Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Jim Leyland and the End of an Era

Jim Leyland formally announced his retirement last week with his Tigers being defeated in the ALCS by the Boston Red Sox. This season is significant because two old school managers (Davey Johnson retired at the end of the season from his position as manager of the Washington Nationals) have stepped down which leads me to believe that we are entering a new phase when it comes to managers in MLB.

Aside from established older school managers Mike Scioscia, Bruce Bochy, Ron Gardenhire, Terry Francona and Buck Showalter, it seems that teams are willing to take chances on younger, less experienced managers. Look at the examples of Mike Matheny of the St. Louis Cardinals, Walt Weiss of the Colorado Rockies, Bo Porter of the Houston Astros, Ryne Sandberg of the Philadelphia Phillies, Mike Redmond of the Miami Marlins and Robin Ventura of the Chicago Cubs all have two years or less managerial experience (at the end of this past season). Even "seasoned" managers like Kirk Gibson, John Farrell, Don Mattingly and Ron Roenicke only have four years or less under their belt as managers at the Major League level.

Now this isn't taking account any coaching experience at the lower levels or as bench coaches. I'm just highlighting that there seems to be a trend that has younger and possibly more progressive managers at the helm of Major League teams. Billy Beane's "Moneyball" philosophy eschews many of the old school philosophies that might be associated with older more established managers who might be hesitant to try something new. The younger managers might be more pliable and open to trying new methods and unorthodox baseball techniques in the way Joe Maddon has utilized in Tampa Bay and to a certain degree Clint Hurdle in Pittsburgh.

How does this bode for former managers Charlie Manuel and Dusty Baker? Will they be relegated to the position of scouts, advisors and/or television analysts? I believe that we will indeed see less of the hiring of the old names. I think many of the younger General Managers are willing to hire managers that are closer to their age than an older manager that would cause conflict due to age and philosophical differences. The recycling of old managers and the same names of the past might have come to an end. I believe this is actually a good thing. It might be time to bring in some new blood.

Agree? Disagree?

Sisco Kid

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2013 Baseball Bloggers Alliance End of Season Awards AL Vote

This past Baseball season was one of the most exciting in recent years with the second Wild Card extending pennant races for a number of teams. So as per custom of the membership requirements for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, here are my picks for the end of the year voting for the American League.

American League
Connie Mack Award (Top Manager)
John Farrell
Terry Francona
Bob Melvin
Joe Girardi

Though both Francona and Melvin had amazing years guiding their teams to the postseason and Girardi did an amazing job keeping a patchwork Yankees team in contention until the last week of the season, I have to give my vote to John Farrell. Reversing the fortunes of the Boston Red Sox in one season and erasing the negativity that was felt in Boston under Bobby Valentine is enough for me to say that he is the Manager of the Year in the American League.

Willie Mays Award (Top Rookie)
Wil Myers
Dan Straily
Jose Iglesias

While Straily and Iglesias had impressive rookie campaigns in 2013, I believe Wil Myers of the Tampa Bay Rays will win the Top Rookie award in the American League. He was one of the main cogs in the Tampa Bay machine that once again had a successful campaign in one of the hardest divisions in Baseball.

Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever)
Greg Holland
Joe Nathan
Grant Balfour
Koji Uehara

Where Balfour energized the A's with his dynamic intensity, Nathan was his usual calming effect and consistent self while on the mound for the Rangers and Uehara was lights out when officially becoming the closer for the Red Sox, I believe the top reliever in the American League is Greg Holland of the Kansas City Royals. As I mentioned earlier in the season, Holland had the most quiet 40+ saves seasons probably in the history of the game. He was one of the main reasons why the Royals finished with their best season since 1985.

Walter Johnson Award (Top Pitcher)
Max Scherzer
Yu Darvish
Felix Hernandez
Anibal Sanchez
Hisashi Iwakuma
Bartolo Colon

While the other hurlers on this list all had impressive seasons, Max Scherzer made Tim McCarver seem like a genius in validating his prediction for Scherzer for American League Cy Young Award winner. While many critics like to point to the fact that the Tigers score a tremendous amount of runs for Scherzer, his performance all season AND in this postseason shows how valuable and dominant a pitcher Scherzer is.

Stan Musial Award (Top Hitter)
Miguel Cabrera
Mike Trout
Chris Davis

I could really add a few more names to this list but let's be honest. The top hitter in the American League is Miguel Cabrera. Both Trout and Davis put up amazing seasons and either one would be a shoo in for this award except that I believe Cabrera had a better season while playing hurt the last month or so of the season. I really believe that we are watching something special in Cabrera. Something that we might not see in another generation or so.

In my next post I'll highlight my picks for the National League.

Sisco Kid

The New York Yankees Brawl at the Copa 1957

As I stated in my blogpost The Cocktail List at the Copacabana 1943 on my blog Sisco Vanilla Serves and Drinks, I'm going to attempt to do some cross-promoting among my blogs including my NYCHistory blog page. For my Fall and Winter 2013 reading/research project I'm going to try and read up on some of the classic New York City cafe society bars, saloon, night clubs and lounges that help make New York City a center of entertainment during the early part of the 20th century.

I recently finished reading The Copa: Jules Podell and the Hottest Little Club North of Havana by Mickey Podell-Raber with Charles Pignone. The author is the daughter of longtime Copacabana proprietor Jules Podell and the book is part family biography and part history of the nightclub. The book is a quick and easy read, full of both family pictures and pictures at the club with various celebrities and dignitaries. I recommend it.

Now you might be asking yourself: What does the Copacabana have to do with Baseball? Well, during the Baseball season of 1957, there was an incident that occurred at the Copa involving a number of the World Champion New York Yankee players including future Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford among others. In an era where news media often gave a blind eye to the extra curricular activities of athletes, this incident became big news nationwide. Since Mrs. Podell-Raber does a good job in describing what happened, read what she had to say in her book:
On the evening of May 16, 1957, a melee broke out at the Copacabana that would have a dramatic effect on the New York Yankees. That evening the nightclub and sports world would collide, and there would be no way to quash the story. Although the press was less invasive in the lives of celebrities and sports figures back then, this story was to hot to bury. While there has never been an accurate factual account that all agree upon and the participants' stories have varied, this seems to be what transpired that night at the Copa.

Several Yankee players who frequented the Copa regularly decided to meet at the nightclub in honor of Billy Martin's twenty-ninth birthday. Those attending the party included Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer, Whitey Ford, and Mickey Mantle, along with their wives. Sammy Davis Jr. happened to be the headliner that evening and a group of intoxicated bowling buddies began heckling him during the performance. According to those in the audience, the bowlers started shouting racial slurs at Davis. The Yankee players were livid and told the guys to sit down and shut up. After a few terse words were exchanged, the Copa staff appeared to have calmed everything down. While peace and quiet prevailed in the show room, it did not elsewhere in the club. One of the intoxicated hecklers would be found later, lying unconscious and with a broken nose, on the floor of the Copa men's room. Many believe the man had followed Hank Bauer into the bathroom, and Bauer took matters into his own hands. Bauer denied hitting the bowler, who later sued him for aggravated assault, but Bauer was found not guilty. The incident made headlines in the New York-area papers and around the country the next day. Several of the Yankees involved were fined $1,000 each by Yankee general manager George Weiss, while Billy Martin would eventually be traded to Kansas City. The Yankee front office blamed Martin for the trouble and believed him to be a bad influence on his teammates.

Mickey Mantle later recounted his version of what happened that night: "Two bowling teams came in to celebrate their victories. Sammy Davis Jr. was the entertainer. They kept calling him 'little black Sambo' and stuff like that. Billy and Hank kept telling them a couple times to sit down. They kept standing up. The next thing I knew was that the cloakroom was filled with people swinging. I was so drunk I didn't know who threw the first punch. A body came flying out and landed at my feet. At first i thought it was Billy [Martin], so I picked him up. But when I saw it wasn't I dropped him back down. It looked like Roy Rogers rode through on Trigger, and Trigger kicked the guy in the face." Yogi Berra was quoted at the time as saying, "Nobody did nothin' to nobody!"
Imagine something like this happening today with let's say Jeter, Cano, Sabathia, Rodriguez, Granderson among others getting into a drunken brawl at the 40-40 club. We wouldn't hear the end of it in every single media market. According to the article Yanks Play the Copa from the New York Times dated May 16, 1957:
Six members of the world champion New York Yankees were involved in a postmidnight disturbance tonight during a party at the Copacabana nightclub in Manhattan. The Yankees, who were at the club to celebrate Billy Martin's 29th birthday, included Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer, Whitey Ford, Johnny Kucks and Martin. The disturbance stemmed from an argument between the players and members of a bowling club who also were celebrating at the club.
A June 4th article stated the following:
Mantle, Berra, Bauer, Ford and Martin were fined $1,000 each and Kucks, a young pitcher in a lower salary bracket than the others, was fined $500. The fines were deducted from the checks the players received at the Yankee Stadium two days ago...Berra, Bauer and Kucks confirmed the fines. Ford insisted, "I wasn't fined." When pressed, he said: "I was told what to say. They haven't announced it, so why should I?"
Bauer would be cleared of all charges by the Grand Jury and the lawsuit against him was eventually dropped. Billy Martin became the scapegoat of the incident and was shipped off to the Kansas City A's in an eight-player trade on June 15, 1957 which included Ralph Terry, Woodie Held and Bob Martyn for outfielder Harry Simpson, reliever Ryne Duren and outfielder Jim Pisoni . But his history of fist-a-cuffs did not start or end there. According to his obituary Billy Martin of the Yankees Killed in Crash on Icy Road from the New York Times dated December 26, 1989:
He had fights with Clint Courtney, a catcher for the St. Louis Browns, in 1952 and 1953. He and several teammates, including Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, were involved in a fight at the Copacabana nightclub in New York in 1957. In 1960, he broke the jaw of a Chicago pitcher, Jim Brewer, and Mr. Brewer later won $10,000 in a lawsuit. As a manager, in 1969, Mr. Martin knocked out one of his players, Dave Boswell, who was fighting another player. In 1979, it was with a marshmallow salesman; in 1985, one of his own players, Ed Whitson, who broke Mr. Martin's arm in a furious fight at a Baltimore hotel; in 1988, in the men's restroom at a topless bar in Texas.
This does take into consideration all suspensions that Martin received from arguments with umpires throughout his career. That Billy was quite the scrapper.

Click on the following video to hear Mickey Mantle's version of what happened:

My how things have changed since the late 1950's. ;)
Sisco Kid.

Friday, October 11, 2013

And The Baseball "Meek" Do Not Inherit The Earth

Where the underdogs came into the postseason hope and aspiration by the end of the DIvision Series round all hope has been erased. Tampa Bay, Oakland and Pittsburgh have been defeated by Baseball powerhouses Boston, Detroit and St. Louis to set up a Championship Series full of old school Baseball towns.

I was really looking forward to a Pittsburgh vs Oakland or Tampa Bay World Series. There was something innocent in that kind of match up. Three young, small market teams who play for franchises that either haven't been in a World Series in a generation (or two) or a team that has only been to one World Series in their brief history. I could afford to want that as a Baseball fan since my team didn't make the postseason. Alas, it was not to be.

In the American League the Boston Red Sox will host the Detroit Tigers starting Saturday while in the National League the St. Louis Cardinals will host the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday.

All four came into the postseason with a World Series or bust mentality. Now it's up to two of them to get to the Fall Classic. May the best teams win.

Sisco Kid