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

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hardball Hukommelse

It's opening week in the 2013 season and if I allow myself to think sentimentally about this great game, a steady succession of childhood memories associated with baseball begins to flow through me...

-1987...opening a pack of Topps cards in my grandparents' living room, discarding the hard stick of pink gum from the stack, and seeing Bo Jackson's "Future Star" card sitting on top. Seems like it was the only time I ever scored a truly priceless card. Today, it's worth about $2 sitting somewhere in my parents' crawlspace.

-Sitting on the steps of the house we moved into in 1994, flipping through several laminated baseball card albums with the neighbor kid, Jason, who was a few years younger than me. It was hot and sunny. He's dead now; crashed his car into a gully while driving drunk.

-In the backyard of our old house, my eight-year-old self would set up three flimsy bases in a rough diamond where second base got plopped no more than ten feet from the home run fence -- a very short, old, splintery 3ft. wooden fence with the upper third carved into some kind of lattice pattern -- and one of those tightly-strung pitchback net backstops placed behind the homeplate area, which had a red-bordered strike zone stitched onto the center of that wonderfully cooperative construction. I'd write out the 1988 Blue Jays or 1990 Padres starting lineup in pencil in a little notebook, leaving enough space to tally their R/H/HR/RBI/AVG stats. It was then time to play whiffle ball. As pitcher Jimmy Key or Andy Benes I'd throw to each imaginary batter of that day's opponent (or most of 'em at least), only surrendering hits or walks or HBP to opposing players whom I liked. When it came time for the home team to bat, I'd do my best to impersonate each of the Jays, studying their cards for clues as to how they'd hit -- not just righty or lefty, but gap power or slap singles and so forth. Every so often, I'd even make a defensive play -- always a web gem.

-Attending a Denver Zephyrs AAA minor league game in the early 90's at Mile High Stadium for the 4th of July fireworks show. There were 80,000 people there to see minor league ball!

-With the Alameda Pirates little league team, I remember making a diving stop at 2nd base against the Lakewood Tigers and throwing the coach's son out at first, after which he yelled from the first base line: "What a play!" Might've seemed like a small tip of the cap on his part, but it stuck with me in several ways. I appreciated the compliment and it made me feel good, but it also told me that it's cool to praise the opposition when they do something great.

-Grandpa Kroh in his gold hatchback Honda parked directly behind homeplate, keeping score for both teams during dozens of my little league games. Running up to him after I hit my first and only home run (a grand salami) to ask if he'd seen it, he replied, "oh I saw that grand slam alright, but who was that slugger that hit it?"

-After spending a season chasing down fly balls in the outfield since nobody else seemed capable, my mom told me to write on the head coach's thank-you card: "Thanks for a great season. Wish I could've played more second base." I didn't want to write it, but I did. I still feel bad that coach Juan Pena had to read that rubbish.

-As a younger lad, around six or seven, standing in the dugout entrance at one of my dad's softball games as the bat-boy and not paying attention, feeling a cannonball explode into my chest and knock me back to the bench and down, getting the wind knocked out of me and seeing my dad and a few other players standing over me asking if I was alright. I eventually got up, I guess, but clearly remember the old man who ran the little concession stand come over and tell me I could have any drink I wanted, on the house. I didn't know what "on the house" meant, but I asked for a Yoohoo chocolate milk, which I'd always wanted to try, and drank it on the bench with my dad's buddies acting proud of my toughness.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Zito's Paradox

"If everything when it occupies an equal space is at rest, and if that which is in motion is always occupying such a space at any moment, the pitched ball is therefore motionless"