Negro League Players Get Their Just Due

Negro League Baseball MuseumRawlings announced, yesterday, that they would award Gold Gloves to nine players (one at each position) who played in the Negro Leagues. It is a great gesture by Rawlings to award these deserving players. The players will be announced in a ceremony and awards will be given on June 28th. It will be held at the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO, just ahead of the All-Star Game.

I cannot think of a better way to kick off the All-Star game festivities, than this long-overdue ceremonies. The players will be selected by a six person panel. One person on the panel is Bob Kendrick, the President of the Negro League Baseball Museum. He described the selection process this way:

These awards will recognize those players who didn’t make the jump to the Major Leagues and recognize exclusively Negro Leagues performances.

This announcement comes right on the heels of baseball-reference.com ending their years long project and adding Negro League player stats to their great site. this has ben a great year for the Negro League Museum, which is fitting as it is Negro League legend Buck O’Neil’s 100th birthday. During his life, O’Neil was an incredible ambassador for baseball and a true credit to the game. What a great tribute to his legacy.

This is a great gesture by Rawlings to do this. The Negro Leagues grew out of a result of a horrible “gentleman’s agreement” that kept African-American players out of the Major Leagues for nearly 80 years. The players made the best of a horrible situation and they are finally getting the credit they deserve. My hat is off to Rawlings.

To keep up with the Negro League Baseball Museum, be sure to follow @NLBMPrez on Twitter.

Cole Hamels Shouldn’t Be Suspended

Cole Hamels (Philadelphia Phillies) hitting Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals) with a pitch.Yesterday, Cole Hamels intentionally threw a pitch at Bryce Harper (video). While Bryce Harper was on base, he stole home, and Cole Hamels was bit by Jordan Zimmerman when he came up to the plate. Clearly, Hamels lost the battle, but more importantly, it was kept on the field and it was over and done with.

Today, Major League Baseball (MLB) announced that they would suspend Hamels for five games, basically one start. The length of the of the suspension is not the issue. The issue is the knee-jerk reaction of MLB to hand out suspensions for hitting their current “golden boy.” I’m not against Bryce Harper, in fact, I really hope he blossoms into a superstar and transcends the sport to attract new fans, but getting hit by a pitch, even intentionally, is part of the game.

Bryce Harper seemed to understand that when he trotted to first without a word to Hamels, or anyone else on the Phillies. Hamels seemed to understand it when he trotted to first after getting hit by a pitch. What will come of Zimmerman? Was he also in the wrong for hitting Hamels? It was just as intentional. Where should it end?

I have written many times about this subject in the short history of this blog, and I concede that I will probably have to write about it many more times. Pretty soon, pitchers are going to get so hamstrung that they will throw everything down the middle for fear of a suspension or hitting a batter. It’s ridiculous. I do not applaud Cole Hamels for hitting Harper intentionally, but I do applaud his honesty.

Say it Ain’t So, Mo

As the world knows by now, Mariano (Mo) Rivera tore his ACL during batting practice and will be out for the remainder of the 2012 season. Before the season, Rivera announced that this season would be his last. However, with the injury, he announced that he would return in 2013 to complete his remarkable Major League career.

Any way you look at it, Rivera is the greatest closer of all-time. He is the all-time leader in career Saves He is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and could pave the way for pitchers like Lee Smith to take his rightful place in Cooperstown. His career ERA for the regular season is an astonishing 2.21. It’s even more impressive when you consider that Rivera pitched his entire career in the American League, and he pitched most o his career in the heart of the steroids era.

When you look at his numbers in the postseason, it is even more astonishing. He was outright unhittable. His career postseason ERA was a minuscule 0.70. In 141 innings in the postseason, he gave up only 11 runs and just 2 home runs. It was almost a sure bet that the game was over when Mo entered the game. As sure of a bet as there ever has been, anyway. He also won five World Series rings.

It is fitting that Rivera will end his career on the mound, instead of in batting practice. I applaud the decision to come back in 2013. I have never been a fan of the Yankees (especially after they beat my beloved Braves in 1996 and 1998), but it is almost impossible to not have respect for a guy like Rivera, who represents everything that is right with the game. Hopefully, he can come back in 2013 and dominate hitters just like he always has.

Kate Upton Follows Christie Brinkley

Kate Upton Allan and Ginter Card from ToppsKate Upton, the super model that was on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit  Issue and the spokesperson for the MLB 2K12 game franchise will grace the cover of something very different than a magazine cover. According to Beckett (the source for baseball card news), Kate Upton will be on a baseball card when Topps issues it’s popular Allen and Ginter set.

The card (to the right) has an old-time feel because the Allen and Ginter set is a reproduction set of a popular Tobacco set form the late-1800s. The original set featured cards from all walks of life: from baseball to boxing, from Native Americans to icons of the Wild West. The reproduction set stays true to the original by having not only baseball, but cards from all sectors of pop culture. Given Upton immense popularity, it is no surprise to see her in the set. The real question is how much the card will be worth.

Upton is not the first supermodel to be on a baseball card though. In 1996, the Pinnacle Company (makers of Pinnacle, Score, Summit, and Zenith baseball cards) enlisted the photography skills of Christie Brinkley. She took key players from the Braves and Indians (who were in the 1995 World Series) and had them in a variety of poses and posed with each player on the back of the card.

Christie Brinkley Collection with Dave Justice

Baseball card companies (Topps, Panini, and Upper Deck) are always looking for unique ways to try to attract customers. Whether it is a hair from a president or a celebrity encapsulated in a card, or having cards of supermodels. They will try anything and keep what works the best. Kate Upton is not the first supermodel to be on a card, and she won’t be the last. I suspect, though, that her card will be a hot commodity when it is released.

VIDEO: Bryce Harper Playing Mall Ball

Here in the nation’s capital we play a different kind of softball. There are 535 members of congress, numerous organizations, and various news orgnizations. Most of them have softball teams. As you can imagine, there are a lot of teams that play softball and there is not a room to play it in. One of the few places to play is on the vast expanse of the National Mall. There are worse things than playing softball surrounded by the U.S. Capital, Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian Castle.

The fields, if you can call them that, are sections of the national mall set aside by interns and distinguished by cones. Bases are put at what looks like 60 feet, give or take, and ground rules are set by the team coaches. During the game you need to watch out for the surrounding games as well as hundreds of tourists that walk by in amazement to see that people are playing softball.

One of the people walking by a game was Nationals rookie sensation Bryce Harper. He decided to take some hacks in the game ans the teams were more than happy to oblige, obviously. The pitcher deserves a ton of credit because he is standing very close to a hitter that can really injure him with a comebacker. A fun time was had by all.

Tim Welke’s Call

Todd Helton and Tim WelkeToday, Tim Welke made an “out” call at first when Todd Helton’s foot was nearly a foot off the bag. It was a terrible call. There is no doubt that fans of instant replay will be clamoring for it to be instated. However, one bad call should not cause a knee-jerk reaction.

Most calls that are wrong are bang-bang plays that are very tough to see in real time. It is only after watching the play in super slow-motion and pausing on the play that we can determine if a call was correct, or not. Umpires don’t have that luxury, nor do they need it. Announcers will spend 5-10 minutes reviewing a play that, in the bigger picture, don’t have that big of an impact on the game. Although, there are times when a bad call is the only difference between a win and a loss.

This call, is a bit different, It is so egregiously bad that there was no need for a replay, or a slow-motion replay, or a still shot. There was nothing between Helton’s foot and the bag except air and opportunity. It’ll be a play that is replayed and talked about ad nausea. It might become the poster child for what a “bad call” is.

Welke knows he made the wrong call. He has to know. Umpires are very good at what they do and a call like that is very rare. It is a very human element of the game that hasn’t really changed much since it’s inception. That’s because it hasn’t needed to. A strike is a strike, a ball is a ball, runners are either safe or out, and balls are either fair or fall. People have disagreed with umpires decisions since 1869, and instant replay will do little to stop that.

Bryce Harper’s Day of Reckoning

Today, Bryce Harper will be in a Major League uniform for the Washington Nationals as they take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. This day is a culmination of three years of hype surrounding him. After being the number one overall pick in 2010, he seemed to languish in the minor leagues. Most experts figured he would be called up late in the season to bolster the Nationals who would inevitably be out of contention and it would give him some low pressure big league at bats.That was not the case.

After breezing through rookie level, Harper seemed to struggle a bit more in for the AA Harrisburg Senators and spent most of the last year there. Most prospects that are as hot as he is only pay lip service in the minors en route to the majors. In 1996,  Andruw Jones went from Single-A to the Majors in single season. That was not the case for Harper.

He was invited to Spring Training with the Nationals, but failed to set the world on fire and was cut from the Major League club a few weeks in and was assigned to AAA Syracuse. As always, his call up seemed to be tied to how well the Nationals were playing. It seems very odd that they are bringing him up when they are playing very well and are in first place. If I was in charge, I would not want to do anything to disrupt the team chemistry at this point in time, but the decision was made by people who know more than I.

Who knows if he will play tonight. That is a decision that will be made by Davey Johnson. But today starts the journey of yet another hot prospect. Some start with a burst and fade away, some start with a whimper and have stellar careers, and the rare ones live up to the hype and some even surpass it. Let’s hope that he lives up to the hype. Baseball needs a star.