Perhaps a kick to the groin. Fresh off seeing the Cardinals crowned the champions of baseball last night, I open my e-paper and read that “The representative for free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez said Friday no deal is close between Ramirez and the Cubs.” So basically, in the span of about a week, we can see the Redbirds win and our All-Star third baseman test the free agent market. This has to get done. We have got to get Ramirez on this team if we have any chance at moving to the frontrunner in the division next year.

I look at the Central and I see a division ripe for the taking. The Cardinals, champions as they are, are still old and virtually pitcherless. Don’t let the Reyes and Weaver’s of the playoffs fool you. These are no dominant pitchers. The Astros and Brewers are the other two teams that have potential. Neither of them really scare me. Jim Hendry needs to move on Ramirez and get this done.

I see no other alternative. So let’s fire up the hot stove and get this team back to playoff caliber. 2003 seems way too far away.

In other news, Joe Niekro passed away due to a brain aneurysm on Friday. His is some information about his career via Wikipedia.

Joseph Franklin Niekro, was an American starting pitcher in Major League Baseball, the younger brother of Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro, and the father of current San Francisco Giants first baseman Lance Niekro.

Niekro, like his brother, specialized in throwing the knuckleball, and his 221 career victories make him one of the most successful knuckleball pitchers of all time. The Niekro brothers combined for 539 total wins, making them the most successful brother combination in baseball history.

Joe Niekro was much more traveled than his brother, pitching for the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Detroit Tigers with only occasional success before joining Phil with the Atlanta Braves in 1973. Initially a fastball/curveball pitcher, Joe perfected his knuckleball while pitching for Atlanta alongside brother Phil, and two years later joined the Houston Astros, where he would become the most successful pitcher in Astros history. The knuckleball became an essential part of his arsenal though never his sole pitch. Joe threw harder than Phil and could set up batters nearly as effectively with his fastball in combination with his excellent change-up. In 1976, he hit his first and only big league home run in 973 lifetime at bats, off his brother Phil. He was an All-Star in 1979, a year in which he led the National League in wins with 21, threw a league-leading five shutouts, and finished second in voting for the NL Cy Young Award.

The Niekro brothers were briefly reunited again in 1985 when Joe was acquired by the New York Yankees. In June 1987, the Yankees traded Niekro to the Minnesota Twins. A month later, on August 3, 1987, with the pennant race heating up and the Twins leading the American League West, Niekro was ejected for having a nail file on the mound. Niekro claimed he had been filing his nails in the dugout and stuck the file in his back pocket when the inning started and had not been doctoring baseballs. National League president A. Bartlett Giamatti didn’t believe him, and suspended Niekro for ten days.

When Niekro appeared in the 1987 World Series, he set a record for the longest period of time elapsed between a player’s major league debut and his first appearance in the World Series.

On May 4, 1988, after compiling a 10.03 earned run average in his first five games, the Twins released Niekro, effectively ending his 22-year career.

Joe Niekro
1944 – 2006
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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids and helps people protect their assets as an independent insurance agent. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail