You'll Be an Expo and Like It
Andre Dawson, this year’s lone inductee into the Hall of Fame, will be representing the Montreal Expos in Cooperstown. It’s not his choice and he’s not happy about it; he’d prefer to have his shrine include a cap with the letter “C” on it for the Chicago Cubs, the team for which he has his fondest memories. Dawson can thank people like Dave Winfield, who abused the old rule that a Hall-of-Famer could pick the team he wanted by putting it up for sale to the highest bidder (in that case, the San Diego Padres made it more worth his while than the New York Yankees). Dawson says he may show some defiance by wearing a Cubs cap during his induction speech this summer.
Deep in the Debt of Texas
Things got so bad for the Expos, post-Dawson, that they were directly run by Major League Baseball for a number of years shortly before their transfer to Washington. It was revealed this past week that something somewhat similar took place late in 2009 when the Texas Rangers, with owner (Tom Hicks) facing bankruptcy, had to consent to MLB on any budget-related movementin effect making Bud Selig Central the team’s managing partner. The source of this news was none other than Texas president and Hall-of-Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, who’s part of a new ownership group that has all but sealed the deal to take over the Rangers.
Just when we thought all 30 major league teams were set in their waysthe Oakland A’s and their possible future move towards San Jose notwithstandingalong came swirling rumors out of Orlando that a local political group is being established to lure a MLB franchise thereand that the Milwaukee Brewers were a prime target. Officials for the Brewers scoffed at the report, and for good reason; Milwaukee is one “small market” that’s making it these days in MLB, with a nice new ballpark and over three million customers a year paying to sit in it. (And count on this: As long as Wisconsin boy Bud Selig is around, there will be baseball in Milwaukee.) While folks in Milwaukee aren’t too concerned about Orlando, those in the Tampa-St. Petersburg region might; the process of trying to build a new ballpark there has been slow and agonizing, and the Rays, who a few years back transferred a regular series season from Tropicana Field to Orlando, might take a good look at a permanent move to the shadows of Disney World.
The Computer Wore a Strait Jacket
Using computerized projections, Baseball Prospectus this week came out with its predictions for the 2010 season. Here’s a reason you don’t allow a microchip to do the thinking for you: The projections call for the Oakland A’s to finish first in the AL West, while the Angels will finish last; and the Washington Nationals will finish at 81-81, just four games behind co-NL East titlists Philadelphia and Atlanta. One other odd note: Only three teamsall from the AL Eastwere forecast to win at least 90 games. (Tampa area newspapers were reporting that the computer picked the Rays first, though the official site lists them a close second, one game behind the Red Sox and Yankees).
All That Maz
Baseball’s community of bronze, as we detailed in an opinion piece not too long ago, will continue to grow this year as we got a sneak peak of a new sculpture to be erected in Pittsburgh emulating the famous image of Bill Mazeroski gleefully running the bases following his legendary World Series-winning home run for the Pirates against the Yankees in 1960. Mazeroski will be the fourth Pirate to be immortalized at PNC Park, joining Roberto Clemente, Honus Wagner and Willie Stargell.
Rich Hill, Poor Man
On Yahoo’s Free Agent Tracker, pitcher Rich Hill is listed second to last among 131 aspiring free agents, and he’s not dead last because, according to Yahoo, “he still has that curveball.” (No. 131, by the way, is Chris Capuano, who hasn’t pitched since 2007.) Apparently one team found some love for Hill, and it was the St. Louis Cardinals, who gave him a lightweight deal this past week. For Hill, who finished last year with a 3-3 record and hideous 7.80 ERA for Baltimore, there was no better team to hook up with than the Cardinals, whose pitching guru Dave Duncan has made a life out of bringing washed-up hurlers back from the dead.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.
Ernie to Sammy: Just Admit It
Ernie Banks, the Hall-of-Fame shortstop affectionately known in Chicago as “Mr. Cub,” loves Sammy Sosa. He wants Sosa to be embraced by the Cubs’ new ownership, to meet some of the current players, throw out a first ball, even sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game during the seventh-inning stretch. But Banks told the Chicago Tribune this past week that he also wants to Sosa to do something else: Confess. In the wake of Mark McGwire’s recent steroid confession, Banks believes Sosa should do the same. “Just admit it and live with it and understand it,” said Banks. “I am sure a lot of people will forgive him.” No public response as yet from Sosa.
Super Mario to the Rescue
While the Pittsburgh Pirates were securing their 17th straight losing campaign with a horrendous slump (23 losses in 26 games) last September, current owner Bob Nutting received a visit from Pittsburgh hockey legend Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, current owners of the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins, who asked this simple question: Can we buy the Pirates off you? Had Pirate fans been listening in, it’s likely the answer from them would have been an ear-shattering “Yes!” but Nuttingwho’s become reviled for stripping the Bucs down to a skeletal payroll while making a profitsaid no. It’s not the first time that Nutting has been approached; he also received (and rebuffed) an unsolicited offer from Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg, who then looked southwestward and is now about to become Lord of the Texas Rangers.
Sure, And Al Downing's Making Millions, Too
When Barry Bonds hit his record-breaking 756th career home run in 2007, Washington pitcher Tim Redding was in the dugout charting pitches for teammate Mike Bacsik, who served up Bonds’ blast. Noting how every pitch Bacsik threw in that at-bat was fast and down the middle, Redding went on Sirius XM’s MLB Home Plate channel this past week and said he believed that Bacsik intentionally gave up Bonds’ long ball for the twisted fame of itnot to mention a little money down the road at card shows, etc. The 32-year old Bacsik, who could never stick in the majors and hasn’t pitched since 2008, laughed off the accusation by stating, “I was crappy enough to do it without trying.”
KC is OK on ESPN
ESPN made some noise this past week by including the Kansas City Royals on its Sunday Night Baseball schedule for the first time since 1996. The Sunday evening event, which has established itself as a marquee attraction since its 1990 debut, will feature the Royals and Angels in a July 4 game at Anaheim; now all ESPN has to do is negotiate with the Royals to ensure that reigning Cy Young winner Zack Greinke gets the start that night. ESPN kicks off its 2010 schedule on April 4 with, naturally, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees at Fenway Park; more oddly, the network will showcase the New York Mets (still in the process of rediscovering themselves) three straight Sundays from April 18-May 2.
Is That Lightning Still Bottled?
Derrick Turnbow is getting a chance to prove us wrong. The flamethrowing reliever, who we honored as the best one-year wonder in our look back at the 2000s, is being given a shot to get his groove back by the Florida Marlins, who this week signed him to a minor league contract. Turnbow came out of nowhere for the Brewers in 2005, closing out 39 games with a 1.74 ERA, but completely lost it the following year and has never returned to that brief, All-Star form.
A Chat With Baseball's Biggest Communist Fan
Lester Rodney, who pressed for racial integration within baseball through the Communist newspaper The Daily Worker a good ten years before Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, passed away on December 20 at the age of 98. One of the last people he gave an in-depth interview to was our own Ed Attanasio a few years back; that interview is now up in our They Were There section. Check it out now.
New and Improved at TGG
Our intro to the 2000s section of the Yearly Reader, originally written back in 2005, has been retitled and updated to provide a more complete overview of the decade. Also, the Teams section has been updated to include results from the 2009 regular season.
We Ought to Tell You: Our All-Decade Awards
With the end of the Oughts (read: 2000s), This Game Great has released its choices for the best, worst and most memorable of the decade that was. Check it out now.