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?


...a new level in media reporting of breaking news...cute...

"According to Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune, Mark Buehrle's wife wrote on her Facebook page that her husband was awarded with a Gold Glove for the American League."

Ha, sweet. I just sent her a friend request, btw.

She's not accepting. What a bitch.

so ESPN fired Joe Morgan

That's pretty hot!


there is a God.

Poor Miller - you think he'd get at least one year to show his stuff without having to cover for Morgan all those years.


Good riddance to the most over-rated player of his era. Wow, how tough could it have been batting between Pete Rose and George Foster/Dan Driessen. Think Joe saw many fastballs?

I'm not a flag-waving Ryno, should-have-been-named-manager, got-screwed-by-Hendry, Sandberg lover but if I had to listen to that piece of crap run him down one more time.............

Morgan played 20 seasons vs. Sandberg played 15 seasons.
Morgan's line: .271/.392/.819 vs. Sandberg at .285/.344/.796
Morgan: 268 HR vs. Sandberg at 282 HR
Morgan had 1650 R, 1133 RBI, and 2,517 H vs. Sandberg at 1,318 R, 1,061 RBI, and 2,385 H
However if you pro-rate Sandberg's averages over 20 years he would have scored 1,980 runs, 3,580 hits, 420 HR's, and 1,580 RBI's.

Defensively, 9 time Gold Glove award winner at 2B with a career .989 fielding average. Joe Morgan couldn't carry Sandberg's jock strap.

because Sandberg would have maintained his career averages those last 4 years rather than declined drastically like just about every other goddamn player who has ever played the game.

I didn't mean to imply Sandberg would have hit those numbers or wouldn't have declined dramatically playing 5 more years. Instead, here was a player Morgan demonstrated a continual hard-on for who accomplished virtually the same or better stats playing 5 less full seasons. Not to mention he followed a guy with 4,200 lifetime hits and a batting order lauded by many as the most prolific since the 1927 Yankees. I saw them both play - in their primes - and Sandberg was better.

I didn't mean to imply Sandberg would have hit those numbers or wouldn't have declined dramatically playing 5 more years.

well that was exactly what you were implying even if not intended.

nonetheless, Sandberg also had the benefit of there not being one 2bmen in the NL worth a damn for most of his career to help the AS and GG totals. I think Juan Samuel, Tommy Herr, Steve Sax were the de facto All-Star back-ups every year.

(of course for all I remember Morgan could have had a similar advantage in the 70's, I don't know the landscape of 2b-men in his prime).

and Morgan only played 500 more games than Sandberg, about 3 seasons worth, his first 2 years he barely played and there were a few injury-riddled season along the way.

so what I'm basically saying is your analysis was mostly drivel, but I appreciate the unwavering homerism.

A year and a half of that came out of the middle of Sandberg's career, not the end of it. If not for the broken hand and divorce, he probably would have hit 60 more HR's and had 150 more walks on his totals. Overall, though, it cannot be reasonably argued that Sandberg was a better offensive player.

I wouldn't call the age 34 and 35 seasons of a guy that started at age 22 the middle of his career and he was already showing his decline by that point.

But yeah, Sandberg was awesome, Joe Morgan was just a little better player.

horrible announcer, I'm guessing kind of dipshit in real life, but a better career on the field.

Morgan was a truly great baseball player. He was also an arrogant, ignorant, insecure ex-ballplayer blowhard as a color commentator. He was also, to put it kindly, factually challenged. Any time he told a story from his playing days, you could count on him to be demonstrably factually wrong about one or more of the significant details he recounted in telling the story. Three spring to mind immediately:

Claiming that he got his first major league hit in his first big league game to beat the Phillies in the game that started their losing streak that lost the pennant in 1964 (He debuted in 1963, not '64. He was hitless in his first game -- 0 for 1. In his 2nd game he did single in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Phils but he was an entire year too early for it to matter in their 1964 collapse). He also recalled listening on the radio as Koufax struck out Ernie Banks for the last out of his perfect game (Nope). Finally, he stated that the basket at Wrigley was called "Banks' Boulevard" and implied that it was because so many of Ernie's home runs landed in it instead of going over the wall (the basket wasn't installed until 1970, -- only 9 of his 290 Wrigley Field homers were hit after that).

Those stories illustrate a couple of his more distasteful qualities -- his inflated sense of his own importance and a cowardly belittling of other great players (Sandberg & Banks).

Arrogant douchebag. Don't let the door his you on the ass on your way out.

I hate to be put in a position to have to defend Joe Morgan, who I hate as an announcer, but the last half of Ryno's career was a completely different era than what Morgan played in. HR's were much more plentiful starting in the late 80's, for various reasons. Morgan played half of his career in the 60's/early 70's, when pitching was much more dominant, hence the low avg., and then he hung on for several years after he was rapidly declining, with more bad averages. His prime years, from 28-33, stack up extremely well against Ryno (who is my favorite player of all time). Ryno had more power, Morgan stole WAY more bases. Ryno should be compared to the Jeff Kent's and Chase Utley's, not a guy from a different era like Morgan.

Ryno's career overlapped 4 years with Joe Morgan's and 0 with Chase Utley. The offensive explosion didn't really start until 1994, at which point Sandberg's career was mostly over.

Besides that last statement, you're pretty much on target.

Morgan's best years were outstanding.

Top ten OPS+ years:

186 (1976, MVP), 169 (1975, MVP), 159 (1974), 154 (1973), 149 (1972), 136 (1982), 132 (1966), 131 (1965), 130 (1967) and 116 (tie 1971 and 1983)

Led league in walks and OBP 4 times. 689 steals and only 162 CS. Even led league in slugging once.

Morgan's career OPS+ was 132. Sandberg's was 114. The big difference between them is the walks and OBP. Sandberg had more home run power in his best years.

Sandberg's 10 best seasons by OPS+: 146 (1992), 140 (1984), 140 (1990), 138 (1991), 134 (1989), 131 (1985), 111 (1987), 108 (1988), 108 (1993, but only 503 PA) and 98 (1986

For all Morgan's rantings about Sabermetrics, from what I can tell Bill James just absolutely loved him as a player, even creating a stat called "Player Percentage Index" in the last Historical Baseball Abstract (consisting of weighted factors of fielding percentage, strikeout to walk ratio, stolen base percentage and walk frequency). This stat, apparently designed to evaluate baseball IQ, resulted in Morgan having the highest such percentage in baseball history.

What would fielding percentage have to do with baseball IQ?

The irony that Morgan was a fantastic "Moneyball" player has escaped no one... besides Morgan.

I did not do a good job of describing the factor. The fielding factor is "The player's fielding percentage, compared to period norms for his era and his position." He compares Morgan's career fielding percentage (.981) to a norm for second basemen of his time (.977).

I also did not include the last part of James's writeup, which is pretty funny:

"in April 2000, Major League Baseball aired a promotional spot in which Peter Gammons, pitching, struck out Harold Reynolds. Broadcasting on ESPN on April 19, Joe Morgan was frothing at the mouth about this commercial. 'Harold Reynolds was a major league baseball player,' Morgan said over and over . . . I may be paraphrasing a little, because my VCR wasn't running. 'Harold Reynolds was an all-star. Peter Gammons does not strike him out. It's just wrong, and I'm not going to keep quiet about it. It's wrong. Peter Gammons does not strike out Harold Reynolds.'

"Dear Joe:
Does the phrase 'get over yourself' mean anything to you? This is not to deny that you were a major league player, and even that you were a better player than Harold Reynolds, who I suppose must have been an All-Star sometime; what the hell, Dave Chalk started two All-Star games. This is not to deny that you were a brilliant player, Joe, but you are becoming a self-important little prig. Grow up, you little weenie. People make fun of one another; this is called friendship. This is life; only self-important twits take offense at that kind of thing. Jeez, man, get a life. Preferably, not on television.
Your friend,
Bill James"

Nice. Surprising James really went after him like that - unless both Morgan's comments and his were jokes. But since I've never heard Morgan make a joke in 20 years, it probably wasn't one.

Likely to be replaced by Dan Shulman and Morel Orel!


Shulman will be great!

Some Bruce Levine speculation:

"Washington first baseman Adam Dunn will be asking in the range of three-years, $40 million, a contract the Cubs will not be able to afford. The Cubs will look at Tampa’s Carlos Pena, the Yankees Lance Berkman, Arizona’s Adam Laroche, the Yankee’s Nick Johnson and possible short-term free-agent solutions if a trade for Gonzalez is not feasible."


"if a trade for Gonzalez is not feasible"

Between that comment and all the Dunn speculation, I'm a little concerned. I really thought Ricketts was tightening the belt for the franchise, basically hit ctrl-alt-delete for a year or so, let some money come off the books, trade Fuk, probably get what they could for Ramirez, let the youngsters play....

Not that Adrian Gonzalez couldn't be somebody to build a team around (then again, with all their established youth, why wouldn't SD??) but this is starting to smell like Hendry is talking Ricketts into just one more bloated, back-loaded contract (that's going to look like shit in a year or two) on his way out the door...

hold me.

Phillies interview Sandberg for their AAA manager spot:


Wrongway intimates that the Cubs may consider going after Cliff Lee:


According to Barry Rosner, that when Hendry stated in Pat Listash news confernece that Sandberg was not interested in the Cubs AAA job that was news to Ryno.

He never told Hendry that he wouldn't go back.

Stay classy, Fat Ass.

he probably wasn't interested in any minor league job...most of his options have disappeared, though.

sandberg seems to be having a hard time interesting any team to hire him as a coach at this point. the ML positions are filling fast and his name hasn't been thrown around in a while.

the perception now seems that Hendry was just placating Sandberg these 4 years and was expecting him to either hate being a minor league manager or flat out suck at it that it wouldn't be an issue now.

He's obviously not in Hendry's inner circle (which apparently Maddux is). Speaking of, wonder what Maddux says about Sandberg to Hendry?


"Stay classy, Fat Ass."

That's a funny line.

You got this completely wrong. Rozner's article says Sandberg told Hendry he didn't want the Cubs AAA job. He's not interested in sitting down at Iowa waiting for Quade to fail.

What he was surprised to hear coming from Hendry is that he "didn't want a minor league job." Ryno never told Hendry that. He is willing to work his way up to the majors thru another Clubs minor league system, not exclusively looking for a major league position.

you're jumping to a lot of conclusions there, dude.

read the article

Quoting Rozner's (not Rosner's) article in the Herald

1. Sandberg has been talking to several teams about major-league coaching and Triple-A managing jobs, after telling the Cubs he was no longer interested in managing THEIR top minor-league affiliate.

Last week Cubs GM Jim Hendry announced what everyone else already knew, that Sandberg wasn't returning.

"...but (Sandberg said) I want to coach and teach and continue to do that, whether it's in the minors or the majors. I'm committed to that. I always have been. I never stopped.”

So, Ryno told the Cubs he didn't want the AAA job, then Hendry announced it officially. But Ryno IS WILLING to coach in the minors elsewhere.

2. “Ryne felt it was in his best interests, and (Cubs) ownership's best interests, to not accept the job at Iowa,” said Sandberg's agent, Jim Turner. “He did not want ownership or the fans or Mike Quade to feel that he was sitting there waiting for a disappointing result and an ax to fall in Chicago. That's not how he's built.”

Sandberg said a few weeks back that, “I had more press conferences this year because of what was happening (with Lou Piniella) in Chicago than I had the year I went in the Hall of Fame.”

Another year of that wouldn't benefit anyone, so a clean break was best for all.

“By not accepting the Des Moines job, Ryne's sending a clear signal to the 29 other teams,” Turner said. “He's serious about reaching his goal, and that goal can be reached with any major-league team.”

i see your point, there...sorry for making you scramble for quotes.

i apologize for not reading before posting and listening to sports radio for the report.

Bruce Levine chat transcript:


Here's a couple of blurbs:

Zack B (East Lansing)
Bruce,With the Cubs looking for a quality 1st basemen but with a limited budget it would seem that Adam Dunn and Adrian Gonzalez are long shots. With this in mind who do you believe would be the best fit at Wrigley of the remaining available players: Pena, Overbay, Johnson, LaRoche? What do you think?

Bruce Levine (1:34 PM)
Pena is probably the guy they'll look at. His .199 average is a little scary, but his power numbers are still good. The consensus in the Cubs is he'd hit .250, bring a great glove to 1B and be a solid force in the locker room. He's known as a great teammate with leadership abilities. That might be the direction they go.

Paul (Chicago)
Bruce, please list your three (3) most likely starting first basemen for the Cubs in 2011.

Bruce Levine (1:40 PM)
Colvin, Pena and Gonzalez.


"Paul (Chicago)

Bruce, please list your three (3) most likely starting first basemen for the Cubs in 2011.

Bruce Levine
(1:40 PM)

Colvin, Pena and Gonzalez."

Really, Colvin most likely?? Thanks Bruce. Also has Hoff possibly heading to Japan, and Marshall being more comfy in the 'pen.


In an interesting side note, he's now pushing hard for Dunn on the South side. I'm pretty sure they have a budding relationship, and Levine doesn't like flying into Dulles. Just sayin


Dallas Green on Ryno to mlb.com's Todd Zolecki: "He's been let down by Chicago a good bit. He's a little bit bitter about that."

chicago only gave him a job and let him advance through the coaching system over people with decades more experience.

poor ryno.

i'm sure he wanted the cubs managing job, but it's not owed to him. i dunno how to gauge the player response at the end of the season with the "we definately want this dude" vs. "this dude can do this for someone" for quade, but meh...whatever...

Talk about jumping to conclusions. Ryno's not bitter about anything. He just realizes that he will never reach his personal goal as long as Hendry is GM, so he's looking for a job with another organization.

i'm not saying he's bitter...i'm saying he wasn't shafted by the cubs and he pretty much got a sweet deal with advancements while honing his new trade.

he got a good break and he backed it up with seemingly good work.

can't speak for dally green, though...

time to feign anger over the Gold Glove awards...well at least Jeter.


Mauer, Teix, Cano, Jeter, Longoria, Crawford, Gutierrez, Suzuki, Buehrle

he's no raffy palmeiro.

Jeter? Really?

I guess some people only look at errors committed (6) and ignore range factors, etc.

some people probably don't even bother to look at the stats, even the errors.

I think that the vast majority of these coaches and players get the term "silver slugger" with "golden glove".

Yeah, except that Jeter had a lousy year hitting: .270/.340/.370 with a 90 OPS+ -- lowest full season OPS+ in his career by 11 points.

Joe Morgan is an idiot


My feeling is Joe does not want to give credit to any players lower than him and that baseball teams are only good when great players like himself carry the team.

"Lewis merely shrugs. He told an interviewer recently: "As the governor of Louisiana once said, the only way Joe Morgan can lose his job is if he got caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy...."

Ha! I guess now we'll never know which is was.

He isn't the first ex big leaguer to be pissed about missing out on huge salaries, and won't be the last. Being a broadcaster doesn't help his issue with that. I've always felt he is angry about missing out. Sorry, Joe, move on.

what the fuck is going on at my old school? They're blowing people away.

Go, Northern Illinois State Teachers College!

-- (signed) A Proud Alum

Me too...go you huckin' fuskies!

did they ever finish that half a stadium? They must have.

Recent comments

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  • BRADSBEARD: I haven't noticed any new rule or a change in the interpretation of an existing rule happening in Advanced Instructs, I don't know what rules will be tested in the AFL, although almost all recent rule changes and new interpretations of existing rules (the home plate collision rule, replay, time clock between innings, et al) do get their start in the AFL.  

  • Yep

  • AZ Phil: I've heard that the AFL will be testing out a new force out rule that would affect break-up plays (like the Utley play). Have you heard anything about this new rule and any details about it? Are they testing it out at the advanced instructs as well?

  • Pretty sure I already know the answer to this, but since I will be in NYC next week I want to confirm... If the Cubs were to advance to the NLCS, the winner of LAD/NYM would have home field based on being a division winner (as opposed to Cubs by virtue of better record), correct?

  • CUBSTER: This "hammy" is on the other leg I heard last night. See you at the ballyard today young man!

  • Lulz

  • Oh what do you know, Cubster? Go back to your day job.

    --- Ducks, puts on Cardinals cap, runs.

  • Russell had a severe hamstring last year while with the A's system, forcing him to miss the first half of 2014. I've even wondered if his injury last year was a component of Billy Beane putting him on the trade market. He was quoted saying that last year's injury was a 10 out of 10 when it happened. Last night he said his hamstring soreness was a 1/1.5 out of 10. Hamstring injuries are tricky though, so I'd expect the medical team to be overly cautious here.

  • ...I want to reinforce the observation that there was no sea of red in the crowd. The usual Cardinal fans roaming the stadium were few and far between.

    Also, almost every 2 strike pitch brought the fans to their feet. Good for those in knee rehab.

  • "1st team hit hit 6HR in a game in the postseason." rises above obvious...i checked it with the official fact-finding commission of Douche, Douche, and Douchestein. they agreed with you, but they're a bunch of f'n douches so who cares?

    btw, the cubs are 2-1 in the post-season series.

  • I should be able to watch the game on the NFL replay app, whatever that thing is called. I've got it on my iPad. This is the first year I haven't forced myself to somehow watch every game - no I take that back, last year was - in quite some time. Last year was so unbearable, no pun intended.

    You make some good points about Cutler, and I was a holdout defender of Cutler for a long time. I gave up on him a bit after one too many dumb interceptions, but last year doesn't count. Trestman was the worst coach in Bears history.

  • Nice little reportage there!. I think you're older than me. Considerably older. Maybe several generations. Working out is so essential, especially as age kicks in, isn't it? I still lift weights, and so I'm confident that when I get to be at the hip breaking age, mine won't be a statistic. But I have a ways to go for that to be a concern.

  • What was impressive to me is that the Cubs won despite poor base running, several defensive miscues, Russell leaving due to injury, Arrieta having an off game and getting knocked out early, and Rondon giving up 2 runs in the 9th. If they can win a game like that... 

  • I was there too. The crowd was absolutely electric. People were standing for every big and semi-big moment, from the first inning on. It felt incredibly strange and exhilarating to see the Cubs (the Chicago bleepin' Cubs!) score playoff insurance runs on the Cardinals. What a game. One to remember.

  • 14 in attendance. What's the record for attendance in the fall? I guess I should ask what the record attendance listed is in one of your recaps.

  • I was there too, with my grown son. This is my miracle year-- I rose to the top of the season ticket list after eight years, completely unexpectedly, and my wonderful wife agreed to put the ticket fee on the emergency credit card. The whole point of course was that the Cubs were going to be good this year, and then for a while, so to get season tickets with the guaranteed shot at the postseason was incredible timing. We got to the remote lot at 4:10 after stopping at Nhu Lan for our usual banh mi sandwiches, only to find the lot full, way earlier than normal.