The Long & Winding Road
Yesterday’s tease piece in the Sun-Times that envisioned a reunion in Chicago next year of Walt Jocketty, Tony LaRussa and Albert Pujols got me connecting some dots of my own.
Years ago, before Pujols was born in fact, Jocketty and LaRussa first teamed up as the GM and skipper, respectively, of the Iowa Oaks. The year was 1979 and before that season ended LaRussa, at the mere age of 34, replaced Don Kessinger as manager of the White Sox.
I was an adrift 25 year-old quaffing beer in the stands, usually from a vantage point right behind the home dugout, courtesy of a buddy whose widowed mother was then consorting with one of the Oaks’ owners.
Bobby Molinaro was the driveshaft of that team; the player we most approved of and had most occasion to cheer. The ascendant Harold Baines was also catching eyes. LaRussa cut his managerial teeth against the likes of Jack McKeon, Jim Leyland and Lee Elia that summer, each of whom also had clubs in the American Association at the time.
Marv Foley was on that team. Years later, in 1993, he managed the Iowa Cubs to a pennant and spent some (after) hours in my pub helping me pass the time between last call and the janitor’s arrival at dawn. I still have a sleek, black fungo bat he bestowed upon me in return for my hospitalities. A couple of times I rescued it from the clutches of my two boys when they drug it into service in neighborhood sandlot games despite that they stood hardly taller than the bat.
I’d forgotten that Bobby Douglass did a cameo turn with that ’79 team. According to the archives I consulted he completed seven innings of work without fanning anyone while walking 13. Apparently the left-handed fastballs he winged in the general direction of receivers while quarterbacking for the Bears were no more accurate when aimed at someone equipped with a bat.
The last beer I had was at the same ballpark where LaRussa and Jocketty first collaborated. That was in 1994. By then they had both moved on and Pujols was 14, probably just coming into the natural hormonal supply that would fuel his unparalleled career, the commencement of which was still seven years distant.
Everyone mentioned here, with one exception, either moved on from Principal Park, nee Sec Taylor Stadium, to work in major league sports or, in the unusual case of Douglass, already had when they arrived in Des Moines.
But I, too, have come a long way.
Not just Maddon, but the organization as a whole. If the rumors are to be believed, they did a good job of letting Baez learn that he needed to change his approach, and Baez has done a good job listening to their instructions an adapting. Hopefully the same is true of Alomar, who is ripping up AAA.
Previous management teams haven't been as good at this (e.g. Corey Patterson).
Man, this team makes you greedy. Going into Pittsburgh -- with Cole vs. Hammel Game 1 -- I was hoping for 2 out of 3. After winning the first 2 games 14-3, I now want a sweep. Same thing happened in STL. Very, very fun.
Repeating myself, but I give Maddon a lot of credit for Baez's success. Instead of talking about monster HRs and high K totals, he has talked up his defense, versatility and being a "special" player. The kid seems to have responded.
BOB: The attendance has taken a big hit since you left.
K-DUB: I think the Cubs might consider skipping Dylan Cease past South Bend and starting him at Myrtle Beach next season, especially if he gets some time at South Bend this season and pitches well there. As a southern kid with TJS history, pitching at Myrtle Beach in April is probably a lot more attractive than pitching in South Bend, but Cease can't go to Myrtle Beach if he isn't ready for Hi-A.
His story makes him someone I completely root for to succeed but it's interesting that he's not succeeding in the way anyone thought when he was just a prospect. Great defense and contact instead of power. I think failing so glaringly and getting sent back down might have been the best thing for him and his ego.
He still swings at too many balls out of the strike zone but he's making a lot more contact on them which I think is helped by the less violent swing. So we might not get all the HRs we were expecting but I'll gladly take what he's giving.
"KingKongVsGodzilla"? So - was there a winner?
Baez is looking like a pretty special player.
Love checking TCR for your writeups. Quick question - any of these 2015 positional IFAs stand out to you yet? I'm most specifically referring to Kwon, Sierra, Paredes, and Amaya, but I know there's a couple other guys from that class in EXST as well.
bored...looking at stats for the hell of it...
felix pena (26yo) moving to the pen in AAA is looking like an insanely good fit so far in a smallish sample size
13ip 4h 3bb 20K
remembering back to spring training he was regularly hitting mid-90s (though he didn't have a good spring stats-wise). as a starter in the minors he usually worked low-90s.
this could be an arm worth keeping an eye on even if he's only a 1-inning guy who was "demoted" to the pen to start the year.
Phil, historically this front office has been patient with their prep pitchers keeping their IP low and moving them one level at a time. I know I'm getting ahead of myself, and you may not be able to formulate an opinion on this, but you've seen a lot of pitchers over the years, so...
also, after tonight's loss, STL is 13-14.
also also, the wsox are 19-8.
Win tomorrow, and the Cubs would have a 6-game lead. On May 4.
Fully agree on Addy -- hope he is our SS for a long time. I'm just surprised he has 4 errors already -- the last 2 on routine plays.
Guess how many Carlos Correa has?
I would still rather have Russell, right now, than any shortstop the team has had in many years. The future is bright enough to wear shades.
EDIT: Gonzo WOULD have been my favorite, 'cepting a certain error of a double-play ball...
Hi Phil, made it home tonight safely. Looks like Cease is getting better each outing. I see Crow did ok today too. I will be reading your write_ups everyday. Great seeing you while there!