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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Matt Joyce

I know what you're saying.
Who the hell is he?
Oh, he's only leading the league in batting with a .370 average through the end of May. With his home run tonight, he only has 9 home runs for the season in the relative obscurity of Tampa Bay who don't seem to do anything wrong. They get rid of players, and new heroes spring up to take their place. Carl who? Let the fans throw money at Crawford since he seemed to let Boston throw money at him for such a pathetic average and performance until last week's player of the week award (kind of a back-handed compliment of "it's about time" after all of those weeks of crap play). After parts of 3 years in the bigs, Joyce is exploding in year 4.
Sure, there are whiffs, but there are also a lot of doubles, a few triples, and some stolen bases.
There is potential south of the baseball border (because nobody pays attention to baseball in Florida until the teams get it together for the playoffs - see the Marlins for that as well).
And maybe now, Evan Longoria won't have to call out fans for support. Maybe David Price won't have to shoulder the show on his own as he's actually the third best pitcher on the staff this year behind James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson. Maybe it doesn't matter if the Rays have a reliever going into game 1 (because Kyle Farnsworth has come to play). Maybe it's all going to go right as the 3 team scuffle for the AL East gets serious (and it's anyone's race with 3 teams this close).
Maybe we can forget the 0-6 start.
Maybe we can forget Manny Ramirez's downside and focus on Johnny Damon's unwanted self being the upside in Tampa Bay.
Maybe we can see a team struggling to get it together as a long hot summer is surely promised on East Coast. Maybe the Orioles and Blue Jays have a chance too (and maybe I have a chance at the $200million top prize on Powerball on Wednesday).

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Frank Saucier

Number one / eighth came to the plate for his only at bat ever on August 19, 1951. As his was the home team, outfielder Frank Saucier, who was a replacement for the usual outfielder, was removed for a little person, a kind of dubious honor in and of itself, but for the sake of the game that Veeck was running (a minor league atmosphere in a major league town), that was ok.
As for Gaedel, he stood 3 foot 7 and he was part of Bill Veeck's plan to give Falstaff Brewery a 50th birthday present that they would never forget. To be honest, nobody ever forgot it. It was Bill Veeck's coup de grace as he moved into a new level of showmanship with his greatest contributions of showmanship ever, which is something to be said because he also gave us:
1: playing Minnie Minoso in the 70s and 80s so he could play in 5 decades. As the White Sox frontman, this seemed to be a nice touch for one of their great players in history and it made up for those stupid shorts that they wore.
2: the spirit of 76 parade that he staged where he was the peg legged fifer. Veeck had lost his leg after being in the Marines during World War 2. This brought a nice little patriotic touch to the game that he loved so much.
3: Harry Caray's Take Me Out to the Ballgame rendition.
4: The ivy in Wrigley Field and the scoreboard that he built up for the team that his father got to be in charge of because he knew how to write a newspaper column complaining about how things weren't be done well.
5: The desire to have lights in Wrigley, which was so rejected that the team's ownership wouldn't allow lights to go up first and had them go up last. Veeck proved that you can't win them all, but you can at least try.
6: Disco Demolition Night. Another great idea, which would work well with Lady Gaga CDs (that new disc is so abysmal that it makes the last one seem tolerable in comparison - guess that's why she gave it away for 99 cents at Amazon Dot Com on the first day it was released). However, the riots and chaos caused the White Sox to forfeit the game, but yeah... it's baseball history.
7: Alien appearance at the ballpark, which was another Eddie Gaedel appearance for Veeck.
8. In addition, Veeck brought Larry Doby and Satchel Paige to the big leagues and proved that he was not only humorous, but a true American looking out for others. Granted, his speech for Gaedel to tell baseball management that he was looking out for the little guy wasn't the political grandstanding he wanted it to be (rather a middle finger to baseball's stodginess), but nevertheless, it was a fitting end to a 4-pitch at bat that saw Bobby Cain laughing at the strike zone that he couldn't hit. Nobody ever had to fire shots at Gaedel for trying to swing at pitches with his toy bat. And in the end, it may not have been a naked lady jumping out of that birthday cake, but it was a memorable birthday celebration on that day.
And all in all, Veeck was a great bit of Americana. I'm currently reading his Veeck as in Wreck book, which is a nice way to spend a rainy day on vacation without a thought for work I should be doing since there really isn't much to do other than think about the Vince McMahon / Mark Cuban (in a blender) of his day and just enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Buster Posey

Will the rain ever stop falling? As John Fogerty sang before he ever thought about singing about baseball, is there a person that can stop this rain and bring bright sunny skies back?
There is something about believing in the future and being optimistic about the opportunities that are out there, but when it rains, it's hard, and when it rains (as a former scumbag boss once said), it pours. For me, it's been raining since Wednesday night. My wife and I drove to Ohio from eastern Pennsylvania, and at one point, I looked at her and asked if it was getting dark or getting ugly (weatherwise). She stated the latter, and within 5 minutes, the sky was dark as can be, a pitch black furnace of burned coal in the air (and that's not the Cuyohoga to blame, either). Within another 5 minutes, there was rain, and then there was hail, and all the while there was thunder and lightning, and it was a horrid last 4 hours of a drive to get to Toledo to see her family, but alas, we made it in one piece.
And so as we drove into the distance - perhaps it was my wife's choice of playing the Cure, perhaps it was a continuation of so many moments in the job hunt that is my life, but I was wondering if something is on the other side when the sky gets clear again and the bluebirds sing and spring moves into the beauty of summer. Prior to this, we had about a week straight of rain, followed by a little sun, and more rain, and now we're drenched again.
So right here, there is a question that always exists and that's whether or not the world is a metaphor for what is happening outside of the event itself. For instance, is there brightness on the other side of the clouds and rain? If I'm patient, will the good things come to me?
Many people seem to have a take on it. For example, Victor Frankl wrote about a prisoner who he was with at Auschwitz (the story is in Man's Search for Meaning - an amazing book), who had a mysterious dream that he would be rescued by such and such a date. When that didn't happen, the man basically died of a broken heart.
Just recently, Harold Camping tried for the second time to get his Rapture prediction right, but alas, that didn't happen either, and now those people who waited are wondering if it's his math or a God testing their faith or if they were just betrayed. Nevertheless, the waiting and the hoping and the not happening - the rescue from outside - have caused many people to spend their savings and their faith on a pie in the sky dream not too different than my hoping to win Powerball, and yeah... the answer is always internal since we control our own destinies more than external forces do. I'm sure Frankl would agree.
Dr Seuss wrote of the existential darkness in his permanent graduation gift Oh! The Places You'll Go (not quite St. John of the Cross's Dark Night of the Soul, but... I should say that it is a great gift - don't get me wrong - the good doctor is awesome - St. John, now that was an experience for an undergrad thesis long ago):
You'll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you'll be in a Slump.
And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...
...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
That's not for you!

And hopefully, that's not Buster Posey either. We already hope that it's not Stephen Strasburg, the greatest pitcher that still might ever pitch in the game, but yeah...
There is something about facing setback that creeps into the mind, and for this, we can go a million directions when things don't go our way. Mark Twight, a "punk rock" climber, expresses this in his book Kiss or Kills: Confessions of a Serial Climber when he said:
“Eventually, I sickened of people, myself included, who didn’t think enough of themselves to make something of themselves- people who did only what they had to do and never what they could have done. I learned from them the infected loneliness that comes at the end of every misspent day. I knew I could do better.”
He made it back. Strasburg is slated to be able to come back from Tommy John Surgery as soon as September (let's hope the Nationals take it easy on him and let him come back full fledge in spring training next February). What will Posey do with his 6-8 weeks off for a broken leg (and possibly all season)? Will he adjust if this is the end of catching altogether?
We like to think that our potential and our heart will help us find a way. Here's to recovery and redemption in all of our lives.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Carl Crawford

There is something about the feeling of being in a new ballpark.
Today, I went to Commerica Park in Detroit with a friend of mine from Air Force days (a million years ago or something like that) to see the Tigers play the Red Sox.
It's definitely a brave new world that we're entering into. Since Brian Stow and since becoming an adult, there are a few things that I'm definitely not doing. Number one - I'm not trying to cause a scene in an opposing ballpark. Yep... I'm definitely more mature than I was at age 29 when I went with 2 friends (one who loved baseball - one who wanted to see the game) to see the Orioles and Red Sox square off at Camden Yards. We had kazoos, signs, and attitude, and many people probably weren't happy with us. Nevertheless, we went hoarse as Pedro went for a complete game with 15 strikeouts and only 2 hits. It was a romp, and it became the chapter "Pedro and the Pantheon" in Bill Simmons' Now I Can Die in Peace. To give you an example of how I've changed, when we went, we had an extra ticket, and we sold it to a guy on the street - informing him that we were going to be crazy. I don't think he realized how much, but alas... we were just getting started for preparations for the game that never was (a rainout between the Trenton Thunder and Boston Red Sox that we showed up at way early in hopes of getting autographs while wearing face paint). I have the pictures from sitting around waiting, but alas, the rain that day just made sure the game would never happen.
Back then, I was all about my team. It's not that I'm not now, but it's just when one is in a younger frame of mind, one doesn't have to feel so desperately connected to meaning through the actions of another team. Well, that and I'm not Harvey Updyke. I still get venomous at the Yankees, but I don't go so far as to refer to Derek Jeter as a selfish player like Bleacher Report (these guys must be on some serious medication). Then again, their definitions of selfish are mostly just jerk players and players from New York (though I would agree with A-Rod at number 1).
Number 2: Since Brian Stow, I'm conscious about getting my ass kicked for my Pedro Martinez jersey and Red Sox hat. I actually asked my friend (from Michigan) if he would mind sitting next to a guy in a Red Sox jersey and if the fans would react horribly to opposing fans in the stadium. As I'm not a Yankee fan, I was ok, and really, there were other fans who were all really decent about being there, and that's what it's all about. Experience other stadiums, enjoy their heritage (there are some awesome statues of Ty Cobb, Al Kaline, Hal Newhauser, Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, and Willie Horton. For this, the Tigers do love their past and present (much love is shown to the current team despite only Cabrera and Verlander being all stars), it's just that they don't have much of a current team, and for that...
Number 3: It's not like watching Alfredo Aceves... even for as dominant as he looked, was really a great drawing card. He wasn't flat out nasty, but he did get the job done, which is more than can be said for Max Scherzer, who within 4 batters into an outless third inning was done for the 7 runs that he gave up. Normally, if I was into my team as I used to be, I would have been chanting and screaming with Jacoby Ellsbury's 3-run jack, but I actually felt bad for my friend that he didn't get to see a closer game. I don't want to be an ugly winner, but yeah... the box score really says it all.
And it's not like I get all jazzed on the current Red Sox. Sure, Big Sluggi has redeemed himself this year. Sure, there are bright spots after the horrible start, but they're not the Idiots from 2003 or the 2004 World Series team (or even 2007). They're a stacked team of devastating offense brought together to kill opposing teams.
Now that Carl Crawford is 8 for his last 9 (2 doubles, 2 triples, 1 home run, 5 runs, 5 RBIs, no whiffs), can anything stop Boston? They whooped on Cleveland 2 of 3 games and only lost the first one after Manny Acta got himself ejected (gotta love that Lake Erie love that pushed the Indians to victory).
Technically, we're .003 out of first place as the Rays fall to a game and a half back with the Yankees in first, but there is such a thing as momentum. The Yankees have a West Coast trip. Boston gets Detroit and Oakland and the White Sox. Then, the 2 come together for a meeting where Boston has killed New York in their meetings this year. I'm not saying that a June meetup is the end of the world / do or die, but with the way that the Red Sox are changing their direction, it could be meaningful TV.
If I allow myself to get caught up in it!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Carlos Quentin

By this point in the season, Albert Pujols should be flirting with .400 - not sitting below .300 with a gap (.033) between the magic mark and where he's at. He shouldn't be breaking a 100+ (105 at bats and 119 plate appearance) at bat streak without a home run. Is it really the year of the pitcher, or are we ushering in a new crop of offense?
Matt Joyce is currently leading the major leagues in batting average with a .367 mark. If I wouldn't be looking at him in his Rays uniform, I would have no idea who he was, but he seems to be part of the new Tampa Bay outlook and his 8 home runs attests that he's not all singles either.
This is not diminishing Jose Bautista, who is still hitting at a .340 clip with 19 home runs (guess I was really wrong on not believing in his salary bonus), but other than that, there are people with about 10-12 home runs, and they're the usual suspects, but there aren't many big time boppers - save Curtis Granderson and his 16 jacks (and 45 strikeouts in 178 at bats).
Matt Holliday has also been solid with his .349 average and 6 home runs, but for the most part, the bats have been silent this year. Big boppers like Adam Dunn who came to new teams with hope for power are striking out a lot more (60) than they are connecting (5). Mad Mark Reynolds is drifting into worse obscurity (.191) as he racks up his usual misses (49) and falls short on his connections (5). It's an ugly affair really.
So when Carlos Quentin hooks me up fantasy style with 3 jacks and 5 RBIs for my 2nd place fantasy team (the Ephrata Green Dragons), I have to give props (that said, I like the acquisition of Jair Jurrjens as well since he's always been good for me and last night, his 4 Ks and 7.2 scoreless innings brought a much needed win to my team, which has been decimated by injuries to Joe Mauer and Josh Hamilton).
Now that Quentin opened up, he's tied for 3rd place with Ryan Braun, Mark Teixera, and Jay Bruce. Yeah... that Jay Bruce, but that's fantasy points as well, so we can live with that. Looking at the home run leaders... you really wouldn't guess many of them. The same could be said for the free swinging strikeout leaders.
And as I heard it said the other day, it's not 1.12 in 1968, but it's a step away from the steroids era home run boppers of years past.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Giovanni Ramirez

There's a stigma about Barry Bonds - he's an asshole. He's a liar and a cheater. The list goes on, but when it came to the family of Bryan Stow, the victim at the Dodgers / Giants game earlier this season, he showed that he still had orange and black pride with an "uncharacteristic" respect for humanity when he gave Stow's children college scholarships (and a signed glove and bat).
This is a hell of a lot more than we can say for Giovanni Ramirez, an ex-con picked up in a surprise raid on his place of residence (along with evidence and others at the scene), who is being held on investigation for this 3 strike offense that would see him charged with assault with a deadly weapon. And if it is true that he is the prime scumbag who beat the tar out of Stow and left him completely unable to care for himself or his children as he slowly moves out of a medically-induced coma.
And sadly for the McCourt family, the Stow family is now suing the hell out of the Dodgers for their part in the beating (seeing as they won't be able to take successful legal action in monetary form against the ghetto trash that was picked up in the incident). Says the lawyer for Stow:
It's fairly simple. The Dodgers have shown a total disregard for public safety. They've gotten rid of security people, they've had all these incidents at their games, more than other teams, there's also a known gang presence. What did they think was going to happen?
And if this brings attention to people who take obsession with their teams too far and makes us all realize that we can hate the Yankees, but that we should still respect the flesh and blood human-ness of their fans. Talking trash about the team is one thing, but throwing beer and throwing punches? Talking smack on Jeter and A-Rod is one thing, but provoking fans with insults to who they are? Sure, we've all been there in a fierce rage where our team wins or loses in a heated rivalry and we've all taken the abuse and dished it out, but at the end of the day, it's just a game and that's why the game is so great.
But how this incident didn't happen a hundred times before as the networks fiercely covered every single Red Sox / Yankees game for the better part of a decade and fanned the flames on the best rivalry in baseball (and John Roseboro vs. Juan Marichal not withstanding, there are very few events in Dodgers / Giants lore that merit mentioning - other than Jackie Robinson refusing his trade to the Bay). Here, Red Sox and Yankees fans do the deeds that could cause trouble - they go into the stadium in full uniform. They drink and they get loud, but somehow, other than getting doused in beer and talking a lot of smack, there are no major incidents.
In L.A., this year, it's all different, and that's sad, which makes it nice to see someone like Bonds trying to make up for the problems that it caused.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Jose Reyes

We talk a lot about rivalries here, and while I'm no Phillies fan spewing venom for the Mets, I really don't like any of the Mets. I don't know if I can say I really ever liked any of the Mets. No, it's not payback for Buckner's misplay in 1986, but I just can't say that anyone on the Mets is that great.
And while I'm not church religious (though I do point my finger to Heaven in thanks for the good things that I have been given and try to live my life in a way that would be what He wants), I know not to covet my neighbor's wife or my opponent's short stop.
And with that, I like Jose Reyes as much as I like a post-father in law fighting K-Rod, a slumping Carlos Beltran, an over-hyped David Wright, and a post Red Sox Jason Bay. That's to say that while I don't wish them will will, I'm just not moved by any of their stats or upsides to think that they represent anything worthwhile to the game of baseball - especially the game of baseball in Boston, which would mean mortgaging the future and paying big dollars to get them signed for a long time (and while we know Boston is more than willing to pay lots of little, they need to be more frugal and tighten their purse strings - especially those that would reach out to a shortstop like Reyes). And while it's not even real reaching out, the good folks at Bleacher Report have once again put smoke where there is no fire by saying that the Red Sox would give up on Jed Lowrie who has a .310 average with 3 home runs since replacing idiot move Marco Scutaro.
And if Boston is finally getting it together without Wacky Lackey and his DL stint (or time off to get his marriage together - whatever you want to call it) and with Carl Crawford finally getting out of the sub Mendoza basement from Hell as Adrian Gonzalez goes on a sick RBI tear, do we really need a Met with Attitude at short stop for a shot at post season glory?
Methinks not, but alas, when the Mets owner is trashing his team, we have to believe that there is something right in New York (not named Ike Davis). With that, we give you his classic one liners:
(on REYES)): He thinks he's going to get Carl Crawford money. He's had everything wrong with him. He won't get it.
(on BELTRAN): We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series. He's 65 to 70 percent of what he was. (didn't I call this the other day? I'm a genius, and I should be writing for ESPN).
(on WRIGHT): Really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.
So yeah... there is no love in New York... for the players or for Bernie Madoff who is even trying to play the ethical card by saying the Mets didn't know how they were screwed over by him. Yep... we believe, but that's not saying good things when the Mets (like the Dodgers) are looking to financially implode this year.
And while the fans in Philadelphia probably wouldn't care, let's just say that a part of baseball will die with this team sucking as bad as they are (just like in L.A.). And in a year of parity, that's saying something.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ken Caminiti

Providing the world doesn't end, you will be reading this - that you are means that it either:
A) hasn't happened yet.
B) isn't going to happen.
Nevertheless, the death of Randy "Macho Man" Savage did happen. While it seems sad, it seems that he's just another pro wrestler to die early from abuse to his body that years in the ring caused.
And while baseball has not seen death due to steroids since Ken Caminiti... let's be honest, even football hasn't seen much death (Lyle Alzado), it has witnessed lots of career death. From Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa to Barry Bonds to Roger Clemens, the stars of the past have been tainted. The stars of the present seem to be without a lot of the big guns steroids users with exception to Alex Rodriguez. It's a slippery and sad slope, but all the same, it's pretty much covered in its entirety at Baseball's Steroid Era (though they stopped writing last year).
At the time Ken Caminiti was famous for 2 things:
1) the 1996 NL MVP for the Padres.
2) doing a lot of steroids and not getting clean.
On October 10, 2004, he shuffled off this mortal coil, a victim of his demons. Prior to this, he never was able to go back to 1996 (neither was Brady Anderson), and while 1997 and 1998 were good, they will always be steroids tainted (as will his 239 home runs).
He finished his career where it started - Houston - and went noisily to his grave. In 2001, he was arrested, and it wasn't pretty - cocaine in Texas. He came clean to Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated in 2002 and admitted to how much better that steroids made him (Mark McGwire would disagree with this, but alas... as we've never used roids, we wouldn't know. We do know that they cut down the time between workouts, help with recovery, and make working out easy, so...).
Interestingly enough, in the discussions with Caminiti, he said that 50% of players are on steroids. Jose Canseco said that 85% of players were. Verducci thought Canseco was about shock treatment, but alas, history has vindicated him, but all the same, he's still a worthless piece of crap.
Today, Lance Armstrong faces the accusations of Tyler Hamilton, a cyclist who trained with Lance, and said that he also used EPO. Lance is famous for employing the Clemons defense (or vice versa): spend A LOT of money, tell the world that your accuser(s) is a lying piece of crap, and hope that you can outspend him / her / them.
It worked for Lance. He got the French book that trashed him from being published in America (either we love Lance, hate the French, or both), but it didn't work for Roger. Now, it seems that it's not working for Lance either, which is sad because his was a story that we needed to be real (cancer victim makes good and wins the Tour De France 7 times in a row, once again leaving the French to feel inferior.
Now, he looks to see his image and world destroyed as Hamilton has given up his Olympic medals, and just like Floyd Landis who took Armstrong to task, we see a sport so shattered with regard to PEDs. EPO is the undetectable drug of choice for the field as it's natural in the body - unless there is too much of it there, so players will measure their level and and inject more to get to the top of the spectrum for what they can have in there. The EPO allows for more oxygen to be absorbed by the body during breathing, and wahlah, the cyclist kicks butt in the mountains.
Until he's found out.
Then he's meat, and that's not good.
Many baseball players have walked the line that Mr. Armstrong looks to walk, and while they've come back from disaster in varying degrees, the yellow bracelets for Lance will be history very soon. It's a shame since it's talent at the end that wins the race, and Armstrong is talented, but some will say he's dirty, and perhaps that's true, but in the end, is a player cheating if he's just cheating to keep up with a sport full of cheaters?
And for this, we have to wonder if all sports will soon be seen as "sports entertainment" rather than natural competition. Wrestling survived when it admitted to being "fake." Will baseball and cycling when they admit to benefiting from better living through chemistry? Since they can't be like the NFL and just manage to avoid the fray despite their cast of 300 pound goons who run 4.0 40s, we can only wonder.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Jason Giambi

In 2000, I got myself a Jason Giambi rookie. In 2001, I gave it away after he signed with the Yankees and got rid of his dirtbag image for pinstripes.
Somewhere in those years afterward, I never forgot that he was once the guy that Mark McGwire took under his wing and even begged St. Louis to sign (instead of Tino Martinez who the Yankees cast aside for the Cardinals despite his contributions to the magnificent run that all of their fans thought they had over the past 5 years). Sure, he was salivated over with Seattle in that year that the Mariners beat the Yankees in 1995, but it wasn't the same way that the Yankees lusted after Giambi. Like someone else's girlfriend that is hovered over when the imminent breakup is about to occur, but that doesn't work out when the window of opportunity is there (is everything a Seinfeld episode, or is it just me?)... Tino went to the Yankees, but he was quickly cast out when the opportunity came to get Giambi.
And so the Yankees did, but for the fact I gave his rookie card away (I wouldn't touch Yankee cards at that period of my life - especially ones that featured former "one of my favorite players"). I felt the same way with Randy Johnson and Kevin Brown. Randy was someone that I once adored the hell out of in only the way that a grown straight man can feel for a baseball player that he'll never know. Brown was someone whose talents I really liked. I didn't know much about his temper, but I'll tell you... I loved seeing him smash his hand in the dugout during a stretch run collapse.
Who knew that it was a sign of fierce competitor-ness / roid rage?
And when Giambi got struck by "parasites," I wasn't thinking about how he took Miguel Tejada to task in the 2001 playoffs for being a schlub. Though I never forgot that, I just felt that it was the universe paying him back for taking Yankee dollars and creating a demise of the Oakland team that was dominating August to make the playoffs year after year (Zito, Hudson, Mulder, Tejada).
He was 33, 43, and 38 for home runs in those last 3 Oakland years as he rose from the ashes of a dismantling that saw McGwire shipped to St. Louis. He was first in MVP in 2000 and second in 2001. He batted .315, .333, and .342 those last 3 years. He was 123, 137, and 120 for RBIs those years. He was also 105, 137, and 129 for walks in those campaigns! In the end, he was holding down the first sack and leading a team of dirt bags to the ALCS only to see them implode to the Yankees - we can blame the universe or we can blame his fat ass brother for that, but all the same... the A's were never to be again.
Giambi found a new hope and he found BALCO, and after 2 seasons without scruff, he wasn't the same man again. He did bounce back, but never to the level of his time in Oakland or his 2 41 home run seasons that began his New York tenure (and so began the Curse of Jason Giambi and Mike Mussina - the 2 players that the Yankees had to have at the end of their 3-year run, but couldn't win it all with).
He went back to Oakland in 2009, and it meant well at the beginning, but by the end of the year, he was playing in Denver, a town he still plays in. It's a bit role, and he sort of resembles the guy that he used to be - with a little more gray in the beard... the mustache thing is now over as he looks scruffy again, and for one evening, the old Jason was back killing Philadelphia substitute pitching (Kyle Kendrick) last night.
In the end, he had 3 homers and 7 RBIs.
Now that he's 40, he finally has a 3-homer game. He joins Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, and Reggie Jackson on that short list. For that, we wish him well and back in the lineup on a regular basis, but sadly, the end is coming... there will be no Cooperstown due to his non-specific apologies, but we will remember... that evening with Tejada's playoff goat self.
He was once the man.
Last night he was again.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dave Duncan

St. Louis has always been a great baseball town. Many great players have made it in the city by the Gateway Arch, and many others have resurrected their careers playing in front of the friendliest fans in the baseball universe. From their first World Series win / appearance in 1926 where they beat the New York Yankees, it was on. Now, they have 10 best of baseball awards and 7 more World Series appearance where they came up short.
They've won as recently as 2006, with a team that pretty much couldn't win the division until it inevitably happened (they finished with 17 losses for September - which included a stretch from the 18th to the 29th where they won twice - shades of Philadelphia in 64 and Boston in 78, anyone?). However, with a team that wasn't that great they put it all together. Sure, Albert Pujols was there. Yadier Molina was too, but mostly it was "scrappy" (i.e. short, but tough) David Eckstein (who won the World Series MVP because someone had to), Adam Wainwright in rookie mode, Chris Carpenter, a discontented Scott Rolen, and some guys like So Taguchi, Juan Encarnacion, and Preston Wilson (role players who would soon be cast off). In ending the Tigers absolutely worst to first run in that year of baseball, they made the midwest proud, and life was good again, but since then, they've been squeezed out in much the same way that the Mets were that year when Endy Chavez made the catch only to lose it to 2 things - Yadier Molina hitting a 2-run just enough shot (shades of Ozzie Smith, anyone?) and Carlos Beltran stared at a pitch from Wainwright.
In the end, St. Louis was victorious in the NL and MLB - if not for ability for the fact that Kenny Rogers doctored the ball with a foreign substance and the universe went against the Tigers.
Perhaps it made up for a loss to Boston in 2004 when they went out 4 games to none after the GREATEST COMEBACK IN SPORTS HISTORY. That year was Pujols, a horrible swinging Jim Edmonds (worst swing in baseball history, but damn... that glove was beautiful), and a resurrected Larry Walker brought over from Colorado with tremendous fanfare for the days past (shades of Roger Maris, anyone?).
And maybe this year is another version of 2006. The pitching staff doesn't feature Bob Gibson or anyone like him, but damn... Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia, and Kyle McClellan don't want you to tell them that. Carpenter definitely isn't himself. Wainwright isn't even with the campaign, and still, the team is in 1st again. You've gotta love Dave Duncan. He takes a pitcher, makes him the best that he can possibly be, and the Cardinals fans just love them and make them 100 times better than they could be on any other team.
Look at what they did to Lance Berkman! That guy was written off, and now... he's dominating. Look at Matt Holliday! He's more productive than the best player in baseball (Pujols) - at least for now. They're making Stan Musial proud. They're living up to the legacy of love that McGwire brought out of the fans in those glory years (I still remember what it was really like - not what the asshole commentators and baseball revisionists want you to think of it).
St. Louis was and is a great baseball town.
Unless the Reds bring their A-game and their hatred and their imaginary feuds and player posturing, the Cards will be playing in October (and let's just say that we don't believe in Cueto, Volquez, or any other pitcher on the Reds).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kelly Johnson

There are 30 teams in baseball. Arizona is 23rd in batting (.240) and 23rd in on base percentage (.312), but that doesn't stop them from being free swingers (and this is in a year that Mark Reynolds is sucking it up in Baltimore instead of in the desert). Armando Galarraga getting sent to the cleaners for future reassignment not withstanding (something about a 5.91 ERA and just not getting the job done), let's be honest... the Diamondbacks have a lot of problems other than just their pitching staff and wondering about the future of the guy who should have had a perfect game, but was robbed of it.
That said, their pitching also is in the bottom dozen of baseball, but they're not out of it YET (for that matter, only 3 teams - Houston, Minnesota, and the White Sox are out of it - hell, even Seattle's still in it with a record of 17-24 as is San Diego who is 18-24).
But for Arizona, the key word is yet. They're actually 4.5 games back in a division where nobody stepped up to lead just yet, and they're not improving, so... it's not like we're going to be partying like it's November of 2001 just yet.
One of the reasons is that Arizona is 7th in strikeouts - they're 13 down from league leader San Diego (on the other hand, Texas has 236, which is partially due to Nelson Cruz's injury) - in no small part due to league leader Kelly Johnson whose 52 whiffs in 152 at bats (the true mark of futility being more than 1 every 3 at bats) has him headed into Reynolds territory. Granted, Chris Young also has 39 strikeouts, and we don't tend to expect much from our number 9 hitter in the NL (or number 8 if you're Tony Larussa), but still...
On the good side, they are 5th in home runs with 45, which is 18 behind the Yankees, who are pretty much being kept alive by pitching and aura + mystique. Unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, there is no aura and mystique.
There are other usual culprits as well in this problematic world of Chase Field. They are 13th in RBIs, which is pretty much a sign of being 23rd in batting average. They may get the home runs, but they're solo shots, and those don't win ball games. Considering that the Reds lead the league with 213 runs, there is definitely more cause for optimism in the Queen City than in Arizona, but so it goes.
Justin Upton also has a fair bit of whiffs 36 for his 8 home runs and .259 average, but Johnson only has 4 - and he's batting .184. Chris Young has 8 homers for his 39 whiffs, which isn't much better since he's batting .225.
With Kelly Johnson's futility added, in the top 40 strikeout victims, there are now 6 hitters under .200. If we take this to .225, we have 5 more guys. David Wright sits at .226, and with his injury, he won't be going anywhere anytime soon. For this free swinging, only 7 guys have 8 or more home runs. Most are better at batting average save Young.
Rickie Weeks, Howie Kendrick, and Matt Kemp are at least over .300 for their free swinging with Kemp leading the pack .321.
But this is the story of Kelly Johnson, a man who struck out 148 times while batting .284 as soon as he hit the place where he was free to swing away. He took his career highs of strikeouts from 16 to 26 and his former career high of whiffs (117) was also dwarfed.
This year, the sky or should we say the wind is the limit.
For Kelly Johnson, he's just following orders... into the cellar.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bob Feller

Bob Feller died before this blog resurrected. We would have loved to write an obituary for him and all that he did for the Major Leagues, the Negro Leagues, and America when he gave up 1942-1944 to serve in the Navy WITHOUT A REGRET IN THE WORLD. His stats are still beautiful. His introduction of Satchel Paige, though not without controversy for his business sense in the whites vs. blacks games, made it possible for Paige to join him in 1948. Even more than that, it made it possible for Jackie Robinson to make it possible for Satchel.
After a partial season in 1945, he was 26-15 with 348 strikeouts and a 2.18 ERA in 1946. His WHIP was 1.158, and he was a mad man in all aspects of the world. Here was a guy looking to pick up where he left off, and dominate, he did. There was no Cy Young, so he couldn't win that, but he was 6th in the MVP vote. He lost out that year to Ted Williams who also was looking to rebound from the war years, and he was a little lower in ERA to Hal Newhouser, but all in all, was there a better pitcher that year? Detroit was in 2nd place at 92 and 62, while Cleveland was in 6th at 68 and 86. Let's put 26 wins a piece and Feller's 6 more losses into perspective. Feller had 38% of his team's wins! Newhouser was great with 28%, but let's do the math and figure out what a bad defense does.
Feller's losses that year:
2-3 (hard luck)
2-4 (borderline)
2-6 (deserved it)
2-8 (deserved it)
0-1 (1 stinking run for a no decision, at least?!!)
1-9 (deserved it)
5-7 (no decision)
0-2 (hard luck no decision)
0-1 (1 stinking run for a no decision, at least?!!)
1-4 (borderline)
4-5 (deserved it)
6-8 (lucky no decision)
0-4 (borderline)
1-4 (borderline)
0-10 (deserved it)
0-2 (hard luck)
0-3 (hard luck)
1-4 (borderline)
5 of those losses are clearly deserved.
1 no decision was lucky since it turned into a slugfest.
5 of those calls are borderline.
4 of those games were hard luck
2 more were just PURE Walter Johnson-esque betrayal (1-0 losses). This is a man who went 36 complete games and 10 shut outs over the year. Where is the love?
Unfortunately, he passed away on December 15th.
Today, another great player died.
And for that, we need to pay respect for our former greats.
No disrespect to Harmon Killebrew, who died today, but I wrote his obituary of statistics here when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Over the weekend, he went into hospice, and this afternoon, a great man passed away.
In honor of the 573 "home runs that Harmon had" and 1 MVP award, let the Baseball Project sing. Harmon made Minnesota proud from 1961 to 1974.
Hopefully, the tributes on MLBTV and the news will let other people know about this great Hall of Famer who put up a lot of jacks when they still meant something.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Carlos Beltran

Every now and again, the sun even shines on a sleeping dog's ass.
Big Sluggi (the designated former favorite player of Beantown) seems to be back. He had a great game last night and raised his average to .295, his homers to 7, and his RBIs to 19. Hell, he has as many walks as strikeouts (19) and is nowhere near as futile as he has been at this time in years past. And last night, he had a great game in helping the Red Sox kick the holy hell out of the Yankees for a weekend sweep and a .500 record for the season - albeit with a performance against a team in the decline... a team that is looking to one of it's former greats and saying (in the words of Buster Olney):
The bottom line is that Posada is 39 years old and failing at the last task the Yankees' decision-makers believe he can handle: being a designated hitter. The only thing saving his job this morning is his two decades of history with the franchise.
It's a sad day when a team has to kick its former star to the curb.
But it's only REALLY a sad day when a team isn't prepared for the what ifs... take Minnesota who is in dire need of plastic sheets to avoid bed crapping supreme (that would be the fault of the 2 Joes - Mauer getting injured and Nathan just being lousy) as they went down this weekend to the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista who jacked 3 souveniers out to the customers in Sunday's game alone. I know that I didn't believe in him before, but he seems to be in the groove in the relative obscurity of Toronto, which is nice - as long as he doesn't think he can parlay that power into a move south of the northern border.
This weekend was quite a weekend for former Royals going on a 3 homers in one game tear.
With a 3 for 5 performance (all long balls) on Friday, Carlos Beltran showed that he still has a little wiggle in his stride. That said, he's batting .285 as of this fine Monday morning, but it was a weekend to make the Mets remember why they paid the big money to get him after his 8 homer / over .400 batting average performance in the 2004 playoffs against Atlanta (who everyone beats in the playoffs) and St. Louis (who Houston couldn't beat).
Of course, those were different days for Carlos Beltran. He had a fair bit of pop and a hell of a lot of upside. Then again, he was playing for Kansas City, and when he got traded to Houston for the stretch run, he jacked 23 dingers and hit .258 with 53 RBIs in a potent lineup. He quickly signed with the Mets, which is a place where dreams come to die (and injuries pile on like trash in the Hudson). Pedro Martinez, Carlos Delgado, Johan Santana, and Luis Castillo are just a few, though fans and followers seem to have many more choices of who the worst Met signing is, but this isn't about the worst - it's about getting out from under bad decisions.
That said, Beltran's 7 years haven't been all hard time. The first 4 years had some power and some bat, but the last few years... half and 1/3 seasons just make the team wonder what they were paying for. Was he really going to hit 40 home runs and bat .300 every year? Would he patrol center field with a fine toothed comb and shag all of the nasty fly balls that came his way, or would he prove to be what most things that do well in media obscurity truly do when the light of the Big Apple shines on them?
That said... it seems like he's just trying to play his way out of the Mets lineup, which would be nice for them if they could get some return for the next few years and ship him to a contender, where he can just be free to decide if he'll come back or not next year - provided he doesn't get injured and provided he can continue to hit... which are 2 big ifs.
One definite thought being... he won't get 7 years, $119million - no matter what kind of potential he has with the decline he's already showing.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cal Ripken Jr.

In light of Jorge Posada playing himself out of New York, and let's be honest... the New York Post said it the best; he's pretty much done like a charbroiled steak, let's talk about aging stars and what to do with people when they're past their prime, but they're still loved.
Take the biggest love fest in history - Cal Ripken Jr... this man is truly slobbered over in Baltimore except when it comes to people wanting to pony up $100 to buy my 1982 Topps Traded Set complete with PSA8.5 Cal Ripken rookie. It's like Harvey Keitel said in Pulp Fiction... only people have already started and there's no stopping...
Ripken's biggest claim to fame is that he played 2,632 consecutive games. This went from May 30, 1982, to September 20, 1998. During this time, he played 8,243 consecutive innings from June 5, 1982 to September 14, 1987. During this time, he also hit roughly .300 and pounded out more than 25 homers a year during a period in time where the average short stop was Ozzie Smith.
However, in 1991, Cal Ripken had his last great line in baseball: .323, 34, 114. After that, everything was above pedestrian, BUT it wasn't super wonderful mega fantastic. SURE... he was playing every game. Yet he was still playing every game for 7 full years. The Orioles may have moved him from short to third, but there was no future contingency, and they came to suffer for it years later.
Nobody thought about that when they were winning (shades of New York, anyone?). In 1983, the Orioles won the World Series. Until 1996, they weren't in the playoffs again. However, thanks to Jeffrey Maier, they lost in 96 and in 97, they lost to a Cleveland team that was one at bat to Edgar Renteria from winning the World Series. For Baltimore, that was it. The Yankees got dominant, and the future was cast in stone. Thank God for the Devil Rays to keep them out of the cellar most years.
When it was all said and done, Ripken went from the man who broke the streak of Lou Gehrig (a streak Gehrig only stopped because of life-ending injury and pride in being complimented for pedestrian accomplishments) in 1995, resurrecting baseball with a happy moment after the strike, and eventually gave it up to just as much tremendous fanfare. Thus, he was forever enshrined as an institution in the Chesapeake Bay (in no small part because he was born there and stayed there to be dominant - that generation's Joe Mauer).
So who knew that the man who had no business being at the 2001 All Star Game (at least until he hit a home run and got to play short stop as Alex Rodriguez stepped aside to make the old man feel at home again with an MVP award) was involved in a vicious rumor that he pummeled the tar out of Kevin Costner for hooking up with his wife? Interestingly enough, now I do, and now many people on the web do. It's a BS rumor dispelled by Costner, Ripken, and Snopes, but yeah... you've gotta love the Internet where EVERYTHING is true.
So for what I've learned, be it Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, Willie Mays, or a constantly banged up Chipper Jones, there comes a point where a player has to call it a day and know when to say when.
They can go the easy way like Andy Pettite and don't go in a decline. They can be forced out like Griffey. They can change from Big Papi, the hero of the Red Sox dynasty years to Big Sluggi, the steroids mirage who doesn't show up to play until May, or they can just keep hoping that this year will be the year that they turn it around - maybe one last time like a hobbling Kirk Gibson in a World Series moment for the ages.
Sadly, we know which way it's more likely to be.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Jorge Posada

Normally, and by normally, I mean if I wasn't married to my wife or hoping for a relationship (as was the case for Game 6 of the 2003 World Series - the one where Beckett lights out-ed the Yankees - I did see the end of that one with the pile on celebration after the date sucked), I would be spending the entire weekend draped in a Red Sox jersey over my "certified Yankee hater" shirt, wishing death on the Evil Empire.
Several things have changed this:
1) On December 1, 2007, I met my wife. She's awesome and I'd rather go see Brides maids with her than watch a "relatively meaningless" season game. Granted, it counts in the standings and for the total of wins against each other per year (if we end up tied and have to determine post season home advantage), but alas... it's just not the same as it used to be.
2) In those days before my wife, the Red Sox had won one World Series, and until then, things were even worse. Hell, let's be honest. Things were worse because of the win, but the second win...
3) The year the Yankees didn't even make the playoffs (2008)...
4) The fact that it's hard to be attached to this group of players... many who weren't even around for either team's historic runs... and if they are, they're older than velociraptors...
So yeah...
Here we are in da Bronx and the Red Sox are officially victors in the first 2 games of the series. While the first game got close at the end, the 2nd game was a 6-0 laugher, and well, that's really what it is.
The reality here is not in the box score... it's in the aging of the old guard as Jorge Posada asked out of the lineup as his average rises to .165 after being as low as .125 at the end of April. There are 6 home runs, but in 108 at bats, there are only 18 total hits.
He's not the only one.
Derek Jeter is at .267 with 2 home runs.
Mark Teixeira is at .254 with 9 home runs.
Alex Rodriguez is at .252 with 6 home runs.
Curtis Granderson and his .281, 12, 26 line is the star. Even Robinson Cano isn't leading the team yet. Did I jinx the guy by picking him for fantasy (.279, 9, 25)?
In the beginning, the Red Sox and the Rays were 0-6, but both rebounded. Now, the Rays are in first place and they're cold kicking ass on all opponents. While not as good as Philly or Cleveland (and Cleveland is actually the 2nd best team - by default of playing one less game than the Phillies), we can see that there is a new guard in baseball that isn't including the money teams (well, save Philly, which is somehow moving around Ryan Howard's move to #2 in strikeouts to ride his hits and homers to victory).
For a team that played tough against Texas (4 wins), they lost 2 to Kansas City in the stadium. They've lost 4 of 5 to the Red Sox, and today, they face the Sox with Freddy Garcia on the hill against Jon Lester and a Boston team that is trying desperately to get to .500 (while 19-14 since the 0-6 start of the season, they're below the mark, and frankly, every time they've been getting to .500, they always find a way to phone it in and stay mired below.
Is today the game that they go otherwise? Or is this the continued loss of power from a once great dynasty / stable of big contracts?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pete Gray

On the recommendation of a student that I taught last semester and this semester, I read Pete Gray's book - One Armed Wonder, which tells the story of the St. Louis Browns outfielder.
In the first class that he took, which I taught, we used to heroic passages to write summaries and research papers. I used the tale of Adam Bender, and he found this book and the story of Jim Abbot as comparable tales to the life of Adam Bender, a one-legged boy who still plays baseball (he's a catcher) and high school wrestling as well as quarterbacking for youth football.
I've always said that despite age, we don't look down to find our heroes, and the reality is that Bender who is currently 10 has more leadership and heart than most grown people that I know. To be honest, I wish I had more of what makes him tick.
The same can be said about Pete Gray who always wanted to play at Yankee Stadium despite losing his right arm in a truck accident. World War Two's diluted player pool gave him the opportunity to do that, but he gave himself the ability to make the opportunity count. He learned to hit one armed. He learned to catch a ball and throw it to the infield with one arm. Nobody stopped the game for him, and despite the fact that the switch from glove to arm with the ball tossed into the air in the meantime took a few seconds, Gray did what it took to get better.
He even hit 5 home runs at Memphis in 1944 before making it to the St. Louis Browns in 1945. This was one year removed from their historic 1944 campaign where they played the Cardinals in their first and only World Series losing 4 games to 2 (and almost winning a third - quite an accomplishment for perennial cellar dwellers - even in a time where players were there because they were unable to be drafted for war service). Quite simply, he wasn't an also ran or a gate attraction like some people made him to be.
Instead, he was inspiration to the young and the injured war vets, who he had more respect for than they had for him (and that's saying something).
He was a hero - be it from roughly the same area that I live in (give or take a few hours) or from the world in general. He didn't let life get in his way. He didn't let those people who belittled him get him down. He fought to be on the diamond and to give his best, and he truly did. Be it in the majors or the minors, he was a great part of the game. In addition, his 11 strikeouts in 77 games would be something that many of today's free swingers took note of. Gray might not have had the muscle power to do one-armed Mickey Mantle shots in the pros, but he knew enough about small ball to get the hits, the bunts, and the seeing eye dribblers that put him on base to steal second. In this, he was a fierce base runner (more minors than majors, but still).
And like Jim Abbot (who wanted to be more like Nolan Ryan than Pete Gray) tossing a no hitter to celebrate his abilities and competitive nature, there is pride in any person overcoming their obstacles (be they disabilities or doubts or being picked second) to be great. Abbott did his no hitter against Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, and Albert Belle in 1993. Those Indians weren't exactly the Cleveland Spiders.
Heart is all about what you make of your circumstances.
Pete Gray may not have had a right arm, but he had a lot of heart.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rick Monday

Symbolic speech is to be protected by the First Amendment, and while it can be a "necessary" political protest, it can also be a dangerous thing in the hands of people pushing solidarity with the wrong ideas. With that, we'll get to Ben Haas, but first, some background with regard to baseball.
On April 25, 1976, 2 protesters went on the field at Dodger Stadium to burn the flag. In the midst of trying to get it to light, Rick Monday came and saved the day by yanking the flag out from underneath them. For a career, he batted .264 and hit 241 home runs. He played from 1966-1984, and he knows what it means to win a World Series, but he will always be the guy that saved the flag.
Never mind that flag burning represents a symbolic gesture that when the flag is tarnished, this is the proper way to "dispose" of it. For what was the protest in 1976? America's legacy of injustices read out like some book? Maybe back then it was new... left over hippies and academics telling their findings and banging on the podium that if you don't believe me it's all in here... it's so old hat and partisan now, and I get it... there are lots of people that have belittled, marginalized, discriminated against, and killed for this country to be, but at the end of the day, it's our country, for better or worse, and we live here. We're not about making ourselves less to make other people around the world feel more, especially when we didn't discriminate, but alas, that's not what this blog is about. It's about baseball and the right to be great. The right to feel the other part of the holy trilogy (mom and apple pie being the other 2 - even if I don't eat apples).
As Ken Burns makes abundantly clear, baseball has done much to make American injustices go away. Sure, there were the years of Jose Feliciano being ostracized for daring to sing the National Anthem differently (making it possible for Christina Aguilera to forget the lines while doing her screaming siren rendition). We integrated African Americans before much of America. We fought for labor rights, for better and for worse. We brought the country together in a show of patriotism as teams played to make us forget 9/11 happened.
And somehow now... we know that we can't forget 9/11, and for that, we have to address the villains of that day with more than tough talk and rebukes. We need to end the Osama Bin Ladens, Ayman al-Zawahiris, and Abu Al-Asad Zarakwis of the world. We need to make sure that there are no more Abdelbaset Ali Mohammed al-Megrahis that can get released. We need to make sure that there can never be a show trial like the one that will someday come for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. We may not like that there need be violence. We should want for peace and happiness and the good things that PIXAR movies show to us, but at the same time, we should be thankful that men with guns go out in the middle of the night and put a bullet in the skull of Osama Bin Laden.
So if Ben Haas has a grudge with the US, one has to wonder why? Are his ethics so elevated that even terrorists who kill nearly 3,000 on a late summer day in 2001 deserve human rights when they don't extend them to their own people? Is this guy for real?
LSU responded to his protest that was quickly shut down by angry, patriotic protesters shouting for this "hippie" to "die:"
"With our commitment to free speech occasionally comes events that offend our standards and values. Burning an American flag offends the vast majority of the LSU community. Still, freedom of speech ensures that even objectionable expressions of opinion will exist. While we accept this reality, please join me in continuing to express our support for this great nation and the symbols that represent it."
Martin added that he was pleased the student changed his mind and opted not to burn the flag.
"I’m happy that after talking to university officials and realising how many people are against flag-burning, that he thought better of it. 'This is what a flagship university, and Free Speech Alley, is all about – good civil discourse, dialogue between all parties and discussions of diverse opinions. This is how students learn from each other and grow as people. I also thought today brought out a wonderful display of patriotism among the students conducting the counter-protest."

At this site, we wish Mr. Haas no ill - even if his protest was ill-conceived shock and awe for the radical left and extreme libertarian right and served no purpose other than to piss off main stream America, but alas... One would have to wonder how far his ideas would go with those he wanted to defend today, but no matter. Will this make him more like Adam Gadahn? Will the water balloons and screams of the military men and women and their families, friends, and supporters do anything to change his mind, to make him see the error of his way?
When the teams take the field, will he rise for our anthem and put his hand on his heart? Will he even take off his hat?
In the end, it doesn't matter because this is his right to believe how he wants to believe, but with that, people have the right to tell him he's wrong in the same "respectful" way he told them that they're wrong.
Somewhere out there, there is a sense of pride and respect, the same pride that once emenated from a guy who once wore Dodger blue (and red and white), and it is filling Louisiana. These are people that see what's coming down the Mississippi. These are people that feel the effects of our economoy. But these are people that are standing up for the good things in America that are and that will be.
This is something Haas has absolutely no clue about.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tony Larussa

I've never been a fan of Tony Larussa. I'm pretty sure I've said that. He's the National League's version of Terry Francona - that other manager I REALLY don't like - though it should be said that at least he's not just letting Bill Dewit pull his strings; instead, he's a surly dinosaur who tries to be "outside the box" with ideas like batting the pitcher eighth. Really.
If I had to think of a manager that I like, it would have to be Ozzie Guillen, who at least has the heart to call out his players when they need it. He doesn't pull punches, and a lot of the time, his guys get the job done - even though there aren't that many very good to great players on the team (Mark Buehrle, Paul Konerko, Carlos Quentin, Adam Dunn (done for, more like it - he's batting .184 with 3 home runs), and Jake Peavy (remember him?) make up the core of Chicago's 2011 team.
Hell, if you're a White Sox fan (real or pretend, Mr. President), you've got a closer named Sergio Santos. Gavin Floyd and Philip Humber are your star pitchers. You hope Alexi Ramriez makes the transition to the bigs, and you still get happy when AJ Pierzynski is a jerk (but at least he's your jerk - like that ALCS stunt he pulled in 2005).
You rememer names like Minnie Minoso and Shoeless Joe Jackson. You may even remember a player like Eddie Cicotte. You don't really have much to remember lately except Harold Baines.
But nonetheless, at least you have Ozzie... a colorful manager who makes a difference.
In St. Louis and with no harsh feelings regarding our feelings towards him for his mis-management, Larussa has never been a colorful manager. But now that he's currently on medical leave, we come to understand how difficult his life has been lately since he has just been diagnosed with the shingles.
Most people don't know what the shingles are. Actually, they're caused by the herpes zoster virus, which has nothing to do with herpes that a person gets stung with sexually. It actually is a very nasty skin rash that people could get from someone who has it if they didn't get chicken pox as a kid. That said, if your parents made you pal around with the kid who had chicken pox to get this virus out of the way, you might want to thank them for it. As for me, I had chicken pox twice, so I'm a rare and special case, but all the same, I'm glad I don't have to worry about that aspect of it. Nevertheless, there is a way that the chicken pox virus reactivates and causes shingles in people. Apparently, nobody understands how this happens, but it does.
Nevertheless, if you do get them, they're a nasty skin rash that takes quite some time to heal and that can be worse if you're older when you get them. They do have rare complications that can affect a person's vision permanently. Let's hope that Tony doesn't face that.
Here's to a quick recovery and some time to think about how to be nice to Colby Rasmus and to help Albert Pujols regain his swing while getting Chris Carpenter some wins.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Milton Bradley

At the end of the day, it's all about being productive, and what better way to be productive than to celebrate the 27th anniversary of a game that was played for 25 innings (just over 8 hours)? Thank you Harold Baines for wrapping that one up (while not the longest ever by innings - Boston and Brooklyn battled to a 1-1 tie after 26 innings in 1920 - it was the longest by time). And with that, here's to baseball history, present, and future.
So let's see who's being productive at the end of the 5th week of baseball 2011...
(definitely not my fantasy team who lost for the first time all year in head to head games).
Derek Jeter lost his power, and then he got it back with 2 home runs in one day after not hitting one in his previous 256 at bats. Is this the end, or is this Jeter bouncing back to glory? He did have 4 hits and a stolen base to go up to a .276 average, so that has to be something.
HOWEVER, not everyone had a good day on Sunday. Take Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson, who were swept out of the playoffs... not that we care, but that said, it's great to see the NBA's Ben Roethlisberger getting sent home early with his little Zen buddy and the Kardashian circus tag along getting sent back for siesta in most unceremoneous ways. No offense to Phil and Lamar, but when it comes to those who commit sexual assault (and only get out of it by using their fame against their accuser), they should all go drown.
But alas, that's just me.
All the same, today is the end of the road for yet another Milton Bradley adventure. While he did just get ejected against Boston not 2 weeks ago, it wasn't his attitude, but it was his bat failing to live up to its potential that sees Bradley getting ready to tread the unemployment lines of baseball as he faces outright release or trade due to being put up for assignment. Batting .218 with 2 home runs and 13 RBIs will do that to a man.
Thus, in honor of the man with the most unfortunate name in baseball (even worse than Coco Crisp since that's at least a fun name, and apparently, it's not the kind of name that inspires a player to go loco), there are the many problems of Milton Bradley: bottle throwing at fans who litter the field around him, accusing teammates of racism, accusing fans who hate his foul attitude of racism for sending him hate mail, screaming at teammates, screaming at managers, and trying to scream at announcers. Yep... he's done the whole spectrum... from umpires to oppoents, there is a world out there that hates Milton, and frankly, there's no internal locus of control to make sense of it all.
While not always his fault, it's all about how a man walks the walk after hearing the talk, and unfortunately, for this, Bradley's potential has been cut short.
We'll see if he comes back, but until then...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Justin Verlander

So it's Friday night, and Derek Lowe is announced as having a potential no hitter going, but 2 batters into the 7th, he had lost the no hitter and now faced runners on 2nd and 3rd after Polanco hit a ground rule double, so he was gone. Nevertheless, the Phillies were shut down and beaten by the Braves.
Then, Jaime Garcia is announced as having a perfect game going. This goes nicely until he gets to the 8th inning, when he gets the first batter out but loses the perfecto with a walk to McGehee and a single to Bettancourt that immediately followed. However, one double play later, the threat was done, and save one Rickie Weeks double in the 9th, the Cards were victorious.
The next night, the Brew Crew followed up their loss with a pitching performance of their own as Yovani Gallardo threw a 1-hitter against St. Louis, stifling Pujols, Holliday, and Berkman, but losing it all in the 7th to Daniel Descalso and his .229 average.
Sunday night, Anibal Sanchez took a no hitter into the top of the 7th. Things aren't pretty with an error and a hit by pitch, but it's another close, but no cigar proving that he's worth more to the Marlins now than Josh Beckett is to the Red Sox (who did get a good game out of Clay Bucholz on Saturday as well, but he was yanked after 5 innings due to a long rain delay).
But the game of games was Justin Verlander, whose 2nd no hitter is establishing his dominance in a Mark Buehrle kind of way (he's now the 30th pitcher with 2 no nos). Sure, he's got a great WHIP (.98) and a very good ERA (3.16), but he plays for Detroit. Sure, he has a lot of strikeouts, and he does have a mid 3 ERA for his career (1 bad year in there), but he's not the posterboy for glossy greatness.
Nevertheless, he was flat out dealing against the Blue Jays on Saturday when he literally mowed down Toronto only to get hosed on a walk that he let up in a 12-pitch at bat in the 8th.
And while Jose Bautista, who is REALLY surprising me this year, wasn't in the lineup, he was dominant to the tune of fooling batters with 100 mile per hour heat. He may have only whiffed 4 of them, but with only 1 runner on base... that's nasty (as compared to 12 strikeouts and 4 walks in June of 2007).
So alas... it really is becoming part 2 of the year of the pitcher.
Here's to more and nastier... even if we don't get a repeat of Dallas Braden's Mother's Day perfecto.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bill Bergen

Andre Ethier part 2... oh, how the mightily above average have fallen.
The streak hits 30 and stops there.
So it goes.
But alas, when one gets thirty games in a row, that's the mark of success, but when one fails 46 times in a row and has a career average of .170, that's the mark of futility.
I guess you can call him the 2011 Jason Varitek of his day. He was a good backstop that called the game well, but in the end... he never hit above .200. Too bad because he never had a George Brett character (or Bruce Bochte and Tom Paciorek) to playfully create a Mendoza Line in the stats to remember him by.
From 1901-1911, he played the game and finished with no seasons above the Mendoza Line. He hit 2 home runs in his storied career, and while that may have got him some lovin' from the ladies, I'm sure it made a couple of pitchers want to jump off of the Brooklyn Bridge. The first of these was in his rookie year with the Reds, and the second one was 8 years later with the Brooklyn Superbas whose legend is almost as lost as Bergen's is.
Nevertheless, he is the epitome of failure in major league history, and that is saying something. Maybe with that being said, his backstop ability to call pitches is better than that of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whose non-ability just continues to amaze all who wonder how Boston could be so free spending on everyone from Daisuke Matsuzaka to Wacky Lackey and not pony up for someone with more upside than "if he works out, the sub 7 figure contract will seem like a bargain and make up for the adventure story that is played every time Daisuke gets to 2 strikes and can't close the deal.
Yep... Bergen was something in his day, and perhaps it was an act of niceness that he stuck around. Compared to Mark Reynolds' over-priced and high strikeout self (or Austin Jackson for that matter), Bergen's one in 7 K rate for a career is still better than 1 every 3 or less for some of the free swinging no power hitters of 2011. Granted, he's not Ted Williams (27) or Joe Dimaggio (13) in 1941, but we can't always have a choice to choose between the .400 guy or the guy with 56 games in a row (or 74/75 games that he hit in).
But if Ethier is our mark of success, let us wish him well. If he's a flash in the pan... this year's Willie Tavarez, at least he topped it out and got to 30 games.
That is saying something.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Andre Ethier

Andre the Giant, he's not. He's about a foot too short, and he's not French. On top of that, he just doesn't have the hair. He doesn't have the strength to last a full season either. He's also not the kind of guy that can scare the beejesus out of an in his prime Hulk Hogan. However, he's still one of the greats of the game of baseball - still coming into his stride and deciding what kind of player he wants to be.
For example, last year, Andre Ethier lost his .300 average on July 28th. He battled to bring it back, but by August 26th it was gone. For an average that was as high as .394 after 30 games, he lost it all only to go 7/10 in a meaningless final weekend against Arizona on the final weekend to take it back to .292.
Tonight, Ethier attempts to be the 54th player in baseball history to get to a 30-game hit streak. Seeing as he sat out against Carlos Zambrano on Wednesday night, one has to wonder if it's still a record if we pick and choose who we face in getting our hits. Alas, unlike Terrance Mann, we have to go with the idea that a record is a record. Joe Dimaggio didn't get to pick and choose his 56 games. Hell, he didn't even choose to sit out after the streak was over. He went right back to hitting in 19 straight games, but alas... players today are wusses.
Eric Chavez is a perfect example. As a player that isn't shy about expressing how he sits out against tough pitchers like Randy Johnson, he stands as a player that is over-rated, over-paid, and over-exposed - especially now that he is in New York - though currently injured like Derek Jeter who isn't really injured, but he isn't playing and he is replaced in the lineup, Chavez's opposite in every way. Despite this, in 2006-7, he made $9.5mill each season. This increased to $11.5mill per and went to $12.5mill in 2010. What did the A's get? He went to the field 137 times and earned a Gold Glove in 2006. Nevermind that Gold Gloves are a way of giving love to a popular player from years past as opposed to rewarding CURRENT defensive awesomeness, but yeah... After that, he played 90 games, 23, 8, 33, and 17 games. He went from a .240 batting average in 2006 to a .241 the next year, but seeing as it was over limited games, it's not rerpesentative of anything - simply a bad investment on an over-hyped player.
Now, while it would be wrong to wish him into a speedy retirement, the reality is that other than a feel good story in limited at bats in the Bronx, it's hard to wonder what the Yankees were getting, but that makes us thing about Mark Prior, Freddy Garcia, Kerry Wood, (pre St. Louis) Lance Berkman, Bartolo Colon, Chan Ho Park, and Austin Kearns (who all played for the Yankees in the past calendar year).
In this, it's hard to think what they thought they were getting. Granted, when they signed Jose Canseco in 2000, it was to keep him away from Boston - smart business sense. But these guys were all considered washed up. It's not like they went into a city that would just show them love unconditionally (St. Louis does this) for what they could be and bring them back to life.
Los Angeles still has hope for its stars. How long did Mannywood last after Manny Ramirez showed his true colors? The fans still believe in Matt Kemp as they turn a blind eye to his strikeouts and look only at his times connecting with the ball. And tonight, they'll have hope for Andre Ethier, but for us... we just wonder who this guy is.
But don't think anything of it... it's probably East Coast bias.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Raul Ibanez

Ok, so Raul Ibanez is having a few good games, so we can either look at this blog as:
1) celebrating his return to form.
2) a final curtain call before he bows out gracefully.
There was that late career career-year that he had in 2009 (34HRs, 93 RBIs, and .272 over 134 games), which led the Phillies to a 2nd place finish against the Yankees in the World Series (no thanks to their offense crapping the bed when it counted as Mighty Ryan whiffed 13 times in 25 plate appearances and only hit a home run in an already decided last game of the season).
This year, he's 22 for 103. If not for the 3 game 8 for 12 swing, he was 14 for 91 before facing Washington's not so formidable pitching staff. On top of this, he has 27 whiffs for those first 91 at bats (none since).
Will he keep his average over the Mendoza Line, or will he go to seed against Atlanta?
I know where my money is (5 whiffs and 2 for 12 in the first series he played against them this year).
Philadelphia fans are fickle. They booed Santa Claus and threw snowballs at the jolly guy back in 1968. In 1999, they greeted JD Drew with D cell batteries after he refused to sign for their team (he never did have that career both the Phillies and Cards thought he would). They booed Mike Schmidt, who is considered the greatest third baseman EVER.
Do you think that they give a hoot about keeping around an over-priced guy who can't get a hit between April 18th and May 3rd? Do you really think a 1 time all star that played 2 stints with Seattle around a few years with Kansas City is going to cause fans to feel bad for his loss? They're already celebrating the fact that Jayson Werth took his over-priced talent to Washington and isn't doing well (.230 with 4 home runs, 8RBIs, and 27 strikeouts).
The Phillies are more concerned about not having Chase Utley and Dominic Brown than not having an aging outfielder that has been on the decline for ages with a few years of over-achievement. To this, I knew what was coming, but alas, the guy in my fantasy league that begged me to have Ibanez (I wouldn't budge - I'm not known for giving in when I know that I'm right) wanted to pretend differently (even though he tried to pass him off like a free T-shift giveaway that nobody really wants (but you can use it to wipe off your car oil after you change it!).
The reality is that of the 2 choices for what this blog today is, it's all about what Ibanez isn't and that he should go the way of the dodo bird. In this, I'm not alone - Eric Seidman of ESPN concurs with me as he says, "These are all signs that point to the end of a player's career. Ibanez will undoubtedly have a hot streak or two this season wherein Phillies fans and fantasy owners will convince themselves that he has regained his stroke. The streaks are temporary fixes, however, like using a piece of gum to plug a hole, and before we know it the Ibanez who looks his age will be back. Other players may have been prematurely written off in the past, but the same cannot be said of Ibanez. Practically everything he has shown so far this season suggests that he has reached the end of his career."
The only question is when can the Phillies get their injured players back and when can they start dealing with other teams that have called the game early?
And let's be honest - there aren't many teams ready to call their seasons (Houston and San Diego are about it, and even they aren't THAT FAR off of the .500 pace that could take them back into contention). Hell, even Kansas City and Pittsburgh are playing competitively.
Which really says we are in new baseball times.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jason Kubel

Sometimes, the difference is one moment - or in the case of the game between the Twins and White Sox last night, Jason Kubel hitting a solo home run in the 4th inning off of Edwin Jackson. Jackson had a really good game... 6 hits, 1 walk, and 2 strikeouts. Francisco Liriano had a better game. He also had 2 strikeouts, but he went 9 straight zeroes on runs and hits. While he let up a base on balls for every hit that Edwin Jackson had, he still gets the no no and the win while Jackson takes the loss.
In the end, it's the first of the year, and so we continue the decade of the pitcher (even if the Angels dynamic duo just got beaten up on by the Red Sox - the only team that they can tame; well, really, they own the Angels).
And on this rainy Wednesday morning, Liriano is now 2-4 with a 6.61 ERA. His ERA prior to this game was 9.13. His ERA hasn't been better than 7.40 ALL SEASON! In fact, he was so bad, I got rid of him from my fantasy team after 2 games. Sure, last year, he was great again (I turned down a trade to ship him out), something we talked about on this site already, but last year is last year.
At one point, the Yankees drooled over him and thought about getting him. As Phil Hughes turned into mystery arm problem man (0-1, 13.94, and 3Ks in 3 games), things looked really problematic in da Bronx. Then, Bartolo Colon came along and made everything better (2-1, 3.00, and 38 whiffs), which means that he is having a year that made fans remember his Cy Young year (2005). So whether or not the Yankees want him with CC putting 14 batters on base in 7 innings and blowing the game last night to the Tigers remains to be seen, but as long as Ivan Nova isn't great, it's a possibility - unless Freddy Garcia continues to think it's the first half of the decade as well.
Nevertheless, when a player has one good game in a year (albeit a great game), it tends to make all the things that haven't gone well (or at least close to expected) better and leave a permanent highlight as it will be forever immortalized in Cooperstown. That said, it might not be enough to keep a career going (see Len Barker), but yeah... there is upside to being traded or signed to a team that is investing in long since dead players (see Mark Prior) AND that means that said players can end up in the playoffs deep into October (as opposed to getting bounced in the first round because your reliever (uh, former closer) sucks to begin with (and more so after the injury).
So here's to the moment of greatness. Now, let's carry it through to resurrect the rest of the Twins season.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Shin Soo Choo

So OK, you're Manny Acta and your Indians are literally kicking everyone's butt in the American League (the League of Champions). You're gunning for the former manager of your team's new team in the World Series because you've literally pulled a red hot start of the season out of nowhere and surprised the entire baseball world (if you don't know, you're obviously not following the standings). You're off to the best start in baseball (20-8), and you have to deal with one of your stars / idiots getting a DUI (over 2x the legal limit) in the midst of your best season since Ricky Vaughn, Jake Taylor, Willie Mays Hayes, Roger Dorn, and Pedro Cerrano.
This isn't some schlub that decided to put the key in the ignition after having a few too many - this was a star on the South Korean team when they won the gold medal in the 2010 Asian Games, which got the whole team dismissed from having to serve in compulsory military service (taking up a gun for the country in Korea is pretty much a necessity with Kim Jong-Il being their neighbor to the north). This is a guy that the team counts on for offensive production while ensuring that their fans (the few who show up for games) can have his likeness on a bobblehead.
So what do they do to make ammends? First, there is the "heartfelt" apology to all of his team:
"I am hopeful that this incident will not be a distraction to the Indians organization while we remain focused on continuing to play winning baseball."
But is this enough? We have to face the fact that he's the 6th Major Leaguer since January 1st to have a DUI (the Braves already have one of those to deal with from Derek Lowe, who just compounds that team's off the field problems), and that's saying something.
We have to wonder what it takes for athletes to realize that they're our idols, sure, but we're not bending over backwards to please them.
But alas, the world just isn't that smart right now. Take the case of the Texas cheerleader that the Supreme Court wouldn't hear (how it got past the school's problem solving capabilities is beyond me, but alas...). The cheerleader in question was 16 years old and had been assaulted by Rakheem Bolton, a basketball player who took a misdemeanor for his rape of her (I'm sure the anger management classes helped), and she was now being asked to cheer him by name as he stood on the foul line. She made a moral case of not cheering him because of the things that he had done to her, and the school told her to cheer or that she was finished with participating on the squad. In the end, she was kicked off the team and filed a lawsuit against the school, which she lost in federal court on the grounds that she was a mouthpiece for the school as a cheerleader and was cheering him for the school - not herself.
Were there ways to deal with this? Yes. Tell her to go to the bathroom if she wants to "sit the play out." Create a level of solidarity with the gals on the team. After all, this should be women defending women's sexual dignity (even as a man, I know what this dignity SHOULD mean). But no... everything's dumber in Texas (and Colorado - gotta love what passes for terms of endearment from former CU President Elizabeth Hoffman).
And was there ways to make Shin act like a responsible adult? This would have meant that Bud Selig took action on Miguel Cabrera, Adam Kennedy, Derek Lowe, Austin Kearns, or Coco Crisp. If there's no precedent, there can't be future punishment.
With management like Bud, do you ever wonder how there was a steroids era in baseball?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden

Ten years ago, I went to sleep after watching the end of the 8th inning of the 2001 World Series. That was the World Series when the Yankees were playing to win back happiness from the depths of post 9/11 depression that existed in NYC. I'm not a Yankees fan, and I never thought about that aspect during the series - just that they wouldn't 4peat. When I woke up, I found that they lost and I was in jubiliation at the Diamondbacks victory. I made sure that I made any Yankee fan who crossed my path suffer for Rivera's defeat at the hands of Luis Gonzalez's bloop single. In the end, I never thought I could wake up to better news.
About 2 weeks ago, I watched 9 Innings at Ground Zero and was visibly moved by the aspect of baseball bringing America together (from Bush's World Series first pitch to Jeter's heroics to the Mets captivating America by making a run for their own pennant). Much of it is very powerful. It's actually impossibly to watch without tears, but it takes us back to an America that hasn't existed since the great partisan divide of the Iraq War (for better or for worse).
Today, I woke up to much better news - Osama was dead. It turned out that if I stayed up another half hour or so, I would have heard the news as the reporters broke into it. Nevertheless, I wanted to shout "USA, USA, USA" like the hordes of joyous celebration at West Point, in the subways, in Times Square, and from the Philadelphia / Mets game. It was about 615 and my wife was still asleep, but I wanted to wake her up to tell her, but she still had about an hour before her alarm clock was set to go off, so I split it down the middle and told her at 645. When I did, she asked me if something was wrong, and all I could say was "we killed Bin Laden. The most wanted terrorist in the world was now dead, and everything had changed. The air of celebrations hit home. And with that, in many ways, it was like America came together again - save a few comments from anonymous You Tube posters and the like speculating conspiracy or judging whether it was hypocritcal to kill a mass murderer for murdering our people.
In the hindsight of a million news stories, I have to admit that there were times that I wondered if we'd ever get him. Years and years of wondering why Bush was failing and finally Obama made it a point to get him, and somehow, we got the intel to make it happen, and I have to say that I'm just glad that we did.
In the classes that I taught today, we briefly looked at all of the headlines from all of the major news sources, the blog sites (Huffington Post and Townhall), and Al Jazeera (Arab news network). It's interesting to see the difference, to see the words of Obama (we watched him on You Tube), and to contemplate what Bush would have done. It's amazing to think about how things have changed, and as I sit here, there are scary things, too.
I called my parents to tell them it happened, and they knew. My mom was reflecting on how they're quacks over there and would do something while wondering about the need for celebration ("but this was how it was at the end of World War 2"). I know that there will be some semblance of retaliation. We must be ever vigilant to that... we're not in a 9/10 world anymore, but that said... there is something powerful about the moment... the change.
Ayman al-Zawahiri is still out there. There are plenty of lunatics ready to make jihad and suffering on the West. The war has not been won (or lost) and yet there are people who will contemplate what we should do now that Bin Laden has finally died.
Sometimes, the world just becomes too real for sports. One has to wonder about all of the changes and events of the weekend and stop and think... to find time to enjoy the simple things, but all the same, to pause and reflect and remember our history and our future.
And to remain ever mindful.