Friday, March 31, 2006

Yay!

The Reds are on their way to improving their Spring record to 21-11 in defeating the Indians. I, of course, am watching from my little cubicle despite the fact that I am swamped with work. I'm not helping things by writing this.

What the announcers are saying when the commercials are playing: "Not yet, I gotta take a pill. I can't do this inning." Huh?

Baseball, baseball, BASEBALL!

Baseball. Baseball baseball baseball. Baseball. Baseball baseball, baseball baseball baseball. Baseball baseball baseball, baseball Baseball. Baseball, baseball baseball. Baseball baseball baseball, baseball, baseball baseball.

Yep, that's all I have on my mind today as I watch the clock in excited anticipation of my first baseball game of the baseball year, an exhibition game between the Nats and the O's at RFK. I can't wait until my favorite Nats Zimmerman, Johnson, Vidro, Guillen, and Schneider take the field for the first time this year. Patterson is pitching, ensuring a good game. I can nearly smell the hot dogs.

Do I boo Soriano when he comes out onto the field or wait until he misses his first fly ball? Nah, I'm not going to boo him. He's been quiet since he accepted his fate and has been swinging the bat pretty well in this last week of Spring Training. I'll be cheering for him, too.

The weather couldn't be more perfect for a game, so when you leave the office, hop on the Metro to RFK, buy a ticket, and take a deep breath of the fresh spring air, because the best time of year is here. It's baseball!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

About the press conference today

National Disgrace National Disgrace
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Most of the players are saying, "Let's put this thing behind us." Most of the fans are saying, "Let's put this thing behind us." As Marty Brennaman said on the ESPN broadcast of the Reds-Red Sox game today, it's funny how this press conference was held a couple of days after corporations made announcements saying they wouldn't participate in any Bonds HR celebration. I say, "GOOD RIDDANCE!" Just two more corporations whose products I won't use. Baseball is too great to have companies dictating its policies. Selig should be ashamed. But then again, if he had the ability to feel shame, he would have resigned years ago.

By the way, the Reds upped their Spring Training record to 20-11. Arroyo pitched seven innings of shut out ball with nine Ks against his friends.

Nats lost. Armas stunk. :(

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Growing a team for the future

Tribe, Sizemore agree to six-year deal

Lucky Indians fans get the cuddly Grady for six more years. The Nats should take a lesson from Cleveland and commit to some young players rather than signing every hasbeen utility player and broken pitcher that is on the market. A guy by the name of Jose would be a good place to start.

Remember the days when the Tribe was the team, the Tribe of Manny and Thome and Vizquel and Baerga? I remember going to a couple of games at the Jake when they had a sign up that said how many consecutive games had been sold out, back when you had to buy tix from scalpers on the streets. The last time I saw the sign, it was in the upper 400s. Pretty impressive for a small market team. The way Cleveland is managing things these days, however, they just might get back to that glory.

Of course, Mr. Sizemore was but a wee lad back then. He's still a wee lad - only 23 and set for life. At least, he's set for the next six years.

And this one belongs to the Reds!

One of the sweetest sentences ever uttered.

It was the ninth inning. Aaron Harang had pitched well but grew tired in the sixth, giving up 3 runs and turning it over to Matt Belisle, who hopefully will be shipped to Louisville today, with a 7-3 lead. The score was 7-6 at the end of the inning and stayed that way when the ninth came up. Coffey strikes out the first guy but he reaches on a wild pitch, moves around the bases and stands on third with no outs, but the Rays or the Devil Rays or whatever they are called now failed on the suicide squeeze (which had just happened to the Reds in the last inning.) Double play ends the game, and this one belongs to the Reds, bringing their spring record to 19-11. Yes, I know it is Spring Training. But they are playing so well, and Opening Day is in five days, and it is always good to get a running start into the season...

Non-Reds fans, I'll say the name again: Aaron Harang. Here's a fantasy league tip for you: Aaron Harang.

There'll be none of that fifth place finish that I keep seeing all over the place in predictions about this season. NONE OF IT. So quit throwing the Reds in the same sentence as the Devil Rays or Diamondbacks or Rockies or Nationals. Oops, did I say that? (There's just been so much drama this spring that my enthusiasm is somewhat deflated. Don't get me wrong - I'm ready for the Nats season; I'm even going to the exhibition game Friday. I just need something good to happen for once, like Roger Clemens deciding he wants to play for the team or some farfetched miracle like that.)

Shocked!

No, my intention here is not to report on the news that Church was sent to the Minors today, since others can do it better. Nor am I going to comment about Watson starting center field, since that, too, is covered well. However, I am going to say something about how players like Church who are lazy in a slump in Spring Training and come in with the attitude that they belong on a Major League roster even if they haven't really proven themselves (and one year isn't proving yourself) shouldn't be surprised when they are sent down.

Something similar happened to Austin Kearns in the middle of the season last year for the Reds. Austin was playing like he'd never hit a baseball before, so after three seasons of playing with the big league club, he was optioned to Louisville. Bottom line is he stunk. He still doesn't believe the move was justified, but everyone else seems to. He dropped 20 pounds and has had a good spring, so we're hoping for a breakout year for him.

From what everyone is saying, Church acted like a professional in the demotion. True, Church kind of got screwed last year, but there has to be some other reason for his plight. Don't get me wrong, I like Church, and I think the move is bad. I just don't think we know the whole story. Maybe the baseball gods just don't like him. They don't seem to like the Nationals too well, at any rate. Hopefully Ryan will get his head on straight down in New Orleans and rejoin the team in May.

Of course, this is all Bowden's fault, with Soriwhino and all.

Stupid Bowden.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Another ex-Red soon to retire?

Burba released by Mariners
Kenton Ridge grad and Springfield native Dave Burba, 39, was released by the Seattle Mariners on Friday. Burba, a non-roster invitee, told the team’s web site he would try to hook on with another Major League team, but would not go back to the Minors. “I hope maybe another team will call,” said Burba. “If not, I’ll go home and be with my kids and my wife and drive them crazy instead of being here and driving everyone crazy.” Burba, who has 12 years of Major League service, said he would consider being a pitching coach.
Burba was best known for being traded for the Mayor, who should still be in Cincinnati now. He was a lifelong Reds fan, and the trade deprived him of an Opening Day start for his boyhood team. While he doesn't bring any sentimental memories to my mind, it still is kind of depressing to see him go. Even the magic of baseball can't stop the passage of time.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Baseball on the brain

I have that week-before-Opening-Day feeling right now, the one where everything I see and feel reminds me of baseball. I saw a Schneider National Shipping truck the other day, and of course I thought of the Nationals Brian Schneider. As I walked home from work today, I noticed some lamp posts topped with big bulbs with dirt spots that resembled stitches on a ball. Some cracks in the sidewalk made the shape of home plate; a man whistled something that sounded like Take Me Out to the Ballgame; the hot dog stand smelled like the ballpark. I swear some guy screamed "Cold beer, here!" as I took a breath of spring air, and even strangers I passed on the street look like ballplayers. If I hadn't known the Chief was down in Florida, I would have sworn he was sitting at Caribou Coffee earlier today as I ordered an espresso.

I just watched the Reds beat the Pirates on their way to a 17-11 Spring Training record. Sweeeet. The Reds winning? Stranger things have happened.

One of the strangest things I've come across recently is Oh Say Can You Sing, where Major Leaguers sing popular songs, including Sean Casey singing Toby Keith, Ben Broussard singing With or Without You, and Coco Crisp (snicker) rapping his original song. (I can't help but laugh every time I hear his name.) Of course all of this is for charity, so it's a good cause, but I don't think I'll be putting down the bucks for the CD. I'll save my money for tickets.


Six days to go...

One week until Opening Day!

Looks like the Nats are getting blown out again - it's 7-0 in the sixth inning. It's only Spring Training, you say? Umm...at this point in the season, the regulars are playing during at least the first five innings. Astacio apparently stunk. I wonder how many balls went over Soriano's head. Now Guillen is whining about his contract - I guess Soriwhino's attitude is rubbing off. Sigh... Thanks, Bowden.

Should I subtitle this blog "The Bowden Chronicles"? The guy does seem to follow me. Had he not still been working for the Reds when I was out in California, he probably would have been hired by the Giants. So I guess I shouldn't move to Boston or Chicago, right? Although I could move to New York and watch him destroy the Yankees. Except he'd probably be hired by the Mets.

I'm still waiting for that Sosa contract to be signed.

One other thing. Can someone please explain to me why the two games this weekend between the Nats and the O's are called "Battle of the Beltway"? I mean, the beltway doesn't run up to Baltimore. It isn't even a quarter of the way there. We have to come up with something better to call these series, which I hope turn into a bitter rivalry thanks to Peter Devilos. Maybe "Battle of the Murder Capitals?" Battle of the Crabcakes? Battle of the Parkway? Battle of I-95? Battle of the Teams Who Have No Chance in 2006?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Reds will be the surprise of the season

I'm currently in Ohio for not so good circumstances and have had diiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllll up internet access, but like I told We Heart the Reds, at least I got to watch two Reds games, two winning Reds games, on Fox Sports Ohio rather than the internet. Man, they look good. They fielded their A team, almost the Opening Day lineup, and Arroyo made his first start in a Reds uniform. He didn't do too well, giving up 5 earned runs, but it was one of those days where he was making good pitches and the batters were getting lucky, like the time when a Twins player hit a broken bat double down the line that scored a couple. Dunn hit two out, Griffey hit one out and hit the game winning single, and LaRue hit one out for a positively delightful offensive day.

I wish I could say the same for the Nationals, who continue to lose even as the regulars are starting to play, and they are losing because they are booting balls all over the field and have a case of the Chuck Knoblauchs, though Bowden doesn't seem to be too worried. But I think we've already established the fact that Bodes isn't the brightest baseball man out there.

Opening Day is in the air, even as the snow falls here in Southwest Ohio.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

They play BASEBALL in Ireland?

"Anything up to the level of 'Holy crap, I'm getting soaked' is playable." - Cormac Eklof, pitcher for the Irish National Baseball Team

You didn't see them in the World Baseball Classic, but the Irish National Baseball Team exists. Indeed, they've been playing the American pastime on the Emerald Isle, since an Irish-American from St. Louis noticed a bumper sticker promoting an Irish softball recreational league in Dublin. Mike Kindle knocked on the window of the startled driver to get some info on the league, and Baseball Ireland was born.

The Emerald Diamond, a documentary directed and produced by baseball worshipper John J. Fitzgerald, chronicles the development of baseball in Ireland from that bumper sticker to the national team's bronze medal in the 2004 European Pool B Championship. The film screened Tuesday at the E Street Theater in DC as part of a nationwide tour of 20 major US cities. (The DVD will be out later this year, and I highly recommend it.) In the traditional Irish fashion, the after party was announced before the start of the movie, and that's where I spoke with Fitzgerald about the film over Guinness and Boru Vodka, the film's sponsor.

Donning a Padres cap, Fitzgerald is a Mets fan by birth whose eyes burn with a passion for baseball, and his affable manner and love of the game was such that I could have talked to him all night about the baseball religion. He would have played for the national team, but his grandmother was born in New York, rendering him inelligible. Rather than moping about it, he made a great film about the team. We discussed team loyalties, Soriwhino, and players like David Wright, guys who just love to put on the uniform and don't complain or cause problems in the clubhouse. I asked him questions about the film and Irish baseball in general.

In the film, we get a history of Irish competition, or in the early years, the lack of it in the European Pool B Championship. Team Ireland's very first game against the Czech Republic resulted in a 23-2 loss, but hey, at least they scored, right? The team grabbed its first victory in international competition when it defeated Yugoslavia in the tournament. They ended the tournament outscored by a margin of 77-18 with 35 errors, but the film gave us a sense of that positive outlook on negative things with which the Irish are blessed and the wit of a people who gave us Oscar Wilde.

The Irish celebrated July 4, 1998 in a truly American fashion by officially opening their first baseball field, O'Malley Field, whose namesake Peter O'Malley, Dodgers owner, had financed. Until then, the team had practiced on patches of swampy grass, using whatever materials they could find or "borrow" from construction sites as backstops.

Murphy's Law was enforced on their way to Zaghreb for the 2000 European Pool B Championship as the team watched its equipment being unloaded through the window of the plane on which they sat in Dublin before take off, but the team was in good spirits as they took the field for the opening ceremonies in the clothes on their backs. Some Irish luck graced them when almost all of their equipment arrived in time for the first game. The 2002 tournament saw closer games and allowed bronze medal thoughts to tease their minds until they were walloped by the Croatians. Even though they had to play a good Hungarian team the next day, the team reacted to the loss in the way the Irish react to everything - drink. They weren't feeling too well when they took the field the next day, but this "unique strategy," as catcher Sean Mitchell put it, paid off - the team defeated Hungary. They finished fourth.

Through the tournament, the Croatioan surroundings were never lost on the Irish players, who know a thing or two about conflict. Fitzgerald did a good job of capturing the idea that although baseball seems like it is life, it is just a game, and the real world is always lurking behind a dugout or an outfield fence. I think for a lot of us baseball worshippers, the game provides us with a respite from the harsh realities that plague our planet, and the ballpark is a little taste of Heaven, a place that offers refuge from the evil that causes humanity to rip itself to shreds with bullets and bombs. The film talked about the Belfast league where players from both sides came to play baseball together, leaving the Troubles outside of the park. As one player in the film said, "I just want to play baseball." Maybe baseball can save the world...

2004 was a thrilling year for the Irish National Team. Some of the original guys hung up their spikes, and some new blood pumped fresh talent into the team. One of the exciting developments in Irish baseball came in the form of a catcher called Rory Murphy, the first homegrown player that has caught the eye of Major League scouts. He has a sweet swing, speed, and natural talent that has all of Ireland, at least its baseball fans, hoping he can make the Majors, which would make Irish baseball explode in popularity, according to Fitzgerald. There is one potential problem, however, that was not mentioned in the film. Rory Murphy is also a skilled rugby player. Will he choose the quick route to Irish rugby fame or the slow journey through college and minor league ball to play in the Show?

Other additions to the 2004 roster were several Americans. Fitzgerald says that without the American pitching, the team could not compete. See, the thing is that the Irish play lots of sports with bats, but none of their sports involve throwing. About 25% of the Irish team is American born players, thanks to the grandmother rule on citizenship.

If the World Baseball Classic taught us anything, it is that small ball wins championships. Ireland has no sluggers, so they have to win with small ball. Fitzgerald estimates that it will be at least ten years until the team is good enough to compete in the Classic. There is a huge obstacle, however.

One of the casulties of the Olympic Committee's decision to pull baseball from the Games is funding for national programs. A decade and a half of developing young players could be threatened by losing half of its funding, which went not only to the National Team, but also to youth programs across the island. One casulty of this is the Belfast youth league, which no longer exists. MLB is not helpful in this regard, as it does little to grow baseball in other countries aside from paying for host families and plane fares for American coaches. In a time when baseball as an international sport has never been more popular, and in the wake of the success of the WBC, one would think that MLB could step up its international program. (Hey, maybe when they sell the Nats they can give some money to Baseball Ireland! ;) )

All of European baseball will suffer from the IOC's decision. Teams in Pool A like Italy, Netherlands, and England will survive, but for Pool B teams, it will be a struggle. Perhaps we can pressure National Disgrace to increase funding for MLB International. We can write letters to his office, write letters to editors of major US newspapers, heck, even bring signs to ballgames.

Above all, the film was simply enjoyable. The theater laughed out loud throughout, as Fitzgerald knew what was good entertainment. But the best thing about this movie was the sheer passion these players had for the game, a deep love without the complications we see too often in MLB, and an incredible lust for life. The film gets to the soul of the game and is a truly spiritual journey through the religion of baseball.

For more information on baseball in Ireland, please visit Baseball Ireland.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Public Service Announcement

Go see the Irish Baseball Movie at E Street Theater tonight at 7pm! (If you're in DC, that is.)
The Emerald Diamond is an amazing feature-length documentary following the history of Baseball Ireland and the Irish National Baseball Team. Filming began in May 2004 and has continued in Dublin, Belfast, New York, Rhode Island, Los Angeles and Germany. The sold-out World Premiere took place on February 25th, 2006 at the prestigious Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, New York. The first round of twenty theatrical screenings around America are sponsored by Boru Vodka.

Director John Fitzgerald financed the film almost entirely on credit cards while working freelance at various jobs in the TV and film industries. The film crew was comprised of professionals from in and around Fitzgerald's hometown of Valhalla, NY, with each crew member coincidentally living in towns along the Metro North Railroad's Harlem Line - leading to the creation of Harlem Line Pictures.
Ireland and Baseball - I think this movie was made for me.

Monday, March 20, 2006

See ya, whino!

Soriwhino refused to take the field today. One more time, and he goes to the disqualified list. I say good riddance. I don't care if it wasn't his choice to come to DC. He's under obligation to obey his manager. Attitudes like this are poison to a team.

Funny thing is that if National Disgrace agrees to put him on the disqualified list, he's still property of the Nats, and we could do this all again next year.

Stupid Bowden.

We got a pitcher!

Sweet! I can't tell you how much I am excited that we got a pitcher! Arroyo for Wily Mo.

I've never been a big fan of Wily Mo, anyway. Too many strike outs, no defense. I wasn't impressed with him going to the Classic, either, knowing full well he wouldn't get a lot of ABs. Marty wasn't to happy, either.

Does this mean Dunn goes back to the outfield, or will Freel or Denorfia play? Marty says Hatteburg becomes the full time first baseman and Dunn moves back to left, pretty much rendering the Casey trade pointless. If Wilson comes back, what will happen? Will Williams go to the bullpen? What if Milton is as bad as last year? Will he go to the pen? So many questions, so much excitement.

I think we just went from non-contender status to contenders.

Yeah, I'm listening to Marty and Joe at work. The internet rox.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Happy Birthday, Jason LaRue (and other observations and stuff)

Oh yeah, I'm starting to get pumped about the Reds chances that they won't end up in last place. They might even compete this year! I'm not going to be overly optimistic like I was last year when I thought they would be in the playoff hunt in September. I think my exact words to a friend were, "The Reds are going to the World Series this year." Oops.

Aaron Harang seems to be in midseason form, and I'm definitely thinking he'll end up with at least 15 wins this year. He hasn't given up a run all spring. Woohoo! It's nice to be excited about a Reds pitcher. Maybe this year will be his breakout year and people from other parts of the country will start to recognize his name. Aaron Harang. Get it, baseball fans?

The Reds have had a good spring. Tony Womack has been a pleasant surprise - can he keep it up over the course of the season? The bullpen seems to be holding its own, too. Frankly, I'm just shocked, just shocked, I tell you.

I can't wait for Opening Day. I will, of course, be taking off work, as I never let work get in the way of baseball. I will have the computer with the Reds game on top of the television with the Nats game. The low number of Nats games being broadcast this year will make it tough to see both teams on MLB.TV. I'm going to miss hearing that cheesy music with the cheesier graphics every weekend this year. I don't want to have to choose betweeen the Nats and the Reds, but I have no choice, Peter Angelos, I have no choice.

The Reds have a great offense and have for the past few years, so even with the slow starts of Kearns and Dunn, things are coming around, and the offense will be able to power the team to some victories. Anytime you have a healthy guy named Griffey on your team, you have a chance. And come on, isn't this what being a non-Yankees fan is about, hope and optimism, no matter how unrealistic?

Go Reds!

Game notes: sloppy, slop, slop

It's sooooo nice to be watching the Nats game right now, even if I do have to listen to Vin Scully's non-stop nasal voice calling the game and blabbering inane stories in space where silence should be. Billy Traber is pitching not very well, Jackson is kicking the ball all over the infield, the Dodgers have just scored. And scored again. They're really just bloop hits, and Jackson's error should have been a double play, but the Dodgers are scoring, which is all that matters.

No Soriwhino today. One would think that with how much he sucked during the WBC that he would come to camp as soon as possible. Schneider isn't playing today, and neither is Wiki. Another run. It's the first innning, and already my mind is telling Scully to shut up. Most annoying announcer ever - don't know why he is considered a good one, unless he's just annoying now because he's ancient. Zimmerman makes bad throw, two more runs score.

Zimmerman did change to number 11, so my question is answered about that.

Daryle Ward drops throw at first base. Ruled a hit, still a bonehead play. Sloppy, sloppy.

Bill Mueller, who looks funny in Dodger blue, just hit one out. 6-0. Nomar looks strange, too, but I never really got used to him in that Cubby uniform, either.

Ward makes another Nats error. Sloppy, slop, slop. No wonder Bowden and Robinson are angry with the defense. Zimmerman makes another bad throw. Sloppy, slop, slop, slop. Ledee hits one out, two runs against Majewski. Sigh...

It's not like we're fielding a triple A team now, although Guillen, Vidro, Schneider, and Johnson aren't out there, of course. You wouldn't know it was a Major League team by the slop slop and no hitting. With two weeks to go, you have to wonder if the season is lost. The team is a walking hospital now, not good, not good.

Nats get crushed in Spring Training again. Tsk, tsk.

Don't buy the book

I had the good fortune of living out in Monterey, California for the 2001 and 2002 Giants seasons, following Bonds' 73 homer season and even getting to see the Giants crush the Angels in the fourth game of the World Series in 2002. Best game I've ever been to in my entire life, even if I did pay $350 for a bleacher seat.

I love the Giants. I am a big fan of teams with storied histories, and so rooting for the Giants came naturally to me during those seasons. (As a lifelong fan of a forever underachieving team, the Reds, I've come to appreciate other teams as sort of September stand-ins to root for, and those with the histories are the ones I've developed affinities for, with the Giants, Cubs, and Red Sox having the ability to break my heart.) Pac Bell Park, as it was then known, was my playground, a weekend escape from the daily grind of Arabic language training that I was undertaking in Monterey.

San Francisco is a beautiful city. If it weren't so far away from the rest of the world, I would consider living there. Maybe when California breaks away from the mainland we can dismantle the city and move it to the East Coast - it would fit nicely in that space between Baltimore and Philly that they call Delaware. Anyway, the baseball season air in San Fran is positively delightful, and when you are sitting in the right field view seats, it feels like Heaven as you look out over the Bay and into the China Basin, watching the kayakers wait around for a Bonds ball to make a splash and seeing the people on boats listening to the game while having a few beers out on the water. I miss that place sometimes, especially on scorching days at RFK, where not only are there no splash hits, but there are few dingers even leaving the yard.

The air changed when Bonds came to the plate - you could literally feel when he was going to hit one out. The crowd's collective breathing shortened until the bat made its mighty arc toward the ball, then the breathing stopped completely while the ball sailed for the fence, and an explosion of cheering erupted as soon as the homer was complete. The air was electrified when he came to bat, and last year only proved how much he was the team, he is the team. John Perricone at Only Baseball Matters has a great take on the Bonds issue.

I will always be a Bonds fan thanks to those two years of watching him play day in and day out when the magic air came, picked up his hits, and threw them out of the park and into that lovely water. I don't care what cream he used to try to keep his body from falling apart, the man is other worldly, a legend, a god. In the off seasons until this past one, he worked out six hours a day, six days a week, so don't say he isn't a hard worker. Make him pee in a cup this year, but don't destroy his legacy. It's time to put the past behind us and simply revel in all the man has accomplished. Please don't buy that book when it comes out. It's time to slap the sportswriters in the face; they're only trying to destroy the game.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Numbers

Did Ryan Zimmerman change numbers? On the MLB.com roster, he is listed as number 11, while Marlon Byrd is listed as 25. Byrd was 26 last year, and Junior Spivey was number 11. Zimmerman was number 11 at Virginia, so I'm wondering if he has some preference for the number and made the switch since it is available this year. It's a good number, anyway.


I don't know why I notice these things. I suppose it's because if I were to get a Nationals shirt with any player on it, it would be him, but I'll wait until he proves himself first. Anyone who causes Bowden to make comparisons to hall of famers is circumspect. On second thought, he does kind of look like Brooks, doesn't he?

I don't know what it is about this kid, but as soon as he was drafted there was something about him that just excited me. I like his humility. I like the naturalness about him, from his swing and his glove to the way he walks onto and off the field.

Pray Zimmerman turns out to be as good as the Human Vacuum Cleaner.

The baseball gods are angry

Yep, y'all have heard that Ayala is out for the season. Sux. He's scheduled to have Tommy John surgery in two weeks. Don't blame the Classic, though - it's Ayala's own fault. The team told him not to play in the tournament because his elbow wasn't strong enough, and now he's out for the year. Thanks a lot, Luis.

Losing Guzman for a season, on the other hand, would not be such bad news, in my opinion.

Soriwhino just K'd to end the game and eliminate his team from the Classic. Cuba is going to the Monday night final. So in what was supposed to be a USA verses Dominican final, there will be neither USA nor Dominicana. Now we'll see how the drama plays out - will he play outfield for the Nats this year? Too bad they can't trade him for a set up man.

Pray that no one else gets hurt.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy Paddy's Day!

Gotta love those green uniforms. Had a Guinness at lunch, will have plenty more this evening. In fact, I can hardly stand to be in this office anymore; I think I'll leave early.

Slainte!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Rats

Sux - USA lost to Mexico and is out of the tournament. Double play to end the threat in the ninth. So Japan gets to go anyway, even with all of their whining about the umpiring. Which was bad again tonight - Davidson again, calls a double on a homerun ball with a waist high rightfield fence and nowhere near not being a homerun.

Now all the WBC whiners can have their players back on their teams. You know, it was awesome to see the Angels stadium packed tonight. Seems not everyone hates the Classic.

Sigh...Losing is depressing.

Reds 2006 - A Decent Year?

I'm starting to wonder if the underachieving Reds just might have a chance to contend this year. Yes, it is still Spring Training, but the pitching has been pretty good, and ideas of a good season are beginning to creep into my head. Claussen pitched a good game today, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) in 4 innings.

It seems as if Edwin Encarnation has come around, judging from his torrid spring, and it would be exciting to have another homegrown guy turn out to be something of a ballplayer. In addition, with the way Griffey has been swinging the bat at the WBC, he could ignite the offense in a way he hasn't done in years. On the other hand, when the Reds make Bowdenesque moves like adding another infielder to an already crowded infield, I sort of come back to reality.

I'm starting to be pumped. 18 days to go. The waiting is the hardest part.

DC's new stadium

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

USA needs Roger

The Rocket is pitching his fourth "what could be his final game" of his career tonight.
If Clemens doesn't help Team USA defeat Mexico on Thursday night at Angel Stadium in the third and final game of the second round, the U.S. will be out of the World Baseball Classic, and the Rocket may have thrown his last game as a professional, again. That much was made certain after the U.S. lost, 7-3, to Korea on Monday night and Japan vanquished Mexico, 6-1, on Tuesday.

But for the Americans' game against Mexico to mean anything, Japan must lose to Korea on Wednesday night. Or if the Japanese win, they must score at least seven runs or allow eight runs or more.

Under any of those scenarios, the U.S. has to then defeat Mexico to move on. But if Japan wins a low-scoring game, the U.S. will be out and Thursday's game will be rendered meaningless.
Did you get that? The US team does not control its own destiny. If Japan wins, we're done. No way Korea's going to give up seven runs to them. I watched the Japan-Mexico game last night, and Japan is still bitching about the bad call from the US game, which gives me further reason to hope they get blown out by the Koreans tonight.

Griffey was joking around the other day, telling Clemens, who was wearing the USA red BP jersey, he looks good in red. Dream on, Junior.

In all of my 29 years of watching baseball, I have never seen Clemens pitch live, as I grew up in a National League town and was pretty far removed from the American League. I should have seen him when he pitched last year at RFK. D'oh! 1.87 is just not a retirement number.

The US game is on at 7:30 tomorrow evening on ESPN. Please support the team and watch it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Ahh... Spring Training...

The time of year when you can be reading about your team and have no idea they are talking about your team.
George Lombard connected on his first home run of the spring, belting a solo shot off Scott Olsen in the second inning. In the fourth, the lead was pushed to 2-0 on Michael Tucker's sacrifice fly. After Damian Jackson walked and went to third on Marlon Anderson's single, Tucker lifted a fly to right. A three-run fifth inning made it 5-0. Frank Diaz ripped an RBI double down the third-base line, scoring Lombard, who had walked. Jackson had an RBI single in the inning, and Diaz scored on a balk by reliever Taylor Tankersley. After the balk, Marlins manager Joe Girardi was ejected by home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez. Diaz and Ian Desmond each had an RBI single in a three-run sixth inning. Diaz added a home run in the ninth.
The other s.s. game saw Livan pitch 5 scoreless innings. Sweeeet.

日本は失わなければならない

If Mexico does not beat Japan tonight, the US could be out of the Classic after losing last night to Korea, 7-3. The only player who seems to have brought his bat is Griffey, who went 3-4 last night with a solo homer and a 2 RBI single and is hitting .588 with 3 homers and 10 RBI in the tournament so far. Jeter is doing pretty well, too, hitting .563.

Another reason to root against Japan is that they are still whining about the bad call made the other night by home plate umpire Bob Davidson. Now they are saying they want more international umpires in the next Classic, whereas they had specifically requested US umpires before this one. Talk about sore losers. The umpire did not make the call because he wanted the US to win. I don't know how the umpires are in Japan, but in the US, we don't do that. If you really thought you should have won that game, Japan, your pitcher shouldn't have loaded the bases up in the bottom of the ninth and given up the hit to A-Rod. Wah.

Monday, March 13, 2006

1-10-1

That is the Nats' record in Grapefruit League play. That's right, one win. Yes, it is Spring Training. Yes, some of their players are participating in the WBC. Yes, some players are injured. But - we are halfway through the spring and not getting any better. It's a bit worrisome.

Schneider, who has been catching Peavy in the Classic, is hitless. He nearly threw a guy out at second last night, but the Japenese run like Olympic sprinters. If you haven't had the chance to see them play, I'd recommend turning on ESPN 2 tomorrow to see. They have stellar defense, especially their shortstop, and Ichiro is always fun to watch. The US squeaked out a victory yesterday thanks to a bad call by usually good umpire Bob Davidson, who incorrectly ruled a Japanese player left third base too early on a sac fly. But, the US succeeded in loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth (no thanks to Griffey, who K'd,) scoring on A-Rod's hit to take the victory, and who knows what would have happened if the right call had been made? Bad calls are a part of baseball.

Our big, overpriced benchwarmer, Soriwhino, is hitless as well for the Dominicans.

Dominican and Cuba are playing right now. Unfortunately, the commercials are playing, so I don't get to hear the nonsense that goes on in the booth between innings today.

Friday, March 10, 2006

It's out of here! It's out of here!

Four hits, two of them three run homers, seven RBI total...Griffey had it going on today in the US rout of South Africa.

As much as I was thrilled that my favorite player, Ken Griffey, Jr, kicked ass as he has been doing during the whole WBC (which looks good for the Reds!), the real story was the Rocket. Dear Roger, won't you please play this year? Didn't you have an unheard of 1.87 ERA last year? Baseball needs you. Class is sometimes lacking in today's young players - they need people like you to lead them. You know you'd miss it painfully.

The Chief got the last out - a strike out, thrown under the flattened brim of his USA cap. Nice to see him again, really nice.

ESPN's ratings are way up because of the Classic. I certainly did my part by making a bar, Post Pub, turn the game on Wednesday, and people turned their heads, first confused as to what this tournament was - simply seeing "USA" on the jerseys piqued their interest, and then half the bar, those who weren't "like" dizzy blond women, were unconsciously or consciously watching the US lose to Canada. I missed the game today but watched the archived game when I got home after happy hour in the beautiful spring weather, sixty-five and clear skies and promise that it will be even better this weekend. Is there anything better in life besides perfect weather and baseball? I think not.

In other WBC news, the Dutch guy pitched a no hitter against Panama. If you're interested in his name, look it up. Nederlands rox, though not at baseball. I still wouldn't mind one of those hoep hoep Holland orange BP jerseys. Not for $119, though. Too much spring time happy hour and baseball tix coming up.

What the announcers were saying during the commercials today: Aside from berating the South African team in what they thought was off the air and then deciding that they would praise the team when they officially went on the air, these guys spent half the time trying to decide how to suck up to the National Disgrace, who was visiting the booth during the third inning. Should I ask him about Barry? No, I know he doesn't want to hear it, but he's used to being asked the question. Should I talk about what a great decision the Wild Card was even though he was criticized for even thinking about it? Is my tie straight? Do I have enough makeup on? (Ok, so that last one I made up, but only because they went on air and ran out of time for that question.)

Today's prayer: Pray that Roger comes back this year.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Welcome to a regular feature:

What the announcers say while the commercials are playing. (I think crack is freely passed around.)

One is singing "We are the World." Seriously. They're screaming and making idiotic sounds...maybe I should start recording these 'who's on first' episodes.

They've been trying to learn how to pronounce the Dutch names all night. Do you know how to say Jair Jurrjens? Bet you can't!

And Pudge just goes yard. Nederlands isn't going to win this one.

One Yankee I do like (besides Jeter) is Bernie Williams, who took far less money and is accepting a virtual bench position, but he wanted to stay in New York, where he has been his entire career. Gotta love team loyalty.

Update:
Now one of them is talking like Yogi Bear. "Uh, I don't know... Not a sabermetric guy, don't make me do it..."

I don't know what these guys are smoking.

Update 8th inning: Guy just says "it's raining beer!"

Update 9th inning: The guy who says goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal is an announcer on Deportes who is doing this game, and the announcer of this game is imitating him. Then he's talking about protein shakes and not the same kind as Bonds.

Watching baseball in the office

Is there a person on Earth who doesn't like Dontrelle Willis? What a great guy and a great pitcher, even if Canada did just score and he's used up a third of his pitch count in only 2/3 of an inning. To me, Dontrelle encompasses the spirit of baseball, that life-loving, I'm-playing-the-game-I-love- for-a-living attitude. Baseball needs more Dontrelles.

The Cuba-Panama game has just gone to ten, but I've flipped over to the US-Canada game on MLB.TV, as they haven't debuted the multi-game media player yet. (No, I don't get paid by MLB.com to rave about MLB.TV. I just think it is one of the greatest inventions ever!) I like in between innings when the announcers think they are off the air for a commercial break, forgetting that there are those of us out here who are watching online, and they let slip idiotic comments that remind us all they didn't go to college for the academics... One of them just sang "nestled among the streams and grizzly bears." Seriously.

How can we get Yulieski Gourriel to defect?

My personal favorite player, Griffey, forgot to bring his defense to the game today. It's only the second inning, but I think the team forgot to bring their offense, too.

And now the clock strikes "time to go to the bar to watch the rest of the game."

It's a hit

Mercy! The Italians crushed the Aussies, who came in fourth place in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Who knew? I thought the winners of the opening round were pretty much pre-determined, but Italia's victory shatters Pool D certainties.

Though I had been looking forward to it since its announcement, the Classic is much better than I anticipated. Watching the Dominican-Venezuela game while at work (not to worry, I had the screen split so I could work on my document, too!), I realized this tournament was bigger than most of us had expected when the flags were hoisted and the intensity rivaled a September pennant race, each batter strutting to the plate with his country's name across his chest and his heart on his sleeve. Big Papi went yard twice, swinging the lumber like he was Zeus with his lightening rods, and the boisterous fans sure treated him like a god.

When it was clear the Dominicans would take the game, I switched over to the US-Mexico game for an hour at work before heading over to the big screen at Buffalo Billiards, where I had the good fortune of getting three free beers from the waiter. (I guess he either was impressed with or felt sorry for me being a woman alone watching a baseball game in a bar. Like I said in a previous post, I don't have cable, and I need to find places to watch ESPN.) Seeing Griffey with the USA stitched across his chest was awesome, a testament to the greatness of the 12th (and moving up, insha'allah) all-time home run leader. I even found myself rooting for A-Rod, who is Herr Steinbrenner's spawn, though I wasn't impressed with the Yankee clique that separated itself from the rest of the team in the dugout and hogged up a lot of in-between-pitch television time.

I concluded my day with the Canada-South Africa game, a game that was so intense that I stayed up to watch it in its entirety. The heavy underdog South Africans nearly pulled it off, up by one with three outs to go in the ninth, but the 17 year old kid they chose to close it blew the save and disappointed all of us who were rooting for them to pull off the upset. Upsets rule, unless it's your team that is upset! Had to love that Korea-Japan game - too bad it was on in the wee morning hours so I couldn't watch.

If every day of the Classic is as good as yesterday, this is going to be one hell of a tournament.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Why Steinbrenner is the Devil, Reason #666

The Yankees displayed a sign by the customer service booth on the main concourse...“We are sorry that certain players will not be present for portions of spring training...“The New York Yankess,” the sign went on, misspelling the team’s name, “did not vote to support this event. Any comments you have regarding the World Baseball Classic should be directed to the commissioner of Major League Baseball or the Major League Baseball Players Association.”
full article

How much on Steinbrenner blaming the Classic if the Yanks don't win this year?

How about promoting the sport you supposedly love so much, Herr Steinbrenner? The Classic exists to bring the sport to the world in a year when baseball was taken out of the Olympics. (That is a whole other issue. The sport is becoming more popular throughout the world, and one only has to look at a Major League roster for proof.)

The talk about "injuries" is b.s. If a player is going to get hurt, he'll get hurt. He could get hurt in Spring Training. It doesn't matter what uniform he's wearing - if he gets hurt, he gets hurt, and it's that simple. Look at Herr Steinbrenner's own team - the non-WBC Yanks are getting slammed with Spring Training injuries. I heard the Boston announcers the other day saying it's better to be hurt for your own team. Why? Why does it matter? It's a mental block people have - that's all.

If anything, the WBC will make its participants go into the season more competitive. Spring Training is such a relaxed environment; with the intensity that the WBC is bringing, look for players to come into April swinging.

Games today (my predicted winners are highlighted):
Dominican Republic vs Venezuela @ 1pm
USA vs Mexico @ 4pm
Panama vs Puerto Rico @ 7pm
Australia vs Italy @ 8pm
Canada vs South Africa @ 9pm

Monday, March 06, 2006

Good bye, Kirby

We'll miss you.

The truth is out there

It’s always interesting to listen to another team’s broadcast and hear them talk about your team from an alien perspective. I’m listening to the Astros probing the Nats game, and the Nats are getting no love. They are abducting my hope for the season by saying the Nats stink and have no chance this year. Maybe they’re right, but I refuse to believe it at this point. Spring Training means nothing, and besides, the Nats have some missing essential players at the WBC, right? We have two good starters and one of the best bullpens in baseball. Plus we may have the most powerful bench player in baseball the game (Soriwhino.) Trying to keep hope, trying to keep hope, trying…

And the Reds – their pitching is doing well in Spring Training. That won’t hold, but I can hope.

Must be nice to be a Yankees fan with a chance to win every year.

Yankees suck.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Why I love baseball, reason #4192

Listening to the Giants broadcast of the exhibition against Team USA (praise the internet!), one of the announcers says a player's name, Daren McBain, sounds like a character out of a James Joyce novel (my personal favorite writer,) and then Jon Miller takes it, as he always does, and stretches it into some fun, inning-long nonsense about how you could call a book Portrait of the Baseball Player as a Young Man and proceeds to go on and on like only he can do about what ballplayers are artists, including Brett Tomko, who apparently draws and paints, and Greg Maddux, who does not but was mentioned anyway.

Nothing like sitting out on the porch listening to a baseball game, pretending like it is warmer than it is just because you can't wait for the real warmth to bring on real baseball.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Cursed!

Remember that bizarre incident when someone shot at the Cleveland Indians team bus and a pitcher was hit in the leg while wearing white cheerleading boots? That was Kyle Denney, the guy who pitched quite well yesterday for the Nats, going three innings and giving up only one hit. Last year he was the victim of another unlucky accident when he was hit in the head by a line drive and went on the 60 day DL. The guy seems cursed. Because of that, he's a perfect fit for the Nationals organization.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Don't forget!

Nats single game tix go on sale tomorrow! I'll be in line at RFK, as I am not a season ticket holder (since I work at a non-profit,) though I do go to enough games in a year to equal a mini-plan. I just want to be able to choose which games I can go to. Looking forward to the home opener, the Reds games, and the games verses the evil Peter Angelos!

It's looking more and more like Soriwhino isn't going to be wearing the curly W come Opening Day. Fine with me - can we trade him for Brad Wilkerson? Sigh...

Thinking about getting up tomorrow and getting to the ballpark at 7am brings me back to last year when Home Opener tix went on sale. I arrived at what Ball Wonk calls the RFK Canyon National Monument at 7:30am and was the 41st person in line. It was pretty warm that day, gray but jubilant, and the crowd donned Nats gear like it was gameday. We talked like we were old friends, and some guys behind me told stories of going to Senators games with a flicker of magic in their eyes, as if baseball alone was what is right with the world (and isn't it?) The electric air was easy to swallow, and life was good and joyful and exciting. That is, until front office guys came out and told us we better start calling on our cell phones because we might not get tix. They created a false panic among the crowd, showing us that invasive corporate side of baseball that keeps the game from being the most perfect thing on the planet. I got my tix, though, lower level third base line.

As far as I can tell, Heaven is an emerald diamond where the Yankees only exist to have a losing team.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Oh, Heaven!

Listening to Marty and the sweet sound of baseball online! Such music! Such joy!

I want my ESPN TV!

Every baseball season I have a problem. I can't get enough of baseball (that's not the problem,) but I can't always watch as much as I want even though I subscribe to MLB.com. See, the problem arises with blacked out ESPN games. I don't have cable. I don't watch enough television to justify cable, but if I could just get ESPN, I'd be happy. Problem is, you can't get just one cable channel. Yet.

Senator McCain is introducing a bill to entice cable companies to offer per-channel service in addition to cable packages. Hallelujah! But Congress cannot force the companies to offer the service, and there are some powerful folks up against the idea, including the 700 Club led by Batty Robertson, who thinks no one will buy religious programming if you can pick your channels. All they need is a brilliant marketer and problem solved. I want my ESPN and nothing else!

Until then, where in DC is a good baseball bar? I sometimes go to Buffalo Billiards to watch ESPN games, but the set up is not conducive to watching if people have taken the few good spots. I know the Rhino Bar in Georgetown has baseball all over the place, but it is quite an effort to go to GT since there is no free parking or Metro to get there. I'd like to watch the games with other fans packing the bar, but the Dupont area just doesn't have it, so I need some advice. Where is the best baseball bar in DC?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The years pass two by two...


I must be getting old. One by one my childhood heroes are retiring. Today it was Bret Boone. Bret was one of my favorite players - I had a poster of him on my wall and was pretty upset when the Reds traded him away. I was at Riverfront Stadium one September day when the Reds were in the basement and they had both Bret and Aaron playing infield with the two Larkin brothers. I think one of the few Major League games that Pete Rose, Jr. played in was on that day, too, although my old age has permitted the slippage of memory! I never quite liked Aaron as much as I did Bret, though it wasn't Aaron's doing.

Thanks for a good 14 years, Bret. You'll be missed.