Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Hero Worship and Baseball: Is A-Rod Today’s Narcissus?

August 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous

Can a baseball player whose biggest fan is himself still be a hero to others?  Historically, baseball’s great ballplayers have broken down into two camps:  those who refuse to accept the mantle of role model versus those who understand and accept that with great fortune comes great responsibility. 

So may he himself love, and not gain the thing he loves! (Ovid)

Stan Musial, in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated, is portrayed accurately as a hero because he has spent his whole baseball life living up to this responsibility in a humble, self-effacing way.  He has always gone out of his way to please his fans, many of whom have worshipped him as a hero now for decades.

Still other players, too numerous to mention, clearly enjoy the fame and fortune that baseball affords them, but refuse to accept any personal, let alone moral responsibility for their actions either on or off the field.  If a fan wants to worship him as a hero, fine.  It’ll mean more money in said player’s pocket. 

Among the more recent players who have graced this great game, Cal Ripken, Jr. probably comes closest to embodying the characteristics of a true hero.  Not only was Ripken a great player, he was also a selfless player, putting his body on the line every single baseball game for nearly close to two decades without a break.  Moreover, he was a hero because, as a citizen of baseball, no shadow of doubt regarding his life-style, including his personal or professional choices, ever darkened his legacy.

How ironic, then, that one of the players who grew up idolizing Ripken was Alex Rodriguez, who recently hit his 600thcareer home run, a milestone that even Ripken never reached. 

But is Alex Rodriguez a hero? 

A-Rod is an interesting case because he doesn’t appear to fit into either of the two camps I outlined earlier.  His fawning, pouting countenance before the cameras betrays an inclination to covet a heroic reputation, but his actual behavior suggests the opposite.  He first lied about, then tearfully acknowledged and asked for forgiveness, regarding his use of steroids.  He also enjoys his association with a true hero, Derek Jeter, despite, at one point, jealously belittling Jeter’s skills and talent. 

Alex Rodriguez wants it both ways.  Like a spoiled child, he wants to be loved, but he also believes that he should be immune from the norms and rules that govern the behavior of others, because he believes he is Beauty and Talent personified.

In fact, almost 2,000 years ago, this form of the “human condition” can be found in Roman poet Ovid’s work.

Ovid, a prolific writer who penned poetic tales of erotic love based on Greco-Roman mythological figures, wrote the following about Narcissus, a beautiful young man who stared at his reflection in a pool of water until he died:

“What you seek is nowhere; but turn yourself away, and the object of your love will be no more.  That which you behold is but a shadow of a reflected form, and has no substance of its own.”  (Ovid’s Metamorphosis)

Alex Rodriguez wants us to love him as much as he loves himself.  But this is impossible, because no one can love A-Rod as much as he loves himself.  And, like Narcissus staring at his own reflection, A-Rod sees only one man before him; there is simply no room, nor is there any need, to see others as well.

Like Narcissus’ ending, staring at his own reflection forever, A-Rod’s career has been also tragic.  Because of his personality and actions, fans have become numb to his historic achievements.  Even as he his home run numbers hit historic proportions, we have become by-standers in his one-man narcissistic drama.

A-Rod may very well reach 700, or even 800 home runs, a staggerily high number.  A question lingers for him….

Will A-Rod always be Narcissus, merely a shadow of a reflected form, a hollow image of greatness devoid of humility or gratitude or can he rehabilitate himself–stand away from the reflective pond waters–and earn the fans’ respect?

Can Alex Rodriquez once again become a hero?


Bill Miller writes a blog called The On Deck Circle, which features commentary and analysis on baseball issues, players, and teams both past and present. It also includes memories of sandlot ball, and classic baseball videos.

A baseball fan since 1974 when he first set foot in Shea Stadium, he is an avid collector of baseball cards, and has been an activemember in the same fantasy baseball league since 1993. Bill is also a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA).

Born and raised in New England, Bill now calls Greenville, S.C. (home of Shoeless Joe Jackson) his home, along with his wife and two boys. Bill hopes that his seven-year old son develops better strike-zone judgment than Jeff Francoeur.


Sort of Gone by Sarah Freligh

Sarah Freligh’s Sort of Gone is a collection of poems that tells the story of fictional pitcher Al Stepansky’s rise and fall in baseball. The story starts with Al getting his first pitcher’s glove (a gift from his alcoholic father) and ends with him watching tapes of his best games as he washes down his saltines and soup with several glasses of scotch.

While the idea of a baseball story told through poetry may intrigue some, for others the word “poem” may immediately summon images of a high school English teacher chanting phrases like “rhythm and meter” or “iambic pentameter.” Don’t worry. Sort of Gone won’t require Cliffs Notes, a tutor or even a dictionary. The collection includes a variety of poetry styles including sonnet, haiku, sestina and free verse, but reads like a short novel as you quickly turn the page to see what happens to Al.

Myka Diller has joined Books on Baseball as a contributing writer focusing on Women and Baseball

Freligh, a former sportswriter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, was working on a novel when she started writing the poems that became Sort of Gone. She put the novel aside because at the time her mother was dying and she had started a new full-time job as the Marketing Director for poetry publisher BOA Editions. She says she had “neither the concentration nor the time” to continue the novel. The themes of loss and death emanate from nearly every page of Sort of Gone. In the first section of the book alone, we learn that Al loses a teammate to suicide, a no hitter to “some jive rook,” and his father to a residential treatment center.

Hear Sarah discuss her work on NPR’s Only a Game with Bill Littlefield (starts at 40 minute mark)

We follow Al to the Minor Leagues where his teammate Tommy’s locker was cleaned out, except for last month’s playmate. He is “Sort of Gone,” not dead, but no longer living the baseball life.

Now, looking at Miss May they think
of Tommy, remember how nuts he was,
laugh until their guts ache, forgetting
that one day, they’ll all be sort of gone.

Al, however, isn’t sort of gone, yet. He makes it to “The Show”, and he pitches a no hitter. Then, after seventeen years, he is sort of gone. We ache with Al in “After Seventeen Years, The End” as he tries to act like it was his choice to walk away from the club. We see him struggle with the press conference and with what to do when he no longer has baseball. We share a “Nightcap”  as tapes of his first game, Game Seven, and the no-hitter play in the living room.

He is young 
again, he is strong
again, he is loved.
by so many.
Oh listen
to how
he is loved.                     

I can imagine that many athletes past their prime can relate to Al at this point. Freligh says, “I’ve always been fascinated how athletes negotiate the long space between retirement and actual death–I think for many, it’s like dying twice.” 

Despite the themes of loss and death, Sort of Gone didn’t leave me feeling depressed. I rooted for Al when he sent “Postcard”

dad, got in the game today,
struck out three, skip says
I’ll make the show –Al

I  laughed during the “No-Hitter, Ninth Inning” which gave us a glimpse into Al’s innermost thoughts during the last outs of his big game. So yes, as clichéd as it is, I laughed and I cried while reading Sort of Gone! I actually read it a second time as soon as I finished it and found gems that I missed the first time through. 

Since Sort of Gone was published in 2008 Freligh has been awarded a $25,000 Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and has been writing poems and a novel focused around swimming.  I was excited to learn that she has also begun another baseball project. She says she has been working on “dramatic monologues in the voices of the Page Fence Giants, a black baseball team that barnstormed the Midwest from 1895-1899. Most of the Giants had played on white professional teams, but were shut out when the color line was drawn. They were forced to resort to clowning instead and I’m trying to imagine and capture their pain and dreams in some new poems.” I will be rooting for Freligh to finish this work! 

Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf had a great Q&A with Sarah earlier this year

Sort of Gone can be ordered from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Powell’s.

Sarah Freligh

City of Tonawanda Softball Championship

Two down, two out, two on in the ninth
when Sid Szymanski stands in at catcher,
sorry substitute for Larry whose sure
hands were summoned to a plumbing
emergency by his buzzing pager in the bottom
of the sixth. Still, the usual chatter
Hum, baby, hum hey Sidder Sidder Sidder
though Zack’s guys are mentally packing
bats in bags, unlacing shoes in order
to get away – fast – before the Panthers,
arrogant bastards, can gather at home plate
in a love knot of high fives and beer foam
and gloat. Strike two and Sid calls time,
steps out to take a couple of practice cuts
a la Barry Bonds, a big man like him,
all head and chest, and Siddersiddersidder
the car keys are out, that’s all she wrote
when the pitcher gets cute with a breaking ball,
hanging it a nanosecond too long, time
enough for even fat sad Sid to get around
and give that pill a ride.

Rounding first, already red faced, a crowd
in his throat, Sid wants to believe
it’s not the sludge of a million
French fries, but pleasure
more exquisite than the first breast
he touched one winter Sunday
while his dad in the den upstairs
cursed the Packers and Bart Starr, while his mom
chattered on the phone to her friend
Thelma about macaroni casserole
and menstrual cramps, Sid swallowed
hard and bookmarked his place
in Our Country’s History, the page before
the Marines stormed the hill at Iwo Jima
and turned back the godless Japs, a high tide
clogging his chest as Alice Evans unfastened
the pearl buttons of her white blouse
and presented him with the wrapped gift
of her breasts, now second base and third
and the thicket of hand-slaps all the way
home where Sid hugs the center fielder
hurried and embarrassed the way men do,
oh, the moment, replayed again and again
over Labatt’s at Zack’s, the first pitcher
delivered by the great Zack himself
rumored to have been the swiftest,
niftiest shortstop on the Cardinal farm
but called to serve in Korea and after that
the closest he got to baseball was standing
next to Ted Williams at a Las Vegas urinal

Tomorrow Zack will make a place
for the trophy between dusty bottles
of Galliano and Kahlua while Sid
will field calls from customers complaining
about rising cable rates and too many queers
on TV, pretty much what he’ll be doing
five years from now and ten when his wife
leaves a meatloaf in the freezer and runs off
with Larry the plumber and in twenty years,
when Zack’s Bar is bulldozed
to make way for a Wal-Mart,
Sid will slump in a wheelchair
in a hallway littered with old men
mumbling and lost, wrapped
in the soft cloth of memory:
The arc of the white ball, a pearl
In the jewel box of twilight sky.

“City of Tonawanda Softball Championship,” from Sort of Gone by Sarah Freligh (c) 2008 Turning Point Books, Cincinnati, Ohio


The Top 10 All-time Worst* Seasons

August 8, 2010 by  
Filed under Statistics and Analysis

One of the websites I find myself going to time and time again is Baseball Reference.   I recently was curious about single-season strikeout records and came to this amazingly valuble page.   [Seriously, click on this link and bookmark it, you will be glad you did!].  I started to look into the highest strikeouts with an eye toward players (e.g. Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn) who are highly productive even though they strikeout often.

However, if there is good publicity forthcoming to those high risk, high reward free swingers like Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds, then the harsh spotlight of illumination has to be shone on those high risk, low reward terribly unproductive players.

I realize we are in a “Chicks dig the long ball”, Walk-off Home Run, SportCenter era of valuing (and paying handsomely) for the home run.  Fact: 9 of the 10 highest single season strikeout totals have occurred in the past decade.  On the other hand, none of the three top home run hitters of all time–Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron, or Babe Ruth–ever appeared on the top 500 single-season strikeout list.  For that matter, neither did Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, or Willie McCovey, all of whom hit 500+ HRs during their careers.

That got me to thinking about the stats for the opposite type of season..that is, those players with very high strikeouts with very little production–candidates for The Top 10 Worst* Seasons Ever.

Before we dive into the winners..er losers..er worst seasons ever, a few factoids about the strikeout.

  • Of the top 500 highest single-season strikeout totals since 1900, only two occurred befor 1960–Vince DiMaggio in 1936 and Jim Lemon in 1956.
  • The top 500 highest strikeout season totals by decade
    • 1930s – 1
    • 1950s – 1
    • 1960s – 38
    • 1970s – 49
    • 1980s – 76
    • 1990s – 121
    • 2000s – 214
  • Two players– Mark Reynolds (211)  and Adam Dunn (199)– made a much-deserved return trip to this ignominious list in 2010!

On the other hand,Joe Sewell holds the career record for lowest strikeout rate at 1.6% with 114 strikeouts in 7,132 at bats, which comes out to one K per 62 ABs.  Sewell also walked 8 times for every time he struck out, had a .312 lifetime batting average and a .804 OPS.  Sewell was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977.

mmm

Ok, let’s get back to evaluating players forThe Top 10 All-time Worst* Seasons. One thing that we need to make clear is that for an individual to appear on this list, he had to have amassed one of the 500 highest strikeout totals for a season.  So, by definition, they have to have played in almost all of their teams games which means that, in some strange “parallel universe” type of way, they had some value.  That is the reason for the “*” after Worst.

Also, it is conceivable that someone may have had a worse season, even though they didn’t strike out alot. However, if there is good publicity forthcoming to those high risk, high reward free swingers like Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds, then the harsh spotlight of illumination has to be shone on those high risk, low reward terribly unproductive players.

Here is how I went about evaluating the players’s seasons.  I started with the Top 100 individual player, single-season strikeout totals.  Then I looked at a statistic that would show whether a player’s strikeouts could be overlooked by some offsetting offensive statistic.  I arrived at two of them–Home Runs and OPS (OBP+Slug %).  The reason I chose home run, which, by definition, is already included in OPS, is to give extra weight for the long ball.

For both of these metrics I ranked ordered the top 100 strikeout seasons and then combined the two rankings, in reverse order, to arrive at The Top 10 All-time Worst* Seasons!

So, with no further ado, here are The Top 10 Worst* Seasons Ever…

  • #10 – Juan Samuel 1984 - 168 strikeouts, 15 HRs, .749 OPS
  • #9 – Rob Deer 1991– 175 strikeouts, 25 HRs, .700
  • # 8 – Jack Cust 2009– 185 strikeouts, 25 HRs,  .773 OPS
  • # 7 – Jose Hernandez 2001– 185 strikeouts, 25 HRs, .742 OPS
  • # 6 – Mark Reynolds 2008– 204 strikeouts, 28 HRs, .779 OPS
  • #5 – Dave “Swish” Nicholson 1963– 175 strikeouts, 22 HRs, .738 OPS
  • #4 – Ron Gant 1997– 162 strikeouts, 17 HRs, .698 OPS
  • #3 – Andres Galarraga 1990– 169 strikeouts, 20 HRs, .715 OPS
  • #2 – Rob Deer 1993– 169 strikeouts, 21 HRs, .689 OPS  (a two-time nominee)

and the winner is Jose Hernandez for his disastrous 2003 campaign.   For the 2003, campaign, Jose struck out 177 times, while “clubbing” only 13 round trippers and garnering a staggering low .634 OPS.  Jose batted .225 for the season.   To be fair, Jose could play almost any position and had some other productive years, but his 2003 season takes the cake.

The Backstory:  Jose signed with Colorado in January 2003 as a free agent.  In June of 2003, Jose was traded by Colorado to the Chicago Cubs for Mark Bellhorn (another strikeout machine), and, in July 2003, traded again by the Cubs to the Pirates for Kenny Lofton, Aramis Ramirez and cash.  It is obvious that the GMs for Colorado and Chicago could see the holes in Jose’s swing even if Pittsburgh’s GM could not.  Pittsburgh released Jose after the 2003 campaign and the Dodgers picked him up.  He had a bounce back year with them in 2004.

In looking back through the blogosphere, I came across this very clever and satirical look at Jose’s 2003 season from a person trying to compile the worst possible fantasy team.

Jose Hernandez Bio from Wikipedia

José Antonio Hernández Figueroa(born July 14, 1969 in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico) is a former Major League Baseball infielder.

In a 15-season career, Hernández had a .254 batting average with 159 home runs and 563 RBI in 1408 games. He was an 2002 All-Star Game reserve, and a member of the 1999 National League Champion Atlanta Braves. He is the cousin of Luis Figueroa.

Primarily a shortstop, Hernández played every position except pitcher. His most productive season came in 2001 with Milwaukee, when he posted career highs in home runs (24), RBI (77), hits (151), doubles (26) and games (152). Despite his .249 average, he posted a .356 on base percentage.

In 2002, Hernandez struck out 188 times, one shy of the MLB record. Then-Brewers manager Jerry Royster kept him out of the lineup in four of the last five games of the season so he would not break the dubious record. He led the majors in highest strikeout percentage (35.8%).[1]

In 2002, Hernández hit 24 home runs with 73 RBI and a career-high .288 average. He spent the entire 2004 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in a utility role, hitting .289 (61-211) with 12 doubles, one triple, 13 home runs and 29 RBI in 95 games for the National League West champions. Hernández recorded 26 extra base hits and a .540 slugging percentage in just 211 at bats. Only Anaheim’s Troy Glaus (207 AB, 18 HR) hit more home runs in the majors in 2004 among players with 215 or fewer at bats.

Hernández signed on with the Cleveland Indians for the 2005 to begin his second tenure with the team. He played in 84 games and hit .231 with six home runs and 31 runs batted.

Before the 2006 season, Hernández signed a minor league contract with the Pirates that included an invitation to spring training, and an opportunity to compete for a spot on the team. After playing only 67 games for Pittsburgh, the Phillies purchased his contract from the Pirates on August 22, 2006. He became a free agent after the season.

Hernández returned to the Pirates organization on January 3, 2007. Unconditionally released on March 30, he signed with the Indianapolis Indians. In 99 games, he hit .242 with 13 home runs and 56 RBI.

Hernández set a Puerto Rican Winter League record with 20 home runs for Mayagüez during the 1997-1998 season.


Five Reasons Baseball is the Healthiest Sports League

August 7, 2010 by  
Filed under Business of Baseball

While the word “lockout” is being increasingly used in discussions about the NBA and NFL, and the NHL Players Association is still searching for an executive director, Major League Baseball is enjoying one of the most prosperous and competitive eras in its history.  Owners and players seem to be getting along, attendance is good, and division races are hot.  Here’s a look at five reasons (in no particular order) why baseball is the most healthy professional sports league in 2010:

Books on Baseball Friend Kristi Dosh is an expert on the business of baseball and has graciously allowed BoB to use one of her recent columns.  See Kristi’s full bio below.

1. The words “strike” and “lockout” are as far from the collective minds of baseball owners, players and fans as they’ve ever beenThere is no doubt in my mind, or that of anyone else who is familiar with the situation, that the owners and players will come to an agreement before the current collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2011.  Both sides have indicated that discussions will begin following the 2010 season, and neither side has announced any extreme or unreasonable demands.  Meanwhile, the NFL and NFL Players Association are airing their arguments over competing websites and appear to be making no discernable progress towards a new agreement to replace their current agreement expiring in March 2011.  The NBA isn’t fairing much better, and the NHL Players Association still hasn’t appointed an executive director, although they have extended their current collective bargaining agreement through the 2011-2012 season.

2. Baseball doesn’t need a salary cap for greater parity amongst teams.  The only league without a salary cap, Major League Baseball has as much balance as any of the other leagues.  Although direct comparisons are a little tough because the playoff formats differ, I’ve put together a handy chart to demonstrate how the leagues compare from 2000-2009:

  Percentage of Teams Participating in Playoffs Number of Different Participants Number of Different Champions
MLB 27% (8 of 30 teams) 23 of 30 8
NFL 38% (12 of 32 teams) 29 of 32 7
NBA 53% (16 of 30 teams) 29 of 30 5
NHL 53% (16 of 30 teams) 30 of 30 7

Each time the owners and players prepare to negotiate a new agreement, we all wonder if baseball will finally get a salary cap like the other professional sports leagues.  I, for one, am relieved to hear there will be no push for a salary cap this time.  (If you’re interested in my case against a salary cap in baseball, see here.)  In an interview with Sarah Spain back in October, Bud Selig indicated that there is no need for a salary cap in MLB, because the league already has more parity than ever before.  He went on to point out that he’ll be looking to tweak the revenue sharing system with the new agreement in 2011, but I don’t think that will come as a surprise to the Players Association or anyone else.

3. MLB survived the economic issues of 2009 with very little impact on attendance.  MLB attendance suffered a 6% decline in 2009, but that number is a bit deceiving.  The two new ballparks in New York, each of which is smaller than its predecessor, have been estimated to account for approximately 30% of the decline last season.  Even at a 6% decline, the 2009 attendance was the fifth highest in MLB history, following seasons that saw the first (2007) and second (2008) highest attendance marks.  When put into perspective, MLB weathered the economic downturn of 2009 with very little impact to the overall league picture.

4. MLB had record revenue in 2009Piggy-backing on the last point, MLB had record revenue in 2009 of $6.6 billion.  Meanwhile, the NFL came in at $6.5 billion, the NBA at $3.2 billion and the NHL at $2.4 billion.  In one of the worst economies of baseball’s history, it produced record revenue. 

5. MLB Advanced Media is a cash cow.  I’ve wanted to write something nice and long about this for awhile, but I’ll have to settle for this brief blurb for now.  MLBAM is the reason baseball is pulling away from the other leagues in terms of revenue.  The numbers are few and far between, and the most recent ones I have are from 2007, but I’m confident that MLBAM is what has, and what will continue to, set baseball apart from the other leagues.  Under the MLBAM umbrella is MLB.com, MLB Extra Innings, MLB’s deal with XM Radio, and MLB Network. 

As of 2007, MLB.com saw 8-10 million unique visitors every single day.  It provided games to over 500,000 live package subscribers and approximately 27 million of 80 million tickets were purchased online.  In addition, MLB struck a 5-year deal with Stub Hub to be the official reselling outlet, which allows MLB to essentially profit twice from the same ticket.  Revenue has grown from $36 million in 2001 to $450 million in 2007, and is projected to increase by 30% each year.  MLBAM doesn’t just control content for MLB, it also provides live feed for other sporting events like the NCAA basketball tournament and the French Open in tennis.  MLBAM streams more than 12,000 live events per year, more than any other web producer in the world. 

XM Radio will bring in $650 million over its eleven-year contract with MLB.  DirecTV very nearly reached a $700 million, seven-year exclusive contract with MLB for Extra Innings (which offers live, out-of-market games to subscribers for a yearly access fee), but eventually settled for a non-exclusive contract and a shared 1/3 interest in MLB Network with Comcast, Time Warner and Cox Communications.  MLB Network was expected to generate $201 million in 2009, including $151 million in subscriber fees and $50 million in advertising revenue.  It’s projected to be worth over $1 billion by 2015. 

An interesting note is that MLB Network is in approximately 50 million homes, earning around $0.24 per subscriber per month.  By comparison, ESPN is in hundreds of millions of homes worldwide earning approximately $3.65 per subscriber in the US.  Bottom-line: MLB Network has plenty of room for growth and every reason to believe it will continue to grow.


Books on Baseball is very fortunate to have an expert to help us decipher all the nuances of the business of baseball.  Kristi Dosh (see full bio) an attorney and expert on all matters related to the business of sports, has written extensively on the topic.

Kristi has a website (www.itsaswingandamiss.com) writes regularly for SportsMoney on Forbes.com and appears on the TV show SportsNite on the Comcast Sports Southest where she also has a blog called Miss SportsBiz.

In her spare (?) time, Kristi is also a fiction writer.  Check out her work in process.


Stick a Fork in ‘em, they’re done!

August 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous

OK Baseball fans, it is time to get a reality check..time to call out the pretenders from the contenders.   We now stand 2/3rds the way through the season, and it is now time to call out those teams that are not going to the post season.  Some of you will clearly agree with the cooking metaphor assigned herein, while others will vehemently disagree. 

 That’s OK.  Books on Baseball likes a robust debate.  Let’s hear what you have to say.

Below are the teams, according to BoB, that should be making early October plans with their families to visit Hawaii, a National Park or anywhere other than a Major League stadium.  Maybe, we have taken a couple of teams out of the oven prematurely..maybe BoB will have to eat some crow..er, I mean turkey.

National League

  • Well Done– Pittsburgh, Houston, Chicago, Washington, Arizona
  • Medium Well – Milwaukee, Florida, New York Mets
  • Pink in the Middle– Los Angeles, Colorado

American League

  • Well Done– Kansas City, Cleveland, Baltimore, Seattle
  • Medium Well –Toronto, Detroit, Los Angeles
  • Pink in the Middle– Red Sox,  Oakland

Christy Walsh — Baseball’s First Agent

When you think of baseball agents, some fairly vivid pictures may appear.  You may think of Scott Boras, the super-agent, capable of putting fear, panic, and loathing into any GM….or you might think more of a caricature such as “Arlis$$, played by Robert Wuhl, Bob Sugar of Jerry Maguire fame (played by Jay Mohr)  or Ari Gold from Entourage (played by Jeremy Piven).

However, did you know that the first baseball agent was Christy Walsh.  Walsh was an ambitious go-getter who also created a highly successful syndicate of ghost writers for baseball’s biggest stars, coining the term “ghost writer” in the process. Walsh, in many ways, was a pioneer in the public relations field.

One of Walsh’s most heralded PR feats was to get a team of doctors to administer tests to Babe Ruth to determine whether The Sultan of Swat possessed any extra physical or psychological advantages.  The results were reported in a Popular Science Monthly article — Why Babe Ruth is Greatest Home-Run Hitter and subsequently picked up by the New York Times.  Never mind that the science was flawed or, at a minimum subject to other interpretations, the publicity was priceless. [4]

About Walsh’s ghost-writing syndicate, Jonathan Eig, in Luckiest Man wrote:

The athletes and writers were hapy.  The readers were happy.  Objective journalism was the only casualty.  By making the jocks and reporters partners, Walsh compromised a lot of solid reporters, turning them into fawning propagandists.  As baseball soared in popularity, thanks largely to Ruth, Gehrig, and the new media, baseball writers were in demand. Newspapers, magazines, and even motion picture producers were clamoring for baseball stories.[6]

Later on Walsh, became sports director of the 1939-1940 World’s Fair in New York City and, in the early 50s, authored a book– Baseball’s Greatest Lineup– and published an All-American sports calendar.

In December 1955, Walsh died in North Hollywood, CA, at the age of 73

Walsh’s Early Years and Meeting the Bambino

Walsh, a lawyer by training, was drawn to New York city by the glamour, glitz, and opportunity.  He took a job in the newspaper industry and eventually in advertising for Maxwell-Chalmers automobiles. Walsh was fired from that job and took that as a sign to move onto to another field.  Walsh originally started with the idea of ghost writing show business names, but soon switch to sports.  And who better to represent then the Babe.

Walsh staked out the Ansonia Hotel, where Babe and his wife were staying.  He wasn’t having any luck cornering Ruth so he came up with a plan to impersonate the bellhop to deliver beer and ice to Ruth’s room.  When he was successful in gaining access to the Bambino’s room, he told Ruth about his plan to make money via ghost writing.  Ruth was intrigued and agreed to meet Walsh the next day in Penn Station. [4]

At least there were no money worries.  Ruth, his second wife, Clarie, and their two daughters had invested well, thanks to the astute counsel of his shrewd agent-turned-money-manager, Christy Walsh, who had first met the ballplayer in the early 1920s after breaking into his apartment disguised as an ice man.  Back then, Ruth blew through dollars like candy, tipping $100 for a 35-cent ham sandwich and loaning his teammates wads that he would never again see.  Walsh, with the help of Claire, set up a trust fund for the family, gave Ruth a budget, and wrote him $50 checks wherever he needed cash.  The system worked–cutting down on Ruthian spending habits, and granting him financial security for life. [5]

Walsh had appealed to Ruth by promising him $1,000 on the spot and a percentage of future sales, without the Bambino having to lift a finger–money for nothing.  To make good on the monetary promise, so his check wouldn’t bounce, Walsh went directly to the bank to borrow the money to pay Ruth. [6]

Ghost Writing Syndicate

Walsh, in his short memoir, Adios to Ghosts, describes first getting Ruth to sign a contract for ghost writing:

Mrs. Ruth stands nearby and gives me my first close-up of a mink coat; a luxurious, bulging wrap which probably set her man back a cool five thousand.  While she obligingly diverts the autograph addicts, I spirit Babe through an iron gate, produce a badly wrinkled contract in the form of a short, informal letter and without question, he inscribes “George Herman Ruth” in the correct spot and I go in search of a ghost to do the writing. [7]

Prior to signing Babe, Walsh had ghost written an article for World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker describing the 1919 Indianapolis 500, won by Howard Wilcox.  Walsh and Rickenbacker split the profits of about $800. [4].  Over time, Walsh eventually built a ghostwriting syndicate with writers such as Ford Frick, Damon Runyon, and Gene Fowler representing the top players of the game including Ruth, Ty Cobb, Dizzy Dean, Rogers Hornsby, John McGraw, and Walter Johnson. 

Johnson was pursued by Walsh into the Pullman’s washroom of a train station in New Haven, Connecticut to sign up for the syndicate.   Big Train received a $1,000 immediate payout and made $7,000 eventually from the venture. [2]

Shirley Povich, in a 1924 column appearing in the Washington Post, describes Ruth’s failed plans as to cover the 1924 World Series.

My neighbor in the press box, according to the seating plan was to be, of all people, Babe Ruth. He had signed on to cover the World Series for the Christy Walsh Syndicate.  That sort of thing was commonplace for the game’s big stars.  They would be provided a press box seat, along with a ghostwriter and a telegraph operator, and never set their pen to paper.

But minutes before the game, the word had come over the wires that Ruth had suffered an appendicitis and had been rushed to Emergency Hospital.  His ghostwriter also dismissed himself for the day

When Christy Walsh arrived and was told about Ruth’s absence, and why, he bellowed quickly, “Get me an operator!” Walsh took Ruth’s seat and began to dictate” “Washington , D.C., October 1, by Babe Ruth, paragraph, quote.  As I lie here, in Washington’s Emergency Hospital, as a native New Yorker my heart is with the giants, but as an American Leaguer, it is my duty to root for the Senators.” And so it went. [3]

Barnstorming: The Bustin Babe and The Larupin Lous (see picture at top right)

In 1927, to supplement his income Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig went on a 21-game cross-country tour.  Ruth got $2,500 per game while Gehrig got a flat fee of $10,000 ($3,000 more than his yearly salary. In an effort to keep costs down, the rosters were filled out by a Negro league team–The Brooklyn Royal Giants–and by local players. 

 To satisfy the crowds, Ruth and Gehrig led off each inning for their respective teams. When Ruth  hit one over the fence, it wasn’t unusual for hundreds of young boys to race onto the field and accompany the Bambino around the bases.  It was organized pandemonium.  And Ruth loved it. [1]

Fans didn’t care about the competition.  They wanted home runs and autographs.  In Trenton, they got what they came for.  Ruth homered to right field in the first inning.  As soon as the ball cleared the fence, he was mobbed by screaming children who burst from the stands.  The Babe waddled around the bases with children wrapped around his legs and clawing at his arms.  In the third inning, he homered again.  Again, he was mobbed.  Finally when he hit his third home run in the seventh inning, the fans stormed the field and refused to return to their seats.  Walsh ushered his men to the train. [6].

For more information on the barnstorming tour’s stop in Trenton, see http://agatetype.typepad.com/agate_type/babe-ruth/

Sources:


Walter Johnson’s First Game – August 2, 1907

August 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Baseball History, Baseball Writing

Washington Senator’s manager “Pongo Joe” Cantillon was on the lookout for new players when he sent injured catcher Cliff Blankenship out west to scout future Senator Clyde “Deer Foot” Milan.  While he was out there, Cantillon asked Blankenship to scout another raw talent in Weiser, Idaho–Walter Johnson.  Immediately impressed, Blankenship offered Walter a contract, eventually signed on the back of a piece of brown paper meat wrapping.

On Friday, August 2, 1907, Walter Johnson pitched his first game in the big leagues. Johnson’s inaugural tilt was the first game of a double header in Detroit and he lost 3-2.  He had trouble fielding and the Detroit team took full advantage.  The Senators dropped both halves of the twin bill as their last-place record fell to a dismal 28-60.  Detroit, on the other hand, raised its American-league-leading record to 54-35.  Of Big Train’s performance, Cobb said….

“On August 2, 1907, I encountered the most threatening sight I ever saw in the ball field. He was a rookie, and we licked our lips as we warmed up for the first game of a doubleheader in Washington. Evidently, manager Pongo Joe Cantillon of the Nats had picked a rube out of the cornfields of the deepest bushes to pitch against us… He was a tall, shambling galoot of about twenty, with arms so long they hung far out of his sleeves, and with a sidearm delivery that looked unimpressive at first glance… One of the Tigers imitated a cow mooing, and we hollered at Cantillon: ‘Get the pitchfork ready, Joe– your hayseed’s on his way back to the barn.’
…The first time I faced him, I watched him take that easy windup. And then something went past me that made me flinch. The thing just hissed with danger. We couldn’t touch him… every one of us knew we’d met the most powerful arm ever turned loose in a ball park.”

Walter Johnson’s biography

Walter Johnson: Baseball’s Big Train by Henry Thomas

Walter “Big Train” Johnson won 417 games as a pitcher in his early-twentieth-century baseball career, and when the inevitable“greatest ever” arguments arise, even diehard modernists will grudgingly include him in the mix. This detailed, carefully researched and annotated biography certainly does justice to Johnson’s extraordinary on-field accomplishments, and it also emphasizes his decency, humility, and self-effacing humor. Now, one might question the objectivity of author Thomas, who just happens to be Johnson’s grandson. Don’t bother. Even today’s tabloids would have trouble digging up dirt on Walter Johnson. The text is too heavy with play-by-play game accounts, but Thomas strives to emphasize aspects of Johnson’s character that provide context beyond the score. An excellent chapter deals with Johnson’s 1915 signing with the rival Federal League and his subsequent reversal and resigning with the Washington Senators. Johnson publicly acknowledged that he had treated both sides badly and had put himself in a “humiliating position.” It’s not the sort of honesty we’re going to see from today’s athlete. A much-needed, comprehensive biography of a baseball legend. Wes Lukowsky of Booklist.

QUOTES ABOUT JOHNSON: (Source: http://www.cmgww.com/baseball/johnson/quotes.htm)

“He’s got a gun concealed about his person. You can’t tell me he throws them balls with his arm.”
– Ring Lardner, sportswriter

“…arguably the greatest pitcher of all time.”
– Tim Kurkjian, sportswriter

“He had a slingshot delivery with nice, easy movement, which didn’t seem to be putting any strain at all on his arm. But he could propel that ball like a bullet.”
– Fred Lindstrom, New York Giants

“You can’t hit what you can’t see.”
– Cliff Blakenship, Washington Senators

“His fastball looked about the size of a watermelon seed and it hissed at you as it passed.”
– Ty Cobb, Detroit Tigers

“There’s only one way to time Johnson’s fastball. When you see the arm start forward-swing.”
– Birdie McCree

“I felt sorry for him when we shook hands because his hand trembled so. I knew what he was thinking. He was thinking he mustn’t let down the fans all over the country who were rooting, even praying for him.”
– Art Nehf, New York Giants

“Those last four innings of the world series comprise beyond all question the most dramatic stretch that sport has ever known… In the space of two hours, Walter Johnson had come from a lone, dejected and broken figure in the shadows of the clubhouse to a personal triumph that no other athlete had ever drawn in all the history of sport.”
– Grantland Rice, sportswriter

Walter Johnson pitching


Does Baseball Face a “Passion Gap”?

August 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Baseball History

Did you know that the National Baseball Hall of Fame is an independent entity that is neither owned nor operated by Major League Baseball?  A friend of mine recently wondered aloud if someone could open up their own rival Hall of Fame. If they didn’t actually use the name Hall of Fame, could they get away with it?

Would anyone come to visit?  Where would you open it?  Could you franchise the brand name out like Burger King?

Perhaps most importantly, could you persuade former players to actively participate in Induction Ceremonies and other events, to add credibility?

O.K., so that’s enough questions.  Now let’s brainstorm some possible answers.  I don’t see why an imaginative entrepreneur couldn’t test the market of baseball nostalgia by creating some sort of baseball theme park.

It could contain many interactive features such as allowing customers to create their own Virtual, customized Hall of Fame plaques of their favorite players, or even of their favorite people.  It could include a Nostalgia Room, complete with baseball items that would be both for display purposes and for sale.

It could have a children’s reading room, where a staff member  could read baseball themed stories to children while their parents wandered around shopping.  It could also include a baseball-themed restaurant where you could order the Cal Ripken Iron Man Special (all the baby-back ribs you could eat for $24.99.)

And yes, for a fee, ex-baseball players would sign on and make appearances.

Look, the point is this.  The Baseball Hall of Fame was founded over 70 years ago, but it doesn’t have to function like it did 70 years ago, or even twenty years ago, for that matter.  The average baseball fan/consumer today is a lot different than the “Average Joe” was back when Hammerin’ Hank Greenburg was terrorizing American league pitching or even when Dale Murphy won his consecutive MVP awards in the early ’80′s.

For one thing, baby-boomers, the single largest driving force behind baseball nostalgia since Mickey Mantle retired, aren’t getting any younger.   Younger demographics, in particular Gen Xers, don’t hold baseball in the same reverential awe as their parents and uncles once did.  Baseball may still be important to them, but it competes with many other entertainment options, video games, skateboards, and the omni-present world wide web.

 As we know, Baseball, with its 162 game season, is a long, steady marathon, given to serious fandom.  However, when compared to some other current sports (e.g. NASCAR, NFL, MMA) there is a passion gap. 

Baseball in general, and the Hall of Fame in particular, needs to face the fact that there is a demographic storm just over the horizon.  Baseball’s marketing plan still appears geared to white, upper middle class white males, mostly over the age of 40.  This is a permanently shrinking passionate customer base.

America is becoming increasingly Hispanic (or Latino, the term MLB prefers to use.)  More residents are foreign born than at any time since the 1920′s.  Thousands of immigrants and their children have never been to a baseball game, at least in part because of the expense.

So how to reconcile this inevitable demographic sea change with baseball’s long suit, its mythological connection to the past?  Well, for one thing, let’s start by simplifying the existing infrastructure of the game.  Here are some specific suggestions, in no particular order:

1.  Combine the Veterans Committee and the Baseball Writers Association of America into one voting committee, and expand it to include, ready for this?  The Fans.

Yes, that means you and me, folks.  Not as a direct one-person, one-vote head count, but as a weighted part of the overall vote total for each player that appears on the ballot.  We get to choose our president, don’t we?  We get to vote for contestants on “American Idol,” right?  So why not the Hall of Fame?

Baseball is a business, and we are the customers.  Anyway, we would comprise just one segment of the voting committee.  And yes, I am talking about on-line voting.

2.  Do away with the fifteen years on the ballot rule, a truly arbitrary feature of this entire process if there ever was one.  Currently, there is no question that some writers simply “kick the can” down the road, as it were, year after year, so they don’t really have to make the tough decision about a Jim Rice or someone else.

How is this process a good marketing strategy for baseball?  And to what extent does this process undermine the integrity of the Hall of Fame?

3.  Finally, Hall of Fame voters should have to publicly explain why they felt that, for example, Willie Mays did not deserve their vote.  It is ridiculous that several obvious Hall of Fame players received less than 90 percent of votes cast.

Examples:  Bob Gibson, 84%, Jimmie Foxx, 79%, Walter Johnson, 83% and my favorite example, Cy Young, 76%, meaning the man for whom baseball’s annual award for best pitcher is named just barely made it into The Hall.    What’s with that?

5.  Finally, unrelated to The Hall (at this point), but directly related to the changing demographics of baseball, begin seriously marketing America’s least appreciated natural resource, Albert Pujols.

He is already one of the top dozen players of all time, and the Hispanic community has to be wondering how a player this great can simply be so generally ignored by so-called “mainstream” America.

America is changing.  Can America’s National Pastime keep up with the changes, or will baseball in general, and the Hall of Fame in particular, one day become like the cloistered monasteries of old, where sallow men scratch out names of long-forgotten players on crumbling parchment, to be remembered by no one?

Learn More About How the Hall of Fame Was Established

A Great Day in Cooperstown: The Improbably Birth of Baseball’s Hall of Fame by Jim Reisler

Using an iconic photo of the Hall of Fame’s original inductees—including Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Honus Wagner, and Connie Mack—as his starting point, Jim Reisler explains the unusual origins of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In the process, Reisler delivers a history of not only the game’s early stars and the house built to honor them, but also the creation of the myth of baseball in America.

With his trademark eye and ear for the spirit of the game’s golden age, Reisler explains that the construction of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York was as much an attempt to revive the economy of a struggling draught-ravaged farming town at the height of the Depression as it was a tribute to the national pastime. The brain child of Stephen Clark, an heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune, and business man Alexander Cleland, the museum was a seemingly simple enough plan from a logistical perspective (as “an interesting museum” full of “funny old uniforms”), but actually required a strategic blend of bureaucratic maneuvering, creative storytelling, and good old fashioned panache to pull-off.

A Great Day in Cooperstown will be cherished by baseball fans and Americana enthusiasts alike.


Bill Miller writes a blog called The On Deck Circle, which features commentary and analysis on baseball issues, players, and teams both past and present. It also includes memories of sandlot ball, and classic baseball videos.

A baseball fan since 1974 when he first set foot in Shea Stadium, he is an avid collector of baseball cards, and has been an activemember in the same fantasy baseball league since 1993. Bill is also a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA).

Born and raised in New England, Bill now calls Greenville, S.C. (home of Shoeless Joe Jackson) his home, along with his wife and two boys. Bill hopes that his seven-year old son develops better strike-zone judgment than Jeff Francoeur.


Women & Baseball: The Game’s “Most Ardent Admirers”

July 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Women in Baseball

Women have been passionate baseball fans since the early days of the game and baseball, as an institution, has taken notice. In 1888 John Montgomery Ward  of the New York Giants wrote “It is a fact that the sport has no more ardent admirers than are to be found among its lady attendants throughout the country.” In his book, Base-ball: How to Become a Player, Ward devotes an entire chapter to explaining the theory of the game to ladies because, “unfortunately, some men are not able to intelligibly explain the theory of base-ball, while others are so engrossed with the game that they do not care to be disturbed.” He explains the great joy to be had from taking a woman to her first game, hearing her questions, witnessing her grasp the concepts of the game, and her extreme partisanship and enthusiasm for her team.

Even in the 19th Century, however, women weren’t dependant on men to escort them to the ballpark. In 1870 the Chicago Tribune reported that independent female fans were “so far manifested in their interest in the White Stockings” that they traveled to the ballpark alone, purchased tickets and found their seats “as if they were perfectly accustomed to this sort of thing.” Once these ladies arrived at the ballpark and the game began some expected them to sit properly and demurely in their seats but that was not the case! The New York Times report that in 1911, Philadelphia Athletics fans would “jump on their chairs, wave arms wildly and shout for their favorites” and that women were “on their toes to-day just as quickly as the men when the occasion gave the slightest provocation.”

<———-Timeline of Women in Baseball History———->

Baseball leadership took notice of their zealous female fan base and encouraged their attendance, creating special entrances for women and offering free or reduced admission on Ladies’ Days. Not all club presidents agreed that having women in the stands was a good idea, however. According to the New York Times, Charlie Byrne, President of the Brooklyn Bridegrooms(later, the Dodgers) , was considering abolishing Ladies’ Day in 1893 because his team “seldom wins when the when the players’ wives, sisters, sweethearts and admirers are present.”  Maybe it was coincidence that the Bridegrooms lost on Ladies’ Days, maybe the players’ confidence was shook by the taunts of “it’s ladies day, you’re too pretty to play baseball” that rang out from the stands, or maybe Byrne was right and the players were distracted by the women in the stands. A recent survey of 100 Major League Baseball players showed that at least half of them spend more than 5 minutes per game staring at women in the crowd and 17% spend 30 minutes or more checking out the ladies!

Owners apparently decided that any effect women had on the game play was outweighed by the effect they had on the bottom line and continued to market baseball to women. The Yankee organization even considered the needs of their female patrons when building Yankee Stadium in 1921, as reported in the New York Times. They wanted to make the stadium comfortable for women because “the tribe of female fans is expected to increase speedily as soon as the new park is thrown open.” Today, many clubs offer special promotions aimed to attract women including pregame fashion shows, wine tasting and pampering, and Baseball 101.  Like many things in baseball, some details have changed but much has remained the same.

Eighty-three years after Ward called women the most ardent admirers, Bill Veeck said “Once a woman becomes a fan, she is the best fan in the world.”

Baseball has embraced its female fans just as we women have embraced baseball.


Myka Diller is a new contributing writer to Books on Baseball.  She will be mainly writing on matters related to women and baseball.

Myka Diller’s job as a training coordinator for an association allows her to travel within her home state of Pennsylvania and throughout the country. Whenever a trip takes her near a ballpark, she’s sure to attend a game. Her definition of “near” is relative when the Atlanta Braves are the team in question as she’s been known to travel quite far to do the tomahawk chop!

Myka is married with two beautiful daughters. She is a huge fan of baseball history, especially the Deadball Era and earlier which she writes about on her blog Baseball Has Marked the Time.


Trade Retrospective – Ken Griffey Jr.

July 28, 2010 by  
Filed under Baseball History

I always find it extremely interesting to see how trades worked out for the teams involved, and what effects the trade had on both teams’ fortunes, both immediately and down the road.  As we approach the trade deadline, I wanted to take a retrospectve look at one that occurred 10 years ago.

One of the first blockbuster trades of the 2000s was the trade of Ken Griffey Jr to the Reds for OF Mike Cameron, SP Brett Tomko, IF Antonio Perez, and P Jake Meyer.  Griffey had made the request to be traded to Seattle management.

 

The Background

Griffey requested a trade to Cincinnati so that he could be closer to his home and his family. Griffey had posted 3 consecutive seasons of 45+ home runs and 134+ RBI, and was going to be 30 years old in 2000. Griffey was going to be a free agent after the 2000 season, and the Mariners must have known that they were unlikely to keep Griffey.

The Mariners were coming off of a 79-83 season where they finished in 3rd place, and also knew that young SS Alex Rodriguez would also be a free agent after the 2000 season. The team would most likely have to begin a rebuilding effort based on the rest of the competition in the division, and moving Griffey would help to move that forward.

The Reds had finished 1999 with a 96-67 record, losing a play-in game against the Mets for the Wild Card playoff spot. I imagine that they had to feel that bringing the elite Ken Griffey Jr in would be enough to help put them over the top in their division.

The Moving Pieces

Griffey went to Cincinnati, and almost immediately signed a 9 year, $112.5 million contract extension. The Reds slotted him in to play CF, and were hopeful that he would help to bring them closer to a championship. With 398 career homeruns, it was widely expected that he would be able to compete for the all-time home run record in Cincinnati, and reach that number before the end of the contract.

Mike Cameron was slotted in by the Mariners to replace Griffey in center field. Cameron had been the starting center fielder in Cincinnati, and posted a .256 batting average with 21 HR, 66 RBI and 38 SB. While he wasn’t going to be Griffey in the outfield, he still had the potential to be a very solid center fielder and was also under team control for 4 more seasons.

Brett Tomko was 26 and coming off of a 5-7 season record with 132 strikeouts in 172 innings (33 appearances).

Jake Meyer was a 24 year old minor leaguer who had finished the season with the Reds’ AA team. He had posted a 3.57 ERA with 16 saves between A and AA.

Antonio Perez had been an international signing by the Reds, and was a 19 year old shortstop who had dominated the Midwest League with a .288 batting average, 7 home runs, and 35 stolen bases.

What Happened Next

Ken Griffey had another excellent season, although slightly below his previous levels. He hit .271/.387/.556 with 40 HR, 118 RBI, and 100 runs scored. Unfortunately, this didn’t lead to the improvement that they had hoped, and the Reds finished 85-77, 10 games back in the division and out of the playoffs.

The Mariners, almost surprisingly, went in the opposite direction, finishing 91-71 and winning the AL Wild Card. Mike Cameron hit 19 HR and stole 24 bases while playing a solid center field.

The Net Moves

Cincinnati – First Level

  • Cincinnati had Griffey for the 9 seasons of the contract, but it didn’t quite play out the way they had hoped. Griffey spent large portions of the 2001-2007 seasons on the disabled list, and the contract hamstrung the team. The performance surrounding Griffey was poor also, as they never won more than 80 games while Griffey was with the team.
  • At the end of his stint with the Reds, Griffey had hit 210 home runs, but had only averaged 105 games per season there.
  • In 2008, he was traded to the White Sox in the hope that he could compete for a championship. The Reds acquired P Nick Masset and IF Danny Richar for him.

Cincinnati – Second Level

  • Richar spent the remainder of the 2008 and 2009 seasons with the Reds, appearing in only 23 games total. He was not brought back for 2010.
  • Masset has spent both the remainder of 2008 and all of 2009 with the Reds. He has posted a 6-1 record with a 2.74 ERA in 95 innings over the two seasons, and remains in the bullpen for the Reds in 2010.

Seattle – First Level

  • Mike Cameron spent the 2000-2003 seasons with the Mariners, averaging 152 games a season, hitting 87 home runs, stealing 106 bases, and posting a .256 batting average. He left via free agency, and no compensation was received.
  • Brett Tomko spent the 2000 and 2001 seasons with the Mariners, posting a 10-6 record overall in 43 appearances (12 starts) and a 4.82 ERA. He was traded in the 2001 offseason, along with C Tom Lampkin and IF Ramon Vazquez to the Padres for C Ben Davis, IF Alex Arias, and P Wascar Serrano.
  • Antonio Perez never played in the Majors for the Mariners, and was traded to the Devil Rays in part of the compensation that the  Mariners received for signing manager Lou Piniella. The Mariners received OF Randy Winn as well.
  • Jake Meyer never made it to the Majors, not with the Mariners or with anyone else. He was traded to the White Sox in 2002 as a part of a trade involving another minor leaguer.

Seattle – Second Level

  • C Ben Davis was included in the trade of SP Freddy Garcia to the White Sox. This trade netted the Mariners C Miguel Olivo, IF Mike Morse, and OF Jeremy Reed. Reed, it was thought, would be able to play CF for the Mariners and help to bring some offense to the lineup as well.
  • P Wascar Serrano and IF Alex Arias had essentially no impact on the Mariners, as neither played in a game for the team. Arias was released, and Serrano did not pitch.
  • OF Randy Winn played for the Mariners for the 2003-2005 seasons, being traded to the Giants at the trading deadline for P Jesse Foppert and C Yorvit Torrealba. Foppert played in AAA for the Mariners, never pitching in the Majors before being released. Torrealba spent the remainder of the 2005 season with the Mariners before being traded to the Rockies for a minor leaguer.

Seattle – Third Level

  • Miguel Olivo was traded to San Diego for a pair of minor leaguers (Nathaniel Mateo and Miguel Ojeda), neither of whom pitched in the Majors.
  • Mike Morse was traded in 2009 to Washington for OF Ryan Langerhans, who played in 38 games for the Mariners, and is currently on the Major League roster.
  • Jeremy Reed never really fulfilled the potential he was thought to possess, playing sporadically from 2004-2008 and posting a .255 batting average with 11 HR and 19 SB over the 4 seasons. He was traded after the 2008 season as a part of the 3 team trade with the Mets and the Indians. The Mariners sent RP J.J. Putz and Sean Green to the Mets, and IF Luis Valbuena to the Indians, and received back from Cleveland OF Franklin Gutierrez, and from New York received IF Mike Carp, OF Endy Chavez, RP Aaron Heilman and Jason Vargas, and prospects Maikel Cleto and Ezequiel Carrera.
  • Gutierrez is a fixture in the Mariners outfield, and widely considered to be the top defensive center fielder in all of baseball right now.
  • P Aaron Heilman was traded to the Chicago Cubs for SS Ronny Cedeno and P Garrett Olson without throwing a pitch for the team.
  • During midseason 2009, the Mariners moved SS Ronny Cedeno as a part of the trade that brought SS Jack Wilson and SP Ian Snell to Seattle.

Overall Reactions

This is a trade that overall, I thought would be really good for the Reds at the time. Griffey had shown himself to be an elite outfielder, and well on his way to being the greatest player of all time. Injuries derailed that thought, and the Reds spent a lot of money and unfortunately did not get nearly the production and wins that they had hoped for.

For the Mariners, this trade has eventually worked itself out to some extent. Frankin Gutierrez, Ian Snell, and Jack Wilson are all major players on the current Mariners roster, and the team was able to make the playoffs in 2000 and 2001 with the contributions of the players acquired.

I think that overall, this is one of those trades that had the potential to be really a good one for both teams, and in the end they both got lackluster results overall.


Jason Hunt is a new contributor to Books on Baseball.

Jason Hunt was raised in the East Bay near Oakland and is a diehard Athletics fan. Jason is married to a Cubs fan, and both his parents and his in-laws are diehard Cubs fans.

Jason is a huge fan of baseball in general and writes about a number of topics over at his blog, Jason’s Baseball Blog. In addition, Jason is also a contributor to the fantasy sports blog for SBNation & FakeTeams.


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