Beltre: A Clear Case of Passive-Aggression

July 28, 2017

It happens all the time. We just see it a whole lot easier on the stage of big league baseball.

In that Rangers game against Miami at Arlington two night ago, 7/25/17, plate umpire Gerry Davis apparently didn’t like seeing Rangers batter waiting for his time at bat so far up the line behind home plate, so far away from the on-deck circle. He motioned for Adrian Beltre to get back in the circle, which Beltre did. Literally.

Beltre went over to the very transportable circle on the field and moved it back to where he had been standing at the time of censure. And then he sat down upon it. He was in the batting circle (so to speak). Again, quite literally.

As soon as umpire Davis saw him, he gave Beltre the thumb, inviting immediately, of course, the expression of astonished indignation – from both Beltre and Rangers manager Jeff Banister. The air briefly hung full of home team exasperation: “How can you throw the guy out? He did exactly as you told him, didn’t he? He was in the on-deck circle!”

Not exactly. Beltre moved the on-deck circle. He moved the circle to where he wanted to be. And where he wanted to be was the umpire’s objection in the first place. Only a cretin intellect could fail to get the intended message. And Beltre is no cretin intellect. He just didn’t like being told what to do under the watchful eye of his own ego and its own sensitivity to the fact that a few fans in the area would be aware of the fact that his movement from the area of his own choosing was not his idea. Oh no. It pushed the button on Adrian Beltre’s leftover adolescent “nobody tells me what to do without payback” way of thinking.

“Compliance in Defiance” is my term for it. Passive-Aggressive behavior includes any and all things we do, consciously or unconsciously, that are designed to blend defiance with compliance to some authority that we both have over us and resent. If you’ve ever been a teenager, or had a teenage kid to raise, you may already know what I’m talking about.

A few years ago, I remember this father telling me in my office that he was having a lot of trouble getting his 14-year old son to help him with the yard work.

“One day,” the father told me, “I asked my son to walk across the yard as I was busy picking up some leaves to retrieve a large piece of paper that had blown into our yard from a storm the night before. By the time he got across the yard, I looked over and saw that another sheet of paper had blown into the same area. It was only about five feet away from the first piece – and it had quickly pushed up against the fence, just like the first one had.

“To my amazement,” the father continued, “my son brought back the first piece of trash, but not the second, late arriving piece.

“Didn’t you see it, I asked? He said he did.

“Then why didn’t you bring it back too?” the father asked in frustration.

“You didn’t tell me to bring it back,” the son said, and he supposedly said it with a smile.”

The son got what Adrian Beltre got. He got sent to his room. But without a social media circus coverage of his remaining trip to maturity. Growing up was a trip the kid and a younger sister also made in their own ways, over time, just fine – and with a lot of love, patience, and parental authority at play in the mix.

Good Luck, Adrian Beltre!

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

 

ALW Standings-AL BA Race, thru 07/26/17

July 27, 2017

Following today’s 7/27/17 travel day, the Astros start a 3-game weekend series with the Tigers in Detroit on Friday night, 7/28/17.

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST STANDINGS

THROUGH GAMES OF WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 2017 

RANK AL WEST W L PCT. GB
1 ASTROS 67 34 .663  
2 MARINERS 51 52 .495 17.0
3 RANGERS 49 52 .485 18.0
4 ANGELS 49 53 .480 18.5
5 ATHLETICS 44 57 .436 23.0

 

ASTRO*NOTES

Thump. That loud thud you may still be hearing as an echo from the game last night is no big deal. Yeah, we know. The 9-0 goose egg loss that the Astros took on the chin from the Phillies last night was their worst of the season, but let’s keep in mind what big fat divisional leads really mean in total at this time in the season. Nobody takes anything for granted and we also learn more the hard way on night like yesterday’s about what can happen to a great hitting club on any game day against a pitcher who is really on his game.

The Altuve Beat Goes On. Aaron Nola of the Phillies was just on top of every batter, save one, some little guy named Jose Altuve. – Altuve went 2 for 4 to raise his league leading batting average by .001 points from Tuesday’s .364 to Wednesday’s .365.

Go figure. Even the baseball gods, so far, continue to issue Senor Jose a free daily disaster pass. Let’s hope and pray to (the real) God that little Altuve’s dementedly nail-biting enthusiasm for both finger-armor nibbling and “hitting them where they ain’t” continues unabashedly – and all the way to the baseball world’s Promised Land. – If you need further directions as to where that place is – well – you’re probably not reading this little bounce of early morning Houston baseball joy in the first place.

Little Echoes from the Land of Faded Glory. Here are Wednesday’s scores from the AL West:

Phillies 9 – Astros 0.

Red Sox 4 – Mariners 0.

Marlins 22 – Rangers 10.

Indians 10 – Angels 4.

Blue Jays 3 – Athletics 2.

Thank You, AL West brethren! Thanks also go out to the other four members of the AL West for also losing all of their games on the same night that our boys took the drubbing in Philly. As a result, the Astros didn’t lose any ground of their monumentally large lead, but their rivals lost a whole day of make-up-opportunity.

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE BATTING AVERAGE LEADERS

THROUGH GAMES OF WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 2017

RANK PLAYER TEAM AB H 2B 3B HR BA
1 JOSE ALTUVE HOU 386 141 32 2 15 .365
2 JEAN SEGURA SEA 310 101 20 0 6 .326
3 BEN GAMEL SEA 309 100 19 3 6 .324
NR * MARWIN GONZALEZ HOU 268 86 16 0 18 .321
4 CARLOS CORREA HOU 325 104 18 1 20 .320
5 JOSE RAMERIZ CLE 376 120 31 5 17 .319
6 ERIC HOSMER KC 383 122 20 1 16 .319
7 DUSTIN PEDROIA BOS 332 103 17 0 6 .310
8 AARON JUDGE NYY 342 106 13 3 32 .310
9 GEORGE SPRINGER HOU 368 114 22 0 27 .310
10 STARLIN CASTRO NYY 316 97 14 1 12 .307
12 JOSH REDDICK HOU 311 95 24 3 9 .305
23 YULI GURIEL HOU 342 99 27 0 13 .289

NR * = NEEDS MORE “AB”S TO QUALIFY FOR RANKING.

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

ALW Standings-AL BA Race-07/25/17

July 26, 2017

We are still researching the rumor that the 2017 Houston Astros trained for this season by watching old Fred Astaire Movies all winter on the Turner Classic Movie Channel.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST STANDINGS

THROUGH GAMES OF TUESDAY, JULY 25, 2017 

RANK AL WEST W L PCT. GB
1 ASTROS 67 33 .670  
2 MARINERS 51 51 .500 17.0
3 RANGERS 49 51 .490 18.0
4 ANGELS 49 52 .485 18.5
5 ATHLETICS 44 56 .440 23.0

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OUR ASTROS FANS CHORAL SALUTE TO THE 2017 WORLD SERIES

(harmoniously hummed with appropriate lyrically sung word adjustments to the old Fred Astaire song, “Cheek to Cheek” ~

Heaven, We’re in heaven
And our hearts beat so that we –  can hardly speak
And we hope to find the happiness we seek
When we’re dancing through the Series – cheek to cheek

Oh, Yes, heaven, We’re in heaven
And the cares that hung around us – through years bleak
Soon may vanish like – a gambler’s losing streak
When we’re dancing through the Series – cheek to cheek

How we hope to climb this mountain
And to reach the highest peak
But it will not thrill us half as much
As dancing – cheek to cheek

While the Negberts go on dissing
All our time spent – up the creek
They could not enjoy it half as much
As dancing – cheek to cheek

Dance with us, gods – this year is – Houston’s time

A season sublime – to make winning rhyme

With – Series – Our World Series

And we’ll celebrate our winning – for a week

Then we’ll smile forever – dancing

Smile forever – dancing

Smile forever – dancing – cheek-to-cheeeeeeeeeek

VA-DA-BOOM ~ VA-DA-BOOM ~ BAH!!!

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AMERICAN LEAGUE BATTING AVERAGE LEADERS

THROUGH GAMES OF TUESDAY, JULY 25, 2017

RANK PLAYER TEAM AB H 2B 3B HR BA
1 JOSE ALTUVE HOU 382 139 31 2 15 .364
2 JEAN SEGURA SEA 303 99 19 0 6 .327
3 BEN GAMEL SEA 301 98 19 3 6 .326
4 JOSE RAMERIZ CLE 371 119 31 5 17 .321
NR * MARWIN GONZALEZ HOU 265 85 16 0 18 .321
5 CARLOS CORREA HOU 325 104 18 1 20 .320
6 ERIC HOSMER KC 377 117 20 1 15 .310
7 AARON JUDGE NYY 342 106 13 3 32 .310
8 GEORGE SPRINGER HOU 368 114 22 0 27 .310
9 DIDI GREGORIUS NYY 296 91 14 0 15 .307
10 STARLIN CASTRO NYY 316 97 14 1 12 .307
11 JOSH REDDICK HOU 307 94 23 3 9 .306
22 YULI GURIEL HOU 338 99 27 0 13 .292

NR * = NEEDS MORE “AB”S TO QUALIFY FOR RANKING.

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

1930 Cardinals: Incredible Hitters; Lively Year

July 26, 2017

Cardinals outfielder Watty Watkins slides under the impending tag of Philadelphia A’s catcher Mickey Cochrane to score a big run in the 1931 World Series. In the photo, the ball has yet to reach the glove and the slide is still well more than a foot away from making contact with the plate. (Makes you wonder what an umpire review of the “instant replay” would have decided on this one.)

 

The following column was written as an e-mail to The Pecan Park Eagle by John Watkins, the great-nephew of George “Watty” Watkins. Watty Watkins was an early hero for the Houston Buffs over four seasons of work (1925-26, 1928, 1937) that encompassed the beginning and end of his professional baseball career. He also was an important member of the 1928 Buffs club that became the first to play in the new Buffalo Stadium on its baptismal way to becoming the victory grounds home of the 1928 Texas League and Dixie Series championship Houston Buffs. Watty also enjoyed a seven season big league career (1930-36) with the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants, Philadelphia Phillies. and Brooklyn Dodgers.

The 1931 St. Cardinals took the World Series in seven games over the two-times defending Champion Philadelphia Athletics. And, as John Watkins’s material here quickly summarizes, but does not state it as such, the 1930 A’s victory for good hitting and great pitching over incredible hitting and good pitching stands as a monument to the ancient advisory that great pitching can stop great, even incredible hitting in a short series. Lefty Grove and George Earnshaw led the A’s to a six-game triumph in the 1930 World Series over the same hitters that John Watkins boxes by season batting average in the piece that follows.

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The  1930 St. Louis Cardinals: Incredible Hitters; Lively Year.

Hello, Bill. It has been a while since I have been in touch, although I have been regularly reading the Pecan Park Eagle. Thanks to you, I have been able to keep up with the Astros and their remarkable season.

Your running tally of the top AL batting averages, dotted with Houston hitters, brings to mind the 1930 season, when the pennant-winning St. Louis Cardinals boasted a starting lineup of batters who topped the .300 mark. Of course, that was the year that National League as a whole averaged .303. The ball was lively then – as it may be once again this season. Batting averages fell sharply in 1931, when the ball was deadened and the sacrifice fly was eliminated from the scoring rules.

Here are the 1930 Redbird regulars and their averages:

POSITION NAME B.A,
CATCHER JIMMIE WILSON .318
1ST BASE JIM BOTTOMLEY .304
2ND BASE FRANKIE FRISCH .346
3RD BASE SPARKY ADAMS .314
SHORTSTOP CHARLEY GELBERT .304
LEFT FIELD CHICK HAFEY .336
CENTER FIELD TAYLOR DOUTHIT .303
RIGHT FIELD WATTY WATKINS .373

Only Watkins cracked the NL top 10, finishing sixth. (Bill Terry of the Giants hit .403 to lead the league.) Frisch ranked fourteenth, Hafey nineteenth. Back then, the qualifying standard was 100 games played; Hafey appeared in 120 games, Watkins in 119, Wilson in 107. Backup catcher Gus Mancuso – who like Watkins got his start in Houston’s city leagues – hit .366 in 76 games. As a team, the Cardinals averaged .314 to rank third behind the Giants (.319) and Phillies (.315).

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Thanks for an e-mail that deserved column status and writer credit in the hallowed, but humble halls of The Pecan Park Eagle, John Watkins. Glad to hear too that you and the Missus are moving back to your hometown of Fort Worth from the “Greater Fayetteville, Arkansas” area. Have a safe trip home. Last we heard, there were no new walls in Texarkana baring immigration into the Kingdom of Texas from the State of Arkansas.

– Bill McCurdy, TPPE Publisher

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Altuve Now 8 for 9 in Last Two Games

July 25, 2017

~ Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness ~
In a sport which celebrates the measurement of many things that come together in “3”s, Jose Altuve has found all three of the big ones as the star player of the Houston Astros.

ANOTHER 4-HIT NIGHT FOR JOSE ALTUVE! The Little Big Man from Venezuela is on fire. A perfect 4 for 4 night in the rain-delayed 13-4 Astros-thrashing of the Phillies in Philly Monday night give Jose Altuve 8 for 9 in his last two games and .013 point leap in his season batting average from .352 to .365. If he were the anciently wonderful race horse that many of us remember as Secretariat, we would all begin to see him breaking for the long stretch soon, and maybe even now, all alone on his way to a one-man finish in first place, with only two questions to answer: How big is his final number going to be? And how far back down the track to we need to look in the hope of catching a glimpse of his nearest competitor?

But this is baseball, not horse racing. With 63 games left on the Astros schedule, anything can still happen to any player or team, no matter how great, that dares to step onto this field of honorable challenge in the face of other talented human beings, relegating himself to the whims of the baseball gods, and to the rules of speed, force, impact and gravity that come together to test the will, resiliency, and body of every mortal combatant so engaged with each other.

The Only Sure Thing. Barring unthinkable fates, only one certainty now exists in the future of Jose Altuve, and that one’s now even fortified by the soft news, or rumor, that’s floating around that our little future Hall of Famer recently turned down an offer for a new long-term contract with the Astros. If true, the question it inspires is simple: Do they make legal contract paper copy wide enough to hold all the numbers that eventually are going to be sprawling from left to right on any new baseball contract signed by Jose Altuve?

The little guy’s agent is Scott Boras, for Chris-sake!

Don’t you think that Scott Boras already knows that the money he can get for Altuve later, after a third batting championship and the possibility of an AL MVP Award, plus a good shot at the World Series team championship title, is simply much better than anything they could have worked out now for the sake of assuring his client’s future status as an Astro?

Of course, you realize it. And so do Astros owner Jim Crane and  Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow. We all do. And we also know this much about Scott Boras too, based on the Astros’ 2004 experience of trying to negotiate the retention of young Carlos Beltran as an Astro through the same agent, Scott Boras: Boras couldn’t give a rat’s ankle where Altuve plays in the future, if it’s the place that offers the biggest dollars.

Speaking of of Carlos Beltran. Bless his heart! The return of Carlos Beltran to the Astros this year reminds me too much of a 1967 Corvette I once owned and dealt away too cheaply prior to 1969. My “Seller’s Regret” was tempered about twenty years later when I turned away from the opportunity to re-acquire the same vehicle, but elected not to do so for the most basic reasons. – The asking price was too much for how little the car could still do. – And, even though I like his presence on the 2017 Astros as a role model, that opinion I now hold for what my old ’67 Corvette has become is sadly pretty much what I now also think about Carlos Beltran as a “13 years later” Astros re-acquisition.

Jose Altuve as an Astro, from 2018 to beyond, is a must. As close to an absolute must as there is to both dynastic winning and the club’s future gate and other revenue stream retention. This is Houston, a town that does not long support short-sheet window-dressing success that suddenly loses its punch or primary puncher.

How the Astros get it done will be the challenge of genius.

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AMERICAN LEAGUE BATTING AVERAGE LEADERS

THROUGH GAMES OF MONDAY, JULY 24, 2017

RANK PLAYER TEAM AB H 2B 3B HR BA
1 JOSE ALTUVE HOU 378 138 30 2 15 .365
2 JEAN SEGURA SEA 301 99 19 0 6 .329
3 BEN GAMEL SEA 300 97 19 3 6 .323
4 JOSE RAMERIZ CLE 367 118 30 5 17 .322
5 CARLOS CORREA HOU 325 104 18 1 20 .320
NR * MARWIN GONZALEZ HOU 261 83 16 0 18 .318
6 ERIC HOSMER KC 373 116 20 1 15 .311
7 GEORGE SPRINGER HOU 368 114 22 0 27 .310
8 AARON JUDGE NYY 339 105 13 3 32 .310
9 AVISAIL GARCIA CWS 335 103 17 3 13 .307
10 DUSTIN PEDROIA BOS 322 99 16 0 6 .307
11 STARLIN CASTRO NYY 316 97 14 1 12 .307
12 JOSH REDDICK HOU 303 93 23 3 9 .307
21 YULI GURRIEL HOU 334 98 27 0 13 .293

NR * = NOT ENOUGH AT BATS TO QUALIFY IN THE RATINGS

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Altuve Fires Up Another 4-Hit Day

July 24, 2017

Jose Altuve

 

Even if the Astros pitching staff picked Sunday in Baltimore to remind us of their identity as the Astros going forward greatest vulnerability to autumn heartache, little Jose Altuve, our “Mucho Bueno Muchacho” of all MLB hitters, large and small,  was out there firing – and heating things up as  per usual. His latest 4 for 5 day included a double and a 3-run homer that almost combined with another 3-run dinger  by our other Munchkin-size disappointment killer, Nori Aoki, but it wasn’t to be. Our pitching couldn’t keep the Orioles from scoring early and as often as they needed to resist all of our attempts at getting back into the game.

It was almost as if the Astros pitching staff got together and decided to send this message: “Hey, Mr. Jeff Luhnow! Better not forget us as the trade deadline nears!”

At any rate, another big day at the plate by Altuve, accompanied by a no hit day by his nearest batting championship competitor, Jean Segura of Seattle, now opens up a .030 point lead for our guy’s bid on a third AL batting championship.

Yuli Gurriel has spent the weekend falling out of the .300 mark he found on Friday, but that could change on a dime with this guy. He is a really, really good hitter. Evan Gattis also fell back to .285 yesterday, but hopefully he will change his mind and decide to give the .290’s a longer stay next time.

Now it’s on to Philadelphia, where we get to experience the “real baseball” thrill of watching our pitchers also try to bat and smile at the same time. I know our good friend Larry Dierker hates the DH, but even he said it best when he picked the title for his first book. “It Ain’t Brain Surgery,” is it?

Now we’re seeing a whole culture of young pitchers reach the AL without any serious batting time under competitive game pressure. Can that really be cured with a little regular time in the batting cage? Or are they still going to feel as though they are now being asked to do something that is not part of their job by actually batting? I would prefer seeing them working on the pitching problems they showed us yesterday. If McCullers can’t locate his release point, he needs to do whatever he and the staff see him doing to work that out – not taking BP.

As for me, I can live with DH or traditional pitcher hitting baseball – as long as we find the guts to commit to staying with either one choice or the other – over time. The only way to change the culture over time is to control the game’s expectation of its players over time. For now, at least, the AL/NL simply play very similar, but quite different games. It makes common sense. For the one game of baseball to go forward with strength and integrity, we need to see one brand or the other going forward. Not both.

Another fly in the soup. The weekend sports section of the Houston Chronicle had an article citing the possibility that Commissioner Manfred may be ready to impose that 20 second clock on the maximum time pitchers will have next year between deliveries. Apparently he thinks a change like that will speed up the tempo of the game.

Oh, really? Well what’s it going to do to a young pitcher like McCullers if he can’t find his release point? Is that clock going to hurry him into finding it sooner? I don’t think so. Those brief meetings between a catcher and his pitcher are part of the game. Getting rid of them is not the solution.

Enough already. It’s only Monday.

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AMERICAN LEAGUE BATTING AVERAGE LEADERS

THROUGH GAMES OF SUNDAY, JULY 23, 2017

RANK PLAYER TEAM AB H 2B 3B HR BA
1 JOSE ALTUVE HOU 374 134 28 2 15 .358
2 JEAN SEGURA SEA 299 98 18 0 6 .328
3 JOSE RAMERIZ CLE 363 118 30 5 17 .325
4 CARLOS CORREA HOU 325 104 18 1 20 .320
5 BEN GAMEL SEA 297 95 19 2 6 .320
NR * MARWIN GONZALEZ HOU 256 82 16 0 18 .320
6 ERIC HOSMER KC 368 116 20 1 15 .315
7 GEORGE SPRINGER HOU 366 114 22 0 27 .311
8 DUSTIN PEDROIA BOS 318 99 16 0 6 .311
9 AVISAIL GARCIA CWS 331 103 17 3 13 .311
10 AARON JUDGE NYY 339 105 13 3 32 .310
17 JOSH REDDICK HOU 299 90 23 3 9 .301
21 YULI GURRIEL HOU 330 97 27 0 13 .294

NR * = NEEDS MORE “AB”S TO QUALIFY FOR RANKING.

********************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Remembering Red Munger

July 23, 2017

Red Munger
1996

 

Today marks the 21st anniversary of an important Houston baseball figure’s death.

Twenty-one years ago, on July 23, 1996, native Houstonian George “Red” Munger passed away at home from diabetes at the age of 77.

God Bless the Soul at Rest Today That Still is Remembered and Loved as George “Red” Munger. He was a former Houston Buff

Red had a 10-year MLB history (1943-44, 1945-52, 1956) with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates, posting a career record as a right-handed pitcher of 77 wins, 56 losses, and an ERA of 3.86. His best season records were all achieved as a Cardinal in 1943, when we went 11-3 with a 1.34 ERA; in 1947, when he went 16-5 with a 3.37 ERA; and 1949, when he went 16-8 with a 3.87 ERA. Red also won 152 minor league games, a long road that included time with the Houston Buffs in 1937-38 and a 23-win season for the PCL Hollywood Stars in 1955 at the age of 36.

His biggest moment, however, came in 1946, when Red Munger and lefty Harry Brecheen provided the St. Louis Cardinals with the kind of pitching needed to topple the heavy-hitting Boston Red Sox in a seven-game World Series. – Yes, that’s right. The same kind of pitching we know the Astros may have to overcome in 2017 to keep the same fate from felling our hopes for the 2017 Astros in a short series playoff or World Series situation this fall.

The memory of Red Munger came back strong today through an exchange of comments with Red’s son, David Munger, on another column link about Astros hitting.

Here is the brief column exchange that leads to a comment there that deserves to be a column of honor to the memory of Red Munger here.

Thanks again for the memories, Red Munger! And thanks for the memory jog, David Munger!

Your dad will be special to baseball history forever.

The Comment Sequence

David Munger Says:

The 1946 Red Sox lost in 7 games, Harry Brecheen won 3 games for the Cards and some Houstonian who had been recently discharged from the Army won the other. His name slips me.

David Munger Says:

Bill, I thought you would get a kick out of that. Today is the 21st Anniversary of his death, damn time flies.

Bill McCurdy Says:

That picture I took of your dad, Red Munger, in his Cardinal cap, was taken about a month earlier than his 7/23/96 date of death. His foot was giving him fits on the follow-up day I came back to bring him a copy of the picture, but he was feeling chipper and still loved talking baseball. That last visit was exactly three weeks prior to his death.

When your dad started talking about Eddie Stanky taking over as manager of the Cardinals, it was pretty obvious that Red didn’t waste any Christmas cards on the man, but I had to ask, anyway:

“Red, what did you really think about old Stanky?”

Your dad’s face spread into a wide smile as he relaxed in his easy chair, with hands intertwined before him, staring beyond the room at a memory from a distant past day.

“Old Stanky,” Red finally said. “What a turd he was!” A period of recollection along those lines then followed.

On my previous visit, Red said he wanted me to have his Cardinal cap as a souvenir. I told him I couldn’t take it. Red’s generosity already had cost him a lot to professionals who had mined his generosity and acquired whatever he once kept as original uniforms from his playing career.

There’s got to be a special place in hell for those people who take advantage of older people and, now that I’m actually in Red’s old age neighborhood, I feel even more strongly about it.

Anyway, I accepted the cap because Red wanted me to have it and I knew it was only a reproduced version of the ’46 Cardinals cap.

He still wouldn’t sign it for me. Said “I’m not going to mess up a perfectly good wearable cap by writing on it,” so, we settled for me taking that picture of him.

In fact, I had brought Red a copy of that picture and one to sign for me on what turned out to be our last visit in the short time I had the good fortune of knowing him. Being as I am, and as things turned out, it’s also why I eventually wanted you have the cap your dad gave away and that special red-frame version copy of the last Red Munger photo.

God bless Red Munger on this special day! And may God Bless You, David, and all the other Mungers who had the good fortune of having this good man as your father from childhood through your latter years.

Godspeed,

Bill McCurdy

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

AL Batting Average Leaders 07/22/17

July 23, 2017

Marvelous Marwin Gonzalez
“The Man That Makes Things Happen!”

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE BATTING AVERAGE LEADERS

THROUGH GAMES OF SATURDAY, JULY 22, 2017

RANK PLAYER TEAM AB H 2B 3B HR BA
1 JOSE ALTUVE HOU 369 130 27 2 14 .352
2 JEAN SEGURA SEA 295 98 18 0 6 .332
3 JOSE RAMERIZ CLE 359 118 30 5 17 .329
4 BEN GAMEL SEA 293 94 19 2 6 .321
5 CARLOS CORREA HOU 325 104 18 1 20 .320
NR * MARWIN GONZALEZ HOU 253 80 16 0 18 .316
6 ERIC HOSMER KC 364 114 20 1 14 .313
7 AARON JUDGE NYY 336 105 13 3 32 .313
8 GEORGE SPRINGER HOU 365 114 22 0 27 .312
9 AVISAIL GARCIA CWS 327 102 17 3 13 .312
10 DUSTIN PEDROIA BOS 318 99 16 0 6 .311
11 COREY DICKERSON TB 376 117 27 3 18 .311
13 JOSH REDDICK HOU 295 90 23 3 9 .305
19 YULI GURRIEL HOU 325 97 27 0 13 .298
NR * EVAN GATTIS HOU 209 61 16 0 10 .292
   

NR * = NEEDS MORE “AB”S TO QUALIFY FOR RANKING.

ASTRO~NOTES: With the rise of Evan Gattis to a BA of .292, the Astros now have seven starters, including the DL assigned Carlos Correa, hitting .292 or better. Gonzalez and Gattis both lack the number of AB’s needed to qualify them, otherwise, the Astros would fill six of the twenty spots open in the American League’s very top spots, with C/DH Gattis also now making noise as though he expected to join them soon. …. Bland expressions can be deceiving. The poker-face of Marwin Gonzalez, for example, is nothing less than a mask for the volcanic trigger finger that this man’s soul holds and usually pulls in the Astros’ most dramatic moments of need. When he came into Saturday nights’ game in relief of the injured Colin Moran and blasted that 3-run dinger that regained the lead from the Orioles, I almost wanted to see the baseball god’s script who wrote that little fun into the game for us. It also made me think of an historic moment that awaits the Astros in both the playoffs and the World Series. Each projected instance is a game to be remembered by future generations as clearly as the Mazeroski blast is forever recalled in Pittsburgh.

Let’s zoom straight away to Games 7 of the World Series. It’s the Dodgers and Astros at Minute Maid Park – and Dallas Keuchel versus Clayton Kershaw for all the marbles. Both star pitchers are so much on top of their games that it almost feels like a cultural mist from the 1930’s has rolled into the open-roof Halloween night coolness of the ballpark and turned the place into a throwback competition between Lefty Grove and Lefty Gomez. Nobody’s going anywhere – and not many batters are reaching base. Each team has a couple of singles going into the bottom of the 9th. Keuchel has 10 punch-outs and Kershaw has 13. Neither man has walked a single batter and nobody’s tired.

Relief? Forget about it. Both men are rubber-armed strong. The way bodies used to be.

Then something strange happens. After Kershaw quickly fans Gattis and Bregman for the the first two outs in the bottom of the 9th – and his 14th and 15th K in the game, Nori Aoki is due up, but maybe not. Hinch is making a change. And why not? Aoki is going for his fourth K of the day if he repeats here and Hinch wants no part of that possibility. Hinch is pinch hitting the impassive-looking Marwin Gonzalez for Aoki.

Dallas Keuchel takes a quiet tired-looking glance at the change. Is he also hoping what we are all hoping?

Of course he is. He simply can never admit it. Bu that’s OK. There’s no time here to waste on angst and clubhouse honesty codes.

ON-THE-VERY-FIRST-PITCH-FROM KERSHAW, Marwin Gonzalez takes a Ruthian cut at an untypical Dodger Ace directive. It arrives as a fastball in the mistakenly center of the plate at 96 mph.

And it absorbs instant wooden contact with Marwin’s quick-eye club and departs from home plate toward left center field at 110 mph.

The ball climbs the sky as though there really is a stairway to heaven. It leaves the building, still ascending as it crosses Crawford – and it rises high up against the wall of the luxury apartments across the street. Lights flicker on and off briefly in a couple of the windows impacted by the force of Gonzalez’s blast – as the briefly hushed cardio-condition of the crowd seems to hold it all inside until they too see the ball caroming into our neighbor’s wall.

The roar that follows far exceeds anything The Lion King may have once upon a time imagined for himself.

‘THE ASTROS HAVE DONE IT! …. THEY’VE WON THE WORLD SERIES! …. HERE COMES MARWIN GONZALEZ AROUND THIRD …. DIVING INTO THE BEDLAM THAT AWAITS HIM AT HOME …. NOW BEING DRENCHED WITH EVERYTHING WET THAT COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION OVER TEDIOUSLY LONG AND INTENSE EXTRA INNINGS …. THAT WE NO LONGER (WAHOO!) NOW WILL NEED! …. THANKS TO MARVELOUS MARWIN GONZALEZ …. ONE LAST AND FOREVER LASTING …. ETERNAL TIME!”

If you like that movie, keep playing the movie from the point we’ve descriptively reached here. As far as we are concerned, nobody deserves to have that moment any more than “Marvelous Marwin”!

____________________

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Astros Now Have Six .300 Hitters, Thanks to Yuli

July 22, 2017

Yulie Gurriel got his lucky head of hair massaged again last night in Baltimore.

 

Yuli Gurriel’s big 4 for 5 game in last night’s 8-7 Friday opener win over the Orioles in Baltimore finally has pushed the Astros into having six legitimate .300 plus hitters on their roster for the first in history at this point in any previous MLB baseball season. Unfortunately, Correa (.320) is now on the long-term DL with hand ligament surgery and Gonzalez (.311) still lacks the “AB” totals he needs to be ranked. Otherwise, the Astros could have had six .300 hitters, all ranked among the Top 18 in the American League, all starting at the same time.

AMERICAN LEAGUE BATTING AVERAGE LEADERS

THROUGH GAMES OF FRIDAY, JULY 21, 2017

RANK PLAYER TEAM AB H 2B 3B HR BA
1 JOSE ALTUVE HOU 364 128 27 2 14 .352
2 JEAN SEGURA SEA 290 98 18 0 6 .338
3 JOSE RAMERIZ CLE 356 116 30 5 17 .326
4 CARLOS CORREA HOU 325 104 18 1 20 .320
5 BEN GAMEL SEA 288 92 18 2 5 .319
6 ERIC HOSMER KC 362 114 20 1 14 .315
7 COREY DICKERSON TB 372 117 27 3 18 .315
8 AARON JUDGE NYY 332 104 13 3 31 .313
9 AVISAIL GARCIA CWS 323 101 17 3 13 .313
10 t DUSTIN PEDROIA BOS 315 98 16 0 6 .311
10 t GEORGE SPRINGER HOU 360 112 22 0 27 .311
NR * MARWIN GONZALEZ HOU 251 78 15 0 17 .311
14 JOSH REDDICK HOU 290 88 22 3 9 .303
18 YULI GURRIEL HOU 320 96 27 0 12 .300
   

* GONZALEZ NEEDS MORE “AB”S TO QUALIFY FOR RANKING.

Last night was the first time I’ve noticed Yuli Gurriel wearing glasses during a game and, if anything was said about it, I didn’t hear. All I know is what I see and hear. And what I’ve been seeing in Gurriel is a guy who studies the pitchers as closely as they seem to study him. Rarely does a pitcher get Gurriel to make the same mistake twice in the same game – and never, in my observations of him, twice in the same time at bat. And he can hit with power – or spray the ball to any part of the field the defense is leaving open. What a cool guy to have in the lineup – at any place in the lineup. He, nor can anyone else, can really make up for the absence of Carlos Correa in our game, but he is sure helping to make the pain of that more bearable.

With the collapse of the pen in the 9th, Yuli Gurriel is one of five names that jump to mind as last night’s saviors of a game our beleaguered relief staff almost gave away at the very end. The first, of course, was Mike Fiers, whose 1 run allowed over 7 innings was the flat-out welcomed rarity of “good pitching gone deep.” The next was Yuli Gurriel, who also kicked in an early HR and 2 RBI as big payoffs from his 4 hits – and then rookie call up Colin Moran, whose triple and 8th inning HR accounted for 2 RBI – and Brian McCann, whose 6th inning solo shot proved itself as yet another measurable difference maker in the end.  – And finally, thank you, Ben Giles, for throwing that punch-out dagger with two already down in the 9th. The sigh of relief you brought to us last night was wonderful.

____________________

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Opportunity vs Security: Baseball’s Best Example

July 21, 2017

 

It is now an old and treasured story in baseball history.

On the morning of September 28, 1941, young Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox is waking up to a big decision he soon faces at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. It is the final day of the baseball season and the Red Sox will be facing the Athletics in a quirky final afternoon doubleheader against the home club Athletics.

There’s not much at stake for the two teams getting ready to hum the final bars of the 1941 season in the City of Brotherly Love. The A’s already are death-rattled tied to 8th place and cellar-locked to finish 37 games behind the usual champion New York Yankees. The Boston Sox also have 2nd place cinched, but they will wrap the season a full 17 games back of the Yankees.

So what’s the big deal for young Mr. Williams?

Ted is sitting on a decision that Boston manager Joe Cronin is leaving up to his young star.

Williams goes into the final day double bill with 179 hits in 448 times at bat. That’s good enough to give him a batting average of .39955, one that mathematically rounds into a .400 batting average for the 1941 season. With no other player challenging him on the last day for the batting title, “Teddy Ballgame” can sit out both games and take home the rounded-off rare .400 batting mark as the jewel in the crown of his latest and largest early career batting accomplishment.

There apparently is never any doubt in young Ted Williams’ mind about he wants – and what he doesn’t want. And it is a decision we all have to make about many things in life, albeit, with few exceptions, about large and small choices in which we have to pick between security and opportunity.

The Security<->Opportunity Continuum. What is this thing? Its roots are much deeper in philosophy, but they also are early 20th century ancient to the specialized field of industrial psychology. The Security<->Opportunity Continuum boils down to these simple building blocks:

  1. In life, security and opportunity represent the polar extremes that govern everything we desire from work, home, lifestyle, money, and aspiration.
  2. If we only want security, we will gravitate toward career situations in which our well-being or salary are guaranteed by some form of standardized education or expectation.
  3. If we only want opportunity, we will gravitate toward career situations in which our rewards stem from the opportunity for individual accomplishment.
  4. Security need extremists often become successful as government bureaucrats or corporate 9-5 minions at fixed rate salaries.
  5. Opportunity need extremists incline themselves toward the development of their highly special skills as performers, athletes, entrepreneurs, or inventors.
  6. Most of us find our own balance points of need for security and opportunity somewhere in the middle.
  7. To make our peace with our own balance of needs, however these may shift, one way or the other, over time, we simply have to first make our peace with the fact that we are riding on a continuum that dictates this transient truth as well: If we have to have 100% security, we have to understand that it comes with 0% opportunity – and vice versa.

The Ted Williams Sec<->Opp Assessment for the Morning of September 28, 1941: Ted Williams wasn’t interested in finishing the season with a batting championship that rounded off to a batting average of .400. Had he needed any of that security, he would have stayed in the dugout for both of the two final games.

No. Williams wanted the opportunity to post a legitimately over-the-top .400 batting championship for 1941. And, boy, did he get it!

The following table shows in three rows how totally Williams was committed to opportunity in his last day doubleheader performance. It shows what Williams could have settled for in the first row, had he made his game of 9/27/1941 his last game of the season. Next it illustrates how he elevated things by going 4 for 5 in Game 1 of the 9/28/1941 doubleheader. Then it concludes with how he finished the season in Game 2 on the same date with a 2 for 3 performance:

Ted’s Last Day of the 1941 Season

Game Date AB H TOT AB TOT H EXT BA ROUND BA
9/27/1941 4 1 448 179 .39955 .400
9/28/1941 G1 5 4 453 183 .40397 .404
9/28/1941 G2 3 2 456 185 .405701 .406

As long as we are traveling this profile of Ted Williams as one of the most daring opportunists in baseball history, it’s also interesting to note a bookend irony to the Williams story. Whereas, the young Ted Williams had no interest in ending the 1941 season early in protection of his “rounded up” .400 batting average, the retiring Ted Williams of 1960 actually ended his final season a series early after hitting a home run in his final time at bat in his last game at Fenway Park, exactly nineteen years later, on September 28, 1960.

Once Williams hit his celebrated 8th inning goodbye 29th homer of the season off Orioles reliever Jack Fisher, the Red Sox rallied for two more runs in the bottom of the 9th to defeat Baltimore by 5-4 and send Ted off to a final series in New York with nothing left to gain or lose.

In 1960, Williams elected to quit while he was ahead, and to allow his last shining moment in Boston be everyone’s last memory of his final big league game and home run. He didn’t even make the team trip to New York for the last three games. In 1941, Williams had refused to sit out the last game for the sake of security. This time he would refuse to play for the sake of service to opportunity. He couldn’t tip his cap to the fans, but he definitely wanted them to have their best opportunity for remembering him – as he wanted to be remembered, and not because of some long lurking security need. A security based star would have milked that last home run in Boston like the cash cow it never was for Ted Williams. Even then.

Some ancient baseball stories are like great fine wine. They do get better with age. Especially as the truth clears.

********************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle