Monday, February 28, 2011

The Man, The Myth, The Nutting.

Would you buy a used ballplayer from this man?

Bob Nutting. The mention of his very name causes the blood of most Pirates fans to reach a boil not seen outside of Mount Saint Helens. It's easy to see why, he has a face that looks like a cat's asshole and he's the main guy in charge of the franchise with the longest losing streak in sports. His last name coincides with what a lot of fans think his family does all over the legacy of a once proud team. What's worse is that he's like a bizarro world Dan Snyder with all of the dickishness and none of the crazy spending. Funny thing, is that if the Pirates ever become respectable he's going to be the man responsible for it.

A little perspective on the history of Pirates ownership is in order here. The team was owned for forty years by John Galbreath, a wealthy commercial developer. From 1945 to 1985 he was in charge, becoming the first owner to sign a million dollar contract (to Dave Parker in 1979) but two things spelled the end for his ownership. The first was that John was in his late 80s, and the second being the Federal drug trials that largely centered on the Pirates. There was a real fear that the team would move, and a group of Pittsburgh businessmen bought the team and ran the show for ten years. Oddly it proved to be not that bad of an arrangement, since the team's business was run by the GM in charge instead of the gaggle of civic leaders who by and large didn't know shit about baseball and just didn't want the team to leave. However the time came where the group of leaders wanted to sell to someone who actually wanted to own a baseball team, and that's where the Troubles began.

Kevin McClatchy was presented as the primary owner of the team in 1996, but it became clear soon that the one really calling the shots was one Ogden Nutting. A newspaper magnate from West Virginia, Ogden is an old rich guy who also owns Seven Springs ski resort and is more or less an IRL Monty Burns. It's been speculated that he just wanted to own a professional team for the bragging rights and the Pirates were the cheapest ones on the market. The team did its best to convince the public that McClatchy was the HNIC, but even he became frustrated at the constant losing, which made it clear he was nothing more than the Darth Vader for Emperor Ogden. What's worse, is by all accounts he was an absentee landlord. Stories abound of McClatchy and various GMs more or less pleading with Ogden to do something, anything, to build a winning team but were given the brush off. The Nutting family became synonymous with the worst kind of bad owner: the one who doesn't even give a shit that their team's a laughingstock.

Enter son Bob Nutting. His reasons for taking over weren't entirely selfless, he's embarrassed his family name has become such a source of frustration and failure, and he wants to change that as much as he does to make a winning team. He's responded to calls to sell the team with saying he plans to have his kids inherit it, so if anything he wants to make sure his kids don't see their birthright as the World's Unfunniest Gag Gift. Bob bought enough shares to become primary owner in 2007 and quickly told McClatchy and his witless GM Dave Littlefield to get the fuck out in short order. He actually understands how teams like his need to compete, from within. The Pirates have actually spent more money in the draft than any other team the last few years. The minor league system that once made a nuclear wasteland look lush by comparison now has several prospects on the top 100 list. He's giving every impression that he's actually trying to improve the team, but everyone still hates him.

Why is a guy who's taking on the task of turning around the most wayward team in sports still not liked by the fans? Some of it is his fault and some is out of his control. The Pirates have not only had their own bad luck, they have to share their city with two of the most popular teams in US sports. Those teams are also owned by two of the most popular people in Pittsburgh, so whoever owns the Pirates is going to look like an asshole by comparison. What hurts Nutting is that he has all the social skills of the 40 year old virgin he appears to be. He very rarely makes public appearances or speaks out, sending team President Frank Coonelly or GM Neal Huntington instead. On one hand that's for the better since those two are far better public speakers than he is, on the other it makes him look like the same uninterested douchnozzle his dad was.

That's a lot of what it boils down to, Bob Nutting for all he's doing is really bad at PR. A team like this should be promoting the shit out of the efforts they make trying to produce homegrown talent, but instead he went out and got himself somewhat misquoted to make it appear he said the opposite of Coonelly when Frank answered the ever present payroll question by (correctly) stating the team couldn't afford to go out and double their payroll until they convince the fans they have a product worth supporting. Bob went out and completely ham-handed the same question and now all the SPORTZ BLAWGZ~! here are foaming with rage over "Bob blames the fans for low payroll". He really didn't, but it's so easy to hate the guy it's almost not even worth correcting everyone.

A lot of Pirates fans don't like that I don't share their rage for the Nuttings, and think if you don't storm PNC Park with fire and pitchforks you're somehow an apologist or on their payroll (ironic since their main argument is that they don't pay anyone!). I prefer to consider myself more a realist. The guy's said many times he's not going to sell the team ever. The dreams of a multi-million/billionaire waltzing in and suddenly putting the Pirates on par with the Yankees and Phils just isn't going to happen. It's just better for your own mental well being to just accept the ownership you have and hope one day they can field a respectable team. They tried the approach to spend a lot in advance and hope the revenue follows, that didn't work and it resulted in huge losses that caused trades like Aramis Ramirez for a bag of baseballs to take place.

What Pirates fans need to accept is the only way this is ever going to turn around is the way they're trying to do it now. If that fails, then it's time to storm the castle.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cabrera Will Debut Monday as a DH.

There is a certain hilarity in Miguel Cabrera making his first appearance this year as a Designated anything.

Tigers 4, Blue Jays 0; Miguel Cabrera presumably off his tits

"Florida Auto Exchange Field of Dreams" would be nicer
Conventional wisdom on spring training is that you spend all winter being like come on come on come on spring training, and then once it gets here, for the first week of it you're like come on come on come on let's get some games going, and then as soon as the games start, you're like come on come on come on let's get to the regular season already this is nonsense.  There is I guess a degree of truth to that, but actually spring training games are kind of awesome.  Take today's Grapefruit League debut for both the Blue Jays and the Tigers, a 4-0 Tigers win. Pretty unremarkable, right? You look at the box score with nobody doing anything particularly cool: no home runs, no triples, everybody pitched fine (except Jesse Carlson I guess) but not like a million Ks or anything.  But exactly fifty people played today.  Fifty!  In a baseball game! Isn't that a lot? Also there were two double plays and even though I am now almost thirty-two years old, I find literally every double play to be neat.  Literally every one. Also, look at Brett Cecil's cool glasses:

Brett Cecil has cool glasses
See?  A fine start to the season boys, keep it up. 


Friday, February 25, 2011

Miguel Cabrera

Just look at him. How can you not love this man?

When I first signed on to be a part of the Baseball Feelings experience (and oh what an experience it is, complete with fire eating circus clowns, Indian peyote rituals and the best part – daily massages from Kendall’s strong hands) I intended to just post pictures after every game and maybe occasionally scribble a stray thought or two – and this is still largely my intention – which is an extremely minimalist approach for someone like me. After all, those of you who have followed my tales of woe at Armchair Linebacker, where I write about the Lions, know that I have a tendency to, uh, be a little wordy. I decided to do something different for Baseball Feelings as much out of self-preservation than anything else, largely because I knew that attempting to actually write about the Tigers with any sort of regularity would drag me quickly down an insane road of wild gibbering and stupid rage, and shit, the Lions play once a week while the Tigers play every damn day, and if you want me to be found wandering down the highway in a daze missing my pants, covered in my own blood, speaking in tongues, attempting to fornicate with cars as they whiz by me then by all means, encourage me to start staggering down that brutal hellroad. But, right now, the plan remains relatively unchanged. Sure, occasionally I might pop in with a few paragraphs about Cecil Fielder being awesome and I will regularly rant and rave in the comments section, but for the most part, I will let the thousand words of a picture tell the story.

But . . . but . . . then Miguel Cabrera was arrested for drunk driving only days after I posted a little excerpt from Yahoo sportswriter Jeff Passan which said that Cabrera would be well worth the $106 million he’s owed if he doesn’t get fat and stays sober, which . . . yeah. Immediately, I knew that a mere picture wouldn’t suffice and I promised my fellow Baseball Feelings sufferers that I would write something about it. And so here we are. Of course, this is shamefully late for a couple of reasons. One, I have been busy with various things, including writing stuff that people actually give me money for, so I’ve been putting this off and putting this off until I felt like I could devote the proper time and mental energy to it, and two, this story deserves my best because it is complicated and the Baseball Feelings it inspires are contradictory and strange and so I knew that I would have to take some time to wrap my head around it all. And I’m still not sure that I have.

The thing about this story is that it both made me kinda hate that Miguel Cabrera is a Detroit Tiger and it made me love that Miguel Cabrera is a Detroit Tiger. Actually, let me rephrase that a bit: it made me kinda hate that Miguel Cabrera is a Detroit Tiger because he is a fat drunk who is owed $106 million, which makes him the highest paid player in baseball who doesn’t call New York home, and it made me love that Miguel Cabrera is a Detroit Tiger because he’s a fat drunk who’s owed $106 million.

Perhaps that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but let me explain. You see, I can identify with a man like Miguel Cabrera. I like to cheer for him. The dude just wants to get shitfaced and have a good time. I can relate. Sure, people will mewl like idiot babies and bray like jackasses about how he is setting a bad example for the kids, but to hell with the kids, you know? I am not a kid. I am a grown man and I don’t need some shithead athlete to set examples for me. If your kid now thinks it’s cool to get shitfaced and drive around for a while just because Miguel Cabrera did then your kid is a damn idiot and you should have just drowned him in the bathtub as soon as he exhibited signs of said idiocy.

I love cheering for fat drunks and inveterate degenerates. They are the dudes I want to see win. You see, I am quite capable of blending in with the, uh, let’s call it the square world for lack of a better term. I can button up and shake hands and drink tea with Lord Tightass before a friendly game of croquet. But that doesn’t erase the wild eyed rebel streak which is a fundamental part of me. I can laugh at Lord Tightass’s banal jokes and I can sip his tepid tea and I can admire his collection of antique cat figurines that he bought during his business trip to Southeast Asia and I can listen to him yammer on about how it surprised him that they are actually people and not just little yellow devils and I’ll laugh as he recounts story after story about what they served for breakfast at the hotel or about how he almost got hit by a dude riding a bicycle and how it shook him up so much that he had to go back to his hotel and watch Seinfeld reruns dubbed in Thai, but the whole time I will be waiting for him to get to the part about balling hookers and then running from an angry pimp naked through the streets of Bangkok but it will never come and I will get restless and bored and have to restrain myself from getting shitfaced and pissing all over his figurines and then fucking his wife and then beating him to death with a croquet mallet.

That is the side of me that wants to cheer for a fat drunk like Miguel Cabrera. The story of him having an open bottle of whiskey in the car and continuing to drink it even while the cops questioned him made me giddy. Yeah, that’s my boy! Fuck Lord Tightass! I will cheer for Miguel Cabrera until the end of time just because of that.

But then I remember that when Miguel gets fat and drunk his play starts to slip and then the selfish fan part of me who doesn’t give a shit about anything other than winning or losing starts to get nervous and starts to curse Miguel out for not being able to stay sober and thin. What can I say? I am a complicated man. I love Miguel Cabrera the dude. I want that Miguel Cabrera to be a fat drunk who gets wild and has to be thrown out of clubs and who chugs whiskey in front of the cops while they attempt to shove a breathalyzer in his mouth. That dude is of my tribe and he has the heart of a warrior. But I want Miguel Cabrera the baseball player to be sober and thin and I don’t want him to do anything else but take batting practice and hit home runs and win the Triple Crown.

I feel comfortable around a man like Miguel Cabrera. I can talk to him. There’s no bullshit, no pretense. He’ll tell me that story about running from an angry pimp naked through the streets of Bangkok. He isn’t conquered by stupid shame. He doesn’t let other people convince him that he should be something different. He doesn’t think “I shouldn’t do this because it might make some uptight dude in Grand Rapids uncomfortable.” He is who he is and he’s good with that. Fuck everything else. It’s not about being a fat drunk or a fuck up or anything like that. I don’t care if that’s who you are or if you just like to chill at home and watch movies and play board games. Do your thing as long as it’s what you want to do, and not because it’s what you feel like you’re supposed to do. Lord Tightass, meanwhile, smiles and says and does all the right things and then he goes home and beats his wife and cuts himself before beating off to tranny porn and then crying himself to sleep at night. Fuck him. He probably has a whole stack of Mickey Mantle cards in his attic.

But I don’t give a shit what kind of a dude you are when you’re on the field. I just want you to hit the ball, make a few plays in the field and win the damn game. You can be a piece of shit or you can be the most awesome man in the world. I don’t care. If you can kick ass for me, then I will ignore everything else. But that cuts both ways, you know? If you are stumbling around and your bat speed is just a touch slower because you are hungover and that means that you just struck out and cost me the feeling of celebrating a division title then fuck you, pal. I like you, but goddammit, my Baseball Feelings are childish and selfish and they only care about what you can do for me.

Look, Babe Ruth was a fat drunk and he was awesome. If you can do both then I will love you forever and will hold you up as the pinnacle of humanity. If you can’t, then I will want to hang out with you but I will also secretly hope that you get your shit together so that I can watch you morph into a Terminator on the field. It all comes down to this: If Miguel Cabrera can hit like, well, like Miguel Cabrera even though he is taking shots in the dugout and pissing in Jim Leyland’s bag in the locker room, then shit, have another one, Miguel. But if it causes him to get sloppy and hit like a mere mortal, then goddammit, someone hide the bottle from him and get him a gym membership. That is selfish and kind of shameful, but to hell with all that, there are baseball games to be won. This is important shit.

I guess what I have to do is separate Miguel Cabrera the person from Miguel Cabrera the ballplayer. I don’t really want to. What I really want is to be able to cheer for him and then encourage him to go out and get hammered. I don’t want to have to scream and cry and demand that he get sober because that would make me feel ashamed of myself and I would always feel a little bad that I had to destroy the man’s spirit in order to get my way as a baseball fan. But the thing is, is that I know that I will be watching a game in July and Miguel Cabrera will strike out and then without even thinking about it, I will curse him for being a fat drunk. It will happen. Like I said, I am a complicated man, but these are complicated times and none of us can afford to be simple men or lady men.

Right now, I like this team. And by that, I mean I like the dudes on this team. Miguel Cabrera got shitfaced, went for a drive and then drank whiskey out of the bottle while the cops hassled him. I want that guy on my team. Yeah, yeah, public safety, blah blah blah, think of the children, etc., but the wild eyed rebel in me identifies with that and screams fuck yeah and throws up the metal horns. Fuck the man, Miguel. That is childish and stupid and incredibly immature and there is a side of me that recognizes that, but I would be a liar if I tried to deny that it was there and I would end up hating myself if I tried to stomp on it and I would be secretly ashamed of myself if I wagged an angry finger at Miguel Cabrera just because I was supposed to. Other people are demanding that he be traded now because he’s more trouble than he’s worth but fuck that noise. It just makes me want him to be a Tiger even more than I did the day before. And it’s just not him. Joel Zumaya is another fat drunk who can throw a baseball really, really hard. He’s a huge fuckup and he gets hurt all the time but that’s the sort of dude I am preconditioned to root for, you know? And then there’s Joe Dimagglio (What’s up, Mrs. KS?), who honestly believes that his ability is tied to the length of his hair, like he’s Samson or Ric Flair or Keri Russell. I would be psyched to spend a week or two just hanging out with Cabrera, Zumaya and Maggs. I just want them to be paid week to week. That’s all.

In the end, I hope Miguel Cabrera hits 70 home runs this year, hits .450 and then gets shitfaced and rides a dirtbike around the diamond after hitting the game winning home run in the 7th game of the World Series. I hope he pops a wheelie at second base, crashes, staggers back to his feet laughing and then he pulls Jim Leyland’s wife out of the crowd, gets her all liquored up and the two of them ride off into the sunset, him steering with his dick because he’s got a bottle of Jack in one hand and an American flag in the other and her laughing and topless, shaking her tits and rubbing up against Miguel while her husband stands at home plate and smokes the contents of an entire R.J. Reynolds factory, happy to share his lady because Miguel is just that great a man. That’s Miguel Cabrera’s American dream right there, and since this is the land of opportunity, the place where dreams come true, and since baseball is the most iconic of all American games, I say that this is what must happen. Call me an idealist, but I won’t be ashamed when I am wiping away tears and I won’t be surprised when this replaces Field of Dreams as the ultimate American baseball story.

I’m not sure how to end this, but that’s because I don’t want to. I want to revel in a world where Miguel Cabrera is a fat drunk and Superman. I don’t want him to have to choose and I’m afraid that as soon as I’m done writing this, I will have to come to terms with the fact that he will have to choose. And I think that’s what makes me saddest of all about this story. In my dreams, a man can have it all. But reality is cold and cruel and mean and the real world makes a man like Miguel Cabrera sober up and it makes him go to A.A. meetings and I guess I know that my choice is to either cheer for a fat drunk who I know will let down the fan part of me or I can cheer for a soulless machine who reads the Bible before he goes to bed alone every night after drinking a glass of milk and calling his sponsor which makes me legitimately sad, but I know that he will make the fan part of me happy, and . . . and . . . none of us should have to make that choice. And yet, here we are and that’s why even after pouring my heart out here, I am still not entirely sure how I feel. And that’s why this story is both awesome and why it really, really sucks.


San Francisco Giants players take batting practice next to a sign commemorating their World Championship at the team's spring training baseball facility in Scottsdale, Ariz.  This caption is perfect as-is. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

We're about four hours from the first San Francisco Giants spring training game of 2011. I don't know whether it will be broadcast on the KNBR website, or on XM, or if it's only on that scam*, but I have a hunch that it probably won't be shown on TV here in the backwoods of Los Angeles.

It's a hell of a thing. The Giants will be starting a mix of World Series Champion stars and Aaron Rowand, and Lincecum will be starting on the hill for an inning or two. It's terribly exciting. Look at that picture up there! The San Francisco Giants won the World Series last year. THEY DID THAT. At this time last year, they were expected to finish third or fourth in the division.

Spring training and 2011 baseball opens here and expands before us, people. Will Mark De Rosa's wrist disintegrate when he fields his first short-hop? Will Pablo Sandoval's girdle burst open at an inopportune time, revealing that he fooled us all during the offseason? Will Jonathan Sanchez be the new and improved Jonathan Sanchez from the first 150 games of 2010, or will he turn into Todd Wellemeyer, Part 2? There's so much we don't know.

I will certainly try to catch as much spring training as I can. Hopefully Buster "What it is Right Now" Posey and Brandon "The Risen Christ" Belt will knock the cover off the ball and make everyone else on the team look like a pile of Aaron Rowands. Whatever the case, go Giants!

And more importantly, go baseball. Go baseball.

For just a second there, I think I kind of got being a Yankees fan, but then I stopped caring

I know it's been years but I don't man I just love that picture.
I'm not an especially virulent Yankees hater.  I don't take a particularly strong stance against the Yankees, as stances against the Yankees go.  I do, however, have a lot of problems with Yankees fans.  Not the completely legitimate, from New York, cradle-to-the-grave Yankees fans, because, well, fine.  And I'll give an exemption to anyone with a plausible family tie to Yankees fandom, even, as in, ok you're from wherever but your grandmother from upstate New York is a Yankees fan and you love your grandmother, ok, I get that, fine.  But the Yankees fan of convenience is basically the most loathsome of creatures, in that they have essentially chosen to support power for the sake of power.  It is not inherently fascistic to be a Yankee or to be born a Yankees fan, but it is a clear expression of a totalitarian mind to have willingly and consciously chosen to be a Yankees fan.  You will find me pretty unshakable on this point.

But I work with a guy who I totally like who is also a Yankees fan.  A bit of a tricky case, because he's from Atlantic Canada, and so naturally one would think Blue Jays, except that he's older than that, so you'd think Expos, except he's not, so you'd think Red Sox (we are part of their black out zone, as part of Major League Baseball's plans for nobody to see the teams they could potentially like), but no, Yankees.  I suppose you could just say, well, if everybody around him grew up Red Sox fans, which is entirely plausible, maybe Yankees as a kind of youthful contrarianism or something?  I don't know, I really like this guy, he's great, so I kind of let it slide.  Anyway, me and this other guy -- a third guy, who is actually now a wandering, mournful, teamless Expos fan, and you would know this instantly just by the look on his face whenever he talks about baseball, which is a lot  -- were getting pretty worked up about the prospect of another awesome baseball season, and this Yankees fan friend of ours just wasn't (baseball) feeling it, and we asked why.  "No pitching this year.  No chance."  

And yeah, the Yankees starting five is really a starting two, and unless some 2001 Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling scenario plays out, this will not necessarily be the awesomest of years to be a Yankees fan.  But do you think they'll win less than 90 games?  I'd totally be surprised. But that might only get them third place, though, and you hear it all the time but it's really true: if the Yankees don't win the World Series, that season is truly a failure, because what's the excuse?  They have absolutely no disadvantages, and every conceivable advantage.  So if you're a Yankees fan, and they go on nearly a decade-long dry spell like they totally, totally did between 2000 and 2009, that's absolute misery.  Because there's nobody to blame, nobody external.  The only reason the Yankees ever lose is that they did at least one thing and probably many things horribly wrong.  There is a potential for self-loathing and recrimination in Yankees fandom that I think is probably singular in all of sports, and I honestly felt at least for a moment that it is a misery not to be wished on anyone.

Then I thought about how the Blue Jays haven't won ninety games in eighteen years and pretty much decided that this guy and everyone like him can go to hell.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Top 25 Player Salaries for 2010

Two hands.  I want to play the piano with two hands.
Really, this couldn't be simpler: it's a list of the top salaries last year.  But it's kind of amazing.  Some of these deals, you remember; others you come back to and they are fresh delights. Take the Soriano deal, for example.  I had completely forgotten about that. It is outstanding. And it is not alone.

Let me be clear that I am neither a curmudgeon nor a moralist about any of this. I feel no outrage. Baseball owners charge people baseball money to watch baseball games and then baseball money is converted into baseball salaries for baseball players.  I don't care.  At all.  I just think it's funny, and awesome. But oh no the team I enjoy watching play baseball chooses not to spend its baseball money on the baseball players I would like them to spend their baseball money on while other baseball teams do in fact choose to spend their baseball money on such players so the universe is cold and unfair. Yes, it is. Also I don't care, outside of the fact that this list is tremendous. 


Top 25 player salaries
1.3B Alex Rodriguez, NYY$ 33,000,000
2.SP/LH CC Sabathia, NYY$ 24,285,714
3.SS Derek Jeter, NYY$ 22,600,000
4.1B Mark Teixeira, NYY$ 20,625,000
5.SP/LH Johan Santana, NYM$ 20,144,708
6.1B Miguel Cabrera, DET$ 20,000,000
7.OF Carlos Beltran, NYM$ 19,401,571
8.1B Ryan Howard, PHI$ 19,000,000
(tie)OF Carlos Lee, HOU$ 19,000,000
(tie)OF Alfonso Soriano, CHC$ 19,000,000
11.SP/RH Carlos Zambrano, CHC$ 18,750,000
12SP/RH John Lackey, BOS$ 18,700,000
13.OF Manny Ramirez, LA$ 18,695,507
14.OF Torii Hunter, LAA$ 18,500,000
(tie).SP/LH Barry Zito, SF$ 18,500,000
16.OF Ichiro Suzuki, SEA$ 18,000,000
17.OF Magglio Ordonez, DET$ 17,825,976
18.1B Todd Helton, COL$ 17,775,000
19.3B Aramis Ramirez, CHC$ 17,000,000
20.SP/RH A.J. Burnett, NYY$ 16,500,000
21.OF Matt Holliday, STL$ 16,333,328
22.OF Vernon Wells, TOR$ 16,142,857
23.SP/RH Chris Carpenter, STL$ 15,840,971
24.SP/RH Roy Halladay, PHI$ 15,750,000
25.SP/RH Hiroki Kuroda, LA$ 15,433,333

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

position players report

Position players showed up for work today, which means a couple of things. First off, as you can see from above, the Shaggy Jayson Werth era begins, apparently involving some sort of return to slavery for our beloved Tony Plush, who spent the offseason starting malingering brawls in the Dominican Republic... or at least I would assume, except it seems iffy if he played this winter or not to try and get back on track as a solid lead-off hitter. Truthfully, this team is not going to be good, and most likely 5th in the NL East, so if he just gets in fights and does crazy stuff, he's worth my dollar.
Of course the Jayson Werth deal was ridiculous, but so is every big deal done every spring. Werth allows the Nationals to transition towards credibility, I guess, because have both Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth makes it seem like you're better than say the Royals, and at least trying. I guess.
The big deal today though was the mutual appearance of both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in Nats uniforms, at the same time, for the first time ever. Of course neither will matter to this year's team (always next year), but just the sheer orgasmic possibilities of the two actually achieving 75% of the hype is enough to drive me to giddiness about long summer commutes up US 29 through the clusterfuck of inhumanity that is northern Virginia to go watch weekday afternoon games in the polluted sunshine of the District of Columbia. There is a giant Wegman's in Gainesville on the ride that has the most ridiculous beer selection ever that could fill up a nice cooler for sitting around the early afternoon in the back of the truck with a selected compadre, getting drunkered up nicely (because even ultra microbrews from the grocery store come out cheaper than stadium cups), and just being good ol' Americans - blowing off work, being unproductive, and dreaming about millionaires standing around not doing a whole lot in front of us. (Jesus, no wonder America is fucking dying. Oh well, when in Jim Rome...)
Strasburg is still gonna be recovering most of the year, maybe get back to the Big Leagues for some trial runs of his bionic elbow late in the summer/fall. Harper is not expected to be pushed into the majors this year at all, though he apparently is carrying himself like a superstar already. Not sure if that's good or bad. This time of year the local beat writers are always drumming the positive djembes of brightness, you can never tell if someone is a giant asshole until it's too late.
Meanwhile, yesterday's 70 degree day turned back into today's 40 degree day. It's still February. It's still miserable. But goddamnit, spring is almost here.

Monday, February 21, 2011 Official Sponsor of Alfredo Griffin's Baseball Reference Player Page

Ken Griffey slid in hard. Alfredo Griffin remained unshook.

Why Alfredo Griffin?  There are several reasons, really:

(i) Bill James, in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract: "One thing I have always wanted to do was to document Alfredo's baserunning exploits.  He really was phenomenal.  I personally saw him score from second on a ground ball to second, scoring the lead run in the top of the ninth.  I have heard about Alfredo doing things like first-to-third on infield outs, moving second-to-third on a pop up to short, scoring on a pop out to the catcher, and taking second after grounding into a forceout.  Alfredo figured that if you left the base unguarded, it was his.  Somebody ought to make a documented list of those basepath heroics, with dates and specific times, before it gets away from us."  Elsewhere in the same weighty, weighty tome, in an entry on George Scott, James writes, "I don't know that I've ever seen any other player score from second on a fly ball, except maybe Alfredo Griffin."   

(ii) John Feinstein, Washington Post, July 10, 1984: "Making the All-Star team the hard way: Major league baseball pays the expenses for each player here and for one guest. In most cases, players bring wives or girlfriends. Damaso Garcia, the Toronto Blue Jays' second baseman, brought his shortstop, Alfredo Griffin. When the Tigers' Alan Trammell hurt his arm and could not play tonight, Manager Joe Altobelli named Griffin to the team, partly because he's a fine player, but mostly because he was here."

(iii) From the New York Times, November 18, 1987: "Alfredo Griffin, the Oakland Athletics' shortstop who is being pursued by a number of teams, including the Yankees, has rescinded his demand for a trade. So now there is a greater chance than ever he will be traded. The explanation? Last week, Griffin exercised a clause in his contract demanding a trade, presumably in an attempt to gain a lengthy contract extension but also making difficult any attempts by the Athletics to trade him by saying he would veto deals with the Yankees, Los Angeles, Montreal, Philadelphia, Houston and Boston." 

(iv) Do you know what would have happened if Joe Carter hadn't taken Mitch Williams' 2-2 pitch over the left field fence in Game Six of the 1993 World Series?  What if he'd, I don't know, taken a called third strike, or lined one right at Mickey Morandini? Well, I'll tell you: Alfredo Griffin would have reached on a swinging third strike and in the ensuing confusion both Ricky Henderson and Paul Molitor would have come in to score, thus ending that amazing game in an even sicker fashion.  Because, strangely, Alfredo Griffin was on deck. He came into the game as a pinch runner for John Olerud an inning earlier.  Consider, if you even can, the difference in baserunning ability between John Olerud and Alfredo Griffin.  It's one of those things that, as it starts to come into focus for you, you begin to worry that you're losing your grasp on everything else -- like, in the universe -- and so you pull back almost instinctively.  Is that the sublime?  Also, for this whole scenario to have played out, Henderson and Molitor would have had to have moved up on a passed ball, wild pitch, a double steal, or, preferably, a delayed double steal.  As it stands, waiting in the on-deck circle watching Joe Carter's drive sail over the wall was the final moment in Alfredo Griffin's career as a player.  

(v) Despite winning Rookie of the Year for a solid 1979 (my own rookie season, incidentally), Alfredo Griffin actually managed to contribute negative Wins Above Replacement over the course of eighteen professional seasons for which he was paid a total of $6,582,742. That, in and of itself, is a monumental achievement.     

(vi) By having been rad for both the Toronto Blue Jays and the Oakland Athletics (in addition to, though less importantly, the Cleveland Indians and the Los Angeles Dodgers), Alfredo Griffin brings us together here at Baseball Feelings.  At least two of us, anyway. And possibly more.  But at least two of us are united in our admiration for this deeply odd, beautifully useless, entirely awesome player.  We may never see his like again.       

Uh oh, I don't think that one's got the legs!