Joe Posnanski Newsbeat
Thursday, August 28, 2014
We do need a modern Foster Brooks.
Every time Alex Gordon steps to the plate at Kauffman Stadium these days, fans chant, “M-V-P, M-V-P”... At the moment, Alex Gordon is hitting .281 with 16 home runs and 59 RBIs. Nothing at all about that looks MVPish… [but] Look around baseball these days… There’s a chance this will be the first full season in baseball history without either a 40-home run hitter or a 20-game winner… There are players – [Jose] Abreu, [Mike] Trout, [Giancarlo] Stanton and Victor Martinez – who are putting up what you would call traditional MVP type numbers. They’re all hitting in the general range of .300, are on pace for 30-plus homers and 100 plus RBIs. But those are the only four, as of right now, who are good bets to get there, which is crazy…
[Gordon] plays spectacular defense in left field (and it really is special defense). He’s also an excellent base runner. We’ve already pointed out that his offensive numbers, in context, are better than they look. When you add it all up WAR style – you get a legitimate MVP candidate.
Or do you? This, to me, becomes a more and more interesting question. I’m working on a piece now about the statistical revolution in baseball, and among the statistical people I’m speaking with there seems to be a growing concern that we as a so called “advanced-statistics community” are beginning to make many of the same leaps of faith and broad generalizations that doomed the old statistics. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but it’s fair to say there’s a growing sense among some that WAR is becoming the advanced version of RBIs or batting average or pitcher wins – that is to say that people, to quote Vin Scully, are using WAR the way a drunk using a lamppost, for support and not illumination. Heck, I might be the Foster Brooks of WAR.
So, I’m not sure of the answer on that one. I’m a huge Alex Gordon fan and have been for some time. I really do believe he has been one of the most underrated players in baseball because he does a lot of things well. I think he SHOULD be an MVP candidate. That said, is his defense in left field SO GOOD that it makes up for the 25 or so more runs that Jose Abreu and Victor Martinez are creating offensively? Can you even BE that good in left field to make up such a gap?
WAR says yes. I want to believe it’s true. So I believe WAR.
That’s definitely support and not illumination.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Ehh, they’re in a pennant race, it’s about time to fire him anyway.
Tuesday night, Royals manager Ned Yost – in the moments after what was perhaps Kansas City’s signature baseball victory in 20 years – decided to unload on Royals fans for not showing up. You can go to the most excellent Sam Mellinger to get a full recap of Yost’s blundering nonsense, but I think the essence can be condensed into his sarcastic, “I mean, what, 13,000 people got to see a great game?” opening shot… Well, every year we’ll get two or three of these blunders from managers or players… First, the statement will be widely discussed – fans lambasting Yost, a few fans will counter that he has a point and Kansas City fans must represent, other fans will lambaste those fans – and before the day’s out we’ll have Yost backtracking from the statement, probably saying he was speaking emotionally, and it was misunderstood and he loves the Kansas City fans and just wants them to be a part of things.
But I’m not sure he will get, even then, why what he said was so insulting and stupid. I didn’t get it for a long time… First, there are the obvious things. One, you can’t win a few games and expect people to just stop their lives for you… A large percentage of tickets sold are season tickets… A large percentage of tickets sold are bought well in advance… Families build their plans around their children’s schedules – and school started this week…
the heart of what’s wrong with blaming fans for anything: The fans are right. I don’t mean they are right in the “customer’s always right” sense, though that’s true too. What I mean is that fans aren’t a PART of spectator sports. Fans are the REASON for spectator sports… If more fans buy one book than any other, it goes to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. If more fans go to a movie than any other, it becomes the No. 1 grossing movie. If more fans buy one song than any other, it shoots to the top of the ITunes list. People can and do complain about the choices of these lists and what they say about society, but what they’re not complaining about the lists themselves. The lists are reflections of the fans wishes. The fans define those lists. They cannot be wrong. A director who moans that more people should have watched his or her movie is not just ludicrous, he’s by definition wrong. Exactly as many fans watched the movie as watched the movie.
When 13,000 or so fans showed up for the Royals game Tuesday night, that was what the Royals had wrought… How many people you draw to a game is not a reflection on the people. It’s a reflection, entirely, on you.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
You probably know that one of Bud Selig’s big objectives as commissioner of baseball was to even the playing field – that is, to give the small-market teams a chance to contend… Funny thing: Here at the end of his tenure, baseball is closer to Selig’s nirvana than perhaps ever before. As Brian McPherson writes in the Providence Journal, the correlation between money spent and winning is at its lowest point in a long, long time. McPherson writes that the correlation right now between wins and money is actually smaller than the correlation between wins and alphabetical order.
Why is this a funny thing?
Because, I believe the reason for whatever actual effect we are seeing is pretty directly tied to the steroid years that Selig has been running away from for more than a decade… I have a theory – one that directly relates to my belief that many baseball teams are doing something that is monumentally stupid. I’m referring to the huge, long-term deals that they are giving players – deals that last until the players are in their mid-to-late 30s, and sometimes even carries them into their 40s. These contracts are a death trap, a suicide rap, and while there are exceptions to every rule, there are never more than a few exceptions… in the late 1990s and early 2000s… we suddenly started seeing 35-year olds performing at very high levels… My guess is that this seemingly reasonable conclusion that baseball players had started to beat the aging process was, in fact, quite unreasonable and it is probably the biggest factor in these massive, sprawling and utterly doomed long-term contracts… Baseball owners’ and GM’s madness for big money contracts to aging players has, in its own way, evened the game more than anything else Selig or any other commissioner has done.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
In a small way, the Royals are back-to-back World Champs.
I And so, more or less from the start, the Royals became a more professional operation under Moore. He hired some excellent people to work with him. He dazzled people inside baseball with the team’s commitment to building a farm system. And, in short order, the Royals were not the joke of baseball. The Royals lost 100 games four times between 2002 and 2006. They have not lost 100 since.
That, though, is not exactly something you brag about on your resume, and while Moore made the Royals slightly more respectable, he and his staff could not do much more. They continued to make horrendous blunders on the Major League roster. Moore hired Trey Hillman to be the manager. He signed Jose Guillen and Gil Meche to team-record contracts. The Royals talked a better game but continued to feature an allotment of aging Jason Kendalls and Ross Gloads and Miguel Olivos and Scott Podsedniks, while mixing in relatively-young versions of Yuniesky Betancourt and Kyle Davies and Luke Hochevar. The results were, in their own way, as depressing as ever…..
In 2011, there were signs that Moore’s work was having an impact. That was the year I wrote my Sports Illustrated story about the Royals’ future dynasty, and the year various people around the sport began gushing about their minor league system. Then, last season, the Royals won 86 games, their most since the strike – a season so promising that even Moore’s ill-advised “In a small way, I feel like we’ve won the World Series” quote at the end did not tarnish the optimism.
And … it is working. Shields has been the good pitcher the Royals expected. And the Royals’ rotation has been altered. Last year, the Royals led the American League in ERA. This year, they have five pitchers who are on pace to throw 170 innings and win 10-plus games. I’m no fan of the pitcher-win statistic, but it is telling that the last time the Royals had five pitchers with 10 wins was, yep, 1985….
And what makes all of this so satisfying for Royals fans because most never saw it coming. They were the same old Royals until, suddenly, they weren’t. They were defined by their blunders until, suddenly, some of their plans actually worked.
Saturday, August 09, 2014
I deduce that Poz started off writing about Strasburg and couldn’t find a new angle, but I dunno, you tell me.
the Washington Nationals are in first place. It is easy to miss that when you’re inside the beltway. More than that, at this moment the Nationals are in first place by 4 ½ games, which is the biggest lead in the National League. More than that, the Nationals have the best run differential in the National League… The Nationals have the best record in baseball when scoring four or more runs – 53-6. But they have one of the worst records in baseball when failing to score four runs (9-45). This schizophrenic tendency drives Washington’s most extreme impulses…
[Stephen] Strasburg… leads the National League in starts and strikeouts and his 177-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio is fantastic. But he also is posting the highest ERA of his career so far (3.39) and the Nationals are just 12-12 in games he starts. He has honed his change-up into one of the most devastating pitches in the game, but his velocity slowly comes down and hitters have teed off on his fastball for much of the season. Even teammates have commented on how aggressively hitters attack his fastball. He could get to 200 innings for the first time this year, but he does not have a complete game and has only twice even started the eighth inning…
If he was any 26-year-old pitcher leading the league in strikeouts … but he’s not. He’s Stephen Strasburg. This is Washington. The pontificating never ends.
There’s only one player who feels it even more.
So, here’s what seems to have happened in Harpergate. Nationals manager Matt Williams went on a radio show Tuesday morning and the hot topic was Bryce Harper because Bryce Harper is always the hot topic…
You can’t go on the radio as the manager of the Washington Nationals, tell someone that sending Bryce Harper to the minors is NOT a stupid idea, and then expect Washington to sit still. It’s WASHINGTON for crying out loud…
Thursday afternoon, in the 13th inning against the Mets, Bryce Harper mashed a long walk-off home run to extend the Nationals lead.
“I haven’t felt like that in a long time,” he said afterward, and for a few hours all was all right in our nation’s capital.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Theory 1: Because they don’t want performance enhancing drug users in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
...The Hall leadership may not want [Barry] Bonds or [Roger] Clemens elected, but it never really looked like they would be anyway. And I don’t think the Hall of Fame directors are manipulative in this way. I’m sure they’re not weeping for Bonds or Clemens, but I don’t believe that was the impetus here.
Theory 2: The Baseball Hall of Fame wants to maintain exclusivity.
... My sense in talking with people who have intimate knowledge about the Hall is that, if anything, the Hall of Fame would like to add MORE players from the last 40 or so years…
Theory 3: The Hall of Fame wants to clean up some of the BBWAA untidiness.
Now, we are getting to the point… The 15-year process has always been clunky. And it’s even harder in today’s world, where everything moves so fast and everything is so magnified. We in the BBWAA spend way too much time arguing about players and leaving them in limbo… Ten years is plenty. If anything it is too long.
But, I don’t think it stops here. I have one more theory.
Theory 4: The Hall of Fame is setting up for some major changes.
A few years ago, the Hall of Fame created a Special Committee on the Negro Leagues… a screening committee created a 29-person Negro Leagues Hall of Fame ballot… I have been told this by people who would know – getting Buck O’Neil into the Hall of Fame was the biggest reason the Hall of Fame had created these committees and set up this vote in the first place… Buck still fell short… And I think the Hall of Fame leadership learned a hard lesson: Museum or not, you can’t just give up complete control of your own business… By taking away five years of the BBWAA’s voting, the Hall can have their own committees consider players five years sooner…. They understand the BBWAA is evolving, baseball coverage is evolving, the idea of baseball credibility (which the BBWAA always provided) is evolving too…
So, this is my theory: The Baseball Hall of Fame is making some smallish changes now to set itself up for bigger changes soon. I’m sure they would deny this, and I would bet even they don’t know what those changes are. But they’re coming. I think in 10 years, the Hall of Fame will have a more open Hall of Fame voting policy that the BBWAA will have a part in but will not control entirely.
The Howard contract was the one that should have snapped Amaro out of whatever loyalty spell he was under. The second he offered that catastrophe of a deal, baseball writers all over the country wrote in all capital letters: “ARE THE PHILLIES OUT OF THEIR MINDS?” There was no other question.
This was way back in 2010, and it was utterly inexplicable — a $125 million deal that would not even begin for two years for a declining slugger? I believe it is the most inexplicable bad contract ever handed out. Sure, you could argue for other terrible that were more expensive and harmful — this Pujols deal could end up setting the standard — and there have been many smaller deals that are hard to explain, like the Twins giving Ricky Nolasco a four-year, $50 million deal.
But combine the situation (Howard still had TWO YEARS left on his deal), the age (he turned 32 before the contract even began) and an honest assessment of the player (a power hitter who couldn’t run, was a liability at first base, couldn’t hit lefties and was unlikely to age well) and I think you are talking about the most inexcusably bad contract in baseball history.
Then again … it was a loyalty contract. Howard was such an integral part of the Phillies rise, such an unexpected joy when, in his first full year, he hit 58 homers and led the league with 383 total bases. The Phillies wanted to keep him as a Philadelphia sports hero. Noble cause. It blinded them to the obvious: Howard’s best days were behind him….
Amaro wanted to hold on. It’s a natural instinct. And it’s a destructive one. It never fails to amaze how obtuse Major League general managers can be about things seemingly as obvious as aging. Now, the Phillies are terrible, they are old, they have not developed a useful young player for themselves in about a decade, and Baseball America has ranked their minor league system 22nd, 23rd and 27th the last three years.
Posted: July 30, 2014 at 11:54 AM | 23 comment(s)
Sunday, June 01, 2014
The Dalai Lama is not amused.
On Twitter, Jesse Lund puts up this amazing — absolutely amazing — screen shot from the Friday night broadcast of the Yankees and Twins. It may be the greatest thing ever produced by man, including Hamlet and The Godfather and chocolate cake with raspberry sauce.
Perfection in Jeteration is when you can so perfectly present over-the-top praise for the Derek Jeter that you would use the exact same graphic or story or take as satire. This is not as easy as it sounds. Many have tried, many have failed. But this is as close to perfection as we mere human beings can achieve. If Saturday Night Live was to do a skit about how absurd people are when it comes to their Derek Jeter love, this would be EXACTLY the graphic they would use, word-for-word.
Saturday, May 17, 2014
BRING BACK THE ROIDS
Friday night there were six shutouts in baseball. Six. In 1996, that was like a month’s worth. There have been 96 shutouts in baseball already this year and we’re barely a quarter way into the season. At this pace, there would be close to 400 shutouts in total. That would be a Major League record….
This week, I had someone in baseball offer an elegant theory about what’s happening in baseball. His theory goes something like this:
1. Pitchers are overthrowing like crazy because 100 mph fastballs are the way to the big leagues and stardom.
2. Hitters are striking out like crazy because they’re facing more 100 mph pitches than ever.
3. Pitchers are breaking down because arms — except the most freakish of arms — cannot sustain the tension of throwing 100 mph.*...
But there is something about the way baseball is being played now that is bothersome. It’s kind of hard to put into words but, generally speaking, I think baseball has lost its rhythm. Runs are way down … but games are taking longer to play than ever before. The point here is not to be the latest to yammer about how long baseball games take to play — a brisk, beautifully played three hour game is one of life’s great pleasures — but instead to yammer about how baseball seems have lost its cadence. The game is supposed to be leisurely, but these days it’s positively stagnant.
Monday, May 12, 2014
Pitching to the Red Sox is easy, tell him Wash.
Its incredibly difficult!
I’m not sure how to score walking one hitter to face a better hitter on the scale because it’s so ridiculous that I’m not sure it comes up often enough. For now, it’s enough to give this Washington walk a three-point bonus, making it a 24-point intentional walk … just about enough to peak my general rage and disgust. It goes without saying that Napoli promptly doubled, in the end all three runs scores, and the Rangers lost by three. I’ve made the point before that the rage system is unconcerned with the result of the walk — sometimes stupid intentional walks get good results just like sometimes terrible poker players win money. But in this case, the result is fulfilling. A walk that bad deserves to blow up.
Remember how Andy Griffith on the old Andy Griffith Show would only give Barney Fife one bullet, in case of emergencies? The Rangers might want to consider doing something like that for Ron Washington, for his own good.
Thursday, May 08, 2014
Joe & Michael discuss the AL East (it’s awful), Derek Jeter (he’s awful), intentional walks (they’re nonsensical), and conclude by having a fantasy draft for penalties.
Monday, April 21, 2014
BTW, the recent Schur/Poz draft of superheroes went (Schur first): Batman; Superman (Schur had the usual problems with him); Thor; Hulk; Dr. Manhattan (Poz had never heard of him or Watchmen); Wonder Woman; Aquaman (Schur blamed his kid, but good God); Spider-Man (finally); Professor X; Captain America
the Kansas City Royals single season home run record is 36, and Steve Balboni set it almost 30 years ago…
only seven team home run records survive from pre-1996. Six of the seven are impressive home run seasons set by impressive players… And then there is … the Balboni record, which at this point has to be considered one of the eight wonders of the baseball world…
From 1998 to 2007 — the Selig Power Hour Decade — 157 players hit 37-plus home runs. More than 15 per season. Obviously no Royals player was even on that list. But even more remarkably, in that absurd stretch when baseballs were flying out like planes in Atlanta, the Royals had TWO PLAYERS who hit even THIRTY homers: Dean Palmer hit 34 in 1998 and Jermaine Dye hit 33 in 2000.
Yes, that’s right. The Royals have not had a 30-home run hitter since 2000…
The Royals have six home runs all year. At this point, they’re just hoping to break Balboni’s record as a team.
And you have to wonder: Why can’t the Royals catch a break on this home run thing? Other teams catch breaks. Why couldn’t the Royals have drafted Ryan Howard in the fifth round or selected Edwin Encarnacion off waivers or stuck with Jose Bautista (they are one of many teams to have Baustista) or lucked into a Chris Davis or Carlos Pena season? Why?
The answer, I guess, is that there is no answer. They are the Royals. The Balboni abides. In time, the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, they’re only made of clay. But the Steve Balboni record of 36 home runs is here to stay.
Thursday, April 03, 2014
He would always say a doctor called him in 1952. Bauman would not even remember the guy’s name, but he said this doctor then showed up at his filling station and offered him a contract to play for a team called the Artesia Drillers in New Mexico. Bauman had never heard of them or Artesia or, really, New Mexico. But the doctor offered steady money — $600 a month — and he said people in the stands would give him some more. Bauman agreed on the condition that for $250 he could buy back his contract. The good doctor agreed.
It’s fair to say that they never saw anything quite like Joe Bauman in New Mexico. Artesia was named as such because in 1903 an artesian well was discovered there. That simple. People took pride in the baseball team. And Joe Bauman was the biggest thing in Artesia. He was 30 years old when he showed up, and he had honed his uppercut home run stroke, and those 19 and 20 and 21-year-old pitchers in the Longhorn didn’t stand a chance. That first year, Bauman hit .375 with a league-record 50 homers in 139 games. The second year, Bauman hit .371 with an even better league-record 53 home runs in 132 games. He led the all of organized baseball in homers both years. He earned enough money from what players called “fence money” to buy a car.
After the 1953 season was over, Bauman decided to buy out his contract and move 40 miles due north to Roswell. In Roswell, there was the lingering buzz of an alien landing, a Texaco station available at a good price and a right-field wooden fence, painted white, just 324 feet from home plate.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
The W.A.N.D. (The Whiff Always Negates Defeat)
Somebody asked me this question on Twitter: If I could have any pitcher from any time pitch one game… who would I choose?
I immediately typed: Pedro. 1999… Any baseball pitching question can be answered, somehow, by: Pedro, 1999. I would actually like to answer ALL questions that way. When I go fill up gas, and the little pump screen asks: “Cash or Credit” I’d love to be able to type in: Pedro, 1999.
Anyway, the choice lit up the Twitter lines with the expected objections…
Am I the only one who gets kind of annoyed when people put some sort of finality stamp at the end of their opinions? You know what I mean by finality stamp — someone will not just say “Sandy Koufax in 1965 was quite sprightly.” No, they will say something like “Koufax. 1965. End of story.” Or: “Gibson. 1968. The end.” Or: “Carlton. 1972. Period.” Or: “Old Hoss. 1884. Goodbye.”
What are these emphatic termination words supposed to achieve? I mean YOU put those words there, right? I didn’t miss some mediator coming in and ending declaring your viewpoint supreme, did I? It’s not like you pulled Marshall McLuhan out of nowhere to confirm your opinion … YOU confirmed your opinion. How does that mean anything? Is this like the Internet equivalent of taking off your shoe and clomping it on the table like a gavel? Stop doing that. It’s stupid. Period. End of story. Goodbye.
Anyway there was one alternative to Pedro 1999 suggestion that I found interesting for a completely different reason.
The suggestion: Pedro in 2000…
Baseball Reference WAR values the 2000 season more because Pedro Martinez gave up fewer runs and fewer hits… Fangraphs WAR… deals with the three things that Fangraphs believes a pitcher can control: Strikeouts, walks and home runs… Fangraphs thinks 1999 was a clearly better season…
right now I lean just a touch more to the Fangraphs side. I think Pedro pitched a little bit better in 1999 than he was in 2000… [Tom] Tango, when looking at Baseball Reference WAR, at Fangraphs WAR will split the difference.
This would make Pedro’s 1999 and 2000 seasons almost EXACTLY EVEN.
Which, if you think about it, is a good way to end this. Period.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Joe Posnanski and Michael Schur (Fire Joe Morgan, Parks & Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) both believe that the NL will be led by either this year’s aspiring superteam in Los Angeles, or last year’s aspiring superteam in Washington. They admire the San Antonio Spurs-like continual success of the Cardinals. They see the AL as more of a tossup. Schur picks the Dodgers to beat the Tigers in the World Series. Poz predicts the Nationals over the Red Sox.
Then, they draft numbers.
Pretty sure that cartoonist does Mallard Fillmore now.
in my national search of more than 300 national newspapers, I could not find a single mention of Louis Sockalexis in the entire year of 1915.
The story I grew up hearing — that the Cleveland Indians were named to honor Louis Sockalexis — is certainly untrue…
when Sockalexis joined the team in 1897, there WAS legitimate excitement. The stories of his baseball exploits were known everywhere. The curiosity of seeing a Native American athlete play ball was overwhelming. And people began calling the team in 1897, yes, the Indians. In his honor…
The fact that the 1897 Cleveland team was often called “Indians” was not directly the reason the team was officially named Indians in 1915. But it was part of the decision-making process…
I don’t believe the Indians were named to honor Louis Sockalexis, not exactly. But I do believe the Indians name could honor him. That choice is ours.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
[Tigers owner Frank] Navin and [American League president] Ban Johnson handled the [Dutch] Leonard unpleasantness in a way that will be familiar to everyone who watches political movies or followed the Tony Bosch Biogenesis story — they paid him off… At the end of the season, Ban Johnson told [Ty] Cobb and [Tris] Speaker that they needed to retire…
When the players saw Dutch Leonard’s rather flimsy evidence — two alternately specific and vague letters that did not have any word of a fix, specifically cleared Cobb of laying down a bet and did not mention Speaker at all — there was some fury. The players demanded that Dutch Leonard come to Chicago so they could face their accuser. Leonard replied that, no, he would not come…
Well, that really set off Cobb, Speaker and [Smokey Joe] Wood… They believed (and were generally right) that if people saw the smoky evidence, they would side with Cobb and Speaker. By most accounts, it was Cobb and Speaker who asked [Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain] Landis to release all the records…
It’s clear from Leonard’s response that he had already won his fight. Leonard had received $20,000 for two letters and he had cast doubt on the legacies of the two men he blamed most for running him out of the game… “I got my revenge,” he told the writer Damon Runyon…
On January 16, 1927 Johnson made a long statement to the press. It was, to be blunt, a complete and utter meltdown by the once great man…
Johnson was going Joe McCarthy, saying he had all sorts of secret information he had no intention of sharing with Landis … but he definitely had it. And he saved his angriest stuff for Landis, calling his release of information an attempt for personal publicity and saying he had this whole thing under control before the commissioner butted in…
When Johnson appeared before Landis in a hearing that the papers hyped like it was a heavyweight fight, he had to admit that he had nothing. He had been bluffing. And he was a goner…
My sense, based on the way Ban Johnson lashed out at Speaker, is that he had a personal grudge or hidden reasons to believe Speaker was dirty. He may have been guilty but, based on what we can prove, he should never for have been included in this scandal…
As for Cobb… I do not believe the 1917 game was “fixed” as we might generally view that word. I think the ethics of the time were different and on September 25, 1919 the Tigers had motivation to win and the Indians did not… if this had all happened In Pete Rose’s time, I think Cobb would have been banned for life even if nothing else was proved… Cobb was a great player who obviously played to win. He lived in a time, however, where gambling on baseball was rampant and tore at the fiber of the game. I’m not persuaded that he was was above his era.
Friday, March 07, 2014
The Only Nolan pitched in 101 games as a 19-year-old, so yeah, what was Gary’s problem?
then the pain climbed to a higher plane. It was too much. [Gary Nolan] couldn’t handle it. The reporters asked him how much it hurt. “Enough to make you cry,” he said. Teammates rolled their eyes. Letters to the editor in the Cincinnati papers questioned his manhood.
“When’s Nolan going to pitch again?” reporters asked Sparky Anderson.
“Hell, I don’t know. Ask him,” Sparky barked angrily.
It was at this time that the Reds did one of the most bizarre things a baseball team has ever done. Reds executive Dick Wagner called Nolan and said they had figured out a way to fix his arm. They were sending Nolan to … a dentist. Yeah. A dentist. Some crackpot dentist had reached the Reds with the message that Nolan’s arm problems were clearly the result of an abscessed tooth. Nolan actually went to the dentist. The dentist actually pulled a tooth. This really happened, not in the Dark Ages but in 1972…
Then, in desperation, Nolan went to see Frank Jobe, orthopedic doctor for the Reds biggest rivals, the Dodgers. The Reds, of course, were opposed to this … but Nolan had reached the desperate point where he would try anything. He, like every other pitcher in baseball, had heard Jobe was different from other doctors. The first thing Nolan noticed was that Jobe took an X-Ray of Nolan’s shoulder from a different angle. This was new. And because of that, Jobe found what every other doctor had missed — a one-inch bone spur floating around in Nolan’s shoulder and slicing him every single time he threw a baseball…
For six or seven years, Nolan had been treated as something less than a man. He’d had his pain mocked and his toughness doubted. He’d been told again and again and again that the agony was all in his head, that it was his duty to pitch through it, and this false aura of fragility had come to define him in the eyes of American baseball fans.
Then, this soft-spoken doctor from North Carolina came back from the X-Rays and pointed at the source of all that pain — there it was, as real as a swing and miss strikeout.
“I have no idea how you pitched in that sort of pain,” Frank Jobe said to him. “You must have been in agony.”
Thirty-five years later, Gary Nolan could still recite those two sentences, word-for-word.
for his generous support.
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