Thursday, November 7, 2013

How to save Thursday Night Football

-- by @Josh_Suchon

Watching an entire game of Thursday Night Football isn’t easy. Overwhelmingly, it’s one of the sloppiest games of the week. It’s understandable too. It’s a brutal schedule that the NFL shouldn’t subject its players, especially the visiting teams:

Sunday: play a game (and maybe fly home)
Monday: go over the last game film, heal/rest
Tuesday: put in a game plan, prepare for new opponent
Wednesday: travel and probably a light walk-through
Thursday: play another game

It’s no wonder energy levels are so low, mistakes are common, late comebacks are rare, the visiting team rarely wins, and the injury risk is so high.

Here’s two quick steps to save Thursday Night Football:

1. Add a second bye week to every team’s schedule.
2   2. Mandate that both teams get a bye before the Thursday night showcase.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Miracle Men excerpt: Game 7, 1988 NLCS -- Mets at Dodgers

This is an excerpt from my recent book: "Miracle Men: Hershiser, Gibson & the Improbable 1988 Dodgers." You can order a copy here, here, or at most major bookstores.

Wednesday, October 12, 1988
Los Angeles
Mets vs. Dodgers
NLCS Game 7
There was never a doubt that Orel Hershiser would start Game 7 for the Dodgers. 
There was plenty of doubt—and questions remain 25 years later—about Ron Darling starting Game 7 for the Mets. Many question why Doc Gooden didn’t start the game. Many believe the Mets thought they could win with Darling, and they were saving Gooden for Game 1 of the World Series.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Miracle Men excerpt: Game 6, 1988 NLCS -- Mets at Dodgers

This is an excerpt from my recent book: "Miracle Men: Hershiser, Gibson & the Improbable 1988 Dodgers." You can order a copy here, here, or at most major bookstores.

Tuesday, October 11, 1988
Los Angeles
Mets vs. Dodgers
NLCS Game 6

David Cone was starting for the Mets. It seemed like an eternity since his newspaper career ended. He was glad the focus was just on baseball once again, called Game 6 the biggest start of his life, and was more worried about a suddenly potent Dodgers lineup than the bench jockeying he endured in Game 2. Davey Johnson gave him the option of traveling to Los Angeles ahead of the team to get more rest. Cone declined because he wanted to be with his teammates.
Tim Leary was starting for the Dodgers. An ineffective September pushed him to the bullpen at the start of the series. Leary understood. His arm was fatigued. He’d thrown a full Winter League season and then 228 2/3 innings in the regular season. His brief relief appearance in Game 4 didn’t go well. He was facing the team that originally drafted him. Ron Darling was his former roommate, and Wally Backman was his minor league teammate.
Orel Hershiser was not starting or relieving for the Dodgers. Hershiser started Game 1, started Game 3, pitched in relief in Game 4, and warmed up in Game 5. Hershiser volunteered to pitch Game 6 in relief. 
Lasorda said, “No chance.” Hershiser was being saved for Game 7. “He’s crazy, just crazy,” Lasorda said. “No way he pitches. I’ll tell Jamie [his wife] not to let him out of the house.”
If it’s possible for a game’s tone to get set by the National Anthem, this was it. Saxophonist Kenny G played an over-styled National Anthem that clocked at more than two minutes—the over-under for Super Bowl National Anthems is usually 1:34—and at times didn’t sound like the National Anthem.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Miracle Men excerpt: Game 5, 1988 NLCS -- Dodgers at Mets

This is an excerpt from my recent book: "Miracle Men: Hershiser, Gibson & the Improbable 1988 Dodgers." You can order a copy here, here, or at most major bookstores.

Monday, October 10, 1988
New York
Dodgers vs. Mets
NLCS Game 5

Jay Howell watched Game 4 from his hotel room with his wife, Alison. Crank callers found out his hotel room and called to heckle him, pour more salt in the wounds. Normally, they’d have taken the phone off the hook. But they were awaiting another phone call.
Late that night, the call arrived. Alison’s father, Otto Quale, died of cancer. Otto knew he was going to die. He never let his daughter and son-in-law know how bad his condition was. He loved Jay Howell like his own son and lived vicariously through his major league career. In his will, Otto arranged for his own memorial service to take place in November, just in case the Dodgers were in the World Series. Otto didn’t want his funeral affecting Howell or the team.
Jay and Alison Howell never got the chance to say goodbye to Otto Quale. The only people who knew about his death were Tommy Lasorda and Fred Claire. Howell’s name was all over the newspapers. He wanted to appeal his decision and wanted to explain his motivation to National League president Bart Giamatti. He didn’t want people to think it was sandpaper, that he was a cheater for life. An informal hearing expedited the process. Giamatti cut a game off the suspension, making Howell eligible to pitch in Game 6.
Giamatti told Howell, “You’ll be in the headlines for a couple more weeks, and somebody else is going to take over in a big way, let me tell you. You’re not going to make headlines for long, I can assure you.”

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Miracle Men excerpt: Game 4, 1988 NLCS -- Dodgers at Mets

This is an excerpt from my recent book: "Miracle Men: Hershiser, Gibson & the Improbable 1988 Dodgers." You can order a copy here, here, or at most major bookstores.

Sunday, October 9, 1988
New York
Dodgers vs. Mets
NLCS Game 4

This was why the Dodgers acquired John Tudor. This was why they traded Pedro Guerrero. They acquired John Tudor to face the big, bad New York Mets—who were more vulnerable against lefties—in playoff games like this.
In the regular season, Tudor did what he was supposed to do. In nine starts, he posted a 2.41 ERA down the stretch. He went 4–3, and the team went 6–3. Tudor didn’t join his new teammates in the champagne celebration that night in San Diego. He’d only been there a little over a month. He thought it was their celebration, not his, because they were going to win the division no matter what he did.
The playoffs were different. Tudor knew that’s why he was acquired—to take the place of Fernando Valenzuela in the rotation. If he did his job and there was another celebration, Tudor would partake.
Tudor was starting Game 4 on eight days of rest. His last outing was September 30, and he lasted 11/3 innings until the spasms in his hip ended his night. The start before that, he pitched just four innings. He had no idea how his arm and hip would respond until he was out there.
But now the Dodgers needed Tudor more than ever. On their 24-man playoff roster, they carried nine pitchers. Jay Howell was suspended for three games, so now they were down to eight pitchers.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Miracle Men excerpt: Game 3, 1988 NLCS -- Dodgers at Mets

This is an excerpt from my recent book: "Miracle Men: Hershiser, Gibson & the Improbable 1988 Dodgers." You can order a copy here, here, or at most major bookstores.

Chapter 15
Saturday, October 9, 1988
New York
Dodgers vs. Mets
NLCS Game 3

The Mets were still steamed at the David Cone drama. They weren’t happy about what he said and how those words appeared in print. But they were even more upset at the crude and obscene things the Dodgers yelled at Cone from their dugout.
“Sportsmanship is out,” was the first sentence in a story in The New York Post. The Mets vowed they would get revenge. They had a pretty good idea how to do it. They just had to wait for the right moment.
They would wait through the travel day. They would wait through another day, after rain postponed Game 3 from Friday to Saturday. They would wait until late in Game 3, when the opportunity presented itself.
Because of the rainout, and because of the fragile condition of John Tudor’s hip and elbow and shoulder, Orel Hershiser started Game 3 on three days rest. Hershiser considered it a blessing, not a detriment. Two of the shutouts during The Streak came on three days rest. The sinker worked better when he wasn’t as rested. Plus, Hershiser was still angry about how Game 1 ended, and he was eager to get back on the mound.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Miracle Men excerpt: Game 2, 1988 NLCS -- Mets at Dodgers

Chapter 15
Wednesday, October 5, 1988
Los Angeles
Mets vs. Dodgers
NLCS Game 2
Dave Anderson didn’t make the playoff roster because of a back injury. He’d done a yeoman’s job subbing for Alfredo Griffin at shortstop for two months. In the playoffs, he’d have to find another way to contribute. Anderson arrived early for Game 2, and a Dodgers public relations member showed him an article from the New York Daily News.
“Ever heard the saying, ‘Better to be lucky than good?’ Trash it, because Hershiser was just lucky. Look what happened to luck in the ninth inning last night. It’s called justice—catching up to luck and pummeling it into the ground. Trouble was, Orel was lucky for eight innings.”
Those weren’t the words of a New York columnist stirring things up. Those words were under a first-person byline of David Cone, the starting pitcher in Game 2 of the playoffs. Cone didn’t “write” the column himself. He was interviewed by Bob Klapisch, who was responsible for putting his thoughts into print.
That wasn’t even the most controversial part of the column, either.
“I’ll tell you a secret: As soon as we got Orel out of the game, we knew we’d beat the Dodgers. Knew it even after Jay Howell had struck out HoJo. We saw Howell throwing curveball after curveball, and we were thinking, This is the Dodgers’ idea of a stopper? Our idea is Randy [Myers], a guy who can blow you away with his heat. Seeing Howell and his curveball reminded us of a high school pitcher.”
Anderson made copies of the column, underlined the key passages, and plastered the clubhouse with them. He put them in the trainer’s room, on the walls of the clubhouse, on the chairs of teammates, and a stack was on Tommy Lasorda’s desk.
“Trying to do something, you know, to motivate the boys,” Anderson recalled, laughing.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Miracle Men excerpt: Game 1, 1988 NLCS -- Mets at Dodgers

This is an excerpt from my recent book: "Miracle Men: Hershiser, Gibson and the Improbable '88 Dodgers" that is available to order here, here or at most major bookstores. 

Chapter 15
Tuesday, October 4, 1988
Los Angeles
Mets vs. Dodgers
NLCS Game 1
The space shuttle Discovery returned to earth, landing at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, and welcomed by more than 400,000 exuberant witnesses that included vice president George Bush. A NASA physician boarded the space plane, giving checkups to astronauts Frederick H. Hauck, Richard O. Covey, John M. Lounge, George D. Nelson, and David C. Hilmers. They exited the plane waving American flags. It was the first mission since the Challenger disaster 33 months earlier.
One-hundred fourteen miles to the south, doctors and trainers were checking on Kirk Gibson, as well. Gibson started six of the Dodgers’ final 14 regular season games. Part of this was because the Dodgers had a big lead and they could afford to rest him. The bigger reason was his body—in particular, a pulled hamstring and sore knee—needed time to heal.
Gibson had run hard once in the last two weeks. He couldn’t walk for two days afterward. It was the worst he’d felt all season. The hamstring was bothering him. But now his knee was killing him. Gibson thought he’d have to throttle down a little, if that was possible. He didn’t want to end up crippled. But he knew one thing.
“I will be in the lineup,” Gibson said. “I will be in the fucking lineup.”
Gibson didn’t fill out the lineup, though. Tommy Lasorda did. One factor would determine if Lasorda would start Gibson in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Mets.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Comparing the 1988 Dodgers to the 2013 Dodgers

-- by @Josh_Suchon

Anytime the Dodgers reach the playoffs, it's natural to compare that team to the last Dodgers team to win the World Series. 

Since this is the 25th anniversary of the 1988 team, and I wrote a book about that season, I've been getting a lot of questions about those natural comparisons. 

The short response is those teams are totally different. The 2013 team was built on star power at every position and the highest payroll in baseball. The 1988 team rode the arm of ace Orel Hershiser, the fire and clutch hits of Kirk Gibson, and a cast of role players to hoist the championship trophy into the air.

However, a closer examination reveals there are some parallels. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The story behind Nick "Chili" Buss

-- by @Josh_Suchon

The Dodgers call him Nick Buss.

The Isotopes call him Chili Buss.

They're both right.

The name on the birth certificate is Nicholas Chili Buss. His dad always wanted unique middle names for his kids. The first three kids had normal middle names. Nick was the last chance for something different. His dad once played in a charity golf tournament with former major leaguer Chili Davis and always liked the name Chili.

So that's how he got the middle name.

Nick Buss always went by Nick, until his junior year of college at USC. He ordered an internet connection for his apartment, when his roommates discovered his middle name was Chili. They loved the name and started calling him Chili.

The rest of the time on the baseball field at USC, teammates and coaches called him Chili.

When he got to professional baseball, the nickname remained among Dodgers staff and teammates in the minor leagues.

Last year at Double-A Chattanooga, hitting coach Franklin Stubbs called him Chili all year, not knowing that was simply his middle name. Everybody just assumed it was a nickname.

This year -- before the Isotopes game on Tuesday, April 23 against Oklahoma City -- Isotopes general manager John Traub asked Buss if he wanted to be referred as Chili over the public address system, in game notes, and on the radio broadcast.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

How to win your Survivor Pool, the 2013 edition

-- by @Josh_Suchon

This is my second annual post on how to win your Survivor Pool, aka an Eliminator Pool, or World's Simplest Pool, or Last Man Standing Pool.

The basic rules of the Pool: you pick one NFL game each week, point spreads don’t matter. If you win, you advance to the next week. If you lose, you’re done. In most of these pools, once you pick a team once, you can’t pick them again. I’m in a pool where you can pick the same team three times. I don’t like that rule, but I’m not the Commissioner. But in most pools, you can only pick a team once.

Follow my advice and you've got a good shot at winning your Survivor Pool.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

40 Before 40 -- what I did instead

-- by @Josh_Suchon

My original "40 before 40" list turned into a colossal failure. I only accomplished eight of the 40 items. 

The failure can mostly be contributed to putting a bunch of ridiculous items on the list, taking a new job that cancelled a trip to Hawaii that was going to check off numerous items, and moving to another state where a lot of the items were no longer feasible.

Instead of being depressed at what I didn't complete, here's my list of 40 things that I accomplished instead.

The lesson is that while making goals and planning is helpful, life is best when you're spontaneous and just experience what's around you ... or when you just go through your iPhone, just start picking random photos, and declare that it's something you accomplished. 

1. Got stranded on the side of the road, during a wine trip to Santa Barbara, when our bus broke down. Fortunately, my friends don't blink an eye. We just crack open beers on the side of the road, and watch the girls get cars to honk as they ask for a ride. The bus cooled off, the driver got us to the next winery, we got a new bus, we kept wine tasting. You haven't lived until you've rode home on a wine bus, music blasting, all the girls dancing in the aisles, and a view o the sunset on the Pacific Ocean out the side of the window.

2. Discovered where the "Melrose Place" apartment was located. Turns out, it was less than a mile from my old apartment in LA.

Monday, August 26, 2013

40 before 40, the checklist

-- by @Josh_Suchon

One year later, it's time to re-visit the "40 before 40" list that I created last year. The sad truth is I didn't come close to completing all 40 items. In fact, I only did eight of them. That's a .200 batting average, and you'll get released for that kind of production in baseball. 

Most of it can be blamed on a massive life change, moving to Albuquerque, NM for a new job. That forced me to cancel a trip to Hawaii that was supposed to check off numerous items on the list. However, the new job provided an opportunity to see a lot of things that I'd have never otherwise experienced.

Since I'm neurotically addicted to lists, and categories for lists, here's a list of what I wanted to do, what I accomplished, what I neglected, and why.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

How PCL realignment affects the Isotopes/Dodgers

--by @Josh_Suchon

The move of the Tucson Padres to the city of El Paso prompted the Pacific Coast League to realign its four divisions for the 2014 season. The divisions will now look like this:

Pacific Northern: Fresno, Reno, Sacramento, Tacoma.
Pacific Southern: Albuquerque, El Paso, Las Vegas, Salt Lake.
American Northern: Colorado Springs, Iowa, Oklahoma City, Omaha.
American Southern: Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Round Rock.

The biggest impact involves the Albuquerque Isotopes and Colorado Springs switching sides of the league. The Topes moved from the "American" side to the "Pacific" side of the 16-team league. 

For those not familiar with the league's format, teams play the seven teams in its conference 16 times (eight home, eight away). The eight teams on the other side of the league are played just four times (going to their city every other year).

Here's a breakdown of how the change impacts the Isotopes.

* Overall easier travel with a geographic rival in El Paso

Travel in the PCL can be brutal. It's definitely the most difficult league for traveling. Teams don't fly charter. They fly commercial, almost always the first flight in the morning, and it's rare to get a direct flight because the cities have small airports.

It's roughly 265 miles, or a three hour and 45-minute bus ride, from Isotopes Park to the new ballpark in El Paso. This affords the Topes an opportunity for a bus trip to an opponent's ballpark.  Previously, the Topes would fly to all cities to begin a road trip. (Once on a trip, there were a few bus trips between cities, such as Iowa and Omaha, or Memphis and Nashville.)

While the full schedule hasn't been released, it's likely that opponents will usually take an eight-game road trip to Albuquerque and El Paso. The ability to bus between cities is dramatically cheaper, easier and greatly preferred by players/staff. This will help out everyone. 

For the Topes, there will be a few more direct flights -- such as Vegas. Even for the connecting flights, the total distance will be shorter and more manageable. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My all-time favorite baseball starting lineup

-- by @Josh_Suchon

The blog "Baseball Trash Talkin" asked me to join them on their Podcast to talk about how I ended up in Albuquerque, Yasiel Puig, Dee Gordon and my book (duh). 

They posed a fascinating question at the end: who is your all-time favorite lineup at each position? It's not meant to be the best player at each position. It's personal. Your favorite player at each position. It's a great question. It made me think quite a bit, and I love lists, so here goes my dream lineup:

Catcher -- Benito Santiago

My relationship with Benny started when I was 15 years old and the batboy for a spring training game. Benito hit two home runs that day and I high-fived him at home plate after each one. Then I covered him as a newspaper writer. It was actually embarrassing the way he always called me "my favorite reporter" and once refused speaking to others, so I could have the scoop.

The greatest prank of my life involved a story that exaggerated just how close we were. That's a story that should be told over drinks, lots of drinks, but I shared it earlier