Does anyone remember Mike Gimbel?

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I’m sure several people in Boston do, but most people can be forgiven if they don’t know that name.  Mike Gimbel was Bill James before he was Bill James.  At least as far as being a stathead consulting for the Boston Red Sox was concerned.

Rob Neyer told his story back in 2002. The short version: Inspired by James’ Abstracts, Gimbel began writing his own baseball analysis in the late 80s and it caught the notice of incoming Expos GM Dan Duquette who hired him as a consultant. He was useful in Duquette’s makeover of the Expos and Duquette brought Gimbel with him when he took over the Red Sox a few years later.  There his baseball ideas continued to be good ones but his P.R. savvy was less-than-good. When the luddites in the Boston press got wind of Gimbel’s gestalt they mocked him, he handled it poorly and eventually his contract wasn’t renewed. He never had another job in baseball.

Oh, and he once made the New York Times after his Brooklyn apartment was raided and several live alligators were confiscated.  Alligators which he let the neighborhood kids come in and pet.  To which I say, hey, he who is without sin cast the … no, wait. That’s just friggin’ bizarre.

Anyway, I completely forgot about Gimbel and his story until a column he wrote excoriating the BBWAA for their treatment of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens was linked over at Baseball Think Factory yesterday. It’s on the Workers World website of all places. And, while he and I may ultimately come down in the same place with respect to Bonds and Clemens, Gimbel’s argument is rather incoherent. He cites racism as a motivator of the anti-Bonds crowd when there is zero evidence of that being the case (and when it conflicts with the basically identical treatment Clemens has received). It refers to baseball owners’ profit motive in ways that do not square with their behavior today as opposed to 15 years ago.  It’s a strange read, hitting most of your classic communist tropes, and suggests a guy who is looking to fit an event into a world view which he feels has great meaning rather than trying to assess something and figure out what it means.

Beyond that, though, there’s no real point to this other than, man, I had completely forgotten about Mike Gimbel. And that between his past with the Expos and Sox, the alligator thing and writing this kind of rebop for a communist website, I bet there is a FANTASTIC movie to be made about this guy’s life. Really, somebody get me Charlie Kaufman on the phone, pronto.

(thanks to Stephen Keane for hipping me to the alligator thing)

Madison Bumgarner began his rehab assignment yesterday

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Giants ace Madison Bumgarner tossed three no-hit innings yesterday in his first minor league rehab start with the Giants’ Arizona Rookie League team. He struck out two and walked a guy, while sitting in the 88-91 m.p.h. range on his fastball.

Bumgarner, who is coming back from a sprained left AC joint in his shoulder suffered in a dirt bike accident in April, will return to San Francisco to throw a bullpen session and then go back on the road for more rehab games. That’s a lot of traveling, but the Giants obviously want to monitor his progress. At the moment he’s expected to build up his strength for the next several weeks and, hopefully, return to the Giants’ rotation some time after the All-Star break.

Of course, there shouldn’t be too much of a rush. The Giants have lost five in a row and 12 of 13 and currently sit in last place, 24.5 games behind the Dodgers. At this point Bumgarner rushing to rejoin the Giants is like an Australian soldier getting a wound dressed to hurry back to the Gallipoli Campaign.

Is it really that weird that Cody Bellinger does not know who Jerry Seinfeld is?

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Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger has been tearing through the league so far this season, blazing a 50-home run pace despite not even making his debut until April 25. His Dodgers are winners of 10 games in a row, sit in first place and have the best record in the National League.

But not everything is rosy in Cody Bellinger land. He’s now at the center of controversy after he revealed on SportsCenter on Friday night that he doesn’t know who Jerry Seinfeld is. Or, at the very least, that he could not put a face with that familiar-sounding name and that in no event did he know why he was famous.

People have been going crazy with this, acting as if he’s from Mars or something for not knowing who starred in one of history’s most popular and influential sitcoms. His teammates, especially, have been getting on his case:

I dunno. On the one hand, sure, the show was amazingly popular and has been in heavy syndication for like 20 years so it would be hard to miss even for a young guy like Bellinger. And, of course, the catchphrases and bits of the show that has seeped into the popular culture have given it a longer shelf life than most TV shows ever manage.

On the other hand the thing ended when he was not yet three years old. For him, “Seinfeld” was like “The Beverly Hillbillies” for someone my age or “M*A*S*H” for someone born in the early 80s. Those shows were just as popular — actually, they got higher ratings and were seen by a larger percentage of the population than “Seinfeld” ever was — and they were just as heavily syndicated for the decade or two after they went off the air. We don’t get on the case of players born in the 70s or 80s for not knowing who Alan Alda or Buddy Ebsen are. And if it’s about the catchphrases, substitute in “Happy Days” and “Welcome Back Kotter,” each of which created a cultural footprint larger than the show itself. Would we freak out if we found out that Jayson Werth — born in 1979 — had never heard the phrase “Up your nose with a rubber hose” or “Sit on it?”

And that’s before you acknowledge how much more fragmented pop culture and entertainment is now. I was 12 in 1985 and back then I had little choice but to watch “M*A*S*H” reruns at 7pm while I was waiting for prime time. It was either that or “Wheel of Fortune” I guess. As a 12-year old in 2007, Bellinger could’ve easily avoided “Seinfeld” reruns. He could’ve avoided TV altogether and just been online. My son is 12 now and he hasn’t watched an actual TV show in years. It’s all You Tube and stuff. The idea that there is any one thing or even a handful of things that, culturally speaking, we can all agree upon or which can serve as a common touchstone is an increasingly obsolete idea.

Maybe “Seinfeld” is different. Maybe this is not the same as not knowing “The Beverly Hillbillies” or “M*A*S*H”. I floated this whole idea on Twitter yesterday and people were outraged, so perhaps something else is going on here that I’m missing. But personally speaking, I feel like we should all calm down a bit about Cody Bellinger and the “Seinfeld” thing. Maybe we should acknowledge that the stuff we like is not going to be culturally prevalent forever. And that young kids like Cody Bellinger are going to be the ones to inform us of this inescapable fact.