Category Archives: Rockies

Superstitions and Turk Wendell

The oddest of them all, former MLB pitcher Turk Wendell set the standard of weirdness in baseball with his interesting antics and superstitions.

LIVINGSTONE: I love vinyl. No, not what you’ll find on the side of the house – although it does appeal to me as my siding of choice when I become a homeowner – but what the needle drops on. Listening to records helps me relax – or boogie, or blow of steam, depending on the mood – and I happened to be listening to Stevie Wonder’s 1972 release Talking Book tonight when the song Superstitious began blaring from my older-than-my-grandmother record player (it’s not, but it’s sure close).

The song got me thinking about the superstitions of athletes. Jumping over the baselines, tying cleats or skates a certain way, putting on equipment in a specific order, eating a certain piece of fruit before a game, wearing the same pair of underwear in games you pitch (I hope no one actually does the last one), but whatever it is, athletes have them. Hell, baseball in general has a number of superstitions (see: Top 50 Superstitions and rituals in baseball on Bleacherreport.com), followed by players and fans alike.

This brings me the ultimate man of superstition. So ultimate he was named the most superstitious athlete in professional sports by Men’s Fitness magazine. He did a kangaroo-like jump over the baseline every time he ran on and off the field, he brushed his teeth in between innings, he wore number 99 in honour of Rick ‘The Wild Thing’ Vaughan from Major League.

Hell – his contract with the New York Mets was signed for $9,999,999.99 – in honour of his number.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Turk Wendell.

Quirky, outspoken and full of out-there antics, Wendell was a fan favourite wherever he played. Drafted in 1988 by the Atlanta Braves, the eccentric reliever got his major league debut in 1993 with the Chicago Cubs (he was traded in 1991 and pitched two years in the minors). It wasn’t a great start to his career – he pitched in only a handful of games in 1993 and 1994 before coming into his own in 1995. In three years with the Cubs he pitched in 187 games and posted a 3.88 ERA with the club before a late-season trade in 1997 to the New York Mets.

With the Mets, he lead the team in 1999 and 2000 in appearances and in five seasons posted a 3.34 ERA and a 22014 record over 285 appearances.He never did get the elusive championship ring, but came close with the Mets when the team played its crosstown rivals The Yankees in the subway series of 2000. his career began to decline after that series. He landed with the Phillies the following season, was on the DL in 2002 after elbow surgery, pitched for the Phillies in 2003 and then made some short stops with the Colorado Rockies before being cut.

In many ways, Wendell’s antics on the field inspired many young baseball players – well, maybe just me, but who really knows – to pick up some of those superstitious antics and make them their own. Now, I don’t think I would let a baseball thrown by the umpire hit me in the chest – Wendell requested the ump roll the ball to him on the mound, and if he didn’t he would let it go past him, or hit him in the chest.

Yeah, it’s strange, but hey, we’ve got our quirks. Waving to the center fielder waiting for him to wave back before you pitched the start of an inning, yeah, it’s strange, but if I was the center fielder and the game was close, I wouldn’t be messing with Wendell’s routine.

Stats aside, Wendell was a weird dude. Sure, rituals and superstitions are commonplace in the game of baseball, but it seems not as openly strange or visible like the days of Turk. In thinking about what Turk-esque like players are out there in the game today, none really come to mind. Giants closer Brian Wilson might be the closest thing to the Turk – but wearing a Onesie suit to the ESPY and just talking like you’ve been drunk you’re entire life, I don’t think that necessarily counts. He’s just strange.

So to Turk, thank you for making superstitions known to the baseball world. And thanks for making knee-high socks an acceptable thing.

Check out The Bleacher Report’s Top 10 list on Wendell’s antics.

Fantasy update: nothing makes sense right now

Jason Kipnis is off to a slow start - along with much of my under-performing fantasy team, known as Team Beast. Not really a beast right now...

LIVINGSTONE: I made a promise to myself not to spend a lot of my space on this blog writing about fantasy baseball. It’s a big part of my season, wheeling and dealing, looking for sleepers, the whole bit. My wife usually hates it by the middle of the season, especially when I’m trying to move guys into my starting line-up when we’re out on the town.

However, I have to air my frustrations. It’s only a dozen games into the season for most teams and as expected, things are wonky. Wait – not wonky – turned completely upside down. Yeah, that’s more like it.

In one of my first posts on here, I wrote about missing the first 15 rounds of my draft – in a league where I’m the commissioner no less – and how, in the end, I felt my pitching staff would allow me to stay competitive, while I’d have to work to keep a quality line-up of hitters on the field.

If the first 12 games are any indication of what I’m in store for – I might as well give up now. My staff is in utter shambles. I’ve managed to amass four wins all season, two of which came from my bullpen (Tyler Clippard and Johnny Venters), the other two come from Verlander (who really should be 3-0 after two ninth inning meltdowns in his first two starts) and Ubaldo Jimenez (he gave up seven runs in the game, but the Indians put up more than a dozen).

I’m second last or in the basement in five of six categories for pitchers (CG I’m first, but hell, that’s a gimme category), my closers aren’t closing out games. That said though, the guy I expected to pick up saves (Angels’ Walden) isn’t getting the opportunities because his team is under-performing and my other big closer – Drew Storen – is out until at least mid-season. On top, my frankenstein bullpen of Brad Lidge and Hector Santiago aren’t closing games either.

Starters? Oh, well, Lincecum is looking sub-par, I dumped Josh Johnson for a more, seemingly effective Wandy Rodriguez, and picked up sleeper Chris Sale from the White Sox with hopes of bolstering a decent start from Jordan Zimmerman. I also picked up Trevor Cahill with hopes he can bring down my ERA a bit (thanks Johnson, Mat Latos and Lincecum for the 4.50+ ERA).

My bats? Hmmm, started strong, but aren’t staying strong. Cards’ David Freese and Yadier Molina have been hot, along with Giants’ Pablo Sandoval and as of late, Buster Posey. Rockies OF Michael Cuddyer has been a huge hit also. However, Everything else has been a moment in time. Jason Kipnis and Nick Markakis have been under-performing in Cleveland and Baltimore. And losing Michael Morse to the DL is a tough loss after he had a visit with the ‘your season isn’t looking good’ from Dr. James Andrews.

Sigh – I’m ranting now. Hopefully, my team picks it up and gets it going. The thing is, it’s early, it’s baseball, and things can turned around very quickly. It’s what we love about this game, the unpredictability.

Timelessness and Jamie Moyer

Creeping closer to seniors discounts at local restaurants, Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher to win a game in the bigs, a 5-3 victory over the San Diego Padres. Cheers Jamie!

LIVINGSTONE: I’m beginning to look into my future a little bit more these days, especially when it comes to baseball. It coincides with life, maturity, professional desires, life, family, etc. It’s normal, I suppose, so it’s carried over into the ‘what-ifs’ of my sports passions. Will Ben Roethlisberger make it to another Super Bowl? Will The Flyers win a Stanley Cup in the next five years? Will the Leafs ever win one in my lifetime (or my hypothetical child…and their kids.)?

The question that popped into my head last night came on the heals of a new baseball record, now enshrined in the Hall of Fame: Will Jamie Moyer ever retire?

Moyer, at the young age of forty-nine, became the oldest pitcher in history to win a baseball game. Pitching now for the Colorado Rockies, after pitching for almost every team in baseball (that’s not true, but it seems like it, he’s only pitched for eight) he kept the San Diego Padres’ hitters at bay with his lightning-fast 79 mph fastball and his nasty cutter. The Rockies won 5-3.

Moyer, 49 years, 150 days old to be exact, takes the record held by Jack Quinn of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who was 49 years, 70 days old when he set the record.

Wait, the Brooklyn Dodgers? Yep, the record was set on Sept. 13, 1932 when a bottle of Coke was five cents and the Second World War was yet to happen.

It’s an incredible feat. To be able to pitch for 25 years, for eight clubs, play with Ryne Sandberg, Ken Griffey Jr., and Carlos Gonzalez (in three different decades mind you) amass 268 wins and over 2,400 Ks – it’s unreal. Moyer is the third oldest pitcher ever to play in a regular season game (behind Quinn and Satchel Paige who was, get this, 59(!!) when he played in 1965) and is tied for sixth on the oldest player, pitcher or position, to play (he’s tied with the likes of Julio Franco (2007) and Hughie Jennings (1918), among others).

It speaks a lot to not only the longevity of his ability to play – but to the fact he has been able to continue pitching, after 25 years and more than 4,000 innings, without his body, or love for the game, saying that’s enough.

Sure, he gets a paycheck, and a pretty decent one in the grand scheme of life, but at this point in his career, he just seems to want to keep playing the game he loves so dearly.

It’s beautiful.

 

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