Howard and the Schmuck: Phillies Sued for 200th HR Ball

October 12, 2009

On July 16th, Ryan Howard hit the 200th homerun of his young career.  He became the quickest player to reach the milestone, doing so in just 658 games.  It took Alex Rodriguez 826 games to reach the same mark (ARod was 25 when he hit his, though, Howard is 29).  As has been the case in recent years where milestone homeruns are hit seemingly every night, not a whole lot was made of the round tripper, but more than a month later the story lingered for more selfish reasons.

Howard will have many more Homeruns, but if he wants to keep them, he better slim down and keep them in the park.

Howard will have many more Homeruns, but if he wants to keep them, he better slim down and keep them in the park.

It was a packed house in Miami that day, 39% full.  About 15,000 fans showed up to watch a division rivalry.  The ball was “caught” by 12-year-old Jennifer Valdivia.  She was sitting in one of the quarter-full sections of LandShark (A crappy beer, a crappier stadium) Stadium, and when the ball ended up under a seat a couple to the left of her own, Valdivia moved briskly, but did not face much competition in her quest to procure the ball.  Then she simply went back to her seat.

A Phillies representative was sent out to get Jennifer and her 16 year old brother.  They were brought down to the clubhouse and given cotton candy and a different ball signed by Ryan Howard in exchange for the historic homerun ball.  They took the exchange, and all parties seemed to be content.

Now I do not know if Miami area attorney Norm Kent approached them or they approached Kent, but this guy was born for this case.  Kent is a Brooklyn-born former talk show host and political advocate whose office is riddled with Brooklyn Dodgers memorabilia (Read up on Norm Kent here).  Kent seems like the type of guy who loves to be in the spotlight, and was waiting for an opportunity to attach himself to baseball somehow.

Norm Kent as Dodgers Fantasy Camp.  Click to read his fantasy baseball blog.

Norm Kent at Dodger's Fantasy Camp. Click to read his fantasy baseball blog.

The famous Valdivia vs. The Philadelphia Phillies case will be known for giving fans the ultimate right to a baseball caught in the stands.  That’s right, Kent sued the Phillies so Jennifer could get her baseball back.

The practice of returning milestone homerun balls to the player that hit them became very prevalent around the time of Mark McGwire’s run.  At that time, people were excited to catch one and get driven down to the clubhouse to meet with the Larger than Life slugger.  Things seem to have changed since McGwire’s 70th sold for a cool million.

The market has slowed to a halt since then, and Norm Kent’s appraisal of the ball as being worth $1,000 is probably correct.  Someone would pay that much for the ball right now.  This is a ball that could be worth a lot of money in maybe 50 years, or the week that Ryan Howard gets enshrined in the Hall of Fame.   It all depends on the first basemen’s consistency over the rest of his career.

Maybe Kent is trying to drive the price of the ball up with all of this publicity.  I do not know, but I do know that there is something wrong with this whole thing.  The fans at the games are looking for payouts.

The price was a bit steep for Matt Carson, but he will treasure the bat instead.

The price was a bit steep for Matt Carson, but he will treasure the bat instead.

Earlier this season, Matt Carson, a 28-year old career minor leaguer playing for Oakland, hit his first career Major League homerun.  When the team inquired about the ball, the fan said he could have it, for $10,000.  Just another sign that people do not know how much Minor League baseball players make.  Carson said no, and got his bat authenticated instead.

Part of me does not blame the girl.  She is just a kid at a game.  She probably is barely paying attention, dragged there by her older brother.  She most likely had no idea who Ryan Howard was before she grabbed the ball.  So for her to feel swindled is normal because she was told by Norm Kent that she was swindled.

I am disappointed in Norm Kent.  This is a baseball fan claiming to be an advocate of baseball fans, but for a real fan, going into the Phillies’ clubhouse after the game, and getting a signed ball would be better than having that homerun ball.

Seth McFarlane, creator of the Comic book character, Spawn, paid 3 million bucks for the Mark McGwire 70th homerun ball.  I think its worth $9 now.

Seth McFarlane, creator of the Comic book character, Spawn, paid 3 million bucks for the Mark McGwire 70th homerun ball. I think its worth $9 now.

Obviously, the Phillies could have handled this better.  Ryan Howard should have reached out more and given the fan more than just a signed baseball.  Maybe sent a personal letter and memorabilia.  I doubt this would appease Norm Kent, but it may have made the fan’s experience better.  Also, giving cotton candy to a kid to get something away from them makes the whole situation sketchy.

This is just a sad representation of what sports have come to.  In an interview, an NPR journalist asked Norm Kent if he were Ryan Howard, wouldn’t he want the ball back?  His response:

“There was a time, and day, and era, when that argument might have had some merit…, but this is an age when that ball has more than just historic significance.  There’s nothing to say that Ryan Howard, would not, years from now, auction off that ball as other professional athletes auction off their rings and jewelry to generate money for themselves.”

I’d say, “Go to hell,” but I think you’re well on your way.  Just do me a favor, and don’t take baseball with you.

Norm Kent’s Interview with NPR
Video of the Homerun

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Day 4, The Ken Caminiti Cup

October 2, 2009
A recollection of Baseballs Golden Age, Ken Caminiti

A recollection of Baseball's Golden Age, Ken Caminiti

Here it is, day 4.  It seems the baseball season is almost over.  It’s funny how 162 games can go by so fast.  Well the stats have all been tabulated, but at Blue Duck, you need a certain “Je ne se quois” to take down a major award.  Especially one named after a baseball purist, and straight edge individual like Mr. Ken Caminiti.  The results are in, here are the best ballplayers from the 2009 season.

NL

Can the best player in baseball raise his hand?  Yes Albert, we see you.

Can the best player in baseball raise his hand? Yes Albert, we see you.

Boomer
Albert Pujols

As much as I’d love to name somebody, anybody else MVP, I must continue my Cardinal love and name Pujols the MVP.  He is hands down the best hitter in baseball.  He is one of the most consistent hitter in the league, except his standards are much higher than all others.  Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder can compete in the power categories (HR and RBI), but Pujols hits at least 30 points higher than each of them.  He’s also got 20 more runs on the season than both of them because he’s a smarter baserunner than most people realize.  Add in the OPS of 1.108 and Gold Glove defense at firstbase, and Phat Albert is the obvious MVP choice.

Carebear
Hanley Ramirez

Traded by the Sox for Beckett and Lowell, Id say both teams did well there, very rare in baseball trades.

Traded by the Sox for Beckett and Lowell, I'd say both teams did well there, very rare in baseball trades.

Yes, I know, I’m an idiot.  Pujols is the MVP, but everyone is going to pick him so I didn’t.  Hanley may be the best all around player in the NL right now, though.  That strictly refers to the fact that Hanley has a little speed and plays short.

Hanley is a complete hitter as well.  Hes hitting .341 right now with 24 homers, and 105 rbi’s.  He also has 26 steals.  Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki are really the last of the powerful shortstops that we got so used to in the mid-90’s/early 2000’s (ARod moved to 3b, Nomar broke in half, Tejada aged 7 years in the last 3 seasons, Renteria was never that powerful, and neither was Jeter).

Ramirez also plays a solid shortstop.  Only 10 errors this season make him one of the better guys up the middle especially when you consider his range.

More importantly, though, with the bat, .410 OBP, .952 OPS.  He’s 25 years old.  Gonna hang around a while, and could prevent a Pujols Triple Crown for years to come.

AL

Congrats Joe, tip your hat in honor of your Caminiti award.

Congrats Joe, tip your hat in honor of your Caminiti award.

Boomer
Joe Mauer

With two batting titles already to his name, Joe Mauer added the element of power to his game.  And did he ever, he hit 28 HR, 15 more than his previous career high.  As most hitters hit more homeruns, they sacrifice batting average.  Not Mauer, he hit 20 points over his career high.  He did this all while catching 100 games with Gold Glove defense.  He’s helped carry Minnesota to the final weekend of the season, still fighting for a playoff spot.  When you lead the league in OPS and batting AVG, you’re bound to be in the MVP race.  Adding power and great defense is just the icing on the cake.
Note from Carebear: Despite my sign stealing article, I love Joe Mauer, and I played with the stats a bit today.  Mauer and Pujols are two of four guys in the league with at least 70 walks who have more walks than k’s.  The other two are Todd Helton and Dustin Pedroia.  All Great hitters trying to contend in a category that Ty Cobb and Ted Williams would be proud of, the BB/SO ratio:  Pujols, 1.80. Mauer, 1.16.  Nicely done.

(Boomer’s honorable mention: Derek Jeter

Jeter has put together a great year in his age 35 season.  He’s always been a solid hitter and he had a down year last year, but he bounced back with a  big year.  Girardi put him at leadoff this year, and he responded by hitting .335 with an OBP of  .407 and 30 steals.  He’s also been knocked for his slipping defense recently.  He improved to league average defense this year too.  While a candidate for MVP til mid-August, his numbers don’t neccessarily compare with the Texieras, Cabreras, or Mauers.  But his importance cannot be underestimated.  Maybe this is my lifetime achievement award.  As much as I usually hate players being rewarded for career accomplishments, Jeter is the exception to the rule.  And all this is coming from a Sox fan.  Congrats Jeter, well done.)

Carebear

Miguel Cabrera

I hate to be that guy that just picks differently for the sake of picking differently, but I really just love Miguel Cabrera.  He may be the most underrated player in baseball.  Here’s some food for thought:

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG
1057 3985 695 1204 227 21 238 725 504 634 .302 .381 .549
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG
1036 3905 629 1218 252 12 208 751 444 823 .312 .384 .542

Those are Ken Griffey’s numbers(Griffey’s numbers are the top set.) up to the age of 26 compared to Cabrera’s to that same age.  As you can see they are eerily similar.  I am not saying they are the same type of player, but very similar hitters, and that says a lot of Cabrera.

Best Righthanded Hitter in AL.

Best Righthanded Hitter in AL.

This season, the Venezuelan is hitting .329 with 33 HR’s and 101 RBI’s.  He is going to finish the season with 200 hits, and the same OPS as Hanley at .952.  His defense is really not terrible at first base either.  7 errors is not good for a first baseman, but manageable.

Miggy won the quadruple crown for the Tigers this year.  He also led the team in runs, hits, walks, and total bases (by 45).  He was the dominant leader on an otherwise weak offense that could win the AL central.

Cabrera is the best right handed hitter in the American League.

That wraps up our awards for 2009.  Stay Tuned for BlueDuck’s MLB preview and more baseball garbage.  Feel free to look back at the Comeback Player, Closer Award, and Cy Young Award from earlier in the week.  Thanks Baseball-reference.com for the stats.