Happy Thanksgiving Weekend. I hope you and your family had a terrific day yesterday.
After a month of self-imposed baseball exile, I’ve returned to the keyboard while watching the Red Wings game and chowing on green-bean casserole leftovers.
Verlander’s Hardware Store. The Cy Young Award was no surprise, of course, but the Tigers’ ace winning the A.L. Most Valuable Player Award took me by surprise. I always assume there are enough writers in the BBWAA that loath the idea of a pitcher – and a starting pitcher at that – winning the MVP. Lo and behold, the stars aligned and Verlander won both.
Driving to work the other day I listened to Jeff Joyce and Jim Duquette on XM railing about Verlander winning the award (Duquette said that Verlander should’ve been in the top five, but not the winner.) Of course, they both raved about Verlander’s season but decided that it was not a “historically significant” season when compared to other pitchers who won both their league’s Cy Young Award and MVP. To their credit, they called out writer Jim Ingraham’s leaving Verlander off his ballot and his rationale being that J.V. didn’t appear in 79 percent of the Tigers’ games. Whatever. I didn’t expect him to win the MVP, but he did – and he deserved it, just as much as Miguel Cabrera would’ve had he gotten any support. And really, who cares about these awards a week later?
G-Moneyback. In a matter of two seasons, Gerald Laird and Alex Avila have traded places as the Tigers’ starting and backup catchers. While I would’ve preferred they’d gone after Kelly Shoppach, I can live with Laird in a backup role for one season. And with Laird on board, we no longer have to wonder if we’ll see Victor Martinez behind the plate for the remainder of his contract.
Andy Oliver got screwed by the NCAA. Last month a 15,000-word article titled “The Shame of College Sports” appeared in The Atlantic and thanks to a long flight, I was able to read it all. I didn’t expect to come across a Tigers connection but there it was, under the subhead “Restitution”:
In 2008, Andrew Oliver, a sophomore pitcher for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, had been listed as the 12th-best professional prospect among sophomore players nationally. He decided to dismiss the two attorneys who had represented him out of high school, Robert and Tim Baratta, and retain Boras instead. Infuriated, the Barattas sent a spiteful letter to the NCAA. Oliver didn’t learn about this until the night before he was scheduled to pitch in the regional final for a place in the College World Series, when an NCAA investigator showed up to question him in the presence of lawyers for Oklahoma State.
Just hours before the game was to start the next day, Oklahoma State officials summoned Oliver to tell him he would not be pitching. Only later did he learn that the university feared that by letting him play while the NCAA adjudicated his case, the university would open not only the baseball team but all other Oklahoma State teams to broad punishment under the NCAA’s “restitution rule” (Bylaw 19.7), under which the NCAA threatens schools with sanctions if they obey any temporary court order benefiting a college athlete, should that order eventually be modified or removed. The baseball coach did not even let his ace tell his teammates the sad news in person. “He said, ‘It’s probably not a good idea for you to be at the game,’” Oliver recalls.
If you get a chance, I recommend reading the entire article. Particularly if you think college athletes should not get paid. This piece might just change your mind.
Martin Prado. If the price is Delmon Young, go get him.
The Last Boy. I’m reading Jane Leavy’s biography of Mickey Mantle and about every three pages I’m tempted to put the book aside for good. Not that it’s poorly crafted, quite the opposite. In that regard it’s exceptional. But Mantle’s was one messed up biscuit of a personal life – thanks in large part to his horrifically bad decision making and his friendship with Billy Martin. Leavy portrays a guy who kinda knows he needs to grow up but when he’s maybe tempted to do so Martin drops by to drag him out to the clubs where fights ensue and the usual stuff you’ve probably learned about Mantle years ago. If you ever thought Martin was a low-life, read this book and your suspicions will be confirmed – and then some.
Finally, this Thanksgiving weekend take a moment to learn about the appropriately named hall of famer Norman “Turkey” Stearnes.
A quiet Southerner who spent his summers blasting long balls for the Detroit Stars and his winters laboring in the Motor City’s auto plants to make ends meet, Turkey Stearnes was one of the most prolific home-run hitters in the Negro leagues.
P.S. Happy 64th Birthday to John Larroquette.