The Much Anticipated(?) Meeting Between Robin Ventura and Nolan Ryan

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How the Robin VenturaNolan Ryan scrap from 19 years ago gained such cult status is understandable when you consider the ages of the participants at the time (Ventura was 26; Ryan 46) and that everyone has seen it as a highlight reel staple for nearly two decades.

Ryan, for all the worship he’s engendered over the years, was an ornery cuss on the mound with a reputation for throwing at hitters for the slightest transgression. Ventura, as a young player, had presumably heard the stories and when Ryan drilled him he knew it was done on purpose. The previous inning, Rangers’ outfielder Juan Gonzalez had been hit by White Sox’ pitcher Alex Fernandez, so it was obviously Ryan pulling old-school retaliation of “you hit my young star, I’ll hit your young star.”

It would’ve been interesting if Frank Thomas or Bo Jackson had come up to the plate instead of Ventura. Would Ryan have thrown at one of them?

Ventura charged the mound, Ryan got him in a headlock and hit him on the head with a few punches; several skirmishes broke out; then everything calmed down. Then it started up again.

You can watch the clip below.

The two had never crossed paths since the incident and it grew into something more than what it was—a run of the mill baseball fight.

But it’s not something that should be remembered along the lines of John Roseboro being clobbered on the head by Juan Marichal’s swinging bat; nor is it on a level with “The Punch” when NBA player Kermit Washington nailed Rudy Tomjanovich and knocked him to the hardwood floor with such force that Tomjanovich hit his head and nearly died.

Roseboro and Marichal eventually made their peace and that was a big deal.

Washington and Tomjanovich also made their peace and that was a bigger deal.

In the context of legitimately dangerous fistfights in the heat of competition, the Ventura-Ryan fight was a diversion that’s gotten far more attention than it deserved and that’s continued to this day. Maybe now it can stop.

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Yoenis Cespedes To Play Center Field; Coco Crisp To Play Left

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Movies, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

Athletics’ manager Bob Melvin announced his intention of playing Cuban defector and inexplicable Athletics’ free agent signing Yoenis Cespedes in center field and Coco Crisp in left.

In a baseball discussion, I defy you to justify this decision.

Crisp was signed because he’s a top-notch defensive center fielder. We don’t know if Cespedes can play center in the big leagues and it’s absurd to think he can be even 75% of what Crisp is defensively.

But this is what they’re doing.

Why?

Because they have nothing else to bank their 2012 season on apart from the development and hope that Cespedes can draw interest and fans to a team that promises to be an absolute eyesore on the field.

They didn’t draw well when they were winning 100 games a year at the apex of Billy Beane’s mythical “genius” in the heady days of Moneyball before the rest of baseball caught on to what he was doing and began paying big money for players who got on base and hit the ball out of the park, doing little else.

So where’s the “genius”?

It’s gone.

Genius is not fleeting and judged on the results in and of themselves.

Genius is innovation. Genius is creativity. Genius is having a plan, following through on it and finding a way to make it work.

Is Beane doing any of that with this current Athletics’ configuration? With a series of desperate trades to deal away young, cost-controlled arms for packages of prospects in the “someday” hope that they’ll develop and be playing in a brand new ballpark in San Jose and the A’s will have the cash influx to compete with the big boys of baseball? That at some point during the contract extension that Beane signed to keep him with the A’s through 2019 that they’ll once again be good and his brilliance will again be validated by the subjectivity of the won/lost column?

He’s banking on Bud Selig and MLB finding a way to get the new A’s ballpark approved with the Giants letting the A’s infringe on their territorial rights; they want to sell the idea of the young players they acquired being part of the A’s renaissance in…I don’t know when! Is it 2015? 2016? 2017?

They re-signed Crisp even though he’s not going to do them much good on the field. They’d lose 95 games with him; they’ll lose 95 games without him. He’s still an Athletics’ player because of his speed and defense in center field. Now he’s not going to play center field. He’s going to play left.

No one knows what Cespedes is going to be and he’s the epitome of the type of player that Moneyball specifically said Beane wanted his scouts to avoid: he looks good with no verifiable results.

Maybe they can use his shredded physique in the tradition of Bo Jackson to sell jeans.

There’s no blueprint and Beane isn’t “smarter than the average bear”.

Don’t claim that this is a baseball move.

Don’t say it’s necessary.

Don’t imply some vague, unseen notion of a plan that’s known only to the evil genius Billy Beane.

And do not reference Moneyball as if the book and movie “prove” Beane’s aptitude in running a major league baseball team as if one thing feeds into the other without reality backing up the assertion.

He’s a baseball GM whose reputation became something that no one could live up to based on creative non-fiction and the sale of a story that doesn’t exist. He’s flinging things at the wall in a similar fashion to the reviled “non-analytical” GMs who were the bane of the existence of those who were promulgating the concept of a so-called revolution that would turn every baseball front office into something resembling a Star Trek convention and take over the world rendering the old-schoolers obsolete.

He’s in a war of attrition and running a dying franchise with nowhere to go and nothing to do to turn things around, so he’s reduced to gimmicks.

And he’s losing.

Badly.

Cespedes to center field is more evidence of idiocy and/or desperation.

Don’t dare say it’s anything else.

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Yoenis Cespedes—Book Excerpt

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

Yoenis Cespedes is a Cuban defector with a physique that’s been compared to Bo Jackson. He has power to all fields, speed, a great arm and can play center field.

He can bench press 225 pounds 80 times.

He’s such a terrifying presence that when he walked into an ultimate fighting tournament as a member of the audience, the combatants left and he was crowned the champion.

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue wanted to flout convention and place him shirtless on the cover of the 2012 edition.

He delivered four babies on a flotilla in his treacherous journey to the United States.

He cooks a mean Veal Picatta.

He hit tennis balls with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in a handicap match. And won.

Cespedes taunts Happy Fun Ball.

Look, I have no idea how good this guy is going to be and nor does anyone else.

He’s an intriguing talent with a ridiculous resume and accompanying expectations that are going to be impossible to meet.

The Athletics stunningly jumped in to sign him to a 4-year, $36 million deal without a no-trade clause and the opportunity for the 26(?)-year-old to be a free agent at its conclusion.

Like most Cubans, he’s a hacker and plays the game with reckless abandon. He may not be ready for the big leagues immediately and is a massive risk for a team that can’t be taking massive risks.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide, now available.

There’s in depth analysis on everything from Billy Beane to Tim Lincecum to Bryce Harper to Yu Darvish to Derek Jeter with relevant stats and context for all 30 teams with playoff and World Series predictions, post-season awards, which players might be traded at mid-season and fantasy suggestions.

Click here for a full sample (this link is of the Blue Jays) of team predictions/projections. My book can be purchased on KindleSmashwordsBN and Lulu with other outlets on the way.

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