Happy Birthday, National League

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National League logo.jpgA tweet from ESPN’s Jorge Arangure reminds us that today is the National League’s 134th birthday.  The league was founded in New York by William Hulbert, the owner of the Chicago White Stockings, and the owners of the Philadelphia Athletics, the Boston Red Stockings, the Hartford Dark Blues, the Mutual of New York, the St. Louis Brown Stockings, the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Louisville Grays.

Obviously much has changed.  The White Stockings would soon be known as the Cubs. The Red Stockings would eventually be known as the Braves.  Hartford remained until 1961, when it moved to Houston to become the Colt .45s, and was replaced by another team in Hartford that moved to Texas after the 1971 season, dropped the “Dark” from their nickname and simply became “The Blues.” By 1900 The Mutual had morphed from a baseball team into a regional bank, with branches in the Bronx, Brooklyn and northern Manhattan which themselves were reverted back into baseball team to fulfill contractual obligations.  As you can see, it was really a time of flux in Major League Baseball.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that the National League did not have the DH. This conclusively proves that — apart from the racial segregation, gambling, rampant alcoholism, short distance from mound to home and the fact that batters could call for a high pitch or a low pitch to his liking — Mr. Hulbert and his colleagues were on the side of the angels.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.