Monday, October 30, 2006

Now The World Knows: It's best to watch baseball in Anaheim

Okay, so this is a little old. But it's worth mentioning here, as it's always nice when the most respected sports magazine tells the world that the best MLB experience you can get is at Angel Stadium. That's right, folks. Sports Illustrated's annual "Fan Value Index" puts our beloved Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and "The Big A" right at the top.

I actually found this article well before I started this blog. But, as things tend to do on web sites, it disappeared, and I feared I'd never be able to link it here. Then it magically showed up again today, and now I get the opportunity to write about it.

This is a brilliant idea, really. It's very, very hard to compare venues as a baseball fan. Living in Southern California, I have more MLB teams local to me than most across America do. I have the Angels a mere five miles down Katella Avenue. The Dodgers are a short traffic jam up Interstate 5. And a hundred miles south play the Padres in Petco park. And folks, those are the only stadiums I have ever seen a ballgame played at. I've driven by the Oakland Colliseum. I've flown over the old Kingdome and new Safeco Park in Seattle. And I've stood outside the gates at Camden Yards in the middle of January while visiting my friend Doug from the Army. But I've only seen SoCal ballfields, and that's a big regret.

But, even had I done a cross-country ballpark trip and visited every Major League stadium in during one of my summers, it would have been hard to gauge the quality of any venue outside Anaheim. First off, I've seen hundreds of games at "The Big A." Even in the 65,000 seat mausoleum it used to be, it was still MY local stadium and MY local team. So my handul of trips to Chavez Ravine to see the Dodgers play or the one outing to see the Braves play the Padres at Petco this season with Art Lyles, the president of California Paralyzed Veterans Association (and a good friend of mine) were both substandard to a simple trip down the road to see my Angels. Even had I taken a vacation to see every stadium in the country (and Toronto), I would still say that "The Big A" was the best value for seeing an MLB game.

But now, it's confirmed by Sports Illustrated. It was done by polling rather than one or two supposedly unbiased sportswriters, which makes it more accurate. And we even moved up this year, after coming in 4th in the 2005 Fan Value Index.

So, if you want the best bang for your buck, the best overall experience while seeing a Major League Baseball game, head to Anaheim.

We'd love to see you there!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

2002 Remembered, part 2

A funny thing happened on the road to the playoffs in 2002.

I can remember being at the old "Big A," the 65,000 seat monstrosity with capacity crowds. Once was a July 4th game sometime in the mid-eighties, another was on August 13, 1989 against the Oakland A's. Seeing the old Anaheim Stadium filled with fans was a thing of beauty, a true feeling of being part of something big.

But for the most part, games back then were played in front of a mostly-empty stadium.

My wife recently bought me the DVD A Red Dawn Rises: The Story of the 2002 Anaheim Angels and while watching this 2-hour montage of the championship season, I was struck by something. In April of 2002, while the Angels were off to their first World Series Championship, the stands of the new and improved "Edison Field" were only half full.

Empty seats were common until recent Angels history, and memories of small crowds are part of the nostalgia held firm in the minds of old-time fans. As the Angels are a Southern California team, it's to be expected and accepted that when they're winning, they're going to draw more.

The upsetting thing to me, though, was the "fans."

I've long been used to the ridicule that Angels fans take, or at least used to take. LA Clippers fans used to laugh at us for loving such a hopeless team. So when I used to go to "The Big A," it was a common site to see more of an opposing team's jerseys on fans in the crowd than those sporting Angels gear. Then suddenly, I see the 2002 ALDS on TV and what do I see in the stands?

A sea of red so uniform that, were Moses to descend from heaven onto the pitcher's mound at Edison Field, he would not be able to resist the urge to part it.

The whole 2002 playoffs, as I sat watching at home or elsewhere, there was one thought I couldn't get out of my head: How many of these people in their red caps and jackets were wearing Yankees or Red Sox gear during the regular season and rooting AGAINST the Angels? How many had never bought a piece of Angels clothing until they went to the playoffs?

Much of this was probably due to my jealousy from not being able to score tickets. But, as it turned out, even if I had been able to buy tickets for the ALCS, I never would have been able to use them.

You see, I have a dirty little secret. As an Angels fan, there's not much October magic to remember. So when talking to other Angels fans, it's pretty much assumed that you've seen the recent postseason success. I remember the 1986 ALCS, I remember Donnie Moore giving up that shot to Dave Henderson, but I was too young in 1982 or 1979 to have cared much about the playoffs at all, even though my team was in them.

But now, four years later, I have a confession to make.

I didn't see a single game of the 2002 ALCS.

Yes, I know, the impression I've tried to make in you since I started this blog has been shot to hell. There's no way I can be a true Angels fan if I missed the playoffs in 2002. Sure, anybody can jump on the bandwagon and watch the World Series. But if you couldn't be bothered to watch the Angels get there, you aren't a real Angels fan, are you?

Well, let me explain the circumstances to you.

As Game 1 of the 2002 ALCS opened in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome against the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday, October 8, 2002, Orange County sat entranced in front of their televisions. As the National Anthem was sung and the game started, I was with about 120 other men from B Co 1/160th Infantry in our armory in Orange, California. As the Angels lost Game 1 to the Twins 2-1, I was on a bus en route to Ft. Irwin, about half way between Orange County and Las Vegas out in the Mojave desert. As baseball was played in Minnesota, I sat with an M-249 SAW (above) in my lap and wondered about the game and my Angels.

We went out to Ft. Irwin to waste thousands of tax dollars on the firing range, qualifying with the M-16 and (for awesome soldiers like I) the M-249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon), an 800 round-per-minute can of whoop-ass that, as was the case with me, is usually carried by the smallest, scrawniest guy in the squad. We slept on the range, under the Mojave stars, bundled up in our issue sleeping bags and neither shaving nor showering nor changing clothes for our entire stay.

I volunteered nightly for fireguard, making me quite popular amongst the other soldiers. I took the shift from 11 PM to midnight, a shift soldiers hate due to it requiring you to go to bed for an hour or two, wake up, then try to get back to sleep for a few hours before wake up.

I took it so I could climb up into the range control tower, set my cell phone to "roam," and call my dad.

Roaming is expensive, so my calls were kept to a couple minutes. And with the exception of "Hi dad," "I love you dad," and "Goodnight dad," the conversations revolved around one main topic: How did the Angels do tonight?

On Sunday morning, October 13, 2002, we boarded busses and made our way back to our Armory. The Angels had taken a 3-1 series lead the night before, and as we unloaded our gear into the Armory in Hart Park in Orange, Game 5 was underway. A weekend in the desert for a civilian is dirty enough. For a soldier, it requires hours of cleanup. So as we unloaded the bus at around 2 or 3 PM, we knew we wouldn't be dismissed until well after dinner time. We laid our weapons inside the Armory and prepared to start cleaning.

But a funny thing happened on the way to weapons disassembly. Out in the storage building, one of the supply sergeants had a clock radio.

While about half the Company was inside cleaning weapons and gear, the other half of us were huddled around a small radio in a tin-roofed shed, surrounded by gas masks and ruck sacks, listening to the game. We tried to stay as quiet as possible, but as the game went on, as Adam Kennedy hit one, two, then three home runs, as the outs dwindled away for Minnesota, the excitement built.

And as the Angels shut down the Twins in the 9th inning and Rory Markus (I think he was announcing, at least) let his excitement burst through as he announced that the Angels were going to the World Series, the cheers erupted and a bunch of dirty, grimy, stinky soldiers jumped up and down in a celebration that probably looked much like what was happening at Edison Field just a few miles away.

The Angels were going to the World Series.

to be concluded...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

And the 2007 predictions start...

One day. Less than that, really. I got up today at about noon, did my check of the usual news and sports sites and came across this article by Tony DeMarco at msnbc.com.

It took less than one day for some professional sportswriter to post his predictions for the 2007 season. I'm a bit impressed, actually. It certainly takes balls to put your prognosticating skills on the line before a single player files for free agency, before the winter meetings, before a single signing or trade, hell, before all the confetti is even cleaned up at Busch Stadium.

I'd probably scoff a little bit, act superior, do a bit of internet trash talking if he hadn't picked the Angels to win the American League Pennant. DeMarco says:

Los Angeles: They didn’t pull the trigger to add offense when they desperately needed it, and it cost them. They won’t make that mistake this winter, when you can count on a big bat being added. And you have to figure a Mike Scioscia team will play better fundamentally and defensively than in 2006. There should be enough pitching to make an extended run, so here is your AL pennant winner.

Doesn't that just make you smile a bit? Well, so long as you're an Angels fan. It's even better if you're a Mets fan, as he picks them to beat us in the World Series.

I'm not gonna comment too much on his psychic abilities, because I was a whopping 3-for-7 in postseason series this year, and though that's a good record if your name is Jeff Weaver (Ba-DUM-bum!), it's shitty when you consider that I was making predictions the day before play started in each series. DeMarco is picking the World Series winner a whole year (give or take a day or two) in advance. I can't do that.

I'm not even going to sit here and say that the Angels are my pick for the AL Pennant. It's just too early for me. I think the Angels have as good a chance as anybody, and we're going to be a force to be reckoned with if we get some more hitting, but AL Champs? It would be nice...

I'd be doing this blog regardless of whether I thought the Angels could go all the way this year. Like Stephen King and Stewarn O'Nan in their book "Faithful," I may have picked the right year to do this, but there's a damn good chance this blog won't end with a final post entitled "ANGELS WIN WORLD SERIES!" But unlike King and O'Nan, this isn't for publishing. This is to keep me writing, to hone my skills, to keep my brain working, and to be a better fan. I'd like to get a bunch of readers, but only to get some discussion going, some comments to give me ideas for posts, and make new friends with a similar passion. And I'd be doing it even if the Angels were picked to finish behind the Kansas City Royals.

For the thousandth time, this is not a blog about Angels moves, scores, and standings. This is a blog about me enjoying a season with my favorite team. And win or lose, championship or cellar, I will be there the entire year.

But oh boy would it be nice to write a blog about a year being an Angels fan in a season when they win it all...

Wish I'd have thought of this in 2002.

Now, a bit of Angels roster news. Before you point out to me that just three paragraphs ago I wrote "this is not a blog about Angels moves, scores, and standings," I have to say I'd be a bad blogger if I didn't include all the Angels news items I could. If you get news, though, you'll certainly get my opinion.

This wasn't in any of the usual sports sites I read daily, but Sportingnews.com reports that the Angels have released Curtis Pride. I've seen him play a few times, filling in for injured or resting players, but never knew much about him. I certainly didn't know he was drafted in 1986 and has bounced around more teams than a nymphomaniac groupie. I can't remember one thing about him, other than his great name. I feel bad that he's never really made it, and I'm sorry he couldn't with us. But I hope it's not too late for him, that he finds a team this offseason and has a great year. (edit: Upon doing more research, I had no idea that Curtis Pride is deaf. I think it's great that I had no idea about this, as I've watched him play as any normal player, seeing him for his talent, not his disability.)

On a closing note, I've decided that, in the spirit of my team, I'm making all my clickies in this blog red instead of the usual blue. I hope it isn't too confusing, as it seems the logical choice.

And if we win the World Series a year from now (give or take a few days), I'll credit it entirely to the karma of the red clickies.

Four years ago yesterday; 2002 Remembered, part 1


I can't believe I forgot about it... I feel like such a bad fan, almost like I missed my child's birthday or forgot to get my wife an anniversary present. Yesterday, October 27th, was the four year anniversary of the Angels' defeat of the San Francisco Giants in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series.

I suppose I can be forgiven. It's not as if I received an engraved invitation to the party or anything. I kinda hoped the 4th anniversary party would be on the field of some National League team, as the Angels won their second World Series this year. But, alas, it wasn't to be, and I now have reason to write this blog (It'd be a boring diary, that of a fan the year AFTER a World Series win, wouldn't it?)

But, nonetheless, yesterday was the four year mark of the first World Championship in Anaheim, and thusfar, the last. And your normal blogger would probably use this space to talk about the series. They'd post recaps of the games, pics of Troy Percival celebrating the final out of Game 7, things like that. But not I.

No, I will take this opportunity to recount my experience of the 2002 World Series.

I know nobody cares about this except me, as any true Angels fan will find it inferior to their own recollections of watching, of LIVING, the World Series we always hoped, but never thought, would be.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It all started with a kind of dumb disbelief and, to be honest, a strong dose of cynicism. When the Angels clinched the Wild Card slot in 2002, it was something I wasn't used to. The 1995 Angels and their collapse was, though. Coming the season after the '94 strike, I wasn't that concerned. Even with Cal Ripken's 2131st consecutive game, baseball was on my shit list, and the fact that Disney had bought my team did not help. So, as the Angels slid from an 11-game August lead to a tie for the AL West, it wasn't a surprise. Nor was Seattle's 9-1 victory in the 1-game playoff to decide the AL West Championship.

My entire life, the Angels were a first-half team. I watched them compete neck-and-neck with the Oakland A's in 1989, only to collapse after the All-Star break. It was expected that any success the Angels had would be early and fleeting.

But there was something different about 2002. Perhaps it was the uniform change. Chris Berman at ESPN had called the 1997-2001 design (logo to the left) "Softball beer league" uniforms, and I can't think of anything that describes it better. Perhaps the Rally Monkey truly had mystical powers.

But more likely, it was the right players, the right manager and coaches, at the right time. The Angels fought through the regular season to win 99 games, and for the first time since I've been old enough to truly pay attention, it looked like they believed they could win.

So, as the ALDS started and the Yankees came to Anaheim for Game 1, I was excited to have postseason baseball in my town, in my stadium, but my hopes weren't too high. These were the New York Yankees, the defending American League Champions, and nobody gave the Angels a chance. Much like an actor up for an Academy Award with no chance of winning saying "It's an honor just to be nominated," I thought it was a special season just to be in the playoffs, and I was happy just to be able to turn on my TV in October and watch Angels baseball.

I figured the Yankees would win in 4 games, and the only reason I didn't pick the Yankees to win in 3 is because I didn't have the heart to pick my Angels to get swept.

So in Game 1 at Edison Field, when the Angels took a 5-4 lead into the 8th inning, I was surprised. When the Yankees came back in to go ahead 8-5, I was not.

But then something amazing happened. In New York, the Angels won Game 2. The sweep that the entire baseball writing world had predicted was not to happen. And those slow rolling waves of hope began to erode the bedrock of pessimism my Fandom was built upon. I kept thinking to myself these are the Angels, they'll find 2002's answer to Donnie Moore, but these thoughts were half-hearted. By the time the Angels won Game 3 to take a 2-1 lead over the Yankees in the 5 game series, cynical thoughts were softer, quieter, and were starting to be less of a defense mechanism and more fear that it might happen.

So, when the Angels beat the Yankees 9-5 in Game 4 of the 2002 ALDS, I cheered loudly in front of my TV. I smiled. My Angels had just won their first ever postseason series, and by stunning the mighty Yankees, no less! 2002 was a success, regardless of what happened after that.

And while doom was in my mind, the brightness of hope had, for the first time, drowned it out.

To be continued...

Friday, October 27, 2006

End of the postseason, or beginning of preseason? PLUS! This blog gets a reader!

Cardinals win! And with that, the 2006 season is in the books. A long, cold winter lies ahead, as well as the biggest test I'll have for this blog: No longer will I be able to get by with daily updates about the playoffs, letting my sparse opinions on daily happenings in playoff games fulfill my promise that this is not a blog about a sport or a team, but about ME enjoying my team.

While the winter meetings are coming up and free agency starts now, there's going to be little news for a few months on the baseball front. While I'm sure I could make a daily post out of all the trades, free agent signings, rumors, and speculation for the 2007 season, I'll get bored doing that VERY quickly and that's what SI.com is for.

I'd say ESPN.com as well, but for everything cool there you have to be a member. ESPN.com is like a porn site; it gives you enough to turn you on, but if you want to click the really juicy links, you gotta break out the credit card.

So, in the next few months, expect this to be a blog more about me than the Angels. I'm sure I'll write many a post about my life as an Angels fan, about games I've been to, about the history of my club, but for the most part, be prepared to meet ME.

With that said, there's one piece of semi-Angels news I feel I need to talk about. I've been hearing about Gary Sheffield's whining these last few days, about his attempts to whine his way out of the Yankees picking up his $13 million option for 2007 and possibly trading him, rather than buying out his contract so he can sign a multi-year contract with another team, possibly an AL East rival. I can't blame the Yankees for thinking this way. It's better to trade him to a city where he can't hurt you than to let him go to the Red Sox, for example. But much like Sheffield did in 2005, basically putting a "no trade clause" in his contract by saying he wouldn't play if he were traded, basically being a little whiny bitch and saying "If I can't be a Yankee, I'm gonna take my ball and go home," Jon Heyman at SI.com reports that he's doing the exact same thing again. Click the link, scroll down about 2/3 of the page, and watch your jaw drop as a millionaire whines and cries.

The reason I bring this up isn't due to my surprise at spoiled rotten Gary Sheffield. I bring this up for this line in the article: the Yankees are seriously considering picking up his option for $13 million to trade him to one of a few teams that's expressed interest (the Angels are one).

I pray this isn't true. I pray that, if Bill Stoneman is this big an idiot, that Arte Moreno has the brains to stop him. The Yankees are in desperate need of pitching, so that would be the likely cost for the Angels in this trade.

Ignoring Sheffield's attitude for a second, let's look at Gary Sheffield the player. Sure, he's had a great career. But the man is THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS OLD. Yes, I had to bold that. Is it worth giving up a young pitcher for a slugger who never truly reached his potential, and even if he had, he's seen his best days years ago? I expected this from the old Angels. It was commonplace in the 80's and 90's to let the young talent slip away to get a big name has-been. I still feel a burning sensation in my ass from the Dante Bichette-for-Dave Parker trade in 1992. And I will be very unhappy if Arte Moreno leads this team down the same slope it once owned. Then, of course, there's Sheffield's attitude. Does any Angels fan want a player on this team who tells the press "If you want to trade for me, you have to deal with me directly. Trust me, you won't want me there if I'm not happy. I don't care if I love the owner, if I love the GM, if I love the city. I'm going on my terms?" I hope that answer is a resounding "No."

So yes, I actually had a bit of Angels news in there! Are you surprised? I know I've advertised this as an Angels blog, and have had a lot of problems keeping that promise. But rest assured, if you're an Angels fan, I'll do my best to make this blog "must-read" for the 2007 season.

Speaking of which, I logged in tonight to find I had a couple comments waiting for me! And, as a plus, the person who left them is NOT somebody I know personally! (Apologies to Scott Topiol, but I've known him for five years, so his readership is almost required.) My new reader calls himself "SecondBest Dad," and God bless him, he's a big Angels fan too! Many thanks to you, SecondBest Dad. I really appreciate your comments, and infinitely more, I'm happy that you appreciate my blog! Keep the comments coming, even if it means calling me an idiot when I'm being one! Oh, and tell all the Angels fans you know about this, as I'm an attention whore and LOVE having readers! By the way, you have me really intrigued with the thought of Aramis Ramirez in a Halos uniform. I haven't heard any rumors, but I think he'd be a great fit with our club. A player like him batting third with Vladdy behind him (not vice-versa, as Vladamir Guerrero is the best bad-ball hitter I've ever seen, making him VERY tough to pitch around), you have a very potent heart of the lineup, don't you?

Of course, this is all speculation. But that's the joy of winter. We have all the time we need to wish, think, and hope.

Come Spring, it's time to think about actually PLAYING baseball again!

2006 World Series Game 5

And with the Cardinals 4-2 win over the Detroit Tigers tonight, the 200 baseball season comes to a close. I'd like to sit here and talk about the important plays of tonight's game, the clutch moments, the mistakes that cost the Tigers, but I really can't. Tonight was my bowling night, and while the game was on at Valley View Lanes, there was no sound, and it's a bit tough to keep up with a muted World Series game while getting a few glimpses in between tossing a ball down the alley. Though I did see Justin Verlander throw two wild pitches in the first inning, and Chris Duncan try to give the game away with two dropped fly balls in right field. But I worry not, as even if I had thousands of readers, I'm quite sure none of them would come here for a complete game recap. Besides, SI.com does a better job than I ever could.

As Adam Wainwright was on the mound in the top of the 9th, I snuck away from my ball-tossing duties to the bar, trying to catch the third out on the bigscreen with sound. And while silence sometimes seems preferable to listening to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, there's no announcer in the world that's so horrible that I wouldn't want to hear the final out in the World Series. But alas, I got to the bar and the bigscreen was off and Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" was on the jukebox. So the roar of the crowd and wisdom for history from Buck or McCarver forever escaped my ears.

It wasn't until I got home tonight that I learned that David Eckstein was named the World Series MVP. This in itself made the whole postseason for me. After his performance in Game 3, Tom Verducci wrote a "David [Eckstein] vs. Goliath" article at SI.com. With that and tonight's MVP award, I'm thrilled that the whole world has now seen "The X-Factor" that we had of-so-briefly in Anaheim. Though it is bittersweet, as I have to remember that the Angels didn't even offer him a contract when he was a free agent in 2004. Yes, we signed Orlando Cabrera in the 2004 offseason, and yes OC is, in most ways, a better shortstop. But Eckstein is a real-life Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger; he's five-foot nuthin', weighs a hundred and nuthin', and ever inch and pound of that is heart. In the article linked above, Tony LaRussa says that Eckstein is the toughest player he's ever seen in uniform. That sparkplug type of player, that personality, is something that cannot be scouted, nor can it be taught, and it's been obvious that it's been missing in the Angels dugout the past two seasons.

But with that, the great sport of baseball will fall silent. A long winter's rest lies ahead, and other distractions and sports will occupy our time. But spring is right around the corner, and as the snow melts in higher latitudes and the days begin to grow longer, men will once again come together to play this greatest of children's games.

Spring is a ways off, but oh how glorious that renewal will be.

2006 World Series Game 4

It only needs to be said once: David Eckstein is the MAN! Watching him go 4-for-4 with three doubles including one in the bottom of the 8th to drive in the game-winning run fills me with conflicting emotions. I said it best in my post on Jacob Luft's blog at SI.com last night (and yes, I'm copying and pasting this because I'm a lazy bastard):

David Eckstein is the PERFECT example of how you can always find somebody to root for in the playoffs, even if your team didn't make it. Tommy Lasorda should have pulled "The X-Factor" out during those commercials, as watching Eckstein is a lot more fun that rooting against any team, even the Yankees (for you Boston fans.)

Of all the players I've seen slip through the seams in Anaheim, Eckstein is probably the one I miss the most. He's a modern-day Rudy, half the size of your average player, but ten times the heart. His presence in the Angels dugout is sorely missed, and I can't help but cheer for him wherever he goes. And watching him hit those three doubles tonight was enough reason to watch a World Series starring two teams I care little about.

It makes me a bit sad seeing Eckstein and Spezio in a World Series and wearing a red uniform (a color which we stole, but boy was it the perfect color to steal!) and remembering that this isn't 2002. But I can always get my daily allowance of sour grapes watching Jeff Weaver pitch.

So, Eckstein, Spezio, Edmonds, and the rest: I hope you take this series. I hope two guys that Bill Stoneman cast off from our club find the joy of winning in St. Louis.

but I hope you guys get shelled tomorrow. At least until Larussa pulls Weaver.

I hate the fact that we're still paying him millions to do for St. Louis what he couldn't in Anaheim: Win.

So, even if the Tigers win it, they can't do it in the 6 games I predicted now. And what good is history if you can't remind people about it at every turn? Of course, this isn't 1968 or 1985, so it doesn't mean it will happen again. A team with a 3-1 lead in the World Series has won 85% of the time. I'll take the Cardinals.

In 6, of course. I just can't pick them to win tonight with Jeff Weaver on the mound.

Unless, as I said, he gets shelled and pulled early, and the Cardinals come back to win it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

2006 World Series Game 4: RAINED OUT!

Therefore, we all need something to alleviate the boredom... So, instead of cruising around the humor sites, the news sites can be just as entertaining, as sometimes, the funniest story of the year can be found at a real news site...

A little catching up...

Alright, since all I've been doing lately is commenting on World Series games, there has been an accumulation of tabs in my Firefox browser waiting to be clickied and stuck in here for your viewing pleasure (or, rather, my own cataloguing, as I have no throngs of constant readers yet).


First off, let's get back to my A-Rod fixation. Don't you love that picture to the left? Hell, I'm an Alex Rodriguez fan and I think it's funny as hell. And the purse is just such a great touch. Poor A-Rod... This is the moment, right here, where he went from THE GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) to just A goat. That slap in the 2004 ALCS... Had it worked, it would have been one of the smartest moves by one of the best players ever to play the game. Instead, it's going to be in his epitaph as a joke.

Anyway, back to the point. There's been a few A-Rod articles recently dealing with the trade rumors. This one by Bob Klapisch over at ESPN.com weighs the possibilities of a trade regardless of what Brian Cashman, the Yankee's GM, or A-Rod say. The Angels are mentioned as having "enough talent to make the Yankees listen," but they mention the notorious tightness of Bill Stoneman. Then, today (again at ESPN.com), Scott Boras (Rodriguez's agent) says his client is spending at least one more season in the Bronx.

You know, all this speculation is fun and all, but it's getting tiring. It made me jump with glee when I first started seeing rumors that one of my favorite players might have a chance of wearing the uniform of my team, but now it's unsettling. Regardless of what is true or isn't as far as these rumors are concerned, the near silence of the Yankees is deafening. Of course Cashman is out there saying "we're not trading him," but that rings as hollow as a candidate for the Presidency talking about lower taxes. Were I George Steinbrenner, everybody on that team would be shouting at the top of their lungs about how A-Rod is going NOWHERE. They'd be angry and frothing at the mouth about these asshole sportswriters trying to make controversy where there is none. Instead, you get flat denials from Brian Cashman. So I'd still love to see him come here, but at this point, it'd be more like welcoming a refugee than a baseball god.

Enough A-Rod rumors. Let's go to rumors surrounding other players. SI.com's "Turth and Rumors" column lists the Angels as a team interested in free agent Barry Zito, and the A's interested in Bud Black for the open managerial position. While I can't really comment on Bud Black's ability, I can say that, while Zito is good, he hasn't shown the same dominance he used to have in about three or four years, and it's not pitching we have a lack of right now.

Unless we ship away a pitcher or two for a slugger who's no longer welcome in pinstripes...

And with that, it's time for a little listening pleasure. God bless you, Terry Cashman. Thank you for this version of the greatest baseball song ever written, as well as the inspiration for this blog's domain name.

Be forewarned: If you play that song even once, it'll be in your head for days.

2006 World Series: Game 3

Cardinals win 5-0. Chris Carpenter pitches 8 scoreless innings, and once again one team shows its bats, the other team hides theirs. Back and forth this series wobbles, and on which side of its axis it will land is all up in the air now.

In other words, it looks like a real series.

Well, except for the fact that none of the three games so far has been competitive. One team or the other shows up. It sure would be nice to see some back and forth scoring or a true pitcher's duel, but hey, even though it is the Fall Classic, not all of them can be classics...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

2006 World Series, Game 2

And the Tigers bite back! Yeah, I know, more then 24 hours have passed since the game, but I've been lying in bed most of the day while the pain in my hip has become nearly unbearable and there happens to be a Vicodin shortage in my house right now.

Last night's game was hardly a blowout, but of course the Tiger's win was not the big story of the night. That belonged to 41 year old pitcher Kenny Rogers.

You'd think his 23 scoreless inning playoff streak would make the news in big ways, or the way he absolutely dominated the Cardinals hitting last night. No, the big news (all over the front page on every sports site) is a mysterious blob of something on his pitching hand. John Heyman at SI.com reports that it was probably pine tar. Rogers himself said it was dirt and rosin or something. But all of that is meaningless.

In the first inning, the umpires were alerted to it. The head umpire told him to wash his hands, and it he did, and it was gone. Then (here's the kicker) Rogers proceeded to shut down the Cardinals for the rest of the night, sans pine tar or whatever it was.

I was on the phone with my friend Scott Topiol during the first innings of the game last night when the cameras showed the "brown clump" on Rogers' throwing hand. (as seen to the left.) I said to him "Oh, shit, this is all we're gonna hear about for the rest of the series," and it appears I'm right. Those ever-so-clever journalists out there, always on the cutting edge of coming up with new ways to simplify things for the moronic masses, have named this... hold on to your panties... "Dirtgate." Ah, how great is it that the Watergate hotel gave us not only an important news story and scandal, but also a suffix to use to describe anything that reeks of scandal or cover-up? I only wish it had been called the "Watershire." It sounds much more classy... Imagine "Dirtshire." Or, if there's a scandal in Worcester, it'd be "Worcestershire." Thank you, that joke cost me $400.00. Damn writer's union.

Either way, there's a simple end to this, and it's much like the steroids scandal plaguing baseball today (more on that later, I have a blog entry from myspace.com I'll repost here on that), which I suppose is now "Juicegate." Whether that was dirt, pine tar, sexual lubricant, solid rocket fuel, or weapons-grade plutonium, it doesn't matter. No, not in the ESPN.com "baseball will survive" "doesn't matter" way. It doesn't matter because the umpire was alerted, and told him to wash his hands. End of story.

There are no "checks and balances" on a baseball field. The umpire crew are a group of men who are despotic in their powers. They are Pharaohs on the field, Kim Jong Ils in blue shirts and black pants. Their word is not just law, it's divine. A strike is a strike, and no amount of arguing is going to change it. Umpires will often conference to make a decision, but once they do, there is no appealing to a higher court, no Marbury vs. Madison ruling that removes any power from the umps. What they say goes.

So, when the umpire told Kenny Rogers to wash his hands, that was it. Story over. Dirt or not, cheating or not, what happened on the field of play was decided and no amount of second or third guessing by the Fourth Estate will change any of it. It's been decided, and it's not for us to decide any longer.

End rant.

Prepare for game three tomorrow in St. Louis.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

2006 World Series: Game 1


And boy, what a difference a week spent mowing lawns and poking wives makes to the bats of a Major League ballclub. It appears as if the Tigers and Cardinals have truly saved the best for last, as the Cards suddenly found their offense in their Game 1 victory in Detroit tonight. And all this behind a stellar 8 innings from a pitcher who went 5-8 in the regular season and wasn't even on the roster after spring training.

And surprised they were in Detroit. I said earlier today that Detroit got to the World Series on momentum, and apparently a long layoff was not what the Tigers needed. I read one of those "kiss of death" stats today (you know, the ones like when the announcer says "so-and-so has not given up a home run to a left-handed batter in 97 innings, and you wince, because you know the next pitch the guy throws is going to be in the bleachers) saying that the last 6 or so teams coming into the World Series with more than five days of rest have gone on to win it. Detroit was supposed to be rested and ready, St. Louis was supposed to be bruised and weary from their battle with New York.

St. Louis's "weariness" gave them seven runs tonight, and Detroit's "rested" bats went cold and never threatened except for a run in the 1st inning and a gimme in the 9th.

I still stand by my prediction, but I have to let you in on a little secret: I'm kinda sorta rooting for the Cards.

I'm an American League man all the way. I grew up in an American League town. Seeing pitchers bat is foreign to me, and were double switches or pulling pitchers for a pinch hitter rather than tiring arms commonplace for my favorite team, I'd have to learn a lot more baseball strategy. Generally, I cheer for the American League team in the All Star Game and the Fall Classic.

But this year, it's a bit different.

First off, I really don't care much about either team. While the Tigers have a great history going back to before the turn of the last century, they've never been a team of mystique to me like the Yankees or the Red Sox. They've never really had players I liked, they've never been a perennial contender, and they've never captured my imagination. St. Louis is an NL team, which is one strike against it already. And though it too has a storied history, the team that was for many years the furthest West AND South in Major League Baseball has never captured my fancy either, though I do like seeing Busch Stadium all full of fans in red (hey, we stole their color, but dammit we stole the RIGHT color!)

With that said, in normal circumstances I'd fall back on the familiar and root for the Tigers to win. But I find my allegiance in this series has been swayed to the Cardinals now. And it's not for their red uniforms or a sudden appreciation of the National League. In fact, it has less to do with the uniform they wear than those wearing the uniform.

Though they have long left my Angels, I'm pulled toward hoping for a St. Louis victory because of David Eckstein, Scott Spezio, and especially Jim Edmonds, who wasn't around in 2002 with the other guys.

But definitely not for Jeff Weaver.

Screw Jeff Weaver.

Had he pitched even half as well as his younger sibling and man who replaced him in the Angels rotation, Jered Weaver, we may have been a lot less back in the AL West than 4 games. In fact, we may have won the division for a third straight season and seen how the Detroit momentum held out when it met us instead of Oakland Moneyball.

Yeah, yeah, if ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas. And if 3-10 pitchers signed as free agents could pull their weight and pitch .500 ball, we may have had a different playoff picture.

Sorry, but I wish Jeff Weaver the best and I hope he gets a ring, I really do. But seeing him pitch (very well, at times) in the playoffs while we're still paying him the $11 million for this season and St. Louis is chipping in the league minimum (about $350k) is like a piece of beef jerkey stuck in a cracked tooth.

At least that's money we'll have free next year to bring in a bat or two.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Fall Classic


In less than four hours, the penultimate contest in all of baseball gets underway as the Detroit Tigers host the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

It has all come down to this. From thirty teams in the regular season to eight in the playoffs to two fighting it out for the title. For the American League, the Detroit Tigers surprised everybody coming out strong and posting the best record in baseball until deciding to let it almost slip away in September, settling for the wild card. For the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals came damn close to losing everything in the final weeks, avoiding what would have gone down as one of the greatest regular-season chokes of all time (pay no attention to the 1995 Angels) to prove, once again, that anything can happen in the playoffs even if nobody believes but you (please see the 2002 Angels.)

And still, for St. Louis, very few believe. Sports Illustrated has picked the Tigers in six. ESPN has picked them in five. Everywhere you go, it's not tough to find "experts" who don't give the Cards a chance.

Except Dan O'Neill at MSNBC.com. He picks the Cardinals to win. Does he have inside information the rest don't? Did he travel to the future in a Delorean to buy a Sports Almanac from the year 2026? Does he have a truly magic Magic 8-Ball? No, he's guessing.

Just like everybody else.

And me.

With that, I pick the Tigers in 6. Momentum has little to do with it this time, as a week of mowing lawns and screwing wives doesn't keep momentum up very well. This time, it's plain pitching and lineup. The Tigers are just better.

Not that that means anything in a seven game series, though.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A-Rod (yet again), Bye Bye Bud Black, and get buried w/ the Cubs!

It's been an obsession of mine for a while now, and evidence of it has been all over this blog. It doesn't help that the only thing to talk about as far as the Angels are concerned are the rumors bringing Alex Rodriguez to the Halos in a trade with the Yankees, and once again John Heyman in "The Daily Scoop" at Sports Illustrated feeds us more of this rumor. It seems it was written to refute these rumors where, shortly after he took over as manager of the Cubs, reports everywhere stated that Lou Piniella wanted A-Rod playing for him in Wrigley. Once again, though, America's sportswriters show why the best bet of seeing Rodriguez playing in a uniform other than Yankee pinstripes next year will be at the "Big A." Of course, if you've been reading this blog (or just surfing through the archives) you know my feelings on this.

And, though it is a few days old, it should be noted that Angels pitching coach Bud Black may be on to bigger things. If he gets the job in San Fransisco, he has a big rebuilding program ahead of him. Eleven free agents this season, a club that was ancient in 2002 when they lost the World Series and is only older now, it ain't gonna be fun and games to whomever gets this job. But I think Bud Black will make a good manager. If you think about it, he's done wonders with a pitching staff that, for the most part, wouldn't be expected to be among the best in the league. If he could conquer John Lackey's tendency to freak out and panic when he gives up a few hits, he'd go down as the best pitching coach in the game today. If he gets the job with the Giants, I'm sure it's our loss and their gain.


And, if he chokes, at least they'll have something to bury him in. I'm not sure about you, but I think that we may have reached the end of the line as far as untapped advertising markets are concerned. While I understand that there may be a few people who want their ashes foerver interred in an urn with a Mickey Mantle autographed ball as a stopper, is there going to eb a glut of people wanting to be buried in a Kansas City Royals or a Tampa Bay Devil Rays casket?

And, a thousand years from now when some archeologist digs them up, are they going to be assumed to be the idiot with too much money they obviously are?

NLCS Game 7: It all comes down to this.

That is, it all comes down to the deciding game to decide who will lose the 2006 World Series to the Detroit Tigers. At least, that's the common consensus around all of the supposed "experts." I'm sure there are millions of people in St. Louis and New York who are sure that, if their team wins tonight, that they can easily handle the Tigers starting Saturday night.

Which brings me to the Tigers. They've reached the World Series on a run of nothing but momentum, stomping on the Yankees three in a row in the ALDS after losing the first game, then embarrassing the A's in the ALCS and sweeping them in front of the home crowd at the Oakland Mausoleum... err... Colliseum. But momentum is a hard thing to keep, epecially when you have a week-long break waiting for your opponent to be decided.

Arms and bats get cold in a layoff like that, and worse they're all probably reading their own press.

If the momentum stops and we have an actual World Series this year, great! Hell, we haven't had a game 7 in the World Series since the Angels won it in 2002. And while I haven't seen anything near the strength the Tigers have shown in the Cardinals or Mets, but that's absolutely meaningless.

Afterall, as Sun Tzu famously said in "The Art of War:"

"Anything can happen in a short series. Particularly if a team's pitching is hot or not."

Monday, October 16, 2006

NLCS Day... ah, who gives a shit, anyway?

So the Mets pounded the Cardinals last night, and David Eckstein has proven to be a much more potent offensive force than Albert Pujols. Series tied 2-2. Today's game rained out, so they'll play tomorrow rather than travel.

This is the problem with the NLCS this year: No travel days. Screwed by rain in New York then in St. Louis, the clubs have had to play, travel, then play the next day. No real rest (though I'm not sure you could call travel "rest.") All the while, Detroit gets a week of rest. It'll be interesting to see how this pays off. Will the rest help Detroit, or will it cool the frenzy of kicking ass so spectacularly in the first two rounds? We'll know in a few weeks at the latest.

At a certain point, I have to remember what I'm doing here. This is, afterall, a blog about me and the Los Angeles Angels. There has been little talk of the Angels lately, but then again, the Angels are sitting home watching the games in the same way I am, though I imagine they're watching on much bigger TV's and much better home theater systems. With little news from Anaheim, it's tough to find anything to write about.

So when an article like this one at SI.com pops up, I'm all over it, even though it says nothing new.

"The Angels are rumored to be working on a big name. They appear to be in contention for Alex Rodriguez if the Yankees elect to move him. They appear to be in on Alfonso Soriano and might even be a player for Manny Ramírez."

-- Boston Globe

With all due credit to the journalistic abilities of the Boston Globe, is this anything people all over the damn country didn't already know? In July, rumors were floating all over the sports world about the Angels' interest in picking up Soriano. Over the last few years every time Many Ramirez has let his desire to be traded be known (about every week or so), rumors pop up about how he wants to play in Anaheim. And even I am getting sick about hearing about A-Rod to Anaheim rumors (though I'll gleefully post them every time they come up in a reliable news site, obviously.)

It's going to be a long winter, my friends. The news front will be barren, cold, and empty. But when the Louisville Sluggers find their way back into the bat racks, when the gloves are oiled and worked in, when the fastballs go whizzing into catcher's mitts, and when teams field their youngsters and veterans in leagues named Grapefruit or Cactus, oh what a glorious spring it will be.

At least somebody at a Nationals game got to 3rd base...


If the picture to the left isn't worth a thousand words, then this clicky will help it along the way.


My definition of "heaven" has changed signifcantly over my life. When I was a toddler, it was full of candy and had no vegetables. From about age 8 to 11, I was quite sure that in heaven I would get to be a bad-ass ninja. Then puberty hit and I became an agnostic, as I was sure that heaven was filled with nothing but willing females, but religion told me that even thoughts of women parts were sinful, therefore there would be none in heaven. So from then on, I didn't know if I could believe.

But now, I'd say that this picture would come pretty damn close. Except it's one of George Bush's daughters (not for the way they look, but because at that point who's the most powerful man in the world, the President or the guy getting a blowjob from his daughter?). And it's at Angel Stadium.

And it's game 6 of the 2002 World Series.

And at the moment of my climax, Scott Spezio hits his home run.

And it hits Jenna Bush right in the head, knocking her out.

And the ball lands right in my lap.

Really, what could be better than that?

12:29 AM edit:

It can't believe I missed this, but this was at RFK Stadium at a Nationals game. In Washingon D.C.

I do believe that makes it about a 50% chance that that unidentified woman in this photo is one of the Bush daughters.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

LCS Day 5. Oh, and days 3 and 4 too

Yeah, I slacked. I admit it. I'm not sure if it was the weekend binge of a cheap booze and expensive hookers or that, after two weeks of this blog, I got my first comment on one of my posts (thank you Scott Topiol) and my ego couldn't handle the sudden fame brought on by an adoring public and I snapped in a manner that makes Mel Gibson's DUI arrest look like reading to sick children in the hospital.

Either that, or I just didn't feel like it.

With that said, my apologies, but I'm sure nobody missed me. After all, if you're reading this for my writing, you know that creativity cannot be rushed and should be willing to wait a few days for the muses to inspire me once again. If you're reading this for the baseball scores and have thusly been ignorant of the happenings in the LCS, well, you found this blog, I'm sure you can find SI.com or even a local newspaper. Of course, this all hinges on the "if you are reading this," which, so far, nobody really is.

With that said, on to the commentary you've been so desperate to read.

ALCS: Athletics vs. Tigers

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta. The Tigers (yes, the TIGERS!) are going to the World Series. I called them to beat the A's in 6, and they one-upped me by sweeping them. I picked the Tigers based on only the momentum coming off not only beating but humiliating the Yankees in the LDS. I picked them to win in 5 because, well, the A's are as close as the Angels have to a rivalry, and it just feels good to predict them to choke again. Of course, it feels much, much better to actually SEE it happen.

NLCS: Mets vs. Cardinals

Since my last post, the NLCS has played three games. The Mets won the first, 2-0 on another performance on the mound from Tom Glavine you've come to expect from him. Then the Cards won the next two with a lot of help from Scott Spezio, who hit 2-run triples in both game 2 and game three. His postseason heroics are not unknown to us Angels fans, as he made me weep tears of joy with is home run in the 7th inning of game 6 of the 2002 World Series, providing the turning point that brought a World Championship to a team I never expected (or even dreamed) would get one. I called the Cardinals in 5, but this series looks like it could actually bring some excitement the playoffs have been lacking this year.

Not to say that the playoffs this year have been boring. Just that there's been so little suspense in the playoffs this year. Not that every postseason should be pure magic like 2002 or 2004, but it's something we've come to expect a little. Though I'm sure fans in the midwest would disagree, with Detroit winning the American League championship, and the Cardinals obviously not reading their press clippings where everybody counted them out of it.

No matter if there's little dramatic tension. I'll keep watching.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

LCS, Day 2: Rain in New York, Choking in Oakland

Two posts already today, so a short one on today's games.

Mets vs. Cardinals: Rained out. I'd like to say something profound here, linking the rain with Cory Lidle and God, but I'm sure a thousand hack sportswriters are in the midst of submitting articles to that effect as I write this. The game will be made up on Friday, which means no travel day in the NLCS.

Tigers: 8 Athletics: 5 Boy, howdy! Finally an exciting game in the playoffs! Home runs all around, including two from Milton Bradley (one from each side of the plate), and a tense situation in the bottom of the ninth with the Tigers up 8-5, bases loaded, two outs, and Frank Thomas. Once again, there was no joy in O-Town as Mighty Casey was struck out. Oakland is now down 2-0 in the ALCS heading into Detroit for three games. I stick firmly by my prediction, Tigers in five, but it may be one less. Either way, the A's have played their last game in Oakland this year.

And with that, I bid you adieu for the evening.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Cory Lidle 1972 - 2006


Sometimes, you have to remember it's just a game. Sometimes life has a way of reminding you.

I have no readers to speak of, and even if I did they would certainly be aware of the tragic death of New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle this afternoon in a plane crash in New York.

In an eerie manner, my wife woke me up around noon today with the same "turn on the TV!" anxiousness that my stepmother awoke me on 9/11/01. The same type of images filled the screen as the television warmed up, and the announcers on Fox said it might have been a helicopter that slammed into a 50-story apartment building in Manhattan. The excitement my wife showed made me think that I may turn the TV on to see a smoldering crater where Washington, D.C. used to be, so to see a small plane had crashed into a tall building was a bit anti-climactic. My interest waned, and I moved on to other things.

Right as I finished my other blog entry, I reloaded the front page of SI.com to see a small "Breaking News" blurb on the screen saying "Joe Torre confirms Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle killed in plane crash in Manhattan" or something near those words. Suddenly, the story that couldn't keep my interest for sixty seconds a few hours earlier had found away to keep me glued to ESPN and internet news sites.

Nearly as soon as I heard that Lidle was killed in the crash, my curiosity forced me to head to ebay.com and type "Cory Lidle" into the search tab. At that time there were about 13 autographed items listed, none of them within the previous few hours. A few minutes ago, there were over seven pages of items. A simple "completed auctions" search showed that autographed baseballs with a certificate of authenticity went off as early as yesterday with no bids at $9.99. A few of those same baseballs with less than two hours left as I write this (obviously not put up for auction after the news of the plane crash hit) are over $250.00.

I can't blame the people bidding on them, though I think they are idiots. A news item like this is sure to drive the prices up immediately, but they will calm down and show to be very poor "investments."

The people who need to have their testicles tarred and feathered are those who are listing auctions now. I'd post links, but they won't last long as eBay cleans house regularly, but some jackass put a Cory Lidle signed baseball on the eBay auction block with a "Buy It Now" of $249.99. I've seen four seperate Cory Lidle internet domain names for sale in the last hour. These vultures disgust me. I didn't look myself, but apparently it was a hundred times more disgusting in the twenty-four hours after Steve Irwin's death. With the American obsession with sports, a journeyman starting pitcher's death may match it. eBay really should stop these auctions, much like they did with all the stuff listed on 9/11/01 taking advantage of that tragedy.

Let's all remember that it is only a game.

Godspeed, Cory Lidle. May you find yourself walking out of a cornfield somewhere in Iowa.

LCS, Day 1: Tigers Grrrrrr-eat!

No update last night, so I'll get it in before today's game.

First things first, last night's opening game of the ALCS:

Tigers: 5 A's: 1 I'm hesitant to get happy about this game, as my happiness tends to curse my teams. And since I, like any self-respecting Angels fan, hate the A's, seeing their ace get shelled off the mound was particularly nice. In last night's game the momentum of beating the Yankees certainly carried over, and in the (urban Oakland) jungle, the Tigers did NOT sleep last night. A-Weema-Weh.

Now that that's over, it's time once again for...

SID'S A-ROD OBSESSION!!

That's right, kiddies! You thought I'd slipped and forgotten about my "If he blows it, he will come" predictions and hopes that, if A-Rod and the Yankees folded like Japanese tissue paper in the playoffs, Anaheim Stadium would appear in a vision to Alex Rodriguez with a big cornfield instead of the outfield bleachers.

Well, that was blown away yesterday in this article at SI.com where Brian Cashman (the GM of the Yankees) said "I fully expect [Rodriguez] to be here." That puts an end to all that, right?

Not so fast. Again from SI, an article quoting a few "unnamed sources"says exactly the opposite. And while yesterday's announcement that Torre will be back as the Yankees manager next year seems truthful enough, there was something about the A-Rod announcement that seemed quite political in nature, much like the doublespeak that comes out of the White House every day. And it's funny that SI.com has this article right above the "No trade for A-Rod" article. Of course, allow me to strut prematurely as you look at which team is #1 on that list for Rodriguez.

I just don't see how Rodriguez could go back to New York and fit in. The city and the team have really shot themselves in the foot on this one, and have made it a situation where Rodriguez really cannot win. And I'm more willing to believe unnamed sources than the spin coming out of the GM's office. This doesn't mean that the Halos are gonna have a new #3 on the roster, but it certainly looks like things is less joy in Mudville than they'd have you believe.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thank you, come again!

"The Chicago White Sox have agreed to start weeknight home games at 7:11 p.m. under a sponsorship deal struck with the convenience store chain known for its Slurpee frozen drinks, the team announced Wednesday."

It's gonna be tough to fit "Nahasapeemapetilon" on the back of a jersey, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Baseball for Golfers

This was sent to me by a friend who happens to be a Dodgers fan who hates Jeff Kent, and not just for his stupid baserunning in the Game 1 against the Mets. I think it had to be copied from a pamphlet handed out at a PGA event, as the golf references are a tad thick.

Original Link Clicky!

By Michael Gartner

The hardest thing to do in sports is to hit a baseball safely.Think about it as you watch the playoffs and the World Series.

You are standing at home plate with a bat in your hands. A big man is standing on a hill - it's 15 inches high, to give him enormous leverage over you - getting ready to throw the baseball. By the time he lets go of the ball, it will be about 55 feet from you. The ball is coming at the plate - or perhaps at you - at up to 100 miles an hour. It turns 12 or 13 times. It can drop as much as 3 feet. It can curve toward you or away from you. You have less than a second to decide what to do: Stand there. Swing. Or duck.

If you swing one one-hundredth of a second too late - or too early - you're likely to hit a foul ball. If you hit the ball, you are supposed to hit it between or over or through the nine guys standing there trying to stop you. In the immortal words of Wee Willie Keeler, you have to "hit 'em where they ain't." And all you have to hit 'em with is a round piece of wood that at its widest is not as big as the baseball it is trying to connect with.

Then, if you hit it, you have to run 90 feet as fast as you can.

You have to do this three or four times a game, 162 games a year. And if you don't do it successfully at least 25% of the times you're standing there, you're a failure.

But that's not all. The whole time you're standing there trying to hit the ball, tens of thousands of people are yelling at you - for you or against you. The man crouched behind the plate is chattering. The players on both benches might be yelling. The umpire is telling you to speed it up. Your boss is sending you hand signals. Flashbulbs are going off everywhere. People are milling around.

It's that last part - the crowds, the cameras, the cheers and screams - that add the excitement. And it makes you wonder:

Why can't you cheer during Tiger Woods' backswing? Why can't you yell as Phil Mickelson putts? Why can't you scream as Ernie Els blasts out of a sand trap?

Why can't you click the camera as Sergio Garcia addresses the ball? Why can't you pop a flashbulb as Jim Furyk chips onto the green? Why can't you wave your arms as Retief Goosen lines up his second shot?

Just try it. Did you see Woods glare and mutter a few weeks ago at the simple click of a camera? He is a great athlete with storied powers of concentration, so why can't he ignore the click of a camera, the pop of a flashbulb, the cheer of a fan? The ball he is trying to hit is teed up - not being thrown. It is just sitting there. The club he is using - and he has his choice of several - has a head on it that is thicker than the ball or an angle to it that lets him place it just where he wants it. He can swing when ready - not when some opponent throws the ball. When he hits the ball, no one is trying to catch it or block it or divert it. And after he hits it, he can walk leisurely down the fairway.

Why must we be so reverential about all this?

It makes no sense.

Think how much more fun watching golf would be if we could cheer or boo or yell or scream.

Think how much less fun watching baseball would be if we couldn't.

Michael Gartner, a retired journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 1997, is the principal owner of the Iowa Cubs, the triple-A farm team of the Chicago Cubs.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Adios Padres, League Championship Series Schedule & Picks

This probably should have been posted last night, but sore muscles and apathy led me to neglect my duty to all the readers I don't have.

I went to the batting cages on Saturday night. First time I'd done that in probably 16 years. It was great fun, but boy have I been paying for said fun the last few days in kind with sore muscles and achy joints. I'm a lot stronger now than I was as a 15 or 16 year old, and my coordination is better, but my recovery time sure ain't what it used to be, and with my military injuries it's not that easy to do the things I used to.

Anyway, as should be common knowledge by now, the San Diego Padres were eliminated last night. Overall, it's been an extremely boring playoff so far, with little excitement in the LDS, gameplay-wise at least. I'm sure I'd get some arguments from Tigers fans about how "exciting" it's been, and though I will readily admit to the excitement of Detroit upsetting the Yankees in the first round (God knows how exciting it is when the Angels do it!), watching "the greatest lineup in history" go 0-for'06 was, well, a good sedative.

So today is a day without baseball, which gives us a breather as the LCS starts up tomorrow.

2006 League Championship Series Schedule

No more three-game days, no more shuffling announcers (though dammit, every game is on Fox so it looks like we'll have a McCarver-O-Rama for the rest of the playoffs), and hopefully, less boring games.

So, with that, it's time once again for this prognosticator to make his picks for the next series.

NLCS

New York Mets vs St. Louis Cardinals:
Cardinals in five. Both faced rather lackluster opponents in the NLDS, which means that neither team was too spent from the first round. Without Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez, the Mets and the Cardinals have pitching staffs of about equal strength, but St. Louis has the offense that, provided it comes through, will propel them into their second World Series in the last three years.

ALCS

Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics: Tigers in six. Detroit is on a roll, shutting the Yankees down in 4 in the ALDS with superior pitching and a surprising offense. While the A's have Barry Zito on the mound, they aren't as deep and don't have the high of shutting down the heavily favored Yankees behind them. Expect this one to be the more exciting of the two, with better pitching ad hitting than the NLCS.

Keeping in mind that I was 1-4 in the LDS, don't be surprised to see a Mets - A's World Series. I know I won't be.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Fifty Years Ago Today

It wasn't in my lifetime, but 50 years ago today Don Larsen pitched his perfect game in the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Click the link, read the article, and relive a part of the glorious past of the America's greatest game.

Are you listening YET, Bill Stoneman?

Seems Steve Ventre over at MSNBC.com agrees with me (and, I'm sure, about a hundred thousand other Angels fans.)

But it's sure nice to see an impartial sportswriter agree with us, ain't it?

I still haven't gotten any responses to my call for help in making a huge "Welcome to Anaheim, A-Rod!" banner to hang over Katella Avenue...

Pay Attention, A-Rod!!! WE WANT YOU IN ANAHEIM!!!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

LDS Day 5: The REAL Yankees Curse!

Three games today, three examples why America will grow more bored in the League Championship Series.

Padres: 3 Cardinals: 1 I didn't catch this one until the 9th inning, and I only watched that because my cable box has a picture-in-picture feature. San Diego got a stay of execution, and the 2006 playoffs might get exciting if they can come back and defeat St. Louis after being down 2 games to 0. But, then again, who gives a shit about the Padres? (Apologies to those living within 50 yards of Petco Park.)

Mets: 9 Dodgers: 5 When the final history is written about the 2006 NLDS and the Mets vs. the Dodgers, the series will not be about New York's pitching staff stepping up after the loss of Pedro Martinez and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. It won't be about the offense of the "Mighty Mets" or any other clever alliteration. No, it'll be about the stupidity of Jeff Kent, J.D. Drew, and ESPECIALLY Third Base Coach Rich Donnelly. As those two made the most idiotic baserunning mistake I have ever seen, the Dodgers chances at winning the series were tagged out by Paul LoDuca along with them. It was one of those momentum-shifting moments, and SHOULD go down in history like Donnie Moore's HR ball to Dave Hendeson in the '86 ALCS or Bill Buckner's blunder in the '86 World Series.

Tigers: 8 Yankees: 3
Say it ain't so. The ratings for the World Series just took a nose dive, and game 1 isn't for a few more weeks. The "21st Century Murderer's Row" all got lethal injections, and A-Rod will return to New York a pariah. Hopefully, he won't have to be there long. You paying attention, Bill Stoneman?

The Yankees Curse
I don't need to write anything about the Yankees collapse in this postseason or their all-around impotence to the Detroit Tigers. In the next year, you'll find thousands of such articles in every news and pseudo-news site online. If you listen to sports talk, you'll probably grow weary of it by '07 Spring Training. I'm sure that Brian Cashman and George Steinbrenner are going to shake things up a bit. Torre may not be back, Sheffield didn't give the Yanks any reason to pick up his option, and the whole team showed why they desperately need good pitching.

Ever since Boston won the World Series in '04 talk has sprung up of a new curse, this one on the Yankees. It doesn't have the vintage of "The Curse of the Bambino." It's only had a few years to age, rather than 86 years, and nobody can pinpoint the grapes from which it was distilled.
Some say it's the curse of A-Rod, others point to Jeter being made Captain, others point to the loss of certain players, especially Paul O'Neill. But, ladies and gents, I have the answer right here. I alone hold the key to the new Yankees curse. Oh, how I wish I had more readers to unveil this to. Perhaps one day when hundreds of you log in daily, you'll find your way back here and see the genius that is Sid. With that, I unveil to you the cause of the newest curse in baseball:



THE RUDY GIULIANI CURSE

(Rudy Giuliani, above, shoots invisible curse lasers at the Yankees with his eyes)

That's right, folks, you read it here first: Former New York City Mayor is the cause of all the Yankees woes since 2001.

"Say it ain't so, Sid!" you may say. Or, "Sid, you're nothing but a spineless liberal douchebag who wants the terrorists to win!" Well, please allow me to put down by "Go Terrorists!" sign and the "Bin Laden #1" foam finger and retort. See folks, this has nothing to do with politics. This has to do with happenstance.

I base this claim not on Giuliani himself (though he is completely to blame), but on on network TV. You see, ever since 9/11/01, EVERY GODDAMN GAME at Yankee Stadium in the playoffs you've seen Rudy Giuliani in the stands wearing his Yankees cap. Now, maybe he was there every game before that wearing the same stupid hat, or maybe he's just doing it so people will remember his "heroic deeds" (like sitting through 6 years of Yankees chokes) for the '08 Presidential election. In this lifetime, that's not for me to call. But I DO know that, before 9/11, none of the networks gave a shit where Rudy was. After 9/11, his ugly mug filled my TV screen at least 4-5 times at every Yankees playoff home game. In that span? The Yanks are 3-3 in the ALDS (two of those losses courtesy of the Angels, thank you very much). They're 2-1 in the ALCS, and (gasp) they're 0-2 in the World Series.

As Mayor of New York City, I'm sure Rudy was at all those playoffs from '96 to '00 when the Yanks were unstoppable. But his face (and that damned hat) weren't on my TV screen. Hell, only maybe three or four people west of Manhattan would have known who he was, so it's much better to show the crazy drunk guy with no shirt. So therefore, it's not Rudy HIMSELF who's bad luck. It's when they show him on TV that the Yankees are doomed.

So Yanks, it doesn't matter how high your payroll is or how studly your lineup, so long as Fox and ESPN keep showing Rudy in those great seats during the playoffs, you're gonna lose.

You Mets fans should hope he doesn't show up at Shea with a Blue and Orange "NY" hat in the next series...


League Division Series, Day 4

Only two games today, but once again my skills at prognostication are showing their flaws.

Today's Games:

Athletics: 8 Twins: 3
Well, at least I got one series right, though I was off by a game. As sorry as I am to see Oakland advance, I guess when you put two notorious chokers in a playoff series, one of them has to win. Which is why a lot of people were disappointed in 2003 when both the Chicago Cubs AND the Boston Red Sox were just a few outs away from heading to the World Series, only to have both of them blow it. I was of the opinion that said Series would have come down to the 9th inning of game 7, the score tied, and then the Rapture would happen and the world would end, as logic dictates that one of those teams would have HAD to win in, and God would not allow that. Of course, the Red Sox won it in 2004, which may mean that the world did indeed end and all the Bostonians went to heaven, while the rest of us are in purgatory (except Yankees fans, who, as is evident by recent post season success (or lack thereof), are obviously in hell.)

Tigers: 6 Yankees: 0 One game away from elimination, the greatest lineup I've ever seen has needed to talk to Bob, as they've been quite impotent these last two games. Here's the perfect time for A-Rod to be the hero and smack some sense into Yankees fans by having a great game tomorrow. If not, they've already got him fitted for a goat collar.

A-Rod Watch: 0-for-3. He's batting .091 for the series. I'll start getting the "Welcome to the Angels, A-Rod!" banner ready. Anybody want to help?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Brooks Robinson Makes My Day

A few days ago, I made this post on Brooks Robinson's blog over at mlblogs.com about an impromptu appearance he made at the baseball card shop I worked at in high school. To save you the trouble of clicking the link, here's the text of my post:

Dear Mr. Robinson,

I have a story that I think I should share with your readers.

About 15 years ago, I was working in a baseball card shop in Huntington Beach, California. One Saturday afternoon I was busy in the back sorting cards (he High School kids had to do all the tedious work!) when a middle-aged man comes in the store and asks my co-worker for directions to the beach. I thought this was odd, as the beach was just a mile or so down the road, and most everybody knew that you could follow any road to it. I looked out the little window we had to see my co-worker giving him directions, when the manager of the store looked up and stared at the man. I saw his jaw drop and his eyes grow wide.

That's when you said "Hi, I'm Brooks Robinson."

You chatted with us for a bit and signed a ball that is still on display in the shop, and went on your way. But for the rest of the day I felt like an idiot. One of the greatest to play the game had walked into my baseball card shop, and I hadn't recognized him.

On that day, you helped spark within me an interest and later, a passion, for the history of this great game.

While other sports may attempt to emulate it, baseball has a true connection with its history that cannot be duplicated in the arenas of the other American pro sports. A big part of the draw that gets people to the ballpark or tuning in on ESPN is the events and players of decades (or centuries) past. Unlike football, hockey, or basketball, baseball has a living memory that helps the fan in the stands connect with the player on the grass, and makes it possible to develop a true love for the game.

And you helped me learn that, Brooks.

Thank you.

Color me tickled pink when he mentioned me in his post yesterday:

Huntington Beach
Sid shared a story with us about my inpromptu visit to his baseball card shop in Huntington Beach. Well, I’m glad I made your day by saying hello. I was probably in Huntington Beach visiting my middle son, Chris. I’m glad I stopped in the store, said hello and signed your ball. I’m glad that that sparked your interest in baseball. I never wanted to do anything else. I had a passion for the game. I knew the history of the game and I agree with you. Baseball has a true connection with history that cannot be duplicated in the arena of other American pro sports. I’ve always felt like baseball has served as both a reflection and a shaper of American society. Baseball is the most resilient sport of all. They are setting attendance records in both the Major and Minor leagues. It’s still healthy despite all its problems.

Every word of the story I told is true, so there's not much to add here except one thing. I didn't mention this in my post on Robinson's blog, but I always suspected that he came into the shop just to see if we'd recognize him. There was a 7-11 in the same shopping center, which is the junk food equivalent of a gas station, so I would think most people would head there for directions as well as tasty meat flavored products and gallons of soda. Also, as I said, the beach was only a mile or so away, so all you'd really have to do is roll down your car window and listen to the seagulls around the sewage pipes.

But I truly was embarrassed that I didn't recognize him. Of course he was a bit older than the pictures on the carboard slivers I sold, but he's a Hall of Famer and a great ambassador for baseball, and as a guy who was paid to know a bit about sports, it was a minor slip. Luckily, my manager was twenty years older than me or so and grew up watching Brooks and his generation of players, so rather than having an odd experience of a guy coming into a baseball card shop to ask directions to the ocean, we shared a moment of baseball history.

Again, thank you Brooks.