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Stat! Stricken! They’re Out!

January 24, 2010

The Free Admission of Mark McGwire:  A Sad Reflection on Baseball

The St. Louis fandom’s screaming, standing ovation at last week’s Cardinal Winterfest indeed signaled “Mac is Back” in baseball (and what a chirping Redbird he is now!), ending a dubious miracle of time-lapse photography by which we (unlike McGwire’s Bud) can clearly see an emerging emergency.  First, Barry Bonds frustration at being anything but first fiddle bursts to stunning fruition during the elaborate staging of the Selig-produced “Mark McGwireSammy Sosa 1998 Saving Baseball Show.”

Next we view the rigged race to eternal fame and untold fortune.  This was an ugliness unfolding–Bonds’ simmering jealousies(described so tellingly in Mark Fainaru-Wada’s and Lance Williams’ Game of Shadows) and steroid-free frame becoming, by all accounts (see History of Devil’s Bargaining) too much psychologically and physically for him to bear,without scratching his fatal itch.  Now Mr.McGwire’s faux mea culpas not only reveal his own dormant mind-body dilemmas, but force me to take matters into my own hands, giving me just cause to utilize my Barry Code “stricken from the record clause” claws and literally remove Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and infamous others from the Code’s Batting Encyclopedia for their successful ruinations of baseball history.

After his recent belated admissions, the unnaturally Big Mac unleashed a volley of whiny regrets that centered on his own victimization:  the “steroid culture,” his body “breaking down”—even the “mistaken notion” of the public that his usage increased his home run totals!  Of course, mutually enabling and gifted manager Tony LaRussa tried to re-enforce the sullied slugger’s jaw-dropping claims about the unique swing and work ethic that will now be so generously shared with Albert Pujols and the rest of the needy Redbirds.

Those formerly secret and strangely ineffective PEDs that evidently had no part in propelling McGwire’s batted balls to previously unreached distances and numbers were only the beginning of his good natured, unabashed revisionist lies and delusions. When questioned about the possibility of clearing the air with George Mitchell in his 2007 report, McGwire, lost in circumspect retrospect, casually responded that aside from the fact that his lawyer had advised against it, “not one player, of course, had talked to Mitchell,” and closed the conversation pleading yet again his Congressional mantra, “Let’s all move on!”
“But when we look back, it’s funny: Frank Thomas really might have been the hero of the story.” Joe Posnanski, Sports Illustrated

Which brings us to Frank Thomas, the one player who did talk to Mitchell, the one player who railed most against rampant steroid use in baseball for years previous to 1998. As a critical matter of fact, ’98 was for Thomas, like Bonds, a year of decision for the leading batter of the ‘90s. As the great Bonds got second billing to the Slammin’ Sammy/Big Mac tour, despite his becoming the first player ever to pass the 400 HR/400 SB career combo, Thomas’s record eighth straight 100 RBI, 100 BB season was easily overlooked, especially since his average had slipped below .300 for the first time (.265).

The response to a somewhat lowered standing in the game could not have been more different.  For Bonds, it was thus (as written in the prologue of the resource-full Game of Shadows): “As the 1998 season unfolded, and as he watched Mark McGwire take over the game—his game—Barry Bonds decided that he, too, would begin using what he called ‘the shit.’”

Thomas’s concern was not the performances of McGwire, Sosa, or Bonds, but his own struggles: “This game has a way of humbling you. You have to work harder. You have to make adjustments.” And although Thomas would never recapture the full glory of his first seven seasons, he proudly batted and battled onward: a third MVP lost to that roid-using, law abusing Jason Giambi in 2000, finishing his fine career in the traditional manner hitters had always honorably attempted while facing the quickening pitches of Father Time. Surpassing 500 homers and .300 average should soon earn him a deserved place in Cooperstown.  With over 6000 Bases Batting and less than 6000 Outs Batting, the “Big Hurt” has already been ensconced in the BarryCode Batters Hall of Fame.

But what of the “juicers,” those obvious culprits who not only would shamelessly invade the Batters of Hall of Fame but also the innumerable leaders’ lists of the Batting Encyclopedia?  For all the years of airy talk that threatened “possible removal from the record books,” baseball’s policy of polite policing still extols the conspirators, further hallowing hollow records with Most Valuable Player and Silver Slugger awards.

What can be the code of the Code? If not a banishing, then a vanishing, a completely “out-of-site” penalty for such cheating.  Is there precedent for such umpiring? Aren’t these players innocent until proven guilty?  More pointedly, was McGwire culpable before his admission? A jury verdict of innocence didn’t prevent Judge Landis from sending Black Soxers into their exiles. For the sake of corrected chronicling, the BarryCode Batting Encyclopedia doesn’t need a court of law. That is why I can declare the righteous Judge Landis himself guilty for his “self-collusion,” historically preventing baseball’s integration with his one-man  prejudicial rule (another equally seamy diamond story).

So, armed with an opinion and a firm regard for the opinions of an informed baseball citizenry, I will strike the following “Dirty Dozen” from the records for contaminating our sacred pastime:

1. Barry Bonds
2. Mark McGwire
3. Sammy Sosa
4. Alex Rodriguez
5. Rafael Palmeiro
6. Gary Sheffield
7. Jason Giambi
8. Miguel Tejada
9. Manny Ramirez
10. David Ortiz
11. Ken Caminiti
12. Jose Canseco

Much more to come–and many more to go!

Welcome back, Henry Aaron and Roger Maris-755 and 61, what magical numbers! And Happy January 31 birthday, Ernie Banks–again Cub all-time HR leader with 512, after Flintstone-chewing, bat-corking, English-challenged Sammy bids adieu again!  As far as McGwire goes,he doesn’t go far–no need to taint any career Cardinal list headed by Stan Musial with the name of a bogus Bash Brother.  Finally, don’t buy Bonds–the true Giant is still Willie Mays!

How can we see the brave new world of PED-free statistics on the BarryCode website?  Simply by pressing the NOPE (No Performance Enhancing) button on the BarryCode Decoder (bottom left on Home Page).

Note that all players, including the steroidal sluggers listed above, appear on Don Sevcik’s BarryCode lists, fueled by an ever vigilant logic and providing further fortuitous comparisons while maintaining his original vision for the BarryCode. I thank Don for indulging my reality on this issue and dedicate today’s blog to Carlton Fisk, ex-Sox socker who in retirement has finally been socking it to this guilty group of artificial record holders!

So let us close with our soothing words of the day: Stat! Stricken! They’re Out!

All input and output appreciated, Barry

Encoding Essentia, Beyond Baseball’s Dementia . . . .

December 14, 2009

 Did You Not Know That?

In 1960, sitting on the bench of baseball’s worst team, the woeful 58-96 Kansas City A’s, was a second-string outfield that one day would ascend to a victorious Valhalla while remaining in danger only of unsplendid splinters. Did you not know that Dick Williams, Whitey Herzog and Hank Bauer would all one day manage World Champions? Upon announcement of Herzog’s entrance into the Hall of Fame this week, it’s a reminder to keep your eyes from the stars and look to the dugout once in a while, to conjure the improbable futures of current benchwarmers who may, like our unlikely immortals, wind up commanders in charge, winning the crown jewel of baseball bling–a World Series ring!

Speaking further of “unreckoned threes” (without resorting to Stengelese), if the pending trade of Boston’s Mike Lowell to Texas for Max Ramirez is finally approved, it would mean for the third time “Max Being Max” has been traded for a former All Star, without yet completing one major league season! Did you not know that in addition to ’07 W.S. MVP Lowell, Ramirez has already been traded for ex-big league stars Kenny Lofton and Bob Wickman? With three such transactions by the tender age of 25, Mr. M.R. has somehow, though benched in the bigs, with very little playing time, become a bastion of baseball essentia (by explanation, to be convivial, all that is not trivial!).

The recent unveiling of fascinating footage proving the National Anthem was first played during the seventh inning of Game #1 of the 1918 World Series between the visiting BoSox and the Cubs went without an essential bit of truth! Did you not know that the game was played at Comiskey Park? I thought so!

Switching to Pitching

Two Faves among Four-Inning Saves

July 19, 1955 – “Babe” Birrer earns nickname! Detroit rookie reliever Werner Joseph Birrer homers in consecutive at-bats, while hurling four shutout innings for his first big-league save, ensuring Frank Lary’s victory over the Orioles and becoming the only relief pitcher ever to save a game while hitting two home runs. Two years later, Millard Fillmore “Dixie” Howell of the White Sox (like Hank Bauer, a WW II hero) becomes the only reliever in history to win a game while hitting two homers.   Howell’s power display at Comiskey Park on June 16, 1957, is linked forever in my diamond mind with another favorite two-homer day for a ‘50s Sox left-handed hitter, all four landing in the distant right-field stands. On June 24, 1956, Hall of Fame centerfielder Larry Doby hit three-run homers in the first inning of each game of a White Sox double-header sweep over those Damn Yankees! And is this day, the anniversary of L.D.’s birth, December 13, 1925, not the right one to remember a slugging feat of that classy, history-making man?)

July 13, 1963 – Cleveland’s Jerry Walker pitches four scoreless frames to save the coveted 300th (and final) career win of the great, late Early Wynn!  Early’s precious 7-4 win over K.C. was his sole victory in 1963, and Jerry’s razor-sharp rescue was his lone save of the year, as well as the last of his career.  Historically, as AL All Star teammates in 1959, Wynn and Walker had already made their mark together.  Through the two All Star games of that year, starters Wynn of the White Sox and Walker of the Orioles proceeded to become, respectively, the oldest (Early,game 1) and youngest (Jerry,game 2) players ever to be in starting All Star Game lineups.  Ironically, in game 2, “Old Gus” relieved for youngest ever winning pitcher Walker in preparation, it seems, for their milestone win-and-save high-wire act!

What ties together these two historic saves and humbles even the most casual box score scanner (which I do not claim to be) are the pitching lines for the two games for the four aforementioned righties, perfectly mirroring each other, all 24 numerical entries in place!

Game No. 1 IP H R ER BB SO
Lary 5 6 4 4 3 3
Birrer 4 3 0 0 2 2
Game No. 2 IP H R ER BB SO
Wynn 5 6 4 4 3 3
Walker 4 3 0 0 2 2

Raves for “More Than Four Innings” Saves

June 1, 1920 – Hank “Lefty” Thormahlen pitches five relief innings in the Yankees 14-7 win over the Senators, saving the victory for George Herman Ruth (4IP, 4R, 2ER). The Babe’s only pitching appearance during his phenomenal 54-homer 1920 campaign is historically significant to this day, as he is the only pitcher (minimum 10 seasons pitched) to have had a winning season each year for each team he pitched for, a tribute to his underrated moundsmanship and the strange official scoring of that fateful June afternoon.

The man who is tied with Early Wynn at exactly 300 career wins, Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove is credited with the longest save in World Series annals. On October 9, 1929, in Chicago’s Wrigley Field, young Moses rescued “Swarthmore Smoothie” George Earnshaw, to preserve Game 2 laurels for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia crew, tossing 4-1/3 shutout innings following Earnshaw’s 4-2/3 IP, 3ER showing during the A’s 8-3 besting of the cursed Cubs.

Orioles Succumb to Two Strange Saves, But Prevent the Strangest

September 3, 2002Joaquin Benoit pitches seven innings of one-run ball to secure history’s longest save vs. the Birds.

August 22, 2007 – The highest scoring total by any team in one game saw the Rangers beat the Orioles 30-3 (after spotting Baltimore a 3-run lead), yet requiring a 3-inning save by Wes Littleton.

May 18, 1957 – With one minute to go before curfew ends the game in Baltimore, White Sox reliever Paul LaPalme does not hold the ball (or throw it to the screen!) but instead yields a homer to none other than Mr. Dick Williams, losing a save and 4-3 Sox win with a misguided pitch.

Two Cinch Series Saves

October 1, 1959Gerry Staley saves it for Early Wynn (11-0 White Sox over Dodgers) with 2 IP.

October 6, 1960 Bobby Shantz 2/3 inning preserves 16-3 win for Bob Turley, Yankees over Pirates.

In closing, thanks to Don Sevcik, my W-L differential (a simple significance) listings are on the Barry Code Boards, showing Randy Johnson and Jack Chesbro winning major league titles, pitching in both leagues, and Grover Cleveland Alexander capturing three straight. And speaking for all the other otherwise unacknowledged leaders, thanks to all for checking it out!

For Nathan Thurm and Johnny Sturm,Barry Codell…..