Billy-Ball Daily: 2008-5-21

5/21/2008
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Top of the 1st
COMMENCEMENT 2008
Well folks another commencement season has come and gone and once again, I was not asked to speak. That continues a streak of all the years of my life. Had I been given the opportunity, this is what I would have said,

“Thank you graduates for giving me the opportunity to impart a few words of wisdom. Well, the only words of wisdom I have.

I don’t mean to sound trite…actually I can’t help sounding that way, but like so many things I view, I look at this next part of your journey of life in terms of baseball. Consequently, I have nine positions I want to share with you that I hope will serve you in good stead.

1 – Play hard, all the time.
Play every inning, every game like it’s your contract year. We all know many players who have cashed in because of that one great season they had as their contract expired and they are looked upon by fans with a mixture of envy, for the money they garnered on their new contract, and scorn, for the money they garnered on their new contract. Somehow, I always feel that will catch up with them, whether by injuries or through being taken advantage of by someone who will do to them what they did to others. Play hard from the first pitch. Watch Dustin Pedroia’s uniform get dirtier and dirtier as the game progresses. Don’t be afraid to get your uniform dirty.

2- Be a teammate.
Play for yourself AND play for your team. Little things that you do for your team make a big difference in everybody’s success. One of my favorite things in a ballgame is when there is a runner on second and nobody out and the batter hits a ground ball to second that moves the runner to third so that he can more easily score. The batter doesn’t get credit for a sacrifice, in fact, his batting average drops. But watch when he gets to the dugout – he is greeted with as many high fives as if he had just homered. His teammates know that he did what he did for them…and they will do it someday for him. Make sure you have your teammate’s “back”; if you do, they’ll have yours. Understand that teammates come and go, but good friends stay forever.

3 – Be versatile.
We live in an age of specialization, which makes the person who is versatile, all the more valuable. In my book, I wrote about a ballplayer most of you never heard of, Lenny Sakata. A true utility infielder, Sakata played games at second, short and third for the Brewers, Orioles, A’s and Yankees over 11 seasons. On August 24, 1983, the Orioles’ Sakata entered the game in the 8th inning to play second against Toronto. The Jays were leading, 3-1, in the bottom of the 9th, when Sakata drew a two-out walk and eventually came around to score the tying run.

Through a variety of machinations that produced the tying run, Tim Stoddard came into pitch, John Lowenstein moved to second, Gary Roenicke moved to third, Benny Ayala moved to left and Lenn Sakata moved behind the plate for his last and only appearance at catcher.

Stoddard immediately gave up a homer to Cliff Johnson and then a single to Barry Bonnell that brought in lefty Tippy Martinez. Bonnell took a large lead in preparation for running on Sakata. Too large as it turns out, because Martinez picked him off. Dave Collins then drew a walk. He too got too ready to run on Sakata, and he too was picked off by Martinez. Willie Upshaw then beat out a single and guess what happened? Willie was picked off by Tippy.

Sakata’s excellent adventure wasn’t over. Cal Ripken led off the bottom of the 10th with a game-tying homer. Eddie Murray and John Shelby walked and with two outs Sakata hit a walk-off three-run homer to give the O’s a 7-4 win.

4 – Persevere.
If you are attacked, persevere. If you are challenged, persevere. If you are down 3-0 in the best of seven, persevere. There are those who can look at their World Series rings and attest to this.

How do you do that?

By working hard, never giving up and by following your heart and your head. Learn from those before you who persevered. Learn from Jackie Robinson who turned the other cheek until he earned respect, and then taught others how to show respect. Learn from Bart Giamatti, the esteemed former president of Yale University, who turned his avocation, his love for the game of baseball, into his vocation, becoming the commissioner of baseball.

Remember Tug McGraw’s words, “You gotta believe.” Remember Tug McGraw, he persevered and taught others to do the same.

Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The game is long and the season is even longer and, in the end, just play as well as you can play. That’s all you can ever do.

Remember if you build it, they will come.

5 – Enjoy being yourself.
Don’t waste your time trying to copy the style of someone else. Babe Ruth was Babe Ruth; you are not Babe Ruth, you are you. It doesn’t necessarily you have to be odd, peculiar or scary. But it does mean you must be unique. And enjoy that. Have fun with it.
Baseball promoter extraordinaire Mike Veeck, who has known his share of heartache, says; “Fun is good!” And he is right, because if you are not having fun, it is hard to keep going.

Don’t be predictable. Go with the pitch and hit to the opposite field. Don’t be afraid to throw a curve when they are expecting a fastball.

And don’t be afraid to fail. The greatest of the great failed close to seventy per cent of the time and still they are still in the Hall of Fame.

6 – Be able to look at yourself in the mirror each morning.
Three of baseball’s greatest stars may never be a part of the Hall of Fame without a cloud surrounding them. Pete Rose, Barry B*nds, and Roger Cl*m*ns. No matter how many singles and home runs were hit, no matter how many wins were achieved, no matter how many times they denied it, spun it, or parses it – these baseball greats disgraced their game. I know it, you know it, and they know it every morning.

Know what’s important and what’s not. Keep your old baseball cards. Throw away your report cards.

7 – Don’t boo.
If you boo, I can guarantee that someday you will be on the other side of that and I can assure that’s no fun. Cheer. Remember the cheers you receive. Remember to cheer for others. Forget the boos. Forget booing. Root for a team, not against one. Who knows, someday the guys you are booing may one day be your teammates. And might I add, don’t worry about being traded. Worry about not being wanted. Make yourself so valuable that people want you on their team and are willing to do whatever is necessary to have you play with them and not against them.

8 – Be there.
Be there for your friends, your colleagues, your neighbors, your community, your family, and never forget to be there for yourself. And, be kind to your body. Enjoy it. While some of the parts may be replaceable, it’s the only one you have.

Take the time for other people. Time does not determine the winner. It’s better to get it done right than to get it done fast. Deadlines, telephones, and appointments are all very unimportant in a tie game in the bottom of the 9th.

9 – Continue to dream.
There is nothing wrong with dreaming. Don’t feel guilty if you always dream of being a ballplayer. Your life wasn’t so bad at 16 when that was your dream and it won’t be so bad at 56 when that still is your dream. Dreams help us see what we want and where we want go next. Maybe you won’t be a baseball ballplayer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write about baseball. It doesn’t mean that someday you won’t author a book. It doesn’t mean that someday you won’t be asked to give a commencement speech.

In closing let me remind you that the three sweetest words you can say are “I love you” and the two best words you can hear are “Play ball!”

Top of the 2nd
ITS GOOD TO WEAR SOX
Jose Contreras outpitched C.C. Sabathia, and Jim Thome and Carlos Quentin hit solo homers to lead the Chicago White Sox to a 4-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians for their season-high sixth straight win. Quentin leads the AL with 12 homers. It’s the White Sox’s longest streak since they won nine in a row from June 15-24, 2006. The AL Central leaders have won nine of 12.

Red Sox rookie Justin Masterson and the Boston bullpen allowed the Kansas City Royals five hits, but little else as the Sox defeated KC 2-1 for their fifth straight victory. After the game, Masterson was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket to make room for former AL Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon, who will make his first start of the year tonight.

Top of the 3rd
PIAZZA STATES THE OBVIOUS
Mike Piazza has retired. Piazza, 39,who set major league records for home runs by a catcher formally announced his retirement yesterday. Piazza, made the decision seven months after he had become a free agent without receiving any appealing offers to prolong what may turn out to have been a Hall of Fame career.

Piazza played 16 years with 427 homers and a lifetime .308 average. Of those home runs, 396 came as a catcher to shatter the previous record at the position, Carlton Fisk’s 351. Next on that list are Johnny Bench (327) and Yogi Berra (306). All three are in the Hall of Fame.
Piazza made his major league debut barely four years after being drafted, on Sept. 1, 1992. Piazza was a 62nd-round draft choice in the First Year Player Draft. He was player No. 1,390 chosen, as a personal favor to Los Angeles manager Tom Lasorda, his godfather through a friendship with the family.

Fred Wilpon, Mets Chairman and CEO said, “On behalf of everyone at the Mets we salute Mike for his Hall of Fame caliber accomplishments in our game and with our team. Mike electrified New York City and energized our franchise after we acquired him in 1998. He was an integral part of our 2000 National League Championship club. Mike played the game with passion, class and heart – symbolic of our city. We wish Mike, his wife, Alicia, and daughter Nicoletta all health and happiness as he begins a new chapter in his life.”

Top of the 4th
THE BRAVES ARE THE CELTICS
The Braves swept the Mets in a doubleheader yesterday in Atlanta. The Braves have the best home record in baseball at 18-5 and the worst road record in baseball at 6-16.

With their win over the Pistons last night, the Boston Celtics playoff record this season is 9-0 at home and 0-6 on the road.

Top of the 5th
BOUTON RESURFACES
Today at noon Jim Bouton will announce the second Vintage Base Ball Playoffs & World Championship featuring teams from New England, California and Canada plus
Luis Tiant’s Latin Stars Game. He’ll be at City Hall (59 Court St.) Westfield, MA

And yes, there will be a ballpark lunch of Hebrew National hot dogs and Boylans soda.

Top of the 6th
BILLY-BALL-SITE-OF-THE-DAY
Great cover of this week’s Sport’s Illustrated reflecting the Bizarro baseball season. Ten years ago this week Mike Piazza was on the cover. You don’t think he timed his retirement announcement based on that do you?

Check out SI’s covers – http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/si_online/covers/

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
AL
Rays (Andy Sonnanstine) at A’s (Dana Eveland), 3:35
Royals (Brett Tomko) at Red Sox (Bartolo Colon), 7:05
Mariners (Jarrod Washburn) at Tigers (Kenny Rogers), 7:05
Orioles (Garrett Olson) at Yankees (Darrell Rasner), 7:05
Angels (Jon Garland) at Blue Jays (Shaun Marcum), 7:07
Rangers (Sidney Ponson) at Twins (Nick Blackburn), 8:10
Indians (Paul Byrd) at White Sox (Javier Vazquez), 8:11

NL
Giants (Jonathan Sanchez) at Rockies (Ubaldo Jimenez), 3:05
Mets (Mike Pelfrey) at Braves (Jair Jurrjens), 7:00
Brewers (Ben Sheets) at Pirates (Ian Snell), 7:05
Phillies (Jamie Moyer) at Nationals (Matt Chico), 7:10
Diamondbacks (Brandon Webb) at Marlins (Ricky Nolasco), 7:10
Cubs (Sean Gallagher) at Astros (Shawn Chacon), 8:05
Cardinals (Braden Looper) at Padres (Chris Young), 10:05
Reds (Johnny Cueto) at Dodgers (Hiroki Kuroda), 10:10

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
In the first game of the Braves sweep over the Mets, Tommy Glavine allowed just one run in six innings of a 6-1 win. Glavine struggled in the 1st when with one out he gave up a home run to Luis Castillo. A single to David Wright, a walk to Carlos Beltran and single to Ryan Church then loaded the bases for the New York Mets. Glavine then retired the next 17 batters in a row, finishing with four strikeouts in six innings to lead the Atlanta Braves in his first appearance against his former team.

Top of the 9th
FRANCOEUR’S STREAK ENDS
Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur did not play in the second game of a doubleheader against the New York Mets on Tuesday night, ending the majors’ longest current streak of consecutive games played at 370. Francoeur started every game of the streak, which began on Oct. 1, 2005, but he is in a 1-for-14 slump that has dropped his average to .258.
He started the streak at the end of his rookie season and has played every game the last two years, totaling 48 homers and 208 RBIs. Francoeur has got 26 RBIs and only three homers this season.

The current leader is Delmon Young at 210 games followed by Ryan Howard with 162 and Justin Morneau at 131.

Bottom of the 9th
THERE’S ONLY 25 DAYS UNTIL FATHER’S DAY
Show Dad where his memories rank among the greatest baseball moments of all time

Walkoffs, Last Licks, and Final Outs: Baseball’s Grand (and not-so-grand) Finales
By Bill Chuck and Jim Kaplan, Foreword by Jon Miller

This Father’s Day, relive some of the most memorable finales in baseball history with dear ‘ol Dad by flipping through the pages of Walkoffs, Last Licks, and Final Outs. This book is the definitive collection of baseball’s grand–and not-so-grand–final acts, including:

The greatest postseason finishes of all-time
The last moments of the most distinguished old stadiums
Heroic (and not-so-heroic) endings to Hall of Fame careers
Boxscores and linescores for some of the greatest games ever played
A slew of career statistics, ballpark data, and photographs
$14.95, 213 pages, paperback.

Plus, buy just one copy and receive The Bill James Daily Match-ups for your favorite team delivered FREE to your email inbox every day between now and the All-Star break–a $30 value!

To take advantage of this optional special offer, mention the “Father’s Day Special” when calling (800) 397-2282 or enter the name of your favorite team under “Additional Comments” when checking out online. One team per book.
http://www.actasports.com/detail.html?&id=3427

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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.