Pitchers & Catchers Report to Ft. Myers

Friday, January 30, 2015

We've Got a New Trivia Home


I'm very pleased to announce that my Trivia Night has a brand new home: at Foley's NY Pub and Restaurant, which is at 18 West 33rd Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, right across the street from the Empire State Building.

I will be doing Trivia every Sunday night, and at an earlier time than I have usually done it: 7 PM. We will get started on February 15th, two weeks from this Sunday night. It will be the same Trivia you have come to know and love over the years: 5 categories, 2 special categories, and the staples of Current Events, General Knowledge and IQ Trivia. First place will be a $50 gift certificate to the bar, and the other prizes will be determined before we get going.

I'm really thrilled to be hosting Trivia in one of the best known sports bars in New York City. For those of you unfamiliar with Foley's, check out their web site here.

I thank all of you for your support and loyalty over the years, and I hope you can make it out on Sunday nights for Trivia. See you in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

You Can Never Have Enough Lefties

The Red Sox pulled off a small trade yesterday, and surprisingly sent minor league pitcher Anthony Ranaudo to Texas for lefty reliever/starter Robbie Ross.

Ranaudo was a number one draft pick by the Sox in 2010, and was the Pitcher of the Year in AA in 2013 at Portland, and the International League Pitcher of the Year in 2014. He was up for seven starts last season and got roughed up, going 4-3 with a 4.81 ERA, walking more than he struck out in 39 1/3 innings, and allowed 10 home runs.

The Red Sox have lots of depth in terms of starting pitching at the high minor league level, so they saw Ranaudo as expendable. And you can never have enough relievers, especially those who throw left handed.

Ross, who is 25 and from Kentucky, was terrific in his first two full seasons in Texas in 2012 and 2013. But they tried to make him a starter last year, and he got hit hard, going 1-6 with a 5.70 ERA. And he was returned to the pen and couldn't get his groove back, putting up a 7.85 ERA. Ross figures to be a late-inning arm out of the pen. Here's more on Robbie Ross.

Ross joins Craig Breslow, Drake Britton and Tommy Layne as left starters in the Red Sox bullpen.

The Sox may or may not be finished as far as adding arms to the pitching staff, as the pitchers and catchers report in 3 1/2 weeks. Interesting to see that James Shields is still out there unsigned. I'm still betting that Boston will not be his landing site.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"You Can't Make This Stuff Up"


I just finished reading the new autobiography by legendary sportscaster Al Michaels about his career behind the mic called "You Can't Make This Stuff Up: Miracles, Memories and the Perfect Marriage of Sports and Television."

It's an enjoyable read from one of the best-known voices on television. Michaels doesn't take himself too seriously as he guides his readers through his formative years growing up in Brooklyn, going to Ebbets Field, a short move to Long Island, and then going to Southern California, where his broadcasting career began.

He began his professional career in baseball, doing the AAA Hawaii Islanders games before moving over to the Cincinnati Reds radio booth in 1971. He moved over to the San Francisco Giants in 1974 before going to ABC in 1977 to do college football, where his national career began to take shape.

Michaels has been part of two of the most famous sporting events of the later 20th century, the 1980 gold medal win by the US hockey team, and the lead announcer of the 1989 World Series when it was struck by an earthquake and eventually delayed the series by 10 days. He gives insights into both events that take the reader back to one glorious, and one tragic, time in American history.

He has a passion for hockey, even before he made his legendary call back at Lake Placid in 1980. And golf is his current all-consuming passion, and does plenty of name-dropping on who he's hit the links with: everyone from Michael Jordan to former president George W. Bush.

Michaels even talks about some of his forays outside the sports world, when he talks of his appearance on "The Dating Game" ( you can see that on YouTube), "Hawaii Five-O" (the original series with Jack Lord, who doesn't come off too well in Michaels' retelling), and a cameo role in the 1998 comedy film "BASEketball" (which Michaels did against his better judgment). The book also includes some funny tidbits like his swiping a phone from a hotel in 2000 that Al Gore might have used on Election Night that year, and his great fandom for Howard Stern and his raunchy radio show.

But I found the most interesting parts of the book were how Michaels retells his relationships with the most controversial people in his sporting life, and dedicated a chapter to each. He has little love for Howard Cosell, who he was partnered with on Monday Night Baseball back in the early 1980s, as Cosell had turned bitter against ABC and the sports he was covering and really didn't hide that fact. Michaels worked with O.J. Simpson during the 1984 Summer Olympics and had nothing but nice things to say about him in terms of his working relationship. But, of course, the majority of the chapter about Simpson is on the murder of his wife and friend, and Michaels' working with ABC News on the day of the slow-speed chase in L.A.

Michaels talks in detail about his long tenure on "Monday Night Football" with his various partners, from John Madden to Boomer Esiason. And about the difficult conversion he had to make in moving over to Sunday Night Football on NBC.

"You Can't Make This Up" is generally a fun read that I would definitely recommend if you've followed Al Michaels' career, like I have. Lots of fascinating stories and name dropping throughout the book. He's lived an interesting life covering the world of sports, and as the legendary broadcaster Curt Gowdy once told him, "Never get jaded." It sure sounds like Al Michaels has heeded that advice.

Friday, January 09, 2015

First Trivia Update

Hello Trivia players: I thought I would give you all an update on the progress of my next Trivia Night. I recently spoke to a bar owner I know in Midtown Manhattan, and he is seriously considering taking me on as a host. It is a well-known establishment (I will reveal the place when and if it becomes a reality), and the best night for them to have Trivia is on Sunday night at 8 PM. I have no problem with that, and I hope that can fit into your schedules. If it happens there, the first night will probably be the Sunday following the Super Bowl (that would be February 8th).

I should hear back from him soon, and when I do I will let you know any further updates. I am also looking for a second place to do it during the week, preferably on a Tuesday or Wednesday night. Please do drop me a line if you know of an establishment seeking a new Trivia host. Hope everyone had a wonderful New Year, and I look forward to hosting a new Trivia Night soon. Be well, everyone!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Pedro. Unit. Biggio. Smoltz.

For the first time since 1955, four players were elected to the Hall of Fame today, as Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio and John Smoltz will all be enshrined in Cooperstown this coming July.

Johnson was the top vote-getter with 97.3% of the 549 votes cast. It is the 7th highest percentage ever.

Pedro was second at 91.1%. 49 writers did not for him. There were some writers who left Pedro and Johnson off their ballots simply because they felt they were both a synch to make it, and wanted to include more than 10 maximum they could vote for. (This is the reason the ballot must be expanded to 12 or 15 maximum.)

Smoltz and Biggio both received over 82% of the vote. Mike Piazza just missed this time, getting 69.9%. With just Ken Griffey Jr. the only sure bet to be elected to the Hall, Piazza's chances next year are very good for election. Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Curt Schilling all did better than last year, and they trending upwards to an eventual Hall of Fame election.

Both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens did slightly better than in 2014, but are still in the upper 30% range, still nowhere close. Mark McGwire got just 10% of the vote in his next-to-last time on the ballot. Nomar Garciaparra got just 5.5% in his ballot, and he figures to be like Don Mattingly, a great player who was a "shooting star" who will never get in.

Congratulations to one of the greatest Red Sox players of all-time, and to the other three very worthy newest Hall of Famers.

Here are the official results, courtesy of baseballhall.org:

Ballots Cast: 549Needed for Election: 412
VotesPlayerPercentage
534Randy Johnson97.3%
500Pedro Martinez91.1%
455John Smoltz82.9%
454Craig Biggio82.7%
384Mike Piazza69.9%
306Jeff Bagwell55.7%
302Tim Raines55.0%
215Curt Schilling39.2%
206Roger Clemens37.5%
202Barry Bonds36.8%
166Lee Smith30.2%
148Edgar Martinez27.0%
138Alan Trammell25.1%
135Mike Mussina24.6%
77Jeff Kent14.0%
71Fred McGriff12.9%
65Larry Walker11.8%
64Gary Sheffield11.7%
55Mark McGwire10.0%
50Don Mattingly9.1%
36Sammy Sosa6.6%
30Nomar Garciaparra5.5%
21Carlos Delgado3.8%
4Troy Percival0.7%
2Aaron Boone0.4%
2Tom Gordon0.4%
1Darin Erstad0.2%
0Rich Aurilia0.0%
0Tony Clark0.0%
0Jermaine Dye0.0%
0Cliff Floyd0.0%
0Brian Giles0.0%
0Eddie Guardado0.0%
0Jason Schmidt0.0%
*All candidates in italics received less than 5% of the vote on ballots cast and will be removed from future BBWAA consideration