Tagged: The Good of the Game

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.

greys_anatomy_ver4.jpg

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.

LoDucaIsAnAngryLittleDoofus.jpg

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?

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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.

The Best Idea I’ve Ever Had… Maybe

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Good
Evening, boys and girls!

I,
for one, am incredibly bored right now. I’m sure there is a lot going on behind
the scenes across every MLB front office but so far, not much has gone
publicly. This is for a number of reasons, the primary reason being the
arbitration deadline that will take place Monday night at midnight. Most teams
are waiting for that deadline to pass before making any decisions on free agents.

Any
player that would sign before the deadline is technically eligible for
arbitration as well as draft compensation. According to league rules, “A” tier
players that sign during arbitration will technically allow for a transfer of
two draft picks from the player’s new team to the player’s old team. (1 pick
for a “B” tier player).

By
my calendar, I really don’t think there will be any moves worth writing about
until after the deadline and the December 8-11 winter GM meetings. This is
going to be an important year for a lot of ball clubs and it is showing in the
mass-hesitation we’ve seen thus far.

The
Yankees have missed the playoffs for the first time in what seems like forever,
and the division was taken by the Tampa Bay Rays. Is this a fluke? Or have the
Rays really arrived? Can the Yankees turn it around immediately? Or are they in
a – gasp – rebuilding period?

Every
winter there seems to be one or two big-time free agents on the market and
everyone watches the MLB.com front page to see where they end up. This year,
though, it would appear that almost every team – no matter what their 2008
outcome was – could go from pretender to contender and vice versa. It will be
one great winter to watch, and with every move my anticipation for April 5th
will rise and rise.

To
pass the time, here’s a suggestion I have for my beloved Phillies.

Sign
Donovan McNabb!

You
heard me right.

Yes,
I am a Philadelphia Phillies fan but I can’t stand the Eagles. If you look at
the numbers, Donovan McNabb is the best quarterback in Eagles history despite
having no one worth mentioning to throw to except for T.O. in 2004. He has a
cannon for an arm, and while he sometimes has an off-night, he’s still a great
talent.

p1_mcnabb_si.jpg

So
here’s my suggestion: Switch careers and move across South Street to Citizens
Bank Park and we’ll put him in the bullpen. I would assume he could throw in
the mid to high 90’s judging by the bullets he throws at the Link, so if someone
could teach him a good changeup, I think we could have a decent relief pitcher.

Think
about it. This is a great career move for him. The Eagles are the worst run
team in football coupled with psychotic fans. He’s blamed for everything that
goes wrong with the team. Who would want to play like that?

In
red pin-stripes, the combination of Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste would be the
best receivers he’s ever worked with. He wouldn’t face all the blame in a loss,
either. He would come in for an inning or two every so often and throw hard,
that’s it. No plays to memorize, no miscommunications, and the best part? THERE ARE NO TIES IN BASEBALL!

It
sounds like a great move to me. But what do I know? I’m just a baseball writer.

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.”

barack-obama.jpg

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.

pg2_a_goddell_selig_in_300.jpg

 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

It’s EASY Being a Yankees Fan

No offense Jane, your Yankees are one of the top 5 greatest franchises in the history of sports. In fact, if you put the Yankees against Denmark in anything, I’d pick the Yankees.

But it’s easy being a Yankees fan.

It’s easy because it doesn’t take any work.
There’s no agony in being a Yankees fan, no frustration, no heartbreak.
And please… Not winning the world series every year doesn’t qualify as “heartbreak.”

They’re winners, and Yankees fans are passionate, I’ll give you that much.
But talk to a Cubs fan, talk to a Sox fan prior to ’04, most of all, talk to a Phillies fan.

Cubs fans have come to the point where they’re selling their loyalty on EBAY.
Red Sox nation had gotten to a place where they expected to lose, and the phrase “wait until next year” lost all meaning.
Phillies fans, though, had a different dynamic.

We can’t always be called as “supportive.” When our teams aren’t playing well, we let them know. But we’re always there, and we always believe. This year’s championship was a surprise to no one in the city of Philadelphia, we knew it would happen, we just didn’t know when.  We never gave up, never game in, never assumed the worst.

The Yanks have had problems the last few years. But who else can you blame but the Yankees themselves. For some inexplicable reason, their entire team dynamic has all but disappeared and their solution to the problem is the same every year. It’s like a doctor who keeps prescribing a medicine for a disease when it hasn’t worked the last eight times he prescribed it.

Why, I don’t know. But this year looks to be exactly the same thing. They’re probably going to sign CC Sabathia, maybe Mark Texieira and who knows, Manny as well. What the hey? Why not, right? But based on the last few seasons, I don’t think anything will change.

How does it feel Yankees fans? How does it feel to always be excited about what your new free agent will do this season?

From my perspective, being a Yankees fan is like being a rich teenager. You crash your convertible so daddy just buys you a new one.

Being a Phillies fan, or a Cubs fan or a Sox fan is like being the teenager who gets the hand-me-down Jetta. It’s nice. Not very flashy, not very fast but it’s reliable and we’ll drive it until it’s last dying sputter.

Keep your convertibles. If it doesn’t work again this year, maybe Hank will buy you a Hummer next year.

Moms Do It Great Too!

Someone commented on my last blog and made a valid point that I had every intention of writing about.

Moms do it great too!

My dad and I could erase everything by stepping into the ballpark but my mom and the Phillies were so very different. When they divorced my mom made sure that my sister and I got everything we would have gotten had they not split. She did here absolute best to play both the mom and the dad role when he wasn’t around.

She’s been a Phillies fan all her life, born and raised in the city of Philadelphia and she’ll never let me forget it. She went to the first and last games at the Vet as well as the one fateful game when they Phils wore their awful all-maroon unis. She lives and dies by the Phillies.

While I’ve been a Phillies fan ever since (and in spite of) the 1993 season. I did, however, become a big fan of Chipper Jones who plays for the rival Atlanta Braves. So while Philly fans will throw snowballs at Santa Claus, my mom would always take me down to watch them play the Braves and make sure we sat on the third baseline so we were closer to Chipper. And while I foolishly wore a braves cap to the one game, she was there to hide it for me so the Phanatic didn’t make fun of me, or to defend me from the drunken fans; one of which sported an eagles-logo tattoo covering his exposed and spent the game screaming at Ryan Klesko in left field.

I hate to tell a sad story again but I’m afraid that my life as it relates to the Phillies is not so different from a sappy Nicholas Sparks novel.

My mom was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer my freshman year of college and underwent chemo treatment. She lost all of her hair and was forced to wear a wig wherever she went. But when she came home and the wig became too itchy she took it off and covered her head with, you guessed it, a pink Phillies cap.

The cancer has been gone and come back again a few times, most recently in August of this year when she went back into surgery to remove a tumor where the cancer originated. I drove home to be with her and with more tubes in her than I care to describe, she asked me how the Phillies were doing.

Somehow, no matter how sick she becomes, she has the heart of a champion, the heart of a lion, the heat of a true Philadelphian.

Shortly after Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske to close out the series, I got a call from my mom as expected. On the other line was not the woman who had been through 5 years of chemo and 2 surguries; it was the woman screaming at the top of her lungs in pure celebration. HER Phillies had won, at long last.