Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-5-17

5/17/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Top of the 1st
ERNIE WHO?
The Red Sox were rained out last night at Fenway and they will face the Tigers for a day/night doubleheader today (weather permitting). Julian Tavarez will face Mike Maroth in the first game, with Curt Schilling opposing Chad Durbin in the second.

Somewhat buried in Amalie Benjamin’s notes in today’s Boston Globe was this:
“He might not know who Ernie Banks is — he admitted as much when he was asked whether he agreed with the Hall of Famer’s “Let’s play two!” mentality — but Tavarez is the type who would be just as happy playing a doubleheader.”

Julian, this is not about you so please don’t take the criticism as such, but there is only one reason why you, or any of you folks reading my column this morning, should not have heard of Ernie Banks, and that is Major League Baseball’s lack of effort in acknowledging its history, teaching its past, and here is the biggest sin, not saluting its living legends.

I know we live in a Paris Hilton World where stars are stars simply because they are stars and not because they have done anything, but the beauty of baseball is that it builds upon itself. Its players who have been bricks of one era become the mortar for the stars of the next. The records that are set one day are only valued when they are broken, or not broken, the next day. They become standards of achievement and measures of comparison by which we can appreciate current accomplishments.

Because I care about the past does make me an old fuddy-duddy. I sit and watch “American Idol” with my daughter and my wife and I participated in their discussion as to whether Jordin and Blake are the most competitive two finalists the show has had to date. You know what kiddies? As they went through each of those final twos I realized that Idol now had history. It has frames of reference and levels of comparisons. And it doesn’t matter whether you watch it or not, these folks write the history books each week they are on the air. They are no different from sports, except their playing field is the stage.

Oh, and do those American Idol folks know how to market! They know how capture audiences and in the words of The Supremes (or Vanilla Fudge, if that’s your flavor), they know how to “keep you hanging on.” They work the medium. Television is not a cold medium to them it is hot, red hot. Interactive, alive and ready to be mixed with other media. You can go to your computer, cellphone, iPod, music store, concert hall, newspaper and watch, listen and buy American Idol.

Do not try and throw MLB.com in my face as baseball’s answer. They do it well, but in the words of Carly Simon, “Nobody does it better” than Idol.

One way they do it, and it is just one of many ways, is by embracing the past and not just past Idols. Guests on this number one rated show (no co-inky-dink there) this season included, Jon Bon Jovi (born on March 2, 1962), Barry Gibb (born on September 1, 1946), and Tony Bennett (born on August 3, 1926). My 14 year old daughter, Jennifer, now knows who all these performers are, isn’t that grand?

Isn’t that the way music should be taught and appreciated? Isn’t this a great example of teaching history? Isn’t this a model of brilliant marketing?

I propose that MLB, this refers to the Commissioner’s Office, start a program called “We Are Baseball” in which monthly a baseball star from the past is celebrated throughout baseball. This would mean that during that month MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), the interactive media and Internet company of Major League Baseball purchases advertising in team programs, websites, broadcasts, etc. that showcases information, video, interviews, photographs, about the past stars of the game.

Hopefully, each team will then add their own player from their past. For example, “We Are Baseball – Toronto Blue Jays” should have a month about Joe Carter and another month about Tony Fernandez, then Dave Steib, Jesse Barfield, Cito Gasto, Alfredo Griffin, and that’s just a start. A month for one player and those connected to that player for all fans, young and old, to learn about and appreciate. This would provide a foundation in which to build the future fans.

No other sport has this treasure trove and we should tap into this fortune while the players are alive – Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Juan Marichal, Johnny Bench, and yes, Ernie Banks.

And Julian, Ernie Banks was lovingly known as “Mr. Cub.” He was the first National Leaguer to win the MVP Award in consecutive years (1958 to 1959). As a shortstop, he hit over 40 homers, five times including 47 in 1958, the most ever by a shortstop.

Despite Ernie’s spring training predictions of “The Cubs will come alive in `65”, “Wrigley Field will be heaven in `67”, and “The Cubs will shine in ’69,” Ernie played 19 seasons and never made it to the post-season. But not making the national stage of the World Series did nothing to discourage his love and enthusiasm for the sport. And when he saw a beautiful day at the ballpark, he responded so frequently, so eloquently, “Let’s play two.”

That’s “Ernie who?”, American Idol fans.

(Please pass this column along to anyone you can think of who might help move my suggestion further along to fruition.)

Top of the 2nd
A PRESENT AND FUTURE STAR
If you are not aware of Cole Hamels of the Phillies, get on the bandwagon before you are the last to know. Last night, Cole Hamels pitched perfectly for six innings before Rickie Weeks walked to lead off the 7th. J.J. Hardy broke up Hamels’ no-hitter with two-run homer in the same inning. But Hamels (6-1) picked up the win nonetheless as the Phillies defeated the Brewers, 6-2. The Phils won their third straight over the Brew Crew and are finally back to .500.

Hamels struck out 11 and went 2 for 2 at the plate. He became the first Phillies pitcher to combine a 10-K performance with a multi-hit game since Curt Schilling on July 2, 2000 against the Pirates.

Top of the 3rd
BEING PENCE-IVE
I’m thinking what it must be like to be Houston rookie Hunter Pence. Pence went 4-for-4 including a home run to lead the Astros to a 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants.
Pence is 7-for-7 in the series (including home runs in two straight games against the Giants) and has four home runs and 15 RBIs this season. The team record is 8 straight hits set in 1980 by Art Howe. Only three other active players have had hits in seven consecutive at-bats as rookies: Ken Griffey, Jr. (1989), Jason Bay (2004) and Jason Ellison (2005).

Pence is hitting .355.

Top of the 4th
FROM THE OWNERS MEETING
The sale of the Atlanta Braves from Time Warner Inc. to Liberty Media Corp. was unanimously approved by baseball owners at a special meeting called Wednesday night to beat a midnight change in tax laws. Braves chairman Terry McGuirk said the franchise is valued at $450 million,

“Hank Aaron is going be a critical part of all this. It was very important to me, and I know it’s very important to Terry and to Bill (Bartholomay, Braves chairman emeritus),” commissioner Bud Selig said at a news conference. “I’m sure there will be an increased role for Hank.”

Aaron became a Braves vice president and the director of player development in October 1976 and held that role for 13 years. He became a senior vice president in December 1989 and also currently is on the club’s board of directors. Selig wouldn’t say what Aaron’s increased responsibilities will be with the Braves.

“That’s something they will announce,” Selig said.

Top of the 5th
HE RATHER NOT PLAY TWO
The Yanks and White Sox split a day/night doubleheader yesterday and Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-8, the worst 0-fer of his career in a twin bill. It was the 24th time that A-Rod played two games in one day in the big leagues.

Top of the 6th
GRAYS WIN AGAIN
The Tampa Bay Devil GRays defeated the Texas Rangers last night, 11-8 at The Ballpark at Disney’s Wide World, in Kissimmee, Florida. The Rangers attributed their defeate last to not being able to get our their head, “It’s a Small World After All.”

Sammy Sosa hit his 9th homer of the season for the losers. It was Sosa’s 597th of his career and extended his major league record for most ballparks homered in to 45.

Rangers’ manager Ron Washington strained his left hamstring when he ran out of the dugout to protest a call at second base in the 7th inning. “I’m not going on the DL. I was hoping nobody saw that,” he said. “It was just a twinge.”

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS

Away Home Time (ET) Away Probable Home Probable
Twins Indians 12:05 p.m. Santana (4-3) Carmona (4-1)
Tigers Red Sox GM 1: 12:35p.m. Maroth (3-0) Tavarez (1-4)
Braves Nationals 1:05 p.m. James (4-3) Chico (2-4)
Cubs Mets 1:10 p.m. Guzman (0-0) TBD
Yankees White Sox 2:05 p.m. DeSalvo (1-0) Garland (2-2)
D-Backs Rockies 3:05 p.m. Hernandez (3-2) Fogg (1-4)
Brewers Phillies 3:05 p.m. Sheets (3-2) Garcia (1-2)
Royals Athletics 3:35 p.m. Elarton (0-0) Braden (1-2)
Tigers Red Sox GM 2: 7:05p.m. Durbin (3-1) Schilling (4-1)
Marlins Pirates 7:05 p.m. Nolasco (1-1) Armas (0-3)
Rangers Devil Rays 7:10 p.m. Loe (1-3) Kazmir (2-2)
Giants Astros 8:05 p.m. Lincecum (1-0) Oswalt (6-2)
Angels Mariners 10:05 p.m. Colon (4-0) Washburn (3-3)

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Jack Cust hit another home run last night for the Oakland A’s who lost to KC last night, 4-3. Kiko Calero struggled again in the absence of injured closer Huston Street blowing his second save when he allowed the Royals to score a pair in the 9th. Cust now has seven homers in his first 10 games with Oakland. According to our friends at Elias, the last player to hit at least seven home runs in his first 10 games played with a team was Reggie Sanders for the 2001 Diamondbacks.

Top of the 9th
NO GAMBLING PERMITTED
Instant-win scratch-off lottery tickets licensed by Major League Baseball are now being sold by the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers.

Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.