By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, counting down the days until Opening Day. . .passsing the time with March Madness.
—Don Drysdale was as fearsome on the mound as a starving grizzly bear. He feared nobody and hitters stepped into the batter’s box with trepidation.
He thought nothing of knocking down hitters with whisker-shaving fastballs. He knocked down Cincinnati’s Frank Robinson time and time again.
Oh, there was one hitter even Drysdale feared. Roberto Clemente.
Clemente had a penchant for whistling scorching guided missiles back through the box. Drysdale said every time Clemente stepped into the box he had visions of the line drive Gil McDougald hit that struck Cleveland pitcher Herb Score in the eye, nearly blinding him.
Late in 1969, Clemente drilled one through the box against Drysdale.
Drysdale heard the ball buzz past him. “It had the sensation of a bug crawling on my neck and I flicked at it.”
Drysdale reached for the rosin bag and discovered something tacky on his fingers. It was blood. The ball tore the skin off the top of his ear and it was bleeding.”
The next batter, Manny Sanguillen, hit a home run. It was the last pitch Drysdale ever threw. He walked off the mound and retired.
—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame pitcher Don Drysdale on why he knocked down hitters: “The pitcher has to find out if the hitter is timid. And if the hitter is timid, he has to remind the hitter he’s timid.” (And he found out that Roberto Clemente was not timid and not intimidated by any pitcher.
—As Marc Antony, a fearsome righthanded sword swatter, might have said it, “I have come to bury the Cincinnati Reds, not to praise them.”
So far, though, the Reds are burying themselves in spring training with defeats and injuries.
After losing to the San Diego Padres this week, 10-4, giving up 15 hits, the Reds won their next game, 7-3, over the Los Angeles Angels.
That gave them a spring record of 4-10-1, 14th out of 15 Cactus League teams and one game ahead of the last-place Chicago White Sox.
Of course, none of those losses count and everybody starts 0-0 on Opening Day. What does count, though, is the mounting injuries. They are lined up outside the training room door.
Pitcher Sonny Gray has an aching back that, at the least, sets him back a week into the season. Outfielder Shogo Akiyama starts the season on the Injured List with a pulled hamstring.
Joey Votto is still out after a positive COVID-19 test. The pitching staff has been hit hard. In addition to Gray, Wade Miley has issues, Tejay Antone pulled a groin muscle and neither Amir Garrett nor Lucas Sims has appeared in a game.
And the losing issues bring back dark memories of last season when the Reds set an all-time major league low with a .212 batting average. In addition, 60 per cent of their runs came on home runs, an all-time MLB high, and 40.7 per cent of their at bats were True Outcomes (strikeout, walk or home run), also an all-time MLB high.
—QUOTE: From former Reds outfielder Eric Davis: “The first” two times I went to spring training, I had to win a job, and if I didn’t get off to a blazing start, I’m on the bench. Now, I’ve proven myself, so it’s not essential that I get off to a real good start.” (Several Reds can take heart to that thinking. . .they have to think that way.)
—For those who don’t know, Chicago Cubs infielder Eric Sogard is a brother to Wright State University baseball coach Alex Sogard.
Alex made it to Triple-A before giving up his dream and becoming coach at Wright State, where he continues the school’s baseball mark of excellence.
Over the last five years (2015-20) Wright State owns the 15th most wins (214) in Division I baseball. Sogard is a young man, “But I’m old school,” he says.
He does not like the DH, does not like putting a runner on second base in extra-inning games, does not like seven-inning games and does not like the defensive shifts. Now there’s a guy who likes to coach Real Baseball. . .my new hero.
—These five left handed batters were hitting machines, led by Vada Pinson with 2,757 hits. Then there is Al Oliver (2,743), Rusty Staub (2,716), Bill Buckner (2,715) and Dave Parker (2,712).
What do they have in common? They are the lefthanded hitters with the most hits since 1901 who are not in the Hall of Fame. Pinson, Oliver and Parker should be in, Why aren’t they in? Maybe they should try changing their deodorant.
—Speaking of the Hall of Fame, a Pete Rose plaque may not be hanging in the hallowed hall, but Hall of Fame pitchers felt the sting of his Mizuno bats.
Of Rose’s, 4,256 career hits, he had 490 against Hall of Fame pitchers, hitting .303.
—It was odds-on that the NCAA would mess up its tournament bracket. . .and sure enough.
The committee pinched their noses at Belmont. The Bruins won 26 games, tying Gonzaga, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, for most wins by a Division I team. The Bruins have won two straight Ohio Valley Conference regular season championships, won 30 straight regular-season games and won an OVC tournament. . .all in the last two years.
But, no NCAA bid. They had to get Michigan State and its 15-12 record into the field. Well, at least Belmont got an NIT bid, right. Wrong. Snubbed again.
Well, how about Wright State, 18-and-6, all dressed up, and no place to go?
—QUOTE: From ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale: “Now, I know people are screaming, yelling and saying, ‘Who did Belmont play?’ Well, they play whoever’s in front of them. They don’t get opportunities to play against teams where you can get Quad 1 wins. Belmont won 26 games. That’s the most as anybody in the field. Twenty-six was what Gonzaga won. So, I thought Belmont really should have been part of this tournament.”
—While it is awful for anybody to lose their jobs, not too many are paid $10 million to just go away.
That’s what happened to former University of Dayton coach Archie Miller. He was fired this week by Indiana and was paid $10 million to clean out his desk and vacate the premises.
And IU did not pay the $10 million buyout on his contract, which had three more years. The $10 million was paid by one private booster, which shows how much some fans wanted Archie gone.
The Dayton Daily News paid me to go away, but it was about $9.9 million less than what Archie got.
—QUOTE: From former college/NFL football coach Lou Holtz: “Coaching is nothing more than eliminating mistakes before you get fired.” (Archie Miller’s mistake was losing too many games.)