Mandel’s Musings

Mandel’s Musings: Hey Baseball Negotiators, Go *^)& Yourselves!! Don’t Ruin My Summer!!

By Scott Mandel

I have a short but sweet message for baseball’s negotiators.

Go fuck yourselves.

Your combination of incompetence and planned delay of the 2022 baseball season is preventing me from watching Max Scherzer pitch for his latest team, the Mets.

I want to see how the 21-year old outfielder, Jared Kelenic, purportedly the next Mike Trout, does in year two with Seattle.

This snarky commissioner, Rob Manfred, was seen practicing his golf swing seconds before shutting down negotiations and announcing baseball season would not start on time.

I’m curious whether the Giants can repeat their unbelievable 2021 season.

‘I need to see if Mike Trout will get injured again, railroading a Hall of Fame career, or will Trout get back after another injury-dominated 2021 season to play the game as if he was born to play baseball.

I don’t know where free agent shortstop Carlos Correa will end up but I’d like to find out.

I can’t wait to see If there is a courageous manager/pitching coach who will train his starters to go 6 2/3, every night. C’mon Buck, I know that’s you.

I want baseball to dispense with the stupid analytics-based shift and let legitimate base hits go through to the outfield.

I’m tired of the best players in the game hitting .240 with 38 home runs and 190 strikeouts in 400 at bats.

I want to see if corner outfield arms become legitimate throwing arms again because they’ve sucked for years. It’s embarrassing to watch major league left fielders, playing shallow, barely reach home plate trying to nail the runner tagging up at third or scoring from second base on a bloop single.

I want to see speed and small ball come back to the game. You’ve got kids out there who can hit the ball 500 miles and steal 40 bases. Let them steal bases and go 1st to 3rd.

We liked watching Rickey Henderson play baseball. There’s a couple a dozen bigger, faster, stronger Rickey’s out there, now, with that skill-set. Let the talent flow. This is not a game of specialization.

And, most important of all, stop making the game so mechanical and unattractive to young fans, I mean, very young fans, like I was when I first started watching baseball at age 5 with my old man. Make 5-year olds love the game, instead of their video games. Make it fun for them to get outside with their little baseball gloves and wiffle ball bats and learn about baseball.

Otherwise, you may think you are negotiating to save your own bank account but you are actually ruining the game’s popularity with the very folks who pay your exorbitant salaries. The FANS. And their PARENTS. Talk about killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Short-term thinking.

So baseball negotiators, if this upcoming 2022 season doesn’t give me 162 games, go fuck yourselves. I mean it, go fuck yourselves and while you’re at it, fire that snarky asshole of a commissioner with the horrible golf swing.

Sincerely,

Your Struggling to Remain a Fan but Still Passionate About It

Mandel’s Musings: NFL Is In Big Trouble As Al Sharpton Enters the Fray. Billions of Dollars At Stake for the League and its Owners

by Scott Mandel

Al Sharpton is getting involved with Brian Flores’ NFL lawsuit. The NFL should be afraid, very afraid.

Especially the owners.

Al Sharpton - Personal Life, Age & Facts - Biography
Al Sharpton will be assisting Brian Flores in his case against the NFL

Sharpton and other top civil rights leaders have requested a meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a class-action suit against the league alleging racial discrimination.

“In light of the recent lawsuit filed by Brian Flores, it has brought this attention back to the forefront of our community, and it is important that you have an immediate open dialogue with Civil Rights leadership,” the letter read. “We are being asked to do everything within our power, including direct action at next week’s Super Bowl, as well as appealing to local municipalities that underwrite and give special considerations to stadiums to pressure the NFL and its owners to get more serious about enforcing the ruling law.”

Also, if it can be proven Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins, indeed encouraged Flores, his head coach to “tank” the season to gain a higher draft pick for the Dolphins by offering Flores $100,000 in cold hard cash for each loss they suffer, Ross will be removed from the sport.

I’m just not sure how Brian Flores can prove all of these accusations or racism in the NFL’s hiring practices and tanking a season. Evidently, there’s nothing in writing.

The latest news today comes after Ross had more than 24 hours to think about it, Ross issued a fiery response to the claims made against him by Flores.

“With regards to the allegations being made by Brian Flores, I am a man of honor and integrity and cannot let them stand without responding,” Ross wrote. “I take great personal exception to these malicious attacks, and the truth must be known. His allegations are false, malicious and defamatory.

“We understand that there are media reports stating that the NFL intends to investigate his claims, and we will cooperate fully. I welcome that investigation and I am eager to defend my personal integrity, and the integrity and values of the entire Miami Dolphins organization from these baseless, unfair and disparaging claims.”

Flores was fired in January after three seasons, the last two of which produced winning records. He claims that the team conducted a smear campaign in media and in league circles after his dismissal in an effort to paint him as “an angry Black man.”

The NFL. The “Not For Long” league, but, only if you get caught. Maybe the league should be re-named, DGCL. The Don’t Get Caught League.

Mandel’s Musings: Yankees Lose Six Players to Covid Protocol – Not All Were Vaccinated

by Scott Mandel

Of the six New York Yankees players who have just been diagnosed with Covid, evidently, not all of them were vaccinated. We cannot find out who they are because of privacy laws concerning personal health disclosure but, suffice to say, the rules of the road in 2021 regarding concern for the health of one’s co-workers’ health, if not for their own, have changed. Viruses do that sort of thing, especially the deadly kind.

On Thursday, general manager Brian Cashman told reporters that the Yankees had three positive cases and three that were pending. All six were later confirmed to be positive. The six players — Jonathan Loaisiga, Nestor Cortes, Wandy Peralta, Aaron Judge, Kyle Higashioka, and Gio Urshela — were placed on the COVID-19 list.

These athletes live together every day, on the field and in the sweaty, steamy locker rooms. They travel together and they go out for food and a few pops together after games. It says here, the audacity of not doing whatever they can to protect their teammates is grounds for some form of dismissal from the organization. It may be permanent or temporary but it should be designed to help the team retain its ability to field its players for the games that fans are paying exorbitant amounts of hard-earned cash to attend. And, to watch the best players play, not minor leaguers.

Those players who have chosen to not be vaccinated, for whatever personal and legitimate reasons they may have, should no longer be allowed in the locker room or on the field. They should continue to get paid for some period of time, but not for the length of their entire contracts. The courts can handle that one. But, giving these potential carriers and spreaders of a deadly virus means they cannot be allowed anywhere near their place of work until they decide to get vaccinated. I would think this topic is creating enough acrimony within teams, especially among those who are supporting families consisting of elderly and young people, for it to be a regular debate.

It is time for management and player’s association leaders to get together on a policy. In all professional sports. And, that goes for amateur athletics, as well.

Freedom is a right but it comes with rules, too. You cannot drive a car without being licensed. You cannot travel overseas without a passport. You should not be able to enter public spaces without a mask or, proof of vaccination, Otherwise, you are a public safety risk.

Rules matter. So does basic consideration and concern for fellow human beings in times of collective danger.

Mandel’s Musings: What’s This Got to Do With Sports But…..Bill Maher’s Real Time on HBO Needs Help

by Scott Mandel

Bill Maher had interesting and intelligent guests last night on his once popular show, Real Time with Bill Maher. Joining him on his panel were Rick Wilson, the co-founder of the Lincoln Project and, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, the democrat from Michigan. Before the panel segment of the show, his one-on-one interview was with the engaging and brilliant John McWhorter, the Columbia University professor.

A solid show that reached 25% of the audience Real Time used to deliver for HBO, the cable network which carries the program. Six years ago, Maher’s show was consistently viewed on Friday nights by more than four million people. It now delivers a tad over one million viewers. By any measurement or explanation, it’s not trending the way HBO would prefer.

What Maher needs to figure out is how to have a guest like democratic congresswoman Slotkin on the same panel as a republican member of Congress, like Liz Cheney, or Mitt Romney, or perhaps, the new Republican liar from New York, Elise Stefanik, who is angling for Cheney’s job in the Republican party leadership. Then, Bill’s show would be able to make some news, as hard as the guests may try not to.

Either way, it becomes must-watch tv, and ratings (yeah, those pesky measurements companies like television networks care about) will increase and Maher can stay on the air. We are not suggesting HBO is considering taking Maher off the air but, you can bet your bottom dollar the powers that be are trying to figure out how to boost his audience because they have to account for the rationale of paying Maher the many millions of dollars he earns from his show, reported to be in the $15 million dollar range, about as much as the network television late night hosts like Jimmy Fallon and Kimmel, who work five days per week, not one.

It wouldn’t hurt if HBO promoted his show during the week leading up to it. I’ve never seen an advertising spot in the run-up days for Maher’s Friday night show. Maybe print ads on the op-ed pages of every major newspaper would be a good placement to reach “woke” political types, but that’s just my old media planning background coming out, as a former media strategist for consumer packaged goods companies. (HBO – call me)

The Clock May be Ticking for Online Sports Publication, The Athletic

by Scott Mandel

The Athletic, a subscription-based sports website, was introduced in 2016 with an interesting business model – an ad-free environment providing national and local coverage in 47 North American cities as well as the United Kingdom.

It’s ambitious plan included the recruiting of some of the best-known, highest-paid sports journalists in the country, those who already had large followings on either a national or local level. The Athletic reportedly paid exorbitantly high salaries to these reporters, many of whom had already been laid off by their local newspapers as part of an industry-wide crash that has been evolving over the past two decades, as the internet became the main source of information for consumers of news and sports.

The Athletic’s roll-out, beginning in 2016, has been impressive. Starting with one market, Chicago, in which all of that city’s sports teams were thoroughly covered, it has rolled into every major market in the United States. With nationally-known reporters such as Ken Rosenthal, Jason Stark, and Peter Gammons on the baseball beat; David Aldridge, Shams Charania, and Zach Harper on the NBA, Michael Lombardi on the NFL, and Steward Mandel on NCAA sports, along with top local writers, The Athletic has certainly gone for quality journalism. And, it has raised over $139 million dollars from a variety of investors over the past four years. All very impressive.

But, there are possible chinks in the armor beginning to appear for the four-year old publication. The Athletic is now offering deeply discounted subscriptions at the ridiculously low price of $1 per month. When The Athletic began publishing, the subscription rate was $9.99 per month, more commensurate with other online publications with well-known brand names like Sports Illustrated, Fortune, New York Times, and others.

As their advertisement on social media like Facebook, below, indicates, they are changing their subscription pricing, drastically.

Get every sports story that matters. Breaking news. In-depth analysis. Ad-free.Limited Time Offer USD ?? CAD ?? $1/month, $7.99/year. Billed Monthly. PROCEED TO CHECKOUT. View all plans

“The Athletic has become a force in sports journalism”

Either The Athletic is trying to beef up its overall readership numbers or possibly, gain more casual sports fans who don’t want to invest deeply to satisfy their sports mojo. Or, The Athletic is in deep trouble with its main source of revenue, its subscription base, through faltering renewals of existing subscriptions or an inability to attract new subscribers.

Of course, one cannot underestimate the role of a the global pandemic on the sports business, which includes publications which cover those games and teams. But, as we have seen over the past couple of decades, publications such as The Sporting News, Sport Magazine, and a painfully thinning Sports Illustrated are disappearing from the newsstands and mailboxes of sports fans.

The owners of The Athletic, now essentially a consortium of investors, are probably hoping for a million or more fresh one dollar subscriptions, as well, for the revenue jolt a million bucks would provide them. The clock is ticking on The National, which was a very good idea in 2016.

Scherzer Goes Six Shutout Innings Before Nats Bullpen Implodes in 6-1 Loss to Mets

It’s not every day you get to witness a matchup of arguably, the two best pitchers in baseball but, yesterday, at Citi Field, the Mets Jacob deGrom, the Cy Young Award winner last season, faced the Nationals’ Max Scherzer, the Cy Young winner the season before that.

Scherzer was trying to help Washington avoid a third straight loss to the New York Mets and a fourth straight loss overall, but he was matched up against right-hander Jacob deGrom, who beat him out for the 2018 NL Cy Young award.

Scherzer’s manager, Davey Martinez, told reporters before the third game of four against the Mets in Citi Field that he thought his ace would be up for the challenge.

“He’s a fierce competitor and he loves to win,” Martinez said. “There’s no other thing for him but winning, so he’s going to out there today and face an opponent that’s pretty good too, but knowing Max he’s going to gives us his best effort and go out there and try to get that win.”

Scherzer’s pitch count was high, but he tossed four scoreless on 73 pitches after the Nats jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, and he picked up three Ks in a 25-pitch fifth that left him with nine strikeouts and 98 pitches overall after five scoreless.

He came back out for the sixth and retired the Mets in order in an 11-pitch frame that ended his outing.

Joe Ross and Matt Grace combined to get the Nationals through the seventh with their 1-0 lead intact, but two runners reached against Kyle Barraclough in the eighth and three runs scored on a bases-loaded double off Sean Doolittle, who gave up a three-run home run as well in what ended up a 6-1 loss.

“Scherzer was amazing,” Martinez told reporters after the loss. “Exceeded the pitch count we thought he was going to have and gave us a chance to win and we just couldn’t close the deal.”

It was another loss for the Nationals, who’ve now dropped four straight overall, three in Citi Field, and 14 of 21 in May.

“No one likes to lose,” Scherzer said after another solid outing in which a potential win was lost in the bullpen.

“Everyone hates losing. Everyone in here hates losing, so you don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself, you play every single day, you have to come out tomorrow and just compete and there’s nothing else you can do.”

Scherzer was asked what the Nationals have to do to keep things from spiraling further out of control after they fell to eleven games under .500 with the loss to the Mets.

“When you face adversity, this is when you reveal yourself,” Scherzer said.

“Whether you have the mental fortitude to come back and know that you can block out all the negativity that’s probably going to surround us right now. You’ve got to come forward to the game with that positive attitude of knowing what you can control, knowing that you have the right mindset that you’re going to go out there and compete and compete at 100%. You have to think of all the little things you can do, and for me that’s really what I’ve been focused on in kind of the past handful of turns in the rotation, of all the little things that I can do to make sure that I’m executing pitches and make sure that I’m throwing the ball the way I want to. It just takes an individual approach when you have adversity.”

Mandel’s Musings: Brooks Koepka, Symbol of Golf’s Evolution is Blowing Away the U.S. Open Field

Koepka is showing why he is now the most imperious player in major golf with an explosive marriage of power, finesse and ice-cool emotions

by Scott Mandel

Evolution is inevitable. Who uttered that particular piece of brilliance?

I did.

But, really, evolution, as the primary driver of societal and athletic advancement, is inevitable and shows up in every facet of our lives, with the possible exception of the “natural selection” process for the current resident in the American White House.

Charles Darwin would have gone to town on that one, but if he were alive today, he would look at Brooks Koepka and note just how correct his theories of natural selection, in the 19th century, truly were.

Koepka, the product of Florida State University who is built like a linebacker, represents the new wave of golfer on the international scene. Koepka is 6’0″, 215 pounds of pure muscle. He hits the golf ball off the tee 340 yards away, or about 20-50 yards further than the average professional golfer. Koepka is also a self-described “gym rat,” working out with the weights and machines several times per week.

Keopka has become the epitome of the evolution of the sport that once was dominated by a bunch of 165 pound genteel men with plaid pants and cute golf caps. He has brought weight-training into the sport while combining his enormous strength with meticulous technique in his golf swing and all the modern advances of golf technology.

Brooks Koepka: force of nature.
Koepka is making The Black Course look easy

Koepka, who tied for second at The Masters last month, credits his ability to stay on an even keel as one of his best attributes.

This combination has created a veritable monster of the Midway on the most difficult golf courses in the world. This week, Keopka is blowing away the field at the U.S. Open, one of the four major tournaments of the year. Playing on one of the most difficult courses in the country, the Bethpage, N.Y. Black Course, Koepka shot a 63 (yes, a 63!) and a 65 on his first two days.

“It’s massive,” he said. “I don’t think people realize how difficult it is and how you have to let things roll off your back, laugh about it and move on. This game tests your patience, for sure.”

Playing alongside Keopka during the first two rounds of this event was one Tiger Woods, once the heir apparent to Jack Nicklaus as the greatest golfer the world had ever seen but now, at age 43, and several back and knee surgeries into his great career, is merely one of the best golfers in the world. He is probably still a top ten performer and on some weeks, such as last month’s Masters, Woods seems capable of summoning his old talent and beating the field of youngsters on this tour, as he did in gaining his fifth green jacket. But, Woods was unable to sustain it at this major, missing the cut.

It was strange seeing Woods and Keopka, the past and the future of the sport, standing side by side during this tournament’s opening two rounds. One looked fresh and muscular and eager while the other looked like he wanted to be elsewhere.

Perhaps, when Woods watched Koepka tee off from 18 holes each of the days they were paired together, with Koepka drilling the golf ball further than Tiger ever did, it contributed to the veteran’s sense of ill-feeling It was also strange seeing Keopka out-drive Woods off the tee by 40 yards.

Image result for brooks koepka Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods, not a small man, looks much smaller in comparison to Koepka

But, that’s evolution for you. It’s also age vs. youth.

For further comparisons sake, Nicklaus, considered the greatest golfer in the sports’ history and the winner of 18 Majors, three more than Woods, was also one of the tours longest hitters off the tee, at 5’10”, 190 pounds.

Jack, in his prime, was measured by IBM in 1968, along with other top golfers from that era for their distance off the tee. IBM recorded driving distance data at 11 PGA Tour events. The top 10 players, 51 years ago, averaged 270.2 yards, the average was 264.0 yards and Nicklaus led the Tour at 276.0 yards. Adding 35 yards for increased speed, hotter driver and better ball, IBM estimates Nicklaus would’ve averaged 311.0 last season

Brooks Koepka (right) stamped his authority on the US PGA as Tiger Woods toiled.
Woods said he wasn’t feeling well this week. Koepka said he feels great

Evolution. It’s not just the human body that has gotten bigger and stronger, it’s the equipment and training techniques that have made today’s athlete capable of so much more than those of prior generations.

But, the combination of all of those things with Brooks Koepka’s talent and strong will is how a new champion of golf is being crowned, right here in Bethpage, New York.

Mandel’s Musings: Drake’s New 767, Melky’s Milestone, Sweet Doris Day, More Trump, Felicity Huffman sans Hubby

by Scott Mandel

From Melky Cabrera’s Milestone to Doris Day (Who was a big fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers)

Doris Day is dead at 97. Her irrepressible personality and golden voice made her America’s top box-office star in the early 1960s.

For you young’n’s, who never heard of Doris Day? Think Madonna, but with more talent. And, if you are too young to know who Madonna was, use your power of the Google to figure all this pop culture out.

Melky Cabrera, who’s been with NINE teams in MLB, nearing career milestone

Who would have predicted, back in 2005 when Melky Cabrera was first brought up by the Yankees, would get to within 109 hits of 2000? But, the Melk Man is almost there. Now on his ninth team in his 15-year major league career, Cabrera, who was always a four-tool talent (throw, hit for average, run, field, hit for some power) has 1891 hits, going into tonight’s game. But, don’t ask me which team he’s with. I’ve lost count. No, actually, he hooked up with the Pittsburgh Pirates this year.

Image result for melky cabrera and Robby Cano
Cabrera reportedly was traded by the Yankees because of his negative influence on the nighttime habits of Robinson Cano.

Felicity Huffman goes solo during her court battle

Where is actor William H. Macy, spouse of actress Felicity Huffman? Have they decided it would hurt his show business career by showing public support for his wife as she goes to court every day to fight for her freedom?

NBA stars are not all from power conferences

How great is it that the key players in these last set of NBA playoffs come from schools like San Diego St., Weber St. and Lehigh? All the talk about the importance of getting one of the first three picks in the upcoming NBA draft simply doesn’t hold weight when you analyze who the stars of the league are, today. Damon Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Kawhi Leonard? All came from smallish, mid-major schools.

Inflation will be returning to the national consciousness, again. Wait, this is a sports website so, concessions at stadiums and arenas will be exploding in price by 25% or more.

Allow me to re-introduce into the national vocabulary and consciousness, the word, inflation. We are headed there, and it’s going to come quickly.

Remember that middle class tax cut of Trump’s? The one his base loved so much? We knew it was a fraud but now, watch prices of everyday items shoot up, driven by the China tariff war.

Make no mistake, it is a war with potentially, equal or greater short and long-term impact on this country than a war with bullets.

Everything will go up by 15-25%. And, electronics, like an iPhone? 25%. Headphones? 25%. Trump’s tax plan? 25% higher than pre-Trump taxes.

Someone has to pay for the 22 trillion dollar U.S. debt Trump created and his military budget, an all-time record.

Increased wages, limited as they have been, will be eaten up. Tax refunds were eaten up with the first food shopping excursion.

Remember, this guy ran NINE COMPANIES into the ground. Chapter 11, baby. He will say this is short-term, and when China capitulates (never happen), prices will fall and jobs will explode

Milton Friedman, a free-market guy who would support several of Trump’s pro-business tactics would be rolling over in his grave to see how Americans are about to get screwed by this huckster/liar.

Inflation is on the way. As Jim Carville said almost 30 years ago, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Drake Buys 767 jet plane for $187 million. Jet is shaped like a……well, a long, cylindrical unit…

Guys used to buy expensive cars to cover up their insecurities. I guess being a rap star raises the stakes on phallic insecurity.

Memories of Minor League Baseball (and Johnny Oates)

by Scott Mandel

A friend of mine, a New York Post sports columnist named Mike Vaccaro, recently posted photos on Facebook of a minor league game he attended in the baseball hotbed of Rancho Cucamonga, California. The smallish stadium and the homey atmosphere were all captured beautifully by his cell-phone camera bringing back some childhood memories for yours truly.

Rancho Cucamonga, a city of about 177,000 residents located just south of the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest in San Bernardino County, is a perfect locale for a minor league baseball franchise. It is about 37 miles east of Downtown Los Angeles, just close enough to be near a media and population center but far enough to still be described as a sleepy, relaxed town. The city’s seal, which centers on a cluster of grapes, alludes to Rancho’s agricultural history as a producer of great wines.

Seeing Vaccaro’s pictures elicited wonderful memories about the experience I had at my first minor league baseball game in 1968, when I was a puny kid who dreamed of being a baseball player, someday.

My dad, a pitcher of some renown at James Monroe High School in the Bronx, New York along with a teammate named Hank Greenberg, loved to tell stories about his pitching exploits and his days roaming the Bronx fields with the future Hall of Fame slugger when they were 18-years old.

Johnny Oates httpssabrorgsitesdefaultfilesimagesOatesJ
Oates played in the Majors from 1970 to 1981, then became a manager

I hadn’t been to many baseball games at that stage of life but found out in the Spring of ’68 that our family would be taking a plane trip to Miami Beach to visit my grandparents. When we arrived in south Florida, I was thrilled to learn we’d be going to watch the Miami Marlins, a Single-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles on one of the nights.

The Marlins were a good team, with a winning record and several players achieving high statistical objectives. I even remember some of their names, today. Stan Martin at second base. Pedro Gomez, their 33-year old slugging outfielder. Larry Johnson, the slick-fielding first baseman. Or, Mark Hershman, the righty with the 12 to 6 curve ball. I don’t know why I can remember these players, most of whom were in their late teens or early 20s. Maybe it was the close proximity to the field offered by the small Miami ballpark. But, all these years later, those names have stuck with me.

They also had a young catcher named Johnny Oates, playing in his second season of professional baseball. Johnny, as it turned out, became the key element to my whole experience that night because unlike most current-day major leaguers, minor league players make themselves accessible to the fans and to the communities they are playing in.

Before the game, as I was asking Johnny for his autograph (which must have thrilled him, too), he told me he was 21 going on 22 years of age, which seemed really old to me. He said he was the catcher and he was from Virginia. The whole conversation took about 30 seconds but my world had changed. I, too, wanted to be a catcher. The next catcher for the Yankees. And, I wanted to meet more people from Virginia. Or Florida. The world seemed so vast, at that point.

As it turned out for Johnny Oates, he made it to the major leagues less than two years later, when he was brought up in 1970 to catch for the best team in the game, the Baltimore Orioles, who had miraculously lost the World Series the previous season to the New York Mets. Becoming a major league member of the Orioles, with Hall of Famers like Frank and Brooks Robinson, guys like Boog Powell and Don Buford, and that amazing pitching staff he got to catch, had to be heady stuff for the youngster from Virginia. Jim Palmer (another Hall of Famer), Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar were his battery mates. Quite a jump up the ladder from the single-A Marlins.

Johnny carved out a terrific career in the majors, playing for 11 years and gaining the respect of the baseball community as an excellent baseball man, which led to his being named a manager in the Yankees farm system almost the day after he retired as a player, at age 35.

Oates eventually became a major league manager in 1991, replacing his former teammate, the legendary Frank Robinson as the manager of his first big league team, the Baltimore Orioles, where Johnny would win the Manager of the Year award in 1993.

Despite being let go by the Orioles’ new owner, Peter Angelos, in 1994, Oates was quickly hired by the Texas Rangers, who had just fired their previous manager, Kevin Kennedy. Oates proceeded to lead the Rangers to their first playoff appearance in team history during the 1996 season.

Oates won the American League Manager of the Year Award for a second time, in 1996, sharing honors with the Yankees’ Joe Torre and a third time, in 1998.

I wrote to Johnny Oates when he was diagnosed with cancer while managing the Rangers. I took that opportunity to remind him of how nice he had been to a wide-eyed little kid in Miami Beach, a kid who never forgot that kindness. I mentioned how life-changing an experience it had been to get to talk to a “real” baseball player.


Johnny sent back a hand-written five-page letter, when he was in the middle of his final battle with cancer. His memories of those days were sharp and brought to life again by his elegant prose and recollections of his days as a Miami Marlin, in the lowest level of minor league baseball.

Johnny Oates passed away in 2004. He was 58 years old. Even as a Single-A baseball player, he was as big league as one could get.

A final note to Mike Vaccaro: I hope you got to observe a bunch of kids talking to “real players” at that game in Rancho Cucamonga. It’s life-altering stuff.

Johnny Oates hokiesportscom
Johnny Oates in 2003 for induction to the Virginia Tech Hall of Fame

Mandel’s Musings: Spring Fever – Tiger Woods and The Masters, NBA Playoffs, Baseball in Full Swing

by Scott Mandel

This is what spring is supposed to feel like. It’s not just the longer days, the warmer temperatures, and the rosier outlooks.

No, it can’t be spring without first checking out the azaleas in Augusta, Georgia, where there is also a little golf tournament being played called The Masters. Or, paying attention to the real NBA season, aka, the playoffs. And, as idyllic a season as spring can be, the most idyllic of sports, baseball, is now in full swing.

One of the rights of spring remains checking out the leader board among those azaleas in Georgia, where globally-branded golf names appear from April 11 – April 14. One of those brands is named, Tiger Woods.

No athlete in any sport has been as polarizing over the past 20 years than Woods, yet, his comeback into the upper echelon of the sport is being met with levels of appreciation, if not affection, for his evolving story of what his fans hope will be redemption. The fun part for observers is the experiencing of his trials and tribulations in real time. We don’t know if history will be made in Augusta this weekend or not, but, it’s an emotional roller-coaster to watch it play out in front of our very eyes.

What makes his play even more compelling is knowing there remain many Woods’ haters. People who will never forgive his past mistakes nor his treatment of his fans and the media. So, like the political landscape across the world, there are vastly different points of view about this athlete which draws the most casual of golf fans to his events.

Image result for Tiger Woods 2019 Masters
Tiger Woods seems to be enjoying his job, finally


From notorious cheating husband to the incurrence of several career-threatening surgeries on his back and knees, Woods’ playing career was all but left for dead. The sport places such tremendous torque on backs and knees with every swing that nobody believed Woods, at age 43, could ever approach his former talent, let alone his ability to win tournaments, especially major tournaments, on the PGA tour after what his body and mind have been through over the past 10 years.

However, Woods currently finds himself, today, with the onset of the third round, one stroke back of the Masters lead with most of the nation of golf fans and, now, those casual fans of the sport, rooting hard for him to pick up his fourth Masters green jacket and first win in a major in over a decade.

At the same time, post-season playoffs are beginning this week in two major North American sports. The NBA and the NHL. This is the part of each sports’ seasons that actually matters. After interminably long, 82-game regular season schedules which began in October of last year, we finally have competition in which the participants actually care about winning at all costs.

Not to be forgotten or outdone, baseball season is blissfully in full swing, too, allowing it, in spring of 2019, to once more become the national pastime of the U.S., while football, driven by gambling, huge television contracts, and concussions, tries to sort itself out during its off-season.

But, it is on this day, on this weekend when we focus on the drama of watching Tiger Woods. An often surly human being/athlete, never fan-friendly or media-friendly, we suddenly care about his appearance on the Masters leaderboard. We care about the tremendous theater his skills on a golf course can create on a pretty weekend in April. We care so much so that it even keeps us sitting in front of our televisions on a warm, bright Saturday and Sunday instead of leaving our homes this weekend to enjoy a sunny day in the spring.

Related image
The Masters in Augusta is lined with beautiful azaleas





















Masters azaleas surround the beautiful golf course in Augusta, Georgia