Rollie Fingers, Johnny Bench and the intentional walk that wasn’t

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I’m guessing that Reds and A’s fans — and other fans of a certain age — knew this already, but I had never heard this story about Rollie Fingers, Johnny Bench and the intentional walk that wasn’t from the 1972 World Series:

With Bench standing in the box expecting a wide pitchout, Fingers broke off a slider for called strike three.

“When (manager) Dick Williams came to the mound and told me, ‘We’re going to fake an intentional pass to Bench, but throw a strike. But don’t throw a fastball because he is a fastball hitter,’” Fingers said. “I said, ‘What? What are you talking about? Is this Little League or what?,” Fingers said he told Williams.

But being a good corporal, Fingers followed orders. “I threw probably the best slider I’d ever thrown in my life,” he said of the called strike three. “When I see Johnny Bench, I never mention it. But he usually brings it up and says, ‘That was the most embarrassing moment of my life.’”

If that happened today there would probably be a week’s worth of reports about the “unwritten rules.”  Ethicists would be called in for talking head segments on SportsCenter.  HardballTalk would probably devote 200 posts to it, all of which would begin by BC calling Fingers “a chipwich” and all of which would devolve into arguments about whether cake or pie is better.

Put differently, it would be glorious.

But now it’s just a footnote. One I had never heard of despite my baseball obsession.  I had never heard of it because there is just so damn much baseball history, trivia, shenanigans and tomfoolery out there and no one person can possibly know it all. Or even a majority of it.

And that is glorious too.

Rays’ Erik Neander named Executive of the Year

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At the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona on Monday, Rays GM Erik Neander was named the recipient of Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year Award for the 2019 season. The Yankees’ Brian Cashman was the runner-up while the Athletics’ Billy Beane and the Twins’ Derek Falvey tied for third place.

Neander has worked for the Rays since 2017 but has operated in his current role since November 2016, taking over for Matthew Silverman who was promoted to president of the Rays alongside Brian Auld.

The Rays had, by far, the lowest payroll in baseball at $53.5 million, according to USA TODAY. Neander’s peers voting him Executive of the Year on the same today the league had to curtail its awarding of a prize belt to the team that suppressed salaries the most in arbitration is… certainly interesting timing.

At any rate, Neander’s Rays went 96-66 in 2019, finishing in second place in the AL East behind the 103-59 Yankees. The Rays claimed the second AL Wild Card and defeated the A’s to earn entry into the ALDS where they lost in five games to the Astros. It was the Rays’ first playoff appearance since 2013 and their regular season win total was second-most in franchise history behind the 2008 team (97).