Friday, December 28, 2007

Catching up with ex-Bucs

There aren't too many actual baseball events happening at this time of year. That said, it's a good time for figuring out whatever happened to that guy, you know the one...

*Longtime Bucco starter Josh Fogg is being honored today by the city of Margate, Florida (pop. ~55,000). Fogg, who was born in Massachusetts but grew up in Margate, is going to receive the key to the city. He's also being inducted into his high school's hall of fame next month. Fogg certainly drove me crazy with his patented five-inning/three-run starts while he played for the Pirates, but he took his game up a notch last year, and it's nice to see him achieve some measure of recognition for that.

*Lefty reliever Mike Johnston, who received a lot of publicity for his battle with Tourette's Syndrome, is apparently providing baseball instruction for young players this offseason up in Altoona, at $30-40 per half-hour session. Could be interesting, if you live in that area and have a kid who's got the right age and interests. Johnston's under contract with the Padres this year, and he claims that he's fully recovered from surgery to repair a torn labrum, which is what knocked him off our 40-man roster in the first place. I hope he's right; he had good stuff and an intimidating mound presence when he first came up in '04 (though command was a definite issue). SD's probably not a bad place to try and turn your career around, if you're a rehabbing pitcher.

*I had never heard of Denny Kravitz, but some of my older readers might remember him. He spent five years as a backup catcher for some pretty marginal Pirates teams in the '50s, and then unfortunately just missed out on the 1960 World Series champs due to a midseason trade to baseball purgatory in Kansas City. He has some interesting recollections in this profile in the fairly obscure Towanda Daily and Sunday Review. He's a good example of the type of player Branch Rickey used to find by focusing on "quality through quantity": There weren't any Little League teams in his area, and his high school didn't have a team, so he played as a 15-year-old in a local semi-pro outfit for adults, attracted the attention of a scout, and then rode a bus all the way down to Alabama to compete with 600 other kids at a tryout camp.

*Dave Parker is still pushing his candidacy for the Hall of Fame. He certainly had Hall of Fame ability before he entered his cocaine period, but the production he lost to his drug use pushes him back down with the other borderline cases like Jim Rice and Dale Murphy. I find Parker interesting in some ways, in that there's a real generational split among Pittsburghers in their opinions of him. To Pirate fans of a certain age, he is and always will be representative of everything they consider to be wrong with baseball: the millionaire athlete who lets himself get fat and lazy and decadent, out of a sense of entitlement. There's also the race issue, which is a real third rail (and not one I'm going to do more than acknowledge in a casual post like this one). For fans a few years younger, though, he's just another player from the team's past, and if they have any feelings about him, they're vague and largely positive. To a great extent, I think that Parker's gradual public rehabilitation here (aided by the franchise, which has used him as an instructor during spring training) is a reasonable historical analogue for the future trajectory of public sentiment about Barry Bonds.

I should also say that I find it somewhat unbecoming when guys overtly lobby for votes in the HoF. You had a hell of a career regardless of whether the BBWAA votes for you or not; there's no need to demean yourself by pandering to the voters. Real fans will remember your glory days with or without a plaque to prompt them.

*Speaking of the PEDs, ESPN just ran an interesting piece where ex-player Shane Monahan talks about steroids and amphetamines in baseball, as well as his use thereof. Monahan never played for the Pirates in the majors, but he very well could've, since he spent 2001 with the team's affiliates in Altoona and Nashville. That 2001 team was pretty desperate for outfield help: We gave OF starts to guys who'd never played it before (Jason Kendall, Craig Wilson, Rob Mackowiak), guys we'd just claimed on waivers (Gary Matthews, Jr.), and guys who were basically just warm bodies in a time of need (Andy Barkett). [Note: I mean no disrespect to Barkett, who worked his ass off to get his shot, and actually acquitted himself quite well during his time in tthe majors. He's one of my favorite scrubs.]

*Beloved ex-figurehead Kevin McClatchy is apparently losing his shirt in the newspaper business lately. I'd weep and rend my garments, but I've misplaced my handkerchief and I appear to be posting blog content in the nude. God bless new media!


Anonymous said...

Glad you've started this blog, Vlad. I look forward to reading it regularly.

I don't think Parker quite deserves to be in the HOF, but he had a nice run for awhile as a Pirate, and was fun to watch, at least early in his career. I remember the first time I saw him come to bat in his rookie year, and thinking "wow."

I know is gratifying to heap (much deserved) scorn on McClatchy, but a celebration of his papers' misfortunes seems off base. They're good papers, for the most part, and have actually operated with a fair amount of journalistic independence, which is not that common for the print press these days. And it could be argued that it's not such a good thing for the world that newspapers in general are on the decline.

On the other hand, I'm STILL seething about the Aramis trade/giveaway/obscenity, so hell, heap away, I guess.

TPenaRules said...

Good thoughts on Parker. I'm probably on the edge of that generational split (38) and my opinions of him have risen again in recent years. Even got to meet him during a Charleston (W.Va.) reunion celebration a few years ago. Seemed like a decent guy.
I enjoy the new blog, too, Vlad. Reasoned but critical thoughts - a nice mix. Keep it up!

Vlad said...

Thanks for the positive feedback, guys.

For me, Parker is just under the bar, along with guys like Rice, Lynn, Foster, and Murphy. I wouldn't be outraged if he got in, and I can see why someone might vote for him, but I wouldn't do it myself.

I agree about the general quality of the McClatchy papers (especially Knight-Ridder, which was my favorite wire service for ages upon ages). I guess the ideal scenario here is that he loses a bunch of money, sells the papers to someone who isn't so objectionable, and then spends the rest of his life selling matches on a street corner, wearing only a barrel to hide his shame. Not very realistic, maybe, but a guy can dream.

WTM said...

Beloved ex-figurehead Kevin McClatchy is apparently losing his shirt in the newspaper business lately.

I guess the other newspapers don't pay you a chunk of their profits if you mismanage your own papers.