Overly critical and uninformed folks in the Toronto media…

Up in the press box at Vancouver’s Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium, people talk baseball and reminisce a lot.

A few days ago, I was sitting there working the scoreboard when the name “Perkins” was mentioned – a Toronto-based baseball columnist who had since retired.

I perked up when I heard that name and started ranting about that guy.

This goes back to Blue Jays baseball in the mid-’80s, when Toronto lost its first ever ALCS to Kansas City, blowing a 3-1 series lead. In 1987, the Blue Jays coughed up a huge lead in the final week of the season to lose the division to Detroit. In 1989, they made it back to the ALCS but were destroyed by the eventual champion A’s.

So, two trips to the playoffs and two exits in the first round (in those days, only the division winners advanced and played in the LCS for the right to go to the World Series).

In 1991, they made it to the ALCS again despite losing ace Dave Stieb for the rest of the season back in May. Tom Candiotti, the knuckleballer, was brought in and he was outstanding in his 19 starts, pitching to a 2.98 ERA but just a 6-7 mark due to poor run support.

They faced the Twins in the ALCS, a team that had never before lost a playoff game at the Metrodome. In 1987, the Twins had won all their games at home en route to their World Series victory.

Candiotti didn’t pitch well in Game One and the Blue Jays lost 5-4. They won the next game with rookie Juan Guzman pitching.

So, series tied 1-1.

The Blue Jays were now going back home for three straight games at SkyDome. Game Three, Jimmy Key pitched, and they lost in extra innings. Game Four, Todd Stottlemyre started and they were blown out. Game Five, Candiotti started, and left with a 5-2 lead (and inherited runners on base). Mike Timlin, Duane Ward, and David Wells all failed in relief. Jays lost 8-5.

Naturally, the Toronto media, led by that guy “Perkins,” blamed Candiotti for the series loss.

Excuse me? You’re tied 1-1 going home for three straight games, and you blame the Game One starter? In the NLCS that year, Tom Glavine lost Game One for Atlanta vs. Pittsburgh. Guess what? The rest of the starters – Steve Avery and John Smoltz – stepped up and the Braves won in seven!

Did Stottlemyre step up? No. Did Key win his start? No.

And yet Perkins and the rest of the Toronto media – there were plenty of them who did the same thing – assigned blame to the Game One starter.

Did these guys even know baseball? You blame the Game One starter when the series was tied 1-1 and the team lost three straight? What planet were these media people from?

Of course, over the years, when Toronto missed the playoffs and more recently, when the Jays made it back, Perkins and the rest of these idiots bring up Candiotti’s name as the reason they lost in 1991.

Totally biased and ridiculously stupid, these guys were.

Anyway, that was my rant that day in the press box when someone brought that name Perkins up. How dumb were those guys covering baseball in Toronto? Really dumb.

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On TSN Radio to talk sports books…

Here’s an interview that I did on TSN1040 Radio earlier in the week with Vancouver Canadians broadcaster Rob Fai:

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My latest writing project…

I’ve been away from this site for months – so it’s time for an update.

I’d been busy with teaching and writing, and therefore hadn’t had time to post anything here.

The project I’ve been working on is a book on the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s a book about the Dodgers’ last World Championship team – and of course I’m rooting against them this year! So, my book will be more meaningful since it will still be the last ever Dodgers team to win a World Series.

Through the help of former Dodger general manager Fred Claire, I’ve been able to talk to 15 ex-players and coaches for this book. It’s been a terrific experience interviewing them to get their memories about that 1988 team.

Finding a publisher has proven to be tricky. Triumph Books showed interest but ultimately said no – they’d published a book on that team some time ago and it was too soon for a repeat. Another publisher looked at my submission and we had discussions, but they decided against taking on this project.

So, we’ll see what happens as I get in contact with others about this book.

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Doug Jones Story

The Single-A season in Minor League Baseball has just started, and I’m pleased to share that my story on former Indians closer Doug Jones made it into the 2016 Vancouver Canadians program book. Check it out starting on page 48 here.

Get a copy of the program book for $5.00 if you’re at the ballpark!

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This Day in Knuckleball History – May 15

It’s fun to look back sometimes at feats of knuckleball pitchers over the years… Here’s the May 15th edition of “This Day in Knuckleball History”:

On May 15, 1973, Phil Niekro earned career win #99 when he pitched a complete-game five-hitter to lead Atlanta to a 5-1 victory in Houston. In outpitching Astros right-hander Don Wilson, Niekro struck out six without walking a batter. Braves centerfielder Dusty Baker delivered a three-run homer in the sixth inning to break up the scoreless tie and give Niekro the win. (Incidentally, Baker wasn’t the only hitter in the Atlanta lineup that day who went on to become a big-league manager; Braves catcher Johnny Oates and second baseman Davey Johnson also went on to manage in the majors.) With the win, Niekro improved to 99-85 for his career with a 2.95 ERA.

niekro

Things weren’t as good for Niekro four years later on May 15, 1977, when neither he nor future Cy Young winner John Denny was effective in a 15-12 Atlanta win over St. Louis. (Was this the Falcons against the old NFL St. Louis Cardinals?) Niekro was hammered for six runs over three innings, while Denny, who had won the NL ERA title the year before and would capture the Cy Young in 1983, was hit for four runs in only five innings. The Braves, who trailed 10-1 after four innings, rallied for three runs in the fifth, five in the sixth, and six more in the eighth to pull out the comeback win. Centerfielder Barry Bonnell’s three-run single (yup, that’s what the play-by-play account says) off righty John D’Acquisto in the bottom of the eighth, with the score tied 12-12, proved to be the game-winner.

On this date, May 15, in 1988, Charlie Hough gave up a leadoff homer to Willie Wilson (!!) and a grand slam later to Danny Tartabull, as the Kansas City Royals beat Texas 5-4. It turned out to be the only home run Wilson hit that year in 628 plate appearances. (I always assumed he never hit a lot of homers, if any, because I remember when he played for Oakland in 1991 and 1992, he hit exactly zero home runs.) Despite his lackluster performance that day (6 IP, 11 H, 4 R), Royals right-hander Mark Gubicza still got the win, his fourth of the season, en route to 20 victories in 1988. It would prove to be Gubicza’s best year, as he went 20-8 with a 2.70 ERA and finished third in the Cy Young race (behind Frank Viola and Dennis Eckersley). Hough, in 1988, would finish 15-16 even with a 3.32 ERA.

Finally, on May 15, 1996, Tom Candiotti retired 21 straight Montreal Expos in one stretch – the equivalent of seven perfect innings of baseball – as the Dodgers won, 7-2. Candiotti pitched a complete-game four-hitter, giving up just one walk, and both runs off of him were unearned thanks to second-inning errors by left-fielder Billy Ashley and shortstop Greg Gagne. From the second inning until two outs in the ninth, no Expos hitter reached base until David Segui doubled to right field. And this was an Expos team that included Moises Alou, Henry Rodriguez, Mike Lansing, and Mark Grudzielanek, and Montreal went on to finish two games out of the NL wild-card race.

There you have it, a look back at some of the performances by knuckleball pitchers on May 15th over the years… we’ll do it again next time.

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