Does anyone remember Mike Gimbel?

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I’m sure several people in Boston do, but most people can be forgiven if they don’t know that name.  Mike Gimbel was Bill James before he was Bill James.  At least as far as being a stathead consulting for the Boston Red Sox was concerned.

Rob Neyer told his story back in 2002. The short version: Inspired by James’ Abstracts, Gimbel began writing his own baseball analysis in the late 80s and it caught the notice of incoming Expos GM Dan Duquette who hired him as a consultant. He was useful in Duquette’s makeover of the Expos and Duquette brought Gimbel with him when he took over the Red Sox a few years later.  There his baseball ideas continued to be good ones but his P.R. savvy was less-than-good. When the luddites in the Boston press got wind of Gimbel’s gestalt they mocked him, he handled it poorly and eventually his contract wasn’t renewed. He never had another job in baseball.

Oh, and he once made the New York Times after his Brooklyn apartment was raided and several live alligators were confiscated.  Alligators which he let the neighborhood kids come in and pet.  To which I say, hey, he who is without sin cast the … no, wait. That’s just friggin’ bizarre.

Anyway, I completely forgot about Gimbel and his story until a column he wrote excoriating the BBWAA for their treatment of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens was linked over at Baseball Think Factory yesterday. It’s on the Workers World website of all places. And, while he and I may ultimately come down in the same place with respect to Bonds and Clemens, Gimbel’s argument is rather incoherent. He cites racism as a motivator of the anti-Bonds crowd when there is zero evidence of that being the case (and when it conflicts with the basically identical treatment Clemens has received). It refers to baseball owners’ profit motive in ways that do not square with their behavior today as opposed to 15 years ago.  It’s a strange read, hitting most of your classic communist tropes, and suggests a guy who is looking to fit an event into a world view which he feels has great meaning rather than trying to assess something and figure out what it means.

Beyond that, though, there’s no real point to this other than, man, I had completely forgotten about Mike Gimbel. And that between his past with the Expos and Sox, the alligator thing and writing this kind of rebop for a communist website, I bet there is a FANTASTIC movie to be made about this guy’s life. Really, somebody get me Charlie Kaufman on the phone, pronto.

(thanks to Stephen Keane for hipping me to the alligator thing)

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.