The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh Pirates’

Let the intentional walking begin

Posted by keithosaunders on April 2, 2017

Baseball games are really going to fly by now.  Forget the fact that every single close play at first base warrants a three minutes review, intentional walks are now automatic!  Now that’s progress.

This year, rather than a normal baseball prediction post, I’m going to present a baseball soulful (wishful thinking) prediction post.

In the NL East the Mets, flush with pitching, Cespedes, and just enough hitting, will dominate and cruise to their third ever World Series victory.

In the NL Central the Cubs will revert to form and miss the playoffs – the first of 110 more years without a championship. The Pittsburgh Pirates will win the division with the Brewers taking the wild card.

In the NL West, having lost track of whether or not they’re supposed to win in an odd year, the Giants will begin 166 straight years of last place finishes.  The Dodgers will win the west, losing to the Mets in the NLCS.

Moving along to the junior circuit, in the AL West we have my dark horse prediction:  My East Bay homies, the Oakland As will shock the world!  You read it here first.

In the AL Central the Detroit Tigers will win the division, as well as the pennant before losing to the Mets in a 6 game World Series.

In the Al East the Yankees will go 6-156.  The Bluejays will win the division and Joey Batista will set an MLB record with double digit bat flips.  Baltimore gets the wild card.

There you have it:  Major League Baseball according to Keitho.

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The day that Dock Ellis beaned everybody

Posted by keithosaunders on April 15, 2016

Dock Ellis, who spent the better part of his career pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is mostly famous for having claimed to have pitched a no hitter while on acid.  He managed, however,  to compile some impressive stats in his 12 year major league career.  His lifetime ERA is 3.46, he has a record of 138-119 including 71 complete games and 14 shut outs.

A couple of days ago I read an article in Deadspin about Ellis that knocked me out.  I’ll summarize, but you really should check this out, if for no other reason than to see how differently the game was played 35-40 years ago.

According to Ellis the only team that intimidated the Pirates was the Cincinnati Reds.  The Reds and Pirates had been alternating appearing in the World Series — the Pirates in 1969 and ’71, and the Reds in 1970, and ’72 – and the two had been meeting in the playoffs almost every year.

By 1974 Ellis had had enough and he decided that the next time he faced the Reds he was going to bean every batter.  Every batter!   On May 1st Ellis faced the Reds for the first time that season and he proceeded to make good on his threat.

He considered not hitting Pete Rose because he knew Roses would shake it off like it was nothing and charge towards first base like a bull. ( Rose was also a personnel friend) He thought better of it and hit him anyway.  He proceeded to hit Joe Morgan in the kidneys.  Then he beaned Dan Driessen.  He tried to hit Tony Perez but Perez was already backing up.  So he threw behind him, but Perez stepped forward, eventually walking.  He tried to hit Johnny Bench but once the count got to 2-0 manager, Danny Murtaugh, came out of the dugout and pulled him.  Ellis said that “[Murtaugh] looked at me hard.”  All I could think of was Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm when he stares down an adversary to detect if he is lying.

For those of us used to observing today’s pinkies-up style of baseball, in which the catchers are no longer allowed to block the plate, and pitchers are not allowed to complete potential no-hitters for fear of exceeding the magical number of 100, this is outrageous stuff.  The fact that Ellis was not ejected after hitting the third batter, and had to be pulled by his manager, is shocking!

I’m not advocating violence.  Obviously Ellis was a free spirit and his behavior was out of line to say the least.  But for crying out loud, is there a middle ground?!  Is baseball better off in this sanitized homogenized age?  Allow me to offer a response:

NO.

dockellis

 

 

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The dawn of the baseball season

Posted by keithosaunders on April 1, 2016

And so, after a long cold winter, or in the case of the Bay Area, a wet winter, the baseball season begins again this Sunday.  This year, instead of the traditional opening night game, there will be three Sunday games:  The Cardinals vs the Pirates, the Blue Jays vs the Rays, and my Mets will visit the reigning World Series champion Royals.

First of all:  Nice touch by baseball tweaking the opening day schedule.  It will be great to have the triple header to kick things off instead of the usual anti-climactic lone Sunday night game.  Plus, baseball feels better in the day, especially to open the season.  I don’t say this very often but…kudos to MLB!

Not only that, but we have three sexy match-ups.  I don’t know about you, but I loves me some NL Central division teams and the Pirates have long been one of my favorites.  So you have a classic match-up between two of the oldest teams followed by a game between two expansion teams.  The Blue Jays figure to be a lot of fun this year and they have earned their slot in the opening day spotlight.  Perhaps we’ll get a Joey Bautista bat flip which will insight another juicy Goose Gossage rant.

Finally we’ll have the Mets vs the Royals.  This is the first time in 30 years in which I’ve gone into the season expecting the Mets to win their division.  Usually the best I can hope for is for them not to embarrass themselves.  This year, with the signing of Cespedes, and the return of their young, stellar pitching staff, the immediate future looks bright.  By the way, when is the last time the two World Series teams from the previous season opened the season against each other?  Answer:  Never.  Yet another nice move by the schedule-maker: finding a clever new spin on a hackneyed inter-league format.

Play ball!metsbeagle

 

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Baseball’s wildcard fiasco

Posted by keithosaunders on October 8, 2015

In 2011 the fate of four teams and two playoff races were decided on the last day of baseball’s regular season.  The Cardinals defeated the Astros to win the National League wild card berth after the Braves had lost to the Phillies. In the Junior Circuit the Tampa Rays defeated  the Yankees in extra innings  after the Orioles had defeated the Red Sox on a walk-off single.  Tom Verducci, a writer for Sports Illustrated wrote, “These will go down as the most thrilling 129 minutes in baseball history.” 

He’s right.

MLB, in their infinite, corporate profit-driven interests decided that they could have this football-style do or die games every year and thus the current play-in wild card system was born.  Thanks to this unimaginative gimmick never again will we have the end of season drama that existed for over a hundred years.

Since the really good teams will have their divisions locked up, the best we can hope for is a race for the final wild card spot. In the event there are multiple great teams in one division, such as this year’s NL Central, all the teams will make the playoffs thus insuring that a superior team will suffer the ignominious fate of a one game post season.

What a shame that a team as talented as the Pittsburgh Pirates (98 wins) had to bow out of the playoffs so early.  Had the Cubs lost it would have been equally as egregious. Instead we are stuck with Dodgers and Mets teams that backed their way into the playoffs.  Full disclosure:  I’m a Mets fan, but come on, they’re not as good as the Pirates.

At any rate, let’s put this travesty of sports behind us and get ready for some real playoff baseball.  Accept no substitutions!

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The big 5-5 and the Mets

Posted by keithosaunders on August 25, 2015

Today I turned 55.  That’s right, double nickels.  The NY Mets were extremely generous, giving me an eight home run game last night and enough optimism to last until October.

I can’t recall a baseball season in which a team’s personality changed on a dime.  If you look back not even a month to July 29th — that’s when Wilmer Flores learned, in the middle of that night’s game, that he was being traded – you’ll see an entirely different team.  One that could not hit to save their lives.  Their pitching was elite (still is) but their lack of hitting made them extremely beatable.

During the July 29th game the cameras captured Flores crying and it looked like it was a new low for the Mets.  The Mets had not yet bottomed out, however.  The very next day they blew a 6 run lead to the Padres at home in the rain.  They were three games behind the Nationals and going nowhere.  I was actually rationalizing the season with an early post-mortem.   “Well they gave me much more competitive four months than I expected…”

And then…CESPEDES.

Who would have thought it possible?  He is the kind of gamer that the Mets almost never get.  Hell, they’re still paying Bobby Bonilla a yearly salary.

Wouldn’t you know it, given a new lease on life Wilmer Flores won two games versus the Nationals.  The Mets swept the series and have gone on to feast on the bottom-dwelling Rockies, Marlins, and Phillies.  True, they were swept by the Pirates, but this humble birthday boy is writing that off as a blip on the radar screen.

The shit’s about to get real.  Fasten your seat belts!

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R.I.P. pennant races

Posted by keithosaunders on August 24, 2011

It seems like only yesterday that I was waxing rhapsodic about the possibility of an epic four team National League Central Division pennant race.  I had Pirate fever and was envisioning playoff games from PNC Park.  Braves-Pirates would have been a fun first round matchup — a rematch of the 1991 and ’92 NLCS, and a chance for the Buccos to have reaped revenge. 

Alas, what a difference four weeks make.  Not only are the Pirates dead and buried — their hopes of breaking their 19year consecutive losing season streak all but dashed — the entire division has been taken over by the ascendant Brewers.  Mind you, I am happy it’s Milwaukee, rather than the Cardinals and their insufferable skipper, LaRussa, but I would have preferred a good old-fashioned dogfight.

In fact, there is only one pennant race this year, and I am lucky enough to be residing in one of two major league cities that is still hosting meaningful games.  By all rights, the San Francisco Giants should be buried, but it is their good fortune to play in the NL West, which contains a broke Dodgers, and a broken down Rockies.  The Diamondbacks are a feisty, young squad, and they are the surprise team of 2011, but I don’t see them winning more than one playoff game, if that. 

The Giants, with their pitching, would at least have a shot.  They have been a walking M*A*S*H unit this year — at this writing they have nine players on the DL — and yet have managed to remain in the race.  They picked up Carlos Beltran from the Mets, who did his best to blend in with his teammates by immediately going on the DL.  What is it with Beltran — the man can’t stay healthy.  He is a great player, but his entire career is based on the 2004 post season. 

A September devoid of pennant races is a bitter pill for me to swallow.  Once October begins, so does my personal hell, which consists of sweating through another Yankee blitzkrieg.  It’s torture watching them grind their way through playoff run after playoff run.  Yes, I know they’ve lost a few first round series in recent years, and the Redsox look formidable, (as does Texas) but something tells me that the Yanks will not be an easy out this year.  I dread another Redsox – Yankees ALCS — those five hour marathons which end when some obscure Yankee hits a homerun.  

All I hope for at the beginning of each baseball season is for the Yankees to miss the playoffs.  This has occurred once in the last 16 years.  It has been a reign of terror and there is no end in sight. 

The fact that there may be no pennant races, thus cutting off my last enjoyable month of the year, is a bitter pill to swallow.  Football, you can not start soon enough.

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Grand Central Division

Posted by keithosaunders on July 25, 2011

CENTRAL W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA DIFF STRK L10
Pittsburgh 52 47 .525 26-25 26-22 382 378 +4 Won 1 6-4
St. Louis 53 48 .525 25-21 28-27 474 438 +36 Lost 1 5-5
Milwaukee 54 49 .524 33-14 21-35 443 452 -9 Lost 2 5-5
Cincinnati 50 51 .495 3 27-23 23-28 469 433 +36 Won 2 5-5
Chicago Cubs 42 60 .412 11.5 25-31 17-29 411 507 -96 Won 3 5-5
Houston 33 68 .327 20 17-36 16-32 388 506 -118 Lost 3 3-7

Don’t look now but there’s a classic pennant race shaping up and it’s not where you’d expect.  Forget your AL East with its twin behemoth Yankees and Redsox — their passion play will not begin until October, since the team that doesn’t win the division figures to take the wild card.

The action this year resides in the NL Central; that erstwhile laughing-stock of a division.  There, four teams sit separated by two games in the standings.  Given the fact that the NL East-residing Atlanta Braves figure to take the wild card, only one Central club will advance to the playoffs.

My sentiments lie with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are at this writing, leading the division by percentage points over the Cardinals.  The Pirates have reached the rarefied air of five games above .500, threatening to break their ignominious streak of consecutive losing seasons, currently at eighteen.  It is the longest such streak in professional sports. 

The Buccos are winning with a team of gritty, young ball players.  (that’s what several consecutive years of high draft picks, and a savvy GM will do for you) It’s rare for me to watch a Pirate game in which I fail to utter the sentence, “Who is that guy?”  

Andrew McCutchen is a speedy young center fielder who has 59 RBI.  Their second baseman is Neil Walker, a slick fielder, and a good run producer as well.  Their only semi-star is Lyle Overbay, who is playing first base.  The pitching has been surprisingly solid behind Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens, and Paul Maholm, and their closer, Joel Hanrahan, has been superb. 

The Cardinals are the favorites, with their murderers row middle of the lineup — Pujols, Holiday, and Berkman — but I’m hoping that their shaky bullpen will see to it that the do not run away and hide. 

Milwaukee was a sexy pick at the beginning of the season, and they are proving themselves worthy of the hype.  They’re a good team, and as long as K-Rod doesn’t blow too many games, they are going to be fine.  They’re another team I would like to see take the next step. 

I can’t stand the Reds pitching.  Johnny Cueto?  Edinson Volquez?  Homer Bailey?  It speaks volumes that Dontrelle Willis is making a comeback with this staff.  Still, they’re  another good hitting club that may be able to hang around. 

You see, this is why interleague play is a sham.  Here you have four teams in a pennant race, and they’re all going to playing each other come August and September.  While the Yankees, Phillies, and Redsox, spend September sorting out their post season rotations, there will be daily blood-lettings in the middle of the country.  Interleague is a distraction from pennant race baseball.  It is a novelty act that has worn thin.

If MLB has its way, however, we will see the expansion of interleague play, as well as the end of pennant races as we have known them since 1969, the year divisional play was introduced.  There has been a plan floated around that would do away with divisions, creating two 15 team leagues.  The schedule would be balanced, meaning that all teams would play each other the same amount of times, regardless of league.  Imagine if the Pirates played the Royals the same amount of times as they did the Cardinals.   

Baseball seems high bent on removing any sense of tradition from the game, rendering it corporate and soulless.  All the more reason for us to savor what could well be one of the last great divisional races.  

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My Favorite Things: My favorite record

Posted by keithosaunders on December 5, 2010

When people ask me who my favorite musician is, or what my favorite song is, I find it impossible to come up with an answer.  There are too many to narrow it down to one.  Besides, if I did have a favorite song I would probably overplay it to the point that it would lose its number one ranking.  I do have my list of favorite pianists — Bud Powell, Horace Silver, and Wynton Kelly — and if you put a gun to my head I would choose Bud Powell, but regardless, it doesn’t feel right to narrow such genius down to one person.

When it comes to my favorite record I’m going to make an exception.  Coltrane was 34 years old when he recorded My Favorite Things on October 24th, 1960, 2 weeks shy of JFK winning the presidency and one month after the Pittsburgh Pirates, behind Bill Mazeroski’s dramatic 9th inning homerun, defeated the New York Yankees in game 7 of the World Series.  I was one day shy of two months old. 

During the previous three years Coltrane had worked with Theloniuos Monk and Miles Davis respectively.  During this period he played long, note-laden solos that critic Ira Gitler dubbed “sheets of sound.”  Between Monk’s angular compositions, and later with his own Giants Steps chord changes, Trane was playing over some of the most intricate, sophisticated harmony ever conceived, and he worked his way through these thorny chord changes like a knife slicing through butter.

By the time of My Favorite Things we see Coltrane straddling his sheets of sound with a more muscular, modally infused lyricism that would inform his classic quartet of the early to mid 60s.  The record is composed of four standards, but the arrangements are so germane to Coltrane that they may as well have been original compositions.  They are disparate songs which are not only connected by Trane’s genius, but by the group’s sound.

Coltrane’s concept meshed perfectly with his new group.  McCoy Tyner Steve Davis, (Jimmy Garrison would not join him for another year) and Elvin Jones infused Coltrane’s earthy relentless tone and hard-driving rhythmic concept with an ideal underpinning, giving him the freedom to expand on his ideas.  You can almost sense that he is so comfortable with his band that he has the confidence to play less.  These musicians were the ideal compliment for him, widening the beat and fusing dissonance, lyricism, and explosive poly-rhythms.       

Tyner’s 8 bar introduction to Richard Roger’s My Favorite Things is at once dark and foreboding.  Coltrane suspends the song’s chords over an E pedal and alternates between major and minor vamps.  The combination of his soprano sax and Davis’s droning E pedal gives the song an exotic, Eastern flavor.  If anyone thinks that it is a simple feat to play over one or two chords for this long a period I would advise them to try this at home and see what happens.  Not only does Trane never run out of ideas, but he shows such an attention to melody and phrasing that we never want him to stop.  The ballad, Everytime We Say Goodbye, perfectly offsets the denseness of the songs that frame it.  It could serve as a treatise on how to play a melody.  It is romanticism at its finest.  

It is side two, however, which for me makes this date.  It is comprised of two devastating arrangements of a pair of Gershwin songs that are both shocking and awe-inspiring.  They are cast against type and perfectly fit the scope of Trane’s style and they seamlessly cohere to the shape of this date. 

Coltrane transforms Summertime from a languid, bluesy number to a tour de force modal vehicle, complete with pedal point, whole tone harmony, and a four bar break that rivals Bird’s all-timer on Night In Tunisia.

The album’s closer, But Not For Me, is Trane’s farewell to Giant Steps changes and it transforms a well-worn vehicle into a personal tour de force.  He uses the Giant Steps progression on the first 8 measures of the  A and B sections, but it is the long tag — the iii-Vi-ii-V turn-around vamp at the end of his solo and final melody chorus — that stands out.  Here is an artist with an inexhaustible wealth of ideas that is able to build tension and excitement over the same four chords for several minutes at a time.  Only Sonny Stitt could play a tag for this long without running out of ideas, but Stitt didn’t have McCoy and Elvin.        

Not long after this recording Trane would give up playing on standards entirely.  True, the Ballads, and Duke Ellington dates were still two years in the future, but by 1960 Trane’s music was in rapid flux and he would not only pare down his notes per bar, but his chord progressions as well. 

 By the time of My Favorite Things Coltrane had become a musician who could play over the most difficult of harmony at any tempo.  Not only did he possess a supreme technical prowess, but he had the ability to infuse his lines with witticism and melody.  This is why he sounds so great regardless of whether he is playing a standard or a composition without any harmonic center.  Even towards the end of his life, when he would sometimes scream into the horn, there is a foundation.  It all comes from substance. 

In 1960 John Coltrane would begin to eliminate what he felt was not essential.  Most of us can only dream of having that luxury and the wherewithal to implement it.

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One day in Yankee Stadium 50 years ago.

Posted by keithosaunders on October 21, 2010

Today’s post is brought to you by WOK’s special guest blogger, George Chimes

—————————————————————————————————-

Fifty years ago I went to my first World Series game. Thought I share this great experience & reflect how our National Pastime has changed…

The day before the 3rd game of the ’60 World Series between the Yankees & Pirates my buddy Tony Anastasi and I decided to go.  We left our homes in Brooklyn at 6AM for a 90-minute ride on the D train to The Bronx.  The fare was 15 cents round trip if you took the paper transfer leaving the D station and used it after the game to board the elevated 4 line.

 

At the Stadium we got on a long line but had no trouble buying bleacher seats at 10AM for the 2PM game.  I believe the tickets were $2.50.  Prior to the game we feasted on the hero sandwiches Tony’s mom gave us.
  
The crowd was almost all rabid Yankees fans from the boros of NYC.  I recall some intense discussions on Yankee manager Casey Stengel’s decision to wait until the 3rd game to start future hall of famer Whitey Ford.  Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru threw out the first ball.  He and his entourage left after the second inning on this crisp, sunny fall day.  As dedicated Yankee fans Tony and I loved every minute of this lopsided game.  The final score Yankees 10 – Pirates 0.

 

Here we were, two kids with almost nothing in our pockets, able to walk in and see what at that time was undisputedly America’s most prestigious sporting event for half the price of what it costs to buy a soda at Yankee Stadium today.
I’m usually dismissive of fogies who go on about the good old days, but I can’t imagine anyone in 21st century America enjoying this kind of encounter with America’s pastime. 

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Fun with announcing, starring Ralph Kiner and Keith Hernandez

Posted by keithosaunders on September 2, 2010

Lest you think that the Yankees, with Phil Rizzuto and John Sterling, have cornered the market on eccentricity in the announcing booth, I am giving equal time to the New York Mets TV team.  For years Ralph Kiner, the great Pittsburgh Pirates slugger, was a staple in the Mets announcing core.  These days he is mostly retired, but every once in a while, say five or six times a year, they dust him off, prop him up, and bring him in.  He’s always been a favorite of mine and he was a great announcer in his day, although he could be prone to mispronounce certain names or sponsors.  Manufacturers Hanover became Manufacturers Hand Over, while Reds pitchers Mario Sota was transformed into Mario Soda.

Once again, the great Jeff Mazzei supplied the anecdote:

…the highlight was Kiner & Hernandez strolling down memory lane.  Gary Cohen made the mistake of asking Ralph if the Mets and Astros had a natural rivalry in the early days because they were both expansion teams that arrived at the same time.  Ralph said it was actually very one-sided with the Astros winning most of the time, but he loved coming to Houston because of the hotel.  Keith chimed in that he knew exactly what hotel he was talking about (which he did). 

Kiner said, “Yes, they had a great bar,” and Hernandez reminisced, “Yes, they had that great brown bag policy.  Apparently, Harris County was a dry county, and this hotel let you bring your own liquor into the bar as long as it was concealed. 

But this was just the beginning.  Keith said, “You know, when I played triple A in Wichita, they had a bar with a policy that you could bring your own as long as you removed the label and replaced it with a label that just had your name, and you’d leave it on the counter.  I used to love to tell the bartender, “Give me a Keith & tonic”. 

And so began Ralph & Keith’s journey through the dry counties of triple A baseball.  It was all the more hilarious due to Kiner’s slurred speech which was interrupted by Gary Cohen’s vain attempts to call the game.  I guess you never know when Pandora’s box is about to be opened.

 From the Yankee game, Michael Kay was reading a promo for Yankee Classics on the Yes Network.  O’neill chimes in with, “Have the Yankees ever lost a game on that show?  They must be 1000-0, like the Harlem Globetrotters.”

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