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Cleaning out Super Bowl XLIX notebook

From: ESPN Boston

Super Bowl 49 logo

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels called receiver Julian Edelman “one of the toughest players I’ve ever had a chance to coach.” Added receiver Danny Amendola, “He’s the toughest player I’ve ever played with; a warrior.” Receiver Brandon LaFell said of Edelman, “He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever been around, right next to Steve Smith.”

Belichick was pretty witty after the game when asked if he’s ever seen a catch like the 33-yarder that Jermaine Kearse made on his back. “Yeah,” he responded. “I’ve seen two of them.” Of course, he was referring to David Tyree’s on-his-helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII.

Defensive end Chandler Jones‘ initial reaction to Malcolm Butler‘s interception? “I immediately started crying right there on the field,” he said.

The Patriots are the first team in Super Bowl history to trail by 10-plus points during the second half and win the game. Teams trailing by 10 or more points entering the fourth quarter had been 0-29 in Super Bowl play.

What was Belichick doing the morning of the game? Still watching film of the Seahawks, of course. Specifically, he said he was watching Seattle’s 27-24 win over the Buccaneers from last season. The Seahawks had trailed 21-0 in that game before roaring back. This is another reminder to the level of detail that coaches take when preparing for a game.

Tom Brady‘s 37 completions were a Super Bowl record, passing Peyton Manning‘s 34 from last season.

The Patriots are the youngest team to ever win a Super Bowl, with an average age of 25.2 years.

Vereen’s 11 receptions tied a Patriots’ postseason record (Deion Branch in Super Bowl XXXIX and Wes Welker in Super Bowl XLII).

Asked about undrafted rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler, Belichick reflected on how he first came to the team. “He was a rookie tryout guy. We had already had our draft. We had already signed our free agents after the draft [so] he was part of what we like t call, ‘the few, the proud, the free.’ He came in and did a great job in that rookie minicamp [and] we created a roster spot by juggling some other guys around, signed him, and he had a good training camp. That’s a big jump from West Alabama to the NFL but Malcolm competes hard.”

LaFell on Brady: “I feel like when we’ve got Tom with the ball in his hands, we always have a chance. When you’re nervous, you look over there at Tom and he’s just all calm. It’s like, ‘If he’s this calm, we’re going to win this game.'”

Time marches on…

Sure it’s been a while.  And yes, a lot has changed.

So why not pick now, after the Sox have transitioned and MLB faces a major shift in it’s very culture, to peek my head out.  And I guess all Thanks to Ryan Dempster.

Ryan Dempster

Not too much to touch upon with this one.  Everyone, including Brian O’Nora and Joe Girardi, know the message being sent.  Players, unlike the thousands of fans in attendance daily, don’t get to ‘boo’ or ‘hiss’ or hold an ‘A-Roid’ sign so the message needs to be clear, concise and delivered.  Mission accomplished.

Do I have a problem with it?  No.  This is baseball and they have used their own language, a mix of morse-code and braille, for over a century now.

Was there a need for it?  I’ll say yes.  I do agree that Rodriguez should be a non-factor, sitting (as character more famous than I once said) on a beach, earning 20% as his suspension plays out.  However, A-Rod is such a self-important media whore that all of this will be dragging out until he decides to move on… which will probably be never.

Was it the right time?  Sure.  National Media market of ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, ‘The Nation’ versus ‘The Empire’ and still fresh in everyone’s mind (of course it can’t get stale if it never goes away)… yes it was the perfect stage with a very good messenger in Dempster.  It was simply delivered all wrong.

Now, I am far from Nostradamus and lack the ability to see the future and my time-travelling DeLorean is in the shop, so we’ll just pretend for a moment to use common sense.  Here is how I would have scripted it… A-Rod comes to the plate, stands in but I make him wait.  Let him step out, then back to his stance.  *Zip* A fastball by his head (not at his head,but up and behind him).  The crowd woos (after they stop chanting “You’re no Jeter”), he gives a glare and it’s done.  Back to work.Steroid free HR

We all know the sequence of pitches.  We all know the outcome.  We all know it was lost in translation.  Oh well.

Did it ‘wake the sleeping giant’?  I won’t go that far.  I can’t believe there are presently enough members of the Yankees collective organization never mind bench that would defend Rodriguez at this point (Girardi’s post game presser was so stale and predictable I actually felt bad for him), but it did give the ‘team’ a collective rallying point and that combined with another ‘so-so’ Dempster performance just played out the way it did.

Now, by no means am I done with the A-Rod subject.  This man has single-handedly changed the landscape, the culture and worse, the perception of Major League Baseball.  Of course, he didn’t do it all by himself but he has done far more than enough.  There will a blog for his sorry a$$ at a later date.  ‘Nuff said.

Dodgers secondary logoThe Sox will begin a rare National League West Coast swing tonight and I’m very happy to say I’ll be in LA-LA Land Friday to catch the opener of the Dodger series.  Reports and more steady blogging will most likely follow.

Playing Catch Up…

A few days taken for a family emergency… but nothing too exciting had been missed, in Red Sox Nation anyway.

The Patriots won 23-20 over the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game:  The Patriots advance to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis on Feb. 5.  It will be the team’s fifth Super Bowl appearance in Bill Belichick’s tenure as coach (2000-present) and is the Patriots’ seventh Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.  Tom Brady and Bill Belichick become the first starting quarterback/head coach combination to advance to five Super Bowls.  For Brady, he ties his boyhood idol, Joe Montana, with his  16th career postseason win as a starting quarterback.

Just a ‘Classic’ game.  At one point, Brady’s emotions showed as he was jawing with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis after the quarterback scored on fourth down goal-line drive in the fourth quarter, a play in which he took a big hit from Lewis.  The Ravens had a chance to win with 22 seconds left when Lee Evans dropped a touchdown pass. Then, after cornerback Sterling Moore deflected a pass on third down, Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal wide left that would have tied the game. A breath-taking ending.

The Red Sox signed free agent outfielder Cody Ross to a one-year deal worth about $3 million:  Boston had maintained an interest in Ross throughout the signing season, but pounced after his asking price dropped significantly (initially, he was seeking a three-year deal) and after left fielder Carl Crawford underwent surgery last week to address an arthritic condition in his left wrist.   The signing followed the Sox’ trading of infielder Marco Scutaro and his $6 million salary to the Rockies, which freed up the money they privately said they needed to have before making additional upgrades.   Even before Crawford’s injury, the Sox had maintained a healthy interest in Ross, who has hit left-handed pitchers well, with a career .912 OPS, even though his 2011 season could be considered a slight disappointment.  Ross, 31, is a .261 career hitter with 100 homers in eight seasons with Detroit, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati, Florida and San Francisco.

Right-hander Scott Atchison was designated for assignment to create space for Ross on the team’s 40-man roster.

The Sox are still interested in adding another starter to the mix at the right price.  Roy Oswalt remains their No. 1 target, though a team source acknowledged fears that Oswalt would prefer to pitch for either the Rangers or Cardinals (the free-agent turned down an offer from Detroit).  If they do not succeed in signing Oswalt, to whom they have made an offer (supposedly for $5 Million), a team source said Wednesday night, they most likely will shift their focus to trying to swing a deal with the Chicago White Sox for right-hander Gavin Floyd, with free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson a long-shot option at this stage.

The Sox also are thin at shortstop after dealing Scutaro, with veterans Nick Punto and Mike Aviles and rookie Jose Iglesias their only options at this time. The Sox have indicated they do not want to rush the 22-year-old Iglesias, who has fewer than 700 professional at-bats, and with neither Punto and Aviles the answer on an everyday basis, the Sox are expected to seek more help there. Punto is the better glove of the two, Aviles a better bat.  At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much shortstop help available. Even the soon-to-be 45-year-olds have signed, Omar Vizquel coming to terms Monday with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Clay Mortensen, received from Colorado in the Scutaro trade, will compete for a spot in the bullpen, but more likely will open the season in Pawtucket.  Don’t look now, but the Sox have the makings of a potentially strong bullpen, especially if Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller can click from the left side.  If the Sox succeed in acquiring another starting pitcher and elect to return Alfredo Aceves to the pen, on paper they look strong with Andrew Bailey closing and Mark Melancon sharing setup.  If Bobby Jenks can be healthy and Matt Albers proves he just ran out of gas last season, the Sox pen has a chance to be strong and deep.  If.. If.. If…

With Jorge Posada announcing his retirement Tuesday after 17 seasons with the Yankees, it would appear to be a matter of time before we hear similar announcements from Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek.  Wakefield’s agent, Barry Meister, said the 45-year-old knuckleballer just returned from a vacation in Mexico, and that he hasn’t had substantive conversations with him in about 10 days.  He acknowledged that while there have been inquiries from other teams, there’s nothing in the works.  As Bobby Valentine noted the other day, it’s inconceivable that Wakefield would accept a minor-league offer from the Red Sox.  Varitek turns 40 just after Opening Day and got married in the offseason. No word from the player or his agents on Varitek’s plans, but the signing of Kelly Shoppach virtually closed the door on a return to Boston, and while Varitek last spring expressed a desire to play for as long as he can, he may have reached the endgame.

Tim Thomas Skipped the White House:  Boston Bruins president Cam Neely admitted Tuesday that he would have liked goaltender and Stanley Cup MVP Tim Thomas to be with the team when they visited the White House on Monday, but that Thomas “felt very strongly about not going” so the team respected his wishes.  He said the team didn’t make the event mandatory because “we didn’t think it would be an issue.”  Neely said he doesn’t expect the controversy to adversely affect the Bruins’ chemistry, pointing out with a laugh that not a lot of political discourse occurs in an NHL locker room.

Thomas explained Monday night in a Facebook page posting that he skipped the White House event due his disappointment in the federal government. His post read:

“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.
This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.
Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.
This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT”

Later Monday night, Neely released this Bruins statement:
“As an organization we were honored by President Obama’s invitation to the White House. It was a great day and a perfect way to cap our team’s achievement from last season. It was a day that none of us will soon forget. We are disappointed that Tim chose not to join us, and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Jacobs family or the Bruins organization. This will be the last public comment from the Bruins organization on this subject.”

Of course, Timmy ‘The Tank’ is not alone.  Theo Epstein, who had made a campaign appearance on behalf of John Kerry, was not on the stage when President Bush honored the team in 2005, choosing to sit in the front row of the audience next to Stacy Lucchino, wife of the Sox CEO.  The reason, he said, was because he wanted attention focused on those most deserving.  Epstein was with the group of players who subsequently visited wounded vets at the Walter Reed Medical Center.  Bush was still in office when the Sox won again in 2007.  Epstein did not attend the ’08 ceremony, citing “family reasons,” and his absence barely registered.  It was overshadowed by the no-show by Manny Ramirez, whose absence from the stage was noted by the President himself.

 

And then of course… there’s this:

Prince Fielder stood with a smile and recalled his earliest memories of old Tiger Stadium, when he would hang out at the ballpark where his father hit so many massive home runs.  “For me, it was always Sparky saying I was going to pinch hit—and I really believed him,”  Fielder said, referring to former manager Sparky Anderson. “I’m just glad I get to come back.”  The Tigers introduced Fielder on Thursday after finalizing a $214 million, nine-year contract with the free agent first baseman, who is expected to hit a lot more home runs than his dad.  Detroit plays at Cecil Fielder (45) played for the Tigers from 1990 to 1996. His son, Prince (with ball), will follow in his footsteps after reportedly signing a nine-year $214 million contract with Detroit.Comerica Park now, and times have changed. Jim Leyland manages the Tigers, not Sparky Anderson.

Fielder was born in 1984, the last time Detroit won the World Series.  After luring him back to Michigan with the fourth-largest deal in baseball history, the Tigers are hoping Fielder will help usher in a new championship era for the Motor City.  “This is awesome, it’s kind of a dream come true. I’m excited.”  Detroit began seriously pursuing Fielder after designated hitter Victor Martinez tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during offseason conditioning.  Now the Tigers have three of baseball’s biggest stars—Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander—all in their primes. Detroit won the AL Central by 15 games last year but lost to Texas in the AL championship series.

It will be up to manager Jim Leyland to figure out where to play all of his powerful hitters. He said Thursday the Tigers will move Miguel Cabrera from first base to third to make room for Fielder. He also listed a possible batting order, with Cabrera hitting third and Fielder fourth.  It’s a lineup based on power, not speed.  That much is clear.  Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski indicated he’s satisfied with his roster heading into spring training, although it’s hard to rule out any more moves after the Tigers shockingly emerged with Fielder.  The pitching rotation is anchored by Verlander, who won the Cy Young Award and MVP last year, but Detroit’s fifth starter spot is still uncertain. Dombrowski said the Tigers could bring in some non-roster invitees to compete for that job.  “I think positional player-wise, we’re pretty well set,” he said.

Fielder’s father Cecil became a big league star when he returned to the majors from Japan and hit 51 home runs with Detroit in 1990.  Cecil played with the Tigers into the 1996 season, and young Prince made a name for himself with his prodigious power displays during batting practice at Tiger Stadium.

Spotlight: Ellis Burks

One of my fondest Red Sox memories as a kid is actually of my aunt ‘Dibbie’ as it was she who introduced me to and nurtured me through this vast, complex and often bitter-sweet heartbreak we call Red Sox Nation.  Cold rainy games in the early ’80’s through bright humid matinees in the ’90’s she’d make an effort to take me to Fenway.  Dwight Evans was her favorite player in those days.  She originally grew up a Braves fan, riding the elevated train (when Boston’s T had one) with her dad before his early passing and following the exploits of ‘The Kid’ from Beantown’s ‘other’ team before falling in love, as one does, with the Scarlett Hose.  It was because of Dibbie that when I attended The Ted Williams Baseball Camp in Lakeville for its final summer as a little kid (my mom scored an awesome gig as camp nurse) I actually knew the legend of ‘Number 9’ and could properly worship him when he arrived. (Being the only child of a staff member there, I ate breakfast with Ted every morning of the several days he spent there.)

It was during the late 1980’s heyday of the Oakland Dynasty that I saw her true Red White and Blue Sox.  A warm, sunny afternoon later in the season spent in the leftish-centerfield stands.  Dave Stewart versus ‘The Rocket’.  Rickey Henderson (future Sox) in Center, (former Sox) Dave Henderson in Left, which of course prompted the usual “Hey Dave, you couldn’t remember your name or number without Rickey…” jokes since Dave wore 42 and Rickey 24.  Sox were down, every member of the A’s seemingly having a Hal of Fame Day and each time Dewey came to the plate my aunt cheered, loudly, and as she saw it, appropriately.  Of course, a Bleacher Creature disagreed.  He’s too old, too broken down and just too everything… receiving an “Oh Shuttup…” in response.  This carries on until about the eighth, a couple of men on… Evans steps in.  Dib kicks up her cheering… ‘C’mon Dewey!  Bleacher Creature, a few more beers in him, tries to out sqwak her.  Here’s my sixty something year old aunt, a lifelong manager, volunteer and helper of others whom many always mistook for some form of nun, turning. “When he hits this homer..!”

Crack!  Into the net (No Monstah Seats yet).

And what did this calm, saintly woman do?  Jump up and down, turn and point to this drunken Creature, “Stick that in your ass!”  And as everyone high-fived and congratulated her on her choice of perfectly timed hero, all was right with the world.  the Sox went on to lose, as they usually did when she took me, but Dewey, for a moment anyway saved the world.

Within a few short seasons Dwight had packed for a single season tour in Baltimore and retired.  Sure, there were stars on the Red Sox still, but none that interested her.  Bruce Hurst was gone, Roger Clemens a d!ck and Wade Boggs just wasn’t it for her.  But, Ellis Burks had begun filling some of the void after his arrival following the 1986 season and took over full-time, co-starring with Evans until his departure.  Unfortunately, Burks would only last a few seasons longer for her Sox.

Selected by the Sox in the 1st round (20th pick) of the 1983 Major League Baseball Draft, Burks made his debut in the 1987 season as a regular center fielder at age 22, showing excellent range, a sure glove and a strong arm while becoming the third player in the Red Sox history to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in one season.  The only problem for Burks while with the Red Sox was that he was injury-prone.  He had shoulder surgery in 1989, and it was the first of many setbacks for him as later Burks suffered from bad knees and back spasms.  During the 1990 season he hit two home runs in the same inning of a game, to become the second player in Red Sox history to achieve the feat.  After six fairly good seasons in Boston, and despite his injuries, he ended up leaving as a free agent and signing a one year deal with the Chicago White Sox in January 1993.

Burks surpassed all expectations around him by turning in a solid, injury-free season, filling the Pale Hose urgent need for a quality right fielder.  He was one of the club’s better performers in the playoffs, batting .304.  A free agent at the end of the season, he signed a lucrative five-year contract with the Colorado Rockies.

Ellis enjoyed his best season in 1996 . He led all National League hitters in runs (142), slugging (.639), total bases (392) and extra-base hits (93); was second in hits (211) and 2B’s(45), and fifth in HR’s (40) and RBI (128).  His .344 was also second in the batting title race (behind Tony Gwynn’s .353).  Burks finished third in the NL MVP voting. He also stole 32 bases that season, marking only the second time ever that two players from the same team collected at least 30 home runs and 30 steals, as Colorado outfielder Dante Bichette (future Red Sox)  accomplished the same feat that year.  He was part of the formidable Blake Street Bombers that included the likes of Andres Galarraga, Dante Bichette, Larry Walker, and Vinny Castilla.  This was the heart of the Rockies’ lineup that was second in the National League in home runs by team in 1994 and then led the National League in home runs from 1995 to 1997.  He still remains in the top ten in many offensive categories for the Rockies.

In 2000, having been traded to the San Francisco Giants in mid-season 1998, Burks batted fifth behind Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent, compiling significant numbers of .344, 24, 96, in only 122 games and 393 at-bats.  He was signed by the Cleveland Indians in the off-season and in his new role as a DH for the Indians, Burks provided consistent production in the middle-of-the-lineup, hitting .280, 28, 74 in 2001, and .301, 32, 91 in 2002.  He sprained his wrist in spring training of 2003 and kept playing in 55 games until the muscles in his right hand affected his ability to swing the bat. He underwent season-ending surgery to repair nerve damage in his right elbow.

The Indians didn’t pick up their 2004 contract option or offer him salary arbitration, and he returned to the Red Sox in 2004.   Used in limited duty, he retired at the end of that magical season with the 2004 World Series Ring for the team that he began his career with.

A two-time All-Star (1990, 1996) winning two Silver Sluggers (1990, 1996) and a Gold Glove (1990) in an 18-year career, Burks was a .291 hitter with 352 home runs, 1206 RBI, 1253 runs, 2107 hits, 402 doubles, 63 triples, and 181 stolen bases in 2000 games.

Needless to say, that was just icing on the already incredible cake for Dib.

Just Killing Time While Time Is Killing Me…

To think, the waning days of the Hot Stove are upon us.  The Sox haven’t made any earth-shaking moves with but a single remarkable transaction to show this off-season.  That, and who’d have thought both Prince Fielder and Roy Oswalt would still be on the market..?

Speaking of that single remarkable (or even better, marketable) transaction: Josh Reddick is in town for the annual Boston Baseball Writers’ Dinner, where he’s being honored as the Red Sox Rookie of the Year. (Yeah, really.)   The Red Sox traded the former prospect, along with two minor leaguers, to the Oakland Athletics in December in exchange for closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney. Reddick was surprised when he was told of the transaction.  “Shock.  I had a feeling I was going to get traded at the winter meetings, but once it didn’t happen, I was at ease with it and didn’t worry about it a whole lot.”  Reddick spoke with A’s GM Billy Beane and manager Bob Melvin on the day of the trade and the outfielder was given the impression that he should prepare to start every day.  “Obviously, that was good news to hear, especially when that was a question mark with the Sox. Once the shock kicked in, I realized, once I talked to Billy Beane and Bob Melvin, that it was going to be a good opportunity to play every day.”

In parts of three seasons with the Red Sox, Reddick combined for a .248 average with 10 homers and 37 RBIs in 143 games.

While questions remain in regards to the Red Sox’s starting rotation, general manager Ben Cherington said he is confident that both Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz will be healthy and productive once spring training begins.  “They’ve both had really good offseasons, Our new pitching coach [Bob McClure] has been in touch with both, as has the medical staff. It’s been a really good offseason for both and we don’t expect any issues with either of them going into camp. We know they’re both motivated to have a good year.”

Beckett, Buchholz and Jon Lester make up the top three of the rotation, but there are still questions on the back-end. Right-handers Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves will come to spring training as starters, along with Felix Doubront, Vincente Padilla, Aaron Cook and Carlos Silva.  “We feel really good about the front of the rotation. We feel like we have a collection of guys that can win jobs and help us in spots,” said Cherington. “We feel confident both Bard and Aceves are capable of doing it, but that’s not to say they will definitely be in the rotation. But they’re both capable and will come to spring training as starters.” Cherington said there could be other options as well..  “We’ll keep our eyes open as we get closer to spring training, or even in spring training, if there are ways to strengthen the rotation.”

The Scarlett Hose have not had an arbitration hearing with a player since 2002, but it appears this could be the year under their new general manager.  “We wouldn’t rule out a hearing,” Cherington said Thursday. “We had more cases this year than we’ve had in a while. We were able to settle five of those and we have four remaining and we’ll continue dialogue to see if there’s a settlement with any of those four.” The Red Sox have four players who are arbitration eligible, including David Ortiz, Alfredo Aceves, Daniel Bard and Andrew Bailey.  Of course, Ortiz is the biggest name. The DH accepted arbitration last month and rejected the team’s two-year, $18 million offer. The sides exchanged offer sheets this week and are $4 million apart, with Ortiz asking for $16.5 million and the Sox offering $12.65 million.

While Cherington downplayed the need for adding another outfielder in the wake of Carl Crawford’s wrist surgery Tuesday, the Red Sox can be expected to continue their search for outfield help before the Feb. 19 opening of spring training. The Sox have Jacoby Ellsbury in center field and recently added the left-handed hitting Ryan Sweeney, who was an above average defender in Oakland and was expected to get first crack at the majority of playing time in right field. The team also has Darnell McDonald to play against left-handers; Ryan Kalish, who is recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder; and Mike Aviles, an infielder who has been playing outfield in the Puerto Rican winter league.

The best available free agent remaining on the market would appear to be Cody Ross, who was paid $6.3 million by the Giants last season. Of course, the Sox could also look for help via trade.

Believe it or not….

Yes, that really was Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio serving as a coach on the Oakland A’s bench. 

And for as many folks who either never realized it, or forgot, it was a duty that ‘Joltin’ Joe’, the ‘Yankee Clipper’, never performed in New York.

In 1967 Kansas City Athletics owner Charlie Finley hired the Hall of Famer as the team’s vice-president. DiMaggio would also serve as a coach for the newly transplanted Oakland Athletics.  DiMaggio needed two more years of baseball service to qualify for the league’s maximum pension allowance.

So, while there was a monetary reason (as there was usually was in Joe’s motivation) for Joe D.’s service to the relocating Bay Area A’s, he also stated a few times over his life that he wasn’t asked by the Yankees to take any type of official personnel position.

And if you didn’t know about Joe, than you may have not known or just forgotten about another Hall of Famer, forever linked to his single team, who was never asked to take an official personnel position… that’s right, Ted Williams.

When Ted retired from the game in 1960, many thought he was headed for a lifetime of fishing.  Williams helped new Red Sox left fielder Carl Yastrzemski in hitting and adapting to life as the left-field superstar in Boston.  Though he mostly (sometime’s to Carl’s frustration) talked and taught about hitting.  That was the case for a few years until new Washington Senators owner Bob Short came calling.

Short. who outbid a group headed by Bob Hope, then named himself general manager and wanted, no needed Ted to manage his struggling Senators.  Ted wasn’t interested.  Short tried again.  Teddy said no again.  Short brought in AL President and former Red Sox manager Joe Cronin for help.  Joe called Ted in Florida and told him, “baseball needs you.”  How could Ted say no to his former manager and a salary of $1.25 million over five years?

On April 7, 1969 Ted Williams managed his first game as the skipper of the Senators.  Although Williams had never coached or managed at any level of baseball, he seemed to light a spark under the once-moribund Senators. Williams kept them in contention for most of the season, finishing above .500 for the first time in franchise history; their 86–76 record  would be its only winning season in Washington.  As you would expect from the greatest hitter of all time, Ted’s immediate impact on the Senators came with the hitters.  In that first season the team’s batting average went up by 25 points. Attendance soared and he was chosen “Manager of the Year” after that season.  Unfortunately the following years did not go as well.  1970 brought pitching problems to Washington and the Senators were below .500 once again at 70 – 92.  Year three of Teddy’s regime was even worse with the club making bad trades and finishing the season with a record of 63 – 96.  The honeymoon was over and Bob Short wanted out of Washington.  He petitioned and won approval to move the team to Arlington, Texas.  Ted spent one year in Texas with the Rangers, hated it and resigned at the end of the 1972 season.

Like many great players, Williams became impatient with ordinary athletes’ abilities and attitudes, particularly those of pitchers, whom he admitted he never respected.

I find it interesting how Hall of Fame players can be treated or handled by their teams following their playing days.  Is it ego? Is it a control factor? Are irritable prima-donna’s on the field just as bad on the end of the bench? Or do God’s just not make good managers?  Sure, you want guys like Ted and Joe or Babe Ruth as spring training instructors, guest-roaming organizational coaches and so on… but take a look at Ryne Sandberg.  A Hall of Famer for the Cubs, he made it expressly clear his intention to manage in the majors… and manage the Cubs.  While accumulating great minor league numbers, credentials and championships, Chicago let him walk.  If anything, Ted’s tenure as Washington/Texas manager (like Wayne Gretky’s in Phoenix) goes to show that a manager’s HOF credentials aren’t always as important as the talent they have to direct on the field.

“Hotel California”…

… by the Eagles is one of my favorite songs (and one of the best songs in American songwriting history) and what I felt would be a fairly good transition into the troublesome world of the Oakland Athletics.

The A’s, or the Montreal Expos West Coast, just finished one of the semi-annual fire sales.  Chances are, should they still be in Oakland in two to three years, they’ll be holding another one.  Don’t get me wrong, these sales are great for baseball.  It gives other teams a chance to trade prospects for what are usually great young arms and keep one of baseball’s historic (yes, historic) and once proud franchises in the basement.

Lets take a brief look at the past…

The history of the Athletics Major League Baseball franchise spans the period from 1901 to the present day, having begun in Philadelphia before moving to Kansas City in 1955 and then to its current home in Oakland, California in 1968.

The “Athletics” name originates from the late 19th century “athletic clubs”, specifically the Philadelphia Athletics baseball club. They are most prominently nicknamed “the A’s”, in reference to the Gothic script “A”, a trademark of the team and the old Athletics of Philadelphia. This has gained very prominent use, and in some circles is used more frequently than the full “Athletics” name.  They are also known as “the White Elephants” or simply “the Elephants”, in reference to then New York Giants manager John McGraw calling the team a “white elephant”.  This was embraced by the team, who then made a white elephant the team’s mascot, and often incorporated it into the logo or sleeve patches. The typical Philadelphia uniform had only a script “A” on the left front, and likewise the cap usually had the same “A” on it. In the early days of the American League, the standings listed the club as “Athletic” rather than “Philadelphia”, in keeping with the old tradition. Eventually, the city name came to be used for the team, as with the other major league clubs.  After buying the team in 1960, owner Charles O. Finley introduced new road uniforms with “Kansas City” printed on them, as well as an interlocking “KC” on the cap. Also while in Kansas City, Finley changed the team’s colors from their traditional red, white and blue to what he termed “Kelly Green, Wedding Gown White and Fort Knox Gold.” It was also here that he began experimenting with dramatic uniforms to match these bright colors, such as gold sleeveless tops with green undershirts and gold pants.  Upon moving to Oakland, the “A” cap emblem was restored, although in 1970 an “apostrophe-s” was added to the cap and uniform emblem to reflect the fact that Finley was in the process of officially changing the team’s name to the “A’s.”  The innovative uniforms only increased after the team’s move to Oakland, which also came at the time of the introduction of polyester pullover uniforms.  During the team’s 1970s heyday, management often referred to the team as The Swingin’ A’s, referencing both their prodigious power and to connect the team with the growing disco culture.  During their Oakland Athletics updated logodynasty years in the 1970s, the A’s had dozens of uniform combinations with jerseys and pants in all three team colors, and in fact did not wear the traditional gray on the road, instead wearing green or gold, which helped to contribute to their nickname of “The Swingin’ A’s.”  After the team’s sale to the Haas family, the team changed its primary color to a more subdued forest green and began a move back to more traditional uniforms.  New owner Walter Haas restored the official name to “Athletics” in 1981, but retained the nickname “A’s” for marketing purposes.

The A’s are the only MLB team to wear white cleats, both at home and on the road, another tradition dating back to the Finley ownership.

One of the American League’s eight charter franchises, the club was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniaia, in 1901 as the Philadelphia Athletics.  The team had some prominent success in Philadelphia, winning three of four World Series from 1910 to 1914 (the “First Dynasty”) and two in a row in 1929 and 1930 (the “Second Dynasty”). The team’s owner and manager for its first 50 years was Connie Mack, and its Hall-of-Fame players included Chief Bender, Frank “Home Run” Baker, Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Grove.  After two decades of decline, however, the team left Philadelphia for Kansas City in 1955 and became the Kansas City Athletics.

After 13 mostly uneventful seasons in the Midwest, the team moved to Oakland in 1968.  There a “Third Dynasty” soon emerged, with three World Championships in a row from 1972 to 1974 led by players including Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, and colorful owner Charlie O. Finley.  Finally, a “Fourth Dynasty” won three consecutive pennants and the 1989 World Series behind the ‘Bash Brothers’ of Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley.

Since the mid 2000s the A’s have been in talks with Oakland and other Northern California cities about building a new baseball-only stadium. The planned stadium, Cisco Field, was originally intended to be built in Fremont, California (a location that has since been abandoned), and there were talks about it remaining in Oakland, and current talks about building it in San Jose.

As of February 26, 2009 the city of San Jose was expected to open negotiations with the team.  Although parcels of land south of Diridon Station are being acquired by the city as a stadium site, the San Francisco Giants’ claim on Santa Clara County as part of their home territory would have to be dealt with before any agreement could be made.  By August 2010, San Jose was “aggressively wooing” A’s owner Lew Wolff.  Wolff referred to San Jose as the team’s “best option”, but Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said he would wait on a report on whether the team could move to the area because of the Giants conflict.  In September 2010, 75 Silicon Valley CEOs drafted and signed a letter to Bud Selig urging a timely approval of the move to San Jose.  In May 2011 San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed sent a letter to Bud Selig asking the commissioner for a timetable of when he might decide whether the A’s can pursue this new ballpark, but Selig did not respond.  Selig addressed the San Jose issue via an online town hall forum held in July, saying, “Well, the latest is, I have a small committee who has really assessed that whole situation, Oakland, San Francisco, and it is complex. You talk about complex situations; they have done a terrific job. I know there are some people who think it’s taken too long and I understand that. I’m willing to accept that. But you make decisions like this; I’ve always said, you’d better be careful. Better to get it done right than to get it done fast. But we’ll make a decision that’s based on logic and reason at the proper time.”

Well, the proper time is most likely sooner rather than later.

Commissioner Bud Selig, who was recently extended through 2014, has placed the A’s and their pursuit of a new stadium and a move to San Jose on the front burner.  The special committee Selig put together to examine the dilemma has delivered a “comprehensive” report but has yet to be presented to all 30 owners. Still, Selig says they’re “proceeding at a rather quick pace” and seemed to agree to the suggested analogy that if the stadium issue were a baserunner, he’d be on third base.   A’s owner Lew Wolff said he’s “delighted” to hear that Selig is prioritizing the situation and that MLB is moving toward a decision.

The Giants could fight back by supporting an anti-ballpark campaign in San Jose, where a special ballot referendum (partially financed by MLB) would need to pass, or perhaps even by persuading one of their sponsors to sue MLB (the Giants cannot sue MLB themselves). There’s also nothing preventing the Giants from filing a lawsuit against the city of San Jose itself.

The Giants’ territorial claim can be overturned by a 75 percent vote from MLB owners.

So, let’s look at it positively.  Selig cleans up the whole mess, makes the Giants happy and San Jose constructs a stadium.  Yay!  The A’s (who currently have the worst stadium deal in most any major sport) will finally have a much-needed revenue stream to go with all those first round draft picks.

My suggestion… The California Athletics.  Using the original and updated San Jose Sharks logos and looking at one-time Bruins Captain and #1 draft pick over-all Joe Thornton, we get some useful uniform and cap ideas.  The new version of the Sharks jersey uses Deep Pacific teal, black, burnt orange and white.  The Miami Marlins have, except for probably a throwback jersey or two, abandoned the teal shade as their primary color and it could easily transition west.  The burnt orange could be amended to a more golden hue, and kept as a background color, mix well with the darker hues of teal, black and finally white.  Taking cues from the Athletics’ past, they can create a great ‘new’ yet totally retro jersey color scheme for their jerseys and caps.  Something that recalls the history of the Philadelphia Athletics while easily reminding you of the Oakland A’s.   I’d imagine the only team with much of a complaint would be the Royals (The Royals of Kansas City who take their color cues from their predecessor Athletics), but even then, too bad.  Look at how many teams utilize the ever familiar red, while and blue… The Red Sox, Braves, Cardinals, Angels and Nationals.  After all, Baltimore and San Fransisco are practically twins (because when John McGraw left Baltimore for New York and the Giants, he took the familiar colors with him), yet easily separated.

The A’s are a proud and deserving franchise who, if the transition is done right, would definitely thrive in a new venue.  Think of it like an expansion franchise designed to contend pretty quickly.