It's been a long time since I wrote a "notes column." So long, in fact, that I thought I'd actually progressed as a columnist past the point of ever needing to write one again.
I was wrong.
If you walk down the street and buttonhole 100 baseball fans, you'll probably find that 99 of them have more respect for Pete Rose than I do. But who, exactly, is the knucklehead who decided that Pete Rose shouldn't even be allowed to celebrate the passing of Riverfront Stadium?
If Rose had been there, he'd have been just another ex-Red, like Johnny Bench and Sparky Anderson. But since he was not there, his absence became the biggest story. So you had a rose sitting on the field throughout the game, and you had Tom Browning spray-painting 14 on the pitcher's mound after the game, and you had a lot of people thinking about Pete Rose rather than the great teams on which he starred.
And that's a shame. As long as Rose is banned from baseball, he certainly shouldn't be allowed to work for a major-league club, nor should he be admitted into the Hall of Fame. But everything else is just petty and mean-spirited, and does the sport and its fans a disservice.
Jim Caple and I agree on just about everything. In fact, with the exception of the Hall of Fame qualifications of Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris, I'm hard-pressed to think about anything we've argued about lately.
Until now, because I can't share Jim's laissez faire attitude toward the new uniform policy baseball will enforce next season.
I have a couple of reasons, one of them practical and the other personal.
The practical is that baggy uniforms can, especially in extreme cases, create a competitive advantage. As I'm sure you know, the uniform is considered a part of the body for purposes of determining if a batter was struck by a pitch. And an overly baggy uniform -- Craig Biggio, this is your life! -- gives the hitter an edge that he certainly doesn't need these days.
The personal is that I believe uniforms should be ... well, uniform. I don't watch baseball to see players expressing their sartorial tastes, I watch baseball to see players playing as well as they can. If I had my druthers, all 25 players on each club would be compelled to wear their uniforms exactly the same, like the Reds were back in the days of the Big Red Machine. When Woody Woodward played for Cincinnati in the late 1960s, general manager Bob Howsam had a photo taken of Woodward wearing the uniform perfectly. And for years, that photo was posted where every Red could see it, and every Red stuck to it.
That's a team. I have to admit that I enjoy watching the players who pull their pants up and wear the striped socks, but those players are more than balanced by the players who pull the cuffs of their pants down over their shoe tops. When it comes to uniforms, I vote for uniformity.
Here's the problem with deciding in August who's going to win the big awards: they play games in September, too.
A month ago, everybody was ready to just go ahead and present the Cy Young plaque to Curt Schilling, but it's not quite so cut-and-dried any more, is it?
W-L ERA IP H BB K
Johnson 23-5 2.40 251 191 69 326
Schilling 23-6 3.02 250 209 32 303
In case you're wondering, they've both given up 26 home runs. They're even in wins, they're even in innings, they're close to even in strikeouts, and Schilling's edge in walks allowed is balanced by Johnson's edge in fewer hits allowed.
Why does Johnson have a substantially better ERA? Because of unearned runs. As in, he's allowed a bunch of them and Schilling hasn't. If we consider all runs, Johnson's edge is smaller: 2.72 runs per nine innings, against Schilling's 3.09.
And that's still enough. If the season ended today, you'd have to give Johnson his fourth straight Cy Young.
Fortunately, the season doesn't end today. Schilling's still got a shot -- rightly or wrongly -- if he pitches well in his last start and gets the win and Johnson doesn't win his last start. This might be the first time that a Cy Young battle between teammates has gone down to the wire like this, and it's just one more thing to watch the rest of the way, even as there's only one postseason spot still up for grabs