More NHL first-round action…

On Wednesday, Calgary blew a 2-1 lead and lost 3-2 in overtime, falling behind its first-round series 3-1 against Colorado.

The Flames’ overtime struggles in playoff competition – and lack of playoff success, period – are really no surprise… you wonder if they’ve been cursed since their 1989 Cup victory. It seems they can’t win in the playoffs, or if they go into overtime in the playoffs, they lose (other than during their run in 2004).

This particular series in 2018-19 reminds me of the 1989-90 playoffs, when that season’s Flames were also the No. 1 seed in their own conference. Facing the L.A. Kings, they were tied 1-1 after the first two games in Calgary. The Flames then lost 2-1 in overtime in Game Three, and were blown out 12-4 in the fourth game to fall 3-1.

This season, it’s backwards. Tied 1-1, Calgary got blown out 6-2 in the third game and then lost the fourth contest 3-2 in OT. Anyway, an OT loss as well as a blowout loss on the road… and suddenly the Flames are down 3-1.

But it’s interesting how the Flames always seem to lose in playoff OT games… they did so in the third game in Montreal in the 1989 Finals before rallying to win that series. They lost big playoff OT games in 1990, 1991, 1994, 1995, and 1996… and lost the clinching game in OT in all of those springs.

I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same, for Calgary.

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“A Life of Knuckleballs”: Just Missed the Cut, Part I

When I first wrote the manuscript for Tom Candiotti: A Life of Knuckleballs, I had over 600,000 words, which, of course, made it unpublishable.

So, my publisher, McFarland & Co., requested me to cut the manuscript down, and because of that, many stories did not make the cut.

Over the next little while, I will be posting some of the original content that didn’t make it to the book. I call this, “Missed the Cut.”

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This one is from Tom Candiotti’s first month in the majors, with the stories about Pete Vuckovich and the Milwaukee veterans not making it into the book:

TCThe Brewers were still in contention even with the struggles of veteran Don Sutton—who despite pitching nine shutout innings against California on August 24th, was 0-5 with a 6.49 ERA in his last seven starts.

Even though the veteran wasn’t getting it done, the rookies certainly were, up to that point. Including Candiotti, the Brewers had four rookie pitchers who each played a big role in the team’s success. The quartet had 19 wins and 10 saves, led by reliever Tom Tellmann (nine wins, eight saves), Chuck Porter (six wins), Bob Gibson (two wins, two saves), and of course, Candiotti (two complete-game wins in two starts).

As it turned out, Milwaukee wouldn’t win another game in which Tellmann, Porter, and Gibson appeared until the final three days of the season. Tellmann would pitch well down the stretch (2.31 ERA) but the Brewers would go 0-9 in his final nine appearances of the season. They would be 0-4 in Gibson’s appearances—he was 0-2—until he defeated Detroit 6-2 in a meaningless start on the final weekend. As for Porter, he would be 0-4 with a 7.16 ERA—the Brewers would lose all six of his starts—before beating the Tigers 7-4 on the final day of the season.

As for Vuckovich, he wouldn’t make a difference when he made his long-awaited season debut on August 31st. The reigning Cy Young winner would last only 14.2 innings in three starts, going 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA. Meanwhile, in a complete reversal of Sutton’s September 1982 performance, the veteran right-hander would be 1-3 with a 3.80 ERA in his final six starts of 1983.

As Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell noted in late August, “The core of the Brewers’ suspect rotation—Sutton, Mike Caldwell and Bob McClure—has a combined 25-26 record and an ERA over 4.40. When you have to give 27 starts in the pennant race to Chuck Porter, Tom Candiotti, Bob Gibson, Jerry Augustine and Rick Waits, you’re in line for baseball sympathy” (Thomas Boswell, “Mighty Brewers Have Gone From Muscle to Hustle Team,” Washington Post, August 22, 1983).

Though Vuckovich would go winless in 1983, Candiotti, to this day, marvels at the clubhouse presence he exhibited that season. “Vuckovich, like the veteran players, made sure the rookies were paying attention to what was going on,” says Candy. “I’d be on the bench. He’d walk by in the ninth inning and say, ‘What did this batter do in his second at-bat?’ So I’d have to recall the pitch count and things like that. He kept me in the game, kept me watching all the time. That’s how baseball was back then. The veterans kept the young players in the game. All those guys made sure the rookies were paying attention and knew what was going on. And boy, I tell ya, if Pete was asking you a question, you’d better get it right!”

Candiotti also credits Vuckovich with teaching him a lot about pitching, especially pitching around hitters. “He taught me an awful lot, being able to pick the outs you wanna get. I was never taught to walk guys intentionally, like intentionally ‘unintentionally.’ But he sat down with me and went through things with me that I never knew.” For instance, many times a pitcher would walk a hitter apparently unintentionally, when actually it was almost intentional. If, say, there was a runner on second base and a tough hitter up, the pitcher wouldn’t actually give him an intentional pass, but would pitch carefully to him. If the pitcher got the batter out to chase pitches out of the strike zone, that was great. If he walked the hitter, that was fine too—his main goal was to basically not give the batter anything to hit. Candiotti, who never liked to walk hitters, learned to appreciate such a pitching strategy. He was grateful for having Vuckovich as a mentor in teaching him how to pitch in the majors.

“He wore me out, though,” Candiotti laughs. “I had to buy him this and that. This was kind of like my ‘welcome’ to the big leagues. Of course, that Brewers team was a veteran club. [Catcher] Bill Schroeder and I were two of the few rookies that year, until the September call-ups came up to Milwaukee. For a while there, Pete really wore us out. I know he wore me out. He wouldn’t let me in the trainer’s room initially. I was tested as a rookie. But once I passed the test, he was awesome. He was a great teammate to be around.” And how did Candiotti pass the test?

“Well, what happened was I was making my first major-league start. I went into the trainer’s room and Vuckovich was there. He goes, ‘What are you doing here, rookie?’

“I go, ‘I’m just gonna get some heat.’

“Pete says, ‘Get the hell outta here, rookie.’”

Candiotti didn’t let Vuckovich’s abuse bother him. He left the room, pitched Milwaukee into first place, and kept his distance from the veteran pitcher. Soon enough, Vuckovich approached the rookie to welcome him. “A few days later,” Candiotti says, “he comes up to me and goes, ‘You’re doing pretty well. You can come into the trainer’s room now.’ So after that, he was great. But if I’d fought him on it, he would’ve made my life miserable that rookie season.”

He still laughs at how Vuckovich walked 102 batters with 105 strikeouts during the 1982 season and still won the AL Cy Young Award*. While Vuckovich was second in the league in wins—finishing 18-6 with a 3.34 ERA—he was also second in bases on balls. “Now, I think back and I wonder—and I’d joke about it with him—‘How did you win the Cy Young with those numbers?’” Candiotti says with a grin. “He had over a hundred walks! I’d joke about it with Pete, like, ‘That’s one of the strangest things how you won that award!’”

Another veteran who helped Candiotti along that first season was catcher Ted Simmons, who’d assign him homework. “Ted once got me to do a report about the ball-strike counts on which most baserunners ran,” he says. “You know, which counts runners go the most. Or he’d quiz me on pitch selections during a game. It was great. And of course, he called a knuckleball for the first big-league pitch I ever threw. He knew how to help me out as a young player. It was a huge thing for me.”

*One could make the argument that Toronto’s Dave Stieb was robbed of the Cy Young in 1982. Vuckovich, who made 30 starts, pitched 223.2 innings with nine complete games, including one shutout. Stieb, meanwhile, started 38 games, completed 19 of them, tossed five shutouts, and threw 288.1 innings. He led the AL in innings, complete games, and shutouts, and was tied for third in games started. He was 17-14 with a 3.25 ERA, walking 75 and fanning 141.

 

People 101: The Unprofessional McDonald’s Employee

(Note: This post was originally posted on one of my other sites, kpwee.com.)

A lot of people around us are mean. Inconsiderate. Rude. They’re all around us. Since they are like that, well, then it’s fair game that I criticize them. Starting now – right here and right now.


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So, the other day (last Sunday at 7 p.m., in fact… according to the time stamp on the photo that I took), I visited the local McDonald’s. Not wanting to endure receiving poor service and/or dealing with unfriendly cashiers yet again (my experience has often been cashiers not smiling and/or not even bothering to greet the customer), I used the mobile app to order the meal and requested McDonald’s “table service.” It’s simple. You just enter the table #, and they’re supposed to bring it to your table.

Soon after I ordered through the app, a McDonald’s employee – a young lady – brought a tray out with items that looked like what I had ordered. She walked right past my table and took it to another table where two guys were seated. She said to them in a very cheerful voice, “Did you guys order this?”

I waved at her and said, “I did.” She brought the tray over and placed it at my table, and left without a word. No “Can I get you anything else?” or “Is that everything?” No, she put the tray down and walked away WITHOUT A WORD. And no, she didn’t re-join the kitchen or the counter, or wherever she was supposed to go. She went BACK to that table with the two guys and said something to them before leaving.

I was having my meal, sipping on the hot tea, and I would say about 25 minutes later, that same young lady came back into the customer area. She re-joined that same table and sat down with the two guys. Apparently, she was off-duty at that point, and they were discussing college classes, etc., and in their conversation they were – including she – using swear words. I was still in the middle of my hot tea, and that’s why I was still there. And since the area was pretty empty – but not without customers (such as myself) – I could hear their conversation. It wasn’t that I wanted to.

Her actions were highly unprofessional. I have a contact at the head office, so I discussed this incident with that person. I didn’t mention the swear words, though. I stuck to the lack of service with this so-called “table service.” What that lady does in her free time – swearing at her place of work – is none of my business. But being unprofessional while still on duty… when I’m the customer… well, it’s definitely my business. The tables have numbers on there, and I input my table number, yet this McDonald’s employee was unprofessional in carrying the tray to where her friends were sitting – sure, cater to your friends first, right? – instead of doing her job. The worst part was this dropping off the tray and not saying a word to me while returning to her friends. Unprofessional. Gutless.

 

A big problem in our society: Parents and Schools encouraging kids to “hate”

Instead of encouraging children to be positive and have a good attitude, some parents and schools are apparently doing the opposite.

In the story about a 10-year-old winning his science fair by proving New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady “cheated,” the boy stated that he hated Brady and said the future Hall of Fame QB didn’t deserve his money. “Gimme some of your money; you don’t deserve it,” the boy was quoted as saying in the story.

Wow. Give me a break. I’m guessing the parents encouraged him to do this science project knowing he hated the quarterback. “Hate” is always a strong word, but if parents are okay with 10-year-olds expressing hate, our society will have a big problem.

The school should be ashamed for allowing him to win. The boy hates Brady, so can his scientific findings be reliable when he has so much bias? And the fact he was allowed to win when he has hatred is just inappropriate.

Think about this: If we are encouraging kids to be biased in their research – which clearly is the case here – what does that tell us about the results of the research? It will likely be twisted to suit the “hater’s” agenda.

Finally, the comment about giving “some of your money; you don’t deserve it”: So, what makes the kid thinks he deserves that money? Just because he used his bias to cook up a biased research project? Or, just because he hates Tom Brady? Where is the logic in that?

The bottom line is this is a good example of poor parenting and a bad job by the school.

Welcome to the society and world we live in.

WHO are you… and what kind of role model are you again?

So, there’s a James Sutton out there who’s a European actor… and an “ambassador” to a child abuse organization.

Look, I don’t care if this Sutton fellow is famous and an “ambassador” to anything… How can one take him seriously when he’s using highly-inappropriate words on social media?

Who the heck is James Sutton – and what kind of role model is he to young boys or kids in general? These are the types of “celebrities” who get away with saying whatever they want and not suffer consequences. That’s pretty gutless, first off, for using words like that.

Maybe people like him should be getting off social media and spending more time doing focusing on their “ambassador” roles instead?

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Things we saw in October…

The NFL is a week-to-week thing… every week has a new narrative. Remember how after the first two weeks of the 2018 season, when Pittsburgh began 0-1-1? Many of those analysts were predicting gloom and doom for the Steelers. Well, going into their huge AFC North matchup today in Baltimore, the Steelers are sitting atop the division at 4-2-1, just ahead of Cincinnati (5-3).

The Browns, who at 2-5-1 are at the bottom of the division, are who we thought they were…

Speaking of slow starts, wow – the Lakers’ Magic Johnson makes George Steinbrenner look like a saint… With the Lakers beginning slowly at 2-5, Johnson has apparently lost patience with coach Luke Walton. I mean, c’mon, the Lakers aren’t expected to be legitimate contenders and it’s early in the season….  Yes, I saw Magic play during his NBA career, but as an executive or fan, he’s not that great. He was the one cheering for Mike D’Antoni to be fired from the Lakers years earlier, wasn’t he? That’s exactly my point. Magic was a great player, but as an observer/fan/executive, he strikes me as a guy who just isn’t patient.

Ahhh.. Steve Pearce. World Series MVP. I’m sure throughout the summer, the buzz in Toronto (and the rest of Canada where Blue Jays fans reside) was something like, “What can the Blue Jays get for Josh Donaldson?” and “Donaldson will make a contending team a winner,” etc.

I was on TSN1040 during the summer, suggesting that teams that win the World Series, traditionally, have had under-the-radar pickups more often than those big mid-season acquisitions. For 2018, I was looking at Tyler Clippard, John Axford, Seunghwan Oh, etc. as possible difference makers. Maybe even a guy like Curtis Granderson. Okay, I was wrong. It turned out the biggest difference maker was Steve Pearce!! He had a hot few games and wound up helping the Red Sox win the World Series.

Man, it must be painful for those Blue Jays fans… they must have been rooting for Cleveland, with Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion being the two former Jays in the Indians lineup. Instead, it was David Price (who failed to deliver in the playoffs for Toronto) and Steve Pearce with their AL East rivals!!

Again, don’t trade within the division (ie. Toronto trading Pearce to Boston). It might make your fans cry in October…

Anytime someone brings up the need for a team to pick up a big name at the trade deadline to put itself over the top, I will just bring up two words. Steve Pearce.

Back to the NFL – an intriguing matchup on Sunday night with Green Bay vs. New England. Hours before that, Rams vs. Saints in what could be a potential NFC Championship Game matchup. The dream matchup would be a Patriots-Saints Super Bowl. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

Stats and numbers that don’t make sense…

Recently overheard in a break room: “Pretty soon, all Canadians will be homeless because nobody will be able to afford to pay rent.”

Uhm, no, I don’t think so. I didn’t argue with the guy, though. No point. If someone is that negative, there’s nothing you can say that will change his or her mind.

THIS guy, meanwhile, is seen almost daily outside Renfrew SkyTrain Station asking people for money to feed his brother and him. It’s always, “Hey. Hey. Can you spare some change for me and my brother so we can get food?” Always. The same thing. Almost every day, if not every single day (literally).

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I am sure I am not the only one, but I don’t feel sorry for him. I’ve heard others tell him (nicely) to go find a job instead of asking people for money.

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Moving on to sports… I just learned this week that in some places, it’s legal to start gambling when you’re as young as 12 years old!

I’m sure you know where I’m going with this – but there was the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach talking about how he hasn’t watched a Super Bowl – live or on tape – since he was allowed to bet on the sport (ie. when he wasn’t a coach at any level yet)… and proceeded to throw out the number 12 in terms of age. I would think he was exaggerating about that part, though I guess I believe he hasn’t watched a Super Bowl for many years.

And who are those people talking about the Ravens defense? They allowed the Bengals’ Andy Dalton to throw for four TD passes in the first half on Thursday Night Football in Week 2!

Then there’s also the NFL Power Rankings by ESPN.com… some head-scratchers on this one… The Jets blew out the Lions in Week 1 while the Giants lost their game… and yet the Giants (#25) are ahead of the Jets (#26) on the rankings? The Titans (#22) are ahead of the team they lost to – the Dolphins (#24) – for crying out loud! There were others, but those ones were the ones that jumped out…

Finally, the Red Sox in MLB reached 100 wins this week – the first time the franchise has reached that mark since 1946… Wow… That’s a long time. Prior to being a writer, I rooted for the Red Sox. But THAT is woeful. Of course, if they don’t win the Series this year, the season will be regarded as a failure.. .We shall see.