By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBERVATIONS from The Man Cave, still giddy over the Cleveland Browns astounding upset of the San Francisco 49ers. And the Cincinnati Bengals and Ohio State won, too. A great weekend for Ohioans. Anybody know what the Columbus Bluejackets did? They beat the New York Rangers, 5-3.
—SILENCE IS GOLDEN: Just speculating, but I’d bet my Hall of Fame ring that not a single disparaging word was uttered in the Texas Rangers post-game clubhouse about the base-running faux pas perpetrated by Houston’s Jose Altuve in Game One of the ALCS.
Like Philadephia’s Bryce Harper, Altuve was doubled off first base after a long fly ball into the darkest corner of a small niche in Minute Maid Park.
Altuve made it back to first safely, but neglected to re-touch second base on his retreat to first and was doubled up on appeal.
Atlanta’s Orlando Arcia made a disparaging remark about Harper’s trip and it leaked out of the clubhouse, creating quite the stir.
It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that
Texas players wore duct tape across their mouths after Altuve’s gaffe.
—HELL UP NORTH: Phillies manager Rob Thomson said a coach from an opposing team during the playoffs told him: “Playing in Citizens Bank Park is like spending four hours in hell.” In Philly, they call it ‘Bedlam at the Bank.’
No surprise there. Remember several years back when Philadelphia Eagles fans threw snowballs at a guy dressed as Santa Claus?
And several Cincinnati Reds relief pitchers told me that when they warm up in the bullpen, Phillies fans scream expletives at them that would make Andrew Dice Clay blush.
—THE RISING SON: There are a bevy of MLB starting pitchers available on the free agent market. The best, though, the No. 1 free agent pitcher is in Japan.
His name is Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a 25-year-old who has pitched seven years for the Orix Buffaloes. He has won the NPR MVP three times and the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young three times.
In Japan, they call him the country’s all-time best pitcher. Since 2017 he is 68-29 with a 1.84 earned run average with 901 strikeouts and only 204 walks in 883 innings. He has thrown two no-hitters
In 2023 he won 14 games with a 1.32 ERA. He finished the regular season by giving up one earned run over his last 45 innings over seven starts. In 21 appearances he had 19 quality starts.
And he can be had, they say, for $200 million. . .or more, depending upon how much the Yankees, Dodgers or Padres offer.
The first Japanese player in MLB was lefthanded pitcher Masanori Murakami, who made his debut in 1964 with the San Francisco Giants.
In two seasons, he made 54 relief appearances and was 5-1 with a 3.43 ERA. Then the Giants and Japanese baseball officials engaged in a contract dispute and Murakami returned to Japan and it was sayonara to his MLB career.
—CATCH THIS ONE: Could this happen for a World Series today? Could it happen?
In the 1940 World Series, the Cincinnati Reds were caught without a catcher. Willard Hershberger tragically committed suicide. Ernie Lombardi, ‘The Snozz,’ was injured.
So the Reds activated one of their coaches, 40-year-old Jimmy Wilson. Not only did he catch two Bucky Walters victories, he hit .353 during the Reds’ six-game victory over the Detroit Tigers.
—FEMALE REPORT: Kim Ng, the first female general manager for any professional sports team in North America, resigned her position with the Miami Marlins after a four-year run.
The Marlins offered to pick up her contract option, but Ng cited philosophical differences with principle owner Bruce Sherman, who was slowing undermining what she wanted to do.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants are in a managerial hunt and are interviewing one of their coaches, Alyssa Michelle Nakken, the first full-time female coach in MLB history.
Do the Giants have the guts to put her in the manager’s office? My guess is that, “No, they won’t and the interview is nothing more than a courtesy.”
Rachel Balkovac manages the Tampa Tarpons, the New York Yankees low Class A affiliate in the Florida State League, the first full-time female manager of an MLB-affiliated team.
The Tarpons finished fifth of six teams in the FSL-West in 2023 — 30-34, 13 games out of first place.
—THE EXPRESS: Facts and figures on Nolan Ryan’s 27 year career never cease to astound me.
There were 198 games in which he had a quality starts (six or more innings, three or fewer runs) in which he did not get a win. In fact, in those 198 games he was 0-107 with a 2.27 earned run average.
And this one: There were four years during which Ryan had more strikeouts than baserunners, all past the age of 40 (40, 42, 43, 44).
—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan: “It helps if the hitter thinks you are a little crazy.” (Ryan was as crazy as a newborn fox.)
—TRIVIA TIME: Ever heard of Matt Kata? Me neither. He played in 278 games over a five-year MLB career.
But he is one of a kind. He is the only player in history (so far) to play for all four of the teams still in the playoffs — Arizona, Philadelphia, Texas and Houston, in that order.
Kata told ‘The Athletic’ he was the second baseman when Randy Johnson pitched a perfect game against the Braves on May 18, 2004. He helped keep it perfect by throwing out three batters late in the game.
He threw out Julio Franco, a childhood idol whose batting stanc he imitated, for the second out of the seventh. Then it was J.D. Drew for the last out of the eighth and Mark DeRosa for the first out of the ninth.
—MR. OCTOBER: Everybody knows that Reggie Jackson is called Mr. October. But how did it come about? It was not a compliment.
Jackson and Yankees catcher Thurman Munson were not best buds, especially after Jackson’s famous quote, “I’m the straw the stirs the drink.”
After one game, writers approached a grumpy Munson and he said sarcastically,
“Go down there and talk to Mr. October.”
And the name stuck. If Munson had known it would become a name of endearment, he probably never would have uttered it.
—COME WHAT MAY: Oakland relief pitcher Trevor May announced his retirement on a video this week and took the opportunity to give A’s owner John Fisher an ugly parting gift.
Fisher, a billionaire, slashed Oakland’s payroll and intends to move the franchise to Las Vegas.
Said May, “Sell the team, dude. Sell it, man. Let someone who actually takes pride in the things they own. Take mommy and daddy’s money somewhere else, dork.”
Man, wonder what he really thinks.
—PET PEEVE: All of a sudden, after 150 years of professional baseball, there is a new pitch? Not really.
They call it the sweeper and nobody ever heard of it until recently. Actually, it’s a sideways slider or what they used to call a slurve, a combination slider-curve.
I guess it happens all the time. A sinker used to be called a drop pitch. A change-up used to be called a change of pace. Actually, it’s all just nomenclature (a word I have never used before).