Tag:John Wooden
Posted on: October 13, 2010 3:40 pm

Ready, Fredi? Braves make Gonzalez official

Fredi Gonzalez is smart, he's coached under Bobby Cox, the Braves love him (front office and players alike) and he's got a veteran manager's pedigree.

There's only one thing not working in his favor, and it will be no small obstacle for Gonzalez to overcome: That old maxim, you never want to be the man who follows The Man.

Following Cox in Atlanta? It will be like following John Wooden at UCLA (poor Gene Bartow), Don Shula with the Miami Dolphins (Jimmy Johnson couldn't replicate the success), Tommy Lasorda with the Dodgers (hello Bill Russell, sacrificial lamb).

Not only did Cox guide the Braves to those 14 consecutive NL East titles (discounting the strike-shortened 1994 season) and the 1995 World Series title, but his greater legacy while moving to fourth on the all-time managerial wins list might be this: You never heard any player who passed through the Braves clubhouse over the years utter a negative word about Cox. None. Ever.

What a testament to Cox in the immediate aftermath of Game 4 of the NL Division Series: The Turner Field crowd giving him a prolonged standing ovation, and the San Francisco Giants hitting the "pause" button on their on-field celebration long enough to stop, face the Braves dugout and give Cox a standing ovation of their own. What a show of spontaneity and class.

Into this Grand Canyon-sized opening steps Gonzalez, who was unceremoniously dumped by the Marlins last summer when owner Jeffrey Loria's lust for Bobby Valentine apparently got the best of him.

Gonzalez was the Braves' third-base coach from 2003-2006 and, before that, in 2002, he managed their Triple-A Richmond club.

This is a man with intimate knowledge of the Braves' system -- the players, the way they do things, the culture. Even after leaving to manage the Marlins in 2007, Gonzalez lived in the Atlanta area in the winters and several times a week would meet Cox and other Braves coaches for breakfast.

So, the transition from Cox and Gonzalez should be seamless. Part of that will be because the Braves, as you would expect, handled the entire transition with class. From Cox's retirement to refusing to discuss Gonzalez until after one last, final Cox news conference on Wednesday, the Braves hit all the right notes.

Now, it's up to Gonzalez. We don't know whether Chipper Jones will make it back next year from his knee injury, but we do know the cupboard is fairly well stocked for the new manager, from pitchers Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe and Tommy Hanson to everyday players such as Martin Prado, Jason Heyward and Brian McCann.

In Atlanta, the prima donnas are at a minimum. Presumably, Gonzalez will not have a petulant Hanley Ramirez problem on his hands. And if he does, we know how he'll respond: In one of his finest moments as Marlins manager, he benched Ramirez when the shortstop resorted to dogging it.

In two of Gonzalez's three full seasons in Florida -- 2008 and 2009 -- he got more out of the Marlins than they had a right to expect. He'll have more resources in Atlanta -- bigger payroll, more tradition and established veteran players.

Replacing Cox will be no easy task, but in so many ways, Gonzalez is inheriting an ideal situation. Let's see what the man can do.

Posted on: June 6, 2010 8:45 pm
Edited on: June 6, 2010 8:52 pm

Hey newspapers, you better listen up

I love newspapers. Love 'em. Even in the Internet age, I couldn't imagine starting my day without breakfast, coffee and the newspaper.

But newspapers are making it harder and harder for me to love them. Because the people who run them are hell-bent on destroying them.

The latest example to slap me in the face came Saturday morning, when I brought the Los Angeles Times in from my driveway and there was absolutely no mention, zero, on the front page of John Wooden's death.

I couldn't believe it.

Among other things, newspapers serve as instant time capsules. There are certain days, for me at least, when I can't wait to get the morning paper. Mostly, these days come after a monumental news story occurs.

This was one of them.

I flipped back to the sports section, and there was a huge photo of Wooden and excellent (as usual) columns by T.J. Simers and Bill Plaschke. Back to the front page, in case I had missed something. No. Nada.

After several minutes, I found six boxes under the Simers and Plaschke columns -- known as "refers", in the biz -- indexing where the various stories in the package could be found. A story on Wooden's Pyramid of Success, for example, on page C-7. Well, the first box read "Obituary for an American Icon" on A-1.

Except, whoops.

No obituary. On John Wooden. In the Los Angeles Frickin' Times.

Obviously, there was some miscommunication in production and somebody didn't replace something that had been planned for the front page with a big Wooden spread.

How could this happen? Hmmm, I know! That's easy!

The corporate owners of the Times have laid off so many copy editors, production folks, writers, etc. over the past several years that the paper is a shell of what it once was. And egregious mistakes occur more and more frequently (though this is off-the-charts egregious. This might have been the worst newspaper screw-up I've ever seen).

Same story at nearly every other newspaper.

Three times so far this baseball season, the Padres' final score has not made it into my San Diego Union-Tribune (another paper that lands in my driveway each day). Again with the new corporate owners. They moved deadline up so far that even Padres games that ended around 11 p.m. weren't making it into the newspaper.

Now, the kicker: Each of those three times the Padres didn't make it into my local paper (I live in northern San Diego County), the final box score was in the Los Angeles Times.

Now how in the hell can the San Diego paper pull that? Has it got death wish?

Wait, don't answer that.

Obviously, it's gotten a lot of complaints because a week or so back there was a note from the sports editor detailing new deadlines and promising that every effort would be made to get the Padres' final in the paper.

So that's the state of newspapers today: By their actions, essentially broadcasting to their readers, hey, there's no need to subscribe to us. Because depending on circumstances, there is a very good chance we won't have what you care about in our slimmed-down paper.

I love newspapers. And I will continue subscribing until they turn out the lights on the very last one.

But, dammit, what's wrong with you people running them?

(Oh, and excuse me for veering off topic on this blog today. If you came here looking for baseball news, here's what I got: Wooden loved baseball, and he especially loved Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Dodgers manager Joe Torre and Angels manager Mike Scoscia. There. There's the tie-in to baseball.).

Posted on: June 4, 2010 11:11 pm

Braves' Venters a real vulture

LOS ANGELES -- Red-hot Atlanta and streaking Los Angeles got back to business here Friday night. And Jonny Venters, the Braves' one-pitch wonder, figured life would get back to normal after he unexpectedly scooped up his first career save Thursday by throwing, yes, one pitch.

While the Braves hooted and hollered and kidded him into Friday, the circumstances weren't funny.

Takashi Saito suffered a pulled left hamstring that would knock him onto the 15-day disabled list when he threw strike two to Russell Martin with two out in the ninth inning of Thursday night's game.

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox summoned Venters, a 25-year-old rookie whom the Braves picked in the 30th round of the 2003 draft, to finish off Martin. Billy Wagner, the Braves' closer, was unavailable because he had worked four games in the preceding four-day span.

One slider later, job done.

And Venters still hasn't heard the end of it.

"When we were walking in, Bobby was screaming at me, calling me a vulture," Venters said Friday, grinning. "And [closer] Billy Wagner has been ragging me all day. Every time he comes around, he tells me he has to win his job back.

"He calls me 'The Closer.'"

Though Venters has finished five games this season, Thursday's was his first save opportunity. He's appeared in 17 games as a situational lefty and compiled a 1.27 ERA and a .181 opponents' batting average in 21 1/3 innings.

When he reached the mound after Saito limped off Thursday with the Braves clinging to the one-run lead, Cox had just one piece of advice for him.

"He told me, 'If you're going to throw a slider, throw it down," said Venters, who proved to be a good listener just a few seconds later.

Aside from the Braves' teasing and, yes, warm congratulations, Venters received several other messages.

"Quite a few," he said. "I had a bunch of texts last night when I came in. Mostly from family and friends."

As for the ball, it was safely tucked away on a shelf in his locker.

"That's probably going into a case," he said. "I never thought it would be like that -- if I even ever got a save."

Likes: Beautiful drawing of retiring Braves manager Bobby Cox on the cover of the Braves media guide. Nice angle, from behind Cox in the dugout as he's looking out onto the field at Turner Field. ... Really nice moment during batting practice Friday -- several moments, actually -- when Dodgers manager Joe Torre walked over to visit with Cox and the two future Hall of Fame managers spent 20 or so minutes sitting on the bench in the visitors' dugout, chatting. ... Got a chuckle earlier this week when, in the Mets' clubhouse, the song American Pie was blaring from an iPad in Alex Cora's locker. ... Henry Schulman, Giants beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, says Pittsburgh is a far better city than generally given credit for. I could not agree more. And the picture of this Primanti Bros. salami sandwich in his San Francisco Ball Scribe Blog made me wish I was sitting through that Pirates-Giants rain delay Friday night with one of those bad boys on a plate in front of me. ...

Dislikes: John Wooden, sleep well. Sad, sad day. If the world had more John Woodens, I guarantee you there would be far fewer problems. What a sweet and tear-jerking sentiment from former UCLA player Jamaal Wilkes, who said he was in the room with Wooden's son, James, when Wooden asked to be shaved, and noted that "his son made the comment that when he got shaved he was getting ready to see Nellie." Nell is Wooden's late and beloved wife, who died of cancer in 1975.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Don't give up on your dreams
"Or your dreams will give up on you"

-- John Wooden

Posted on: June 4, 2010 10:55 pm

Joe Torre remembers John Wooden

LOS ANGELES -- John Wooden wasn't quite gone yet when the subject turned to the Coach in the Dodgers' dugout pre-game here Friday. Manager Joe Torre immediately softened, and I could swear his eyes moistened just a bit.

Torre met the legendary UCLA coach several years ago, when he was managing the Yankees and Wooden was well enough to travel to Angel Stadium for the meeting. Torre fondly recalled that moment Friday, speaking of how he's carried a piece of Wooden -- like so many others -- in his own work.

"His philosophy, I've used many times in trying to get points across and make decisions," Torre said. "Him being a big baseball fan, I didn't know that."

They talked about it, though -- and about other things -- over a lunch that lasted, according to Torre, four or five hours.

"To me, it was a great time when you have the opportunity to share some time with him," said Torre, who always enjoyed how much Wooden respected Derek Jeter.

Torre said Wooden phoned "when I decided to change jobs", and spoke in near awe of moments when Wooden would phone him.

"One time I was driving around with my wife and the phone rang and it was him," Torre said. "It always startles me, because he's such an enormous person."

Between them, Wooden and Torre have won 14 titles: Wooden led UCLA to 10 NCAA basketball championships, and Torre managed the New York Yankees to four World Series victories.

Category: MLB
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