Homecoming memories: boos, batteries, and bombs

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Obviously a brutal couple of days for Kerry Wood in his return to
Wrigley. Hopefully Eric Wedge gives him today off. Thing is, Kerry Wood
isn’t alone in experiencing a rough homecoming. While you enjoy your
Father’s Day, here’s a look back at some of the good, bad, vengeful,
and memorable games for some other high-profile players in their return
to familiar settings.

STEVE CARLTON – AUGUST 5, 1972 IN ST. LOUIS: I’d imagine this
was kind of like an “F You” performance, but probably more so because
the Cardinals stuck him on a gawd-awful team (Carlton won 27 of the 59
Phillies wins that year). Carlton threw a 5-hit shutout with 7 Ks,
which was part of this crazy 7-start stretch from July 19 through
August 13: 7-0, 7 CG (one of them 11 innings), 4 shutouts, 53 Ks, 0.42
ERA, and a 0.677 WHIP. Wow.

TOM SEAVER – AUGUST 21, 1977 IN NEW YORK: Seaver was devastated
that he was traded to Cincy. Mets fans were devastated that he was
traded to Cincy. And when he returned to Shea in late August, he
embarrassed a crummy Mets team, giving up one run and fanning 11 in a
complete game.

KEITH HERNANDEZ – JUNE 28, 1983 IN ST. LOUIS: Hernandez was
actually pissed that he got traded to the Mets because he hated New
York. He took it out on the Cardinals in the first game of a
doubleheader, going 3-for-5 with a triple and an RBI in a Mets win.

ANDRE DAWSON – APRIL 24, 1987 IN MONTREAL: The Hawk wanted out
of Montreal because the turf was taking it’s toll on his knees, and he
actually took a pay cut to play in Chicago, signing an incentive-laden
deal. Dawson surpassed those incentives as he won the MVP, and his
return to Montreal was quite memorable: 3-for-4 with 3 doubles and 2
RBI. Later in the series, he added 2 homers.

BOBBY BONILLA – JUNE 4, 1992 IN PITTSBURGH: Bobby Bo had quite a
debut with the Mets, hitting two homers (including the game-winner) in
an extra-inning win in St. Louis. But two months later, as he made his
first trip back to Pittsburgh, Bonilla was hitting .258 with only 6
bombs and Mets fans had started to hate him. Not as much as the people
at Three Rivers that night, who hurled, among other things, batteries
at the New York right fielder. He didn’t really do anything to shut
them up, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout in a 7-2 loss. He homered a
couple days later, but in hindsight, everyone probably wishes he had
just stayed in Pittsburgh.

GREG MADDUX – APRIL 5, 1993 IN CHICAGO: Cubs fans no doubt felt
betrayed that the reigning Cy Young winner fled to Atlanta, and Maddux
let them know exactly what they’d be missing on Opening Day, going 8
1/3 of shutout ball, allowing only 5 hits and striking out 4.

BARRY BONDS – APRIL 9, 1993 IN PITTSBURGH: A year after Bonilla
bolted, Bonds signed with the Giants for a then-record 6-year, $43.75
million deal, which killed baseball for good in Pittsburgh and was also
the inspiration for Wesley Snipes’ character in The Fan. The
still-skinny Bonds was obviously booed, although as we saw in later
years, he seemed to feed off the negative energy, ripping a double and
a triple in a loss. The Giants would win the next two games in the
series despite Bonds going hitless.

WADE BOGGS – MAY 21, 1993 IN BOSTON: Boggs went 4-for-4 with a
walk in his return to Fenway, and I’m not gonna bother to look up where
the hits went because I’d like to think they were all opposite line
drive singles over the shortstop’s head.

ROGER CLEMENS – JULY 12, 1997 IN BOSTON: Red Sox GM Dan Duquette
famously said that Clemens was in the twilight of his career after
Clemens signed with Toronto after the ’96 season (come on, how was he
gonna know Clemens would start taking horse steroids and forge a
friendship with Brian McNamee), and that just added to Clemens’ rage.
In one of the greatest “F You” performances ever, Clemens went 8
innings, giving up 4 hits, 1 run, and struck out 16 batters. To cap
things, he stared straight at the Duquette and the rest of brass up in
their suite as he walked off the mound at the end of his day.

MIKE PIAZZA – AUGUST 28, 1998 IN LOS ANGELES: A contract dispute
helped force a trade from the Dodgers to the Marlins, and when Piazza
returned to L.A. a couple months later as a Met, he seemed eager to
stick it to management. Big Mike homered to get the Mets on the board
and then scored the winning run in extra innings. He would hit 7 homers
in Dodger Stadium as a member of the Mets.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ – APRIL 16, 2001 IN SEATTLE: You’re not gonna
believe this, but the Seattle fans didn’t greet A-Rod with open arms in
his first game back as a Ranger. But instead of batteries, they
showered him with fake money, and you know A-Rod heard every single one
of the 45,657 who booed him that night. He singled in the middle of a
Texas rally to get them back in the game, but finished 1-for-5 in a 9-7
loss.

MANNY RAMIREZ – JULY 3, 2001 IN CLEVELAND: Can’t really blame
Manny for leaving the great city of Cleveland for the 8 years and $160
million that Boston threw at him. Don’t tell that to Indians fans
through, who predictably booed him during BP, introductions, the video
montage on the big screen, and when he singled in his first at-bat.
Still unclear if Manny actually knew what was going on or where he was,
but he got 2 hits that night and went 5-for-13 for the series, so his
game wasn’t affected much.

JASON GIAMBI – APRIL 23, 2002 IN OAKLAND: Oakland fans lustily booed Giambi when he showed up as a Yankee, but it’s tough to blame them since this was before the Moneyball
secret was out and they knew there was a plan in place to keep the team
competitive despite losing all the big free agents. Giambi got 2 hits
including a double as the Yankees won, and no question that he
celebrated afterwards by demolishing a porterhouse, probably at
Kincaid’s.

FRANK THOMAS – MAY 22, 2006 IN CHICAGO: White Sox GM Ken
Williams had some not-so-nice things to say about The Big Hurt at the
end of his stay in Chicago, so Thomas probably didn’t feel too bad
about his return with the A’s, ripping 2 solo homers in a loss.

PEDRO MARTINEZ – JUNE 26, 2006 IN BOSTON: Pedro didn’t leave
Boston on the best of terms with management, but the fans still loved
him, and even though his return to Fenway was two years later, he got a
crazy ovation. Didn’t really work out for him though, as he left
trailing 8-0 after 3 innings. Lastings Milledge didn’t help him out,
missing a pop-up in left which led to 2 runs, but he also gave up 8
hits and a homer to Alex Gonzalez, and people thought that the emotions
were too much for him. Turns out he was injured, and didn’t make a
start for another month.

OTHER NOTABLES

DARRYL STRAWBERRY – MAY 7, 1991 IN NEW YORK: 1-for-4, HR, 2 RBI

ROD CAREW – APRIL 17, 1979 IN MINNESOTA: 1-for-4, K … SERIES TOTAL: 6-for-12, 4 R, 2 RBI, 3 2B, 2 BB

JOSE CANSECO – SEPTEMBER 30, 1992 IN OAKLAND: 1-for-3, 2 RBI, 2 BB

JOE MORGAN – APRIL 29, 1980 IN CINCINNATI: 1-for-4, R, SB … SERIES TOTAL: 5-FOR-12, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R

PAUL MOLITOR – JUNE 25, 1993 IN MILWAUKEE: 1-for-4, RBI

SCOTT ROLEN – AUGUST 16, 2002 IN PHILADELPHIA: 2-for-4

JACK MORRIS – MAY 19, 1991 IN DETROIT: 4.0 IP, 7 H, 8 R (4 ER), 3 K, 6 BB, 3 HRA, LOSS (8-3)

TOM GLAVINE – MAY 24, 2003 IN ATLANTA: 3.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 2 HR, LOSS (10-4)

Dusty Baker calls the Nationals “a baby making team.” Whatever that means.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 31: Manager Dusty Baker #12 of the Washington Nationals looks on before the start of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on August 31, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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When the Nationals fired Matt Williams a year ago, it might’ve been a safe assumption that they were going to go with that new breed of young, handsome recently-retired player-turned-manager who, despite a lack of experience, allegedly knows how to deal with modern players better and knows how to handle a clubhouse. Those assumptions have proved largely off with these guys — Williams was a disaster, Matheny wins despite himself and Ausmus looks like he’s perpetually on the verge of a breakdown — but that’s the all the rage these days anyway.

Instead, the Nats hired Dusty Baker. Though Baker had tremendous success as a manager everywhere he went, he was maligned by some for some pitcher handling stuff in Chicago (which said pitchers have long denied was an issue, but let’s let that lie). He was also, more generally, thought of as a “retread.” Which is what people who prefer younger folks for jobs tend to call older people, even if the older people know what they’re doing.

And yes, I will cop to thinking about managers that way a lot over the years, so I’m not absolving myself at all here, even if I was pretty OK with the Dusty Baker hiring. I’ve evolved on this point. In no small part because of how Dusty Baker has done in Washington. Flash forward a year, the Nats are division champions and Baker may be a top candidate for Manager of the Year. That, in and of itself, should show you how wrong the haters were.

But if it doesn’t, this sure should:

I have no earthly idea what that means and Castillo gives no further context. All I know is that it sounds cool as hell and of any current manager, only Dusty Baker could say that and pull it off.

Because he’s Dusty Baker and has nothing to prove to you. And if you don’t like it, shoot, he’ll just go back home to his winery or whatever and live out the rest of his days being cooler than you.

Who should win the manager of the year awards? Who Will?

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 15:  Manager Dave Roberts #30 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on from the dougout during the seventh inning of a MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on July 15, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
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With the regular season ending on Sunday and most of the playoff spots locked up, there’s really only one big thing left to argue about: postseason awards. So let’s spend some time looking at who should win each of the four major awards and who will win them. Which are often totally different things. Next up: The Manager of the Year Awards

The Manager of the Year Award is pretty dumb. Numbers aren’t everything in any award, but there are literally zero numbers that gauge a manager’s effectiveness or performance apart from wins and losses and wins and losses are mostly a function of talent on the roster, for which the manager is not responsible. This is not to say managers aren’t important. Of course they are! They make important decisions every day and keep the clubhouse running smoothly and that’s important. It just so happens to be unquantifiable and subject to anecdote and projection.

For instance, Matt Williams won the Manager of the Year Award with he Nationals in 2014. He was run out of town on a rail in 2015. Did he suddenly forget how to manage? Or did he never really know but was blessed with good fortune and better players the year before?

Joe Maddon won the award last year, in large part because the Cubs outperformed expectations. This year the Cubs are the best team around. But everyone expected them to be because of all that talent! Does that mean that Maddon’s 2015 award was fraudulent? The product of poor expectations assessment on behalf of the media? At the same time, there’s a pretty strong vibe that he won’t win it this year, so are we to say that winning between 101 and 104 games is . . . a worse job than last year? Don’t even get me started on arguments that Bruce Bochy somehow became a lesser manager this year, because I suspect — and bear with me on this — something else is going on with the Giants.

Manager of the Year has always been about narratives and expectations of people on the outside looking in who nonetheless purport to know how the manager performed his job in the most inside baseball kinds of ways. It’s poppycock. It may as well be the Golden Globes.

So, rather than just break it down the way we did the other awards, let’s just thrown this out like the big mess that it is:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Bill and Ashley say that Terry Francona should be the American League Manager of the Year. Bill’s reasoning: “The Indians went essentially the whole year without Michael Brantley and their pitching staff imploded in September. Francona deserves a lot of credit for holding the team together.”

Hey, works for me too! Let’s give it to Tito. Even if we can tell a compelling story about John Farrell and the Red Sox and even if Jeff Banister, the reigning AL Manager of the Year, improved by anywhere from 6-9 games in the standings this year over last in a division most people thought the Astros would win.

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Bill says Dusty Baker, arguing that “The Nationals had all kinds of bullpen issues and Stephen Strasburg wasn’t able to pitch the final two months of the season. They could’ve easily folded but they didn’t, and I think that’s a reflection on Baker.”

Ashley says Dave Roberts. She didn’t give me her reasoning, but I bet she’d agree with me if I said “The Nationals Dodgers had all kinds of bullpen rotation issues and Stephen Strasburg Clayton Kershaw wasn’t able to pitch for two months of the season. They could’ve easily folded but they didn’t, and I think that’s a reflection on Baker Roberts.” You could throw in some stuff about how Yasiel Puig was managed by Roberts (i.e. better, though his come-to-Jesus demotion may have been the front office’s doing). I think I’ll go with Roberts, simply because I feel like it’d be bad precedent to give it to a Nationals manager every even numbered year simply because that dang franchise is inconsistent.

What about the Cubs? Here’s Bill again:

I considered Joe Maddon of the Cubs, but the team was so good I think the Cubs could’ve had a kitten manage the team to a playoff berth.

I say we give it to a kitten. Kittens are the best.