Friday, October 30, 2015

Harold Reynolds: the Antidote to Your Baseball Announcer Pains

Bucking the trends on social media and other baseball blogs, I'd like to introduce a genuine defense of baseball broadcaster Harold Reynolds. Let's cut to the chase and you can read my diatribe afterwards.

The Harold Reynolds' Quirkycool Perspective of the Day:

Oct.28, 2015
World Series -- Game 2
NY Mets @ KC Royals

Commentator Scorebook:
(Fox telecast)
Joe Buck (JB)
Harold Reynolds (HR)
Tom Verducci (TV)

Top 1st, two outs
Cueto pitching to D. Murphy

TV: Yeah, those orchestrations, the quick delivery, the shimmy shakes, the delays... They shouldn't bother the Mets lineup that much. Really, Lucas Duda is the only one with a timing mechanism -- the high leg kick. Most of these Mets hitters get set very early (Ed: not true of Granderson, who has that hitch in his giddy-up). 

JB: I think sometimes it bothers Cueto more than it does the hitter (Ed: speculative drivel)

HR: You know, I just think he's very unique. For a guy to be able to throw strikes and do that? You just don't see it. I love the creativity. I think our game can be boring at times... So I love seeing this. But I think he's very... To throw strikes: I don't know how he's able to do it. Let's just put it that way. I think it's pretty fascinating. (Ed: goddamn right!)

JB: His teammate Edinson Volquez tried it; couldn't do it (Ed: what the fuck is he referring to exactly? I don't recall Volquez ever doing a shimmy on the mound. Enough with the negative criticism of things you neither enjoy, nor appreciate, Joe!!)

Daniel Murphy, on the very next pitch, proceeds to strike out looking at a tailing two-seam fastball from Cueto, in the upper part of the zone, drawing back to the inside corner of th plate...on the black! Murphy, in 2015, was the most difficult player to strike out in the majors. There's no mention of this astounding and quite interesting fact, nor of Cueto's achieving the impossible by a) not allowing Murphy to homer b) striking him out while he's on fire c) catching him looking at a pitch that ended up in the strike zone, to end the first inning of Game 2, a must-win for the Mets, which set the tone early: not tonight, bitches.

As I wrote my brother-in-law, "not sure how can you so quickly cave into the Harold Reynolds criticism? This is only his first or second year in the booth; The insufferable Buck and MacCarver were given thirty years to destroy all of baseball's best moments, now preserved in digital archives for eternity. Cultural criminals! Back to Reynolds: the guy has a great voice, he's fantastic on the mlb network, eloquently describing the subtler movements of the game. Yeah, ok, he doesn't know shit about geopolitics, some observations come off as way too obvious (though there seems to be a more subtle sublayer to a lot of these cliches), and has a tough time shutting up. BUT, the dude's enthusiasm is contagious and so are many of his insights. Good sense of humor. Bold enough to take over the Fox booth and bust it open from the inside! Joyfully opinionated about baseball minutae (and almost always right, according to my commentator scorebook). And was one helluva replacement player, to boot (a teammate of Uncle Vic!). If only there were more announcers like him (actually, A-Rod has been surprisingly succint and articulate, if only a bit too robotic in his emotional detachment)"

In an older post on this blog, I'd danced somewhat psychedelically through hypothetical conversations with a similarly resented commentator, Joe Morgan. While the racist overtones of major league baseball are obvious to any of us with heightened sensitivities to conscious and subconscious forms of such institutional racism, it's more difficult to assert a collective racist consciousness on behalf of baseball fans (outside of St. Louis, at least). But the aftertaste feels undeniable here: popular sentiments about players, and in this case broadcasters, dominated as they are by white opinions, are often times tinged with a familiar-tasting poison that just so happens to be mixed in with other, more innocuous flavors. Anyone who knows me knows I'm highly susceptible to even the slightest trace of poison.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fan reactions to ALCS Game 5: the Toronto tragi-comedy

What a circus! Canadians chucking beer cans at babies in the front row! Oh the humanity! I texted my sister at the time that "no one can be held responsible for anything at this point. Fans or players. It's the baseball apocalypse!"

Regarding the fluke throw back to the pitcher that somehow hit Choo's hand in the box, Wes wrote: "A real horsholm move by Texas. Seriously? Fuck this shit. Going to bed. Worse or just as bad as the Gallaraga call. Baseball is ruined." But he later clarified that it was the home plate umpire calling "dead ball", not knowing the rules, which ruined baseball.

And leave it to Tulo to ensure the craziest inning of all time ends with a whimper, popping out to the catcher, with the emotionally bruised Texas reliever brushing past him, talking shit, even after giving up Joey Bats' majestic bomb. Tulo probably replied like that dork in Half Baked, "hey! I'm somebody's BITCH!"

I'd cursed that fucktard Goins all series for going 0/18 with 9 k's, stranding a dozen, but the dude saves the ball game with two fine defensive plays late in the game; especially in the 6th with a tremendous sliding backhand up the middle on an Andrus grounder, stranding the guy at third, ending the inning. A perfect segueway for E2 and his titanic blast into the upper deck to tie the game at 2. God that was gorgeous.

Poor Andrus, though. Robbed of that hit. Caught stealing third to end the 3rd inning. All three errors in the 7th involved him and then he misses out on his chance at redemption by stranding two guys on base making the final out in the 8th via the K. He'll probably hang himself at some point this winter, if Beltre doesn't strangle him to death first.

Lost in all the mayhem were the six brilliant, quick innings of mound artistry from Stroman and Hamels. Both lineups are fulll of swagger and spice and everything un-nice, but those guys were in the groove. It was also the most consistent strike zone in recent memory. Crazy shit also went down and the umps kept their cool, met together to confer on important matters, and even though the home plate ump botched the deflection call he took it to replay to make sure his crew got it right. So many close pitches, nibbling at the corners, impervious to the furious crowd, the home plate ump was still able to resist getting emotionally pulled into the Toronto vortex or give in to the pitiful Texas dugout bitching. Fair play to ye, sirs!

My sister asked if Tulo actually cracked a smile at the end of the game amidst the jubilation. I told her The Glass Man actually cracked a rib while hugging Pilar. His status for the ALCS remains up in the air.

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)