Friday, August 28, 2020

Marco's Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2020: UNDER THE BIG TOP

 

Marco’s Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2020: UNDER THE BIG TOP


Yes, I was a pessimist when it came to believing that MLB could pull off a shortened season and somehow get through it without super-spreading COVID-19 from Fenway to Chavez Ravine. I expected the worst and in some ways I was right...can’t be done. I fully expected the whole thing to fold like a flattened inflatable circus tent and everybody go home.


Things started bad with bunches of players, coaches and clubhouse staff getting sick and being forced to the sideline. Lots of stars sat out because of family considerations. Vulnerable people at home like Buster Posey with his premature twin boy-babies. I didn’t think we’d get baseball for more than three weeks at one point...just too many cases.


But my churlish negativity has been overwhelmed by the bright spirit of the players, coaches and yes, even the front offices of the game. Gosh Darn it, everybody decided to just keep playing ball, no matter what happened. (Sure, Yoenis Cespedes quit and left the Mets without even telling anybody, but he was due for pulled hamstring number 22 anyway so small loss.)


The quality of play has been spotty. Some guys got enough spring training and played well, some guys obviously didn’t and started slow. The pitchers seemed generally ahead of the hitters but both species have been pulling up lame and tweaking various exotic ligaments right and left. And when the injury list on any given team is already filled up with stars (like the Yankees who lost Stanton, Judge, LeMahieu, Torres and Paxton in short order) nursing traditional injuries, here comes the ravenous virus to knock out five or ten guys with one sneeze.


But baseball is so much fun after the long hiatus that teams have just been quarantining the casualties and bringing up another passel of minor league prospects. Then they shove a bat or a resin bag in their hands and it’s “Go Get ‘em Kid!” It’s chaotic. It’s haphazard and inevitably contagious. Half the guys on the bench wear masks, half don’t. Two or three players in the field wear masks, the rest hug each other and spit on their gloves. The Marlins got shut down for a week or so for ignoring anti-virus protocols. The Cardinals had only played 5 games while most teams had played 20. Half of Cleveland’s starting pitchers snuck out of the hotel to go party and were suspended. Games have been cancelled willie nilly. But somehow, baseball abides and we’re actually playing a season.


Every team you watch has player after player making their major league debut and most of them seem to hit homers or strike out 10 in 4 innings or something. It’s kind of wonderful. Bunches of suburban strong boys and Cuban Apollos flooding the ball fields saying “Put me in, Coach!” Then they get sick and sit out two weeks and we get to watch dozens more talented young men who can hit a ball 450 feet or throw it 99 mph take their place.


Those of you have followed my meanderings on this blog know that I am a “Three True Outcomes” catastrophist. The Three True Outcomes is what some Stat-Nerd came up with (while picking lint out of his belly button) to describe the purity of the contest between pitcher and batter when the whole game is reduced to one of three outcomes. A strike out, a walk or a homer. No defense, no singles, no bunts, no hit and runs (God forbid!) no steals. Only the pitcher and the catcher need touch the ball. Although I agree that this is an accurate observation and description of what is happening, I hardly approve. In fact I find this loathsome trend a banal reduction in the beautiful variety of the game.


But while I rue the trend I must still admire the powerful athleticism of 21st Century Baseball. We are now witnessing a sport where every hitter goes downtown and flips the bat with a haughty, snarling gesture of superiority. Every pitcher can throw the damn ball 98 miles per hour. When the batter fails to “barrel it up” and actually puts the ball in the field of play you see extraordinary speed and powerful arms in the field and players sacrificing their bodies with diving catches and wall climbings.


Starting Pitching has seemed to settle into a basic pattern: throw the baseball real, real hard. Add a cutter or a slider and maybe a change up or splitter to disrupt timing. Pitch all out for four innings and then go take a shower. The batters are going to an all-or-nothing swing just about every time they take the bat off their shoulder. But the pitchers are overthrowing so hard that they run up pitch counts and walk too many. And when they get the ball just a little up in the zone they give up ...

“high exit velocity/optimum launch angle” big flies.

...(all together now….OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!)

Now add a dash of juiced baseballs and Result!...Games where the best pitchers totally dominate but still lose 5-3 contests because their mistakes get hit out so frequently. And the rest of the hurlers are Stat-meat for the bludgeon-eers. Those games are your 13-10 four hour specials. Every year we see a new record for total home runs hit. And strike outs. I guess we’re supposed to like it like that.


Well I don’t really, but even I am impressed when Fernando Tatis Jr. hits 12 dingers in only 21 games. And leads baseball in rbis and runs scored and steals. And there’re about thirty other young stars in the game that are almost as good. The Wow Factor is off the charts in baseball right now.


To add to the excitement, MLB has encouraged the addition of recorded crowd noise and cardboard cutouts of fans to fill the stadiums with a semblance of real human response. If they didn’t have the crowd noise, it turns out, all you’d hear would be the participants cussing each other out with repetitious but emphatic explitives. (*you should take a short break and watch this brief illustrative cussing demo* )


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAd8pCjh3mk


And the cut-out cardboard photos propped up in the seats are based on real fans and celebrities and fashion models so the players can pretend that they are strutting their stuff for the beautiful people.


The teams still travel from park to park, but in retrospect, that may have been a mistake. Traveling in airplanes and sharing hotels, even when you are careful, inevitably spreads the microbials. Turns out the NBA was right to bubble-up their players in one place for the whole abbreviated season. Only one case in a month! But if baseball had bubbled up , it would have been in the two Virus/Heat-Hells of Phoenix and Florida. And there aren’t enough enclosed and air conditioned venues in those states for anybody to survive even a sixty game season.


After seeing the quaint old minor league stadium, I kind of wish the whole circus could have been played in Buffalo, home of the Toronto Canadians for the duration. (No diseased American baseball teams need apply for a visa to enter the sacred pristinity of Canada. Eat Hockey Pucks and Die American Baseball Dogs!)


More circus acts have been provided by the thoughtful Daimyos of the Grande Olde Game. This year they are trying out every crazy ass idea that anybody ever had to speed up the game, slow down the game, increase offense while expanding the strike zone (huh?), banish the zone defense, insist that the third baseman plays second base and the second baseman plays right center field unless Joey Gallo is up and then he’s forbidden to hit to the opposite field, add the DH to the National League, make relievers run around the bullpen three times and kiss their mommies before being allowed into the game and make all double-headers 7 innings except when there’s a tie game in extra innings in which case you put Mookie Betts on second base and see if he can steal third and home before anybody can bunt.

Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Step right up! Watch the Dog-Boy play Take Me Out to the Ballgame on the Kazoo! Hurry, Hurry! Only a nickel! ...(Go away Kid, you bother me!)”


The funny thing is, some of these wacky ideas are working! Double headers should be seven innings! They should make rain delayed games automatically turn into seven inning contests too, retroactively, whenever there’s a delay of over forty-five minutes. No more games that have to be completed at a later date or rain delayed games being finished up at 3:30AM with only the batboys watching. Plus...The National League should use the DH. I’ll miss watching Madison Bumgarner and Bartolo Colon hit, but that about covers it.


The real surprise for me was this new rule where relievers have to face a minimum of 3 hitters when they come in unless they get the third out of the inning sooner. I thought this was going to be an absurd and arbitrary impediment to the manager’s perogative to manipulate his lineup in order to try to win the game. Turns out that this rule does something that really makes the game better. To wit:


You are the manager of a major league club. Your team is playing the Los Angeles Angels. Your starter is tiring. Mike Trout is the batter, followed in the lineup by Ohtani and then Rendon. In the old days where a relief pitcher only had to legally pitch to one batter before you took him out, you have no problem. You bring in a right-handed reliever to pitch to Trout, then a leftie to deal with Ohtani, then another right hander to pitch to Rendon. With this new rule, if you bring in the rightie to face Trout, you have to leave him in to negotiate the dangerous left-hand bat of Ohtani before he matches up again with rightie Rendon. So what to do?


Maybe you bring in the leftie, pitch around Trout and go after Ohtani and then see if you can get Rendon with the leftie as well. Or maybe you leave your starter in to face Trout before you bring in the leftie. Or maybe you say the hell with it and just let your starter get through the minefield. One way or another, there’s more of a chance to see a couple of those three great hitters get an advantageous matchup where they get a chance to hit than in the old specialized reliever era. And that’s what we want! Plus, we knock off ten minutes game time of managers walking out to the mound to remove the pitchers and another five minutes watching the relievers warm up. In the immortal words of Dizzy Dean, “Who’d a thunk it?”


So what about this vaunted “60 game sprint to the playoffs” we bought into? Hey! I’m interested...how about you? We can’t really take this too seriously as a real baseball season, but it’s fun and engaging. And maybe some new teams will get to participate in the playoffs. I predicted we’d see Oakland win the West, the Reds win the NL Central and the Chicago White Sox nab a Wild Card. So far only the Athletics look like a sure thing with their lineup of beefaloes and some pretty good pitchers (especially in the bullpen).


Let’s examine the contenders:


AL EAST:


Everybody said it was all about the Yankees and the Dodgers this year, and it certainly started like that. Aaron Judge hit a ridiculous number of homers right out of the gate and pretty much dismantled the Boston Red Sox and their slim playoff hopes in a week of mayhem. The Red Sox have the best Double A staff in the major leagues. Even the Orioles beat up on the Red Sox. Watch Boston sell the rest of their stars and welcome their fans into a new cycle of futility.


I thought the Blue Jays would be interesting and dangerous. Well, one out of two. While they haven’t won enough, their young stars are impressive. They’re a couple of pitchers shy. A recent hot streak has them at least relevant and anything can happen in a short season.


As usual, the Rays sneak up on you. They are in first place while the Yankees get used to their new roster after the decimation of twenty games eliminated half their stars like last year. If the Rays could only get more thump in their lineup to match their always potent pitching staff they might dominate, but like the other small market teams, there just isn’t any budget for anything but limited offensive players and negative depth. And now injuries to Uncle Charlie Morton (he of the great “Yacker”) and other pitchers leave them short in that area as well.


AL CENTRAL:


The Indians have an impressive starting staff of Ace pitchers. Shane Beiber is the new Top Gun of the AL, along with Gerrit Cole. Unfortunately, a couple of their starters keep their brains in their dicks and can’t resist cheating on the Covid regulations. So just when they were crushing, the Indians come back to the pack and are now second to the Twins.


The Twins are in first without having really gotten the engine running smoothly. They have the powerful lineup and some great defense in key positions...if the pitching holds up they could steadily move away from the rest of the pack. An easy playoff pick.

I thought the White Sox were going to threaten this year. Finally! But it’s the same old thing with the White Sox...inconsistency! And lousy pitching! Still, you keep waiting. They have some incredible everyday players...half of their starting lineup are Cuban (Jose Abreu , Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert, Yasmani Grandal) and half are from The Dominican Republic (Edwin Encarnacion, Eloy Jimenez, Nomar Mazara, Leury Garcia.) And a tip of the hat to shortstop Tim Anderson...from Tuscaloosa, Alabama! (Hitting .345) And catcher Brian McCann from Santa Barbara, California! (Hitting .347) This team leads MLB in hitting at a very strong .270. Seems like the Sox could do better than third place in their division. They’ll make the playoffs though.


Kansas City? Seems like a lifetime since they played in back to back World Series. They may be reviving. But watch and see if they start trading what’s left of their stars. They tend to live up to their small market credentials.


The Detroit Tigers brought up their top rookies so the fans in Detroit would have something to amuse them while they watch Miguel Cabrera disintegrate (he will be remembered as a great one who stayed too long...just like Albert Pujols. They are each making over $30 million a year! How can you walk away from that?? And their contracts are still paying and paying…while Miguel is hitting .181)


A top ten rookie phenom, RHP Casey Mize, is supposed to be the new Tom Seaver. They say he has the best splitfinger in baseball and he threw a no-hitter in Double A. In his only big league outings thus far, he struck out 7 in 4 innings but also gave up 7 hits and then against the Cubs he allowed 4 runs in 3 innings. I watched him pitch and I don’t like his arm angle. It looks like he isn’t getting his body behind his pitches and is relying on an intense shoulder/elbow whip to give him speed and movement. He looks like he’ll need a new elbow in a year or so. I hope he proves me wrong.


AL WEST:


Oakland has gotten hot early. And they’re pummeling the Astros!


In fact, everybody wants a piece of the Astros. On field fight scrums have been outlawed for the protection of the players, but all that is forgotten when the Astros are playing. They hit Ramon Laureano of the A’s 3 times in one series and then wondered why Ramon got a little upset. The Astros seem to be happy to be the Dicks of Baseball. And that’s coming from a fan. When Ramon wasn’t charging the dugout quick enough to get thrown out of the game, the ‘Stros sent their 41 year old hitting coach Alex Cintron out of the dugout to say nice things about Ramon’s mother. Ramon, who had been pounding the ball all over the place, got axed for 6 games for fighting. Mission accomplished Coach! But wait...MLB gave Cintron 20 games and a fine! That shows that they knew what was going on with the goading. Nice move MLB!


I had to laugh at Astros starter Zach Grienke telling the other team’s hitters what pitch was coming. A brilliant bit of gamesmanship, that. And he made his point...”You can hate on us for cheating, but we still had to hit the ball...you can’t!”


The Texas Rangers team batting average is .210. Their team OPS is .635. That’s pretty much all you need to know. They are wasting an outstanding season by starter Lance Lynn who has an ERA of 1.37 and a WHIP of 0.814.


Well, we got dazzled by all the shiny objects on the Los Angeles Angels roster. Trout! Rendon! Ohtani! Rookie Jo Adell! Trout and Rendon have been as advertised but Ohtani is batting .181, Odell is at .197, Albert Pujols is cruising along at .208 and second baseman Luis Rengifo is tearing it up at a .146 pace. And those averages are ALL higher than Justin Upton, who has gone 6 for 64 this year...that’s .094! Welcome to Mendoza-ville. And even with all those holes in the lineup, hitting isn’t their main problem! Only Dylan Bundy has been at all effective on the mound. Shattered dreams, Angels.


A few words about the tragic Seattle Mariners, a last place team that looks farther away than ever from making their first World Series. Rookie of the Year favorite Kyle Lewis is hitting .368...the rest of the team is hitting .206.


Playoff Prediction:


Let’s say the Yankees, the Rays, the Blue Jays, the Twinks, the Cleveland Politically Correctables, The Caribbean White Stockings, the Athletics and the Astros all make it. That’s all eight of the AL playoff teams. Write it down in pencil though, for the Blue Jays and the White Sox.


NL EAST:


As I predicted at the beginning of the season, the Mets’ starting rotation would be taking turns on the injured list by this time. DeGrom is still standing but Porcello and Matz have been getting bombed. Wacha and Peterson and of course Thor are on the list. That fiasco with Cespedes should be a warning to teams shelling out multi year contracts.


Philadelphia has been getting a big year from Harper and Realmutto and good pitching from Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler. But the bullpen reeks and they just traded for Boston’s Workman and Hembree to help. They can still get a wild card but with this stuffed playoff format...who can’t?


Washington...Come the Sober Dawn. Howie Kendricks and Trea Turner are still on the roster and Juan Soto is hitting .400. But Anthony Rendon is gone and Strasburg gone for the season. Max Scherzer is starting to show some age, although he still competes like almost nobody else. 2019 was a beautiful dream, though, wasn’t it Nationals?


The Marlins jumped up and surprised some teams early, then went into a massive Covid induced quarantine and now they’re at .500. They have some good young pitchers to build around. I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs this year.


The Atlanta Braves look like the hammer in the East. This despite the loss of Ozzie Albeis and Nick Markakis recently to the ten day injury list. Acuna has a bad wrist and Freddie Freeman had to come back from the virus this year. Their Ace, Mike Soroka tore his Achilles tendon...a scary injury. Yet somehow they took the hit and are solidly in first place. I don’t think they have the pitching to go far in the playoffs, but rookie phenom Ian Anderson looked sharp in his first start. The teams that have contended in recent years all look alike: strong lineups with power and at least two Ace starting pitchers. That isn’t the Braves with those injuries.


NL CENTRAL:


The Adorables are back! And the difference maker has been Yu Darvish, who got it together the second half of last season and is now DOMINATING. He’s won 5 games and lost 1 with an ERA of 1.70 and an unreal 44 K’s against only 6 BB’s. He’s the MVP of the Cubbies and along with Lester and Hendrix he makes the Chicago squad a formidable opponent in the playoffs.


The Cardinals of old St. Looie have played ten less games than everybody else and were shut down for three weeks because of Covid exposure. It’s kind of remarkable that they’ve done so well despite that shutdown. They need one more stopper to go with Jack Flaherty so they can win some playoff series.


Wisconsin is a very stressed state right now. And if you are following the baseball Brewers as a way to get a pleasant break from all the pain, you picked the wrong ballclub. The team is batting .213. Christian Yelich is hitting .200. Leftie Josh Hader hasn’t given up a run yet and the Brewers should trade him to the Yankees for players like Andujar and Frazier and some of those top prospects in the rich Yankee system. Not that the Yankees really need that big a move to help an already loaded bullpen, but they don’t seem to have ways to get Frazier and Andujar enough at bats, and those guys are major league hitters (fielding is another category!). And flame throwing skinny pitchers like Hader have a limited use-by date. Same problem I pointed out with Chris Sale...too much arm and too violent a delivery for that body type. My prediction for Sale was unfortunately correct. I hope I’m wrong about Hader because he is good for baseball.


I picked the Cincinnatti Reds to win the Central. They loaded up with offensive players and then went out and hit... .203? A complete meltdown of the bats. Their pitching has been superlative at the top with Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray. The Bullpen is thin though and they just can’t hit. Unexpected and very, very disappointing. They are on the outside looking in for a playoff spot. How Long Oh Lord, How Long?


Everybody expected the Pirates to be at the bottom of the standings in the Central.

Everybody was right.


NL WEST:


Half of the NL playoff teams will probably come from the West...everybody but Arizona would be in if the playoffs started today.


Everybody picked the Yankees and the Dodgers to meet up in the World Series (if we get that far) and . I picked them to win their divisions.


The Dodgers have not shown that they can finish yet. Year after year they cough up furballs instead of chewing up the mouse. We’ll see. There is no doubt that Mookie Betts has changed the atmosphere a lot. What a great player to watch! 3 homer games, throws from the warning track to nail a runner at third, base running like Jackie used to do it. All done with a smile.


To dramatize how much the game has changed, take this in:


The 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers...one of the greatest teams of all time...led the majors in home runs that year with 201 in a 154 game season. So far in 31 games in the year 2020, the Los Angeles Dodgers have hit 61 4-baggers. Project that to 154 games and you get well over 300 homers hit if the Bluebloods could continue that pace. It’s a whole new world, isn’t it?

But the 1955 Dodgers won the World Series. These current Dodgers have something to prove. But right now they are the class of baseball...having scored the most runs and given up the least. They are Load-ED...Super Loaded. But one thing nags me...neither Mookie Betts nor Cody Bellinger have been effective in the playoffs. I think at least one of those two has to get hot in the playoffs for them to win. It’s just too easy to lose a couple of games in a three game series..or three in a five gamer...even if they are home games...and the Dodgeheads should get home field for the duration. If they run into a couple of hot pitchers on one of the other teams...well you saw what happened the last few years.


The Padres are coming! If a few more of their vaunted prospects show up and play as well as Fernando Tatis Jr. has, San Diego might actually become a great West Coast rival for the Dodgers. The offense is humming and they’ve hit 56 homers...close to the Dodgers. And remember, the Padres play in Petco Park...one of the great mauseleums of offensive baseball. They have 4 starters just entering their prime. If not now Padres...when? Barring injuries, it could happen...even this season.


Colorado also made some noise in the early going when Charlie Blackmon was hitting .500. But now Charlie’s hot streak has gone bye-bye and Arenado still hasn’t gotten his timing. Drew Story is doing his job and if everybody was their usual productive self, the Rockies would have plenty of offense to compete. Without a unison push, though, their pitching can’t sustain them.


The Rockies created the feel-good story of this year when they called up Daniel Bard to help their bulllpen. You might remember Bard as an overpowering set-up man for the Red Sox several years ago. The Red Sox tampered with his repetoir trying to turn him into a starter and it screwed him up so bad he couldn’t start OR relieve. He lost control. He lost velocity. The hitters murdered him and he got a mental block like Steve Blass and Rick Ankiel before him and could never get over it. He last pitched in the majors in 2013. Seven years later he’s the Rockies closer and pitching well. In 14 innings he’s struck out 17 and walked only 3. Can you imagine what it feels like? To be 35 and making it back to the Major Leagues and be doing well? Like the I Ching says...”Perseverence Furthers!” Good for you, Daniel Bard!


There’s been a San Francisco Giant sighting. From out of nowhere they come, rebounding from a truly moribund offensive performance last year with bats exploding to life. I guess all it took was for team leader Bustser Posey to opt out of the Covid circus to wake up the bats. Belt, Longoria, especially Austin Slater and Mike Yaz and Donovan Solano...even Wilmer Flores! Have RAKED. With power! The pitching has been solid with Cueto back and Gausman, Anderson and Logan Webb all throwing well. Wouldn’t it be a story if the Giants showed up to spoil the Dodger party. Lest I speak too soon, the gigantics just got shut out in consecutive games of a double dip with the Trolley Dodgers. Even so, I think the Dodgers would rather face almost anybody else in the playoffs. Too much spooky playoff history with the Giants franchise.


Right now those four clubs...Dodgers, Pads, Rocks and Gigantics would make the playoffs. The only NL West franchise on the outside is the Arizona Diamondbacks. Which is weird because the Rattlers were the best competition the Dodgers had last year in their division and Arizona is playing just about as well. It’s a quirk of the winning percnetages. They could get hot and jump up a couple of spots. They could also fold their tents in the Phoenix heat (a record hot summer...again!).


Playoff Prediction:


From my lofty perch I see the Dodgers and Padres making it to the playoffs from the West, the Cubs and Cardinals from the Central, and the Braves from the East. The other 3 teams? Depends on the roll of the bones, the whims of the microbes and the State of the Nation. But I‘ll take the Phillies, the Reds and the Giants.


Solidarity ...


--Marco


Sunday, June 7, 2020

Marco's Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2020: NELLA FANTASIA


MARCO’S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE JUNE 2020:
“NELLA FANTASIA”*
*song by Ennio Morricone/lyrics by Chiara Ferrau

(Nella Fantasia means “In my Fantasy” in Italian…)

“In my fantasy I see a fair world
where everybody lives in peace and honesty…
In my fantasy there is a hot wind
that blows across the cities like a friend...”

BASEBALL 2020...The Plague Year:

First they got rid of the umpires.
The whole image of some middle-aged, heart-vulnerable, lung- defective fatty arbiter leaning over and breathing in the catchers face was just the kind of COVID-sensitive image that the Lords of Baseball would not and should not and could not promote.

So they decided to go for Robbie the Robot and his Magic Virtual Strike Zone. Of course some smarty pants from the Houston Astros hacked the thing in the first week of the shortened season while all parties were still distracted after the blood-letting at the bargaining table between the owners and players. Almost from Day 1 of the 58 game 2020 “season” the Astros’ busy elves were trimming two inches off the strike zone for the home team and adding two for the visitors.

Pedro Martinez was color man on an early telecast of a Dodgers/Astros contest at Minute Maid and called the hack when the ‘Stros won it 12-2 with 10 walks compared to 0 for the Dodgers. The teenager who was responsible for the Astro’s tech was suspended and banned and fined and excoriated and the Astros continued to play the season. Nobody booed them because nobody was allowed at the games on the road and the home Houston fans who were allowed to attend under the lax Texas social distancing laws were quite lenient as long as they got victories.

When the owners got used to the subtraction of a home plate ump they went ahead and got rid of the base umps as well and outlawed stealing as being “too intimate” with sliding into the second baseman and getting tagged in the mouth and such. Base runners were given a line in the base path dirt passed which they could not take a lead. Cameras shot all the base action and the out/safe calls were made from the booth. Every play at every base took 2-3 minutes to call with all the replay delay. The owners and TV execs didn’t mind though; more time for commercials.

The coaches were next to go and we said goodbye to the friendly old Uncle- Third- Base- Coach patting the newly arriving runners on the butt and leaning in to tell them to keep an eye out for the bunt sign. All signs were now relayed from the dugouts without benefit of the middleman base coaches. Health first!

The owners took some of the money they were saving on umps and coaches and started a fund for the ballpark vendors who had nobody left to sell hot dogs to except the fans in Texas who were the only ones in the country allowed to attend games.

There was a big fight between the Cubs and the Cardinals when Javy Baez hit a homer at Wrigley and came out of the dugout afterwards and tipped his cap to the empty stands in a mocking gesture that was not appreciated by the Cardinals and especially by catcher Yadier Molina, who called for inside fastballs to Javier’s ass the next two times he came up. Javier took offense after the second such pitch and the dugouts emptied and caused a huge broohaha on social media when all the players writhed around in big pile of pushing, sweating, shoving and spitting bodies. It was the opposite of social distancing.

The owners and commissioner expressed righteous indignation at this unsafe spectacle in the Age of Viruses and armed the ballpark guards in each city with tasers to use on any rhubarbians participating in future melees.

So the next fight...this one started by the Phillies’ Bryce Harper and pitcher Marcus Stroman of the Mets...turned from a traditional “let’s take turns holding each other back” type major league rhubarb into a police brutality case when the white New York cops at Citi Field just tased the black players.

The games themselves were wildly successful ratings-wise as a sports-starved public tuned in by the quarantined millions to see the new mixed divisions battle it out. The Yankees especially were a huge draw as East Coasters watched them punish National League East teams like Philly and Washington and Miami while continuing to dominate their familiar patsies like Baltimore and Boston. The New Yorkers had an 8 game lead in the 10 team Eastern division by August 10.

The style of play was really more like extended Spring Training rather than a traditional mid-season pennant pursuit. The veteran players whined a lot about not having had enough time to get used to the grind and so were rested after 4 or 5 innings if they were a position player and after 2 or 3 innings for pitchers. The expanded rosters (30) allowed managers to pitch the staff almost every game. Rotations were a quaint memory. Hitters had to get used to seeing a new arm pretty much every at bat. Teams would use 7 or 8 pitchers today and a new set of 7 or 8 tomorrow. Fewer pitchers were coming up sore armed with this limited work, but fewer pitchers were finding their groove, either. Relievers did the best, being used to this kind of schedule, and with almost all ball games becoming Bullpen Shuttle Fests.

In the East, the limited work didn’t help the Mets, who had their whole starting staff of DeGrom, Syndergaard, Metz, Porcello and Stroman on the injured list by mid-August and had to re-hire Bartolo Colon to eat up some innings. Bartolo struck a blow for old-time baseball when he went ten innings in a 17-16 Mets victory over the Atlanta Braves, throwing 213 pitches...all fast balls. He gave up 6 homers and 8 doubles but struck out 10 with no walks and was a much adored guest on both Colbert’s Late Show and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s midday COVID report.

The lethargy of the veteran players who were leisurely ramping up their playing time created a vacuum for the rookies. Young players were all over the majors...hungry and productive. With expanded rosters and more playing time while older stars nursed their sore hammies, young hitters like Guerrero, Biggio and Bichette with Toronto and Soto and Robles of Washington raked early and often.
Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Braves had 24 home runs in 58 games for the mini-season, even though the Braves finished in the middle of the pack when their young pitching couldn’t adjust to the new pitching paradigm.

The number one prospect, switch-hitting Dominican shortstop Wander Franco of Tampa Bay, hit close to .750 in the first week, causing all sorts of quasi-rapturous hyper hysteria. Then Gerrit Cole of the Yankees struck him out three times in a row and Aroldis Chapman struck him out a fourth time in the first meeting between the teams. The dreaded Golden Sombrero. Wander’s fielding left something to be desired at shortstop, so they tried him at second, then third, then left field and finally DH. By this time his swing was screwed up and poor Wander was benched. The Rays banned reporters from the clubhouse. Wander made a speech through his translator that he was “taking it one day at a time”. By September he was a steady, productive player and future star.

Every young player brought up by the Yankees turned into Gleyber Torres. Even when another ten Yankees went down with injuries, the rookies taking their place were prime talents. And the Yankees’ deep, deep bullpen was custom-ordered to dominate the league. They ran away from the Eastern Division. Highly touted teams like the Nationals with their 3 Ace starters finished way back. (Yes, they missed Anthony Rendon).

The Yanks only real competition was from within their own AL East...Toronto and Tampa. Tampa had lots of pitching, but Blake Snell refused to play the season and was permanently suspended from baseball. Last I heard he was pitching in the Korean League.
The finish?

1/New York Yankees
2/Tampa Bay Rays
3/Toronto Blue Jays
4/Philadelphia Phillies
5/Boston Red Sox
6/Atlanta Braves
7/Washington Nationals
8/New York Mets
9/Miami Marlins
10/Baltimore Orioles

The Central Division race was extraordinary. Every team was flawed. Every team could beat each other on any given day. The lead changed 16 times in the abbreviated season! Only the Tigers never tasted a day in first place.

The AL Centralians hit but couldn’t pitch. The White Sox came out smoking with a lineup that had 7 hitters with double- digit homers after the first six weeks. Their young Latin stars Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jiminez and Luis Robert led the way. The Sox pitching came crashing down in September, though.

The Twins, who set a home run team record in 2019, also blasted their way through the early going. Their pitching never came up to the mark either.

Likewise the Indians. Francisco Lindor and company entertained but ultimately didn’t have the depth to compete passed mid-August.

The Royals were punished by the elimination of the running game, which neutralized speedsters like Whit Merrifield and Adaberto Mondesi. But KC wouldn’t have won anyway...not with that retread pitching staff. They traded closer Ian Kennedy to the Athletics in September to signal their surrender.

After the AL teams faded midway through the summer, it was left for the Cardinals, Cubs and Reds to take the stage in the best pennant race of the year.

The Cardinals were the steadiest of the three and had superior depth on the mound.

The Cubs played happy under new manager David Ross, but their starting staff got old all at once and they faded in the last week with not enough fire power in the pen to get them through.

It was the Cincinnati Reds who shocked them all. They won 3 classic extra inning games against a tough Pittsburgh Pirate team late in the year with Joey Votto summoning up his best hitting since days of yore. Backed by Mike Moustakis and Eugenio Suarez, and with pitcher of the year Luis Castillo dominating with his A+ change up and leading a good not great rotation that included Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer, the Reds overtook the Cards in the last game of the season to take the division.

1/Cincinnati Reds
2/St. Louis Cardinals
3/ Chicago Cubs
4/Chicago White Sox
5/Minnesota Twins
6/Cleveland Indians
7/Pittsburgh Pirates
8/Milwaukee Brewers
9/Kansas City Royals
10/Detroit Tigers

The Western Division had a nickname bestowed upon them by a tart-tongued sports reporter early in the summer: The Dodgers and their Doormats.

It had been hoped that somebody...anybody...would give the Dodgers a run for the flag just to provide a little juice for the late night TV watchers in the later time zones. But with Mookie Betts becoming a .410 hitting phenomenon for 58 games and Gavin Lux hitting .350 and all of the Dodgers hitting the long ball it was obvious that the rest of the Division was playing for the Wild Card at best. L.A. employed a 6 man starting rotation led by Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. Nobody got over 80 pitches in any one game. And with 5 days to rest between appearances, the vet pitchers mixed in with the big-armed rookie core to flat out shut down the opposition offenses.

Pennant race? What pennant race? Unfortunately, the 58 game season was an exercise in competitive futility as the rest of the league drowned in the Dodgers wake. Only the Astros could stay with the Angelinos even a little bit and the games between the two rivals were the only interesting thing happening in the Western Division. These games were murderous affairs featuring hard slides, hard tags, brushbacks and backtalk.

Bellinger and Max Muncy each admired a home run off of Verlander and both of them got fastballs in the back next at bat. Verlander was thrown out of the game, but since these offenses occurred in the fourth inning, he was going to be leaving anyway. MLB was discovering that the game couldn’t really police itself vis a vis beanball wars with pitchers leaving so soon, and the DH being in universal employ.

MLB kept hoping that the California Angels, with their stars Trout and Rendon, would catch fire and compete with the Dodgers, but the Angels were nascent at best and finished near the bottom with truly awful pitching. Shohei Ohtani was a bright spot with 10 starts as a pitcher for a 2.45 ERA and 20 home runs as a hitter. He had one game of 10 strike outs and 3 extra base hits.

Oakland wasn’t entirely a surprise since they had been steadily improving in recent years, and were due for a peak before Billy Beane dismantled his latest creation. Still, the A’s... as usual... started slow and then got hot late. By September they were knocking on the Wild Card door, though still many miles back of the Dodgers. In a lineup with power threats like Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien, Mark Canha, Ramon Laureano, Stephen Piscotty and Khris Davis somebody was always hot. Their defense was good enough to help out their thin pitching staff, and Beane made some strategic bullpen pickups that won some late games for the Greenies. Basically the A’s lived by the home run and great D.

1/Los Angeles Dodgers
2/Houston Astros
3/Oakland Athletics
4/Arizona Diamondbacks
5/San Diego Padres
6/Seattle Mariners
7/Texas Rangers
8/Colorado Rockies
9/Los Angeles Angels
10/San Francisco Giants

So the Playoff set up was New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers (with the best record) and two Wild Card teams… Houston and Oakland. (The A’s snuck in just ahead of the Cardinals and Tampa Bay and just behind the Astros.)

It had been decided that the 2 wild cards Play-In game system would be retained , mainly to insure that the Wild Card winner would use up their best pitchers before facing the next Division winner opponent. But with Bullpen games now the norm and extended rosters, one game wasn’t punishment enough to really hurt a pitching staff.

Las Vegas had big odds that the Dodgers and the Yankees would face each other in a Plague Year World Series. But first the preliminaries.

The Oakland Greenies travel to Minute Maid park for the only game of the Playoffs witnessed by live fans actually present in the ballpark. The Houston fans yell cacophonously through their COVID masks as the ‘Stros take an early lead with homers by Altuve and Correa. Verlander pitches three strong and gives way to Zach Greinke, who shuts out the A’s for another three. Lance McCullers throws curveballs to continue Houston’s stroll to the promised land as the Astros pad their lead with a double into the Crawford corner by Bregman, a single by Gurriel and a home run by Yordan Alvarez for a solid 5-0 lead going into the eighth.
Enter fireballing right hander Josh James, who has terrified hitters with overpowering stuff all year.

But Josh is playing young tonight. The A’s wait him out for 2 walks and then Ramon Laureano catches up to a fastball for a huge home run up onto the train tracks above the Crawford boxes. With nobody out, in comes closer Roberto Osuna. Single, walk, single, single and the score is 5-4 with the bases loaded. Still no outs. New pitcher Ryan Pressley gets a force at home. An intentional walk loads them up again and another force at home makes it two outs and things in the balance.

The Astros decide to put another man on base to create the force everywhere. Trouble is, it means Ramon Laureano is coming up for the second time in the inning with all bases populated. Pressley wants to induce another grounder but he tries to be too fine and the robot calls ball four to walk in the lead run. The Oakland bullpen holds them for two innings to win 6-5 in a shocking El Foldo for the Houstonians, who leave cursing all robot umpires..

The next round has the Reds playing best of seven against the Yankees and the Dodgers hosting the high flying Oakland A’s.

Cincinnati changes up the drama when they shut out the Yankees for eight innings in the Bronx behind a no hit bid by Luis Castillo. Leading 2-0, Castillo walks DJ LeMahieu to lead off the ninth...only the third Yankees base runner. Now manager David Bell has a decision. He takes a long walk out to the mound and then gestures to the bullpen to bring in closer Rasiel Iglesias to pitch to Aaron Judge. Iglesias throws 96 mph but loses control of his fastball when he gets excited. In this game, he gets excited. A fastball tits high and Judge puts it into Yonkers. Stanton hits the next pitch 500 feet to left field. SEE YA! YANKEES WIN!

A tragic night for Luis Castillo, Iglesias and manager David Bell. All three face the reporters and take the punishment. David Bell wins the respect of the media by staying to answer for his actions, but the Reds are finished. The next three wins by the Yanks seem like a mere formality as the Bombers sweep.

Over in La La the Dodgers seem set to accomplish the same, winning the first two games in Chavez Ravine by identical 7-3 scores. Mookie Betts runs wild on the bases. He’s one of the few players who chooses to wear a mask (Dodger blue of course!) on the playing field and he looks like a bandit running the bases. His new nickname is Mookie Betts: “The Blue Bandit” in an MVP season. Even if he can’t steal ‘em, he takes extra bases on a single to make it a double and a turns a double into a triple before scoring again on a wild pitch. Betts scores 4 runs in the first game and 3 in the second and gets under the A’s skin.


The A‘s seem tired and are constantly late on fastballs, hitting pop fouls for easy outs in the spacious foul territory at Dodger Stadium.

The third game in Oakland is disrupted by a huge protest march through the Bay area streets as the game is pre-empted by violence, looting, and an epic traffic jam on the Bay Bridge. Instead of the game being on TV, Oakland stars Semien, Khris Davis, Ramon Laureano and pitcher A.J. Puk go out in the streets and appeal to the protesters for calm. They lead a prayer session and still the waters. The next night, Game 3 begins in a whole new atmosphere.

With a strange symmetry, the four players who led the appeal for peace in their city each star in the game. Starting pitcher A.J. Puk shuts the Dodgers down for four innings. Semien makes a beautiful stab on a liner up the middle to rob Bellinger and save two runs. Then Laureano makes one of his patented cannon throws from centerfield to cut down Mookie Betts on a double to the gap that Mook unwisely tries to turn into another triple. Khris Davis wins it in the ninth with a solo homer to left off of Kenley Jansen.

The lost game day allows Oakland Ace Sean Manaea to start Game 4 at home and he is sharp, cutting up the Bluebloods for a businesslike five innings before turning the game over to some of the A’s young gun relievers. The A’s win it 6-3 to tie the series.

Game 5 becomes critical...and the Dodgers bring on Walker Buehler, who totally overmatches the Oakland hitters in a six inning start using only 78 pitches! BOOM... there it is! Four Dodger relievers finish the job and L.A. is up 3 games to 2 and going back home.

The Oakland team is universally given up for dead and the Dodgers management makes a stupid mistake. Trying to get the jump on the souvenir market, somebody makes up a truckload of tee shirts emblazoned with the image of Kirk Gibson running around the bases doing his arm pump after hitting his famous home run off Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series against the A’s. Printed above the pic it says “Welcome A’s, Gibby says Hi!” Gibson, who was supposed to throw out the first ball for Game 6, hits the roof and refuses to appear. This makes headlines in all the papers and on all the sports shows in America. By game time the Dodgers have issued apologies, blamed everybody they can find and have truly got their noses out of whack. So too does their defense. They make 5 errors and walk 6 to lose handily to the Athletics 6-2.

Game 7. But now the A’s are out of pitchers. They’ve used everybody up twice except 23 year old leftie Jesus Luzardo, a September call-up who had been expected to compete for a starter job but had continuing shoulder problems after surgery in 2019. He wound up with only twelve innings pitched in the bigs this year. But in those twelve innings he struck out...17! Bob Melvin is not the longest tenured manager in the majors for nuthin’. He announces Luzardo as the starter and gets a full night’s undisturbed sleep.

So Game 7 features Clayton Kershaw pitching against a rookie with no track record at all as far as the major leagues go. The commentators speculate that if the A’s get one good inning out of Jesus Luzardo it’ll be a miracle.

After Clayton dispatches the A’s in the first, Luzardo takes the mound and promptly walks Betts. Then he walks Lux, then he walks Muncy. Just so things don’t get too monotonous he then hits Cody Bellinger with a 98 mph fastball to the ribs. Bellinger goes down in a heap and takes five minutes to get to first base.

Luzardo can use five minutes. He wanders around the mound looking as if he’d rather be anywhere else while manager Melvin trudges out. No signal to the bullpen yet. But who is that running into the infield? It’s Ramon Laureano from center field. What is this? There’s nobody in the stands to make noise so you can hear what is being said. Laureano comes up to Melvin and asks permission to speak to Luzardo. Melvin stands by as his centerfielder looks his pitcher in the eyes and says...nothing! He just stares at him, then pats his cheek and runs back to the outfield. Just a little love. Melvin pats the kid on the back and goes back to the dugout. Strike one to Justin Turner. Strike two. Strike three. Corey Seager repeats the K event. Then Chris Taylor hits a lazy pop fly to Laureano in center and the defense sprints in, down only one run. It could have been so much worse.

Luzardo strikes out 7 hitters in the next three innings. The score remains 1-0 as Kershaw has his curveball going, but the buzz is Jesus Luzardo. He’s completely turned it around and is dominating with a sizzling fastball and goodnight-slider. Back at the top of the Dodger’s lineup in the fifth, he faces Betts for the third time and ties him up with fastballs inside. Mookie winds up dribbling a grounder to third.

In the top of the sixth Kershaw leaves in favor of Pedro Baez. Baez stiffs the first two hitters but comes inside with a pitch that Matt Chapman times. The score is now 1-1. Luzardo take them into the sixth, the seventh and the eighth. Melvin makes no move. He knows all of his other arms are down to the nubbin, so he just sits in the dugout watching his young pitcher burn it down. Luzardo has not allowed a base runner since the first. Those three walks and one hit batter are the total offense for the Dodgers. Since then Jesus has been perfect. He’s struck out 15 going into the eighth. He has thrown 118 pitches though. And the A’s go in order in the top of the eighth.

Luzardo gets two quick outs and then faces Betts again. On a full count Mookie unloads a deep fly to right center. Laureano makes a leaping grab at the wall...a tremendous catch. Mookie tips his cap to Ramon and the A’s greet Luzardo at the dugout with high fives. Jesus Luzardo has shut the Dodgers out on no hits since the first inning...but the score is still tied.

Kenley Jansen goes out to face the Athletics lineup in the top of the ninth. He gets two quick outs but gives up a bloop hit to Olson. The next hitter is Laureano. Jansen uncorks a wild pitch that bounces to the backstop. Olson to second. Now Ramon Laureano is the man of destiny, and destiny speaks Spanish this day. Base hit up the middle and Olson scores the lead run to make it 2-1.

Will Luzardo come out for the ninth? Melvin ponders, but he can’t bring himself to remove lightning from his jar. Here’s Jesus again.

Everybody on both teams is up on their feet in the strangely empty, silent ball yard. Gavin Lux takes two strikes and then watches two fastballs in the dirt. Luzardo is obviously struggling. He tries a slider and Lux foul tips into the catcher’s mitt. One away. Muncy looks dangerous digging in but swings wildly at the first pitch. Third baseman Chapman chases a towering foul ball all the way to the stands and leaps into the empty seats to haul it in for a truly outstanding defensive gem. If there’d been fans in the stands...no play! One more out between Oakland and the Plague Year World Series. The Dodger fans are in torment, but Luzardo has the magic today. He fans Bellinger on three straight dipping sliders to complete his no-hitter and is carried off the field in total social distancing disintegration.

The first call he gets after the game is from the Cincinnati hard luck near no hit pitcher Luis Castillo. Billy Beane, Bob Melvin and Jesus watch Rob Manfred present the MVP trophy to Ramon Laureano.

*******************************************************

After that mighty, mighty game maybe it’s just as well that the World Series was postponed after two Yankees tested positive for Corona the day before Game 1. It was a bitter pill for the players and for the whole Yankees organization, and a let down for the fans of both clubs. Only the headline a few months later that a vaccine had been found, tested and approved for use seemed to help, and the Yankee players both recovered nicely.

The World Series of 2020 was never played. We all went on to 2021 gratefully. By all means, let’s move on from 2020...the Plague Year.

Except in Nella Fantasia, where baseball, like it often does... helped us forget.

--Marco Perella
6/2020



Sunday, April 19, 2020

Marco's Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2020: the year without a baseball season?


MARCO’S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2020 (the year without a baseball season?)

“All the world is sad and dreary
Everywhere I go...”
--Stephen Foster

Here is a salute to our friends and members of our World Family who are being taken from us.

It’s a troubling time and it seems almost insulting to rue the lack of a baseball season. But baseball is a symbol of America and to lose it and all the other sports and restaurants and movie theaters and bar bands and dances and every other recreational outlet we’ve always taken for granted is shocking and just brings home what a blow this little microbe has struck us.

I hope you are all safe at home and finding your way through. Here are a few stories to distract you and maybe make you remember our national pastime until it comes back to us.

Walter Johnson came up to the Senators in 1907 and was an immediate sensation. Nobody in memory had ever thrown as hard as The Big Train. He threw sidearm and just whipped the ball with his big frame and long arms. He was one of the rare pitchers who didn’t much bother with off-speed pitches. Nobody could catch up with his fastball so why complicate things? In 1908 Young Walter started against the Yankees on a Friday and shut them out on 6 hits. The next day, he started again and shut them out on 4 hits. No game on Sunday but on Monday Johnson started the game again and shut the Yankees out again! This time he only allowed 2 hits! 3 shut outs in 4 days and only gave up 12 hits! Mercy!!

But Walter was a sweet-natured, affable farm boy from Kansas and was afraid of hitting people with that fastball and maybe killing somebody someday. So he didn’t like to pitch inside. No matter...he still threw 110 shutouts in his big league career!

Ty Cobb, the dominant player of the American League, had trouble with Johnson just like everybody else, but he’d noticed how Walter would shy away from any kind of chin music. So Ty started crowding the plate on Walter and just to rattle him, would talk trash to the big galute, calling him names and giving him the usual Cobb routine of abuse. And it worked. Cobb hit over .360 against Johnson . Walter would work on the outside of the plate to avoid hitting Cobb and southpaw Ty would slap singles to left.

So Walter didn’t like Ty Cobb much, even though both men are on record praising the other’s talent. Cobb said Johnson had the best arm he ever saw on a ball field.

Like a lot of pitchers (curiously), Walter took pride in his hitting. (He hit .433 in 1925 in about a hundred at bats!) One of Cobb’s teammates was Sam Crawford, a great hitter and Hall of Famer. Sam was from Wahoo, Nebraska, and he and Walter became casual friends, being fellow Midwestern farm boys and all. Johnson admired Crawford’s bats and he’d borrow one to hit with when the Senators would play the Tigers.

So, in payment for Sam Crawford’s generosity with bat lending, whenever the game wasn’t in the balance and Crawford was coming up, the Senator’s catcher would whisper to the Tiger hitter, “Hey Sam...Walter likes you today.” That meant Johnson was coming in fat with a medium fastball and Sam should get ready. So “Wahoo” Sam would be hitting triples off the right field wall while Cobb was pecking little singles into the short field. Drove Ty Cobb absolutely crazy.

There are so many stories about Satchel Paige. Who knows how many are true and how many have been...let’s say...elaborated upon?
One way or another, Old Satch was a legendary pitcher and character and one of the most popular sports figures in history. His first major league start at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in 1948 set an attendance record. He was a (supposed) 42 year old rookie. (It may have been closer to 50!) Other interesting facts about Satchel:

*He learned to pitch as a 13-year old in an Alabama reform school where he did time for shoplifting.

*He attributed his longevity to a secret potion that was given to him by Sioux Indians when Paige was playing semi-pro baseball in North Dakota. It was some horrible stinky concoction that included gunpowder and rattlesnake venom but Satch insisted it kept his arm loose. (Something had to...he pitched an estimated 2500 games in his career!)

He liked to call in his fielders to sit behind the mound in the last inning of games while he struck out the side.

*Also, something very close to this might have actually happened, according to Negro League manager and Baseball Saint Buck O’Neal:

Satchel’s Team, the Kansas City Monarchs, was playing the Homestead Grays in the Negro League World Series of 1942. The big hype was that Satchel would be facing the equally legendary hitter Josh Gibson. Satchel arranged a stunt when Josh first came to the plate to face him. He had another player put on a white doctor’s smock and come out to the plate with a stethoscope to check Gibson’s heartbeat.

Pitching in relief in a close game in the last inning Satchel gave up a hit. He called his manager O’Neal over from first and announced that the fans had paid to see a confrontation between him and Josh Gibson and he couldn’t disappoint them. There were two outs and two batters due before Gibson so Satch stated that he was going to walk the next two hitters to get to Gibson with the bases loaded. O’Neal couldn’t talk him out of it, so Paige proceeded to do just that.

With the fans going crazy Satchel struck Gibson out on three straight fastballs. Now that’s showmanship, folks!

Some little bits of baseball information for you:
*Jud Castro, a second baseman from Medellin, Columbia, was the first Latin American to appear in the major leagues, playing 42 games for the Philadelphia Athletics of 1902. He hit .245 with 1 home run.

*in 1886, Guy Hecker of Louisville had the greatest hitting performance of any pitcher in history when he went 6 for 6 with 3 home runs. He scored 7 runs in that game, which is still the all time record for any player. It has never even been tied. Hecker hit a league leading .341 that season as a hitter, and won 26 games as a pitcher. In 1884 he had won 52 games and lost 20.

*Eddie Collins, the Hall of Fame second baseman who played 25 years with the old Athletics and White Sox, played a game on Sept. 11, 1912 in which he stole 6 bases for Philly against the Tigers. That was a record. But just to emphasize the point, Collins stole another 6 in a game against the St. Louis Browns 11 days later!

*The Giants once had a deaf and mute pitcher named Dummy Taylor (they were so kind and politically correct in those days). Despite these challenges, Taylor had a perfect way of expressing his dissatisfaction with the decision of an umpire. He used to hold his nose.

* Ninth inning, one run game, Giants behind, runner on third, one out. Manager John McGraw sends Sammy Strang up to pinch hit with orders to bunt. Pitcher comes in with a fat pitch that Sammy can’t resist. He takes a full swing and slams a homer over the right field fence. As he crosses home plate with the winning run McGraw snarls at him “That homer will cost you $50. When I say bunt, I mean bunt!”
You don’t mess with McGraw.

*Joe Tinker of the famous Tinker to Evers to Chance double play combo of the old Cubs married a young lady who knew nothing about baseball. So he takes her to her first game and gets her a box seat. Tinker is having a spectacular day, fielding superbly, slamming the ball and running like a demon. Late in the game he stretches a single into a double with a head first slide into second. Then on the next pitch he takes off and steals third with another great slide. At the end of the game Joe walks over to the box where his radiant bride awaits and asks her “how’d you like the game, Dear.”
Oh, it was fascinating ” she gushes. “But really, Joe, you ought to be more careful. You fell down twice running around the bases!”

MLB Network and Draft Kings are presenting a tournament of All-Time teams with 16 AL teams and 16 NL teams playing 7 game simulated (with some unexplained computer program) series in a round of 32, 16, 8, 4, 2 and the big championship between leagues in the Final 2. In order to round out the sides into an even 16 teams on each side, they’ve added a Negro League All Star team to the AL side and an under-25 young player squad for the NL.

Since I love making up All Time teams and arguing with myself about them I have studied the rosters and the rules and have these comments that might either help you place your bets or just make you mad. (the tournament starts on Monday April 20 and a lot of the games are streaming or on the MLB channels and radio stations.)

First of all, a player may appear on more than one team simultaneously. You get the Angels version of Nolan Ryan and also the Astros version and the Rangers version. (What, no Mets Nolan?)
This is ludicrous. Roberto Alomar is on the Orioles, the Blue Jays and the Indians. Babe Ruth is a pitcher on the Red Sox and also plays for the Yankees. That means he can face himself if the Yankees play the Red Sox.

Just choose the team the player had his biggest success with or played the most years with or something. The only really tough calls are Frank Robinson (Reds or Orioles?), Eddie Collins (Athletics or White Sox?) Alomar and a few more. I mean, Jimmy Foxx had his biggest success with the Athletics and just a few good years for the Red Sox. Making Foxx the starting first baseman of the Red Sox just gets in the way of Yaz, Ortiz, Mo Vaughn, Jim Rice and others having playing time.

The next blindingly illogical decision is to then base performance on the player’s 3 best years. So why does Joel Zumaya get to play for the Tigers? He only played one year with the injuries. Does he get to use the stat projections of that one good year, one year with fragments of injury-ridden years or what? They’ve got players who never even played 3 years on rosters. The under 25 team has players who have yet to play their first major League game! (catcher Adley Rutschman) What stats are they going to use for those players? Is somebody going to just predict what kind of player they’ll be?

There is no explanation of what the ballpark effects are to be. Neutral site? Some computerized make believe house of digital perfection? Wrigley Field and Fenway Park? Home and away? After all, Babe Ruth in Yankee Stadium is a different proposition from Ruth in , say, Forbes Field. Just what are the playing parameters? It kind of matters, O Hallowed Draft King Geniuses.

My fourth great reservation is the inclusion of the very worst steroid abusers of the recent Dark Ages of enhanced baseball. That’s an insult to the game. Why not just go ahead and project what some of the great players of past eras WOULD have performed like if they’d been given the juice? Sure, why not? Roll up your sleeve Mick! Let’s see what an augmented Mantle would have done with a little horse piss in him to even things out with McGwire! Hey...Rogers Hornsby hit .424 playing clean and won two triple crowns. What he needs is some simulated testosterone. What will he hit now? (Answer: .465, 62 home runs, 207 RBI’s) The whole comparison thing is skewed badly if you get what I mean.

Number 5 in my list of bitches is how are they factoring in defense? And who manages the team...a homer happy Earl Weaver or bunting frenzy John McGraw? Kind of matters if you have Sparky going to the bullpen or Casey platooning his ass off. None of this is explained because of course we civilians can’t be expected to think...let’s just have another home run contest!

So I will studiously avoid my general disappointment with the basic tenets of this online distraction but will try to enjoy it as it is presented out of sheer baseball deficiency and house-bound boredom.

The teams are seeded based on World Series victories, pennants won, playoff appearances and regular season records over the whole history of baseball. ( I don’t think they are including pre-1900 but I’m not sure. They have a few players from that era but nobody who played the majority of their career pre 1900 except Cy Young.) All well and good. The Negro League All Stars and the Under 25 Young ‘Uns are both seeded 8th. Also understandably fair. Every roster is 11 pitchers and 15 everyday players.

Here are the first round matchups and my evaluations and predictions : (note**the starting lineups are set by the geniuses, so when I present them to you I’m just reporting THEIR decisions...I criticize as I go along.)

AL BRACKET:
Game 1: NY Yanks (#1 AL seed) vs. Seattle Mariners (#16): The Yanks are loaded with power, as you would no doubt expect. Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio...Reggie at DH and He Who Must Not Be Named at third base. Fuhget-About-It! The Yanks will bludgeon their way through this series. They are lacking only that one dominant pitcher. They have Whitey Ford and Ron Guidry and if Guidry had 3 years like 1978 on his resume it might be different. New York’s killer bullpen (Rivera and Gossage) might make up for it.

The Mariners have Randy Johnson to beat the Yanks a couple of times, but nobody else except maybe Felix Hernandez at his peak. Bad bullpen relatively. The starting lineup has Edgar Martinez at third and Nelson Cruz at DH. That’s wrong. Adrian Beltre should be on third (if defense counts for anything in this extravaganza) with Edgar at DH and mix Cruz into the outfield. And oh yeah.. He Who Must Not Be Named is playing shortstop for the Mariners!

Prediction: Yanks get beat twice by the Big Unit but prevail 4 games to 2.

Game 2: Athletics (#2) vs. Rays (#15): I agree that the Athletics should be rated this high. They have a very balanced lineup of Jimmy Foxx, Eddie Collins, Sal Bando and Bert Campaneris around the infield with Mickey Cochrane at catcher (one of the best) and Rickey Henderson, Al Simmons and Reggie in the outfield. That’s Grade A speed plus big power. My only quibbles are that Jason Giambi shouldn’t get to be DH. But, the alternatives on the bench are Canseco and McGwire so how you gonna be a purist? Also, Frank “Home Run” Baker is a good leftie hitter over Sal Bando at third.

The A’s have that Super Pitcher in Lefty Grove (his ERA was 2 runs below everybody else pitching in the best hitting environment ever (the late 20s and early 30s)...for about 6 years in a row) Eddie Plank, Catfish, Vida Blue and relievers Fingers and Eckersley back him up. (Where is Chief Bender? Where is Rube Waddell?) Definite threat to win it all.

The Rays are an admirable team of over achievers but it’s mostly a roster of guys they traded once they got good. They have Longoria, Carl Crawford and a few pitchers. No chance.

A’s sweep!

Game #3: Red Sox vs. Rangers (#14): The Sox have the unhappy situation of too many great players having to sit because there is not a spot for them. Foxx, Pedroia, Boggs and Nomar on the infield, Fisk catching and Williams, Betts and Evans from left to right. Ortiz is DH. Having Foxx play for two teams means Yaz is sitting? Betts has had at least 3 great years and I love him but are you saying Yaz doesn’t top that with about ten awesome years? I put Williams at DH (he’d love it), Yaz in left where he shines and Ortiz at first. I’d also use Evans off the bench as a defensive replacement and pinch hitter and play Jim Rice as a booming right handed bat to balance Williams and Ortiz and Yaz. Add Fred Lynn to the roster. And maybe Mo Vaughn too. Too many stars! Strong starters in Pedro, Clemens, Cy Young, Tiant, Lester, Babe Ruth and Lefty Grove (the later version). Much better than the Yankees rotation. The Red Sox have a very good shot.

The Strangers have a bunch of players who could never win anything and that’s why they’re seeded so low. They are also a schizophrenic team with good citizens like Michael Young, Toby Harrah, Jim Sundberg, Adrian Beltre, Rusty Greer and Ian Kinsler on the same field with Juan Gonzalez, Ruben Sierra, He Who Must Not etc at short and Rafael (“I never took steroids except for those nine years”) Palmeiro. Except for Old Nolan and nasty Kevin Brown no pitching. And where is Josh Hamilton? Fodder for the Big Boys.

Red Sox in 5.

Game #4:Tigers (#4) vs. Angels (#13): The Tigres are a strong Dark Horse in this tournament. They have Cobb, Greenberg, Gehringer, and Miggy Cabrera so that’s four all timers to get them started. They have Hank Greenberg starting in left field so Miggy can play first but I would put Miggy at third instead of George Kell and have Greenberg at his natural position of first with Kirk Gibson in left field. Harry Heilmann has to be the DH over Willie Horton. (Heilmann batted over .390 four times! With mucho RBIs!)By the way, Al Kaline is the right fielder for all time on the Tigers. RIP Al! You were one of the Truebloods. And by the way, Wahoo Sam Crawford has to be on this club! Especially after I featured him in my funny story about Walter and him.
The rotation is way good: Verlander, Newhouser, Scherzer, McClain, Lolich, Jack Morris and Jim Bunning. Yikes! Only the two lefties in Newhouser and Lolich but some major firepower. I’d make Bunning the closer. And couldn’t we have Mark “The Bird” Fidrych just for the genuine heart warming thrill of it? Instead of Joel Zumaya?

The Angels are a little short. (What’s new?) Only 4 real HOFers in Ryan, Carew (also on the Twins) DH Vlad Guerrero and future inductee Mike Trout. Guys like Tim Salmon and Bobby Grich are excellent players but look who you are comparing them to.

Tigers in 5! (No lower seed upsets yet!)

Game #5: Orioles (#5) vs. Astros (#12): Major screw up by the sophomoric, so-called baseball experts who designed these all-time teams. The Orioles used to be the St. Louis Browns years before they moved to Baltimore in the early fifties. The jelly-wigglers who came up with this roster just missed the whole EXISTENCE of that Browns team. That means who cares if Hall of Famers like George Sisler (he hit over .400 twice and was considered the best first baseman in the game pre-Lou Gehrig) and Bobby Wallace, the great shortstop of yore don’t even get mentioned. How about Ken Williams who led the AL in home runs one year when Babe Ruth had a belly ache and was the first 30-30 player ever? (that’s homers and steals) How about Harland Clift the good hitting third baseman? And pitcher Urban Shocker? All of these St. Louis Browns should be on this roster. Yes, the Brownies were an historically inept team, but they won a pennant and went to a World Series. (1944….the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1953) A stupid, unforgivable oversight to forget these players. The Twins roster remembers the old Washington Senators who moved to the Twin Cities. They remembered that the Nationals were once the Montreal Expos. But they forgot the franchise-move from St. Louis to Baltimore of the Browns/Orioles and also the old Boston Braves who became Milwaukee and then Atlanta. I’ll damn their eyes for that insult later! Nincompoops! (Sorry Cal Ripken and Brooks Robinson, but not even good guys like you can make me further evaluate your team!)

The Houston Astros were once a gritty team that could never win. Then they cheated their asses off and prevailed. A sorry legacy.
Infield of Bagwell, Biggio, Bregman and Correa...catcher Ausmus... Jose Cruz, Cesar Cedeno and Berkman in the outfield. They put Jose Altuve at DH but that’s a no-go for me. I say Jimmy (“Toy Cannon”) Wynn has to be in the outfield or DH, Altuve at second and move Biggio around from DH to second to outfield and even catcher.
Rotation of Ryan, J.R.Richards, Mike Scott and Roy Oswald. Closer Billy Wagner to neutralize all the big left-handed hitters in this league.

Upset Special! Astros in 5!

Game #6: Twins/Senators (#6) vs. Blue Jays (#11): I guess the Twins rate this high because they remembered all the stars that played for all the old Washington Senators. (Don’t worry, I won’t let up.) Middle of the road team led by Carew, Killebrew, shortstop Joe Cronin, Goose Goslin, Kirby Puckett and Joe Mauer. That’s not the Yankees or the Red Sox but it’s pretty good. Starters are Johnson, Blyleven, Johann Santana and Jim Kaat. Weak bullpen and weak bench. If one of those pitchers behind Walter Johnson gets hot they could surprise.

So sorry Blue Jays but you don’t have a long enough history as an expansion team to have enough Hall of Famers to compete in a tournament of this kind. Roy Halladay will win a game or two and..

It’s Twins/Senators in 6!

Game #7: White Sox (#7) vs. K.C. Royals (#10): The White Sox are a sleeper team. Long odds against but they have a real shot. This is because they are balanced and have some superstars in the right places and some very strong pitching. Infield is Frank Thomas, Nellie Fox (very underrated), Robin Ventura and Luke Appling (underrated). Catcher is Carlton Fisk. Outfield is Magglio Ordonez, Minnie Minoso(along with Mantle, the top player in the league throughout the 50s, according to Ted Williams) and Harold Baines with Konerko as DH. Problem: you have Eddie Collins and Shoeless Joe Jackson on the bench. If you’re going to let them be on your team despite cloning multiple team players and reinstating banished gambling transgressors you have to play them. Collins is an all-timer. Jackson one of the ten best hitters ever. (He hit over .400 and Ruth copied his swing.) Let Fox play second but put Collins at third or short when a right hand pitcher is on the mound. Let Jackson play all the time and platoon Ordonez and Baines. Thomas should DH...not Konerko who is the better fielder. That gives you potentially 8 Hall of Fame or Hall of Fame level players at one time in your lineup. Look at this: Collins(5), Fox(4), Minoso(8), Jackson(9) Thomas(DH), Konerko(3), Baines(7), Appling(6), Fisk(2).

The pitching is also very good with Buehrle, Sale, Billy Pierce and Red Faber with 3 specialist swing men...Wilbur Wood, Ed Walsh and Hoyt Wilhelm. Wood is a knuckleballer who pitched both ends of double headers in the 70s. Hoyt Wilhelm was THE knuckleballer who taught Wood how to. Ted Williams couldn’t hit Hoyt and admitted it. Ed Walsh was an early century spitballer who won over 40 games once and pitched in relief all the time as well. So the Sox have some tricky lefty pitchers and three junkballers who will give the other teams fits. I say they are a threat...a big one.

The Royals have George Brett. Who else? Freddy Patek? Amos Otis? Bo Jackson? Bret Saberhagen and David Cone can pitch. How did they get seeded this high?

White Sox in 5.

Game #8:Negro League All-Stars (#8) vs. Indians (#9): Now this is interesting! How do you evaluate the All Stars with sketchy stats and word of mouth opinions of how great they were? And there is very little doubt that these Negro League stars were legendary talents.

Satchel Paige taught Bob Feller how to pitch. That’s Feller himself giving credit to Satch. They used to tour the country in the off season playing each other’s all stars.
Smoky Joe Williams, Bullet Rogan, Leon Day, Chet Brewer and Hilton Smith were almost as good. So was Martin Dihigo who was a scary hitter as well.

Their lineup? Buck Leonard at first...the black Lou Gehrig.
Josh Gibson at catcher...the black Babe Ruth...maybe the greatest right handed power hitter in history.
Oscar Charleston in the outfield. McGraw called him the greatest ball player he ever saw.
Pop Lloyd at short...as good as Honus they said.
Martin Dihigo...when Johnny Mize was playing in Cuba on the same team, other teams were walking Dihigo in order to pitch to Mize who had led the majors in homers several times and had hit in the .350s. They have Dihigo on the bench!
Cool Papa Bell, Ray Dandridge, Turkey Stearns, Mule Suttles. For some reason the computer Geeks didn’t include Willie Wells, the shortstop, and Cristobal Torriente and ten other all time players.
I don’t know what the ratings system will spit out for evaluation stats, but I would risk a hefty bet that the Negro League All Stars will win it all.

The Indians are no slouches. They have Nap Lajoie and Tris Speaker as leaders and all time superstars who dominated the game in their day. Stars of the 40s and 50s like Al Rosen and Lou Boudreau. 90s hitters like Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez and Albert Belle. I would play Francisco Lindor at short over Boudreau and add Omar Vizquel to the roster for late inning defense at one infield position or another. Rocky Colavito should be on the team over Travis Hafner. The bench is strong with Earl Averill, Roberto Alomar (He’s everywhere! He’s everywhere!)and Larry Doby. Kenny Lofton is a speed threat as a pinch runner and outfield asset. Starters Feller, Kluber, Coveleski, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, and Sudden Sam McDowell as leftie K artist. I think the Indians would be an even bet with any other team in the AL except the ones they are facing in the first round.

Negro League All Stars in 5!

My AL bracket:

first round:

Yankees over Mariners
Athletics over Rays
Red Sox over Rangers
Tigers over Angels
Astros over Orioles
Twins over Blue Jays
White Sox over Royals
Negro League AS over Indians

second round:

Negro League All Stars over Yankees in 7
Tigers over Astros in 7
Red Sox over Twins in 6
A’s over White Sox in 7

semis:

Negro League All Stars over Tigers in 6
A’s over Red Sox in 7

AL Finals:

Negro League All Stars over A’s in 7

Time out while I pump up for the NL.

NL BRACKET:

Game #1: Cardinals (#1) vs. Rockies (#16)
The Cardinals are historically the second most successful team of all time...after the Yankees...but I think they will have some trouble in this tournament. Compared to the Giants, the Dodgers, and even the Phillies and the Braves their pitching is a little thin. The contenders in this tournament all have 3 or more all time stoppers. I’m talking Koufax, Hershiser, Kershaw/Dodgers...Marichal, Mathewson, Hubbell, Bumgarner/Giants...Alexander, Carlton, Halladay, Schilling, Robin Roberts and Cliff Lee/Phillies. Plus you need a bullpen and some pretty good hold-the-fort type middle relief to go up against stacked power lineups. The Cards have Bob Gibson and Dizzy Dean...both great, but those are the only two Hall of Fame Starters, and two is light in this company.. They have two studs in the bullpen in Lee Smith and Bruce Sutter. It all depends on how pitchers like Wainwright, Carpenter, Brecheen and Mort Cooper do when Diz and Gibby have to rest.

The every day player roster of the Cards is superb, however. One of the best of all time, easily. The gurus have it Pujols, Hornsby, Rolen, Smith in the infield...Molina catching...Medwick, Edmunds and Musial in the outfield with Mark McGwire DH. I could improve on this by banishing McGwire to the Hall of PEDS and putting Hornsby (a lousy defensive player) at DH. Then you’d have a Hall of Fame leadoff man at second when you remember MVP Frankie Frisch. Also, Pujols came up as a third baseman. Why not start him there so you can have HOF Johnny Mize play first? Mize is too good to sit and he missed his natural prime by fighting for his country for 3 years. And you could occasionally move Stan the Man to first to get Lou Brock into the lineup. (Of course, neither Frisch nor Mize is even on the roster. The Geniuses couldn’t see passed Willie McGee.)

I wish the Rockies had a chance but historically...they just have never had any pitchers. But you want offense? How does Larry Walker, Tulo, Arenado, Helton, Galarraga, Bichette, Cargo, Blackmon, LeMahieu, Holliday and Story look to you?

Cardinals in 6!

Game #2: Giants (#2) vs. Brewers (#15): I would favor the Giants over the Cardinals in this simulation because the Giants are allowed to have Barry Bonds and his mutant stats on their team along with Mays, McCovey, Mel Ott and the scary rotation I mentioned above.

The Brewers have a good core with Molitor, Yount and Christian Yelich. But Josh Hader is their best pitcher and even he can only go about 2 innings a game.

Giants Sweep!

Game #3: Dodgers ((#3) vs. Padres (#14): The Bluebloods have been told by the Geniuses to start Roy Campanella over Mike Piazza, and Cody Bellinger over Pedro Guerrero. I would shuffle Sheffield, Snider, Hodges, Garvey, Pedro and Cody around a little between outfield, first and DH and go with platoon matchups. Kind of like how the current Dodgers do it with everybody moving around the field defensively. Catch Campy with the old timer pitchers and Piazza with the Moderns. You have to have Guerrero’s and Piazza’s bats in there. Along with Snider, that’s the power-meat of the order.
Good pitching! Koufax , Kershaw and Hershiser just could be enough. And if they can pitch Koufax 3 games in a 7 game series…
(Big Dodger Boo-Boo...not including Dazzy Vance on the staff. He pitched in the 20s and won 3 ERA titles, 6 KO titles, had 2 10+WAR seasons and won an MVP. This in an era where the league as a whole hit around .300.) .

Poor Padres! They get stomped by the Dodgers in the real world and now they’ll get stomped in the virtual world. Oh well, they have the number 4 clone of Roberto Alomar to make them feel better!

Dodgers Sweep!

Game #4: Reds (#4) vs. Nationals/Expos (#13): This is a very good matchup. Last year’s Champs augmented with some great Expo players of the past like Vlad, Andre Dawson and Tim Raines against The Big Red Augmented Machine.

The Reds lineup is Votto, Morgan, Rose and Larkin on the infield, Bench catching and George Foster, Eric Davis and Frank Robinson in the outfield. (Isn’t it weird that you say “IN” the outfield but you say “ON” the infield? At least that’s how I learned it in Baseball Syntax School.) That’s almost a perfect mix of speed, hitting for average, on base percentage, terrific defense and with Ted Kluszewski as DH...long ball power. Backups like Adam Dunn, Tony Perez and Jay Bruce bring more power if you want it. Vada Pinson and Dave Concepcion bring more speed. 5 certified superstars and some secret weapons like catcher Ernie Lombardi who would make an ideal DH against leftie pitching. He was a line drive hitting machine who won batting titles even though he was the slowest runner in the game. Also, Edd Roush was an all-timer outfield talent, team leader and batting champ in the 20s. I wonder if the Geniuses even noticed.

The surprise is that you never think about great pitching with the Reds. But this All Star has Tom Seaver, Mario Soto and Jim Maloney to start and a super bullpen with the Nasty Boys plus John Franco and Aroldis Chapman! This team could upset the world.
(Psst! You forgot to put the great left handed pitcher Eppa Rixey and right handed starter Bucky Walters on the staff instead of Jose Rijo and Don Gullet.)

The Nats/Expos are last year’s Heroes plus the outfield of the old Expos mentioned above. Bryce Harper and Juan Soto can’t even break into the lineup unless its at DH. But the pitching on this team you don’t want to see in your 7 game series: Steve Rogers, Scherzer, Strassburg, and the Martinezes Dennis and Pedro! That should get your attention.

The Reds are almost perfectly balanced and have the best catcher in the tournament. I like ‘em in 7.

Game #5: Pirates (#5) vs. Dbacks (#12): The Pirates have never produced that superstar pitching Ace until Garret Cole, and they up and traded him before he opted out. And now they can’t even get him on their All Time roster even though he had several get years with the Pirates. You’re telling me he wasn’t better than Bob Friend? Dave Giusti? The Buccos have nowhere to turn unless it’s to relief fork ball specialist Elroy Face.

It’s their everyday player lineup that has them ranked this high. Infield: Stargell, Mazeroski, Traynor, Honus Wagner. Catcher: Jason Kendall. Outfield: Paul Waner, Max Carey, Roberto Clemente

Now I love Bill Mazeroski’s defense...he’s widely considered the best second sacker ever... based on just defense. But his On-Base % was in the .290s. Start Arky Vaughn on second and bring Maz in when you have a lead. Arky hit a ton and won a batting title and an MVP. Max Carey can be a late inning replacement in the outfield and pinch runner with his superlative steal percentage. Start Dave Parker in center. Put Ralph Kiner at DH. His combo of lots of walks and homers is a proven force. The Pirates version of Barry Bonds can jump around the outfield and DH.

The Dbacks are a respectable club but unless they pitch Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling every other day they aren’t going to beat the Braves or anybody else. Randy and Schilling and then take a drilling.

Pirates in 7. If the Dbacks hit.

Game #6: Braves (#6) vs. Marlins (#11): Braves have Chipper Jones at third, but he could play some shortstop. That would get Eddie Mathews over to third and let somebody like Joe Adcock or Rico Carty DH. The Braves have thump with Aaron, Mathews, McGriff, Jones (Chipper and Andruw) . If the Geniuses hadn’t forgotten that the Boston Braves were the direct blood ancestors of these Milwaukee and Atlanta version they could have had players like Kid Nichols (pitcher) and Wally Berger (outfield power) and Rabbit Maranville. He could play some shortstop.
The pitching is tough with the Tres Amigos Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz teaming up with Warren Spahn and knuckleballer Phil Niekro.
The bottom of the NL bracket has been soft so far, but the Marlins are dangerous because of Stanton, Yelich, Sheffield and pre-Tiger Cabrera. They have a strong arm in catcher Realmutto to control all those NL teams that like to run. I don’t like their pitching (Beckett, Jose Fernandez and Anibel Sanchez) against the Braves lineup and starters.

Bravos in 6!

Game #7: Cubs (#7) vs. Mets (#10): Lots of power here for the Cubbies up and down the lineup with Rizzo, Sandberg, Santo, Banks, Hartnett, Billy Williams, Hack Wilson, Sammy Sosa and Andre Dawson all having super productive seasons with the Chicago team. You’ll want to play Dawson in center instead of Hack Wilson, who was born to DH. Mordecai Brown is the Ace of aces but he has help with Maddux, Kerry Wood, Jake Arrietta and Fergie Jenkins. Lee Smith and Bruce Sutter in the bullpen, same as the Cardinals.

Should be a blood feud between these two teams. The Mets have good power in Alonso, Piazza, Strawberry and Beltran and 3 aces in Seaver, Gooden and DeGrom.

Got to go with the Mets in 7. I have to respect those starters. Might be the best matchup of the tourney.

Game #8: Under 25s (#8) vs. Phillies (#9): the Phillies lucked out with this draw. Let’s see what these Young whippersnappers can do against Carlton, Alexander, Halladay and Lee (and Schilling again and Robin Roberts!) This will be ugly because the Phils also can hit with Schmidt, Chuck Klein and Dick Allen.

I love all the young position players for the Unders and I think they will acquit themselves well, but I fear for the rookie pitchers against this Phils lineup and starters. The Phillies have the deepest pitching in the whole tournament except for maybe the Negro League All Stars. These young uns will send Shane Beiber, Mike Soroka, Walker Buehler and Shohei Ohtani out there. Maybe some of these guys will be up where those Phillies men are some day...but not yet.

Phils in 5.

round 1:
Cardinals beat Rockies
Giants beat Brewers
Dodgers beat Padres
Reds beat Nationals
Pirates beat Dbacks...though Dbacks have a shot with the Unit.
Mets beat Cubs...only expansion team to triumph over one of the original 8 NL teams.
Braves beat Marlins
Phillies beat Under 25s...like a drum.

round 2:

Phillies upset the Cardinals and remove the #1 seed.
Reds over the Pirates easily
Dodgers beat the Braves
Giants beat Mets

semis:

Reds squeak it out over Phillies
Giants beat Dodgers...real close... Koufax will win 2 but so will Bumgarner.

NL final:

Giants beat the Reds...who finally run into a team with better pitching and an equally ferocious offense.

And the tournament winner between the Giants and the Negro League All Stars is...the Negro Leagues are the Giants Daddies!

---more later
Stay Safe