By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, down 36 pounds and only four to go. I’m loving the new clothes Nadine keep bringing home. And some of then are even for me.
—RASH JUDGEMENT: One of the most absurd pieces I’ve read in a long, long time was put out by WCPO-TV in Cincinnati. It sounded more like something from WKRP in Cincinnti. Unadulterated fantasy.
The piece said 21-year-old Elly De La Cruz is a bust. Say what?
Ask opposing teams if he is a bust. They fear the prospect of De La Cruz getting on base. He disrupts the entire defense, puts it into perspiration mode.
In recen back-to-back game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he singled, stole second, stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly and a ground ball. That’s vintage De La Cruz, playing the game on Cruz control. He can provide the Reds with a snap, crackle and pop offense.
Yes, he is currently on the struggle bus, hitting below the Mendoza Line since the All-Star break. He sees a fastball about as often as Queen Latifah sees her toes.
He is being force-fed breaking pitches and finds it difficult to lay off. It’s an adjustment he has to make, an adjustment he will make.
When he was called up, he showed what his body of overstuffed talent can do. And he’ll show it again.
He is 21 with little more than a half-season in the majors. It is evident his confidence is on a downer right now and it shows in his suddenly leaky defense.
He seems so insecure right now that when his mother says she loves him he probably asks for a second opinion.
But to say he is a bust on a small body of evidence is like saying Willie Mays was a bust when he began his MLB career 0 for 12, or saying Greg Maddux was bust becaue he was 8-19 his first two seasons, or saying Randy Johnson was a bust because he was 7-17 his first two full MLB seasons.
A bust? It wouldn’t surprise me if when his career is over, Elly De La Cruz will have the equivalent of a bust in Cooperstown.
—QUOTE: From Hall of Famer Willie Mays: “It isn’t hard to be good from time to time in sports. What is tough is being good every day.” (Somebodu read that quote to Elly De La Cruz.)
—ALSO ON CRUZ CONTROL: When Johnny Cash sang, “I’ve Been Everywhere,” he must have been singing about Cincinnati Reds 34-year-old rookie Fernando Cruz, the one relief pitcher still reliable out of the team’s bullpen. In a recent game he faced four Pittsburgh Pirates and struck out all four.
When it comes to perseverance, Cruz’s picture should be next to the word in every Funk & Wagnalls. He never gave up, despite wearing more uniforms than a platoon of soldiers.
In his native Puerto Rico, he pitched for Mayaguez, Santurce, Ponce and Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League.
He also pitched for Caribes in the Venezuelan Winter League, for Licey in the Dominican Winter League and for Puebla and Guadalajara in the Mexican League.
His U.S. stops included Idaha Falls, Des Moines, Knoxville, Myrtle Beach and two different seasons with the New Jersey Jackals of the independent Can-Am League.
And through it all he remained as happy and chirpy as a cricket.
—QUOTE: From Chinese philosopher Confucius: “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” (Confucius never threw a splitter, but Cruz knows what he was talking about.)
—FUN FACT: When Rickey Henderson set the record for most career stolen baes, he swiped 1,406, probably a record that will stand up for a long, long time, if not forever.
Accomplished base stealers say it is easier to steal third than second, but few try it. Rickey did. He stole third base 322 times, another record that probably is forever.
Before Henderson, Lou Brock was the base-stealing aficionado. He stole third 133 few times than Henderson.
One year, injuries hit Henderson and he didn’t win the stolen base title. That went to Seattle’s Harold Reynolds (Yes, the MLB-TV guy) with 60.
Henderson called him after the season, not for congratulatory words. He said, “Sixty stolen bases? You ought to be ashamed. Rickey would have had 60 stolen bases by the All-Star break.”
—HE’S PHOTOGENIC, TOO? — Most historians agree that the most iconic baseball photo ever was one taken on July 23, 1910, an image of a grim-faced Ty Cobb sliding into third base. New York Highlanders third baseman Jimmy Austin is off the ground taking the throw. It doesn’t indicate if Cobb is stealing third or sliding in for a triple.
And, no, I didn’t cover that game. I was covering Philadelphia’s 3-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds at the Palace of the Fans with 7.500 fans. The game took 1:35 and the losing pitcher was 5-foot-7 20-game winner George Suggs.
—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame base-stealer Ty Cobb: “I had to fight all my life to survive. They were all against me, but I beat the bastards and left them in the ditch.” (And most of them were bleeding.)
—PUT IT IN PLAY: In the first inning of Friday’s Colorado Rockies-Chicago Cubs game, there was only one ball put in play on the first 51 pitches thrown. Now why did I count them? That’s what Nadine asked and I had no answer.
And I counted pitches during the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati game: 381 — 197 by the Reds and 184 by the Pirates. There were 14 walks and two hit batsmen.
You’d think home plate was seven inches wide instead of 17 inches. And who came up with the odd number of 17? Why not 20? Why not 15?
Why 17? The legend/myth is that when Alexander Cartwright laid out the field, he used a dinner plate 17 inches wide for home plate. It’s a good thing he didn’t use a coffee cup saucer.