Friday, December 28, 2007

Tinker to Evers to run, run, run

The walkway to the press box at the Florida Citrus Bowl is about five or six stories above the field and provides an excellent view into old Tinker Field, the baseball stadium last used by the Orlando Rays, an old Double A team in the Rays organization.

The ballpark, which opened in 1914, sits next to the football stadium, used Friday for the Champs Sports Bowl between Michigan State and Boston College.

I am a big fan of old baseball stadiums, something not shared by the members of the Rays pitching staff.

“I hate that place,” former Rays pitcher Rick White once told me.

Now I know why.

It is 425 feet to center field, which meant pitchers doing their normal pre-game running from the foul line to center field had farther to run at Tinker than any other park they encountered.

Understand this about pitchers: They hate to run.

White compared running wind sprints at Tinker Field to the hallway scene in the movie “Poltergeist.”

“The outfield never ends,” White said. “You just keep running and running and running.”

Thursday, December 20, 2007

You know Schilling has an opinion

For baseball to really clean up its act it is going to take more than the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs and more than Congress to get after commissioner Bud Selig. It’s going to take the players themselves.

On Wednesday, Boston pitcher Curt Schilling fired the first salvo at New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, whose use of the illegal human growth hormones was detailed in Mitchell’s report.

Wednesday, on his blog “,” Schilling fired away at Clemens as both a major league pitcher and a baseball fan. Here are some excerpts.

If Clemens can’t prove his innocence:

“If he doesn't do that then there aren't many options as a fan for me other than to believe his career 192 wins and three Cy Youngs he won prior to 1997 were the end. From that point on the numbers were attained through using (performance-enhancing drugs). Just like I stated about Jose (Canseco), if that is the case with Roger, the four Cy Youngs (won after 1996) should go to the rightful winners, and the numbers should go away if he cannot refute the accusations.”


“Can you separate what Barry (Bonds) is accused of from what Roger is accused of? If ... both of these men end up being caught, what does that say about this game, us as athletes and the future of the sport and our place in it? The greatest pitcher and greatest hitter of all time are currently both being implicated, one is being prosecuted, for events surrounding and involving the use of performance enhancing drugs. That (stinks). ... The sport needs fixing.”

It will be interesting to see if other players join Schilling’s crusade.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rays Maddon steps up to the plate

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon will never be confused with Joe Torre, at least not right now anyway, but Maddon was a Hall of Famer on Tuesday afternoon at the Salvation Army in Bradenton.

Maddon bought more than $1,900 worth of food for three days of what he called his Thanksmas. He served dinner for the homeless and less fortunate in Bradenton on Tuesday, and was scheduled to serve lunch at the St. Vincent DePaul’s soup kitchen in St. Petersburg on Wednesday afternoon and dinner at the Metropolitan Ministries in Tampa on Thursday night.

Maddon has thought about doing something like this since his days as a coach with the Anaheim Angels. His daily bike ride would take Maddon past the beach where he would see the homeless.

Maddon said he always thought if he had the chance to do something he would. Now that he is a major league manager, which gives him a platform of sorts, Maddon decided to feed as many people as he could.

He and a handful of Rays staffers served dinner to nearly 300 people Tuesday.

It’s great when professional athletes, coaches and managers take time to give something back to the community that supports them. Maddon not only purchased the food, it was his recipe that was used in making the 1,500 meatballs and the sauce.

The dinner was a hit – spaghetti, meatballs, salad and cake. One diner wanted to know if the meal was from the Olive Garden.

Another offered Maddon this praise:

“The quote of the night,” Maddon said. “He told me I’m a better cook than manager. I took that to mean I’m a really great cook.”

Well, in Maddon’s defense, he had better ingredients to work with Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

If there's room in the hall for O'Malley, why not Miller?

I have this thing about baseball owners and the hall of fame. I don’t think either should mix.

Baseball owners, as a whole, are a lot not to be trusted, holding up cities to build stadiums for their teams, raising ticket prices so their bottom-line doesn’t suffer, feigning interest in fans as long as it pads the coffers.

Former Dodger owner Walter O’Malley was just elected to the hall of fame largely because he moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles and opened the sport to the entire country.

Never mind that he ripped the soul out of a Dodger-crazy community like Brooklyn.

O’Malley quickened the arrival of the expansion era, which made millions for millionaires.

What a pioneer.

Here’s another pioneer who should have a plaque in the same hall: Marvin Miller.
The executive director of the players’ union during the advent of free agency changed the game just as much as O’Malley.

OK, we could have done without the strikes, but the player movement Miller fought for helped spread the wealth of players around both leagues.

That Miller’s work came at the expense of the owners means he will never have his name enshrined in Cooperstown, and that’s a shame, because if there’s a spot for Charles Comiskey, whose penny-pinching ways ultimately led to the Black Sox scandal, then there has to be room for Miller, whose actions led to the players receiving a bigger piece of the pie and ensured they wouldn’t have to throw games to make a buck.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A step back for Tampa Bay's Dukes

Is there a chance Elijah Dukes could replace Delmon Young in right field for the Tampa Bay Rays?

A logical question based on Young’s trade to the Minnesota Twins and the fact the Washington Nationals don’t need a young outfielder after trading for Palmetto’s Lastings Milledge on Friday.

But Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman has been non-committal on that, and here’s why: Dukes went off again.

His angry outburst with a home plate umpire and subsequent ejection during a game with Licey in the Dominican Republic on Thursday may be viewed as a step back for the talented but troubled outfielder with a history of angry outbursts. It’s possible he could face a suspension from that league to go with the ones he served while in Triple-A.

Friedman said Dukes has made a lot of progress since being taken off the team’s active roster in June but still has a ways to go.

Now, arguing with the umpire is hardly grounds for banishment unless you are Elijah Dukes, who has been placed on notice by the Rays to clean up his act, both on and off the field.

You would think Dukes would realize this; that the privilege of playing major league baseball and being paid well to do so would be enough of a carrot. But, apparently, you would be wrong.