A Bad Week to be Old
A day later, we lost Herb Score at age 75. Although well-known as a play-by-play announcer for the Cleveland Indians over 34 years, Score will likely be better remembered as one of the game’s great lost talents. He began his pitching career with remarkable flamboyance, going 16-10 with a 2.85 ERA in 1955 and, a year later, 20-9 with a 2.53 ERAeasily leading the majors in strikeouts in both years. Score was sailing along early in 1957 when the Yankees’ Gil McDougald launched a line drive that struck him in the face, breaking numerous bones. Said to be emotionally shaken by the event, Score changed his pitching motion to prevent something similar from happening, but it led to elbow problems and he was never the same, struggling for five more years before retiring in 1962 at the age of 28.
When we hear about the death of former ballplayers, it pains us all the more because with their passing we lose participants and witnesses to baseball history. In that regard, this past week was an especially rough one for historians. On Monday we learned of the death of Preacher Roe, whose major league career began in 1938 but saved his best pitching toward the end of his playing days, compiling a 78-25 record from 1949-53 for the Brooklyn Dodgers’ “Boys of Summer” teams. He retired after the 1954 season at the age of 39, a year before the Dodgers’ one and only championship in Brooklyn. He was 93.
Hell's Bells Silenced in San Diego
Trevor Hoffman, baseball’s all-time saves leader, has become an icon on the order of Tony Gwynn in San Diego, and even as his game suffered at the age of 40 this past seasonwith a fast-fading fastball, his 3.77 ERA was his worst since 1995it seemed that the Padres would nevertheless bring him back for 2009 from an inseparable point of view. But the Padres have been thrown back on their heels thanks to the ongoing divorce between owner John Moores and his wife, so maybe even Hoffman would want to bolt this emerging mess. If so, he’ll get his chance. The Padres strangely pulled a one-year, $4 million offer off the table for Hoffman; the withdrawal makes it likely that Hoffman will be wearing a different uniform for the first time since his 1993 rookie year, played partly in Florida. With Hoffman’s departure, a likely trade of ace Jake Peavy and rumors of moving Brian Giles, the Padres are said to be attempting to trim their 2009 payroll to as low as $40 million, a bare-bones budget surpassed only by the kings of discount baseball, the Florida Marlins.
More Fishy Tales From Miami
And speaking of the Marlins, it was reported this past week that Florida owner Jeffrey Loria’s highly profitable yet cheapskate methods of keeping expenditures way down doesn’t end with a relatively miniscule payroll. The players’ union has recently filed a grievance against the Marlins for not paying injured players per diem while rehabbing at their spring training facilities in Jupiter, Florida. The Marlins claim that they don’t need to cover player expenses since the Jupiter facilities are within the bounds of the metropolitan area where the home team is based, but the union argues otherwiseas would any crippled Marlin who would have drive roughly 150 miles round trip per day from his home near Dolphin Stadium to avoid having to pay for food and a room on his own dime. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, one player agent with “knowledge of the case” quirked, “There are 29 teams and then there are the Marlins…this is organizational fraud.”
Ticket Prices Only Scott Boras Can Love (And Buy)
The Los Angeles Dodgers, apparently, don’t think there’s a recession going on. While other teams are holding the line on ticket prices for 2009, the Dodgers are breaking in their new spring training ballpark in Glendale, Arizona by offering the best seats at $90nearly five times the cost of their most expensive seat at their old spring home in Florida. The most anyone has to fork out elsewhere at spring training, according to a Associated Press report, is $46 at the Boston Red Sox spring home of Ft. Myers, Florida. So if money’s no object, you too can spend nearly $100 to watch projected Dodger everyday players yawn it out for a few innings before giving way to guys who’ll likely start the year in Triple-A or worse.
Exiting on Your Terms, Not Theirs
Salomon Torres retired for the second time this past week, but this time he left feeling a little better about what he accomplished. He first quit the game after the 1997 season, his fifth as a major leaguer, perhaps still mentally scarred by what many still remember him best for: As a fresh San Francisco Giant rookie being clobbered by the Los Angeles Dodgers on the final day of the 1993 campaign, a game the Giants needed a win to force a one-game playoff with Atlanta to decide the NL West. He struggled from there, compiling an 8-20 record and 6.03 ERA over the next four years with the Giants, Seattle and Montreal before giving up. Five years later, after coaching a Dominican team allied with the Expos, he gave it another shot and, with expectations nowhere as intense as they were with the Giants in 1993, was able to loosen up and perform. He didn’t become a star the second time around, but he was far from a busta reliable reliever who often was called upon to close. He averaged 85 appearances between 2004-06 with Pittsburgh (including 94, the second most in major league history, in 2006) and set a career high with 28 saves for Milwaukee in his final year, keeping the playoff-bound Brewers on track after season-starting closer Eric Gagne flunked.
Read Those Labels
How does Cincinnati pitcher Edinson Volquez get Rookie of the Year votes when he began the 2008 season with 17 big league starts over his previous three years?
For the Ash Tray
Headline in the Washington Post: “Nat’s Smoker Has Surgery on Shoulder.” Let’s hope the guy’s lungs aren’t next.
Oakland's One-Year Holliday?
On the other side of the trade, Rockie fans are probably far from overwhelmed by who Colorado got in return for Holliday. Huston Street may be the new closer now that Brian Fuentes is likely gone via free agency, but Street has been erratic since a fine rookie showing. Greg Smith has potential despite a 7-16 rookie record in 2008, but he’s prone to walks and that’s a dangerous thing when pitching a mile high. Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez is an unknown quality for now.
Ultimately, the postseason’s first blockbuster trade may be much ado about nothing. The Oakland A’s received Matt Holliday from the Colorado Rockies in a move that will certainly strengthen their lineupbut don’t expect the Holliday who has a career .357 average at Coors Field (as opposed to .280, with half the power, on the road), and don’t expect him to be in Oakland for even a full season. It would be a surprise if Holliday, in the final year of his contract, remains in an Oakland uniform after the trading deadline; the budget-conscious A’s have made a habit over the years of trading their top talent when the big payday looms, and it’s likely that their main aim for receiving Holliday is to give him away late in 2009 to a contending team aching to get him for top-notch prospects, who the A’s would love to get, nurture and matureuntil they get too pricey to keep.
Four sportswriters felt Toronto’s Roy Halladay was a better choice than Cleveland’s Cliff Lee for the AL Cy Young Award, and apparently the Toronto Star‘s Richard Griffin was one of them. Griffin attempted to justify Halladay’s top standing by claiming the Blue Jays’ 20-game winner had less run support, threw less pitches per inning, had a lower WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning), had more top-ten placements and endured more head-to-head matchups with opposing ace pitchers. The wiser majority of the voters had less obscure reasons to pick Lee over Halladay: Lee had more wins in less starts, lost far fewer games and produced a lower ERA. Anyone attempting to split hairs from there is reachingor perhaps, a homer.
It was noted that Tim Lincecum became the second San Francisco Giant to be given a Cy Young Award, following Mike McCormick in 1967. That evoked a memory from current Giant broadcaster Duane Kuiper, who remembered hearing from former Giant manager and player Felipe Alou that not only did the great Juan Marichal never win a Cyhe never received a single vote in any one year. We looked it up; Duane and/or Felipe was close.
Marichal did receive a single vote in 1971, the last good year of his career when he finished 18-11 for the Giants with a 2.94 ERA. As to how Marichal was shut out during the prime of his pitching life during the 1960s, there’s several explanations. Until 1970, the voting system was far different than now; instead of the current 5-3-1 scoring system for first-second-third place, each voter was asked to give their nod for one guy as the best with no runner-up votes. In the era of Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson, among others, trying to muscle in on a one-and-done vote was difficult at best. Add to that the fact that until 1967, there was only one Cy for all of baseballnot one for each leagueand it becomes a little more understandable how Marichal, despite winning 20 or more games six times during the 1960s, never got a vote. (So how, you may ask, did McCormick manage to win a Cy? He won 22 games in a year where Marichal and Gibson struggled, while Koufax began retirement.)
A Bittersweet Parting Gift
It only took Dale Sveum 12 games to match Marichal in the vote count. Sveum, who served as interim manager of the Brewers over the final few weeks of the regular season and then was replaced by Ken Macha following the playoffs, received a third-place vote for NL Manager of the Year.
HGH: A Pain Reliever or Stimulant?
Parallel to the Growth Hormone Summit, co-hosted by MLB to discuss anti-doping efforts in sports, was a debate among scientists and experts on whether Human Growth Hormone (HGH) actually does more to improve a major leaguer beyond to recover more quickly from injuries. Many say that, by itself, HGH is getting a bad rap and does nothing illicit; but, some of those same people also believe that, mixed with added testosterone, HGH has an impact equal to anabolic steroids. MLB continues to work on a test for detecting HGH, a test said to still be months away at the earliest.
Washington’s bad news boys just got badder this past week with the addition of pitcher Scott Olsen, traded from the Florida Marlins. Though he behaved this past season, Olsen has a history of on- and off-field turbulence, something a host of other NationalsLastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes among themcan also claim. If local sportswriters aren’t careful, this ticking time bomb of a Washington clubhouse could bring a whole new meaning to the term “beat reporter.”
Now Playing on TGG
Check out Ed Attanasio’s entertaining chat with one-game-wonder Stefan Wever in TGG's latest installment of the They Were There section. Also new this week, in our Opinion section, is Eric Gouldsberry's look at baseball's infatuation with bronze statues. Coming Soon: Ed chats with former player and manager Herman Franks.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.