Picking out some news links on a Thursday afternoon that we hope will be relevant on Sunday afternoon is a bit of a fool’s errand in the era of the 24 second news cycle. So while I will do a recap of the Angels and baseball news from the week, my primary goal in doing the weekend links is to provide you with things that pique your interest enough to want to come back and enjoy them. I’ll touch on themes, revisit stories, and link some longer form pieces that go perfectly with some weekend morning coffee or afternoon downtime.
The first installment is on a subject I love, the Negro Leagues…..
History is written by the victors and for a long time the victors at MLB have only recognized the segregated American and National Leagues as being “major” leagues. All those talented players in the Negro, Pacific Coast, and Cuban Leagues were overlooked. At long last the players in the Negro Leagues are getting their due and being tagged as “major.”
Statistics from the Negro Leagues will be added to the MLB database but it will take a while to do so, largely due to a lack of comprehensive records. The best records of Negro League games come from now defunct newspapers that served the black communities of their era and most are not digitized, many editions no longer exist. The folks at Seamheads have pored through as many of those old papers as they could find and have set up a fascinating site.
Move over 1927 Yankees(?) The 1933 Pittsburgh Crawfords featured five players who would end up in Cooperstown. There’s a legitimate debate about who was the greatest team in baseball history.
I can’t help but think that this recognition is the pinnacle of the life work of Buck O’neil. who worked tirelessly championing the league. You might remember him from Ken Burn’s “Baseball” for his smile, obvious warmth, and love of both baseball and humanity. He championed the Negro Leagues and was instrumental in getting the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum built in his native Kansas City. I read an incredible biography on him over the summer, “The Soul of Baseball” that I can not recommend enough.
I’ll be rolling out a series of baseball book reviews this offseason. Anybody looking to learn more about the league and/or its players should check out biographies on Oscar Charleston and Satchel Paige. Hank Aaron’s autobiography is powerful in so many ways as he integrated the Southern League as a minor leaguer before becoming the home run king. He also stopped in the Negro Leagues for a couple years. So did Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson. Those links are to books, not stats, and I recommend them all.
Still on the outside looking in is the Pacific Coast League, the original home of our Angels. I haven’t read either but an interesting history of the league and book focusing on its integration are on my list. We moved much faster on the West Coast.
In the meantime I’m starting How Baseball Happened, a novel on the true history of the game. Anticipate a review and interview with the author in early 2021.
So getting to that theme and longform business I promised. The history of baseball and the history of America are intrinsically intertwined. This longform piece on Devin Williams shows that continues to be the case. Best thing I’ve read all week.
Inside that piece it hits another theme: the lack of youngsters, particularly inner city youngsters, playing baseball. The Chicago White Sox are doing something great about that through their Amateur City Elite program and it is already yielding results in the form of players getting scholarships and drafted. And as with anything sports, the positive impact on the lives of all players is the true plus. This year the first girl made the cut to join the Elite team. Hey, other 29 MLB teams, let’s make this a universal thing.
Recapping the baseball news of the week, the Angels added lefty Alex Claudio to their reshaped bullpen. He signed for Noe Ramirez estimated salary and has similar career WHIP but a lower walk rate. The big difference is HR/9 rate. Noe: 1.5. Claudio: 0.7. Claudio also walks fewer guys.
Raisel Iglesias HR/9 rate is 1.0. Seems like Minasian is focusing on guys with low walk rates who keep the ball in the yard. Interesting concept.
Holby Milner, whose first pitch as an Angel was blasted for a walk off grand slam, landed a minors deal with Claudio’s former team in Milwaukee.