While Waiting for the Stove to Get Hot
My god, it’s nearly 70 today in the Midwest, a great day for a ballgame. But there won’t be one for several more months. Still, the weather gets an old guy’s mind on baseball…
So it’s official. Ryne Sandberg won’t be back in Des Moines next year to reprise his role as the skipper of the Iowa Cubs. One and done. No matter; no surprise. Baseball fans in minor league outposts have been used to the transience of ballplayers since way before free agency came to the big leagues.
This town has headquartered the following teams going back to the 1890’s: Prohibitionists, Hawkeyes, Midgets, Undertakers, Underwriters, Champs, Colts, Boosters, Demons, Bruins, Oaks and Cubs.
Sandberg was just the latest in a series of luminaries to spend at least a summer here. Eddie Cicotte won 18 games for the 1906 Des Moines Champs [who were managed by the finely named Dirty Jack Doyle] before later gaining infamy at the center of the Black Sox scandal. Vida Blue fanned 16 in a game while pitching for the Iowa Oaks in 1970. That’s still a record in the American Association. I can remember watching Blue stand on the mound here grinning at the hitters. He was part of the guts of the Oakland A’s team that passed through here en route to a three-peat; one of the last of the great big league dynasties. Joe Rudi and Gene Tenace were Oak teammates of Blue’s. Tony LaRussa once played for the Oaks before becoming their manager in 1979, the same year when he was promoted to his first big league managerial post with the White Sox in midseason.
In between Cicotte and LaRussa, the Des Moines Demons hosted the first professional ballgame ever played under permanent lights in 1930. That club included a guy named Buckshot May and one Les Cox who hit a paltry .172 in only 58 AB’s – probably had a bad case of rabbit ears.
The ballpark where the town team finally settled over six decades ago was first christened Western Park, later renamed after a local sportswriter, rebuilt in the early 90’s with municipal assistance and then renamed again after its naming rights were sold to a local corporation, so the history of the place pretty well parallels the trend line of professional baseball itself since the latter half of the 20th century. Sportswriters have descended from balladeers to muckrakers and stadia in some cases can be seen as public/private whorehouses.
I’m one to decry the constant peripheral amusements that seem so obnoxious nowadays at sporting events of all stripes but my brief perusal of Des Moines’ background in professional baseball served as ample reminder that forerunners of the Jackass TV/movie franchise were commonplace even long before Bill Veeck and Charlie Finley arrived on the scene. As long ago as 1890 balloon ascensions and parachute jumps were used to lure people to games hereabouts.
Regarding that last one, were parachutes really around before airplanes? If so, couldn’t chickens have come before eggs?
Meanwhile on the SouthSide
For sure! Russell and Baez are the first infielders in a while to make me think of star defensive players in football or basketball--it's almost like they force turnovers, and they definitely play the field with a degree of athletic aggression I'd expect from a linebacker.
[Edit: Was meant to be a response to JB above.]
tebow hit a HR in the 1st pitch he sees in instructs..lulz.
I don't think his issue(s) will have anything to do with it. He hasn't hit since he's been back. Coghlan has the hot hand.
I'm not a denier but definitely a skeptic on Strop and Grimm, who struggle with fastball control. Strop doesn't go near the ninth inning, and note how Grimm couldn't close the deal even with a 5-run lead. So Felix Pena comes in and gets the 3-pitch game-ending strikeout like it was nothing.
And how about Almora missing that very catchable ball? That was unexpected after all the hype about his glove.
When Trea Turner misses balls like that--which he does--I draw conclusions from it. It seems to be the one chink in his armor. But I'll give Almora another chance.
Assuming Soler is good to go, I think it comes down to 3 of the following 4: Coghlan, TLS, Sczcur, Almora. Of the 4, TLS seems to be the hardest to justify, particularly given his behavioral issues.
I'm wondering if both Coghlan and LaStella make it. With Javy being able to play all the infield spots and Joe maybe wanting late-inning D when Soler plays (assuming he plays), hence either Szczur or Almora, I think LaStella might be the odd guy out.
Hendricks needs the win, anyway, plus a couple more.
My hunch is that Hendricks wins the Cy Young . . . for Lester. That is, without Hendricks tipping the scale toward the Cubs, Scherzer tops Lester.
Old Cub fans remember when Ken Hubbs died at 22 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting in a storm in Utah in 1964. But Hubbs was not an elite power pitcher like Score and Fernandez. Score lived a long time after the accident but it was (effectively) career-ending.
HAGSAG: Since I've only seen them throw in one game and in one "live" BP session, all I can do is provide initial first impressions.
Brailyn Marquez is listed at 6'4 but is probably more like 6'5 or 6'6. I would describe him as a younger version of Bryan Hudson, throwing a ton of ground balls but not getting a lot of swings & misses (yet). Because of his size he could eventually grow into more velocity, but right now he's mostly a pitch-to-contact guy. He generally throws strikes.
Phil, do Marquez and Ocampo look like prospects?
It helps when your defense has declared war against the H in WHIP.
Lackey finishes with a 3.35 ERA. Currently good for 13th in the NL. Not bad for a guy signed to be a #3 starter in a 15-team league.
He is also 6th in WHIP. Pretty amazing: Cubs have the #2, #3, #5 and #6 starters in WHIP.
Completely meaningless game, but Pena striking out Sean the Turd to with the bases loaded was very fun.
Other than one bad game in SD, Pena has been very good. Even with that game, 9.0 IP, 13 K, 0.89 WHIP.
101 wins...most since 1910 (104).
neat. ...or sad. pick one. pick both. 'murica.
Just looked up Grimm's stats -- after a great run, he gave up 2 runs vs. MIL then didn't pitch for 10 days. Don't remember why?