Joe Posnanski has the best Bob Feller obituary. Even as people write a bunch more over the coming days, Posnanski’s will be the best because that’s just how it goes when (a) you’re the best sports writer in the business; and (b) you grew up in Cleveland, steeped in Bob Feller as Joe did and was. If you only read one thing about Feller today, read Joe’s take.
I don’t think I have anything to add about the big points of Feller’s life and career that aren’t going to be covered better elsewhere. He was a war hero. And he saw real combat and faced real peril, unlike many ballplayers did. He is undoubtedly in the conversation of the best pitchers of all time. You can’t help but look at his career and wonder how much gaudier the already gaudy numbers would have looked if not for the war. He lost his age 23-25 seasons to combat after entering his peak and pitching lights out the previous three years. It’s not hard to imagine that he would have had three more 24+ win seasons and maybe a couple of 300 strikeout performances to add to an already elite career. Between Lefty Grove and Tom Seaver, it’s hard to point to any pitcher who was better.
The part of the Posnanski obituary that I can relate to the most is the stuff about post-career Feller and — let’s not dull the point because the guy died yesterday — the unequivocal cockiness of the guy. Except in Feller’s case it was a justified cockiness because unlike whatever flavor-of-the-month NFL wide receiver who comes down the pike, Feller’s claim to greatness was more than legitimate. And for that reason — not just because we’re now mourning him — I don’t have much of a problem with it. Muhammad Ali can get away with calling himself the greatest of all time. Feller could too. Partially because they may have been, but partially because even if it’s debatable, they never doubted it for a minute themselves. Boasting is usually a function of insecurity. Feller wasn’t insecure. He wasn’t boasting to convince himself of anything. There’s something beautiful about that. Not many can pull it off.
Joe mentions that Feller worked hard at self-promotion. That jibes with what I’ve observed living in Ohio for most of the past 20 years. If you were in Ohio and wanted to meet Bob Feller, it wasn’t a big trick. He was always available to fans, be it at Indians games, card shows, grand openings of car dealerships or any number of other events. Such self-promotion could be criticized. In Feller’s case I think it was pretty great. Because thanks to how sure he was of himself you never got the sense that he questioned whether he was overexposed or felt like he was dragging himself out there because someone besides himself expected it of him. And because, again, he was an all-time great. Would that several generations of fans had Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams available to them in such a way. Would that they enjoyed meeting the public the way Feller so obviously did.
I don’t necessarily believe in an afterlife. But if there is one, Feller is busy explaining to whichever omniscient being in whom you choose to believe that he was the greatest of all time. And he’s making a damn good case.
Rest in Peace Rapid Robert Feller.
Matt Harvey‘s season was mostly a loss due to extended time on the disabled list. He’s been given a chance, however, to end the season strong and make a case for himself in the Mets’ future plans. Unfortunately, he has been unable to make that case. He was shelled again last night, and his late season opportunity has been a disaster.
Last night Harvey gave up seven runs on 12 hits and struck out only two batters in four innings against a Marlins team that, until facing him anyway, had been reeling. It was his fourth start since going on the shelf in mid-June and in those four starts he’s allowed 21 runs, all earned, on 32 hits in 14.2 innings, for an ERA of 13.19. In that time he’s struck out only eight batters while walking seven. His average fastball velocity, while ticking up slightly in each of his past four starts, is still below 95. Back when he was an ace he was consistently above that. His command has been terrible.
Injury is clearly the culprit. He had Tommy John surgery just as he was reaching his maximum level of dominance in 2013. While he came back strong in 2015, he was used pretty heavily for a guy with a brand new ligament. Last year he was felled by thoracic outlet syndrome and this year a stress injury to his shoulder. Any one of those ailments have ended pitchers’ careers and even among those who bounce back from them, many are diminished. To go through all three and remain dominant is practically unheard of.
Yet this is where Matt Harvey is. He’s 28. He’s still arbitration eligible, for a team that is, to put it politely, sensitive to large financial outlays. While his 4-5 start opportunity to end the year may very well have been seen as a chance to shop Harvey to another team, his trade value is at an all-time low. It would not be shocking if, on the basis of his recent ineffectiveness, the Mets considered non-tendering him this offseason, making him a free agent.
Someone would probably take a chance on him because famous names who once showed tremendous promise are often given multiple chances in the big leagues (See, Willis, Dontrelle). But at the moment, there is nothing in Harvey’s game to suggest that he is capable of taking advantage of such a chance. All one can hope is that an offseason of rest and conditioning will allow Harvey to reclaim at least a portion of his old form.
Mets starter Noah Syndergaard has been on the disabled list for most of the season so it’s not like “sticking to baseball” is an option for him. The man has a lot of time on his hands. And, given that he’s from Texas, he is obviously paying attention to the flooding and destruction brought by Hurricane Harvey and its fellow storms in recent weeks.
Last night the self-described “Texan Republican” voiced concern over something a lot of Republicans don’t tend to talk about much openly: climate change and the Paris Agreement:
The existence of Karma and its alleged effects are above my pay grade, but the other part he’s talking about is the Trump Administration’s decision, announced at the beginning of June, to pull out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement on climate change mitigation. Withdrawal from it was something Trump campaigned on in 2016 on the basis that “The Paris accord will undermine the economy,” and “put us at a permanent disadvantage.” The effective date for withdrawal is 2020, which Syndergaard presumably knows, thus the reference to Karma.
Trump and Syndergaard are certainly entitled to their views on all of that. It’s worth noting that climate experts and notable think tanks like the Brookings Institution strongly disagree with Trump’s position with respect to tradeoffs and impacts, both economic and environmental. At the same time it’s difficult to find much strong sentiment in favor of pulling out of the Paris Agreement outside of conservative political outlets, who tend to find themselves in the distinct minority when it comes to climate change policy.
I’m not sure what a poll of baseball players would reveal about their collective views on the matter, but we now have at least one datapoint.