Category: Dailies

Les Expos son las: A 1970 tale of what was baseball Montreal-style recalled

MLB Network’s re-broadcast of old games is very entertaining as well as informative. It’s very interesting watching the past come to life in real time so to speak.

One of the recent encounters recounted was a Sept. 2, 1970 matchup between Les Expos and the Pirates. The game in, and of itself, was fairly mundane. I’m perplexed why MLB Network chose it since it was a routine exercise in which the Expos John Boccabella hit a home run in the bottom of the 9th Inning to win 10-7. Well, Boccabella only hit 24 home runs in his career, but hey now, nothing special throughout.

Yet, the contrasts and similarities from even a routine game seen almost 40 years later yielded a great deal of insight into the overall game and some of its great players.

This was the Expos’ second year, playing at Parc Jarry. Crazy small, Jarry wasn’t much larger than some of the newer AAA parks or spring training stadia.

Hal Kelly and Don Drysdale called the game for CBC TV. Kelly was better known as a hockey announcer, yet did a fine job. Drysdale, who had retired the previous year due to shoulder ailments, was a bit raw, but OK.

Craig Morton v. Bob Moose. Morton had a tremendous 1970, winning 18 games on a last place Expos team that lost 89 games. Moose was part of what manager Danny Murtaugh called his “butcher shop” accompanying fellow hurlers Bob Veale and John Lamb.

The Pirates reached the NLCS that year losing to the pre-Big Red Machine, but the Pirates were the Reds equal, and went to the World Series in 1971 to boot. This team was loaded. Dock Ellis, Mudcat Grant, Steve Blass et al, all well and good, but the lumber, unbelievable. Clemente, Stargell, Oliver, Sanguillen, Robertson, Hebner, Cash, even Mazeroski, Alley, Pagan, and the diminutive Patek.

Kelly told a great story about a brawl the Pirates had the previous year with the Expos. The monster 6-foot, 8-inch super-reliever Dick Radatz was winding up his career with the Expos. During the brawl, Kelly said, he grabbed the 5-foot, 4-inch Patek, lifted him up and said, “I’ll take you on and a player to be named later.”

Being an expansion team, The Expos were much less endowed than the Bucs. They did have Rusty Staub, who, believe it or not, cut a svelte figure. Staub may have put on a few pounds later, but he was thin, quick and, actually, played a tremendous right field, a true 1970 superstar. During this game, he reached over the 4-foot wire-mesh outfield fence to take away a Pirate home run foul ball.

The broadcast was black-and-white, but the television standards weren’t that bad. They used mainly an overall infield-type shot with frequent close shots of the mound, a technique which probably should be used more today, and employed an occasional replay.

The broadcast even miked up Expos manager Gene Mauch — You thought Fox Sports invented this? — and replayed some mound conversations. They had to cut the mike later, however, when Mauch went berserk on a checked swing call that went against the Expos’ Adolfo Phillips, and was ejected. Too much caffeine probably, because the call looked just fine. Interestingly, Phillips violently threw his bat to the ground, but was not ejected. He certainly would be today. As well, the umpires gave the argument much more latitude than the chip-on-their-shoulders crews of today.

Some other oddities compared to today truly stood out in this typical 1970 game. The bats were gigantic compared to today’s models, all the bats. Players went Michael Jackson-style, wearing one glove only while batting, and it was on the top hand. I’m not sure why, because if I were using only one glove, I would put it on the bottom hand. These gloves resembled golf gloves. Staub put on his glove only after he batted to run the bases. Huh?

Other Montreal features included the giant scoreboard with state-of-the-art graphics and an organist who, for some unknown reason, played almost constantly, pausing only while a play was in progress and then immediately resuming. Almost as annoying as the Indian drum guy or the Rays screamer, who, thankfully, seems to have disappeared this season. And let the door slam on your obnoxious butt on the way out, loser. But, I digress.

A few times Kelly started calling Clemente “Bob”, which we all know Clemente hated, but quickly corrected himself, and called him Roberto. Stargell displayed that trademark bat twirl before each pitch. I always loved that as a kid. Hebner and Oliver each looked young and great.

Then, there was the inimitable, rubber-armed Mike Marshall coming in to relieve Morton. Of course, Dr. Marshall went Cy Young with the Dodgers in 1974 and today teaches revolutionary, and controversial, pitching techniques. Kelly had to explain the mysteries of the screwball to oh, Canada, but Marshall threw great, even if he coughed up the lead. Other than maybe John Bateman and Staub, most of the Expos position players were somewhat obscure although Coco LaBoy and Ron Fairly were on the bench. Of the pitching staff, Bill Stoneman, Ken Johnson and Claude Raymond were most notable probably for future generations.

And yet, for all the changes baseball has witnessed in the 40 years since the game, most remarkable was how similar that game was to, say, the Nationals-Mets game yesterday. In fact, this post-steroid period may have returned the game more to its proper balance and roots than we could have imagined for the on-field action in September 1970 seemed virtually indistinguishable from today’s games.

Yes, the players were less bulked up, but the pace, balance and execution were similar to a game played yesterday, today and probably tomorrow. I find that somehow reassuring, comforting and pleasurable. Too bad the Expos, and Montreal, who got screwed in the 1994 player strike and then succumbed, couldn’t be around in 2009 to enjoy this in person.

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Watching Padres games on television is a drag

That’s because the Padres have the worst announcing crew in MLB hands-down, with the exception of post-game reporter, and former hurler, Bob Scanlan. Hopefully, someone with an eye for talent will promote Scanlan to the game-time booth although it will have to be outside San Diego, which is afflicted with the incompetence of Cox Cable 4 and its exclusive contract through next year, yet another John Moores era travesty.

Thanks to MLB Extra Innings and MLB.com we are able to experience the entirety of MLB coverage every day now. So, the Padres misannouncers are exposed totally as the worst.

Mark Grant is a joke and not in a ha-ha way, but pathetic beyond belief. He is obnoxious, self-promoting and despite his playing experience remarkably uninformed about baseball. Of course, he tries to cover up with fake baseball rhetoric that anybody remotely familiar with the game instantly recognizes as a sham. Then, there is the business of him constantly yelling about ball and strike calls, beginning usually about one pitch into the game. How tired. Matt Vasgersian, before he left for the MLB Network, always called Grant on this disgusting bit of stupidity, but Matt is gone so no check is in place.

The new guy, Mark Neeley, is very bland and not particularly knowledgeable. He came from many years of Tulsa Triple A experience, which isn’t necessarily bad. It’s just that he is uninformed and boring, bringing nothing to the table. His hiring would have been curious except for the utter incompetence and stupidity of Cox 4 management and its GM, forgot his name, so it’s no surprise.

One of the more odious aspects of their coverage involves the self-promotion and homerism of the broadcasts. For example, Saturday, while the Padres-Pirates game was in progress, Cox 4 spent a half inning promoting “Sam, the Cooking Guy” who apparently has a show on their channel. As bad as it was to be confronted with a half inning of nothing to do with baseball, Cox 4 also didn’t believe it prudent to show the on-field action, instead showing only the booth. Nobody is watching the baseball game because they care in the least about Sam and cooking. Thanks for nothing. 

How tired is the Cox 4 product. With so many legitimate issues revolving around the Padres descent into awfulness in order to fatten Moores’ bank account, this crew of morons ignores any intelligent discussion of the situation or anything baseball-related.

San Diego baseball fans thank the lords of baseball for being able to watch the Padres with the ability to turn down the Cox 4 noyze chatter and listen to the opposing announcing crew. Last night, I listened to the Pirates crew who do a great job in a similarly small market. I found Bob Walk’s comments on the Padres quite refreshing.

Walk pointed out how the Padres had been boasting about assembling a pitching staff on the fly this year. (For those not following, the Padres signed two-thirds of their staff from other team castoffs during the last two weeks of spring training). Walk pointed out the BS factor there. What happened to the Padres minor league system that should have been producing that pitching talent to fill the holes just like the real teams, he said.

Exactly. As impartial minor league system ratings, and current on-field Padres product, clearly show, the Padres have one of the worst, if not the worst, minor league system in baseball, Padres management BS notwithstanding. You’ll never hear word boo on this from Cox 4 miscasters.

What’s truly funny — make that despicably disgusting —  is the Cox GM telling the Union Tribune, the announcing and presentation must be OK since nobody complains through e-mails. Usually people complain if they don’t like something, but say nothing if they like the product, he said.

 Are you kidding me???

Nobody complained for two reasons. Number one, the station does not provide e-mail addresses making it extremely difficult to send comments. Number two, nobody complains BECAUSE NOBODY CARES.

The product is so awful and so historically awful — with the exception of Vasgersian who always seemed to be kept under wraps, and Scanlan; I also liked Ted Leitner on TV — THAT NOBODY CARES. So, why complain?

Anyone doubting that I’m telling it like it is need only examine the Padres TV ratings. They’re off the chart miniscule. Anyone else doubting, check out the Padres broadcast on MLB Extra Innings and MLB.com. They’re an embarrassment to San Diego, a very sophisticated and lovely place, and to baseball.

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Sunday addendum:

As if to emphasize all the points I made earlier, Cox 4 had some guy from a show called “Brainwave” that was “immediately following” the game during the second inning. Same old crap, booth pictures, game as afterthought. A half inning wasn’t enough apparently. They held him over to the third inning to talk about whatever brainwaves they failed to kill in the second.

And in an incredibly revealing aside, Neeley, who moved to San Diego this month, said he was from Rancho Bernardo, “the most boring part of San Diego,”

Huh?

A place is what one makes of it. As a 10-year Del Dios-Rancho Santa Fe resident, just across Lake Hodges from Rancho Bernardo, I can state unequivocally Rancho Bernardo is no more boring than anywhere else in the world. Talk about calling the kettle a cup, Neeley’s comment said it all about himself and the Padres broadcasts.

UH-OH HOT DOG; Padres back to losing ways

Looks like the party didn’t make it to May for the Padres who went 9-2 to start the season before losing three games in a row this week.

Front-runner that I am, I’m back off the Padres bandwagon. They’re back on track to that coveted 100-loss season.

Some of it was inevitability somewhat postponed as the boys came out scrapping, stole a few games, caught a few teams flat-footed in the April gloaming.

Lack of depth and heaven forbid talent proved the team’s undoing. It’s always a good sign to win one-run games, which they did for a while, but now they’re losing them with no end in sight.

Jake Peavy and Chris Young have been pitching well, but it’s hard to win with no run support, which has been the case. A few injuries and blown bullpen outings later, the writing is on the Lake Hodges Dam graffiti wall. It’s all over baby beige and blue.

Then again, what did you expect?

I can’t believe what I just saw: Could the Padres be the new Gashouse Gang and other first week MLB musings

It’s been a great season to date, the first week of MLB 2009. Lots of surprises, uplifting moments, tragedy and pathos as well as new stadia.

With the exception of Fox’s odious Saturday blackouts, every game is available for live viewing between MLB Extra Innings and MLB.com.

I’ve watched every inning of every game. Your reporters and anal assyss hired by MLB.com haven’t. Neither have your MLB TV studio analysts, baseball executives, sports observers, practically everybody else in America.

For what it’s worth, since everybody else gets the recognition and perks — MLB.com doesn’t believe I know anything about baseball or have any insights, ability etc., and denies me access to the press room, thanks Dinn Mann, Bill Hill, Jim Banks — here are some of my insights into the new season.

For starters, looks like I was right on about the Royals. I believe this team will be in the playoffs for the first time in decades. Too bad the Orioles are deficient in pitching since they have a hitting juggernaut. Rangers pitching appears improved. They throw bat after bat at you with a legion of MLB-ready players in the high minors along with several MVP candidates including my fellow Hebrew Ian Kinsler and the Mickey Mantle clone that is Josh Hamilton. The Angels have been hit hard by injury, death, everything, so we got a race here.

We got a race everywhere in fact. It looks surprisingly — given the disparity in team payrolls — like parity on the field. I firmly believe in parity. That makes it great for the majority of fans. Dynasties are for elitist losers.

The teams succeeding this year — year two of the steroid-as-free-as-monitor-able era — have certain similar characteristics. These teams comprise a slew of interchangeable, moving parts; extreme flexibility as far as position players and pitching assignments. The Cardinals look to be a prime example of this post-steroid phenomenon along with the aforementioned Royals and restocked for prime time Marlins.

The new stadiums have been great. Despite pre-opening pitcher park rhetoric, the Mets new Citibank ripped me off and now gets a government bailout and gets to name their stadium a la” Enron Field remember that kiddies, ballpark, looks to be good hitting. So does the new Yankee Stadium, which looks like the ultimate culmination of the new age of cookie cutter cool experience stadiums, but in a good way. The games there have been wild and the ball goes Babe Ruth into the Right Field day.

The most amazing series of on-field happenings have surrounded my pride and “joy?” Padres. While I predicted 105 losses, the first week has given me pause. They still may lose a ton of games but as in the 2000 stolen presidential election — and thanks for screwing up the world, Bush — the results may take a while to come in and surprise in the end.

A number of factors have aided the Padres, which is why I’m saying the season is too close to call as yet. For one thing, they beat up on the Dodgers at Petco — an annual tradition, regardless of disparate team strength — then beat up on the Giants. the Jints, however, appear weak and listless, any progress they seemed to make last year probably was a mirage.

The Padres ushered in new Enron Field. Initially, I looked at this like Texas scheduling Rice for homecoming, a sure win for a new era. On further review, one might conclude the Padres caught a break as the Mets may have been tentative and nervous with the new field. As well, the Mets were no more familiar with the field than the Padres, losing part of the traditional home field advantage.

Yet, the Padres clearly played with unusual fervor, a newfound sense of purpose and true grit. I was unprepared for this based on last year’s listless litany of loss. Part of this, it turns out, may be due to adding Ted Simmons and Jim Lefebvre to the senior coaching staff. These guys — and Bud Black is the first to acknowledge — have added a lot of knowledge and pizzazz to the team mix.

Even more-so, the addition of David Eckstein, maturing of Chase Headley and Kevin Kouzmanoff, solid pitching, especially from castoff relievers added in the last few weeks of spring training, as well as a tough, underdog, devil-may-care attitude — maybe a new Gashouse Gang in these troubled economic times — has paid dividends.

Here is the yin and yang of this. Some of the success of the new wave of Padres pitchers may be due to the league’s unfamiliarity with them. Maybe the second time around the league won’t be so fruitful. Same goes for Padres hitters, most of whom are young and untested. On the other hand…

A team that learns it can win, often does win. The Padres have come from significant deficits in difficult games to win several times. Given their lack the high-priced talent, they also lack the high-priced egos. Many Padre players already have noted the team chemistry and spirit of self-sacrifice, although winning generally pins a happy spin on such perceptions, Despite the individual nature of much of the baseball experience, it remains a team game with sacrifice and execution a large part of team success.

Several come from behind victories on the road — including Saturday’s shocking stopping of Brad Lidge’s 47-save straight streak — have planted a seed in the Padre brainwaves and sometimes that seed grows to be a mighty redwood. It has happened before.

With that said, I continue to believe the Padres will sink fast into oblivion, but 

my slam dunk feeling has tempered greatly given what has transpired this first week. I’m willing to let it slide a few weeks because stranger turnabouts have happened.

I also want to make it perfectly clear that being the frontrunner I am when it comes to hometown baseball, I am quite willing to jump on the Padres bandwagon should it continue to roll downhill.

But that’s for another day, a further column. In the meantime, continue to play ball!

And a shout out to MLB.com for employing everybody but me, so I get to stand in the soup line and starve, while everybody else gets to get paid for covering baseball somewhat less well than me. At least, I was able to pay in advance for MLB.com before I went completely broke this week. 

Consider very carefully my 2009 MLB predictions because I am very often correct although I don’t get no Rodney Dangerfield respect

I don’t get no respect. Shout ode to Rodney Dangerfield, one of my ideals. I picked the Rays to go to the World Series last year, but nary a nod anywhere in the world of faux baseball punditry.

Therefore, consider my picks for 2009 with the utmost respect and expect the expected this fall. That’s just the way my baseball prognostications roll.

AL EAST

1. Boston

2. New York

3. Tampa Bay

4. Baltimore

5. Toronto

AL CENTRAL

1. Kansas City

2. Minnesota

3. Cleveland

4. Chicago

5. Detroit

AL WEST

1. Los Angeles

2. Texas

3. Oakland

4. Seattle

NL EAST

1. New York

2. Philadelphia

3. Atlanta

4. Florida

5. Washington

NL CENTRAL

1. Chicago

2. Cincinnati

3. St. Louis

4. Pittsburgh

5. Houston

NL WEST

1. Los Angeles

2. Arizona

3. Colorado

4. San Francisco

5. San Diego

PLAYOFFS

AL

Bos v. KC

NYY v. LAA;

Bos v. NYY;

Bos….

NL

Chic v. Phil

NYM v. LAD;

Chic v. NYM

Chic….

WORLD SERIOUS 

Yes, that’s correct, dream matchup Red Sox v. Cubs and I predict the Red Sox in six games.

So, who needs to watch. See you in October.

Pity the poor Padres: Free fall below, as in Opening Day awaits with105 losses to go

The arty party line as spring training ends is this team is going to surprise people.

Lose 105 to 110 games. Surprise!

The Padres somehow while we were sleeping or something became the worst team in baseball. Surprise!

While plenty of blame can go around, the continual spin is quite disingenuous. Saying this team is better than it looks is such a misrepresentation that trying to fool people will work only so long, say the first 10 or 15 games of the season.

Let’s see what the Padres bring to the table. Adrian Gonzales, Jake Peavy, if he doesn’t get hurt;  Kouzmanoff, Headley somewhat, maybe even a bit of an occasional spark from Gerut.

That’s not even enough for team mediocrity considering the rest of the story. An incredibly overpaid Brian Giles, adequate in right, Eckstein adequate at second even though other teams couldn’t wait fast enough to get rid of him in the last few years.

Ahh, hmmm, pitching, Besides Peavy who would be gone asap if the Padres were at all reasonable in trade demands, Chris Young, who does not appear right and can’t win on the road even when he is right; no other starting pitching, really none. Bullpen in disarray, Bell might be good, but consider Meredith as his primary set-up man followed by five pitchers acquired in the last two weeks, each of whom was about the be cut and by teams such as the Nationals.

This team is a disgrace. John Moores is to blame of course. So is Sandy Alderson whose tenure as baseball president was a disaster. I wouldn’t blame Bud Black since his hire was a Good Old Boy network type of thing apparently. His in-game moves are pitiful, but he seems like a stand-up guy. First manager to be fired this year? Possibly. It’s hard to see how he could last the season unless management feels the season is so lost it doesn’t matter. Otherwise, he’s gone.

Not helping the viewing fan is Cox Channel 4 monopoly on coverage yielding the insipid Mark Grant — probably the worst MLB announcer in the nation, a sad combination of zero actual baseball knowledge with disgusting self-promotion of the nothing brand that is his awfulness — and a new guy who spent 20 years at Tulsa and is boring, over-his-head, etc. 

Thanks goodness for MLB.com, Direct TV baseball package, etc. so at least we’ll be able to watch baseball, and not be limited to Padres games circa 1970s baseball world.

It’s going to be one of the worst seasons ever by an MLB team.

Thanks for nothing Moores-Alderson ad nauseum liars all. Enjoy your MLB bailout and non-performance bonuses.

JOKE–NO JOKE: Padres will lose 105 games this year

Note: I am re-printing this article from March 31 just so everybody knows who knows it first…

The Padres are about to embark on one of the worst seasons in baseball history. Plenty of blame to go around although much of it at this point must be centered on John and Becky Moores and Sandy Alderson.

While it’s all good and well to go around saying how much one loves the Padres etc., the fact is Moores and family milked this sucker for all it was worth and a lot more. They turned — or rather, circumstances, the economy and MLB popularity turned — an $84 million investment into $500 million. Good for them, but don’t pretend your love for the Padres, their fans and San Diego is paramount when it isn’t. Just witness the dismantling of the team over a few dollars in an environment when teams are expanding rosters and payrolls.

What’s more, the Moores’ choice of Alderson was disastrous. The drafts were terrible, maybe the worst in baseball. Not only was Matt Bush recently called the second worst draft pick in MLB history, but the lack of drafted players in the majors is amazing. Other than that, Alderson’s stupidity drove away all decent baseball guys and left yes-men and sycophants or a few smart guys whose advice was ignored.

The Padres will lose around 105 games easy. Thanks for nothing!

As an added blog bonus today only, this is the e-mail I sent the Padres TV pigs about their coverage, too (Thanks goodness for MLB Network, MLB Extra Innings and MLB. com for real coverage)…

You don’t even have a proper way to e-mail you with comments, how user unfriendly with this form.

The fact is the only reason anybody would watch your Padres coverage is you have a monopoly, but that will end, too. This year, don’t complain  when your ratings are zero, or say it’s because the team is bad or the economy sucks.

The reason nobody will be watching is evidenced today by your Padres=Brewers coverage. The announcers are the worst in baseball. Do yo have any doubt if a Vince Scully or even a Matt Vasgersian were broadcasting you would have a few viewers, just because it was interesting despite a terrible team. But now, you have a Mark Grant who is so odious, obnoxious and disgusting with his self-promotions and BS fake knowledge and your new guy is so boring and nondescript that it is a chore to listen and watch, actually like a job (bad) or even an affliction.

I’m a big baseball fan, but I’m afraid I will watch alternative baseball coverage rather than yours because yours is so sub-standard, even annoying and worse, stupid and maddening.

Don’t bother with your form reply, we blah blah and other people blah blah blah… You’re fooling only yourselves. The fact is you’ve dug your own ratings grave whether you believe it or not and I HATE YOU FOR REMOVING THIS PLEASURABLE EXPERIENCE of enjoying Padres baseball on TV, even if the team is bad,, although I’m sure watching the Rockies, Giants, Dodgers, D-Backs, anybody but the Padres will remain my baseball solace.

Thanks for nothing!