sox in the World Series, I thought I would showcase one of manager John Farrell's cards and briefly talk about his career.
1988 Topps Big

This card is one from his rookie year as a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians.  As a rookie for Cleveland in 1987, Farrell had a 5-1 win/loss record.  His crowning achievement that year was that he ended Brewers' Paul Molitor's 39 game hitting streak.  I am surprised this is never mentioned about Farrell.  Molitor's hitting streak is the fifth longest in MLB history since 1900 and was pretty big news back then.
Farrell followed up his rookie season by winning 14 games in 1988.  But by 1990, he developed elbow problems which ended his effectiveness as a major league pitcher.
One note about Farrell and the 1988 Cleveland Indians is that three of his teammates are current major league managers as well.  Terry Francona (Cleveland), Ron Washington(Texas) and Bud Black(San Diego).

After Farrell's playing days, Farrell became a pitching coach.  A good enough one to be named the Blue Jays' manager for the 2011 season.  Prior to the 2013 season, the Red Sox traded for Farrell.
Yes, Boston traded a current player for the manager of a different club. It has happened before.  Trading for manager has proven to be a good move.  Pirates traded for Chuck Tanner from Oakland prior to 1977 season and won the World Series two years later and the New York Mets traded for Gil Hodges from Washington Senators in 1967 and also won a World Series title two years later.  Dealing for a manager isn't always successful though.  Miami acquiring Ozzie Guillen and Tampa getting Lou Pinella were not good moves.
By making the World Series, the Farrell trade has been proven to be a successful one.  We all soon will see if Farrell will join Tanner and Hodges as fellow World Series championship managers.

Personal Thoughts on Tigers Open Managerial Spot

Tigers' manager Jim Leyland announced his resignation today.  He was very good manager and a class guy and all Tiger fans should be proud to have had him in Detroit.
Now the focus will be on his replacement and several names will be come up for it.  I am, of course, not privy to all the information and goings on behind the scenes.  Who is an actual candidate and who interviews well, etc.  I am just going to give you some of my personal thoughts on some names and who could be a good manager in Detroit or should be up for consideration for the job.
Most Tiger fans I hear are wanting to trade for manager Kirk Gibson from Arizona.  Needless to say, he is a very popular choice because of his playing days in Detroit and managerial job he has done in Arizona.  I am not sure his fiery demeanor is a good mesh with a veteran laden club like Detroit.  A bunch of veterans don't need a lot of rahs rahs or an in your face approach like a young club does.  Gibson is known for being well prepared and could be smart enough to know to tone it down with a clubhouse full of veteran stars.  Of course, it all depends on Arizona actually agreeing to let him go.  
One of Gibson's coaches is Alan Trammell.  He is still very popular in Detroit and would be interesting see how he will do as a manager with more talent next time around.  If either of these two gets the job in Detroit and win it all, they will be forever loved in the Motor City.
Other possible candidates include Rays' bench coach Dave Martinez. He has been on Joe Madden's side during his entire tenure in Tampa. He should be able to bring his experience and knowledge to a managerial job at some point. A couple ex Tiger players have been hot names lately for managerial jobs. Brad Ausmus and Torey Lovullo.  I believe each of these three could be fine a big league manager someday, but right now none of them have any managerial experience, which GM Dave Dombrowski could be looking for.  Lovullo might be the most ready as he was a manager for a year in the minors and is the current bench coach in Boston.
I am going to throw one more name out. Tony Pena. I am rather shocked he has not gotten another managerial job.  He was once a Kansas City Royal manager and led them to a winning record in 2003, but the team struggled afterwards and Pena subsequently resigned.  He since has been a coach with the Yankees, so October baseball is a norm for him.  Also as a player, he was a catcher for playoff teams in St Louis, Boston and Cleveland and was known to work well with pitching staffs. I believe he could do a good job as a manager again, especially one with veterans on it.
Tiger fans also should keep in mind that Washington and Cinicinnati both have openings for managers and are playoff caliber teams. So any potential candidate has options, even though Detroit's opening could be the best looking job on paper.  Also, just as important as hiring a good manager is having a good coaching staff around him.  
Time will tell in who will be named as Leyland's replacement and I have faith in Dombrowski in hiring a qualified candidate.  He should get ample opportunities for succeeding and Tiger fans should keep an open mind in the hiring if he turns out not be the most popular candidate.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

When You Thought You've Seen It All

Longtime baseball fans know that no matter how many games one watches, there are plays that occur that make you say "I've never seen that before".
For example, earlier in the year, Detroit Tiger Max Scherzer struck out a batter with a pitch that ended in the dirt. Usually, the catcher usually picks up the ball and throw the ball to first to complete the strike out.  On this particular play, the ball bounced far enough into play that Scherzer, himself, threw to first for the out.

On Friday before Game 6 of the NLCS, something else happened that would fall into this category. After the playing of the national anthem, St, Louis Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly and Los Angeles Dodgers reserve outfielder  Scott Van Slyke decided to do standoff.

They stood there and waited to for the other to make their move to the dugout.  As time went on, a Dodger teammate went to put a helmet on Van Slyke.  They lasted all the way up to the first pitch of the game when home plate umpire Greg Gibson ordered them off the field.
I guess boys will be boys. Or you we just came across two of the most patriotic players in MLB history.  Oh, as for the game,  Cardinals won and clinched the NL pennant in resounding fashion, 9-0.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Recalling the 1985 NLCS Between Cardinals and Dodgers

The stage is set for the 2013 NLCS.  It matches two of the most successful National League franchises in MLB history, but surprisingly, this is the only second time that they faced off in the NLCS.  The first time was the memorable 1985 series.
1985 was the first year that the LCS went from a best of five series to a best of seven.  Los Angeles had the home field advantage in the series and took a 2-0 series lead.  They were lead by their two aces, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hersisher and some timely hitting which included the hot bat of Bill Madlock.

In game 3, St Louis bounced back as Danny Cox outdueled Bob Welch in route to a 4-2 victory.  But before Game 4, the NLCS became quite interesting.  It was a rainy day and the automated tarp had to be used, but unfortunately for St Louis, their star rookie outfielder Vince Coleman was nearby.  He got caught underneath the tarp and ended up with a broken ankle.  How would the Cardinals respond with the loss of their leadoff and 100 stolen baseman?  With no problem actually, St Louis routed Los Angeles, 12-2.

The series tied at two apiece now, Los Angeles was still very confident. Manager Tom Lasorda declared "if they can beat Valenzuela and Hersisher, then we're not as good as we thought."  The game was 2-2 deadlock as the game headed into the bottom of the ninth.  Switching hitting and defensive wizard, Ozzie Smith came up to bat against righty Tom Niedenfuer.  Smith, with no career home runs on the left side, became a hero:

The series moved back to L.A. for game six.  The Dodgers took a 5-4 in the ninth, St. Louis had runners on 2nd and 3rd and righty Jack Clark up to bat.  Lasorda opted to let Niedenfuer pitch to the power hitting Clark, who he struck out in the seventh. This time, Clark hit a shot over the left field wall and made St Louis pennant winners.
Ozzie Smith was named MVP of the series and St. Louis went on to face Kansas City Royals in the World Series.  Kansas City won the "I-70 Series" in seven games.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In Memoriam: Andy Pafko

On Tuesday, former outfielder Andy Pafko passed away at the age of 92.  Pafko was a big leaguer from 1943-59 and a part of pennant winning teams for three different franchises- Chicago Cubs, Brooklyn Dodgers and Milwaukee Braves(winning it all in 1957).
1952 Topps
Pafko made 5 All Star teams and finished his career with 213 home runs, 976 RBIs with a batting average of .285.  He hit a career high of 36 HRs in 1950 while with the Cubs and finished the season with only 32 strikeouts.

In the hobby world, Pafko's 1952 Topps baseball card is one of the most sought after vintage card.   In this very popular set, Pafko's card is numerically #1.  Which means this card was always the first card in a stack of cards whether in a box or in a rubber band.  Because of this, it became more damaged than the other cards within the set, thus making the Pafko card very hard to find in nice shape.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Card of Week: Evan Longoria 2008 Topps Update

First of all, I would like to apologize for my little absence.  I had a bit of a cold and lost my internet connection temporarily(thanks Comcast). So I am back now with this week's card of the week.

I decided to showcase a card of player who is has been a star this October- Tampa Bays Rays third baseman Evan Longoria.
2008 Topps Update Evan Longoria rookie card
For the tiebreaker game, Evan Longoria went 3-4 at the plate which included a two run homer as the Rays beat Texas 5-2.  That was Longoria's seventh career home run that was hit on the team's last game of the year.  The previous record of six was held by Cardinal's legend Stan Musial.
On Monday, Longoria hit a game tying three run home run vs Boston Red Sox. It is his ninth career post season home run. It was also Longoria's 28th birthday on Monday.  Very happy birthday indeed. He is the second person in MLB history to hit a postseason homer on his birthday.  The other was Kansas City Royals' Willie Mays Aikens during the 1980 World Series(he hit two that day).
This is also gives me an excuse to show one of my favorite baseball commercials in recent years.  Plus give some free advertisment for New Era hats: