I just finished watching a ten-part documentary series called Playing For Peanuts, which is about a team in the independent South Coast League. The league operated only one year, in 2007, and then folded.
The center of the story is Wally Backman. You might remember
he was hired to manage the Diamondbacks and fired four days later due to a domestic problem that hit the papers. Backman was desperate to get back into the game, so he agreed to manage the South Georgia Peanuts.
Wally was wired with a mic for the entire season. He was combustible, he was controversial, he got suspended, he got fired, he got rehired. But he passionately loved the game and defended his players.
The backdrop for all this is the absolutely horrid conditions in this indy league. It had four teams, and one of the four lost its stadium lease after a week so it had to play on the road for the rest of the year. There was a drug controversy — again, involving the Peanuts — and as the financial losses mounted the players wound up having to be their own grounds crew.
Despite all this, the Peanuts somehow won the pennant.
The series was originally envisioned as ten 30-minute episodes, or 22 minutes without commercials, to run on regional sports networks. The producer issued the series on DVD. It arrived yesterday and I couldn’t wait to watch the next episode. It was dramatic, it was funny, it was everything you’d want in a baseball documentary.
And if you’re looking for an Angels tie … The hitting coach was Larry Olenberger, the father of former Angels minor league pitcher Kasey Olenberger. You’ll see wearing Angels T-shirts and pictures of Kasey in Angels gear on his locker.
You can order the DVD through www.playingforpeanuts.com. It’s $25 plus $5 for shipping. I love finding little gems like this no one has ever heard about. It’s a perfect gift for a baseball fan.
Francisco Rodriguez arrives at Angel Stadium on September 15, 2002, the day of his first callup to the big leagues.
Perez Shines, But K-Rod Blows It Again
— New York Post headline, August 8, 2009
When Francisco Rodriguez signed with the New York Mets last winter as a free agent, I figured it was only a matter of time before the New York beat writers would turn on him.
Last night Frankie gave up five runs in the bottom of the 9th, with the coup de grace a grand-slam by Everth Cabrera, and the Mets lost 6-2 to the lowly San Diego Padres.
A night that began with the Mets savoring Oliver Perez for a change ended with them wondering what’s wrong with Francisco Rodriguez.
The All-Star closer blew his second consecutive save in hideous fashion, failing to record an out in the ninth as the last-place Padres rallied for a stunning 6-2 walk off win at Petco Park …
“I don’t know what else I can do,” Rodriguez said. “I’m just going through a really difficult moment right now, and I need to bounce back and be ready. I’m not getting no breaks.”
Granted, the Post is infamous for its tabloid hyperbole, so let’s see what the staid New York Times had to say. From beat writer Billy Witz:
After most of the Mets had paraded into the showers and out of the clubhouse, Frankie Rodriguez sat on a folding chair in front of his locker in his uniform with one leg crossed over the other as he stared across the room.
As one of the few Mets who are both healthy and capable enough to deliver a much-needed victory, the burden of failing to do so again was one that Rodriguez knew could not be easily washed away …
“The last two outings — really depressing,” Rodriguez said. “I’m just going through a real difficult moment right now and I’ve just got to bounce back and be ready for tomorrow. There’s nothing else I can do.”
Frankie’s problems have been for a lot longer than the last two games. His season ERA hit a low of 0.56 on June 16. Since then, it’s ballooned to 3.31. Over that period, he’s appeared in eighteen games, worked 16.2 innings, given up 16 earned runs for a 8.64 ERA over that span, given up four homers, struck out 15 and walked 15.
He was also involved in a confrontation three weeks ago with Mets executive Tony Bernazard, and Bernazard was subsequently fired as he’d also been in an incident a couple days before where he challenged members of the Mets’ Double-A team to a fight.
“We’ve always understood that he’s a guy that’s on the edge a little bit,” [Mets manager Jerry] Manuel said of Rodriguez, who has converted 24 saves in 29 chances. ‘It’s probably something that we have to get used to. We haven’t put him out there on the consistent basis that he’s used to and that probably has something to do with his command and what’s going on right now.”
The statement that “It’s probably something that we have to get used to” sounds a lot like Angels fans watching Frankie “on the edge” the last few years.
Although the Angels’ bullpen has been a mess for the most part this year, it’s been a lot more peaceful without wondering which Francisco Rodriguez was going to show up on a given night. At least we don’t see him pointing to the sky any more after another “on the edge” performance.