Sunday, July 17, 2016

Eternal verities

Somewhere John McGraw must be smiling.

OK, so not smiling. Snarling, probably. Griping that, dammit, he was born too soon. Egging on Joe Maddon and Brad Ausmus and John Farrell and all the other major-league managers who've been ejected lately for arguing balls and strikes.

That's happened, apparently, because technology has happened. Seems managers are using video replay from the clubhouse or video room to make their case, and MLB exec Joe Torre cranked out a memo saying that was "detrimental to the game" and needs to stop.

As if.

As if Torre wouldn't have been doing the same thing in his managing days, had the technology been available then. Or any manager going back to McGraw and beyond, because arguing with umpires is a time-honored tradition, and time-honored traditions aren't just going to stop being time-honored traditions because Joe Torre says so.

Which gets us back to McGraw, who might have been the champion ump-baiter of all time, and who comes to mind because the Blob is re-reading Cait Murphy's excellent chronicle of the 1908 season, "Crazy '08", in which McGraw plays a prominent role.

In one instance, Murphy writes, McGraw was suspended three games for calling an ump "a piece of cheese." Or so the public accounts went; it seems the media used "a piece of cheese" as a euphemism in much the way media today uses "the magic word" as a euphemism.

"One suspects his real words were somewhat different," Murphy observes archly.

Still ... baseball being as bound to tradition as it is, wouldn't you love to see one more revived?

Go ahead, Joe Maddon. Next time you argue balls and strikes, call the ump "a piece of cheese."

And then wait for the phone call from Joe Torre, wondering where the heck you got that one.

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