The Free Friday Post.
You can't blame Kirby. This generation has been given "load management" since Day 1. Adult male athletes haven't suddenly had an evolutionary change in 25 years where they can't throw 120 pitches anymore - it has simply been planted in their minds and their bodies are not subjected to the stress. It's really kind of sad, but those days are gone.
On the plus side of "load management", the NBA has done a great thing by limiting teams to only sitting one star player per game. Good for them.
Great work as always, Molly.
First, George Kirby, who was one of the great impressionists, ranking with Frank Gorshin and well ahead of Rich Little. Oh, not him? Well, anyway, it IS a different game. It's like comparing Koufax and Kershaw. Clayton will always get the worst of it, but if he had pitched in Koufax's era, he would have been an every fourth day starter. He also would have played hurt. We celebrate that era, but Sandy quit at 30, and Don Drysdale was washed up at 33 with a bad shoulder after years of pitching with broken or fractured bones. Carl Erskine--still with us, bless him--retired at 33 after 12 seasons and later said after his third major league start, he never again pitched without pain. It was a different time and they had to survive year to year on a reserve clause. Saying your shoulder hurt meant the end of your career (and if you think they couldn't get rid of you while injured, look up Carl Furillo).
But I also remember my mother telling me she could remember that Johnny Podres would tell Walt Alston to get somebody up because he knew he was losing it. That seems smart, actually.
By the way, I always recommend Joe Buck's autobiography as a terrific book, because it is--he's funny and self-deprecating, and you end up understanding him. He told a great story about this sort of thing. In the 2001 World Series, they miked Arizona manager Bob Brenly. Between the 6th and 7th, Curt Schilling told a coach he had one inning left in him. They told Brenly. He began preparing. When Schilling finished the 7th and came in, Brenly walked up and thanked him for a great job. Schilling looked at the mike and started yelling that he didn't have to come out, he had plenty left, etc. Later, Brenly told Buck something like, you so-and-sos. I couldn't out my pitcher at that moment. (And it reminds us anew, as if we needed it, that Curt Schilling has all the human decency of a boil.)
As for money and baseball, someone once commented that Tom Yawkey had enough money to buy the Yankees three times, but they had better scouting and a better organization, and it showed.
Molly: I comment time and again that you're an elite writer. The following line is among your very best ever:
"Bob Gibson, who died three years ago, dragged himself out of his grave to throw a fastball at Kirby’s head."
I had to think for a moment because you nailed it. You even made me believe it for that nanosecond. If any single pitcher could or would do that, it was Gibson. He also would have dragged McCarver out of his own grave to catch that pitch.
Your discussion of how pitchers of this era have been mistrained also reminded me of these lines from "Top Gun: Maverick" (Not exact quotes):
Admiral: These are the best pilots in the world.
Maverick: They've been told that for their entire careers while dropping bombs from a high altitude and without ever engaging in a dogfight. This is not the same.
The analogy to "not being trained" is clear.
Scherzer and Verlander totally agree with you; they're on the record. I suspect you know that the best pitcher of his generation thinks this way, but I haven't seen Kershaw on the record with these thoughts.
Thanks for another wildly entertaining column.
Great to see you at the Ebell! It was a fantastic panel! I know Miles and Quinn from Chevalier's and I am friends with one of the owners. Great bookstore! Great column and some hilarious lines! :)
A 90-pitch ceiling... Fernando in Game 3 of the '81 World Series -- 147 pitch, complete game, 5-4 win. We've gone from 3-days between starts to four, now often 5-6. That's the way it is, but can you imagine Kershaw saying, "If you'd just taken me out before the 7th" against St. Louis? Just give Kirby the "Darwin Award" and move on with the times, I suppose. And, thank you, Boston, for Mookie. Perhaps we should come up with a Babe Ruth Trade of the Year award to be given retroactively after allowing deals to run their course.
If I recall correctly (big IF but still) Mookie's Boston departure was set in motion when JD Martinez exercised his mid-contract player option. This committed a zillion dollars (exaggerated but not by much) to a still-effective but older DH. (Personally I thought the Sox should have sought to pay him a season's salary to simply opt-out.) With Mookie's free agency on the horizon, once they ran those numbers the writing was on The Wall aka The Green Monster. Still, trading a Mookie Betts is one thing, getting a decent return is another. Alex Verdugo had a good COVID season but has been pretty mediocre since. His Sox stats are virtually identical to his Dodgers stats, so it's not like he has let them down. Connor Wong is a run of the mill Catcher. Part of the Sox upside as I recall was salary dumping David Price.
Great essay as always, Molly.
It may have been Henry’s luxury tax demands but yeah, Bloom still has to own it.
I thought this sentence by Ginny Searle in Baseball Prospectus on the Betts thing was absolutely delicious: ‘Bloom was asked to remain competitive, improve the drafting and development pipeline, and reduce expenses by trading Betts—akin to asking a doctor to increase blood flow to the extremities in a patient who just had their still-beating heart removed’
Your critique of the timing/reasoning behind his firing rests on the assumption that ownership wants to win. That shouldn’t be presumed in a closed league where profits are basically guaranteed.
And their trading Mookie for no reason is one of the single greatest front office failures in sports history.
Oh, forgot to say it was really wonderful to finally meet you last night at Harold Records after Joe’s Q&A - you were perfect as host/comrade for Joe, who was brilliant - he’s such a good story teller (and humble-funnily self depreciating, like you) - in fact, some truly amazing stories, the DiMaggio-Gionfriddo thing in the 47 Series really blew my mind - had not yet gotten to that story, the ‘five catches’, in the book, so quickly read it to the end today
MLB.com should have inning-by-inning countdown on Kirby tonight as he approaches 90 pitches.
And regarding Betts trade: Do we honestly believe in negotiations Betts asked for a financial figure greater than what the Dodgers signed him for? My Spidey Sense tells me the Sox weren’t going to sign a fat deal for Betts, but saw an opportunity to package Betts with Price and get two expensive salaries off the payroll at one time. Bloom was the fall guy but I think ownership was not upset to make the trade--they banked on bigger returns from Verdugo, Wong and Downs to say, two years later, we won that trade, especially if Betts went FA the next year and Dodgers got only one season from the trade.
Excellent column, Molly. There is not another writer I read who brings the mix of nailed down facts, insider information, and blessedly joyful snark that you deploy. Just fantastic every time.
“Footnote: Babe Ruth was traded to the Yankees on Jan. 5, 1920. Mookie Betts was traded to the Dodgers on Feb. 11, 2020.” <-- the grandparents of the player Boston will trade in February 2120 will be born soon!
I LOVE the headline! (Bloom's two predecessors were fired DURING a game, so this termination is practically by the HR Book, comparatively-speaking.) Maybe just as well to do it now, and get the process going, rather than wait until season-end. I, and a lot of Sox fans, suspect Bloom's hands were tied when it came to keeping Mookie or not, i.e. via a salary limit. I've never believed that was a "baseball trade" as was asserted at the time. That said, Molly's scenario of the choice Bloom would have had, and thus his still 'owning' the choice, rings true. The added point about the stands being filled with Dodger fans during the LA-Boston series and the visual humiliation is a great point.
The headline is outstanding. The closest recent trading debacle that I can compare to (my) Sox trading Mookie was when Edmonton traded Gretzky. Even if that’s what Gretzky wanted, it was still shocking at the time - because it was like trading Babe Ruth. The fact remains that the Sox could have kept Mookie and elected not to. That’s the disappointing part to me.
I too greatly enjoyed the Bob Gibson rising from his grave with beanball intent line.
I attended the Ebell event on Tuesday and found it enjoyable. I know it was Posnanski's book event, but I did think the guys could have let you have a few more syllables edged in, but c'est la vie.
I was in the back and wanted to meet you, but too many admirers, and had to go.
Next time, hopefully.
Just for self deprecating giggles, I was one of the many kids from the neighborhood who took cotillion at the Wilshire Ebell back in the '70s, and I'm glad to say the place hasn't changed at all. Lovely venue and a true throwback (or perhaps brushback?) to Raymond Chandler L.A.
Good fun take Molly on a lot of non-fun action by baseball execs and wussy pitchers!