"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: roger maris

Smoke Up, Johnny

Pack of butts is $12 if not more these days. It’s hard to believe.

Check out this photo gallery of jocks and their smokes over at SI.com.

The Long and Short of it

All the Yankees do is hit home runs. This is a good problem, no? Jay Jaffe talks turkey over at PB:

The real, underlying problem is that the Yankees aren’t hitting particularly well with runners in scoring position. Their .245/.334/.431 line in such instances actually ranks fourth in the league in OPS and sOPS+; they’re 15 percent better than league average in this regard. They’ve accomplished this despite ranking just seventh in batting average with RISP, and 13th — second to last! — in BABIP (.258, 24 points below average) with RISP, because they’re second in isolated power, and third in unintentional walk rate under such circumstances.

Now as we know, balls in play aren’t entirely under control of either the batter or the hitter, though on a year-to-year basis, they correlate better for the latter. The Yankees hit .300 on balls in play last year, fifth in the league and five points above league average; they were at .292 with RISP, one point above average. With a virtually identical cast of main characters this year, they’re hitting .274 on balls in play, 12th in the league and 11 points below average, and 24 points below average with RISP. Yet the Yankee offense is still the AL’s strongest; in fact, they’re stronger relative to the league than last year. The Yanks are scoring 0.96 runs per game (or 22 percent) more than average in 2011, compared to 0.85 runs per game (or 19 percent) more than average in 2010. Yet because a small handful of hits haven’t dropped in as they normally would — and because they’re allowing more runs relative to the league than last year (from 0.14 below average to 0.02 below average) — they’re suddenly too reliant upon the home run.

It’s true that without the home runs, the Yankees would be in worse shape. This is akin to saying that without legs, your ability to outrun a ravenous cheetah would suffer somewhat. The home runs have allowed the Yankees to overcome the days when their offense is otherwise kept at bay. Fourteen times this season, the Yankees have collected at least three hits in a game with runners in scoring position. During those games, they’ve hit .310/.440/.551, averaged 8.14 runs, and hit 1.93 homers en route to an 11-3 record. Meanwhile, they’ve failed to collect a hit with runners in scoring position in 11 games, batting a Posada-esque .187/.311/.363, averaged 2.81 runs and 1.36 homers. They’ve gone 5-6 in those games, which is pretty impressive when you consider that teams scoring exactly three runs have won 36.1 percent of the time this year, and those scoring exactly two runs have won 21.8 percent of the time. Extrapolating from those two figures, a team scoring 2.8 per game should win 33.2 percent of the time, so the Yankees are about 1.3 wins better than average on that score.

[Image via Keep Cool But Care]

I Can See Clearly Now…

Fifty years ago, Roger Maris chased Babe Ruth’s home run record. Of course, he eventually broke it. When he did, this is what the great Leonard Shecter wrote in the New York Post:

Great events of history are over swiftly. A ball, even if it’s the first in the long and noble history of baseball to be hit for a 61st home run, takes only a few heartbeats of time to be propelled from home plate to the outfield seats.

For those who were at Yankee Stadium yestrday, some 24,000 people, it was over all too quickly. It would have been better if the ball leaped in exaltation, turned int he air and wrote a saucy message (like WHEEE!) against the blue sky, dipped nobly and shed a tear over the monument to Babe Ruth in center field.

…Maris swung his most vicious swing and the ball rose in a great arc toward right center field. In years to come millions will swear they were at the Stadium the day Maris hit the home run heard round the world but none among them will be able to say it was less than a perfect home run.

The ball was outlined sharply, whitely, against the sky as it came to the outfield. There were puffs of white clouds in the sky but it was as though they parted to let the ball fly by. It landed perhaps six rows back, about seven seats and a narrow aisle to the right of the bullpen, well to the left of the 344 foot marker. A home run in Babe Ruth’s day, too.

“I was up there wheeling,” Maris said after he had paid his homage to the commercial gods of television. He was calm, in control, the way the President is probably, when he strides into a huge room to face 800 reporters.

This wasn’t the same Maris who jiggled nervously for weeks waiting for the ax to fall on the 154th game. It wasn’t the same Maris who lost sleep, even tufts of his hair in the unbearable pressure cooker of the publicity as he made the run at the 154th game home run record.

It was a Maris who seemed a foot taller now that a terrible load had been taken off him, now that he had the 61 home runs, now that the season was over.

…The people got to their feet and clapped their hands as Maris ran. It wasn’t so much a cheer as it was applause, the kind you get from an audience which has been moved by a great performance.

…The applause and his teammates brought him back out of the dugout, cap off, his hair looking, in the bright day, blonder than it is. He waved his cap once, twice, tried to retreat, was pushed back by the players.

“I thought they wanted me to stay out there all day,” Maris said.

Perhaps they, who have had to get the base hits, understand best the magnitude of Maris’ accomplishment. Put it this way. It’s difficult to hit 61 home run the way it was difficult to run the four minute mile before anybody else had done. Others may now hit 61 but you have to put Roger Maris up there with Roger Bannister. It’s been a great century for Roger.

Revisionist History

Robert Lipsyte thinks that Roger Maris should be in the Hall of Fame. Allen Barra does not agree.

I just don’t see a strong case for Maris, do you?

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver