Moose Skowron passed away this weekend.
He was a great Yankee and one of my mother's favorite players growing up.
He played 9 years with the Yankees, playing in the World Series in 7 of those years, winning 4.
He made 5 All Star teams as a Yankee and was a fixture at Old Timers Day for decades.
But guess what? He was a 5 time World Champion and a 6 time All Star.
It seems strange to think of him playing for other teams, but he logged five years in the big leagues after his time with the Yankees ended.
Moose was the offensive hero of Game 7 of the 1962 World Series. The Yankees rewarded him by traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Stan Williams.
He looks strange in Dodger blue, doesn't he?
Well he looked stranger to the Yankees when he homered in the 1963 Series and helped lead the Dodgers to victory over his former team.
The Dodgers said "Thanks for the title, Moose. Now go to Washington!"
There is something unsettling about Moose Skowron in a Senator uniform. Remember it was the Washington Senators that were the topic of the musical Damn Yankees.
The premise of the play was that the Yankees had such a stranglehold on the pennant that it took a deal with the Devil to make a champion out of the lowly Senators. The play opened in 1955, when Skowron was a member of the Yankees. And now here he is stuck in Washington, needed the Devil to make a winner out of them.
(Yes, I realize that the Senators franchise from the musical was the one that became the Twins and the team that Moose played for became the Rangers. Settle down.)
Midway through the 1964 season Skowron landed back in pinstripes.
OK, they were Chicago White Sox pinstripes but he looked happier there. And why not?
The White Sox were contenders, regularly winning 90 games in the 1960s.
And in 1965, as the Yankee dynasty crumbled, Skowron made the All Star team and his White Sox won 95 games, finishing second to the Minnesota Twins. (Formerly the Senators, but NOT the Senators that Skowron played for. You following?)
Finally (and most bizarrely) Skowron was traded to the Angels in 1967.
No longer the Los Angeles Angels, they were the California Angels.
A man I associate with old fashioned Yankee baseball and clashes with Brooklyn was a member of an expansion team playing near Disneyland.
Among his teammates were Jay Johnstone and Aurelio Rodriguez, who would both play in the World Series for the Yankees under George Steinbrenner.
He was mainly a Yankee but brought his power bat from New York to L.A. to Washington to Chicago back to California.
You will be missed, Moose Skowron, by more than New York fans.
And one final note. How did he get the name Moose?
Because he was as strong as a moose?
He had a haircut as a youth that resembled Mussolini.
Moose was the shortened version of that.
Not just based upon their 5 run bottom of the 9th win today capped by Wilson Betemit's walk off 3 run jack.
But Buck Showalter is entering the month's final game tied for first in the Division. The Orioles have a better record than the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Tigers, the Angels and many other teams that were expected to contend.
Adam Jones is off to a great start. Red Sox nemesis Nolan Reimold is hitting the ball well. Matt Weiters is driving in runs. And Tommy Hunter looked terrific today (I thought last year he was a good pick up for Baltimore.)
Jim Johnson has been spot on as a closer and while the Red Sox and Yankees try to piece together a rotation, Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen join Hunter as solid starters so far. If Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz can get their acts together, this would be a deep staff.
So who should get credit for this?
Of course not.
It's the smiling bird hat.
This is their best start since 2008 when they won 16 games in April. And we all know how THAT season ended. (Actually I bet you didn't. They were a .500 team in mid July but went 23-52 after the 4th of July to finish with 93 losses.)
But the loss not withstanding, it is his second straight complete game where he looks like an ace.
I hope he is picked as pitcher of the week as yesterday's tough luck loss would be combined with Mondays 3 hit shutout.
As he stands this year, his average start is as follows:
I picked the Angels and Marlins to face off in the 2012 World Series.
And no doubt if that prediction came true, it would be music to the ears of the Fox TV stars who are placed strategically around the ball park during the World Series, promoting their shows.
A trip to Disneyland and Miami would be favorable to sitting in Philadelphia or Detroit on a cold October night.
But right now neither the Angels nor the Marlins look like champions.
The Angels offense is dysfunctional with the team eating Bobby Abreu's contract to make room for Mike Trout. That's ONE way to solve the log jam of outfielders.
Meanwhile Albert Pujols looks like Jimmie Foxx at the plate and has his home run production. Keep in mind Foxx has been dead since 1967.
And the bullpen is in total disarray. When Torii Hunter starts calling out everyone including the management, you know things are bad.
It is great that the Red Sox are winning.
As Nuke LaLoosh said, "I love winning. It's better than losing."
And I like games where the offense goes nuts and pitchers like Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard look solid.
They SHOULD beat the Twins and White Sox and they did, taking the wind out of Phillip Humber and his desire to no hit in back to back games.
The Red Sox haven't lost since the massacre in Fenway (which coincidentally happened the same day as Humber's el pefecto.)
But as good as this feels, let's not get ahead of ourselves.
The Red Sox are beating bad teams. The Red Sox aren't a bad team. They are a mediocre team. Which means they will go on bad losing streaks and good winning streaks.
Let's have fun this year, Red Sox fans. Let's not get too high and too low. With no realistic World Series hopes this year, let's enjoy it day to day. A good win is a good win. No need to check magic numbers or the loss columns.
These wins are a good thing... just not a great thing.
While looking up some facts for a post I am writing about Brian Cashman, I stumbled across this gem in the New York Daily News from John Harper.
He wrote it on September 7th, 2011 after Jesus Montero homered for the Yankees.
I'll cut and paste the whole thing here.
It will always be fair to wonder if Brian Cashman was right or wrong
not to give in to the Mariners' demands for Cliff Lee 14 months ago and
include either Ivan Nova or Eduardo Nuez along with Jesus Montero, the
centerpiece of the proposed deal.
But one thing for sure: After
Montero flashed the opposite-field power that has had scouts comparing
him to Mike Piazza for years, hitting his first two big-league home runs
at Yankee Stadium on Monday, it's starting to look like the Mariners
were the real losers in that rather famous near-deal.
Oh what an ironic ending!
A player that scouts compared to Mike Piazza could have been dealt for Cliff Lee, who was the difference between the Yankees going to the 2010 World Series or the Rangers going to the 2010 World Series.
Instead of a Cy Young winning post season stud (up to that point) they traded him for a guy with one good first half and will miss all of 2012 and part of 2013 before he throws a single pitch for the Yankees.
Meanwhile the Mariners wound up getting him anyway AND was able to deal Lee for prospects. Yeah, Justin Smoak has been a disappointment. But pitcher Blake Beavan has shown promise.
In a way, Montero's production this season is almost irrelevant in evaluating this trade in the short term.
Listening to the Yankee broadcast yesterday, Suzyn Waldman stuck to the company talking points saying that Montero hasn't been tearing up Seattle, creating a false equivalency that the trade might be equally bad for both teams. (This was before Montero crushed a Piazza like homer last night.)
Even if Montero finishes with a .100 OPS and winds up vomiting into Ichiro's cap during a game, this trade is still disastrous in the short term. Montero's Yankee role and position was "Prime Trade Chip."
He was the bait to fill the inevitable pitching holes and needed to be spent wisely.
And he wasn't.
And I think the Mariners no longer feel like the loser of that deal.
There is a lot to write about the Michael Pineda and Jesus Montero trade.
I wrote back in January that it would take a few years before we can completely judge the trade either way.
But if a trade can be evaluated short term, it is obviously a disaster for the Yankees.
There's no other way to say it. He was brought in to be a young solid arm in the rotation and make the Yankees not rely on old veterans.
He's going to play Sudoku all year and won't pitch and the Yankees are waiting for Andy Pettitte. That's a failure.
Now Cashman's many defenders are acting like this injury is just a piece of bad luck. What are the chances that a solid young arm could get injured while under contract with the Yankees? (Let's ask Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Chein Ming Wang.)
With almost zero research, I noted that Pineda had a lousy second half last year. That was a red flag for me.
But ignoring that, and saying that he was worth the Yankees best trade chip, there still is something odd about the time line.
The trade was made in January and supposedly he had a medical exam.
In February he showed up to spring training looking like Professor Sherman Klump.
In March his fast ball wouldn't have gotten a ticket. He went on the disabled list.
In April his season was over and who knows what the Yankees will get in 2013.
So if Cashman is correct and he checked out in January, then his body collapsed over two months and Pineda evidently hit the all you can eat at Sizzler often.
What is worse?
The Yankees sending their best trade chip for a broken down pitcher or bringing in a healthy pitcher and having him break down in 2 months on your watch.
I honestly didn't think that Bryce Harper was going to be brought up this soon.
I mean the Nationals are, as of this writing, the best team in the National League and keeping Harper in AAA might start his arbitration clock later.
But here we are.
That cocky S.O.B. is playing in the bigs as of tomorrow in L.A.
Should I go?
Yesterday I asked if a pitcher would homer before Albert Pujols.
Now I want to throw Harper in the equation.
Here's the supposedly next great slugger. Will the face of the 2010s homer this year before the best slugger of the 2000s?
A lot has been made about that event in Arlington the other day. A ball was tossed into the stands by Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland. A parent and his son tried to catch it. Instead Sean Leonard caught it and gave it to his fiancee Shannon Moore. And while they grinned and posed with the ball, the kid was crying his eyes out next to them.
All the while it was being captured on the YES Network with Yankees announcer Michael Kay trashing Leonard and Moore. Eventually someone on the Rangers got wind of this and made sure the kid got a ball. While the kid was smiling, Leonard and Moore were oblivious and still in Kay's doghouse.
Since then, the event when viral on line and Leonard and Moore have become villains. And they have tried to counter attack by demanding an apology from Kay and trying to get sympathy through the media about them getting married soon.
So let me give Leonard and Moore a few pointers.
First of all, why the hell do we know your names now?
How stupid can you be to have people know who you are? You two did interviews? Told people where you were from?
Have you ever been ON the Internet?
People already think you are awful people. And when people think you are awful and go on line, they can attack you with the safety of anonymity. Before you were just two douches at a Rangers game. And today you are Sean Leonard and Shannon Moore.
Nice job. I'm sure people sending you stuff on line will be very sympathetic.
I could post a picture of one of my sons kissing a baby duck and someone would write an obscene comment. (And someone else would go on a Ron Paul rant.)
What part of this seemed smart?
News cycles move so fast that everyone on the planet was going to forget about you before I finished typing this sentence.
So what did you do? You prolonged it by going on TV to tell your side of the story and demand an apology from Michael Kay!
Oooh, I'm sure Michael Kay just wet his pants. He's been an employee of the YES Network for over a decade which means for a while he was taking orders from George Freaking Steinbrenner. Call it a hunch, but I'm guessing a dopey engaged couple in Texas isn't going to get an apology from a seasoned New York sports figure.
Secondly, what is to gain from "Getting your story out." Every time the story is told, people are reminded of who the heck you are and see the video clip again. Nobody will listen to a word you say. They are already swearing at you and calling you unrepeatable names. Do you really think anyone is saying "Wait! Let's hear what the douchey couple has to say!"?
The best thing you could have done after the game was to lay low, say nothing and in a day or two it would have passed.
The worst thing? Everything you did.
The one positive thing you DID do was you didn't trash the kid.
As for catching a foul ball, the protocol is quite simple.
You give the ball to the kid. When a ballplayer or a ball boy or girl throws a ball into the stands, they are looking for a kid and will toss it directly to them.
It's THEIR ball. Fork it over.
I've been to more Major League games than I can count. Do you know how many balls I have caught from my first game in 1977 to now?
Do you know where that foul ball is?
I gave it to a kid.
In 1993, I was 21 years old and went to a Reds/Mets game at Shea Stadium. A ball came my way. I got it. I held it up so everyone could see I got it. Then I looked around, found a kid, handed him the ball, and that was that.
If you don't know you are supposed to do that then why the hell are you at a ballgame?
Finally, let me give you one more tip, Sean and Shannon.
If you two ever have kids together, you will find out that the act of staying at a ballgame with a young kid is tenuous.
It usually is late, they don't understand the game and they get antsy sitting there.
And as a baseball fan, you hope to enjoy the game as much as you can without the kid becoming unbearable.
Do you know what is unbearable?
Having the kid cry.
Simple solution. Fork the ball over.
It's not that complicated.
Have a nice wedding. I hope you don't interfere with anyone trying to catch the bouquet.
The Giants were about to dip below .500 again, but Angel Pagan smashed a 3 run homer to give the Giants the win today.
That 1-4 start is further and further in the rear view mirror.
The team that has already withstood an opening 3 game sweep by the Diamondbacks (all one run losses) Lincecum's crappy start, Bryan Wilson's season ending injury, a defensive meltdown against the Mets and Aubrey Huff's anxiety disorder that has put him on the disabled list.
Throw in the Dodgers great start and we could have been looking at an awful start to the Giants year.
Yet here we sit. The team is above .500 (and 9-5 since the awful 17-8 beating in Colorado).
Guess what? They are hitting too. Buster Posey is batting .362 and Pablo Sandoval has a 19 game hitting streak. Plus pick ups Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan seem to fit the team perfectly.
Is it just me or should the rest of the west be nervous?
I was on a podcast this March talking about the Red Sox on a panel. One of the other guests was asked about Carl Crawford and his chances for a bounce back season.
He talked about how he had no doubt that Crawford was going to come back to being an elite player after a disappointing 2011 season.
Then another one talked about how Clay Buchholz is going to be back and regain his All Star stuff.
And I of course wondered what planet I was on at that time.
They came to me and I said "Crawford is done. I expect nothing from him."
One of the other guests got upset with me and said "How can you say that?"
I replied, well other than the fact that he is injured, has wrist issues, is getting older which will affect his speed and doesn't seem like a good fit in Boston, everything seems fine with Crawford.
Then I compared (Feet of) Clay Buchholz with Ben Sheets and Rich Harden. All are talented pitchers who just can't stay healthy and bring no ACTUAL value to the team, just that remarkable "potential."
I pointed out that the next year he logs 180 innings will be his first.
The next time he makes 30 starts will be his first.
Yes he was a fragile 22 year old when he threw that no hitter in 2007.
He's now a fragile 27 year old.
I also said the Red Sox starting staff was garbage besides Lester and the bullpen unreliable.
I was told I was being too pessimistic.
Well here we sit a month later.
Carl Crawford is walking the Earth (like Kane in Kung Fu) trying to find someone to give him good news about his shoulder. He still hasn't played for the Sox since diving for the final fly ball of the 2011 season.
And Buchholz? Oh he looks great. A fantastic 8.87 ERA, averaging less than 6 innings a start, letting up homers left and right and almost a 1 for 1 walk to strike out ratio.
I don't WANT to be correct.
I WANT to be wrong!
I want Carl Crawford to be a 5 tool star and Clay Buchholz to be a stud.
But Crawford isn't playing and Buchholz isn't helping by playing.
I am NOT going to do my "Teeth Grinder/Dodged Bullet" tally.
Sweeping a potential 90 loss team (with Clay Buchholz showing that his days of being a 'budding ace' are all but over) does not make this team bogged with holes a contender.
I am rooting for the Red Sox. I always root for the Red Sox. But the fact of the matter is they are NOT a very good team. And the sooner Sox fans come to grips with that, the more fun they will have this summer.
At 14-4, the Nationals are currently the best team in the National League. Who knows how long this hot streak will last but when things are going well, strange things happen.
The pitching staff's 26 inning scoreless streak was snapped by the Padres who managed to post 2 runs on the board.
So what did the pitching staff do to even that out?
They drove in 2 runs on their own.
Starter Jordan Zimmerman drove in a run with a second inning single.
Not to be outdone, reliever Tom Gorzelanny logged one of my favorite kind of saves (the 3 inning mop up save) and smacked an RBI single of his own in the 8th.
The Nationals are 10 games over .500.
Oh that will end eventually but man, watch them now while the getting is good.
When RELIEVERS are driving in runs, you know it is a good stretch!
Yoenis Cespedes hit a 14th inning game tying home run in Oakland today. I think more people are reading this post than there were people in O.Co Coliseum today.
I hope people start calling him El Talento, his nickname, because Yoenis just isn't cutting it as a cool name.
That being said, the A's won a thriller today. And Oakland is an even 10-10 after 20 games. Not great, but they are holding their own this month.
But most interestingly for me is some of the contributors to the A's wins.
Cespedes has shown some great power and a flair for the dramatic.
Today's starter, Jarrod Parker, made his A's debut today and pitched into the 7th letting up only one run.
Kila Ka'aihue had the walk off hit today.
Tommy Milone, who already has 3 wins, pitched 8 shutout innings yesterday for the win.
Ryan Cook has given the A's 9 shutout innings from the bullpen.
What do they all have in common? They were all off season pick ups by Billy Beane.
Parker and Cook came over in the Trevor Cahill trade that everyone screamed about.
Milone was part of the Gio Gonzalez haul that everyone thought was bad for baseball.
Ka'aihue was picked up just as last season ended from the Royals.
And of course Cespedes was a Cuban national star who stunned everyone by coming to the East Bay.
Maybe something positive happened for Beane this winter other than Moneyball being nominated for Best Picture.
Now I'm not getting carried away (like I did in 2009 when I picked the A's to win the World Series.) But if the idea was to get talented players while slashing the payroll, one month in it kinda sorta looks like they are doing that.
Maybe by the time they have an actual stadium to play in, the A's might actually be a cool fun team.
Maybe by then, the sequel to Moneyball will be in production.