Some Less Favorable Baseball Rules

July 1, 2015
THE OFFICIAL RULES OF BASEBALL Unless these rules came down Mount Sinai from a Power Far Greater Than Ourselves, perhaps a few could stand some re-writing.

THE OFFICIAL RULES OF BASEBALL
Unless these rules came down Mount Sinai from a Power Far Greater Than Ourselves, perhaps a few could stand some re-writing.

1) The Basis for Awarding Wins to Pitchers. We cannot quote you the exact rules governing wins, but we know the general framework of how it works. A starting pitcher must pitch a minimum of 5.0 complete innings and leave the game with his club holding a lead that they never relinquish to earn the “W” win credit for victory. If the starter’s club then surrenders the lead after his departure, but regains it in time to salvage the win, the “W” is then awarded to the pitcher who was in the game when the lead was regained and nevermore again surrendered.

Here’s the part that bothers me most about this rule, by hypothetical example: A home club starting pitcher could leave a no-hit performance after 8.2 innings because of an injury in a 0-0 tie and be replaced by a reliever who then gives up three consecutive home runs, before he finally gets the third out on a great outfielder catch on a leaping grab over the wall. When the home club then scores four runs in the bottom of the 9th inning to capture the game, the “W” goes to the very ineffective reliever because he was the active pitcher of record when the winning rally concluded. Meanwhile, the starter who worked 8.2 innings of no-run, no-hit ball gets no credit at all.

It probably wouldn’t do any good to change the rule and allow the starter to get the “W” in instances like the one cited in our example, unless baseball, or SABR, wanted to take on the daunting, possibly impossible purgatorial task of re-working all the assignment of “W”s, “L”, “H”s, “Sv”s, etc in MLB history for the sake of maintaining comparative meaningful statistical data – and inevitably being forced somewhere into tinkering with the iconic numbers of so many great Hall of fame pitchers.

So be it. The “W-L” assignments may just have to continue as one of those stats that we take with the largest grain of salt available.

2) When runners reach base on an error and score, or any runner simply scores, both because of an error by the pitcher, why shouldn’t those runs be treated as earned – since it was the pitcher himself who caused them to happen? We have to give reader and baseball researcher and historian “StanFromTacoma” for waking up this ancient call to “baseball rules unfairness” indignation on this old echo. I will stand with Stan on this one by cutting and pasting a comment he left at another column in The Pecan Park Eagle:

“I think a pitcher’s fielding error should count as an earned run. If the pitcher sails his throw over the first baseman’s head I see no reason why the runner who reaches base on that error should not count as an earned run if he eventually scores.” ~ StanFromTacoma, June 26, 2015, comment to The Pecan Park Eagle on the column entitled, “Rule Change Kills Stat Comparisons Over Time”, published June 26, 2015.

What do you think? And are there any other rules that bother you? And last, but probably most importantly, do you think that serious changes in the way the game is scored, merited or not, are worth the damage it does to our ability for comparative statistical analysis of the game’s production over time – and would it even be worth the effort, or even possible, to retroactively adjust past records to conform with what we might hopefully consider as new permanent fairer rules on scoring wins, errors or any other measurable game factor?

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Baseball Note from a Simpler Time

June 30, 2015
Base Ball To Day Beeville, Texas By William O. McCurdy 1 Somewhere in Time

Base Ball To Day
Beeville, Texas
By William O. McCurdy I
Somewhere in Time

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Beeville Has a Club

Beeville, Texas, June 29. – D.B. Soffold, depot agent for the Gulf, Western Texas and Pacific (RR) at this place, organized a Beeville baseball club yesterday. The club will immediately go into training for the purpose of playing a match game at the Port Lavaca base ball park in about three weeks from (this) date. A big excursion will be run from here to Port Lavaca when the game is played, and Beeville expects to win the championship for Southwest Texas.

~ Houston Daily Post, June 30, 1897 (and most probably excerpted from a local news telegraph transfer report from either, my grandfather, William O. McCurdy’s newspaper, The Beeville Bee, established in 1886, or from  news put forth by The Beeville Picayune, the paper started by the McFarland brothers in Beeville in 1890.)

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It was a simpler time, but my birthplace and deep family history in Beeville tells me that our town was good and ready for a local base ball team by 1897. The coastal bend area of South Texas still is home to some ardent baseball fans, ones who will proudly point out that Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan may be claimed by Alvin, Texas, but that nothing will ever change the fact that he came into this world at Refugio, Texas, one of the places the Beeville club may have passed through on their base ball excursion to Port Lavaca.

Without further research, we cannot be sure how all this resolute formation of a Beeville base ball club played out, but we do admire and somewhat envy the simplicity of their championship plans. Forget other regional towns and the problems of keeping a league alive for a full season of league play without all but two or three winning clubs disbanding long before season’s end.  Beeville’s plan, courtesy of depot agent and base ball club organizer D. B. Soffold, was very straightforward and supremely confident: (1) Organize a base ball team from the men who showed up for a meeting to discuss same; (2) Fire them up with rhetoric about their abilities to play winning base ball and how much fun it will be to really stick it to the folks down at Port Lavaca on the bay; (3) Practice for about three weeks after all the livelihood cowboy, farming, and mercantile work was done for the day; (4) Set a game date at Port Lavaca, since their neighbors already had a venue they called a base ball park; (5) Whip up enthusiasm among Beevillians for generating a large excursion of Beeville Base Ball cranks to travel with the club on their road to triumphant destiny in Port Lavaca; (6) Go to Port Lavaca and show them all how the game of base ball is supposed to be played;  (7) After winning at Port Lavaca, declare Beeville to be the undisputed Base Ball Champions of Southwest Texas; (8) Get the word out through the Beeville Bee and Beeville Picayune that other Southwest Texas towns that cared to contest Beeville’s swift ascendancy to the top should make a line to schedule challenge matches; and (9) Cities or towns that wish to join the challenge line that is sure to be there sometime fairly soon after the Beeville @ Port Lavaca match game may do so by telegraphing RR Depot Agent D.B. Soffold in Beeville. And while they are at it, they should inquire of Mr. Soffold about his special Beeville Base Ball Rail Road Excursion rates for parties of 100 or more desiring transportation to Beeville for their town’s turn at the base ball championship challenge.

Nothing could have worked simpler.

And, oh yes! Thanks again to Darrell Pittman for sharing this published news of Beeville’s baseball path with us. The source awakened the muses to the path of presumptuousness that may have taken root from the energy, initiative, and all-out cock-sureness of one small rail road depot clerk who started a late 19th century base ball team in an even smaller town.

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Sunday Baseball Lagniappe

June 29, 2015

lagniappe

Astros Have Shot at World Series Record in 2015

If the Houston Astros reach the 2015 World Series, they will become the first franchise in MLB history to reach the World Series as members of both the American and National Leagues.

The Milwaukee Brewers are the only other MLB club with a dual league membership history. The Brewers have been to the World Series twice as AL members, but it doesn’t seem likely from their current residence in the 2015 NLC basement that they are going to finally bag their first NL pennant this year. The City of Milwaukee already is represented in World Series history by AL and NL clubs, but their NL champion was the Braves, not the Brewers.

Milwaukee already is on record as the only one-franchise-at-a-time city in MLB history to have their town’s name registered as World Series champions from both leagues, but by totally different franchises. (Correction: Thanks to Rick B. – My error, I brain-welded the Brewers and Twins in my mind at the moment I was writing and gave Milwaukee credit for the Minneapolis World Series win of 1987. Milwaukee’s only trip to the World Series was in 1982, when they lost to the Cardinals in 7. This truth means that the door remains open only for Washington to become the first “city” with a future chance at winning the World Series in their town’s name as a member of both leagues. As the predecessor of the Minnesota Twins, the AL Washington Senators won in it all in 7 games over the NY Giants in 1924 – and are now eligible to win it as the successor to the Montreal Expos of the NL as the Washington Nationals. Neither Houston nor Milwaukee is in the running to take the dual league “city name” prize as winners from both leagues because both these clubs lost in their only previous tries as members of the opposite league to the present league construction for each circuit.)

Other traditionally simultaneous dual AL/NL cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and St. Louis have all had World Series clubs from both their AL and NL franchises.

None of the other franchises qualify as clubs with dual league membership history. – Thanks again, Bud Selig! You will always be the one who used your own dual seat power as acting commissioner/and club owner back in 1997  to move your Milwaukee Brewers from the AL to the NL, in effect, if not declared as such – “in exchange for an NL franchise to be named later” – and, even though it took the better part of fifteen years to complete, “the club that got named later under new owner’s buying condition pressure from Commissioner Selig was – who else – our Houston Astros!

SABR Was Recognized in Print by The Sporting News for the First Time Back in 1973

Check out his link that friend and fellow researcher Darrell Pittman forward to me. Since Sunday, June 28th, was the rap and go home day from our National Convention in Chicago, this is an especially good time to recognize how much growth our SABR group has experienced in the 42 years that have passed since this fabled TSN ink was spilled in our behalf for the first of many times to come. At our SABR convention here in Houston in 2014, we had an attendance that was three to four times greater than our groups total membership was back in 1973.

http://t.co/0tFWVXLtrh

What Does the Rule Book Say?

During this afternoon’s 3-1 Astros win over the Yankees, my grown son asked me for a ruling on this hypothetical circumstance:

“If a player hits an ordinary home run and then goes into his normal trot around the bases, what happens if he suddenly realizes about midway to third that he totally missed touching second base? Does he have the right to back-track and touch second base before continuing, or would he be called out for back-tracking and be better off just continuing on his way as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened?”

My answer during the game was: “I don’t know. – I’ve never seen that happen,” but now, hours later, my guess is this one: He would have as much right to retreat as any runner retreating from a captured fly ball, but he would be subject to an “out” call if reached third base and touched it before retreating to second base. On the other hand, if he simply ignores the situation and keeps running, he will be called out when he passes third, if the umpire saw him miss the bag at second. That’s one of the things they pay umpires to watch.

Am I close to being right here? If you know, and you have a rule citation too, please include it in your public comment here.

Please Comment Publicly

While I do appreciate all the private e-mails these columns produce, please consider leaving public comment here whenever possible. I do understand about privacy concerns on so many levels, but there are also many times when some of you simply share good information privately that would be of benefit to everyone. Thanks. – And have a great new week, everybody

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Changes in MMP Next Year Go Beyond Cosmetic

June 28, 2015
The loss of Tal's Hill itself is an unfortunate removal of uniqueness from Minute Maid Park, but it is not the biggest concern that many of us fans have for the way this change is going to effect play in 2016.

The loss of Tal’s Hill itself is an unfortunate removal of uniqueness from Minute Maid Park, but it is not the biggest concern that many of us fans have for the way this change is going to effect pitching and play in the park, starting in 2016.

Before we spill too many tears over the loss of Tal’s Hill at MMP next year, we need to consider the larger loss to the way the park plays after this season. So far, all we’ve heard are some fairly unscientific statements about the consequences of bringing in the depth of dead center field from 436 feet to a distance in the 400-405 feet range. We’ve been told that it  “probably will not produce an increase of more than 10 to 12 extra home runs per season,” but we have seen no objective studies to support that postulation.

Wouldn’t it have been a  greater service to truth if the Astros had done a study of how much the game is going to change in the way it harasses pitcher psyches – and the way the game will be played under these new conditions? We may find that we are about to turn one of the truly unique parks in MLB into the biggest bandbox in play. And how ironic! – In a breakthrough talent-coming-of-age season like 2015, and in the middle of all our shared concerns that we need better starting pitching to stay in the chase this year – those things – may not even matter much in 2016, when pitchers who have learned how to use the grand canyon of our current center field no longer have any advantage at all in the new all-sluggers domination park.

Remember the great catch that Colby Rasmus made early in the Yankees game Friday night, as he glided back to take that long drive only a step away from Tal’s Hill? Check out the following map. Next year, and many other times like that one taken by Rasmus, and far more often than 10 to 12 times per season, the ball caught Friday by Colby Rasmus will next year be a home run. If that same Friday night game had been played next year, the score would have been 1-0, Yankees, after Rasmus watched that long drive sail over the wall – and the young pitcher in that new ballpark would have had to start thinking, “If it’s possible, I don’t want to give up fly balls anywhere in this place, if I can help it.

Wish we could have drawn a line like this on the field this year and been able to see and count the number of new home runs and doubles we about to surrender with the new dimensions next year. Even better, if that Astros had drawn that visible line this year to see if we really wanted to bring in the fences for the sake of new revenue streams.

Minute Maid Parl: Wish we could have drawn a line like this on the field this year and been able to see and count the number of new home runs and doubles we are about to surrender with the new dimensions set for next year. Even better, if the Astros had drawn that visible line this year to study if we really wanted to bring in the fences for the sake of new revenue streams, that would have been so cool to watch this year.

Look, I’m really not as naive as I probably sound here. I know and accept that baseball is a business, an expensive business, and that the Astros need to do all they can bear to produce revenues for all the costs that they have to cover. I also accept that we fans are an all-important revenue stream, but that we are not the ones who get the duns from creditors, if the club doesn’t pay their bills. It works that way in my house too – and we all have to do what is important to the security of our own families and businesses, as long as we keep everything honest and ethical. We all have to adjust to change as change becomes necessary for survival.

As fans, we will adjust to the changes that are going to take place, but we cannot guarantee that we are going to be attracted to games which will be decided mostly by who hits the most home runs – and by Astros clubs that are destined now to live and die even more so in the future by the success or failure of their extraordinary annual searches for pitchers with the special ability for inducing ground balls.

On a closer note about this season, hopefully, the Astros will be able to salvage a split in this four game series with a win over the Yankees on Sunday afternoon.

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Jimmy Wynn’s YouTube Record of ’67 Cincy HR

June 27, 2015

EPSON MFP image

Thanks to friend and SABR/professional colleague Mark Wernick for sending me the YouTube clip of Jimmy Wynn’s famous monster home run to left field at Crosley Field in Cincinnati years ago, I haven’t seen it in a while, but it is still breathtaking, even through the fuzziness of black and white pictures from the pre-high definition digital days of small screen television tape.

The date was June 11, 1967. The Astros already had beaten the Reds, 7-4, in the first game of a doubleheader and Jimmy Wynn was coming to bat with a man on base against Cincy hurler Sammy Ellis. Jimmy made contact with an Ellis pitch on every single ounce of its sweet spot and it took off from home plate on a high, hard, fast, and electrically charged “fired-from-a-toy-cannon” arc to left field.

But let’s allow Jimmy Wynn to describe the experience as he did in his book, “TOY CANNON: The Autobiography of Jimmy Wynn”:

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The ball took off from my bat on a high speeding arc to left field, changing quickly from ball size to pea size to dot size as I watched it disappearing into the afternoon Cincinnati sky. No way has the ballpark held this one, I thought, so I began my trot at a respectful pace around the bases. Before I even reached first base, I heard a moaning rush of ooohs and aaahs, especially from the stadium seats that held a clear view of the area beyond Crosley Field.

What’s it all about?

When I got back to the stunned congratulations of my teammates, I saw that even their eyes held onto a look of awe that cried out for explanation.

“What’s going on, guys?,” I asked. “So I hit a home run, so what?”

“So what?” their eyes seemed to answer in group chorus.

Then I started to get the story, little by little, from everybody there who either saw it happen, or else survived a first-hand hysterical account of the ball’s travels from someone else. The ball not only left the ballpark, apparently, it also left the grounds. It didn’t just stop there either. The ball landed on a freeway that once ran parallel to the left field stands beyond the grounds of Crosley Field. By some magical extra power, it then took a high bounce off the freeway and headed on its way down a street beyond that leads directly nto a nearby neighborhood.

Here’s where the chills I got from this information went way beyond anyone else’s. If these accounts were true, the ball I it found Colerain Avenue, the very street where I grew up, the same street I used to race down as a kid on my way to and from Crosley Field.

No one ever reported finding the ball, but I like to think that it had enough pep left from the corner to travel another three blocks. Wouldn’t that have been something if some other baseball-loving kid then living at 1917 Colerain Avenue in 1967 found the ball I hit that day in Cincinnati?

~ Excerpt from “TOY CANNON: The Autobiography of Baseball’s Jimmy Wynn” by Jimmy Wynn with Bill McCurdy, pp 84-85, McFarland & Company, Jefferson, NC, 2010

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Have a nice weekend, everybody! And, come on, Astros, let’s make up for last night’s unfortunate “fat pitch” New York dinger that resulted in our 3-2 Astros loss! – Go Get ‘Em, Guys! Let’s take this afternoon’s game and tomorrow’s wrapper too!

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Rule Change Kills Stat Comparisons Over Time

June 26, 2015
'HEY! IF I WALK THIS RUN HOME HOME, DON'T CHARGE ME WITH NO ERROR! - GIVE THE ERROR TO THE MANAGER WHO PUT ME IN THE GAME IN THE FIRST PLACE!

‘HEY! IF I WALK THIS RUN HOME, DON’T CHARGE ME WITH NO ERROR! – GIVE THE ERROR TO THE MANAGER WHO PUT ME IN THE GAME IN THE FIRST PLACE!” ~ WILL FERRELL

Galveston Daily News June 28, 1888 Submitted by Research Associate Darrell Pittman

Galveston Daily News
June 28, 1888
Submitted by Research Associate Darrell Pittman

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(STORY CLIP RECAP): A NEW RULE

Philadelphia, Pa., June 27. – John J. Rogers, secretary pf the tthe joint committee on base-ball rules, announces that the committee has unanimously voted to take base on balls from the error column. The base on balls will remain as a factor in earned runs.

~ Galveston Daily News, June 28, 1888

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It’s an old winnable argument that we cannot fairly or accurately compare players from one generation to another based upon statistical performances due to changes in the rules that have governed the playing of the game differently from one era to another – and with no no worse examples than any comparison from recent years to the performances of players from the 19th century – when many of the rules were really quite different.

Today’s note on an 1888 rules change on the scoring of walks thatnoted in the Galveston Daily News on June 28th of that year is an excellent case-making example.

Can you imagine a pitcher today with control problems being charged errors for every walk? If the rules governing runs that score after an inning should have ended applied back in early 1888, a wild pitcher could have built a terrible fielding average, but also complied an E.R.A. approaching 0.00 with a landslide of his own B.O.B./errors opening the door for every run that scored would be correctly noted after three walks as “unearned”. Or something like that!

Wonder how they scored “intentional walks” back in 1887, if, indeed, they even engaged in that kind of intellectual mentoring of the game back in the day. If they did, (tongue in check here), would an intellectual walk have been charged to the pitcher as an error, but then reassigned to the manager s an error, if the strategy didn’t work out?

Lucky for those of us living in 2015, the rules governing baseball work pretty darn well today, don’t you think? Now, if we could only reach a universal agreement on the DH rule – and resolve how much scratching and wedgy-rearrangement time batters and pitchers need between pitches, everything might move even closer to Norman Rockwell perfect.

GO ASTROS! BEAT THE YANKEES!

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Lawyers: No Wonder Things Are So Screwed Up

June 25, 2015
George Wharton Pepper was the big legal bat for Organized Baseball in the 1921 Anti-Trust Act violation suit posted by Federal League interests in 1921.

George Wharton Pepper was the big legal bat for Organized Baseball in the  Anti-Trust Act violation suit posted by Federal League interests in 1920.

Question: How would you describe a 50-seat bus load of lawyers going off a 500-foot cliff at 80 MPH into the ocean below with 47 seats occupied with these legal eagles?

Answer: The picture described within the question is nothing less than an example of “conspicuous waste”.

Don’t get me wrong. Lawyer guys like Tony Cavender and a few others are some of my best friends and favorite people, but I like oysters too. And some of them have made me awfully sick over the years.

The problem with lawyers is the way they put their legal thoughts into written form as either laws or court room arguments and judicial decisions. By the time that we. the people feel the pain from the gobbledygook the lawyers have written, it is so disconnected from its legal source that we really aren’t sure what just hit us.

And why? Most of the time it’s because people who write in legalese, the language of lawyers, write within their own special context of complexity, trickery, obfuscation, and boredom. For most of us lay people, legalese is too complicated to understand, too boring to keep our interest, or too easy to miss the real meaning in the fine print that is the true intention of the document in the first place. Sort of like the guy who bought a group health insurance policy, but did not find out until he needed to use it that the whole group had to get sick at the same time with the same diagnosis for it to be of any benefit to any single subscriber. – Yes, it was in the fine print of Section 341.4 of Exemption Instances listed in the Benefits Manual Discovery Appendix from the start. The now-out-of-luck sick guy should have read that hard-to-find part before he signed up.

Check out this article that researcher/friend  Darrell Pittman sent me this morning. It’s by a fellow named Gary Hailey and it appears here as “Anatomy of a Murder: The Federal League and the Courts, Part 4.” The earlier parts are traceable through article-internal links provided by the material site.

Anatomy of a Murder: The Federal League and the Courts, Part 4 | Our Game

Before you get lost or tired of reading, please note that Organized Baseball was not given an “exemption” from the federal Anti-Trust Act by these proceedings. What they received was a favorable ruling that baseball, the game, was an event that took place from the first pitch of each contest and then ended with the last out of each separate game. Therefore, baseball did not cross state lines to qualify as interstate commerce, even though it was necessary to transfer players and their equipment across state lines to play each of these separate, but complete games.

How laughable and/or politically biased was that ruling? The whole specious argument falls away with one question: If each individual “game” was all that mattered, why did Organized Baseball bother to keep standings of who won the most games in a singe season and then pair the two clubs with the best records from each league in this annual thing they called “The World Series”?

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Try to pay attention to the language used by Organized Baseball attorney George Wharton Pepper in describing his appeal strategy for arguing against the suit by Federal League interests that “OB” was operating in violation of the federal Sherman Anti-Trust Act governing interstate commerce:

I raised at every opportunity the objection that a spontaneous output of human activity is not in its nature commerce, that therefore Organized Baseball cannot be interstate commerce; and that, it not being commerce among the states, the federal statute could have no application….

… [T]he case came on for argument … on October 15th [, 1920]. I mention the date because of the coincidence that on the same day there was being played the final game in the [Dodgers vs. Indians] World Series of that year ….

. . . Counsel for the Federal League made the grave mistake of minimizing the real point in the case (the question, namely whether interstate commerce was involved) and sought to inflame the passions of the Court by a vehement attack upon the evils of [Organized Baseball], a few of which were real and many, as I thought, imaginary. I argued with much earnestness the proposition that personal effort not related to production is not a subject of commerce; that the attempt to secure all the skilled service needed for professional baseball is not an attempt to monopolize commerce or any part of it; and that Organized Baseball, not being commerce, and therefore not interstate commerce, does not come within the scope of the prohibitions of the Sherman [Antitrust] Act.

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As a fairly direct aside, we must also ask: Is it in any wonder that the funds most of us have  invested in Social Security over our lifetimes were diverted by Congress for other purposes without us ever knowing about it until after our investments in retirement had been reclassified as an “entitlement” program” of the federal government?

Think about it. And have a nice day, anyway!

The Root Causes of Power Hitting

June 24, 2015
Galveston Daily News June 26, 1921 Submitted by Darrell Pittman

Galveston Daily News
June 26, 1921
Submitted by Darrell Pittman

It wasn’t the baseball world’s imagination. Hitting really did change back in the 1920s from the small-ball, pitching and defense game it always had been prior to Babe Ruth’s 1919 29 HR breakout year while he was still with Boston and not yet totally clean of his original identity as a pitcher.

It is still interesting to read a piece from 1921 in which some of the most prominent baseball of their day, including two of the greatest hitters of all time, collectively pick away at nailing all or most of the major factors behind this change – while also – offering a few thoughts that had nothing or little to do with it.

Hopefully, you are able to read the article from the above included scan of its contents.

Going down the column, we are able to see that Tris Speaker jumped upon one of the big contributions to higher, more powerful batting stats by 1921. Prior to the 1920 season, MLB’s elimination of the spitball by all but the 17 grandfathered pitchers whose careers were built around that moist delivery, plus new rules against other substance additive and ball scuffing approaches to pitching had been banned. Advantage: Hitters.

Ty Cobb may have been the world’s greatest hitter for average, but his mistaken application of life’s cyclical patterns to hitting in baseball was – well, way off base. Cobb thought that “heavy hitting” was simply another cycle, like superior base running, that would recede in time. Boy, was Tyrus wrong this time. “Once Hitters Learn to Attack – They Never Go Back!” New superior hitting with power? It was here to stay. Advantage: Hitters.

Former Cubs infield star Johnny Evers blamed the new lively ball as the big culprit. In effect, he saw the ball as too hot and quick to handle as it tore through the infield. From a second baseman’s perspective, it’s easy to see why Evers got stuck on the ball itself. He was right, of course, it simply wasn’t the ball alone, as Mr. Speaker already has pointed out. And Evers was unable to see one of life’s big variables that always figures into the introduction of any new factor that requires adaptation by us humans. Younger infielders would grow up with a game that included baseballs that moved much faster than the old dead ball from the “Tinker-to_Evers-to-Chance”  era of the century’s first decade. The young ones would perceive the ball as moving at a “normal” speed. They would also have better gloves and fields to play upon as the whole game adapted to a faster pace. Nevertheless, faster ball speed also belongs in the same column. Advantage: Hitters. And that’s taking nothing away from the fact that a contemporary club like the Houston Astros don’t start a rookie like Carlos Correa at shortstop in the hopes of him becoming another Joe Tinker or Honus Wagner. – Defensively, they expect him to be far better – and he probably already is.

1921 National President John Heydler nailed the two-word answer which most people probably jump upon like a frog on a June Bug when he threw out the name “Babe Ruth” and, in so doing, he would have been right, but simply incomplete. The elimination of trick pitches and the introduction of the lively ball were all Ruth needed to almost personally make power ball the name of the game. If the 1920’s were the Emerald City birthplace of power hitting in the Ozville of baseball, then Babe Ruth was the wizard himself. The Arrival of Babe Ruth? Advantage: Hitters.

Detroit Tigers President Frank Navin, the last of our visible commentators from the 1921 article, spoke in support of Tris Speaker’s diagnosis that the recent serious restrictions upon what pitchers could do to a baseball before they threw it as a pitch was big. In fact, it may have been the biggest factor in that first season of change. With pitchers scrambling for new ways to ply their trade in 1921, that first season had to be pretty rough upon them. Navin apparently was standing in the owner’s party line of denial, however, when he offered the opinion that there was no such thing as the “live ball” and he obviously had yet to see his Tigers sufficiently bludgeoned enough by Babe Ruth and the Yankees nearing mid-season in 1921 to get the point that his man Cobb no longer represented the future of baseball. Again, the pitching rules change? Advantage: Hitters.

The Uncovered Big Factor

This one’s been written about ad nauseum. To no one’s surprise today, it wasn’t covered in this article from the 1921 era itself. In 1921, the eight banned Chicago Black Sox were in their first season of lifetime excommunications from the game of baseball. Baseball people weren’t exactly prone to open discussion of what the 1919 World Series Fix Scandal might do to the American public’s support of the game, but there wasn’t much question that owners wanted to move away from the event as quickly as possible and that Commissioner Landis’s pre-1921 season suspension and August 21, 1921 eternal banning of the eight Black Sox players had as much or more to do with proving to the fans that “good had triumphed over evil” as it did that all of these men were equally deserving of that same death knell upon their baseball careers. As McGwire and Sosa would do again with power to help baseball fog fan memories of the disgusting 1994 season, it now had become Babe Ruth’s role in 1921 to blast his way into the hearts and minds of all fans as the greatest hero of the new power game.

And Back to the Future of Our Fondest Astros Wishes

Now, if we can only get our 2015 Astros to grow as a few great hitting for average, base-running fools setting the table for our several “hit-or-sit” power guys, maybe we can have the kind of club that every franchise publicly says they hope to be: The 2015 World Series Champions of Major league Baseball. Oh, yeah, as we also wrote the other day. we also still will need two guys to either step up or move into the starting rotation as superior starters and quality inning burners.

Have a nice day!

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Prior to the 1920 season

Jimerson Shines at June 2015 SABR Meeting

June 23, 2015

“You never know how strong you can be, until being strong is the only choice you have left.”
~ Tupac Shakur

The June 2015 meeting of the Larry Dierker SABR Chapter in Houston last night, 6/22/15, at the Spaghetti Western Restaurant on Shepherd was both cozy and cool. Tony Cavender delivered an excellent book reviews of Charles Leehrsen’s new work, “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty”, as a serious attempt to extract the true great baseball star from some of the most prejudicial things that have been written previously about him, and Bob Dorrill and Mike McCroskey both spoke about the upcoming award of $3,500 in college scholarship assistance that has been made possible by the sale of our 2014 chapter publication, “Houston Baseball: The Early Years, 1861-1961.”

Mike McCroskey presented a clever July 4th themed trivia quiz, one that eventually was won by one of “the usual suspects” in baseball trivia wonder, Greg Lucas.

Mike McCroskey also related a tale (I think) of his 1992 trip to the induction of Roger Clemens into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame., a year which also included the induction of Houston Buff 1951 slugger, Jerry Witte. (My apologies, Mike, if memory mis-serves here, but like many of the stories you tell, I walked away with the same old “second-guess” question: “Did Mike say he did that – or did he say someone else did that?” Please forgive me, Mike,  and feel free to write a corrective comment., as you wish.

We also learned by photo distribution from meeting program chairman Jim Kruez that SABR member Tom White was once a “star pitcher” for Vanderbilt University back in the day. Like the fabled Clark Kent of comic book fame, mild-mannered Tom White looked quite a bit like “Superman” in those photos. He was quite fit in appearance and all dressed out in killer baseball duds from back in the day.

The highlight of the evening was our lead-off man speaker, former Houston 2005-06 Astros outfielder,  Charlton Maxwell Jimerson.

The 35-year old Jimerson’s story is about the obstacles he had to overcome with the help of life’s healing forces (sometimes referenced by others as “The Grace of God”) working through other to achieve the success in life he has attained “against all odds.”  Jimerson credits his older only sister Lanette as the real parent of his childhood, the one who helped him master the waters of living, first with two drug-involved parents on the streets of Oakland, California and then with a helter-skelter single mom who was still drugging and moving out of necessity from one crummy lace to the next. Sister Lanette was Charlton’s guiding light to the fire that lived within him for something better in life than his two older brothers were reaching from the chaotic “take it, if you can get your hands on it” lifestyle that awaited so many “parent-less”  young black males on the inner city streets of America.

A talent for baseball was Jimerson’s vehicle to a destiny that goes far beyond the game itself. Had he not had this baseball this talent, he may have found a way to make it anyway, but that is an unanswerable question. It’s not what happened.

“Against All Odds”, the book, is about that struggle, challenge and victory in the life of Charlton Maxwell Jimerson, a still young man with great eloquence as someone who speaks deeply from his soul about the gifts that have become his road of life feast in ways that go far beyond the fact that he used his baseball talent to almost earn the college degree from Miami University that he now is completing at the University of Houston; that he wrote his name into the MLB record books when he homered in his first MLB time at bat as a pinch hitter for Roger Clemens; that he now faces a strong corporate future for his talent with numbers; that everything good for him is unfolding in Houston, the place that has grown into his home town since his days with the Astros; and that he will always have his memories of those two national collegiate baseball championships as a player for Miami, and the brief, however limited service time he spent as a one-inning defensive player for the 2005 only Astros pennant winner. And pile on the Clemens-pinch-homer in his first MLB time at bat the next season, and all of the great learning time he sent in the company of mentors like Jackie Moore, Phil Garner, and Tony Gwynn – just to name a few. – How much help does one guy need to get the key to the biggest city that life has to offer – the one that serves up self-respect in the truest meaning of that phrase?

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/box-scores/boxscore.php?boxid=200609040PHI

Former Astro outfielder Charlton Jimerson and former Astro President Tal Smith shared a happy reunion at the Spaghetti Western June 22, 2015 meeting of SABR in Houston.

Former Astro outfielder Charlton Jimerson and former Astro President Tal Smith shared a happy reunion at the Spaghetti Western Restaurant June 22, 2015 meeting of SABR in Houston.

In our view, SABR member Chris Chestnut asked Charlton Jimerson the question of the evening that opened the most light on this likeable young man’s character and basis for succeeding “against all odds”.

Chris Chestnut asked: “Charlton, when you are talking to young people today, what do you tell them you think is important for them to know?”

“I just tell them to remember that every decision they make and act upon is going to have consequences in their lives,” Jimerson answered, as he went on weaving his own mental trail of explaining what he meant.

We’ll have to put it in our own words: “Nothing we decide to do, or not do, comes free. In time, short time or long, everything we act upon. or fail to act upon, results in either a “ticket” to more choices – or a “ticket” to some place in which our choices are reduced to few, if any – to none.  In the end game, we get as much freedom in life as we are willing to take responsibility for having because, like the two sides of the same coin, freedom and responsibility are the inseparable partners of the same entity. “

At the still tender age of 35, we get the impression from his own words that Charlton Maxwell Jimerson understands everything we just expressed in our italicized expression of this ancient wisdom .

That impression is sustained by Jimerson’s decision to again quote Tupac Shakur at the conclusion of his last page book acknowledgements as a way of taking responsibility for the freedom he had given himself to write and name his memoir:

“This is the realest shit I ever wrote, against all odds.” – Tupac Shakur

God Bless Charlton! – God Bless Tupac! – And may God Bless us all!

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The .500 Win % Clubs Near 2015 MLB Mid-Season

June 22, 2015
Put that big flag pole from Tal's Hill somewhere! - We need a place to be reminded of either World Series Champions flag - or else - the flag pole itself to remind us of our last  World Series win!

Put that big flag pole from Tal’s Hill somewhere! – We need a place to be reminded of either our World Series Champions flag – or else – the flag pole itself to remind us of our last World Series win!

Nearing mid-season by about a rough dozen games per team, we wake up on Monday, June 22, 2015 to find that 18 0f the 30 MLB clubs are playing .500 ball or better.

10 of the 18 “winning” clubs are American League members; 8, of course, are National League pennant contenders.

Things often change during the second hard stretch in the season schedule, but the probability remains that most of the ten playoff clubs (3 division winners in each league and 2 wild cards in each league that will have to sudden death each other to reach the first round of 4 team series competition in each league on the way to determining the World Series representatives for both the AL and NL groups will mostly come from 18 clubs shown here.

The six MLB division leaders are shown in bold types below, but none, not even the Cardinals, have insurmountable division leads that guarantee anything in the second half of the season. As per usual, injuries, the presence or absence of quality inning starters, the fatigue upon relief staffs when the starters falter, defense, consistent strategic hitting, luck, and the good or poor management of each club’s strengths and weaknesses down the stretch will prove again to be the major difference-makers as to which club ultimately survives as the last standing winner in October:

POS TEAM LEAGUE /DIV’N W L PCT GB
1 CARDINALS NL C 45 24 .652
2 ROYALS AL C 39 27 .591 4.5
3 ASTROS AL W 41 30 .577 5.0
4 PIRATES NL C 39 30 .565 6.0
5 RAYS AL E 40 31 .563 6.0
6 DODGERS NL W 39 31 .557 6.5
7 CUBS NL C 37 30 .552 7.0
8 YANKEES AL E 38 31 .551 7.0
9 TWINS AL C 37 32 .536 8.0
10 GIANTS NL W 38 33 .535 8.0
11 t RANGERS AL W 37 33 .529 8.5
11 t NATIONALS NL E 37 33 .529 8.5
13 ORIOLES AL E 36 33 .522 9.0
14 BLUE JAYS AL E 37 34 .521 9.0
15 TIGERS AL C 35 34 .5072 10.0
16 METS NL E 36 35 .5070 10.0
17 t BRAVES NL E 35 35 .500 10.5
17 t ANGELS AL W 35 35 .500 10.5

As to where the Houston Astros now stand as a winning prospect, we of The Pecan Park Eagle are still not sold on how the club will fare over the whole season. We believe in the strategy at play, but, after all these years of living and dying in Houston with what can happen late in the season, the proof remains in the October pudding.

We love the addition of Carlos Correa at shortstop and the storming weekly improvement in hitting from George Springer, and we do like the power bop that threads it way through the lineup. We simply don’t think we can hold up for a whole season without the acquisition of another quality starter, the proven coming of age of a guy like Lance McCullers and, hopefully, one of the others, plus strategic hitting that also comes from players who also hit for average. For now, as we saw in Sunday’s game at Seattle, Houston’s strategic hitting seems too reliant upon the long ball from one of our “hit or sit” ball crushers. Is there anyone out there who really believes Luis Valbuena could become the first AL HR leader with 40 to 50 dingers on the year and still fail to reach .200 as a season batting average?

Let’s remember too. – The Astros are doing a lot this year, so far, without the much bigger bat that Jose Altuve brought to the plate last year. We hope that he gets past the current hamstring sideline with a sudden discovery of his old batting champion magic of 2014. Altuve, Springer and Correa hitting on all cylinders at the top of the lineup could be just the combo tonic we need for strategic hitting that included savvy on the base paths running and some table-setting in Houston like we’ve never seen for the big boppers hitting behind them.

We are fans of Jeff Luhnow’s rebuilding strategy and have become big managerial fans of Astros mentor A.J. Hinch in a very short time of paying him any attention. I personally think that he and his staff have done a great job to date of managing the strengths and weakness of the club, but we also know that the wear and tear on pitching may be hard to conceal in the second half, if we cannot add quality to the starting rotation by the trading deadline. Harris, Sipp, and Qualls already are showing some fatigue and, if McHugh slips further as a starter, we are going to need more than one new quality guy up front.

That’s our Astros nutshell for the morning and there’s still ample reason to hope for good things. – Winning it all, however, would sure taste better in October than all of the soup that some writers will make with the theme of how much improvement the Astros made in 2015 as opposed to actually winning anything that mattered.

We think we can speak for many ancient Houston Astros fans when we say this: “Our days of dining contentedly on “consolation custard” are over!”

If you don’t believe us, check the turnstiles.

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