Today I join baseball fans around the globe to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day.
The event has turned into a special day for our family as this is the day we all suit up and head to Dodger stadium. Due to Covid-19 our celebration will be virtual as even though a pandemic is blazing across the land, paying homage to “Jack” must go on.
A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.
As a baseball historian I have mapped out a full schedule of activities to pay my respect. Here is a partial listing as well as some great links you may want to check-out if you too are inspired to salute #42.
The players, umpires, managers and coaches may not be on the field donning #42 but you can believe people from all walks of life will be wearing their Jackie Robinson gear as a sign of respect and connection to his legacy.
Ken Griffey, Jr. gives a great interview on how he was inspired to call baseball commissioner Bud Selig to request if he could wear #42 CLICK HERE
#42 was a special movie because it captured Robinson’s experience as he hit the Dodgers minor league play in preparation in being called up to the “big team.” It captures his stint in Daytona Beach, Fl which today has the Jackie Robinson stadium and is used by the Chicago Cubs minor league system. Additionally there is some great scenes from Sanford, FL (about 20 miles from Daytona Beach) which in 2012 happened to be the city Trayvon Martin was murdered by George Zimmerman.
Just in. Managers of three of baseball’s perennial organizations have been fired or otherwise parted ways. For the upcoming season and in the foreseeable future, A.J. Hinch manger of the Houston Astros, Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox and Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets will not be watching any baseball games from their respective dugouts.
The season for 2020 hasn’t even started yet Commission Robert Manfred dropped the bombshell of the year, and for many it may be the decade or perhaps a lifetime. His announcement came yesterday morning by concluding the Houston Astros were guilty of a sign or signal calling scheme.
What!!! You may ask…..stealing signs, what is that?
Ever since sport was created as a competitive exercise many have a “win at any cost” or “whatever it takes to win” mentality. Fortunately, over time those who have operated to “bend” the rules are usually ferreted out. Of course, the credibility of fair competition is the result.
In most sports there are enough rules and regulations to choke a horse!!! Yet, the manner of mankind has always found a way to manipulate those rules and regulations as an advantage to them. Most define that as stone-cold cheating.
That is the situation the Houston Astros found themselves in following Major League Baseball’s (MLB) investigation into the signal scheme.
The investigation covered the period from 2016 through the present. During the investigation, the DOI interviewed 68 witnesses, including 23 current and former Astros players.
Signs or signals are used to communicate a variety of things during the game. Metrics or analytics is also used as a complement so that players can be positioned based on sequences, probability or the likelihood of when and where the batter will hit the ball. Assuming he is lucky enough to make contact. As difficult as it is to hit a baseball that is coming in at 80 to 90 or even 100 mph, and is also moving requires great skill! Yet, knowing what kind of pitch is coming in helps improve the odds of being able to make contact or to not swing. MLB has specific penalties for team’s or player’s who are caught stealing signs.
A bird wouldn’t get caught if it never opened its mouth!
Interestingly, MLB’s investigation started following an allegation made by a former player of the Astros!!! As quoted in Manfred’s finding, “On November 12, 2019, former Houston Astros player Mike Fiers publicly alleged in an article published by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic that the Astros had engaged in sign-stealing methods in 2017 that violated MLB’s rules.”
The Astros were dealt swift punishment by Manfred. Starting with the ownership led by Jim Crane, General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager, AJ Hinch also received news they were not expecting. Surely, more punishment and fallout is expected. At the top of the lineup is Alex Cora who was a coach with the Astros during the period in question and who subsequently was selected the manager of the 2018 Boston Red Sox. Many have posed the question? Did the antics he employed with the Astros go with him to Boston as during his first year they became world champions? For many the answer is a resounding yes. As mentioned at the top of this article – Cora and the Red Sox have parted ways.
Then there is Carlos Beltran who was quoted in Manfred’s report but somehow was exonerated from any illegal behavior. His last team as a player was with the 2017 Astros. Even though he was not fined by MLB on Thursday Jan. 16th the heat became too much so he and his new employer of just two months, the New York Mets have parted ways. The result is not only has he lost out as being a freshman manager but now his prospects of being selected into baseball’s coveted Hall of Fame is in jeopardy.
To get snakebit once is bad enough. But, to get snakebit twice in back-to-back years has Dodger fans in disbelief as in 2017 they lost the world series in seven games to the Astros. Then, in 2018, they again lost the world series in seven games to the Cora managed Red Sox. For some, equity is stripping the respective winners of their “title” and awarding the Dodgers as the winners. Unfortunately, that outcome is highly unlikely.
In the meantime, some fans are so incensed about the scandal they are consulting lawyers claiming it resulted in financial harm from the Astros and Red Sox. Also, led by City Councilman Gil Cedillo a resolution has been passed seeking MLB’s intervention of stripping titles from the Astros and the Red Sox and renaming the Dodgers as the rightful winner.
In the meantime, Crane, Luhnow, Hinch and Cora are tied to this disgrace of the national pastime. Surely other heads will roll and while the scheme is in the lap of the Houston Astros it is unlikely, they were the only participant. What other teams will be implicated? In the meantime, stay tuned.
above caption: Roberts pulling Hill. Digital First Media.
[Chavez Ravine] Many die-hard Los Angeles Dodgers fans, like myself are finally awakening from the nightmare of losing games four and five of the 2018 World Series, resulting in the Boston Red Sox achieving the championship. As tough as it is, most will salute the Red Sox for executing when they had too. At the same time, they applaud the effort of the Dodgers for making the tough journey through the regular season and going through the gauntlet of the playoffs to be in a position to play in the coveted World Series. But the facts are the facts, even in Little League if you only get three hits, more than likely you will be on the losing end, as was the case in game five. Unfortunately that was the case in games two and five.
“Today is the first day I am able to talk about it. I have been upset since Sunday” A. Tillman, Dodger fan
It seems longer, but Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts just finished his third year. In all of those years his team has made the playoffs. Remarkable, the last two years he took his team to the World Series. As impressive of what he has achieved, including the admiration of most fans, many will still hold his decision in game four of pulling Rich Hill as the death knell of the series, thus ending our season.
Baseball – a game of failure!
Baseball is an interesting game. Those who are not diehards define the game as boring, too long to complete a game, on and on. It’s a very technical game which is why some make comments, having very little understanding of the nuances. It is a game of failure! Most hitters hit between .250 – .300, which translates if you have ten at-bats, you can rest assured you will make an out in seven or even eight times! Unlike other sports such as basketball where you can score quite frequently, games are long due to commercial breaks versus length of actual play. The 18 inning game the other night will be noted in years to come. As was the case in that game, runs or a score can be tough to come by, and the only way a team can be victorious is to outscore the opponent, yet in many innings, like the 18th inning doozy, no runs might be scored at all!
The Wild Horse strikes again
The decision to pull Hill will go down in history as a key point in the 2018 World Series. Just minutes earlier, Yasiel Puig sent Dodger fans into a frenzy by blasting a three-run home run making the score 4 – 0. Surely the Dodgers could secure nine outs and snag a win? In doing so it was a sure bet they would even the series at 2 wins a piece, giving the team the much-needed momentum, they were seeking?
The baseball god’s thought otherwise. While Roberts decision has been the focal point and much consternation of the fans, those who truly understand the game know better. Baseball is a game of statistics and super-charged analysis. In 2018 in the games Rich Hill pitched he normally lasted 5.2 innings. No doubt, in game four he was exceptional and at times appeared ready to break Don Newcombe’s record of pitching complete games of a double-header, on the same day!! He breezed through the sixth inning BUT his pitch count was near a record high of 91. In the bottom of the sixth he told Roberts to “keep an eye on him.” Again, just nine outs to secure a win. He started the seventh inning and walked Aruban sensation Xander Boegerts. Roberts still did not pull the plug. The next batter was the pesky Eduardo Nunez. Hill blew him away with three pitches to strike him out. Apparently, it was at that point that Roberts felt Hill had given his all and wanted him to go out on a high note. In comes Scott Alexander and to the surprise of the nearly 55,000 who were packed in the Ravine, as well as the millions who were watching on television, he walked the next batter on four straight pitches!!! Ouch!
World Series 2018: Dave Roberts on the Dodgers losing Game 4
The rest is history as even though the Red Sox put up nine runs in three innings, there was still hope. Team leader Justin Turner led off the ninth with a hit. The next batter, Kiki Hernandez blasted one of Craig Kimbrell’s pitches into the left field pavilion for a home run, and there were no outs! The enthusiasm quickly dampened as Cody Bellinger meekly flied out to end the game.
Yes, in his usual professional and political demeanor Dave Roberts accepted the blame for the loss, even while trying to explain why he pulled Hill. As mentioned in a game of statistics he had no idea Alexander would walk Benintendi on four straight pitches. Surely, he may have thought about it but he figured the odds were long that recently acquired Ryan Madsen would offer up one of his coveted home run pitches. Worse, perhaps trying to assuage Kenley Jansen’s ego, Roberts called on him in the eighth. Clinging on to a one run lead, many felt it was a likely possibility but Roberts went with his gut which was torn apart as Jensen’s cutter didn’t cut and professional hitters like Steve Pearce earn their millions by being able to handle mistakes, or a pitch which doesn’t cut, instead transforming it to a basic fastball – waist high. Many could hear the great Jim McKay of Wide World of States belting out his famous quote, “the thrill of victory….the agony of defeat.”
“Jansen hasn’t been the same since his heart ailment. These games are too much pressure for him!” JLT, Dodger fan
“What was Robert’s thinking? He knew Jansen hasn’t been doing nothing but giving up homeruns!!! I’m done! A millennial
So, for Dodger fans 2018 is history. Most will recover from their wounds. While some still want Roberts head on a platter, they also realize like the players, managers are not robots and after a couple of months of rehab they, like the other 29 teams who didn’t win the championship will give it another shot in 2019. Go Dodgers!
[Chavez Ravine] Unless you were in a coma, don’t read/view/listen to the news or just can’t stand the game of baseball or you are shaking your head in disbelief that people would waste valuable time to attend/view a game which took nearly 4 hours…………you missed the Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner hitting a walk-off (the home team’s last at-bat) hitting a historic home run off Chicago Cubs and well-traveled reliever John Lackey to win the game.
The game is still just a game but the surreal comparison when analyzing Turner’s home run is it just so happened to be 29 years to the date when Kirk Gibson marched into the annals of sports history with his monumental blast which led the Dodgers to their World Series Crown. Coincidently, that is why Dodger fans are thirsty and hopeful that Turner’s home run is a sign that they may finally claim another World Series trophy.
To keep Turner’s feat into perspective, yes it was a blast but this is just the second round of the playoffs or the NLCS (the National League Champion Series) and the win put the Dodgers up two games to none. However, they must win four games to claim the seven game series and the defending World Series champs, the Cubs could still rally and knock the Dodgers out?
Here is the extended clip of Justin Turner’s blast which starts with Chris Taylor’s at-bat
Ekersley, shocked to his toes!! Vin Scully
This is the comparison clip and features the full footage of Kirk Gibson’s home start. The footage starts with Mike Davis’ at-bat