Archive for the ‘MLB’ Category

Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the Washington Sports Fan

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

by Gus Griffin







Those of or around my generation remember Charlie Brown attempting to kick the football held by that female joker Lucy. What was fascinating is not that Lucy pulled the ball away to get Charlie Brown once. Anybody can be had once. However, ole Chuck kept falling for Lucy’s okie-doke over and over again. It was suckerism on steroids.

I hate to say it, well actually, I do not, but the Washington sports fan reminds me of Charlie Brown.

When you think about it, it is incredible. How can anyone run the same game on his/her victims repeatedly and have them fall for it repeatedly? It is not as if the game has been cleaned up or got a makeover. It is as if Bernie Madoff were released from prison tomorrow and a significant number of his victims would buy into yet another of his Ponzi schemes.

Every year across the four different major sports, the fans of this area are every bit as optimistic as Charlie Brown charging to kick that damn football. The fact that history does not dissuade them from accepting their inevitable fate is either delusional or optimistic on the level of spiritual faith……some will argue that their little difference between the two.

This isn’t just hyperbole. When the Cleveland Cavaliers won its first NBA title in 2016 and the first of any kind for the city since the 1964 Browns, that left Washington, DC and St. Paul/Minneapolis in the lead for title droughts among cities with at least three major sports teams. Not since 1991 has either city/metropolis won a title.

It is not just that they have not been able to win a title in nearly 30 years, but how they have lost. Each sports team has managed to tease its fans just enough to make them dare to believe, only to give up the ghost in the end. Personally, if my teams are not going to be good, put me out of my misery early. Giants let me know by May, Lakers let me know by December, etc., etc.

The biggest culprit among Washington sports teams is clearly the Capitals. They have blown five 3-1 post-season leads to lose game seven, twice to their nemesis, the Pittsburgh Penguins. I cannot think of any franchise in any of the four sports that has the number of another franchise the way the Pens own the Caps. Of their ten playoff encounters, Washington has only beaten Pittsburgh once.

The Penguins may as well be Lucy.

Then there is the Washington Nationals, who have yet to win a playoff series. They have been eliminated at home three times. I was at the 2012 collapse against the Cardinals and it was by far the most depressing sports atmosphere of which I had ever been a part. I was there in 2014 when my Giants rolled in for two games and rolled out with two wins. In 2016, it was the Dodgers, and last year it was the Cubs.

The Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers, and Cubs may as well be Lucy.

Then there is the Wizards who are good for winning road games against superior teams only to come back home and lose when they have a chance to get a strangle hold on a series. The last time the Washington Wizards franchise won at least 50 games was 1979, when they were the Bullets and defending NBA champions.

Finally, there is the football team. I contend that just maybe its racist name might be the curse over all of the city’s sports teams. Until they change it, I have no sympathy for them.

It is a shame because Washington has one of the truly great fanbases in America.

However, as the late native Washingtonian great Marvin Gaye would sing, there are “four” things in life for sure: taxes, death, trouble, and Washington sports fans believing that this year Lucy will not pull the damn football away.


Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

How Baseball Became a Litmus Test for Blackness and Why I Don’t Give a Damn

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

by Gus Griffin







Baseball is back and along with it the same annual rituals: the Spring and warmer weather is approaching, my Giants spanking the Dodgers, and other Black folks giving me the side-eye of suspicion for so openly loving the game.


Yep! It is not an uncommon line of thinking among some Black folks that baseball is a white game. This thinking is not totally without merit but it was not always this way. As hard as this may be to believe for the younger generations, there was indeed a time when baseball was the unquestioned most popular sport among Black America. Its representation at the Major League level peaked in the mid-70s to early 80s at about 25%.


And then things began to change. I cite two primary reasons: 1) deindustrialization of the economy and the criminal industrial complex, both of which disproportionately adversely affected Black men, who would have been the primary teachers and passers of the game of baseball. Subsequent reasons are the rise of the Latin American player to fill the void and AAU basketball, which all but requires year-round participation. The cumulative result of all these factors is that today that 25% from the mid-70s-early 80s is now about 7% and declining.


With this change in the face of baseball came the stigma for Black youth who aspired to play the game in the form of the accusation of “acting white”. Peer acceptance among youth is important across cultural and demographic lines. That importance is even greater among oppressed and already isolated peoples. The value of community endorsement is not easily set aside.


One of the many struggles of oppressed and segregated groups is to resist oppressed and segregated thinking. This is outlined beautifully in the late Brazilian Educator Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. The less we see our reflection in baseball or any other activity or venue, the more the thinking creeps in that this just isn’t for us. The natural companion of that thinking is that any Black person who aspires to or likes the activity is running from his community identification. For Black folks the need to dismantle a criminal justice system, rooted in Capitalism and White supremacy that literally kills us with little to no accountability for doing so, is an overwhelming challenge and discouraging for some. It is much easier to question the cultural identity of someone who likes baseball than to deal with the substantive sources of our oppression.


This is not to suggest that there aren’t Black folks who do both consciously and subconsciously seek out interest for the specific purpose of separating themselves from the lager group.


I’m just not the one.


There is hope and high profile Black baseball fans exempt from this litmus test. One who comes to mind is local cultural icon and poet Ethelbert Miller. Besides finding a way to never age, for some 40 years he worked at my alma mater, Howard University, as head of its Moorland Spingarn Research Center. It is one of the world’s greatest repositories of Black history, culture, and life. I met him upon my arrival at Howard in 1991. He also just released his second book on baseball called “If God Invented Baseball?”. Yes, I will be reading it soon.


But with or without high profile Black baseball fans, I always have and always will love baseball. For any cultural legitimacy gatekeepers who have a problem with that, I strongly suggest you find a more useful way to spend your time and hate. I don’t care what you think!

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Dusty Baker is a Hall of Fame Manager

Friday, September 29th, 2017

by Gus Griffin






Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker looks on from the dugout before a baseball game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker looks on from the dugout before a baseball game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

As the Washington Nationals prepare for the post season, it should be noted that this is old hat for manager Dusty Baker. In fact, it’s as good of a time as any to make the case that Dusty Baker should one day be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

That’s right, I said it, and the reasons people resist this idea are as interesting as the case that he is, so let’s start with those reasons.

Not only has Dusty Baker never managed a World Series winner, but he has presided over some of the most infamous pennant race and post season collapses in recent baseball history.

He has been the Marty Schotenheimer of major league baseball managers.

The list is as follows:

  • 1993 Giants had an 8 game lead over the Braves in August. Though the team would win a franchise record 103 games, they would lose the Western Division on the last day of the season (losing to those damn Dodgers). That team would not make it to the post season. Many consider that season’s outcome to be the primary basis for the development of the wild card in baseball, giving the best second place team a place in the post season;
  • 2002 Giants have a 3 games to 2 lead over the Angels in game 6 of the World Series and are 5 outs from winning their first world series since 1954. Then it all fell apart and the Angels go on to win in 7 games;
  • 2003 Chicago Cubs and the infamous Bartman game and series. The Marlins win that game 6 and eventually game 7 in Chicago, and beat the Yankees in the World Series.
  • 2012 Reds win the first two games in San Francisco of a best of 5 series, only to lose 3 straight to my Giants in Cincinnati. The Giants go on to win their second World Series of 3 in a 5 year span.

As sports fans, we tend to remember individual failure more than cumulative success.  Ask any fan what they remember most about Billy Buckner and they are likely to cite the 1986 World Series error rather than the 2700+ career hits and 1980 NL batting title.  The same is true of Ernest Byner in football.

It is fair to cite Baker as the only common denominator in all of the above noted collapses.  My primary response is that only an exceptional manager would continually be in these situations.

The case for Baker is as follows:

  • His 1800+ wins are more than Earl Weaver, Tommy Lasorda, or Dick Williams, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame;
  • He is one of only 4 managers to take 4 different teams to the post season, along with Williams, Billy Martin, and Davey Johnson. Martin and Johnson each have their own Hall of Fame cases;
  • He has ten 90 win seasons. All managers with this number or more are in the Hall of fame;
  • He managed Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent over multiple 162 game seasons, which is every bit as difficult as coaching Shaq and Kobe.

So exactly what factors most impact a manager’s success? I say 4, which are communication skills, baseball tactics, instincts, and situation. The manager actually only has control of the first three.  By all accounts, Baker is a great communicator. The problem is that this skill is the least observable to fans and even the sports writers who vote for the Hall of Fame.  So Baker’s greatest skill is the least measurable. His baseball tactics and instincts would have to be above average to win nearly 2000 games. Sure, anyone can find a decision on bullpen or bench management here or there, to dispute over the course of 23 years and 162 game seasons. But surely not enough to question his deserving of Hall of Fame status. The last factor would be the situation, and the manager has little to no control over that factor.  Situation includes the owner, timing, talent, etc. Let’s be clear about this, Joe Torre managed 3 different teams before he took the reins of the Yankees.  In the years before he got there, notoriously meddling owner George Steinbrenner was suspended from the day to day operations of the team.  His history was to win now, future be damned.  What this resulted in was young talent being traded away for veterans.  Due to his suspension, this did not happen in the mid-90s, and thus, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Petite, Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter remained in their system and awaited Torre’s tutelage.  The rest is history.  From 1996-2000, the Yankees would win the World Series four times.

Joe Torre did not suddenly learn how to manage in New York with the Yankees.  But the fact is, if you take away his Yankees tenure, his career managerial record is sub-500.  Situation matters.

Dick Williams found working under A’s owner Charlie O Finely so difficult, he resigned from a 2-time defending champion team after the 1973 season, in a similar way that Jimmy Johnson left the Cowboys. Situation matters.

Regardless of the situation, Dusty Baker has won and he has won a lot. This should earn him a bust in Cooperstown someday.


Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Bryce Harper was Right And the Myth of Code Loyalty

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

by Gus Griffin







I so appreciate the sports of the San Francisco Bay Area.  Be it Colin Kaepernick or the Golden State Warriors, they give me material.  And now Bryce Harper and my San Francisco Giants.

Yes, my San Francisco Giants.  Full disclosure for those who have been under an FB rock, baseball is and has always been my favorite sport, and the Giants are my favorite team.  I got it from my pops.  I modeled my pitching motion after high-leg kicking Giants pitchers Juan Marichal and Vida Blue.  I lived long enough to see them win 3 world series rings in 5 years to lap the hated Dodgers in titles.  Simply put, over the past 8 years, it’s been good to be a Giants fan.

And with all that being said, I am 100% in support of Bryce Harper for going after Hunter Strickland for intentionally hitting him with a pitch upwards of 97 miles per hour.

This all played out with the larger backdrop of baseball trying to reign in “bean ball” wars.

Good luck with that.

Since its inception, baseball has long had an unwritten code that says if you throw at one of ours, we will throw at one of yours.  Of course, the likes of Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan, and Roger Clemens took this internal vigilantism to an entirely different level, both for retribution and intimidation.  It was all understood that this was how things were done.

Of course, the other complication is that there is a legitimate tactical justification for pitching inside.  The gentlemen’s agreement has long been that the outside part of the plate belongs to pitchers and the inside belongs to hitters.  If a hitter gets greedy trying to crowd the plate to take aggressive hacks at pitches on the outside corner, things must be put back into order and the inside fastball is the mechanism for doing so.  While this will surely result in some batters being hit, to ban the tactic in of itself would tilt the balance of competition so far in the direction of hitters to the point of the game ceasing to be what we have known it to be.

Baseball’s challenge is against whom and when does it intervene; against the first violator or the second?  On the first shot, a pitcher could have legitimately simply lost control of a pitch.  Should he be thrown out of the game?  If second offender (or retaliator) is ejected, that will essentially give the initiators a free shot.  The bottom line is that as MLB moves to eliminate this internal policing of the game, hitters can no longer count on their pitcher to keep things in order.

So, when a guy throws a 97 mph baseball at a hitter, what the hell do we expect him to do?  If Harper does not make a stand, then the message to the rest of the league is clear; you can throw at him with impunity!

None of that contextual backdrop applies to what Strickland did Monday in San Francisco.   He was simply pissed off because 3 years ago in the playoffs, Bryce Harper hit not one, but two moonshot home runs off him.  The espoused offense was that Harper ran around the bases too slow.  I was at the game in Washington.  The ball cleared the Jackie Robinson number in the upper deck.  While I did not think it was funny at the time, you could not help but be impressed.  The one in San Francisco cleared the stadium and landed in McCovey Cove.  Simply put, if Harper decided to walk around the bases, I would have had no problem with it at all, and if Strickland did, he should have learned to throw a damn change up!

The other aspect of the incident that has garnered a lot of attention was the Giants’, especially all-star catcher Buster Posey, lackluster attempt to “protect their guy”.  Admittedly, it is unusual for the catcher not to grab the hitter or at least attempt to do so in that situation.  Some have speculated if this will affect how Posey is perceived in the locker room.  That is an assessment that cannot be made without knowing how Strickland is perceived in the locker room.  If he is viewed as some out of control lone wolf who takes matters into his own hands, Posey’s place in the locker room will not be affected one iota.

The truth is that these “ride or die” loyalty codes we men swear to adhere by unconditionally are anything but unconditional.  We espouse to believe in them because they are often a rites of passage for peer group, cultural and societal acceptance.  But the graveyard has its share of dudes who actually took that nonsense literally at a party or on the streets.  Such blind loyalty is romanticized in the media.  Buster Posey is neither Cookie from Empire nor Marines from A Few Good Men.  No matter how sincerely committed, there will come a time when one must use your capacity to think for yourself, to dismiss the group code in favor of your own individual best interests.  Doing so doesn’t make one cowardly or disloyal.  It makes one intelligent.  In the real world, when the rubber meets the road, the sheer practicality of self-preservation will rule the day, be it among the Bloods and Crips or the Mafia.   We should expect no less from baseball players.

Simply put, if a loose cannon like Strickland fires off a 97 mph fastball at a hitter for no legitimate tactical reason, and without any pre-approval or reassurance from the leadership or team collective that they have his back, HE IS ON HIS OWN!


Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

City of Atlanta Top 5 Sports Meltdowns

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

by Gus Griffin






HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05:  Devonta Freeman #24 of the Atlanta Falcons and Matt Bosher #5 react after losing to the New England Patriots 34-28 during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

HOUSTON, TX – FEBRUARY 05: Devonta Freeman #24 of the Atlanta Falcons and Matt Bosher #5 react after losing to the New England Patriots 34-28 during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Honorable mention: 1981 Falcons had a 2-touchdown, 4th quarter lead on the Cowboys at home in the NFC playoffs, only to give up 20 4th quarter points and lose 30-27.


Honorable mention: 2012 Falcons blow a 17-point lead at home in the NFC championship game, losing to the San Francisco 49ers


5) Twins outlast Braves in 7 games of the 1991 World Series on Jack Morris’ 10-inning, 1-0 shutout

ATL #5
4) 1996 Braves bring a 2-0 World Series lead over the “Stankees” back to Atlanta and proceed to lose 4 straight, as the defending champs

ATL #4


3) 1998 Falcons lose Super Bowl XXXIII to the Denver Broncos after their safety and NFL Man of the Year gets busted in a prostitution sting on South Beach in Miami, the night before the game

ATL #3


2) After winning game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semis in Boston, the 1988 Hawks bring a 3-2 lead back to Atlanta, only to lose in game 6 and then game 7 in Boston, overshadowing one of the greatest basketball duels ever, between Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird

ATL #2



And the top Atlanta Sports meltdown of all time is……you know. LOL


Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

The Curse Has Been Lifted! The Cubs are World Series Champions!!!

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016


Click the link below to purchase Chicago Cubs championship gear!!!

Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Champions

Bryce Harper was not the NL MVP and this is why.

Friday, November 20th, 2015

by Gus Griffin





May 10, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) at bat against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

May 10, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) at bat against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Harper was the best player in the National League in 2015….perhaps in all of baseball.

Bryce Harper was not the most valuable player in the National League and that was not his fault.

This is not about hating on Bryce Harper. I love the way the he plays the game. He combines Pete Rose’s mindset with Mickey Mantle power. In all my years of going to see baseball games, he is the only player that I have seen hit multiple upper deck homers. One was in the playoffs against my Giants (I did not particularly love him at that exact moment) and the other was against the Dodgers. You can imagine how much that endeared him to me. Early in the year his improved pitch selection and overall plate discipline forecasted trouble for pitchers. When a guy with his power restricts his swings to strikes, the results are career highs in both homers and walks both nearly double previous highs.

My liking him or not liking him has nothing to do with my case. At the heart of it all is the failure of the baseball, and sports writer culture to make a distinction between the best player and the most valuable player. So lets do that now.

The most valuable player is the player whose team’s level of success would be least likely without! A key provision would be team’s level of success. Subsequently if the team had little or no success, how valuable could any one player have been? Apparently not valuable enough for 2014 NL manager of the year Matt Williams because he got fired.

It’s at this point when the baseball sabermetric zombies will cite Harper’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) stat which was 9.9, round it up to 10 wins which is outstanding under any assessment. Simply put that means without Bryce Harper this past season, instead of winning 83 games, the Nats would have only won 73 games. If our task is to measure value in the context of the team’s success to that I say, WHO CARES? How valuable can any one player be on a team that regressed 13 games from the previous season?

If we look at Harper’s value from a pure costs benefit analysis, it’s a more compelling case than pure baseball statistics in that he greatly out performed his $2.5 million salary for the year. He does not hit arbitration until 2017 and free agency in 2019. Unless he dramatically regresses, the Nats will have to pay for their 2015 bargain with the highest arbitration award in the history of the game in 2017 and highest contract ever to keep him in 2019 when they will surely be competing with his childhood favorite team the Yankees. They may decide to do that but to this point, what do they have to show for it? In football both Seattle with Russell Wilson and Baltimore with Joe Flacco illustrate cautionary tales in paying to compensate past bargains at the expense of addressing other team needs. But at least their decisions can be defended by the players value to their winning a championship.

Part of this challenge is the inconsistent history of what the writers are actually looking for in the MVP. The process also reeks with personal gripes, surely at times stemming from which guy gave them interviews when they wanted one. Go back to 1983 when the Orioles won it all, led by both Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken. Either would have been valid MVP choices. Cal finished 1 and Murray 2. No secret that Cal was much more amenable to media than Murray. Murray was arguably the most feared hitter in the league, a switch hitter with power and a clutch rep similar to what we have seen with David Ortiz in recent years. He hit 4th behind Cal which insured Cal was not being pitched around. Consider the assessment of teammate and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer when asked who he believes should have won that award, “Eddie Murray missed 7 games that year. We lost every one of them!”

Fast forward to 1989. Cecil Fielder leads the league in homers and RBIs and is first to hit over 50 (51) since 1977. He finished second in the MVP voting, losing out to Rickey Henderson. The general writers’ response to his losing to Henderson was that Henderson played for a contending team. The next year, Cal wins his second MVP on an Oriole team that finishes in 6th place over Cecil Fielder and his league leading 44 homers and 133 RBIs for the second place Tigers.

So which is it?

The point is as great as Harper was in 2015, his absence from the Nat’s would have been no more than a distinction without a difference on what really matters: winning! On the other hand, does anyone think the Cubs get to the NLDS without Jake Arietta? Would the Mets have made it to the World Series without Yohanes Cespedes? The answer is no on both counts and that is what value is all about.

The basic resolution is two awards: a Most Valuable Player award which must be tied to the players contribution to the teams NOTEWORTHY SUCCESS and a Player of the Year award which can be driven by statistical production alone. Pitchers would not be eligible for player of the year. There is a Cy Young and Firemen’s awards for them. All players are eligible for MVP. In theory a player can win both. An example of when the awardees should have been split would have been 1987. Andre Dawson was the best player in the league that year leading the league with 49 homers and 137 RBIs…….for the last place Cubs that finished 18.5 games out of first place. He won the MVP that year. So were the voters saying without him they would have finished in 7th place? Hell there were only 6 teams in the division. Meanwhile Ozzie Smith didn’t hit a home run all year……but he drove in 80 and batted .303 while playing his routinely great short stop for an offensively challenge Cardinal team that advanced to the World Series. That’s value and due to no fault of his own, Bryce simply did not have that for a historically underachieving Nationals team this year.

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports


Friday, July 31st, 2015

by Gus Griffin






It’s time for baseball to push back its trade deadline. This July 31st line in the sand is an outdated relic from an era when free agency didn’t exist and only two teams made the post season, which was the case up until 1969. That year the field was expanded to 4 with the divisional winner format and since has been expanded to its current number of 10. With that many spots for post season available, it makes no sense to force teams to decide in July if they still have a chance to make it to the playoffs. Furthermore, historically, more than a few teams have lost considerable leads after the deadline beginning with the 1951 Dodgers, which had a 13.5 game lead in August, only to do what they do and choke the lead away to my Giants and eventually lose a 3 game playoff on Bobby Thomson’s famous 9th inning walk off homer. But this is not about picking on the Dodgers (they blew it again to my Giants in 62 and to the Padres in 96) because there are many more examples: 69 Cubs, 95 Angels, 2011 Braves and Red Sox. The 1964 Phillies had a 6 game lead with 12 left over the Cardinals in September. They were so confident, as the legend goes, that they started to sell World Series tickets only to collapse and have to burn them. Then there is the other case such as the 2012 Phillies who traded Hunter Pence to my Giants and Shane Victorino to the Red Sox only to get red hot in August and September and just miss the playoffs. Pushing the deadline back to August 15 is a win-win for all involved. Teams maintain fan interests, players and agents get more time to negotiate contract extensions. Baseball has successfully challenged old traditions to move the game forward with such innovations as inner league play. It’s time it did the same with the trade deadline.


Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports


MLB Can Capitalize on Momentum of Taney and Jackie Robinson West

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

by Jon Carroll






Taney pitcher Mo'Ne Davis (Image via

Taney pitcher Mo’Ne Davis
(Image via

I have watched with pride as the Taney Little League All-Star team has advanced all the way to Williamsport as the Middle Atlantic representative in the Little League World Series (LLWS).  Mo’Ne Davis has become a national story as she became the first girl in LLWS history to win a game with her 2-hit shutout on Friday.  When you couple Davis’ accomplishments with those of Pierce Jones of the Jackie Robinson Little League All-Star team from Chicago, you have strong evidence that the underrepresentation of African-Americans at the Major League level is not an issue of talent, but one of opportunity.  Hopefully, the success of these predominantly minority teams will inspire MLB execs to rethink how they conduct outreach in metropolitan centers.

When I first heard that a team from Philly was starting to make noise in the qualifying rounds of the LLWS, my first thought was Where do they play?  In my time growing up in Philly I could not remember where hardcore little league baseball had been played that would prepare a group to be ready for the stiff competition that takes place in Williamsport.  I was hard pressed to think of a facility in Philly comparable to the facilities I have experienced with my own son here in California, a noted hotbed of youth baseball.  To make sure I was not dreaming, I put my old 19131 zip code into the Little League finder and got results like Lower Merion, Haverford, and Drexel Hill, all of which are outside of the City limits.  As a means of comparison, my son’s Little League complex is only 3.5 miles from our rival organization.  Both have over 800 registrants across a number of skill divisions.  This illustrates just what kind of battle East Coast teams face when they enter into Little League play.  It also shows the challenge of developing baseball talent in urban centers.

Jackie Robinson West (Image via

Jackie Robinson West
(Image via

The Taney Little League is operated out of many fields spread across downtown and South Philly and started in 1994.  They have only had a charter for Little League competition for two years and have quickly become a force to be reckoned with.  Similarly, the Jackie Robinson West (JRW) Little League operates out of multiple fields on the Southside of Chicago.  Their little league tradition goes back a little further than that of Taney as they first had a team qualify for the LLWS in 1983.  The success of the teams is a tribute to the volunteers of both organizations as it takes a great deal of dedication and commitment to make them work.   I can only imagine how much more difficult it becomes in urban centers where you have multiple fields to deal with instead of one large complex as has been my experience.  If Major League Baseball is serious about addressing its diversity issues and pulling more Black people into the game, it would behoove them to think about how they can capitalize on the structures already in place in urban centers where Black people live.

Currently Major League Baseball has six Urban Youth Academies (UYA) (Compton, Houston, Philly, New Orleans, Cincinnati, and Puerto Rico), the first of which was founded in 2006.  These academies are meant to grow the game through professional skill instruction and preparation.  This is a nice start, but what about cities like Detroit, Baltimore, Miami, Tacoma, Memphis or any of the five boroughs in NY?  MLB has an interest problem among young adults and promoting the game through these academies as well as additional coaching clinics would go a long way to increasing awareness of the brand.  My hope is that the continued success of both Taney and JRW makes someone at the MLB office see dollar signs so that expansion of the UYAs and other creative outreach programs make perfect sense. Perhaps MLB could create a grant program that would award money to those Little Leagues who make it to Williamsport for the continued improvement of their organization.  Who knows what the ceiling is for a Pierce Jones or Zion Spearman if they are developed to make baseball their main sport over other more popular options and are provided the environment to do so.  The next Andrew McCutcheon is just as likely to be found in West Philly as in traditional talent producing factories.  It only serves MLB to help make that happen.


Jon Carroll for War Room Sports

Orioles Magic

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

by Joe Davis

Joe davis





(Image via MASN Sports)

(Image via MASN Sports)

It’s the beginning of August.  Many MLB teams have either made moves to improve their team or have thrown in the towel to begin preparing for the future. Oakland and Detroit have made significant improvements to their pitching staff. But the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles are riding the team that has brought them this far. They did acquire a relief pitcher from Boston, but for the most part they are relying on their guys.  As of this writing they sit in first place 2.5 games up on Toronto.  This is after Toronto won 7 games in a row.  New York has made several moves and they can’t seem to get close to Baltimore.  Just 4 years ago fans were happy just for a competitive team and now they sit at 61-47.

Baltimore has had an impressive season, besides dealing with a number of issues. They don’t have a true ace to lead their pitching staff.  While l personally like guys like Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez, you never get them confused with a Verlander, Price, or Lester.  lf they had one of those guys, their lead could be 10. To limit his innings, Kevin Gausman was yo-yoed between the show and the, minors even though he was one of the team’s most consistent performers.  Ubaldo Jimenez can’t seem to find the strike zone even though he is paid $50 million over the next 4 years to do so.  Tommy Hunter started off the season as the team’s closer but wasn’t very effective.  Insert Zach Britton to give them stability and 22 saves.  Buck Showalter is really amazing in how he has pushed all of the right buttons.

Offensively, how they have kept this team together is just unbelievable.  Chris Davis, who hit 53 home runs last year and finished 3rd in the AL MVP race, has only hit 17 home runs and is batting under .200.  Speaking of batting under or around .200, the O’s have 6 regular bats that are hitting in the .200 neighborhood.  Nelson Cruz has cooled off since his blistering start but still leads the team with 29 HRs and 75 RBI.  The only season-long consistent bats have been Hardy (even though he has not produced his usual power numbers), Jones, and Markakis.  They have had timely hitting all season and Camden Yards is buzzing at a time when many Baltimoreans are thinking “Purple and Black” instead of “Orange and Black”.

So, can they keep it up?  I say they can.  While some other teams have made moves to strengthen their rotation, it has come at a cost.  Baltimore has a special chemistry going in their dugout.  Smiles and hi-fives are the norm.  When a guy has a walk-off hit, you can expect a pie to the face.  They don’t quit nor do they give up easily.  12-4 is their record in extra-innings games.  Showalter keeps guys like Delmon Young and Steve Pierce engaged because they are needed, and they haven’t disappointed their skipper. Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley have provided an adequate fill-in since Gold Glove catcher Matt Wieters went down with an elbow.  Darren O’Day and TJ McFarland have anchored a bullpen that is one of the best in baseball.  There is something magical happening and hopefully it leads this team to a World Series ring.


Joe Davis of Sideline to Sideline, for War Room Sports