Of Presidential visits and hitting streaks

pete-roseLike an old catcher with creaky knees, ball writers don’t bounce back like they used to. That’s especially the case when they play day games after night games that take nearly 3½  hours to play.

Yes, life is hard. I know.

However, tomorrow morning comes early for the Phillies, too. After this afternoon’s series finale against the Dodgers, the Phillies board an Amtrak train to ride the rails to The District to be ready for the World Champion visit to the White House.

It should be a fun afternoon even though several members of the team and traveling party have already been to the White House and even the Oval Office before. Back when George W. Bush was president, baseball players used to be summoned for tours and audiences often. Bush, of course, was a former owner of the Texas Rangers and dreamed of being the commissioner of baseball until Bud Selig out-maneuvered him for the gig.

Fool him once…

Anyway, the main purpose of the trip to Washington is to play four games in three days against the last-place Nationals. Certainly the visit couldn’t come at a better time for the Phillies because they really need a winning streak to kick start things.

If they do so it should be in front of a friendly crowd since the Nationals rank 28th in attendance, averaging just 19,416 fans per game. Certainly those numbers will dip even further as the summer progresses since the Nats likely face mathematical elimination quicker than the other teams in the league.

Worse, unless the team drafts college phenom Stephen Strasburg with the first pick in the June 9 draft (and sign him) and call him up, there probably won’t be too much of a buzz about the baseball team in Southeast DC.

Of course Ryan Zimmerman’s hitting streak could have helped that if it had continued past 30 games.

Zimmerman had his hitting streak snapped yesterday against the Giants with an 0-for-3 including a pair of walks. One of those walks was an intentional pass that came with first base open in the seventh inning. Sure, it stinks that Zimmerman’s streak came to end with an intentional walk in there, but it was the baseball move by manager Bruce Bochy.

Nevertheless, Zimmerman could have been the only draw for the Nats if the streak could have continued past this weekend. In the meantime, Zimmerman’s streak was the longest since Moises Alou hit in 30 straight in 2007 and Chase Utley hit in 35 straight in 2006.

Not that Chase talked about it, of course.

Ever superstitious, Utley refused to talk about hitting and the streak during his run that year. It was the exact opposite tact of Jimmy Rollins who chattered away about his 38-game streak through the end of 2005 and the start of 2006.

And of course the master of post-DiMaggio hitting streaks, Pete Rose, yapped away non-stop about his streak during the 1978 season. In fact, Pete is still chattering away about it. Last December I visited with Rose in Las Vegas during the winter meetings and he told me about his hitting streak (amongst other topics) and even said he doesn’t like the way Utley refuses to open up to the media. He pointedly took Utley to task for his superstitious approach during his hitting streak in 2006.

Here’s what I wrote in December:

But Rose does not understand Utley’s reluctance to open up to the media about himself or baseball. Different personalities, perhaps. Rose was an open book and revealed all even when he was keeping a secret about his gambling on baseball. One of the secrets to the success of those juggernaut Phillies teams in Rose’s day was that he was the one who stood up and took on the media. With sensitive personalities like Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt on the club, Rose was the go-to guy for a quote or some insight. By doing that, he took the pressure off the team’s best players.

Rose simply did not understand why Utley refused to talk to the media during his 35-game hitting streak during the 2006 season. Not talking about baseball is just a foreign concept to him. Worse, he says, fans – particularly kids – don’t get a chance to know their heroes without some type of media insight.

“Kids might want to know more about baseball and they will listen to what a guy like Chase Utley has to say,” Rose said. “But when he’s up there all he says is, ‘Yep.’”

Interestingly, Rose said nearly the same thing about Utley to Dan Patrick on his radio show yesterday when he talked about Zimmerman’s streak. Take a listen here.

Pete also said he believes Alex Rodriguez is a Hall-of-Famer, but that might be a bit of a political statement.

Oh yes, Pete Rose definitely wants to be in the Hall of Fame.

Start choppin’

dinosaurIt’s a big night in The Lanc with Mike Watt and Dinosaur Jr. rolling into town. Undoubtedly all the scenesters will be there to check out a pair of the genre’s godfathers and legends. Should be a rollicking good time for everyone there and hopefully we will be able to present a full report when we hear from our peeps on the scene.

In the interim, it’s back in South Philly for the first game of the Phillies-Mets tonight.

And just like that, the Phillies are the only game in town after the debacle on the basketball court at the Center last night. Having not followed the Sixers all that closely this season, tell me… what is it about Samuel Dalembert that elicits such a violent reaction. People really dislike the way Sammy conducts himself and it’s not just the fans in Philly. Apparently Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu don’t care much for Dalembert’s basketball stylings either.

Could it be that Sammy Dalembert is the Jose Reyes of the NBA… only not an All-Star caliber player, of course. Hey why not – I’ve already labeled the Mets’ David Wright as the Danny Ainge of baseball. As long as we’re doing the cross sports associations, why not lump Sammy in there.

Anyway, the big story in baseball isn’t the Phillies and Mets restarting their blood feud. Far from it.  Instead, it’s the latest revelations from Sports Illustrated scribe Selena Roberts in her upcoming book on Alex Rodriguez.

And no, it ain’t the drug allegations (some a little sketchy) that have folks all worked up. Some baseball players used steroids – we know that already. Major League Baseball knows it and the MLBPA knows it. If they aren’t worked up about whether or not one of the best players of the so-called steroid era was juiced up, why should we take their word on anything?

No, the thing that is most angering is the accusation that A-Rod intentionally tipped pitches to the opposition in lopsided games. Yeah that’s right – Rodriguez reportedly sabotaged his own teammates with the hope that players on other teams would return the favor.

Reaction to the latest bit of A-Rod news is already coming out, especially from former Texas Rangers’ players.

a-rod-and-mannyEx-Phillie Doug Glanville, who played for the Rangers with A-Rod, says if players on the team were aware of the pitch tipping, all hell would have broken loose. As Glanville told SI:

“It would pretty much be Armageddon,” he said. “If you found out a teammate was giving a sign to another team that would be pretty ugly. If it is true it would be a serious offense in the culture. That would be the thing where I wonder if players would even want to play with him. Anything like that being true is a really major problem. If I knew about that, people would be confronted real quick. You can be friends with guys [on other teams] but when they’re in the other dugout you try and take their head off.”

Though MLB has historically turned a blind eye to performance-enhancing drugs, it has acted strongly in regard to gambling and non-drug cheating. Bat corkers and spitballers are dealt with swiftly and harshly, which means Commissioner Bud Selig should investigate this brewing controversy, post haste.

*

Speaking of the commissioner of baseball, people in the know always talk about how when he was one of the owners of the Texas Rangers, ex-President George W. Bush actively campaigned for the commissionership. In fact, some of the former President’s friends think he still wants to be the commissioner of baseball.

According to a story on Slate.com:

“He wanted to be Kenesaw Mountain Landis,” America’s first baseball commissioner, legendary for his power and dictatorial style. “I would have guessed that when George grew up he would be the commissioner of baseball,” says Hannah. “I am still convinced that that is his goal.”

One assumes that this close pal of the Republican presidential candidate is speaking with tongue in cheek. But no. “Running for president is a résumé-enhancer for being the commissioner of baseball,” he insists. “And it’s a whole lot better job.”

A couple of things happened to Bush’s campaign to be the commish. One was he was out-maneuvered and out-politicked by Bud Selig. Another strike was Bush’s fellow owners felt he was too much of a “lightweight” and not savvy enough to handle the job better than Selig.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Meanwhile, another person with big baseball ties could be one of the leading candidates for the soon-to-be vacant Supreme Court chair that David Souter plans to give up at the end of the current session.

According to the punditry, federal judge Sonia Sotomayor could be the one to take over Souter’s seat and as some remember, Judge Sotomayor was the one who ended the last baseball strike.

In 1995 it was Sotomayor who issued the preliminary injunction against Major League Baseball, preventing it from unilaterally implementing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and using replacement players.

Who knows, maybe when Selig’s contract is up Sotomayor could take over?

Sweet procrastination

If this (non) act were a pro sport I would have skipped college and gone straight for the pros.

Anywho, there was some interesting reading this morning, notably Bob Herbert’s op-ed piece in the Times where he suggests that it wasn’t “moral character” that won Bush the election, but instead stupidity. Herbert cites the same University of Maryland report that I had linked last week, and, interestingly, is the first such story using American stupidity to explain Bush’s re-election in the mainstream press. Sure, there was that famous headline in the British press, but that doesn’t really count.

Perhaps Herbert’s piece should have contained this quote that was e-mailed to me by a friend:

The penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by men worse than themselves.
-Plato

This quote comes from the same friend who sent me this (funny?) story from London’s Daily Mirror:

They say that in life you get what you deserve. Well, today America has deservedly got a lawless cowboy to lead them further into carnage and isolation and the unreserved contempt of most of the rest of the world.

This once-great country has pulled up its drawbridge for another four years and stuck a finger up to the billions of us forced to share the same air. And in doing so, it has shown itself to be a fearful, backward-looking and very small nation.

This should have been the day when Americans finally answered their critics by raising their eyes from their own sidewalks and looking outward towards the rest of humanity.

A self-serving, dim-witted, draft-dodging, gung-ho little rich boy, whose idea of courage is to yell: “I feel good,” as he unleashes an awesome fury which slaughters 100,000 innocents for no other reason than greed and vanity.

A dangerous chameleon, his charming exterior provides cover for a power-crazed clique of Doctor Strangeloves whose goal is to increase America’s grip on the world’s economies and natural resources.

And in foolishly backing him, Americans have given the go-ahead for more unilateral pre-emptive strikes, more world instability and most probably another 9/11.

To the overwhelming majority of you who didn’t, I simply ask: Have you learnt nothing? Do you despise your own image that much?

Do you care so little about the world beyond your shores? How could you do this to yourselves?

How appalling must one man’s record at home and abroad be for you to reject him?

You have to feel sorry for the millions of Yanks in the big cities like New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco who voted to kick him out.

These are the sophisticated side of the electorate who recognise a gibbon when they see one.

As for the ones who put him in, across the Bible Belt and the South, us outsiders can only feel pity.

To the tens of millions who voted for John Kerry, my commiserations.

Perhaps that old sage Jon Stewart said it best when he noted that the results of the election could be revenge for the blue states controlling the TV. “Maybe they aren’t that crazy about Will & Grace… ”

If that’s the case, the blue staters definitely got what they (we) deserved.

Additionally, I concur wholeheartedly with this story on Slate. Not only do I think the 911 Commission Report is fascinating reading, but I also enjoyed the writing. The style of the prose makes the rather somber subject even more riveting.

Hot stove
Finally, I haven’t heard much in the way of hot-stove chatter regarding my team. Randy Wolf is going to have a nerve excised from his foot, which will curb his post/pre-season running regimen, but he will be ready for Spring Training when it starts on Feb. 18. Sounds like Wolfie is going to have a long winter on the stationary bike.

Other reports indicate that the Phillies will keep their payroll close to the $93 million they spent in 2004, but despite this, they will be unable to wrangle the big free agents (Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, Carl Pavano, Nomar Garciaparra, Carlos Delgado, etc.). For those who follow the Phillies, none of this should be surprising. Landing Jim Thome and trading for Billy Wagner was a fluke. However, it would not be too difficult for the Phillies to sign a veteran free agent like Al Leiter.

Besides Leiter, the Phillies should have the resources to go after (and sign) free-agent pitchers like Kevin Appier, Derek Lowe (although he might cost between $8-10 million), Orlando Hernandez, Russ Ortiz, Paul Wilson, Matt Morris and Woody Williams.

My guess is they will have to make a trade in order to acquire a much-needed center fielder. I don’t think there is any way they will allow Jason Michaels and Marlon Byrd duke it out in spring training for the starting job.