Monday, September 13, 2004


Ever hear of a stream-of-consciousness monologue? Well, that’s what’s gonna happen here. Initially this blog was going to be fairly Blue Jay/Expos-centric. This year however, I can sum up their respective seasons thusly:

They suck....badly.

Pretty straightforward. Hopefully, come the offseason, I can write something more positive. Oh sure, the Jays have the makings of an impressive rotation come 2005 if Roy Halladay doesn’t have Duane Ward’s disease (minor tendonitis all you need is rest....nine years worth and counting). Delgado is in the midst of a nice contract push (.326/.424/.689 with 14 HR) since August 1st and yet another 30 HR/100 RBI season beckons if he can bang one more HR and 14 RBI over the next 19 games. Can the Jays retain Delgado? Why not? Vlad Guerrero got $70M over 5 years from the Angels and he was the premier free agent last year. Guerrero was 27 years old, could hit for average and power and has an absolute cannon in RF. Delgado is an average fielding 1B, will be 33 next summer, and is coming off the worst season of his career which could mark the beginning of his natural decline. He’s a tremendous hitter, but that’s all he brings to the table. He has no aura of being a “championship calibre” player (he has 0 post season AB) and he has DH written all over him. Unless a team loses their mind, there’s no way he’s going to command anything near what Guerrero got last year. In the “new marketplace” Delgado will have a great deal of difficulty commanding even 3 years/$30M. I’m guessing he can be had for 3 years/$18-24M....well within the Jays budget (especially if there are deferrals in the deal). Know this, the Jays will not offer Delgado arbitration. Delgado would jump at it--guaranteed. A player offered arbitration is guaranteed 80% of his previous season’s salary which means the Jays would have to pay at least $15.2M for Delgado’s services.

The Expos? They’re doing about as well as any victim of first degree murder could be expect to [be doing]. Bud Selig should be strung up by his nuts with monofilament fishing line with 25 lb. barbell plates attached to his nostril hairs and beaten on like a pinata until he can recite the stats of every player ever to don an Expos uniform. However, I’ll settle for seeing him hauled off to jail in handcuffs, flat broke after losing the RICO suit with small children wearing Expos caps hurling cat-urine filled balloons at his face as he’s being led off. Barring that, I’d like to see him drummed out of baseball for life with a sign posted on every highway leading into the state of Wisconsin that reads: “Please accept Wisconsin’s deepest apologies for Bud Selig.”

Yes, I realize I‘m probably being too lenient. What can I say? I’m a big softie.

On to other items of note: I’m trying to wrap my mind around Barry Bonds’ season. This year, only five players (Adrian Beltre, Todd Helton, Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols, and Manny Ramirez) have a higher SLG than Bonds’ OBP (.614). Bonds is .375/.614/.831. He has been walked 203 times....a full 84 times more than Houston’s Lance Berkman who is second in MLB. Bonds has walked 117 times more than AL leader Jorge Posada. Since the season he turned 36 Bonds has hit 254 HR and is .341/.531/.784. To try to put that into some kind of context, Rogers Hornsby over five seasons (2679 AB) from 1921-25, batted an aggregate .402. He was .402/.474/.690 over that Hornsby did that during his prime (ages 25-29).

For those of you who feel he’s had chemical assistance (I am among them), consider this: If he’s indeed “juiced” do you think if you put Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Albert Pujols, etc. on the exact same program Bonds may be on that they’d duplicate Bonds’ accomplishments from ages 36-40? Let’s go nuts for a moment. Let’s assume that Bonds is a walking (pun intended) pharmacy. So I’m going to pull a number out of my, um, posterior, and say that 25% (an insanely high total) of Bonds’ accomplishments over the last five years are due solely to performance enhancing drugs. That would make Bonds .256/.398/.588 with 190 HR since 2000 and he’d be .281/.461/.623 this year.

He’d be third in MLB in OPS, just .004 points out of 2nd (Coors Field aided Todd Helton).

In other words, take a huge “supplement adjustment” out of Bonds’ numbers and he’s still one of the best players in baseball.

My point? Well, it appears that Bonds is a genetic freak. The same way Satchel Paige was a genetic freak, the same way Nolan Ryan was a genetic freak, the same way Gordie Howe was a genetic freak.

A final note: .440/.466/.599.

Ichiro Suzuki’s stats since July 1st.

As a bonus, since I’ve been away, I thought I’d post an old feature I once did about one of MLB’s most colourful (and besotted) players....

I'm Here For A Good Time, Not A Long Time -- The Wacky Adventures Of Rube Waddell

“Rube probably has the best strikeout to IQ ratio in baseball” history once said a friend of mine. Let’s kick back and enjoy the life and times of the original wacky southpaw. Other gems from the aforementioned friend: “There are guys better than him, but then again they probably all had IQ's over the simpleton level. He certainly has to be considered one of the most successful drunks of his or any other era. Today a player like Rube probably would never be given a chance - at an early age he would be written off as 'special' and sent some place.”

So here's to Rube, lean back, put your feet up and enjoy and also don't forget, the man could flat out pitch.

The Phenom

Rube Waddell first started turning heads (for his play that is) at the tender age of 18. This was a bit unusual seeing as southpaws have the reputation of needing more time than righties to master their control. Waddell was no different except his trouble wasn't with his arm which had plenty of control but rather it was his synapses that required more seasoning. At the time he was pitching semipro in Butler, Pennsylvania, mostly because he preferred pitching to working (an understandable preference) when he caught the eye of the National League Louisville Colonels where he was signed for $500 which he promptly took and celebrated in typical Rube fashion -- he got bent. You could drink a lot with $500 back then, nowadays that gets you a beer for you and three friends at Comerica Park. His fondness for lubricating his fluid motion made his first major league stint rather short.

Louisville's manager -- Fred Clarke -- fined him fifty bucks after two games because he hadn't finished celebrating the fact that he was in the big leagues. He had two choices, pay the fine or quit the team and keep the fifty smackers for recreational pursuits.

He jumped the team ...

... all the way to the Western League in Detroit, where he pitched nine games and decided to continue his trek north -- right out of the country and into semi-pro ball in Canada. Perhaps Detroit had a 'special meaning' for Waddell even though he had no idea what it was exactly, but he was fined $100 by his distraught manager.

Waddell demanded to know why it had been levied, to which his manager replied: '[it] was for that disgraceful hotel episode in Detroit.' Waddell answered: “You're a liar. There ain't no Hotel Episode in Detroit.”

At any rate, Waddell decided he didn't like Canada much and returned to the Western League with Columbus-Grand Rapids and stayed put long enough to win 27 games and again he caught the eye of the National League. However those were the days of the 'reserve clause' and Louisville felt, that -- like the Mariners, Mets, Padres, Angels etc. did/do with Rickey Henderson -- they could live with his eccentricities. He pitched nine games that year winning seven and decided he needed to get an offseason job and found one...

... as an alligator wrestler.

Meanwhile rumors abounded that Louisville was about to be folded by the National League and Waddell became a Pirate where he won eight, lost 13 but sported a solid ERA of 2.37 which led the league...
... and jumped ship in July, back to the Western League under the supervision of Connie Mack. A wise man, Mack realized that Waddell would require 'special' treatment (as in, the sporting goods store is having a 'special' on dumbbells). He didn't pay Waddell a regular salary but rather forwarded him money as needed. Mack also learned how to motivate his erratic southpaw. One of Waddell's favorite pastimes -- other than wrestling large reptiles with personalities like Carl Everett, leaving games mid-start, or even mid-batter to chase fire trucks and playing marbles with kids under the grandstand belying the claim that he lost his -- was fishing. So after Waddell had just finished pitching a 17-inning game, won by his own triple. Mack and the opposing manager agreed to limit the second game of that day's doubleheader to five innings. Mack made Waddell an offer: “You can take off and go fishing for the next three days if you'll pitch the second game.” Waddell agreed and threw a five-inning shutout and Tony LaRussa -- like Mack -- a future manager of the Athletics got his first lesson in how to handle a young developing pitcher.

Again he caught the eye of the National League. However those were the days of the 'reserve clause' and Pittsburgh felt, that -- like the Mariners, Mets, Padres, Angels etc. did/do with Rickey Henderson -- they could live with his eccentricities and demanded him back.

Some things never change however, Waddell being one of them. After he lost two starts for Pittsburgh in 1901, player-manager Clarke told [owner] Dreyfuss he'd had enough of the man-child: “Sell him, release him, drop him off the Monongahela Bridge; do anything with him you like, so long as you get him off my ball team.” A Pittsburgh team-mate recalled Waddell soaking his left arm in buckets of ice for hours at a time, claiming that he feared he'd 'burn up the catcher's glove' if he didn't 'cool it off.'

The Best Nut Case in the American League

Waddell was sold to the Chicago Orphans where he won 13 of 28 and was suspended for the final month of the season for being himself so he spent his suspension playing semipro ball in Wisconsin. He latched onto a group of barnstorming big leaguers after the season, and after they made a trip to the West Coast, Waddell decided that he hadn't seen this part of America before and decided he liked it there (which makes you wonder how many children he fathered over there with those Hollywood types and all) and decided to stay. He began 1902 with the Los Angeles Loo Loos and was 12-8 and hitting .283 by mid June. Meanwhile back in Philadelphia, Connie Mack purchased Waddell's contract from the Orphans and dispatched two Pinkerton Guards to L.A. to bring him to the City of Brotherly Love. Waddell was less than happy with this turn of events and sulked his way through his first start but caught fire in July winning ten straight, finishing the year 24-7 leading the infant American League in strikeouts by 50 over a chap by the name of Cy Young. That began a run of league leading K's that lasted until 1907. Over that span Waddell whiffed 1576 the aggregate K's of the runners up was 1180. In 1904 he struck out 349 and finishing second was the Yankees' Jack Chesboro who finished 110 punch outs in arrears of Philadelphia's phinest phlake. In his first year of American League play Waddell became the first pitcher to strike out the side on nine pitches.

Waddell continued to make history as he was victimized by Cy Young who threw the Junior Circuit's first ever perfect game. Waddell would gain a measure of revenge beating the 511 game winner in a 20-inning duel which he concluded by doing handsprings off the field, then taking the ball (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) to local bars parlaying it into his favorite non-sporting activity--getting totally ripped. His 1903 season was best summed up by Cooperstown historian Lee Allen: “He began that year sleeping in a firehouse in Camden, New Jersey, and ended it tending bar in a saloon in Wheeling, West Virginia. In between those events he won 22 games for the Philadelphia Athletics, played left end for the Business Men's Rugby Football Club of Grand Rapids, Michigan, toured the nation in a melodrama called 'The Stain of Guilt,' courted, married and became separated from May Wynne Skinner of Lynn, Massachusetts, saved a woman from drowning, accidentally shot a friend through the hand, and was bitten by a lion.” That year, 'The Rube' also inspired one of the first extended Major League contract negotiations on record. Not his own, however, but those of his battery and roommate Ossie Schreckengost. In those days, ballplayers generally bunked two to a room (sharing the same bed) while on the road. Schreckengost, fed up with the nocturnal habits of his team-mate, refused to renew his contract until the Athletics inserted a 'no eating crackers in bed' clause in both their contracts. Despite Rube's objections, Connie Mack gave in, and Rube's batterymate's contract was renewed. Otherwise, the duo got along famously. The catcher was hovering over Waddell when the pitcher awoke in a hospital after a huge drunk with the boys the night before.

“How'd I get here?” Waddell asked. A reasonable enough question.

Schreckengost explained that Waddell insisted he could fly, and when his team-mates ridiculed the idea, the pitcher leaped out the second-story window, flapping his arms. A reasonable enough answer (considering we‘re talkin‘ about Rube Waddell here).

“Why didn't you stop me?” Waddell implored. A reasonable enough reaction.

“What? And lose the hundred bucks I bet on you?”

I guess even wrestling alligators gets dull after awhile.

Waddell was tainted by scandal in 1905. Waddell was the staff ace and appeared in a league-leading 46 games winning 27 against 10 losses, despite missing the last month of the season. It seems that Waddell had ridiculed team-mate Andy Coakley's new straw hat (like his other urges, Waddell simply could not resist the urge to steal straw hats and punching holes in them), and the two pitchers scuffled during a train trip. Coakley fell on Waddell's left shoulder, injuring it. As a result, Waddell didn't pitch in the World Series. When someone reported that gamblers had gotten to Waddell to keep him out of the Series, Mack was outraged. “Ridiculous!” he growled. “Money means nothing to him.” (I imagine Don Fehr and Scott Boras must have nightmares about guys like Rube) However writer Joe Vila claimed, “Wiser men had him holed up in a lush Manhattan apartment with a group of Broadway showgirls, his expenses paid by a New York betting crowd.” Regardless Mack insisted throughout his life that Waddell was actually injured. Mack was fond of his off-beat ace, recognizing him for what he was, a six year old in a man's body who, despite his foibles, hated to lose, as evidenced by his reaction to winning his 20 frame duel against one of baseball's greatest hurlers. This was a man who used to kill the off season wrestling alligators so it was unlikely that he would've foregone pitching if he could actually throw.

At any rate, Rube was never dull. A case in point was reported in the 1905 issue of the Philadelphia Daily News documents an incident in which Waddell, was in his typical state of mind (utterly wasted) on a houseboat cocktail party, responded to a panicked cry for help. Waddell then dove into the frigid waters and succeeded in rescuing a passing log.

Still, what gave Vila's story credibility was his fondness for the fairer gender which would make Steve Garvey look like a monk. He preceded Al Martin (and ABBA) by singing: “I do I do I do I do I do” more often than the law allowed. Waddell when discovering that he nibbled one nuptial too many opined that he forgot he was already married, in Rube's case -- a distinct possibility.

Staggering into the Sunset

However, despite his fondness for ace lefty, Mack's patience ran out. Waddell has a solid 1907, leading the loop in whiffs (232), finishing 19-13 with a 2.15 ERA but was sold to the St. Louis Browns. Waddell's competitive fires burned and he posted solid numbers again winning 19, again striking out 232 and posted a sparkling earned run mark of 1.89. In his first start against the Mackmen he set a then American League record of 16 punch outs. The Browns, schooled in the wisdom according to Mack also hired Waddell for the offseason as a hunter keeping his employers well stocked in fresh game.

However Rube was still, well Rube. In 1909 the New York Highlanders' (Yankees) rookie third baseman Jimmy Austin and his team-mates were riding in their carriage to a game when they saw rival pitcher Waddell stagger out of a saloon, with a mug of beer in his hand. He toasted them and waved as they passed. Somehow he made it to the game on time, and he pitched well enough for the first three innings. However with two on in the fourth, Austin went yard. Piqued, Waddell glared at Austin all the way around the bases, but the 360-degree turn made him dizzy and he passed out. After Waddell won 11 and lost 14 in 1909, St. Louis released him early in 1910. He had 32 wins in two seasons in the minors including a sparkling 20-6 record with one of the top minor league clubs of that time -- the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association -- however during the winter of 1912 a dike broke not far from where he was living, and Waddell went to offer help. He stood in deep, icy water for hours, piling sandbags upon sandbags to block the rushing stream. He caught a miserable cold and never recovered. He pitched poorly for a Northern League team in 1913 and was later sent to a San Antonio tuberculosis sanatorium, and Waddell died in 1914.

One has to wonder if the Lefty Gomez's, Tug McGraws and David Wells of this world have a little of Waddell's DNA rattling around inside them somewhere. In a sense, Waddell was exactly what we want baseball players to be, big kids enjoying a game for what it was. Rube was the ultimate man-child, obsessed with play but also innocent of spirit. He died the way he lived, heart first.

Best Regards