Baseball On My Brain

Take the names off the jerseys
June 30, 2008, 8:10 pm
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Baseball can bring out the best in me; it can also bring out the worst.

Today, I’m focusing a bit more on the worst – particularly, my tendencies to be a bit hyper-critical of others. But it’s who I am, I’m working on getting better about it, and part of working on it is talking about it.

Your team, like mine, has jersey numbers that are considered basically untouchable. In Seattle, while they aren’t retired yet, the numbers 11 and 24 are more or less off-limits. Worn by Edgar Martinez and Ken Griffey, Jr., respectively, it’s pretty safe to say no Mariner will wear those again, at least not without special dispensation from the previous owners.

51 is also in the class of the untouchables; some thought only Randy Johnson would wear it, but after Ichiro came east and asked permission of the Big Unit, he has since made the number that much more cherished.

Now in Seattle, as I’m sure is the case in lots of other cities, you can get a Major League jersey customized with your own name and whatever number you like on it. Now as long as your selection falls within MLB’s guidelines for taste, you’re pretty much good to go.

They also have some rules about using a current or former player’s name and number on the jersey of another team. Heaven forbid we confuse anybody with an “Ichiro 51” Reds jersey.

Nevertheless, as I’m walking around the stadium tonight prior to the game, I see what I always see at least once a game – somebody rocking their name with one of the aforementioned untouchable numbers.

Nothing says cool like “Jones 51” or “Marshall 11.”

Here’s where I don’t care that it was your favorite number, or that you got it as a gift, or anything. Part of being a fan is respecting the players who made the numbers so cool in the first place and leaving them be.

If anything, it’s disappointing to me that a so-called baseball fan would do that. I’m all for having a jersey, and as much as I wouldn’t do it myself, I’m even OK with wearing the jersey of your favorite player. But for the love of the game, don’t pretend that you can co-op someone else’s number!

Now look – before you get all uppity with me about this, I get that you may have had the jersey before that player got here. But most of you didn’t. You just went to the store thinking you could get away with wearing someone else’s jersey, hoping that the guy at the counter would say anything. Now you think you’re hot because you’re sporting one the most revered numbers in the city.

Which leads me to the following statement – which prior to tonight I had never felt so definitive about: it’s time to get rid of names on jerseys.

Think about a Yankees jersey with a 3 on the back of it. You know it’s only about one guy. No one’s going to put “MacFarlane” on the back of that one.

Let’s get rid of the names on jerseys – between the graphics on TV and the widespread availability of programs at stadiums, rosters on the internet, and lots of stadiums having scoreboards that tell you who is on the field and where they’re playing, in addition to what number they’re wearing, it’s time to move on.

Take the names off the jerseys.


Why haven’t I been writing?
June 27, 2008, 3:11 pm
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I don’t know. I’ve been my usual busy self; maybe having the Mariners out of town on a 9-game, 11-day road trip has something to do with it. Out of sight, out of mind?

Not really – but I have been finding it harder to pay attention to what the team does when they’re on the road, especially when they’re playing in the early evening, which is usually when I have other things going on.

Suffice to say that this hasn’t really been a season that commands attention — as of 6/27 the Mariners are the only team without 30 wins, are the only team with 50 losses and seem to be gearing up for a major overhaul from (almost) the top to bottom. I hope it will be a fun and engaging process to watch and be somewhat close to; kind of like ripping up your lawn and flower beds and starting all over with the intent to produce the majority of your own fruits and vegetables.

There’s a few things on the horizon – instant replay and a decision on maple bats – that will have an interesting impact on the game. If maple bats are banned, it will be interesting to see how offense is affected. Still looking for the impacts on steroids on the record books and league averages, the potential eradication of maple will add another variable to this discussion.

Instant replay is a whole different story – and one that will have a much greater impact on the game. I’m looking forward to seeing a collection of all the great plays and calls that would have been subject to replay had it been available. That could make for some good watchin’.

The whole Shawn Chacon thing is disgraceful — but I wonder if some other team will pick him up. The question of morality and off-field (albeit in the clubhouse) actions affecting on-field time is an age-old one; I would venture to guess that someone will sign him, quietly, to a minor-league deal so that he can get his issues worked out. Wife beaters, crackheads, steroid users and numerous other “criminals” have been allowed to play the game; we’ve clearly shown that past actions are no barrier to future participation (see Josh Hamilton and Latrell Spreewell).

Which brings up a thought – how much does one league look to another for guidance when it comes to things like this? Will someone from MLB call up the NBA discplinary office and see how they handled the Spreewell case?

It is nice to finally have a taste of summer up here in the Pacific Northwest, and while I’m glad to be back out on the field with my adult-league team, it stinks being 0-3 and carrying a .200 average isn’t really what I was hoping for. But it is mostly fun, and at least we’ll be hitting wood bats tomorrow instead of the metal. Let me tell you – I feel bad for every catcher and umpire that is involved in an aluminum bat game; your ears almost ring at the end of it, which is just another occupational hazard of being behind the plate.

Too bad we’re playing on a turf  field with no fences. Oh well, can’t have everything.

If you have a minute, pop over to my other blog, the Baseball Book Review. I’ve got a couple new posts up there, including Chris Coste’s The 33-Year-Old Rookie and Nicholas Dawidoff’s The Crowd Sounds Happy.

With that, I’m going to finish reading the newspaper and catch some sunshine while it lasts.

Put your shirt back on!
June 18, 2008, 8:02 pm
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The Washington Nationals have declared that their male fans have to leave their shirts on, otherwise it’s a form of indecent exposure. Read the article not just for the story but for a well-written piece of work.

A change in perspective, Big Unit style
June 18, 2008, 7:55 pm
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Let me start by saying that as I write this from the press box of Safeco Field, my hands and ears are absolutely freezing cold. It’s June 18 and I’m on the verge of putting on my woll jacket. I wish I had some of those little hand warmers and a thick beanie. It is flipping cold, and the Mariners are losing 5-1 to the Marlins in the middle of the 4th inning.

I just looked around and realized I’m one of the only folks in here not wearing a jacket. I have a feeling that will change before I finish this post. Just a little scene-set so you can understand where I’m at.

If you haven’t had a chance to read the 6/16/08 issue of ESPN The Magazine yet, I suggest you do. The reason why is Randy Johnson’s column on page 16, in which he talks about his recent change in game day attitude and approach to the game.

Being from Seattle where Johnson spent over eight seasons of his career, and being part of the media, I’ve heard the stories about how locked in and focused Johnson was on game days, even the day before. While he didn’t earn a reputation of being unfriendly to the media after starts (a la Erik Bedard, also featured in The Mag), he did have a way of bulldozing right past you on game days.

But as you’ll read, at age 44 he’s recentlyl had a change of approach. He’s living with a newfound love of the game which has made him appreciate all over again what he’s doing and the gifts he’s been blessed with.

As I reached a bit of a milestone birthday this year, and as some forks in the road of life are approaching quickly, it was a particularly engaging article. I’m not 100% sure why, but it’s always refreshing to hear the human experience of those who are able to perform superhuman feats.

BTW, now 7-2 Marlins, top of the 6th, and the jacket is going on as soon as I post this.

A little reflection…
June 18, 2008, 3:01 pm
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What drives me nuts about baseball is the fine line that it sits on between the right-brained stories, legends and tales, and the left-brained stats, numbers, and analysis. At times they are both on your side, at times neither is on your side. And seemingly more often than not, the part that you’d like on your side isn’t there.

Which is what struck me today as kind of where I’m at in life. I want the freedom to come and go as I please, but I need the structure of deadlines, appointments and such.

I want the demand of having to look nice – I won’t go so far as to say I want to wear a uniform – but I also want the ability to have it be a bit flexible to my standards. Think high pants vs. low pants, baggies vs. fitted, long sleeves vs. short, etc. Players all have to wear a uniform that falls within certain guidelines but does allow for a good amount of wiggle room to allow for one’s own preferences.

I like living in the mindset that there doesn’t have to be a time clock – that something can be as long or as short as it needs to be. Yet I also like the idea that what goes on is measured – rigidly – and records are kept and shared.

Right now I’m in a bit too much of a left brain world, where schedules are a bit too rigid for my liking. That’s compounded by the fact that a lot of my co-workers are in the right brain world, thanks to some developments that have freed their schedules up considerably.

Some people say baseball is a metaphor for life; others say life is a metaphor for baseball. It’s funny how a short walk can help draw the parallels between the two, regardless of how you look at it.

All those eyes!
June 17, 2008, 7:55 pm
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I got a good read out of this article by Ryan Fagan in the May 19th Sporting News. Not only does it give you a good insight into the scrutinizing world of being a highly recruited high school athlete, it might just put this in your head.

I’m sure that a lot of us wish we were born with the kind of talent that Tim Melville has been blessed with – the kind of talent that folks covet so highly that they’ll drive for hours to see and pay millions of dollars to acquire.

Melville was taken with the 115th overall pick by the Kansas City Royals – the 3rd pick of the 4th round – and as of this writing has yet to sign with the club. Surely an interesting dilemma — I’m sure he’s being offered decent money, but he’s also given a commitment to the University of North Carolina, an outstanding school and baseball program.

The debate has been ongoing for several years as to whether a kid should go to college or take the money and sign professionally. It’s fair to say that both the largest signing bonus and the best college education can be wasted; likewise both could be invested and reap great rewards.

It would be incredibly tough for me to tell an 18-year-old kid who is sitting with a large signing bonus check in front of him not to take it. Could I name what the amount would be for him not to take it? Not really. It would have to be fairly life-changing, and he’d had to be pretty disciplined not to spend it all on something that won’t last. I’d also think that he’d have to be committed to giving college a shot when his playing days were over, which I know can be a tall order to expect someone to be a college freshman when they’re in their 20s or 30s.

Otherwise, I would give college a very strong recommendation, and here’s why. You don’t have to really think about the draft for three years. Sure it’ll be in the back of your mind, but it won’t be front and center, giving you time to grow and develop somewhat out of the spotlight and pressure. You’re generally in a system dedicated to your growth and development. Collegiate programs generally have a reason to see you succeed – both in the classroom and on the diamond. Plus, if you can get a good scholarship, that can be worth just as much if not more as a signing bonus, plus if you invest in yourself and your studies, it will bear interest for the rest of your life.

It’s a decision I wish I had to make based on talent I wish I had. What would you do if you were faced with the decision? Go to school or go pro? What would be your threshold? And what would you say to someone if they asked you for advice?

What shall we do with these potentially lethal baseball bats?
June 16, 2008, 11:17 pm
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I’ve had this article from the New York Times in my to-comment-on pile for a couple days, and I figured I might as well just do so. Then I saw another broken bat fly into the stands during a game at Safeco Field tonight and it became even more important to at least further the discussion.

As I see it – there are a couple of options that are out there once the appropriate research is conducted and as it pertains to fan safety:

1) Ban maple bats altogether. Just say they’re too dangerous and that it wouldn’t be possible to effectively monitor manufacturing standards and provide enough quality control.

2) Extend the nets down the lines farther, and possible even higher up behind home plate. Granted this wouldn’t necessarily help the players, coaches and umpires on the field, but hey, someone’s got to take a risk, right?

3) Require some kind of standards for the bats – handle size, weight, etc., as well as holding manufacturers more accountable for the quality of their work.

4) Do nothing.

I’m kind of inclined to go with #4, at least until someone gets seriously injured or killed. I know that sounds harsh, but that’s kind of the way things go. By going to a game, you’re assuming a certain amount of risk and willing to release the league and the clubs from any harm caused. Don’t believe me? Read the back of your ticket stub sometime.

It seems like it will take something tragic happening before the rules are changed. Even then, it will take a bit of work to get the players to agree to the changes, plus the manufacturers will certainly lodge some sort of protest, if nothing less because they have to buy their wood supplies fairly far in advance and don’t want to be left sitting on a bunch of maple that is now declared useless by MLB.

Plus the players — I can almost hear the cries of “you took away our steroids and HGH, now our maple, too?!?”

I am joking about that, at least a little, but there is some truth to it. There will undoubtedly be some griping about players not being able to use the bat of choice for the past decade or so. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this article.

So with that – what do you do with the maple bat issue? Would you extend the nets? Ban the potential death sticks? Or sit on your hands and do nothing? Speak up!