post

More players file

On the second day after the World Series ended, several more players have filed for free agency, bringing the total up to 89. Several Rangers have filed, including Gary Matthews on Sunday.
Here is my updated list of Rangers and former Rangers that have filed:
Red Sox: Gabe Kapler, Doug Mirabelli
White Sox: Sandy Alomar Jr
Twins: Phil Nevin
Texas: Rod Barajas, Mark DeRosa, Adam Eaton, Gary Matthews Jr, & Eric Young
Blue Jays: Frank Catalanotto
Braves: John Thomson
Reds: Royce Clayton, Todd Hollandsworth
Mets: Ricky Ledee
Phillies: Aaron Fultz
Padres: Rudy Seanez
Giants: Todd Greene, Mike Stanton
Nationals: Alfonso Soriano
I wouldn’t mind having Alfonso Soriano back to play left field next year if it’s determined that Brad Wilkerson won’t work out. But they probably won’t take that gamble. Right now I’d rather have Soriano in left than Lee.

post

The Collective Barganing Agreement

Something that’s not getting a lot of discussion is the fact that the collective barganing agreement expires after this season (December 19th to be specific). The last one was really painless, with no work stoppage. After the ugliness of the 80′s and the horror of 1994/1995, that was pretty good. But the word comes now that the new agreement has already been reached, months ahead of time. Here’s what I read over on the website “The Biz of Baseball“..

Bill Madden of the New York Daily News reports that we may be on the verge of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in MLB, months in advance of the Dec. 19th deadline.
As Madden reports: According to sources familiar with the negotiations, the owners and players have reached a tentative agreement on a new labor deal which will be announced by Selig at the World Series next week.

This is quite good news. Now there are several bullet points in this negotiation that I’ll be curious to see the particulars of. One is the substance abuse program, it was changed several times under the old one, I wonder if the new one will be changed even further. The situation regarding compensation regarding departing free agents and arbitration is another. One lesser talked about one is the tying of home field advantage to the All Star game. There’s plenty more, so I will definitely be interested in seeing the particulars of this; especially for HOW LONG. :)

post

Bonds & 755

I haven’t said much on Barry Bonds, because quite frankly, I’m tired of hearing about him. Balco & Steroids aside, I think he’s a talented baseball player. Even before recently, he had a boatload of home runs without the cloud of steroids. He won a ton of gold gloves, and has a ton of stolen bases. He’s a talent – there’s no doubt about it.
Today I ran across a cool article by Ben Kabak on how he thinks that Aaron’s HR record is safe from Bonds, due to the two years Aaron spent as a DH at the end of his career in Milwaukee for the Brewers. It talks about how Bonds is not the player or even the hitter he was recently, and that he might have a hard time playing that much to get enough hits for HR to get to Aaron. Course, I think if he’s close, he can just go to some AL team and DH for as long as he needs to get the home runs. It’ll probably be the Yankees, unfortunately. :(
I enjoyed this article a lot, go check it out.

post

USA World Baseball Classic Roster

The 30 man US roster for the World Baseball Classic was released this afternoon. There’s a couple of Rangers on there. They are 1B Mark Teixeira, and SS Mike Young. Former Ranger Alex Rodriguez is also on the roster. Some other current and former Rangers on the various rosters are:
Japan: Akinori Otsuka
Korea: Chan Ho Park
Canada: Aaron Myette
Mexico: Esteban Loaiza, Dennys Reyes, Ismael Valdez, Benji Gil, Adrian Gonzalez
Panama: Einar Diaz, Roberto Kelly (as the manager)
Puerto Rico: Pudge Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Ricky Ledee, Ruben Sierra, Andres Torres, Pedro Valdes
Dominican Republic: Francisco Cordero, Julio Franco, Alfonso Soriano, Sammy Sosa
Italy: Dan Miceli, Mark DeRosa, Vince Sinisi, Frank Catalanotto, David Dellucci
Venezuela: Richard Hidalgo
Some of these are provisional rosters, and not the final 30, because as of this afternoon, not all the 30 man rosters are in, and aren’t due till March 2nd. It will be nice to see Roberto Kelly pop up again, I liked him when he played for the Rangers for a couple of seasons. I believe Mark DeRosa has already declined. I seem to remember there being more than that who have declined, but I can’t find that at the moment. Also, some of these guys (Juan Gonzalez, Richard Hidalgo, Ismael Valdez) are without major league teams, I believe. Be interesting to see them turn up.
The more I think about the WBC, the more exciting I think it could be, if the flavor of this in last year’s Home Run Derby is any indicator. It’s one thing where I feel the latin countries have us beat hands down in is excitement at the park. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – I wish Chan Ho Park had worked here. Because when he first got here, all the Koreans would turn up at the park, take over a whole section, and did a lot of hooting and hollering any time Chan Ho did anything good. When he tanked, that went away, and I missed it. It was a LOT of fun.

post

Thank you, Cubs!

Thank you Chicago Cubs. You took Juan Pierre. I did not want him here. We’ve been down that road before with Tom Goodwin, Darryl Hamilton, & Damon Buford, and much more recently with Doug Glanville. I don’t think our outfield is the most stellar in existance, but I didn’t see the addition of Pierre as anything significantly better than what we already have.
This of course doesn’t say anything about our existing outfield (Matthews, Nix), although we could use a rightfielder – anyone think we might take a stab at Sammy Sosa? Not sure how I’d feel aout Manny Ramirez coming here. Would certainly help offensively, but we have had a power hitting headcase in right field before, and the moment Manny’s pants are too baggy, off will come the wheels. :)

post

Kyle Farnsworth

Did any Ranger fan seriously believe he would pick Texas over Steinbrenner?
I mean, really.

post

Pitching Contracts

Esteban Loaiza – 3 years, $21 Million
BJ Ryan – 4 years, $47 Million
Billy Wagner – 4 years, $43 Million with a 5th yr team option for $10 Mil
The cost of signing pitching in Texas has gotten even higher, as if it wasn’t bad enough already.

post

Gillick named Philles GM

In about half an hour from now, Pat Gillick will be named the new GM of the Philadelphia Phillies. I know this is a Rangers blog, but I wanted to say something about it.
I see it as a “status quo” move. I personally would have preferred Hunsinger (sp?) be the new GM, but it’s not like Gillick will be _BAD_. I just see it as a “OK, let’s set up Amaro to be GM in four years”. I don’t think you could do that if you brought in Hunsinger.
I suppose the thing we’ll see a bunch in the press covering the Gillick hiring is the Joe Carter clip that ended the 1993 World Seris. That’s the one baseball clip that drives a stake through my heart every time. Can’t watch it.
I have a friend who lives in Seattle, and I’ve asked him for some insight into Gillick, which is where he gets his “stand pat” nickname to see how true that really was. I’ll update when I hear back.

post

A good article on the Yankees

I have several baseball blogs on my daily reading list, and one of them is a Phillies blog called “Beerleaguer”. They did an interview with a guy who runs a Yankees blog about the Yankees season.
The story covers a vareity of issues about the Yankees. I know this is a Rangers blog, but I thought it was a good article and worth your time to read.
Check it out here.

post

Doofus in the stands in New York

Saw on Baseball Tonight last night that some doofus jumped out of the stands in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium onto the net that’s behind home plate. At first when I saw it, the news reports said he fell out accidentally, but this morning, it turns out he jumped. What a mental zero. People like that need to fall on their heads so we can’t get offspring from such twits.
The video of this looked like he was obviously disoriented and hurt when he landed, and was roughly pulled up – again, I felt bad for him at first, but after hearing what happened, good. The thing that bothers me most about this is he “wanted to test and see if the net would hold his weight”. What did he think would happen if it didn’t? He’d fall through to the ground, real smart. Worse yet, injure the people below the net. Real smart, you genius. If it wouldn’t have hurt the people below, I would have wished you would have fell through to the ground and really hurt yourself.
Anyone know why that net is there in the first place like that? I know why the vertical net is there, but the part that this doofus fell to I’m not sure why it’s there.
The most amusing thing to me in the full story about this is the quote by Ozzie Guillen, the manager of the White Sox. Guillen said this.. “I think that’s New York, you know, anything can happen.”. I don’t think Ozzie has much room to talk, as the folks in his stadium run out of the stands and attack people.

[Read more...]

post

A Rant about Payroll

I don’t know how many of you read the Newberg Report, but Jamey’s site is something you should be checking out. In his newsletter, he has a co-writer who mostly handles minor league game updates. That’s Mike Hindman. Recently, Mike wrote (what I consider to be) a brilliant essay on the state of the Rangers’ payroll. It’s most excellent, I suggest reading it.
It’s rather long, so you’ll need to click on the “Read More” link below to check it out. Again, I wanted to point out this is not my writing, it’s by Mike Hindman. He was kind enough to give me permission to copy it here. I wanted to make sure my site visitors read this, too.
I think it’s a great stance against the Ranger fan who only thinks “SPEND MORE MONEY YOU CHEAP BASTARD OF AN OWNER”. Quite honestly, I detest fans like that, there’s a lot more to the issue than just throwing money at things.

[Read more...]

post

38 Minor Leaguers suspended for Steroids

In a story I saw tonight that was a major surprise, THIRTY EIGHT minor league players were suspended for steroid abuse. Of the 38, one guy was suspended for a third violation, that being 60 days. Five of the players were from the Rangers organization. The five players were:
Lizahio Baez, Justin Hatcher, Willy Espinal, Robert Machado, & Christopher Russ were the five Texas players. According to the note, only the first two are still playing, they said the final three here were already released. I’m sure the bit about suspending a released player was a formality. I wonder if these players hook up with another team if the 10 game suspension would still be in place.
I have to admit this was a bit of a surprise to me – mostly in the quantity. I can’t say I’m surprised people were suspended. But on the other hand, the minor league steroid policy is much stronger than the major league one, so in that regard I am surprised people were suspended.
Thirty eight. Wow.

[Read more...]

post

Washington Nationals Spring Training

The Washington Nationals opened camp this morning, and I read a Yahoo news story about their first day. It had the things you’d expect like “it’s nice to have a new home”, how Frank Robinson will still have a hard time as manager, etc, etc, etc.. However, one line from this really stuck out for me. It was this..
The Nationals logo appears throughout the stadium, although the word “Expos” still appears on a couple of signs and the seats remain teal from the facility’s days as the Florida Marlins’ spring home.
They still can’t get by the schizophrenic nature of their existance for the last few years, eh? Nationals logos, Expos logos and equipment bags, and teal seats from the Marlins days of the stadium. Pretty amusing. :)

post

Remaining Free Agents

Read the list of remaining free agents today. There’s quite a few former Rangers on this list. They are:
Al Levine, Mark McLemore, Andy Fox, Brad Fullmer, Rusty Greer, Herb Perry, Jeff Zimmerman, Tom Goodwin, Todd Van Poppel, Darren Oliver, Todd Zeile, Robb Nen, David Segui.
Now I know we’re supposedly going to resign Zim at the start of spring training – we had done so already, but the Commissioner voided the contract, some technicality about arbitration and minor leagues – I didn’t quite understand all that. I think the same goes for Greer, if we don’t sign anyone else to be DH.
Also, I recall early in the offseason there was talk that we might take a flyer on Mo Vaughn to be our DH. We then went to Delgado & Ordonez for that, not signing either. I wonder if the Mo Vaughn rumour will fly again? Personally I hope not, I’d rather us take a flyer on Rusty Greer than Mo Vaughn.
Here’s the complete list of free agents as of today:

[Read more...]

post

Sammy Sosa Returns?

This could be interesting…
I realize it’s a stretch, but if the Cubs pick up some of the salary, and we don’t have to give up a boatload, it might be worth it to see him return to his original team.
http://www.suntimes.com/output/cubs/cst-spt-cub28.html
http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/3359986
UPDATE: Forget that. About an hour after I posted this, it was announced that Sosa is likely going to be traded to the Orioles. At least it’s the AL, and we’ll get to see him here.

post

Delgado picks Marlins

Well, Carlos Delgado picked the Marlins tonight. This has to be seen as a cash grab – at least to this Ranger fan. The park he’s picked as his home is probably the worst for a left handed hitter.
From a purely baseball standpoint, it was either The Ballpark in Arlington, or Oriole Park. But not Shea or Pro Player.
Oh well, done with that. One interesting sidepoint to this is that I’m now reading where Rusty Greer might be our backup DH option should we fail to do anything with Magglio Ordonez (which I suspect we will).
Would be nice to see the Red Baron again.

post

Bush to throw out first pitch

Read today where George W. Bush will be throwing out the first pitch of the season in the home opener for the Washington Nationals. That game is April 14th. Politics aside, I always felt the one thing I liked about baseball in the past was that the president would usually throw out the first pitch at a Senators game (both the Twins variant and the Rangers variant). Having the president throw out the first pitch is something just “American” to me, and I always loved seeing that old footage. Hoever, since baseball hasn’t been played in DC since 1971 (when I was 6), I’m a little too young to remember it. Now I’ll get a chance, and I like that. I hope Bush (and whoever comes after him) makes it an annual tradition, like I think it should be.
In other Nationals news, you will hear a lot during the leadup to the start of the season about how the original Senators went to be the Twins and the replacment Senators came here to be the Rangers. That’s not entirely true. The Twins/Senators franchise wasn’t the original Washington Senators team. There was one in the late 1800′s which ended up being contracted out of existance. The Washington Senators from 1892-1899 weren’t any better than the Senators that came after them, but they did exist, and it always irritates me that the press gets it wrong all the time by calling the Twins/Senators the “original Senators”. They weren’t.

post

Winter Baseball TV Alert!

Tomorrow night on Fox Sports Southwest, they’re running what essentially amounts to a “2004 Wrapup & 2005 Preview” show. It’s on FSN at 630PM CST on Wed the 8th (repeated on Dec 24 at 10PM). Also, ESPN will be running a 90 minute episode of Baseball Tonight this coming Friday night the 10th at 1:30PM CST. Check that out, too!

post

World Series – Yankees LOSE!

All I’ll say about the World Series is this. Damn. It’s great that the Yankees were at home, but the way they got left at home was legendary! Go Sox! :)

post

MLB has new logos for baseballs

Major League Baseball and Rawlings will introduce newly designed official baseballs for the 2000 season, it was announced today at the SGMA Super Show in Atlanta, Georgia.
The new baseballs, which will be used throughout the 2000 Championship Season, will feature the trademarked MLB Silhouetted Batter logo and the signature of Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig stamped in blue ink. The redesigned baseballs are part of Major League Baseball’s branding strategy to use the Silhouetted Batter logo on all authentic, on-field equipment and apparel that is available for retail purchase. To mark the change, Major League Baseball will issue a special Millennium Opening Day Baseball, which will be used at the home openers of each team except the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets, who will use a special baseball to commemorate the Opening Series 2000 in Tokyo, Japan, on March 29 and 30. The Millennium Opening Day Baseball will be similar to the regular season ball, but will have “2000″ embellished in silver ink above the Silhouetted Batter logo. “The newly designed regular season baseballs and the 16 special event baseballs are great collectibles and another way to bring our fans closer to the game,” said Tim Brosnan, Senior Vice President, Major League Baseball. “In addition, the new design of the regular season baseballs will help us continue to promote the Silhouetted Batter logo as a symbol of authentic Major League Baseball merchandise.”
In addition to the redesigned regular season baseball and the Millennium Opening Day Ball, Major League Baseball will introduce 15 other special baseballs throughout the 2000 season to highlight such events as the 4th of July, the All-Star Home Run Derby, the All-Star Game and the World Series.
In the past, special event baseballs used by Major League Baseball were made available primarily to the clubs and players. All of the special event baseballs manufactured for use in 2000 will be available in retail with release dates throughout the 2000 season. Fans and collectors will be able to obtain the new baseballs at any authorized Major League Baseball retailer or on majorleaguebaseball.com. The baseballs will be sold separately and will also be available as a packaged set. The physical makeup of the official Major League Baseball game ball (not less than five ounces nor more than 5 ¼ ounces; not less than nine nor more than 9 ¼ inches in circumference) will not be affected by the redesign. “Major League Baseball’s official baseball has undergone very little change since the early days of the game,” said Steve O’Hara, President, Rawlings. “We have served as the official supplier since 1977 and expect to deliver more than one million balls to major league clubs each year.”

post

Players in awe of Williams

BOSTON (AP) — It was a baseball love-in on the mound, the stars of the night and the stars of the century swamping Ted Williams, gazing at him in awe, reaching over each other to shake his hand.
He rode out in a golf cart from center field at the All-Star game after they’d all been introduced — Aaron and Mays, Feller and Musial from summers past, McGwire and Sosa, Ripken and Griffey from Tuesday night’s lineup.
Players watched as the adoring crowd stood and cheered him, the roar almost as loud as the jets that buzzed Fenway Park after the national anthem. And they watched Williams respond by waving his cap, a gesture he never made as a player, even after he homered in his final game.
“Gods don’t answer letters,” John Updike wrote of that moment years ago.
This time, a baseball god did.
Williams was often booed by Fenway fans during his playing days, but now no one is more popular in Boston.
“Hell, I haven’t had a base hit in 30 years, and I’m a better hitter now than I’ve ever been in my life,” Williams said.
The 80-year-old Williams waved all the way down the right field line as the golf cart proceeded toward the mound. Even the policemen ringing the field applauded.
Suddenly, spontaneously, the players, young and old, closed ranks on him, moving in to be as close as possible to the last man to hit .400 — .406 in 1941 — and who is arguably the greatest hitter in history.
They formed a huge huddle on the mound, no one wanting to leave, no one caring if the ceremony or the game was delayed.
Williams rose gingerly from the cart — two strokes and a broken hip in recent years make it hard for him to walk.
“Where’s Sammy?” Williams bellowed, calling for Sosa, then shaking his hand. Williams wore a big smile and seemed to want to reach out to all of them. He grabbed Mark McGwire’s shoulder and spoke with him.
Afterward Williams recounted what he said:
“They wanted me to meet (Don) Mattingly when he was going good, and (Wade) Boggs. And we went to this high-class restaurant and we’re talking about hitting, the intimate part of hitting, where you put your foot, everything like that. Finally, I said, ‘Did you guys ever smell the wood when you foul one real hard?’
“They looked at one another, like what’s this guy smoking now? And I said I could smell it quite a few times, and it smelled like wood burning. I said the next time I see Willie Mays, the next time I see Cepeda, the next time I see Reggie Jackson, I’m going to ask them. They said, `Oh, sure, we’ve smelled it, too.’ So I asked McGwire the same thing, and he said he could smell it, too.”
Williams wanted to keep talking, but time and his own emotions wouldn’t allow it.
“He wanted to talk baseball with everybody out there,” McGwire said, adding that a lot of players got choked up.
Larry Walker of the Rockies was one of them.
“Tears were coming out of Ted’s eyes. I had to turn away because tears were coming out my eyes, too.”
Finally, the players backed away and Williams took the ball to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to Carlton Fisk.
“Where is he?” Williams asked. His vision, once the best in the game, has suffered, too, and he can’t see well outside a narrow range.
Tony Gwynn pointed him toward Fisk and held him steady.
“I got you,” Gwynn said.
Williams joked a bit, then tossed a soft pitch to Fisk, inside but all the way to the plate.
Fisk jogged to the mound to hug him.
Other players came back to crowd around Williams, and after a few minutes the public address announcer pleaded with the players to return to the dugout. The game was running late, but no one wanted this moment to end.
“It was kind of funny,” Boston shortstop Nomar Garciaparra said. “When the announcer asked everybody to go back to the dugout, everybody said no. It didn’t matter. What time was the first pitch? Nobody cared.”
Said Rafael Palmeiro: “That’s the chance of a lifetime. The game can wait … We had chills all over.”
It was a scene reminiscent of Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic torch at the start of the 1996 Atlanta Games — Ali shaking, the crowd cheering wildly, the greatest athletes in the world staring at him in awe. When Ali later made the rounds of the games, even athletes like Michael Jordan fawned over him.
That’s the way it was with these all-stars and Williams, an all-star himself for 18 years.
To a man, the players expressed a sense of reverence about the occasion.
“Meeting Ted Williams was probably the greatest thrill of my career,” Cleveland’s Jim Thome said.
Finally, Williams was helped back into the cart, and the crowd roared again until he made his way to his box seat along the first base line with commissioner Bud Selig.
“Wasn’t it great!” Williams said. “I can only describe it as great. It didn’t surprise me all that much because I know how these fans are here in Boston. They love this game as much as any players and Boston’s lucky to have the faithful Red Sox fans. They’re the best.”

post

Hank Aaron’s 25th anniversary

ATLANTA (AP Newswire)– Hank Aaron was the anti-Ruth.
The Babe didn’t live life, he devoured it. He didn’t run from the spotlight, he stepped right in front of it. Every move was exaggerated, every swing was oozing with swagger. He wore 714 like a well-fitting glove.
Aaron, coming along five years after Ruth died in 1948, spent his entire career in the baseball outposts of Milwaukee and Atlanta. He was reserved but outspoken, proud but modest, a simple man who wanted to be recognized for his accomplishments, yet seemed to prefer going about his business without anyone noticing.
On the field, Aaron’s legacy was built on steady, sustained, unspectacular excellence. While the Bambino hit 60 homers in a season — many of them towering shots that were worthy of their own word, “Ruthian” — Aaron’s best effort was 47.
“I never had a great home run year like Mark McGwire did with those 70 homers, or Sammy Sosa with the 66,” Aaron says. “That was not my calling card.”
Surely, if someone had to eclipse Ruth’s record, it would be a player capable of spectacular feats. Like Willie Mays. Or Mickey Mantle. With Aaron, every move was economic and calculated, which the critics mistook for nonchalance when they should have recognized the elegance.
“In my day, sportswriters didn’t respect a baseball player unless you played in New York or Chicago,” Aaron says, relaxing behind his desk from an office that sits atop the left-field stands at Turner Field. “If you didn’t come from a big city, it was hard to get noticed.”
But on April 8, 1974, a damp, overcast night in Atlanta, everyone noticed. Mickey had retired and so had Willie, both well short of the Bambino, so it was left for Aaron to erase baseball’s most famous number, surpass its most revered player, take his place as the ultimate home run king.
“It was some of the most awesome things I’ve ever seen,” says Dusty Baker, who followed the Hammer in the batting order that night at Atlanta Stadium. “The way he set up pitchers, the way he was patient. His concentration level was beyond compare. If he was supposed to hit a ball hard, he didn’t miss it.”
Al Downing, a hard-throwing left-hander in his younger days, was on the downside of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He walked Aaron the first time up, the bat never leaving his shoulder. In the fourth inning, with the Dodgers leading 4-1, Aaron came up again with two men on base.
Before leaving the on-deck circle, he had a few words for his teammate. “He told me he was tired and he wanted to get it over with right now,” Baker recalls.
Downing reluctantly threw a pitch in the strike zone — a breaking ball that didn’t live up to its name. Aaron whipped his 34-ounce Louisville Slugger through the strike zone with those powerful wrists. The ball sailed into the gloaming, rising higher and higher as the crowd of 53,775 rose to its feet with a collective gasp.
Finally, after seconds that seemed like hours, the ball dropped beyond the left-field fence, eluding the mighty leap of Dodgers left fielder Bill Buckner. It was caught in the bullpen by Braves reliever Tom House at 9:07 p.m.
“I think it was supposed to have been a screw ball,” says Aaron, his hair speckled with gray but still looking quite fit at age 65. “That’s what happens when they throw those funny pitches. If you throw a forkball that doesn’t fork or a screwball that doesn’t screw, it’s good-bye.”
From the on-deck circle, Baker thrust an arm in the air as soon as the ball left Aaron’s bat. To this day, he still marvels at what he saw that night.
“The pain that he was in at that time was tremendous,” Baker says. “He had a bad back, he had sciatic nerve problems. … He’d sit at his locker, concentrate for an hour and go out and play like nothing ever happened to him. He’d run out like a young kid and then run back in like Fred Sanford.”
The Hammer played two more years, padding his home runs to 755 before retiring. But the one that will always stand above all others is 715.
“I feel like that home run I hit is just part of what my story is all about,” Aaron says.
Indeed, it is. He has more RBIs (2,297), extra-base hits (1,477) and total bases (6,856) than anyone in baseball history. He ranks second in at-bats (12,364) and runs (2,174), third in games (3,298) and hits (3,771), ninth in doubles (624). During a 23-year career, he batted .305.
That’s not all. He was one of the game’s best outfielders. He had 240 stolen bases in his career, though he rarely ran in his early years because no one did.
Aaron knows there are players who could break his home run record some day. He puts Ken Griffey Jr. at the top of the list.
“The kid is young enough that if he keeps going, keeps focused, he has a good chance to do it,” Aaron says. “The only thing against him is complacency and making so damn much money. It was a long time before I made $30,000. I had to keep plugging. I never signed a two-year contract. I had to go from year to year. My raise always depended on what kind of year I had.”
As he closed in on Ruth’s record, Aaron received mail by the hundreds of thousands. Most was kind and encouraging, but some began with menacing messages like this one: “Retire or die!” Baseball had been integrated for less than three decades, and there were bigots who couldn’t stand the idea that a black man from Alabama was going to break the Bambino’s record. The venomous letters are still stored in the attic of Aaron’s home.
“The time wasn’t as happy as it should have been,” Baker says. “But all that mail and stuff, people don’t understand. If you’re a strong, black man — especially if you’re from the South — and you’ve been through a lot of stuff, I don’t think people understand that the more you mess with some people, the stronger you make them. All that did was make him more focused. He was playing against the other team, for our own team and against that hate mail and against parts of America.”
Unlike the lovefest that accompanied McGwire and Sosa during their home run race, baseball itself seemed reluctant to embrace Aaron as he hunted down Ruth. Then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn ordered Aaron to play in the opening series of the 1974 season at Cincinnati, threatening to punish the Braves if they held him out until the first home game.
Then, after Aaron hit No. 714 off Jack Billingham at Riverfront Stadium, Kuhn didn’t even show up for the historic night in Atlanta. He sent one of his assistants, Monte Irvin, who brought along a watch to mark the occasion.
“I don’t know what happened to it,” Aaron says, looking at his wrist with a smirk on his face. “All I know is I’m not wearing it now.”
But times have changed. As the game prepares to honor the 25th anniversary of one of its greatest moments, Aaron is at peace with himself. He once criticized baseball for overlooking his achievement; now, he seems satisfied with his recognition.
“The longer I’ve been out, the more people realize what I did,” he says. “They’re beginning to start looking at the record, looking to see what I’ve accomplished in baseball. They’re beginning to put things in perspective.”
Recently, he read a book that rated him as the fifth-best player in baseball history. That’s good enough.
“Twenty years ago, people would have said I was just a ballplayer,” Aaron said. “Eventually, things settled down and they say now, ‘Hey, look at what he did, what his career was all about. He deserves to be one, two or three, right up there.’ Will I ever be number one? I don’t know. But to be in the top five is pretty good.”
This season, baseball will begin honoring its top hitter with an award, something along the lines of the Cy Young for pitchers. It will be known as the Hank Aaron Award.
“He’s finally receiving a major award,” Braves hitting coach Don Baylor says. “I don’t know why it took so long.”

post

Owners decide on no realignment in 2000

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) _ Baseball’s grand realignment plan has been put off for at least another year.
Teams will stay in the same divisions for the 2000 season, the owner in charge of the sport’s realignment and scheduling committee said Wednesday.
Commissioner Bud Selig, who two years ago pushed for a radical realignment plan in which more than a dozen teams would have switched divisions or leagues, had hoped for more realignment in 2000, the first year Arizona and Tampa Bay can be shifted without their approval.
But a draft schedule must be given to the players’ association by the end of June and committee head John Harrington, the chief executive officer of the Boston Red Sox, said he had instructed American and National League officials to draw up a 2000 schedule with the current alignment. “We’re waiting to see what happens with these franchises in flux: Montreal, Minnesota, Oakland,” Harrington said. “If they move, there would have to be some sort of realignment. But we can’t forecast that.” The Expos, Twins and Athletics all are seeking new ballparks. The Twins had discussions about a possible move to Charlotte, N.C., but those talks fell through and Minnesota extended its lease at the Metrodome through the 2000 season.
Oakland periodically has talked about moving to San Jose but last month agreed to stay at the Oakland Coliseum for at least three more seasons. Montreal has talking about a possible move if it doesn’t get a new ballpark and the team’s current owners are seeking to sell the franchise to local buyers.
Selig and some other owners are in favor of realigning leagues and divisions geographically. But some teams don’t want to change leagues and be in the same divisions as intracity rivals. For instance, the New York Mets objected to being in the same division as the New York Yankees.
Harrington said he hopes grand realignment will happen but doesn’t know when.
“We’re not giving up on it,” he said. “It’s one of those long-term things.”

post

Winter Meetings in Dallas in 2000

Baseball’s winter meetings are returning to Dallas. Baseball officials and the Anatole Hotel confirmed Friday that convention space has been reserved for the 2000 winter meetings, Dec. 3-13.
The meetings include the annual gathering of major league teams and executives, along with the even larger assembly of National Association minor league clubs from throughout the country. The meetings also include a baseball trade show and a job fair that attracts thousands of applicants for employment in the industry.
It promises to be a boon for Dallas hotels and restaurants as well. Of the 2,900 rooms at Nashville’s sprawling Opryland Hotel, site of this week’s meetings, more than 2,000 are occupied by meetings attendees. Several hundred more are staying at other area hotels.
The 1999 winter meetings are set for Anaheim, California.