Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Thursday, Sept. 22.
Yes, Gary Sanchez has 19 home runs in 45 games. Yes, that’s a record. But let’s all step tack and take a few deep breaths. And I say this as a Yankee fan. He may be better than Kevin Maas, or even better than some Yankee stars. but then … He may be the equivalent of an incredible one-night stand that is better remembered than repeated. (I bet most of you guys know what I mean.) The worst thing we fans can do is raise the bar so high that neither Sanchez or anybody else can satisfy our inflated expectations. Players have ruined their careers-sometimes to the point of using steroids-to satisfy fans’ expectations and the ink stains that have dried upon some contract’s line. Let’s try and let him expperience the growing pains that will happen in the coming years and not anoint him “The Chosen One,” only to trash him if he doesn’t hit 19 home runs 45 games into 2017 and have the Yankees 10 games ahead of the pack already. Even his miracle run this year wasn’t enough to put the Yankees in the playoffs-the top eschelon took care of that by giving away the bull pen. Without considerable pitching help, more like a pitching overhaul this team hasn’t got a prayer in the foreseeable future.
Considering the lateness of this column, I’ll get right to today’s action. The day’s matinee is the Tigers and Twins and it’s going on as I write this. This is the first of a split doubleheader and the Twins, desperate to make $$ in spite of a woeful team are demanding separate admission prices from whatever faithful fans they have. But I guess if you’ll eat hot dish (a Minnesota specialty) you’ll pay two admissions to see the Twins while play is still possible before the snow flies. Meantime, the Red Sox look to sweep the Orioles in Baltimore. They send out David Price against Chris Tillman who had 16 wins before bursitis in his shoulder put him on the shelf. He’s 1-1 since coming off the DL. The Mets send Seth Lugo who is 4-1, with a win against all the Eastern division teams except the Phillies. If ever there was a must win, this is it as the Mets were just swept in their house by the awful Atlanta Braves. The Phillies are nearly as bad and the Mets usually handle them better than the Braves, against whom the Mets were a shameful 9-10 in 2016. The Phillies send out Adam Morgan, but what is there to say? One starter looks like another with Philly-and they all look like lambs heading to the slaughter. The Dodgers’ magic number is 5 as they open a 4-game home_ series against the Rockies. That means: they must win 3 and the Giants must lose 2 (or take that in reverse) in order for the Dodgers to clinch at home with Vin Scully on the mike. As his most loyal fans know, he does 3 innings on radio, then does the late innings on TV. His TV games can be streamed for free on the Internet, but I won’t tell how because if you want them you already know how. The Giants have a soft opponent in the Padres, so they may not lose the requisite 2 games to allow the Dodgers to clinch at home.
Carlos Correa, shortstop for the Astros is all of 22 today. In 2012, when Houston was so awful they had the overall first pick in the country they took Correa, a high school boy from Puerto Rico. And, while Carlos is the Spanish name for Charles, Correa hasn’t been what the British call a “Charlie,” which is to say a chump. No chump here. He’s hit .277 for his short career and socked 41 home runs, not bad for a campocorto (Shortstop.) He was his league’s Rookie of the Year in 2015, which no Astro had managed since Jeff Bagwell in 1991. Following after Alex Rodriguez and Adrian Gonzalez, Correa is the third Latino honored by being picked first overall in the draft. That high standing caused him not to go to University of Miami. He was his school’s valedictorian and put up 1560 on the SAT’s. The top possible score is 1600.
Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny is 46 today. The Brewers drafted him in round 8 of the 1991 draft from University of Michigan, and had him in the bigs by 1994. He lasted in the show until early 2006. He won’t be remembered for his .239 batting average but for what he, like other catchers has done from the bench. His 427-319 record is remarkable since he began managing the Cardinals in 2012. He had played for them from 2000-2004. He won 3 Gold Gloves with them and one with the Giants in 2005. The Cards made the playoffs in his first 4 years as manager and still have a fighting chance to do it this year. In 2013 they reached the World Series for the only time in his tenure but lost to the Red Sox.
Former Cardinals outfielder Vince Coleman is 56 today. He was a 10th-round draft choice by them in 1982 from Florida A&M. At that school in Tallahassee he also played kicker and punter in football. His cousin Greg had punted at Florida A&M and gone on to the NFL. Coleman chose the Cardinals over football and from the minute he made the show in 1985, the Mets’ announcer Bob Murphy said of him “he can fly.” 752 steals were the proof even more than almost 1500 hits in a career that ended in very early 1997. He was an All-Star twice in his Cardinals years which ended in 1990. After 3 years at Shea Stadium with the Mets he became a vagabond. As a Cardinal he won the 1985 Rookie of the Year and led his league in steals every year he played near the Arch. With the decline of base stealing, he is sixth in all-time steals. As for his 1985 season, before game 4 of the NLCS the tarp at Busch Stadium rolled over his leg, breaking his ankle and shelving him. In the end the Cards lost the World Series in 7 to Kansas City. He and Jay Bruce may go down as the two most disappointing performers to play for the Mets, if Bruce doesn’t return in 2017 and set the woods on fire. Between injuries and suspensions Coleman was gone for 215 games in 3 years out of 486 scheduled games. One of the most infamous acts in recent Mets’ history was when he threw a lit firecracker into a crowd of autograph seekers in Los Angeles. 3 children were hurt and Coleman was lucky to get off with 200 hours of community service.
Former pitcher, manager and broadcaster larry Dierker is 70. While he was born in Hollywood, not even Cecil B. DeMille would take his story-it’s too amazing. His first major league game was on his birthday in 1964 for the Houston Colt .45’s, soon to be the Astros. In that birthday game he struck out Willie Mays in the first inning. He pitched for Houston through 1976 and one season in St. Louis. He was a pitcher with what announcers call “A world of stuff,” but was on bad teams so his record is pedestrian. On the other hand his managing record was an excellent 435-348 in spite of an epileptic seizure in the dugout which required brain surgery in 1999. He had been a broadcaster from 1979–96, then he broadcast again in 2004–05. He had a sense of humor about his medical scare, titling his memoir “This Ain’t Brain Surgery.” As a pitcher he was an All-Star twice-in 1969 and the amazing 1971 game. In 1969 he became the Astros’ first 20-game winner in an era where almost every team had a couple of those around. He fired a no-hitter against the Expos on July 9, 1976.
The jovial giant, Tom Lasorda is 89 today. He was a notably unsuccessful pitcher with Brooklyn and the Kansas City A’s, with an 0-4 record and an ERA halfway from 6 to 7. However he won almost 1600 games managing the Dodgers between 1976–96. His teams won the 1981 and 1988 World Series while losing in 1977 and 1978. In both 1983 and 1988 he was Manager of the Year and he particularly earned it in 1988 as his teams were huge underdogs to both the Mets in the NLCS and Oakland’s Bash Brothers in the World Series. Few managers make the Hall of Fame, but he’s one. So good was he with young players, 9 of his charges won Rookie of the Year. No other manager can say that. A heart attack ended his major league career in 1996, but 4 years later he managed our Olympic team to gold over heavily-favored Cuba (does that sound familiar?) My favorite story about Lasorda happened in Wilmington, North Carolina where the Dodgers temporarily had a South Atlantic League team. We were with Charleston then. Our manager Buddy Biancalana brought his son, age 14 to the park. We gave him a tape machine and sent him downstairs to see who he might find. He found Lasorda who gave him a minute on tape and finished by saying “And I like you. You know why? Because you’re Italian.”