The Clemente family gives up the push to retire #21 across baseball … until Selig’s gone

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Roberto Clemente’s widow Vera Clemente and his sons Luis and Roberto Jr. were in Pittsburgh yesterday for a ceremony commemorating Clemente’s 3000th and final hit. Dejan Kovacevic spoke with the Clementes regarding a movement they’ve been trying to get rolling over the past several years: having Roberto Clemente’s number 21 retired throughout all of baseball.

Major League Baseball hasn’t been all too receptive, however, so the Clementes are gonna wait Bud out. Here’s Roberto Clemente, Jr.:

“It’s become pretty clear to us this commissioner doesn’t want anything to do with it, to be perfectly honest. That just means we’re going to have to wait until there’s a new commissioner. And we will.”

I dunno. Roberto Clemente Jr. is 47 years old. I figure Bud has another 50-60 years in him, so it may be the next generation’s fight.

Seriously, though, I’ve never been a fan of retiring Clemente’s number across baseball. He was a fantastic player and he died under heroic circumstances, but he was not a pioneer in the way Jackie Robinson was. Hiram Bithorn was the first major leaguer from Puerto Rico, and there were Latin American players from other countries before him as well.  In light of that, to give him the same honor Robinson received seems inappropriate.

Moreover, for reasons I’ve explained previously, I’m also not a fan of the alternative suggestion Vera Clemente has made in the past: giving each year’s Clemente Award winner the number 21 to wear throughout the year following him winning the award. It’s just too complicated, still necessitates retiring 21 — otherwise how does the honoree stand out? — and could lead to awkwardness if a player doesn’t want to change his number but feels obligated to do so lest he be seen as offending the memory of Roberto Clemente.

I get wanting to do something for a special person’s memory, but I don’t think baseball is in danger of either forgetting or dishonoring Roberto Clemente. Bud is right to let this one lie.

Justin Verlander named ALCS MVP

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Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.

“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”

Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.

The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.