Category Archives: Maranvillains

Week 2 Thoughts

Not a good week so far. The Red Sox did take two against the Yankees. The rest of the news wasn’t as good.

When he was on the team, I thought that Manny Ramirez made the Red Sox more interesting. Who else would hide in the Green Monster? Or inexplicably cutoff a throw from center? Or high-five a fan in Baltimore while doubling up a runner? Winning’s great, but it is even better if it is done in an entertaining manner.

I once called Satchel Paige Free Darko. Manny’s had some of the same characteristics, but I’m not sure if Free Darko is the correct term. I may be misinterpreting their philosophy. The Germans probably have a word for the quality in players I’m talking about; great, or very good at the least, and someone you’d make the extra effort to go see.

He scuffled with Kevin Youkilis and the traveling secretary in ’08 and was traded to the Dodgers. He was suspended 50 games in ’09 because he tested positive for hCG; a fertility drug. If the internets aren’t lying, steroid users take this after a steroid cycle to start testosterone production back up. Late last year, he was exiled to the White Sox.

This winter he signed with Tampa, as did Johnny Damon. He was supposed to return to Boston this week along with Damon, but abruptly retired. I heard about it from Joe Castiglione while listening to the home opener on WVEI. He didn’t say it at first, but later on he read a report that Manny had failed another drug test. I’m scratching my head over this. This is like driving through an announced DWI checkpoint after stopping at a bar for a few cold ones.

The Ray’s didn’t need Manny’s presence when they came to Boston. They swept the rain-shortened series. My seat of the pants prediction system had them second to the Red Sox in the division and a strong contender for the wild card over the Yanks, Orioles and Jays.

I haven’t written about the concept of Maranvillains or the beauty of baseball lately. I’m no longer sure that this is why I watch baseball or if that was ever the case. But this Patrick Sullivan article from last year brought to mind the antithesis of Rabbit Maranville and his heirs: Dice-K.

Also, just like so many other Red Sox fans, Daisuke drives me nuts. He works slowly and walks way too many batters. In his final four seasons for the Seibu Lions, Matsuzaka averaged 2.3 walks issued per nine innings. For the Red Sox, his 162-game average BB/9 has jumped to 4.3. Combine the walks, his inefficiency and his unreliability from a health standpoint and it’s all just very maddening.

I like to think that I have a healthy attitude towards sports as part of a balanced life. I’m not one who lives and dies with my favorite sports teams, but even I find him maddening. Some day I’ll have to come up with a list of these guys. As frustrating as Matsuzaker (/Remdawg) might be, Steve Trachsel was probably worse.

But Monday night’s game ended early. I’m not sure what was going on in Dice-K’s head, but he was grooving the ball in the first inning. The wheels fell off in the second and I ran some errands. There was no tension in the game. You knew early on what the likely decision would be.

Tim Wakefield is sort of the anti-Manny. He’s not flashy; doesn’t stir up any controversy. Bill Plaschke and Mikey Adams probably like him. And he might secretly be paying the Red Sox to pitch. But his starts were appointment television over the years for me. Why? He throws the knuckleball.

The knuckler is going the way of the polar bear, but it is one of my favorite pitches to watch. Wakefield and R. A. Dickey used it as their bread and butter pitch. Dickey gets the ball moving in the 70s, but the average Wakefield pitch goes about the Interstate speed limit. But he is a long reliever now; Terry Francona’s loss cigar. (Come to think of it, those guys may be going the way of the polar bear, too.) Wake couldn’t top the bleeding either. The only question remaining in the late innings was whether or not Rays leftfielder Sam Fuld would hit for the cycle. He didn’t, but he did better by a base. He hit two doubles, a triple, and a homer. The end result was a 16-5 loss. Tuesday’s game was a return to baseball normalcy, but Boston was still on the losing end of a 3-2 game.

Carl Crawford is only batting .152 with one double and two walks. People say that he’s pressing. I’m not sure what that means. I have a mental image of two hoopsters trying to trap a point guard in the backcourt when I hear that term. I’m not Walt Hriniak, but I do wonder if his extreme open stance is killing him. I’m not the only one who thinks this. Some folks are talking about the same issue in this Rotoworld thread.

The Jays are in town now. I caught a few of their games with Boston last year and they have an exciting approach to baseball. They may not take pitches much, but Jose Bautista and company rake. ‘Til next time, happy baseball.

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Perfectly Unlikely: Why great pitchers like Roy Halladay don’t usually throw no-hitters.

Tim Marchman writes about Wednesday’s no-no. These lines caught my eye:

Past the attention deservedly brought to a great pitcher who’s done his work in the relative obscurity of Toronto for a dozen years, then, the delightful thing about Halladay’s achievement is that it represents a triumph of the better side of baseball.

At its worst, in the preening narcissism of a pitcher who would rather walk a hitter than give him something to hit, (emphasis mine) baseball is a selfish game played selfishly. (What other game could possibly have produced Reggie Jackson discoursing on “the magnitude of me”?) At its best, though, baseball can be a game of sacrifice. This is most visible in small, quickly forgotten moments—a close strike taken to allow a runner to steal, a well-laid bunt that covers a busted hit-and-run—that usually draw golf claps when they’re noticed at all.

For Halladay, every pitch is such a moment—and paradoxically, this has now led him to unprecedented individual glory. The pitcher who goes for the strikeout over the lightly tapped grounder to second base is usually the one who wins the fame and fortune (as Nolan Ryan, .526 pitcher and icon of American manliness, could tell you). Virtue does not always win out in baseball. This once, it has.

That segment reminded me of Dice-K the anti-Maranvillain.

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Bethlehem Speaks

A new, clearer, Free Darko Manifesto? This was an aside in an entry on Ray Lewis.

There’s a misconception floating around that FD likes underdogs. We don’t. We like star players, weird players, and players who aren’t afraid to be candid. We are also huge snobs who all cut our teeth in various realms of music snobbery. When players we jock, like Julian Wright, turn out to suck, it’s an embarrassment. We’re looking to catch the next big thing before you do, celebrate the unjustly ignored forces, or pick up on the glorious outliers who just might sneak in and transform the sport in small ways. We love potential. But potential, as it should be, is a burden — for players in real life, and in terms of the way this blog views them. We don’t root for lesser souls; we’re all about those who deserve to be, or become, something rare and cunning. A screw-up or drop-out isn’t FD, he’s the antithesis of it. This isn’t Slackerball, it’s about making sure we’re up on the best the league has to offer. J.R. Smith? He’s not a patron saint, he’s the prodigal son.

The bolded part was sort of where I was going with regards to Maranvillains. I guess I am not enough of a music snob to pull it off like these guys, though. Been reading more James Burke lately, though. He’s probably a better role model for me. Sports aestheticism is a tricky thing to write about.

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Rob Neyer on R.A. Dickey

Sweetspot spot on knuckleballer.

I have a soft spot on the fluttery pitch myself. I also like Tim Wakefield, who Rob likes to call Kid ’66. I assume that both Tim and Rob were born that year. Didn’t they used to call Dickey’s pitch “The Thing?”

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Pistol Pete

Reiser, not Maravich. W.C. Heinz takes a look at one of the top 100 ballplayers of all time. At least that’s where Ritter and Honig have him ranked. Who am I to say they were wrong? In any case, he played baseball like a football player. Incidentally, at the age of 23, his stats were very similar to those of Barney McCoskey. McCoskey was a doppleganger for one Dick Wakefield.

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Jeff Greenfield: The Black and White Truth about Basketball

I alluded to this essay when writing The Underground Cult Of Slugging. Here it is, in Google book form. It originally appeared in Esquire back in 1975. They had an issue dedicated to sports. It must have been anthologized elsewhere, because I remember reading it and I wasn’t reading Esquire when I was seven. Unfortunately, only part of the excerpt is available, but I was able to read the whole thing a couple of years ago at the Bridgeport Public Library. They keep periodicals there forever.

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Graceful and Compelling

I’m an ambitious lout. I once started a blog called the Zuvella Files. It was to include a short bio of every baseball player from the 80s starting at the end of the alphabet. We never made it to Todd Zeile.

I think I may have written myself into a corner. I mentioned a class of players that I call Maranvillains, but then about a week ago I started bloviating about kinetic beauty. Being graceful is different from going entertaining. You can be both, but there are definitely some players who aren’t in the intersection of those two sets. And how many of these guys are compelling? I blame Woody Allen for writing about Earl Monroe and getting me started on this. Incidentally, the Platonic ideal players seem to be mid-century heroes like DiMaggio, Williams, and Mays. It’s a different game today and has been for a while.

I’d like to go on, but the damn phone’s ringing again. Anyways, I blame Little League for this development.

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Contemporary Sons of Rabbit Maranville

Back over the winter I asked a few baseball fans and writers about players they like to watch. I think of these guys as Maranvillains, but I’m not sure if that’s the best term anymore. Anyways, I suggested my famed Johnstone List for criteria, but I didn’t push it. A few answered.

Vince, a Chicago White Sox fan wrote: “Gordon Beckham comes to mind. I can’t stand him, but I could see Juan Pierre being sort of Maranvillean, what with the slappyness and the high pant legs. Maybe Mark Buehrle — for the pickoffs and the general quality of his defense and his craftiness as a pitcher. Jake Peavy’s got that really big wind-up and max-effort thing going… Maybe Bobby Jenks, too, because of his bulbous frame and weird hair (both top of head and facial).”

Brandon from Ohio came up with this list: “A few suggestions, all players I like to watch:

Pablo Sandoval
Clay Zavada
Shin-Soo Choo
Neftali Feliz”

Can’t argue with that Zvada ‘stache.

Negro League researcher Scott Simkus had this to say: “I’m from Chicago and perhaps the only guy I’d pay to see is Carlos Zambrano. One of his kids goes to same Chicago parochial school as my friend’s child, so Carlos and I obviously have a deep cosmic connection. Plus: The guy is out of his mind, both with talent and his on-field antics. He seems to possess a deep-seeded hatred for water coolers.

Truth is: Carlos has never lived up to his potential. Or, prehaps it would be more accurate to say he’s never lived up the expectations the Chicago Cubs organization has placed on him. Those of us in Chicago can remember when he was considered the number 3 starter here, before Kerry Wood and Mark Prior fell apart. If they’d stayed healthy, Big Z was considered a great number 2 or 3 starter in the Cubs rotation. Doesn’t mean the frustrations we fans experience while watching him melt down aren’t real, or that we don’t hope he’d emerge as a legitimate 20-game winner. They are, and we do.

I’d pay to see Carlos pitch. And sometimes I’d pay for an opportunity to throw tomatos at him.”

Here’s Dayn Perry from FOXSPorts: “My nominee for shortstop is Brendan Ryan. He’s a great glove. He plays ridiculously deep in the hole, ranges well everywhere, and uncorks powerful–and occasionally wild–throws. At the plate, he talks to himself. There are also the exposed socks (far too rare these days), and last season I got the sense that, unlike his teammates, he grew that mustache–easily the best Cardinal mustache since Keith Hernandez’s–without a hint of irony. ”

A’s fan and all around good guy Shooty wrote: “I like side-armers and underdogs so Brad Zeigler of the A’s fits your requirement for me. Carlos Gomez, would fit. Kevin Youkilis because if his general repulsiveness and excellent batting approach fits for me. I might go to a game to root for Papelbon to blow a game. Chase Utley I’d go to see since I think he’s the most beautifully technical ballplayer going now. I’ll think about this some more.”

Ryan from Toronto, you’re on the air: “Of the Jays, the closest player I can think of to what you’re looking for is Aaron Hill – he flashes a periodically great glove, and his all or nothing hitting (36 HR/42 BB) makes him an interesting guy to watch at the plate.”

Last but not least, the great Josh Wilker (I finally bought his book!): “I don’t know if I can offer anything–like you, I’m so Red-Sox-centric I don’t really have much of a feel for players on all those other nonessential teams. I’m looking forward to Red Soxian matters exclusively, like watching Beltre at third on a regular basis, seeing if Lester can edge into Cy Young territory, and, as always, the unending fascination that is Tim Wakefield. If I had to argue for one Bosox player to be on your fun and exciting roster it’d probably be Youkilis at first. I love watching that guy.

Living here in Chicago, I tried to come up with some local guys who might make the fun and exciting list. The first name that came to mind was Gordon Beckham. He’s pretty exciting but not spectacular in any way except that though he’s young he seems completely unafraid of the spotlight. A Dustin Pedroia type.”

There you have it, The beauty of these lists is that there’s no right answer. Some people like some players. Other people like other players.

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Daisuke Matsuzaka: Anti-Maranvillain

I haven’t written about the concept of Maranvillains lately, but this Patrick Sullivan article brought to mind the antithesis of Rabbitt and his heirs: Dice-K.

Also, just like so many other Red Sox fans, Daisuke drives me nuts. He works slowly and walks way too many batters. In his final four seasons for the Seibu Lions, Matsuzaka averaged 2.3 walks issued per nine innings. For the Red Sox, his 162-game average BB/9 has jumped to 4.3. Combine the walks, his inefficiency and his unreliability from a health standpoint and it’s all just very maddening.

I’m not one who lives and dies with my favorite sports teams, but even I find him maddening. Some day I’ll have to come up with a list of these guys. As frustrating as Matsuzaker (/Remdawg) might be, Steve Trachsel is probably worse.

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Trey Junkin, Eat Your Heart Out

Check out this play by Mark Buehrle. This is what I mean by Maranvillesque showmanship!

I caught this highlight somewhere yesterday, but thanks go out to The Factory for alerting me to the clip.

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