Carlton Fisk goes off on McGwire

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Fisk White Sox.jpgI think the best thing about the steroid revelations is that every time some new user is outed, some old timer goes absolutely nuts.  Yesterday it was Carlton Fisk’s turn.  There’s so much gold there that, rather than quote it line by line, it’s better that you just read it all.  First, though, I will quote something that was in the story when it was first posted yesterday, but was mysteriously missing when I woke up this morning:

“But this is the point I want to make: When you talk about steroids and
you talk about what it means to the game, the three greatest home run
hitters of all time–Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays, right? When
they were 39 years old, how many home runs do you think they averaged?
The three greatest home run hitters of all time averaged 18 home runs
at age 39. Now, how many home runs did Barry Bonds hit when he was 39?
He hit 73!”

I read it in the Tribune last night, and Joe Posnanski* blockquotes it from this story in his latest post, so I didn’t make it up, but for some reason it has been scrubbed from the article today.  My guess is that it was cut as a favor to Fisk because, as Posnanski points out, it’s seven kinds of wrong. Babe Ruth hit 22 home runs at age 39, Willie Mays hit 28 and Hank Aaron hit 40.  Barry Bonds’  73 homers came when he was 36.  We see what you’re trying to say, Carlton, but you’re distorting things pretty severely here.

But flyspecking Fisk’s mysteriously disappearing quote is not what’s important. What’s important is to appreciate how insane it is that Carlton Fisk is the one taking people to task for late-career surges and calling their accomplishments “crocks,” as he repeatedly does in both the original and edited version of the story.

Carlton Fisk hit 37 home runs when he was 37 years old.  Then, after what can only be described as a horrible year when he was 38, Fisk found the fountain of youth and proceeded to put up five outstanding seasons between the ages of 39 and 43. He displayed excellent power and no small amount of durability during those years, made all the more amazing by the fact that he was a catcher and by all logic should have broken down long before then. Indeed, given his position and his performance, Carlton Fisk had perhaps the most productive late-career of any player in baseball history.

Taking him at his word, he did it cleanly. By definition, that means that it’s entirely possible for amazing late-career numbers to occur naturally.  Why then, we are to assume that everything steroid users like Bonds, McGwire, Clemens and the rest accomplished late in their careers is 100% bogus is beyond me.

Inflated? Sure, I’ll grant you that. But as both Fisk’s example and Posnanski’s masterful analysis of all of the factors that have gone into the home run surge of the past 15-20 years makes plain, steroids is not the only reason — and probably isn’t even the most significant reason — for the kids of performances we’ve seen in the era.

These players took steroids. These players are also otherworldly talents. To brush them off as mere pharmaceutical inventions is simply wrong. To do so in as ignorant a fashion as Carlton Fisk did yesterday is wrong and stupid. 

*As was the case with Jered Weaver’s arbitration status yesterday, the Germans should probably come up with a word that perfectly captures the concept of “I went to bed at 11 last night knowing that I was going to write a piece about Carlton Fisk’s insane quotes, and then woke up at 5:30 AM only to find out that Joe Posnanski did a much better job of it.”  It happens a lot actually (though not always with Carlton Fisk quotes). Posnanski is like the 6’5″ kid in the junior high basketball league. The parents should really get together and ban him, because it’s totally not fair that we have to compete against that.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]

Russell Martin is not a fan of the automatic intentional walk

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Russell Martin #55 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts after being struck out in the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game two of the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field on October 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday, it was announced that Major League Baseball instituted a new rule allowing for a dugout signal in order to issue an intentional walk rather than having the pitcher throw four pitches wide of the strike zone. It’s commissioner Rob Manfred’s attempt to help improve the game’s pace of play.

As Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reports, Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin is certainly not a fan of the change.

My thing is, if they really want to speed up the game, then when a guy hits a home run, to speed up the game should a guy, just like in softball, when he hits it, should he just walk to the dugout? It’d be quicker. I’m just wondering, at what point do we just keep the game, the game? Or, how about this calculation: take all the intentional walks that were made in the last couple years and calculate – or maybe just ask to see if they have that information, to see if they really did their homework. Is it really that important to speed up the game (with this rule)? Because how many games did we play last year where we didn’t have one intentional walk? That’s something I’d like to know.

Martin also expressed concern that eliminating the four-pitch intentional walk will hurt teams’ ability to buy time for their relievers to warm up.

It’s called getting your bullpen ready so the guy doesn’t blow out his arm on the mound. Speed up the game, speed up the game.’ How about we just give guys – the human being – time to warm up on the mound after maybe something’s happened in the game? I’m not a manager, but I’m just trying to put myself in the position of a manager. OK, we’re up by one run or two runs and our bullpen’s been taxed and we’re trying to save their arms, and then the other team walks, ball gets away, guy gets to second base. When the coach visits the mound to talk to his player, it’s not like the player necessarily needs somebody to talk to him.

It’s because the guy (in the bullpen) needs time to warm up, man. It’s the same thing when you throw over to first base, like, eight times in a row. It’s not like we’re trying to keep the guy close. The guy maybe has two stolen bases in 18 years. It’s because the guy needs time to warm up. At what point does that become a problem with guys warming up in the bullpen? Sometimes it’s just strategy to give guys a little bit of time to warm up.

The Jays’ backstop then said he’d prefer if Manfred were honest about the intent behind this rule change and others which have been proposed. Martin said, “Save it. I’m tired of hearing that same lame excuse all the time. Just be honest. If they’re honest about it, we’ll get over it. But don’t hide behind the fans.”

We should be hearing from a handful of players about the new intentional walk rule in the coming days. I can’t imagine the rule is very popular among the players.