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And now some wise words about the claims of retired athletes

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It’s not uncommon to hear retired athletes — and the fans who watched them when they were children — to claim that the teams of yore could beat the teams of today.

Sometimes this is just an exercise in comparing players. Was Mantle better than Trout?, etc. As far as that goes it’s fine. When we get involved in those conversations I think we’re all tacitly assuming adjustments for era and equipment and level of competition and stuff. Who was greater for their time is the inquiry we’re really making, even if we don’t really say so.

Other times, though, it’s just nonsense. Like when someone says the 1939 Yankees would beat the 1998 Yankees head to head, despite the clear size, speed, skill and specialization advances that the latter team has over the former. Nothing personal against DiMaggio and friends, but athletic progress is ever-forward and the players of today would crush the players of yesterday. If you doubt this, go look at track and field and weightlifting records and any other athletic accomplishment for which there are objective forms of measurement.

Yet the unreasonable beliefs persist. This week they’re floating around the NBA, as the Golden State Warriors stand on the brink of sweeping their way through the playoffs. As this happens, people are arguing about whether the 1990s Bulls or the 1980s Celtics or Lakers teams were better. Which seems comical to me absent era adjustments and the like. If you’re not making that kind of comp but, rather, are arguing that if you put those teams in a time machine and brought them to the present day, they’d beat the Warriors, you’re crazy.

I think their coach, Steve Kerr, put it best:

It may do violence to your childhood memories to think that Mickey Mantle would be merely good today and the merely good players of that era wouldn’t crack a big league lineup, but it’s true.

It’s the tenth anniversary of the biggest rout in baseball history

Associated Press
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Ten years ago today the Rangers and the Orioles squared off at Camden Yards. The Orioles built a 3-0 lead after three innings and then all hell broke loose.

The Rangers scored thirty (30!) unanswered runs via a five-spot in the fourth, a nine-spot in the sixth, a ten-spot in the eighth and a six-spot in the ninth. That was . . . a lot of spots.

Two Rangers players — Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ramon Vazquez — hit two homers and drove in seven runs a piece. The best part: they were the eighth and ninth hitters in the lineup. There was plenty of offense to go around, however as David Murphy went 5-for-7 and scored five times. Travis Metcalf hit a pinch-hit grand slam. Marlon Byrd drove in four. It was a bloodbath, with Texas rattling out 29 hits and walking eight times.

On the Orioles side of things, Daniel Cabrera took the loss, giving up six runs on nine hits in five innings. That’s not a terribly unusual line for a bad day at the office for a pitcher — someone will probably get beat up like that in the next week or so — but the Orioles’ relievers really added to the party. Brian Burres was the first victim, allowing eight runs on eight hits in only two-thirds of an inning. Rob Bell gave up seven in an inning and a third. Paul Shuey wore the rest of it, allowing nine runs on seven hits over the final two.

The best part of the insanely busy box score, however, was not from any of the Orioles pitchers or any of the Rangers hitters. Nope, it was from a Rangers relief pitcher named Wes Littleton. You probably don’t remember him, as he only pitched in 80 games and never appeared in the big leagues after 2008. But on this day — the day of the biggest blowout in baseball history — Wes Littleton notched a save. From Baseball-Reference.com:

Three innings and 43 pitches is a lot of work for a reliever and, per the rules, it’s a save, regardless of the margin when he entered the game. Still, this was not exactly a game that was ever in jeopardy.

When it went down, way back on August 22, 2007, it inspired me to write a post at my old, defunct independent baseball blog, Shysterball, arguing about how to change the save rule. Read it if you want, but know that (1) no one has ever paid attention to such proposals in baseball, even if such proposals are frequently offered; and (2) the hypothetical examples I use to illustrate the point involve an effective Joba Chamberlain and Joe Torre’s said use of him, which tells you just how long ago this really was.

Oh, one final bit: this massacre — the kind of game that the Orioles likely wanted to leave, go back home and go to sleep afterward — was only the first game of a doubleheader. Yep, they had to strap it on and play again, with the game starting at 9PM Eastern time. Baltimore lost that one too, 9-7, concluding what must have been one of the longest days any of the players involved had ever had at the office, both figuratively and literally.

Hall of Fame baseball announcer Rafael ‘Felo’ Ramirez dies

Associated Press
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MIAMI (AP) Rafael “Felo” Ramirez, a Hall of Fame baseball radio broadcaster who was the signature voice for millions of Spanish-speaking sports fans over three decades, has died. He was 94.

The Miami Marlins announced Ramirez’ death Tuesday.

Ramirez, who died Monday night, began his broadcasting career in Cuba in 1945 before calling 31 All-Star games and World Series in Spanish. He was the Marlins Spanish-language announcer since their inaugural season in 1993 and was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2001.

He was known for an expressive, yet low-key style and his signature strike call of “Essstrike.”

Several Spanish-language broadcasters, including Amury Pi-Gonzanez of the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants, have admitted to emulating his style.