Two tales of one city

Kudos to U-T San Diego on Sunday for the enterprise story that encompassed the entire front page of Sports, “Two Tales of One City.”

It told the story of New Orleans post Katrina with the Super Bowl playing out there next Sunday for the first time since the storm ravaged that community in 2005. That story is one of a city that has rebounded well in some areas, but is still suffering in many others.

The piece, though, left out several key sports elements. Aside from the Super Bowl, hundreds of millions have been spent on renovating the Super Dome and saving the NFL Saints and NBA Hornets (soon to be Pelicans) for New Orleans. This rather than rebuild infrastructure that affects a much wider swath of people in The Crescent City. The NBA also has already staged an All-Star Game (2008) and is scheduled to go there again.

This in a community where the local paper that did such a boffo job covering Katrina has since laid off most of its staff and is printing only three days a week with a daily online presence.

Just like San Diego’s baseball and continuing football stadium situation, there’s an argument about what kind of damage the loss of a professional sports team does to the collective psyche of a community and to business in that community as a whole. The public money spent on sports never seems to to be apportioned to police, fire, schools or social services instead. These are the decisions every community has to make. It is going on in Sacramento right now with the NBA Kings sold and about to move to Seattle. How much responsibility do the tax payers have to join with private business if fans want to keep their sports teams? This is what they’re trying to figure out in a last ditch effort to save the Kings right now.

The U-T story written and reported by Michael Gehlken was incomplete. But I give him and the paper an A for effort for at least trying.

My Hall of Fame Ballot for 2013

Barry Bonds, Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jack Morris, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell.

This ballot, as controversial as it is, wasn’t very tough for me. I’ve always voted for the best players from their particular era and this year is no different. Using all 10 slots, I voted for the all-time home run leader, a pitcher with 354 wins, the Astro with 3,060 hits, the catcher with the most homers ever at that position, the outfielder who produced three 60-homer, plus seasons, the first baseman with 583 homers, the man who hit 569 homers and amassed 3,020 hits, the pitcher with the most wins in the American League during the 1980s, the reliever with 478 saves and one of the best AL shortstops for 20 years.

It contained some tough choices because I didn’t have the room this year to vote for several guys I have in the past: Tim Raines, Fred McGriff and Edgar Martinez, who were also terrific players in their own right. I haven’t voted for Jeff Bagwell, but there’s little question he deserves a hard look.

Many good players, I fear, will now be neglected as more and more greats of the just past era will have exhausted their five-year waiting period to join the holdovers on the ballot.

Next year it will be even tougher with Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas eligible for very serious if not obvious consideration. In my mind, they are all Hall of Famers. After that, John Smoltz, Trevor Hoffman, Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson are among others to join the group. They all should be elected on the first ballot.

A player only has to garner five percent of the vote each year to remain on the ballot for a maximum of 15 years. This is going to create a logjam on the ballot in the coming years as my colleagues in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America individually determine who meets the Hall of Fame criteria and who doesn’t.

In my mind there is no question. My 10 choices this year meet the criteria and should be in the Hall of Fame.

Thoughts on the Green family

PHOENIX — I never met Christina-Taylor Green, but I feel like I have through her parents, John and Roxanna.

She’s the little girl, who was gunned down nearly two years ago in nearby Tucson by a madman with an assault weapon who was after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and shot 19 people, killing six of them. The attack in front of a Safeway market took 20 seconds and he was stopped only because the 30-bullet magazine he used expired and he was tackled while trying to change that clip. The guy bought those bullets that morning at a local Walmart.

He disabled Giffords with a shot to the head, depriving Arizona of a young Congresswoman and possible Senator and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, of an active wife and a hopeful mother. She’s lucky to be alive and has used all her effort and courage to recover. She had to resign from the House of Representatives and will never be the same.

He left the Greens without their beautiful 9-year-old daughter and as Roxanna said this week: “I have a hole in my heart and will forever.”

But the Greens have moved on, using their faith as a source of strength and a motivating force to bring change to an American landscape that last week led to 20 more families suffering through the pain of losing their little children because of gun violence.

I met the Greens a month after Christina’s death when they were still in the throes of their own suffering and have written a lot about their journey since. The community, the baseball world and their friends and family circled around them.

In the days after the events last Friday in Newtown, Conn., I thought a lot about them and how they were reacting to another round of carnage. It had to have hit too close to home. Then I saw Roxanna being interviewed on CNN by Anderson Cooper from Newtown. The next day I reached out to John on the phone and wrote a column based on that conversation.

By remaining active, they are keeping Christina’s memory alive. I can’t say enough about the quality of these people and their unbelievable courage.

John is a member of s great baseball family. He’s a national crosschecker for the Dodgers, His dad, Dallas, is synonymous with the Phillies, who he managed to their first World Series title in 1980. I’ve known him for more than 30 years. Their son, 13-year-old Dallas, plays baseball. Even Christina played baseball. She was the only girl in her Little League and dreamed of being the first female to play in the Major Leagues. She was also active politically in her elementary school and was excited to meet Gabby that morning. That’s the reason she went to that community event.

John said that the younger Dallas is adjusting to life without his sister. They were very close and Christina was very protective. She sounds a lot older than her age when she died. And now it’s almost two years later.

“I would say we’re doing pretty darn good considering the circumstances,” John told me.

I’m not sure I could do the same.

More on Cabrera

A colleague wrote to me about my last blog, claiming that Miguel Cabrera’s feat this season was an “incredibly weak” Triple Crown. Huh?

A Triple Crown is a Triple Crown. That analysis just defies the vagaries of everything coming together correctly in a given year and is a reason why the statistical analysis only goes so far.

Here’s what I consider to be the best season of all time: In 1921, Babe Ruth hit .378 with 59 homers and 171 RBIs, but he didn’t win the Triple Crown. He led in homers and RBIs and the 59 homers was by far the single season record at the time. But the .378 average was not good enough. Harry Heilmann hit .394.

Was Ruth better than Cabrera comparing 1921 to 2012? You bet, statistically, although you have to take into account the differences of playing in the eras. Just like you have to do that when comparing different decades. No blacks, changes in bullpens, no DH, higher mounds prior to 1969, dead baseballs, the division system, no night baseball, no airplane travel, wool uniforms, smaller leagues. You name it.

Cabrera had the best numbers he needed to win the Triple Crown this season. There’s no such thing as a “weak” Triple Crown. In 1967, Carl Yastrzemski hit .326 and tied Harmon Killebrew with 44 homers. He had 121 RBIs. All those marks were either matched or bettered by Cabrera this year. I don’t remember anyone calling the Yaz Triple Crown weak back then. Why would anyone call Cabrera’s weak now? Similarly to the Tigers, the Red Sox won the pennant late in ’67 and lost in the World Series. Yaz was the MVP.

Finally, Nate Silver misses one on Trout over Cabrera

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/the-statistical-case-against-cabrera-for-m-v-p/

Love, Nate. Great analysis about the AL MVP race in his Nov. 14 FiveThirtyEight blog.

Unfortunately the “traditionalists” overruled him by a huge margin as Miguel Cabrera won 27 of the 30 AL first place votes and defeated Mike Trout. Can’t take what Cabrera did out of context. His numbers were good enough THIS YEAR to win the Triple Crown and the Tigers won THEIR division and went to the World Series. Trout did none of this and neither did the Angels.

It was just the luck of bad timing that the rookie was sick during Spring Training and had to play his way into shape in the Minors in April. With Trout playing all season the Angels MIGHT not have opened 7-15. He might have had better numbers than Cabrera and the Angels might have gone to the Series. Then he could have been the MVP. Didn’t happen.

Easier to aggregate polls and pick the presidential winner than trying to determine what a diverse group of baseball writers are thinking. And many of them are stat geeks who evidently this time ignored many of the analytic numbers and voted for Cabrera. In the past, these same guys have given the Cy Young to Tim Lincecum with 16 wins and Felix Hernandez with 13.

Right or wrong, the fact that Cabrera was the first pure Triple Crown winner since Frank Robinson in 1966 proved to be overwhelming.

Towers: D-backs not hoisting white flag

PHOENIX — Despite what it may look like on the surface, the D-backs are not “waiving the white flag” in their race for a playoff spot with the trade on Sunday of veteran left-handed starter Joe Saunders to the Orioles for right-handed reliever Matt Lindstrom, Arizona general manager Kevin Towers said.

They dropped a three-game series to the Padres at Chase Field and ended action on Sunday, trailing the first-place Giants by seven games in the National League West and the Cardinals by 6 1/2 for the newly-minted second NL Wild Card berth. The two non-division winning teams with the best records in the NL will meet in a “win and in” playoff game on Oct. 5. for the right to play the top seed in this year’s best-of-five NL Division Series.

“We wanted to sustain what we did last year,” Towers said, referring to his club’s surprising 2011 run into the first round of the playoffs. “We’re not waiving the white flag. We have a lot of games in the division. Hopefully we can get hot. Until we’re eliminated we’ll just keep playing.”

In recent weeks the D-backs have shed themselves of two veterans — Saunders and shortstop Stephen Drew — which is usually not the message one wants to send either to the fans or the rest of the players on the team as the season heads into its crucial final weeks. The teams above them have added like crazy. The Giants brought in Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro. The Dodgers, by virtue of Saturday’s mega trade with the Red Sox, have now added Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Hanley Ramirez and Joe Blanton to the current active roster.

The D-backs countered with Lindstrom and third baseman Chris Johnson.

In Zona, this all smacks of getting ready for 2013, despite Towers’ claims to the contrary. Towers said he wanted to get a good read on rookies Jake Elmore at shortstop and Tyler Skaggs in the starting rotation. In fact, Towers insisted that the D-backs are better right now with Elmore over Drew at short and Skaggs over Saunders. Only the last month of the season will tell.

But here’s the reality of it all: The D-backs had no intention of exercising a $10 million option to bring back Drew next season or paying him a $1.35 million buyout. They saved about $3 million shedding him when they did. They have to make a decision whether to pick up a $6.5 million option on closer J.J. Putz for next season or buy him out for $1.5 million. Don’t expect them to exercise that option, either.

Next season, the D-backs can slide setup man David Hernandez into the closer slot and replace him in the eighth inning with Lindstrom.

The D-backs have $15 million in deferred money coming off the books at the end of this season, but even that currently makes them bit players in a division where the Dodgers and Giants will just keep spending and even the Padres are at a different level with new ownership and a $1.2 billion television deal that will give them an average of $60 million to spend each year over the next 20 years.

And what happens when the Dodgers sign a new TV deal that could net them $5 billion over next 20 years? Already, with the $61 million additions of A-Gon, Beckett and Carl Crawford, the Dodgers payroll is pegged at $189 million for 2013. And we haven’t gone into the offseason.

The D-backs are simply up against it, which is why the more than adept Towers has to juggle the fortunes of the present with the projections of the future. No white-flag waiver is he.

“[Going into the current season] I felt we were better on paper,” he said. “I don’t think the division is that much stronger. We probably overachieved last year and this is who we are.”

Red Sox’s shake up signals Valentine’s return

The big shake up in Boston should leave no doubt about the immediate future. Bobby Valentine has won the immediate skirmish there and undoubtedly will be back next season to fulfill the second year of his contract as manager.

The deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers gave the Red Sox about $260 million in salary space to immediately rebuild the club, but it removed the dissidents from the clubhouse. It took guts for Red Sox management to do this and that group should be commended. The process, though, really began earlier in the season when Kevin Youkilis was moved to the White Sox. But the bleating and the losing continued since then.

“Yes, it was necessary,” Valentine told the media about the trade. “It just didn’t seem like it mixed as well as it should. It has nothing to do with the individuals in the trade.”

Oh, it certainly did. And if Dustin “that’s not the way we do things around here” Pedroia doesn’t watch it he will be the next go. David Ortiz, down now with what appears to be a season-ending foot injury, will almost certainly be allowed to leave via free agency. And with that the Red Sox will be free of the Theo Epstein era, even though it ended with the Red Sox winning a rare pair of World Series titles.

To be sure, the results of this season do not stand alone. The Red Sox haven’t been a very good team since last August. They are 68-86 in nearly one full calendar year.

“It’s been a large enough sample size going back to last year that we needed to make more than cosmetic changes,” Boston’s first-year general manager Ben Cherrington said.

By dumping the two players making more than $200 million in salary over the course of the next five seasons — Gonzalez and Crawford — the Red Sox now should have a running chance. So does Valentine. The players and some members of the Boston media tried to run him out of town. One of the members of top management told me recently that the Red Sox weren’t going to be “bamboozled into doing that.”

Now the front office seems to have made its choice. There’s the old adage that you can’t get rid of the team so you have to get rid of the manager. Well, this time management got rid of the team.

Like Larry Bowa, Valentine’s a veteran old school guy who manages out of chaos. A team should know that when it hires him. Now it’s time to leave him alone and give him the opportunity to see what he can do.

Tito sends text apologizing to Bobby V

NEW YORK –- Terry Francona sent a text message to Bobby Valentine apologizing for causing any commotion in the Red Sox clubhouse on Saturday.

The former Red Sox manager held court in the Boston clubhouse seated on a stool near Dustin Pedroia’s locker while about a half dozen of his former players pulled up seats around him in front of a room chocked full with members of the media. Francona is now an ESPN analyst in town to do Sunday night’s broadcast.

“Yes, he sent the text manager,” Valentine, the team’s current manager, said prior to Sunday night’s rematch between his club and the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. “But it wasn’t necessary.”

Francona and the Red Sox parted ways last year after they were eliminated from the playoffs when the Rays won and they lost on the final day of the regular season. The Red Sox aided and abetted their own collapse by going 7-19 during the month of September. Valentine replaced Francona and under his watch this year the 50-51 Red Sox have continued in a lateral spiral.

They are 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Yankees in the American League East after splitting the first two games of the three-game weekend series, Boston’s first in New York this season.

When asked about it on Sunday, Francona wouldn’t confirm nor deny that he sent the text message.

“That’s personal,” he said. “I don’t talk about my text messages.”

Valentine has been in the eye of the storm all season, his first managing in the Major Leagues since a seven-year tenure with the Mets ended in 2002.

After the Red Sox lost the opener on Friday night, 10-3, Francona entered the clubhouse on Saturday initially looking for Cody Ross and Pedroia sidled up to him. Clay Buchholz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Nick Punto and David Ortiz were among the players who joined the group, creating an awkward and unusual scene.

Valentine was ensconced his office with the door closed as this transpired. When he was advised later of Francona’s presence, he wasn’t particularly happy about it.

“We’ve got drama,” Valentine said after Saturday’s game that the Red Sox won, 8-6, with two runs in the top of the ninth. “We’ve got pregame drama, we’ve got in-game drama, and we’ve got postgame drama. Man, we’ve got drama.”

The two BBs

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Latest Boomskie

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