September 2008

The Unsung Hero

john-mccain hero.jpgNothing says autumn like a good old heated political firestorm coupled with a stretch battle for a final spot in the MLB playoffs.  Right now, it’s all gettin’ really good.  So, dear readers, let us not forget to let it all sink in (the arguments, the media gaffes, the low blows) and really enjoy what we have going on here.

And more importantly, let us not forget to honor our heroes.

When I think of John McCain, the first thing that comes to mind is: HERO.  You can’t be a prisoner-of-war survivor and not be a hero.  Having spent the first 18 years of my life in a sequestered Illinois river-town also known as the armpit of the mighty Mississippi, I like to think that I understand what it means to be imprisoned by the enemy without any of the amenities I have come to enjoy in my adulthood.  Because of that, my hat will always go off to Senator McCain… for his loyalty, his passion and his love of country.

But I can’t help but think about how he came to be a POW in the first place: while flying his plane over Hanoi he was shot down by the Viet Cong.  In other words, he failed his mission.  Now, I’m not trying to belittle his accomplishments in uniform — not at all — but what I am trying to say is that this hero persona that the GOP is clinging to with all their might is really exposing the fact that Senator McCain has already proven his ability to ‘fail’.

It’s sort of like me saying: “Well, sir, at least I didn’t get your daughter pregnant.”  And he replies: “That’s because you’ve been doing it in the ^ss.”

Okay, well, maybe it’s not quite like that but I think you understand my point.

Yadier_Molina.jpgSo today I’d like us to shift focus from one hero — the one who’s heroics have been thoroughly documented and vetted and celebrated and characterized and relied upon and written about — to one who very few people recognize at all: Yadier Molina.

Quite possibly the most talented of all the Molina brother catchers, young St. Louis Cardinal Yadier gets very little credit for his mounting heroics.  My man-crush for Yadi began the very first time I saw him rifle a ball to second base.  Blessed with a pure cannon of an arm, I soon learned that potential base-stealers would be smart to shorten their leadoffs from first as well; because no one guns ‘em out at first better, with more accuracy or more surprise than good ‘ol Number 4.

As a matter of principle, I tend not to purchase MLB jerseys with a player’s name and number on the back for fear that his tenure may not outlast the jersey’s wearability; but when Yadi singlehandedly sent the Cardinals to the World Series in 2006 by jacking that 9th inning homer off Aaron Heilman, I couldn’t help myself.  I went out and bought his jersey the next day. 

Yadier became my hero.

He still is.  Not only has Molina’s defense gotten consistently better and devastatingly fearsome over his four and a half years in the big leagues, but he has suddenly found a live offensive stroke to go along with it.  He hits for average and almost never strikes out, making him one tough total package on both sides of the field.

molina.lilly.collision.jpgAnd that toughness has never been more apparent than it was last night when Molina was absolutely railroaded, steamrolled and body slammed by Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly in a collision at the plate.  Molina is a catcher.  Getting clocked is a part of his job.  But I’m pretty sure most of us average joes would’ve had a hard time getting up from that, or take getting plowed by a pitcher with such grace, let alone continue the game, taking at-bats, calling pitches.  I was amazed he made it through four innings.

I’d probably still be lying on the ground right now if that were me. 

Which is reason enough to prove that I, dear readers, am not a hero.  Sung or unsung, left or right, red or blue, I’m just that guy you love to hate…

…because you’re always allowed to hate me; but you can’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

The Belle of the Ball

I think I’ve been going about this all wrong. Perhaps experience really isn’t all that important. Look at the Rays, for instance. They go 0-7 at Fenway for the first part of the season and then pull out two impressive wins on the road against the Red Sox when it means the most. It’s like the ’06 Tigers against the Yankees. Or the ’07 Rockies against the entire National League.

However, that brings us to the real issue. Although the Rockies and Tigers put together great seasons and impressive runs, they both failed when it really mattered. And if there is a god, perhaps she’ll look down and have pity on us Americans. Maybe she’ll decide this is the year where experience no longer counts and the Rays will thunder through the playoffs but then spurn the misguided prayers of the GOP faithful.

The American public has already decided that experience doesn’t matter with their full fledged embrace of Sarah Palin. Yes, I know she was a mayor. And I know she is governor. But that kind of experience is akin to me saying that I can run Amnesty International because I once headed up a small nonprofit organization. Sorry folks. I’m not qualified and neither is she.

But if the Rays can do it, maybe she can, too. In fact, there’s already a precedent since the Republican Party seem to be borrowing tactics from MLB. Baseball has decided to focus on personalities, as my friend, Mr. Lung, so eloquently pointed out a few weeks ago. And the Republicans have also decided to avoid talking about the real story and try to make this election a popularity contest.

MissWasilla1984.jpg

 

 

“Look everyone! She’s a pretty girl! And everyone votes for the homecoming queen, right?”

 

 

 

So, maybe I’m still a little bitter about that 2006 World Series. And maybe I’d prefer a VP who understands that just believing something doesn’t necessarily make it true. What can I say? I’m tough to please and I make no apologies for that.

-A

 

Arby’s and the Art of Reclaiming America

lipstick.jpgNow that Gov. Palin has thrown her hat in the ring, the entire political calculus has changed. For instance, time honored aphorisms like “Lipstick on a pig” are no longer valid because apparently Ms. Palin reclaimed the word “lipstick” for woman governors everywhere with her speech last week. So, in honor of Ms. Palin’s inanity, I want to propose a few more phrases that should be reclaimed.

First off, I don’t think that ESPN sportscasters should be allowed to say “RBIs” as word (i.e. ribbies) anymore. Frankly, I find it offensive to the wonderful American fast food chain, Arby’s. They have been fighting a losing battle for years now and it’s time we stand up for them. C’mon. This is America and in my America, we cheer for the underdog.

In a similar vein, “change” has now ceased to mean anything at all. (Brief aside: the fact that the same word can be used in two completely different ways has been put to good use in some more intellectual circles. I love homophones.) When the status quo becomes “change,” the word has obviously been redefined in some way. It’s like saying the 2000 Yankees represented a change from the 1998 and 1999 Yankees. Maybe a few of the faces were different but it was the same old Evil Empire.

Here’s the thing, though. If you’re going to ding Sen. Obama on the lipstick comment, shouldn’t you really be getting him for the stinky fish analogy that followed? I mean, that one is really offensive, right? Or maybe it’s just a bunch of pundits and politicians using a situation to their advantage as they are wont to do. Luckily, I’m sure we never have to worry about Sen. McCain or Gov. Palin doing something like that. Right?
http://www.thedailyshow.com/sitewide/video_player/view/default/swf.jhtml
Oh. Right. Nevermind.

You know what I wouldn’t mind seeing, though? Lipstick on Jason Giambi. That would go great with the mustache.

-A

Wishful Thinking?


benjamin franklin.jpg“If a man could have half of his wishes, he would double his troubles.”

                         — Benjamin Franklin (1705 – 1790)

 

So?  Maybe those troubles would actually be worth it, Benji.  Ever think of that?  Probably not.

Because you’re dead.

But if you were alive I don’t think you’d see the harm in my team having a good run like the Yankees did in ’96, ’98, ’99 and 2000 if it meant I’d have to endure a decade of them being awful.  I do remember the ’90s I’ll have you know.

So let’s just entertain this idea for a second and ask the baseball gods to grant me these three wishes:

 

May the Cardinals Reach the Post-Season

Doesn’t seem like this is still out of reach but I feel like I better wish for it anyway.  The rest of the schedule appears to support the possiblity: three games with the Cubs — who have proven thus far in September that they are still the Cubs – and then the Pirates, Reds, three more with the Cubs, then the Diamondbacks and Reds to finish out the season.  Excluding the NL Central leaders, it doesn’t seem like that tough of a task. 

Then again, “the Cardinals shouldn’t have made it this far” say the baseball pundits. 

 

May the Palin Hype Be Exposed for What It Actually Is: HYPE

Yeah, I know it’s asking a lot to have the baseball gods interfere in politics, but this is important… very important.  Sure, she’s attractive.  She’s sassy.  She’s got that sparkly star-quality that has been absent from the GOP since the Reagan years.  But does she really warrant this?

sarah palin doll.jpgI think as the double standard dissolves, the hair comes down and we US Americans get a handle on what she really stands for (teaching creationism in schools, taking away a woman’s right to choose, making sure firearms are still readily available) people will get a clue and start digging on those issues.  Having Palin one literal heartbeat away from the highest office in the world is pretty scary s*** if you ask me.

 

May Successful Baseball Players Learn Not to Injure Themselves In Frustration and Damage Their Teams’ Chances at Making a Playoff Run

Carlos Quentin slamming his wrist against his bat because he was upset that he struck out was not cool.  Carlos Quentin slamming his wrist against his bat (because he was upset that he struck out) and subsequently ending his season was definitely not cool.  Didn’t anyone learn anything from Kevin Brown?  If your name is Donnie Dolittle and you ride the bench, fine, go ahead and take yourself out of the lineup indefinitely.  But if you’re the catalyst for everything that has been good for the surprise Southsiders this season, then you certainly need to grow up and NOT hurt yourself.

Thankfully, the Sox aren’t out of the playoff hunt because of this, but they are a million times better with Quentin in the lineup. 

Yes.

These are the only things I ask for, folks.  That’s it.  Nothing else… 

But before I go, I’d like to introduce Gov. Palin to Bill Maher:

 

You can hate him.  You can hate me.  But don’t hate us ‘cuz we’re right.

Peace,

Jeffy

A Technocratic Disruption of the Baseball Cosmos

baseball god.jpgInstant replay may be here for good but that doesn’t mean I have to like it; nor does it mean I have to support it.  Because I don’t.

And I won’t.

Before you get all sassy (Mr. Krause), let me just say that my basis for detesting this technological intrusion is not rooted in science.  It does not rely on tangible evidence.  It is based on one simple cosmological principle:

The baseball gods are pissed off.

For it is my strong belief that in baseball everything happens for a reason and eventually the inequalities of umpiring decisions (though visible and often game-altering) will be settled at a later time, when appropriate, when it’s most necessary.  This is how it has been for over a hundred years — or in other words: a long friggin’ time.

Had the argument against instant replay in baseball not been so stringent in the past perhaps I wouldn’t be so upset about it now; but to maintain the party line for so long only to crumble under the pressure of a few whiny millionaires is quite embarrassing.  Baseball is not football.  It is not basketball.  It is not hockey. 

It does not need instant replay — at all.  Ever.

Of course, now people like my colleague Mr. Allen Krause have embraced this technology because it will supposedly ensure that each homerun call is made correctly.  And though they say it will be reserved only for homerun calls, we all know that you can’t just have one cookie.  Before long everything from close plays at first to suspected trappings in the outfield to balls and strikes will soon be up for review by some Geek Squad reject in the New York main office, thus eliminating the human umpire element entirely, not to mention extending what many already consider a game that goes on too long.

This is not good, folks.  It’s not good at all.  And Mr. Krause, you’re completely wrong in your steadfast embrace of this electronic eye-in-the-sky Pandora’s Box. 

exorcist 2.jpgYou will be sorry.  You see, the baseball gods — now raging in their defiance towards this atrocious innovation — have myriad unfinished business in equalizing the poor calls of the past.  But now, since MLB has gone against its purist principles, all those yet to be righted face the harsh and difficult reality that they may never see justice on the field again.  Fate has been tested and one ought to know better than to mess with fate, or the supernatural.

Just ask Pete Rose.

Ever wonder why the Yankees World Series drought has lasted so long?  Ask Derek Jeter or Jeffrey Maier or Tony Torasco.  They know.  They were there.  

Ever wonder how a barely-above mediocre Cardinal squad won the 2006 World Series?  Ask Don Denkinger.  He knows.  He took it away from them 21 years earlier.

Ever wonder how a pompous autocrat like me got to write a hit blog?  Ask Greg Altmix, my high school baseball coach who sat me on the bench because I couldn’t hit the ball to the opposite field.  He knows.  I was a pull hitter.  You can’t change a pull hitter. 

Dear readers, for every wrong there is a right and the baseball gods know exactly what the hell they’re doing.

Call me a purist, call me old-school, call me Suzie… I don’t give a s***.  Go ahead.  Hate me if you must.

…but don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

The Filibuster

This week saw the introduction of instant reply — a
technocratic advance many still consider blasphemy — in Major League
Baseball.  Currently, the only calls
deemed debatable are homerun calls.  But now that the surface has been cracked, is it not only a matter of time before
we are reviewing foul balls down the line, close plays at first and dare I say
the strike zone?  Where does one draw the
line and how will this impact the overall game?

 

– Jeff

                                                                      

arod_replay_homer.jpg

Ah yes, the ol’ slippery slope argument. If we do “x,” then “y” and “z” must follow. It’s an argument politicians have used for years to hold out against reforming everything from farm subsidies to gun ownership. But, the fact of the matter is that the argument holds no water.

Beyond that, however, is an even more important distinction when it comes to instant replay. The use of replay for this one small area of the game is a huge improvement over the old system.

Just this past week, replay was used to uphold an Alex Rodriguez home run and the game neither came to a screeching halt nor did the ghosts of long dead major leaguers suddenly come flying out of the ground to right some injustice that had been done to their memory. Replay equals innovation and evolution in the game.

In the old system, a bunch of middle aged men who saw the ball’s path from 300 feet away would get together and debate what had happened. Often, they got it wrong. So now, instead of paying the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be necessary to put extra umps in the outfield, MLB came up with a suitable alternative.

No one who truly calls their self a baseball fan wants to see the abolition of the umpire. The call at home plate in a swirl of dust and dirt is as much a part of the game as the wooden bat and pinetar covered batting helmet.

But instant replay adds to the game. And in fact, in honor of its resounding success during its first week of use, I’d like to see it applied in other places where it’s never been seen before.

For instance, I’d like to see an instant replay of Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention the other evening. Maybe then we can discover how someone who’s views so clearly fall outside the mainstream (creationism taught side by side with evolution?) has become an overnight media darling.

Or perhaps we could find out via replay how the Chicago Tribune came to print a story that so closely resembled my colleague Mr. Lung’s recent post.

No matter what, instant replay is here to stay along with the DH and All-Star Games that have way too much of an impact on October baseball. Instant replay, though, that’s change we can believe in.

-A

Don’t Move That Bullseye

bullseye.jpgOne great thing about living in Chicago is being bombarded by the endless marketing ploys dished out by the often overlooked and under appreciated White Sox.  With the grade-A inferiority complex harbored by many a Sox fan living in the shadows of an historically challenged Cubs franchise to the north, it’s easy to see why the Southside brass does all it can to create a buzz for a team that — on paper — shouldn’t need it considering how successful they’ve been in recent years. 

I have gone on and on with my rhetorical blasts at the seemingly less baseball educated Northsiders — so much so that I have pretty much said all there is to say.  But let me just add this:

You can squak about the 1919 squad throwing the series.  You can jest that the Sox have a hard time filling their ballpark.  You can overlook the Southside’s ’05 World Series championship all you want… but you have to admit one thing: the White Sox make some pretty damn good commercials.

Like this one:

And now that Quentin is out of the lineup, let’s hope that Thome remembers his previous self…

…and let’s hope they don’t move that sign.

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

Speaking of Losers…

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for loser.jpgJust when I thought the Chicago Cubs had genuinely forgotten how to lose this season they surprised me and went on a well-deserved five-game losing streak.  For the last several days, seeing them falter to the festering Phils and resurgent Astros, I have been reminded that indeed: they are still the Cubs.  And losing Carlos Zambrano for a stretch due to rotator cuff tendinitis sure won’t help their case to win the Central.

Now, am I willing to go there and say there’s a chance they could continue on this hapless streak, not win the Central and miss the playoffs entirely?  Not on your life, dear reader.  I’d like to have the guile to say that, but I’m just not that dumb.  I’ve been watching this team destroy my worldview all year long and I don’t expect them to stop until they reach the playoffs. 

Just set your clocks for them losing in the first round.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for kwame kilpatrick.jpgAnd since we’re on the topic of losers, let me add to the list that my not-exactly-humble colleague, Allen Krause, so graciously offered

As a head-in-the-sand Tiger fan, I’m sure Mr. Krause will appreciate the losership of one Detroit ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his likely fall from power.  Now I have bashed Kwame for his idiocy in the past, but I must admit how impressed I am that he was able to get those charges (perjury, assault, etc) dropped to just a couple counts of obstruction of justice.  I guess when you’re that big and that scary looking you can get away with being an ^sshole — just ask Roger Clemens.

Or ask his former team, the New York Yankees, who are vying for the top spot in disappointing loserdom this season.  While the curtain hasn’t made its final descent on the Yankee stage, you can be sure that the damn thing is on fire and burning into oblivion, as are the hopes and dreams of a Yankee post-season appearance.  The Prince of New York has done them in — read article — and so have I. 

There.  I just did it. 

Did you see that?

carlos quentin.jpgNo?  Okay, well, did you see that White Sox sensation Carlos Quentin is out with a wrist injury for an undetermined amount of time?  If you’re a Sox fan, this is not good news and you should be invoking the baseball gods for Ken Griffey, Jr. to return back to his 1997 form right now.  Give up your first born… eat a cat… whatever, you gotta do something.  And let me tell ya, the worst amount of time to be out of the lineup is an ‘undetermined amount of time.’  I had a girl tell me that she wanted to see other people for an ‘undetermined amount of time’ and that didn’t go so well.

But let me tell you about the loser in Jordan — yes, that’s right, the country: The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan —  who did a Yahoo! search for:


“what outlandish mean you are red white and blue”

…and was lucky enough to find the RSBS blog as the first site to pop up.

Gee, that guy was probably all excited to find some US Americans to hate on but instead what he found was a plethora of ingenious posts written by two well-spoken, edumacated MLBloggers with the propensity to post pictures of pretty, powerful, secular women whom would never be invited to serve as one of the seventy-two virgins.

Ouch.  Don’t hate me on that one ‘cuz you know I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

Turn the Other Cheek, My A**

It’s easy to be a gracious winner. I mean, you won. You have nothing to lose by being magnanimous and a lot of commercial endorsements to win by doing the same (if you’re some sort of athlete). However, I don’t care about gracious winners. That’s boring. I prefer the guy who loses and then lashes out at whomever or whatever is nearby. With that, I give you the RSBS countdown of the worst losers.
 

hussein_uday.jpgUday Hussein
 
Although he would have to be a strong contender for the number one spot in anyone’s book, we start out with Hussein fils because, well, he’s dead and Iraq is played out. But what’s not to love? This is a guy who caned athletes’ feet for not performing well enough and carried an electric cattle prod for extra reinforcement. However, his chances at the top slot suffered a terminal blow when he got himself blown up by an American bomb. Salaam alaykum, my friend.

andres_escobar.jpgMedellin, Colombia

After scoring a devastating own goal during the 1994 World Cup, Andrés Escobar returned home and found out the hard way that leaving drug lords on the wrong side of a huge gambling debt does not help your own life expectancy. As if to add insult to injury, the killer supposedly yelled “Goooooooooooooooooooool” after each one of the twelve shots. Of course, this is right around the corner from where a disputed soccer match led to an all-out war so I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised.

The Chinese Olympic Baseball Team

No team likes to be showed up on its own turf and it didn’t help when the US team used a couple hard-nosed plays to take it to the Chinese team. However, even though throwing high and tight is a time-honored part of the game, beaning someone is not something you usually expect to see in the Olympics. Thanks China. It’s not like you already won more gold medals than us anyway, Sheesh.

I could go on and on with more examples but after pointing out our gold medal winner, I’ll leave it up to our loyal readers to tell us what we missed. So, without any further ado…

 
Angel Matos
 
The top prize definitely has to go to Angel Matos from the baseball crazy country of Cuba. Mr. Matos was disqualified from his Olympic tae kwan do match for taking too much time during an injury timeout at which point he decided to give the ref an injury timeout of his own.http://media.imeem.com/pl/I71UF7mOed/aus=false/pv=2/
After the international committee reviewed the friendly tap, it appears Angel got himself a permanent timeout. Don’t worry, though, Angel. El Commandante Fidel Castro came out and blamed the whole thing on a capitalist plot.

Hm, maybe the prize should actually go to Castro and his clan for their ability to blame the yanquis for every Cuban misstep since 1959. Now, if it were the Yankees he blamed instead, I could get behind that.

-A

MLB’s Red State of Mind

No, I’m not saying that Major League Baseball is communist. Although, now that you mention it….

No, what I’m talking about is a frame of mind that seems to have taken over both MLB and Red America. Neither one of them can’t stand intellectuals. College boys (and girls) who have impressive vocabularies, use logic in the decision-making process and understand that the world is painted in shades of gray, not just black and white, just don’t have a place in MLB or the fly-over states. Let me explain.

The red state anti-intellectualism is pretty clear cut. A Harvard law grad with impeccable credentials and a strong history of community organizing is nothing more than a namby-pamby, arugula-eating, out-of-touch, East-coast liberal elite. Nuance is seen as flip-flopping or waffling and the only way to make a decision is to decide which side is evil and which is good and always go for good. Of course, this also means simplifying every argument.

elaine_v2.jpgFor instance, let’s take Elaine Benes, uh, I mean Sarah Palin. Although her oldest daughter got knocked up at 17 which would be unlimited fodder for Republicans if it had been a Democratic candidate, somehow the “Family Values” party doesn’t have a problem with this because the kids are getting married. Nevermind that this might be the worst possible outcome for the kid and for the two getting married. But, that’s the red state mindset. There is no gray. Only black and white.

In a similarly antiquated manner, red state politicians see no reason for their views to evolve beyond the social mores of 1776. If it was all right for Thomas Jefferson, it’s all right for them.

It’s just like the view that MLB takes when it comes to many of the technological and statistical updates that have inundated sports in the past few years. Of course there are people like Billy Beane and Theo Epstein who understand that using technology does not cheapen the game and, in fact, makes it more competitive. But the powers that be within the MLB hierarchy have fought back. People like Bill James get blackballed.

palin_v2.jpgAnd in the same way, it took a flurry of botched calls at the beginning of the season before they even considered instituting limited instant replay. No one wants to see the ump behind the plate replaced with a computer calling balls and strikes. But what’s wrong with taking another look at a play that took place 200 feet from where they were standing?

In the end, we have no control over what MLB does. It will take time but they’ll have to evolve to stay relevant. But we do have a choice when it comes to who leads our country. A little arugula anyone?

-A

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