More than just the Home Runs; Great Dae–Ho Lee Smokes One;

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball today.

It didn’t take long after Coors Field opened in 1995 for talk show host Jim Rome to christen it “Coors Canaveral.”  Especially in its early years and to a lesser extent today, home runs were the order of the day at the mile-high park in Denver.  But there’s another side to that coin that seldom gets mentioned.

The gaps in left-center and right-center are by necessity so deep that if a ball gets past the infielders and splits the outfielders, the batter can run forever.  That’s what happened yesterday in the Rockies’ 10-6 win over the Giants. While Nolan Arenado did in fact hit 2 home runs, the team hit a record 4 triples and an even dozen extra-base hits on their way to victory. With his two bombs Arenado amassed 7 RBIS, one shy of a team record 8 which 5 men hold.  That says as much as you need to know about coors Canaveral.  The last man to drive in 8 runs in a game was Matt Holliday who did so in 2005, so just maybe things are evening out to some slight degree up near the Great divide. Two of the 4 triples were hit by Trevor Story, best known for his 7 early home runs. The Rockies needed the second of Arenado’s 4-baggers to seal the win.  They were up 7-6 in the 9th when he gave them 3 insurance runs by taking one out of the lot.

The Orioles have finally lost a game, becoming the last major league team to lose their first contest.  At Fenway, the Red Sox took the Orioles 4-2 after the visitors had won the first two in the series. Meantime, the Nationals won again, shutting down the Braves 3-0.  This puts the Nats at 6-1. This is just the kind of start they would have wanted last year, when they were the prohibitive favorite to win not only the Division but the World Series.  Although the Mets finally won, a 2-1 triumph over the Marlins they are still 3-5 to the Nationals’ 5-1.  The Mets head to Cleveland where, if they get a frigid reception it’s nothing personal. It’s just Cleveland being Cleveland, the mistake on the lake.  Meantime, last year’s World Series MVP Salvador Perez isn’t going away.  His home run off Ken Giles, good for 2 runs gave the Royals a 4-2 win over the Astros in Houston.

In what had to be yesterday’s most exciting encounter, the Mariners bested the Rangers 4-2 on a tenth-inning pinch-hit walk-off home run by Dae-Ho Lee. No Mariners’ rookie had done such a thing since the team began play in 1977. The game was tied at 1-1 when Robinson cano hit a home run in the home 5th.  In the visitors’ half of the 8th Delino DeShields leveled the game with his own circuit clout.  That set the stage for the heroics done by the rookie Korean who has played up to now in both his home land and Japan. This “rookie” will be 34 in June and began playing in Korea in 2001. He hit .309 in Korea and .293 in Japan before coming to America. He was an All-Star 3 times in Japan, and it seems if Korea had an All-Star game he would have been selected multiple times.  He hit homers in 9 straight games, which no man in any country has done.  The MLB record is 8, belonging to Ken Griffey JR., Don Mattingly and Dale Long.

If you are in a position to watch or listen to daytime baseball, there’s plenty of it.  7 games are being played in the afternoon, 5 under the lights. The earliest game is a beauty of a pitching matchup.  Jordan Zimmerman of the Tigers faces Jerritt Cole of the Pirates, and at the speed of this computer that game will be well underway as you read this. The Indians and Rays have another good matinee matchup, as the Rays’ presumptive ace Chris Archer faces Danny Salazar of the Indians.  Other than Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, Salazar is the strongest brave the Tribe can send out. In the latest game of the night, Ross Stripling makes his second start of the season.  In his first, he no-hit the Giants for 7 innings until he was removed and the bull pen blew the game.  Tonight he faces another tough offense, the D-Backs. The visitors counter with lefty Robbie Ray who also got no decision his first time out of the gate.

Brandon Finnegan is 23 today.  He was mentioned  prominently in this forum for flirting with a no-hitter and giving just one 7th-inning single to the Cubs who obliterated the Reds’ bull pen to win the game. He’s the only man to play in the College World Series and the MLB World Series in the same year, 2014.  His college team was the Horned Frogs of TCU, (Texas Christian University.)  That school brought two icons to the sports world at the same time in the late thirties.  Byrum Saam came from there to the broadcast booth at Shibe Park to call games of both the Phillies and the Athletics. He ended up in Cooperstown.   Meantime Slingin’ Sammy Baugh of TCU was making a name for himself as the quarterback of the Washington Senators.  What Babe Ruth did for home runs, Baugh did for the forward pass in football.  Finnegan tried to put another feather in TCU’s collective cap with his performance earlier this week. The Reds got him when they traded Johnny Cueto to Kansas City near last year’s trading deadline.

Kyle Farnsworth is 40 today.  He reached the show in 1999 and is still pitching in the Mexican League, equivalent to our AAA ball 17 years later.  Not bad for a 47th-round draft choice which Farnsworth was. Over the years he’s played for 9 different MLB teams and is on his second team south of the border.  He made the show after 5 years, which is remarkable for a man drafted in the 47th round.  It’s harder to have the odds more stacked against you, but he beat them.  He liked a good fight, which cost him a suspension in 2003 and he landed on the DL a year later for kicking an electric fan. A trade to the Tigers didn’t reform Farnsworth, as he decked Royals pitcher Jeremy Affeldt  following a brawl between the Tigers and Royals. Ironically he became a Royal late in 2008 after a stint with the Yankees.  While he was in their employ, his left hand (not his pitching hand) was bitten as he tried to stop a fight between two bulldogs he owned. His last MLB time was with the Mets in 2014.

Steve Avery is 46. He broke in with the Braves in 1990, a year before their time of greatness began.  He was NLCS  MVP in 1991 as the Braves beat the Pirates.  He was an All-Star 2 years later and took home a World Series ring in 1995 as the Braves beat the Indians. In spite of a 3-11 start in 1990 he finished with a 96-83 record.

Avery’s teammate, Hall of Famer Greg Maddux is 50. He put up 355 wins in a career that ran from late 1986 to 2008. His greatest glory came with the Braves between 1993 and 2003 after starting off his career with the Cubs. In his prime he was an All-Star between 1988 and 2000. He won 4 consecutive Cy Young Awards, 1992-95 and pitched for the world series winning Braves in 1995. The San Angelo, Texas native was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 2014 garnering over 97% of the votes. He’s now employed by the Dodgers as a special advisor.

Pete Rose is 75.  Other than Shoeless Joe Jackson, no man who has done so much for baseball is not in its Hall of Fame.  Both are shunned for the same reason-gambling.  I feel neither should see Cooperstown even if it lasts for a thousand years, because nothing shreds the very fiber of the game like gambling does.  But I know there is enough of a ground swell for both men to get in, that it will probably happen in the lifetime of my younger readers, if not in my own time.

Rose, a native of Cincinnati played for his home town team starting in 1963.  With no draft it was a lot easier for scouts to sign a player to an area team than it is now. Before he gave up the game in 1986 he had a .303 average and an insane 4,256 hits. He was doubtlessly the last playing manager, doing both for the Reds from 1984-86. He continued solely as manager until 1989 when his evil betting ways  caught up with him. Before that he had been an All-Star 17 times over, the last in 1985 when he was 44. He had played on 3 World Series winners, the 1975 and 1976 Reds and the 1980 Phillies.  Yankee pitcher Whitey Ford  is responsible for nicknaming Rose “Charlie Hustle.” He did it either when Rose ran to first after a walk, (Ford’s story) or when Rose chased a ball in the outfield clearly bound to leave the lot (the way Mickey Mantle told it.) Either way Ford meant it as mockery, but Rose latched onto the nickname as a  badge of honor. In his youth he played winter ball in Venezuela between seasons with the Reds.  This would be unthinkable for, say Bryce  Harper or Mike Trout today.  In 1978, at age 37 Rose racked up a 44-game hitting streak, the only serious challenge that has been or will be made to Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game streak of 1941.  DiMaggio was just 26 when he put up  his streak and was retired by age 37. On the less fan-friendly side, what Rose did to Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star game is well chronicled.  So is his fight with a much smaller Bud Harrelson in game 3 of the 1973 NLCS. The fans at Shea Stadium pelted Rose with anything they could locate and nearly caused a forfeit.  For the rest of the series he was booed lustily every time he came up.  He responded to the fans’ jeers a day later by hitting a home run in the 12th inning to tie the series at 2 games apiece.  But the Reds had no answers for Tom Seaver in game 5 and the Mets upset the heavily-favored Reds. Rose was permanently banned from the sport on August 24, 1989 for betting on baseball games, especially those of his own team where he could influence the game in an unhealthy way.   This banishment was done by commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti, a scholarly man who was, if not the best commissioner certainly the smartest one the game ever had.  8 days later, at age 51 Giamatti was dead of a heart attack.  While it is a fact he was a heavy smoker, I’ve always felt the added stress of dealing with Pete Rose did the great man no good at all, and that Rose should never be considered for any kind of reinstatement not just for the gambling but for costing the game one of its bright young lights. Nobody of the caliber of Judge Landis or Mr. Giamatti has been elected since or seems likely to be.

Last season Fox hired Rose  to be a studio analyst.  I regret to say I never once caught his performance on TV, so I can’t say a word about his commentary style.  If he is on Fox in 2016 I will try my hardest to hear him and comment as appropriate in this forum.

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