Upset at the way Tim Wakefield‘s knuckleball danced, and mocked the Blue Jays last year, I made this tribute to him.
Wakefield was dominant, and he has been known to be dominant on occasions that he really has those Lehprechans dancing! It seems like, more often than not, those occasions come against the Blue Jays?? Ah! Since 2008, Wakefield has a 2.57 ERA, with a 1.05 WHIP against the Blue Jays.
Despite that depressing fact, I’ve always respected the craft of throwing a knuckleball. Knuckleballers are never the best athletes on the field – but what they lack in athleticism – they make up for in skill, deception and trickery. I once toiled with throwing a knuckleball – believe me it is tough! I’d be interested to know how much time Wakefield puts into his craft to perfect it?
The only explanation I could come up with is that Wakefield has these Irish Leprechans – doing a ‘river dance’ around his ball – while he throws it! Seems logical given the city Wakefield plays in? Doesn’t it? (You don’t have to answer)
To be successful with the knuckleball, you need some kind of magic dance! This is a pictoral illustration of all knuckleballers to have that magic.
Charlie Haegar is a young knuckleballer for the Dodgers. His version of the knuckle ball is different – as it has been known to be clocked at speeds in the high-70’s. Unusually fast for a knuckleball. The pitch seems to summon the spirit of a high-speed, late-90’s drug-induced rave as it dances towards homeplate. Haegar has yet to make a name for himself in MLB, but it will be interesting to see how hitters contend with the beat-bumpin, bad boy, ‘techno baseball’ of his pitch.
Dodgers/Indians/Athletics/BlueJays/Brewers 1983-1999 Tom Candiotti went strong in the majors throwing the knuckleball for 16 seasons. Candiotti played one season with the Blue Jays in 1991. The first time I ever saw a knuckleball came out of his hand. Candiotti seems like the type of guy that would listen to Frank Sinatra, and his ball definately danced like Sammy Davis Jr. amassing 151 wins over his career. In an interview Sammy Davis Jr. said, “Candiotti is cool kat, man! I can dig Candiotti!” (he didn’t say that at all).
Dodgers/Rangers/WhiteSox/Marlins 1970-1994 If you thought Candiotti was impressive? Charlie Hough mastered the knuckler in MLB for 25 seasons – finishing with a perfectly even career record of 216-216! He made a great career with the knuckleball – just as Candiotti and Wakefield. Appropriately, he retired after going to the expansion Florida Marlins. The ‘herky-jerky’ motion of a jumping fish is reminiscent Hough’s knuckleball. He also looks like the kind of guy that enjoys fishing in his retirement. lol. I don’t where I’m getting this from??
Arguably the most sucessful pitcher to throw the knuckleball was Hall of Famer Phil Niekro. Like Hough, the man lasted 24 seasons in MLB, ending his career with Blue Jays and Braves in 1987. For a long time, Niekro was the only Blue Jay to be in the Hall of Fame – as he was the first to go in having once worn a Blue Jay uniform. Niekro had two relatives, brother Joe and uncle Lance, to also throw the knuckler in MLB. Niekro started his career in 1964, and I believe that Chubby Checker and ‘The Twist’ was still popular. It is my opinion that Niekro rode that song all the way to Hall of Fame, by twisting the baseball to glory!
Along with Niekro, and preceeding him, Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm was incredibly sucessful with the pitch. Wilhelm was used to close games with the knuckler, which is a rarity as there are not too many knuckleball closers in history. He was considered the first pitcher to reach 200-saves. Interesting Wikipedia note: On August 6, 1959, Wilhelm nearly pitched a rare “no-hitter in relief.” Relieving Bill O’Dell
at the start of the ninth inning, Wilhelm held the White Sox hitless
for 8⅔ innings before finally surrendering a hit in the 17th. Ouch! That would have been remarkable! Sidenote: Tom Candiotti played the role of Wilhelm in the movie *61.
Other notable knuckleballers were: Jim Bouton (writer of the controversial, and ledgedary baseball book ‘Ball Four’ highlighting the exploits of Mickey Mantle among others) and Eddie Cicotte (a great pitcher that was a main contributor to the infamous ‘Black Sox scandal’ of 1919).
Recent knuckleballers with limited sucess have been: Steve Sparks and R.A. Dickey (i don’t think I could have done a design with him).
So, that is my tribute to some of the great knuckleballers of all-time. All of these guys have contributed to the intriguing nature of baseball. Mastering a pitch that is so rare in it’s physics and artistry. I highly respect all the knuckleballers that have graced this game.
Not a word, but I’ll go with it. Some hitters actually have a lot of success of the ‘baseball room dancer.’ (Of the top of my head: Longoria … Vlad) Recently, Blue Jay hitters are not among those that can get a solid piece of that tricky knuckler.
The Blue Jays got Wakefieldeded today, losing 2-1 in a hard-fought pitchers battle between Wakefield and Brian Tallet. Jays hitters could only go up there hacking and hoping that they could get a piece of the ball. Wakefield had the knuckler dancing today, and you could tell that it got on the nerves of an otherwise ‘red hot’ Blue Jay lineup. Having a pitcher like Wakefield is a definate advantage for a team. He just throws hitters off their rythum everytime! I get bewildered just watching him pitch on TV. Imagine how the Jays feel?
Anyway, everytime I watch him pitch makes me think of ‘a bunch of crazy Boston Irish River Dancing Leprechans – coming to make fun of you as you are trying to swing.’ It is what inspired this design.
Too much school right now! I’ve been writing essays about boring stuff, instead of blogging lately! It is actually hard for me to determine what is more productive? If I write this essay, I can get a degree? If I post on this blog, I will be happy? I wish baseball blogging, or writing, was a University program, lol!! Here is a taste of what I’ve been doing. CAUTION: You might burst into a deep sleep upon reading!
This paper will examine the explanations put forth for the overall lack of unionism and lack of workplace human rights in East Asia. The lack of unionism in the region, with regard to degradation of human rights in the workplace, draws on one distinct explanation. This explanation focuses on the organized tactics of spatial labour control that seeks to manipulate organizing threats of migrant workers in East Asia. The topics that will be studied, pertaining to this explanation, include migration, labour’s lack of political inclusion, the structural spatial control of labour, and the physical space that is manipulated by East Asian corporate elites. The idea of organized spatial control presented by Philip Kelly includes the following to explain crucial labour topics that contribute to the overall manipulation of human security in the workforce:
constructing the individual as an autonomous unit of negotiation; constructing the workplace as a container for dispute resolution; establishing the industrial estate as a denationalized and desocialized space; constructing spaces of national sovereignty and imagined national/ethnic community; and, the distancing of homeplace from workplace through the use of migrant workforces.
Enough of that!!!! Back to baseball!!
In this post, I wanted to dissect every MLB teams ‘staples,’ briefly since 2003. A ‘staple’, as known by many who take global political economy, is a single product that defines the economic standing of a region/country of the world. For instance, the ‘old south’ of the United States had ‘cotton’ as their staple, the Maritimes of Canada has ‘fish’, and Japan has ‘electronics’. I compare this to players on current MLB teams.
Many teams have the same type of ‘staples,’ as players in their organzation. Although in past years, these players might not be the best players on their teams. In my opinion, many of them can be percieved to be accountable for a club’s success or failure.
So lets take it back, and look at the players that have stuck with their clubs since 2003 until recently!
Starting with … surprise! surprise!
Toronto Blue Jays 2003 – Roy Halladay, Alex Rios and Vernon Wells
Almost no other team is as relevant to the 2003 ‘staple’ theory than the Blue Jays. The success of the Jays hinges on these players. The BIG word regarding them however is … INJURIES!!! It is hard to argue that these three players are NOT a strong nucleus to build a team around. Many will argee that these past years have seen the Jays go through a lot of bad luck with injuries, specifically regarding these staples! In 2005, Halladay was anchoring the Jays to a serious wild card run when Kevin (flippin) Mench smacked a ball of Halladay’s ankle ruining that year. Halladay has also had some arm trouble in past years. As far as Vernon Wells, I ask what year hasn’t he cause instability in the Jays lineup because of injury? He simply is our only legitimate threat in the lineup, and he is often either on the DL, or playing not because of injury. The Alex Rios project has seen it’s share of inconsistancies. The talent is there, but for some reason, you get the feeling we haven’t seen fully what he can do in a year. He can look like he is going to hit 40 HR’s then not hit one for 2 months? So case and point, the Jays have gone as these staples have gone. Very inconsistant, because of injury and what have you. Characteristics of a slightly better than mediocre team, which is what they have shown since 2003. Too much rambling on the Jays, sorry I couldn’t help it they are my team.
Boston Red Sox 2003 – Jason Varitek, Manny Ramirez and Tim Wakefield
Ortiz did not start the 2003 season with Boston, but he was definately an early turning point for the team that won in 2004. Manny and Ortiz are what made Boston so strong! They are staples in themselves, instilling fear in the middle of that order. Without them, no 2 World Series would have been won. I would argue that life without Manny will be different for Boston, however, they are in the process creating their own ‘staples’ now with Pedoria and Youkilus. Varitek and Wakefield have been steady contributors. They give the team an identity. Varitek has arguably been the best catcher in baseball from a leadership perspective, and Wakefield might not get amazing numbers, but having him in the rotation is always something that teams and hitters have to prepare for. These staples have made Boston achieve great success since 2003. Tek and Wakefield will continue to do this, as Boston transitions out of the Manny/Ortiz (might be showing decline with injury) years.
Chicago White Sox 2003 – Paul Konerko, Joe Crede and Mark Buehrle
I’ll try to make this shorter. CWS won the World Series in 2005. They did it with great pitching that year (particularly from Buehrle). They also did it with hitting the long ball! Konerko and Crede definately exemplify that philosophy! Those players produced a ‘staple’ of success for Chicago in that year, and also last year making the playoffs. The AL Central is a tightly competitive division, so it is hard for any team to see constant prolonged success in that race.
Cleveland Indians 2003 – C.C. Sabathia, Travis Hafner and Cliff Lee
2003 was the year that these young players in Cleveland started to develop, and they did develop to guide the Indians into a 2007 playoff run (stopped by the Red Sox). Hafner has been hurt and inconsistant replacing Ellis Burks (old name) as the cleanup hitter in 2003, and Lee wasn’t that great until this year. These were strong and young ‘staples’ that helped Cleveland to a lot of success in 2007, and 2006 when they came close the playoffs. Losing Sabathia will hurt, however!
Detroit Tigers 2003 – Fernando Rodney, Brandon Inge and Nate Robertson
All these players were backups, or in the bullpen in 2003. Detroit had to reinvent themselves, and that led them to the World Series in 2006. Like I said before, in many cases these ‘staples’ may not be a team’s ‘best players’. These players all had ‘career years’ in 2006, and were great for Detroit in the playoffs. Proving my point once again, as the ‘staples’ go, so does the success of the team.
New York Yankees 2003 – Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina
A lot of them, huh. Arguably, what has made the Yankees so successful over these years is the fact that they have these steady guys (staples) on the club! Before this season, 13 straight playoff appearances, but have fallen victim to other hot American League/National League clubs. However they do it, in 2003 they did it with Robin Ventura, Raul Mondesi and Nick Johnson also in the lineup, they do it! The look of the Yankees become quite different without the presence of many of these players.
Oakland Athletics 2003 – Mark Ellis and Eric Chavez
Hard to have a staple on a team that reinvents itself that much! In 2003, Mulder, Hudson and Zito were the strength of that team! Mark Ellis is a steady player at second base, but Chavez has been a big dissappointment for the A’s. They signed him, which is amazing for the A’s just in that fact, but it backfired as injuries have plagued him. I thought Chavez was going to be a very promising player for years to come, it looked that way. He fell off, the A’s fell off! Maybe Beane will never sign anyone to a big deal ever again!
Seattle Mariners 2003 – Ichiro Suzuki
A great ‘staple’ to begin with, although he hasn’t been as amazing as he was in some years, Ichiro is the face of the Mariners. The point here is that it is only Ichiro! He needs the support of other ‘staple’ players, to help. Edgar Martinez was there in 2003, but he was far too old already. Brett Boone looked promising, but that was all drug induced. They haven’t had solid players that they could fill positions with and call ‘staples’ in years! ‘Staples’ are what characterize the Mariners lack of success in this case.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2003 – Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli
They were the Devil Rays in 2003, so I can call them that. Crawford is an absolutely electric player on the field! Signing him to a big deal was definately the right call, and as soon as the Rays got a better supporting cast around him, they succeed. Baldelli’s injury plagued career has set the Rays back in past years. The Rays drafting with the 1st pick, has made them able to develop new ‘staples’ that they NEED to hold onto in order to succeed further. Crawford was, by far, a standout player for years before 2009.
Texas Rangers 2003 – Michael Young, Hank Blalock and Joaquin Benoit
Pretty difficult when the only solid staple on your pitching staff, is not solid or a staple at all. The Rangers can always hit and score runs, Michael Young has definately been a big part of that, but the pitching is terrible. Chan Ho Park was their ACE in 2003. Blalock looked promising, but injuries have kept him from doing anything great. The Rangers were very troubled in the years leading up to now, their ‘staples’ were not sufficent and lacking in talent, especially in the pitching staff.
Minnesota Twins 2003 – Justin Morneau
2003 was Morneau’s first year, and while he, Tori Hunter and Johan Santana were the ‘staples’ of some Twins’ playoff teams, they find themselves in the situation of having to be more cost efficient. Morneau will keep the Twins competitive in the AL Central, as they have been, but the Central is usually a toss up every year, as to who will win? Can’t argue with the Twins, they usually play great baseball every year and are in the hunt, too bad the playoffs haven’t been kind to them! “At least they make the playoffs,” says a disgruntled Blue Jay fan!
Kansas City Royals 2003 – Absolutely Nobody!
I really feel for the Royals, always having to reinvent themselves. In 2003, the Royals had Carlos Beltran, key word HAD. But even if they resigned him to be a staple, would they be any good? Probably not, is the sad answer. This is their rotation in 2003!
1. Runelvys Hernandez 2. Darrell May 3. Miguel Ascencio 4. Shawn Sedlacek 5. Chris George
Haven’t even heard, or remember, the last two guys. Sadly, those type of players have become their ‘staples’.
Baltimore Orioles 2003 – Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora and Daniel Cabrera
All these players were not in the O’s starting lineup/rotation in 2003, they were just developing. Roberts is a fine player, but the others are simply mediocre. Again, their problem exist with the pitching staff, which is very inconsistant and does not have a significant ‘staple’. They’ve been a very mediocre club and so have their ‘staples’. You can’t tell too much looking into their ‘staples’. Sidenote: ex-Blue Jays Cy Young Pat Hentgen was on the Orioles in 2003, along with other ex-Jays David Segui and Tony Batista.
Anaheim Angels 2003 – Garret Anderson, Scott Shields, Francisco Rodriguez and John Lackey
After the year the Angels won the World Series, they only have four players remaining from that era today. An excellent vetern hitter, two guys that have anchored what is arguably the best bullpen in baseball year in and year out and a very solid starting pitcher. Since 2003, the Angels have done a lot of tinkering around these guys, like adding Vlad and getting rid of Eckstien, Glaus and Erstad. However, the strength of the Angels has always been their bullpen, and you can’t think of a more solid hitter for the team, than Garret Anderson! All these guys were staples of some very good Angel clubs, that often were featured in the playoffs.
Agree? Disagree with the 2003 staple theory? The NL next post!
 Phillip Kelly, “Spaces of Labour Control: Comparative Perspectives from Southeast Asia,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 27 no. 4 (2002): 398.