The Ghosts of ’94

s-l300My first article for The Hardball Times takes the time machine back to the strike-shortened 1994 MLB season, where we find much historically significant activity in progress. Would Tony Gwynn have hit .400? Would the Montreal Expos finally win that elusive World Series championship? Could Gene Lamont predict baseball? Marshaling something approaching my best efforts, I make attempts of varying degrees of rigor to answer those questions, undoubtedly raising many more in the hopefully mildly entertaining process.

The full post is available here.

Book Review: Up, Up, & Away

jonahkeriupup&awayJonah Keri has completed the keystone work of his young life with Up, Up, & Away: The Kid, The Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, Le Grand Orange, Youppi!, The Crazy Business of Baseball, & the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos. While Keri surely will continue to be one of the top baseball writers of this generation, he was born to write this book about his dearest baseball love.

The book tells the full story of the Expos franchise, beginning with pre-Expos baseball in Montreal, which included the minor league Montreal Royals, a team that counted Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente among its alumni, through the bitter end and the franchise’s departure to Washington, D.C. Readers learn about Montreal and the men who brought Major League Baseball to that city (and Canada) and administered it while it was there, but Up, Up, & Away really is a fan’s story of the talented characters who wore the red, white, and powder blue.

The Expos generally had two peaks in their thirty-five-year history. The first came in the early 1980s, Continue reading

Mark-it Monday

Last weekend featured championship games in all of the major college football conferences. Clemson rolled hard over Virginia Tech, Boise State smoked New Mexico, Southern Mississippi upset Houston, and Baylor doubled up Texas. Georgia played a decent first half against LSU but never made it out of the locker room for the second half, and in the late game, the inaugural Big Ten championship game, Michigan State totally blew it in their rematch with Wisconsin. After officials reversed a play ruled a catch on the field (the ultimate decision being the incorrect one in the eyes of the television announcers and Spartan fans at the bar where I was watching), MSU got a second chance to win the game, only to negate a punt return for a near touchdown on a melodramatic roughing the punter penalty.

If you’re wondering what would happen if two teams that lost championship games on the strength of serious second-half miscues faced off in a bowl game, wonder no more: Georgia will meet Michigan State in the Outback Bowl this year. In other bowl news, the BCS national championship game will be a rematch of the de facto national championship between LSU and Alabama, despite protests from Oklahoma State, which dismantled Oklahoma this weekend. Vanderbilt, as reported last month, will play in the Liberty Bowl, where they will meet the Cincinnati Bearcats. As for all of the rest of the bowl pairings, the big surprise seems to be Virginia Tech making it to the Sugar Bowl on a very weak record. They’ll face Michigan in New Orleans on January 3. And in case you were worried, Ohio University and Utah State will meet in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on December 17. It’s FAMOUS!

The injury-riddled NFL limps toward its own playoffs as well. The Packers survived the New York Giants to stay undefeated, and the Lions died a death of 1,000 self-inflicted cuts in the Sunday night game in New Orleans. Rather than wait until the end of the season to admit that my nuanced, second-level prediction back in August about the Philadelphia Eagles— basically, that if they were to dream team their way to a Super Bowl win, it would be under the direction of Vince Young and not Michael Vick– has been proven wrong through rigorous testing under the conditions of actual reality. Whoops.

In baseball news, Pedro Martinez wants everybody to know he’s going to retire sometime soon, in case you’d forgotten he never actually did that. Our bdoyk reacted here last night.

Finally, in sports writing news, The Classical launched somewhat inauspiciously on Friday evening amidst technical difficulties. More on that site down the road.

Farewell, Petey

It was the best of times, it was the best of times. Fall 2004. I was hot out of college. Wide eyed and lost, living in the Bean and trying to make sense of life. There was one thing I knew for real, and that was that I loved the Boston Red Sox. Having been devastated the previous year by the terrible coaching decisions of Grady Little and the fortuitous swing of Aaron f’ing Boone, I nervously watched every game of the playoffs, accompanied by friends and strangers, alike. High fives were distributed liberally, so too were fist pumps. The curse was broken.

Pedro Martínez was an integral part of the team, and the root of so much of the success. His affable personality and pointed confidence on the field made him a much-loved hero. He was also quirky (who can forget the Zimmer incident), but his strengths outweighed his weaknesses. To me, he is a rare example of someone who left the club and I bid adieu with fondness and a wish of luck.

 

Today, he officially announced his retirement, well announced he was going to announce. Although he hasn’t pitched since 2009 and this doesn’t come much of a surprise, I find it fitting to send him off in style. Pedro was one of the best. His statistics speak for themselves. One particularly impressive set of numbers to consider: From 1997-2003, in the heart of the steroids era, Pedro Martinez AVERAGED 201 IP, 144 H, 45 BB, 252 K, 13 HR, a 2.20 ERA, a 17-5 record. Dude was no joke. A dream to have on the mound, you felt good on days he was slated to pitch. When there were rumors that he may sign a minor league contract with the Sox back in April, I think we all secretly hoped we’d see him in Fenway one final time. Alas, it is not meant to be. Thus, I bid you farewell, Pedro. May your retirement be filled with gardening and revelry.