I was thinking about the Mariners and their team as I sauntered into the Colliseum last Wednesday night, for the Athletics were indeed taking on the AL West cellar dwellers.
With just 55 wins this year--only Pittsburgh and Baltimore are worse--it seems like kind of a surprise, as The M's came into the season as pretty heavy favorites to take the west. With an arm arsonal of Cliff Lee, King Felix, and Erik Bedard, couple with Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman and Milton Bradley, joined by stalwart Ichiro, well there was to be no stopping these guys.
Now, I for one never bought in. I did like the Rangers, but truth is I thought the Angels would once again run the category, so it is not like my clairvoyance was any better than any of those Mariner supporters.
But, somehow, over the last few years--maybe going back to the actual swap for the barely healthy Bedard--the Mariners have simply become a second rate team.
They have not swapped well, nor have they been particularly strong at free agent signings, and I write that knowing they did pluck Russell Branyan off the scrapheap.
The thing is, the Mariners, much like the Twins, always played good fundamental baseball. Good defense. Speed. Some pop. Good starting pitching. All of these were hallmarks of the strong Mariners teams of the last decade, but the last year, whatever organization and planning had guided Seattle to success seems to have gone out the window.
This puts the Mariners down there with the Royals as being amongst the least organized front offices in the majors (note that Baltimore now has some good young players, a few thanks to Seattle, and the Pirates might not seem to have a plan, but they have a handful of very good young players).
In my Strat-O-Matic league, we have 30 teams and strict usage rules (in case you are not familiar with Strat, it is a Sim game that recreates the previous year, where the games are played head-to-head) meaning once the innings or at-bats of a given player are exhausted, an owner cannot use that player (or, risk severe penalties during the following year's rookie draft).
In order to allow owners with less depth to still field a team, each squad is assigned a pair of dog starters and hitters. The pitchers can toss 150 innings, but their ERA is 9.00, WHIP is 1.50, while the hitters have .150 averages with no pop, speed, or defense. If you play Scoresheet, this is much like that format automatically advancing a Triple-A pitcher or hitter to fill a void.
In the Strat league, there are always a handful of teams that by the stretch run simply have to play these dog players in order to field a team (I tend to lick my chops when I know I will face Bill Hands on the hill, and Rusty Kunz behind the dish, for it is against these weaker teams that a good squad can get fat and make a pennant run. Similarly, during the season, if a team is to make a run, just like at The Show, you must beat these weaker squads.
So, as I settled into my seat and got set up for the Seattle game, drawing up their lineup featuring Branyan and Josh Wilson and Kotchman, it seemed like the Athletics, not like they are a juggernaut, were facing one of the lame Strat teams, and despite a two-run shot in the first and a solo blast in the second, Oakland hung in and won the game, 4-3.
As I walked out the of park post game, it did make me chuckle, and then feel some sadness at the similarity between the Mariners and those lousy Strat teams in the league, for surely they were not so far apart. Poor M's. I do hope they get better. They cannot get much worse.
I have to say I wish I was in the middle of a handful of pennant races. The sad truth is I am in the hunt in my Scoresheet League, and my Strat-O-Matic team has a chance to make the post-season, but winning would be a miracle as I my bench is thin.
Locally, the Giants have a chance to make the playoffs, so that is great. And, I set my XFL team up with more prospects than I know what to do with, so in a year or so I should have a nice dynasty there
But, in Tout and LABR, nothing worked, and in the Bloomberg League I drafted a great team, and was up to third place when Kendry Morales and Kevin Youkilis went down, and in a shallow 12-team mixed league, that is essentially the kiss of death.
So, what do we have?
Football drafts up the wazoo this week. For some reason I am in four leagues this time, three of them keepers where I mostly like my keepers.
Like in the league I won last year I had to choose among Ray Rice, Miles Austin, and Phillip Rivers (sorry Phil, back in the pool you go), and in Todd Zola's NAIFFL, I have my best--well, favorite--set of keepers ever with Matt Ryan, Ryan Grant, and again Monsieur Austin.
Then in the Kathy League Gifford I hung onto Darren Sproles as a fifth rounder, Kevin Boss as a twelfth rounder, and Michael Bush as a 15th rounder. That is a two QB league where we also play indvidual defensive players, so that takes some thought (my first picks were Drew Brees and Brett Favre).
Now, I confess, as I have before, that I am not the greatest fantasy football player on the planet, and my failures are largely because I just don't track rosters and transactions and statistics for the NFL like I do baseball.
But, I do like to play and draft and win, so this long Labor Day Weekend, as my drafts are in process, it is a lot of fun to watch the scores and my email and track who went where while I watch which team is winning what where.
And, during the final month of the baseball season, when football is getting going, there are few things more fun that prepping for a game in the press box while the myriad of televisions surrounding us are tuned to virtually every sporting event on the planet. It is seriously fun watching football (don't kid yourselves, sports writers and scouts all play fantasy football, even if they don't play baseball).
Then in a couple of weeks I toddle off to Chicago for Diane's cousin, Cherie's 50th birthday. I have not one, but two Sundays in the Windy City, and a day's worth of games with my mates, hopefully at Wild Buffalo Wings with plates of food and drink and killer games.
It is arguably my favorite time of the year.
There, I started it: this week's column.
I thought of a million other ways, including, "Does the name Brien Taylor mean anything to you?," and "I told you so."
Not that I wanted Strasburg to fail or endure difficulties, for certainly there is very little more that invigorates not just a local fan base, but baseball fans in general, than a hot young pitcher.
I mean, think Fernando Valenzuela or Mark Fydrich or even recently Tim Lincecum, all of whom generated enormous interest when they broke through, much like Strasburg.
MASN made it a point of sending emails advising subscribers that they would cover Strasburg's first start, which was certainly a good one, but not the best debut ever.
Since then The HOF collected a ball from that game, and there was talk after two starts that the youngster make the All Star team, a proposition so preposterous and silly that it almost came to fruition.
Just before the All Star Game voting was finalized this season, I found myself driving to ATT Park to work, and local radio host Mychael Urban has Chris Lincecum, father of Tim on his show for a weekly segment called "Father Knows Best."
Lincecum, who worked in Parts and Inventory at Boeing, coached his sons (Tim's brother Sean also received tutelidge), emphasizing the need for his boys to follow through (which is the source of the elder Lincecum placing a dollar bill at the foot of his son so Tim would reach for the money.
When asked about Strasburg and the mid-season classic, Chris Lincecum noted that Strasburg was exciting, and clearly noted he wished no ill on the the National, but he said that Strasburg was an arm injury waiting to happen, confirming his belief with, "just watch his follow through. He doesn't, and his arm is at risk."
Pretty prophetic for a non-baseball coach, and like Lincecum, I wish no ill on Strasburg.
On the other hand, it is likely a sobering fact to the bulk of fantasy owners who drafted the hard thrower anticipating he would be the core of their fantasy pitching from anywhere from this year, to the next ten, depending upon the format.
It also reminds me of when DiceK was new to the Red Sox and folks at one of Ron Shandler's First Pitch seminars insisted that Mastsuzaka was a $35 pitcher.
The bottom line is as much fun as it is to pluck an unknown player from the ranks of the minors and have a star for the coming years, the risks are great and the likelihood of instant gratification are minimal (Trace Wood once suggested to me that roughly one of every 20 prospects selected in our XFL league actually developed into an impact player, a la Hanley Ramirez, for example).
Meaning, as unsexy as it is to own say Mark Buehrle or to take a chance on Jonathan Sanchez, the flat out reality is the percentages that they will earn a profit, or have a breakthrough are far greater than with a Strasburg.
And, that is a tough lesson to embrace in life, let alone the fantasy universe. It does, however, mean boring is a lot better path to success than flash.
Maybe in 2013, a year removed from Tommy John surgery and a year of rehab in the pros, we can revisit.
In the mean time, I will suffer with Mike Minor or Madison Bumgarner, pitchers far lower on the cosmic scale than Strasburg, but pitchers with a lot better chance of delivering the goods I seek.
I remember Roger Clemens, finishing off Oklahoma back in 1983, when his Texas team won the College World Series over Alabama.
Even back then, you could tell he was one determined fellow, so it was not much of a surprise that The Rocket was a first round selection that year, or that a year later he was chucking the pill at Fenway, or that he became a force on the field, where over his now clouded career, he went an astounding 354-184, 3.12, with 4672 strikeouts, not to mention seven Cy Young Awards.
Now, I will admit that despite the success, I was never really a Clemens follower. Not like, say I liked Greg Maddux, who began his career a few years later, and was pretty much as successful.
For whatever reasons, I wanted Maddux on my fantasy teams, and did not care too much about Clemens, in fact I don't ever remember ever drafting him, though I did swap for his stats for successful pennant runs several times in dump trades.
Because even back then, there was something in his determination that smacked of arrogance, and I write that knowing one cannot be determined without a modicum of arrogance, but there is also a difference between arrogance and confidence.
Kirk Gibson, belting his famous homer off Dennis Eckersley exudes confidence--and the joy of victory in the moment--to me, though, way more than any of Clemens fist-pumping antics.
In fact, I loved that for the most part I rooted on the winning side of Dave Stewart versus The Rocket when the Athletics and Red Sox would square off with some pretty good battles in the late '80s.
Well, it looks like that arrogance has been Clemens tragic flaw, as the pitcher has now been charged with lying to Congress when he swore in 2008--at a hearing convened at Clemens' insistence--after the Mitchell report suggested that Clemens had indeed used HGH. Clemens insisted upon the hearing so he could clear his name, and apparently the whole thing backfired.
Had Clemens simply told the truth back then, he would have perhaps been chastised, but that would have been the end of it. But despite fairly damning evidence--not just the testimony of Brian McNamee, but the unknowing corroboration of former teammate Andy Pettitte--and confident or not, that is going to be tough to ignore.
Clemens is sticking to his guns--he says he looks forward to challenging the ruling--in typical fashion, kind of reminiscent of another baseball outcast, Pete Rose.
And like Rose, Clemens is his own worst enemy. Too bad. If public redemption worked for Mark McGwire, and it seems to have, it could work for those guys too.
I have written before, that as a youngin', smitten by baseball in 1960, it did not occur to me that I had to be a fan of any given team. That is, in 1960, it did not occur to me, though I was excited to get Giants baseball cards, like Jim Davenport--who was in the first pack of cards I ever bought--and their then shortstop Eddie Bressoud--who as a seven-year old, made me struggle to recognize his surname due to my youth and the semingly strange spelling and pronunciation of his surname.
By 1961, largely due to the goading of my older brother, Peter, who along with all of our friends was a Giants fan, turned my back on the locals, opting for the Dodgers and Duke Snider and Don Drysdale and Frank Howard and the Davis's--Tommy and Willie. At the time I did not know I was being contrary, in fact I did not mean to be. I did want to be myself, and I liked being different, but it took another 35 years of life along with 15 years of therapy to figure those riddles out.
In the mean time, though, I enjoyed a World Series win in 1963, and again in 1965, so that even losing in 1966 to Baltimore gave my team a better resume than that of Peter.
Those were indeed glorious days for a kid to be a baseball fan, and the Giants and Dodgers, in particular, had a vicious rivalry that carried over from Flatbush and Coogan's bluff. I remember listening to the infamous Juan Marichal/John Roseboro bat incident, as well as Drydale's consecutive shutout inning streak, notoriously controversial thanks to Dick Dietz, if memory serves.
I stayed loyal to those same Dodgers for many many years after, at least until I started playing sim games, and then got sucked into playing the Royals in the late 70's, and then the Blue Jays, and eventually moved into the roto world when I realized I better not have favorites if I wanted to truly write objectively about player performance.
And, that is the path I have tried to follow since, not that I don't enjoy relationships with the local teams, Oakland and San Francisco, nor do I deny having players I love to watch, but mostly, I want to see a good and exciting game.
Then, last year, when the scrappy Giants, with no offense at all, made some September noise and almost made the post-season, it was fun to be at ATT Park. The crowd was into it, and well, that made the games electric.
So, it has been kind of fun this season with the San Franciscans hanging in the fray all the way into August, such that Diane and I, in San Francisco this weekend for a wedding, went to see the Giants and Padres go at it the first game of their series on Friday.
It was looney indeed, riding the Muni with a throng of boisterous orange and black fans--for Friday is orange and black night at ATT--anticipating arguably the biggest series here in years.
The game was calculated on both ends, with a double switch, seven pitching changes, a protest thanks to a disputed runner's interference call, and a one run game that was as much decided by Aaron Rowand's baserunning blunder--he got picked off second with one out in the third--as it was the winning run being scored on a fielder's choice with a wide throw to the plate.
It was a tough loss, and it was odd to feel sad that the Giants lost, but also recognizing, how beautiful and optimistic baseball is, as there is always tomorrow. As we walked back to our hotel after the game, I was really hoping the Giants made the post season.
For one thing, I wanted to work a post season game.
For another, I wanted the home team to win, and on this Friday, I was wearing my orange sweater and black leather jacket to prove it.
Somehow, I think I wrote the same column last year, though I am not certain Justin Masterson was the target (though he well could have been).
You might ask why, unless you have Masterson on your roster, and have been playing roster Russian Roulette this season trying to figure out when to keep him active on your roster, and when not to.
I remember biting it for weeks last season until just before the end, finally stashing Masterson on my reserve clause till he tossed a one-hit shutout over the last weeks of 2009. So, thinking he had his command, and that facing September roster expansion lineups meant at least one or two more decent--and decent would have been fine--outings, but he got clobbered, and only some last day brilliance from Carl Pavano helped me eek a title out of Tout Wars.
And, truth is, I have been a Masterson fan low these last three years, when he went from a spot starter in 2008 with good success, to a spot starter and then sort of flop last year, finally being swapped to the Indians where he was mediocre till that shutout.
Maybe I should have known better, then, than to gamble on Masterson on both my XFL and LABR teams, but the price was right, and he does get some whiffs, and one of these days I think he will get it all together.
Only "one of these days" does not seem to be today.
In LABR I have had Masterson inacative for three of his four wins this year, but somehow have had him active for something like eight of his ten losses.
In the XFL, I have just one win as well, though only six losses.
The problem is he pitches a good game and that man-love stuff overwhelms me and I am just sure that this time Justin has it. Only, whatever "it" means, Justin does not seem to have "it" after all. Unless "it" means getting tattooed for six hits and seven walks and five runs over four innings. That "it" he has down cold.
Now, maybe you don't have Justin Masterson. But you know who I mean.
Maybe his name is Scott Olsen. Maybe his name is Alex Gordon. Maybe his name is Rick VandenHurk. Maybe his name is Daniel Cabrera.
But, he is there. On our rosters. Hiding. Subverting. Giving us grief. Tempting. Tantalizing. Begging us to believe.
Then letting us down in frustration and endless second guessing.
Thanks Justin. Like I really needed it.
This is the third time this summer I have mostly been, as they say, "off the grid."
I wrote earlier during the season about being in Death Valley, with no wi-fi, no cell phone, in fact our hotel at Panamint Springs did not even have a phone in the hotel room. Which made an adventure of driving out of the valley, which can be no small feat, and took us three-plus hours from the hotel to Stovepipe Wells, across and around to Shoshone, then to Baker, and Barstow, so we could finally hit the interstate and head north for home.
During that time nothing save the Las Vegas NPR station, which was actually ok with me, and ultimately, we got Dodgers and Fresno Grizzlies and Giants baseball on the radio. And, I confess, I love listening to baseball on the radio more than I enjoy watching on TV.
Anyway, a month ago Diane and I met our music community friends near Yosemite, and once again, no cell phones or internet, which is kind of a treat, as I noted.
But this week Di wanted to come to the Tahoe house for her birthday, which I was glad enough to do save once again, no cell, and though the house does have a TV and DVD player, no cable, and up here that means no TV. Which was a little strange as I was kind of jonesing for a game to watch in the afternoon when I write, or later, after dinner.
Instead it was Robot Chicken and Harvey Birdman and Ken Burns vids, which was again fine, but, at least, as you can tell, we do have DSL at the house (and a telephone, though it is one of those archaic land lines).
Now this week I was tracking my teams, most of which have crawled out of the early season hole we (I have to share responsibility) dug for them. Especially my SOMBOE team which is not really out of the hunt, though catching Wil Kimmey or Brendan Roberts lies ahead with a couple of weeks worth of games to go.
Mostly, though, since the trade deadline looms, logging into the various lines and seeing that Miguel Tejada and Roy Oswalt and Christian Guzman and Lance Berkman were all swapped, and rumors abound around Adam Dunn and Ryan Theriot and Ted Lilly.
Which makes me wonder what, say The Astros are doing as I don't see much of a core roster evolving there, unlike Baltimore, who seem to be moving in the right direction along with the Nats. On the other end as much as I would enjoy the Athletics making the post season, it is great to see the Rangers really going for the throat, acquiring as many breathing contributors as they can get their hands on.
For I like Ron Washington a lot, and in deference to his somewhat rugged off season, and the crazy pending sale of the bankrupt team, pushing for first and post season glory is awesome. Not to mention they have a very good heavy hitting team.
In there is a good lesson for all us: any player you can pick up, via the free agent pool or trade and put your opponents away, don't hesitate. For, he who hesitates is indeed lost, and you can be sure your opponents are doing everything they can to wipe your team off the face of the earth.
I have to say, though, as much fun as it is to be off the iPhone and such, I am glad I can hit the net and track my teams and the transactions and the baseball universe in general.
For, just like listening to games on the radio, following teams and players is comforting. It is familiar, and, well generally puts me in a good mood.
And, well, following baseball while I look out at the forest where the dogs are happily sniffing everything in site and running and romping in the sun? Well, that is even better!
As I have written many times. I live a charmed life!
There is one really wonderful thing that has slipped through the cracks of human stupidity during the recent Shirley Sherrod controversy.
In case you have not watched NBC or CNN or any news agency the last couple of days, you probably wonder who Shirley Sherrod is.
Ms. Sherrod is a former employee of the Department of Agriculture, a woman who has worked for the working classes and downtrodden for her entire professional life.
She is a modicum of dignity who was chased from her gig last Wednesday after a selectively edited tape of Sherrod, which presented her as a racist in front of the NAACP, was railroaded by the same--ironically racist--blogger who destroyed Acorn to Fox News who went on a metaphorical lynching, and succeeded (I refuse to dignify this guy by naming him).
In the tape, Sherrod acknowledges she had trouble treating white people fairly in her then position in Georgia's Department of Agriculture, and if all you listened to was the one sentence, well, you might think this woman, whose father had been murdered by white people 40 years earlier, held a grudge.
So, Fox let the blurb spill and what happened?
The NAACP and then the US Government itself, in a frenzy of knee jerk that should at least make the Tea Party nod in understanding, reacted by distancing themselves from Sherrod.
The Secretary of Agriculture texted Sherrod three times on her Blackberry, and insisted upon her resignation while she was driving which kind of suggests he was more interested in making his statement than her safety.
But then a few folks decided maybe the whole tape of Sherrod's speech should be viewed, rather than just one excerpted sentence.
And, low and behold, the speech was about redemption, and Sherrod's realization of how racism really cuts both ways, and how she began to understand her own prejudices in the cosmic scheme.
So that within a day of her being villainized, The Department of Agriculture wants her back. The NAACP is admitting its error. And even Fox news notes that she was wronged.
Now, in my work as a project manager, I have learned to research things. Because it gives context, so, why major news agencies, let alone public groups like the NAACP, or god forbid the US Government, cannot spend ten minutes doing their homework before making major decisions, is beyond me.
But, sadly, we seem to be a country that loves being stupid and ignorant for the most part. For it is not cool to be a nerd and smart. Our president is an elitist because he is well educated, which is funny considering his 2008 opponent was wealthy, owned eight homes, and something like 13 cars, and lived a life style most of us would never get close to.
So, it makes me wonder about that word elitist, just like I wonder about the word activist, which apparently our president was when he was younger. Of course, if one is a member of the Tea Party, then that kind of "activism" is acceptable, but if on the left side of the poltical spectrum, the word is evil.
And, with that it would be easy to point our fingers at the right, but, well, then Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reacted just as pathetically as any Tea Bagger, as did the NAACP.
Instead of taking a deep breath, and looking at the big picture, Vilsack and the NAACP cut off Sherrod just as easily as the right cuts off anything that has to do with liberal politics.
And you know what that means?
It means, as painful as it is, that we are slowly moving towards past our differences, because liberals and African Americans can act just as stupidly as conservatives and red neck crackers.
Now, I wish there was a more gentle way to phrase the above, but, well, the truth truly does hurt. Although, it is kind of sad that the ethnic and cultural diversity is not what binds us, even though that is what brought us all here--save the Native Americans--in the first place.
It should be reassuring, you know, because we are indeed all frail and vulnerable and scared for some reason, and that, and understanding and kindness are the things that we should recognize as our human commonalities.
Sadly, it appears that ignorance and stupidity are the things that will prove we are all the same. Too bad. We can do so much better.
OK, to start I watched the All Star Game last Tuesday in bits and pieces. I caught a couple of innings early on, and then listened on the radio on my way to band practice. Tuesday is the day The Biletones practice, and that has generally been true the four years we have been playing.
But, the fact that I did not even attempt try to reschedule practice to another night during a week when there was not so much baseball happening says it all.
Not that I hate the game. As a kid, I loved it, and attended the 15-inning 1967 affair in Anaheim, remembering well Tony Perez' homer and Don Drysdale pitching (how could you forget as the Dodger hurler was hated in Anaheim). And, I also was at the Coliseum in 1987, when the Nationals beat the American Leaguers, 2-0 in 13, meaning when I go the National League wins in extra innings.
I do remember, growing up as a Dodger fan (in Giants territory Northern California) wanting the National League, who had been dominated by the American League when the All Star Game first mattered to me, to win. After a while they had more wins that the AL, and I started playing Strat-O-Matic and then roto ball, and suddenly I was an American League fan.
And suddenly the National League did not win very often. But, since my favorite players in the 70's, and into the 80's were George Brett and Rickey Henderson, that was ok with me.
But, somehow in the interim, I became disinterested in the game. Maybe it is more a factor of the break really being a break for me the last couple of years. No games to score. No boxes to track. An evening when I can watch It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World without worrying about tracking games.
Still, every year, I tune in for an inning or two because it is simply too much to resist, I suppose. Not that giving the winning team post season home field advantage made me care more or less. Though it is clearly an advantage, whether I wish to acknowledge the game matters or not.
And, well, I guess the allure of Chase Utley and Tim Lincecum and Hanley Ramirez on one side, and Arod, Joe Mauer, and Jon Lester on the other is too much for my curiosity to resist. Because, like it or not, baseball is a pretty game to watch, and when great players play the game together, the chances to see something, as I like to say, "jaw dropping," seems like it should increase exponentially.
Not that my curiosity forced a rescheduling of band practice. Or prompted Diane to beg that I change the channel during dinner so we could watch the game.
So, All Stars or not, it was business as usual Tuesday night, as for the most part we took an Al,l Star break.
I did have a feeling this year that the NL, who had not won since 1997, would come through for no reason other than the odds suggested they were due, would win. So, later that night I was happy to have my prediction vindicated.
And I swear, I only sneaked a couple of innings of the game into my life.
I have been amused the past few weeks surrounding the debate as to whether Stephen Strasburg, the Uberprospect of the Nationals, should make the All Star team this year.
Certainly Strasburg has had a strong debut, going 2-2, 2.45 over his first five starts and 36.1 innings. Those are good numbers, to be sure, but the sample size is quite small. Still, as my friend Trace Wood notes, Strasburg is the most strongest pitching prospect to come along since Roger Clemens appeared in 1984.
And, when you think about it, that is saying a lot. Roy Halladay and Pedro Martinez and Tim Lincecum and Greg Maddux, to name a few, have all appeared--with Maddux, and possibly Pedro now having completed their careers--since Clemens debuted. And, that is just a few of terrific arms (and none of these guys made the All Star Game as rookies).
Not that rookies making the All Star team, let alone a pitcher doing that, is beyond comprehension.
In 1976, Mark Fydrich, a rookie who created as much buzz as Strasburg was an All Star as a rookie. And, when "Fernandomania" was sweeping the country in 1981, Fernando Valenzuela made the NL squad.
The difference is that Fernando matched Strasburg's 2.45 ERA over the first half of his rookie year, but he went 9-4 over 110 innings, and Fydrich was 9-2, 1.78 over 101.1 innings. Meaning Strasburg has toiled barely a third of the time of his counterparts.
Of course it is important to keep the context that the All Star Game is an exhibition affair. True, there has been an attempt to legitimize the game recently by awarding the World Series home field advantage to the winning team, and that is truly no small prize.
The Game, though, is still an exhibition affair. The stats don't count, for one. But, the game was introduced in the 30's to rekindle interest in baseball, after attendance tanked as a result of the Great Depression. Originally, the manager of each league selected his team, but in the 50's, when fan voting in Cincinnati ran amok, and Wally Post and Gus Bell made the team along with their outfield mate at Crosley Field, Frank Robinson.
Now, Bell and Post were pretty good, but the NL had some outfielders at the time who were as good. Like Hank Aaron. Wille Mays. Duke Snider. So, the selection from the votes of the fans, to the consensus best nine among the players, coaches, and managers was invoked. And, that is arguably the best solution for truly selecting the best players.
Unfortunately, fans were and are not so enamored and after the game became ho-hum, the power to select the starting eight position players was returned to fan voting in 1970.
Since then, there have been controversies, as there always will, about who makes the team and who doesn't. Equity, with the manager selecting 24 more players, including the pitching staff, which will round out the team lies with the manager of the respective team.
To me, knowing all the above, I don't think Strasburg deserves to be selected, and not just because he has not paid his dues, for Fydrich and Valenzuela had not really done that when they played in the game their first time. It just doesn't seem right. But, the fans, it seems, want Strasburg in the game. Of course, they also preferred Wally Post to Roberto Clemente, so the judgement of the fans is not always so keen.
But, one other change in the game over the years is that the manager of each team will nominate five players, and the fans get to vote and select that player. So, if NL manager Charlie Manuel is smart, he will nominate Strasburg as one of the five. And the fans will vote him in. And, justice will be served. Should Strasburg not be voted in, well the fans will have spoken.
In either event, justice will have been served.
Interleague play hasbeen a lot of fun this time for a few reasons.
I got to see Jake Arrieta and the Orioles take on the Giants, and even wrote some thoughts about Arrieta at the Zen Zone a few weeks back (in a nutshell, Arrieta was not as effective as his stat line showed).
Last Sunday, the Giants played the Red Sox at ATT on a glorious Sunday where everything was perfect except for Tim Lincecum, who stuggled through 79 pitches over three innings, and was bested by the totally dominant Jon Lester. I did see Red Sox rookie, and personal fave, Daniel Nava that game, but it was pretty hard to get a read on him. Although, since Nava is from the Bay Area, I want to think the best.
In between, however, I saw the Pirates play the Athletics in Oakland, and that meant seeing the quartet of Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez, and Brad Lincoln, who was the starting pitcher.
Walker was most impressive, drilling a single, then a double, and then a homer over his first three at-bats, zeroing in a the cycle. That was until he collided with Ryan Church and suffered a concussion, pulling him from the game. Note Walker's defense was at best adequate: he committed an error and his range was not particularly good.
Tabata, who I saw at the Fall League, got a hit and stole a base, and was holding his own. I actually like Tabata as a prospect in every way, shape, and form. I do think he will become a solid player, and as a 21-year old rookie, he will struggle, hitting around .240-.250 for the remainder of the season.
On the other hand, new third sacker Pedro Alavarez was seriously overmatched. He took the golden sombrero, whiffing four straight times, hitting .152 as the game started. Undisciplined, I have to think Alvarez will go back to Triple-A to get his confidence and his swing back.
But, it was Lincoln who confused me. He is a big guy, listing at 6'4", 215, but I would bet he weighs more than that. Not dominant, Lincoln was in trouble all through his six innings, allowing eight hits and a pair of walks, striking out just batter, the last one he faced.
Five days later Lincoln tossed seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and a walking while striking out six Cubs. Now, the Cubbies are not as patient as the Athletics, but despite a 1-2 mark his last three starts, which were all quality starts, I just don't see Lincoln as a future Mark Buehrle.
He looked more like a middle reliever, or at best fourth starter, and those he only has allowed nine walks over his 33 innings (31 hits), Lincoln has whiffed just 14 (1.31 WHIP), as noted, I see Kiek Reuter more than Mr. Buehrle.
Of course, the beauty of prospects is speculation and hope, not harsh reality. At least not for a few year.
From all of us at Mastersball, have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July.