Tag Archives: baseball

Mets & Management

I write from New York Mets Country—I work in Queens, just a few miles from Shea Stadium Citi Field, surrounded by many great people who are Mets fans.  (And I write from the baseball offseason—painful.)

The Mets have a new general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen.  He is a former sports agent, including for some players whom the Mets, so now he, employs.

It’s odd that he has no experience in the management of a baseball club.

It’s also problematic that he has real conflicts of interest, between his loyalties to players he represented in the past and his job now to boss them.

Van Wagenen could turn out to be great.  But I’m doubtful.  I base this on the above, and on his goofy statements—yes, things he said; how he speaks about what he thinks—at his October 30 introductory press conference.  These included:

“All I can go off of is what my experience has been and try to surround myself with people that fill in the gaps that I lack.”

“I hope to have an existing group of people that are here, and I hope to build around them, regardless of what the titles are.”

“I want [the Wilpon family, which owns the Mets,] to be involved. The truth of the matter is, if they’re not, that’s bad ownership.”

Yes, I know—former New York Yankees star, then Mets player and then Mets manager Yogi Berra also had an amusing way with words…  But Yogi was a field manager, not a general manager.  He knew, to put it mildly, everything that his job required.

Being General Manager is not only about knowing the game.  GM is a major business leadership position.  To be effective, a business leader needs to be, and to show it by sounding, sharp.  At least so far, Van Wagenen hasn’t shown it.

Oh, and one more strike against Van Wagenen as general manager—it was Jeff Wilpon’s idea.  The New York Times reports that Wilpon, the Mets co-owner and chief operating officer, is Van Wagenen’s friend.

It was Wilpon—part of what New York sports fans all know to be the Mets, well, to borrow a phrase, “bad ownership” [So maybe Van Wagenen does speak well, and slyly?]—who first suggested to Van Wagenen that he should apply for the general manager position.

Van Wagenen was reluctant (good first instinct), but in the end he applied.  Wilpon then hired the candidate he had recruited.

* **

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in just a few months.

And someday, Mets fans,…

TLP in PHL

The Longstreth Principle (TLP) holds that every time you watch a baseball game, you will see something you’ve never seen before.  This event/occurrence, sometimes just improbable and odd, sometimes also amazing, is thus called a “TLP.”

At yesterday’s game in Philadelphia (final score: Milwaukee Brewers 12, Phillies 3), I saw Brewers catcher Erik Kratz [Who, right?] double in the second inning.  The Brewers then were leading 2-0 (runs scored in the first).  But the second inning ended with Kratz stranded on second and no runs scored—his double meant nothing.

In the bottom of the third, the Phillies scored 3 times to take the lead, 3-2.  That still was the score when Kratz next came up, in the 4th, with one out and no one on.  Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta promptly hit him in the shoulder.  Next batter:  double play, end of inning.  So Kratz’s at-bat again meant nothing.

He next came up in the 6th.  The score was still 3-2, Phillies.  But the Brewers were threatening (see more on that below)—2 men on, only one out.

Arrieta again hit Kratz with a pitch.  So there’s a TLP, at a couple of levels:  one pitcher hits one batter with pitches twice in one game.  (And it was Jake Arrieta, a big name/star/former Cy Young award-winner, hitting Erik Kratz, who is, um, not yet a household name.)

But that was not the best TLP that I saw yesterday.  It came in the top of the 6th inning, just mentioned.  The Brewers were trailing 3-2.  Travis Shaw (3B), leading off, bounced to pitcher Arrieta, who made a horrible throw to first that pulled the 1B way off the bag, but he still had time to make the catch and get back and touch first before Shaw arrived because he did not run it out hard—bad mistake, one out.

And then the TLP began:  Ryan Braun (LF) was awarded first base on catcher interference.  Then Jonathan Villar (2B) walked.  Then the much-noted (well, noted above) Erik Kratz was hit by a pitch—bases loaded.  That was it for Arrieta—the Phillies pulled him after 5.1 innings, leading 3-2, leaving the bases loaded.  They brought in a pitcher named Luis Garcia.  He promptly got Brewers SS Orlando Arcilla to strike out, badly.  So bases loaded, two outs.  And the Brewers pitcher was coming to bat.  So they replaced him with a pinch hitter, Ji-Man Choi.  He fell behind in the count, and then got back to 3-2.  And then he, a lefty, lined a homer down the left field line, just inside the foul pole.

So that was, for me, yesterday’s TLP:  three batters got on base, none by getting a hit, each in a different way, followed by a grand slam home run.

Oh, and Erik Kratz?  He’s age 37.  He played many years in the minors before making it to the majors in 2010.  Since then, he’s had a fine, journey-man, but not starring career.  And, okay, he’s not had so many at-bats this year.  But he was hitting .500 when the game started yesterday.  And after his opening double and then two HBPs, he flied out, and then, on a poorly-fielded hit to the pitcher, got to second base when the pitcher threw the ball away.  So Kratz went 1-for-3.  The game dropped his average a little bit.  But unless you get all picky about him having only 19 at-bats, his .474 makes him one of the very leading hitters in the National League.

#thebestgame

Jackson List: Justices & the World Series

For the Jackson List:

United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a Chicago native, has been rooting for the Chicago Cubs almost since they last won a World Series—that was in 1908, just twelve years before Stevens was born.

As Justice Stevens explained in a great interview posted on SCOTUSblog this morning (click here), he has seen many Cubs baseball games in Wrigley Field.  On October 1, 1932, for example, he attended the third game of that year’s World Series and witnessed Babe Ruth’s famous “called shot” home run … and thus saw the New York Yankees beat the Cubs, 7-5, on their way to sweeping that World Series.

On that day in 1932, a man named James M. Marsh, age nineteen, was listening to that game on the radio in western Pennsylvania and keeping score in his scorebook.  Fifteen years later, Jim Marsh was clerking for Justice Robert H. Jackson at the Supreme Court.  Marsh became a close friend of John Stevens, who was clerking then for Justice Wiley Rutledge.  Marsh learned of Stevens’s love for the Cubs, and that he had seen Babe Ruth hit the called shot.  In time, Marsh located his 1932 scorecard and gave it to Stevens.  Justice Stevens then displayed it on the wall of his Supreme Court chambers.

In contrast to Stevens and Marsh (and many of us), Justice Robert H. Jackson was no baseball fan.  In 1951, for example, when Major League Baseball had leadership troubles and Jackson was reported to be under consideration to become its next commissioner, he found the idea distasteful.

In summer 1950, as Jackson was preparing to take a cross-country train trip with his friend Harrison Tweed, a leading New York City lawyer, and he wrote Jackson to suggest that they see a baseball game on a layover day in Chicago, Jackson wrote back immediately, voting no:

Personally, I don’t care much about baseball and haven’t seen a game in a good many years.  Why don’t we take our chances on what we can do during the day[?]  Maybe some good friend like [Chicago lawyer] Tap Gregory will come to our rescue.  I may get in touch with him.

Two summers early, indeed while Jim Marsh was beginning his second year as Jackson’s law clerk, Jackson commented privately, and not approvingly, that Babe Ruth’s death had garnered more news attention than had the death of Tweed’s law partner Walter Hope.  (Really.)

But Justice Jackson did have a near-brush with the Chicago Cubs, and, indeed, with the Cubs in the World Series.  In early October 1945, beginning on the 6th of the month, Jackson was working in Berlin, in preparation for the impending prosecution of Nazi war criminals that he would be leading in Nuremberg.  Jackson kept busy during the next four days with numerous meetings, some social occasions, and his own work.  But really he was waiting for U.S. and other nations’ judges to arrive in Berlin so that the International Military Tribunal could hold its first session there (in the Soviet zone of military occupation), formally receiving the prosecutors’ indictment of the defendants, before adjourning to Nuremberg (in the U.S. zone) to conduct the trial.

By October 10, 1945, Jackson, knowing that he had much work to do in Nuremberg, was fed up with waiting around in Berlin.  He left two of his deputies to continue the work there.  Jackson had command of a military plane, and he ordered it to fly him and some of his team that evening to Nuremberg.

During the flight, Justice Jackson stayed in his seating area on the plane, I am sure.  But others, including his son and executive assistant Bill Jackson, crowded around the cockpit.  They managed to listen there to a radio broadcast of the final game of the World Series, which was being played in Wrigley Field.  (Alas for Cubs fans such as then-first year law student John Paul Stevens, just back in Chicago and civilian life after four years of wartime service in the U.S. Navy, the Detroit Tigers won that World Series game seven, beating the Chicago Cubs, 9-3, and thus the Series.)

In 2016, the long wait of Justice Stevens and all Cubs fans for a World Series championship is compelling.

It bears at least passing note, however, that another Justice, Harold H. Burton (1888-1964), would be rooting the other way.  Justice Burton was colleague of Justice Jackson and Justice Rutledge on the Court, and Burton was everyone’s model of judicial diligence and fairness.  Harold Burton had served as Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, from 1935 until 1940.  He then became a U.S. Senator from Ohio, serving from 1941 until he resigned following his appointment to the Supreme Court.

Justice Burton was commissioned a Supreme Court justice on September 22, 1945.

That autumn, seventy-one years ago, was only three years before the Cleveland Indians, the Cubs’ opponent this year, won their most recent World Series.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: Judge Learned Hand, Not a Baseball Fan

This post, with some footnotes added, now is on the Jackson List archive site in “book look” PDF file form.