Rickey’s The Best

Twenty five random but hilarious stories about Ricky Henderson, who played for multiple MLB teams but spent the majority of his career with the Oakland A’s and NY Yankees.

The story went that a few weeks into Henderson’s stint with the Mariners, he walked up to [John] Olerud at the batting cage and asked him why he wore a batting helmet in the field. Olerud explained that he had an aneurysm at nine years old and he wore the helmet for protection. Legend goes that Henderson said, “Yeah, I used to play with a guy that had the same thing.” Legend also goes that Olerud said, “That was me, Rickey.”

Henderson played with Olerud on the Blue Jays and the Mets.

And another…

To this day and dating back 25 years, before every game he plays, Henderson stands completely naked in front of a full length locker room mirror and says, “Ricky’s the best,” for several minutes.

via American McCarver

Coping With The Disaster

John Berman at ABC News offered up a great “out of office” notice for New England fans reeling from last night’s culmination of the Red Sox epic September collapse:

What is a Red Sox fan to do today? I hope to provide some practical assistance. Accordingly, below you will see my e-mail “out of office” reply. You are welcome to cut and paste it into your own. I find it weeds out some of the annoying correspondence I am getting.
—————
I am in the office, but filtering e-mails with the following warnings:
1) If you are NOT from a certain part of the country (New England), please be aware of the following:
–You are probably NOT as funny as you think you are.
–No, I don’t “have to admit” it was an amazing game. I don’t “have to admit” anything. This is America, and I have amendments on my side.
–There is a good chance I already don’t like you.
2) If you are from the New England area:
–No, I can’t believe it either.
–No, I don’t want to talk about it.
–In fact, let’s never speak of this again…filing it away with that Super Bowl, 1986, and that thing with the glittered indelible body paint.

Red Sox vs The World

Earlier, I was over at Flip Flop Fly In, the awesome site by Craig Robinson that has all sorts of baseball infographics.  I was intrigued by one that compared the all time records of the White Sox and the Red Sox (a vernable battle of the, er, Soxes), and it got me thinking about how the Red Sox have done against other teams.  So as Craig does, I headed over to Baseball Reference to check out the details and channel my inner Cliff Clavin.

Since 1901, the Red Sox have won a total of 8,877 games, while losing 8,270 (across AL and NL teams, although the vast majority of the games have obviously come against AL teams), giving them an all time winning percentage of .518. For comparison, that ranks the Sox 4th all time behind the Yankees (.568), the NY/SF Giants (.538), and the Brooklyn/LA Dodgers (.524) and basically tied with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Red Sox have had the most success against the Baltimore Orioles, winning 1,148 games against 930 losses, for a .552 winning percentage. Sadly, the Sox have had the least success against the Yankees, with 950 wins against 1,127 losses, or 177 games below .500.

What’s worse, the Yankees are one of only two AL teams who have scored more runs than the Sox in head to head competition.  The Yanks are averaging 8% (0.39 more runs per game) more runs per game when playing the Sox.

On a relative basis, the Red Sox have had the most success against the Tampa Bay Rays, winning 60% of the game against them (139-92).

Surprisingly, the other AL team that has given the Red Sox trouble is the Cleveland Indians.  The Indians are averaging 3% (0.14 RPG) more runs per game vs the Red Sox, and have beaten the Sox 1,019 times (vs. 956 wins by Boston).  The only other AL team that the Red Sox have a losing record against is, of all teams, the Kansas City Royals.  The Royals hold a 2 game advantage over the Red Sox as of today, however the Red Sox have outscored them by about 5% on a per game basis.

The Red Sox have the most absolute wins against the Orioles, the Oakland A’s (1,053), and the Detroit Tigers (1,018).  They are the only three teams who the Sox have won over 1,000 game against.  The next closest team to the 1,000 win plateau is the aforementioned Indians.

So there you go, a quick synopsis of what the Red Sox have done against the American League since 1901.  You can see the full grid of stats against all MLB teams here.  I didn’t include NL teams as there are just not enough games played against that league, leaving the data a bit unstable since there were so few games to draw from.  One item that was interesting within the set of NL teams was that the Sox have only played the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds 6 times each during the regular season.

No Balls And Two Strikes

How can two marquee franchises in the two biggest markets in the country be in such dissaray? And why are they being handled so differently by MLB?  Its because of the Major League Baseball “Buddy” system

Bud Selig’s golf buddy Fred Wilpon got taken to the financial cleaners by Bernie Madoff, is now getting sued by the trustee of Madoff’s victims, the Wilpon’s are begging for loans and trying to sell up to 49% of the Mets (so they can still be in control…if only by the skin of their teeth) and the Mets are in an epic state of disarray. But a discussion about MLB taking over the Mets is not on the table.

The LA Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has been dragged through the tabloids because of an ugly divorce, he has run this storied franchise into financial disarray through his real estate dealings (and the hangover from the housing crisis that just won’t go away), and he’s scoring rouge loans from Fox TV (MLB’s broadcast partner) to meet payroll.

So how is it that MLB made a shotgun decision to take over operations of the Dodgers yesterday yet are letting the NY Madoffs Mets continue to beg for funding?  I admit not to knowing the gory details, but you can’t tell me that the Mets are in any better a financial or operational situation than the Dodgers.   The Madoff – Wilpon situation underscored a question I always had about the Wilpon’s financial “fortune” – how exactly did they do it? Smoke and mirrors come to mind.  The McCourt situation is just as big an epic #fail.  To me, Selig’s taking over of the Dodgers, and not doing the same with the Mets, reeks of cronyism – a “Buddy” system.

But hey, lets go ahead and keep a painfully long 162 game schedule AND expand the playoffs so we can sit in 28 degree weather off of Lake Erie (or in Fenway or in Yankee Stadium) for the first ever 5 hour long prime time baseball game in December.

I Want My Apple TV

Apple

Actually, I already have it.  And I love it.

I’m bringing this up because Crunchgear reported that ATV has sold ~2 Million In about 7 months. Clearly I’m not alone.

What I’m liking is the on demand element of the service. Whatever I want to watch is only a few clicks away. Its seamlessly integrated with Netflix, YouTube and many of the top video podcasts out there. I can easily buy/rent movies from iTunes, although Netflix somewhat solves for that. And it enables me to connect to online services like Flickr and other “cloud” services. One big downfall has been the lack of support for “have to watch live” events like sports…but that was recently solved with MLB.TV and NBA League Pass announcing deals with Apple where you can stream any and all league games via Apple TV. For someone like me who’s a Red Sox/Celtics fan living in pseudo – enemy territory (New Jersey…but I do like the Knicks. Long story.), this is a huge win.

But what really pushes it further for me is the seamless integration with the iOS “ecosystem”. Drop a movie in iTunes, and you can easily stream it to your TV via ATV. Want to listen to your music in your TV room via your surround sound speakers, just navigate to your music library and hit play.

I’m not going to get all “tech pundit” on you and say you “have to get it”. Go get a Roku box if you prefer. But go try it. Its only around $100 for either ATV or Roku. You won’t be disappointed.

Thud

That’s the sound of the Red Sox after opening the 2011 season by getting slapped around and swept out of Texas by the Rangers. These games were not even close – the Sox got outplayed across the board. Here’s the overall line for the Rangers’ offense: 34 of 102 this weekend with 26 runs scored and 21 extra-base hits, 11 of them home runs. They also drew 10 walks. That’s a .333 Batting Average/.409 Slugging Percentage /.775 OBP line. All the concerns about John Lackey – they are very real (Thankfully, we didn’t see Josh Beckett along with Lackey).

Yes, there are still 159 games left in the season. Yes, its a little early to be jumping off bridges. But wow, did Texas make a statement this weekend.

Bing Crosby and The Kid

Teddy Ballgame

Over the weekend, there were two great vintage baseball stories in the NY Times.

The first was a profile of John Updike’s seminal baseball essay The Hub Bids Kid Adieu. The essay documented the famous last game that Ted Williams played for the Red Sox, when he hit a home run in his final at bat in the majors yet refused to acknowledge the crowd and the press as he rounded the bases for the final time. Over the years, Williams’ relationship with the Boston press and the Red Sox fan base was hardly cordial. The irony is that Updike was not even planning on being in attendance at that game:

Only 10,455 fans turned up to say goodbye to Williams, who was 42, hobbled by aches and pains. Among them, sitting behind third base, was 28-year-old John Updike, who had actually scheduled an adulterous assignation that day. But when he reached the woman’s apartment, on Beacon Hill, he found that he had been stood up: no one was home. “So I went, as promised, to the game,” he wrote years later, “and my virtue was rewarded.

If you have not read the original essay in the New Yorker, I highly recommend it.

An even more important story surfaced this weekend about Bing Crosby and his passion for the game of baseball. I was surprised to learn that Crosby was a part owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. His ownership spanned the 1960 season when the Pirates famously beat the NY Yankees in the seventh game of that series on Bill Mazeroski’s 9th inning, game 7 home run. With Crosby’s hectic travel schedule due to his “day job”, he did not get to see his Pirates play as much as he would have liked. During the 1960 World Series, he was too nervous to watch the series so he traveled to France and listened to the game on wireless radio. So what else did he do? He recorded the broadcast!

He knew he would want to watch the game later — if his Pirates won — so he hired a company to record Game 7 by kinescope, an early relative of the DVR, filming off a television monitor. The five-reel set, found in December in Crosby’s home, is the only known complete copy of the game, in which Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski hit a game-ending home run to beat the Yankees, 10-9. It is considered one of the greatest games ever played.

Crosby, the singer and movie, radio and TV star, had more foresight than the television networks and stations, which erased or discarded nearly all of the Major League Baseball games they carried until the 1970s.

A canny preservationist of his own legacy, Crosby, who died in 1977, kept a half-century’s worth of records, tapes and films in the wine cellar turned vault in his Hillsborough, Calif., home.

So for the first time in 50 years, the full broadcast of the famouse 7th Game of the 1960 World Series will be able to be viewed in its entirety when its re-broadcast this October. I can’t wait and like Mr. Crosby, I’ll have to find a nice scotch on the rocks to enjoy during the broadcast

Cautionary Baseball Tales

Stephen Strasburg

Earlier in the decade, Mark Prior was the big pitching phenom.  He was a star at USC,  was drafted at the top of the draft by the Chicago Cubs, and was in the major leagues in 2003, within a year or so of being drafted.  His name could have been changed to “Can’t Miss”. Problem was, his arm did not agree with all the pundits. By 2006 he was out of baseball after numerous arm surgeries, unfortunate injuries, and a fateful collision with a guy named Bartman.

It is easy, because it has been so long since he has pitched in a major league game, to forget how exceptional Prior was. He was hailed as a once-in-a-generation pitcher at Southern California, with an unheard-of 17-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and seemingly flawless mechanics. The small-market Minnesota Twins, perhaps scared off by Prior’s price, chose a hometown product, Joe Mauer, with the top pick in the 2001 draft and lavished him with a $5.15 million signing bonus, a record. About six weeks later, the Cubs, who chose Prior second, gave him $10.5 million.

Today, Prior is attempting to make his comeback to the majors by playing in a semi-pro league out in his hometown of San Diego.

I bring all of this up because on Friday, today’s phenom of the year Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to have “Tommy John” surgery on his once golden right arm that has taken MLB by storm this year. And I do mean “taken by storm”. The well deserved hype surrounding Strasburg was off the charts in today’s 24/7 online media world. Like Mark Prior, Strasburg has (or now, had?) all the natural gifts and tools to be special. But with this injury, the hyped up sports world has to again ask “what if” with this newest athlete of the moment. Will he fall on the phenom scrap heap along with David Clyde, Joe Charboneau, and Brien Taylor? Or will he come back and continue (in 2012) on the amazing trajectory he has been on this year?

Destiny is an evil bitch sometimes.

Baseball Stadium Panoramics

This past weekend, I was down in the Baltimore-Washington area with the family. The main reason we went there was to see the Red Sox play the Orioles on Sunday. On a whim, we also went to see the Washington Nationals game in their somewhat new stadium on Saturday evening (vs the Cincinnati Reds).

With these visits to these two MLB stadiums, I took a few pictures, including stitching together a series of photos of each of the stadiums to create panoramics of each one. So here they are. Click on the images to view larger versions.

Nationals Park – Home of the Washington Nationals

Camden Yards – Home of the Baltimore Orioles

New Babe Ruth Footage

Some new footage was of Babe Ruth was recently discovered in a home movie collection from a family in New Hampshire.

The latest Babe Ruth film, unseen publicly until now, is part of a 90-second clip shot from the first-base stands at Yankee Stadium. There is no sound. But there are sweeping views of the park. And there is Ruth, obvious by his shape and waddle.

Here’s hoping this discovery will place a curse on the Yankees this post seeason. :)

Guess That ’70’s Ballplayer

I saw this post on Chad Finn’s Touching All The Bases blog titled “Guess That 1970’s Baseball Player”, and the first player listed was none other than Steve Garvey of LA Dodger fame. Chad noted Garvey’s troubles in his post-playing days and it got me to thinking of a random interaction I had with Garvey many years ago.

When I worked in the Advertising industry, I was regularly taken out to lunch or dinner or whatever by magazines and TV networks. Once, the now defunked Sport Magazine took me and a female colleage out to lunch. The Sport Mag rep brought along to this lunch their “honorary” publisher (or whatever his fluff title was) at the time, Steve Garvey. Obviously, Garvey had no flipping idea how to run a magazine and his purpose was nothing more than for publicity and promotions as Sport was trying (and failing) to compete for advertising business against Sports Illustrated.

Now, the female colleage that was also at this lunch was, shall we say, very easy on the eyes. And wouldn’t you know that Garvey could not keep his toungue in his mouth throughout the lunch. When the lunch ended, he gave us each an autographed baseball (a little cheezy, I must say) and I distinctly recall him saying something to the effect of “you sweet young thing” to my colleage.

So when I see all the troubles Garvey has had since leaving baseball, I recall is this incident and say: Why doesn’t this surprise me?

Baseball1

Stupid Baseball Men

So baseball and their genius PR managers pulled out another brilliant move with their “marketing” deal with Sony Pictures and Spider Man II to put ads on the bases across all MLB stadiums. This is easily one of the dumbest ideas I have ever heard of from a marketing perspective. Not only did it violate the sanctity and history of the game, but practically speaking, did they really think that fans in the stands would actually be able to see the ads on the bases, which last I heard, is a critical aspect of advertising? Its like Spider Man II’s target audience was really millionaire baseball players who run or slide, because they would be the only ones who would actually be close enough to see the damn things. Add to this the fact that teams like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox (Disclosure: I am a lifelong Red Sox fan.) would get more revenue from the deal and it just makes the whole think reek.

Baseball has once again shot itself in the foot. I love the game, I follow it passionately. But they have to get these idiots out of the front office and get some people to run the show that can effectively balance and build on the storied history of the game while at the same time market the sport to fans young and old. That is not an easy task, but I am confident someone is out there that could do it. Bob Costas for Commissioner!