St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa on Tuesday said he’s a “supporter” of Arizona’s immigration law and welcomed local Tea Partiers who were inside the stadium to show Arizona solidarity — even though his team was facing off that night against the Diamondbacks.
La Russa, talking to reporters, addressed the subject because dozens of St. Louis Tea Party members were at Busch Stadium to demonstrate in support of the Arizona law.
The Cardinals manager, who attended Florida State University’s School of Law and is one of only five lawyers ever to manage a Major League Baseball team, said he thinks the Tea Partiers are “correct” on “a lot of things” and welcomed competing points of view into his team’s stadium.
“I’m actually a supporter of what Arizona’s doing. … The national government doesn’t fix your problem, and you’ve got a problem, they’ve got to take care of it themselves,” La Russa said.
Given the degraded quality of Honus Wagner’s competition, I think the choosing the best closer of all time is easier than any other position, especially if you place appropriate weight on Rivera’s insanely good postseason performance. (Given the leverage of his typical outing, is he the most valuable postseason performer of all time? It’s hard to argue with that.) What’s especially interesting about Rivera is that his immortality — unlike that of Wagner, say, or Ruth or Mantle or Bonds or Pedro or Pujols — doesn’t rest on doing things that only a tiny handful of other players in history could do. If you were to look at 1998, when Rivera had a slightly subpar (especially in the K/W data) but essentially typical season — the 233 ERA+ actually above his career average, 36 saves about right given that he missed a few games — there were plenty of distinct non-immortals having seasons about as good or better: Urbina, Hoffman, Wetteland, Nen, Jeff Shaw, Michael Jackson fer Chrissakes. And then there were more pitchers — Beck, Wagner, Lightenberg — who were in the same general class if you account for how small samples can make the ERA fluctuate. Given that, it would seem as if it there would be multiple Riveras, guys who who could sustain the performance of the typical Excellent Closer Year for as long as great position players have. Maybe not Rivera, but at least guys who belong in the discussion.
But nobody does. Among the few modern closers who have maintained anything like that level of performance for more than a decade — Lee Smith, Hoffman, Reardon and Franco and Myers if you’re feeling really charitable – all have settled into a distinctly much lower level of quality even as they remained good enough to be decent closers. While Rivera has not only sustained his excellence, he’s gotten better; barring a second half collapse, his three year performance from ages 38-40 will be the best of his career and significantly better than his age 28-30 seasons. It’s genuinely remarkable, and if I’m still not not sure I understand it Traub’s article takes me about as close as I can.
So, you’re down 6-3 in the bottom of the 6th inning. Your starting pitcher has given up all six of those runs, and his spot comes up with two outs and a man on second. Do you pinch hit for him? If you let him hit, do you then replace him to start the 7th? If your Dusty Baker, the answers are “No,” and “Of course.”
As commenters have pointed out, fairness demands that it be noted that Jim Joyce may have screwed up what would have been a profitable future career as a Republican elected official or BP executive by admitting his egregious error. And given this it would probably better to emulate Galarraga’s remarkable class and grace under pressure.
But since I’m not as good a person as Galarraga, I should explain why I don’t buy the argument that since it didn’t cost the Tigers the game it wasn’t that big a deal. I think this actually stands the truth on its head. While I’m free about criticizing inept umpiring, I try to never claim that umps cost the team a game, because it’s almost always more complicated than that. Cuzzi’s foul call in the ALDS last year was at least as bad as Joyce’s, but it was a pretty minor factor in the Twins loss; Cuzzi didn’t tell Joe Nathan to throw a cookie to Slappy Rodriguez, he wasn’t hitting when the Twins went on to parlay the bases loaded with none out into zero runs, and given the same sequence of events the Twins would have been huge underdogs, tied against a better team on the road. Same thing with Denkinger; it was a bad call, if not quite was bad as Joyce/Cuzzi, but the Cardinals still had every chance to win after it, and Denkinger wasn’t hitting or pitching when the Cardinals went on to be outscored 13-0. The endless whining by the Cardinals and their fans is not merely problematic but unseemly, excuse making by a team that lost and deserved to lose. And as much as it pains me to admit it, the same goes for the Seahawks’ Super Bowl loss. If Holmgren spent less time complaining about the officiating and more time on his two minute drill they might have won.
What was unusual about the Joyce call was that it really was an if-not-then call in which the athletes in question were blameless. Which, combined with the fact that it wasn’t close but was a call a major league umpire should never get wrong, makes it hard to forgive. And while a perfect game might be an “arbitrary” accomplishment, well, Dennis Martinez in 1991 and Pedro’s 27 outs-with-no-support in San Diego in 1995 are two of my most ten most vividly remembered regular season games as a fan, and I don’t think I’m unusual.
Ken Griffey Jr. has retired. It’s impossible to overstate Griffey’s importance to Seattle baseball, or the excitement in the Northwest over the idea of having a genuine Hall of Famer to watch. His years in Cincinnati were less distinguished, of course, and his coda in Seattle lasted just a touch too long. For my part, he reinvigorated my enthusiasm in baseball after a hiatus of six or so years following Donnie Moore’s failure in the 1986 ALCS.
Thank you, Ken. You were my all-time favorite baseball player. Enjoy your retirement.