Tuesday, April 02, 2002

Zisk Issue # 5

No World Series This Year by Mike Bonomo

There may not be a World Series this year. If the Braves and Yanks are in it, it won't exist for me. Especially if the Yankees win it. I'm not looking forward to hearing how they did it for NY when this New Yorker hates 'em. I'm not looking forward to the sight of Giuliani's dumb-assed mug's comb-over bedecked in Yankee cap. He smiles dickishly from the podium built tearfully close to Ground Zero. His steady lispy voice declares the Yankees synonymous with the “New Patriotic Resolve and Spirit of American Will to Win.” An unstated feeling that my Yankee hatred makes me less American.

There'll be cops and firemen with Yankee insignia on their uniforms and helmets cheering gratefully with their children and talking about their lost brothers who loved the Yanks. (Yes, that will bring tears to my eyes, too.) Jeter will don a fire helmet saying “This one’s for the department” and donate his salary to the cause. (It's a good idea.) The final feel-good moment of Giuliani's long, mostly hateful regime. I'll look on silently puking with a pang of guilt from the smiling faces of the newly fatherless children meeting the players. No, better to watch a movie instead.

I can feel good for those fans who, having lost a great deal, need a diversion from the pain of Sept. 11th. Even if they are Yankee fans. But the smirking condescension will take on a patriotic flag-waving element that will be more annoying than ever. It'll be like a red, white and blue painted asshole.

Worst of all will be Roger Clemens declaring how much respect he has for all New Yorkers. (Except for Mike Piazza, for whom Clemens has through his actions shown nothing but immature aggressive contempt.) His carpet bagged rings and bean balls get privately flown back to Texas and forgetful Yankee fans—who last year claimed they hated his guts—now kiss his ass because they couldn't do it without him.

No, better to ignore it all than give them the finger and end up on the list of “Un-American Activities.”

The Zisk Predictions for 2002 by Steve Reynolds

AL East
1) New York Yankees

Oh how it pains me to make this prediction. I would like nothing more than to see these fat cats stumble and not even make the playoffs as a wild card. But that's not about to happen. The Yanks have six quality starters, and that the reason alone should guarantee them a spot in the postseason. Add in Jason Giambi's bat (which will come around by the time June rolls around) and the shocking reemergence of Robin Ventura as a power hitter and these guys are unstoppable. But watching the Red Sox take three of four early season games give us hope.

2) Boston Red Sox

Speaking of the Sox, I think a wild card berth could happen—if Pedro Martinez stays healthy and gets his control back; if Derek Lowe continues to pitch like the second coming of Roger Clemens; if Scot Hillenbrand keeps hitting: and IF Rickey Henderson isn't playing cards in the clubhouse during a game. But when one of these if doesn’t happen, the “Curse of the Bambino” will last for another season. At least Dan Duquette got rid of a lot of last year’s dead wood. And kudos to the new Sox owners for getting rid of the infested wood—a.k.a, Duquette. New skipper Grady Little has the respect of his players unlike Joe Kerrigan and Jimy Williams—and that’s even before he was hired. Little is shaping up to be the best quote maker since Bill Lee floated out of Fenway. On seeing a giant cockroach crawl across the floor of his office, Little said: "That might not be the first time a Red Sox manager's office has been bugged.”

3) Toronto Blue Jays

Wait—you’re telling me there’s still baseball in Canada? And that there’s TWO teams? No WAY

4) Baltimore Orioles

So Cal Ripken is gone—now what? Well, hopefully manager Mike Hargrove invested in the company that makes Pepto Bismol, as he’s going to have a long hard season watching this truly untalented team. The cupboard will likely be barren for a long time after the idiotic ways of owner Peter Angelos. This is one guy that should look back at the Yankees from 1985 to 1991 to see how karma can come back to get at an owner.

5) Tampa Bay Devil Rays

One of the two teams that should have seriously been considered for contraction (the other being the Marlins, as it is apparent baseball is not the sport for Florida, except in spring training) is the only thing keeping the Orioles from falling all the way to the basement. Ugh.

AL Central
1) Cleveland Indians
I would love for a Twins miracle finish which lands them in the playoffs for the first time since 1991, but Cleveland looks too powerful for the little team that Selig couldn’t kill. New GM Mark Shapiro probably had to change his phone number after trading away Robby Alomar and letting Juan Gonzalez go. Now he looks like a genius as the young and solid starting pitching is leading the Tribe to a huge start.

2) Minnesota Twins

Really, how could anyone think of getting rid if this team? The history (Orlando Cepeda, Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett) and the incredible 1991 World Series should have been enough to secure their place in the Twin Cities forever.

3) Chicago White Sox

If Frank Thomas comes back to have a monster season, they could be a surprise. But the pitching is a bit lacking, and having Kenny Lofton as your key off-season addition doesn’t spell title in anyone’s book.

4) Kansas City Royals

Chuck Knoblauch. Two words that will doom this team to another 90 loss season.

5) Detroit Tigers

“You know, if we open a great new park, we’re bound to win and thousand more people will show up!” Ah yes, the dream of four years ago is now a nightmare. They could challenge the Mets record for most losses in a season pretty easily.

AL West
1) Seattle Mariners

Seriously, how the hell did they lose to the Yanks? I’m still shaking my head over that one. They’ll get a second shot this year.

2) Oakland Athletics (Wild Card)

Jason Giambi has gone to live out his childhood dreams in the Big Apple. So where does that leave baseball’s low budget overachievers? Not that bad off actually. They still have four great starters, and David Justice should supply some muscle in the hitting department. And don’t forget, the Mariners somehow kept improving after losing their best players.

3) California Angels

There’s no way this team won’t be better than the Rangers. That’s about all you can say for them.

4) Texas Rangers

Alex Rodriguez sold his soul to the devil—and look what it got him.

NL East
1) New York Mets

I don’t usually pick my own favorite team to win their division because I fully buy into the curse of the Braves. This year seems different to me somehow. The Mets have played awful, horrific baseball the first three weeks of the season, just like last year. But the 2002 Mets are in first place. The pitching has been superb so far, which no one expects to last all the way to September. But if the hitting comes around and Mo Vaughn can actually contribute, this is a team that could go all the way.

2) Philadelphia Phillies (Wild Card)

Sure, they didn’t add any impact players. Sure, many of the players hate Larry Bowa. But this team got enough seasoning last year to make another good run at it this year.

3) Atlanta Braves

Ding-dong, the witch is dead. Finally, the Braves pitching (except for Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, if he stays healthy) is their weak spot. Gary Sheffield will help, but he won’t be able to also pitch middle relief.

4) Montreal Expos

Frank Robinson will get the best he can out of the last year of this franchise.

5) Florida Marlins

The pitching has potential. Didn’t someone say that about the Mets in 1996? Ex-Expos owner Jeffrey Loria deserves a last place finish.

NL Central
1) St. Louis Cardinals

Mark McGwire is gone, so I imagine St. Louis will take a page from the Mariners book and do even better. Albert Pujols will led this team back into the playoffs.

2) Pittsburgh Pirates

Yeah, this makes no sense, but they got rid of Operation Shut Down Derek Bell! How can I not root for them?

3) Houston Astros

Larry Dierker got fired for not making it past the Division Series. What will happen to Jimy Williams when he doesn’t make the playoffs?

4) Chicago Cubs

Sammy Sosa could hit 150 home runs and drive in 300 runs—this team still ain’t making the post-season.

5) Cincinnati RedsDo you think someone has told Ken Griffey Junior that you can’t go home again?

6) Milwaukee Brewers

It will be so great to see the team run by Bud Selig’s daughter lose more than 100 games this year.

NL West
1) San Francisco Giants

Barry Bonds will hit 75 home runs, drive in 130 runs and walk 200 times, and somehow won’t get the MVP. But he will make the playoffs.

2) Arizona Diamondbacks

If Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling could pitch every other day, this team would return to the World Series. Alas, this year the dynamic duo won’t be able to get them 90 wins.

3) Los Angeles Dodgers

A hurt Kevin Brown and no Gary Sheffield equal another long season for the Dodger blue. They’ll be heading to the parking lot in the fourth inning this season.

4) Colorado Rockies

Fuck you, Mike Hampton.

5) San Diego Padres

Oh where have you gone Tony Gwynn—a city turns its lonely eyes to you.

ALCS: Yanks vs Mariners

NLCS: Mets vs. Giants

World Series: Mets vs. Mariners

Oh, why not live in a world of fantasy: Mets in 5.

Baseball Players Should Strike! by Jeff Herz

Once again it seems that MLBPA and former car salesman Bud Selig are heading towards a colossal collision similar to the strike tainted 1994 season. Neither party is willing to bend or break away from their position of being greedy moneygrubbers, looking to screw the fans…AGAIN1.

Personally I think the owners are wrong in saying they are always losing money, since they are continually trying to upgrade teams like some people upgrade cars. They could do this by putting a better product on the field, but NO, they try doing it by purchasing a “better” franchise and diluting the product known as Major League Baseball. Now I can write a whole diatribe on why one franchise is better than another, but I won’t now. If this industry were such a dog, as Heir Selig claimed to Congress this past winter, then why would these smart successful business people want to upgrade?

All 30 owners were and are successful business people prior to their association with baseball that has afforded them the luxury of purchasing a major league franchise. They are not getting into this business (and lets face it, that is what it is) to lose money. I find it just a little ironic that Forbes magazine, a very credible periodical, states that the Milwaukee Brewers (Bud Selig’s team in trust, being run by his daughter while he acts as league dictator) was the most profitable team after profit sharing. In my business acumen, this makes no sense. You work with what you have and you attempt to make a profit. Now Commissar Selig disputes the Forbes report because Milwaukee is supposedly a small market team and according to his figures is supposed to be losing gobs and gobs of money, thereby forcing large market teams to support him through profit sharing. So in fact he wants to show that the majority of teams are losing money so he has a better bargaining position with the players. Blah, blah, blah.

Now with that said, I don’t think the players are beyond reproach here either. They have become a group of filthy millionaires themselves who no longer seem to care about who is ultimately paying their bills. Once again, my business acumen says if there are no paying fans, the owners cannot afford to pay the exorbitant salaries, which the players have easily come to accept as normal. The best way the players can keep the support of the fans, and hurt the owners, and crush King Selig would be to stage a short three-day strike in the middle of the season. And they should do this at a time when their actions will have no effect upon the pennant races…The All Star Break. Coincidently enough, this year’s All-star extravaganza is to be held in Milwaukee’s recently built Miller Park. By staging a strike for those three days, the only folks who will shed a tear will be the merchants in Milwaukee who are looking for a quick economic boost from the folks coming to town. If the local merchants knew that this was the players’ plan, they would urge local boy Selig’s hand to the negotiating table and force him to make peace with the players. He cannot afford to lose the support of the hometown fans, and the players need to seriously threaten this action in order to break this negotiating impasse.

So players, strike. Nobody really cares about the All-Star game anyway. That way you prove your point saying you can hurt the owners and you can hurt the commissioner, but don’t hurt the game and you don’t hurt the fans.


1 Let’s look at what happened this off-season, which makes the owners look like a bunch of swindling folks, who don’t seem to concerned about collusion.

The owners attempted to contract two teams (Twins and Expos) a few days after then end of a great World Series, and just when the collective bargaining agreement with the MLBPA was expiring. This failed only because the good people of Minnesota filed a court injunction asking that the Twins honor their lease at the Metrodome, which expires after the 2002 season.

They allowed one of the owners (Jeffrey Loria, more on him later) of whose teams (Expos) were supposed to be contracted, to purchase another franchise (Marlins) so that another owner (John W. Henry) could purchase yet another franchise (Red Sox) at a huge (tens of millions of dollars) discount. Remember the bastard Dolan family who owns Cablevision (which are still preventing me from watching Yankee games) offered to buy the Red Sox for $700+ million, while Selig successfully bamboozled the Yawkey estate (the previous Red Sox owner’s for 60+ years) to accept Henry’s bid of $660 Million. Selig did this so he can keep control of the owners and ensure that they continue to tow the party line. If that is not collusion, I am not sure what is.

It was revealed Commissioner Selig and the Milwaukee Brewers accepted loans from Carl Pohland, the owner of the Minnesota Twins, a team that Selig wants to eliminate. Then Selig claimed there was no deal where the Twins would be contracted and Pohland would be bought out for more than market value.

Lastly, the joke that is Jeffery Loria. He was the same guy that promised to do what it takes to bring the Expos back to respectability when he purchased them. He told the fan base, however small it was, that he would spend the necessary dollars (Canadian or American) to make this team competitive again. Essentially he told the consumers that he was going to put a good product on the field to justify them spending their weakened Canadian dollars at the ballpark. Just a few years later after doing just the opposite and driving the team into a Triple A franchise for the rest of the league he sells the Expos to a MLB trust, so he can go destroy another team on the brink of failure. Now he is doing essentially the same thing in Florida. Now I don’t think Miami has done anything to justify keeping the team, but for whatever reason they were spared from the contraction guillotine this year. I think the fans in South Florida, if there are any and if they can afford to spend their social security to see a ball game, deserve better. Since the winter of 1997 when Wayne Huizenga dismantled the then World Series champions, they have been doing nothing but rebuilding and I don’t see that Jeffrey Loria is going to change that based on his Montreal track record.

Knowledge is Frank Thomas by Mr. Plastic Man

These days the White Sox listen to Reggae and Latin tunes in the locker room. No more of James Baldwin’s shrill rap or David Wells’ heavy metal. This year’s Sox have a mellower, all-good, team vibe.

Last year there was poison. Knowledge held out over a contract dispute and general  manager Kenny Williams had to defend himself almost daily in “Shouldergate”—his trading Mike Sirotka for David Wells, and charges by  Toronto that Sirotka was damaged goods. By May, the Sox were 15 games below .500, ineffectively limping along.

This year, Knowledge reported to camp happy, smiling and waving his huge bat.  Knowledge has been the coolest guy ever, psyched for the chance to hit behind Lofton and Ray Durham. “I’ve never hit behind two rabbits like that before,” said Knowledge, who may be looking at a record-setting 200-RBI season. Certainly, time will tell.

Knowledge: two-time AL MVP with Chicago (’93,’94); 5-time All Star; first player in MLB history to hit .300, hit at least 20 home runs and have over 100 walks, RBIs and runs scored in seven straight seasons; has hit 40 home runs four times (’93,’95,’96,’00).

The White Sox won 83 games last year and scored 798 runs with Knowledge missing all but 20 games because of horrendous muscle scenes.  Knowledge is, quite simply, one of the greatest hitters ever and an MVP candidate every time he stays healthy for a full season. His all-good demeanor this spring suggests that he is The Man. Word.

The Zisk Book Review by Steve Reynolds

Amazin’: The Miraculous History of New York’s Most Beloved Baseball Team
by Peter Golenbock

Baseball books have always been a tricky proposition, for both author and reader. If an author gets too bogged down in the details, you’ll be putting people to sleep like Bill James; too little detail and insight and too much windbag-like opinion, and you might be Mike Lupica. For the reader…well, let’s just say this: carrying a six-hundred and fifty-four page book on the New York City subway system can be backbreaking and can attract a fair share of people you’d prefer to never talk to, especially when they get a glimpse of the cover.

Sample conversation:
Smelly guy with thick glasses and greasy hair:
Hey, uhhh, is that a Mets book?

Me: Yes. (cough, cough)

Smelly guy: Wow. Are you a fan?

Me: Yes. (turning blue due to holding breath)

Smelly guy: So does it have anything about the ’86 World Series in it?

Me: Yes. (slowly blacking out)

Smelly guy: You know, I never liked Ray Knight. Hojo was a much better guy. You know I once sold coke to Darryl and Doc in the same night—is that in there?

Me: (8 stops from home) Excuse me, this is my stop.

In any case, Amazin’ is well worth the heavy load you’ll carry in your bookbag. Author Peter Golenbock has a solid baseball book background, even if he wrote books with some of my most hated Yankees like Graig Nettles (Balls), Sparky Lyle (The Bronx Zoo) and the biggest prick of them all, the late Billy Martin (Number 1). Golenbock has done an astonishing amount of research on the New York Metropolitians, the first edition of which started play back in 1883(!). The first few chapters give a great overview of National League ball in the New York area from 1900 until 1957. Golenbock lays out the ups and downs and the battles between the Giants and Dodgers by utilizing tons and tons of interviews with players and the reporters that covered the two teams. Especially invaluable are the quotes from longtime Newsday sports writer Jack Lang, who spells out all the behind-the-scenes dealing that broke one borough’s heart.

Lang’s tales help set up what, for me, is the unknown and most interesting history of the Mets—how they came to existence, and how the power of Bill Shea helped make it happen. Golenbock deftly puts all the pieces together (the help of old-time Dodger executive Branch Rickey, the competing league Shea and Rickey formed just to bring N.L. baseball back to the city and Major League Baseball desperately guarding its antitrust exemption) and creates a fascinating look at not only the birth of this team, but of the times and people that made it happen.

Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the book is a treat too. It’s a scream reading how players on the ’88 division winning team blamed Greg Jeffries for them not going to World Series just because he was management’s golden boy. Amazin’ is nothing if not a great chronicling of some of baseball’s biggest egos, in their own words. In-depth interviews with everyone from Ron Swoboda to Gary Carter to Al Leiter paint a humorous picture of life inside the clubhouse. My only complaint is that Golenbock (or perhaps his editor) didn’t make these interviews easier to read. The butchering of grammar and the English language by some of the old-time players made me want to get out my editing pen (if I owned one).

Amazin’ is a must read for any true Mets fan. Just avoiding reading it on the subway.

2002: Can Bowa Do It Again?!? by Josh Rutledge

His players may have hated his guts, but it’s hard to find fault with Larry Bowa’s 2001 managerial performance.

Bowa’s the kind of manager you either love or hate. Definitely count me amongst those who love him. Last year he inherited one of professional sports’ most notorious chronic losers (for those of you keeping score at home, 13 sub-.500 seasons in 14 years is pretty darn notorious!) and somehow managed to guide the Philadelphia Phillies to a totally unexpected 86-76 record, good for second-place in the NL East. In doing so, he surprised the vast majority of the world-at-large. And NO one was more surprised than I, a long-suffering Phillies fan well used to seeing my team battling it out for fifth place every single summer.

All season long, the routine remained the same. I’d look at the standings with utter disbelief. It didn’t seem possible that MY Phils were really giving the Evil Ones (a.k.a. The Atlanta Braves) a run for their money in the NL East! Day after day I’d anticipate the inevitable collapse. It all seemed too good to be true. Far too good. Things were bound to crumble. They just didn’t have the HORSES, right? But as it turned out, there was NO collapse. Up until the final week of the 2001 campaign, the Phils were in the thick of it. Bowa’s boys had proven me wrong the old-fashioned way: by WINNING! The intense skipper tinkered with a player nucleus relatively unchanged from its dismal 2000 state and assembled a team that refused to die—a scrappy, hard-nosed, determined squad that always seemed to come through in the clutch.

Under Bowa’s direction, Jimmy Rollins overachieved his way into rookie-of-the-year contention. The manager’s brilliant fiddling with a suspect pitching staff was tantamount to getting blood from a stone. Seemingly washed-up closer Jose Mesa pitched like the second coming of Rollie Fingers. The team found ways to win the kinds of close games it usually lost the previous season. Bowa took home the NL’s Manager of the Year prize, and it was hard to find a person willing to deny that he was truly worthy of the honor.

But behind the scenes, there were rumors of trouble. Bowa, it was said, was an out-of-control hothead. He was too hard on his troops. The players couldn’t stand him. He was a jerk, a taskmaster, a sadist, and a fascist dictator. Questions quickly arose about the hottest manager in the game. Did he go overboard in the intensity department? Did he really NEED to be so critical? Was he working for Satan? Was he the Bobby Knight of baseball?

Call me a harsh realist, but perhaps the Phillies really DID need a guy like Bowa at the helm of their ship. Perhaps they had needed that for YEARS. Previous skipper Terry Francona was a popular “players’ manager,” but he was never able to do what his successor did last year—win ballgames!

Granted, the credit for the 2001 Phillies’ success must go to the players first and foremost. They were the ones out there winning the games. But that doesn’t make Bowa’s achievements any less remarkable. He lit a fire. He stirred things up. He was willing to go through a wall to find an edge on the competition. And although the Phils’ front office did very little to upgrade the team’s roster over the 2000-2001 off-season, new skipper Bowa made do with what he had and ALMOST conquered the NL East. He did so without a bona fide leadoff man, without a bona fide clean-up hitter, and with only a couple of dependable starting pitchers. It was a good year.

But in 2002, things will be very different. Saint Larry has lifted the Phils out of the gutter, and now they will be EXPECTED to contend. Second-place won’t seem like a prize this time around. If Bowa wants to win ANOTHER Manager of the Year award, he’ll at least need to get his men into the playoffs. And that won’t be easy. The Phils’ brass has once again done very little in the off-season to beef up its on-the-field arsenal. Meanwhile, the Mets have added Roberto Alomar and Mo Vaughn (among others!). The Evil Ones have brought in Gary Sheffield. And the Marlins—who are rich in young pitching—are due for a breakout year. If things go very, very WRONG, a fourth-place finish could be a distinct possibility for the 2002 Phillies.

Still, something tells me that things WON’T go very, very wrong for Bowa’s Phils. Jimmy Rollins might prove that his terrific rookie year was no fluke. Newcomer Terry Adams and talented young hurler Brandon Duckworth might stabilize the starting rotation. Hot-shot prospect Marlon Byrd might make the jump from AAA and finally give the team the centerfield dynamo it’s been needing for a couple of years. Catcher Mike Lieberthal might come back all the way from last year’s season-ending knee injury. Jose Mesa might save another 42 games. Scott Rolen (playing hard for the free agent jackpot!), Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell might continue to put up all-star numbers. It could happen. All of it.

Sure, an awful lot COULD go wrong. But an awful lot could go right, too. And perhaps the most impressive thing about Bowa’s 2001 Phils was that they made a believer out of cynical, pessimistic ME. For the first time in ages, I enter a baseball season NOT expecting disaster for the Phillies. My heart always hopes they’ve got a chance, but now my head agrees. The competition will be fierce, but do you think I’m going to bet against Bowa’s chances AGAIN?! I’ve already learned my lesson.

Josh Rutledge’s Major League Predictions: 2002

1.      The Yankees will win another division crown, but the upstart Oakland A’s will win the pennant on the strength of supreme pitching. Carlos Pena is no Jason Giambi, but he’ll do.
2.      NL MVP: Vladimir Guerrero; AL MVP: Troy Glaus.
3.      NL Cy Young: Kerry Wood; AL Cy Young: Barry Zito.
4.      Brad Penny will win 20, and the young Marlins will make a run at the NL East title.
5.      Tino Martinez will be at least a slight bust, but the St. Louis Cardinals will still win the NL Central.
6.      AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Cuddyer; NL Rookie of the Year: Josh Beckett.
7.      The Twins will make the playoffs.
8.      The wildcard Astros will win the NL pennant.
9.      The Tigers will shock the world by winning at least 70 games. 
10.     The Padres will lead the National League in errors and still win the NL West.

Fixing the Game...One Trival Argument at a Time by Mike Faloon

“Future Hall of Famer Mike Mussina.” Honest to Koufax, I read that very phrase in print (Bill Mazeroski’s Baseball). It’s time to cease and desist using the term “future Hall of Famer.” I don’t even like hearing the phrase precede such worthy names as Tony Gwynn or Cal Ripken, Jr. They’ve got eternity to carry the HOF tag, they can wait until they’re posing for their plaques before amending their name tags.

And while it’s a bit hasty to give Tony or Cal the future hall of famer treatment, it’s downright foolish to include Mike “11-15 in 2000” Mussina in their ranks. He has as many Cy Young Awards as I do and he’s led the league in wins only once more than I have (Mike M. -1, Mike F. - 0). He’s yet to win 20 in a season and has not had a sub-3.00 ERA since 1992. Hardly the figures of legend.

It’s bad enough that good-for-a-long-time-but-never-great figures like Don Sutton are already clogging up Cooperstown. Why further taint the hall’s reputation by speculating that its hallowed walls have more ho-hum in store? The point of the hall is to immortalize the all-time greats, those with a string of amazing years, the players who dominated at their positions for the better part of a decade, or more. Mussina has been very good for nearly that long but there has never been a point when he was considered a Pedro, Maddux or Big Unit. Those guys will be Hall of Famers. And if they’re going to bear that title for the rest of time, then they can wait until they’re inducted to add it to their resumes. Let the term “future hall of famer” go the way of the Maury Wills’ managing career—amusing but best forgotten.


“God bless the Diamondbacks!”

I never thought such words would pass my lips. But sure enough when Luis Gonzalez dropped that gloriously meager line drive over short to win Game 7, the D’backs spend a good three seconds as my favorite team in history.

“God bless the Diamondbacks.” Looks as weird as it sounds. The D’backs are an expansion team. They’re from the desert. Their stadium has a pool. War crimes, one and all. Toss in the ugly Steinbrenner-esque manner in which they assembled their team and you’ve got a club primed for loathing.

However, it’s too simple to say that the D’backs represent all that’s wrong with baseball. Not only did they thwart the vile Bronx Bombers but they did it riding the arms of the thunderous throw-back combo of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. And that awful looking stadium has that cooler-than-cool patch of dirt running from the pitcher’s mound to home. The D’backs have bunch of things to counter the (many) painfully lame aspects of their franchise. What stands to be forgotten is that the yin/yang-like balance that fuels the D’backs surfaced long before Game 7.

It was a seemingly routine May game between the D’backs and Padres. Well, routine until it became evident that Curt Schilling had perfect game stuff. He took his perfect game bid, and 2-0 lead, into the 8th inning. With one out, Padres catcher Ben Davis stunned everyone in the park by choosing to bunt. No one expected a bunt from .238 hitting catcher who moves like Rerun (seven steals lifetime—Davis, that is, not Rerun). Even more surprising, Davis broke up the perfect game and brought the tying run to the plate with five outs left in the game. It was a perfect baseball move.

The Zen of the D’backs surfaced in the post-game reactions of rookie manager Bob Brenly and victimized pitcher Curt Schilling. Big Bad Bob went ape. He called Davis’ move “chicken shit.” He pissed and moaned about unwritten baseball rules. He told the press that “Ben Davis is a young player and has a lot to learn about how this game is played.” (This from a guy then in his second month as a manager.) According to Brenly’s Book of Baseball, if there’s a no-hitter on the horizon, be polite and give up. Even if the opponent is a divisional rival. Even if the tying run is in the on-deck circle.

But, just as you’re about to (rightfully) dismiss Brenly, his uber-sour grapes, and all things Arizona, up steps Curt Schilling with a largely overlooked post-game quote of his own: “Can’t be pissed about it.”

Screw the Diamondbacks. God bless Curt Schilling.


Dante Bichette swats a double down the third baseline at Fenway. In and of itself, the hit itself was impressive because Bichette managed an extra base hit somewhere other than Coors Field. But every ounce of “Hey, good for Dante!” evaporated when he called time out, removed an enormous elbow pad, jogged to the batboy, handed over the elbow pad, and then mosied back to second base.

Elbow pads, arm pads, shin pads, knee pads—hitters have padding for every part of the body potentially exposed to an oncoming pitch. And that’s fine, such devices help keep hitters in the line up. With a wide strike zone, hitters need to be able to dive over the plate, while also protecting themselves against the inside stuff. If they choose to shield themselves with bunker-like protective gear, so be it. My objections arise when needless delays are forced into the flow of a game. And not only are such actions a waste of time, they also come with the underlying arrogance of, “Come hither, piss boy, and fetch mine armor.”

Further, this equipment madness threatens to lead to further specialization in baseball, situational strategizing that could easily sink to sub-NFL levels. Imagine a player allowed to return to the dugout to fetch his less-than-two- out-runner-on-third-hoping-for-a-sac-fly spikes. Or his on-first-base-less-than-two-outs-slow-hitter-at-the-plate-hoping-to-stay-out-of-the-double-play cleats.

I propose the following rule changes:

1) Any equipment used by a batter must remain with him for the duration of his time on the basepaths. A guy can arm himself as he sees fit but has to schlep all of that armor until he returns to the dugout.

2) Any equipment used by a runner while on the basepaths must remain with said player from the time he steps into the batter’s box. A pitcher who wishes to wear a jacket while running must don that jacket while batting.


With the 2001 season having been so excellent, it’s only fitting that we close on a positive note. It’s time to unveil Zisk’s 2001 Most Entertaining Player, or M.E.P.

This honor is given to the player who most consistently entertained fans during the course of the 2001 season.

Points are awarded in three general categories: Off the field behavior, ability to make highlight-reel caliber plays and, most importantly, ability to make fans think every play, no matter how seemingly routine, might become an exciting play. Here we seek a player whose style is so unrelenting that each time he steps to the plate or fields the ball there is the potential for jaws to drop.

Our finalists are the respective MVP winners from the AL and NL, Ichiro Suzuki and Barry Bonds.

Category 1: Off the field

Ichiro is known by fans throughout the world solely by his first name. That’s star power. Likewise for his ability to have fans, at home and abroad, hanging on his every word before and after games. Bonds would love to go by “Barry” but lacks sufficient charisma to fend off challenges from other famous Barry’s, like Gibb, Goldwater, and Manilow.

Ichiro - 1, Bonds - 0

Category 2: Making the big play

Ichiro hit .350, stroked 242 hits, and scored 127 runs in his first MLB season! Bonds hit 73 home runs. I think home runs are overrated from an entertainment perspective (it’s out of the park...now he scuffles about the bases) but still, 73!

Ichiro - 1, Bonds - 1

Category 3: Potential to make the mundane exciting

Ichiro had 722 plate appearances, he ran the basepaths 631 times (that includes all non-strikeouts, walks, and home runs). 87% of the time this guy tore down the first base line; he was always a threat. Ichiro also stole 56 bases and played defense like a mad man, going hard every time and, with his cannon of an arm, never allowing opposing base runners to think they could get an easy extra base.

Bonds had 653 plate appearances, he ran the base paths 310 times. 47% of the time Bonds ran, the rest of the time he walked or strolled. Bonds’ stolen bases dipped to 13 and defensively, he divided his time in the outfield between sulking over how often Jeff Kent failed to drive him in and trying to think up new ways to remind the Giants faithful that he, Bonds, was a free agent at the end of the year.

Aside from the ability to hit the long ball, Ichiro trumps Bonds in every facet of the game. Plus, his stunning season put an end to the many race-based theories fouling baseball’s airs that Japanese players couldn’t hit MLB pitching. (An ignorant, eugenics-like chorus not far removed from the one that greeted Jackie Robinson. One of the last desperate efforts of baseball’s 1940s racists was that, well, ok, we’ll allow blacks to play in the majors but truth be told, the other reason they haven’t been playing in “our” leagues for the past 50 years is that they don’t have the talent. Right.) But that’s a whole other story.

At the plate, Bonds is going to homer or walk. In the field, and after the game he’s going to sulk. Occasionally exciting but generally predictable. Ichiro is everything but predictable.

Ichiro -2, Bonds - 1

Ichiro, Zisk’s 2001 Most Entertaining Player.

(Not) America's Team by Kip Yates

I was watching the American League Championship Series this past October between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners when I heard a lame brained broadcaster (I don't remember who it was exactly. They all start to morph together after a while.) proclaim that the Yankees were trying to win it all for America. Now let me explain something. I cannot stand the Yankees. Hate'em if you want to get down to the nitty-gritty. There isn't a team in professional sportdom that I despise any more than I do the New York Yankees. Not just this current crop of pinstripers either. I am one of the few New Yorkers, my friend Matt and his Dad the others, who cannot stomach the long tradition and history and Yankee lore that we are force fed every October. (Mantle, DiMaggio, Ruth? I’ve seen better!) So it occurred to me that not all of America was rooting for the Yankees.

At this particular time, with the city of New York reeling from a terrorist attack only a month earlier, and American patriotism at a high not seen since World War II, I was wondering just who the Mariners were playing for. For whom did the Mariners and later the Arizona Diamondbacks want to win if not for our country? Were they not part of America too? We’re they in secret cohorts with the Communists or worse yet, terrorists cells throughout the World? The “Axis of Evil?” Who would dare oppose the mighty “All-American” Yankee squad? Then it occurred to me that these teams with the audacity to challenge the mighty Yankees must be punks...plain and simple. But Edgar Martinez and Brett Boone are pretty good guys as are Luis Gonzalez and Curt Schilling. This led me to despise the Yankees even more, and worse yet, I wanted a team, any team to “punk” them.

Shortly after the curtain closed on Game 5 of the World Series, I was left to ponder what might have been if Byung-Yun Kim had taken some computer job in his native Korea. I prepared myself for more of the same unadulterated machismo that I inherently wandered into while walking the streets of New York City after the Yankees had won another title. My nightmare would continue for another year, unless Randy Johnson and Schilling could shut down the Yanks in games six and seven. Of course, there was always the reoccurring nightmare of Kim picking up a ball again, which scared the daylights out of me. So my mind began to wander.

What collection of punks could dethrone this team? It had to be punks because the nice guys in San Diego, Atlanta, and that other New York team did not get the job done and it appeared that barring a miracle, the guys from Arizona were not going to dethrone the Yanks either. Who would I sign on to my All-Punk team? My un-American team if you will? Who would not be afraid to slide hard into Derek Jeter, besides Mariah Carey? What pitcher would not bat an eyelash at throwing a bull’s eye at Jorge Posada's noggin? Who would give these guys the just punishment they deserved? That is when I decided to assemble my team of miscreants and for what it is worth, here they are:

FIRST BASE: Wil Cordero is so punk that he has come full circle that he is not even “punk” anymore. Because he continually beats his wife despite jail time and an aborted league suspension (thanks again, Players Union!), he is the lowest of the “punk” order: He is a scoundrel! But the deposed Cam Bonifay, Dan Duquette and everyone’s favorite virtue merchant, John Hart, thinks the man can still swing a bat so that’s all I need. He hits number five in my line-up.

SECOND BASE: Felix Martinez, the little known former Kansas City Royals prospect for that broken jaw he gave a base runner a couple years ago with a hard tag. Just the kind of thing that Paul O‘ Neil needs. He is my number eight hitter.

SHORTSTOP: This is a toughie because they are all pretty swell guys, but I am going to take Omar Vizquel with this one. Sure there isn't anything remotely “punk” about him, but he did threaten to hold out for more money after Roberto Alomar joined the Tribe and I hear that, unlike contemporaries Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra, he does not help old ladies cross the street. Vizquel is my number two hitter.

THIRD BASE: Charley Hayes doesn’t bring any particular talent to my team other than his willingness to rush the mound after every brush back, bean ball, ball on the inside corner of the plate, strike out...you get the idea. He bats seventh.

CATCHER: Mitch Meluskey is recruited because he punched Houston Astro teammate Matt Mieske during batting practice and pretty much wrote his own ticket to Detroit. Insert laughter here! Oh yeah... he’s punk! He's a number six in the order punk.

LEFT FIELD: Gary Sheffield represents my un-American all punk team in left because of his bad attitude and his even badder swing. I choose him even though I know that when we start losing he’s going to want to go play someplace else. Until then, he is my cleanup hitter.

CENTER FIELD: I have to be careful with this selection because I understand Carl Everett doesn’t like being called no punk. He also doesn’t believe that Dinosaurs ever existed but that's for another place (read: insane asylum). He is badder than Leroy Brown and ballsy enough to challenge Yankee Mike Mussina’s near perfect game. I like that... and did I mention that the guy can play. He bats third.

RIGHT FIELD: Ricky Henderson is not going to like that I am moving him to right field from left but he has to understand that in his 43 years, he has lost a step. Also, Juan Gonzalez wanted to play for my team, but at the last minute he chose the tax free money that the Barry Manilow All-Stars offered, so I had to settle for the Mouth in right. The best lead off hitter ever bats lead off.

PITCHER: Randy Johnson is not a punk in the same vein as the rest of these guys, but a nasty slider, a wicked fastball, six feet ten inches of intimidation personified gives my team the best opportunity to defeat New York. 200 wins, over 3,400 strikeouts, a near three E.R.A. and the ‘Kentucky Waterfall’ he sports is reason enough for him to anchor my team of outcasts.

There you have it. My starting lineup and last great hope to defeat the New York Yankees in the World Series and save me from another agonizing off season of what if's and woulda/coulda/shoulda’s.

And now, the Yankees are just Mark Grace, Damian Miller, and whomever Bob Brenley decides to pinch-hit for Randy Johnson away from winning their fourth straight World Series. Mariano Rivera is on the mound and has not blown a post season save in 23 games and he just blew threw the Diamondbacks order in the eighth inning. Arizona doesn’t stand a chance…At least that is what we all thought didn’t we. It turns out that there isn’t any need for my team of infidels and villains after all. The Diamondbacks are World Series Champions. They won it for America. Hallelujah!

A Yankee Ran Reviews the Ill-Fated Playoff Run of the 2001 Yankees by Jeff Herz

I have been a Yankee fan since the 1976 World Series when I was 7 years old. That was the year my beloved Thurman Munson played his heart out, batting .539 despite being swept by my neighbor and best friend’s team, the Johnny Bench-led Cincinnati Reds. From that fall on I had my team. I knew not of the future to come, six more World Series Championships, the most in my lifetime (Ed note: see sidebar below). I just knew that this was the team I was going to root for forever.

I love the New York Yankees but they should have lost earlier in the playoffs last year. The 2001 version of the Yankees was not that good. They were getting old (Scott Atrocious and Paul O’Neil retired at the end of the season as did Luis Sojo but he seems to have resurfaced again), they had lost some speed and punch (Chuck Knoblauch and Tino Martinez), and the 4 and 5 pitching spots were suspect all season long (who remembers Christian Parker as the 5th starter in April?). Injuries proved costly to them over the course of the season, but they were still able to make the playoffs because the Red Sox, as predicted, self-destructed before September.

Somehow, the Yankees were able to get past a hungry Oakland team in the Divisional Series. The Young A’s nipped at the Yankees’ heals for a second straight year. Pushing them to the brink until Jeremy Giambi’s inability to slide at home plate allowed Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada to make perhaps the best post season play I have ever witnessed (time and again on ESPN’s Sportscenter). Had he slid, he probably would have been safe and New York would not have even made it to the Series. It would have allowed the Mariners to fulfill my preseason prediction of the M’s going to the Series, since the A’s would have believed that they did what they needed to do by knocking out the dreaded Yanks. But Giambi did not slide. I bet the Oakland coaches have slid him to death this spring.

The Yankees were able to ride the momentum of that play through the ALCS and past the 116 win Seattle Mariners in a series without much drama. Some will claim that this series was payback for the 1995 Division Series, but enough players had turned over to make this theory a real non-issue (hell, Tino Martinez and Luis Sojo played for the other side in ’95 plus Jeff Nelson and Sterling Hitchcock had been back and forth in that time). Needless to say the New York Yankees were on to their fifth World Series in six years, and playing the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks, who were under rookie manager Bob Brenly.

On paper, the World Series looked pretty even. It will go down in history as one of the best Series of all time. Most of the games were close and had the intensity that you would expect from a World Series. The home team wound up winning every single game, which sent the fans home happy. The Yankees showed their legacy and pride, the fight and determination that had won four of the previous five series.

However, they only did this for four of the seven games played (games 3, 4, 5 and 7). They were manhandled and had their asses handed to them in the other games. They barely bothered to show up for the other games hoping for some kind of Yankee magic to miraculously lift them to victory.

Let me give credit where credit is due. The Diamondbacks deserved to win and were the better team. They outplayed and out-hustled the Yankees. They had a 1-2 pitching punch of Schilling and Johnson that was, in the end, impossible to beat. I don’t wish to take anything away from the—this hurts—World Champions since they were the better ball club, but here is my rant nonetheless.

Bob Brenly is a horrible manager, not the genius that he was made out to be after the World Series. His decision in Game 4 to pull Schilling in the seventh inning because of a pitch count is ludicrous. He has the three-time defending Champs on the ropes with his ace, who has no problem racking up the innings, on the mound in a groove killing the Yankees. Why is he concerned about Game 7 when he is about to go up 3-1? Does he believe in the Yankee mystique so much that he knows they are going to come back?

Then in just about the opposite situation in Game 6, he leaves Randy Johnson in for seven innings in a 15-2 blowout. He should have brought Johnson out in the fifth so that he qualified for the win. That way he could have used Johnson sooner in Game 7 (which he was obviously planning on playing since Game 4) than he actually did if Schilling ran into any problems. I have no idea what would possess him to leave his second ace in for all this time, in a blowout, and burn his arm out when he could have needed him earlier in Game 7. In retrospect he did not need Johnson until the 8th, but if you are going to play Game 4 conservative, why not play Game 6 conservative as well. I just don’t get it.

Finally, bringing in a 21-year old Byong-Hyon Kim in Game 5 after he got shellacked in Game 4, when you have experienced veterans like Mike Morgan, Greg Swindell, and Bobby Witt in the bullpen. Now, in hindsight there is no way you can predict that your reliever is going to self destruct two nights in a row, but Brenly had ample opportunity to see that Kim did not have his best stuff and could have pulled him prior to giving up the second bomb, that almost brought the Yankees back from the brink.

That is just bad managing. Brenly alone gave the Yankees multiple opportunities to come back, when he had the hammer in his hand ready to hit the nails in the coffin. Game 7 would never have been played. Had Brenly been a better manager, the outcome that will go down in the ages, should never had occurred. But it did.

In the end, if the D’backs had won Game 7 by a score such as 7-2 or 4-1 or even blew the Yankees out again a la Game 6, I would have been satisfied with the outcome. I would have been able to commend them on being the better team with no second thoughts. I might have even been able to read the paper and news articles about the greatness of the series or the individual games, without my stomach turning over. But how they won Game 7 will forever burn in my stomach, at least it still does today, five months later. They beat us at our own game, coming back in the ninth against the best and most clutch reliever in the history of the game, with one bunt, three dribblers (two that should have been turned into DP’s) and one well-hit ball. (Ed note: see sidebar below) It was a nice run while it lasted. The 2001 Yankees went further than they really deserved.

However, all is fair in love and baseball and April 1 we start anew. I expect the 2002 Yankees to reclaim the crown stolen by those snakes in Phoenix and I don’t really expect the Diamondbacks to repeat, nor do I predict they will even make it back to the Series this October. But that is just me, I have been a Yankee fan for over a quarter century.

Yankees over Cardinals in 6 games, unless Rick Ankiel pitches then the Yankees sweep.


World Series Championships in my lifetime (1969-present)

NY Yankees – 6 (1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000)

Oakland Athletics – 4 (1972, 1973, 1974, 1989)

Cincinnati Reds – 3 (1975, 1976, 1990)

Baltimore Orioles – 2 (1970, 1983)

Los Angeles Dodgers – 2 (1981, 1988)

Minnesota Twins – 2 (1987, 1991)

New York Mets – 2 (1969, 1986)

Pittsburgh Pirates –2 (1971, 1979)

Toronto Blue Jays – 2 (1992, 1993)

Arizona Diamondbacks – 1 (2001)

Atlanta Braves – 1 (1995)

Detroit Tigers – 1 (1984)

Florida Marlins – 1 (1997)

Kansas City Royals – 1 (1985)

Philadelphia Phillies – 1 (1980)

St. Louis Cardinals – 1 (1982)


Let’s painfully relive Jeff Herz’s thoughts on that (un)fateful night...

The unheralded rookie Alfonso Soriano hit what should have been a Series winning and MVP producing home run in the eighth. That should have been sufficient for the Yankees. Instead Joe Torre reached into the well a little too early and perhaps a little too often, starting the bottom of the eighth with Mariano Rivera. I suggested at the time he should have gone with Mike Stanton a little longer or brought Ramiro Mendoza in to start the inning. If either one of them got into trouble you could always go to Rivera and they were able to get through the eighth then that leaves Rivera fresher for the ninth, when you really need him at his best. Somehow, we got through the eighth virtually unscathed though Rivera looked shaky. It was raining in the desert, which is never a good sign. The Yankees went quietly in the ninth as the Big Unit retires Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez and Jorge Posada in order.

Then Mark Grace, Mr. Cub as far as I am concerned (why the hell didn’t the Cubbies re-sign him?) and Mr. Poopy-pants from my fantasy team perspective gets a lame hit off of Rivera to lead off the ninth. The rain continues to fall, making the grip on the ball more and more slippery. Grace is taken out for a pinch runner, you don’t need to be a brain surgeon to know that Grace is no Carl Lewis. A dribbler is hit back to the box. Rivera fields the ball cleanly then…


Ok, first and second, no one out. It should have been a DP, but whatever, he still has not blown a save in the postseason since 1997. Jay Bell then pinch-hits for Randy Johnson. He bunts. Rivera fields it cleanly throws to Atrocious at third for the force. But Atrocious does not attempt the DP. AAAARGGGH. He holds the ball instead of trying to get the slow-footed Bell at first. That would have left a one run lead, with two outs and a man on second. But no, now we have a one run lead, men at first and second and only one out. The rest is history: Womak doubles, scoring a run, Counsell is HPB, Gonzalez bloops a ball to left over a drawn in infield, game over.

(Non) Rants From the Upper Deck by Steve Reynolds

Each time we get ready to roll out another issue of Zisk, I usually buy a six-pack of Rolling Rock, and bottle of gin and a bunch of uppers and sit in front of my antique PC and bang out my angry thoughts about the idiocy of baseball’s owners and players. But this time around the rants have been tempered by my love of baseball. More specifically, the renewed love of the game I found on September 17th.

Every person in America (and many others around the world) had their own reactions and ways of dealing with the events of September 11th. For me, it meant five nights in a row of some hardcore drinking at bars in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn; the same bars that firefighters of Squad 1 (which was decimated) would go to. Reading the paper morning after morning without a section devoted to the previous night’s games (and how the Mets were gaining ground on .500) added to the confusion of what the heck was going on in this world. (As was the evacuations of my office building because of bomb threats next door.)

So September 17th arrived with games around the country. When I got home from work, I immediately turned on the Mets-Pirates telecast from Pittsburgh. They’re weren’t a great deal of people in the stands, but those that were there wore I (Heart) NY buttons given out at the gate. Every single time the Fox Sports New York cameras were focused on the crowd, all you could see were little white spots on each and every fan. The game was a good one too, but that was besides the point—being able to cheer for Mike Piazza or wonder if Edgardo Alfonzo would break out of his season-long slump made me feel like one part of my life was there again. It gave me something good to hold onto, which seemed impossible to do at that time.

That same night I flipped to ESPN to watch the ceremony at the beginning of the Cardinals game. Their long-time announcer Jack Buck, wracked by Parkinson’s disease, stood in front of the Busch Stadium crowd and gave a speech that brought everyone to tears—including that evil contraction man Bud Selig. “I got home early Monday, turned on television and watched ceremonies in St. Louis with Jack Buck's speech. I cried,” he told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I called Jack. I told him, ‘Now I know I made the right decision.' I watched not only Jack but the crowd, their faces and their emotions. I knew they were glad to be together.” Selig, for the first time in his life, had made a wise decision by waiting a week until letting the season resume.

One more thing I learned after September 11th is that Curt Schilling is a decent man. He wrote a thoughtful open letter, which the following excerpts are taken from:

“Words cannot heal your wounds, not even time will heal the wounds for those who have suffered loss this week. But other than money and blood, which I hope the players in MLB will be giving of both, it is all we have to offer.

We will step on the fields of Major League Baseball on Monday night, but please know that we are not doing this as an aversion to forget what happened on Tuesday. Nothing will ever make us forget that day. But we are doing so because it is our jobs, and I honestly feel that if you do have a chance to catch a few minutes of a game, and see every sports fan in every stadium stand for that initial moment of silence, and understand when we do so that we do so for you, and for your families. And in the seventh-inning stretch when this nation sings "God Bless America," we do so because we can, because in this country men and woman have died so that we can continue on as a free nation, and we will be thinking of you then also.

And it's my belief that if you watch close enough you will see players, many players in fact, trying in some small way to say thank you, and that we won't forget you or your loved ones as some of us will have messages scrawled somewhere on our hats or uniforms that you can read.

We will proudly wear the great flag of this country on our uniforms, and it's something I hope baseball adopts forever.”

Ron LeFlore: Hall of Famer? by Mike Faloon

When it comes to baseball predictions, I possess just enough knowledge to insure that nearly all of my prognostications are wrong. According to me ever-cloudy crystal ball, Darryl Strawberry was to lead a Dodgers resurgence in the early 90s. I once saw the future of pitching in the arms of Jose Rosado, Dustin Hermanson, and Steve Trachsel. I thought Randy Johnson was finished in 1998 and I still believe that Junior is going to break Hank Aaron’s home run record.

The lifelong tendency toward faulty forecasts began on August 22, 1981. My family was on vacation in Toronto and yielded to my pleas to attend a White Sox/Blue Jays game—my first major league game.

I have no memory of ChiSox lefty Britt Burns tossing a four-hit, 8-0 shutout that day. I don’t remember the home runs hit by Greg Luzinski and Chet Lemon. I don’t even recall the White Sox’ six-run eighth inning. But I do remember making my first ever baseball prediction.

I knew that neither my parents nor my brothers were excited about sitting in Exhibition Stadium that day. But, like a good Irish Catholic, I felt guilty about the prospect of being the only person having a good time. I began thinking of ways to pique my family’s interest in the game.

The home team was no help in this regard. Not only were the Blue Jays en route to their fifth straight last place finish but, because of the strike that year, the Jays managed to finish on the bottom twice in 1981.

Attempting to sway my brothers, I informed them that former Syracuse Chief, Greg “Boomer” Wells was in the line up! They shrugged.

I turned to my dad and put everything on the line my 12-year-old mind could muster.

“You know, we’re seeing three Hall of Famers today,” I proclaimed.

“Really,” replied my dad, playing along, “who are they?”

“Three of the White Sox; Carlton Fisk, Greg Luzinski, and Ron LeFlore. They’ll all be in Cooperstown some day.”

“Maybe they’ll visit Cooperstown some day, but there’s no way they’ll be Hall of Fame residents, son.”

That’s what my dad should have said, instead he took my prediction in stride, ruffled my hair, and said something like, “You think so, huh?”

And with that exchange my career of misguided predictions was underway. At least Carlton Fisk made the Hall of Fame, I got that one right. Greg Luzinski? The Bull had a couple more solid years in Chicago before hanging it up following the ’84 season. Pretty good lifetime numbers (307-HR, 1,128-RBI) but not enough to warrant serious consideration from the HOF committee.

And Ron LeFlore? He’s spent more time before decidedly non-HOF committees. His playing days ended in the middle of the 1982 season when the White Sox suspended him for drug problems. In September 1999, following closing ceremonies at Tiger Stadium, he was arrested for failing to pay child support.

I should make it clear that my on-going inaccuracy in no way hinders my desire to keep making predictions. In fact, if you want to know where the money isn’t for the coming season, then listen close: the Mets will get revenge for the ’73 Series, talking the A’s in six games.