Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Thursday, June 7.
It’s never easy to say good-bye to a Hall of Famer. Early today it became apparent that this would be my task, as I noted the passing of Red Schoendienst. Also, the Yankees’ surprise rookie find from last year, pitcher Jordan Montgomery will undergo Tommy John surgery today, and the most optimistic projection would have him available at the very end of 2019. So a Yankee team already deficient in pitching and hoping their hitting can bail them out has absorbed a nasty shock. Their task is to see where his replacement can be found.
Red Schoendienst, who died at age 95 was a link to another age, when baseball was more regional. So was the scouting. With no draft, a young player could be spotted near a major city and signed to the team in that city. The Red Sox were known for bringing in natives of New England, and the Yankees brought in locals like Gehrig, Rizzuto and Whitey Ford. To a fan or broadcaster in Washington, a name like Schoendienst would be nearly impossible to pronounce. In St. Louis it was another story. The German community in and around that city would have no trouble with the name, which is pronounced “Shane Deanst” for JAWS users. His home town of Germantown, Illinois is some 40 miles east of St. Louis. He was signed there by a Cardinal scout and made the show during 1945. A year later his team won the World Series. Cardinal broadcasters Franz Laux and later Harry Caray had to battle with the difficult name because Schoendienst was always hitting and playing a stellar second base. His lifetime average was just south of .300 and he came up one shy of 2450 hits. After a brief stint with the Giants he was traded to the Braves in 1957, in time for them to win the World Series. The next season they had a lead of 3 games to 1 over the Yankees but couldn’t hold it. Red, whose given name was Albert Fred Schoendienst wrapped up his career in St. Louis where it began. With his playing days over, he managed from 1965-76. Only Tony LaRussa has had a longer nonstop managing hitch in St. Louis. He twice made brief comebacks as a manager in 1980 and 1990. He was an All-Star 10 times over. He was a coach on the 1964 Cardinals who won the World Series, then was their field general 3 years later when they ended the Red Sox’ “Impossible Dream.” He was also a coach with the 1982 Cardinals who won the World Series over the Brewers. The Veterans’ Committee elected him to Cooperstown in 1989. Right up to the end he was a special assistant coach to the Cardinals. The end of 2017 marked the end of 72 straight years in baseball as player, coach or manager. With his death, the last player in the 1946 World Series is gone. The last of his Red Sox’ foes to go was their second baseman Bobby Doerr last November. Only one man lives who played in the 1947 World Series, one man who saw Jackie Robinson run like a deer both on the field and off it dodging the avalanche of abuse he received. That man is Bobby Brown, who played third base for the Yankees in that year’s Fall Classic. In October, he’ll be 94. If anything, he’s remembered more as the president of the American League than as the player he was. No 1947 Dodgers remain. Just one man who played in the 1948 World Series still lives. He’s Clint Conatser who played for the Boston Braves in 1948–49. In July, he’ll be 97.
The Yankees already had problems enough. Their high-priced hassle from the Marlins, Giancarlo Stanton had turned into a strikeout machine. Home-grown Gary Sanchez is following in Stanton’s footsteps and is a major liability behind the plate. CC Sabathia is trying to become a cross between Elvis and Bartolo Colon. Ever hear Elvis sing “Are you Lonesome Tonight,” on one of those last concert dates he did? I’m betting on Carsten Charles going out that way rather than pitching into his dotage as Colon is doing. And now, this very day Jordan Montgomery is having Tommy John surgery.
It’s a known fact that Masahiro Tanaka has a time bomb elbow. If he had been the one to go I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised. But Montgomery’s injury now is as surprising as his success was a year ago. He didn’t come north with the 2017 Yankees, but joined the team two weeks into the schedule. He had been a 4th-round draft choice in 2014 out of University of South Carolina, a perennial contender for College World Series honors. His rise to the top had been steady but not spectacular. He was the winning pitcher as Scranton won the AAA championship in 2016. None of that prepared the Yankees for the 11–7 performance he has put on thus far, quite respectable for any rookie not named Strasberg or Gooden.
He blew out his elbow on May 1. In a story I understand better than I should, it took a month to diagnose the torn elbow ligament and get the surgeon lined up.
According to a late bulletin, it seems a miracle Montgomery (GumBee” to his teammates has reached age 25 without undergoing Tommy John surgery. According to John Roegele, more than 40 men drafted between Monday and Wednesday have already_ had the operation. It doesn’t have to kill a career aborning, but who really knows? The D-Backs are known to have drafted 4 men who have already lost almost two of their best years. Five other teams drafted 3 men this week who have been there, done that. What scares me is who might have done their operations and under what conditions. The major leagues can afford the best, and presumably theirs are the best surgeons. Jeff Passan, who wrote a book called “The Arm” about this issue has been able to delve into this matter so it would seem his book is a must-read. At a quick glance, Dr. James Andrews and his team operated on 41 high school pitchers in 2010, the last time the data was checked. I can tell you, in the Division 3 tournament I listen to over a couple of weekends, pitchers were throwing 120–150 pitches-unthinkable in today’s major leagues. Florida State had a 2-0 lead on Mississippi State in the last of the 9th of a playoff game last week. Their pitcher came back after a lengthy rain delay, and on pitch 133 he gave up a 3-run home run ending the game. The logic “He won’t have to pitch again until the next round” is nothing short of dangerous to the pitchers. That logic plus their natural inclination to want the ball (check Matt Harvey in 2015) doubles the danger.
What do the Yankees do now? Until the early years of this century, while George Steinbrenner was in charge, the answer seemed obvious. Get the best and to hell with the expense. If he were alive today he would try for Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom or both from a floundering Mets’ team with a pathetic offense. But George is dead and that doesn’t seem to be the answer his sons are pursuing. Domingo German isn’t the answer though one day he may be. He hasn’t won a game since his excellent debut. If either Adam Warren or Chad Green want to be the next Montgomery, it needs to be soon, particularly for Warren who’s 30 now. Green is 27. After Luis Severino, Sabathia and Tanaka, things look dicey and God help the Bronx Bombers if anything happens to those 3. At least they can hope to make up ground as they face the Mets in a 4-game series while the Red Sox face the Tigers. They Bengals are no world-beaters but the Mets just lost 2-1 and 1-0 to the game’s worst team, the Orioles.0
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