Tag Archives: MLB

Sign-stealing scandal claims another field boss

Wow! It looks as though the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal is way bigger than I imagined.

A third field manager has been sent to the proverbial showers. Carlos Beltran, who was supposed to manage the New York Mets this coming season, is now the former Mets manager. Why? Because he, too, was among those mentioned by Commissioner Rob Manfred in the sign-stealing scandal involving the Astros and their now-controversial 2017 World Series championship.

Beltran was a veteran member of the Astros when they won the World Series and, I guess, he was deeply involved in the sign-stealing tactics employed during the Series.

The Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers three seasons ago in the Series. They cheated, though, by stealing signs and transmitting that theft using high-tech hardware from the outfield to the bullpen. It’s really weird, given that sign-stealing on the field has been part of the game since its inception. Runners on second base watch the signs the catcher flashes to the pitcher and somehow communicate what he sees to the batter.

The Astros went way beyond that.

Major League Baseball was going to suspend the Astros’ general manager Jeff Luhnow and field manager AJ Hinch for the season. The Astros, though, fired them both. Then came the boot delivered to Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was bench coach for the Astros during the 2017 season and was part of the sign-theft crisis.

Now. Beltran is gone.

The question is circulating about whether MLB should vacate the 2017 Series title won by the Astros. I hope the Astros get to keep the trophy. I also don’t want them to have to bear an asterisk next to their designation as World Series champs.

The Astros could do the sportsmanlike thing and perhaps offer the Dodgers a share of the trophy. Maybe the Astros organization can make a profound public apology to the Dodgers for doing what they did during the Series.

I am dubious about whether the Astros’ tactics proved decisive, that they would not have won without cheating. I am not sure how you prove such a thing.

My strong hunch, though, is that there might be more heads to roll before this matter gets settled once and for all.

Now I am feeling badly for dismissing the scandal initially. Yeah, this is a big deal.

R.I.P., Mr. Perfect Game

Don Larsen pitched one whale of a Major League Baseball game back on Oct. 8, 1956.

He was throwing for the New York Yankees in that year’s World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. He threw a perfect game. Twenty-seven batters came to the plate; they made 27 outs.

It was picture perfect.

Larsen died on New Year’s Day at the age of 90. Media have reported that Larsen pitched the “only perfect game in World Series history.”

I want to put that feat into its proper perspective. Not only did he throw the only perfect game, he threw the only World Series no-hitter … period! Do you get where I’m going with this? No-hitters themselves are worth noting, even if runners reach base on a walk, or a fielding error.

The very notion that Larsen’s feat was even more expansive than a “perfect game” is worthy of saluting as the New York Yankees legend is laid to rest.

Why comment on the Soddies? Let me count the reasons

I don’t know this to be fact, but there well might be some eyebrow-raising among Amarillo baseball fans regarding these occasional blog posts from someone who no longer lives in Amarillo.

So, with that I’ll provide an answer … or three.

I am a baseball fan. A big part of me wishes I could attend Amarillo Sod Poodles baseball games at Hodgetown. I cannot, given that I now live in Collin County. Still, my interest in baseball goes back to my boyhood. I love watching the game. I loved playing the game, although I didn’t work hard enough to become good enough to play it for any length of time.

I once was a longtime Major League Baseball fan. I followed Mickey Mantle’s career from the early 1950s until it ended prior to the start of the 1969 season. My mornings from April to October every year compelled me to look at the sports pages of my hometown newspaper to see how Mickey did the night before.

I love the game of baseball! So, there’s that.

I am proud of Amarillo’s downtown revival. I lived in Amarillo long enough to watch its downtown transform from a moribund, semi-conscious business district into something that is taking deep breaths and is reviving before our very eyes. I am glad to know the Sod Poodles, the AA baseball franchise that relocated there from San Antonio, are a big part of that revival.

I want to comment on that revival whenever I get the chance or sense there’s something new and worthy of commentary.

My interest in the city hasn’t abated since our departure. My wife and I departed Amarillo in the spring of 2018. We settled initially in Fairview, tucked between Allen and McKinney just north of Dallas. Then we moved to Princeton early this year. I am getting acquainted with the politics of Princeton and Collin County.

However, one doesn’t spend nearly 18 years commenting in local media about a community’s health and well-being and live there for more than 23 years without retaining an interest in the goings-on.

My interest is strong. I like commenting on positive trends I see developing there. Yes, I also intend to keep my eyes and ears open to matters that deserve a more critical look, and I have done that on occasion.

As for the Amarillo Sod Poodles, well … I intend to make my former city’s business my own business.

I appreciate the interest in what I have to say. To those who might wonder why I bother, I do so because I feel like it.

Affiliated baseball has its highs and a few lows

This comes as no great flash for baseball fans, but communities that play host to minor-league baseball franchises face the reality of losing their biggest stars when they perform well on the field of play.

My friends in Amarillo, Texas, are learning that fact of baseball life as they follow the fortunes of the Sod Poodles, the AA team affiliated with the National League San Diego Padres.

The Padres recently called up two players to the Big Leagues. Why? Because the players earned their spots on the Padres roster.

The Sod Poodles currently are leading the South Division of the Texas League; they captured the first-half title. So the team is having a pretty stellar maiden season in the Texas League. They used to be known as the San Antonio Missions, but the Alamo City was rewarded with a AAA franchise that relocated from Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Sod Poodles will keep playing hardball at Hodgetown and at venues around the league. They will be without Adrian Morejon and Michel Baez, who got the call to suit up with the parent club.

This is what happens. The players who play a major part in a team’s success are so good at what they do that the team at the top of the heap wants to reap the reward, too.

The better Major League Baseball franchise management teams, though, know to replenish the “farm team” roster with players who can help the minor-league outfit keep winning, and winning does produce bigger crowds, which produce more revenue, which enables the team to afford to pay the better players, who keep the winning tradition alive.

Do you get my drift?

It wasn’t that way when Amarillo was home to “independent” baseball teams that played in that rathole/dump at the Tri-State Fairgrounds. It’s a new era for minor-league baseball in Amarillo. The fans are reaping a nice reward with a winning baseball team.

However, when the “parent club” calls the names of the players responsible for the winning, well … you know how it goes.

Get used to it, Sod Poodles fans.

Resounding ‘no!’ on Rose for the Hall of Fame

One of those “like and share” memes showed up on my Facebook feed this morning; it pitches the idea that former Major League Baseball star Pete Rose deserves induction into the baseball Hall of Fame.

I want to “share” this view: Absolutely not! There is no way Rose should be inducted into MLB’s hallowed shrine.

OK, I get that “Charlie Hustle” is the all-time hit leader. I realize he won three batting titles during his career playing for the Cincinnati Reds, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Montreal Expos. He was one of the leaders of the Big Red Machine in the early 1970s. Yeah, the guy was a serious overachiever on the baseball field. Rose wasn’t blessed with great natural talent, but he worked his a** off to achieve excellence on the baseball field.

He also had a gambling problem. He bet on baseball games. Rose got caught doing it.

The baseball rulebook has a significant penalty attached to those who are caught gambling on baseball games. It calls for a “lifetime” ban from the game. That means, as I have interpreted it, that he can never be brought back into the game. Thus, he cannot be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Second chance? Forget about it!

Criminal defendants get sentenced to lifetime prison terms “with no possibility of parole.” I am not equating what Rose did with criminals who commit crimes such as murder or sexual assault, but the baseball rulebook does not stipulate a provision for a suspension of the “lifetime” ban from baseball.

You may accuse me of being a harda** if you wish. My love for the game of baseball is intact. Pete Rose sullied his on-the-field accomplishments by succumbing to his off-the-field weakness.

He doesn’t belong in baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Here come the Sod Poodles gags

Here they come. The jokes are going to become part of conversation in Amarillo, Texas, which is preparing to welcome the return of minor-league baseball next spring.

The hole you see in the picture above is meant to poke fun of the new baseball team’s name, the Amarillo Sod Poodles.

Sod Poodles supposedly is one archaic term for prairie dogs. I haven’t talked to anyone with any history in the Texas Panhandle or the High Plains who has heard of the term “Sod Poodles.”

Whatever, the jokes are piling up around the Panhandle.

My hunch is that the team owners are laughing hysterically themselves at what they have brought to the region.

The Sod Poodles will be a AA minor-league outfit affiliated with the National League’s San Diego Padres. The team used to play as the San Antonio Missions, but moved to Amarillo when San Antonio welcomed a AAA team.

My wife and I have moved away from Amarillo, but I am having fun watching this team’s presence in the city evolve and develop.

The multipurpose event venue/ballpark will be done by April 2019 when the Sod Poodles open Texas League play. They’ve laid down the sod. The structure is taking shape downtown.

And the jokes are flying.

Let’s play ball!

Astros vs. Brewers in World Series? Another MLB first?

For those of you who might be interested in truly useless information, I have a bit of it for you.

Major League Baseball’s league championship series are underway. The American League series features the defending Series champs Houston Astros vs. the Boston Red Sox; the National League pits the Milwaukee Brewers against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Follow me on this.

If the Brewers win the NLCS and the Astros win the ALCS, the 2018 World Series will be played by teams that both have appeared in the Fall Classic representing both leagues. The Chicago White Sox swept the Astros in 2005; the 1982 Brewers lost the Series in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

A member of my family is a diehard Dodgers fan. So, with all due respect to him, I’ll pull for the Brewers and the Astros to make MLB history.

There you have it. Is that totally useless info … or what?

You’re most welcome.

MPEV sprouts like a weed in downtown Amarillo

Holy cow! We haven’t been gone all that long  from Amarillo. We’re coming back for a quick visit and we’re going to see the change taking place at a rapid pace in the city’s downtown district.

A friend sent me this picture. It is of the multipurpose event venue — the “ballpark,” if you will — that’s under construction across the street from City Hall.

I am beginning to believe that, by golly, they’re going to be ready for the first pitch to be tossed in April 2019.

The ballpark will be home to an as-yet unnamed AA minor-league baseball team that’s affiliated officially with the San Diego Padres of the National League. I’m still pulling for Sod Poodles to be the new team’s name. So help me I don’t know why, but I have changed my initial opinion of that name that showed up on a list of finalists under consideration.

The ballpark continues to be very big deal for the city. It will cost an estimated $44 million. It will seat about 5,000 baseball fans. My hope — perhaps it’s even my hunch — is that the ballpark will be full of fans when someone throws the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day of the Texas League season in Amarillo.

I look forward to casting a gaze up close when we venture to Amarillo in a few days. We’ll be back just a few weeks later to attend a concert at the Civic Center.

I won’t be surprised to see that the ballpark/MPEV has sprouted even more dramatically as the city marches its downtown district to a bright future.

I hate wishing for a drought to continue in the Panhandle of Texas, but another dry winter — such as what the Panhandle experienced this past winter — will enable the contractor to finish the job on time.

This superstar is big enough already

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred no doubt meant well when he said some nice things about Mike Trout, who is generally considered to be the best player in baseball.

He said Trout, a center fielder for the Los Angeles Angels, would be an even “bigger star” if he “spent more time marketing himself.”

How about that? The commissioner is encouraging a young, relatively humble star athlete to engage in more self-aggrandizement.

Then came the response from the Angels organization. It was classic. The team’s response? Mike Trout is not wired in the way Manfred would like: “Combined with his talent, his solid character creates a perfect role model for young people everywhere. Each year, Mike devotes a tremendous amount of his time and effort contributing to our Organization and marketing Major League Baseball. He continually chooses to participate in the community, visiting hospitals, schools and countless other charities.”

Trout said: “I do as much as I can. But it’s a long baseball season. I got to pick and choose when I want to do things and go from there.”

It’s rare these days to see blue-chip athletes who earn millions of dollars annually to play a kids’ game who are not interested in looking for ways to improve their brand.

From all that I’ve read about Mike Trout — admittedly it’s not a great deal, but enough — he seems to be the genuine article. He is one hell of a baseball talent. He’s well compensated for his skill as a hitter, a defensive player and as a great teammate.

I won’t condemn the MLB commissioner for seeking even more glory for one of his sport’s premier athletes.

I will salute, however, Mike Trout and his team for saying, in effect: Thanks … but no thanks.

It’s all about baseball ‘marketing’

I am beginning to soften my view of those goofy finalist names for Amarillo’s new minor-league baseball team.

But only just a little.

I still dislike the five names they came up with. However, I am beginning to grasp the marketing techniques that the AA minor-league team ownership is using to sell the team to the public when it begins play in the downtown Amarillo baseball park in the spring of 2019.

The team’s general manager spoke this week of creating a “wholesome family entertainment” product that will play baseball at the multipurpose event venue.

They aren’t going to go with the usual Major League Baseball team nicknames, such as Cardinals, Giants, Tigers, Marlins … etc.

So what did the Amarillo management do? They pored through more than 3,000 submissions and came up with Jerky, Bronc Busters, Sod Poodles, Long Haulers and Boot Scooters.

If I had to choose a favorite among those finalists, I would settle on Bronc Busters. The worst happen to be Jerky and Sod Poodles.

An ABC 7 morning news anchor, Lisa Schmidt, noted this morning that she has lived in the Panhandle her entire life and has never heard the term Sod Poodles to describe prairie dogs. I’m hearing a lot of that around Amarillo over the past few days.

However, I am beginning to get why the team management has embarked on this goofy course. They want to establish a unique brand for the minor-league team that will play hardball in downtown Amarillo.

Let’s hope the brand sticks.