May 25, 2013
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Monday, April 20, 2009
Sorry folks, lots of meetings and other nastiness today, so I won't be spewing any other opinions until tomorrow morning's recaps.
So I was playing outside with my son on Saturday. Nice sunny day here in Ohio, the kind of early Spring day on which mothers remember that sunscreen and hats and sunglasses and asbestos underwear are required lest their children immediately turn into a tumor. Bald husbands too, so Carlo (a/k/a Son of Shyster, a/k/a ShysterBoy, a/k/a Buddrow, a/k/a Buddy) and I both put on our caps. Though I'm not a slave to wearing my own team's colors, I'm currently sporting an Atlanta Braves all-navy roadie (In recent years I've also featured Tigers, Giants, and Dodgers caps for various aesthetic and political reasons). Buddrow has a blue plaid number with a cute little doggy on it. Since he last wore it in the fall, however, his head and/or his hair* have grown to the point where it simply doesn't look comfortable anymore, so I decided it was time to get him a new cap. A real one, though, not one with a cute doggy on it. The big man is three now, and it's time to put away those childish things.
*Though I am as bald as Matt Williams and Lt. Ilia's love child, my son has long, gorgeous, curly locks. My wife says that letting his hair go all wild man like that is in no way a reaction to the fact that she's married to a cue ball, but I have my doubts.
I'm not one of those guys who thinks that my boy has to root, actively or passively, for my own team, so it's not like I was going to run out and get him a Braves cap. To the contrary, I decided that I'd let him get what he wanted to get, with the caveat that I'd issue a veto if he decided he liked Chief Wahoo. I mean really, how much crap would I get if someone who reads my occasional Wahoo screeds saw Buddrow in that cap? Still I hoped he would go for a cap that had some kind of tradition behind it on the off chance that the hat serves as the basis for his eventual rooting interests. No, there's nothing wrong with liking the Diamondbacks or the Rockies, but I just tend to think that if, like us, you don't have a really strong proximity-based argument for your rooting interest, historical richness is a pretty good one. His favorite color is green, he says, so maybe he'd pick the A's, which would be perfectly acceptable. Maybe he would like one like his old man wears. I was curious to see how he proceeded.
Stopping by Lids at the mall, I pointed him towards the kids' hat rack. Though Wahoo was well-represented, there were multiple options available, so I liked my chances. And thankfully he didn't pick Wahoo. He picked Spongebob Squarepants. The lesson: kids can't be trusted with any important decisions in life. I might have lost the will to fight him at that point, but thankfully his mother stepped in and said that she didn't want him wearing a Spongebob hat all summer either, so we extracted him from the store with promises of cookies and stuff.
The next day I called up a webpage with every Major League cap on it, put Carlo on my lap and asked him which one he liked. He smiled at all of the options before him and took some time about it. Then, after a minute or so, he pointed at a Cubs' hat. He started writing his own name not too long ago, and I think he liked that the "C" on it was curvy like he writes it as opposed to the pointy Reds' C or the blocky alternate Indians' C. I think it's a pretty good choice. The Cubs certainly have history. And we actually get Cubs games here, so maybe he'll be a superstation-based fan just like his old man was. Sure, there's the potential for looking like a bandwagoneer if the Cubs win it all in the next year or two, but who's gonna hate on a kid in a Cubs hat? Besides Cardinals fans I mean, which is their right and duty.
I don't have the cap yet, but I'll probably order it in the next day or so. If anyone has a preferred online source for kids' ballcaps -- or if you simply want to try to persuede my son and I that beyond the choice of a Cubs' hat lies death and despair -- my all means, leave me a comment or drop me a line and tell me.
You read something horrifying like this and your second reaction -- after the horror -- is to wonder how on Earth Mike Coolbaugh and Ray Chapman are the only two folks to die by thrown or batted balls in professional play.
UPDATE: The estimable Mark Armour notes that (as I kind of suspected, actually, but was too lazy to research) I am undercounting provides a link to other on-the-field deaths. Here's a link with a list, though neither Mark nor myself make any warranties for accuracy or completeness.
They're too experienced and professional to actually get into a proper pissing match, but I kinda wish this little nothing of an exchange would turn into one. For one thing, it would make the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry even more interesting. For another, it would make me like Lou Piniella even more than I do.
I think ultimately Piniella would win the fight too, because La Russa is way too humorless to last long in one of these things.
Every year you see some unlikely guy break out to a fast start on the power of pitchers' relative indifference and a lot of lucky guesses. Guys who anyone who watches this game even a little bit can tell you are going to crash to Earth, or at the very least return to being pedestrian, fairly soon. Just thinking about the Braves I remember Willie Harris fitting this description in 2007 and Michael Tucker doing it in 1997. Heck, I'd argue that Jeff Francoeur has been doing this in long form for four years.
But whoever they are, guys like that put up a couple of good weeks, even a couple of good months, and then slowly descend to their natural level, all the while getting penciled into the lineup a little more often than they probably should and becoming the subject of more media coverage than they probably deserve. In the course of that cycle, you can always count on their being one story like this one, written about Emilio Bonifacio, another player going through the same dynamic:
When he stepped to the plate in the ninth inning Sunday, Emilio Bonifacio had not reached base in his previous 19 plate appearances, watching his batting average plummet to .321 from .583 in eight days . . .
It's nice to see someone play above their heads for a while, and I truly am happy for them when they do, but just once I'd like to see an article about one of these guys headlined with something like "Ride fun while it lasted, Bonifacio says." I just think it would make the whole exercise far less depressing if it were acknowledged that they player in question had experienced some good fortune rather than characterize harmless regression to the mean as a slump.
I love Posnanski as much as the next guy and look forward to reading whatever he writes about the latest Kyle Farnsworth disaster, but his colleague Sam Mellinger has probably nailed it as well as it can be nailed. After reviewing the moves up to that point in the game, Sam lays out the menu of options before Trey Hillman entering the ninth inning:
So your choices:
I watched Hillman manage the Columbus Clippers for a couple of years. He truly is a good manager, or at the very least used to be, so I have no idea why he continues to screw the pooch in Kansas City. All I can hope is that trotting Farnsworth out there like he has is some passive-aggressive way of criticizing Dayton Moore for signing the big doofus to begin with. A "this is what you wanted, this is what you get!" kind of thing. But it can't be, can it? Hillman doesn't have the job security for that. Heck, I don't even Bobby Cox has the job security for that.
Oh, please oh please be a parody:
Sabermetricians. Ugh. It’s like Major League meets Revenge of the Nerds, except the nerds aren’t fun and they think they’re better than you. And Bob Uecker isn’t there to keep things interesting with the occasional witty one-liner.
The best part is the end, where the author writes a mock diary entry by a sabermetrician in which he says he's going to touch himself while watching film of Steve Balboni getting on base.
As Neate Sager noted when he shot me this link, "I guess it proves his point if we note that Steve Balboni's career OBP was .293."
Reds 4, Astros 2: Micah Owings has a 7.20 ERA for the Reds this year. Yesterday he pinch hit and hit a two-run double that proved to be the game-winner. Management consultants refer to this phenomenon as a "misallocation of resources."
Blue Jays 1, Athletics 0: The A's were shutout for the third time this year and blew their only real chance to score when Mark Ellis was thrown out at home plate on a Ryan Sweeney double. Eric Chavez played after missing five games with a sore right shoulder. Bob Geren actually said this with a straight face afterward: "Hopefully this last episode with the shoulder is behind him now and he'll start swinging the bat." Geren was later heard muttering cautiously optimistic things about immortality and his tax-free existence now that April 15th has past.
Braves 11, Pirates 1: Atlanta ends a five game skid and a 22-inning scoreless streak by beating up on Zach Duke and the Pirates. "I still liked the way he was throwing the ball, but he just couldn't get it to go where he wanted," Pirates manager John Russell said of Duke after the game. Isn't getting the ball to go where one wants it a key part of "throwing the ball?" What exactly did Russell like about it? That it was going vaguely towards the plate as opposed to left field? That he wasn't doing it with his feet?
White Sox 12, Rays 2: The Rays drop five of six and Evan Longoria plays this game at DH -- where he goes 0-4 -- because, according to the AP game story, he "tweaked" his foot in Saturday's game. So yeah, bad stuff all around. Jim Thome walked twice which, according to the AP game story, moves him within four of tying Harmon Killebrew for 14th place on the all-time list. This might be confusing for the many among you who, like me, believed until now that Thome and Killebrew were the same person.
Phillies 5, Padres 4: A walkoff job for Raul Ibanez saves the day for Philadelphia. Making things worse for San Diego is the loss of shortstop Everth Cabrera, who apparently broke his hand while (according to the game story in the San Diego Union-Tribune) "squirting a groundout." I'm not exactly sure what it means, but from the sounds of it, someone needs to update this Wikipedia entry.
Yankees 7, Indians 3: After a series which included an Opening Day loss, conspicuously empty seats and a shellacking of historic proportions, the Yankees should consider themselves damn lucky that they didn't lose to old friend Carl Pavano. Not that they did that much against him. Pavano pitched pretty well, actually (6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER). So well in fact that he probably should have come out for the seventh inning. If he did, maybe the Indians leave with a win. As it was, the Tribe's bullpen imploded again, Jorge Posada hit a homer in the pinch that almost-sorta-but-not-really was interfered with by a fan, and the Bombers end up with a series split despite being outscored 40-19.
Twins 3, Angels 1: Though he only has one win to show for it, Glen Perkins has had three outstanding starts for Minnesota, going eight innings in each of them. Here he threw only 84 pitches and probably could have gone nine. The Angels are utterly lost, now having dropped five of six. This is their worst start since that year they began 6-14. But since that year was 2002 and they went on to win the World Series, maybe everyone should chill out for a bit.
Rangers 6, Royals 5: A decent start from Kyle Davies thrown away by the bullpen. At this point if you're Trey Hillman you have to pretty much just stick with Cruz and Soria out of the pen until their arms fall off, don't you? And even if you decide to trust someone else out there, Kyle Farnsworth -- who gave up the game-losing homer and now has an ERA of 18.90 -- is not that guy. But why go with someone else? Greinke pitched a complete game on Saturday. The Royals have an off day today. Is there a reason, other than a slavish devotion to the save statistic, that you wouldn't have Soria out there in a tight game in the ninth inning?
Giants 2, Diamondbacks 0: Seems like all Randy Johnson needed to get back on track was to face a team that decided he wasn't worth an offer to come back and win his 300th game for them. Seven innings of one-hit shutout ball brings him within four of the milestone. The Giants still aren't scoring any runs, but they have to be pleased to have gotten three outstanding pitching performances from Johnson, Lincecum and Sanchez over the weekend.
Tigers 8, Mariners 2: A pretty big improvement for Rick Porcello from his first start to his second (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER). The Tigers are 7-5. Last year the Tigers didn't get their seventh win until their 20th game.
Red Sox 2, Orioles 1: Jon Lester returns to form, shutting out the O's over seven and striking out nine. It was 49 degrees, there was a nineteen m.p.h. wind blowing in, and Adam Jones, Baltimore's hottest hitter left the game with a messed up hamstring in the second inning, however, so temper that excitement a bit, Sox fans.
Marlins 7, Nationals 4: Manny Acta's presser after the game had him going on and on about all of the changes you're about to see in the Nats' bullpen following yet another demoralizing loss. And changes there were, almost immediately after he was done talking. Steven Shell, Wil Ledezma, and Saul Rivera were sent down. Catcher Josh Bard was shipped out too in order to make room for pitching prospect Jordan Zimmerman. Riding four guys out on a rail is a big deal, but for the Nats still have 15-20 other dudes who have no business in the Majors, so I wouldn't expect any major turnarounds anytime soon.
Brewers 4, Mets 2: the Mets hit into three double plays and went 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position, stranding 10 runners in the process. Nelson Figueroa got the start and pitched passably (6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER), yet was designated for assignment afterward. As such, he's probably a bit more perturbed about New York's poor situational hitting than is Jerry Manuel. He probably wasn't all that thrilled with the fact that Fernando Tatis played his second-ever game at second base while Gary Sheffield got the start in right, either. So basically, no, it was not Nelson Figueroa's day.
Dodgers 14, Rockies 2: Matt Kemp hits two home runs, including a grand slam, and five RBI while Andre Ethier and Orlando Hudson drive in three runs each. Weird line for Dodgers' starter James McDonald: he gives up no runs on four hits, but throws 95 pitches in not making it out of the fifth. How do you get a no-decision when your team scores 14 runs?
Cardinals at Cubs: Postponed. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.