From The Dugout:
The 'Condo' Awards
[Editor's note: This feature
coordinated by Denny O'Brien]
He’s back, and this week he’s
handing out the hardware. Coach LeClair, still bitter over Aaron Boone’s
shot-heard-‘round-the Bronx that eliminated his Red Sox, weighs in on the first
annual “Condo” awards.
It takes more than just a run-of-the-mill player to take home a “Condo.” Coach
LeClair looks for guts, grit, and good ‘ole hard-nosed guys. He likes to think
outside the box, too, so you might be surprised by a few of his selections.
Plus, he answers a question
about a late legend.
Be on the lookout next week, as
the “All-Condo” team is announced. In the meantime, if you have
a question about baseball, past or present, feel free to aim your best pitch
Or, if you just want to send Coach LeClair a personal note, do so at
By Keith LeClair
This was a close race all the way down to the wire, but this man did
something that nobody has done since Bucky Dent — hit a home run that
devastated the whole city of Boston and even got the manager fired. His
name of course is Aaron Boone. With one swing of the bat, he leap-frogged
over Bonds and Pujols. I don’t care what experts say, this guy is the
Major League MVP for 2003 with his heroics in Game Seven of the ALCS. It
may have been his only hit, but who cares? It meant more than any home
run by Bonds or Pujols.
Young: This was a no-brainer. Mike Maroth of the Detroit Tigers
gets my vote after a courageous 9-21 mark. The intestinal fortitude it
took for this guy to take the mound every start knowing he was going to
lose is really a remarkable test of courage. His nine wins were most
likely all shut outs with the Tigers explosive lineup. On top of that,
he allowed only 50 walks in close to 300 innings, but the down side to
that is he gave up 34 bombs.
I know Gagne had a
great year, but if he were with the Tigers, he would have only had five
save chances, so you have to take into account everything when making a
Manager of the Year: Alan Trammel of the Tigers. He edged out
Jack McKeon by a nose. Do you know how many 'Keep your heads up, we will
get ‘em tomorrow' speeches he had to deliver? To be exact, 119. He must
have saved his best for last, because whatever he said after 119 must
have worked to keep the Tigers from a historical 120-game losing season.
Let the champagne roll after that dramatic 43rd win.
Rookie of the Year: The Chicago Cubs fan that made a tremendous
play on a foul ball that allowed the goat to keep grazing for another
Game of the Year: Toss up between Game Seven of the Yankees and
Game Six of the Cubs-Giants. Since the Babe’s shadow was still cast on
the Sox when Boone’s ball left the park, I will have to go with this
one. It left all of Boston and its fans, including myself, heartbroken
one more time. The letter “B” is killing the Sox, starting with Babe,
Bagwell, Bucky — and who can forget Buckner? — and now Boone. Maybe
Boston needs to change the letter B on their caps to R for Red Sox. Just
Bonehead of the Year: This is tough since John Rocker’s
departure, but I have to go with Randall Simon hitting the sausage guy
over the head with a bat. That probably cost some guy big money in Vegas
who had that sausage to win the race.
Chokemaster of the Year: It has to be the Chicago Cubs losing two
in a row at home with Prior and Woods on the mound. After the fan made a
spectacular play on the foul ball, Moises Alou throws a temper tantrum,
stomping up and down and then Gonzalez boots a double play ball. But
nobody wants to talk about that — instead, let’s blame the guy who paid
big bucks to go to a game dreaming of catching foul ball.
Sucker Punch of the Year: It has to be my hero Zimmer’s flailing
right hook on Pedro. I still think he should have used a jab to set up
that overhand right. But give Zim credit. He bounced up, wiped the blood
off and stayed in the game. If that had happened to Pedro, he would have
gone on the DL.
Jenny Craig Award: The classic David Wells statement prior to his
Game Six start, after busting on Clemens’ and Pettites’ workout program,
saying he needs to write a book on how not to condition. He comes out of
Game Six in the second inning with a bad back. What made it even funnier
was listening to Tim McGarver brag on how durable Wells was in his
career. Hats off to David Wells and the Jenny Craig Lean Mean Fighting
Machine award. A few more sprints and a lot less donuts may help that
back in the future.
Hats off to the Marlins
Even though I
picked the Yankees in seven games to win the World Series, I honestly
believe the best team won. I don’t think any team since I have been
watching Major League baseball played as unselfish and hard as the
Jack McKeon did an
unbelievable job in bringing these young players together and getting
them to believe in one another as a team, which is not easy in
professional baseball. Maybe this is where their youth paid off down the
stretch and all the way to a World Series championship. They played with
passion and executed every step of the way.
With the Marlins
winning, it tells other organizations around the league you don’t have
to always have the highest payroll to win. Hopefully, the way this
unfolded, other teams will resist opening up their checkbooks and paying
free agents astronomical amounts of money, and instead use their farm
system to compete much like the Marlins did.
What’s sad is the
fact the Marlins in the near future won’t be able to afford the Josh
Becketts, Brad Penny or the Dontrelle Willis's of the world. But while
it lasts, you can expect the Marlins to put a competitive team on the
field. As long as Josh Beckett stays healthy, they certainly have a
number one starter to build this team around. This young guy is by far
the most impressive presence I have seen on the mound in my lifetime.
All he did was beat the Cubs on two days rest in Game Seven and come
back in the World Series to shut down the Yanks on three days rest. That
is not supposed to happen in this day and age.
As for the
Yankees, you can be assured that Mr. Steinbrenner will go out and spend
enough cash in the free agency market to contend for another World
Series. Whether we think it’s fair or not, you have to respect the guy’s
passion for wanting to win. I gained a lot of respect for Mr.
Steinbrenner when Clyde King spoke to our teams at our annual team
Christmas banquet. Every year the question would be asked to Mr. King,
who works for Mr. Steinbrenner: “What is he like?” And Mr. King would
always say as much bad that is written about him he does twice the good,
giving generously to charities that nobody even knows about. Sometimes
we are quick to judge people by the cover and overlook what’s on the
inside, but just to be on the safe side I will continue to call him Mr.
Red Sox sink to all-time low
I am not too
afraid to say that the Sox are my team and have been my whole life. But
I must admit, I am embarrassed with the way they have treated Grady
Little. This week, they let him go as manager after losing to the
Yankees in Game Seven of the ALCS. They stated that it had nothing to do
with leaving Pedro in the game to face Hideki Matsui with a two run
lead. What a boldface fabrication of the truth. If Pedro gets Matsui out
and the Sox go onto win, the Red Sox would have rolled out the red
carpet and given Grady Little a nice lucrative contract. Instead, the
Boston front office said he just wasn’t the guy for the future, citing
differences in game managerial styles. In all my years being a Red Sox
fan I have never heard the word future used. It’s now or never with
every Bostonian fan that is alive.
apparent that the people running Boston’s organization did not see the
same pitching staff on the field I did. Grady Little got a lot out of
the Red Sox, despite not having a quality three, four and five starter
and a bullpen that was inconsistent all year. It feels good to get that
off my chest and vent a little frustration. That just goes to show you
as a coach, you’re only as good as the last game you play. Or, should I
say appreciated depending on the outcome?
Musing the “Mick”
Robert Gray of
Raleigh, a huge Mickey Mantle fan, chimes in with a question for me: How
do you think Mickey Mantle would rate if he were 25-years old today,
playing on today's Yankees?
I love talking
about the old time players and how experts think they would stack up in
today’s game. And by no means am I an expert on this subject because I
never saw the Mick play, but I know that when you have hit 536 homeruns,
driven in 1509 runs and hit .298 for your career, that speaks for
itself. Although I never saw him play during my time, I have read a
couple of his books.
Here is a player
who switch hit, ran under four seconds to first base and played great
defense in the outfield. Mickey Mantle was and is the greatest
all-around player to ever play the game. Only Barry Bonds will probably
be considered greater than Mickey Mantle when he retires.
The sad part about
Mickey Mantle is the fact that many people thought he could have been
even better if he had chosen to take care of himself off the field. It
was no secret that the Mick liked the nightlife and his liquor. The
question will never be answered on just how much better Mickey Mantle
could have been if he had devoted himself more to the game. But one
question that can be answered: He is one of the greatest ever to put on
Could he play
today and how would he stack up amongst the modern conditioned player
today? Only speculation can answer those questions, but in my opinion,
amongst the steroid abusers of today he would still be one of the
greats. His tools are second to none in his ability to hit, run, throw,
field and display light pole power. Whether you stack him up against
players of today or players of his time, he still is one of the all-time
02.23.07 10:27 AM