Eddie Gaedel, Michael Jordan, Tim Tebow Need I Say More?

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Thursday, Sept. 8.

I meant to lead off today’s piece with a theme about a 3-run 9th-inning rally for victory by the Rockies. I might have led with the latest injury to the Nats’ Stephen Strasburg who was making his first start coming off the DL from his last injury.    But I can’t lead with either of those  legit stories because a team which is still marginally in playoff contention is foisting a travesty on their fans.  The Mets, of all teams have signed Tim Tebow to a minor league contract.

Baseball, even at the major league level has seen this sort of stunt before.  In 1951, St. Louis Browns’ owner Bill Veeck (rhymes with Wreck,) sent a midget named Eddie Gaedel to the plate in the first inning of a regulation game.  He walked on 4 pitches, and walked off the field and back into obscurity where he belonged. 43 years later, the White Sox allowed Michael Jordan to tarnish their AA minor league team in Birmingham and make a circus out of its season. Because an entitled celeb wanted to play (and hit .202 by the way,) a legit minor leaguer who gave his life to baseball was cut loose.

What makes this fiasco so much worse is,  neither the 1951 Browns or the mid-1990’s White Sox had anything else to interest their fans. The Browns would pull up stakes and head to Baltimore in 1954.  The White Sox had moved from Comiskey Park, an old stadium with the character that old stadiums used to have, into what Bill Veeck’s wife called “a mall park, not a ball park,” when I  spoke with  her shortly after it opened. The charmless place was nearly as empty as the old park had been before it was torn down.  The Mets are coming off a 3-game sweep of the Reds, and while sweeping that A-ball team disguised as an MLB team isn’t much of a feat they still have actual MLB quality players and a small chance of playing October baseball.  Beyond this year, they have players who will be returning, hopefully in good health and ready to do serious business in 2017.  Hopefully the pitching arms of Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Jacob DeGrom and Zack Wheeler will be ready to pitch serious innings.  So, if a lesser team was interested in Tebow, (the Reds, Braves, D-Backs, Brewers,) why would the Mets continue to indulge this spoiled child who already had too many chances as a football player without NFL credentials? His August 30  workout was described by one viewer as “An 8-year-old’s birthday party. Everybody attended to make sure Tim had fun.”  Hardly a ringing endorsement. His throwing arm was average at best to one scout and well below average to another.  With his bulk, he’ll be walking the bases rather than running them and James Loney already does that for the Mets.   Tebow was born in  the Philippines, birthplace of boxer Manny Pacquiao.  3 weeks ago he turned 29.  29, not 18.  He’ll be in either the Florida Instructional League or the Arizona Fall League.  Particularly if he’s sent to  Florida he’ll be among teenagers who will look on him as an old fossil. He reportedly had an offer from the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League, and while this would provide him with less of a chance to embarrass himself he turned it down out of hand. Southern Maryland in the same league, Schaumburg Illinois of the Northern League and Zulia of Venezuela also made him offers he passed on.  Now, at six-3 and 245 pounds he’ll be a huge distraction as the Mets try to pound down the stretch and pull another 1973 or 2015 miracle out of their hats.  In all likelihood, instead of focusing on their game tomorrow Terry Collins, the Mets’ manager will have to call a press conference to discuss Timothy Richard Tebow.

From the Tebow circus, we now move to the game that should have led today’s edition, at a circus where baseball is actually being played by real baseball players.  Coors Field, which Jim Rome christened Coors Canaveral has never been a rest home for ailing pitchers.  Batters, yes. not pitchers.  They’d rather be sent anywhere-even San Quentin-than play a four-game series at Coors Canaveral.  9-8 games there are the norm. No lead is safe, anymore than money was safe in a bank if Jesse James was in town. Last night it was the Giants’ pitching staff who felt the wrath of Adolph Coors.  The Rockies put up 3 in the 9th to beat the slumping  Giants 6-5. At the All-Star break it looked like a certainty that the Giants would win their division.  Now they’re struggling to see October at all and last night didn’t help. Cristhian Adames had his first ever walk-off hit, a two-bagger off the right field wall good for two runs and the win. The game had been 5-3 Giants as the inning began with closer Santiago Casilla entering the game.  He promptly gave up a home run to Nolan Arenado, his 37th which leads the senior circuit in circuit clouts. Tom Murphy singled, ending Casilla’s night. Reliever Josh Osich hit Charlie Blackmon with a pitch.  That ended his evening.  Next was the old guard if you will, 40-year-old Joe Nathan, once a closer of renown.  He gave up a blooper to Nick Hundley to load the bases and then surrendered Adames’ game-winner. The Giants had gotten 5 runs off the Rockies’ starter Jorge De la Rosa including home runs by Brandon Belt and Gorkis Hernandez which are still being tracked by NASA. David Dahl and Tom Murphy went back-to-back in the 4th to keep things close, which is all any offense can do in Denver. Hernandez hit his first home run in 4 years, and managed it on his 29th birthday.

Meantime, while the Nationals won in the short term, beating the Braves 5-4 in 11, they may have lost in a major way.  Stephen Strasburg, in his first outing since coming off the DL with elbow pain left in the third with, … you guessed it, elbow pain. He said he felt a “pinch” in his elbow, not the dreaded “pop” of a tearing ligament.   He’ll get an MRI and in all likelihood be off to see the wizard of elbows, Dr. James Andrews of Birmingham. For what it’s worth, it was a good game.  Each team scored in the 10th before  Wilson Ramos singled home the game winner an inning later.

Thursday, like Wednesday is a game that usually features  a matinee  and today is no exception.  The Astros face the Central Division leading Indians at 12:10. With Dallas Keuchel hurt, the Astros turn to David Paulino, a giant of a man at six-seven making his first MLB start. Before this season he’d never spent a day above A-ball  though his career dates back to 2010.  That is the only early game. Among the night games the Yankees host the Rays.  Alex Cobb, making his second start after Tommy John surgery faces CC Sabathia of the Yankees.  Tampa Bay has always played the Yankees tough.

Gerrit Cole of the Pirates is 26 today. The Pirates drafted him out of UCLA with the first overall pick in the country in 2011.     He has an outstanding 47-29 mark since his debut in 2013 with Pittsburgh. He joined them in their first winning year since 1992. He won one game of the two he started in the NLDS where the Cards beat the Pirates.    2015 was his first selection to the All-Star team. I can’t see it being his last if he stays healthy, which is a question for any pitcher. He started the wild card game against Jake Arrieta but only the Mets were beating Arrieta in last year’s playoffs.  The Pirates lost 8-0.

Ken Forsch is 70. He and his brother Bob each have thrown a no-hitter in the bigs. After playing college ball at Oregon State, Ken began as a late call-up by the Astros in 1970 and pitched into 1986. He was an All-Star twice though his record is a nondescript 114-113.

His no-no came on April 7, 1979 against the Braves,  just shy of a year after his brother Bob fired his at the Cardinals in St. Louis. As great as the Dean brothers were, only Paul pitched a no-hitter. Only the Forsch brothers have both pitched big-league no-hitters.

Jim Bagby, the pitcher who ended Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak was born this day in 1916 and died in 1988. He was a Cleveland native who spent 5 years with his home town team. He also played for the Red Sox twice and a spell with the Pirates. As an Indian he was an All-Star twice, in 1942 and 1943. He won 17 in both of those years, then spent much of 1944 in the Merchant Marine.

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