Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)
Ten things that we don’t want to see in baseball 2008 – (But I’ll still be writing about as the season progresses)
1. A Ray Oyler season
This is the 40th anniversary of the year that the Detroit Tigers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series with a shortstop who hit .135. Now, while I’m known (in fact renown) for my typos, folks, Ray Oyler played 111 games for the World Champs and had 29 hits in 215 at bats, his batting average is no typo. He had six doubles, one triple, one homer and 21 singles; that is 40 total bases. He had a .213 On Base Percentage, a .186 Slugging Average, and an OPS of 20. He had two multiple hit games (a two hit game on April 20th against the White Sox and one week later, he went 3-4 against the Yankees). The highest his batting average was all season was when he followed a 1-4 game with a 1-5 game and boosted his average to .162. In the World Series, the slick fielder was replaced at short by centerfielder, Mickey Stanley although he did appear
in all four victories as a defensive replacement. Please let no player live through another season like this.
2. A repeat of the 1962 NY Mets
Hapless, helpless, yet incredibly humorous, the infant New York Mets of 1962 were one of baseball’s most endearing team. There were so many things that this Casey Stengel led team couldn’t do, but time prevents me from listing them all. But one thing they could do really well was lose. Yes, this is the glass half-filled version of the saying that they simply couldn’t win. Their record that season was an incredible 40-120 (don’t worry about the missing two games, they would have lost those as well.). It’s not as if they didn’t have some half-decent players, Richi Ashburn (in his last season – he refused to come back in 1963), Frank Thomas, Roger Craig, Charlie Neal, and others. The trouble was they also had Rod Kanehl, Choo Choo Coleman, Marvelous Marv Throneberry, Al Jackson and others. This team was fun to watch. In past years, tracking the Royals, Nationals and Pirates against this record of futility has not been fun. Let’s hope the Marlins don’t force us to pay attention to the ’62 Mets this season. By the way, while there are many wonderful stories about the Metsies of 1962, my favorite is the final at bat of catcher Joe Pignatano which is included in my new book “Walkoffs, Last Licks, and Final Outs – Baseball’s Grand (and not so grand) Finales,” available in bookstores nationwide in April. Or, you can buy an autographed copy directly from me by writing Bill@billy-ball.com.
3. More All-Star Game dilution
The All-Star Game has become a bore and the “more it counts” the less it seems to matter. Yes, we would like to see two AL teams play against each other as more NL stars migrate to the junior circuit. We also wish that the home run derby would be eliminated as it glorifies a bad period in baseball’s history. It’s like Hillary promoting National Cheat on Your Spouse Day. I shudder when I think about who the fans will vote in this season and hate that the voting starts so early (Mike Huckabee for first bass?). I’m surprised MLB and their sponsors haven’t started the voting already. In this exhibition game shouldn’t the DH be in force all the time? Stop giving bonuses to players who make the All-Star team, aren’t they just doing their job? The extra three days of voting to pick someone who isn’t good enough to make the team is just annoying. Additionally, the rule that forces a representative from every team is so outdated and often a depressing choice. Finally, if Manny (to use a case in point) decides that his grandmother has died for the fifth time because he doesn’t want to attend the Game, take him off the ballot.
4. Far East travel affecting play
Hey, who is that exhausted team out there? Right it’s the Oakland Z’s. Boston and Oakland are the third set of teams to open the regular season at the Tokyo Dome. In 2000, the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs started their season there and in 2004, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays began their seasons dining on sushi. The only good thing that came out of the Iraqi war was that a scheduled series between Oakland and Seattle in 2003 was cancelled because the war had already been scheduled to begin. It turns out that the Tokyo Dome also didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction. Aside from my political diatribe, no team has ever come back from the Far East complaining that they felt “too good.” Players complained about fatigue for weeks after. So lets see, starting the season in Tokyo is good for whom? The hometown teams that are missing a home date? The players who are jet-lagged? The Japanese fans who are getting to see why most of their players are not at major league level? Somehow, I think MLB is making a lot of money on this deal…ah, so.
5. Nee Wrigley Field
In the beginning, from 1870-1871, and then again from 1874 to 1889, they were the Chicago White Stockings. From 1890 to 1897, they were called the Chicago Colts. From 1898 to 1901, they were called the Chicago Orphans. Since 1902, they have been your Chicago Cubs. This wonderful, pitiful franchise has been playing at the Friendly Confines at Clark and Addison since 1914. This beautiful ballpark, where Bill Veeck SENIOR, planted the ivy was named for the owner William Wrigley, the chewing gum magnate in 1926. Weeghman Park was it’s name when it opened and its name became Cubs Park in 1920 when Wrigley bought out Weeghman. Now Sam Zell, the CEO of the Tribune Company (whose personal fortune, estimated by Forbes magazine last year at $5 billion), which owns the Chicago Cubs, is ready to sell the team as well as the naming rights. Sell the naming rights not to the Tribune Company (how does the Charmin Company sound?), but to Wrigley Field. My feeling is that certain landmark names are sacrosanct (Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Madison Square Garden) and that includes Wrigley and I will be proud to shout that from atop the torch of General Electric’s Statue of Liberty.
6. A Vic Willis season
Vic Willis is a Hall of Fame pitcher who completed (read this sitting down) 388 of his 471 career starts (you may stand again if you wish). He was a 20 game winner eight times in his 13-season career and produced a record a lifetime record of 248 wins and 204 losses with an ERA of a mere 2.63. But it wasn’t all sunshine for the Delaware Peach. In 1905, pitching for the National League Boston Beaneaters, Willis started 41 games and completed 36 of them. The only problem was that he lost most of them and finished with a record of 12-29. This season we don’t look forward to a repeat of Willis’ futility nor the repeating name of his team.
7. The presence of Barry B*nds and/or Roger Cl*mens
I don’t want to hear about B*nds or Cl*mens any more. They have ruined enough baseball, enough off-seasons, and enough memories to last a lifetime. Is there collusion to keep B*nds out of the game? Dammit, I hope so, it will mean the owners are finally doing something right, even it is for selfish reasons. I don’t want to hear about George Mitchell’s Whitewash Report, I don’t want to hear about Brian McNamee or the next plea-bargaining weasel pusher who supplied steroids and gets his sentence reduced by giving up the names of steroid johns. The only names I want to hear are the names of the GMs and owners, and Players Association leaders, who knew about their players using the juice but kept quiet because it filled their coffers.
8. A Daryl Kile moment
I fear the loss of another player during the season and all the questions related to performance enhancement drugs. Maybe it won’t be an active player, maybe it will be somebody who spent the last five years injecting anything he could into his body to boost his performance, to boost his contract. Please, no more.
9. “It’s the economy, stupid”
For those of you who have figured out how to make money as the stock market tumbles and consumer products and gasoline prices rise, good for you, you clearly are King Midas. Sadly, I don’t have your gift and I could use some work (yes, I am a freelance writer for hire – Bill@bczar.com). Now the reason I mention this is that disposable income for most Americans will be affected as long as this very nasty recession lasts and that very well might affect attendance and other purchases at major league ballparks. One thing baseball fans can do to satisfy their baseball jones is to support their local minor league team. An evening at the ballpark is great at any level and the minors is dramatically more affordable. Beyond that, if attendance does drop this season, don’t read anything into it to beyond the fact that it’s the economy stupid.
10. Any decision by Bud Selig
If we hear from the $14.5 million man, invariably it’s just going to annoy us. Given the opportunity to make a fork-in-the-road decision, most people have a 50% chance of getting it right. But Bud Selig is not like most guys, Bud only has a 3% chance of getting it right because his input is from the 30 owners who care more about their money than the people who are their customers. Let’s hope we don’t need Bud to make a choice.
Let’s get this season started – I’m almost ready, are you?
Bill Chuck is the creator of Billy-Ball.com and, with Jim Kaplan, is the author of the book, “Walk-Offs, Last Licks, and Final Outs – Baseball’s Grand (and not so Grand) Finales” to be published by ACTA Sports, in April. To pre-order an autograph copy contact Bill@billy-ball.com.