Jim Bibby: 1944-2010

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Jim Bibby.jpgFormer Pirates (and Rangers and Indians and Cardinals) pitcher Jim Bibby passed away last night of an undisclosed illness.  Bibby pitched in the Majors for 12 seasons, winning 111 games, striking out 1079 guys and winning a World Series ring with the 1979 Pirates. He threw a no-hitter in 1973. He came in third in the Cy Young vote in 1980. He was a usually decent and occasionally great pitcher and a guy whose baseball cards always made me smile for some reason.

He was also the subject of a classic passage from Mike Shropshire’s wonderfully misanthropic book about the mid-70s Rangers, Seasons in Hell:

Jim Bibby, who for reasons known only to himself went by the “stage name” of Fontay O’Rooney, was by no means a complete major league pitcher. But he threw a vicious fastball — “serious heat . . . severe gas” — that would scare the bejesus out of most American League batters. Parenthetically, Bibby could also lay claim to owning the biggest apparatus of manhood in baseball — an appendage of near-equine proportions — and it was to Bob Short’s eternal frustration that he could never harness that particular novelty into a gate attraction at Arlington Stadium.

65 is too young to go, and Jim Bibby will certainly be missed. But if you have to go — and we all do sometime — there are worse things to be remembered for than possessing a World Series ring, an otherworldly fastball and “the biggest apparatus of manhood in baseball.”

Godspeed, Mr. Bibby

(thanks to Jay Jaffe for the link to the book passage)

James McCann is in The Best Shape of His Life

Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann blows a bubble while warming up during a spring training baseball workout, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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As I note every spring, “Best Shape of His Life” stories aren’t really about players being in The Best Shape of Their Lives. They’re about players and agents seeking to create positive stories.

We know this because the vast majority of Best Shape of His Life claims are about guys who were either injured the season before, guys who had subpar years the season before or players whose conditioning was a point of controversy the season before. These folks, or their agents + reporters who have little if nothing to write about in the offseason = BSOHL.

James McCann hurt his ankle last season and had a subpar year at the plate. So not only is he a perfect BSOHL candidate, he went old school with the claim and hit it right on the money, verbatim:

Spring training is less than a month away, folks!

Bo Jackson is not gonna change kids’ minds

1989:  Bo Jackson #16 of the Kansas City Royals practices his swing as he prepares to bat during a game in the 1989 season.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Last week Bo Jackson said that, if he had it to do all over again, he would have never played professional football and that he would never let his kids play. The sport is too violent, he said. “I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.’”

Fair enough. Thom Loverro of the Washington Times, however, thinks that Bo could do more than simply give his opinion on the matter. He thinks Bo should become an official ambassador for Major League Baseball:

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, pick up the phone right now and call Bo Jackson. Tell him you have a job for him — vice president of something, whatever you would call the man in charge of converting a generation of young athletes to baseball. And pay him what he wants.

You won’t find a better symbol of the differences between the two sports than Bo Jackson. After all, he was an All-Star in both. Bo knows football. Bo knows baseball.

Bo, tell the children — baseball over football.

The Children: “Who is Bo Jackson?”

Yeah, I’m being a bit flip here, but dude: Jackson is 54 years-old. He last played baseball 23 years ago. I’d personally run through a wall for Bo Jackson, but I’m 43. I was 12 when he won the Heisman trophy. While he may loom large to middle aged sports writers, a teenager contemplating what sport to play is not going to listen to someone a decade or more older than his parents.

This isn’t terribly important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s indicative of how most columnists process the world through their own experiences and assume they apply universally. It’s probably the biggest trap most sports opinion folks fall into.