Friday, June 30, 2006

These Sons Have Got Game, Too

On June 18, The Inquirer ran a list of all the sons of former major league players and/or officials who were selected in the June Draft. A reader wrote to correct two oversights, saying: "You can add Stephen Puhl, Mets,17th round, son of Terry. Also Shane Byrne, Diamondbacks, 5th round, grandson of Tommy Byrne, the Yankees LHP who was 16-5 in 1955. These boys played in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League."

Consider it done.
Philly - the 6th Boro and hating it
One of the main reasons why the Phillies no longer reserve the right to even think "wild card" was that short stretch in June in which they allowed Philadelphia to live up to its nickname "The Sixth Borough."

In one nine-game homestand, the Phillies lost five of six to the New York Mets and New York Yankees, getting treated with less respect than a Manhattanite pays Staten Island.

The team from Queens was especially tough on the Phillies, sweeping three games to increase its lead in the National League East over the Fightins' from 6 1/2 games to 9 1/2.

Not that the Mets couldn't have done it without them, but the Phillies made the visitors look an awful lot like the 1998 Yankees - that near-perfect team that won a total of 125 games - regular- and postseason - en route to World Series championship.

The Mets outscored Philadelphia, 23-14, in those three games - 7-0 in the first innings, alone! They never trailed at any point in the series.

Like that '98 Yankees team, the Mets are filled with hitters who display patience and an understanding that the guy next to him in the lineup can get it done if the pitches are worthy of swinging at. That deepens a lineup - and makes it deadlier.

The Mets' baserunning was also so aggressive the likes of Jose Reyes seemed to move at fast-forward speed compared to the bumbling Phillies, and it forced Phillies' misplay after misplay.

That pedal-to-the-medal mentality throughout the three games was a tribute to Mets manager Willie Randolph, a "National League"-style player even though he spent nearly his entire playing career in the American League.

Earlier in the season Yankees manager Joe Torre paid his fellow manager and former coach as high a compliment as there is when he said the Mets "play the way Willie did."

Hamels Impresses Yankees

Just because Cole Hamels isn't piling up victories doesn't mean he isn't leaving some good first impressions. The lefthander threw a solid seven innings at the Yankees -- giving up just two runs on six hits with six strikeouts in a 5-0 lossto New York on June 21.

Said Yankees manager Joe Torre: "Very impressed. ... He had a great deal of poise, threw the changeup at will. But we knew coming in he was pretty good.

Said Johnny Damon: "[Coming in] we had no idea what he threw. We realized that he throws a cutter and has a good curve ball. And he has good poise out there. He also throws hard for a lefty and that's an added bonus. I feel that with a little work and as he builds up his legs, he may be able to go out there and throw a little harder as he matures.

Said Jason Giambi: "He throws harder than Barry Zito. He has a great young arm. He wouldn't throw me a fastball, except out of the strike zone. He has a great changeup and throws it for a strike, so it's hard to eliminate pitches when he was throwing all of them for strikes."

... Alex Rodriguez: "Good stuff, very impressive. He's got a great future."

And Derek Jeter: "He threw well. I only got one change and it was on a hit-and-run. But it looks like he has good control of it."

"Wild card:" four-letter words to some

Thoughts of a wild card berth aren't coarsing through the minds of the Phillies any more. Fact, is, who knows what those guys are thinking. ...

But for all those teams starting to think in terms of the wild card, a word of advice from veteran pitcher Tom Glavine: Don't.

"I can only tell you from my experiences from my years in Atlanta - we wanted to win our division, period.," said the presumptive Hall of Fame pitcher who's helped pitch the current Mets to the top of the NL East.

"That was our goal," Glavine said of the Braves' 1990s dynasty. "That is what we wanted. If something else happened, you deal with it and you accept it. But, our goal, even in years when we found ourselves behind, it wasn't about, 'well, we still have the wild card and we'll fall back on that.

"You're going to do what you can do to win the division and if you can't, then you accept the wild card. But that was never our goal."

Glavine also cautions against the catch phrases that signal surrender and suggest that so-called contenders deep down inside know they're just pretenders. Phrases such as "he's a youngster and it is good to get him some experience in the major leagues," or "we're just treading water until our injured players come back," or "we're waiting for those guys [the team being chased] to come back to us."

"That's not sending a real ringing endorsement on your thoughts of you chances of really doing something," said Glavine. "I mean, you have to believe you have a chance to do something, whether you're the team in first place or in second place. If you're in one of those positions you're in contention. And if you're in contention, you're in contention for a reason - and that's usually because you have talent.

"Bottom line: if you're in contention, you're there for a reason - and you have to believe in those reasons why you're there."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

******Stops Along The Way. The Commissioners' Summitt,
at the AWSM Convention, New York, 1992. Standing: NBA's
David Stern (l) and NFL's Paul Tagliabue. Seated: Fay
of Baseball. Fay takes a backseat to no one
when it comes to the love of The Summer Game. No one. *******

***Cito Gaston, Dusty Baker and Don Baylor -
Managers of the Year who were a privilege to
cover. Baseball will be a better place when Don
Baylor, a phenomenal baseball presence, gets back in the game. ***
Class of the Junior Set
Wasn't it only yesterday that a teenaged Ken Griffey Jr. used to walk into the Yankee Stadium clubhouse, sidle up to his father and chirp "How was your day, Dad. ... I had a pretty good day."

Junior is still having pretty good days. Tonight he hit his 550th career homer. No. 549, hit on Sunday, allowed Junior to pass Mike Schmidt and took over 11th place on the career list. Next up is Reggie Jackson, No. 10 with 563.

No. 55o was also Junior's 152d as a Cincinnati Red, tying Pete Rose and Joe Morgan for 12th place on that franchise's all-time home run list. Johnny Bench holds the club record, with 389 homers.

Now, Ken Griffey Sr. was a pretty neat player, himself. But the son, well, just by the company Junior is keeping on both lists - Hall of Famers, all - suggests Junior will be settling in at Cooperstown about five years after he takes his last swing. He is a Hall of Famer, thanks to a powerful lot of pretty good days in the Major Leagues.

That's An Apology?

Today, pitcher Brett Myers and the Phillies organization issued a statement saying that Myers will take a leave of absence at least through the All-Star break in order to deal with the ramifications of his weekend arrest on assault charges against his wife.

Does Myers finally get the implications of his actions that allegedly left his wife, Kim, beaten and crying on a Boston street?

You judge.

“First, while I dispute that the facts are as alleged, I recognize that my behavior was inappropriate and for that I apologize,” Myers said in the statement. “Second, I recognize that the incident created an embarrassing situation for many people, including my wife and family, my teammates, the Phillies organization, and fans, and Iam very sorry for that.”

Second big question - do the Phillies get it? After all, the team had to receive a thorough pasting in the court of public opinion to decide it had any opinion at all on the Myers situation. Previously the Phillies' only comment was through their actions, which included a club decision to let their ace pitch one day after his arrest and arraignment.

Today the team issued a formal statement.

Said team president Dave Montgomery: “We have been engaged in a difficult balancing of concerns for the rights of our employee, the presumption ofinnocence, the rights of his spouse, and the legitimate public concern about allegations of spousal abuse by aPhillies ballplayer. We believe that the present status, including a publicapology by Brett Myers, time off from baseball, professional assistance for Brett and Kim Myers, and this statement achieves the appropriate balance for now.”

Appropriate balance? Not really. But it's a start. The truly important step will come when the Phillies throw the full weight of their influence behind any movement designed to eliminate the culture of domestic violence from society as a whole - and from the lifestyle of any young man or woman they employ.
Death in The Bulletin Family
Scattered across America there is a wonderful extended family of former Philadelphia Bulletin reporters and editors. Those who worked in the sports department up until the moment the newspaper folded in 1982 remain particularly close. So I know my friends and Bulletin "family" are all mourning the loss of John T. "Jack" Wilson, retired Bulletin sports editor and good friend who passed away Thursday at age 85.
Jack will be buried today, with a military honor guard befitting a decorated World War II veteran.
Rest well, my friend and know that nearly everyone still misses The Bulletin. We miss you, too.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Assault, Battery & Embarrassment

Glum times in Philadelphia, and it has very little to do with baseball.

The Phillies are in a freefall - understandable since this is a a team no one really figured to be around in October.

What is troubling is the club's reaction, or lack thereof, to the arrest of pitcher Brett Myers for alledgedly beating his wife in the early morning hours of June 25 in Boston.

What was reported to Boston police by witnesses who placed multiple 911 calls sounded like a brutal beatdown, something that demanded immediate, forceful action by Myers' employers regarding a) the pitcher's immediate status, b) steps to be taken to send a message of zero-tolerance for violent perpetrators within the organization and c) something, anything that suggested that Kim Myers had as much support from the Phillies' "family" as did the staff ace.

To date, the Phillies have chosen not to lend their public voice to the first two categories and as for Kim Myers, well ... She didn't get anything in the way of a public apology let alone a show of contriteness from her husband. What did he get? The ball and his regular start in the rotation one day after he was bailed out of jail.

In other words, it was business as usual as far as the Phillies are concerned. No time for outreach to the community to explain the organization's stance on domestic violence. No time to say, "hey, we get it. We understand that kids are watching our players, seeking to be like our big-leaguers, learning about actions, consequences, the law and what is right or just flatout wrong."

No time to do the right thing.

The perceived lack of sensitivity to this alleged savage act unleashed a fury among fans.


It is simply not acceptable in this day and age that the Phillies think it is good enough that they pretty much limited their responses to Myers' arrest whether he had the wherewithal to take the mound hours after being arrested, or whether his legal troubles might prove to be a distraction to the team.

No sensible soul cared about the so-called distraction any more than they cared to see Myers on the mound ever again until he shows some remorse about what happened on that grim evening in Boston.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The following is an article I wrote for the June 18 Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer.

Diamonds also a father's (and son's) best friend'

Like father, like son' carries onto the baseball diamondDoug Drabek, dear old Dad, has taught his son Kyle a lot.

By Claire Smith

Former major-league pitcher Doug Drabek knows that is what people think when they see his son Kyle on the mound. Same build. Same shock of sandy blond hair. The onetime Cy Young Award winner also sees the same stuff. Not just spitting-image fastballs, but stuff - the fire in the belly, the refusal to lose.

"He's got his own thing - his own delivery, his own motion, and maybe he throws harder," Doug Drabek said. "But we both are both so competitive. He doesn't want to ever lose - just like me."

Baseball, intrigued by both the nature and nurture in the relationship between fathers and sons, is dipping into gene pools more than ever in search of second- and third-generation players. The Phillies certainly did when they selected Kyle Drabek in the first round of the draft, making the hard-throwing chip off the old block the 18th pick overall.

Drabek was not unique. Father's Day came early for 20 former major-leaguers when their sons were drafted on June 6 and 7.

Kyle Drabek, for one, knows he registered with scouts in part because of his dad. "He's been an inspiration to me all my life," the 18-year-old from The Woodlands, Texas, said. "In a way, my dad's always been teaching me about life. And, as a pitcher, he taught me everything I know."

Like many major-leaguers, Doug was happy just to be able to give Kyle and Justin - 13 months Kyle's senior - access to his world. It is part of the routine: sons and daughters of big-leaguers rollicking around ballparks in baggy baseball uniforms and floppy caps, playing make-believe on the field, in dugouts, in Dad's locker, all while the big guys watch over them - and dream.

"When they were younger, sure you hope they will play - that that would be neat," Doug said. "But you wonder, too, what if they lose the flavor for the game?

"Then I'd think about what I got from my dad. He coached me, but he never forced me to play. He taught me that as long as you have good kids, let them be what they want to be."

What did his kids want? "When they were smaller, they just kind of wanted to play with the other kids around the clubhouse," he said. "Then, by the time I got to Houston [in 1993], they started to get to know some of the players."

That's when the added benefits famed sons such as Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds speak of began to factor in. "By the time they were 12," Doug, 43, recalled, being around big-leaguers "was more of an advantage because the boys were into baseball more. They were in situations where being around clubhouses allowed them to get comfortable with the setting. "

Some of Kyle's most vivid memories are not of surroundings, but of the man who won 155 games. "When you're younger, just being able to be around him at the ballpark, you watch, you learn so much," Kyle said. "I can remember everyone saying, 'When he's on the mound, he hates to lose.' He was always so aggressive out there."

When Drabek's 13-year career ended in 1998, he embraced life at home with his wife, Kristy, and his children, including his daughter, Kelsey, 14.

"I wanted to be around them, wanted them to know I was available for them," he said. So Drabek poured himself into coaching - though he laughingly admitted that "I can't help my daughter with cheerleading or dance."

But he could help Kyle and Justin. So he coached the aspiring pitchers part-time and full-time, from Little League on, even turning down a minor-league coaching job to do so.

"He's always been there for us," Kyle said.

Doug Drabek's approach was simple: "Let them have fun." It was also caring, Kyle said. "When I was young, he told me to throw nothing but fastballs because he didn't want me to hurt my arm," he said. The other pitches - and inside-baseball stuff - would come later, in measured doses.

"Once I saw their style and their approach, I pretty much left them alone - if nothing was wrong," Doug said. "Maybe I'd see something in the delivery, or the way they threw a certain pitch, and I'd say something."

It hasn't always been easy. Having a major-league last name has often brought out the worst in fans. Kyle also had a personal Web page defaced by hackers.

"I probably take stuff like that worse than he does, because I'm a dad," Doug said. Yet Kyle's composure is his father, because, the son said, "Dad knew how to keep his cool on and off the field.

"It's pretty hard to describe, the bond between us three," Kyle said. "And baseball has always been such a big part of it."

Now, as Justin still strives to join a big-league organization, Kyle, his 14-0 senior season over and a high school state title won, knows he is almost there. "I'll be on my own in many ways," he said, "but my dad will still be teaching me things, about on the field and off - because he's lived it."

Nature and nurture. Like baseball, Kyle Drabek is banking on both.

Contact staff writer Claire Smith at 215-854-0454 or

All in the Family Sons of major-leaguers taken in the 2006 draft:
Drabek, Phillies, first round, son of Doug.
Preston Mattingly,
Dodgers, compensation round, son of Don.
Chad Tracy, Rangers,
third round, son of Pirates manager Jim.
Marcus Lemon,
Rangers, fourth round, son of Chet.
John Shelby,
White Sox, fifth round, son of John.
Joshua Lansford,
Cubs, sixth round, son of Carney.
Tyree Hayes,
Devil Rays, eighth round, son of Charlie.
Jeremy Barfield,
Mets, ninth round, son of Jesse.
Joshua Roenicke,
Reds, 10th round, son of Gary.
Benjamin Petralli,
Tigers, 17th round, son of Geno.
Curt Bradley,
Dodgers, 33d round, son of Phil.
Trent Henderson,
Astros, 37th round, son of Dave.
Scott Thomas,
Cardinals, 38th round, son of Lee.
David Cash,
Orioles, 40th round, son of Dave.
Bryce Lefebvre,
Padres, 45th round, son of Jim.
Candy Maldonado,
Devil Rays, 46th round, son of Candy.
Lance Durham,
Tigers, 45th round, son of Leon.
Kyle Williams,
White Sox, 47th round, son of White Sox general manager Ken.
Kyle Page,
Nationals, 48th round, son of Mitchell.
Jonathan Fernandez,
Blue Jays, 48th round, son of Tony.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Hello. My name is Claire Smith. I am a proud member of the Baseball Writers Association of America and have written about sports for over 25 years.

I started working in the newspaper industry in the mid-70s. Stops have included The Philadelphia Bulletin, The Hartford Courant, The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer and, for over 20 years, the beat was Major League Baseball. In that time, I was honored to be nominated for the Pulitzer Prize by both The Courant and The Times for my baseball coverage, just as it was my privilege to be given Pioneer awards by both the National Association of Black Journalists and the Association for Women in Sports Media.

One of my proudest accomplishments was being able to help Don Baylor write his autobiography, "Don Baylor: Nothing But The Truth, a Baseball Life." And what a privilge it has been to participate in the gathering of oral histories as part of a project founded by former Commissioner Fay Vincent for the benefit of the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown.

Don and Fay are but two of the truly good people I have met throughout a wondrous journey through the Summer Game.

Please be my guest as the journey continues.