Musings about, um... well, the Seattle Mariners as well as a love affair with this game baseball. By Peter J. White
"We won't live and die with the same lineup this season," Melvin said. "I'm going to do what I think is the right thing. The law of the land will be mine" (Thiel, P-I).
Manager Bob Melvin said yesterday he plans to experiment with Ichiro batting third, with Randy Winn leading off and John Olerud in the second spot (Hickey, P-I).
There is an important thing to consider, though, and that's whether players will take to it. Performance-oriented analysts (like Y.T.) generally scoff at notions like "it takes a special skill to pitch the ninth inning" but if Ibanez is going to be pissy about trying to hide his weaknesses, and Ichiro only wants to bat first, no matter what, and so forth, the team has to weigh whether that unhappiness and potential performance hit is worth it to try for the marginal potential advantage.
The departure of closer Kazu Sasaki opens a wealth of possibilities for the Mariners, and it seems probable that the first one they will explore seriously is All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez, if he's still on the market. (Times)
"Guardado's three-year, $13 million contract was structured for him to succeed Sasaki as closer next year, with reported escalations of about $2 million in each of its last two years. He also had the ability to opt out of the contract after the 2004 and '05 seasons if he wasn't projected as the closer. Guardado apparently could profit from a change of roles in the upcoming season, with a clause calling for an extra $1 million if he finishes 60 games.
"But interestingly, Guardado's agent, Kevin Kohler, said yesterday that the subject of Sasaki's potential departure was broached during negotiations" (Times).
"The logistics of terminating Sasaki's contract could be problematical and might be drawn out long enough to prevent the team from investing the savings in the dwindling group of unsigned free agents... With the likelihood that the Players Association and commissioner's office will get involved, it figures to get complicated.
"'This could take a while,' said a baseball official" (Stone, Times).
"'The money attached to his contract is in place,' Bavasi said. 'He is still on our roster. That will remain so until such time as he is a free agent or he is released to sign with another club. At this point, (using the money elsewhere) is not part of the discussion.'
"There is much about the process that is unknown, given that players don't generally walk away from $8 million guaranteed contracts. Because of that, getting Sasaki his divorce from the Mariners is likely to take at least three or four weeks" (P-I).
"And yet Sasaki... is being hailed across the Internet today as a savior for his desire to separate himself from the team that wanted him in the worst way four years and 129 saves ago. Rarely is there this sort of unanimity among fans.
"'Finally, we get a break this off-season,' one blogger wrote yesterday, clearly ready to bid Sasaki goodbye.
"'I've been ecstatic about the news today,' said another.
"'I see WS on the horizon,' gushed a third, in reference to either the World Series or the ghost of Warren Spahn."
There's a part of me that wants to go back and prove my true worth, but I found something more important.... Knowing that a baseball career doesn't last too long for anyone, I wasn't so sure it was the right thing to do to give up seeing my children grow. I'm a father and I simply want to be able to think what's best for my own kids.... I want to say I'm sorry I couldn't become a world champion in front of [the fans of Seattle]. They've all been warm and friendly, including the old women at the supermarket and the old men who lived in my neighborhood.
"It is quite easy to see why a legend is treated, and ought to be treated, more respectfully than a book of history. The legend is generally made by the majority of people in the village, who are sane. The book is generally written by the one man in the village who is mad."
"Ladies and gentlemen," he announced, "you are now looking at Herman Schaefer, better known as Herman the Great, acknowledged by one and all to be the greatest pinch hitter in the world. I am now going to hit the ball into the left field bleachers. Thank you."
You probably remember him with that big belly he got later on. But that wasn't there in 1914. George was six foot two and weighed 198 pounds, all of it muscle. He had a slim waist, huge biceps, no self-discipline, and not much education--not so very different from a lot of other nineteen-year-old would-be ballplayers. Except for two things: he could eat more than anyone else, and he could hit a baeball further.
Lord, he ate too much. He'd stop along the road when we were traveling and order half a dozen hot dogs and as many bottles of sode pop, stuff them in, one after the other, give a few big belches, and then roar, "OK, boys, let's go." That would hold Babe for a couple of hours, and then he'd be at it again. A nineteen-year-old youngster, mind you!
So that's it. It's been a lot of fun, beginning to end. As I told you, I played in my first professional ball game with Des Moines in the Western League in 1917. I was twenty years old then. I played in my last game forty years later, Vancouver in the Pacific Coast League, 1956. Was fifty-nine then. I was the manager and put myself in to pinch-hit. Mostly a gag, you know. But I hit a ball between the outfielders and staggered all the way around to third.
A triple. Fifty-nine years old. How about that? Right there--forty years too late--I learned the secret of successful hitting. It consists of two things. The first is clean living, and the second is to bat against a pitcher who's laughing so hard he can hardly throw the ball.
I certainly enjoyed those years, though. I did get a little discouraged at times, but I guess you do in any job. Of course, when you play every day it gets to be sort of like work. But, somehow, way down deep, it's still play. Just like the umpire says: "Play Ball!" It is. It's play.