Category Archives: Managers and Coaches

New bio on Billy Martin out

Recently, I got a book sent to me in the mail. An advance copy. It is about 500 pages, and from what I’ve skimmed through so far, it may be the most definitive biography of Billy Martin there is.

The book is Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius, by Bill Pennington (HMH, $30.00).

Billy was a complex character. No bio on Billy would be a short one and this one is about 500 pages. It appears well worth it.

Chisox great Minoso dead at 89.

In a few days, I’ll be starting the daily S.T. games with the scores and recaps.

Just five weeks ago, Chicago lost a legend in Cubs great Ernie Banks. Now White Sox fans have lost a legend in Minnie Minoso, who died today at the age of 89.

Minoso was the first black to play for a Chicago team. He started his career with Cleveland (1949, 1951) went to the White Sox (1951-1957), back to Cleveland (II, 1958-1959), back to the White Sox (II, 1960-1961), the St. Louis Cardinals in 1962, Washington Senators 1963 and the White Sox 1964, 1976 and 1980. Yes, you read that right. At the age of 50, Minoso went 1 for 8 in 1976 for the White Sox as a publicity stunt (play in 4 decades) and he was 0 for 2 in 1980 at age 54 to have him play in 5 decades.

Primarily a LF, Minoso had a 162 g. ave. of .298-16-90 with 18 SB and an OPS+ of 130. Four times he finished 4th in MVP voting, and he finished 8th another year. He was an All-Star in seven different years, a 3x Gold Glove winner, and led the league in hits once, doubles once, triples 3x, SB 3x, total bases once and getting HBP 10x. He hasn’t made the HOF yet and never appeared in a postseaso game.

Besides getting a new Marty Appel book, I also am receiving a new bio on Billy Martin. Here is the press release…

This spring, award-winning New York Times sportswriter Bill Pennington offers the clear-eyed and quintessential biography of one of the most hauntingly mercurial and endearing characters in the history of sport. “BILLY MARTIN: Baseball’s Flawed Genius” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 7, 2015) presents Martin’s almost unimaginable ascent from hard-punching Bay Area ragamuffin to purveyor of the art of baseball cheered by millions, friend of the cultural elite of his era, and regular on the back pages of the New York tabloid newspapers.
From his early playing years as the firebrand second baseman of the perennial champion New York Yankees to his years as a journeyman manager, he had his way (aka “Billy Ball”). And Billy’s way was like no one else. It was a magnificent combination of learned baseball knowledge and intuitive logic mixed with incredible guts. He was a cunning strategist. He was a winner. Martin had a beautiful baseball mind and was in love with the game. He became alive just before the first pitch of every game, but over a quarter of a century after his tragic death, his demons—alcoholism, insecurity, paranoia, womanizing, fisticuffs, and risky behavior—have tragically come to define him. Until now.
Across the decades, Pennington addresses the fractured depiction of Billy Martin and completes the story of this complicated, but compassionate and endearing man beyond the many hires and firings, brawls and brouhahas, and other episodes within his decades-long tumult outside the lines. His genius, however flawed, is not properly appreciated or understood, but Pennington takes great pains to rectify that. For the first time, Pennington spent time with all four of Martin’s wives to generate the complete portrait of the man. No other journalist or biographer has received this much access. Martin’s was a dynamic, memorable life of accomplishment and great baseball.
 “BILLY MARTIN” also covers:
  • How he was ridiculed for his overly large nose and jug ears in his youth, helping develop his quick trigger
  • His claim that he “never started a fight in his life”
  • The importance of Kenney Park in Martin’s baseball life
  • The original odd couple: Unlikely buddies Joe DiMaggio and Billy Martin
  • How he hobnobbed with the cultural icons of his generation: Frank Sinatra, Rock Marciano, Doris Day, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Gleason, and Lucille Ball, among many others
  • His use of amphetamine tablets during his playing days
  • His close relationship with Casey Stengel
  • The friendships with Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle
  • The story behind the infamous fight at the Copacabana in 1957
  • The strategic marketing plan of the Yankees front office to cast Billy as an unwelcome influence on Mantle
  • The depth of the heartbreak after his trade from the Yankees in 1957
  • Billy magical managerial triumphs for teams in Minnesota, Detroit, Texas and Oakland
  • The affect of the dugout conflict with Reggie Jackson on national TV in 1977
  • Reggie’s claims of Martin’s bigotry
  • The never-ending circuslike atmosphere of 1977
  • The hypnotic and surreal love-hate Billy-George-Reggie triangle
  • The classic Miller Lite commercials
  • How juggling wives and paramours was a major distraction during his career
  • Accounts that some of the women he dated were underage
  • His reputation as a one-year manager
  • The bizarre moments of the 1983 season including Brett’s pine tar home run and Winfield’s dead sea gull
  • The emotional Billy Martin Day in 1986
  • Blow by blow of his well-known fight with Yankees’ pitcher Ed Whitson
  • Whether he should be considered for Cooperstown.
  • The account of a secret meeting with Steinbrenner, where the plan to re-hire Martin again in 1990 was devised
  • Whether Billy was the driver or passenger in his fatal car crash
  • Jill Martin—Billy’s widow—breaks her silence 25 years later about the final moments of Martin’s life




Odds and Ends.

Some odds and ends.

I saw an article that stated that according to insiders, Manager Joe Girardi did broach the subject of dropping Derek Jeter down in the batting order last season. Jeter hit just .256-4-50, OPS+ just 75 in his final season. The idea was shot down by upper management, and apparently Jeter wouldn’t go for moving him out of the #2 slot in the order either. Girardi knew that to do so would open a can of worms, so before it even hit the media, he apparently went through upper management and possibly Jeter himself. Would dropping Jeter have benefitted the Yanks? Possibly. Enough to make the playoffs? Possibly not. Enough to make the playoffs and soothe Jeter’s ego? Possibly not. But it’s interesting to note that the idea of dropping Derek (where to? 8? 9?) was considered.

Jason Giambi retired. He was with the Yanks from 2002-2008, hitting 209 of his 440 HR as a Yankee. Giambi, 44, hit 440 HR in his career, hit .277 with an excellent OPS+ of 139, won an MVP award with the A’s in 2000, was runner-up in 2001, and is one of five Yankees with back-to-back 40 HR seasons (2002 and 2003). He hit two homers off of Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. He won’t make the HOF however, because of his admitted PED usage and BALCO connection. It’s said he is a great teammate, and Terry Francona, manager of the Indians (Giambi’s most recent team) states that Giambi is a “manager in waiting.” His 162 g. average was .277-32-103, OPS+ 139, with 98 walks.

Alex Rodriguez issued a written “apology.” Really, I don’t want to hear it. Who believes anything he says or does anymore? He’s exhausted all credibility. Really, A-Rod, shut up and play. Show us you have something, if anything, left. It’s noted that he was suspended for all of 2014. What’s forgotten is that he played in only 44 games in 2013 and even then looked on the downside.

The Yanks signed Jared Burton to a minor league deal. The righty reliever is 33 and went 3-5, 4.36, ERA+ 91 in 2014 for the Twins with three saves. For his career he is 18-19, 3.44, 10 saves, ERA+ 123.  A depth move. He was 3-2 with a superb 2.18 ERA (ERA+ 189) and five saves for the Twins in 2012.

When I get time (I’ve been doing my taxes, need to do other family members taxes, working (of course) and …. well, shoveling snow and freezing my ass off…) I want to look at the future. I expect the Yanks to tread water for a while, but to me, the 2020 team could be interesting. Players (top prospects) would be in their primes (providing they prove MLB caliber players and aren’t traded away), old guys like CC, Teix, Beltran and A-Rod gone (maybe McCann as well)….it could be interesting to look at what could be the Yankee future. Stay tuned. Hopefully when Yoan Moncada signs (before the end of this month) I can include him on that 2020 future team I want to write about. Will the Yanks fork over the $$$$ to land Moncada?

New Book, Tark the Shark.

ex-UNLV college basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian died a few days ago at age 84. Meanwhile, a nod as I was sent a book, Pinstripe Pride, The Inside Story of the New York Yankees. I thank whoever sent it. It’s written by Marty Appel, and I have a few books by him—all excellent.

Yankees make incremental move.

You remember when, in playing SCAT, the card game, that you would put down a 3 of hearts and pick up a 5 of hearts because it gave you more points? (Especially if you already held the Ace and King of Hearts?)

That is kind of like the move the Yankees did yesterday. They picked up Chris Martin for cash from Colorado. Martin is a RHP, and a project. He did make the majors last season, and went 0-0, 6.89 in 16 games. 15 2/3 IP, 14 K. He is 6’8″, a big boy, and 28 years old.

In picking him up, they DFA’d Gonzalez German, a 27-year-old RHP, who they got from the Mets for cash just last month. German was 0-0, 4.75 for the Mets in 2014 in 25 games, 31 K in 30 1/3 IP.

Apparently the Yanks felt that Martin is, or has to potential to be, an incremental upgrade over Germen. We’ll see. It doesn’t appear like a major move or upgrade, but…. see the SCAT reference above.

The Yanks finalized their coaching staff. The hitting coach will be Jeff Pentland, who will have Alan Cockrell as the asst. hitting coach. Joe Espada (3b/infield). Tony Pena moves to 1b Coach and Rob Thomson becomes the bench coach. Larry Rothschild is the pitching coach and Gary Tuck the BP coach.

One thing I’ve pointed out elsewhere. Some people wanted a former major leaguer to be a coach. Sometimes it works. But coaches have to teach and just because someone was talented themselves doesn’t mean they can teach. Charlie Lau was a great hitting coach who was a .255 hitting catcher. Meanwhile, Ted Williams was the manager of the 1972 Texas Rangers who only hit .217 as a team.

So the #4 seed won the national championship? What’s scary is that Urban Meyer thought next year would be the time. A lot of sophs and juniors here. Ohio St. and TCU (who finished #3) are on top of a lot of lists right now for the best of next year.

Championship Sunday is set. AFC: Colts @ Patriots (the 4th straight AFC title game for New England), and NFC: Green Bay @ Seattle. Both home teams are favored by about 7.


Yankee prospect assaulted

I’ll get into the NFL a bit later. As for baseball, things have been a bit quiet, so I haven’t written much lately (plus, I’ve been busy). James Shields and Max Scherzer are still free agents and there are no indications yet where either may go.

Yankees prospect Ty Hensley was beaten up during the holiday season. Apparently he was at a bar and a mutual acquaintance introduced him to someone else from his hometown who also was a good athlete and could have gone pro as well. The other athlete was a linebacker from a different high school who later went to Weber St. and then who got cut from an NFL team (Carolina). An argument ensued over signing bonuses and the linebacker (Anthony Morales) beat up Hensley, kicking Hensley in the face repeatedly, and breaking Hensley’s jaw and also breaking some teeth.

Hensley, 21, a RHP, was 1-2, 3.00 in 4 starts and one relief appearance in 2012. He missed all of 2013 with an injury, and was 0-0, 2.93 in 10 starts and one relief appearance (30 2/3 IP) in 2014 between rookie league and short season (Staten Island).

The Yanks announced their AA and AAA coaching staffs for 2015. They are still looking for a hitting and 1B/Infield coach for the big league team. Apparently they had talks with Willie Randolph. It’d be good to have Willie back, but nothing official yet. Marcus Thames will be the hitting coach at SWB (AAA), replacing Butch Wynegar.

Ex-Cowboy DT Jethro Pugh, who played for Dallas from 1965-1978 died recently at the age of 70. Pugh played in the Ice Bowl game (and was the victim of the block by Jerry Kramer that sprung Bart Starr for the game-winning last-minute TD). He was a 2x Super Bowl Champion (VI and XII). Besides the two Super Bowl titles, he played in the NFL Title Games that Dallas lost in 1966 and 1967 (Ice Bowl), and losing Super Bowls V, X and XIII. He also was on teams that lost NFC title games in 1972 and 1973.

As I’m watching the divisional round of NFL playoff games, a quick recap. Carolina beat Arizona last weekend, but then lost to Seattle in the divisional game. In the other NFC game last weekend, Dallas got a supposed gift from the refs for a come-from-behind last-minute win over Detroit. Seattle stopped Carolina to advance to the NFC title game next week. Green Bay is playing Dallas (in the first Dallas at Green Bay postseason game since the Ice Bowl 12/31/1967) as I write this. Seattle, the defending SB champ, will host the winner.

In the AFC, Baltimore beat out my Steelers but then lost yesterday to New England. The Patriots were down twice by two touchdowns to the Ravens, but came back. Indianapolis beat the Bengals, as Cincy did their one-and-done routine again. Their coach is 0-6 in the playoffs, and Andy Dalton is still looking for his first playoff win. The Colts take on Denver at Denver later today, with the winner going to New England to play for the AFC title. It’ll be New England’s fourth straight AFC title game appearance. For Brady and Belichick, their 9th in 14 years.


Ladies and gentlemen, the Yankees finally have a hitting coach.

According to Jack Curry of the YES Network, the Yankees are slated to hire Jeff Pentland as their hitting coach and for the first time in team history, will have an assistant hitting coach. The Yankees have hired Alan Cockrell as the assistant coach.

Pentland worked as the hitting coach for the Marlins when Joe Girardi was the manager, was the hitting coach of the Royals when Tony Pena was the manager and when Carlos Beltran was a player; and was the hitting coach for the Mariners and the Dodgers. Cockrell was the hitting coach for the 2007 Colorado Rockies and the Mariners. The 2007 Rockies advanced to the World Series that season.


Update 2:

According to Jack Curry of the YES Network, the Yankees announced Joe Espada is going to be the new infield coach, replacing Mick Kelleher who was fired in October along with ex-hitting coach Kevin Long. Espada was a scout for the Yankees last season but has coaching experience; he was the third base coach for the Miami Marlins. Espada joins Jeff Pentland and Alan Cockrell as the new pieces of the Yankees coaching staff.

Notable recent sports passings.

Stu Miller, who gave up Mickey Mantle’s 500th HR on 5/14/1967, passed away at the age of 87. Miller pitched for the Cardinals, Phillies, Giants (NY & SF), Orioles and Braves in a career that lasted 1952-1954, 1956-1968. He made the All-Star Team in 1961 (14-5, 2.66, league-leading 17 saves, ERA+ 143) and is remembered for a balk. While in his windup, a gust of wind blew him a couple of inches of the rubber during that All-Star Game. Miller was 105-103, 154 saves, ERA 3.24, ERA+ 115 in his career. He went 5-8, 4.12, 19 saves, ERA+ 93 for the 1962 NL pennant Giants (no decisions, 1 1/3 scoreless innings, 2 games in the WS that year) and won a WS ring with the 1966 Orioles (9-4, 2.25, 18 saves, ERA+ 150, no WS appearance). He finished 7th for the MVP award while with the Orioles in 1965 (14-7, 1.89, 24 saves, ERA+ 184) as well as 11th in 1966, 12th in 1961 (Giants) and 19th in 1963 (Orioles) when he led MLB with 27 saves.

Also passing away in the past few days was ex-NFL head coach Allie Sherman at the age of 91. Sherman took over as head coach of the NY Giants in 1961 and led the Giants to three straight NFL title games, 1961-1963, losing all of them (37-0 to the Green Bay Packers in 1961, 16-7 to the Packers in 1962 and 14-10 to the Chicago Bears in 1963). The team collapsed in 1964, and its co-tenants at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees, followed just a few months afterward.