Thursday, December 2, 2021

Clutch 01-2021 Don't Call it a Comeback - I've Been Here For Years

Hey All!

This will be possibly the world's (or at least my) shortest blog. A one minute read at best.


Long story short, as promised, I retired from being a professional stand-up comedian in the summer of 1991. Though I've have a successful career for the past 30-years doing other things, I've somewhat always regretted giving it up. I loved doing it, being part of the culture, and the mark of "fame" that came with it.

Since then I've always stayed connected to the art, but as an amateur at best. I'd host and M.C. parties over the years (milestone wedding anniversaries, birthdays, etc.) and constantly wrote stuff. As a matter of fact I perused over an old hard-drive the other day and found just tons of old material. Some were completed books, started books, older blogs (before blogging was a thing), articles and other writings. 

Fast forward to now, and I'm looking to now fire it up and get going. I want, scratch that, need to get back on stage. Though I can probably do it today and just start babbling into the mic, I prefer to have updated material ready. Some of my stuff was/is timeless, but other is not like who's Fabio? what's an answering machine? Is O.J. out looking for the real killer? (Oh wait a minute, that was is actually old and new!).

Anyway - more to come as I get my literal act together. Trust me, I will get the word out when the time is time. Until then - get ready to laugh - at or with me.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Clutch 01-2018: Ohtani-Mania Remained a Quiet Game Changer

He's the first dual-sided threat since Babe Ruth. He's in much better shape though as this guy looks like an athlete where the Great Bambino looked more like your local butcher. Any baseball person might wonder why there aren't more players out there like this. The "This" is the dual-sided, not out of shape double threat. It seems logical, but for some reason hasn't shown itself in a long while. The Sultan of Swat was actually tri-sided as he could pitch, hit and drink a beer at the bar at Fenway in-between innings equally well. 

Hopefully, at this point, you know what is being spoken about here. If not, then it’s clear you’re not truly digging your heals into the new baseball season. Real quick (just in case) Shohei Ohtani is an all-star player in Japan who has crossed over and is now on the California Angels. Clutch research isn’t sure if the Angels are still called that. Aren’t they the Los Angles Angels of Anaheim or something like that? Or maybe that’s the A’s or the Mighty Ducks that changed moniker. Anyway, imports or common these days - but the big deal about this guy is that he is an all-star pitcher and hitter.

When Mr. Clutch was an all-star in his own right (in little league) he was also the double threat. Pitching a one-hitter and going three for four with a couple of RBIs was commonplace for a spring Saturday afternoon back in the late 70s and early 80s. In adulthood the hitting got even better but the pitching was surrendered for gold glove middle infield. Clutch had become a constant home run and power hitting threat in competitive softball until a torn ankle, weight and Father Time forced retirement. Today, thousands of moons later, the astonishing curveball and seeing-eye singles are put on display only once a year in the pilgrimage to light up the wiffle-ball fields in a fall tournament.
Here’s a slightly less know baseball factoid, less known unless you saw the “Thunder and Lightning” 30 for 30 on ESPN. That episode was about the 1985 Mississippi State college baseball team that featured Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro, who were the focus of the program. That team also had Jeff Brantley and Bobby Thigpen, all future major leaguers. Thigpen’s MLB claim to fame was being the single-season saves leader for a couple of decades until it was recently broken. Though background fodder in the documentary, Thigpen is the subject of this factoid.

Anyway, the meat and potatoes of the factoid is what had taken place in the semi-final game of the 1985 college World series which was featured on the episode. Bobby was playing right field in that game with Brantley on the hill. The facts here might be slightly blurred, but Thigpen hit a grand slam in the top of the last inning to give Miss St. the 4-3 lead. In the bottom of the 9th inning, Jeff ran out of gas and Bobby was brought in from RF to pitch and get the last couple of outs and secure a trip to the finals. Long story long, he gave up a HR to someone nobody ever heard of and they lost. The poor guy went from status-quo to hero to goat in a matter of minutes. He was “Dual-sided”, though it’s unlikely that he ever got an AB in his long major league career.

Back to current times, Ohtani was the darling of free agency during the 2017/18 offseason. Most teams were interested, though only a handful were able to afford him. After the dust settled from the wheeling and dealing he ended up with likely the highest bidder which was the Angels. It is possible, and thinking about it more likely, that only a coast team had a shot at the guy. He likely would give a small discount to avoid going to any place near Des Moines not to mention that the mid-market teams don’t spend that kind of money on an unproven, of sorts, star.

The Clutch statistics bureau keeps a close eye on spring training data. Ohtani had an awful spring on both of the dual sides, which should have made the first week of the season "Interesting". There was talk on sports radio of sending him to the minors to start the season, but that was not an option for a player making that kind of glue and likely the basis for increased season ticket sales. The fact of the matter is spring training is not the best barometer for a players season and there wasn’t much to worry about.

It’s not to say that he couldn’t end up being a bust (cue the bloated Japan pitcher that the Yankees signed back in the day). During that guys bloatest of years, a Clutch associate spotted him at the famed 2nd avenue deli ordering one of those big sandwiches. His name was Hideki Irabu and it’s only being specifically mentioned as more of a memorial. Irabu fell way short of expectations, had a very short career in the MLB and ended up taking his own life at the tender age of 42. It’s a shame that playing a kids game for a living can come to that.

There is always a risk when taking a player from offshore to on. The culture is different, the game is played slightly askew and the fact is that the “Play” here in the MLB is better. It’s not simple to qualify the better, but most American players who fall a tad short of making it to the show end up reversing the commute and playing overseas. Some think and say that Japanese baseball teams, though good, are kind of the USA AAAA teams in terms of the quality of the game. Coming West is more than packing a bag, it’s stepping up to a higher competitive game.

Ohtani had an efficient pretty good pitching start his first time out when it counted and has now clubbed a couple of home runs (three in about that many games) in the DH role. He is atop the leaders in home runs today as the typing happens (subject to change of course). Perhaps this is going to pan out and he will prove that dual-sided is more than an amateur play. We might finally be on to something!

One of the issues with blogging about very current events is that the event moves faster than the blog. Being a less than part-time activity, and way down the totem pole of Clutch enterprise responsibilities, it sometimes takes a few weeks or more to get one of these babies ready for the Internet press. Of course a lot could happen from the conceptual idea to buttoning up the witty closing remark. This guy is a good example as the title (part of it) just went out the window as did the originality of this piece.


Well, the main point here was that Ohtani was doing something not done in ions and nobody was really talking about it. It was hush hush because of the bad spring and potential that this would be nothing more than a feeble attempt to be the best of the best on offense and defense. Clutch laboratories knew that there was something special here, hence the start of the blog. The problem (good problem) is that since crossing the writing starting line our guy has caught fire.

Yeah, the three home runs in a row is noted above, but that paragraph had to be updated multiple times. You see it was first written when he hit one dinger. Then the next day another round-tripper, which required a revisit to the words and more importantly the press started to talk about it. Then the next day he hit his third long ball in as many days, which has been kept fresh here and now more than the L.A. beat reporters were all over it. Our friends at ESPN started to take notice with an online blurb.

Then the death blow to my “Unique” piece came when just the other day Ohtani took the mound for his second start of the season which was around seven days plus into the origination of this work. What does he do? Nothing more than throws six perfect innings and finally lost the essence of perfection by surrendering a single in the seventh. Within a week he literally went from a circus act to becoming the too legit to quit dual-sided threat. Well, so much for an exclusive run on this matter.  

What’s somewhat worse is now ESPN has a dedicated tab on their MLB page to this guy. It’s called the “Ohtani Tracker” and you guessed it: Click on it and see what the player is up to lately. It’s typically just a blurb, short video or stat, but nonetheless, it’s keeping an eye on Shohei’s daily activity. It’s not gone as far as “The Truman Show” (pretty good movie by the way), but still a tad of overkill. It’s somewhat remindful of the old days when the golf updates would tell you everything you needed to know in a tournament AND what Tiger Woods was doing.

Back in the day, any sort of international player seemed intriguing and to get front and back page news and was followed with baited-breath by all sports fans. Remember Fernando Valenzuela? And then Hideo Nomo? In Nomo's case he was one of the first to break free from Asia and play in the MLB. Mr. Clutch went to watch Nomo pitch down in Florida during his debut season. The Marlins, who still don't draw squat decades later, had a couple of thousand more of us in the stadium that day to which an international player with an unorthodox motion.

The fanfare of the international crossover player, especially from Asia, died down once they started coming over in flocks and the starlight started getting watered down. It was getting to a point that a player who was just OK when playing for the Tokyo Argonauts was coming over and being a backup. Just as we all started to forget about this and it became more of a natural transaction we get hit with the next best thing and a guy who will likely get a double-sided candy bar named after him, or perhaps they tie his name to the return of the McDLT (Get it…two sides hot and cold).

Before the corrections start flowing in, especially from Cardinals fans, yes, technically Rick Ankiel went both ways, just not at the same time. He started off as a high prospect pitcher with a big fastball. When the flamethrower stopped finding home-plate and would release a pitch in Tampa that would land in Georgia it started to become evident that he wasn’t going to make it as a professional pitcher. He was likely a great overall baseball player growing up and like Kid Clutch could probably pitch and hit.

Ankiel disappeared from the game for a couple of years and most fans thought he would end up selling insurance for state farm or become a high school gym teacher. Before a second round of complaints come in, those are two admirable professions, and only mentioned because this is a commonplace landing ground for retired ballplayers. Of course the ones who had the financial windfall usually end up staying in the game in some capacity or stay home watching game shows and their kids grow up.

In Rick’s case he wasn’t done just yet. Out of the woodwork reemerged an outfielder! Ankiel dusted off the hitting and fielding craft and returned to play the second side of the dual. He was out to prove it could be done and that George Herman was no fluke. A few years and teams later the experiment ended with tepid success. Though he probably had all the potential in the world, it was never fully realized at either end. That said, the record books do indicate that only Ruth and Ankiel ended their careers with 10+ wins and 50+ home runs. Not bad company to be in.

The Clutch corporate offices have tons of questions about Ohtani and the return of the dual-sided player. Most of which MLB has not needed answers to until now. The main one surrounds the option to have him DH on the same day that he pitches. Is this allowed? The guess is that there isn’t a rule that clearly states if it is or isn’t. It’s probably not that important as the team manager would most likely never want to exercise that option, even if it was one.

Then there is a slightly different variation of the question above. For those Met fans with a good memory, they tried a weird sports science experiment once. Jesse Orosco was in right-field and came in to pitch to select hitters, and then went back to the outfield in the same game. Technically players can change position in a game, just not sure if it applies to DH. If so, then Ohtani would be able to potentially start or pitch in relief while also hitting.

Then there are these questions which are more related to awards and prizes. Should these old guys that take the slow boat over later in their career and play their first year in the MLB be eligible for the rookie of the year? The current rules say yes, as they are a “rookie” or first-year player in the MLB as it’s defined. There is no rule around age or previous experience in the sport somewhere else. The Clutch department of weights and measures would say the rule should be modified in lieu of all the international and intergalactic players coming to the MLB later on in life.

There has been general debate if pitchers should be eligible for the MVP since they have their own CY Young award. It usually doesn't happen anyway - but this could be a legitimate exception with a dual-sided player. Do you remember that ridiculous year where a relief pitcher won BOTH the CY Young and MVP? He got a raise from $530k to $660k after winning both awards and clearly being voted on as the best in the game. Today the 25th man who reads the newspaper during the game makes more than that! Winning both trophies for just pitching should become a thing of the past. That said, and if this became a rule, Ohtani should remain eligible as he’s doing both with moxy.

In closing, the multi-sport athlete came and went and maybe this too shall pass. Neither of those should as when the game evolves the evolution should stick, especially if it works. Deion and Bo were successful on dual sports and there is no reason to believe that Ohtani won’t do the same in dual positions. What would Team Clutch like to see? A shot all the way with a player pitching on Monday and fielding a position the rest of the week! Come on, it’s baseball – 99% standing around 1% playing, so being tired shouldn’t be an excuse. Until then we wish Ohtani the best as he changes the game one HR hit and K pitched at a time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Clutch 33-2016: Extra Innings

Mr. Clutch’s last blog post ramble on about “The End” and the excitability about going on a virtual vacation from baseball, blogging and maybe some other things that start with a “B”. Well, that was as short-lived as the executive career of that Pope that got poisoned. Mr. Clutch speaks is back for extra innings! The Ali-like return to the ring is partially because it’s hard to get away from something one likes doing and partially because there is more to report.

First, and quickly, two of the Clutch top-10 movies are referenced in the above paragraph. You are challenged to figure out what movies they are. The guess from Clutch laboratories is that a few of you (maybe one) will get one of the two, nobody will get both of the two and likely most will get none. Many movie references are name dropped into these blogs – but it’s rare to see two in the same paragraph. Feel free to leave a comment with your guess(es). There is a third bonus question – which there is 100% certainty that nobody will guess the answer to – even if you guess the two movies. There is an actor who played a very small supporting role in both films. Guess that and you will be deemed as almost as film critic worthy as Mr. Clutch himself.

The hard to get away part is tied more to writing than it is baseball. The Clutch creative writing division has many works in different stages of development. First, there is “Paranoid”, the critically acclaimed book published back in 2001. It’s available at and more info is available there and on “Paranoid” was put in front of a Hollywood producer back in the day and was almost optioned to become a major motion picture. It was also Pulitzer prize eligible in 2001 and ranked high on amazons book sales listing in the first quarter of 2002. It makes a perfect Christmas gift, and the author himself will sign any purchased copies and offer a 90-day “Answer” period where he will respond directly to a reader who has questions about the content.

Other books in the Clutch pipeline include “Year on the Felt” which documented a complete calendar year of Clutch’s poker play, and include much insight, philosophy and good stories about wins and losses. It’s in the editing stage at the moment. Then there’s “Hill 260” (working title) which is a non-fiction look at Clutch’s old man’s frontline experience in World War II. The content was strung together through interviews and research. This one is partially done, but mostly still in a virtual state. This one is probably a little more destined to be a movie than “Paranoid” and will likely star Ben Affleck as the current Mr. Clutch and Tom Hanks as his old man. Hopefully this will be coming soon to a theater near you.

The last work in the archives is this. It’s certainly the poster boy of a “Work in progress” as this group of blog posts is the skeleton or outline of the next great book on baseball. It’s pretty simple in that the 33+ blog posts will be chapters, and the current content of each blog post is the outline. All that needs to be done now is beef up each chapter by adding 3-7 pages of content to what’s there now. The end result will be a 300+ page book on the baseball adventures and thoughts of Mr. Clutch. Yes, writing a book *is* sort of kind of that easy.

The other reason for the extra frame is that Mr. Clutch himself stepped onto the diamond for the big annual wiffleball tournament held over in Jackson. It’s the one time of year that instead of speaking and writing that actual doing goes on. It’s a great day of fun, food, booze, banter and of course the kids American pastime “Wiffle-Ball”. Wiffle-ball perhaps was the easiest way for two friends or enemies to play the closest thing to baseball with a yellow plastic bat and white ball with holes in it as the equipment needed. A garage door would usually come in handy along with a pole or tree to indicate boundaries.

The annual pilgrimage to Jackson gives each of the 32 adults a periscope look back into the past. It’s a few hours of trying to do your best despite physical and aged limitations, when back in the day as a kid with a rubber arm and unbridled enthusiasm doing your best was just a day in the office. A player leaves all his problems at home that day and focuses solely on throwing strikes, banging out home runs and having the time of his life. This particular tournament has been going on for around 15 years with Mr. Clutch being a participant for around the past eight or so.

The tournament, which incidentally is what it’s called, is like the NCAA basketball March Madness in that many “Teams” are invited though only a handful of those signed up actually have a chance to win. For every Kentucky and Louisville in the tournament there are many Belmonts, Murray States and Iona’s. Unfortunately, and despite the abilities as a youth, Mr. Clutch represents East Tennessee State and not North Carolina.

The tournament is stacked with phenomenal athletes and ballplayers. Let’s see, for starters there is former Major League baseball player with 9 years as a pro and World Series ring. Then there is the guy who played AA ball for the Met’s before becoming an agent. And let’s not forget the pitcher who played college ball and the infielder who represented Italy in the World Baseball classic. Once guy spent many years as the Met’s bullpen catcher, which though you are an “employee” and not a “player” on the team, it’s still a position reserved for a great athlete who maybe was just a hair shy of being good enough to play on the team. There are also many “Amateurs” in this thing who throw gas, hit for power and make the wiffleball dance in the wind before reaching the batter’s box. It’s just too much for a guy who once, but no longer, has it to overcome.

The playing area is set up with four perfectly manicured and designed fields. This includes a plank of wood with a hole in it for the strike-zone, chalk fair lines down first and third, a home run fence literally made out of fence material, and lastly beautifully erected fair poles (thanks Tim McCarver otherwise they would be referred to as “Foul” poles) out in left and right field. The distance from the mound to home is the industry standard for wiffle-ball, with the final touch being a set of carefully thought out rules for the first round point system. 16 make it out alive after four games, and then from that point on its head to head games just like the old days. The day works its way down to two players – who play for the title.

Though winning the tournament and getting to sign the professional baseball bat in sharpie and carry it for a year “Stanley Cup” style is the goal, there is nothing out there better than just the feel, smell and overall excitement associated with stepping into the batter’s box or on the mound for the first of many times that day. Of course that great way of it gets reversed the next day (or two) when the elders are typically in pain from head to toe due to using muscles that laid dormant for close to 12 months. The pain, extreme at times and lasts longer the older a player gets, is well worth it’s safe to say that none of the 32 would ever give up that day regardless of the physical price paid.