FR M THE BULLPEN
Official Publication of the
Hot Stove League
Eastern Nebraska Division
I woke up Monday morning last with an almost overwhelming sense of “What’s the use,” as in, what’s the use of getting up, what’s the use of getting showered and dressed, what’s the use of going to work, what’s the use of chugging this 16-ounce tumbler of Old Granddad, etc. This is not my typical morning mindset, as I am usually up with the roosters and merrily about my business, a kick in my step and not a damn care in the world.
After about a half day of this relative gloom, I came to the rather obvious self-diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder, plainly caused by the end of the baseball season the night before. What a downer to think about: Four months without any baseball. I’m sure many of you share this same off-season depression.
But hey, instead of lying around feeling sorry for ourselves, let’s do something about it. Let’s . . . talk baseball!
It would be darned hard to come up with a World Series that was more exciting than this year’s seven-game nail-biter between the Yankees and the Diamondbacks. I don’t think you can do it. It was definitely a World Series for the Ages.
Some of the high points of the Series were:
à The Yankees’ comeback in Game 4 on Tino Martinez’s two-out, bottom of the ninth home run off Kim.
à Jeter’s walk-off home run which then won it for the Yankees in Game 4.
à Brosius’ two-out, bottom of the ninth jack off Kim in Game 5, to the stunned disbelief of Brenly.
à Brenly’s decision to have Schilling pitch Game 4 on three days’ rest.
à Brenly’s decision to pull Schilling after seven in Game 4, leading to Kim’s surrendering of the home run.
à The fabulous pitching performance of unsung Diamondback Miguel Batista.
à The Game 6 blowout by the Diamondbacks (most hits ever in a World Series game).
à The Clemens vs. Schilling matchup in Game 7 (Clash of the Titans).
à Clemens’ surrendering of the first run in Game 7, followed by Schilling surrendering the tying run.
à Brenly’s decision not to pinch-hit for Schilling in the seventh with the score tied at 1 and the Diamondbacks in need of runs.
à Soriano’s fabulous home run on a very good Schilling pitch to give the Yankees the seemingly impenetrable 2-1 lead.
à Rivera’s wasting of the Diamondbacks’ hitters in the bottom of the eighth, striking out the side.
à Mariano’s errant throw on the bunt in the bottom of the ninth, which got past Jeter and fueled the Diamondbacks’ rally.
à Rivera’s terrific play on the next bunt at third base, which might have been a double play if Brosius had only looked to first.
à The clutch double by Tony Womack, which tied the game and put runners at second and third with one out.
à The decision of Torre not to walk Craig Counsell to load the bases.
à The unintentional beaning of Counsell by Rivera to load the bases.
à The decision of Torre to play the infield in to go for the play at the plate.
à The clutch, and I mean clutch, hit of Luis Gonzalez to win this heartstopper of a thriller of a baseball game.
I can’t imagine anyone scripting a more exciting, more intriguing Game 7, which allowed Brenly to fulfill his dream of coming back against the best postseason fireman of all time, Mariano Rivera.
Like Dennis Quaid’s performance in Christmas Vacation, I’ll never, ever forget it. You, Bob?
THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON
It’s customary to include in these pages a recap of how our league’s championship team was formed. I hope I will not be perceived as immodest as I continue that tradition by talking about how the ’01 Championship Senators came to be.
Round 1 – Todd Helton, 1st base. I surprised myself a little bit by taking Todd Helton in the first round, since I fully intended to go with pitching or I-Rod as the fifth player taken in the first round. However, the combination of young stud/top scorer in 2000/Coors Field was too tasty to resist. I doubt that Todd will do worse than fifth overall pick for quite some time, as long as he remains a Rockie.
Round 2 – Manny Ramirez, RF. My second pick was also somewhat of a surprise, since I fully expected that one of the rest of you knuckleheads would pick up Manny the Man in the late first round or early in the second. Manny was one of my few – perhaps only – successful market timing stories. When I traded him to Mouse on June 2, he was still batting at or near .400 and averaging 5.3 points a game. For the Bombers, his average (.252) was closer to the Mendoza line than to the .400 level, and he had his usual spate of late season injuries. Manny scored 333 points for the Senators in 62 games, but only 308 points for Mouse in 81 games. Bummer, Mouse.
Round 3 – Curt Schilling, SP. A brilliant mid-third round pick, if I do say so myself. Schilling was the heart and soul of the Senators team, just as he was for his own Diamondbacks. I don’t think he’ll make it to the third round next year.
Round 4 – Kerry Wood, SP. Irresistible trade bait.
Round 5 – Derek Lowe, CL. Fourth reliever taken in draft, third in a row after Benitez and Hoffman. A panic move because of a run on relievers? So what. I won anyway.
Round 6 – Jeff Weaver, SP. I would have been better off with Charlie Weaver. He’ll be lucky to make the top ten rounds next year.
Round 7 – Carl Everett, CF. Third straight bust pick for the Senators. If I was going to take an angry brother with an attitude, I should have taken Bonds.
Round 8 – Aaron Sele, SF. Started out great, petered out in the second half. Disappointing numbers for an alleged No. 1 starter on a team that won 116 games in a pitcher’s ballpark.
Round 9 – Charles Johnson, C. I thought I was a genius for stealing Charlie in the 10th round, which seemed to be borne out by his first half performance. Then Chuck batted about two bucks and a quarter the second half, forgot how to hit home runs, and sat out about every third game, probably earning himself a spot in the pantheon of disappointing ex-Senators who will never be Senators again.
Round 10 – Todd Walker, 2B. Again, I was ready for the mantle of genius to be lowered upon my brow after this pick, with Colorado Todd II playing in the wonderfully thin air of Coors Field, entirely unsuspecting that (a) the idiotic management of the Rockies would trade him, or (b) that Walker isn’t much better a mile up than at sea level. Actually, in the end, he finished fairly strong for the Reds and turned out to be a half-way decent tenth round pick.
Round 11 – Jeromy Burnitz, RF. Patience is the touchstone and the watchword with Jeromy. He’ll bat about .247 and have ten consecutive 4000 games, which will drive you crazy, but he also hits jacks in bunches and is likely to accumulate a decent number of bonus points over the long haul. I still can’t believe that this $10 million man was available in the eleventh round.
Round 12 – Phil Nevin, 3B. Need I say anything about my selection of Phil Nevin in the twelfth round? Some might say lucky, most would say brilliant. Thank you very much.
Round 13 – Jacques Jones, LF. Ill-advised.
Round 14 – Brian Anderson, SP. If he had pitched in the regular season like he did in the postseason, I wouldn’t have cut his sorry behind so early.
Round 15 – Mark Loretta, SS. This guy is a heckuva hitter but spends more time in sick bay than Chris Brown, the former “Tin Man.”
Round 16 – Julio Lugo, SS. Got decent points for me at shortstop until I flimflammed Mouse out of Jeter.
Round 17 – Vinny Castilla, 3B. Older than dirt, couldn’t turn on a Big Daddy Reuschel fastball. Glad he was on Possum’s roster at end of season.
Round 18 – Steve Karsay, CL. Good pick for eighteenth rounder until late-season jet fuel disaster.
Round 19 – Erubiel Durazo, 1B. Much-ballyhooed Mexican proved early on not to be of Senatorial timber.
Round 20 – Doug Glanville, CF. Spent a lot of time in the Senators’ starting lineup, could have been worse.
Round 21 – Gabe White, MR. A non-event.
Round 22 – Mark Mulder, SP. 257th player picked overall, finished in 8th place among starting pitchers. On the short list for Best Pick of the Draft award.
Round 23 – Mark Quinn, LF. Not on the short list, nor the long list, nor any list. An absolute hunk-o-crap.
Round 24 – Jeff Nelson, MR. Was surprised to get this star middle reliever now pitching in a pitcher’s ballpark so late in the game. Other than a few rough spots in the second half, was a serviceable MR who got the necessary points at his position.
Round 25 – Warren Morris, 2B. I forgot that I even drafted him. Another lesson that College World Series heroes don’t always pan out in the bigs.
Round 26 – John Flaherty, C. That all-important back-up catcher. Didn’t play a down as a Senator.
FREE AGENT DRAFT
The Senators’ pickup of Joe Mays and Bob Wickman in the first free agent draft on April 9, 2001, were most assuredly of help to the Senators’ pitching staff, at least until Mays’s late-season implosion sent him packing to the Tribe where his season was resurrected.
Scott Schoeneweis, whom I drafted in the second week of free agent draft, turned out to be a perpetual thorn in my side the rest of the season.
On May 7, the Senators picked up Frank Menechino and Ben Sheets, both of whom did their part for the 2001 Senators. On May 21, the Senators drafted Roy Oswalt, who turned out to be an absolutely great free agent pickup – for the Tribe.
There doubtless were other free agent pickups later in the season who played a small part in the Senators’ glorious championship season, but time and lack of interest prevent me from further investigating or commenting upon same.
The much-discussed and debated trade of Manny Ramirez, Kerry Wood and Derek Lowe to Mouse for Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Magglio Ordonez was obvious a linchpin move that, in retrospect, was essential to the Senators’ championship season. Later trades with Bobbaloo in which I forfeited Roy Oswalt for Johnny Damon, and then swapped Joe Mays and Charlie Weaver for Jeff Bagwell were less helpful.
However, the best trade of the year, and the one most responsible for the Senators’ championship season, was the one that Itchie made with Possum to relieve the Wahoos of Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Javier Vazquez. Long live Brother Itchie!
And there you have it, the who, what, where and how of the 2001 Senators.
À U-Bob has already got it figured out that the four sure-fire picks (RJ, Helton, A-Rod and Pedro) will be gone by the time we get to his No. 5 drafting slot in the first round, and that he will have to decide whether to pull the trigger on Schilling; and that when he does, he will have cemented that 2001 was Schilling’s career year. Now that’s a load of weight to be carrying around all winter.
À When I went to the Lancers hockey game the other night with the boys, it occurred to me that our own Brother Itchie’s optimal vocation(1) was right there at the rink before my very eyes – as a driver of the Zamboni machine. I can’t explain it, it just fits.
À Aren’t B.T. and Tirebiter about halfway into their wager that the Crimson Chirpers will not win this league in ten years of play? Although this may have seemed like a good bet for Tirebiter a few years ago when the Redbirds were regularly coming in second place, I now like B.T.’s side of it after the ’Birds’ performance the last two years. Try to make it at least respectable next year, eh, Jimmy?
À I’m not suggesting that Denny doesn’t have his finger on the pulse of world events, but when asked what he thought about the pashtoons in Afghanistan, he responded that he liked music of all kinds, rich or poor.
À I can’t believe that McBlunder is stiffing me and blowing off my celebratory party. We all showed up for his tribute to the one and only(2) championship Blues team at Tirebiter’s house in 1998, much as it pained us to recognize McBlunder as being championship material, and we even graciously accepted his gift of the disturbingly-textured Blues golf shirts, most of which are now covering up garage grease spots. We’ll just see how quickly he gets any 2001 championship Senators apparel or merchandise.
À I tried to talk Itchie into lining up a trip to Vegas and then the Rose Bowl in January, but he would have none of it, claiming the spousal fear factor. Apparently, Anne’s still ticked off about Itchie and Tony getting subpoenaed to testify in Atlanta earlier this year about the goings on at the Solid Gold club. So what’s the problem? Their mouthpiece pleads the Fifth for them, and they’re back home in Omaha, no worse for the wear. Some people have no sense of humor.
(1) He is clearly overemployed as a manager of anything.
(2) Now and forever.
À Mouse sez the Huskers are a lock for the National Championship. Why? Because the Yankees lost the World Series. Seems every year since 1994 the Huskers have either won a National Championship or the Yankees have won the World Series, but never both in the same year. They’re doing it just for you, aren’t they, Mouse. It’s all about you.
Not that it has anything to do with baseball, but I just finished a great book titled George Washington: A Life, by Willard Sterne Randall. It only took me four months to read it at my usual one-page a night clip. But it was well worth the wait.
How many of you knew that:
(a) George Washington was 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, a giant of a man in an era when the average height was about 5-foot-7.
(b) George Washington was a wilderness trailblazer for years in the frontier of America (Western Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania) before becoming a soldier and then politician
(c) George never once set foot in England his entire life, but he spent several months in Barbados with his ailing uncle, where he caught and survived small pox.
(d) As a military leader, he got whipped in about the first five or six armed conflicts that he led, making it a wonder that he became the Supreme Commander of the Americans in the Revolutionary War.
(e) He lost far many more Revolutionary War battles than he won, and really only outlasted the British instead of making them cry uncle, and would almost certainly have lost the war outright if the French Navy had not entered the fray on behalf of the Stars and Stripes.
(f) The reason you never see George smiling in any portraits is that he had possibly the worst teeth of all time, and was embarrassed by them. He was continually trying to wear different kinds of dentures in the later years of his life, including one set made out of pigs teeth. Nice.
I highly recommend that you read it in your spare time.
UPDATE ON POSSUM
Ted is scheduled to have his surgery on December 8th. Best of luck, buddy. We will all be thinking of you.
FÊTE AT ITCHIE’S
One last reminder that the Senators’ championship fête will occur on Friday, November 23, 2001, a red-letter day on everyone’s calendar for sure. Itchie reports that this will be a guys party only, spousal units being discouraged if not outright barred from attendance. The Thielen doors will open for guests about a half hour before the start of the NU-Colorado game, whenever that is.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving. See you on Friday afternoon.