Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Whitening of A's Brand Baseball

"Honey? Great news. The A's are moving to San Jose! It's safe for us to watch baseball again!"

The Oakland Athletics have reportedly been granted permission to move to San Jose, and upper middle class white folks are all atwitter. Am I overstating the situation? Yep. Am I using race in an inappropriate manner? Most assuredly. Doesn't make what I'm saying any less true. Yes, A's fans are not strictly white. I know that. But the ones who would be willing to drive to and afford tickets to the San Jose A's would, by and large, be white. I know what you're saying, "Well, where are all the A's fans at right now? They have to move to survive!" I'm well aware of that. Here's the thing: I know that the A's playing in front of huge crowds in a city whose fans have deeper pockets is good for the franchise. I know that having a huge TV contract will enable them to keep their free agents, rather than selling them off to the highest bidder. I know playing in a nicer, potentially more hitter-friendly ballpark will make them a destination free agent sluggers will consider, rather than one they have their agents put into writing in their no-trade clauses. I will still go to 3-5 games a year, despite the extra hour of drive time each way. I'll still watch games on TV more often than not. I will still be an A's fan. But here's the thing: Just because a move to San Jose will be a game changer for my team that will enable them to drastically change the way the franchise operates, doesn't mean I can't hate it. Nowhere is it written that I can't bitch and whine about my team picking up and leaving behind the city where they won 4 World Series titles. I get that it is vital, I just don't like it, and likely never will. Why? Because now Lew Wolff has succeeded in accomplishing his one goal he's had since his first day of ownership: He's killed off the poor fan.

You see, the is one of the last big league ballparks where you can walk up to the ticket window 5 minutes before the first pitch and get seats on the 3rd base line for less than $40. You and your kids can sit in the bleachers for less than $40. The downtown cookie cutter stadiums have taken over, and there's no turning back. Gone are the days of a family of 4 being able to go to a game for less than the average monthly car payment. How many working class stiffs will be able to afford a night out at the new, shiny, named after some corporate entity or another ballpark that the people of San Jose will end up building? Not many. No, instead of being the "blue collar" team in the Bay, the A's will have decided to do the right thing from a business perspective and chase the almighty dollar. They will become pale impersonators of the Giants, and be glad to sell suites and boxes to their sloppy seconds. The Coli stood firm as the last of the concrete, dilapidated shit heaps from the 60's; a remnant of simpler times. And now, her death warrant has all but been signed.

I have no doubt the A's will be successful in San Jose. I've always wondered what Billy Beane could do with a payroll, and now we're about to find out. And while I will be cheering them on, my heart will never be all the way into it, like it was at 7000 Coliseum Way.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hey Guys, What's Going on in this Offseason

Hi everyone, and happy holidays!!  I apologize for the long absence, but life has dealt me a few curveballs in recent months, some great and some awful.  My wife and I are in the process of adopting a baby in late February that I will immediately attempt to brainwash into liking the Mets, at least until protective services takes them away from me for extreme abuse. 

Speaking of the Mets, when all of the news about their dire financial straits started coming out, it got me all worked up, but now that the first band-aids have been ripped off the scab (Reyes leaving, them SHUTTING DOWN ONE OF THEIR MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS LOL) I've actually bought in whole-heartedly into watching everything unfold to see how hilariously awful this can get.  

I'm running through scenarios in my head where Fred Wilpon mistakenly left $750 million in a newspaper that Ruben Amaro happened to pick up when they ran into each other at a local bank and then ransacking his office for two months before forlornly throwing himself off the Whitestone Bridge, but more likely either he'll just sell the team at some point (best case scenario) or find some suckers to buy into the minority ownership situations.  (Come on, you get MR. MET ACCESS HOW CAN YOU TURN THIS DOWN.)

In all seriousness, I've gone to great lengths about my appreciation for Reyes, and it will suck not having him around, but I still feel worse for Cardinals fans.  In New York you have comically inept ownership, a field that was built around your speed but hastily edited to give more power to the right-handed batters, (and take away some of the deep alleys that made so many Reyes triples possible) and no signs of competitiveness on the horizon.  In St. Louis, Pujols left a team that had just won the World Series, from all accounts some of the best fans in baseball, and a place where he was deified to go to LA to play for a bunch more money.  It didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but baseball is a strange and wonderful sport!

I hope you're all enjoying your offseasons!  Go Mets 2017!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Now This Is How You Tumbl

Sideburns sharper than the razor that sculpted them.
This is more a comment on the way that I enjoy baseball in the offseason than any kind of remark on the actual goings-on of the baseball winter meetings -- which were actually plenty eventful, what with Reyes and Buehrle to the Marlins, and Pujols and Wilson somehow to the Angels, among other things -- but the best thing I've seen in the last couple weeks is the Retro Jays Card tumblr (tip of the cap to Drunk Jays Fans, without which/whom I would be utterly lost, for the link). The tumblr's author describes the project thus:
I go to a bunch of Jays games. Each time, I empty my loose change to get random retro Blue Jay baseball cards from the vending machine. When I was a kid I remember these cards were some of my most prized possessions. Now they are 25 cents. 
This is, of course, exactly what needed to happen. I myself have bought old Blue Jays singles for a quarter from many a 500-level vending machine. Now, I buy old Topps team sets for no money on eBay, and can't believe my luck -- like seriously can't believe it -- when they even include cards from the Traded/Update series. 

So yeah, what I was saying is that Retro Jays Cards interests me right now much, much more than the fact that the Blue Jays just traded, Nestor Molina, a hot Double-A pitching prospect with an amazing name, for young, quite possibly legit, eminently affordable closer Sergio Santos, even though that is totally a move worth thinking about. But in the offseason, for whatever reason, I am not at all about the future; I am in fact all about the past. I could grope around trying to explain why that might be, or I could just quote Roger Angell and save us all a lot of trouble:
Baseball has one saving grace that distinguishes it -- for me, at any rate -- from every other sport.  Because of its pace, and thus the perfectly observed balance, both physical and psychological, between opposing forces, its clean lines can be restored in retrospect.  This inner game -- baseball in the mind -- has no season, but is best played in the winter, without the distraction of other baseball news.  At first, it is a game of recollections, recapturings, and visions. 
And that's just at first. For more like that, I totally typed up all of "The Interior Stadium" a while ago if you'd like to read it. I read it every winter and get overcome. It's kind of pathetic, but it totally happens every winter! Give it a try!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2011 Payroll per Victory Nonsense

So the winter meetings have fired up, which will bring about the normal offseason nonsense parade of high-dollar contracts, non-sensical mathematical equations, and off-season dreams (and delusions). The trades and free agent promises will start to fly, and the whole nerd world of baseball will fire up with the wonderful offseason drama of "what if"s. But I had been keeping my yearly spreadsheet of MLB teams, with their payrolls divided by actual victories during the regular season, plus postseason victories as well, to calculate - in a completely non-scientific and means-absolutely-nothing sort of way - the rankings of teams according to payroll per victory that counted during the 2011 season. And after completely forgetting to update it after the World Series, I started reading baseball bullshit inside the vast interwebz this past week and was like, "Oh yeah, that thing..." So here is that thing:
#1: TAMPA BAY RAYS ($446,234.47 per victory) - The Rays snuck their way into a wild card spot in dramatic end-of-the-season fashion, but blew their psychic wad by that point and failed to advance beyond the advancement to postseason play. I would like to note that my friend and brother-in-chaos The Necro Butcher is a huge baseball fan and has adopted the Rays as his team ever since whenever he decided to do such a thing. He may be the only terribly scarred, balding man with pot leaf tattoos and a hillbilly beard who purposefully goes to St. Petersburg to see Tampa Rays games at least twice a year on earth. I hope not, but you know, law of averages says otherwise.
#2: KANSAS CITY ROYALS ($508,816.90 per victory) - A perennial bottom feeder who feeds top-shelf talent to other teams that apparently is on an upward swing due to a TON of PROSPECTS which won't mean a fucking thing in four years, other than they maybe flirt with .500 one season.
#3: ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS ($558,748.26 per victory) - They won the NL West, and nothing else, and are probably my least favorite baseball team because I don't even believe they exist. At least I can hate the Yankees and know they are real. The "Arizona Diamondbacks" could be something completely made up for season 3 of East Bound & Down for all I know.
#4: CLEVELAND INDIANS ($614,882.08 per victory) - Never been any good since Wesley Snipes' tax problems. Oh man, a new Major League (I lost count of the bad ones) with Snipes and Charlie Sheen re-uniting to coach a minor league team of misfits to misfit glory would be awesome, wouldn't it? Probably not, but hey, I have to meander through some sort of thought here, don't I?
#5: PITTSBURGH PIRATES ($625,652.78 per victory) - Remember when the Pirates were having their best season ever in forever and it was such a wonderful tale? They finished 72-90. Go back to the Dave Parker yellow jerseys and weird striped hats with the stiff sides bros.
#6: SAN DIEGO PADRES ($646,044.23 per victory) - Being I only casually pay attention to MLB at large, and most of my uniform knowledge stopped not long after I stopped buying baseball cards at the Big Lots (mid-'90s I think), the Padres are one of those teams who when I see their uniforms, my mind has a string of nine exclamation points go off above it while I pretend to type "WTF WTF WTF" with my fingers against my leg. Because their uniforms are so stupid looking.
#7: TORONTO BLUE JAYS ($772,441.98 per victory) - The gentle soul of KS who is the sort of pitching coach of Baseball Feelings loves the Blue Jays, so I can say nothing snarky or negative about them. So I will move on.
#8: FLORIDA MARLINS ($790,888.89 per victory) - The Marlins have previously perennially been at the top of this list, for years, but have made the hugest splashes this offseason by getting a crazy manager, changing their name to something more stupid than what it already was, unveiling uniforms that looks like an EA Sports video game imagineered them, and then signing everybody possible to exorbitant contracts to eventually position themselves as a contracted team candidate in five years once the World's economy continues to plummet.
#9: WASHINGTON NATIONALS ($798,211.60 per victory) - I am so excited for this coming year. Only one game below .500 this past year, and perhaps Strasburg's arm will not fall off, and perhaps the 29 hot prospects we have now will start to enter my daily paper's box scores, and perhaps perhaps perhaps The Ultimate Harper will make his major league debut and be completely insane but hopefully not get addicted to crack like Josh Hamilton: The Early Years, which is a thing I legitimately fear when I see the cursive tattoos he keeps getting for his self.
#10: MILWAUKEE BREWERS ($846,508.25 per victory) - They do not get so highly on this list by signing Prince Fielder to a royal contract. Pretend it's ten years in the future: Did you know it's a little known fact that the Brewers actually made the NL Championship Series in 2011?
#11: TEXAS RANGERS ($870,747.77 per victory) - I am still very very sad that Ron Washington did not win the World Series and instead stupid fucking Tony LaRussa did, but at least LaRussa retired, hopefully forever, because fuck that guy. Also, Ron Washington is the greatest and I think the best thing any up-and-coming baseball team could do is let a foul-mouthed, drug-addled black dude who walks like the funky chicken through the dugout is a good thing to do be their manager. When we get to the point in baseball history that guys like Ron Washington are the GMs, then we will be in a glorious age.
#12: OAKLAND ATHLETICS ($899,141.89 per victory) - I like to type out "Athletics" because I fear eventually all MLB teams will have their nicknames down to three letters or less.
#13: CINCINNATI REDS ($961,356.13 per victory) - Remember when the Reds were briefly relevant last year too? Or was that the year before? Does Ken Griffey Jr. still play for them? Is there a Ken Griffey III yet?
#14: ATLANTA BRAVES ($977,558.34 per victory) - The Braves are - to me - the Yankees of the National League (which means a slightly less evil version of an ultimately evil thing) so when they did not get the NL wild card, it caused me great joy. My father was an alcoholic and smelled of Winston cigarettes and loved the Braves, and I have nothing terrible to say about my dad because all in all he helped shape me into what I am, but perhaps I hate the Braves because I cannot hate my father. But also perhaps fuck the Braves.
#15: ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (1,043,896.75 per victory) - Here are things that make baseball as painful as the most female of all complaining types could claim it to be: Bob Costas soliloquies, pieces of baseball, "sabremetrics", pitching changes for a single batter, "not on the first ballot", St. Louis Cardinals World Series champions.
#16: DETROIT TIGERS ($1,057,002.31 per victory) - Being Neil is the drunken soul of Baseball Feelings, and also my brother from another motherfucker, I would never speak negatively of the Tigers either. And I wouldn't tell him how when going to a Goochland High School football game I talked to people who suggested that the Verlander boy who had made good from that locality was a crazed steroid abuser who loved nothing more than engage in homosexual-ish behaviors with Russian men dressed as Bigfoot.
#17: COLORADO ROCKIES ($1,207,507.82 per victory) - Whatever.
#18: BALTIMORE ORIOLES ($1,236,290.41 per victory) - There is a girl who worked where I work and was under my tutelage and she was a sweet, simple girl with a great upward trajectory in life, and she was a baseball fan, specifically the Orioles, and growing up her and her father would watch the Home Run Contest and bet M&Ms on it, and she told me of this this past summer and how she was making her boyfriend bet M&Ms with her while watching the Home Run contest during All-Star festivities, and it made me love her like an uncle loves a niece.
#19: HOUSTON ASTROS ($1,262,392.86 per victory) - If you go look at what I wrote about the Padres, that applies here as well. J.R. Richard striped star jerseys til I die, fuck you if you disagree.
#20: LOS ANGELES DODGERS ($1,270,597.55 per victory) - The Dodgers almost comedically went bankrupt during the season to where they weren't gonna pay players. But baseball is better than ever. Personally I would like it if it were less regulated and pretty much any rich guy who wanted a team could have one, and then every year there'd be anywhere from 16 to 48 MLB teams. We as Americans (and our sort of American neighbors to the north) should learn to embrace chaos, not be afraid of it. Chaos is fun, especially when there are more than two naked women involved.
#21: SEATTLE MARINERS ($1,291,411.94 per victory) - I am on the other side of the country from this and it is raining here and plus cold and I wish it would go back over there to the other side of the country because I could not sit in my pigpen with my pigs and train them to lay at my side while I scratched their belly sort of like that japanese shit where they massage the beef except with pork and only I eat them.
#22: SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS ($1,374,399.22 per victory) - Tim Lincecum is a dude, there is no doubt about it.
#23: NEW YORK METS ($1,543,471.55 per victory) - The Mets seem to usually be the most second or third most disappointing team on this list every year. Like there's always some other interchangeable team that shows up to be the most disappointing, but the Mets are always near the top, and never disappear from it. They could easily be the worst team in the NL East for years to come, which is enjoyable to me on long truck rides at night because you can usually pick up 660 The Fan anywhere on the east coast and you can listen to weird dudes complain about them and be like, "Lololol, my life is better than this guy, that is for sure."
#24: LOS ANGELES ANGELS ($1,610,967.05 per victory) - Remember when they were officially the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? Wasn't that just the stupidest thing ever?
#25: CHICAGO WHITE SOX ($1,617,582.28 per victory) - No Ozzie Guillen, no peace.
#26: PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES ($1,663,234.41 per victory) - The greatest thing about the Phillies winning 102 games but failing to make it past the divisional round of the playoffs is when you know people who are Philadelphia sports fans and they are your friend and they are always a generally miserable person anyways but that made them even more miserable in a highly comedic way for a few weeks and it's so much fun to be around so long as you do not get yourself drawn into their misery.
#27: CHICAGO CUBS ($1,761,229.99 per victory) - I feel like the Theo Epstein era of Chicago Cubs is like an elaborate trick the Universe is executing slowly to cause Cubs fans even more pain and suffering. Whereas one can enjoy the comedic misery of Phillies fans, watching a Cubs fan suffer is like watching a crippled kid die of leukemia. That is to say, you don't feel good about it, but if somebody slaps a funny lolcat type comment ("picture me rollin" for example on a picture of a crippled kid in his wheel chair), yeah, it's funny enough. Plus, if you go through that list of terrible things about baseball I wrote above under the Cardinals, that applies as well to the Cubs, which is why they are such hated rivals. They are battling to be the greatest Kingdom of Nerds.
#28: MINNESOTA TWINS ($1,789,476.19 per victory) - Wow, Joe Mauer's contract really screwed them, hunh? They used to always be low on this list, and made the playoffs. Now they are the opposite.
#29: BOSTON RED SOX ($1,797,360.83 per victory) - I can not think of a more perfect thing than a Bobby Valentine managing a Boston Red Sox. Drago being a Russian boxer was not more perfect than this. I can't wait for them to fail.
#30: NEW YORK YANKEES ($2,047,363.92 per victory) - When I started doing this years ago, the Rangers always were the worst team when Alex Rodriguez was on their team. And then he went to the Yankees and they have always been the worst for payroll per victory. If there is ever a time where we get to sit around together and reflect upon everything ever through out all of history, at some point while we are sitting there, we will get to baseball, and we will all agree, "You know that A-Rod, he never really was worth it, was he?"

Friday, November 18, 2011

So How Is Your Offseason Going?

Mine's going great! In the twenty days since the end of the World Series, I have effortlessly -- indeed, one might say, almost gracefully -- transitioned from my baseball season-specific baseball interests (chiefly baseball) to my baseball offseason-specific baseball interests (simming things on Mogul; extending Carlos Delgado's contract indefinitely in MLB: The Show so that I can continue to be with him; reading recent baseball fiction [more on that soon]; messing around with my baseball cards; yearning). It's been fun! I have of course been keeping abreast (lol) of all recent signings and happenings, although the biggest transaction of note so far is only that Jonathan Papelbon will occupy a significantly smaller portion of the part of my brain that minds things next season, which, while not nothing, isn't much. And there is the realignment and expansion of the playoffs/play-ins, which is more of a 2013 thing. But I am convinced that awesome things are going to start happening any day now.

An awesome thing that totally did happen today: new Blue Jays uniforms! I like them! I recognize that it would be too much to ask for the team to simply start wearing the exact same uniforms that they wore in 1993, and so I accept this new look for what it is: a bold step in the right direction, and totally better than anything I could have honestly hoped for given the abominations of recent years. Is the design-savvy and awesome Craig Robinson of Flip Flop Fly Ball right when he says, "While, of course, the new logo shits all over the one they were using, it is pretty badly executed"? He may very well be, sure. Robinson posts an image in which a design-type picks the new logo apart, and I can't argue with any of the particulars, honestly. However, on the whole, it is the "shits all over the one they were using" part that is really sticking with me today, so join me, won't you, in enjoying the heck out of these pictures I totally lifted from Drunk Jays Fans.

Joseph Bats
If Adam Lind is still our first baseman next year then I don't even know.
Ricky Romero: A Boss
The split numbering splits my heart
Pretty neat!


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cardinals 6, Rangers 2: The Loathsome Cardinals Win the 2011 World Series, But At Least It's Winter Now

A fifth World Series ring for the great catching Molinas
There was no way that even a genuinely remarkable Game Seven could have equaled the mad splendor of Game Six. We knew that going in, and we pretty much got what we expected all the way around: Chris Carpenter, starting on three days' rest but only starting at all because rain pushed these final games back, pitched into the seventh, the only trouble coming early on two runs in the first (back-to-back doubles from Micheal Young and the prophet Josh Hamilton); and the Rangers, as it turned out, used up all of there chances to win the World Series the night before, just like we'd figured. 

The 2-0 first-inning Texas lead evaporated later that same inning on MVP David Freese's two-run double, and Allen Craig's solo home run in the third put the Cardinals out in front for good. The game didn't feel well and truly over, though, until the sad debacle of the fifth. Reliever Scott Feldman, for whom we can only feel sympathy at this point, walked Craig, hit Pujols, and, after a Berkman ground out, was asked to put Freese aboard to load the bases with two away. A bases-loaded walk -- which is totally the worst kind -- on a close pitch brought Craig home, Washington to the mound, and C. J. Wilson in from the 'pen. With his first pitch of the game, Wilson plunked Rafael Furcal to plate another run. It was brutal

And that was pretty much that. After the best thirty-one days of baseball in my lifetime, the St. Louis Cardinals walked away with their eleventh World Series championship, perhaps the unlikeliest of them all. Good for them. You can't help but feel for the Rangers, the first team to drop back-to-back World Series since the Atlanta Braves of 1991 and 1992. Ron Washington is getting absolutely murdered in the papers and on the blogs, fairly or not, and you've got to wonder if he'll even be back after this. But there's no reason to think the Rangers can't survive the odd free agent loss and remain the class of the AL West for the foreseeable future; and with their young talent coming to the fore this postseason, and with the Brewers about to take a step back, the Cardinals look like they're going to remain relevant for a long time, too, with or without Albert Pujols. It's not inconceivable that these two teams could end up here again in a couple of years. It's almost entirely inconceivable, though, that they would be able to put together a series like this again, a seven-game thriller that featured the best single-game World Series performance in a generation, and one of the strangest and most compelling games we've ever seen. 

This one was a honey. Baseball is awesome.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Cardinals 10, Rangers 9 (F/11): Greatest Bad Game, or Baddest Great Game?

Mike Napoli, seen here dying inside, would have been World Series  MVP
Only a few short hours after the utterly ridiculous conclusion of last night's mad game, it became clear that Game Six of the 2011 World Series had joined the pantheon, and taken its place alongside all the familiar candidates for greatest game in World Series history. I mean, as soon the late innings began to take their strange shape, I was pretty sure that this was the best World Series game since at least Game Seven in 1997, and probably since Game Seven in 1991, so it's not like I needed to have that impression confirmed by outside sources, but I was struck by how widespread the agreement was, especially for a non-New York, non-Boston game, and how quickly it all came out: last night, it would seem we all agree, we probably watched one of the greatest games, if not the greatest game, in the one-hundred-and-seven-year history of the World Series. How about that! 

And what a mess it was: five errors, including balls just straight-up dropped out there; Micheal Young's continued inability to field any of the positions he is asked to field (heck of a hitter, but a true futility infielder); Matt Holiday's amazing trick of dropping an easy fly ball in left and getting picked off of third base (on a great throw by Mike Napoli and a crafty block of the bag by Adrian Beltre) at what was, at time, a crucial moment in the game and injuring himself in the process, thereby requiring the Cardinals to use up a bench player who should have been available to pinch hit; Tony La Russa running out of bench players completely, and burning two pitchers in the same at-bat, an at-bat that ended with a sacrifice bunt that was popped up and could easily have been turned into a triple play had Beltre been a shade less aggressive in his charge from third; Josh Hamilton hitting a two-run home run, his first of the postseason, in extra innings after God told him he would (nice of him to check in!); Ron Washington somehow leaving Scott Feldman in there to pitch to Berkman, which went about as well as you might expect; and a dozen other crazy things you can revisit in Steve Gardner's estimable and workmanlike live blog.   

And of course there was David Freese, whose two-run triple with two strikes and two out in the bottom of the ninth tied the game, and whose solo shot to leadoff the eleventh won it. Should the wall-shy Nelson Cruz been able to make a play on that lined shot to right in the ninth? It looked tough but playable, that's for sure. Had he gone all out for it and missed, though, it could easily have gone for an inside-the-park home run, as Hamilton didn't seem to be backing the play up at all (Ian Kinsler probably had a better shot at it at second base, given the way it came off the wall). In the end it was fitting that it was Freese who tied and won it: earlier in the game, in the fifth, actually, a Josh Hamilton pop up bounced off of Freese's head and fell to the ground for an error. As went Jeff Freese's night, so went everybody's. There's been a lot of vague talk about theatre in the papers today, which we can probably narrow in on a little: the game started out as a baffling absurdist play where the suffering, though at times comic, seemed not just situational but existential, and it ended with Henry V-levels of righteous slaughter if you're the Cardinals and some serious gouge-your-eyes-out shit if you're not. I have thought that sentence over for exactly as long as it took to type it so I'm pretty sure it's completely right.

Anyway, to conclude: best game ever, man.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

why baseball is the game of the nerds

This was in my morning paper, written by Tom Boswell (the dad from Happy Days) about this year's World Series...

The best World Series develop their themes and isolate unexpected key protagonists as they progress organically.
And sadly enough, that makes sense to me - even though there's like three "intellectual douchebag" red flags contained within. Baseball truly is the ultimate sport for wasted genius.

Rangers 4, Cardinals 2: La Russa Manages Worst Game Anyone Can Remember, Millions LOL

"oh shit that one was like a foot outside bro also hold on I am throwing out yr dude  for a sec" -- Mike Napoli
Something that keeps getting said today is that we really shouldn't let the truly unbelievably historically bad managerial performance turned in by widely celebrated baseball genius/arrogant aggravating mushmouth Tony La Russa completely obscure the fact that Ron Washington made some awfully odd moves last night, too. But my position is that we should totally let that happen, absolutely. Should Wash have put the potential winning run on with an intentional walk? Did he really need to IBB Pujols three times? Should he be batting Mike Napoli eighth? The answer to all of those questions is almost certainly no, but none of those tactical mistakes -- if that's what they are (note: yes, that is what they are) -- come anywhere close to the Bryan Clutterbuck crafted by TLR's expert hand. It was, in short, a masterpiece.

Forget sac bunting in the third inning ahead of Albert Pujols, thereby taking the bat out of the hands of the finest hitter in baseball since the gone-too-soon retirement of the gloriously enhanced Barry Bonds; that's nothing compared to what would follow. Nothing. Nuh.Thing

The eighth inning is where it really started to go downhill. Somehow, the game was tied at two at this point, despite C. J. Wilson walking pretty much everybody, and Chris Carpenter having pitched as well as one could have reasonably expected, really. La Russa shut Carpenter down, and brought in Octavio "Don't Ask" Dotel, a move that, in the frenzy of disapproval that has swept through the baseball internet in the last twenty-four hours (even more than usual amount!), has itself come under scrutiny, but I have absolutely no problem with bringing Dotel in at that point, none at all. Just because Michael Young doubled to open the inning, that doesn't make Dotel the wrong pitcher to have gone to in that moment, you know? I would like to know how many people thought it was nuts to bring in Dotel at the moment he was brought in; it could not have been many. La Russa did enough wrong last night -- more, in fact, than any other manager in a high profile game in living memory -- that there's no reason to make up extra stuff, in my view. Let us be content with what we have.

Anyway: a leadoff double to Young, and Dotel answers back with a big strikeout of Adrian Beltre. Then, madness. La Russa orders an intentional walk of Nelson Cruz. Really, Tony, you don't want Dotel, who has been money as hell, to go after this right-handed batter? Seems kind of crazy to put another runner on in a game this tight in this situation with Dotel on the hill, but OK! La Russa had determined that it was Rzeppin' time (he gets on extra grind when it's when it's Rzeppin' time), and it almost worked out: David Murphy hit one right back to the mound, and an excellent play by Scrabble could have turned that grounder into two outs, but instead it ricocheted away and all hands were safe. 

So. Bases loaded, tie game, eighth inning, reliable lefty -- that's reliable lefty -- Mark Rzepcyznski on the mound, and slugging catcher Mike Napoli comes to the plate as one of the best lefty-mashers in baseball this season (as measured by both conventional and advanced lefty-mashing metrics). And La Russa is apparently fine with this. Fine with it! Inexplicably, right-handed fireballer Jason Motte is nowhere to be seen. I can't imagine what Rzepcyznski is thinking at this moment beyond "fuck." A lined double to centre later, the Rangers are ahead 4-2. Scrabble, who is a mensch, strikes out Mitch Moreland, and is at last pulled in favour of a right hander out of the bullpen, but it's not Motte; it's Lance Lynn, who everybody thought was unavailable for Game 5. He comes into the game, issues an intentional walk to Ian Kinsler (hell of a player), and is replaced, finally, by Motte. That's right: Tony La Russa brought in a reliever to issue an intentional walk, and then leave. The manager most responsible for the senseless shape of the modern bullpen, loathed by all who are -- quite tragically, really -- capable of loathing anyone over, you know, the shape of the modern bullpen, had finally taken things not just too far, not just beyond too far, but beyond beyond too far: he'd brought in a righty reliever to issue an IBB while another righty finished his warmup. The broadcasters were baffled. The internet was bubbling like the sea itself when Poseidon, its master, rides atop it in his golden chariot drawn by golden horses and bridled in their golden reins and whatnot (look it up). "Fuck's sake," I may have uttered aloud. 

After the game, La Russa would mumble an explanation about the wrong message being received in the bullpen: he'd asked for Motte to be warmed up alongside Rzepczynski, and it hadn't happened, etc. He'd asked for Motte twice, he claimed, and hadn't gotten him either time. This was not his fault, he made clear to us. Apparently Joe Sheehan, in his subscriber-only email newsletter that I totally meant to sign up for a couple weeks ago but didn't, strenuously made the case this morning that La Russa's story does not add up, and that he is not to be believed on any of this, and that may very well be. But I would argue that even if things unfolded exactly as La Russa claims they did, this situation is still utterly his fault. It's not the fault of his bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist, nor the fault of the bullpen phone (only days after the New York Times' piece on bullpen phones, last bastion of the land line!). It's La Russa's. And part of being the guy in charge is just going out and saying, "We didn't get the right guy out there. It's on me. We're going to get it right next time." Don't bring anybody else into it; don't even mention Lilliquist's name. Take responsibility for the situation that is obviously the manager's responsibility: which pitcher is on the mound. To do otherwise looks, just, so shitty. 

Nearly as shitty: sending Allen Craig with Albert Pujols at the plate, and running into ridiculously costly outs in the late innings of a tight game. Word is that Pujols put the hit-and-run on with a sign in the seventh, and that's a horrible call, but OK, you can't exactly pin that one on La Russa (although you can question how wise it is to allow players, even all-time great players, to be making tactical decisions like that at crucial moments -- is it true that Tim McCarver said Dick Groat had that privilege with the old Cardinals? I have read that he said it but I am not a man of FOX so I have to take it on faith). But sending Craig again in the ninth, when you're down by two, could not possibly make less sense. The word "literally" has of course taken on a figurative meaning in recent years, particularly on these very internets, but I mean it in its original and true sense when I say that there is literally no justification for sending Craig three-times in a row on that 3-2 count with Pujols batting, down by two with nobody out in the ninth. La Russa offered something about wanting to blow that inning open by starting the runner and reduce somewhat the chance of the double play, but this is absurd. It is simply absurd. Craig wasn't helped by Pujols reaching for a pitch probably a whole foot off the plate, but there is nothing about this play that allows you to say "interesting idea, poor execution." That's not what happened. This was poor execution of an idea so terrible that no one who watched it live will ever forget how awful it was. Whether you subscribe to the old school of baseball strategy or the new, whether you are pre- or post- Bill James, you instantly knew how crazy this was. There is no approach to the glorious game of baseball that allows anyone to rationalize any of these decisions. Because they are all awful.

It was the worst managerial performance in a World Series game in my lifetime. And it made me so happy.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cardinals 16, Rangers 7: I Think I Hate Narrative

guess where this one's going
So, after Game 2, which apparently St. Louis totally lost because Albert Pujols made a whisper of an error cutting a ball off on a bad throw from right in the ninth, Pujols, along with a couple of other Cardinals veterans, declined to speak with the media. This meant we were in for a couple of days of the dumbest possible stuff, if you are foolish enough to read the papers, which apparently I am. Here are the two things I learned about Albert Pujols in the last few days: (i) he is selfish, and (ii) he is definitely not a leader. These things we now know, because Albert Pujols did not make himself available to answer "how did it feel when you . . .?" questions after an awesome game where everybody should have had more than enough to write about. The biggest unanswered question coming out of all of this, in my view, has nothing to do with why Pujols misplayed the cutoff; it's why anybody would ever want to ask Pujols about anything in the first place, since he is amazingly uninteresting even by the lofty standard of uninteresting set by professional athletes. He's a proselytizing evangelical who is sure as can be that "everything happens for a reason," which is all well and good for him, I suppose, except that it means that there is only really one answer to every single question the man has ever been asked, and at this point we've heard it. "Albert, talk about [thing that occurred in a baseball game]," he is invariably asked, to which he reliably replies, "Well, everything happens for a reason and [brushes off rest of question]." And that's fine. I don't care that he's a bad interview. I don't care that he espouses a worldview that I do not share or that he spoke at Glenn Beck's big stupid thing. None of that matters to me in the least for one simple reason, and that reason is dingers (or, if you prefer, taters); he hits them, and they are awesome. 

And last night, of course, Pujols dingers were in glorious abundance, but it is clear that we are not going to be allowed to just enjoy those dingers qua dingers, but instead as part of a narrative unfolding between Albert Pujols and the media, in which media members themselves now get to be part of the story, which seems to run like this: "Albert Pujols was silent after his decisive error in Game 2, but his big bat spoke volumes to us last night and answered many of the questions we had about him and so maybe he is indeed a leader of some kind even though we were sure a minute ago that he wasn't and that he was instead a fraud of some type PS this is still totally about us." Please note that in the previous sentence I am at once quoting both nobody and everybody. Even my main man (well, he is certainly among my mainest of men) Dan Shulman couldn't avoid this kind of nonsense last night on the ESPN Radio broadcast, which was a little dispiriting (though I will not hold it against him, and in fairness he did preface the matter a couple of times with words along the lines of "not everybody will care about any of this, but . . ."). Anyway, there's nothing interesting here, really. I don't know why I'm carrying on. Sportswriters have long been the worst; they continue to be the worst; here they are being the worst, etc. 

But hey, how about Albert Pujols! Before last night, nobody in World Series history had ever had four hits, two home runs, and five runs batted in the same game. Pujols, last night, went 5-6 with 3 HR and 6 RBI. The only other players to ever hit three home runs in a single World Series game are of course Babe Ruth, who did it twice, and Reggie Jackson with his cool glasses and earflapless batting helmet, as well you know. It was easily the most amazing single-game World Series performance by a batter in my lifetime, and it totally felt that way while it was going on. It was still totally a game until Pujol's three-run shot in the sixth, too: 8-6 is workable, whereas 11-6 is entirely not. So while this was not Jackson's three home runs on three pitches in a 4-3 game, it wasn't an utterly empty three-homer World Series game (if such a thing is even conceivable). And fourteen total bases? Totally a record (wordplay).

Hey, you know who had an awful night? Mike Napoli: a swipe tag at first that should have been a double play had Ron Kulpa not missed it (great call on the Kinsler slide in Game 2; horrible call here), a two-run throwing error, and thrown at the plate (click here to see that play, and watch the clip all the way through to see Ron Washington, like gallop in sympathy and anticipation). That sucks.   

Finally, tremendous propers to ESPN Radio's Bobby Valentine, who mentioned early on, when Pujols was hitting but lowly singles, that Albert looked totally dialed in and was right on the ball. Valentine was of the opinion that sooner or later, Pujols was probably going to hit one out last night. Good eye, Bobby V!


Friday, October 21, 2011

Rangers 2, Cardinals 1: While It Is Never Appropriate To Bite One's Nails, There Were Extenuating Circumstances Here In My View

You've got that right, second base umpire Ron Kulpa!
I loved this game, loved it. Good pitching and even better defense (especially up the middle by Kinsler and Andrus) kept things scoreless until the bottom of the seventh, when the Cardinals eked out a run on an Allen Craig pinch hit off of Alexi Ogando (if this sounds familiar to you, this is with good reason). In the top of the ninth, the gloriously bearded Jason Motte came on in Scrabble's place, and got in trouble immediately: Ian Kinsler, who is in fact one hell of a player, singled on a ball barely pushed out of the infield. Kinsler then stole second despite a pretty much perfect throw by Yadier Molina, and I kind of can't believe Ron Kulpa got the call right: it was a tough one at a crucial moment in the game, and he was not swayed by the incredibly engaged crowd, so good for him. When Elvis Andrus singled up the middle, moving Kinsler to third, Andrus took second on a missed cutoff by Albert Pujols, who was charged with an error on the play, which I totally understand, because you have to account for that extra base, but yikes, that's a tough one. I must admit to having been a little surprised that La Russa pulled Motte and went to Arthur Rhodes at this point -- maybe leave Motte in and walk Josh Hamilton? I don't know. But what I should know is that Tony La Russa will take every opportunity to make a pitching change, so I should not have been surprised. Anyway, sac fly Hamilton, sac fly Micheal Young, and that was that. Neftali Feliz made things a bit worrisome with a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth, but it was, in the end, no trouble. 

A couple of other photographs before I take my leave of you. First, there is sad Jason Motte:

And a couple of images from Game One that I have been slow to attend to, both of which have come to me by way of the Getting Blanked blog. First, a closed caption for the ages:

Finally, we've got Wash throwing some BP.

I honestly had no idea what was going on under Ron Washington's cap and frankly I am frightened.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cardinals 3, Rangers 2: So I heard you liked pitching changes

Adrian Beltre feels that he fouled the ball of his foot in the ninth; home plate umpire Jerry Layne  is of the view that he grounded ineffectually to third.
A heck of a game! Admittedly, ten pitchers is kind of a lot, but I was feeling this one nevertheless, possibly because of a nasty case of World Series Fever that I seem to have contracted. Lots of little "well, that's baseball" moments in this one, not the least of which was Lance Berkman's two-run single in the fourth that chopped its way over first: he barely touched the thing, and yet, baseball. Mike Napoli got a little more of the two-run shot he hit to the opposite field in the next inning, and so we were knotted (as they say) at two when pinch hitter Allen Craig knocked in the go-ahead run off of Alexi Ogando in the sixth. The ball was just out of Nelson Cruz's sliding reach, and were it not for a kick-save-and-a-beauty stop with his left foot, that's probably a triple.

From there, it was bullpens bullpens bullpens, which, I mean, get used to it.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Collapse of the Red Sox, As Explained By Taiwanese News Animation

sooo fat
It would be a stretch to say that this is the best thing to come out of Boston's historically awesome September collapse: that title would probably go to Red Sox majority owner John Henry's completely ill-advised impromptu appearance on Boston's 98.5, The Sports Hub. Have you seen this, have you heard about this? Henry had been driving around listening to a couple of sports radio guys pore over the Boston Globe's impressively thorough muckraking account of Red Sox Activities Unbecoming of Sportsmen, basically, and he'd had enough. Henry showed up at the station, and took the hosts to task for over an hour. For the most part, he was as composed and articulate as you would expect John Henry to be, but he also managed to make a pretty enormous ass of himself when the radio guys (who arguably have names, but whatever) suggested that all the money spent on player contracts last off-season was more about public relations than baseball operations, that those decisions were directed by ownership, not by the recently departed Theo Epstein. Henry said that was a crazy idea -- and he's right, it totally is -- but to show just how crazy an idea that was, he said that he "personally opposed" the Carl Crawford signing, for example. To which one can only lol. One can only lol.

So yeah, that's the best thing to come out of all of this, but this is probably second best:


Washington, Washington

from left to right: cocaine, Ron Washington, Josh Hamilton
Because the medium through which we are communicating with one another is the internet, you are already well familiar with the original, and so why belabour it? Here is another one. Enjoy.

Furthermore . . .

In summation, if, when thinking about this year's World Series, you even for a second prefer Tony La Russa to Ron Washington, you are incorrect.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Cardinals 12, Brewers 6: Uecklear Holocaust

Everything in this picture other than Jason Motte's beard: contemptible.
Another brutal drubbing ends another League Championship Series with extreme prejudice. This is a shame. We all knew Shawn Marcum has been kind of awful for a while now, but I don't think anyone could have expected that he'd end his season with a four-run first and be replaced in the second. Nobody else really fared all that much better, so even though the Brewers managed to momentarily club their way back in it with two homers in a three-run second, this one started a laugher and finished a laugher. Unless you were Bob Uecker, in which case you sounded so sad.

I am with these guys.

Also this guy.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rangers 15, Tigers 5: Neil I Am So Sorry

Clearly there's no good way to lose game six of the American League Championship Series and end your season, but taking an early two-run lead only to go behind for good after a fourteen-batter, nine-run raging, vengeful butt of a third inning has got to be among the worst possible ways. Let it be said that I have absolutely nothing against the Texas Rangers: Jon Daniels has put together an impressive roster of largely non-contemptible guys who can hit, pitch, and catch the ball. The Rangers have gone long enough in their history as winners of absolutely nothing that it is entirely acceptable that they are now a team with back-to-back pennants and a great shot against whoever emerges from the NLCS (almost certainly the loathsome Cardinals, regrettably). Nelson Cruz hit six home runs in this series, which is bananas, and is rightly rewarded with victory. 

But it is really hard not to like the Tigers, even in the abstract, when all you're thinking about is that beautiful park, or those truly classic uniforms, or your childhood memories of Detroit being the great natural rival to your beloved Blue Jays (clearly I am writing in the mode in which "you" equates to "me" and either you are in or you are out, baby). That's a lot of affection before you even get to the particulars of, say, Miguel Cabrera, greatest baseball drunk of his generation, or Justin Verlander, game fireballer struggling to recover his unstoppable midseason form, or Jim Leyland, oldest and smokiest man to ever live. 

I will miss these 2011 Tigers of Detroit. With regard to their thrilling dispatching of the New York Yankees, I thank them for their service. With regard to Neil, let us pray for him in this time of loss and sorrow.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cardinals 7, Brewers 1: A Butt

You and me both Zack Greinke; you and me both.
Let's be real here: this game was a butt. Greinke didn't have it, and neither did anybody behind him, really -- I am thinking here of the four fielding errors on the night -- and the end result was a slow, methodical drubbing. The St. Louis starters continue to be ungreat, but the bullpen has been lights-out, so the Brewers have derived little benefit of late from this ungreatness. I don't know, man, this one feels over. Yes, we're headed back to Milwaukee, where the Brewers have been utterly ridiculous all year, but they've got Shawn Marcum on the hill tomorrow night, and he's been brutal for more than a month now. I heard him on the radio a few minutes ago being asked about getting knocked around pretty good of late, and whether or not that was something that was particularly on his mind as he gets ready to pitch tomorrow night. He answered that getting knocked around is nothing new to him, since he pitched in the AL East (I can verify that what Shawn Marcum described totally happened).

Just . . . I don't know.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Brewers 4, Cardinals 2: He Truly Was a Randy Wolf Out There

In there, imo.
Hands up, everybody who expected Randy Wolf to pitch seven innings of six-hit, two-run ball last night? The observant reader will note that my hand is not currently up. But good job, Randy Wolf! You were totally the most important of guys last night. The most exciting of guys, however, was Jerry Hairston, who was the lucky recipient of many of my wife's All-Star votes over the years based solely on what she rightly deemed his funny name, and who last night proved himself capable of pretty tremendous slides.  

Also, I don't think we've made enough of John Axford's tremendous look around here. I mean: 

Simcoe, Ontario's own!
And finally, the whole "Beast Mode" thing is probably a little less than awesome, to be perfectly honest, but what if it were a message expressed to you by a brassy lady in classic Brewers pinstripes with a homemade sign amid a sea of sad Cardinals fans?

This lady is like "Eat it, Cards," and I respect that
It would be at least a little better, right?


Tigers 7, Rangers 5: Baseball Is The Weirdest

Home Run King Delmon Young
If Adrian Beltre had gotten around on Justin Verlander's 102 MPH fastball the merest fraction of a second earlier with two on and two out in the fifth inning, and curled it just inside the foul pole down the right field line rather than just outside it, the Tigers are probably finished for the season. If, in the bottom of the sixth, Miguel Cabrera's tailor-made (like, we are talking bespoke) double play grounder hadn't bounced off of third base itself and hopped over the head of the sure-handed Beltre, the Tigers would not have hit for the first natural cycle in postseason history, capped by Delmon Young (of all people)'s second home run of the day. But all of these things happened, because baseball is the weirdest. And also the best! 

Jim Leyland came into the game saying there would be no Benoit and no Valverde, so it was going to be almost entirely up to Justin Verlander, who had not yet been sharp in this postseason. But Verlander lasted a borderline heroic 133 pitches, packing it in midway through the eighth inning, after Nelson Cruz hit a two-run shot, his record fifth home run of the ALCS. Phil Coke made things somewhat ticklish in relief, but nevertheless sealed the deal, which is all that can be asked of Phil Coke in my view.

And so now it's back to Texas, and while I've kind of got a bad feeling about this, I also kind of can't wait.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rangers 7, Tigers 3 (F/11): Rangers Cruz to Another Eleven-Inning Win Amirite?

Bless you and your two-RBI double Miguel Cabrera but it was not enough :(
To begin, let us all acknowledge that Rick Porcello did a great job, as did Alburquerque and Benoit in relief. And let's hear it for Brandon Inge, whose solo shot tied the game in the seventh. But man, Nelson Cruz; what can you say. Between throwing out Cabrera by a mile to end the eighth, and hitting the three-run home run that put the game out of reach in the eleventh -- his second eleventh-inning home run in as many nights -- that's just a hell of a game. Sure, nobody wants to get picked off first to end the top of the ninth in a tie game, but I am reasonably confident that nobody will remember that or care at all. 

And now a couple of pictures from the rain delay.


Cardinals 4, Brewers 3: I Do Not Want These St. Louis Cardinals To Win However I Fear They Will

Time to get paid / Blow up like the World Trade
A four-run first -- everybody loves doubles! -- was all the Cardinals needed last night, even though Chris Carpenter was not quite in three-hit-the-Phillies form. The St. Louis bullpen pitched four no-hit innings and didn't even so much as allow at dang walk the rest of the way, and the whole game kind of had this aspect about it:

Why does this series feel like it's over even though the Cards are only up 2-1? I hate that it feels that way.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011


He will no doubt do a fine job.

Hasn't this Red Sox collapse been the best, though? The Boston Globe has a thoroughly indignant piece about it all as you might expect. In recent weeks there have in fact be several! However, what really makes this one is the following:

Boston’s three elite starters went soft, their pitching as anemic as their work ethic. The indifference of Beckett, Lester, and Lackey in a time of crisis can be seen in what team sources say became their habit of drinking beer, eating fast-food fried chicken, and playing video games in the clubhouse during games while their teammates tried to salvage a once-promising season.
Which is awesome.


Tigers 5, Rangers 2: Miguel Cabrera Continues To Be The Best

Pickin' machine
It's not that he's the only one who had a great night for Detroit: Doug Fister pitched an admirable and vital seven-and-a-third; swift Ajax struck three hits in the leadoff spot; Victor Martinez homered on a swing that clearly injured him; and Jhonny Peralta overcame the handicap of a perplexingly spelled name to add a solo shot of his own. But Miguel Cabrera, with his RBI double, towering home run, and fine diving stop in the ninth, was the man of the hour, because he is the man of every hour, because he is the finest fat drunk to play the game in at least a generation. Neil has already told you everything you need to know, think, and feel about Miguel Cabrera, so I won't belabour the point, but we love him. You should too, if you don't already. Love him more because of his failings, not less. Miguel Cabrera. Love him. 

Also, here is a rad picture of Yoshinori Tateyama sidewinding one in there! 

Ty Cobb predates both (i) numbers and (ii) not hating all races. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cardinals 12, Brewers 3: Albert Pujols, Ladies and Gentlemen

Albert Pujols seen here looking insufficiently pleased with himself
Albert Pujols probably thinks it's cute that Ryan Braun is hitting .500 in the playoffs, but Pujols is hitting .556 now after last night's 4-5 with a home run and three fucking doubles. Poor Shaun Marcum, who just looks worn out, totally out of gas. I don't even know, man, this game was brutal. Let's just spend the off-day thinking about sausage races and reconvene tomorrow.