RSBS Podcast regular and Second City performer, Mark “Pie” Piebenga shares with us his thoughts:
Brennan Boesch made his major league debut last season at the Ballpark at Arlington on April 23, 2010. On my sketchy MLB.TV feed I heard Rod Allen’s sing-song voiceover on a shot of him sticking his head out of the visitor dugout, for the first time examining an empty big league park in all it’s vastness, no doubt dumbstruck by the thought, “I’m going to be playing in this joint tonight.” That night Boesch went 2 for 4 with a double (albeit in a Tigers loss), a prescient harbinger for his strong season and 5th place in rookie of the year voting (which honestly I remembered as better than his .256/.320/.416, 14 HR, 67 RBI line). Early days though it may be, he’s putting up even better numbers offensively (.300/.359/.485, 10 HR, 38 RBI) and similarly adequate defensive ones (RF 1.91 in ’10, 2.00) this year.
This improvement was epitomized in his return to Arlington with the Tigers on June 6 this year, a game in which he went 5-5 with 2 HR and 5 RBI. Clearly the 97° degree weather made for a lively ball, belied by the 13-7 Tiger win. You can’t expect that kind of an outing every time from the young man, but there’s something so exciting about production out of young players.
Last Tuesday afternoon (6/21) Tiger Don Kelly knocked in his second home run of the year, off Matt Guerrier, at Chavez Ravine against the Dodgers. (Until this week Guerrier owned a sub-3.00 lifetime ERA against the Tigers, owing to seven years tendered with the Twinkies.) At 31, Kelly is five years older than Boesch, and lacks his pedigree (not to his body type – Kelly has a thin-necked way about him. And at what point can any of us say that the name “Don” has inspired much in the way of terror in the hearts of men? “Save us! The heathen hordes are approach the city gates, at the helm of their curs-ed onslaught is the much-feared chief and leader, Don! AHHHH! Flee for the caves!”).
Kelly’s season home run total is now two, a bit behind last year’s mark of nine (incidentally the number Ty Cobb hit in 1909). Don Kelly is my age, and it pains me to think that he has passed the years by which baseball players tend to have proved themselves. Can I equate any meaningful life lessons based on Don Kelly’s baseball career? It’s a lifetime, to this point, where four of the last five years have seen him make it to baseball’s biggest stage. Among minor league players he would be considered a flying success. He’s earned the major league minimum wage in four of the last five seasons. That’s many hundreds of thousands of dollars more than his minor league contemporaries will ever make.
But when you put him in the context of a rookie like Brennan Boesch, whose success this year and last year, while perhaps not wildly unbelievable, dwarfs kelly’s achievements. His thin neck and his name of Don combine to make me feel an amiability towards him, a sadness, and a certain feeling of doom.
Don Kelly hit .244 last year. That’s not great. This year he’s up to .260, which is sure as hell a lot better than Ryan Raburn (or Brandon Inge, who he recently covered for at 3B). Why am I so transfixed by this guy? Is it because he is achieving his dream, and yet is markedly below the figures who capture our imaginations, even in the fairly low-stratosphere Detroit Tigers?
My fascination with the poor bastard seems to come from the fact that I identify with him. I believe I could achieve nominally in a given field, and even surpass a number of my contemporaries. But deep down I feel that I hold a limited ceiling on my potential, that I am, within myself, capable of only so much achievement – good, but not great. Don Kelly is the mediocre but by all accounts successful prototype which I fear myself to be. And it is only human to know that sometimes you are going to have people surpass your accomplishment if you hang around long enough to get shown up. Kurt Vonnegut offers us this advice in Timequake: “If you do something long enough, even if you’re really good at it, eventually you’re going to come across someone who is going to cut you a new a**hole. What I tell young people is: stay home, stay home stay home.”
Eventually you’re going to find someone who’s going to be so much better at what you do, you’re going to “feel like something the cat dragged in,” to borrow another quip Vonnegut loves. Does this mean that we should perhaps not try at all? Of course not. Don Kelly has done nothing but try. He’s displayed a level of commitment that I in my personal life would very much aspire to, and to which I honestly must conclude I have come up short.
I dated a girl once whose parents never told her that she could be anything she wanted to be when she grew up. But she’s the only person who I’ve ever met like that. Everyone else I know had parents who said, “you can be anything you put your mind to.” I was raised in a best-of-all-possible-worlds-Candide-type home. Unfortunately, much like Candide, I have grown up to find that it’s not entirely true. I can be pretty good, but I don’t think I can be anything.
So here we are, back at Don Kelly. As I said, I feel an ambivalence for him, animosity at watching him flair in failure at so many pitches, and affection when he cranks a triple like he did the other week, or a long fly like he did the other day. Perhaps I can’t achieve even to the level he has. But I take some solace in that even if I can’t be the best, maybe I can still be pretty good. Hell, somebody’s got to back up Brandon Inge* when he’s got mono.
On an unrelated note, Jose Valverde’s homepage, un-updated from his days as an Astro, is a must-see. I mean, the URL is www.josevalverde47.com for chrissakes. Courtesy to my roommate Thomas on that one.
*My old roommate Ben insists that from a distance (ie., in most shots on TV), Inge’s forearm tattoos look like they say “Coca-Cola” (rather than the names of his sons, which is the truth). I would have to say I agree with him.
The Battle of Juan Pierre and How the Marlins Won the War
It’s obvious what has to happen, but too many heads, egos, and wangs are involved.
Everyone has a soft spot for J.P. , but the rift between Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams has us watching a veteran limp to the end of his career like Ol Yeller. You have a GM and manager pillow fighting when they could be on the same page about the players they have.
Our memories of Juan Pierre are warm and fuzzy, but, statistically speaking in weighted OBP and WAR, he’s the third worst player in baseball (after Chone Figgins and Raul Ibanez) and should be cut. He makes outs, gets picked off, drops fly balls, kills his team every day, but he’s a sweetheart and everyone loves Juan.
I feel sorry for Dayan.
I’m starting the Dayan Viciedo camp right now. We’ll have stables, a petting zoo and a FUN MIRROR.
Kenny is insisting that Ozzie isn’t ready to bring up Viciedo because he can’t handle the rookie. Huh? How much worse can he be than Juan Pierre? The issue is what do you do with the finality of the career of Pierre? Guillen’s loyalty to J.P. is getting out of hand. (This happens every season with Williams and Guillen.)
Viciedo is killing it in the minors and the blizzard of Oz and Kenny are screwing the Sox out of being better because of a sophomoric squabble that seems to have no end.
The locker room is getting torn apart because you have two players that should be benched, but only one of them can be cut because of the contract situation. If Adam Dunn was hitting, the Pierre issue would be muted.
This mess won’t be settled until the Oz man is managing the Marlins next year.
While New York state takes the social lead in legalizing gay marriage, I think it’s appropriate to also give props to the professional athletes who have joined the proactive “It Gets Better” video campaign. Grant Hill, Kevin Youkilis, Matt Cain, Barry Zito and many more, have joined the cause to remind LGBT teens that they have a right to live happy lives, just like the rest of the world, and that the bullying stewing from ignorance and intolerance will eventually get better.
Chicago Cubs rookie second baseman, Darwin Barney, has also joined the cause. Chicago Tribune writer Paul Sullivan, wrote a nice piece about Barney’s involvement and, again, I highly commend Darwin for doing so. However, he did say something that must be corrected, something that is, at this point laughable for anyone to actually believe. He said:
“It hit home for me because … I have a few family members who are gay. There’s nothing weird about it. It’s a decision that you should be able to make and not be discriminated against.”
Darwin Barney, being gay is not a choice. There is no decision to make, just like I did not have a decision in what color my skin would be, or how tall I would eventually become.
One is either gay, straight or all of the above. There is no choice involved.
And this is something that needs to be understood completely if things are truly going to get better.
Hate me ‘cuz it’s still allowed, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
I don’t regret the fact that baseball has become commercial. For any business to survive, it has to figure out how to grow revenue and appeal to new customers. MLB has done that by building fan friendly stadiums that allow fans to see what’s going on and by letting fans decide what they want to get out of their day at the park.
However, there’s something to be said for the throwbacks, the guys who hold to a specific baseball morality that won’t allow them to compromise. My friend, Jeff, is one of those guys, someone who would like to see the Houston Astros play in wool uniforms during the middle of July and still laments the passing of the dead-ball era. Jim Riggleman is another one of those guys.
See, Jim is probably a mediocre MLB manager at best but he has managed to keep the Nats in the race much longer than any of his predecessors. On top of that, he’s doing it without Strasburg and the other high priced talent the Nationals have picked up recently. But apparently that wasn’t enough to assure his future with the team and when his ultimatum went unanswered, he did what any throwback would do. He mixed his metaphors while sticking to his guns and getting the hell out of Dodge.
Even that wasn’t enough for Riggleman. No, not only did he refuse to get on the team bus last week, he instead went out, got himself a drink and hit on some young ladies.
Well played, sir. I think even Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle could be proud of that. I can assure you that Jeff is.
If you had to choose any manager in MLB today who might follow Jim Riggleman’s example and tell his GM to shove it, who would it be and how do you think they’d do it?
Honestly, Seth, I still can’t believe Riggleman had the gall to tell Rizzo to shove it! I mean, I knew Jim walked and talked like a boss… but I didn’t know he had Mt. Everest sized cojones! Somebody get that man a beer! And a whisky chaser!
Though what Riggleman did, as we probably all know by now, doesn’t really do him much good if he plans to continue managing in professional baseball. There aren’t too many baseball folks who can shake the acidic label of being a quitter (see Hanley Ramirez) and a 58 year old yes-man certainly isn’t one of them. Then again, dude knew he wasn’t the man in D.C., so I can’t blame him for not wanting to be
Ken Macha a lame duck; if it were me though, I woulda kept my mouth shut, got my paycheck, then requested a bunch of exotic (and expensive) fare for my clubhouse spread.
And because this Riggleman show has been so bizarre, I really cannot see it happening again anytime soon. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are bad GMs and porous front offices, but I don’t think any of them would cause a manager to commit career suicide.
Of course, that could all change if someone would just give poor Wally Backman another chance.
Alcohol abuse, short temper, bankruptcy, tax evasion… These are all things that come to mind when Backman’s name is brought up, not to mention the fact that the dude is good friends with Lenny Dykstra — not quite a paragon of amicability. I could imagine a half soused Wally Backman stumbling into GM XYZ’s office, shirt half untucked, bbq sauce stains above the letters, hat scrunched up in one hand, Keystone Light in the other, mumbling: “Pick up my option, dammit. Or I quit.”
GM XYZ sits back in his chair, loosens his tie and exhales as he examines the sad, disheveled remains of a World Series champion and says: “You’re fired.”
Why didn’t Rizzo just fire Riggleman again?
Hate me ‘cuz I refuse to resign, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
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This past week was a little sad for those of us from Michigan. The Tigers had a pretty awful road trip while former Miss USA and Miss Michigan, Rima Fakih, saw her one year reign come to an end.
Good bye, Rima. To be fair, I’m not really sure what you did during your year as beauty queen of America but you did strike a blow for Michiganders and Arab-Americans with your spectacular win last summer.
Now, the queen is dead but long live the queen. We may be sad that Rima is gone but Alyssa helps us forget our sorrows awful quickly.
Oh yeah, and the Tigers are back home in Detroit. Life is good.
The NBA Draft was held Thursday night, and in contrast to years previous, this one seemed to be less about an influx of young players and more about the Shaq sextape sized elephant in the room. Because by now, I think we all know that a lockout is coming, the next season might never be, and hearts will definitely be broken.
And the sadness doesn’t stop there. Think about the players who will suddenly be without work, with no pay. Will they be forced to drive Kias instead of Bentleys? Forced to drink Red Label instead of Blue? Have sex with their wives rather than the band of groupies hanging outside the team bus?
If you think professional basketball players will be able to just find work elsewhere, like the rest of us Joe Six-Packs would be forced to do, you might want to rethink the way the world works. Here, let Washington Wizards point guard, John Wall, prove my point:
The truth is, ya get these guys off the court and… well, things can get ugly.
Here’s hoping the NBA learns some valuable lessons from its MLB brethren, before it’s too late.
Although Sunday afternoon may be the domain of sports fanatics, Sunday morning holds the same mystique for fans of the political arena. The one true king, Tim Russert, is no longer with us, but his spirit lives on in the princelings that sprung up around him. However, just like fierce competition brings out the best in two opposing teams, the Sunday morning news shows are only as good as the discussion between the host and his guest.
In that respect, this past weekend brought us an epic showdown in the Sunday morning news show realm.
The piece is long. It’s 24 minutes long, in fact, but it’s worth watching every moment. Here’s a small taste:
Sure, there are no big plays, no cheerleaders but there are moments in the interview that are the intellectual equivalent of a bone-jarring tackle or tape-measure home run. It’s why I look forward to Sundays.
Jeff, I heard about Pujols… man… are you okay?
Jeff, I heard about Michele Bachmann topping another 2012 poll, is everything cool?
Jeff, I heard one still can’t find Kraftbrau’s Doppelbock on tap anywhere in the Chi. Are you contemplating suicide?
Bein’ down isn’t something I’m unaccustomed to, my friends. And yeah, back in the old days, I would sit and stew, fume and pout, whine and complain about things I could not control. But where is there value in that?
I would rather fight through hardships than lay down and die because of them. The satisfaction of overcoming adversity is like that first sip of a cold adult beverage after work on Friday: earning it makes it taste better. And sometimes, when failure is still the result, knowing I gave my best effort keeps me sane.
But I swear, if I don’t find that Doppelbock on tap somewhere in this city soon, no wall in my apartment is safe.
Hate me all ya want, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
And so in this Podcast brought to you by Lifestyles…
Jeff and Johanna dig into the bowels of the current Major League season and compare
sizes opinions on myriad topics, including but not limited to what makes an ideal fanboy merkin, the Cubbies‘ goat fiasco, Pat Burrell’s unfortunate meeting with a wall and much, much more! … all to make you laughy-hurty-face!
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Recorded Saturday, June 18, 2011