2001: A Season of Wonder?

At the conclusion of the 2001 MLB season, a lot of rubbish was tossed about suggesting that the just concluded campaign was one of the greatest in the annals of baseball. When in truth, for fans of the game, 2001 was one of the worst of all seasons.

Hereís why...

BOO-HOO BARRY AND 73

The gameís most disliked player surpassed perhaps its most respected player in the past quarter century as single-season home run king. We at Bucketfoot still canít eat, sleep or have regular movements. We are really, really upset. Boo-hoo Barry is such a cancer to the game that his immediate, outright banishment is warranted (more on that in a coming article). He is repugnant. He admits to not hustling on routine plays because he is "saving himself." Saving himself? For what? His wedding night? When Boo-hoo Barry hit number 72 out of the pathetically homer friendly bandbox that is Puke Ball Park, he surpassed Mark David McGwire. You remember him. Heís the guy who always tried, never cried, and somehow managed to live despite having only one little locker in the clubhouse. Boo-hoo Barry requires three lockers. Itís as if Satan finally won.

YANKEES BEAT MARINERS, ATHLETICS

Itís another year and the boorish Yankees buy another trip to the post season and end up in the World Series again by breaking the hearts of baseballís two best feel-good teamsĖthe Athletics and Mariners. Though, in truth, the Mariners were closer in form (and payroll) to the Yankees than they were to Aís. How did the Yankees do it? Simple, they trotted out a starting rotation that featured three high-priced free agent pitchers. Clemens, Mussina (gee, didnít he pitch a game or two for Baltimore), and El Duckee Hernandez. Pettitte is the lone system product. I guess if you donít have the brains to build a champion, you just steal everybody elseís players and call the collection of rodents a team. Are we bitter? No. Bored with the Yankees pathetic ways? Yes. To make matters worse, or consistent (you know, a little salt in the Gameís gaping wound), the Yankees sign the Aís best player, Jason Giambi. This only shines a light on the loss of Ripken and Gwynn. These two guys could have left for more money but they stayed in their cities. Because they stayed, Ripken owns Baltimore and Gwynn San Diego the way Brett owns Kansas City. Giambi will own a lot of stuff but never a city. He could have owned Oakland and had more money than heíll ever need. Instead, heíll own a spot as one of Derek Jeterís teammates and have more money than heíll ever need. Of course, if he would have stayed in Oakland he would have had more money than he would ever have needed and been king of a city. Oakland offered him a Kingís ransom and a place in Baseball lore. With Oakland, Giambi would have been alongside George Brett, Cal Ripken, Ernie Banks, Tony Gwynn, and Mike Schmidt. Instead the Yankees offered him a little bit more money and a role as a cog in Derek Jeterís machine-of-expensive-yet-replaceable-parts. Nice move Jason, into the spotlight and obscurity at the same time. Oops, weíre ranting again.

ICHIRO "ROOKIE" OF THE YEAR

For the second year in a row a seasoned, All-Star veteran of Japanís professional leagues was named recipient of the American Leagueís Rookie of the Year Award. In 2000 Seattleís Kazuhiro Sasaki claimed the award and in 2001 it was the fascinating Ichiro, again for Seattle. There are only four tiny problems with this developing trend.

1) Players such as Kazuhiro Sasaki and Ichiro Suzuki were not rookies. Sasaki was Japanís ALL-TIME saves leader and Ichiro had won something like seven batting titlesĖnot in Japanís minor leagues but in their major leagues.

2) True "rookies" were denied the career-highlighting award. In 2000, Oaklandís Terrence Long was the favorite among "rookies" and in 2001 Clevelandís C.C. Sabathia had a rookie season for the ages. These terrific players will find little solace in having been ripped off. While they both showed class in not screaming "injustice has been done and revenge shall be mine as I shall smote my foes," (one still chuckles at the pouting done by the then-California Angelsí Wally Joyner after he deservedly finished second to Oaklandís Jose Canseco in 1986) Long and Sabathia certainly earned better.

3) Now that it has been established that seasoned veteran all-stars in other nationsí top level professional leagues can do very well in Major League Baseball, these players (who come here as unrestricted free agents) will be offered contracts beyond the reach of most franchisesĖin other words, the Rookie of the Year will now belong to the Yankees, Diamond Backs, Mariners, Red Sox, Dodgers and other few fiscally blessed and equally fiscally irresponsible large revenue teams.

4) Calling Kazuhiro Sasaki and Ichiro rookies (see point 1) is an insult to the Japanese leagues and their high level of competition. While on the whole they are probably inferior to American Major League Baseball, they are anything but MINOR league, which is where rookies are supposed to come from. True, the gentleman after whom the award is named, Jackie Robinson, really wasnít a rookie when he arrived on the scene, but that was a whole different set if circumstances.

How do we fix this? Simple. Come up with a new award. Call it the "Import of the Year Award," or the "Best New Old Guy Award." Baseball could even go the extra 60-feet-6-inches and link the award with the always-dignified-always-popular-with-the-fans corporate sponsorship, to wit, the Noxema Fresh-Face Award, or the "New-Kids-on-the-Block-New-Hardly-a-Kid-on-the-Block-Award."

FAKE WHINES OF NEED BY MEDIUM REVENUE TEAMS (ESPECIALLY THE GIANTS)

Not only the team but their fans and radio announcers are all infected by the "woe-is-me-despite-reality" affliction. The Giants franchise earns a hefty revenue. They donít spend it very wisely (see Marvin Benardís contract among others) and then the team, its poor fans, its radio announcers and pathetic beat writers all cry "boo-hoo, we canít compete with the big money teams." Strange, they only need look across the Bay to see how a club with far less resources has been able to field a competitive team on a much smaller revenue stream. But then, itís tough for the Giants, their announcers, and their fans to look across the Bay. For when they do, they see the glimmer of four world series trophies garnered in a stay that is 10 years less than the Giants have had in the Bay Area. That is four more world series trophies than the Giants have earned since moving to The City in 1958. Little wonder the Giants could afford such a nice stadium, they didnít have to spend any money on a trophy case. The fact is, despite their annual $20-million stadium payment, the Giants can afford a payroll that is at least $25-million more than teams like the Athletics, Twins, Royals, and others can afford.

What would the 2001 Athletics or Twins have done with Mike Mussina (the top 2000 free agent) in the rotation and a $10-million bat in the lineup? Imagine a 2001 Athletics rotation of Mussina, Hudson, Mulder, Zito and Lidle. While Giantsí fans whine incessantly about their annual $20-million stadium debt (uh, who made you enter into that deal and besides, who cares, your revenues are WAY up thanks to it). They also are desperate enough to be delusional. How so and why? They actually rave about what a what a wonder-boy GM they have in Brian Sabean. Helloooooo? The Giants payroll is around $20-million higher than the cross-bay Athletics. Give that extra $20-million to true Genius GM Billy Beane and the Aís would have rolled to 120 wins and the title. Sabean is good. Thatís all. The Giants are a (continual) disappointment.

The Giants farm system has failed to produce a true star player since, well, since Bonds in 1986. Ooops, my bad. Bonds was signed as a big-money free agent from the small-market Pirates. Well then since Joe Nathan. Oops, my bad again. Sabean told us, nay, promised us that Nathan would be a star. Last we heard Nathan, the next Marichal we were told by Crusty Baker, was being used as a batting tee. OK then, the Giantsí minor league system hasnít developed a star player since, uh, um, well, hey, did you hear that theyíve got this kid Aisnworth that Crusty says is gonna tear up the league. Sabean says Ainsworth has more promise than any Giants farmhand pitcher since Joe Nathan. What the heck, when you havenít won a world series since 1954, you get a little desperate.

The Giants are one of several monied teams that want to have it both ways. They want to have enough money to compete but be allowed to cry poor when they donít spend it wisely.

STILL NO COMMISSIONER

Would a true Commissioner of Major League Baseball look America in the face shortly after September 11th and tell us that Baseball needs to resume its schedule because Baseball has a social responsibility to America as the nationís National Pastime only to look America in the face a month later and tell us that the fans in two cities will have to lose their teams under the ruse of contraction because the teams canít afford to play with the rich teams? No.

Would a true Commissioner of Major League Baseball sit as though powerless to affect change while the sportís richest teams siphon off the talent, hope, marketability, and competitiveness of the lesser-revenue teams year after year without taking drastic action under the Best Interests of Baseball powers afforded a true Commissioner of Major League Baseball? No.

Baseball doesnít have a commissioner, it has Butt Selig.

For all of the above reasons, 2001 was one of the worst seasons any baseball fans ever had to endure. Hereís looking to 2002 and the hope that the Padres, Athletics, Royals, Expos, Twins or Pirates can win it all. Or, that Butt Selig bans himself, Boo-Hoo Barry, George Steinbrenner, Peter Angelos and artificial turf for life, as it would be in the best interests of the game.


© Bucketfoot Baseball Publications, 2002