April 1, 2007

HEAL THEIR PAIN (via The Mother Judd):

Perfect Season: a review of CRAZY '08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History By Cait Murphy (George F. Will, 4/01/07, NY Times Book Review)

"Crazy '08" is a walk on the wild side: Brooklyn fans on rooftops would hurl sharpened umbrella shafts at visiting players in the outfield. When only boxing and horse racing competed with baseball for the public's attention, baseball stirred tribal feelings.

Baseball fans relish arguments about which was the greatest this or that -- greatest game, team, left-handed right fielder, right-handed left fielder, whatever. Murphy will ignite a dandy rhubarb with her subtitle: "How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History." The author, an assistant managing editor at Fortune magazine, makes a powerful case for those last six words.

In 1908 -- the year a play titled "The Melting Pot" put that phrase into the American lexicon -- Americans were unmelted. When the best player in the game, Honus Wagner, came to bat, a band might break into "Wacht am Rhein." When John McGraw's Giants visited Springfield, Ill., which had recently experienced a hideous race riot -- the N.A.A.C.P. was born partly in response to it -- McGraw was given, as a souvenir, a piece of the rope used to lynch a black man. Murphy reports that McGraw said the rope would replace a rabbit's foot as the Giants' good-luck emblem.

That year, construction began on the first fireproof (concrete and steel) ballpark, Shibe Park in Philadelphia. With its terra-cotta casts and copper-trimmed roof, it embodied the City Beautiful movement's belief that attractive buildings would uplift the downtrodden. Furthermore, 1908 gave the world the greatest piece of music since Mozart ("Take Me Out to the Ball Game," of course) and an audacious and successful bit of flapdoodle (the campaign to convince the gullible that Cooperstown was the birthplace, and Abner Doubleday the father, of baseball).

With Aramis Ramirez, Derek Lee and Alfonoso Soriano, the Cubs this year have an offense to be reckoned with, but their best pitcher has been abused so badly he's likely to break down and there's not much behind him. Jeff Samardzija seems not unlikely to go from the Notre Dame football field to their pitching staff in the space of six months.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 1, 2007 6:55 AM

He's been abused for years. I think at this point, he's one of the few pitchers whose arm can stand the wear a Dusty Baker or the like puts on it.

It's interesting. I've been thinking of the response to the Jim Kaat's of the world who think that pitchers are babied today and point to the good old days.

How many pitchers in the good old days simply had their arms blown out in the minors or as kids, before they could even get within a sniff of the majors?

Looking at the Glory of their Times, eg, you read the stories of pitchers throwing a complete game in game 1 of a doubleheader and then coming back for the nightcap. But then a couple of the great hitters in that book were pitchers who'd blown their arms out and switched to the field.

Which brings me back to Zambrano. H'es like one of those "good old days" pitchers whose arm could just stand the wear and tear.

His problem of course, that keeps him from being truly elite, is that he's always likely to walk the first 5 batters of the game and put the Cubs in 2 run hole.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 1, 2007 9:24 AM

It's absurd btw that thte Cubs sent Pie down, given their options in the outfield at the moment. Jacque Jones? And disingenuous of Sweet Lou to claim it was b/c Pie needed to learn plate discipline.

At Iowa last season,in 141 games, he walked 41 times, and his obp was about 60 pts higher than his avg -- respectable.

The atrocious Jacques Jones, who is at best a platoon outfielder, walked only 35 times in 149 games last season.

That is Pie's competition.

Now, he did only walk 4 times this spring, but he hit the ball well, hitting .352, and his minor league stats show he has a good eye and will walk.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 1, 2007 9:38 AM

C'mon. Chicago's NL team is not about to ruin its fans plans for the centennial celebrations for next year by actually winning.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 1, 2007 12:01 PM

Pie needs to learn to take a walk. Murton, Soriano, Floyd is their best outfield.

Posted by: oj at April 1, 2007 12:32 PM

They were on four man rotations so they had to throw strikes and faced pitchers. You can throw 100 pitches every fourth day forever.

Posted by: oj at April 1, 2007 12:33 PM

Pie has walked at a decent rate in the minors. He has at least as good an eye as Murton.

Murton et al may be there best outfield, but how many games is Floyd really going to be healthy for?

Does Lou really prefer Jacques Jones to Pie?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 1, 2007 2:43 PM

Cliff will be healthy until he isn't. Then you play someone else. Pie's better off hitting every day at AAA than sitting on the bench.

Posted by: oj at April 1, 2007 3:37 PM

Felix walked 46 times (126 Ks) in 559 AAA ab's last year. If you can make those numbers converge a little before you reward him with a job it can only help down the road. See under: Wily Mo Pena....

Posted by: oj at April 1, 2007 3:53 PM