Tuesday, September 28, 1999

Rants From The Upper Deck by Steve Reynolds

The 1999 baseball season has just been odd.  Let’s face it—when Mets shortstop Rey Ordonez is hitting close to .300 at the mid-way point, things are NOT RIGHT.  A .242 career hitter who hits over .380 after dying his hair makes me put down that bag of peanuts for fear that I might choke on them in disbelief.  And he can still make amazing plays with the mitt.  Rey’s amazing turnaround almost parallels the fall of the Yanks second baseman Chuck Knoblauch.  This guy is like the second coming of Steve Sax—arrive in New York, and then lose the ability to hit the first baseman.  Sure he’s picked it up a notch sense the All-Star break, but you can still almost hear people hold their breath at Yankee Stadium when a ball is hit his way.  Is there any player who slipped into mediocrity quicker than Chuck?  Aren’t the Yanks glad they gave him a contract extension?

Major League Baseball is suing ESPN (and the Disney company is countersuing) over three Sunday Night Baseball games that are going to be shifted to ESPN2 (“The Deuce”) for early season football games.  This is yet another idiotic maneuver by the baseball lords—ESPN2 is only about 8 million subscribers less than the original entertainment and sports network, and baseball should be ecstatic whenever it gets national exposure.  Their flawed, egotistical logic will yet again bite them in the ass.

There’s a three-way tie for the worst money spent in baseball this year:  The Los Angeles Dodgers, the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Mets.  The Dodgers are now just another programming tool for Fox, and the Rupert Murdoch behemoth went out and spent gobs of cash to get Kevin Brown, and unloaded Bobby Bonilla for Mel Rojas, and picked up ex-Met All-Star catcher Todd Hundley.  What has it got them?  A sub-.500 record that must have most small market execs jumping for joy daily and perhaps the worst team chemistry since, well, this year’s Baltimore Orioles.  Could Davey Johnson’s magic finally run out?  The Mets—who are having their best season since 1988—got Bonilla from those Dodgers, along with Roger Cedano.  I’ll admit I thought Bobby Bo’s second tour with the Shea dwellers would be better than 1992-1995—I was wrong, very wrong.  He single-handedly almost split the team apart (he did get help from Bobby Valentine, the luckiest loser in baseball).  On the plus side, Cedano has been a true find, and should be in the Mets outfield for years to come.  The Orioles?  Let the fire sale begin here.  Force Ripken to retire next year and rebuild.

There is no tie for the dumbest act in baseball this year—the umpires mass resignation has to be the worst labor faux pas since the air traffic controllers strike in the ’80s.  Richie Phillips should be tossed out on his ass and the union should try to massage its public image and relations with the players and owners.

A close second for dumbest act in baseball? Turn Ahead the Clock Night.  If baseball uniforms look like those ghastly creations 20 years for now, I’ll have to spend my summers watching tennis.

I picked the Reds to win the NL Central after Moises Alou went down with a knee injury.  The Reds pick-ups of Denny Neagle and Greg Vaughn seemed like steals.  Of course, to my dismay, Nagle and Vaughn have been as useful as a screen door on a submarine.  But the bullpen has solidified like no other in the NL, and Sean Casey hits like Tony Gywnn used to.  And best of all, Marge Schott is selling!

I picked a Dodgers-Yanks World Series back in March—how wrong could I have been.  This year, I’ll go against my heart in the N-L (my Mets and those upstart Reds) and pick the Braves to actually make it to the series.  Turner’s team hasn’t had to break a sweat in the regular season for years, but fighting for the division will mentally toughen them, getting them over the hump.  I still like the Yanks to go all the way, but the series should go at least 6 games this year.

Here’s the Ranter’s pick for the season end awards:

AL MVP - Derek Jeter, NY Yankees  Without him, the defending champs would have fallen way behind the Red Sox in the first half of the season.  Will eventually be the best player in the A-L.

AL CY Young - Pedro Martinez, Boston Red Sox He was slowed down by injury after the All Star game, but he’s still shoulders above everyone else this year.

AL Manager of the Year - Art Howe, Oakland Athletics  The best baseball per dollar this season besides Cincinnati.  Howe, along with a savvy front office, has shaped a team that could shape up to be the best since the heyday of the Bash Brothers.

NL MVP - Matt Williams, Arizona Diamondbacks  The D-Backs have been on top of the N-L West mainly due to his resurgence—well, okay, and Randy Johnson too.

NL Cy Young - Jose Lima, Houston Astros  Keeping them in the race for first by stepping up to be the ace of their staff.  This guys gets his team psyched up every time he starts.

NL Manager of the Year - Jack McKeon, Cincinnati Reds.  The old man has done good…

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