ty cobb

Happy Birthday, Ty Cobb!

89 Comments

Today is Ty Cobb’s 127th birthday. He doesn’t look a day over 115.

Cobb, of course, is one of the greatest hitters who ever lived. He was in the inaugural Hall of Fame class in 1936. His induction was well-deserved at that. He played for 24 years and hit over .300 in 23 of them. He had three seasons where he hit over .400, with a high of .420 in 1911.  The “Georgia Peach” hit 297 triples, scored 2,245 runs and swiped 892 bases. He was clearly one of the best players who has ever lived.

Cobb also once physically attacked a black groundskeeper during spring training when the groundskeeper attempted to shake Cobb’s hand. During the attack the groundskeeper’s wife tried to defend him and Cobb choked her until his teammates physically pried his hands off the woman’s neck. Cobb also once attacked a laborer who was angry with Cobb after the Peach walked in wet cement the laborer was laying. Cobb was convicted of battery. Later, Cobb slapped a black elevator operator for being “uppity.” When a black night watchman intervened, Cobb pulled out a knife and stabbed him.

In 1912, Cobb went into the crowd at Hilltop Park in New York City and beat a heckler senseless. The heckler was missing one hand and only had two fingers on his remaining hand. Police had to pull Cobb off the guy. He once challenged an umpire to a fight. And they actually fought — with fists — under the grandstand after the game. Cobb punched the umpire out, pinned him to the ground and began choking him.

In 1910 Cobb had a slight lead in the batting race heading into the last day of the season. He sat out that day in order to preserve his lead. That ended up being pretty complicated, though. Cobb was once accused of conspiring to fix a game in 1919. There was a big investigation and hearing, but his accuser — Dutch Leonard — refused to show up. The matter was dismissed.

Cobb was a complicated, troubled and angry guy whose troubles and anger often were played out at the ballpark, alienating teammates and affecting the game. He was also a great ballplayer. It’s perfectly acceptable and totally understandable that historians keep these traits of Cobb’s separate when assessing his baseball career, for they are two distinct parts of the man. A Hall of Fame without Ty Cobb in it would be the most ridiculous thing imaginable.

As we find ourselves in Hall of Fame season, ask yourself: if a current candidate had attacked fans and umpires, had been accused — but not proven — to have cheated the game and to have shown himself to be an awful all-around person despite his amazing baseball prowess, what kind of Hall of Fame support would he get?

I bet he wouldn’t be a first-balloter like Cobb was. I bet he wouldn’t sniff induction.

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
2 Comments

Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
24 Comments

In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]