Writer Questions Credibility Of Owners
ALSO: BEST POWER TANDEMS OF BASEBALL HISTORY
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Did you know…
Before the lockout started, 197 players were eligible for arbitration – a process that previously took place during the season after the end of the last work stoppage, in 1995 . . .
Sensing a big-league season in serious jeopardy, Minor League Baseball wisely extended the Triple-A season from 144 to 150 games, delaying the end date until September 28 and creating the longest AAA campaign since 1964 . . .
A sign erected in 2001 to mark the his humble hometown in Grady County, Georgia had to be relocated to the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City after racists sprayed it with bullets. MLB donated $40,000 to the Georgia Historical Society to spur replacement efforts . . .
Hinchliffe Stadium, the Paterson, NJ Negro Leagues park where Larry Doby played, may host a special MLB game similar to the Field of Dreams game and Little League Classic . . .
Nobody has hit the B & O Warehouse that looms beyond the right-field wall at Camden Yards but Ken Griffey, Jr. did it in the 1993 All-Star Home Run Derby . . .
Don Mattingly hit all six of his career grand slams in one season – 1987 — and set a single-season record at the same time.
Funny thing about those struggling owners
They “struggle” when it makes money for them
By Jeff Kallman
Baseball owners have become like lawyers now in one sense. At least once, since commissioner Rob Manfred announced the regular season’s first two series being cancelled, someone on social media has cracked that you can tell the owners lie when they move their lips.
“The last five years,” intoned Commissioner Nero, continuing to fiddle as baseball burned, “have been very difficult years from a revenue perspective for the industry, given the pandemic.” Oh?
The pandemic hit the ground running well after the 2019 season. When last I looked, that wasn’t even two-and-a-half years ago. Perhaps Manfred indulging in a little fuzzy arithmetic shouldn’t shock in light of at least one known tanking team (the Pittsburgh Pirates) being worth $1.2 billion or thereabouts. In a “small market,” that makes you Amazon.
We know 2020 was a hash thanks first to the owners’ attempt to game players out of their rightfully-contracted pay, then thanks to the pan-damn-ic (as I’ve called it) imposing no attendance other than cutouts of humans and often their pets in the stands, and restrictions on attendance the following season.
Somehow, as The Athletic’s Andy McCullough observes, the 2020-2021 hits didn’t exactly stop the Toronto Blue Jays from asking longtime Astros star George Springer not to leave without accepting $150 million last year. The hits didn’t stop Detroit from proclaiming itself “on the cusp of some very exciting Tigers baseball” after making Javier Baez a $140 million middle infielder this time around.
The latter, McCullough reminds us, happened the day before Tigers owner Chris Illich voted with his fellow owners to impose the lockout that has ground the game to a dead halt since the last collective bargaining agreement expired. The thought that the game could mosey through its Hot Stove season and its next spring training while a new, reasonable, sensible agreement might be composed and consecrated, didn’t seem to have been programmed into their software.
On the same day before the lockout, the Texas Rangers presented their brand-new, $500 million middle infield, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. The Seattle Mariners’ brand-new, $115 million Cy Young Award-winning pitcher, Robbie Ray, met the press. The Blue Jays introduced their new $110 million pitcher, Kevin Gausman.
That’s without reminding you that, also on the same day, the New York Mets—whose genial, fan-friendly new owner Steve Cohen has an individual net worth of $11.5 billion, and whose passions include spending millions for works of art he adores—wrapped one of its familiar blue-and-orange, pinstriped jerseys around three-time Cy Young Award-winning Max Scherzer — to the tune of $43 million per annum.
And, without reminding you that the Atlanta Braves—forced by injury attrition to remake, oh, their entire outfield—won the 2021 World Series in a year they turned a $104 million profit while showing revenues of about $6 million per game. (Says Braves Fan: Let’s see how long they think they can continue to lie about Freddie Freeman’s “unaffordability.”)
In other words, as McCullough wrote, “When the free-agent market opened, a bevy of teams that missed the playoffs did the exact thing the union says it wants: they spent on free agents in hopes of contending. The system sure didn’t seem broken, until the owners decided to fix it.”
Except that this is not about pure dollars alone. The owners imposed the lockout, then committed 43 days to follow of the sounds of silence. They elected to propagate gimmickry over genuine substance. They refused the players’ pleas to implore all teams to think of the competition on the field, adjust both the so-called competitive balance tax, the pay for players not quite at the truly elite level, and bring them into line with the true rise of the “industry’s” fortunes.
“Players’ service time has been manipulated to keep them from free agency and salary arbitration,” wrote ESPN’s Jeff Passan shortly before Manfred’s early-season cancellations. “The luxury tax, instituted to discourage runaway spending, has morphed into a de facto salary cap, and too many teams are nowhere near it anyway, instead gutting their rosters and slashing their payrolls because the game’s rules incentivize losing. The commissioner has called the World Series trophy a ‘piece of metal,’ and the league has awarded the team that did the best job curtailing arbitration salaries a replica championship belt.”
Commissioner Nero has made it as plain as a foul line that he believes the common good of the game is one good alone, making money for the owners. The Major League Baseball Players’ Association, on whose negotiating committee Max the Knife has been a particularly industrious and forthright member, is silly enough to think a game whose rules “incentivize” losing isn’t the game they signed up to play.
“They are fighting,” wrote USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, “to make sure that teams are actually trying to win and not to collect draft picks with a draft lottery. They are fighting to make sure that every team can freely sign free agents without a restrictive luxury tax, pointing out the absurdity of the San Diego Padres having a larger payroll than the New York Yankees. They are fighting to make sure the integrity of the regular season is not compromised . . . ”
Once upon a time, Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson said, “We try every way we can think of to kill this game, but for some reason nothing nobody does never hurts it.” As I wrote elsewhere, that’s his body mimicking a washing machine’s spin cycle in its grave while he thinks twice from his Elysian Fields seat.
If you want to know who’s hurting this game now, I’ll put it this way: the day you see fans walking about wearing jerseys with names on the back such as Angelos, Crane, Lerner, Liberty, Monfort, Moreno, Nutting, Guggenheim, Reinsdorf, Ricketts, or Steinbrenner, among others, is the day you should see a pig cleared for takeoff in the colors of Southwest Airlines.
IBWAA life member Jeff Kallman writes Throneberry Fields Forever. He has written for the Society for American Baseball Research plus The Hardball Times, Sports-Central, and other publications. He lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, and has been, alas, a Met fan since the day they were born.
Aaron & Mathews Hold Mark That Will Never Fall
By Dan Schlossberg
Having one great slugger in the middle of a lineup is great. But having two is even better.
During the long history of baseball, the most prolific power tandems in baseball history were Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, who hit 863 during the time they were teammates with the Braves, and Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, who hit a record 115 home runs (61 by Maris and 54 by Mantle) during the pitching-thin expansion year of 1961.
Most fans aren’t aware of Aaron and Mathews — maybe because they played far from the publicity spotlights of the East and West Coast.
Together from 1954-66, they never hit as many as 90 in a single season but were more consistently good than anyone else.
Mathews, the only man to play for the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, had a one-year high of 47, matching Aaron’s best. Together, they topped 30 homers apiece 18 times and the 40-homer plateau eight times.
The fact that Aaron batted righthanded and Mathews lefthanded also helped, as various managers manipulated the batting order to get the most out of the two sluggers.
Bobby Bragan, determined to get them both to bat in the first inning, took to batting Mathews second and Aaron third. Chuck Dressen and Birdie Tebbetts also believed in that arrangement, leaving cleanup chores to a variety of sluggers from Joe Adcock and Frank Thomas (the original) to Joe Torre and Rico Carty.
Aaron and Mathews homered in the same game a record 72 times en route to joining the 500 Home Run Club. Aaron finished with 755, a record many historians insist still stands, while Mathews made it to 512.
Had Mathews lasted more than one season in Atlanta, where the team’s ballpark was called The Launching Pad, those numbers would have been better.
Right behind Aaron and Mathews are Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Both lifetime Yankees, they both hit lefthanded and followed each other in the lineup. During the 10 full seasons they were teammates, they had 13 individual years with at least 40 homers and 17 others with at least 30. They finished with 859 home runs as a tandem, hitting their peak in 1927 when Ruth had 60 and Gehrig had 47.
And, yes, Giants fans, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey are in the conversation too. They smacked 801 home runs as teammates from 1959-72, with a one-year peak of 91 (52 by Mays and 39 by Willie Mac in 1965). Mays started and ended his career in New York, while McCovey played for several other teams after leaving San Francisco. Between the two of them, they led the National League in homers six different times from 1962-69.
No other tandem topped 800 home runs — or even came close.
Duke Snider and Gil Hodges hit a combined 687 home runs for the Dodgers, mainly in Brooklyn, where they also had the support of a third big bopper in Roy Campanella (242 homers for the Dodgers from 1948-57).
But think about some of the other notable tandems:
David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez managed 422 home runs as teammates from 2003-08. Ken Griffey, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez combined for 414 while teammates in Seattle from 1994-99. And Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco hit 406 for the Oakland A’s from 1987-92.
Last season, the top active slugging duos were Yankees Aaron Judge and Gioncarlo Stanton, who hit 39 and 35, respectively, along with Mitch Haniger and Kyle Seager of Seattle, also with 39 and 35. After that come Brandon Lowe and Mike Zunino of Tampa Bay, with 39 and 38, and Nolan Arenado and Tyler O’Neill of St. Louis with 34 each.
Even the World Champion Atlanta Braves didn’t live up to their legacy, with Austin Riley (33) and Freddie Freeman (31) their best twosome. Adam Duvall, who finished with 38 homers, actually hit 22 for Miami before adding 16 more after his trade deadline swap to Atlanta.
No matter what happens in 2022, the record of Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron seems safely tucked away. The way players change teams these days, it seems safe to say the mark for home runs by teammates will always stay untouchable.
Former AP newsman Dan Schlossberg covers baseball for multiple outlets, including forbes.com, Latino Sports, and USA TODAY Sports Weekly. The author of 40 books, he often speaks to library and civic groups. E.mail Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Tal’s Hill, an incline that measured 90 feet wide, made playing center field an adventure at Minute Maid Park until it was removed after the 2016 campaign . . .
Angel Stadium, once enclosed, was opened up to give fans views of local mountain ranges and freeway . . .
Still hard to believe that one pitcher (Chan Ho Park of the Dodgers) surrendered both of the grand slams Fernando Tatis, Sr. (Cardinals) hit in one inning.
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