Image (1) Cardinals%20logo.jpg for post 4972

We’ve reached a low point in the contrived St. Louis-Los Angeles culture war

114 Comments

Are there differences between the Dodgers and the Cardinals? Sure. We’ve noted the little on-the-field dustups and have talked a lot about the whole “Best Fans in Baseball” thing.  It’s been an amusing aside.

But even if you’re critical of the Cardinals, you must admit that the notion that St. Louis represents some higher plane of dignified and respectful baseball (and that any reasonable people in St. Louis actually think this) is a silly caricature. Yes, there are examples of people who think that way, but they’re outliers I assume. It’s mostly a straw man used to beat up on Cardinals Nation. It’s not a different brand or class of baseball in St. Louis. It’s not a different brand or class of fan. They’re like everyone else.

But I’ll be damned if some people aren’t still trying to push that narrative. To the point of couching it as something akin to a culture war. As an example I give you today’s column from Bob Nightengale of USA Today. In which he talks to Stan Musial’s grandson and both of them seem to agree that St. Louis Cardinals baseball is all that separates dignified society from invading hordes:

This isn’t just about flying another pennant in their stadium – their fourth in 10 years – or having the opportunity to win their 12th World Series championship. It’s about the responsibility of upholding tradition. It’s for old-time baseball.

What follows is a bunch of quotes from Musial’s grandson about how the game ought to be played and was played back when men were men and all of that.  Stan Musial’s grandson is 32 years-old, by the way. What an expert on tradition and old-time baseball.

But what’s even sillier are the examples Nightengale trots out to cast Cardinals baseball in a more dignified light:

They’d like to know if everything, even the crowd noise, have to be fake in Southern California. Do fans really have to be instructed when to scream as if they’re a game-show audience? Can’t anything on the scoreboard be shown besides fans acting crazy, dance contests, and kiss cams?

Yeah, none of that in St. Louis:

source:

 

 

source:

 

I’ll grant that, I’m told anyway, that the Cardinals don’t do much of the “LET’S MAKE SOME NOISE!” stuff. Which is a good thing.  But they clearly are not different or above most other parks when it comes to fun stuff. It isn’t just stark videos of Bob Gibson threatening people to behave lest he put a pitch in their ear.

Again, none of this is to criticize Cardinals fans. They’re like anyone else. And like anyone else, they have some people in their ranks that make you want to roll your eyes.  But for the most part they’re just baseball fans.

But the media narrative of a Dodgers-Cardinals culture war is beyond played out by now, to the point where it is becoming both ridiculous and, with this column, totally counterfactual. Enough already.

Breaking Down the Today’s Game Hall of Fame Ballot: Lou Piniella

TORONTO - JULY 9:  Manager Lou Pinella of the Cincinnati Reds looks on during batting practice prior to the1991 All-Star Game at the Toronto Sky Dome on July 9, 1991 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

On Monday, December 5, the Today’s Game committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame — the replacement for the Veterans Committee which covers the years 1988-2016 — will vote on candidates for the 2017 induction class. This week we are looking at the ten candidates, one-by-one, to assess their Hall worthiness. Next up: Lou Piniella

The case for his induction:

He notched 1,835 wins, made seven postseason appearances, a won a World Series as a manager. That win total is good for 14th all time. Of the 13 men ahead of him, 12 are already in the Hall. The only who isn’t is Gene Mauch, who was under .500 for his career. Connie Mack and Bucky Harris are in that crowd and they were under .500 too, but Mack is kind of a special case as the all-time wins leader and Harris, well, I dunno, he hung around forever and the Veterans Committee was a different beast back in the 1970s. Point is, if you have Piniella’s win total and you’re over .500, as Piniella is, you’re probably getting in, at least eventually.

A lot of those wins came in some good places and at some good times, adding some psychological weight to that record. Taking the 1990 Reds to the World Series and beating the heavily favored A’s was a great story and, as the Reds’ last title for 26 years and counting, stands as a more memorable accomplishment than doing it someplace else. Likewise, his next job, in Seattle, coincided with the franchise’s best seasons thanks to the emergence of Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson and Edgar Martinez under Piniella’s command. Mariners’ history fundamentally changed during the Piniella era and he will always be associated with that. Oh, and his 2001 team set the single season record for wins with 116. He made two playoff appearances with the Cubs too. That’s been eclipsed by the 2016 team’s exploits, but it was a pretty big deal at the time.

It’s also worth noting that Piniella likewise had a very fine playing career, with 18 seasons of 109 OPS+ hitting, a Rookie of the Year Award and a couple of World Series rings on his resume. That’s not enough by itself to get him in the Hall, but he presents a nice total package as a Baseball Man Supreme who has been thought highly of for close to 50 years now.

Oh, one other thing: he was colorful. He had a temper and a repuatation as kind of a red ass, with a good number of on-the-field incidents which stick in people’s minds. That sort of thing doesn’t necessarily make someone a good manager or a good person, but Piniella has been seen as a guy who mellowed with age and, at various times in his career, showed that he had a sense of humor about all of that stuff which makes it play a heck of a lot better. For Hall of Fame purposes, it certainly plays a heck of a lot more memorably.

The case against his induction:

His years in Tampa Bay weren’t all that great and, by the time his days in Chicago were over there was a sense that he was sort of running on fumes and padding that win total to get him into that top 14. In both places Joe Maddon eventually came along and did better things and, in some cases, undoing some bad things Piniella did. Some believe he should’ve won another pennant or two and, yes, some of those Mariners teams disappointed in the postseason. Some people look less amusingly on his temper tantrums over the years and, I suppose, one could characterize them a bit more sinisterly than I did above without being too dramatic.

Would I vote for him?

I think so. As I mentioned in the George Steinbrenner entry, when it comes to managers and executives, I put a lot of weight on whether one could tell the story of baseball in a guy’s era without mentioning his name. Piniella is no Joe Torre, Bobby Cox of Tony La Russa in that regard, but he’s pretty close to that group in terms of the figure he cut in the game and, as I mentioned, he’s critical to the story of a couple of franchises. Certainly the Mariners but also the 1970s Yankees as a player and, possibly, the 1990 Reds. I tend to be a softer Hall of Fame touch than a lot of people, so I get that people may disagree, but I’d put him in.

Will the Committee vote for him?

Hard to say. On the one hand, Piniella feels like the sort of baseball man that gets rewarded by the Veterans Committee. On the other hand, the Veterans Committee took ages to vote in some other notable managers such as Whitey Herzog, suggesting that maybe Piniella will have to wait. This is the first year for the new composition of the Veterans Committe, however, so it’s hard to say if they’ll be tougher or easier graders. He may be the hardest call of all of the guys on this year’s ballot.

Twins hire James Rowson as their hitting coach

BOSTON, MA - June 4: The Minnesota Twins logo is seen during the fifth inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 4, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Minnesota Twins have announced that they have hired James Rowson as their hitting coach.

Rowson was the minor league hitting coordinator for the New York Yankees for seven of the last nine seasons, interrupted by a short stint with the Chicago Cubs as minor league hitting coordinator. He also worked at the minor league levels with the Los Angeles Angels. He played in the minors for the Seattle Mariners and Yankees.

Rowson replacesTom Brunansky, who was hitting coach for the past four seasons.