By HAL McCOY
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Ma Cave, counting the days until spring training, but anxiously awaiting the start of the University of Dayton basketball season.
—‘SOME PEOPLE:’ So Dusty Baker finally has his World Series championship. And it seemed nine-tenths of the free world was pulling for him.
Dusty, though, knows he has his detractors. He has heard and read the many criticisms about what he can’t do and hasn’t done.
The biggest, of course, was that he couldn’t win the big game, that he always flopped and foundered in the post-season, whether it was when he managed San Francisco, Chicago (Cubs), Cincinnati, Washington or Houston.
It was a mighty bad rap. Anything can happen in a short series and what happens in the post-season is magnified, usually out of proportion.
During Baker’s post-game interview after winning the World Series, when a reporter said Baker was considered a great manager, even before the World Series, Baker interrupted.
“By some people,” he said.
The reporter persisted and said, “I think by most people.”
And Baker repeated, “By some people.”
He later said, “After a while I quit listening to folks telling me whiat I can’t do. All that does is motivate me more to do it more because I know there’s a lot of people in this country are told the same things and it’s broken a lot of people.”
This all reminded me of his time as Cincinnati Reds manager and how some so-called fans dealt with the team’s struggles in September of 2012. . .a losing spell that cost them the National League Central title.
I was sitting in Baker’s office, just me and him. He pushed a cardboard box filled with letters toward me and said, “Pull one out and read it.”
The one I selected was a hate-filled diatribe, with the ’n’ word sprinkled throughout it, and Dusty said, “Most ‘em are the same.”
It was a heart-breaking commentary on the way too many fans think and not just in Cincinnati.
The reporter is right, though. Most knowledgeable fans know that Baker is a great manager and even more of a great leader and motivator of men. And most of the free world, many of whom despise the Astros because of the sign-stealing scanda, were pulling for Baker.
—QUOTE: From Houston manager Dusty Baker: “I love my daughter, but she had me on couscous and fixed me pastas and made me eat oatmeal every morning, turkey burgers, turkey bacon, and that kind of stuff. So she wants her dad to live a long time, and I do, too.” (Baker is 73, oldest manager to win a World Series and who is to say he won’t win more?)
—HORSE SENSE: One of the greatest athletes of all-time was on display Saturday, and he didn’t pass or carry a football, didn’t throw a pitch or hit a baseball, didn’t shoot or dribble a basketball.
And unless you are an avid horse racing fan, you probably never heard of Flightline. Insider horse folks compare him to Secretariat, the best of all-time, and some say he is better.
Running against the best horses in the world Saturday in the $6 million Breeders Cup Classic at Keeneland, Flightline won by 8 1/2 lengths, pulling away, running the 1 1/2 miles in 2:00.5. He made the other horses look like they belonged on a carousel.
Mainstream sports fans only watch the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, so they didn’t see Flightline, who was beset by injuries and didn’t run as a 3-year-old.
But as a 4-year-old, he is now 6-for-6 and won the six races by a total of 70 lengths. He won his previous race at Del Mar by 15 lengths.
Asked if Flightline is the best horse he ever trained, trainer John W. Sadler, said, “He is probably the best horse anybody ever trained.” And as somebody said, “If you bet against Flightline in any race, you probably bet on the Washington Generals to beat the Harlem Globetrotters.”
Unfortunately, nobody will see him run again. It is sad and a knock against horse racing that a horse can make more money in the breeding barn than on the track. And the owners plan to turn him out to stud, where it is estimated Flightline will earn up to $40 million next year, without once wearing a saddle.
—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr.: “Any horse can win on any given day.” (Not if any horse enters the same gate occupied by Flightline.)
—OLD SCHOOL: From former Baltimore baseball writer Jim Henneman about the four-pitcher Houston Astros World Series no-hitter.
Many baseball traditionalists (save me a spot in the group) were disturbed that Astros manager Dusty Baker removed starting pitcher Cristian Javier after six innings when he owned a no-hitter.
Baker is as old-school as anybody, but he knows baseball’s realities these days. Javier had thrown 97 pitches and Baker knew Javier had throw more than that in a game only four times in his career.
And he had pitched seven innings only three times. He has never pitched a complete game, even in the minors.
Like it or not — and we traditionalists do not like it — it is baseball’s new reality.
As Baker might say, “How did it work out?”
—QUOTE: From former major league pitcher Early Wynn: “A pitcher will never be a big winner until he hates hitters.” (This comes from a guy who once said, “I’d knock down my grandmother if she crowded the plate.”)
—WHO KNEW?: A check of the NBA standings gave me a quick startle. Yes, the Milwaukee Bucks lead the Eastern Conference with a 9-and-0 record. No shock there.
It’s the second place team that’s the stunner. It’s the Cleveland Cavaliers with an 8-1 record. . .and, no, LeBron James hasn’t sneaked back into town.
—SCORE, SCORE, SCORE: It was almost as if they got together before the game and said, “We won’t tackle you if you don’t tackle us.”
The final score was Southern Methodist 77, Houston 63. No, it wasn’t basketball, it was football. And it wasn’t overtime.
The SMU basketball team comes to University of Dayton Arena Friday night and I’m wagering the Mustangs don’t score 77 against the Flyers.
—WISE ADVICE: If you think opportunity is knocking, look out the window before you open the door.