Friday, September 11, 2015

2015 Potential Playoff Teams -- The Fun and the Infuriating

In spite of my childhood admiration of the Blue Jays (to the point of performing imaginary 9 inning wiffle ball games as each member of the Jays and the Padres alone in the backyard, keeping stats, imitating stances, running the bases, etc) I actually think there are lots of teams to like in this year's possible playoff picture:

-Royals: augmented their Cain-driven coolness by acquiring Cueto, the coolest cat on the bump

-Orioles: Buck Showalter, Adam Jones, and a lava-like mass of deadly force that just keeps on moving give the O's a fluid, though not fast, team of liquid hot magma.

-Astros: Yes, even the "fucking" Astros are impossible not to like with all those young kids playing fast and free. Once Springer gets back, this team is gonna soar.

-Mets: The Amazins suddenly got some serious swagger with Uribe and Cespedes backing up that brilliant starting rotation. The fans in Queens are going crazy again.

-Nats: If this team ever gets its shit together, it'll make for some beautiful baseball. Harper's transfiguration into the Crucified last fall, and his Second Coming this season as the Redeemer is kinda like The Jesus...Quintana, that is, from Lebowski. There's a literal connection there.

-Pirates: How can you not root for these Buccos?!?! If only so we can get more glimpses of that glorious ballpark and dip once again into Pittsburgh's magical history of baseball perfection (Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Clemente's '71 Pirates, The '79 Family), I'd like to see the black and gold in the World Series.

-Giants: Nothing banal about the Bay area eccentrics, even sans Timmy the Freak. Gotta love that outfield of Aoki, Pagan, Pence, and Blanco! Perennially underappreciated, I owe everything that I am as a believer in baseball to the SF Giants and their victory over evil (Bush and Texas) in 2010 and again in 2012 and 2014 (against the St. Louis slime).

On the other hand, there's a very real fear once again that the most loathsome teams might make it the worst year for baseball playoffs in a long, long time...

-Rangers: now trailing the Astros by only a couple games for the NL West lead and looking like a strong Wilder Card contender now that they have an ace up their sleeve in Cole Hamels. Never cared for the dude, ever since he beaned Bryce Harper because "I'm old school" and then promptly allowed Harper to steal home on his old-school ass. Ron Washington was a cool manager, as cool as they come, and he wanted to get the fuck outta there so fast he said he cheated on his wife, which for some reason rendered him incapable of managing a baseball team (?). Something tells me it was for other reasons. Even Jabba the Hut himself, Nolan Ryan, flew the coop. And fuck Texas.

-Dodgers: Too much money, too much bling, too much Hollywood without enough Manny Ramirez to make it seem like a self-parody. They've killed the joy in Puig and continue to constrain a man who triumphed over unfathomable obstacles just to get to the damn country, and his play has suffered for it. They can buy anything, but they can't buy backbone. Puig was the only dude who could've given them that, but with all the trade rumors circulating his name this season it's no wonder he looks disinterested out there.

-Cubs: Misery loves company, so I'm sure everybody will moan and groan together in an orgy of agony and secretly love every minute of it once these young guns lose the inevitable Wild Card game against Pittsburgh because Theo Epstein forced Maddon to pitch Lester instead of Arrieta. Nobody probably minds seeing the Cubs win it all when they think about that 108 year curse, but then again, what are the Cubs without that drought? Just another big market team who fucked with the sanctuary of the Friendly Confines to such an inexplicably stupid degree (big scoreboard? who gives a shit! more ads? oh, great. no more rooftops beyond left field able to see the game? how fun.) that winning the WS this year would seem to vindicate a lot of lame billionaire decisions.

-Yankees: For some reason this team always seems to hang around the top of the AL East, even when their rotation and lineup looks mediocre at best. A-Rod's reemergence as a real force at the plate shouldn't have been a big surprise to anyone who studies the game, neither should his sudden acceptance among the Bronx bourgeoisie in that bullshit new ballpark. The whole mandatory grooming policy is so repulsive, reeking of big business bullying practices and the discriminatory days of Steinbrenner, not to mention the GM's name is Cash-man, and oh yeah, it's the fucking Yankees. Blech.

-Cardinals: The only team more loathsome than the Yankees, the Redbirds have become an automatic qualifier for the playoffs every fucking year, even this year with a bunch of injuries to key players and the indignity of the whole Ferguson fiasco solidifying the city's reputation as a slimy, segregated city of injustice and shame. Up in flames with ye!

2014 Baseball Playoff Mixtape

Meant to put this up last year. Originally a bday mix for Lukwata's wife, it then functioned as the Top Prize at the 5th Annual CPH Chili Cook-Off (congrats, Joe Muecke), and ultimately accompanied me and the fam on our wintertime roadtrip to Avalanche Ranch in snowy Colorado after the SF Giants beat the surprise Royals in 7 to claim their third championship in the past five years.


Negro League Baseball -- Natural Resource
Baseball Theme -- Vince Guaraldi Trio
Love is Like a Baseball Game -- The Intruders
Baltimore Oriole -- Lorez Alexandria
The Cosmic Game -- Thievery Corporation
Swingtime in Springtime -- Django Reinhardt
Baltimore to Washington -- Woody Guthrie
Washington, D.C. -- The Magnetic Fields
Walk in the Park -- Beach House
Whisper Pitch -- Stereolab
The Stretch -- Detroit Sex Machines
The Great Curve -- TalkingHeads
Team -- Bon Iver


It's a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame -- Harry Simeone Singers
Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! -- Sufjan Stevens
Song for the Cardinals -- Corrina Repp
Batter Up -- Nelly
Down Beat -- Basic Sounds of Pittsburgh
Kansas City -- James Brown
Stealin' Stealin' -- Memphis Jug Band
San Francisco Holiday -- Don Cherry
Oakland Stroke -- Tower of Power
Slump -- OutKast
A Final Hit -- Leftfield
City of Angels -- Nik Kershaw
(Camden Yards field recording of fans cheering)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Disrupted By The Pull of Contrary Forces on Opening Day

The tingle of anticipation upon seeing NL MVP McCutchen take the field vs. the Cubs.

The vitriolic hatred swelling within me upon realizing that the singing of "God Bless America" will persist for another season, sung by a bunch of flag-waving militants at an event that has NOTHING to do with the armed forces. Baseball players have not "served" time like prisoners, nor does their playing career deserve the term "service time" -- they are athletes making millions of dollars playing a kid's game.

Speaking of kids, seeing the little ones in the stands anxiously awaiting the beginning of a baseball season under the blue skies and sunshine of a gorgeous spring day in Pittsburgh, after a brutal winter.

Being constantly reminded by writers and announcers that "instant replay will be good for baseball", deployed in full force this season, eliminating the possibility of manager vs. umpire confrontations -- an integral part of the game (like fighting in hockey) which would seem to be an unnecessary element, but adds so much character and personality to the game; two most important qualities which the MLB may be completely bereft of in a few years.

Kansas City vs. Detroit -- This could be the beginning of a beautiful rivalry.

Strasburg gives up an opening day three-run jack to the Mets' Andrew Brown...!?

Ozzie Smith was right: Opening Day should be a national holiday

Monday, February 24, 2014

Who Will Play Center Field in Colorado?

Trading Dexter Fowler for jack shit still boils my blood despite the trade having occurred several months ago. Rox brass claimed they had to get rid of Fowler to free up some cash. Bullshit. Fowler would only make $7mill this coming season and slightly more in 2015, which is very reasonable for an above-average lead-off hitter and above-average center fielder. Furthermore, the Rox immediately turned around and signed Justin Morneau to the same money over two years!

Fangraphs listed the Fowler trade as one of the top 10 worst transactions this off-season, observing how Fowler is 
"...still a quality player, in the prime of his career, and the Rockies basically gave him to the Astros in order to free up enough room in the budget to sign Justin Morneau, who is older, worse, and not really much cheaper. Moving Michael Cuddyer to first base would have freed up playing time for Dickerson or Blackmon in the same way that trading Fowler did, and the team would have been better off for it. Lyles and Barnes are unlikely to ever make any real contribution in Colorado, and it’s hard to see this series of moves actually paying off for the Rockies."

On the flipside, the Fowler trade made their list of the ten BEST off-season moves from the Astros' perspective, as
"...Fowler has been an above average outfielder for the last three years running, and is just 28 years old, so a short term spike can’t be ruled out. In exchange for two reasonably priced arbitration years of a quality player with remaining upside, the Astros gave up two fringe talents that they won’t miss in any real way. This move flew under the radar because it was completed during the busiest day of the off-season, but the Astros picked up a ton of value in this deal."

And when Rockies brass came out in favor of moving perennial Gold Glover, Carlos Gonzalez, to center field the acquisition of Brandon Barnes -- a center fielder -- looked even more idiotic than before. While Cargo is probably an upgrade over Fowler in center, for sure, who would the Rox play in left field? 

Once the club decided to pay over $4 to get Drew Stubbs for one year, also a center fielder, the Rox brass sheepishly shied away from allowing their most prized "investment" (read: the human being named Carlos Gonzalez) the opporunity to flash his leather in center field, where it's needed most, and instead assured us and him that he'd remain in left, lollygagging after base hits and rarely getting the chance to show off that canon of an arm. Is it for fear of an injury? It's not like Cargo plays as hard as Pete Reiser, for christsake.

Anyway, I'd written some other stuff here about all our outfield options (Blackmon, Dickerson, Stubbs, Barnes) but forgot to save it and now it's gone. Screw it. Nothing about how the Rockies organization is run inspires any hope or excitement anymore. Especially after giving up on our center fielder for no fucking reason.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A starter and a reliever

Day after day, the ball player will go through his nine innings, three outs to an inning, three swings to a turn, until the season ends, and then wait anxiously through winter for the routine to begin again. What, we might exclaim, could be more meaningless! After all, what Purpose is served, what is accomplished by these repetitive, endlessly repeated performances? Listening for an answer, we discover only the philosopher dares speak. And when we hear him say "Pleasure," in disappointment at his answer we become ourselves philosophical. 
--Edward F. Mooney, "Nietzsche and the Dance"  (1970) 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Adios, Jim

After hearing that Jim Leyland finally stepped down as manager of the Tigers, I had to go find this paragraph I once wrote about the old dude some years ago...

"Jim Leyland, hiding in the darkest end of the dugout, seems confused and angy, looking like that blind rat in The Secret of Nimh – his thin fragile face holding on to whispy gray hairs collecting in a bushier version of the dictator's moustache; strawlike outgrowths of dead white whiskers packed tightly, as tidily trimmed and pruned as that frail body of his comically suited up in tight baseball pants and pitcher’s windbreaker. A hollow shell of a baseball coach no longer permitted to smoke in the dugout, a nervous wreck. No longer capable of helping his players in any way whatsoever, he finds himself unable to even follow the game he thought he still understood. Sad, in the way an Alzheimers victim slowly loses touch with what the rest of us call ‘reality’. Frightful, in his resemblance to a bitter old SS rat. Weak from his conservative, stubborn and closed-minded ways. The Tigers lose again."  
Photo borrowed from The Onion: "Angry Jim Leyland's Mustache Keeps Falling Off While Yelling at Team" (July 17, 2008).

But after seeing that clip of Leyland dancing in the locker room after clinching the AL Central for the third consecutive year, he looked almost...human. And I almost feel sorry for the guy.

What still bothers me is that Illich, Dombrowski and whoever else is part of the Tigers' brass didn't have the cojones to hire a Latino manager -- former Detroit infielder/outfielder Carlos Guillen comes to mind -- to lead Los Tigres to the World Series. Brad Ausmus? Seriously? 


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Field of Dreams

If money still happens to be
the sad currency by which we
value things like time,
performance, art, and

then my dream becomes a wish
within the confines of this world.

There might one day be a kind of
dry spiderweb material
spun on a grander human scale --
quite capable of withstanding
immense pressure and push and pull --
while remaining invisible
to the distracted human eye.

The web would work like backstop nets
to protect the fans now sitting
extremely close to the playing.

Foul territory diminished,
fan interference abolished,
no room for fat cops to stand 'round
cuz all the kids be getting closer:
the best seats in the house are saved
for the unaccompanied youth.

Now we can leave those deep outfield
walls and monsters right where they are.
My stadium is intimate
yet spacious and wild with nature.

There are no ads, no anthems, nor
flags or military symbols.
No corporate insignias
and no lucrative boob-tube deals.

Scoreboard? Sure
Jumbotron? Nah

Welcome to the ballpark