Could Jeter catch Rose?

pete-roseA few months ago I was in Las Vegas where I caught up with all-time hit king Pete Rose. Oh yes, I bragged all about this meeting in the past in a bunch of posts on this site, so just add this one to the mix.

Nevertheless, during the course of our conversation, I asked Pete if he thought anyone could ever get 4,256 hits and break his record. The answer, as one could guess, was a resounding no.

And this isn’t to say Pete was putting his ego on display or professing the greatness of his all-time hit record. Far from it. Instead, the conversation was more like a couple of baseball fans having a conversation in a bar or some place like that. In this case it was Pete, me and the workers at a memorabilia shop in Caesar’s Palace where the all-time hit king was signing autographs and posing for pictures.

So to add to the notion of a couple of guys hanging out and talking ball, Pete and I started going through the names of players that might have a shot.

Alex Rodriguez? Nope. Even though A-Rod averages 190 hits per 162 games, his tendency to hit homers and standing in the Yankees’ offense might make it difficult for him to get beyond 3,800 hits.

Ichiro? He would have the best chance if he hadn’t spent the first half of his career playing in Japan. Ichiro is 35 and has approximately 3,500 hits between both Japan and the U.S., but it’s a case of what could have been if he played his entire career in the Majors.

We went down the list contemplating some names and quickly dismissing others. We did this until I tossed out a name that surprised me at how quickly Pete shot it down.

“Derek Jeter,” I said.

“No,” said Pete.

“Really? Why not? He gets 200-hits a season and hits at the top of a lineup that needs his to get hits. Ten years worth of 200 hits or close to it is nearly 2,000 hits. That adds up.”

“Yeah, but he’s 35,” Pete said.

Apparently Derek Jeter is old… who knew?

But there is some faulty logic at work here on a bunch of fronts. First, of course, is that Pete Rose didn’t get his 3,000th hit until in 1978 when he was 37 and in his 16th Major League season. With 2,723 hits even at 35 and in his 15th big-league season, there’s no reason to think that Jeter couldn’t threaten to become the third player ever to get 4,000 hits.

He might even have a chance to go a little deeper than that.

Say Jeter plays seven more season and continues to average 208 hits per 162 games… that puts his career hit total at 4,179 and that’s not even including the number of hits he’ll get over the final three weeks of this season.

Sure, that’s some rudimentary and basic math and it’s probably not likely that Jeter will be pounding out 200 hits when he is 40, especially considering his contract ends next season and he plays a demanding position. However, maybe Jeter will move to first base or DH a few games a week instead of playing shortstop? Besides, when Pete Rose was 40 he led the National League in hits, and the first four seasons he played first base when he joined the Phillies, Rose got 705 hits.

That’s 705 hits in 594 games from the ages 38 to 41. That comes to an average of 193 hits per 162 games.

Not bad for an old guy.

So could Jeter get close to Rose’s record?

Yeah, if he wants to. That’s the big part of it, of course. Jeter’s deal ends at the end of next season and currently there is no indication that the Yankees won’t re-sign him. After all, Jeter is still the face of the franchise and after passing Lou Gehrig’s all-time club record for hits, it’s doubtful even the Steinbrenners would send Jeter packing the way they did Joe Torre.

Maybe in the year 2017 or so Jeter will be closing in on the Hit King… and who knows, maybe Rose will be able to go to the ballpark by then again, too.

*
Speaking of all-time franchise leaders in hits, the gang was shooting the bull the other day in the dugout during BP and someone (I think it was Lauber) dropped this nugget:

There are six active players who are the all-time leader in hits for a franchise. Name them.

And don’t cheat by looking up the answer.

Meet me in St. Louis?

Pete RoseI like to tell this story, which is about to become obsolete this week. In all of these years of covering and writing about sports, I have been to exactly two All-Star Games. One was the 2002 NBA All-Star Game at the Wachovia Center. As I recall, I watched the first quarter of the game, saw Michael Jordan miss a dunk and Ali and Joe Frazier sit together at courtside, and took off.

That was enough.

The other All-Star Game was the eighth grade CYO spectacular where our Sacred Heart squad turned out a 2009 Phillies-esque representation at the game. This one I stuck around to the end, started the game and had a game-high 12 points.

But this year I could avoid the Major League All-Star Game no more. After years of watching – dating back to the 1978 game – I’m actual going to witness this made-for-TV event. Call it a behind-the-scenes look at the bastardization and corporatization of our beloved game.

You know, all the things that everyone loves.

As such, certainly the big guns in baseball will be in St. Louis this week. We’ll have the self-important national media types as and league officials as well as a cadre of Hall of Famers and celebrities like Rollie Fingers and Alyssa Milano.

See, who would want to miss that.

Of course Ryan Howard will be in the worst of all made-for-TV travesties called the Home Run Derby where ESPN is required to show 35 commercials for every meatball of a pitch thrown and offer Chris Berman at his most nauseating.

Listening to Chris Berman is a lot like trying to put your entire fist into your mouth. Not only is it difficult and a tremendous waste of time, but if you succeed and get those knuckles past an incisor and/or molar and actually get your fist in your mouth, you know… then what?

All you are is some jackass sitting there in front of the TV with your fist in your mouth… how are you going to get it out?

My advice? Don’t listen to Berman — turn down the sound if you must. And please, for the love of all that’s holy, do not put your fist in your mouth.

Regardless, watching this show from inside of the ballpark-turned-TV studio will be a hoot. Veteran ball scribes say the Monday before the All-Star Game is the longest work day ever. It’s even longer than busy days at the winter meetings, which just so happens to be every day at the winter meetings.

But since I write sentences about baseball for a living, the work doesn’t bother me. It gets busy and the days long, but so what. Baseball writers that complain about the work and the writing should go dig ditches or get a job as a stagehand for Chris Berman.

bud-seligAnyway, as a veteran observer of the All-Star Game, here are some of the most memorable moments I have seen either with my eyes or through osmosis.

• Bo Jackson’s leadoff homer in 1989
Who didn’t love Bo Jackson?

• That pre-game Ted Williams thing at Fenway in 1999

A couple of years later they cut off Ted’s head and froze it. They even named the MVP Award after Williams which is apt. Williams was the personification of the selfish ballplayer whose greatest on-the-field glory came in the All-Star Game. It certainly wasn’t the only World Series he played in.

• The crazy 1987 All-Star Game in Oakland

Tim Raines won this won for the NL with a two-run triple in the 13th – the only runs of the game. The American League almost won the game in the ninth when Phillie Steve Bedrosian nailed Dave Winfield attempting to score from second on a botched double play.

• Brad Lidge throwing 100 pitches in the bullpen
According to Charlie Manuel the first rule of the All-Star Game is to return players back to their teams healthy. Maybe K-Rod ought to get his right arm limber for all those times he is going to warm up on Tuesday night.

• Pete Rose decking Ray Fosse
Arguably the most famous play in All-Star Game history. This is the one where Rose bowled over Fosse in order to score the winning run in the 1970 game and separated the catcher’s shoulder. The thing about the play was Fosse never had the ball. He also spent the night before the game having dinner with Rose.

• Commissioner Bud Selig flapping his arms during extra innings of the 2002 game
According to Charlie Manuel the first rule of the All-Star Game is to return players back to their teams healthy. Therefore, managers Joe Torre and Bob Brenly didn’t want to continue the game past the 11th inning when both teams ran out of pitchers. Forced with making a spontaneous decision in Milwaukee’s Miller Park, Selig freaked and flapped his arms like a pigeon attempting to leap over a mud puddle.

Aside from cancelling the 1994 season, the arm flapping was Selig’s most memorable moment.

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.

‘… we all have to share the same pair of pants’

jimmyThis current group of Phillies really get around. Think about it… the TV commercials, the MVP Awards, the playoff runs and parades, as well as a the WFC.

Always making speeches and always entertaining the fans.

But get this — Jimmy Rollins became the third Phillie on the current roster to appear on Late Night with David Letterman, joining Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels. It surpasses the previous record of two set by John Kruk and Lenny Dykstra of the ’93 Phils when they yucked it up with Dave.

Here’s Jimmy and his Team USA WBC buddies:

In 1981, Steve Carlton, Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt appeared in 7-Up commercials and Real People with co-host Fran Tarkenton.

OK, I made that last part up, though it illustrates a point… it’s pretty sweet to live in the digital age, huh? Imagine if there was a proliferation of cable TV, and multimedia back during the first Golden Age of Phillies baseball… sure, Pete Rose would be able to handle himself well with the press. Say what you will about Rose, but give him credit where it’s due — the guy can tell some stories. Having had the chance to spend an afternoon with him in Las Vegas (I know!), Pete is a classic storyteller, if not one of the best ever in baseball.

Schmidt, though not in Rose’s class, is always good for some stellar quotes or two. Just ask Pat Burrell about that.

But Carlton… sheesh! Thank goodness there was no Internet during his playing days. How would he handle playing in this era of baseball with guys like me trolling around. Good luck with that, Lefty.

Carlton, of course, famously did not speak to the press. If I have the story correct, the reason why he stopped talking to sportswriters about pitching a baseball had something to do with Conlin… that and taking himself waaaay too seriously.

But after having seen some of Carlton’s media work over the last few years, he definitely did us all a favor. Besides. could you have imagined Carlton on the Mike Douglas Show.

Nope, me either.

Nevertheless, maybe Letterman will have an entire panel of Phillies on his show sometime the way he did with U2 this week. It could be rating gold … in Philadelphia, at least.

Oh, and while we’re posting clips, this one from Wednesday’s Daily Show was awesome!

Looking to go back in time

Reggie BarIf it were possible to go back in time and retroactively edit my favorite childhood baseball player, I would.

But alas, time travel is meant just for Michael J. Fox.

As a kid in the 1970s and ‘80s I was a victim of geography. With no Internet or the proliferation of cable TV, I was stuck in my tiny little realm. That meant when we lived in Washington, D.C. we closely followed the Orioles and even attended a handful of games at Memorial Stadium every season.

But when we moved to Lancaster, Pa., though technically closer to the city limits of Baltimore, we followed the Phillies. Though Lancaster with Harrisburg and York comprises the 41st largest media market in the country, it falls under the umbrella of Philadelphia sports fandom. In fact, it’s not uncommon for traveling Lancastrians to tell strangers that their hometown is “near Philly” despite the fact that Philadelphians believe Lancaster to be in the middle of nowhere, or worse, the other side of the earth.

Having lived in both places, the Philadelphians aren’t wrong about Lancaster… but then again, they’re stuck in Philadelphia.

Just to mix it up a bit, the Red Sox were another team we kept up with, but that was just because they were a team that was a bit exotica. The Red Sox always had good players, always were almost good (but not quite good enough) and always seemed to have a bit of soap opera quality. And since they were on the nationally broadcasted game-of-the-week often and played in that goofy little ballpark, it was difficult to ignore them.

As a result of all of this, Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Steve Carlton, Pete Rose, Eddie Murray, Jim Rice, Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens qualified, at one point or another, as favorite players. Those players had the swings that I copied though my pitching motion was strictly a direct rip-off of Luis Tiant.

Trust me on this one – this skinny kid from The Lanc with a funky pitching motion was never afraid to stick it in a hitter’s ear. Hey, I own the inside part of the plate!

By the way: is there a reason why El Tiante is not in the Hall of Fame?

Anyway, of the group of ballplayers listed above I have had the chance to meet and spend moments in the company of all of them except for Boggs, which is why I want to change who my main guy was.

If I could do it all over again I’d go with Reggie.

REG-GIE! REG-GIE! REG-GIE!

Look, I know all about Reggie Jackson, the Cheltenham High grad and Wyncote native (like Ezra Pound and Benjamin Netanyahu) who came to prominence with the Oakland A’s, but turned into a superstar with the New York Yankees. I know how he had an ego as big as all of those home runs and strikeouts piled on top of each other. I also know that he was a bit of a diva who probably didn’t blend well with all of his teammates and/or the press.

Sometimes it seemed as if Reggie could drive everyone crazy. And I mean everyone… especially Billy Martin.

Nevertheless, Reggie got it. He knew it was a show and he had panache. People went to the park to see him homer or whiff and he rarely ever disappointed anyone. Better yet, he went deep and struck out with equal amounts of flair in which he took a huge, powerful cut that came from so deep within that it dropped him down to one knee.

But if he got a hold of one… look out! Not only did it sail far into the seats, but Reggie would stand at home plate and watch it along with everyone else before beginning his static yet stylish trot around the bases.

For some reason, though, the Reggie posturing fell out of favor. Oh no, I doubt the fans disprove, nor does it seem as if certain home run hitters like Barry Bonds or Ken Griffey are opposed to such subtle histrionics. However, when Ryan Howard gave a long home run the Reggie treatment in St. Louis last week, he took one on the right hip the next trip to the plate.

Reggie in furHey, if I were putting together an all-time greats team that spanned my lifetime Reggie probably wouldn’t make the cut (maybe we’d find him a spot as a late-inning pinch hitter), and clearly he was a flawed player. But the best part about Reggie is how he interacted with his audience and the messengers. Reggie was never shy about talking to the press and actually saying something interesting. He also liked to prod writers and challenge them the way a coach would a player. For instance, my old pal Howie Bryant was covering the Yankees for the Bergen County Record, Reggie used to give him a hard time about the location of his employer.

As Howie wrote in his book, Juicing the Game: Drugs, Power, and the Fight for the Soul of Major League Baseball, Reggie used some Jedi-like, passive-aggressive tactics that led to him writing the book.

H.B. wrote on page 403 of the hardcover edition:

Reggie is never easy. He can employ numerous tactics designed to prove one thing: that he’s somebody and you’re not. During my first months covering the Yankees for The Record of Bergen County, New Jersey, he could be funny or condescending. A favorite Jackson ploy was to read my credential, notice I worked for a Jersey paper, and comment, “Hey, how come you don’t work for one of the New York papers?”

Reggie never had a problem with anything written about him as long as it was honest, good and not a cliché. Provocation and ideas were what interested Reggie, anything else was silly.

That’s why Reggie is my favorite and why I’m looking for that time machine.

***

Speaking of silly, it looks like former Phillies’ GM Lee Thomas finally completed a long-forgotten trade with the Dodgers.

Pete Rose book tour hits Philadelphia


ComcastSportsNet.com

Pete Rose was not in unknown environs. In fact, Rose has spent the better part of the past decade in similar situations. The line ’em up and sign drill that has become the main source of income for many former athletes who missed out on sports’ big money has become as ubiquitous as the jocks themselves.

 
  Pete Rose signs a book for a young reader at the Barnes & Noble near Rittenhouse Square on Friday. Rose, who won a World Series title with the Phillies in 1980, was in town to promote his book, which is currently No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list for non-fiction. (AP)
 

So there was Pete Rose on Friday afternoon, signing away with his cache of black sharpies at his side. This time, however, old Charlie Hustle wasn’t doing a sign-for-pay gig that has sustained him since his banishment from baseball. No, this time, the Hustler was in a Barnes & Noble across the street from Rittenhouse Square, where he added his signature to copies of his latest “As told to” epic called, cleverly, Pete Rose: My Prison Without Bars.

And once again, Pete Rose’s presence had nothing to do with baseball.

Dressed casually in a Cincinnati Reds colored Nike dri-fit top, blue sweat pants, gaudy Nike cross-trainers all accessorized by a large gold watch, Rose signed his latest book, and his latest book only on Friday. Patrons who braved the sub-zero wind chills to spend the $18.69 (30 percent discount included) got to spend 25 minutes in line to be shepherded out of the signing area and into the fiction section of the store after Rose scrawled his distinctive autograph on the book. Oh sure, occasionally there would be an acknowledgment, a “thank you for coming,” and some sports-related chitchat.

Though his book admits a penchant for gambling on football, no one asked Rose which way he was leaning for next week’s Super Bowl. No one asked him what he thought of the revamped Phillies chances in 2004, either, but Rose offered takes on the Eagles (“Three years in a row… “) and his hometown Bengals’ future with top draft pick Carson Palmer (“They gave the kid a $12 million bonus and he didn’t take one snap… “).

But that’s about all Rose had to say on Friday. Between chastising autograph seekers for asking for multiple signatures on the five or six books they had purchased, including one elderly woman who was sent on her way with a, “you’re cute. Now get outta here,” or for asking for a personalized signature (“Everyone has a son or daughter they want to give this to.”), Rose was an efficient signer. Occasionally, he would stop so that he could get a quick swig from a beverage provided by the store’s cappuccino bar, but rarely did Rose look away from the task at hand.

Just like during his playing days, Rose was all business. Which, sadly, is what Friday’s signing was all about.

Sure, no one can begrudge Rose for writing a book to make some money. After all, he never masked its release as an unspoken desire to contribute to the culture’s literary history. However, there seemed to be an element that Rose was going to have his lifetime banishment from baseball lifted if he admitted to gambling on the game while a manager for the Reds during the late 1980s. But Rose’s concessions appear to have stalled his reinstatement, and the focus is less about returning to the game he claims he “owes” and more on the bottom line.

Perhaps that is why Rose has refused to meet with the media at any of the stops on his book tour. Reportedly, baseball’s all-time hit leader received payment for his tell-all interviews on ABC’s Prime Time and Good Morning America. If he has nothing to gain — at least monetarily — from talking to the press, why should he?

Nevertheless, Rick Hill, as in “as told to… ” chatted away with the media while his muse signed away. Leaning againsta shelf holding books by William Shakespeare when he spoke, Hill related stories about his relationship with Rose. For instance, it took Rose six months into the writing process to admit to Hill that he bet on baseball, and that he says Rose’s addiction to gambling is no different than any other type of addiction. Most of all, he believes Rose is a pretty decent star to pin his literary hopes on.

“Pete Rose’s life is a Greek tragedy. He reached a god-like status in his profession, and had a tragic fall from grace. When you’re writing that story, you don’t want the hero to fall and you want to relish that. You can’t stomp him down so low that you can’t bring him back up,” Hill said. “We cut 100 pages out of the book, which were elements that we dealt with things that are coming out in the press right now. They were cut because they were redundant. You can do 12 chapters on gambling. This is a full story of a life.”

Reading the book — bias toward Rose aside — leaves one with a story of a man cloaked in sadness. There was a sad, yet loving relationship with his father, and his own family. There was the sadness of a man wallowing in the abyss of addiction, his inability to come to terms with it and his public revelations.

Sad. Not sadness in a condescending way, but in truest sense of the word. Sad because a man who had accomplished so much was now reduced to schlepping a book that is a diary of his failure.

“He feels liberated,” Hill said. “The 63-year-old Pete Rose doesn’t have the same cravings that the 50-year-old or 40-year-old Pete Rose had. He’s slowing down. He’s getting older.”

He’s getting richer, too. In just two hours on Friday, the Barnes & Noble sold approximately 800 copies of Rose’s tome. Nationwide, the interest has been just as high as it is in Philadelphia. In fact, one observer noted that Rose’s book signings rival only Howard Stern in generating a buzz and long lines that snake through the stacks. And unlike a fiction writer or literary lion, Rose doesn’t give readings. Perhaps this is both a blessing and a curse.

Regardless, the sentiment from those waiting on line seems to be uniform. Though Rose bet on baseball, and the public just shelled out nearly 17 bucks to get their copy of the book signed, he should be admitted to the baseball Hall of Fame.

As far as full reinstatement that would allow Rose to don a uniform and manage a club, well…

“Put him in the Hall of Fame for what he did as a player, but don’t let him back on the field,” said Mike Capaldo, from Bucks County, as well as many others exiting with their signed copies.

Though the book is out and selling well, the final chapter on Pete Rose has yet to be written. Seemingly at a crossroads, the plot has several ways it can go. Will Rose ever show the contrition some are clamoring for that will lead to his reinstatement, or will Rose need another product to keep him in the public eye and keep the cash rolling in?

Which way will the story go?

“I think it will be happy ending,” Hill said, though he couldn’t speculate how.

Either way, tomorrow brings a new city and more books to sign.

E-mail John R. Finger