Life is a parade, and sometimes some wonderful stuff passes in front of your reviewing stand.
It all gets recorded on your internal DVR, and the longer you’ve been around, the more often you hit the “Playback” button.
I hit that button again yesterday, when Reid Ryan was named club president of the Houston Astros.
It brought back those wonderful days in the Angels’ clubhouse in the early ’70s. Nolan Ryan was a budding ace, the Ryan Express just pulling out of the station toward all those no-hitters and strikeouts.
Nollie developed a warm relationship with Angels coach Jimmie Reese, an endearing institution in that clubhouse who had been around the game long enough to once having been a roommate of Babe Ruth. They become soul father and soul son.
Countless times, I’d watch Jimmie pal around with young Reid, the Ryans’ first son, born a few months before the first of his eight seasons with the Angels. Through Reid, the relationship between Nolan and Jimmie grew even deeper, quickly reaching the point Nolan, somehow, wanted to keep Jimmie in his life forever.
So when the Ryans’ second son was born, in 1976, they named him Jimmy Reese Ryan.
Life goes on. Reid Ryan becomes the president of a Major League team. And we still see him in a long-gone clubhouse, running circles around the knees of the 70-something Reese, as proud papa Nolan grins from his locker.
It’s the 2002 postseason, and there is a secret weapon behind the Anaheim Angels’ pursuit of the first World Series title in franchise history.
His name is Francisco Rodriguez. He is a slight (barely six feet tall) Venezuelan right-hander who did not even join the Angels until late September — an injury to another pitcher let him worm through the loophole for postseason eligibility — and had worked less than six innings under the regular-season wire.
The ultimate unknown, in other words.
And in the Division Series against the Yankees, he is striking out everybody. Ditto in the Championship Series against the Twins, then the World Series against the Giants. The Angels need a total of 11 wins (Division Series were still best-of-5) to claim the crown, and Rodriguez pitches in 10 of them, with 28 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.
His heroics become monotonous, as do references to his name.
This was during the Rodriguez Era in Texas. Alex Rodriguez and Ivan Rodriguez. A-Rod and I-Rod.
So, at some point, while covering that postseason and chronicling Francisco Rodriguez’s strikeout exploits, in the deadline rush, my fingers almost absent-mindedly tap out K-Rod on the keyboard.
And a nickname was born. Now you know.
Odd thing, Rodriguez never took to the label, and when he joined the Mets in fact asked people to stop using it.
He is scheduled to report back to the Brewers tonight. Maybe I’ll seek him out and finally apologize for the whole thing.
In their 11-2 victory over the Mets today, the Pirates worked Jonathan Niese and three relievers into making a total of 157 pitches.
I bring this up because in a recent conversation, Clint Hurdle dropped a “145-or-bust” line on me. Translation: The manager’s daily target for his hitters is to make opponents throw at least 145 pitches, in his studied belief the red line to guaranteed wins.
Does the evidence of the first six weeks of this season support that belief?
Yes: The Bucs now are 8-3 when they see at least 145 pitches (which makes them 12-13 when they do not).
This brings up the intriguing balance between being disciplined enough to run up pitch counts, yet staying aggressive enough to not let pitchers get too comfortable.
However, the most interesting takeaway is that, despite the manager’s attention to this detail, the Pirates have forced fewer than 145 — in most cases, a lot fewer — in 25 of the first 36 games.
The biggest factor in making pitchers work, I would think, is not swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. It’ll be interesting to track the improvement in this regard.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed — actually, I’d be surprised if you haven’t noticed — but the early 2013 season has been great for the money-doesn’t-play set.
Not so good for the know-it-alls.
The Dodgers, Angels and Blue Jays spent the offseason and preseason drawings awes. Well, they spent a lot more. They bought up players like survivalists buying canned goods.
The takeaways from their sprees included sympathy for the Astros’ horribly-timed move to the AL West, sarcasm for Arizona’s move toward low-profile grit in the NL West, and the perception the injury-devastated Yankees were conceding in the AL East.
I know it’s early. No one knows “early” better than we in Pittsburgh.
But a look at the six-week pole brings to mind Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington’s December caveat:
“Markets like us, we’re not going to make the big splash in the offseason. We’re never going to win the back papers and the offseason.”
The Pirates haven’t won anything yet, of course. But at least they’re in the NL Central picture.
Meanwhile, after fighting for headlines and ratings and all that, the Dodgers and the Angels are still fighting — for the dishonor of the Majors’ worst record. On further review, Boston’s marquee players did not go to Los Angeles in that blockbuster — their problems did.
Ditto the Toronto haul that disgraced Miami. The Blue Jays record is right there with that of the Angels and Dodgers. Meanwhile, Joe Girardi is front-runner for AL Manager of the Year for keeping the Sad-Sack Yankees near the top of the East Division.
Hey, the stripped-down Astros and Marlins are as bad as advertised/feared. They’re rebuilding on the cheap. What’s the Angels’, Dodgers’, Blue Jays’ excuse?
The six-game suspension handed left-hander Jonathan Sanchez for his Friday night plunking of Allen Craig caused … nearly a ripple around the Pirates clubhouse. Detached observers considered the discipline excessive.
Clint Hurdle, meanwhile, virtually shrugged it off. Even the part where Sanchez is appealing the suspension, in the meanwhile keeping him active — in the Bucs bullpen.
So here is a radical thought: This whole thing went down precisely the way the Bucs wanted it, volunteering and sacrificing a marginal pitcher to make the point the NL Central kingpins will no longer push them around.
Well, not exactly the way Hurdle wanted it to go down. No manager likes his bullpen thrown into disarray by losing his starter before an out is even recorded. But other than that — a potential catastrophy with long-term effects that was avoided thanks to Jeanmar Gomez’s 4 1/3-inning relief stint — the Bucs got a message across.
Last season, Reds and Cardinals pitchers combined to hit Pirates batters 13 times — including Aroldis Chapman’s notorious 98-mph heater off Andrew McCutchen’s shoulder. The Pirates got six of theirs, but otherwise made a point of maintaining their cool because their thin ranks couldn’t afford the toll of retaliation, losing key players to discipline.
No disrespect, but Jonathan Sanchez is not a key player on this team. Even if he were pitching reasonably well, he’d only be keeping a spot warm for Francisco Liriano or Charlie Morton.
So he was the perfect messenger after Matt Carpenter, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday had begun Friday’s game by digging in and swinging from the heels.
Isn’t is reasonable to assume that in the typical pre-game skull session, Sanchez was encouraged to bust some hitters inside if he felt they were too comfortable? The Bucs didn’t mind, perhaps even planned, for Sanchez to take a bullet for them.
They just didn’t want it to happen so early. Otherwise, they delivered an important message without having to pay a heavy price.
The Brothers Upton homering back-to-back last night in Denver was pretty special. Siblings jacking consecutively had not happened since 1938 — by the Bucs’ Waners, Paul and Lloyd — and may not happen again.
But it might. There are always numerous brother combinations playing in the Majors; get them together, lightning can strike.
However, I covered an event that has occurred only once in Major League history, and is less likely to ever come around again: Father and son, going yard back-to-back.
The Griffeys, of course.
Sept. 14, 1990, Anaheim Stadium. Harold Reynolds leads off the first with a walk off Kirk McKaskill. Pops Griffey slices a 1-and-0 pitch over the wall in left-center. Ad The Kid hits the very next pitch to the very same spot.
The crowd of 35,000 stirred, but there was no great, emotional reaction. Those were far less sensation-prone times. Things didn’t — couldn’t — go viral. So even the post-game media coverage was muted.
But I did do something I had never done before, or since: I took my game scorecard into the Mariners’ clubhouse after the game, and asked both Griffeys to sign it, next to their home-run squares. Which they did, for a memorabilia, and memory, that still has a prominent place on my wall.
So the Bucs are committed to bringing back the “Z.” We already saw a couple of them being flashed during the recent series with the D-backs in Chase Field.
This is not welcomed news for a lot of you fans, who can’t help associating the pet 2012 symbol of solidarity with the team’s eventual collapse.
Still, spearheaded by several clubhouse leaders — Andrew McCutchen and A.J. Burnett among them — the Bucs are serious about continuing the “Z” tradition.
Fine. But I’ve got an idea for a compromise.
Zoltan, the dude of “Where’s My Car?” fame who was the original inspiration for the sign, is so last year. He had his chance.
Many of the Bucs are ardent followers of shows such as “The Walking Dead.”
So — OK, stay with the “Z”.” But now it stands for “Zombie.”
Bonus point: And the Bucs’ new in-house victory song is “Dead Man’s Party,” by Oingo Bongo. It’s a match made it Undead Heaven.
Have we got a deal?
As Major League Baseball — nay, the entire country — approaches another observance of Jackie Robinson Day, we must again raise the question: What about The Great One?
The annual April 15 celebration of Robinson’s baseball and human heroics will be more impactful than ever, with the concurrent release of “42,” the film adaptation of his journey across the color line.
All good and extremely appropriate. But another Jackie Robinson Day will also be an excuse for another debate over whether there is another uniform that should be universally retired, whether MLB owes the same debt of gratitude and honor to Roberto Clemente and No. 21.
Robinson’s impact cannot be minimized, and was far more profound beyond the foul lines.
However, as for the current landscape of Major League Baseball, who had the more enduring effect on how, and by who, the game is played?
Robinson? Due certainly to numerous demographic and competitive (pro football and pro basketball are both immeasurable bigger magnets for athletic standouts than they were in the ‘40s) factors, the participation of African-Americans in the Majors has been on a well-documented decline.
Or Clemente, who blazed a compelling path for Latin American ballplayers, who comprised more than 25 percent of the Majors’ Opening Day rosters (a total of 207 players from a dozen different countries)?
Please — not trying to lessen the incredible contributions of Robinson, whose stoic leadership influenced those other sports as well as other facets of life. Just wishing to lift Clemente’s deeds to a comparable bar.
The Pirates are breaking camp today. Not Breaking Bad. That’s a different drama entirely …
So Kevin Correia is Minnesota’s No. 2 starter, and Erik Bedard is No. 5 in Houston. And Jonathan Sanchez is No. 4 in Pittsburgh. Just something to keep an eye on. …
In case you missed it — the guy who does the power ratings for CBSsports.com ranked the Pirates higher than he did the Yankees. A.J. Burnett’s reaction to that: “That’s good, isn’t it?” …
Many Pirates fans apparently have already concluded that keeping J-San and Brandon Inge are signs of the Apocalypse. …
Guys like John McDonald, Inge, J. Sanchez could be invaluable if the Bucs are contending out of the gate. If they’re not, they’ll be dead weights and gone by mid-June.
Not from where I sit: The Brand Keys 2013 Sports Fan Loyalty Index ranks Pirates fans No. 28 among the 30 Major League teams. …
Competition for the back end of the Pirates’ season-opening rotation has just gone from a match race to an all-out scramble.
Jeff Karstens was scratched four hours before he was to make his first Grapefruit League start, due to “continuing discomfort” in his right shoulder. Additional details will come from GM Neal Huntington later this morning, but the development at the very least ensures that Karstens will begin the season on the DL, not on a mound.
So, suddenly, there are two open spots in Clint Hurdle’s rotation. Instead of battling for one spot, Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson, Chris Leroux, Jonathan Sanchez and even Jeanmar Gomez are now competing for two.
Leroux will step in to make the start today against the Orioles. Sanchez, interestingly, can ask for his release today if not placed on the Major League roster. Sanchez and Gomez have both been extremely sharp in their last two outings, and Gomez has the advantage of already being on the roster.
More to come.