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Off Base
Once Again, the Strongest Man in SoCal

January 31, 2006

Once in a blue moon, an enterprising young sports man applies a name or a phrase to an athlete that is just so fitting, so perfect, that it simply sticks and becomes legend.

I think it was then-New York Yankee Red Ruffing who tabbed Ted Williams “the Splendid Splinter” in 1939, and I know Notre Dame sports information director Roger Valdiserri was the man behind Joe Theismann’s changing the “THEESman” pronunciation to “THIGHSman,” to affect a rhyme with a particular bronze sculpture.

And I suppose the “pitchers and catchers and Todd Hundley report February 15” line is my “contribution.”

Jim Rome’s naming Mike Piazza “the strongest man in SoCal” a decade or so ago was as right on a labeling as can possibly be. Mike Piazza was, in every sense of the word, the strongest man in SoCal as a Dodger from 1993 to 1998, and is again now as a Padre. It almost doesn’t matter how things work out in San Diego. Mike Piazza, the Strongest Man in SoCal. It’s just so.

Both Piazza and the Oakland Athletics would've been better off had Billy Beane not been blinded by the obligatory on base percentage statistic yet again. But since Beane thinks he’s the only Moneyball genius who can apply the bleeping thing to the real world, signing Frank Thomas instead of Piazza was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

Whatever. 45% of nothing is nothing. Every single injury in Piazza’s career has come as a direct result of catching, and over-catching. Frank Thomas’ many trips to the disabled list are the result of his being out of shape, injury prone, or just plain lightweight. In the figurative sense, that is.

Given the chance to DH and play first base in the American League, even at 37, Piazza would play 150 games and hit as much as .285, with 25 and 90. Maybe not vintage Piazza, but still quite effective. Even catching in San Diego, Piazza will out-hit Thomas, and play more often. Man, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, and if you quote me I’ll deny it, but Kevin Towers did good. Billy Beane is a stats dweeb, and the Pads will struggle to play .500 regardless, but Towers did good.

And you know what else? While Nomar Garciaparra will probably play a better first base than Piazza in 2006, and has, as they say, "a higher ceiling," Mike might very well play the more productive season, with play being the operative word. And for a lot less money. Either way, welcome back Mike Piazza. Once again, the strongest man in SoCal…

Speaking of Padre Hall of Famers, did you see this thing about Garth Brooks signing an exclusive contract to sell albums and baseball memorabilia exclusively through Wal-Mart? What a guy…

Silly Glove Songs, Part Deux: Thanks to Bob Rohwer of the L.A. Times for the Morning Briefing blurb, and thank you readers, for sending in these fine glove song suggestions: Glover Come Back, Whole Lotta Glove, Glove Shack, Glove Me Tender, Crazy Little Thing Called Glove, I'm in Glove with My Car, Glove Me Two Times, Glove is a Battlefield, Glove and Marriage, Radar Glove, Muskrat Glove, Isn’t She Glovely, Glove Hurts, and for you Dodger fans and Mizuno stockholders especially, Glove is Blue.

Additional glove story movies sent in by the faithful include: Glove Happy, Glove in the Afternoon, Falling in Glove Again, and Glove at First Bite…

Kobe: If I hear this “Kobe doesn’t make the players around him better” cliché one more time, so help me, I’m gonna hurl. And bleep, it’s not like Danny Ainge scored the 81 points. Nor is Kobe Bryant Barry Bonds. While it’s an imperfect analogy, Kobe is no more selfish then a baseball player who hits five homers in a game.

Enough with the off the court stuff too. Shaq is no angel either. Let’s move forward. The Lakers fate wasn’t sealed when Mr. O’Neil left town, OK, or when Mr. Jackson did, for that matter. The Lakers fate was sealed when Jerry West left town.

Clippers? Don’t care now, won’t care ever.

Speaking of L.A. wannabes, this one quote from the City of Anaheim vs. the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim trial says all you need to know about the man who started it. Arte Moreno: “It doesn't say, the Bronx or the Queens vs. Anaheim [on the out of town scoreboard]. It says, New York vs. Los Angeles."

Uh, hello. Consult a Thomas Guide, please. The Bronx and Queens are in New York City. Moreno only wishes Anaheim was in L.A.

T.J. Simers suggests renaming the club "the Anaheim Angels, or 'AA,' as if a recovering alcoholic could handle the ups and downs that sometimes come with supporting this team.” Of course, I wouldn’t know a thing about that.

Parenthetically, you know why Thomas Brothers sells so many L.A. and Orange County guides, don’t you? Sure, because smart Los Angelinos prepare for that worst case scenario of getting lost in Orange County. They want a fast getaway plotted out in advance.

Hey Arte, here’s a line from an old non-silly-glove-song song about Los Angeles, actual Los Angeles, which applies to you: “This town is our town, it is so glamorous, bet you’d live here if you could and be one of us.” Well, you can’t and you’re not. Settle the damn lawsuit…

Investors Wanted: Invest a thimble full of venture capital today, make major league minimum tomorrow. No Orange County baseball team owners, please, but the rest of you are most welcome…

Pitchers and catchers and Pat Borders report February 15. It’s also site staffer Mark H’s birthday, but there’s a definite order of priorities around here. Mark knows and he’s a trooper. First we celebrate pitchers and catchers and Pat Borders reporting, then we celebrate birthdays that happen to fall on the same day…

Subscribe Free: To be warned, uh, notified when Off Base is updated: baseballsavvy@aol.com.

Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues, so please scroll back to the upper right panel of this page and vote yes on 32. 2006 is the year…

Remember, glove conquers all….



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