Tagged: baseball

I IS EXCITED!!

The snow is still melting here in PA, but I can still feel spring in my bones. Pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. The Phillies will have their new-look rotation together at last, poised for what will hopefully be a historic run.

When I was a kid, it was right around now that I would be signing up for little league and just a couple weeks before I’d play my heart out in the freezing cold at try outs. I’d beg my mom and dad for a new mit, new cleats, new batting gloves, anything that I could show of for the new season.

I learned baseball by watching Darren Daulton, Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk, Curt Schilling and Mickey Morandini on their run to the ’93 World Series using my livingroom sofa as a backstop, and an old hockey mask as a catcher’s mask (I still claim to have invented the idea!).

Baseball is in my blood and although my 2010 season ended in disappointment, there’s no feeling quite like the promise of a new year.

A new spring.

New grass.

New players.

New opportunities.

It’s baseball season, baby!

Grey’s Anatomy

I’m an avid follower of the three big medical dramas on TV. ER, House and Grey’s Anatomy.Earlier this evening on the latter of the three, an interesting concept arose about the “grey” areas of life. Fitting for the show to have a subject line that connects to the title, it also fits well into our every day lives.

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Growing up, we are all familiarized with the essential ‘black and white’ concepts; right or wrong, true or false, good touch/bad touch, and fair or foul. As we grow older, however, we begin to realize that not everything is as transparent. This is a part of life and a part of growing up that everyone goes through at different rates. To me, though, I find that far too much emphasis is placed on the ‘what’ in this world and not enough is placed on the ‘why.’ 

“WHY” is the greatest question mankind has the difficult opportunity to answer. In most cases, the question of ‘why’ simply cannot be answered, but is still the only question worth tackling.

Our world is based heavily on black and white and we have become a society that depends on the answer being decided for us. Baseball, for instance, is a system that clearly defines the black and white concepts such as fair/foul and out/safe, but also provides some of the gray areas such as the moving strike zone. No two strike zones are the same, even though they are supposed to be. Some umpires call ’em low, some call ’em high. Take also, for example, the different strategies of base running. A lone runner on second can advance at his own will and has to make a judgment of whether or not to stay at third on a base hit or try to beat the throw home. It’s a grey area.

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In baseball, as in life, there is no escaping the grey. A batter can’t demand a different umpire for a different strike zone, just like we can’t demand a different system to suit our needs. A good hitter has to adapt to the umpire they are given and use that knowledge to their advantage.

My advice to you all is to try and become comfortable with the grey’s on our lives. Clinging to the black and white is a safe bet, but we really don’t learn anything about ourselves or each other. If we all learn to accept the grey areas, maybe we can find some peace.

Why not?

I Shall Not Be Overcome

In case you were wondering why I haven’t been blogging lately (thanks for the concern, I’m fine, by the way), it is because I am in the midst of an epic battle. A futile combat that could put Lou Kang and Johnny Cage to shame. A fierce melee that’s bigger than the World Cup, World Series and World War II combined.

The enemy?

MLB 08: THE SHOW

Yes, I said it, a video game. A baseball video game.

No, I’m not a dork, geek, or a loser (although some may disagree). I am simply a baseball addict jonesing for a fix amidst the boredom and frustration that is the MLB off-season.

Undoubtedly, I would be much more interested if I was on the inside. Instead, I am on the outside looking in. Better yet, I am in the nose bleeds of left field and a fat guy with personal hygiene issues just sat down in front of me with a six pack of hot dogs (oh, how I can’t wait for them to digest!).

Point is, I’m bored.

For Christmas, my father gave me this video game which was once a curiosity (I’m normally a 2K kinda guy), and has now become the bain of my existence. To anyone who owns this game: HOW DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT?!?!?

I have played this game day and night, dawn ’til dusk since Christmas morning. I have delved into the “Road To The Show” mode which lets you take control of a player and lead him from the minors up through to “The Show.”

Problem is, you start out as, well, as the french might say “le sucktastic.” A .250 average is awesome considering your skills and homeruns are completely out of the question. I began the 2008 season as an 18 year old third baseman in the Phillies organization and after completing the 2010 season, I still suck and I’m still in the minors.

65 gaming hours have been spent and I haven’t enjoyed one second. I play video games for fun, not a challenge. I have plenty of real life challenges, I want my video games to be easy and egotistically rewarding. This one is neither and I’m beginning to lose my hair.

I will not quit! I will not be defeated! I shall not be overcome!

Everything Baseball Should Be: And Everything Baseball is Not

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Michael Wilbon, co-host of ‘Pardon the
Interruption’ (ESPN – 5:30PM EST) is my favorite sports writer in the world. He
tells it like it is, doesn’t shy away from his north-side Chi-town allegiance
and he isn’t afraid to get to the heart of the issue. His opinions are justified
and he always seems to look at the big picture.

Most of the time, I agree with him.

This time, however, I do not.

Last week, when the Yankees signed CC
Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, a topic was brought up by the president of the
Florida Marlins, David Samson. He is quoted as saying that the Yankees’
offseason strategies are ridiculous and giving CC Sabathia a $161 million
contract is a bad move for the franchise. Both Michael Wilbon and his co-host,
Tony Kornheiser, bashed Samson for this statement and said that the Yankees’
duty (hehehe… duty) is to the fans, and as such, thir responsibility is to put
the best team on the field.

HOLD ON A MINUTE!

I may be a young man, but I have been around
baseball my whole life. Yes, the Yankees loyalty should be to the fans and to
some extent, it is; on the surface, at least. Yankess fans love it when they
sign a brand new all-star free agent who is romanticized as being the savior of
the franchise and will bring them back to their winning ways. From this
perspective, yes, the loyalty is to the fans.

But lets look at this from a different
perspective:

So far this off-season, the Yankees have
spent, let’s see: $161 million + $82.5 million รท 5, carry the…………….. = about
$242.5 million over the next 5 – 6 years. Couple that with the new stadium they
just build (which there was no real reason for except to bring more attention
to them) and you have something along the lines of $1.8 BILLION. That’s… a lotta
meatballs, some may say.

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Where, pray tell, do you think this money is
coming from? The Steinbrenners? HA! They may tell you that, but where does it
really come from?

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You guessed it. YOU GUYS!

How, Michael, is this activity in loyalty to
the fans who filled the OLD Yankee Stadium for the last 80 years? While ticket
prices, hot dog prices, beer prices, foam finger prices, cotton candy prices,
and souvenir prices will certainly rise, where does this put your everyday fan
who just so happens to be in the middle of a recession right now?

In Philly, we’re sweating over ticket price increases of $10-$15. I would hate to see what’s going to happen in the Bronx.

Nice work, Hal… You too, Hank!

Give me a break. The Yankees care nothing
about the fans, only that they spend their money to come watch the team. What
the Steinbrenners care about is ego; nothing else.

If they really cared about the fans, they
wouldn’t have four players making an excess of $20 million a season. If they
really cared about the fans, they would hire someone who knows how to build a
TEAM. Any idiot can write big checks and offer the world to whoever happens to
be the best on the market that winter, but it takes a true baseball mind to
build a championship team. The Yankees front office collectively doesn’t have
half the baseball knowledge of this man.

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Since 2000 (The last Yankee championship):
Arizona, Anaheim, Florida, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Boston and Philadelphia
have all won championships as a TEAM. A concept lost in New York City.

This is not a new concept, though. The Yankees just don’t want to learn. Just look at USA Basketball from 1999 – 2007. If you read down the roster, there was more talent on the Team USA Baseketball team than the rest of the world teams combined. They were all-stars, all of them. But they weren’t a team and thereby failed. They couldn’t play as a team until they were forced to at least practice together for three years, and even then, had to rally late against Spain to win the gold.

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I want to root for the Yankees. I really do.
For everything they were in the past and everything they meant to baseball.
They were America’s team back then, and made baseball fans out of a lot of
people.

Now, the Yankees represent everything wrong
with baseball and everything baseball shouldn’t be. As much of a fan of a
Yankees I want to be, I can’t. I can’t because I’m too much of a fan of the
sport of baseball, and everything baseball SHOULD be.

To All My Who’s Down in Who-ville!

I’d like to start by wishing everyone on MLBlogs a Merry Christmas, no matter what race, religion or nationality you may be.

My father is a Methodist Minister (one of the best in the state of Pennsylvania) so the religious aspects of Christmas were never a wonder to me. I was taught well what Christmas means in that respect. As I grow older, however, I have come to realize the true scope of this holiday season and how some of that may be lost in all the commotion.

I watched a good part of a movie this Saturday called “Christmas With The Kranks” starring our favorite Santa Claus impersonator, Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis. In short, the movie is about a middle-aged couple who wants to “skip” Christmas one year and take a break from all the hassle, all the traditions and all the stress. What caught my attention during the movie the most was the way their neighbors reacted. The couple was shunned from the community for not taking part in a holiday season that is riddled with what had become meaningless traditions. Boy Scouts (**cough** **cough** – Scott Boras) jack up prices on christmas trees, neighborhood children throw snowballs at their un-decorated house and neighbors try to pressure them into a change of heart.

What has happened to people? What has happened to Christmas?

I was unable to catch the end of the movie, but I can imagine it was a heart-warming, cookie-cutter type conclusion where someone makes a Linus-like holiday speech and everyone drinks egg nog together. Hollywood? Yes. Reality? NO!

What amazes me day-in and day-out is how horrible the whole of humanity has become. We treat each other with such bitterness and hatred which is completely unwarranted. Life has become nothing but a competition which no one can win because no one is playing by the same set of rules.

Life has apparently become a football player standing at home-plate trying to hit a basketball with a hockey stick.

Christmas was always a time of year when we could all forget about the everyday struggles of life. A time when we could all curl up on the couch with our loved ones, our friends or even our pets and just appreciate this forgotten gift we all call life.

We all-too-often forget the importance of life itself. We treat it like a sprint: First one to die with lots of money wins!

This is a concept I struggle with constantly and I don’t see any end in sight. I fear this holiday season will turn out to be a blood-feud with every other shopper at the mall over the last pink iPod.

I almost cried when I heard about the poor man who was trampled to death by a mob of Wal-Mart shoppers who then refused to leave the store while his body was taken away. I have never been so disgusted with my fellow man. When this happens, all we teach our children is that material posession is worth more than life, and that Chistmas is about presents under a tree.

So I urge you, wherever you may live, whatever religion (or lack thereof) you are, or whoever you love; appreciate this time we have together. I have always believed life is like baseball. When people forgot to appreciate the game, it was well on the path to being taken away. Only when that became a real possibility did anyone do anything. With baseball, we have that luxury. In life, we do not.

While baseball sleeps, enjoy Christmas for all it is worth. Not just a religious celebration, but a short time of year where we can appreciate all that we have instead of lusting after what we don’t. Give a gift to someone you love that shows how much you love them instead of how much money you have. Treat Christmas the way it should be treated, before it’s too late.

There’s More to Life

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The subject of this column was not inspired by baseball, I
know, but nonetheless it brings up and interesting topic.

Those of you who don’t just follow baseball may have heard
of a young man named Myron Rolle this weekend. For those of you who did not,
allow me to fill you in:

Myron Rolle plays safety for Florida State, which is great
but nothing no one has accomplished before. He’s a talented player, projected
to be a first round draft pick should he enter the NFL draft. The problem is;
Myron may not be interested in playing safety in the NFL, no, he may be much
more interested in becoming a brain surgeon.

No, that’s not a typo.

Brain surgeon.  As in
the guy who’s going to remove the brain tumor from every Cubs fan’s skull if
they don’t win a world series anytime soon.

Florida State played Maryland yesterday which didn’t mean a
whole lot in a grand scheme of the monstrosity known as the BCS (which is a
conversation I’ll have to have with Barack Obama later). And while his teammates were
busy playing the first half, Myron was busy trying to become a Rhodes Scholar.
That’s right, a Rhodes Scholar. A distinction normally suited for future
presidents, supreme court justices and a few other scientists but not normally
football players. Myron broke the mold on that one.

Not only is the guy a freaking genius, he graduated from FSU
in just five semesters! Let me put that into perspective for you: I’ll be lucky
to graduate from Penn State in five years!

The topic that interests me is this: What should Myron Rolle
do come the spring?

This topic has meaning because it raises an important
question in sports today. A lot of young athletes are recognized earlier and
earlier to the point where high school sports become nationally recognized from
time to time. LeBron James had his high school games televised on ESPN, and
this was way before we knew he could do what he does now in the NBA. Now
occasionally you have guys like LeBron and Tiger Woods who burst on the scene
and become superstars in their sport. But more often than not, you find a young
man who thinks he is going to spend his life playing a sport only to find that
his career is short lived.

I was almost one of those young men.

All my life I was convinced I was going to be a professional
baseball player. So convinced, in fact, I cared about little else besides
getting my next baseball fix. I was smart enough where I could pass by grade
school without putting forth too great an effort, a plan I still use today in
college. I was obsessed, to say the least, I even convinced my uncle to be my
agent when I made it to the show.

My parents did the right thing in warning me that a career
in baseball would be amazing, but highly unlikely. My rebuttal was usually
something along the lines of “baseball is my dream, there will be plenty of
time for everything else when I’m done.” I probably should have listened. But I
was a teenager.

 I believed baseball was my destiny until I reached high
school and discovered that all my plans were for naught. I was 5’8″ 140 pounds,
played second base and even though I had taught myself to switch hit, I
tirelessly tried to be the next Mickey Mantle. I would have settled for the
next Yogi Berra.

I’m not bad at baseball; I’m just not Alex Rodriguez. Hell,
I’m not even Ivan Rodriguez. I’m average, mediocre, good at best. Even still, I
take my glove to big league games hoping someone will get hurt and they’ll have
to call me in from the stands to play right field. A guy can dream.

So while a couple guys I played little league with were
drafted by MLB teams, I was forced to explore alternative I never wanted to
explore, which was anything else besides baseball. I have since found my niche
but I feel I am one of the lucky ones; one of the few who are able to find a
place to fit outside of that which they love. It’s not an easy task to take on,
but one that so many young men and women have forced upon them.

Take Rolle, for example. His options include the NFL or
medical school; a choice any red-blooded American would be happy with but so
few actually have. Many would chose sports because it’s more American, it’s
more to our liking. There are plenty of surgeons out there, right? He can
always become a doctor after his career is over, right?

Maybe, it if it were guaranteed, I might agree. But it’s not
guaranteed.

Say Myron does decide to go to the NFL and plays a few great
seasons.

Say he even makes a couple pro-bowls and wins a super bowl.

Let’s also say he breaks his hand; shatters it even. Then
what?

Maybe it’ll heal, maybe it won’t. Hopefully he can still use
it to perform surgery, but then again, maybe not.

Then his football career and his surgical career are both
over.

I hope nothing like this happens to such an extraordinary
human being and I hope upon hope that Myron is successful in whatever endeavor
he pursues. He represents everything that a student athelete should be and he
should be an inspiration to everyone.

The fact of the matter is, however, that things like this
can happen.

These games we play are more than a game to so many of us.
They are more than a sport, more than just competition, more than a way of
life. They are a passion. They get inside us and beg to be fed day in and day
out. Baseball is still a leech in my brain today even though my potential
career is as good as dead.

More often than not, however, they remain just that, a
passion. Those who are like me are convinced that nothing else matters in life besides
sports only to realize they may have been premature. Myron Rolle may not be
able to teach us anything about physiology or organic chemistry, but if he
teaches us nothing else, he has taught us that there is more to life than
sports. I know, I know, its blasphemy to speak such things, but it’s true, and
we need to remember that every once in a while.

Sports are great. I wish more people were as infatuated with
sports as you and I. I wish we settled our differences in athletic competition
instead of war. But at the end of the day, sports are just sports.

They are a
part of life, not life itself.

The State of Baseball Address

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Ok, so I’m in a little bit of a political mood.

President-Elect Barack Obama is going to deliver the State of the Union Address
for the next four years, so I thought I’d begin my own “State of Baseball
Address.”

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Oddly enough, I see a lot of similarities between baseball and the U.S. right
now and not all of them are good. If you think about it, I think what’s wrong
with the economy right now is almost parallel to the problems Major League Baseball
has faced since 1994. Like the government, MLB officials have been adamant about
sticking to old philosophies and hoping they will eventually work the way they
should. Bush said that the economy’s “fundamentals” are good, but that’s just
it. The fundamentals are good, but everything else isn’t.

Major League Baseball’s lack of a salary cap is similar
to the free market system. Each team is a separate business free to do what it
likes. Teams in small markets like Kansas City and Tampa Bay struggle to
compete while the mammoths like New York, Boston and LA can freely afford
hundreds of millions to field the best teams. Every so often you get a team like the ’08 Rays or the ’94 Expos who can compete with a good core and young talent. But eventually, Longoria, Upton, Crawford and Pena will want more money that Tampa Bay can’t afford. So their time of glory is short-lived.

 

Is it fair? Absolutely.

Just? Of course.

Does it benefit everyone? Hell no.

 

Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Giants, Philles
and Mets that run in big markets don’t want a change because the current system
is slanted in their favor. Kind of like the so called fundamentally sound U.S.
economy that gives tax breaks and incentives to huge companies. But if you want
to look at a league that is beneficial as a whole, look at the NFL.

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 If Major League Baseball is the U.S., then the NFL is
Europe. No one team has any advantage over another economically and every year,
the playing field starts off level. They share revenue evenly across the board
like free healthcare for everyone. Anyone can compete year in and year out. In
the NFL, you have a Tampa Bay Rays team every year, it’s called the NFC South.

 

As much as I am a baseball purist, I want to see the
whole league benefit. Baseball used to be
America. World Series scores used to make front page news over world wars.
When women were called on to save the factories, they were called on to save
baseball too. (Seriously, they made a movie about it!)

 

Somehow, though, baseball has been surpassed as the
nation’s sport of preference. Why? Because it’s a lot more fun for everyone
when your team has a good chance to win every season. Teams like Tennessee and
New Orleans have a legitimate chance of winning, and even one or two down years
usually lead to a few years on the high.

nfl3.jpg

 Baseball purists want to keep the game the way it is, and that includes Bud Selig. How long, though, are baseball fans going to accept the excuse for major fundamental flaws as “part of the game”? 

It’s time to level the playing field somehow. A salary cap alone won’t solve the problem, because teams like the Yankees will find a way to offer players $140 million bonuses. Maybe caps on offers? Caps on bonuses? How about every trade or free agent has to go through waivers so each team has a chance to make an offer instead of going right for the big markets.

I don’t know the answer, but I am willing to work on one. There needs to be one.

 

With the economy the way it is, it seems criminal for any team to spend that kind of money on one person. Men who work an assembly line are struggling to feed their children while guys like Sabathia and Manny are about to cash in big-time for playing a sport. That concept gets lost sometimes, but it never goes away.

 

Maybe it’s time baseball took a step forward and joined
the 21st century.

Maybe it’s time America did the same.

~SL