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What The Frick?

As recent election returns go, I suppose this set rates no more than a shrug in the scheme of scary things, but it’s baffling that there was very recently a vote concerning excellence in baseball announcing in which Gary Cohen was a nominee [1], yet Gary Cohen did not emerge as the winner.

Talk about the system being broken.

Earlier this week they gave the Ford C. Frick Award to Not Gary Cohen. The winner’s identity [2] is irrelevant to me. If I say something sporting like, “I’m sure he’s deserving, too,” I’d be disingenuous. Nobody’s more deserving than Gary Cohen within a universe of candidates that includes Gary Cohen.

Gary was a wonderful partner to Bob Murphy, half of a perfect team [3] with Howie Rose and the anchor of a booth in which both Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling shine. And he’s never better than when it’s just him and us. He’s great at the dramatic moments, he’s even better during the slow innings. He hits every play-by-play note, he analyzes [4] every on-field and off-field situation with aplomb, he knows when to step back, when to cede the microphone to others, when nothing need be said.

I’m biased, I suppose. I’ve been listening to Gary Cohen broadcast baseball on a nearly nightly basis for twenty-eight years. I’m convinced nobody on any ballot could be any better. When he showed up among the finalists for the 2017 Frick Award, I was delighted. When he didn’t get it…well, let’s just spin this as a rain delay. When they roll up the tarp of obtuseness that denied Gary the award this time around and give it to him down the road, they’ll have the good fortune of adding to its presentation however many more “major contributions to baseball” with which he’s embellished his legacy by then. Twenty-eight years in baseball broadcasting is several drops in the bucket, but good sense [5] and good health be willing, Gary will be filling our aural pail for many seasons to come. Frick voters know his name. Hopefully they’ll remember to check it off next chance they get.

Elsewhere in the realm of selections a little out of the blue and orange is the report [6] that the next United States ambassador to Japan could be our beloved guide from one millennium to the next [7], Bobby Valentine. “Diplomat” is not a word I’d look for on the front or back of Bobby V’s baseball card — “You’re not dealing with real intelligent guys for the most part,” is how he characterized his own players late in 1999 [8] — but he is renowned for understanding the culture of the country to which he might be assigned, and not all ambassadors can say that. And express discontent as one will with a vast array of elements pertaining to the incoming administration (for example, its existence), the president-elect did kind of nail one issue of Japanese-American trade in 2004 when he volunteered [9], “I would certainly say Kaz Matsui of the Mets has been a bust. There’s no doubt about that.”

There really wasn’t.

The part I like best about the possible Valentine appointment is it was apparently suggested by occasional transition macher Chris Christie, who I wouldn’t trust to regulate traffic on the Shea Bridge, but is the kind of Mets fan who, all things being equal, seems to put the Mets first. Thinking that results in “Met legend who was big in Japan” as the ideal ambassadorial prospect can only come from a Mets fan. If you’d asked me forty years ago to recommend appointees to President-elect Carter, I would have endorsed Bruce Boisclair for a posting in Paris, if only because a) his name sounded French; b) he was a Met; c) Le Grand Orange had already been traded; and d) I was not quite fourteen years old. For that matter, this correspondent predicted in 2006 [10] that Bobby V would be Japan’s prime minister by 2026, and ambassador in 2017 is close enough.

I’m guessing not all of Christie’s high-level recommendations have been received as warmly. Otherwise, based on the recent trend of shall we say counterintuitive cabinet nominations [11], we’d be looking at Daniel Murphy for Secretary of Defense, Ray Ramirez at Health and Human Services, and Steve Trachsel and Antonio Bastardo to co-chair the new efficiency initiative at the Department of Labor.