By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, bleary-eyed and butt-numb from watching all the bouncing basketballs morning, noon and night. . .and loving every second.
—Baseball is back, battered and bruised, but not broken and beaten, despite the worst efforts on both sides.
The best thing about the entire mess from a fan’s perspective is that baseball is back. The fans don’t care how many $$$ signs are involved next to most of the issues. The fans just want to hear the words, ‘Play ball,’ and see some strikeouts, walks and home runs.
The best two things to come with the new contract are two things that few people knew were being negotiated.
The players got rid of the ghost runner — no more placing a runner on second base to start extra-inning games. It is back to playing it straight.
And no more seven-inning doubleheaders. It is back to nine-inning doubleheaders like Abner Doubleday or Alexander Cartwright or Tony LaRussa invented it.
There was no word on the three-batter minimum for relief pitchers so we have to assume that the Manfred Mandate remains.
What is head-shaking is that teams may now sell advertising for their uniforms, patches on the jerseys and decals on the helmets. Hey NASCAR, here comes MLB.
In addition, the dreaded designated hitter is now universal and will be used in the National League. Fans never again will see something like pitcher Tony Cloninger hitting two grand slams in one game or pitcher Rick Wise throwing a no-hitter and hitting two home runs (against the Cincinnati Reds).
Why is the DH even necessary. Most starting pitchers don’t go more than three or four innings and get yanked. They are followed by a string of relief pitchers who get pinch-hit for when their turn comes to bat.
And now the mad scramble begins as spring training camps open this weekend with April 7 as Opening Day. Signing free agents and making trades was forbidden during the 99-day management lockout. The freeze is off and there are close to 300 free agents seeking employment and there are trades to be made.
The full 162-game schedule will be played, meaning a gaggle of nine-inning doubleheaders must be played to make up the games lost from the first week. And in case you were losing sleep over it, the players will be paid full salary.
What was interesting, though, is that the MLBPA (players) did not unanimously approve the deal, nor did management. The played OKed it by a 26-12 vote. The players’ Executive Council voted 8-0 to turn it down. And on management’s side, the Yankees, Mets, Cardinals and Astros said nay.
So, it is all over and it is time to strike out, walk or hit a home run. The Reds open in Atlanta on April 7 for a four-game series. The home opener is April 12 against the Cleveland – – – – dians. Reds CEO Bob Castelllini promises all the pomp and circumstance of a normal Opening Day in Cincinnati.
—Isn’t it always the New York Yankees? In late February of 1963, the Yankees signed MVP Mickey Mantle to a $100,000 one-year contract. About an hour later, they signed Roger Maris to a one-year $72,000 deal.
The $172,000 represented the most money ever paid to two players on one team. Maris, who hit 61 home runs in 1961, only hit 33 in 1962, but wanted a raise. He settled for the same $72,000 he was paid in 1962
And now management and the owners bickered over a minimum salary for rookies of $700,000.
—QUOTE: From New York Yankees Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle, when asked about Reggie Jackson passing him on the all-time home run list: “He passed me on the all-time strikeout list a couple of years ago and nobody asked me about that.”
—If you are anti-analytics in baseball, former Rangers/Mets/Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine says you can blame him. In his book, ‘Valentine’s Way,’ he says he started it when he managed the Chiba Lotte Marines in the Japanese Pacific League in 2004.
“I put in an analytics system, one that is used today,” he wrote. “I hired Data Stadium, a data collection company. We devised ways of putting every pitch into the program, so a computer could tell us where pitches were thrown and at what velocity and what locations.
“We designed programs that showed where balls were hit and how fast the balls went off the bats, how far they went and which direction they went. A lot of general managers came to see what we were doing and went back to the States and implemented them into MLB.”
—QUOTE: From former MLB manager Bobby Valentine, criticizing the schedule of one of his teams: “That’s what happens when a computer makes up the schedule.” (So, Mr. Valentine, the computer isn’t always right, including analytics.)
—With no major league baseball until April 7 and the minor leagues not scheduled to start until the first week of April, ESPN keeps putting college baseball plays on its daily Top Ten list, mostly diving catches in the outfield with the usual mixture on home runs.
With that in mind, remember the name Kevin Parada, a catcher at Georgia Tech. In his first 13 games he has seven home runs and 22 RBIs, with a slash line of ..472/.556/.962.
And there is a freshman at North Carolina State who has won NCAA Collegiate Player of the Week two straight weeks. In 13 games, Tommy White has nine homers, 20 hits and 29 RBIs.
—QUOTE: From Scott Russell’s hilarious book, ‘The Final Odyssey of the Sweet Ride,’ quoting Luis Tiant talking to Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee: “You’re not much of a fighter, you always lead with your face.”
—Wonder how the person who wagered $1,000 on Wright State to win the Horizon League tournament felt when the Raiders were down 16 points to Northern Kentucky with 11 1/2 minutes left? Down and dirty? Wonder how he felt when Wright State went on a 20-4 run to tie it, 61-61 with 6:14 left. Anxiety and hope? Wonder how he felt when Trey Calvin buried a gut-clutching foul-line jumper with 0:10.5 left to give WSU a 72-71 victory? Ultimate ecstasy and $2,500 richer.
It was an unfathomable comeback for the NCAA-bound Raiders and Nadine, sitting in the sun room watching one of her shows, could hear me screaming from The Man Cave. . .and I was watching the best show of the night.
When Wright State trailed, 57-41, with 11:34 left, broadcaster Bob Wischusen said, “This is a deep hole for Wright State to dig out of.” None of the players carried shovel and there was no backhoe in sight, but the Raiders covered up that hole with a bunch of Norse buried there.
—QUOTE: From former coach turned broadcaster Pete Gillen, working a game in which the University of Dayton was not involved: “The young Flyers are really something. You better buy stock.” (Would that be Delta, United or Southwest?)
Big comebacks are the big rage, it seems. Indiana trailed Michigan by 17 in the second half and won. TCU trailed Texas by 20 in the first half and won. Butler trailed Xavier by six points with 52 seconds left, but won in overtime. UNLV trailed Wyoming by 13 in the first half and came back to take the lead, but Wyoming won at the buzzer.
That’s what the three-point shot has done and games like these are why I love college basketball.
—QUOTE: From basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: “The 3-point shot has created a situation in the game akin to ‘Lotto’ fever.” (But hitting a ‘3’ has considerably lower odds than the odds on winning the lottery.)