Must Read For Baseball Fans – In Search Of Pete Hill

I wanted to share this fantastic article written by Jeff Arnold for Yahoo’s PostGame column about one of the early pioneers in baseball’s Negro Leagues, Pete Hill. Before the likes of players like Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, and Cool Papa Bell even started their careers, Hill dominated the opposition. This is a story partly about baseball, but more about the search for a man’s roots and the final resting place for a player who was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2006.

In Search Of Pete Hill, Greatest Baseball Player You Probably Never Heard Of | ThePostGame.

Tired of the NASCAR Crybabies

nascar-sprint-series-logoIt seems that the start of a new NASCAR season hasn’t changed anything. At the end of nearly every race toward the end of last season, at least one driver got to the interview area and started whining and crying about the way another drove. It seems that a few of the drivers have decided that they are the arbiters of what “proper” driving is.

One of the worst is Kevin Harvick. This self-important know-it-all was in the middle of a lot of those incidents last season, and he started 2015 the same way. At the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway Saturday night, Harvick bumped the wall late in the race after a bump in the tail from Joey Logano. At the end of the race, Harvick decided to confront Logano and take him to task for what he deemed “really dumb driving.”

Logano had been driving the way you have to drive at Daytona, drafting close behind the car in front of you to create the aerodynamics needed to get to the front. Logano said he understood why Harvick was a little frustrated, but he also knows that is the kind of drafting necessary to get to the front at Daytona.

“I was just trying to help, really,” Logano said after the race. “We had a run and I just kept pushing. Apparently his car was tight. I was doing the same thing with the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) all night and it was working.”

Logano’s comments were backed up by a couple of other drivers after the race.

Harvick may have been a little tight because his car was also a mess. He’d been involved in a crash earlier and his team had had to work hard to get the car back to racing form. They did a hell of a job, but I have to believe Harvick may not have had the issue late in the race with a healthy car. Doesn’t matter though. Harvick is the smartest man on the track and is the only one who knows the proper way to race.

“He thinks he was helping, but you can’t just drive somebody straight into the corner into the fence,” he said.

Look, I have never driven a car that fast – nor do I want to. I have watched a lot of races, however, and it’s easy to tell when a driver is being reckless (like Kyle Busch often is) or intentionally trying to wreck someone. For what it’s worth, it appears Logano didn’t do either. I believe it was just good, hard racing and Harvick was just upset he finished 11th in an exhibition race. Kinda sad.

There were plenty of crashes in the race, and all the other drivers interviewed were much more casual about it, often using the phrase “that’s racing.” That may be because it was just an exhibition race with nothing on the line. That didn’t matter to Harvick though.

If your car isn’t fast enough, Kevin, perhaps it’s best to just get out of the way and keep your mouth shut.

 

 

 

MLB NL West Predictions

BaseballWith James Shields finally signed, most of the major free agent moves have been done. Since Shields landed in San Diego, this is the perfect time to break down the National League West. In reverse order, this is how I see the division shaking out in 2015:

5. Arizona Diamondbacks – The one big move Arizona made in the off season likely made the team worse. The worst pitching staff in the NL West got worse when it shipped Wade Miley to the Red Sox for Allen Webster Rubby De La Rosa. Miley averaged 200 innings a year for the Diamondbacks over the last three years, and while he won’t make anyone forget Randy Johnson, I submit he was far better than the two players they got in return. With Bronson Arroyo on the shelf after Tommy John surgery, it’s Josh Collmenter and four guys that combined for ten wins last season in the rotation. Of course, there’s always the chance that new acquisition Jeremy Hellickson returns to the form he displayed in 2011 and 2012. New manager Chip Hale better hope so.

Offensively, there’s not a lot of pop in the lineup outside of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Mark Trumbo has displayed some power in right field, but he’s going to need to improve on his .235 batting average. The other big questions in Arizona revolve around Cuban third baseman Yasmany Tomas and who the heck is going to catch. The Diamondbacks appear ready to hand the hot corner over to Tomas, despite the fact he’s learning the position after primarily playing the outfield in Cuba. Tuffy Gosewisch is the only catcher on the 40-man roster with MLB experience – a whole 174 at bats. The Diamondbacks did sign career backup Gerald Laird to a minor league contract.

Bottom line: The forecast in the desert is for pain.

4. Colorado – There is no question about one thing with the Rockies – the boys can hit. If Carlos Gonzalez bounces back to form after undergoing both finger and knee surgery last season, the outfield of CarGo, Charlie Blackmon, and Corey Dickerson will be formidable. If Troy Tulowitzki is healthy, the Rockie infield is equally as potent. Justin Morneau showed he still had plenty in the tank last season with his .319 average, 17 homers, and 82 RBI. In fact, is newly acquired Nick Hundley is indeed the teams primary catcher, the .238 career hitter may be the only weak link. Of course, the Rockies also still have catcher Wilin Rosario on the roster, though it appears manager Walt Weiss plans to move him around (outfield and first base).

As is always the case in Coors Field, the question is who is going to pitch effectively. No question Jorge De La Rosa had solid, in unspectacular, numbers last season (14-11, 4.10). Jhoulys Chacin is trying to comeback from a shoulder injury. Free agent Kyle Kendrick logged 200 innings for Philadelphia last year and should help, but overall it looks like team owners may have to issue whiplash collars to fans who hurt themselves trying to follow the parade of balls roped into the outfield.

Bottom line is that if they can win enough 10-8 games, the Rockies could climb up one spot in the standings, but no higher.

3. San Diego – People have been falling all over themselves praising the work AJ Preller and ownership have done this off season. There is no doubt they have been bold and increased their payroll. But will it translate into a rise in the standings? I don’t think so. Why? Well, the infield offense is anemic at best, their catcher has never had 400 at bats in a season, and their bullpen is anchored by Joaquin Benoit, who will be 38 this year and has never had more than 24 saves in a season (Detroit 2013).

You can make a case that the young Padre rotation of James Shields, Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross, and Odrisamer Despaigne has a chance to be one of the best in the division. Shields and Kennedy are the grizzled vets of the group at just 31. That, along with pitcher-friendly stadiums in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, gives the Padres a chance to be in every game.

The Padre outfield of Matt Kemp, Will Myers, and Justin Upton is legit and capable of putting up some numbers. However, I don’t think manager Bud Black is going to get the same warm fuzzies when looks at the infield. Second baseman Jedd Gyrko hit .200 last year. Will Middlebrooks .191 in 215 at bats for Boston. Shortstop Alexi Amarista hit .239, and first baseman Yonder Alonzo .240. Free agent signee Derek Norris has pop behind the plate, but how will he handle a heavier workload?

Yes, they’ve been busy, but the mountain in the NL West is just too high to climb.

2. San Francisco – The fate of the Giants in 2015 is going to rest on the starting pitching. Madison Bumgarner is as solid as they come, and Jake Peavy (6-4, 2.17 with SF last year) should be reliable as well. The Giants need Matt Cain to be healthy and return to form. Forty year old Tim Hudson just had ankle surgery and likely won’t be ready for the start of the season, and who knows what that means for his durability this year. Then there is the number five slot – 37 year old Ryan Vogelson (8-13, 4.00, 1.28 WHIP) or 31 year old Tim Lincecum (12-9, 4.74, 1.39 WHIP)? Neither strikes fear into the hearts of men.

Catcher Buster Posey and right fielder Hunter Pence anchor a so-so offense. If first baseman Brandon Belt is healthy and resurrects the 2013 version of himself, that will certainly help. The Panda is in Boston and the Giants traded with Miami for Casey McGehee to replace him. I think he was a solid choice. He was named the Comeback Player of the Year last season. After playing for a year in Japan, he came back and hit .287 while driving in 76 runs for the Marlins. He showed decent power while playing for Milwaukee from 2009-2011, hitting as many as 23 homers in a season (2010).

The best part of this teams resides in the bullpen, a fact that will likely win them a lot of games. The Giants actually have two closers in Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo. Casilla assumed the role midway through the year, but the two combined for 42 saves in 51 tries. Then there’s Jean Machi (2.58, 0.95 WHIP, 71 appearances) and Jeremy Affeldt (2.28, 1.10 WHIP, 62 appearances), and Yusmeiro Petit (1.02 WHIP, 12 starts, 27 relief appearances). While Petit was great out of the pen, he might more valuable as a starter if Vogelson and Lincecum remain inconsistent.

1. Los Angeles – The Dodgers were nearly as active as the Padres and shipped a couple of big names away in Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp. In doing so, I actually think the Dodgers might have made themselves a better team. I say that with two provisos: Yasil Puig has got to behave himself and not become a huge distraction, and Joc Pederson better be as good as everyone seems to think he is.

There’s no denying that the top three in the Dodger rotation – Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu are as good as the come. The free agent signing of Brandon McCarthy from the Yankees will give them a solid fourth starter. If Brett Anderson can stay healthy and return to the form he showed in Oakland prior to Tommy John surgery in 2011, the Dodgers will be thrilled. The top three arms in the bullpen in Kenley Jansen, Brandon League, JP Howell are as good as they come and should be able to hold leads on a consistent basis.

The Dodgers traded Dee Gordon and then traded Andrew Heaney to the Angels to get his replacement in Howie Kendrick. Kendrick doesn’t have Gordon’s speed, but otherwise he is an upgrade offensively. Jimmy Rollins takes over at short for Hanley Ramirez – a downgrade on offense but a serious defensive upgrade. Adrian Gonzalez (.276, 27 homers, 116 RBI) is as solid as they come, and there’s no doubt Puig is talented, despite his antics. Carl Crawford showed signs of life last season, and if he stays healthy this year will be a valuable person to have beside Pederson in the outfield.

They were the best team in the NL last season, but gagged in the playoffs. No reason to think they won’t be the class of the league again – hopefully, for Don Mattingly, with a different outcome this time.

 

Innocent Till Proven Guilty – What a Concept!

mlblogoIt seems new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred believes in the model of the US justice system. In a recent interview with ESPN, Manfred gave his “advice” to Hall of Fame voters in an attempt to stop the holier-than-thou crusades that many of the baseball writers have undertaken. Good for him!

“The only piece of advice that I’m comfortable giving is that I think that everyone should keep in mind the difference between players who tested positive and were disciplined on the one hand, and players where somebody has surmised that they did something on the other. And I think, based on what you read in the media, sometimes those lines get blurred. And I think it gets really important to keep that distinction in mind,” Manfred said.

“I think it’s unfair,” he continued, “for people to surmise that Player A did X, Y or Z, absent a positive test, or proof that we produced in an investigation, or whatever. I just think it runs contrary to a very fundamental notion in our society, that you’re innocent until somebody proves you’re guilty.”

Perfect. Well… almost.

“I think you get to the point, on any individual player — I’m talking about just as a general proposition, not necessarily talking about Barry Bonds,” the commissioner said. “You get to a point where there’s a quantum of credible evidence out there that you can make a judgment that he did something.”

Manfred further clouded his first comments when he referenced the Mitchell report commissioned by Bud Selig. “I think the Mitchell report produced evidence of use,” Manfred said.

Whoa. The Mitchell report did no such thing. It was the equivalent of a witch hunt/McCarthy hearing. Granted, there was pretty solid evidence that some of the players mentioned did use PEDs. However, for others it was a case of “he said, he said,” with no hard evidence to prove anything. If, indeed, Mr. Manfred wants voters to use the innocent-until-proven-guilty philosophy when voting for the Hall, that would include some of the players on the Mitchell Report.

We know guys like Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, and Alex Rodriguez used PEDs. It is likely Barry Bonds did as well. Hell, he was convicted of perjuring himself on the subject. I am not certain Gary Sheffield did. One FedEx receipt does not a guilty man make. Roger Clemens has spent millions of dollars defending his reputation and has been successful. Granted, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence, but many a legal trial has found defendants not guilty because of a lack of hard evidence.

Hell, in this day of Internet character assassination, people would condemn Mother Teresa because she didn’t quite do enough to help the poor, Abraham Lincoln because he let the Civil War go on too long, and George Washington for losing too many battles during the Revolutionary War.  In my opinion, many of the Hall of Fame voters have joined in this kind of mob mentality when condemning players without the evidence to back it up.

While I applaud the concept of the commissioners comments, the longer the interview went on, the more he confused things. I think he should have stopped and changed the subject when he said, “I just think it runs contrary to a very fundamental notion in our society, that you’re innocent until somebody proves you’re guilty.”

Amen.

 

Super Bowl End Almost Predictable

Patriots logoIt took me a little longer than usual to write about the finish to the Super Bowl because it took me until the morning to snap out of the daze. Hell, if I had still been eating chicken wings at the time of the interception, I may have ended up in the hospital from choking on my food. I was rooting for the Patriots to win and was resigned to the inevitable loss after the circus catch made by Seahawk receiver Jermaine Kearse.

Then came the inexplicable play call.

One thing I know for certain, I am really glad I am not Pete Carroll or Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell today. I give Carroll credit for taking the heat, but wonder why he didn’t override Bevell’s play call. He can say anything he wants about playing for third down and running the clock out – it was just plain dumb. Marshawn Lynch was nearly unstoppable in the second half, cutting through the Patriot defense like a knife through butter. There is zero excuse for not giving it to him until he either scored or the Patriot defense rose up and stopped him. I guarantee you every Seattle Seahawk fan would have accepted defeat a lot easier had that been the case.

What we saw Sunday night is another example of something that I believe plagues sports today – overcoaching. It was only a matter of time before something like this happened in the biggest sporting event in the country.

You can find examples of this in every sport. It’s as if coaches and managers have to prove they have superior intellect by doing things that go against the grain. College and professional football may be where this is most apparent (going for it on fourth down at strange time, bizarre play calls, gadget plays that almost never work, etc.), but very few sports are immune.

Baseball managers have run amok in recent years with defensive shifts, 97 pitching changes, and 5,286 signs laid down by the third base coach between pitches – 5,285 of which are often read wrong by the batter or baserunner. Game times have increased exponentially because of a lot of the constant tinkering.

Basketball overcoaching generally manifests itself in bizarre substitution patterns. How many times have you watched a college basketball game, seen a player hit back-to-back three-pointers, then find that player on the bench ten seconds later because the coach wanted to put someone else in? What happened to riding the hot hand? College and pro basketball is not the local CYO league – everyone does not have to play!

What about golf? I just wrote about Tiger Woods the other day. Golfers today often have a swing coach, a putting coach, and a mental coach. Really? The result is often what we see with Tiger Woods now. So much conflicting information is fed into the brain that at some point there’s mental overload and gridlock.

Thank God coaches aren’t allowed during a tennis match!

The sport that may be the most immune to this modern-day match of wits is hockey. Some of that is because of the constant flow of action during a game. With the exception of trying to match lines or yanking a goalie who gives up three in the first period, there’s not much for a hockey coach to do once the game starts – the players play.

Having said all of this, it was perhaps the most exciting Super Bowl I have ever seen. The ending was surreal, but it was a wonderful game between two great teams. It was, without a doubt, one of those games we will talk about for a long time. It was a true vision of both agony and ecstasy. Unfortunately for Seattle fans, it was all brought about by a coach who thought he had to prove he was smarter than everyone else.