What a coincidence; steroid testing is now in force in MLB, and home runs are down this year. Now if only major league baseball would do something about the juiced-up ball, the game might approach the interest level it once had for me. Small-ball is far more interesting; pitching, speed, bunting, base-stealing, defense and the like. Manufacturing runs requires far more talent than hitting a jet-propelled golf ball out of small MLB parks. Isn’t that true, Whitey Herzog?!
Recently I wrote a Quick Take on Rafael Palmeiro and his tremendous ability. I also wrote that he’s a shoe-in for Cooperstown if he doesn’t bet on baseball between now and his retirement date. There was a little something I forgot to note. If Palmeiro’s accomplishments have been steroid-induced, and it appears so, then the only way he should be permitted into the Hall of Fame is with a ticket. (More statistical bullshit; is it ever going to end?!)
Ricky Williams is a tremendous running back. That’s obvious, for if it weren’t, the Dolphins would not have given him a reprieve. What he did to his team immediately before the start of camp last year was indefensible. But people make mistakes, and I’m glad the Dolphins gave him the chance to redeem himself. He’d best make the most of it.
On July 21, 1975, as a member of the New York Mets, Joe Torre hit into four consecutive double plays in one game. When reminded of this dubious distinction, he had a classic response: “What’s everyone blaming me for? Blame Felix Millan. I wouldn’t have hit into all those double plays if he hadn’t hit all those singles ahead of me.”
Story of the Week
The little guy is a whole 5’7” and 160 lbs., but it was one powerful frame. During his 22 years in the bigs, he drilled 268 homers, stole 689 bases, and was a superlative second baseman. Joe Morgan did it all.
When the Big Red Machine was operating in the 1970’s, Joe Morgan was its generator. He got on base 41% of the time, and on a team with Rose and Bench and Perez, he was league MVP in both 1975 and 1976.
From 1972 through 1977, Morgan averaged 60 stolen bases, scored more than 100 runs each year, and averaged 21 homers and 84 RBI’s with a .301 batting average. Moreover, Little Joe won Gold Gloves in 1973-1977. Over his 22 major league seasons, he helped his teams win six division titles, four pennants and two world championships.
Born in Bonham, Texas, Morgan signed with the Houston Astros and was named NL Rookie of the Year in 1965 by the Sporting News. Traded to Cincinnati before the 1972 season, he topped NL second basemen in putouts and fielding, and led in walks with 115 and runs scored with 122.
In 1975, he hit .327, led all second basemen in fielding %, and stole 67 bases to be named MVP. (He added six steals in the postseason.) Morgan won Game Three of the World Series with a single in the bottom of the tenth, and Game Seven of the Series with a single in the top of the ninth to give the Reds their first championship in 35 years.
The Reds repeated in 1976, and Morgan became the first back-to-back MVP since Ernie Banks. Little Joe won the slugging title (.576), and was runner-up in RBI’s (111), runs scored (113), and steals (60). He set a record for second basemen in 1977, making just five errors. Back with Houston, he helped the Astros win their division in 1980, and went on to two solid years with the Giants. Reunited with Pete Rose and Tony Perez in Philadelphia in 1983, he hit 16 homers to help the Phils win the pennant, and homered twice in the World Series.
Morgan made his 1984 farewell season with Oakland memorable by replacing Rogers Hornsby as the most prolific home run-hitting second baseman of all time. He was a first-year selection to the Hall of Fame in 1990. Joe Morgan has been a standout television broadcaster for ESPN for years. As I watch him and listen to him, with all that baseball knowledge he possesses, and all the obvious understanding he has of the game, I can’t help but feel that he would be an absolutely brilliant manager. If I owned a major league team, Joe Morgan would be it!
Last Week’s Trivia
Only two men managed teams to American League pennants in the 1950’s. Who are they? Casey Stengel did it with the Yankees in all but two seasons. In 1954, the Indians won the pennant. In 1959, the White Sox won the pennant. The manager of both of those teams was Al Lopez. (Both of his teams lost their World Series bids.)
Trivia Question of the Week
What is Cesar Gutierrez’ claim to fame? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.