A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jason Marquis

Britain gave us rounders and cricket, and well, that might have made baseball, but other than that, you can have their royalty. Now, don't get me wrong; I lived in the country for 5.5 years during and after the Air Force, and had things been different, I would have stayed, but in the end, I'm glad I came back to America... to eventually find my wife, slot canyons, waterfalls, flowery gardens, and baseball... all of which are very good things.
Even though we might like big, stately mansions and gardens and pomp & cirumstance, we aren't caught up in this kings and queens stuff that Europe is, and perhaps, that's something that we don't have here. Sure, we had the Kennedys and some would call that American royalty, but Camelot was dead long before I was born.
I never thought much of the Kennedys, and frankly, I never once thought about waking up at 6am to watch the royal wedding. My sleep is too important to me to waste on hearing someone I've never met say "I do" to someone else that I've never met. In addition, I have no interest in hearing "God Save the Queen" - unless it's by the Sex Pistols, and even then, it's a sheer bit of nostalgia for the moments spent growing up and being heavily influenced by alternative music.
So in honor of the royal wedding, we'll celebrate a marquis... not necessarily a noble man, but a man who has been around and done some things that have made a difference through the years.
Jason Marquis, who threw a 5 hit complete game shoutout with 7 strikeouts for the Nationals and defeated Tim Lincecum and the Giants 3-0.
His ERA is now 2.62 (despite being 4.52 for his career). Since 2000, he's been rather pedestrian. In 2004, he had his best season with St. Louis posting a 3.71 ERA and 138 Ks (Dave Duncan can do amazing things). However, the next year, he came back down to Earth - still better than his career ERA (but over 4) and posted 3 additional 4+ seasons and 2 seasons of 6+ ERA. That's not good - even if the guy is an innings eater, but all the same, the sun still shines on a sleeping dog's ass from time to time, and Friday night was just that night for Marquis.
Here's to the good things in life.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Justin Masterson

Ok, ok... everyone who follows baseball and not just one of the East Coast teams knows who Jered Weaver is, but how many people know who Justin Masterson is?
I'll give you a hint... he's number 2 on wins (5) and number 9 on ERA (the last game was average and he got pulled down a little to 2.18). He pitches for the Indians. In his first few seasons, he was rough and Boston ditched his upside for Victor Martinez (not with the team anymore either), but how many young pitchers make the jump to the bigs and pitch like a star at age 25 (he's 26 now)?
After all, Sandy Koufax was 25 before he went sub 4.00 and 27 when he hit the 5 years that decimated all opposition. At 26, he won 18, struck out 269, pitched 15 completes, and had a 3.52 ERA. Masterson might only have 22 whiffs in 33 innings, but he's getting it together for the Tribe, and that says something.
Bob Gibson was good at 25 (13-12, 3.24, and 166 Ks BUT, he walked 119 batters to lead the league), but he didn't flourish until 26 (15 wins, 2.85, and 208). From there, he was the man and literally stopped everyone cold and dead by the World Series of 67 into the regular season of 68 (that beautiful number that is so mathematically perfect 1.12 - baseball's version of pi or the golden ratio).
Randy Johnson was 26 before he went sub 4.00 for an ERA, and that was the first of 3 years where he led the league in walks - compiling 416 TOTAL walks over that time (though he did fan 194 in the final year). From this point on, he had 1469 Ks in 4 years - to include 204 in the strike shortened season of 1994. In 1993 and 1994, he was still walking 99 and 72 batters (respectively). We can't call the final 72 total that much of a victory since he missed a month and a half and he walked 19 batters in that last month and a half (projected 91 total).
And so Masterson is winning big. He's better than C.C., Roy, Jon, Tim, and James (at least for now). With that, the future is bright. Let's hope he doesn't have to wear shades, because we're in year 2 of the year of the pitcher.
There are so many great hurlers out there. Danny Haren, Josh Johnson, and the aforementioned Weaver (so much better than the mirage of his brother Jeff Weaver that the Yankees coveted and had to have from Detroit... only to have him flop bigger than Sidney Ponson).
Weaver is throwing a .99 ERA. His WHIP is .79. He's killing opponents for a team that just can't beat the Red Sox, but seems to beat everyone else. Like Haren, his other ace starter by his side, his anemic offense doesn't have to do much to support him. They will prevail - unless they play Boston.
What's sick about this (early version of the) season is that there are 3 pitchers better than a .79 and one of them is named Kyle frickin' Lohse (.73 WHIP and 1.64ERA)! This is a man with a career 1.41 WHIP and 4.71 ERA, and yet, somehow he goes to St. Louis and Dave Duncan makes him great! It's time to nominate Duncan for President of the US (provided Donald Trump can't imagine a reason to get him exiled).
And in the end, good pitching is a thing of beauty. That 12 to 6 curve that just falls or the cutter with serious late movement that explodes on the batter and leaves him fearing the sting of a broken bat before it happens (if it happens, and yes, it does... just not always - it's the fear of God factor - ask Mariano Rivera and his bank account). This year, there are 23 pitchers who have more strikeouts than the league sucking batter (31 for Raburn and Fowler). The high water mark is 49 in 45.2 innings for Jered Weaver, but Justin Verlander is making batters look stupid with his 45 (despite a 3.64 ERA). Clayton Kershaw and Matt Garza also have 41 despite very high ERAs. The Phillies big 4 alone has 133 (Halladay and Lee have 39 a piece, Hamels has 34, and Oswalt has the remaining 21).
Nevertheless, Mighty Ryan has given 27 of them back (Ibanez has given back another 24), which only goes to prove that you win some and lose some...
You just have to hope that you win more than you lose!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

David Wright

This blog is pretty much dedicated to a few things... the players that we like, the events that happen, and who's striking out WAY too much. For that, we start our series of batting futility with the joy of math.
If we take the top 12 strikeout victims (down to the 4th slot on this list - tied for 8th place), we have 4 batters who have whiffed so much that their average is under .200. The high water mark is 31 air conditioner swings. Ryan Raburn has 3 jacks to go with those 31 Ks. Over his years in the bigs, he has 42 homers. If he continues at his current pace, he will DOUBLE his career strikeouts. Dexter Fowler has no shots over the wall in a batter friendly park for this year, and if that doesn't scream no power, he only has 10 home runs in his short career (however, he does take walks and steal bases).
Jack Cust, Kelly Johnson, Austin Jackson, and Adam Dunn are all sub-Mendoza, and Ryan Howard leads the batting average with a .293.
Only David Wright, Drew Stubbs, and Ryan Howard have hit 5 or more home runs for all of their free swinging. For that matter, Adam Dunn only has 2 jacks.
If we take this out to 42nd place (22 strikeouts), we can see a pattern emerge: a high batting average and lots of home runs are the outliers.
There are 3 success stories on the list (Rickie Weeks - .309 despite 22 whiffs, Matt Kemp - .378 despite 23 whiffs, and Peter Bourjos - .318 with 26 jacks). There are 12 sub .200 hitters. If we take the Mendoza Line out to .225 (as some do), there are 8 more guys on the list. That's half of the batters being unproductive 80% (give or take) of the time! Many more could join the list with a few more Ks and a few less hits. What does this say?
Only 13 of the 42 batters have 5 or more home runs, and none of these guys has more than 6 (7) long balls (Chris Young - with 105 career jacks in 651 games played). Then again, when you're playing for a team that is out of the playoffs in March (Arizona), you can pretty much do whatever you want in a non-contending year (if homers and homers alone sells bobble heads and jerseys).
Mark "the King" Reynolds makes the list at 29 (2 homers to show for his 23 put outs by catcher). That said, this is a good year for him.
But what does it really mean to be standing there and caught looking... to not advance the runner... to not put oneself on base... to essentially waste an at bat in hopes of the 1/30 chance of a home run (or in the case of Young, 7/97)? All in all, it's futility. It's playing a game because you still believe that chicks dig the long ball when it should be played to bring the runs across and win the game for your team. Maris was willing to bunt to give his team the chance to win when the home run record was on the line in 61... why aren't these guys willing to play team ball?

Tomorrow, we look at the pitching stats that show how much the pitchers of today are benefiting from the "swing away" mentality that Merrill and Graham gave to the world.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Alex Rodriguez

It seems that Lance Berkman is taking criticism from the Houston team and their annoucner (Milo Hamilton) that he left behind as he moves on with his rejuvination in St. Louis (6 HRs, 16 RBIs, .378).
"Why did you think it wasn't necessary to get in shape your last couple of years as an Astro? And now to a team you didn't even know, a manager you didn't play for, you felt it was your responsibility to get in great shape? And it's paying off. ... Lance, I love you. But wouldn't it have been great to have given that same dedication to the Astros and your owner here that you did in two short months to the Cardinals?"
To this, he can only agree, which is a sign of class in his resurrection from the ashes of Houston and the Bronx.
"You kind of want to be a (Craig) Biggio or a Chipper Jones (and) that's kind of how I had it in my mind that I was going to be the same type of guy, my whole career in Texas, one team," Berkman said. "I have to take some responsibility for not still being here. ... We were terrible. I was terrible. And they were ready to move on."
It's not perfect. he's not perfect, but he's trying and he's internalizing the blame, which is the sign of maturity that some athletes just don't have.
Take A-Rod for example.
I hate A-Rod. I really do. I can't think of anything nice to say about him. I don't think fashion models should be baseball players, and it doesn't matter if they're pretty boys making out with themselves in a mirror (A-Rod) or muscleheads posing with shaved and oiled chests (Brady Anderson / Gabe Kaplar). That said, I'm not of the shaved chest persuasion and I don't look good in baby oil. I'm not tanned (though I am farmer tanned from my past 2 days in the sun hiking between work sessions), but yeah... I'm also not sporting a haircut that costs more than some people's wardrobes OR using stuff in my hair (I don't use the P word). So yeah... I really loathe the man. I hated him with Seattle. I see him as sinking the ship in Texas. I absolutely LOATHE him in New York. He'll never be a Yankee. Even Jeter hates him.
They say it best in The Other Guys when referring to Jeter getting shot when it should have been A-Rod... I hear you.
And when he got caught for steroids, he really had the lamest excuses in the world.
"Again, it was such a loosey-goosey era. I'm guilty for a lot of things. I'm guilty for being negligent, naive, not asking all the right questions. And to be quite honest, I don't know exactly what substance I was guilty of using."
And from trying to take things back to Selena Roberts to trashing his "cousin" to all that he did and didn't do, in the end, there was a well scripted apology that was so full of crap that it makes porta potties at the state fair seem nice by comparison. When THEE Peter Gammons wants to save your ass and he can't, something is wrong.
"When you take this gorilla and this monkey off your back, you realize that honesty is the only way. I'm finally beginning to grow up. I'm pretty tired of being stupid and selfish, you know, about myself. The truth needed to come out a long time ago. I'm glad it's coming out today."
No you're not... you want to be inseminating Madonna or smoking your stogies and living the high life. This is just a step between celebrity relationships and all that your life is.
But with that said, yesterday, I broke my relic cherry as a box of cards that my wife got me was all too Alex Rodriguez heavy. It featured a regular Topps graded Rodriguez from 2009. It featured a Masterpieces of the Game Rodriguez with some grand slam that he hit (there was also a Chris Chambliss from that set where he's doing the '76 home run dash - that's already in a place of awesomeness in my collection). There were a lot of interesting cards in small pack combinations (Goudey, Upper Deck variations from the past 4 years), but the highlight was a Baseball Heroes jersey (pictured left 99/200) that I pulled straight out of a pack - I've never done that before, and even though it was A-Rod, I was happy as a pig in the mud at 82 degrees.
Because in the end, baseball cards are about the closed pack and what could be inside. There is a sensation that anything or anyone could be in the pack. It's never been viewed since it was put in there, and for that, the lottery exists, and one could win big with a player he likes or come up with a couple faces that are commons from teams he doesn't know, or he could get a rookie of a no name and win big years from now. Nevertheless, figuring out rookies is all but impossible without a copy of Tuff Stuff, and even then, who knows if it's THEE rookie. But it's a sensation of getting something good, and in the end, any night that features a box of baseball cards that await opening... it's a great day (already made beautiful with sun and flowers and breezes over the water and life is good - as it was today for the same things and some herons and a few painted turtles sunning themselves on logs down from the 20lb snapping turtle just swimming in the water like nothing was doing).
Here's to spring and the good things.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Carl Everett

We live in a culture that all too often lacks respect for life. For example, no sooner did my 86-year old neighbor pass away than one of those "we buy houses" people called his 82-year old widow and asked if she wanted to sell the house. She's a nice person, but she told him what was what, which is a good thing. That said, we're hoping for lightning and karma. They're more thorough.
In the end, they had clearly no respect or understanding what the meaning of life and living is (it comes down to 4 simple things: 1) Love and only love 2) Doing your best at something 3) Impressing the people who matter and 4) Experiencing the happy things in life.
This does not include: 1) Treating people like crap 2) Manipulating other people for personal gain 3) Getting so messed up that normal functioning is impossible 4) Committing crimes against people, businesses, or humanity 5) Forcing stupid views of life on humanity (even if it's allowed by a Constitutional amendment).
Thus, it's clear to see that there are some people out there in the baseball world that can use some serious help.
With that, Carl Everett and his dinosaur are back. When last we heard from Jurassic Carl, he was talking about the relative merits of Creationism, which for its purpose, does have some interesting science behind it, but alas, Carl was all about stating how "God created the sun, the stars, the heavens and the earth, and then made Adam and Eve. The Bible never says anything about dinosaurs. You can't say there were dinosaurs when you never saw them. Somebody actually saw Adam and Eve. No one ever saw a Tyrannosaurus rex."
It's one thing to quote science... another thing to just quote the Bible. For that, we can quote the
word of Giorgio - the potential to be just as absurd - slightly more entertaining.
Nevertheless, when your only good deed ever is breaking up a Mike Mussina gem with 2 out and 2 strikes in the bottom of the 9th, there isn't much else to say for you. In his nearly 14 years of MLB time, he hit 202 home runs for 9 teams and batted .271. This netted him almost $45million from 1993-2006. A pretty good haul for a guy who had a lot of talent but was regarded negatively on and off the field - religious conviction not included.
Last night, he didn't do much to change the world's opinion of him as he ended up in jail for assault and witness tampering, but it's all in a day's work when you're angry at the world.
Nevertheless, he isn't alone.
Also included in the list of people who need to understand the meaning of community is our good friend Elijah Dukes, who is also what can only be referred to as "an angry black man" (like Everett), was picked up for driving with a revoked license. Add this to threats and surliness, and we have a true idiot.
Yep... that's not changing his outlook in the world of post baseball.
And as for baseball as a whole, African Americans make up just 8.5% of baseball, which is its lowest total in years. Granted, we're not as flashy as the NBA or hard hitting as the NFL, but we're THEE major sport. It's not that problems don't cut across ethnicities, but to think of attitude problems presented from the inner city experience (Albert Belle, Lasting Milledge, and Gary Sheffield come to mind), there definitely seems to be more in the public eye (and perhaps this is a racist media, but if you're in the limelight, don't you think you would do what Jackie Robinson did (WWJRD)? And while this leads me to question if there is an unwritten rule where certain players are written off if their street sense makes them too little of a team player, I really have to wonder if this is just self-fulfilled prophecy of doom? After all, we're in an era of integration and acceptance. This isn't black cats on the field and spikes aimed high with slurs from the stands as things to be accepted.
But to wonder what is and what should be and how we got the way that we did, we only have to go back to the #4 game of the past 50 years on MLBTV and I think of Andy Van Slyke telling Barry Bonds what to do and getting the "international peace sign" for it. Have we divided back to the early 1950s again where only a few select African Americans get to play, and if so, who chooses the names? Have we created this situation with our socioeconomic divisioins or is there something else? If the MLB won't take this, why will the NBA and the NFL?
Granted, there have been tons of angry white guys in baseball... none more so than the violent racist scum Ty Cobb, and for this, he too was hated, but players wanted his bat in the game for their team. What does it say when players have talent and aren't wanted?
It's not that we're excluding all blacks or even all inner city blacks. Torii Hunter is a role model to the game (as is CC, Heyward, and Howard), but what about these guys past and present?
It's a sad world.
Here's to the good things that comes with all people playing the game right and living life to the max.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Roy Halladay

Philadelphia has long been known for its doctors. There was Dr. J and his sweet 70s afro flying through the sky for slam dunks with style and class. There was Bill Cosby delivering babies and proving that the African American place was wherever their talents and drive could take them. The University of Penn and Temple both have famous doctoral schools and churn out lots of great medical professionals, but no doctor in the city of Philadelphia is quite as famous as Doc Halladay (and while he may not win 30 games like The Baseball Project predicts, he could come very close).
Yesterday, he was sitting down Padres like a defrocking convention gone haywire. All in all, he had 14 friars getting irate in the dugout by the end of the 8th inning, but then, he blew the 2 hit shutout in the 9th inning with 3 more hits, and so in came Antonio Bastardo to seal the deal on the Phillies first home sweep of the Padres since 1979 and the days of Ozzie Smith.

This was a perfect comeback after the debacle against Milwaulkee (6.2 innings, 6 earned, 3 whiffs), but it doesn't disguise the hatred that I feel for Philadelphia's announcers (for their partisan nature and dullness) since the days of Harry Kalas shufflinging off this mortal coil. However, yesterday was about watching a game, so it's not like I really cared who was commentating, but when I have to listen to the backpedaling after "innings counts don't matter" and then going into "he's getting a lot of innings" after hearing "he's going to want to finish this game," I just want to vomit.

I'm from the Nolan Ryan school of pitching. Three runs in 6 innings is not a quality start. I'm for guys finishing their games and leaving losers like Dan Wheeler in the breadline or forcing him to find a real job (instead of being the designated innings eater whipping boy, which I'm sure every team needs, but still... I could do that job for far less money). I'm for removing the role of all closers except consistent ones (something that Mariano Rivera has been faltering on lately with his second blown save of the year on Sunday). Even then, I'm for bringing them in when the door needs slammed shut. I'm for multiple innings saves. Giving Bastardo a 1 pitch save for inducing an out... bullshit (in the words of Matthew McConaughey to Kate Hudson - when she wasn't ruining herself being A-Rod's non-Madonna arm candy - then again, with her track record of men, she's not exactly a prize herself).

Nevertheless, if there is no limit to pitches - especially in light of finishing a gem of a game (and I heard this same line with Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez's no hitter flirtations), then they should do the deed or lose it all.

Yesterday, the good folks at MLBTV (the baseball fetishist's porn without nipples network) showed game 7 of the 1992 NLCS - Pirates against Braves... the beginning of all that was Atlanta and Barry Bond's stake through the heart to Andy Van Slyke and the rest of the Pittsburgh faithful (no winning seasons in almost 20 years). Drabek gets to the 9th and is dealing, but then the wheels come off. It's a pitcher refusing to let the ball free and doing what it takes to win or lose on his shoulders because he got the team here, and goll dang it... he's reveling in the glory or sulking in defeat. One misplayed ball later, Sid Bream comes home on a single to Bonds, and despite all those surgeries, he's under the glove, and that's it.

But that's a pitcher letting it all hang out.

It's Pedro in 2003 with Grady Little not demanding the ball. If you don't demand it, you have to give in to the pitcher's ego.

And if it's Halladay, there's an ego. One run in with two on in the ninth - to pull the ball is to disrespect your workhorse. Let him win it or lose it. He's got the stuff... even if he's tiring out - or don't bring him out for the 9th. You (Charlie Manuel) are the one who left him hit... now you're the one that should leave him pitch.

But all the same... creating adorable little Muppets that get yanked after 6 innings and therapy headcases that need to be reassured that they're ok even when they're not (Brad Lidge) just shows how far we've come from tough pitchers to move into a world of pampered athletes.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bud Selig

Bud Selig, everyone's favorite first rate idiot in charge, is back with more dumbass decisions, which inevitably show no sign of intelligence or any forethought on anything other than money and keeping the best teams in the playoffs EVEN WHEN they're not the best teams.

So let's think about the idea of an expanded playoff roster for a playoff that already features 4 teams from each league in a best vs. wild card and then a face off between the 2nd and 3rd best (unless of course the wild card is from the same division as the best team, which results in a need for the following scenario to happen... The Beers beat Detroit and Denver beats Atlanta in the American Southwestern Division East Northern, then Milwaukee goes to the Denslow Cup, unless Baltimore can upset Buffalo and Charlotte ties Toronto, then Oakland would play LA and Pittsburgh in a blind choice round robin. And if no clear winner emerges from all of this, a two-man sack race will be held on consecutive Sundays until a champion can be crowned.)

So you add a team to each mix, which basically says... hmm... the Yankees and Red Sox may not both make the post season because Tampa Bay is too good... hell... David Price threw another complete game victory and both the Sox and the Rays are surging after coming out of the gate with shoelaces tied, and Heaven forbid that one of those teams doesn't make the playoffs because we need an all East Coast World Series or we'll never sell advertising time... unless we can get the Cubs to play pro ball and actually want to compete for another World Series title. That might work, EVEN THOUGH it didn't work for the White Sox, the Giants, the Astros, the Angels...

Despite this, the unscientific poll at ESPN says that people want this. Yet all the same, in the words of Bill Murray in the awesome Groundhog Day, "people like blood sausage."

Haven't we learned... when Colorado rolled through all of the adversity (and Trevor Hoffman's non-clutch-ness) to make it to the World Series in 2007 only to sit waiting for Boston to finally want to win the ALCS, we should have learned. They rusted and went out in 4 straight.

Nobody wants November baseball. It's cold and miserible. The players look like they should be on an episode of Gold Rush Alaska with all of the clothes they were to bundle up from the cold.

In addition, no managers and owners want to risk their players to injuries if they play in more games than are necessary. Like we've learned with the extended NFL season argument, each additional game is another chance at taking out an oblique muscle, but maybe that's just the legal substances that players use since they can't use steroids.

If we can't get the commish to give us an All Star Game with a victor (or a Pete Rose slide into Ray Fosse), then what makes anyone think that he'll make more playoffs do more to bring the 2 best teams together than the current system already does?
Besides, this isn't the NBA with over half of the teams (even the crappy ones) in the playoffs. We want the best of the best. We don't want to go Wild Card on Wild Card for the battle of who wasn't decimated by fatigue and injuries.

But that said, baseball is a business, and with the walking skeleton from Wisconsin leading the charge, baseball will continue to fall in the ratings and the hearts of young, potential fans.

You can guarantee that.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Anibal Sanchez

On September 6, 2006, Anibal Sanchez moved into history as the author of a 103 pitch no hitter for the Florida Marlins. He took down the D-Backs, whose great pitcher Randy Johnson threw the last no hitter (in the form of a perfect game). In the end, Sanchez was dealing - 4 walks and an error prevented the gem, but in the end, he got the mystique that eluded many other great pitchers who came so close (I think of Pedro Martinez and Harvey Haddix, to name but 2).
What goes around comes around.
With 9 strikeouts last night, Sanchez was dealing, dealing, dealing, but he also had 3 walks and 123 pitches as he went to the showers after allowing one run and one hit (the run came first, but the hit to lead off the 9th by Dexter Fowler... that's the one that hurts. After all, Marlins pitcher AJ Burnett once had a no hitter - even though he let up 9 walks - In that, it's nice to play against the Padres).
One had to wonder if he would even be allowed in for the closing ceremonies of the game and would get a no hitter by committee (such as when 6 Astros pitchers combined to stifle the Yankee offense - that was a beautiful game - I know, I watched the whole thing!).
But this Marlins machine wouldn't have been had it not been for a trade that sent him, Hanley Ramirez, and 2 other guys that went to seed quickly for Josh Beckett (in the words of Katy Perry to Elmo, we know where he stands in the minds of this blogger) and Mike Lowell (who was instrumental in the 2007 World Series, but was an overpriced hanger on last year when the BoSox couldn't send him to Texas. And in the end, that's what he always was save one triumphant fanfare moment in the World Series when sentiment saw the fans begging him to be kept on.
Sure, Hanley Ramirez is full of himself and needs to be put in his place sometimes, but he does have offensive value... and Sanchez... if he can keep it together, he'll be playing his way out of south Florida soon. We all know that they can't afford to keep anyone longer than a few years.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ryan Braun

Our Ryan Howard garden gnomes went off on e-Bay last night with a $34 and $34.33 bid from the same person. Whether it's a dealer or an obsessive fan, I don't know, but let's say we were paid handsomely to see the game. Now, we'll have to wait for our Cole Hamels garden gnomes and the Carlos Ruiz "CHOOCH"ing owl.
Yep... this is real.
So money, money, money... we live in a world that is consumed by it. Some of us earn our money, some of us don't earn enough of it, and others of us flaunt it so that other people feel entitled to it. It's an endless cycle of what makes the world go round, and when it's there, we feel entitled to talk out our asses about whatever stupid thing we believe in in a way that makes us feel we're entitled to run for President of the United States as a Republican... even if the Republicans and all sane people don't want us. In the end, Trump represents a choice so bad that he makes the Obama we know look better (but still not good).
But all the same, it's nice when good people wake up with lots of money for doing what they have to do, day in day out, and representing the face of their company, and for that, it's nice to see the 5year $105million extension of Ryan Braun to stay with the Brew Crew until 2020 represents a team making a decision to reward and identify their team long beyond the current now. Off to a .359 start in the obscurity of the land of Laverne and Shirley, Cheeseheads, and not much else that doesn't have good fur for insulation, there are a lot of guarantees from Mr. Braun. In his last 2 years, he's done 100 runs a season (but not the first 2). He's missed 100RBIs once, 30 home runs once, and .300 once. In this, he's not Albert Pujols, but who is? He's soaked a mascot in beer as many as 37 times a year, while he's also stole 20 bases in a season (never dropping beneath 14). And while he's good for over 100 whiffs a year, he's young and he's likable - kind of a Richie Cunningham with a big stick and a trio of MVPs and Silver Slugger awards since he beat out Troy Tulowitski for the Rookie of the Year in 2007 (and people figured out who he was, which just goes to show what East Coast bias (or not playing in a major metropolis on either coast) will cause you not to do... (after all, Joey Votto only went as a final vote winner and Carlos Gonzalez didn't go at all).
But that's the nature of the game... we sell our stories that the most possible people will buy. We sell the ones that we've sold forever. After all, Big Sluggi did end up on the All Star team and the beginning of his season last year was worse than the beginning of Punch Drunk Love (didn't care to see what happened at the end of either of them). And as we're sold the stories, we stick with them... even if there are better stories yet to come... from more obscure places. And for this, when the World Series (or whatever sporting event we are into) doesn't yield Yankees vs. Red Sox or either of those guys vs. the Phillies, nobody watches because they don't know how to follow a game that doesn't have stars that they have to like the game to know.
I was in a discussion with my dad last night regarding this. He's a Dale Jr. fan that shuts off NASCAR if Junior isn't competitive, and for years, that's what it's been. And I get that Dale Jr. is a popular driver. His dad was great, but so was Kyle Petty's dad Richard, and let's be honest, you can't sell Petty memorabilia if your life depends on it, so we need drivers that we can push - because some day, the guy we're pushing is going to be gone, and then where will we be (see Baltimore and Cal Ripken if you have any questions. They haven't been competitive since 1997, and he stuck around for 4 more years and held down a spot that could have been given to a younger player on a 162-game basis for another full year). Where will NASCAR be if Dale Jr.'s losing streak continues? Will we see more editorials like the one he was talking about where both drivers get credit for a win if they tandem draft together?
It's the same for baseball. We have 30 teams with 25 players on each. Some are old. Some are young. Some are having breakout seasons. Some are crapping the bed. We need to give everyone who is good a moment in the light. How else are we going to sell our mid-season game?
Let alone an expanded playoff scenario.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Frank McCourt

Today is my sister's 36th birthday, and with that, family is a good thing. Having people who care about you is a good thing, and in the words of Neil Young, "love and only love will endure." Whether it's a passion / hobby, friends who make a difference, family who is always there for you, or the love of a significant other, love is a good thing. I've come to realize that there are a few things that matter, and love is number 1.
Doing things that show pride in accomplishment is another thing that makes a difference. I would take this further and say that impressing other people whose opinion means something to us is another good thing. Finally, experiencing the good things in life, be they curve balls that drop 12 to 6 and make a batter look stupid, a stolen base that just gets in under the defensive glove that is trying to put an end to the offensive threat, a catcher picking a careless runner off of first base, a majestic home run, deep secluded waterfalls, twisting and turning slot canyons, sunsets by Crayola's 96 crayon box, endless mountains, or blossoming flowers (or whatever it is that makes you happy, the only things that matter are the things that make us happy (and don't hurt other people).
For this, it's sad to see that there is no love in the McCourt house any more. There hasn't been for a while, but as Major League Baseball takes over the Dodgers with promise of a lawsuit from Frank to keep their fingers and his now hated ex-wife's grubby paws off of his team, let it be said that there is no love lost out in Chavez Ravine. There's also no love lost for an ex-wife who was fired from her position with the Dodgers because of allegations of having an affair with her bodyguard, but alas... it's all in the perks of the position. I guess.
However, as a team that moved from a historic love when they played in Brooklyn and moved from loser status to second best status as Jackie Robinson led his team to runner up against the Yankees for the better part of a decade when they finally won it all in 1955. And then they moved to Los Angeles, and so began West Coast baseball...
But now... they look to be sold for a sense of better baseball management due to a $30million loan from Fox to make the team run in light of things not running because of the McCourt divorce.
It's a shame. There are great young pitchers. A Rhianna-less Matt Kemp is surging. Don Mattingly is making the team function to 3rd place .500 ball. The future is there, but alas...
When love goes wrong, nothing is good.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Randal from Clerks said it best about it being "so good to be right. There's nothing more exhilarating than pointing out the shortcomings of others, is there? (especially Terry Francona, Theo Epstein, and the rest of the Boston management that has the Red Sox in this predicament), and as Jarrod Saltalamacchia finds himself demoted (can the soup line be far behind, and if it is, do you get a hat like that with it?), we have to wonder... how long until Theo and Terry find themselves deported from Red Sox Nation to the fumaroles of Antarctica?
So in honor of the general suckiness of the former Red Sox catcher, let us take a look at who in the world of bat and ball (to include women's softball) is having a better day than Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.194 and 5 RBIs).
It's too bad that Buster Posey's little sister Samantha, a Valdosta State product, can't catch in the bigs... she just walloped the home run cycle (solo, 1 run, 2 run, grand slam) in a double header. Yep... power like that tops a average.
The Blue Jays came back against Mariano Rivera. I may have lost fantasy points, but I'll take it for that. Any time you beat the best closer in the game, it's a good feeling.
If you're the Brew Crew, you're happy today after beating up on Roy Halladay and playing competitive with Cliff Lee in a potential warm up battle for the playoffs to come.
If you're Pablo Sandoval, you're happy because you aren't on the bench and half way through April, you have 5 jacks (8 short of last year's disappointing total - when he truly was a Kung Fu Panda, but not anymore). Seeing as he basically lost my 5-year old nephew in weight from his tubby body (not that I'm one to talk about tubby bodies, but I'm not a star athlete either), he's back to being productively sick on the base paths.
If you're Jerry Sands, you're happy to be called up and playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers and even happier as your first 2 games result in a 2 game-hitting streak with 2 RBIs. That's 40% of Jarrod Saltalamacchia's season total, and fortunately, nobody is counting on Sands to throw out runners or tame the savage Wacky Lackey.
If you're Josh Johnson, you're happy to be facing Pittsburgh and shutting them down for 7 innings on 9 whiffs as you win again and continue to be the most dominant pitcher of the month - at least in the other league of Dan Haren.
If you're Ubaldo Jimenez, at least you're happy to be back - even if you still lost the game. Playing is better than sitting on the bench any day.
And for that, April may be T.S. Eliot's cruelest month, and this day one of its most heinous days of all (up there with the 14th for the death of Lincoln and the Titanic - today being Hitler's birthday and Columbine), but for some (Matt Kemp), April is the time to start off with a statistical bang.
For the embattled Boston Red Sox, it's like Monday's 105th anniversary of the great San Francisco Fire. The world is collapsing everywhere and there's nothing we can do. When can the rebuilding come? What must we sacrifice to do it? How long can we wait for the next chance for a World Series victory? Will this wait bring back chants of 1918 - if 1918 can even be called a real victory in light of Eddie Cicotte's comments... or should we just let the vague notes of a historic cheat burn on the fire for what they are or they aren't?
Yes... April has so much potential (my wife and sister's birthday), but it has so much sadness (Waco and Oklahoma City, whose anniversaries of mass carnage was yesterday).
Somewhere between the rain and the sunshine, there are flowers growing and beauty abounds, but alas... we can only wonder what else is to come.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sonia Sotomayer

In baseball, strikes can be a good thing. If Daisuke Matsuzaka is actually throwing them over 7 shutout innings to bring the Red Sox to a 3 game winning streak with a 9-1 victory against the Blue Jays, then life is good.
But if strikes are accompanied by lockouts, then life isn't really that great.
For example, in 1995, now Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor stood up for baseball by ending the strike between the owners and players, which had killed the 1994 World Series that could have saved the Montreal Expos a little over a decade later as well as Tony Gwynn's most serious chance at .400 and Matt Williams' chance for 62. It could have been a memorable season, but a move of political influence and the influence of the National Labor Relations Act that was too little too late killed the game for many fans.
As for me, I was too busy watching bands play in Cambridge, London, and Norwich while reading the NME and Melody Maker to feel the plight of the game.
Fortunately, stanzanol, winstrol, the clear, and the cream brought it back, but the media killed the superheros that they created a few years later, and now the game moves in ways to keep the 3 big East Coast teams in the World Series to keep the ratings from slipping with finales like the White Sox vs. the Astros (a World Series that even I watched 5 total live minutes of - at the most).
Baseball never learned from its demons after the 1981 season, but finally, after the mega strike, things have been amicable, but since 1972's strike that took out the first part of April, pro sports have been affected by nasty strikes.
Now, it's clear that the NFL hasn't learned from their 1982 season destroying strike and the status of football as America's game (though we at this site would deny that, but...). They're still locked out even if they're planning a pre-season game in London, which makes about no sense for anyone other than the military troops serving at Lakenheath and Mildenhall. But yeah...
And with leagues like the NBA losing huge chunks of 1998 and the NHL losing 310 days of 2004 and 2005, which took a 5th rate league (behind the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NASCAR) off of the major channels - even for the playoffs, there is no learning because the NFL still stands ready to have their 2011 season affected, and frankly, it won't affect us. It might a lot of real season and fantasy football fans, but it won't affect me.
But since sports are our games, we have to impact the players and management in a way that stands up for the continuity of our game.
And cross our fingers for good luck.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ryne Sandberg

I was watching The Wizard of Oz last night. I can't remember ever having watched it before, but then again, I give myself no credit for anything that I've done before turning 18. Simply put, I remember very little of it, and some is for good reason - being a teenager is an awkward time that I'd rather forget about (and a pre-pubescent, and a kid, and...), but alas... I know that I've seen bits and pieces of it, and I get its populist message that lurks underneath the childhood story, but more than anything (and somewhere beyond Dorothy's annoying moans - man, how do people appreciate Judy Garland when her 2 most important offspring - being Judy and Liza frickin' Minelli - just grate all that we are, but nevertheless, before I start getting hate mail, let me just say, I was laying in bed thinking about how there really is no place like home. 15 years ago, I was living in England, and it was rapidly coming to the point that I was heading home. I had no desire to go home at that point. England was my adopted home, and I was clinging to it with a fierce tenacity that wouldn't give way to the fact that the relationship I was in had to dissolve so that the both of us could go on to happiness (we've both since married and are doing reasonably well with our lives), and I had no concept of what America or life was meant to be - just that I was going to soon go back home and live with my parents while I went to school and got my life together (on July 8, 1996, that reality finally happened). It took a while. The first year was hard. I still had a lot of England left in me - not least of all the idea that I would go back and be with my ex-gal friend (when you're older than high school, you can't really be a girl), but alas, that didn't happen, and it was a long dark winter that was finally punctuated with a few trips to California to see another friend. For the first trip, I bought a baseball preview guide with Derek Jeter on the cover. I didn't know who he was or hate the Yankees at the time (that was in 1998 with the story of Roger Maris and accentuated with the pickup of Roger Clemens), but it was that which brought baseball back. Sure, there were moments like watching the Braves dominate in 1996 while working at an Air Force sports bar in England, or watching the Phillies lose in 1993 when the Blue Jays smacked them around (thank you Paul Molitor), but through it all, there was nothing other than the memory of Ryne Sandberg... a guy who played for the Reading Phillies, but was later traded to the Chicago Cubs where he went on to have Hall of Fame stats. And he was right there waiting for me when I returned home, and for that, I am eternally grateful. His career wasn't like it was in the 1980s, and while I still have his rookie card, it isn't the value that I'd like it to be. Then again, neither are the cards that my wife bought me the other night that sit smack dab in the middle of this era (1990ish). It was a great gift for a player, and there's something about looking through cards - even of players we don't necessarily know. There are still favorites from my childhood, guys left over to adulthood, and marquee players that will always be known. In the end, there were a few cards that stood out. Curt Schilling 1990 Topps - not THE rookie, but a first Topps card. Sammy Sosa 1990 Topps - if only it was 1998... I'd be sitting pretty. While not the Upper Deck Griffey Jr., there was the regular set Topps marked rookie of Ken Griffey Jr. Most of these are now selling for $1. Juan Gonzalez? Joey (Albert) Belle? Names of once great, but fallen stars. Jose Canseco? You can't even give his rookie away, but there was a 1990 Canseco - when he still sort of kind of mattered. But there were the guys from this era... the ones that were still left... the Ryne Sandbergs... the million dollar contract trail blazers who used to name names and define the era... And they're largely forgotten in modern baseball history, but they're still a part of my childhood history, which I see myself going back to more and more (also, the Disney Pixar movies and brainless comedies)... and I know that's not such a bad thing. It's made me the man that I am, and it's made my American home (in the middle of Amish Paradise) such a great place to be and to sit on the backyard furniture while watching my firepit and looking over my wife's garden and just being. That's really what home is all about. That sense of mellow Americana and nostalgia for a time past in a time now... Even if that time never really was.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Derek Jeter

I know... I know... I've said it before about a great many things: A) I'm a Red Sox fan and a "Certified Yankee Hater" (I've got the t-shirt to prove it).
B) Derek Jeter's flip play is the most over-rated play this side of Willie Mays' backward catch (great play, but Mays was well known for losing his hat to make plays more theatrical and that yard was really deep - players today would watch a homer rather than get a chance to duplicate the feat) in the history of baseball.

C) Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty was a great book and an even greater feeling (though we wouldn't know for sure until the Angels in 2002 and the Marlins in 2003; Detroit in 2006 was just the icing on the cake) to know it was over... yeah!

D) I didn't watch the original single of the Luis Gonzalez game winner. All of my talk about Mariano Rivera being over-rated was shown for what it really was - knowing the truth as I went to bed after the end of the 8th inning. I did celebrate the next day, but it would be ages before I saw the video of the whole inning.

E) I have come to grudgingly respect Joe Torre since Tom Verducci's excellent Yankee Years book. In fact, some of my greatest dreams (and worst experience in the last 5 years of teaching) came from Mike Mussina and Jeter rallying the troops together in 2005 and thinking that giving my students a motivational push would make them want to do the same for me. Fat chance of that, but it's still a nice dream for a Mr. Holland moment.

F) Since the Yankees didn't make the playoffs in 2008 and since the Red Sox won in 2007, I have lost some of my hatred for the Yankees. Well, that and the fact that I don't watch full Yankees / Red Sox games religiously since I spend more time with my wife (we met at the end of 2007).

That being said...

On Saturday, I watched Nine Innings from Ground Zero, which is actually an HBO production, and let me just say...

It was the best documentary this side of Ken Burns Baseball. However, I don't think I would or even could watch it twice. Yes, there are scenes that stand out (the aforementioned flip, the George Bush first pitch, and Brielle Saracini), and those can be watched again, but even those are super emotional - especially Saracini.

When you watch Saracini, she's a tween reading a letter about being bummed out over the events of 9/11, but she's writing it to Derek Jeter and asking if he can cheer her up with a phone call. Not knowing who she is or isn't, it's at that moment that they reveal that her father was Victor Saracini, the pilot of Flight 175, which was horrifically slammed into the World Trade Center on that September morning, killing everyone aboard (for a total of 2,819 victims). And it's at this moment that the emotion of the rest of the film truly hits - it's human lives lost, stopped, and completely eliminated. It's survivers that don't know how to make sense of it. Looking at the link to all of the dead and what the stats mean (the lives, the money, the city, our America), it's just catastrophic and over-whelming and completely emotional.

I was a blubbering wreck.

Watching Jeter 10 minutes before tell Bush to throw from the mound or face being booed while giving him advice to throw a strike brings it all home... as my friend Dale said, to not include that on Ken Burns' The 10th Inning, wasn't right. It is our game and what our game can do. For all of the pro Yankee sentiment that they should have won (and while I wouldn't have wanted them to win ANY of the other 5 World Series they won since my rebirth interest in baseball after the Air Force, I don't think I would have minded that one for all of these reasons in hindsight). To understand that there was a visible presence of anti-Arizona sentiment for what this win would mean for New York... it just said everything. But we forget that... and we forget that the Mets almost went to the playoffs that year before folding as America cheered for them, too - from the moment of Mike Piazza's game winner to their last hurrah in that elongated month of baseball.

And it goes back to the event of the flip... fat ass Jeremy Giambi chugging around the base path on a shot to the corner, and somehow, some idiot decision allowed him to move around third even though he had to be gasping for air, and if only he wasn't Jeremy Giambi, but rather, someone who didn't look like a softball player from a beer league, he would have made it a half step sooner or slid to avoid the tag... but he didn't.

And for that, he was out and the New York comeback was in motion and that was it for Oakland. It was finished. Seattle was soon to be history, and it was all because some force of nature compelled Jeter to be a superhero that post season. His game winning home run in the World Series against Byung-Hyun Kim, perhaps the worst reliever this side of Joe Nathan and Rod Beck, and the set up for the second comeback the next night against Kim... it all made it seem like he really did save the day...

And then Rivera folded like an ironing board being put into storage, and it was all over. And for this new perspective... it's really there and understandable in truth and reality and perspective and sadness and nostalgia from the Yankees, their fans, and Rudy Giuliani. And perhaps, there is a lot of anti-Yankee hate in some of the Amazon reviews... and perhaps there is some for Rudy and Bush, too, but politics aside, they were the men of the hour. Bush was at his finest in that pitch and with the bullhorn. After all, this is 2 years before Iraq and in a time when people wore anti-Osama Bin Laden shirts... a time before we all took the following statement from Condoleeza Rice (as taken from CNN): Still, she disclosed that the U.S. intelligence community had intercepted communications from al Qaeda suspects during the summer of 2001 that included these words: "Unbelievable news in the coming weeks;" "Big event ... There will be a very, very, very, very big uproar;" and "There will be attacks in the near future." Rice described these interceptions as "troubling, yes." But she added, "They don't tell us when; they don't tell us where; they don't tell us who; and they don't tell us how."

to mean that America was somehow complicit in the act of 9/11 because we didn't know enough to stop it. And for this partisanship, perhaps, it's the ultimate treason in America to believe that we did this (even Bill Clinton condemned the attitude of blaming our own country for this radical act of jihad).

But alas, we have forgotten so much about that day. I remember one time in teaching 9/11, I had a video of the events from Youtube, which played the news clips and people left the room in tears. They had literally never seen it before or it was personal to them (we never know who in the room has lost a friend, neighbor, or relative), and I felt truly bad for daring to show a video so that I could make them understand the statistics and events that they were to try to write about (in part because many of their comments weren't grounded in reality - through no fault of their own, but based on how they were caught in a post Iraq / Afghanistan uprising attitude of the media and the world around them).

And yet, I knew why I did it. This was our history, and the same tears I felt at MANY times in the video were something that makes me realize that we should never forget.

And it was something that says no amount of understanding what America could have done to make someone hate us so much that they would plan out a heinous attack on this level WOULD EVER JUSTIFY their having done what they did or even TO ALLOW US TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT TO KEEP IT FROM HAPPENING AGAIN. And while I don't claim that America is innocent or totally happy go lucky nice to the whole world, I don't see that search for WHY as being worthwhile - only WHAT can we do to eliminate this evil from the world and make sure it never comes back again. For that, I have come to wonder that if by doing anything so rational as hunting for understanding, we are in a sense enabling the evil in the world that would seek to destroy us, and for that, I have changed from the 30 year old man that stood in front of a room slack jawed as the building came down while 9th graders looked to me for understanding and I had none - only an all too wrong idea that the only thing that mattered after 9/11 was maintaining our lives and rights as normal - when in reality, we were changing for always and needed to adjust to winning a war that we would quickly be forced into.

But all of this detracts from what is good with America, and the end result of that is baseball (amongst other things). For anything that gives us happiness in its entertainment and sense of pleasure while making our day brighter is good, and this isn't something that a cornered dog lashing out with 19 of his minions to devastate the true sense of normalcy and the world that we live in some sense of jihad purpose would ever be able to understand.

And if there are rights and truths in the nearly 10 years since this day they are that anyone can offer something, even something insignificant to a large part of the world, to make the world a better place.

For that, I love baseball, slot canyons, waterfalls, Christmas, music, the history and culture of the country I live in, my family, and especially my wife.

And for that same reason, I despise tyranny and blind partisan hatred and agression.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Adrian Gonzalez

The good news is that all is right with the USS Pujols... 2 home runs in a Dodger crushing celebration last night means that the universe - at least the one that exists in the NL East and hits .300, 30, 100, and 100 is back on pace. He may only be up to .241 with 10 RBIs and 4 jacks, but he's hot again, and for that, life is good.
Ichiro was off to a little bit of a slump, but 2 more hits puts him at .276. Once again, life is good, and all is right with the highest paid (and most effective) singles machine in the history of baseball (though Pete Rose and Ty Cobb probably have something to say about that).
And while Baltimore losing is par for the course, Boston dropping to 2-10 with a loss against the Blue Jays is a crime against humanity.
So let's try to figure this out.
Carl Crawford's 0 for 5 drops him to .135. He's making $142 million over 7 years.
Jacoby Ellsbury's 1 for 4 raises him to .195. Coming back from injury, he was a question mark, but still... he's better than this. After all, he's batting .288 for a career.
Marco Scutaro goes 1 for 3 to raise his batting average to .188. Sure, he was the subject of a movie called Player to Be Named Later, and he did once hit a 3-run game winning home run against Mariano Rivera proving that the sun can shine on a sleeping dog's ass, but still... and he's making $11 million over 2 years AND HE SUCKS.
And Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the catching option that was supposed to be the good one since the other option, Jason Varitek, is headed for AARP, is hitting .154 this year. He hit .167 in 2 less at bats of an injured season last year, but Theo the wonder child and Francona the puppet boy thought that they could make something of the lad... but it didn't work. Sure, he's a bargain basement $750,000, but still... you think that he could at least make the Mendoza Line. Save 1 good 2 for 4 game against the Yankees, and this guy is outright ejected from the pros.
And just like we talked about rewarding pitchers who do nothing in Boston, now, the 0 for 4 night for Adrian Gonzalez (dropping him to .244 with 1 home run and 7RBIs) gets him $154 million over 7 years.
The message of rewarding greatness is understood, but if it's not happening this year, what does it really mean? Are we just trying to be the biggest payroll ever to miss the playoffs? Does it mean that Baltimore and the Blue Jays can quake at who finishes in third in AL East as the Red Sox look to move on without JD Drew and his 5 years $70 million after this year?
The free spending and day dreaming hopes of the Wonder Twins ensures that just as Zan and Jayna were the dumbest cartoon superheros ever, Terry and Theo are the most useless front office pair to ever steer a baseball ship. I know I said that I want my team to slump as low as they possibly can if it gets them fired, but I don't know how much more I can take of this disaster of a season. We're now officially 2 games behind Houston and Seattle who were both dead in the water before the season started. We're 7 games behind 2nd place Kansas City who was also marked for death. Even Pittsburgh who hasn't had a winning season since 1991 is 4 games better than us and their best players are looking for July trades as opposed to playoff dreams in western Pennsylvania.
What does it say? Worst baseball summer in Boston since 1960's 65 and 89? Even the futility of World War 2's player depletion in 1945 hasn't looked this bad - especially with a payroll of $160million.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Jackie Robinson

64 years ago today, Jackie began to make all of the bad stuff go away. It didn't vanish over night, and he didn't do it alone, but on his shoulders, a huge weight was dumped, and with the help of Branch Rickey being willing to take a chance where no other man before him ever could, he made it count. For 3 years, he held his tongue. The biting killed this strong, but proud man within 25 years, but had it not been for his sacrifice, where would any of us be today?
Jackie did it before MLK Jr. and Malcolm X. He did it with non-violence like King, and he did it with the sense that all he wanted was a chance, pass or fail, and he did it without responding in racist kind like Malcolm X.
Jackie did it before the Civil Rights laws of the mid 1960s. He did it before America got all giddy about Obama saying yes we can because if it wasn't for Jackie, there would be nothing to do.
There would have been no Michael Jordan without Jackie Robinson. Instead, we'd still be in the era of tiny basketball shorts and a very sedate game - nothing like the era that would create Jordan - the outstretched arm of Julius Erving slamming one home with afro extended in a new style for a new time.
There wouldn't be Muhammad Ali trash talking his opponents while having the guts to lose his whole sports participation for his stand on Vietnam.
There wouldn't have been Jim Brown or Arthur Ashe. There wouldn't have been the Williams sisters or Tiger Woods.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos wouldn't have raised their fists skyward in the Olympics if not for the work of guys like Robinson (and Joe Louis and Jesse Owens). Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Frank Robinson wouldn't be in ourhallowed halls of all time great baseball players if not for Jackie Robinson's trailblazing suffering. In fact, Aaron might have finished his life as a caricature of himself while playing an Indianapolis Clown his whole life. Whatever we would and wouldn't have, we certainly wouldn't remember Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson the same way if Jackie Robinson hadn't made it to the major leagues instead of both of them. Walter Payton wouldn't have set rushing records and Wilt Chamberlain wouldn't have scored more points in a game than some teams do in the modern NBA. Had Jackie Robinson not suffered the onslaught of endless hordes of racist players, owners, and fans, Curt Flood would have never been able to be "well paid" in his time of segregation and mistreatment at the hands of Major League Baseball.
We'd be missing a lot of great athletes, entertainers, and politicians that have added to the accomplishments of the world, for better and for worse, but who were who they were because they had a chance - instead of being excluded in racist bullshit.
And last night, we wouldn't have had a celebration for Ryan Howard, a man who in spite of his many swings and misses (less this season so far) is a pillar of class and respect and love for the game. And while the Reading Phillies might have lost their home opener 5-0 after 7 really good 0-0 innings, it was the little figures and the 500-pound life size garden gnome that brought the fans out and kept them there for 7 innings of defensive and pitching greatness - 13 strikeouts by Akron and 12 more by Reading.
We might diss on him for the money he makes and what he doesn't do, but the fans love him. They love him a whole lot - at the time of writing this, there are several bids for his garden gnome that was given away (3500 of them in total) that are almost $50 after less than 1 full day.
And maybe it's because we're making bank on the figure, but frankly, it's amazing to see the love and desire that the figure is commanding. Last year, it was considered the best Minor League promotion of the year, and it went for over $100 in some cases on Ebay. This year, it stands to do just as well.
And for that, we have nothing but kudos to Mr. Howard for being who he is, but frankly, he owes a great debt to Jackie Robinson - especially on this day.
And for that, we feel a little tinge of soul with the greatest hits of Stax Records playing behind us... contemplating the legacy of all of those great people of color who got to be because Jackie hit a ball and scared the hell out of opposing pitchers while taking long leads off of bases.
Like James Brown said, "I've got soul... I'm superbad."
And so was Jackie.
In his words:
"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."
Look at all those people who Jackie inspired.
"The right of every American to first-class citizenship is the most important issue of our time."
Look at all those people who owe our eternal respects to this man.
"The way I figured it, I was even with baseball and baseball with me. The game had done much for me, and I had done much for it."
In the words of Buck O' Neil and Hank Aaron... much better than I could say it.
Rest in peace, Jackie Robinson - my hero, numero uno.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Greg Anderson

In another world, we'd be celebrating Josh Johnson's no hitter this morning, but he came up 5 outs short, and the reality is that if it didn't happen, so be it. And more importantly, we have the train wreck that is the Barry Bonds show trial.
And so if you're the feds today, you have to be wondering if it was really a victory to spend YEARS AND YEARS of your life chasing down Barry Bonds for steroids and other performance enhancing clear and cream drugs. And why wouldn't you? The trial that should have been slam dunk ended in a mistrial and we can spend tons of time trying to figure out why, but that's really not worth the time because Barry will walk into obscurity and hatred, and perhaps, some of it is unfair, and perhaps, some of it was brought on himself, but in the end, a sure-fire Hall of Famer isn't in there. To this, maybe there needs to be a wing across the street from Cooperstown that allows once great tarnished players to get their props from the fans who want to see them. And maybe there, the light will be just a little bit less glowing, but all the same, we can see Bonds, Clemens, Shoeless Joe, Pete Rose, and Mark McGwire for their part in the greatness of an era - even if it was all just smoke and mirrors to the latter day saints troop led by Bob Costas.
According to the good folks at ESPN:
The final votes were 8-4 to acquit Bonds of lying about steroids and 9-3 to acquit him on lying about HGH use. The panel voted 11-1 to convict him of getting an injection from someone other than his doctor, with one woman holding out.
And if you're the feds, you have to be wondering, why try Roger Clemens? Why waste the time and the money? Is he any less guilty than Bonds, and haven't we already seen the partisan shift with him one time (as the conservatives in Congress lined up behind him while the liberals attacked him viciously)? How far will his money and his fame and his ability to clearly act innocent (if not a little enraged) on camera go?
And so if Bonds isn't guilty, then we might have 2 men completely out of baseball and the Hall of Fame, but just like 8 other guys who are out of baseball and weren't guilty in court... the real sentence has already been handed down - and it wasn't at a show trial.
And really, why? Do we just believe that 1 person clearly wasn't in some way prejudiced against the evidence to decide that Bonds NEVER EVER got an injection from Greg Anderson who was released from jail after being thrown back in the hole AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN for not testifying and not complying with federal orders?
Which makes us wonder... if Barry Bonds isn't celebrating today (and I wouldn't know why he isn't - his goose was pretty much cooked before he hit the trial, and he got a sentence that will give him probation and no jail time, and even if that means no Hall of Fame, he wasn't getting in anyway... at least since what happened after 1998), what present will he be giving to Greg Anderson for being a "good ol' boy" all of these years?
I suspect it will be a really nice one.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dan Haren

21 years ago today, I was entering Air Force Basic Training... oh, how time flies and lifetimes seem to change. At that point, life seemed so far away from baseball and baseball card collecting... fortunately, adulthood brings us back to the things from childhood that really matter.

Before the 2005 season, the Cardinals sold Dan Haren and the prospect farm (Kiko Calero and Daric Barton were the other 2) for Mark Muldur. It seemed like the thing to do because the A's had 3 great pitchers way back when (and theoretically, they do now, it's just that there aren't many people who can name any of them - save maybe Dallas Braden for the perfect game and the hatred of A-Rod, but definitely not much for his other games that he's thrown since then). But back in 2004, the A's saw their window for opportunity vanish and the excessive costs mount, and so Tim Hudson and Barry Zito soon got sold off for scrap, too. Of course, Hudson (for Charles Johnson, Dan Meyer, and Juan Cruz) still has potential with this rebound year- just not for Oakland, which was actually smart because the $30+million on his 2 final years never paid off, so now he exists at about $9million per, which is still almost twice what the A's were giving him when he left after actually being worth something - just not a chance to move beyond the Yankees or Red Sox in the playoffs. And Barry Zito... Zito has a teddy bear and a wallet that just keeps giving and giving to himself - just not for Oakland, which was smart too, as he has totally crapped the bed that the Giants pay $127million rent for. In the end, the A's saved almost $20million a year for his non-services in last year's World Series win. Now, if life is good for Zito, and it won't be, he'll get $18 million for 2014, which would be nice, but let's be honest.... the option vests with 200IP in 2013 or 400 IP in 2012-2013 or 600IP in 2011-13. If 2014 option vests, Zito may opt out and receive $3.5mil buyout. And if the good Lord was willing... and he got those innings... and he miraculously was worth something because he was winning again... there would be no way in HELL that Zito will make $18million for another run in total value of a long term deal - even if it was also 7 years long! But the A's got the better end of the bargain in all of the deals. Muldur went from superb to very good in his first year in St. Louis. After that, he pitched 106 innings over 3 years and vanished from the world in 2008. He would never win 20 games again like he did in 2001. He would never pitch an ERA better than 3.13 like he did in 2003. He would nurse injuries, and say adieau to the game once and for all. Dan Haren, on the other hand, went from 6-10 and nearly a 5.00 ERA in 2 seasons in St. Louis to get better and better for the A's, and then for the Diamondbacks, and now for the Angels. Last night, he threw a 1-hitter. His ERA is now .73. His WHIP is .53. He has 21 whiffs, and he even has a save! Shall we give him the Cy Young now?!! Nine innings, 8 strikeouts, 1 hit, 2 walks, and a complete game shutout against a Cleveland team that was actually off to a kick ass start (against Boston, so it's not like they're beating up on the Royals and the Royals alone)... it's nice to see players returning to form because sadly, we're in a transition year. When the story of this season is written, it's going to be one of those late 1980s, early 1990s stories... good team comes out of nowhere as all the veteran teams collapse. In the end, there are almost no or no hall of famers on the team (on that note, who from the 2002 Angels is going to Cooperstown? David Eckstein? Scott Spiezio), and yeah... it's a feel good year for a city without much to feel good about, and really, 11 games in and there aren't many great moments - especially from Josh Hamilton and his broken arm.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Daisuke Matsuzaka

Baltimore went to New York last night to test their season against the Yankees and find out just how real that they are. They got rained out. Shame that Boston didn't get rained out. Once again, the Rays came in and whooped on them. It wasn't a 16-5 drubbing at the hands of Daisuke Matsuzaka, but losing a heartbreaker to David Price (3-2) is just as bad and does nothing to propel themselves up the division in any hope for contention. Thus, in honor of Daisuke's gyroball that doesn't live up to the hype of what we were all supposed to fear, I am going to create a list of 10 things that I really do fear more than the gyroball. 1. That monkey from Toy Story 3. Fantastic movie by the way... Lotso and Big Baby were pretty scary, too - as was Ken's handwriting. 2. Being in the attic alone. Ever since I was a kid and my dad convinced me that a ghost lived in the cooby hole (a crawl in closet that you store stuff in), I have been paranoid about the attic. Let's just say that it scared my nieces and nephews as well since they don't have attics in their houses. 3. Since said ghost was a guy who fell off the enclosed porch, I'm also deathly afraid of heights. 4. Noises in the night from downstairs... it might be Hazel (our resident ghost who threw up the blind in our bedroom at 2am the first night that we were in the house) or it might be thug kids breaking in. 5. Not having music to listen to. I wouldn't want to live in a world without music. 6. Having a daughter singing along with Ke$ha. Having a daughter someday and having her want to look like Ke$ha. Having a daughter and having her want to act like Ke$ha. Having a son impregnate someone like Ke$ha and to end up chained to her for life via child support payments and split custody for the rest of that child's natural life. 7. To lose my mental and physical faculties and be dependant on someone else for support the rest of my life. To have that person be an untrained slacker / loser making $10 or so an hour to pretend to care about me would make it even scarier still. 8. Knowing that Obama is in charge of security and economy and future for my country. Knowing that despite his incompetence, the best that people can do to create reason for him not to be there is that his birth certificate was supposedly faked, which is both assinine and desperate. 9. Losing my wife to a tragic accident or old age or just not having her around. It's hard to want to live in a world without the person that you truly love. 10. Having to eat broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, or any salad like vegetables. Let it be known that I can out wait any person trying or expecting me to eat any leafy vegetable that there is. Oh yes... it ain't happening. That said, I fear tsunamis on the Pacific Coast more than Daisuke's gyroball and I live in Pennsylvania. I fear the Care Bears more than Matsuzaka. In short, there is nothing I fear LESS than the gyroball, which will forever be linked to the most over-hyped foreign import in the history of sports - and I remember Hideki Irabu.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Clay Bucholz

Winning 2 games in a weekend series against the Yankees is cause for celebration UNLESS you come out of the weekend 2and7. Then, you still need to assess the failings and contemplate the future without some of the dead spots in the lineup. Sure, the first week of the season isn't reason to hit the panic button, but you can lose a season in April even if you can't win one before the final stretch run winds to a complete standstill and playoff tickets are truly punched (ask the 2010 San Diego Padres). So what do the Red Sox and their anemic pitching staff do: They give Clay Bucholz a mega contract. (according to ESPN) The contract calls for Buchholz to be paid $3.5 million in 2012, $5.5 million in 2013, $7.7 million in 2014, and $12 million in 2015, according to the source. With a modest signing bonus and buyout language, the contract guarantees him $29,945,000, a major league source said. Both option years call for a salary of $13 million, although there is an escalator clause that could push the second option year to $13.5 million. So let's see what exactly he's being rewarded for - 4 runs in 3.2 innings (Nolan Ryan would not be proud) and a 7.20 ERA for the season. Sure, the first game was close, but this game... not so much as the Yankees won a laugher 9-4. Then again, let's look at the Boston Red Sox great sewer of waste that makes the US budget debate that sees America wondering if our governmnet will be shut down AGAIN seem tame by comparison. After crapping the bed at the beginning of last year, Josh Beckett got 4 years and $68 million. Of course, this is because the rapidly imploding John Lackey stol $82.5 million over 5 years. Jon Lester is signed through 2013 with an option for $13 million in 2014 with $30 million over 5 years. The great waste of a green card that is Daisuke Matsuzaka convinced the Red Sox to shell out $52 million for 6 years. This doesn't include the $51,111,111 negotiating fee that Theo Epstein and crew paid to negotiate with his agents to bring his ink to the contract. But it's all about the cause for celebration at the moment... and last night, the Red Sox got 16 base runners in a 4-0 win against the Yankees on a great game by Josh Beckett. Never mind that they teed off on CC Sabathia's lard ass (9 hits, 4 walks over 5.2 innings) in a way that managed to scare more fans than Matsuzaka ever could, but yeah... a win is a win, even if the game was still 1-0 at the end of the 6th and required opening a can of whoop ass on Joba the Hutt's rapidly waiver ready self. Fortunately, the Red Sox come out of their weekend of rescuing their worst season since Harry Truman was in the White House with a series with the Tampa Bay Rays, who are now 1-8 and in no position to do much with Evan Longoria out and the promise of Manny Ramirez up in smoke (or PEDs). With any luck, that might help them move up the list as they chase after a hot Baltimore team (even if they did lose 2 of 3 to the RED HOT Rangers who are 8-1 and looking to avenge their failing to win the World Series last year). And so continues week 2 of the season.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Brian Stow

Friendship, Pennsylvania, is probably a really nice town, but I've never been there. However, if their citizens are like 41 year old Scott Ashley, I have to say that I'll pass. In a video that is almost as nauseating as watching a Kardashian breed in digital format, you can watch him get tasered for unruly conduct in a game last night against the Rockies.
Thank God for Youtube.

After drunkenly antagonizing fans in his section, he was asked to leave, which didn't work, and then he was hit with a night club 6 times, which didn't work, and then he was tasered. The Pirates support the 2 officers who feared for their safety, and yeah... it was a typical night in Pittsburgh - only Ben Roethlisberger wasn't getting too agressive for his own good this time.

That said, going into the atmosphere of removing a drunken fan and having to deal with the abuse of other drunken police hating fans isn't easy. I know that it's part of the job, but there is something to not be said about this "don't tread on me" attitude that is escalated when idiot fans feel that just paying for their ticket entitles them to stay the course of the game and do whatever, whenever, to whoever.

And that just isn't so.

In light of Brian Stow, a San Francisco Giants fan who had the tar kicked out of him after a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers for simply wearing the wrong jersey in another team's stadium, there is no more mulligans for bad behavior. Stow is in a coma and has had part of his skull removed to stop some of the pain that he is in. If you want to donate to help him, you can see links in the actual article. At the current time, there is a $150,000 reward if you can turn in information leading to identities of the thugs that did this heinous act to him.
And for all that we do and say about team loyalty and general feistiness during games - razzing those who support other teams or talking trash - there is still a sense of when enough is enough OR at least a line that won't be crossed (verbal against the team to physical against the fan).
But when we don't know the difference and our loyalties are for grandfalloons that we choose to see as ourselves - even when we're not even near good enough to make A level minor league teams... then something is amiss, and for that, there has to be a call to rationality again.

Either that, or people can just leave the games and go to a roadhouse where this stuff is expected and condoned - unless Patrick Swayze has something to say about it.