Monthly Archives: August 2008

FRANKLY, IT’S IRRELEVANT WHETHER THE YANKEES MAKE THE PLAYOFFS. EVEN IF THEY DO, WHERE ARE THEY GOING?

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

 

It’s really much ado about nothing.  Sure, the Yankees always make the playoffs.  Sure, they have the highest payroll in baseball.  Sure, they have Hall of Famers and/or All-Stars and/or World Series winners galore.  But, as Derek Jeter often says, you can’t compare this group to the 1996-2001 Yankees.  He’s right – there’s no comparison.

    

So what does it all mean?  The reality is, even if a miracle occurs (virtually impossible), the Yankees are in the same boat (or worse) that they’ve been in for the last (at least) three years.  Who are they going to beat in the playoffs?

    

There are problems galore in Yankeeland.  Robinson Cano?  When he was hitting about .150 in late May, some “experts” said, “don’t worry, he’ll hit .320.”  Well, he is a better hitter in warm weather and made a huge charge in the past to go over .300, but people don’t understand how hard it is to hit .320 with a good start.  Cano’s on-base percentage isn’t even close to .320.  Maybe it was that big contract they gave him (why?).

    

A-Rod?  Maybe too much on his mind with his marital woes, but he’s fast becoming the greatest player to never win a World Series.  His late inning problems this year are well-documented (I think the stat is one RBI in the ninth inning all season), but it’s much more basic than that.  On Saturday, with a game on the line, A-Rod hits a hard one-hopper to third, first and second nobody out, Yankees down a run, bottom of the ninth.  A-Rod doesn’t look just once, BUT TWICE, at the ball he hit and gets thrown out at first by an eyelash.  He definitely beats the throw (he might have actually beaten it anyway) if he simply runs to first without lookjng over his shoulder towards third.  Stunning stuff.

    

We could go on and on but you get the point.  Injuries – sure, virtually nothing from Posada, from Matsui and most of all from Wang (maybe everyone now understands what an ace he really is when you lose those 19 wins).  But injuries are part of the game.

    

Joe Girardi?  Well, frankly, kind of a disappointment.  He’s kept his head with the media although you can tell when he’s upset.  But from the mystery we’ll let Mike Mussina pitch to Manny to the I won’t give Johnny Damon the bunt sign because he’s not “comfortable” bunting (Lyle Overbay, with ONE career sac bunt before Saturday, laid down a beauty to, essentially, win the game for Toronto) to not having a real feel for a pitching staff that has done, overall, a decent job, he just hasn’t quite gotten it right.  Is it his fault?  Yes and no, but the Yankees wouldn’t be significantly better with Joe Torre, who’s having his own struggles with the Dodgers.

    

Don’t forget the different factors in play this year as well.  Tampa Bay?  Say what you want about them, but they’ve always had a good eight and this year their pitching has clicked.  But there was never an issue in the past – the Yankees and Red Sox would battle for the division and the loser was almost a sure thing to win the Wild Card.  Now, with Tampa Bay looking down at both of them, the Yankees are the odd team out.  

    

Minnesota?  Well, it doesn’t look like the Yankees can jump either the Red Sox or the Twins (or White Sox if the Twins are in first).  But it’s much harder at this late date to jump two teams than it is to jump one.

    

All in all, a disappointing year for Yankee fans.  But what about the rebuilding process, you say?  Well, what about it.  The Yankees pitching is still questionable at best and they’ve probably performed as well or better (as a staff) than one would have thought before the season.  Keeping Hughes and Kennedy and no Santana now looks foolish.  But who thought Hughes and Kennedy would combine to be so feeble?  Nobody at the Stadium, that’s for sure. 

    

On the field, do they re-sign Bobby Abreu?  He’s been unbelievable since the All-Star break (around .350) on a team that (unbelievably) can’t hit.  But he also, as he proved in Boston in that disastrous seven-run inning which, in this writer’s opinion, ended their playoff run, that he’s still afraid of walls by failing to go near the wall to catch a very catchable ball.  That’s not going to change.

    

Pitching-wise, Pettitte?  Mussina?  Kennedy/Hughes?  Pavano (the best pitcher on the staff now in his contract year – you can’t make this stuff up)?

    

At the trade deadline, the Yankees came up with Ivan Rodriguez.  A disappointment.  The Red Sox came up with Jason Bay (an RBI per game for 25 games), who is actually playing better than Manny Ramirez was when Manny was trying for the Red Sox.  And Paul Byrd, a solid pitcher.  And somehow the Red Sox also got Mark Kotsay, an instant contributor.

    

Could the Yankees do some damage if they make the playoffs?  Very unlikely as they are no better than they’ve been for the last three disastrous first-round exits.  Nowadays it’s fashionable to say the playoffs are a “crapshoot.”  Anything can happen.  Funny, but you NEVER heard that in New York from 1996-2001.  In fact, when Oakland GM Billy Beane would come on New York radio and say that, he was mocked for saying it.  Then, a few years later, Joe Torre said it and it became the gospel.  Anything can happen in the playoffs.  Well, it was rarely that way in the past.

    

So, it really doesn’t matter if the Yankees make the playoffs or not.  It says here that they won’t but, even if they do, it’s hard to believe they’re going anywhere this year.

    

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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“METAL BAT” CASES RESULTING IN SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH BEING BROUGHT TO THE FOREFRONT IN THE BATTLE OF WOOD V. METAL

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

There is a movement afoot in this country where more and more people are beginning to understand the increased risks of injury that the use of metal or aluminum bats (in youth baseball games through college games) are causing the youth of this country.  Below is a summary of a number of pending and resolved legal cases, across the nation, which show that attorneys are starting to take these cases and take on powerful defendants whether it’s a bat company, Little League baseball or other powerful entities.  While all the defendants deny any liability, a jury in the past has (and, possibly, in other cases in the near future, will) held a defendant liable for injuries caused by a baseball hit off an aluminum or metal bat.

    

DOMALEWSKI v. HILLERICH & BRADSBY, THE SPORTS AUTHORITY and LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL — Many of you are familiar with this case, where, on June 6, 2006, 12-year-old Steven Domalewski was pitching in a Police Athletic League game in Wayne, New Jersey when he was hit in the chest by a ball hit off an aluminum bat.  His heart stopped, he couldn’t breathe for about 15 minutes and the resulting commotio cordis condition caused brain damage to the point where he is now a teenager confined to a wheelchair who cannot speak clearly and needs 24/7 care.  The Domalewski family’s attorney, Ernest Fronzuto, filed the lawsuit naming as defendants Hillerich & Bradsby (known to most of us as Louisville Slugger), the maker of the metal bat, The Sports Authority, the seller of the bat, and Little League Baseball, which had approved the bat as safe for youth baseball.  For a more complete discussion of this case, see Kallas Remarks, 5/25/08.

    

While still in its early stages (it was filed in May 2008 in Superior Court in New Jersey), all defendants have or will deny any liability on their part.  But this suit alone has already changed the way that many young kids play baseball.  Many are wearing a protective heart guard when they play and at least one youth league has made it mandatory for all of their pitchers.

     

PATCH V. HILLERICH & BRADSBY and UNIVERSAL ATHLETIC SERVICES — Another devastating case, Brandon Patch was an 18-year-old pitching for an American Legion team in Montana on July 25, 2003 when he was hit in the head with a ball hit off an aluminum bat.  He crumbled to the ground, suffered massive head injuries and died from those injuries.  The Patch family is suing the bat maker and the bat seller in state court in Montana.  According to Joe White, Jr., one of the attorneys for the Patch family, the trial was originally scheduled for March 2008 but, due to a snafu with getting jurors for the case, it has now been put off until October 2009.  The defendants deny any liability and, apparently, a jury in Montana will decide this case next year.

     

YEAMAN v. HILLERICH & BRADSBY — In this case, just filed this year, Dillon Andrew Yeaman was pitching in an American Legion game in Norman, Oklahoma when he was hit in the face with a ball hit off an aluminum bat.  He suffered severe facial injuries and he brought suit in state court in Oklahoma.  This case is also in the early stages. 

    

BAGGS v. LITTLE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL, INC. — In this case, filed in New York State Supreme Court in Staten Island, John Baggs, Jr. was pitching in a Little League All-Star game in July 2006 when he was hit in the head by a ball hit off an aluminum bat.  He suffered a broken orbital bone and other injuries that required multiple surgeries.  While the damage was caused by a ball hit off an aluminum bat, Baggs and his family are suing Little League International because Little League had just increased the eligible age limit by 90 days (the cutoff went back from July 31 to April 30, thus allowing older kids, who could not have played before at that age, to continue to play Little League baseball) and Baggs was hit by a ball hit by one of those previously ineligible players. 

    

Little League’s motion to dismiss the case was recently denied, according to John O’Leary of Staten Island, attorney for plaintiffs.  Mr. O’Leary also said that no bat company was named because the actual bat was not found after the incident. 

    

PALMER v. GRAND SLAM, INC., ET AL – In this case, filed in Stamford (CT) Superior Court, 16-year-old Chris Palmer was hit in the face with a ball hit off an aluminum bat during batting practice.  Palmer lost his right eye, among other injuries, and, in 2003, sued the place of business where he was hit, an AAU team and its coach.  According to Bruce Corrigan, Jr. of Westport, Connecticut, Palmer’s attorney, no bat company was sued because they could not find out what bat had been used.  The use of an improperly-placed L screen (sometimes used during batting practice to protect the pitcher) was one of the reasons the defendants were sued.  According to attorney Corrigan, a confidential settlement was reached with all defendants except Grand Slam, Inc and its owner.  When those defendants failed to appear in court, plaintiff received a default judgment for $886,000, which he is now trying to enforce against an insurance company.  Amazingly, Chris Palmer eventually came back to play high school baseball with just one eye, starring at Fairfield Prep and playing baseball in college at Tufts. 

    

BRETT v. HILLERICH & BRADSBY – The premier plaintiff’s case in this area, Jeremy Brett was a teenaged pitcher who was hit in the head with a ball hit off an aluminum bat.  He suffered severe head injuries and brought suit in federal court in Oklahoma.  In 2002, Brett won a jury verdict which totaled $150,000.  The money was paid by Louisville Slugger and they did not appeal the jury verdict, according to Brett’s attorney, Joe White, Jr. of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.   

    

SANCHEZ v. HILLERICH & BRADSBY — Andrew Sanchez was pitching for the University of Southern California on April 2, 1999, when he was hit in the head with a ball hit off an aluminum bat.  He suffered a fractured skull.  The case was eventually settled for an unspecified amount in 2002 with no admission of liability. 

    

HANNANT v. HILLERICH & BRADSBY – On April 1, 2000, Daniel Hannant was hit in the head with a ball hit off an aluminum bat while pitching in a high school game near Chicago, Illinois.  He suffered severe head injuries while pitching for his high school team, the Pittsfield Saukees, when he was hit in the head.  He sued for $1 million in 2002 and the case was eventually “resolved,” according to his attorney, Robert Chapman of Chicago, Illinois, who could not discuss the case other than to say it was resolved.

     

There are other cases with similar fact patterns that have been settled out of court.  Information on these cases is difficult to find because there is often little or no publicity surrounding them and the parties (and their attorneys) are usually barred from speaking about the outcome of the case (usually a settlement, pre-trial or otherwise, which has no finding or admission of liability on the part of the defendants and includes an agreement that the attorneys and the parties will not talk about the case).

     

The cases discussed above are the new wave of attack on the use of metal bats in youth and college baseball games.  In addition, because of people like New York City Legislator Jim Oddo of Staten Island, New York, who sponsored the law that eventually passed in New York City barring the use of non-wood bats in high school games in New York City, and others (including WFAN’s Rick Wolff through his well-known radio show, “The Sports Edge”), more and more people are seeing the increased danger that metal bats can cause our children.  These injuries, devastating and (in the case of Brandon Patch) deadly, can be limited by a return to baseball as it was played for a hundred years — with wood bats.

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

CPTV : Foul Play

Connecticut Public Television is presenting a multi-part story on its website (cptv.org) entitled “Foul Play,” which is about the ongoing baseball story concerning the use of wooden v. metal bats and the safety of both. In Episode 2, Steve Kallas is one of the guests who is interviewed by CPTV’s Jeff Marlowe. Also appearing are Rick Wolff of WFAN’s “The Sports Edge” and Joe Heinzmann of the Ridgefield Little League. Readers of stevekallas.com are encouraged to watch the entire series; view (if possible) games played with wooden bats and games played with metal bats, and then draw your own conclusions.

Foul Play – Episode 2

SO, BRETT FAVRE IS THE JETS’ SAVIOR!!! NOT SO FAST

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

Do you think there was much of an overreaction when the Jets signed Brett Favre?  You bet there was.  Does Favre make the Jets better than they were the day before his acquisition?  Of course.  Now, what does that mean?    

The Jets are, to begin with, in the wrong division.  Without Brett Favre, they start the season playing for a Wild Card playoff spot.  Do you really think that’s changed now that he’s in New York?  Neither do I.

    

After all the pomp and circumstance (Brett Favre with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at City Hall before he’s ever even practiced with the Jets was a bit much), what does this do for the Jets in the short term and the long term?  Well, in the short term, the Jets are a better team.  Good enough to make the playoffs?  Maybe, by squeezing into a Wild Card spot.  How long does the Brett “improvement” last?  Maybe one year, two years tops.  If the AFC East was a wide-open division, it might be a different story.  But it’s not.

    

What about Brett’s attitude coming to New York?  Clearly, it wasn’t his first choice (Minnesota).  It probably wasn’t his second choice (Chicago).  It probably wasn’t even his third choice (Tampa Bay).  He’s only committed to one year in New York.  If things don’t go well for the Jets early on, Favre will take a pounding in a New York minute (Favre’s not in Kansas – oops, I mean Green Bay – anymore). 

    

For example, the Jets open in Miami against the woeful (at least last year) Dolphins.  But now that the Dolphins have instituted the Bill Parcells system from top to bottom and signed a Parcells first-round pick when he was a Jet (Chad Pennington), this first game goes from an easy win to a much tougher win.  With the Patriots and the Chargers after that, the first game of the year now becomes a must win divisional game on the road, a tough thing to do regardless of your opponent.  While the schedule gets much easier after that, the Jets could be in a gigantic hole after only three games.    

    

Beyond that, what does this do for the Jets in the long term (defined as three, four and five years from now)?  Well, if nothing else, the growth of Kellen Clemens will be stunted (from a small sample of NFL games, I’m not sold on Clemens as a big-time quarterback or even the future of the Jets at quarterback).  But the Favre acquisition limits his growth for at least another year or two.  To really understand this, just look at Aaron Rodgers.  Where’s he going this year?  Favre has said in the past that he doesn’t want to be a mentor.  Do you think he’s going to change now?  Neither do I.   

    

Give owner Woody Johnson a ton of credit.  He’s spent a ton of money on Alan Faneca, Damien Woody and Kris Jenkins, among others.  Are these guys still top-shelf players or on the decline?  Tough question.  Brett Favre’s acquisition certainly makes this a win-now team.  Or else.  Will all of these All-Pros/Super Bowl Champions still be top shelf players in three, four or five years?  Very unlikely.  Will any of them?  Tough question.

    

But it’s a win-now world and a win-now league.  Did Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery just get better?  Absolutely.  Are either of them Donald Driver?  Unlikely.

    

And don’t forget, despite a great regular season in 2007, Favre has, in recent years, shown a tremendous ability to make some incredibly stupid throws in big spots.  Hard to believe that (now Super Bowl champion) Eli Manning could go into Green Bay in a playoff game and outplay Brett Favre.  But he did, and many thought that final terrible interception that Favre threw, which, essentially, ended Green Bay’s season, would be the final pass of his glorious career.  Obviously, that’s not true.

    

To recap, the Jets have improved as a football team for the next year, maybe two.  Did the Jets have to make this move?  Probably.  But will Brett Favre make them an elite AFC team (which, nowadays, would make them an elite NFL team) this year?  I can’t rate them ahead of the Patriots or the Colts or the Chargers (or even the Steelers).  Can you?

    

Perhaps the most interesting thing Favre said since his arrival wasn’t the “I can’t make any guarantee” or the “I hope I can play as well as I’ve played in the past.”  Rather, it was the following at his initial press conference:  “To a certain degree, I really don’t know what I’m getting into.”  Well, he’s going to find out, for better or for worse.

 

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

UNDEFEATED DEWEYCHEATUMNHOWE WINS THE $1.5 MILLION HAMBLETONIAN AND ACHIEVES RACING IMMORTALITY

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

On Saturday, August 2, 2008, Deweycheatumnhowe (with driver Ray Schnittker) reached legendary status by becoming the first trotter in the history of harness racing to win the Hambletonian (the “Kentucky Derby” of harness racing) while remaining undefeated.  Deweycheatumnhowe left to the lead from his post one position and held off the late challenge of Crazed (Tim Tetrick) to win the $750,000 first place check by half-a-length in 1:52 flat over a Meadowlands track rated “good” due to heavy rains earlier in the day.

    

Despite the bad weather, just over 25,000 fans attended the races at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  As the horses went behind the gate for harness racing’s biggest trot race, Dewey actually looked a little rolly in front but it was probably due to the speed of the starting gate.  When the gate pulled away, Dewey clicked into high gear, started trotting up a storm and put everyone in a hole by trotting a 26.4 first quarter over the good-rated track

    

Others left for the lead, including Pine After Pine (Ron Pierce), Big Apple Deli (John Campbell) and Velocity Hall (Dave Miller), as second-favorite Crazed (Tim Tetrick) protected his post two and then got right behind Dewey.  As they came out of the first turn, Pine After Pine was unable to get down to the pylons and made a break, eliminating him from contention.  Dewey cut the mile, with Crazed in the two-hole and Big Apple Deli third on the inside.

    

Velocity Hall, who was out the whole mile and through the first half fractions of 26.4 and 55 (a slight 28.1 second-quarter breather for the leader), tried to mount a first-over challenge but could never get to Dewey’s wheel.  Clerk Magistrate (Jody Jamieson – a late driver change for Trevor Ritchie, who was stuck on the tarmac at Syracuse Airport due to the bad weather) was second-over, followed by Celebrity Secret (Brian Sears) third-over.

    

As they hit the three-quarters in 1:23.2 and headed for the stretch, Velocity Hall started to tire, Clerk Magistrate tipped three-wide and briefly looked like he might make a race of it and Tim Tetrick popped Crazed out of the pocket.  Briefly, Clerk Magistrate and Crazed seemed to be fighting for the same lane to the finish line, but Clerk Magistrate would tire as Crazed would make a real run at Deweycheatumnhowe.  Winning driver Schnittker really got into his horse in the last sixteenth and he was able to hold off the hard-charging Crazed by half-a-length in 1:52, the third-fastest Hambletonian ever.  Ray Schnittker’s other horse (he trains as well), Make It Happen (Dan Dube), had the ten post and swept from eighth at the three-quarter pole to finish third, beaten three-and-a-quarter lengths.  Celebrity Secret was fourth and Clerk Magistrate got fifth money ($75,000 in this race).

    

After the race, driver-trainer Schnittker was happy and relieved:  He told NBC’s Donna Brothers that it was a great relief and said, “He wants to win.  That’s why he’s won 15 in a row.  He just dug in and refused to let [Crazed] go by.  He’s one hell of a horse.”  Adding a little humor to the affair, when Brothers asked him what this win means to him, Schnittker laughed and said, “It don’t matter if I die now, I got it.”

    

The win was the 15th in a row (10 for 10 at the Meadowlands) for the three-year-old son of Muscles Yankee for trainer-driver Schnittker and owners Schnittker, Ted Gewertz and Charles Iannazzo, all of New York, and the Deweycheatumnhowe Stable of Kentucky.  Bred by Steve Jones of New York and named for the fictional law firm of many comics, including the Three Stooges (believed to be the first to use it), the 2-5 favorite Deweycheatumnhowe raised his lifetime earnings to $1,953,246.

    

While it was wonderful exposure for harness racing to show its latest superhorse on national TV, NBC brought in its (mostly) thoroughbred team to cover the event.  While they had harness racing expert Gary Seibel (who, for about 20 years, was the race caller at Pompano Harness Track in Florida) to explain what was going on, they also brought in thoroughbred man Mike Battaglia from Churchill Downs, who struggled with some terminology (like calling superstar John Campbell a Hall of Fame rider before correctly calling him a driver) and didn’t know that Tom Charters (Battaglia called him Tom Campbell in the Winner’s Circle) is the President and CEO of the Hambletonian Society.  You can do both harness and thoroughbred racing (Seibel, for example, works for TVG, the television racing channel, and covers both on an almost nightly basis), but it’s a lot of work.

    

Despite the weather, it was a wonderful showcase for harness racing’s newest legend, Deweycheatumnhowe, the undefeated Hambletonian champion.  

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.