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Tag: "baseball"

Baseball was Lou Gehrig’s Disease?

[ 25 ] August 17, 2010 |


Lou Gehrig, a heroic slugger for the Yankees baseball team, was famed for brushing aside repeated fractures and batting after nearly being knocked unconscious, before giving his name to the disease that was said to have killed him.

But a new study suggests that the player may not have died of Lou Gehrig’s disease, formerly known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a type of motor neurone disease. Instead, it may have been the baseballs bouncing off his head that claimed his life in 1941.

According to a paper to be published tomorrow in a leading journal, Gehrig and a string of American football players and soldiers recorded as dying of ALS, may instead have died due to brain traumas.

Research at the Veterans Affairs Medical Centre in Massachusetts and Boston University’s medical school have identified markings in the spinal cords of two American football players and a boxer who were said to have died of ALS that suggest they died as the result of a disease caused by concussion or other head trauma that attacks the central nervous system.

The finding, published in the Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology, now means doctors may have to reassess how to treat athletes suffering lasting effects from concussion, and particularly the rising numbers of American soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with brain injuries caused by roadside bombs.

Gehrig, who built a heroic reputation for playing on despite injuries – he played 2,130 games over 14 years – is not named in the study. But Dr Ann McKee, the director of the neuropathology laboratory for the New England Veterans Administration Medical Centers, and the lead neuropathologist on the study, said that the implication is that he may well have died not from the disease named after him but from the repeated concussions he received on the baseball field as well as when he played American football in school and at university.

Isn’t this something that could be determined by exhumation? I say dig him up; dig him up now!

…apparently Gehrig was cremated. Nevertheless, there must be some Yankee first baseman worth digging up. Joe Collins? Don Mattingly?


Bobby Thomson

[ 21 ] August 17, 2010 |

My favorite detail about the Shot Heard Round the World is that after the game Thomson rode the subway home (apparently major league ballplayers in New York in the 1950s routinely rode the subway to and from games).

Nice Job, Cap’n

[ 6 ] August 12, 2010 |


You eat at enough DFACs and you’re going to see some awesomely bad Armed Forces Network commercials. One series that I actually like features MLB players, vets and managers telling the troops how much they appreciate them and want them to get home safe. (Josh Hamilton, Mike Scioscia, Dave Winfield, Rafael Furcal, Phil Hughes, Andy Pettitte, Victor Martinez, etc.) It comes across as a nice, heartfelt message.

Except, unfortunately for Derek Jeter, who looks into the camera and says, “To the troops, wanna thank you for your support…” Fingernails on a chalkboard.

Now we know what we’re fighting for.

Managerial Responsibility

[ 14 ] August 9, 2010 |

Or, what can Don Wakamatsu and Martin O’Neill possibly have in common, besides either newfound unemployment or having managed teams that I give a damn about (the Mariners and Celtic, respectively)?

Aston Villa manager O’Neill shockingly resigned with immediate effect only days before the season is to commence.  Rumor has it that transfer policy this off-season sent him over the edge.  Specifically, it looked as though Villa were about to lose two of their top players, James Milner (late of the England World Cup debacle) and Ashley Young, while O’Neill was not allowed to re-invest 100% of the proceeds from the sale, nor did ownership sanction the contract demands of Stephen Ireland, coming in part trade from Manchester City in the proposed / rumored Milner move to Manchester.  O’Neill, perhaps correctly, interpreted this as a surrender of ambition, and walked away.  O’Neill is highly regarded, and considered a hero by Celtic faithful.

His timing is crap for not only Villa, but also his own; walk out a couple weeks ago, and the Liverpool job is his.

Less surprisingly, the Seattle Mariners just fired their manager, Don Wakamatsu, and several members of his coaching staff.

Wakamatsu did not deserve this.  Last year, he was regarded for his brilliance, if not for every tactical decision he made on the field, for his ability to actually manage the cast of highly paid athletes / egos under his supervision.  This year, a 42-70 could have had the effect of attenuating the perceived brilliance, and his correctly showing Ken Griffey Jr. the exit door to his career made him close to universally unpopular.  These are superficial, anecdotal pieces of evidence; the sabermetric literature (that I am familiar with, I am now a couple years behind I’m afraid, although there is some interesting stuff here) has had a difficult time establishing that the field manager of a ball club has much measurable effect at all, and is negligible at best.

If baseball managers do not have any (as of yet) measurable effect on the probability of team success, is the same true for soccer managers?  Typically, soccer managers have a dual role from an American perspective: GM and field manager.  Player acquisition / disposal, the starting lineups, and on field tactics are wholly under his (or her) control.  This is not so in baseball, but also not the entire point.  While analysis on this question is highly limited, my non-rigorous, unsystematic hunch informed by anecdotal evidence perhaps hobbled by some subconscious selection bias tells me that the manager has a measurable effect on the probability of success.  Note, I’m not suggesting that the manager is the sole determinant of success, but that it is measurable.  (That study does not quite get at my question, but it’s the most rigorous I’m aware of).

I suspect that a “name” baseball manager would have also walked if presented with the situation O’Neill faced: the classic ‘fire sale’ followed by a clear lack of ambition, because his reputation is on the line.  However, the difference in the two cases is that the reputation of O’Neil is deserved, while the reputation of Wakamatsu, be it his brilliant 2009 or his miserable 2010, is not.

Sad, But True

[ 10 ] August 9, 2010 |

A Yankees fan friend (to the extent to such a thing is possible) comments:

Definition of a masochist: Mets’ fan who watches his team lose a one-run game to the hated Phillies, then hopes the Red Sox will beat the Yankees to make up for it.

Although I suppose one could just stop with “Mets fan.”

Meaningful AL East/Wild Card Race

[ 10 ] August 9, 2010 |

R.I.P. Dustin Moseley wins the Kei Igawa memorial award as the replacement-level pitcher who looks like Pete Alexander in a crucial game against Boston. And yet — I may have more than this when I revisit my pre-season picks this week, but while the Red Sox offense was the biggest concern going into the year, as it turns out the biggest issue has been that Lackey and Beckett haven’t done the job.


[ 9 ] August 2, 2010 |

Dusty Baker removed Travis Wood after 103 pitches tonight, despite the fact that he was pitching a two hit shutout. I am duly impressed. I also worry that these Reds are going to break my heart…

Poor, Underpriveleged Yankees Receive Another Donation

[ 50 ] July 31, 2010 |

So the National League tried to help out the poor defenseless Yankees before the season by trading them a quality starter for a marginal fifth outfielder, but so far it’s been merely an awful trade rather than a complete heist (although I bet Vazquez ends the year with an ERA+ well over 100 while Melky will still be Melky.)    So I guess the Yanks needed more charity, getting an excellent hitter in a mild down year and cash in exchange for a “free Coke refill at Appelbee’s with $30 purchase” coupon.    Man who should return to blogging Ken Tremendous summarizes the progression of the Astros’ “logic”:

    • Astros paying Berkman’s salary is like a homeless guy getting robbed by a billionaire and throwing in a free shoeshine.
    • “We want Berkman.” “Okay.” “But you pay him.” “Okay.” “In return, we’ll give you a pile of cat vomit.” “Okay.” “Now gimme your car.” “Okay.”
    • “I will trade you negative four million dollars for Lance Berkman.” “Deal!”
    • “We want Montero for Berkman.” “How about we give you nothing and you give us four million dollars and Berkman.” “Even better!”

    I expect that by the time they formally announce the trade the Astros will have thrown in Brett Myers too.    And the fact that now that Spec Richardson seems to be running the team from beyond the grave the Astros might challenge the Pirates’ losing streak record before they win again won’t be that much consolation.


    [ 18 ] July 29, 2010 |

    And it gives me an excuse to post this video again!

    They’re so far behind their divisional opposition that I don’t know much it will help, but I think this is a good hire for the Orioles. It’s not exactly unjust that Torre took the team Showalter built to 4 World Championships, because Showalter did (gloriously) screw up the biggest game of his career at least as egregiously as Grady Little screwed up Game 7 in 2003, using completely gassed starters for several high-leverage innings while only getting 2/3s of an inning out of his brilliant relievers. But he did have a large role in building that team, and his professionalism and ability to judge and motivate young talent will be real assets for Baltimore. He may not be the manager you want to take your team over the top but….that’s obviously not an issue here.

    In news more relevant to the pennant race, getting Oswalt makes up for Amaro’s strange decision to trade Lee, and I’d definitely bet on them to make the postseason from behind once again.

    Jim Bunning Embarrasses Kentucky Again…

    [ 12 ] July 29, 2010 |

    Thanks, Jim; you’re making the most of your twilight as a US Senator:

    A reporter from Politico asked Bunning for his thoughts about Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg missing his start on Tuesday with shoulder soreness. Bunning grabbed his arm with a fake exclamation of pain and then decided to question Strasburg’s manhood.

    “Five-hundred twenty starts, I never refused the ball,” Bunning said. “What a joke!”

    “He was in the top one percentile,” Bunning said, pinching his thumb and forefinger together. Now, Bunning said, he’s closer to the 50th percentile.

    Jim Bunning pitched 104.1 innings prior to his 25th birthday. Strasburg turned 22 last Thursday, and has already pitched 54.1. You’d think that ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans would satisfy Bunning, but apparently he’d also like to destroy the career of a promising young athlete.

    I’d like to believe that Bunning’s retirement will open up the possibility of a non-embarrassing junior Senator. I’d like to believe that…

    The Haren Heist

    [ 20 ] July 27, 2010 |

    Since I was accused in comments of “east coast bias” for thinking that the Mets considering a swap of expensive useless players for expensive useless players probably wasn’t going to solve anything because the Angels just got fleeced by giving away Joe Saunders, I should note that back here in the real world the Angels got one of the best starters in baseball for a below-average starter and three marginal prospects. This kind of deal is a good indication of why the Angels are what they are and the Snakes are what they are. And, yes, if the Mets were serious about winning they would have been thinking about putting together a package for the apparently very obtainable Haren rather than putting together a package for Gil Meche.

    Really Undeserving Hall of Famers

    [ 24 ] July 27, 2010 |

    Bill Conlin’s article about undeserving Hall of Famers makes a lot of odd choices (if otherwise clearly qualified managers are to be excluded for using profanity, for example, the ranks are going to be pretty thin), considering the amount of low-hanging fruit out there. But it’s hard to get a better example of tendentious sportswriter logic than this:

    We start with Adrian “Cap” Anson, whose “Get that n- off the field” order, directed at International League pitcher George Stovey in 1887, led to a league ban on black players the next day. The “Gentlemen’s Agreement” remained in force for 60 years. Anson played a variety of positions, most in the outfield. His 200 games at third base lead off the Least Deserving HOF nine plus manager.

    THIRD BASE: Cap Anson

    He was a big man for his time, a strapping 230-pounder regarded as baseball’s first superstar. Anson’s 27-year career began in 1871. In 22 seasons as the leader — and later manager — of the Chicago White Stockings, his batting average was .334. But in 221 games at third, his fielding percentage was .813. Yeech! … How much influence did Anson have on his game? Mainly those five words directed toward two black men (Fleet Walker was also on the field) that put baseball equality on hold for 60 years.

    Evaluating a player based on unadjusted 19th-century fielding percentages at his non-primary position is pretty much the definition using statistics for support, not illumination. But the bigger problem here, as Bill James discussed a while ago, is the strange narrative that Cap Anson is singlehandedly responsible for segregation in baseball, because he had…pretty much the same white supremacist opinions most white men of his generation did, including those who had substantially more power within baseball than he did. I have particular inclination to defend Anson, but making baseball Jim Crow about one person is actually a comforting illusion that lets way too many people of the hook. And the idea that this Anson’s only influence over the game is utterly absurd.

    Joe Posnanski offers a much better candidate for Cooperstown removal:

    Tom Yawkey. Longtime owner of the Boston Red Sox who somehow managed in 44 years of ownership to never win a World Series and to be the last team in baseball to field a black player. He was, according to his plaque, the first man to have his team fly by plane. So he had that going for him.

    While baseball almost certainly would have been segregated if Cap Anson had been an ahead-of-his-time civil rights crusader, Tom Yawkey kept the Red Sox segregated well after most of baseball had moved on from the apartheid era, and was comfortable having open bigots run his team into the 60s. And while Anson was a player of great accomplishment aside from his appalling views on race, while Yawkey did lift the Red Sox out the class of franchises who didn’t even try to compete he was otherwise an owner of no particular distinction in addition to having racist views that were much less common to his time. As long as he has a plaque in Cooperstown we shouldn’t even be discussing Anson.

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