January 2009

Free Agents: Manny & I Are A Lot Alike

manny ramirez.jpgHere we are, two superstars, both unsigned.

Manny is supposedly asking for too much money; but he deserves a multi-year deal.  I am supposedly too nice of a guy; she said I “deserve better” so she dealt.

Manny is quirky; you never know what he’s going to do.  I am quirky; you know every Saturday afternoon I clean my apartment.

Manny is slow; he looks heavy when he runs.  I am slow; I continuously run into and commit to bad relationships knowing they are bad.

Manny is in his thirties; he still has the ability to take charge of a game.  I am thirty; I still have the ability to take charge of the game.

Manny plays a crappy left field.  I play a crappy left field.

Manny intimidates pitchers.  I intimidate women, who are almost as unpredictable as pitchers, so it’s virtually the same thing.

Manny will most likely hold out until he finds the right fit.

I think I will too.

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

Licking the Platter Clean

holy_taco_stadium.jpgThere’s an old nursery rhyme that goes:

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean
And so between them both, you see
They licked the platter clean!

Well, in a clear cut case of life imitating art, we have seen how this cultural touchstone transfers to our everyday lives. The fat that entranced Jack Sprat’s wife can be found all over the internet and it looks delicious. Meanwhile, the lean that caught Jack’s fancy has hit our bank accounts and 401k’s. From the increase in the unemployment rate to the drop in consumer spending, America hasn’t seen such lean times in decades. But luckily, in this drama the role of Jack Sprat’s wife is played by the Federal Government and she’s never seen a big ol’ plate of fat that she didn’t like. This is why we will soon be the proud owners of a $800 billion dollar stimulus package.

It would be nice if we could just blame this whole thing on one party or the other. It’s the Republicans’ fault for the past eight years of profligate spending and expensive foreign entanglements. Or the Democrats are responsible because they rammed a pork laden bill down the collective American gullet while paying mere lip service to the idea of bipartisanship. But, let’s call it like it is here. Pork, in all its many wonderful forms, is the American way.

That being said, this stimulus package is nothing when compared to the recent automobile and bank bailouts. The overall price tag on this one may be higher but at least there’s a legitimate goal. The bailout? Well, for you baseball fans, here’s an easy way to look at it. Let’s say you have a team, we’ll call them the New Pork Spankees, and they decide that things aren’t looking as rosy as they’d like. So, they tell the city of New Pork, “Look, things are kind of rough and the only thing that will help is if you build us a new stadium. You’re going to be on the hook for most of the costs but really, you owe us because we’ve been so good to you over the years. Here’s the thing, though. If you don’t do it, we’ll close up shop, maybe move someplace else and then where will you be?.” It’s like Congress telling the American people that we have to rescue Detroit but the taxpayers are going to have to pay for it because the automakers have been so good to America in the past. It’s time we payed our dues.

Inevitably, these two eerily similar bailouts end up helping certain special people (i.e. the owner of the Spankees or the auto executives) a lot more than they help the people who are footing the bill. It also doesn’t help when the real price of the package skyrockets as time wears on.

But what about all of us, the guys who are footing the bill? What do we get in return? Well, we get higher ticket prices, a sense of disenfranchisement and then we’re forced to watch our teams perform at some unacceptable level of status quo.

The difference between the Spankees and the American taxpayer, though, is that without some sort of package, the taxpayer is soon going to find his or herself standing in line outside the unemployment office. The city of New Pork? Well, they’ll just create their own bailout plan and float the costs on down the line to the taxpayer. Individualized gains, socialized losses but the same old story no matter where you look.

-A

Impressions Great and Lasting

impeachment trial.jpgSpringfield, Illinois was the epicenter of public embarrassment today as Rod Blagojevich stepped up to the political plate and delivered his most compelling impression of a soulful, hardworking, genuinely honest human being:

“How is it an impeachable offense for helping low income families keep their health?  How can you impeach a governor when what we did was about helping families and kids?”
(image courtesy of the Chicago Tribune)

Uh… I think you are missing the point, Rod, because having something “(bleeping) golden” that you “just don’t give away for nothing” in regards to the vacated Illinois senate seat doesn’t really have anything to do with providing health care for low income families.  But since you brought it up, let it be known that my back hurts like a (bleeping) (bleep) and my (bleeping) health insurance won’t (bleeping) cover a chiropractor so I am stuck in (bleeping) (bleeping) pain while you waste my tax dollars on giving free CTA rides to seniors, threaten to fire Chicago Tribune editors and balloon state debt by borrowing millions of dollars from the future.

Nice try, Rod.

Yet, I tip my hat.  That performance in Springfield today was an excellent, Academy Award worthy acting job that will go down in history as being almost as entertaining as it was pathetic.  I especially liked how you invoked the spirit of the 2 million Illinoisans who elected you twice, Rod — the same 2 million Illinoisans who now want you out of office.

Your dramatic impression of an incorruptible man was one for the record books, indeed.

So in light of this depressing state of Illinois politics, the impending unemployment of the Cubs’ biggest fan and the overall economic bitterness shared by US Americans the world over, let me introduce to you, dear readers, a man who will surely make you smile: Batting Stance Guy.

If you haven’t seen him yet, you should, and in an attempt to inject spunk back into the hearts and souls of taxpayin, apple-pie-eatin’, baseball lovin’ Joe Six-Packs out there, why don’t you enjoy some classic stances from the St. Louis Cardinals:

And in honor of the kind tribute Mr. Krause mustered up last minute (after the fact I must point out), I would like to reach across the aisle and offer you some classic Tiger stances as well:

Man, is he good or what!?! 

Now those are what I call impressions.

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m (bleeping) right.

Peace,

Jeffy

P.S.  He Gone!

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

jeff_allen_chicago_2007.JPGI have to apologize to all of you. I failed. See, yesterday was a very important day and I didn’t even say anything about it. Oh, I made the right phone calls and sent the correct text messages. I even added the appropriate email. But, when it came to our readers here at RSBS, well, plain and simple I dropped the ball. Or perhaps the more fitting metaphor is that I let the ball dribble between my legs for a base hit.

So, what is it that is so important that I’m now forced to wear a hairshirt while self-flagellating? Only the 30th birthday of one Jeffery Lung, that’s what! Yes, yesterday Jeff turned 30 years young and was finally allowed to join me in the pantheon of……whatever it is that 30 year old people are allowed to do. Regular colonoscopies? Yearly prostate exams? Whatever it is, suffice it to say that we are both there now.

Now, in order to properly show my shame, I am going to perform a penance that will prove how awful I feel. Jeffy, I hope you enjoy this. It will never happen again.

-A

Junior’s Legacy

Griffey's catch.jpgThe NY Times has a great piece today about guys playing in the majors now who grew up admiring Ken Griffey, Jr. I have to admit, even though there was never any danger of me making it to the majors, I feel the same way about the guy. I still have his Topps rookie card somewhere at my parents’ house and I remember going to see him play at old Tiger Stadium when he was with the Mariners. Actually, even though I was (and always will be) a huge Tigers fan, I was almost more excited about watching Griffey patrol center field that day than I was about seeing the Tigers’ cast of has-beens and never-weres. This was the 90’s after all, and there wasn’t much good happening at the corner of Kaline and Trumbull. And even though I know he’ll probably go down with some sort of injury part way through the season, I’d love to see the Tigers pick him up and unload Sheffield. Griffey at DH sporting an old English “D” on his ballcap? Yes, please!

-A

A Non-Scientific Comparison

strayrod.JPG

With the talented Mr. Rodriguez back in the news again for his off the field exploits, it seems like a good time to once again explore his worth in baseball terms. You would think this is an open and shut case since, his love for testosterone fueled women aside, the man is obviously one of the most talented baseball players of our generation. But, I’m not convinced. Yes, his regular season achievements are legendary and there’s no doubt he’ll go into the Hall of Fame once he retires.

But, my question is, how does he stack up against a real hero, a man who inspired more than one town over the course of his career, a man who could have been mistaken for Magnum P.I.? Yes, that’s right. I want to match A-Rod up with Kirk Gibson and I have a sneaking suspicion that the man who enjoys smelling Derek Jeter’s used underwear will be found wanting.

Now, over the course of the regular season there’s no denying that A-Rod is the far superior player. His gaudy 44 home runs a year average and a lifetime .306 batting average beat the heck out of Gibby’s 25 and .268. But, something funny happens once you get beyond the 162nd game of the year. Let’s face it, getting into the playoffs doesn’t mean squat if you don’t show up and A-Rod’s complete lack of World Series appearances indicate exactly what he has meant to his team come playoff time.

gibson_kirk.jpgI’m not going to rehash all of A-Rod’s postseason shortcomings since many people with much greater baseball knowledge than myself have already done so. But, I do want to put his numbers next to Gibby’s for the sake of comparison. In 10 postseason series, Rodriguez has batted .279 which isn’t terrible. In fact, Gibson is only a couple points ahead at .282. But the number that really jumps out is how their teams fared. In the ten series in which A-Rod has played, his team has won only 3, all of them LDS’s. Gibson? Out of the five series he played in, his team won 4 and that includes two World Series. So, half the number of chances but one more victory. In fact, if you want to see how much he really meant to his team, remember that he only had ONE at bat in the ’88 World Series but we all know how that turned out.

So, here’s what I’ll say. Yes, A-Rod is the better overall player. But, if I’m a manager going into the postseason or really any important game, there’s only one of these two men that I would want on my team: The mustachioed, anti A-Rod himself.

-A

 

H.R. & HRs: We Can Do Better

stop hand.jpgWhen Joe Torre, one of the untouchable paragons of class, is getting slammed for allegedly revealing all the Evil Empire‘s dirty secrets in a book that no one has had the chance to even read yet, I think it’s a pretty clear sign that we’ve run out of things to talk about this off-season.  Manny being Manny being unsigned is now as interesting a story as Bea Arthur is sexy.  The Varitek saga in Boston is teetering on the pathetic.  And when the Rangers look to be the best bet for unreliable dark horse Ben Sheets, does anyone really care anymore?

Zzzzzzzzzzz

How about a new MLB Network drinking game?  It may not be that ramshackle of japery that we created back during the post-season/presidential debate, but it sure will sauce your inhibitions quicker than Rush Limbaugh will make you want to commit suicide.

It’s simple.  Tune in to the Hot Stove Show and anytime Harold Reynolds leads the panel in a symphony of phrases uncomfortably coated by the word “guy”, take a drink.  You’ll be hammered ten minutes in to the program. 

Believe me. 

harold reynolds.jpgLook, I have nothing personal against Harold Reynolds and his self-serving ramblings.  He seems like a genuinely nice man and most of the time I actually get something out of his demonstrations on the diamond; but I sometimes feel dumb listening to his emphatic, annoyingly frequent use of the word “guy”.  Let me paraphrase a sample, dear reader — a hypothetical spew based on several weeks of actually listening to the man:

A guy like Manny… Manny Ramirez is a guy who just doesn’t change a team, he changes a division.  Guys see a guy like Manny in the clubhouse and then guys are suddenly seeing changes.  He’s a guy who has the ability to go out there and be that guy that all the other guys are honing in on — a guy who can beat you every time he takes the field.  And guys on the other side, guys on your side, those guys see that too.  Makes them want to go out there and be more competitive guys, guys that get things done.  You see guys change, not just guys on the team, but guys throughout the division.

I wish I were exaggerating.

H.R.’s inability to find a synonym for “guy” probably wouldn’t bother me so much if he didn’t subliminally infect the rest of the cast with his lecherous verbal disease.  Broadcasting newbies Barry Larkin and Al Leiter have picked up on it, and the ensuing cacophony is near deafening.

But, I keep watching… ‘cuz I love the MLB Network.  I can’t stop watching it.  So I might have a problem.

As much as I love it, there is one block of MLB Network programing that baffles me like a Spaceman eephus pitch.

ryan howard homerun derby trophy.jpgWhoever thought it would be a good idea to rerun old homerun derbies during a prime-time slot deserves to have John Kruk sit on his face during the two hours they’re being aired.  The homerun derby?  Really?  I’m supposed to get excited about watching a bunch of superstars hit lollygaggin’ Jamie Moyer fastballs from two, three, four years ago while Chris Berman entertains himself ad nauseum with his cutesy cleverness?  I didn’t care about the homerun derby the first time; why would I care now?

And even if you do enjoy the homerun derby (when it actually happens each July), do you really get excited about watching it again?  Save Josh Hamilton’s gargantuan effort of 2008 — a contest which he ultimately lost — is there really anything titillating in any homerun derby that makes you say: “Yeah!  Can’t wait to put aside two hours to watch that again!”

MLB Productions has done a fine job of producing edgy, dramatic, quality programs that explore the deep history and colorful characters of the game.  I haven’t been disappointed with one of their productions yet.  So I am both baffled and bored by the network’s decision to rerun past derbies instead of wowing us with original content.  Seems like they’re missing a big opportunity there.

The good news is: if I play the H.R. drinking game, I won’t be conscious enough to watch the derby reruns anyway.

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy   

The Unforgotten

rod_blagjojevich.jpgWhen Chicagoans have lost interest in a political scandal, then it’s safe to say, so has the rest of the country.

Anything wrong with that?  Not in my opinion.  In a world full of greed, hate, debauchery and Cubs baseball, I find solace knowing that even the tireless spin-doctoring and smoke-screening of Rod Blagojevich eventually falls on the deaf ears of a nation distracted with the task of rebuilding itself.

Blago’s days as governor are as numbered as Joe Morgan is annoying; and soon, he will just be another political coelacanth — a footnote in the oppression and wasted tax-dollars of a people.

Good riddance.

In my fervent bidding adieu, I refuse to let Blago’s self-indulgent, gloomy demise get me down.  The older I get, the more I realize how little my brain can actually remember if not trained otherwise; thus, I find it best to replace negativity with post-partisan positivity.  So it is, on this four degree Sunday afternoon, with a broken heart and three cups of coffee too many, that I find grace in the baseball-politico memories dearest to me.

Of course, there are always the Joe Carters, the Kirk Gibsons, the Ozzie Smithsthe inauguration of a new hope for my country… those are all givens.  Today I focus on the obscure, the seemingly minute, the more poignant personal moments that help me to forget about what an awful place this earth can be sometimes.  And so I begin…

Ozzie Guillen Goes to Bobby Jenks
A move he’s made several times, but never as interesting as it was during the 2005 post-season when Ozzie motioned for Jenks by extending his arms out sideways as if to say: “Bring in the fat fella.”

Talking to Carlos Lee Outside Wrigley Field
Having gone hitless against Ted Lilly that night, I was stunned to see a smiling Carlos Lee on the corner of Sheffield and Addison waiting to get on the Astros player’s bus.  I approached him — all gargantuan 230 plus pounds of him — and flippantly asked: “Caballo, what happened?”

“Ball move too much, man.”

I’m still laughing at that one.

“Yes We Can” Viral Video

Sure, I admit I’m a sucker for inspirational acts of creativity… this one still gets me.

Brian Anderson’s Catch
Picture it, October 1, 2008… a one game playoff between the White Sox and Twins to crown the AL Central winner, and a Jim Thome homerun is all that separates the two when we reach the top of the ninth and two outs.  A sharp flare streamlines to right center field, in comes Brian Anderson… instant party on the Southside.

Bill Clinton on Carroll Quigley, DNC 1992

As a young, impressionable, questioning 12 year-old, this quote pushed me in to politics… to stay.

Adam Wainwright’s Curveball
Whether it was striking out Carlos Beltran looking or Brandon Inge swinging, I’ve never seen a more devastating hook — ever.

Barack Obama’s 2004 DNC Keynote Address
I thought a change was a comin’… didn’t know it was going to take so long, but it got me revved up nonetheless.

Yadier Molina Hitting .304 in 2008
After the rocket homerun he hit off Aaron Heilman to beat the Mets in the 2006 NLCS, Molina became my indisputable hero.  To see him blossom into a true hitter in conjunction with his unrivaled defensive skills just makes me want to hug the guy any chance I get.  Yadi, you out there, pal?  Let’s hook that up.

Grandma Lois Talking Baseball
May she rest in peace, my beloved grandmother was talking Cardinals baseball like no other 84 year-old I knew.  Before the 2004 season, she told me: “It’d be nice to see Edmonds and Rolen have really good years.”  She died on April 20, 2004; Jimmy and Scott both put up career numbers and vied for the MVP.  I know she’s still smiling about that one.

Post 9/11 Baseball in New York

I’d be hard pressed to find a more inspiring, more electric, more communal surge of patriotic energy and overall bipartisan goodwill towards all through the greatest game on earth than what took place in New York City that fall. 

I still get goosebumps just thinking of it.

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

The Curious Case of the Academy Screwing the Pooch

Many things in life make no sense. Wonderful guys like Jeff and myself being single, for instance. Or the Cardinals winning the 2006 World Series. Sarah Palin becoming a de facto leader of the Republican party. The world is a crazy place. However, nothing reminds me of this fact quite so much as when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces the Oscar nominations around this time every year.

golden boy.jpg

Another mixed-up Oscar

Seriously, are you guys smoking crack? 13 nominations for Benjamin Button? This movie already won an Academy Award a decade and a half ago when it starred Tom Hanks and they called it Forrest Gump. Making the same movie in reverse shouldn’t qualify it to win another Oscar. Speaking of which, here’s an idea for the studio that will save them several million dollars. Why not just buy some old VHS copies of Gump and play them on rewind. There, you’ve seen Benjamin Button and you’ve helped save the environment by reducing demand for new movies and packaging. Don’t get me wrong, it was a cute movie. But it’s three hours of Brad Pitt being Brad Pitt and it leaves us with the oh-so-original thought that we leave this world much like we came into it. Really? I paid twelve dollars for that?

And from the inane, we move to the insane. This category breaks down into two major subcategories, “How did that make it in?” and  “How did that get left out?” In the first subcategory, we have the multiple nominations for The Reader. Yep, I’m sure it’s a good movie. Yep, Kate Winslet is an amazing actress. But this fixation the Academy has with anything Holocaust skews their judgment in a major way. Without a doubt, Ben Button also falls into this first subcategory but I think I’ve already made my point there.

However, the second subcategory is where we find the real problems. For instance, how does Gran Torino get completely shut out? For all the amazing films Clint Eastwood has been part of over the years, this one has to rank up near the top. He makes Jack Palance look like a pansy. He’s as clutch when it comes to film making as A-Rod is choke when it comes to post-season baseball. Similarly, there is no possible way you can say that Mr. Button deserved a best picture nod over both The Wrestler and The Dark Knight. Arguably, those are the best two films of the year and neither one of them is even up for the award. That’s more than a shame, that’s a crime. And neither the Boss or Clint being nominated for Best Original Song is beyond embarrassing.

Anyway, I’m done. The anger is gone. I have nothing left and I’m lying in a puddle on the floor, soaking in my own impotent, rage-filled tears. And yes, I realize that this is probably the third post in a row with only the most tenuous connection to baseball but don’t worry. Pitchers and catchers report soon and I’ll once again be on the floor, sobbing as the Tigers’ pitching staff takes the field.

-A

On Ben Sheets: Buyer Beware

If you’re wondering why Ben Sheets remains unsigned in the latter half of January, take a look at this video which accurately portrays the pitching mechanics and inherent injury risks typical of Sheets’ style of play:

That’s one ugly mess that I wouldn’t want to clean up, let alone dish out millions of dollars to for a multi-year deal that would most likely end in pain and suffering (see Carl Pavano & the Yankees).

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

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