Craig Calcaterra

Calvin Griffith

Remembering the team owner who moved his team to get away from black people

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Mark Armour and Dan Levitt’s greatest GM series concluded last week, but they are keeping the content rolling over at their Pursuit of Pennants blog. Today’s subject: Calvin Griffith.

Griffith owned the Senators and then, after moving them out of D.C., the Twins until the early 1980s. As Dan details today, Griffith was one of the last of the old school owner/GMs who ran both the business and the baseball operations. He had some savvy when it came to baseball ops, but by the time the 1960s and especially the 1970s rolled around, the job was just too big for one guy, and it led to a lot of trouble for the Twins eventually. The post provides an excellent example of how the business and player development side of the game fundamentally changed during the decades Griffith was in charge.

Not mentioned, however, was my “favorite” part of Calvin Griffith’s legacy: his explanation for why he moved the Senators to Minnesota in 1960. Here are his comments, taken from a Star-Tribune report in 1978. His jumping off point was when he was asked by someone about rumors that he might move the Twins out of Minnesota.

Remember, he said this at the time — in 1978 — not in the 50s or the 60s:

“They’ve got all the ink and all the typewriters but they don’t have all the truth,” Griffith said. “There’s no damn place in the country worth moving to. They talk about New Orleans, but what’s wrong with that is…”

At that point, Griffith interrupted himself, lowered his voice and asked if there were any blacks around. After he looked around the room and assured himself that his audience was white, Griffith resumed his answer.

“I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota,” he said. “It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don’t go to ball games, but they’ll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. It’s unbelievable. We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking, white people here.”

And after that he began to rip his own players for their personal lives and work ethic.

There’s a statue of Griffith outside of Target Field. He didn’t make Cooperstown, but he is in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, the legacy of the man whose innovations essentially caused the game to pass Griffith by — Marvin Miller — can’t get the time of day.

Tim Lincecum is the Giants’ fifth starter

Tim Lincecum
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News from Scottsdale:

Lincecum pitched six games in relief late last season and was relegated to the bullpen for the playoffs, where he pitched exactly one game. It had been thought that, perhaps, Ryan Vogelsong and Lincecum would compete for the fifth spot, but that competition now appears to be scrapped.

Lincecum is in the second year of a two-year, $35 million deal. You have to figure they want to see if they can’t get a decent starter’s production out of a decent starter’s salary. Or, at the very least, to see if they can’t flip him mid-season as a starter given that in Vogelsong and Yusmiero Petit, they have decent alternatives for the fifth slot.

Andy Pettitte: “I don’t really believe I tried to enhance my performance”

Andy Pettitte Getty
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Here’s Andy Pettitte on Michael Kay’s radio show addressing his PED history:

“People are going to say what they want to, believe what they want to. When you say PEDs to me, man, I just can’t even comprehend that with me just because I don’t really believe I tried to enhance my performance on the field,” Pettitte said. “If I would have, I would have told y’all that. Man, my story has been an open book. When it all came out [in the Mitchell report in 2007,] I sat in the press conferences there for hours, I believe . . . I’ve never tried to do anything to cheat to enhance my performance on the field.”

Where are all of the people who have spent the last 24 hours parsing Alex Rodriguez’s apology and why aren’t they parsing this? No one? Anyone? OK then, allow me:

  • Taking PEDs to “get back on the field” is still taking PEDs and is what just about every player who has been busted for PEDs has said. In all cases the player is either (a) not believed; or else (b) the distinction is considered to be meaningless, as enhanced performance is enhanced performance and PEDs are PEDs;
  • Pettitte’s story has not been an open book. During those “hours” he spent talking to the media after the Mitchell Report came out, Pettitte said that he used HGH “two days in 2002.″ He repeated that over and over, in fact. However, when he was put under oath before the House of Representatives a few months later he was confronted with additional evidence of PED use. Specifically, from 2004. Which he admitted. So, no, he wasn’t an “open book.” Or at least any more open than he felt he had to be to get off the hook in a press conference and then to avoid a perjury beef before Congress.

Which, hey, good for Pettitte. I still think he was a damn good pitcher. But let’s not pretend he’s any different than any other PED guy. No, he wisely did not make a federal case out of proclaiming his innocence, so he’s not as bad as Roger Clemens I suppose, but the fact remains that he has only come as clean as he felt he needed to at any given time and only as much as people have wanted him to.

Which is to say, not much at all, because for whatever reason people don’t care about his drug use too terribly much.

Wanna buy Gene Tenace’s six World Series rings?

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Former A’s and Cardinals player and former Blue Jays coach Gene Tenace has six World Series rings (1972-74; 1982 and 1992-93), a 1972 World Series trophy and a 1972 World Series MVP plaque. He has a bunch more stuff too, thanks to spending all of that time in the bigs with some excellent teams. Now he’s auctioning it off.

He says he doesn’t need the money — he has a player pension, a coaching pension and a minor league coaching pension and his house is paid for. He simply has too much stuff, he says, and wants to give the proceeds of the auction to his three children.

As the son of two people who dumped all of their crap in his basement before they took off in their R.V. last summer, I heartily endorse the “sell your crap and give your kids the money” approach Mr. Tenace is taking.

Must-click link: Alex Rodriguez: “the cheating stops now”

Alex Rodriguez
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Most people are sick of anything having to do with Alex Rodriguez. But even if you are — hell, especially if you are — you need to read this feature story on his year and change away from baseball by J.R. Moehringer of ESPN The Magazine. Really, this is not hyperbole. It is an absolute must-read.

It’s a must-read because, as everyone says, A-Rod’s words mean nothing anymore. Indeed, it has been the most common response to his apology from yesterday and everything else he has said. “Why should we believe him?” “The only thing that matters is if he can still play.” It’s a totally fair thing to say. It’s 100% the truth. His word is worth nothing and we shouldn’t waste a second trying to figure out if we should.

But actions matter. Not just the hitting, but how a person lives their life. And in this, Moehringer gives us some amazing, personal insight into how A-Rod has tried to live his life since that day over a year ago when he dropped all of his lawsuits and went into, for him anyway, seclusion. About how he has attempted to come to grips to what kind of a person he has been and what kind of person he wants to be. About how, no matter how many sports writers complain about his apologies not being sufficient to them, there is an audience — an exceedingly small audience — about whom he’s far more concerned.

The article is not an A-Rod apologia. It is not designed to give you sympathy for the guy or to truly reassess him in any way. Again, why should we? Why should we care that much and why on Earth would it be logical to ignore the basic facts about the guy? Sympathy is about pity and feeling sorry for someone and caring, and Alex Rodriguez is a pro athlete who, at best, has entertained us a little and about whom we likely wouldn’t care too terribly much even if he hadn’t acted as poorly as he has acted. He’s a rich and famous guy who did a lot of bad things that should not be brushed under the carpet. And his life is about as similar and relatable to ours as a Martian is to a fungo.

But, I would hope anyway, it creates empathy, which is a totally different thing. Empathy — at its very basic level — is about understanding. Understanding that a guy who has had everything handed to him in his adult life has spent the last year coming to grips with the fact that he’s messed up major. Understanding that the fact that he’s angered some baseball fans or some columnists is not as important as the fact that he has risked his relationship with his daughters. Understanding that, as he certainly wants to return to baseball and be a big hero somehow, he also has spent a year becoming intimately acquainted with his personal shortcomings, is attempting to address them and is thinking about the rest of his life, not just the rest of his baseball career or his legacy.

If you truly read this article and still feel that Rodriguez is best summed up as the sort of cartoonish villain he’s almost always made out to be, well, that’s your prerogative. And, obviously, A-Rod has done nothing to dissuade people from taking that approach. He has made his bed. But I would ask that, for a few moments, you try to assess Alex Rodriguez as a human being and not as a big baseball star who has made a shambles out of everything. That you try to have some degree of empathy for the guy, like we should try to have for everyone who makes mistakes and honestly tries to atone for them. To do so will cost you nothing but a little time.