Saving Mr. Jeurys

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Life can be unfair sometimes, and it’s hard to stir up a whole lot of empathy for a guy who in a couple of years will be making more — much more — in a month than I’ve made in my lifetime …

But Jeurys Familia got screwed. Continue reading

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Now that I’m commissioner …

I know, there’s a lot of things that need fixing. Ebola. ISIS. Global warming. Racism. Sexism. Rush Limbaugh. But saving the world can come later. First we have to fix baseball. Because priorities.

We’re coming off a good World Series, and a great Game Seven. The baseball season ended with the tying run on third and a kid named Madison Bumgarner standing on the mound, proving that you don’t have to have a great baseball name to be a great baseball player.

So let’s hear it for the World Champion Giants, the last team standing. They deserve to wear the crown. And hooray for the Royals, too. The Little Engine That Could came oh-so-close. Continue reading

Game Seven, and nobody’s watching

Baseball is the greatest game on earth. It isn’t perfect – it would be if you didn’t have to refinance your home to take the wife and kids to the ballpark, and if they had a better selection of beer, and if they played the blues between innings instead of those hideous pop tunes – but, hey, it’s awfully damn close.

And tonight the greatest game on earth gets its signature moment, its pinnacle, it’s Ray Charles singing Georgia on My Mind:

Game Seven of the World Series.

A season that began on the first day of April will end tonight, seven months and some 175 games later. One game, winner take all. One guy gets to sip champagne. The other guy goes home and cries in his Bud. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Too bad nobody will be watching. Continue reading

Nothing wrong with No. 2

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I hated Derek Jeter. Hated him.

Not all the time, of course. How could anyone hate Derek Jeter all the time?

But you gotta understand … I’m a Mets fan, which meant that for six games a year (except for last year and this year, when it was four games, and 2000, when it was 11), I hated him. Continue reading

Gone bluefishin’

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Pete Rose, baseball’s immortal Charlie Hustle, played manager-for-a-day in Bridgeport, Conn., Monday night, calling the shots for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League.

It’s a far cry from the Big Red Machine. And it’s as close as Pete should ever get to returning to baseball.

The “independent” in “independent Atlantic League” is important, because Petey has been banned for 25 years from all of Major League Baseball and all of its affiliate minor league teams. Among other things, this means that the man who had more base hits than any other player in the history of the game – the man who beat Ty Cobb’s unbeatable record of 4,191 and didn’t stop until he’d recorded 4,256, the man who was a thorn in every pitcher’s side and was the face of Cincinnati in the ’70s – is ineligible to to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Good. That’s how it should be. Rose, one of the greatest ever to lace up a pair of cleats, should never be allowed back in the game.

Rose is 73 now, and he’s always had a groundswell of support from fans who say the hit king belongs in the Hall.

On a side note, I’d be willing to bet that a majority of those same fans have no problem with excluding the home run king, Barry Bonds. Let’s just say the reasons are as clear as black and white.

But this isn’t about Barry, who also doesn’t belong. This is about Pete. And the reason Petey isn’t in the Hall is that he took himself out of it.

In 1989, after denying for months that he had never, ever, bet on a baseball game, Rose accepted a lifetime ban from the game — without admitting guilt — for, um . . . betting on baseball.

Now, before the baseball writers can elect or reject him for a plaque in Cooperstown, the commissioner of baseball must lift the ineligibility Pete accepted.

Let’s hope no commissioner is ever so forgiving.

It took years for Rose, in a desperate attempt to get reinstated, to admit that yes, in fact, he did bet on baseball games. What’s more, he admitted, he bet on his Reds … while he was the team’s manager.

Rose and his defenders argue that he never bet against the Reds. He only bet on his team to win. What’s wrong with that?

There’s a lot wrong with that.

Baseball, as we all know, is a marathon, not a sprint. There are 162 games, and even the really good teams lose 62 of them. Sometimes you have to be willing to lose because you have your eyes on the finish line.

Unless, of course, your eyes are clouded by a bet.

Did Petey ever keep a pitcher in the game longer than he should have, risking injury to the player, because he had money on the outcome?

Did he ever put a player who desperately needed a day of rest into the lineup because winning a bet was more important?

Even if the answer is no, he could have. A manager has to have his team – not his bet – foremost in his mind. And the bet opens the question of whether Petey did.

Baseball, the great American pastime, almost died 95 years ago when the Chicago “Black Sox” took money from gamblers and threw the 1919 World Series. It literally took a player of Ruthian stature to bring the game back from that scandal. Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the greatest players ever, was one of eight ballplayers banned for life afterward. You’ll find Shoeless Joe in a wonderful book that was made into a wonderful movie, but you won’t find his plaque in Cooperstown.

Rose deserves nothing better.

Photo ops and autograph sessions are all Charlie Hustle has left now, and that’s the way it should be. According to the Savannah Morning News, “About 50 fans paid $250 each to get into a ‘meet and greet’ with Rose before this game and others paid $150 to have lunch with him. He did sign some free autographs as he took the field.”

Rose told the newspaper he “was trying to show he could be a good ambassador for the game.”

“If I’m ever reinstated,” he said, “I won’t need a third chance. Believe me.”

OK, I believe him. And I also know that he does not deserve a third chance. He shouldn’t even have gotten a second one.

Let everyone who plays this wonderful game know now and forever:

There’s no betting in baseball. Period. Not even if you get 4,256 hits.

– 30 –

Take me out!

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My friends, today is a religious holiday. And, as I have for the last 30 years or so, I will be attending a house of worship with my sons, Josh and Ben.

Every year, Linda and I would pull them out of school on this day and we’d all head to the ballpark. Their principal would give them a dollar and ask them to bring him back a bag of peanuts. Never mind that a bag of peanuts cost around six bucks . . . He got it. And we brought him back the peanuts.

I said then — and I say now — that there was nothing they would miss in class that day that would be as important or as meaningful as this family tradition.

Today is Opening Day, and I’m heading to the ballpark. There will be hot dogs. There will be beer. I don’t care if I never get back.

And here’s the best part . . . This year my sons are taking ME!

Great memories last a lifetime. Let’s go Mets!

— 30 —

Cooperstown

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My kids have grown up. I know this because I’m banging away on a keyboard in Haverstraw, NY, right now, when I should be on the way home from Cooperstown.

Pull up a chair, kids, and I’ll tell you all about a grand tradition that began in October of 1987, when Josh was 8 and Ben was 2 and Josh and I decided to have a baseball weekend, just us guys, no mom, no baby brother.

The plan was simple:

We’d drive to Cooperstown on Friday night, when I got home from work, and check into a motel for a couple of nights. We’d spend all day Saturday at the Hall of Fame, then head to Brooks’ Diner in Oneonta for some chicken and ribs, and then return to our motel room to watch Game Six of the World Series. Just the two of us.

And there would be a brief but essential stop at a convenience store on the way back to motel from Brooks’, so we could pick up some essentials for watching the game. All involving excessive amounts of sugar and salt.

There was one ground rule: Anything goes. You want it, we’ll buy it. Chips, candy, soda, Twinkies, whatever. We’re guys. We snack till we’re sick.

The next morning, we’d have breakfast somewhere, then doughnuts at Snyder’s Bakery, and then we’d head back home, stopping en route to pick up a Halloween pumpkin or two.

Perfect. Continue reading