Baseball On My Brain

Final thoughts – December 31, 2007
December 31, 2007, 8:49 pm
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At the rate I’m going, this will most likely be my final post of the year. I won’t attempt a year in review, or any major statistical research breakthrough. I will just leave you with this:

I don’t feel the same feelings on the last day of December that I do on the last day of the baseball season. There is no downtime between December 31 and January 1, but there is a chasm between Game 162 and Game 1.

But regardless – I look forward to Day 1 and Game 1, because they are both filled with opportunity and possibility. You never know what will happen when you wake up – just like you never know what will happen when you show up to the ballpark. Maybe a no-hitter, maybe someone hitting four homers in a game. Maybe you’ll meet someone new and exciting, maybe you’ll see a site never seen before.

However – unlike a ballgame where you’re only a spectator (unless you want to get arrested), you have a lot more say and control as to the events of your own life. None of control everything – but when you realize just how much say you have in how you feel, how you act, and how your life plays out, it’s a pretty invigorating thing.

So look forward to 2008 with a fresh set of eyes – and jump on the field with reckless abandon. May you make solid contact with everything you swing at, and may you hit ’em where they ain’t.

Happy New Year!


Fay Vincent on the Bob Costas Show
December 31, 2007, 1:37 am
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If you haven’t had a chance, take a listen to Bob Costas and Fay Vincent talking about the Mitchell Report:

Hour 1 // Hour 2

There’s some interesting discussion – including looking at how people like Pete Rose and Gaylord Perry should be looked at in light of the steroid scandal, and how the Hall of Fame voters should be looking at the situation.

The Diamondbacks are just givin’ em away!

The Arizona Diamondbacks recently announced their Play Ball Scholarship Fund, designed to give tickets to fans who have found themselves unable to afford the cost of going to a game.

Great idea, right? I think so — or at least I really want to think so.

So I poked around for some opinions on this – and some feel that the D-Backs’ motivation isn’t totally genuine.

The D-Backs ranked 20th out of 30 teams in 2007 in attendance, at 58.3% of capacity. They didn’t sell out their playoff games in the NLDS – against the Cubs, no less. So is this a move to somehow short the supply of tickets a bit, generate a bit of good will, or a mix of both and other factors?

I really think the motivation is pretty good – and that everyone who wants to see a game should have the opportunity to do so. I’ve said for a while that it’s amazing how much other stuff goes on at a game — and that the game has almost turned into a break from the other stuff for me.

There’s a side of me that really wants to go on a tangent about how shallow most forms of entertainment are — but I won’t. I’ll save that for another day.

So back to the issue – how should the D-Backs new program be looked at? I’ll err on the side of genuine goodwill on this one.

Beware the label
December 29, 2007, 8:33 am
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I went shopping for some new clothes – and was reminded how misleading labels can be. Several manufacturers – some things I fit in that were marked as a large, while other things darn near constricted me with their XXL tag.

There’s a touch of similarity in baseball — players are often labeled a certain way by those who look at them, while a different set of eyes will attach a completely different label.

You can’t always judge the label.

And for God’s sake – try it on before you buy it.

Hello Mr. Pot, this is the operator…do you accept a collect call from Mr. Kettle?

I got the latest edition of USA Today’s Sports Weekly – which serves as the jump off point for today’s post.

As you may have heard, Pete Rose made some comments that the steroids scandal makes him seem like an altar boy with regard to his betting on the Reds. He managed to slip in a reminder that if someone who used steroids can get into the Hall of Fame, then he’s got a shot to get in. Subtle.

Now — when I was a kid, I thought Pete Rose was the ultimate bad-ass…he could hit, he played hard, and he seemed to be a pretty OK guy. Granted I was under 12 for most of his career, but that’s beside the point. He was one of the top figures in baseball – and he owns a fairly significant career record.

What bugs me is that is goes back to being about him. It seems as if he’s really degraded himself to Tonya Harding-esque levels – which is painful to watch as a fan. I get the whole paying for autographs thing, and in some ways I wish I could make that kind of dough signing my name. But at the same time – it seems like a form of prostitution — except with clothes on and a pen in hand.

I’m not going to start the Pete Rose Public Image Enhancement Campaign – but I sure wish we could do something to bring him up to a little higher level of public standing. He seems to be riding other people’s coat tails – which is something I don’t think the MLB career hits leader should have to do – gambling or not.

Enough about that.

There’s a total fluff piece with Matt Damon – who is the narrator of the 2007 World Series DVD. You have to think this will sell well in Boston, but not many other places, as the article alludes to. As big a fan of baseball as I am, I wouldn’t buy it. I would keep a free copy though.

The big article this issue talks about the value of top scouts — and while it’s not an amazing article – it is a good intro into the importance of scouting. People want to talk about the scouts vs. stats war that’s raging in MLB teams’ front offices. I don’t buy it. I think we’re on the cusp of a new era of scouts who will understand and be able to synthesize both sides of the argument.

A brief piece about the effects of the Mitchell Report in Japan is worth reading — while it won’t grab attention over here as much, it’s interesting to see how other countries deal with the issue.

More to come –

What to write about?
December 27, 2007, 11:11 pm
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Sometimes topics come to me. Sometimes I have to scour around for topics to write about. Today’s one of those days.

It’s dreary weather here in Seattle – yet another reason I hate winter in these parts. Someday I’ll just bite the bullet and move to Phoenix and be done with it.

Anyway – here’s what has popped up on my radar today.

Dick Heller of the Washington Post’s article entitled “Who can we believe in now?” jumped out to me today. I’ve been accused of being pessimistic when it comes to ethics in sports every so often, particularly in light of the Mitchell Report. But for some reason Mr. Heller’s column really put me in a funk — but not because his piece is doom-and-gloom, but simply because it lays out an expectation that athletes are supposed to be role models.

Are they? My sweeping generalization is no – they’re not. At least not role models for how to be a great human being. Hopefully for training and mechanics of the sport – as well as the mental side of the game, but beyond that, it’s a crap shoot.

Somedays I think we’d be better off with Role Model Certification. Or Role Model Training. You’d get a title after your name that indicates that you’re a Certified Role Model (TM). Pat Lagreid, C.R.M. Or maybe just Pat Lagreid, R.M.

Charles Barkley said it best: I’m not a role model. I don’t get paid to be a role model.

I think there are some pretty good guys playing baseball — Mark Loretta, Raul Ibanez, Jamie Moyer, and so on. I also think there are some bums. But to think that ballplayers should be role models is an excuse for lazy parenting. Not to draw parallels to the Jamie Lynn Spears mess, but just because someone’s on Nickelodeon means they’re a role model. Same for sports.

All right – enough of that. What else?

Mark Prior signed with the Padres. Good for him – low risk deal for the Padres. I don’t know all the specifics about his career – but it certainly stinks to see a guy with so much promise and potential as he seemed to have never really realize all of it.

I’m convinced that the Royals are going to compile a team of former Mariners and they’ll end up winning the World Series because of it. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t ya think?

The whole Mitchell Report continues to stay in the news. I know it won’t be fast, but I look forward to seeing conclusive evidence that Roger Clemens either did or didn’t do steroids/HGH/Yoo-Hoo/whatever. I was pretty disappointed with his staged video response last week. It was effectively meaningless — if he was committed to clearing his name, he should get out the lie detector, call out every attorney he knows, and get to work. Don’t be fooled by a “video statement.” I feel bad for the guy if the report was wrong – and I hope it is. But if someone calls you out, be ready to turn the fires of hell on them to refute their claims.

I also have to say how much the Dan Haren trade makes Arizona pretty dangerous next year. I’m glad to have him out of the AL West.

That’s it for the moment —

Baseball stuff
December 27, 2007, 7:55 pm
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Baseball generates a lot of stuff.

Broken bats. Foul balls. Game used this-and-that. Heck, a can of bug spray used during the ALCS brought in over $600 at auction a while back. MLB makes oodles of money through their auction site. I’ve contributed to that oodlage, I won’t lie.

But as I’m getting a bit older, I find myself accepting that catching a foul ball or getting a broken bat after a game won’t make me happy or significantly add to my life.

Yet in a lot of ways I still want those things.

I’m not sure what it is — which is partially why I’m writing it down so that I can work through it – but the whole thing about collecting autographs, balls, bats, and other baseball stuff is starting to wear on me.

Going to a lot of baseball games has afforded me the opportunity to rub elbows with some pretty serious autograph hounds. I’m not talking about kids here — although there is a share of them as well. I’m talking about anyone of voting age or above.

In Seattle we have a few guys who show up religiously, always with a duffel bag full of balls, cards, or other stuff they hope to get signed. I’ve asked them a few times why they pursue this quest — and both seem to shy away from any financial aspect and steer towards the “these are my memories” angle.

There’s a side of me that worries that I’m taking a turn onto Hypocrite Drive — so understand that I’m already aware of it. I’ve got boxes of baseball cards and a room dedicated to my baseball stuff. No lie. The question is do I want more of it – and if so, why?

It’s exciting as hell to have a player flip you a ball or even a broken bat. Some lucky folks have even gotten a player’s glove once he’s convinced it’s no longer field-worthy. Some folks buy stuff – stadium seats, on deck circles, and so on. Baseball has so much history that it is nice to be able to connect with it through tangible items.

But is that really connecting? I’m not sure. I keep a scorebook – mainly to keep myself focused on the game and look for little trends developing that I wouldn’t see otherwise. It definitely connects me to the game at hand, but I don’t look back on old score sheets to reminisce. Maybe I’m the crazy one – but I’m honest.

At this point, the personal resolution is still a work in progress. Share your thoughts and help me work through this…and stay tuned for more updates.