by Clark Groome
Almost every professional team gives a schedule magnet to all fans attending the season-opening game.
A friend who was at a Phillies game during their last home stand took the 2013 magnet with him and gave it to the person at the entrance gate telling him, “I’m returning it because I want to forget this season.” He’s not alone.
The 2013 season was an eventful one for the Phillies. An iconic and popular manager was fired and a new manager appointed to run the club for at least three years. Ryan Howard spent a huge portion of the season recovering from injuries. A whole host of new faces began to appear regularly, raising both hope and questions. One veteran, Chase Utley, was re-signed and two others, Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz, became free agents.
When Charlie Manuel was let go and Ryne Sandberg promoted to take his place, it signaled a new era, one that is not only a transition from the great teams of the past decade to the new teams that are to take their place, but a transition from a fairly casual management style to one that appears to be, after Sandberg’s 42 games at the helm, somewhat more rigorous.
Decisions that need to be made before the team arrives for spring training in Clearwater in February are who the coaches will be (an intriguing speculation is the possible return of Larry Bowa), what will be done about Halladay and Ruiz, and what new faces will be acquired.
But that’s all in the future. In addition to 2013 being full of changes for the Phillies, it was also a time of real and potential change throughout the sport.
The same week the Phillies fired Manuel, Major League Baseball owners met in Cooperstown, N.Y. Among the items on their agenda was the increased use of video replay, currently restricted to boundary, home run and fan interference calls on balls hit to the outfield.
According to Phillies’ president David Montgomery, the issue has been under review for three years. The owners decided that if the umpires and players agree to it, video replay will be increased significantly, possibly as soon as the 2014 playoffs.
The plan is to give each manager one appeal during the game’s first six innings and two appeals from the seventh to the end of the game. Any appeal the manager wins can be used again and appeals for the first six innings expire when the seventh frame begins.
Fair and foul, out and safe, trapped balls will all be appealable. Balls and strikes will not.
The manager will have an option: Argue the play or appeal. He can’t do both. Once the appeal has been made, the play will be reviewed in a central facility. All the cameras available to the broadcasters and some specifically installed for the purpose will be almost instantly available to the umpires in what the folks in the NHL call the war room.
The entire process is expected to take less than 90 seconds. The current system of appealing home runs etc. will continue as is.
While a number of players retire each season, this year marks the end of one of the sport’s greatest careers.
The New York Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera – the greatest closer ever and one of the most respected, beloved players in baseball history – had a send off the likes of which I haven’t seen since Wayne Gretsky ended his magnificent NHL career in 1999.
Everywhere Rivera went this season, teams he had shut down consistently since he made his debut as a reliever in 1997 saluted him. He was given emotional standing ovations at the crosstown-rival New York Mets’ Citi Field during the All Star Game and, even more surprising, at Boston’s Fenway Park.
During his storied career he registered 652 saves. More than that, he has personified class and acted as an ambassador for the game.
When Major League Baseball retired Jackie Robinson’s number 42 in 1997 those players who were wearing it at the time were allowed to do so until they retired. Rivera was one of them. It seems totally appropriate that this great player and the immortal Robinson both have their shared number 42 honored in Yankee Stadium.