Belated thoughts on the Tim Lincecum signing

I was just reading Only Baseball Matters, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite baseball blogs, when I came across a February 12 post about Tim Lincecum.  I have been meaning to write something here since the San Francisco Giants resigned their two-time Cy Young award-winning pitcher to a two-year, $23 million contract last week.  Something has not sat right with me about that deal since it was announced.  What I read on OBM resonated:

First, this deal is a bargain, easily the best contract on the team. Second, it makes me wonder why the team didn’t pursue a four or five year deal in an effort to lock him up through his prime. At the end of this contract, he’ll be 28 years old, and if he performs anywhere as well as he has to this point, the Giants almost certainly won’t be able to afford him.

I have a hard time seeing how anyone benefits here.  The Giants have basically put off the debate about whether they can afford to sign Lincecum to a long-term deal for exactly one year, maybe less; expect said debate to be incessant for all of the 2011 season as Lincecum approaches free agency, assuming he plays out this new contract.  It seems it definitely would have been to San Francisco’s advantage to negotiate more years, even if it was just three instead of two.  Lincecum’s price even a year from now could jump to $20 million per season, as opposed to less than $12 million now.

While I doubt the Giants won’t be able to afford Lincecum ultimately — whatever the cost — it definitely seems like going the Costco approach and buying in bulk would have saved them money.  Then again, if said money would simply have been used on aging, crappy free agents, then maybe it’s good the Giants are taking this approach.  Perhaps they can do the same with Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey and that Ishikawa guy, if that’s what it takes to prevent the second coming of Dave Roberts.

All this being said, I think Lincecum could also have benefited by opting for a longer deal.   I think he took a smaller, shorter contract than he deserved, a paltry deal that does little to insure him if he gets injured in the next two years.  Given his unconventional, hard-throwing delivery, I wouldn’t be hugely surprised if that were to happen– particularly if San Francisco finds itself in a pennant race and relying on its ace more than ever.

People may act like Lincecum is infallible, but really, much as I admire the guy and look forward to his starts, I just see another young flamethrower when all is said and done.  Baseball’s got a track record for this kind of thing, and it’s not great.  Pitching coaches can put their kids to bed at night with cautionary tales about guys like Gary Nolan, Mark Prior and even Sandy Koufax.

From my vantage point, it seems like both the Giants and Lincecum have a lot riding on this deal.  It will be interesting to see who comes out better.

Why Tiger shouldn't worry

I just read that a porn star told Inside Edition that Tiger Woods impregnated her twice, both times while his wife was pregnant.  These past few months have been rough for the embattled golf great, as one alleged mistress after another has come forward while he, in turn, has issued a public mea culpa, taken an indefinite leave from the game and entered sex rehab.  At this point, things can’t get much worse for Woods, unless some bodies surface in New Jersey tied to him or it comes out that he ran a dog-fighting operation.

Some may be wondering if Woods will ever regain his mantle, since many of his advertising sponsors have dumped him.  I’ll say the same thing that I’ve been saying since this scandal first broke in late November: Long term, I don’t think Tiger has anything to worry about.

We live in a society that’s astonishingly forgiving to people with supreme levels of talent.  Mike Tyson was allowed to box again after serving a rape sentence, Kobe Bryant reached the pinnacle of his career after beating sex assault charges of his own and two separate accusations of child molestation, plus a drug-related death and some genuinely freaky plastic surgery couldn’t keep Michael Jackson from having a number-one movie this past fall.  If a lost album of Jackson singles is ever found, it’ll go platinum.

If Tiger Woods wasn’t Tiger Woods, I think he’d have more to worry about.  But crazy as it may sound, I think all Woods needs to do, when he inevitably plays again, is smile, nod and win another major.  Since he’s won each of the top four tournaments at least three times and just turned 34 in December, this shouldn’t be impossible.  And when Woods wins big again, Sports Illustrated will do a cover story on him with a somber shot, proclaiming his long journey back to the top.  It’s cliche but mark my words.  It may take time, but Woods will wind up better professionally than he was before.  If anything, this whole experience will make him more focused.

That says nothing of what will happen with Tiger’s marriage.  As opposed to my certainty about his career, it seems like his marriage could go either way, and that’s unfortunate.  I feel for his wife and children.

This sort of thing happens occasionally in baseball, and in the long run, it never seems to be that big of a deal.  Wade Boggs and Steve Garvey weathered mistress-related scandals of their own in the 1980s that have all but been forgotten and have not affected their Hall of Fame bids.  Boggs was inducted into Cooperstown in 2005 and while Garvey exhausted his eligibility with the writers in 2007, following his 15th appearance on the ballot, I suspect the Veterans Committee will eventually honor him.  Garvey seems like he was a good enough first baseman, and unless the player in question is Pete Rose or one of the Black Sox, talent is the greatest determining factor for whether a player gets into Cooperstown.

Granted, Alex Rodriguez looked like a heel a couple years ago when it came out he’d been cheating on his wife, but then, he never really looked like a saint.  Come to think of it, why didn’t he have to go to sex rehab?

Yes, send me all of the baseball books

Had something cool happen yesterday afternoon.

I got a knock on the door from the postman, who had a package for me.  I don’t often get much beyond bills in the mail, so I was intrigued.  It turns out a publisher had sent me a copy of a new baseball book.

I’ll rewind by saying that a few months ago, I requested a copy of a baseball book, Chief Bender’s Burden, so I could review it for this site.  The publisher, University of Nebraska Press, graciously sent me a copy, and yesterday, I received another book from them, Joe Cronin: A Life in Baseball. I hadn’t requested this, though the correlation, I think, is that both texts are about deceased Hall of Famers, written by members of the Society of American Baseball Research (Side note: One of my goals for 2010 is to join this society; I think I more than qualify for membership.)

Anyhow, I am still reading Chief Bender’s Burden but have happily added this new book to the mix.  I’ll say this too: Anyone who wants to send me a baseball book, have at it; I will review anything that’s sent to me, though with that said, if it turns out to be not-so-good, I will most likely make note of that here.

Babes Love Juan Pierre?

I recently discovered a blog, via Twitter, Babes Love Baseball. Based out of Minnesota, the blog is similar to this site were it written by a female triumvirate; essentially, it is a paean to all things baseball.  Most of what’s up there these days seems to be re-posted from other sites, but in looking through their older, original content, a lot of it is sharp and funny (i.e. one of the ladies shows a picture of Madonna and asks why Alex Rodriguez would be attracted to women who look like Tom Petty.)  Hence, I’m following them on Twitter and have made a few trips to their site.

I was just re-reading the Comment section on their post that asked people what their walk-up music would be for at-bats.  I left a comment there recently, putting in a plug for the post I wrote on this topic last month, and I wanted to see if anyone had responded to it.  Lamentably, no– it’s not my best post, really.  But I did find something that spurred a thought.

Apparently, one of The Babes (their capitalization, not mine) used a Beastie Boys track in years past because it contained the phrase, And I’ve got mad hits like I was Rod Carew.  Hearing of this made me wonder other times ballplayers have been mentioned in songs, and — don’t ask me why — I thought of that Beyonce-Jay-Z single, “Deja Vu,” where Jay-Z raps, Used to run base like Juan Pierre.

When I first heard this in 2006, it sounded complimentary to Pierre, who had averaged 45 stolen bases a season up to that point, with 1,244 hits and a .303 batting average.  Were I a general manager, I’d have no problem making Pierre the first, second or eighth hitter in my lineup, or my ninth guy for an American League team.  In the three years since being rapped about, though, Pierre has struggled to maintain consistent playing time, even if his numbers haven’t changed all that much, and I find myself wondering if the following lyrics would be more apt:

Used to sit the Dodger bench after signing a $44 million contract like Juan Pierre

Used to get traded to the Chicago White Sox for spare parts in December 2009 like Juan Pierre

Used to have one home run in three years like Juan Pierre

In any event, I don’t think I could use any of this as walk-up music, even if Pierre may be amassing the quietest case ever for Cooperstown.  Crazy as that may sound, Pierre is 32 and somewhere between six and eight full seasons from 3,000 hits, if Chicago lets him start.  He also could finish with something over 750 steals and a .300 lifetime batting average.  And he’s probably one of about seven active players from the Steroid Era who I would bet didn’t do steroids, since he hit a total of seven homers during those years.  All this for a guy who I once read lived on hot dog packages and jugs of fruit punch while in the minor leagues.

That’s pretty solid.  Even Babes ought make note of that.

Questions for the 96-year-old ballplayer

I got some questions mailed off to the daughter of the 96-year-old former baseball player I want to interview.  I’m interested in writing a book on one of his former teammates on the 1940 Philadelphia Phillies, Joe Marty, and this man is one of three people still living, all over 90, who played in the majors with him.  The daughter said she will review my questions with her dad and then call when he’s near the phone.  He sounded lucid when the daughter and I spoke last week and he was in the background.

The questions I wrote primarily centered around what life was like on the last-place Phillies that year, his sole season in the majors and if he had any interactions with Marty.  When his daughter and I spoke, I could hear him in the background, correctly remembering that Marty was an outfielder, and I wonder, in general, how vivid his memories are.  A part of my mind keeps circling back to this thought that he will be like the elderly Rose in Titanic, white hair and wide-eyed, self righteously telling Bill Paxton she can remember what the fresh paint smelled like on the doomed, maiden ship.  I like to think we remember the things that matter to us for a lifetime.

But I also know the realities of Alzheimer’s Disease– something like half of all people over 85 suffer from it.  I recognize there’s a 50-50 chance this man has the disease, though with that said, I’ve heard that people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s actually have more intense long-term memories.  They may not remember what they had for lunch yesterday but they can strongly recall details of life from 1924.  The daughter told me her dad had some kind of issue back in August; I suppose I’ll learn more when we talk.

Regardless, I know that old ballplayers love to talk about the past.  One of the best pieces of advice I ever got came from a retired MLB scout from Sacramento who I’ve quoted here before, Ronnie King.  He told me in essence, when I was doing researching for my high school senior project on the Sacramento Solons, that I needn’t worry about getting the old-timers I would be interviewing to talk.  All they needed was the opportunity.  It’s a lesson that’s stayed with me, even if I sometimes have forgotten it.

Anyhow, I mailed the questions Monday evening and am awaiting a call.  The hope is that I’ll enter some sublime time warp with this old man, getting a broad window into his brief life as a ballplayer.  At this point, though, I’m grateful for any insight whatsoever that he can offer.

It seems I have angered Jose Canseco

I posted an update to my Twitter page last night about my thoughts here on Jose Canseco wanting to fight Herschel Walker in a Mixed Martial Arts bout (pray for Jose.)  I had written my entry here after reading Canseco Tweet yesterday, “I will crush him,” like Drago in Rocky IV with a Twitter account.  My entry poked fun at Canseco’s desire to fight Walker and made note of his frequent other updates to his page, which I actually think is, to a certain extent, commendable (granted, another part of it seems egocentric.)  I personally don’t have the willingness to leave myself that open and mostly just use Twitter to promote this site.

For my Twitter update about Canseco, I wrote:

My latest on this very site: http://baseballpastandpresent.com/2010/02/08/canseco-at-least-winning-the-twitter-battle-with-herschel-walker/

Well, immediately following my Tweet, Canseco posted on his page:

Wow, I can’t even be candid and honest on my twitter page without some genius writer blogging about it. The life I lead I tell ya……

Granted, I’m not completely sure if Canseco was referring to me, as many sources around the Internet, from ESPN to fellow bloggers have been unloading on him since February 1, when he first expressed desires to fight Walker.  I posted a reply an hour ago to Canseco, asking if he was referring to me and have not heard back.  For now, the close relation in time between our Tweets is what I’m mostly going off of.  I will of course update this if Canseco replies.

All this being said, this has been a pretty awesome week for this site.  Last Friday, I covered an estate sale in Sacramento for a former Pacific Coast League baseball team owner, where a warehouse with old memorabilia was liquidated.  I might have the opportunity to interview Will Clark on Saturday.  And now this.

I must find other retired baseball players who make active use of Twitter.

Canseco at least winning the Twitter battle with Herschel Walker

Like 325,288 other people, as of this writing, I follow Jose Canseco on Twitter.  I signed up for the social media service a few weeks ago, partly as a way to promote this site and also to have another skill to market to prospective employers.  Without a doubt, Canseco has provided me with the most Twitter-related entertainment, short perhaps of the angry atheist I follow who shares the same name as a devout Christian friend of mine and makes posts like, “I am getting tired of sitting on the can!”

Canseco posts frequently, apparently grasping the Twitter axiom that in order to have a large following, one must spew viral diarrhea (viarrhea ?) 6-10 times a day, minimum (I don’t do that, which is one reason I have over 325,000 fewer followers.)  Thus, my feed for people I’m following is filled with Canseco’s reports on his much younger girlfriend, meeting her mom and taking his daughter to Disneyland, among other things.  As many sports fans probably know, lately Canseco has also been Tweeting a lot about Herschel Walker.

Former NFL running back Walker won his MMA debut recently and Canseco, a martial arts enthusiast who got pummeled in a fight of his own not too long ago, has been calling, via Twitter, for a match-up.  It sounds ill-advised, since the 47-year-old Walker looked ripped in a recent Sports Illustrated photo of his victory, though Canseco has made several Tweets since February 1 about a possible fight with Walker, including this latest one just three hours ago:

The bottom line is, I will crush him. And he knows it.

This will all be funny until they’re calling for a second ambulance for Canseco the night of the fight.

The question of alcoholism and the ex-player

There is another story from Friday afternoon I have been meaning to tell here.

After covering the Fred David estate sale in downtown Sacramento, I interviewed another old Sacramento Solons player, Sam Kanelos, at his bar across the street from the sale, Old Ironsides.  Kanelos played more than 50 years ago with a Sacramento native I’m interested in writing a book on, Joe Marty.  As I’ve recounted here before, Marty came up on the San Francisco Seals in the 1930s with Joe DiMaggio and was once thought to be a better prospect.  He played with the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies from 1937 to 1941, though injuries and World War II shortened his career.  There are rumors he was alcoholic as well.  He ran a couple of bars during his life, and one old-timer told me, when I did my high school senior project on the Solons, that Marty became his own best customer.

I asked Kanelos, while sitting at his bar, if he thought Marty was an alcoholic.  The longtime bartender bristled at this and repeatedly said no.  Kanelos stressed that while Marty liked to go out after games and also would generously sometimes buy $200-300 worth of drinks for friends at social events in later life, he never drank before games during his career.  He said there was a lot of misinformation about Marty floating around.  I tried rephrasing my question, asking Kanelos if he thought Marty was a hard-drinker, and this rankled him too.  He said he couldn’t label another man an alcoholic.

That’s certainly fair.  I knew as much, already, but this question of how to address Marty’s drinking has perturbed me since I first settled on doing research for a book on him a couple months ago.  The journalism school graduate in me wants to tell Marty’s story in all its gritty glory, whatever that may be.  I want to know if his drinking was, indeed, problematic, if he was ashamed of it, if he ever tried to get help. I want to know who he was as a man, for better and for worse.  A mythical, saintly story doesn’t seem like it would do anyone much good.

But — assuming Marty did have a problem — I also know every recovering addict or alcoholic deserves some measure of anonymity, unless they choose to breach it.  Granted, we live in an age where more Americans can probably name what Tiger Woods went to rehab for than the current Secretary of State.  It has been widely reported that Don Newcombe got sober.  Maury Wills and Dennis Eckersley reportedly did too.  And many baseball fans know the story of Paul Waner, an oft-hungover .300 hitter who was escorted back to the bar, after he quit drinking in 1938 and his batting average dropped to .241.  Their stories would seem incomplete without these components.

All this being said, 12-step groups still ask that the full names of their members not be printed in the news.  In addition, a part of me thinks it wouldn’t be fair to level accusations about Marty without him able to defend them, as he died in 1984.  Then again, writing this sort of story now, following someone’s death at least wouldn’t undermine their recovery.

What I’ll probably wind up doing is asking every question I can during the research stage of this process.  Only then can I sort through all the information and determine truth.

One final Fred David post: My interview with him in 2001

I just got an email from a fellow named Matt, regarding my stories on former Sacramento Solons owner Fred David, who died in October at 100 and whose estate was just liquidated.  Matt wanted to know if he could see the interview I did with David in 2001 for my high school senior project.

David gave me a tour of his warehouse, where he stored memorabilia he recovered after the Solons’ ballpark, Edmonds Field, was torn down in 1964.  Prior to the tour, I provided David a list of written questions, which I still have (Editor’s note: It’s not for sale, though I will happily provide photocopies to anyone who sends me a stamped, addressed envelope.)

Thus, here is the interview:

1. For approximately how long were you an owner of the Sacramento Solons?

1944 Stockholder- 1954- President of Sacramento Baseball assn.  1964 Sold Edmonds Field

2. How much did it cost to buy the team?

Started with $1,000.00 to keep baseball in Sacramento.

3. Why did you buy the Solons?

To keep baseball in Sacramento, of course with the help of the directors, associates and fans.

4. You obviously had to sell a lot of players to the major leagues to stay afloat financially.  At the same time, the amount of fans you drew depended on how good your players were (David wrote “Right. Right,” next to both of these lines.)  How did you deal with your financial dilemnas?

Borrow and Sell.  We had good players, good baseball, too much Major League.

5. I understand the Solons have been affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers.  Did you maintain any formal “parental” agreement with any team during your tenure?

No.  We had to sell many good players to the Major Leagues to stay afloat.

6. Describe the working relationship you had with your general manager Dave Kelley.

Very good.

7. How well did you pay your players in comparison to other Coast League owners?

Fairly well, considering the attendance.

8. What was your total payroll for 1954?

N/A

9. How did you get along with other Coast League owners?

Very good.

10. Was there any kind of stigma attached to Sacramento as a baseball town, since it was so small?

Oakland and San Francisco was new Major League out west.  Sacto was too small.

11. Were you apart of any effort to help get the PCL recognized as part of the Major League?

Yes, we were Open Classification shooting for the Majors.  When the Majors came west, we dropped to AAA

12. What were the fans like?  Were attendance figures consistently good, consistently bad or sporadic?

Bad.  We let another group call Solons Inc to operate the team for two years, we rented them the stadium for $15,000.00 per year.  They went bankrupt.

13. How big was the level of public interest in the Solons?

At first fair, then, they wanted Major League.

14. What kind of perks did you enjoy as an owner?

A lot of work– no pay.  But, we kept baseball going & some fun, with good times.

15. Were you friends with any players during your tenure?

Yes managers and players.  Some came to work for me.  Besides other athletes.

16. Was Edmonds Field a fitting place for baseball in Sacramento?

Very much so.  Lots of players were developed here.

17. Did you support or root for the Solons before the time that you owned them?

Yes, also at times I worked in the concession in the lobby when I was fifteen years old.

18. What’s your favorite memory from the time you owned the Solons?

We kept baseball going for 20 years.  1944-1964, good times and bad.

19. When you bought the Solons in 1954, did you think that Major League baseball would make it to the West Coast? (David wrote “Yes” next to this)  On the other hand, did you feel that the Pacific Coast League was a major league in its own right?

Yes, the weak ones were Sacramento & Portland.  As you can see all other 6 teams are Major L. now.

20. Did the Korean War affect the Solons at all?

Yes, it took some of our best players.

21. What drove you out of being an owner?  When did you officially sell?

Poor attendance.  The team in 1960-61.  Stadium 1964.

22. How did you feel in the spring of 1961, when the Solons finally departed for Hawaii, after two years of rumors that they’d leave?  Did you personally try to stop the move?

They sold the team to Hawaii, before we knew it.  Left us an empty stadium.

23. Why do you still have so much memorabilia from Edmonds Field?

After we sold the stadium, I salvaged what I could.  It was a great memory.

24. Why do think it took so long for baseball to return to Sacramento?

Major Leagues out west.  Then after 1965– no stadium.  It took 30 years for someone to decide it was time– including the growth of Sacto.

25. How different is the candy industry from the baseball industry?

Business is business– work.  But I loved baseball.  I guess I was a good fan.

26. Are you a Rivercats fan?

Yes.

More Fred David estate sale pictures

I wanted to post some more pictures that I took at the Fred David estate sale on Friday.  For my initial post here early Saturday morning, I only used the picture I took of Gus Stathos, because I figured it was my best shot of the day, as well as the most original content I could offer, and I didn’t want my entry to get bogged down with too many images.  Most of the other shots I took are similar to what The Sacramento Bee has posted on its Web site.  Still, I offer my selection now for anyone who doesn’t read The Bee.

Continue reading More Fred David estate sale pictures