Nothing like writing a column denigrating a team with one of the most rabid fan bases around and then watching that team start 12-6. Thank you, St. Louis Cardinals fans, for 2,000 of the most vitriolic, hateful, whiny emails possible. I applaud your passion, if not your IQs, and dedicate this batch of letters to you.
After the start of the St. Louis Cardinals have had, I'm wondering if you've re-thought your stance vis-à-vis the previous column. Do you still believe they are the lost cause you made them out to be?
Nope. I can see, three weeks into the season, the Cardinals are probably not going to finish in last place, as I predicted. Their lineup is better than I figured and their pitching staff, even with Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder still disabled, isn't nearly the disaster it seemed. That said, anyone who thinks St. Louis' rotation can keep anything close to this pace is certifiable, an unabashed homer or both. Kyle Lohse doesn't strike out nearly enough hitters, Braden Looper started hot last year and faded, and I need to see more than four starts from Todd Wellemeyer to believe he's figured things out.
That said, they've looked awesome, and no one – not even a conclusion-jumping columnist – can take that away.
When authoring the "Cardinal fans take flight" piece, did you wonder if perhaps St. Louis was just experiencing the end of a three-year attendance bump due to the retiring of a stadium, the introduction of a stadium and the first World Series win in over 20 years?
Absolutely. It is the reason for the dip. But that doesn't make it any less newsworthy. Fans can come up with all the reasons they want: World Series win, new stadium, whatever. Fact is, all the games with bad weather and on school nights in the past sold out, so why are things different now? The most rational explanation is that the team hasn't inspired nearly the excitement of the past and this looked like a rebuilding year – though that might be changing after this start.
You sound like you have some kind of ax to grind in your comments about the Cardinals. You made many good points, but I've always thought of Cardinal fans as supportive and all-weather fans rather than the fair-weather fans common to most teams. They show up in September whether they're in the race or not. They don't constantly boo their best players like the Yankees (A-Rod) and the Phillies (Mike Schmidt).
Ah, the ax-grinding excuse, trotted out by about 1,000 of the 2,000 emailers. In the name of full disclosure, I do live in Kansas City. That does not mean I have any kind of unnatural distaste toward St. Louis. Only toward the people who are too insecure to separate criticism of their baseball team from that of their city.
Your article on the Cards and the fans really sums up the notion I've had for years, that the Cards are one of the biggest bandwagon clubs ever. The Cards are better than people want to give them credit for, and their own fans are too stupid to realize that. Here in Kentucky, there seemed to be a huge rise in St. Louis Cardinal fans about three to five years ago. It's kind of diminishing now.
Bowling Green, Ky.
Re: GRIFFEY OUTSPOKEN ON RACE ISSUE If it is true that many black kids have turned away from baseball because of the way Barry Bonds has been treated, why have white kids not turned away from baseball because of the way Pete Rose has been treated? Barry Bonds has brought much of this on himself because of his arrogant attitude.
San Benito, Texas
Barry Bonds brought all of it on himself between the arrogance and the cheating. And yet Griffey's point made complete sense: Kids can't differentiate between reasons that someone is castigated. Right or wrong, every kid, black or white, Latino or Asian, saw Bonds' face associated with steroids and, thusly associated with negativity. To expect children to understand such a complex issue is too much for them, which is why Griffey isn't playing the race card with Bonds – not by any means – but trying to vouch for positivity.
I agree with Griffey that Bonds has been treated shabbily. What Griffey failed to mention, however, is that you have been one of the worst offenders. My suggestion for a future article is an apology by you to Bonds. As a 59-year-old white male I cannot comment on how blacks feel about the hate piled on Bonds, but I certainly know how I feel, and that is bad enough.
Columbia City, Ind.
Guilty. Not one bit sorry for a single word I wrote, either. Because it was the truth. And that never deserves an apology.
I'm sorry, but Griffey doesn't speak for young-black-male America. I'm 19, black and live in a black neighborhood. Nobody here thinks Bonds was shafted. The dude used drugs to cheat. Black, white or Latino it's still called cheating. Most people I know say, "Bonds ain't no Ripken!" Wow! Black people in Baltimore respect Ripken more than Bonds. Besides, it's hilarious to think that Griffey creates his opinion from one young black male – his son. He said his son is into motocross; I don't know one brother in my neighborhood who has a black motocross athlete on his wall. Does that make it so for the rest of black America? Griffey should just keep his mouth shut and stick to "it's boring!" Because I'll bet the majority of black America will bet on that answer.
Do you really think that shortstop is the most demanding position? Seriously? Have you ever sat behind the plate and caught a game? Not only do catchers have to call a game, direct the infield and keep baserunners honest, they have to do it in a crouch, all game. Catchers have to remember scouting reports, work with the pitching staff, keep themselves as healthy as possible and, oh, yeah, try to make time for batting practice.
Dave continued for 118 more words. He made his point. Of course catcher is the most demanding position. Among the other eight, it's shortstop, but I whiffed on that one.
How can you justify these claims against Jeter. For the last seven years, the alleged years of decline, Jeter has been in the top 10 shortstops for fielding percentage. So I ask, where do you find these "facts?"
In the 21st century, we have discovered that fielding percentage is an awful indicator of a fielder's prowess. Yeah, a good fielding percentage means a player didn't make many errors. Perhaps that's because he gets to fewer balls than his peers, which is the case for Jeter. Or that he gets some benefit-of-the-doubt calls from official scorers because his last name is, say, Jeter. Fielding percentage, in other words, tells you little compared to the statistics gleaned from the tracking of every play – all of which seem to say Jeter is probably the worst fielding shortstop out there.
How did Cal Ripken Jr. rate using the Fielding Bible metric? My perception (even though he won many Gold Gloves) was always that he was an average fielder who consistently made plays on balls he reached but didn't reach balls or make plays that other more athletic shortstops were able to make.
Because each play wasn't tracked as meticulously as it is these days, I don't believe the Fielding Bible addresses Ripken. However, Baseball Prospectus' Fielding Runs Above Average metric does, and it regards Ripken quite favorably. Jeter, on the other hand … not so much.
Jimmy Rollins really does not have a mighty mouth, as you suggest. He is a very understated athlete. Yes, he did make last year's prediction, which came true, and yes, he does like beating the Mets, which makes sense. Still, Rollins is actually very modest, a true professional. He is anything but a loudmouth. He never, ever big-times it with the fans or the media. We were surprised he made last year's prediction, but it was something the papers picked up on. He never promotes himself, a true team guy.
Points well taken, except for the part about him being "understated." Anybody who comes out in spring training and proclaims his team the favorite can never, under any circumstances, be referred to as understated.
Just read your piece on The Mick. I believe he hit 17 homers into the batter's black in old Yankee Stadium. The black was 517 feet from home plate. Also, he hit one in an exhibition game against the Dodgers in the Coliseum. He hit it out of the park and over a fence in the parking lot that was 623 feet away
See. No matter what you write about someone with the mysticism of Mantle, there are always going to be believers in the myths and hyperbole. And there's nothing wrong with that at all.
Fun column today on the Mantle homer. Curious: What's the longest home run on record since they have had the technology to accurately measure them?
Great question, and one that was answered before a last-minute cut from the story. According to Greg Rybarczyk's indispensable HitTracker, which has data going back to the 2005 season, the longest home run of the last three seasons was Matt Holliday's 496-foot blast Sept. 19, 2006, which can be seen on this page. As you can see, Holliday took distinct pleasure in that home run, yelling some colorful words at Matt Cain, who had plunked him in the previous at-bat. No surprise, three at-bats later, Holliday got hit again.
Honors for second-longest go to Aramis Ramirez, who hit his first homer of a two-homer day 495 feet on Sept. 21 last year.
In terms of the longest home run ever hit, did you ever see the videotape of Glenallen Hill?
Did I ever! And anyone who hasn't, do yourself a favor and click here. HitTracker says it would have landed about 500 feet away – which just goes to show how incredible a 565-foot homer would have been.
As an example of the proliferation of myth, on the back of the Topps 2006 No. 7 Mantle card (and also the free version given away by the millions for National Trading Card Day), they dyslexically list the homer as "an estimated 656" feet.
Maybe if he was on the Bonds program …
I became a Mantle fan in his first season with the Yanks and remain so to this day. His monstrous home runs were measured in the same manner as all others in that day, and I still accept his records. Newer means of measuring home runs will do nothing to cause me to question his records. What's wrong with believing in Santa Claus when you saw the home run and lived through the experience?
Nothing at all.
After reading your Mantle article, I wondered if you have any knowledge about Josh Gibson's mammoth blasts?
Only what I've read. Which is to say, more mythology. Gibson is the Negro Leagues' answer to Mantle when it comes to tape-measure home runs. And he's reported to have hit one out of Yankee Stadium that went 580 feet. Did he really? Probably not, but I wouldn't begrudge those who believe he did.
- Barry Bonds