Tagged with "baseball"
Sports Friday with Hal: Lazy Summer Friday
Category: FEATURED
Tags: Baseball Red Sox Pawtucket Dodgers Tigers Royals MLB NFL ProFootballFocus.com

Happy Friday, Gabbers!

 

Busy one for me today...on the road for training at work so a couple quick hits. Besides, for someone who can accused of being emotionally distant, I sure dug deep the past two weeks for my  Don Zimmer tribute and my Father’s Day and sports. Heck, I’m spent.

 

NFL:

My (Twitter) buddy Steve Palazzolo at ProFootballFocus.com (OK, I doubt he knows who I am, but I enjoy his analytical articles) but he had a great piece this week examining where quarterbacks in the NFL throw the ball as far as distribution to receivers, backs, and tight ends (Link is here: https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2014/06/18/qbs-in-focus-pass-distribution/ - not sure if it is free content or subscription only).

 

Anyway, a couple of key points:

 

First while discussing throwing the ball to wide receivers:

 

“Tom Brady led the league with 473 passes to receivers detached from the formation”

and

“Ryan Tannehill with the highest percentage of his attempts in this area at 81.9%”.

 

Surprising considering how maligned the New England wide receivers were last season. That said, with tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiving running back Shane Vereen injured the ball had to go somewhere.

 

Also, is this an indication of how underrated Tannehill is leading the Dolphins attack or an indictment of Tannehill in recognition he throws short passes and has no help out of the backfield and at tight end?

 

When throwing to outside the numbers/sideline wide receivers:

 

“Tannehill led the way with 274 attempts to outside receivers.”

and

“Peyton Manning’s...29 touchdowns to outside receivers led the league.”

 

With age increasing and  no Eric Decker in Denver, is Manning going to replicate those numbers? I doubt it, but Denver does need to save some money for wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.  Remember, it was former head coach Josh McDaniels who wisely picked Thomas over Dez Bryant in the 2010 NFL Draft.  Denver is still reaping the rewards of that decision.

 

When it came to throwing to slot receivers, Palazzolo wrote:

 

“Most would probably expect Brady to lead the way in attempts to the slot, but it was Drew Brees’ 214 attempts that paced the league while Sam Bradford and Andrew Luck led with 37.3% of their passes targeting the slot (includes all players lined up in slot).”

 

I think this is more about having limited production out of Danny Amendola and having to move wide receiver Julian Edelman all over the field to get favorable match-ups with such limited options after injuries wracked the squad in the second half of the season.  Ditto for Andrew Luck in Indianapolis with Reggie Wayne injured and T.Y. Hilton moved all over the formation.

 

With throwing passes to running backs, obviously having Darren Sproles helped this and the Saints will have a hard time replacing Sproles this season:

 

“Brees leads this group as well with a league-high 197 attempts and 1243 yards on throws to running backs.”

Also,

“16 of Matthew Stafford’s league-leading 58 drops came from running backs.”

and

Cam Newton benefitted from a league-high 11.3 YAC per completion on passes to running backs out of the backfield.”

while

“Tannehill threw to running backs out of the backfield on only 10.4% of his passes, the lowest percentage in the league.”

 

For Tannehill, the running backs were terrible runners and worse receivers, so he cannot be blamed there.  For Stafford, Reggie Bush was supposed to be the remedy to the passing game, so seeing the backs averaging a drop per game is hideous. Cam Newton had better find his running backs in 2014 in the passing game, because he has no receivers to throw the ball to in the passing game.


 

MLB:

 

Is there a more fun team to watch in 2014 than the Kansas City Royals? (OK, not for the gabbers with much love for the Detroit ballclub). Kansas City has streaked to first place on a winning streak and seem balanced and consistent on offense and in the rotation.

 

Kansas City took two games against the Yankees, two more against Terry Francona and the Indians, and then three more against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. For a team that was four games below .500 (26-30) on June 1, the Royals are are hot while the Tigers got cold. Detroit enjoyed a season-high seven-game lead on May 18, then dropped seven of eight to allow its American League Central challengers—the Royals included—to tread water or catch up.

 

A huge key to the Royals’ rise has been the apparent return of Eric Hosmer’s power. Hosmer slugged 17 homers in 159 games last year, pretty bad for a “power-hitting” first baseman. At the end of the day on June 6, Hosmer was hitting .260 BA/.300 OBP/.352 SLUGGING. Hosmer began to turn his season around on June 7, when he slugged a homer in an 8-4 win over the Yankees. He went deep again two days later and again on Sunday.

The Royals won the first two games of their four-game tilt with the Tigers by shelling Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. On Wednesday, left-hander Drew Smyly limited the visitors to two runs in seven innings of work. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Jeremy Guthrie outpitched him.

 

Kansas City gave its starter a quick 1-0 edge in the top of the first, when Eric Hosmer continued his hot hitting and picked up a one-out single, stole second, and scored on an infield hit from second base on an errant throw.

Smyly settled in after that, but Guthrie was in a groove. By the time the Tigers figured Guthrie out in the seventh, the Royals were up by two. The win was the Royals’ 10th in a row. That’s a sentence no one’s been able to type in two decades!

 

* * *

 

When play began on Wednesday, the Dodgers—thanks to Red Sox Beer and Chicken washout Josh Beckett—were the only major-league team that could boast about a no-hitter this year. That’s still true. Only now they have two of them, after the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, ripped through the Rockies in L.A..

 

The left-hander was perfect through the first six innings, retiring all 18 batters he faced. Ten of those 18 went down via the strikeout. And Kershaw had accomplished all of that on less than 80 pitches. With the Dodgers ahead 8-0 Kershaw took the mound in the seventh poised to keep on rolling. Moments later, two ground balls to the left side of the infield would define the game’s place in baseball history.

 

Corey Dickerson led off the top of the seventh with a slow chopper to short, soft enough that Hanley Ramirez needed to hurry, but hard enough to give him ample time to make the play. Ramirez fielded the ball cleanly, but his off-balance throw bounced wide of first base, beyond the reach of Adrian Gonzalez. The game was no longer perfect, but the no-hitter remained intact.

 

Two batters later, Troy Tulowitzki put it in jeopardy. Tulo hit a rocket down the third-base line where rookie Miguel Rojas was up to the task. Rojas preserved the no-no, and Kershaw took it the rest of the way. He struck out the next three batters he faced and did the same to Dickerson with two away in the last of the ninth. His final strikeout out was Kershaw’s 15th of the evening—a new career high—and it came on his 107th pitch.

 

Per BaseballProspectus.com, the slider that ended the game striking out Dickerson was the 31st throw by Kershaw, the 27th that went for a strike, and the 12th at which the Rockies swung  and missed.  Yes, the curve is his best pitch and his fastball is nasty. When he has all three working, Kershaw is...well, unhittable!

 

Most important from that win is that the Dodgers, now just four games behind the scuffling Giants, may still have ample time to repeat as National League West champs.

 

* * *

 

I will have “my” Father’s Day this weekend after a busy weekend last week that saw us visiting the parental units and my wife busy, busy with work.  I figured I already had my Father’s Day with our trip to Pawtucket, RI for the PawSox on Sunday June 8th when we got to see Joey Votto on rehab, former Yankees starter Chien Ming Wang, and former Cubs closer Carlos Marmol for the Louisville Bats (Reds minor league team).  Great game. Saw prospect Mookie Betts, ate a hot dog (reasonably priced), had a few beers, and four box seats behind first base cost less than $50. God bless minor league baseball!

 

Carlos Marmol, wild as ever!: 

 

Mookie Betts, soon to be starting in centerfield in Boston:

 

 

Justin Henry, 2007 9th round pick by the Tigers now at Pawtucket. At 29 years old, the second baseman/outfielder/utility fielder is not likely to see the show, but these are the kind of players I root for the most: he is playing on pure love of the game at this point and a dream to one day make it--even for a cup of coffee--in the show. Not much power, some speed, versatility, and over 800 minor league games and counting without an MLB at bat...but I'm rooting hard for him. Good luck, Justin.

 

OK, that’s all I have this week so thanks as always for stopping by to read--yes, I still miss DVT over here too on Fridays ------->  but glad for his update last month and hope he stops by again soon. Glad he’s doing well. Stormin’Norman and Sully have been killing it next door at 2.0 so be sure to swing over and visit them as well today.

 

Have a great weekend, all!  

 
Sports Friday with Hal: Father's Day Weekend
Category: FEATURED
Tags: Baseball Red Sox Fenway Park sports father's day Dad

Sports and Father’s Day seemingly go hand-in-hand: Sunday afternoon baseball games, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, NFL off-season kicking off team activities around the league. Of course, the media will have the usual canned stories ready to go about Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr., the Boones, the Bells, and more in baseball, the Hulls of Hockey, the Matthews of the NFL, the mystery of “if there is an RGIII who the heck is RGII or RGI?”.

 

Of course, escaping the celebrity culture of sports for a minute there is much more to sports than those who play the game. For many of us, sports is part of our family. Team affiliations and opinions are passed on down through the family. Our Dad (or Mom, or Grandparent, relative, guardians) liked Team A so we grew up rooting for Team A. Now as we age, we see our children as they grow and mature and realize that our rooting interest has passed another generation down as they sit with us and cheer the same teams.

 

But it is more than that: sports is not just something to share. Sports are something that bond. When we were young, who played catch with us, shot hoops, pitched batting practice, played goalie, drove us to the parks, rinks, practice fields, at all hours? Who paid for the balls and bats, racquets, equipment, pucks, nets, and more? For most it was our Dad (or Mom, or Grandparent, relative, guardians). It was a way they showed us that they cared about us and even at our young age that they sacrificed for us.

 

Now we do the same whether it is our own children, or nephews, nieces, cousins, grandkids, neighbors, community or whoever we can help. Rides, time, money, equipment, training supplies, whatever the cost we do it. Whether it is helping them in training or coaching at home, lessons, coaching their team, volunteering for the league, supporting, boosting, or helping out by being the most thankless position in any sport: the umpire or referee we find ourselves echoing what those who came before us do.

 

For me, it was baseball. I am pretty established as a football guy now as for whatever reason my writing has gravitated to the gridiron. But in my youth there was one sport from my earliest memories that was king and that was baseball. I was the first boy in my family and I had a starting lineup of nine older sisters before me in the family, so my Dad had a little built-up supply of sports passion to pass on to me.

 

Looking back, I think there was a lot of the love of football from my Dad. As I got older I got to see some of his early New England Patriots programs (playing at Fenway Park and Nickerson Stadium), stories of taking the older sisters to see the Celtics, Ring Magazine (boxing was big in the fifties), Wrestling magazines (yes I had my brief dalliance with WWF in my teen years when Wrestlemania burst upon the scene).  

 

But baseball was big. He had Minneapolis Millers game programs from when he was stationed there in Air Force in his youth, Boston Braves programs, and of course Red Sox. My mother was a big baseball fan. She was Polish and King Carl was part of the Holy Trinity when I was younger. The Holy Family in her house was Jesus, Pope John Paul II, and Yaz.

 

There was the Impossible Dream record album which I found in the attic and listened to Ned Martin describing a pennant race years before I was born. The songs about Carl Yastrzemski were a revelation: I just assumed my mother had made up the songs she sang about Yaz as he came to the plate and she listened to the game in the kitchen while cooking or cleaning. Here was proof the songs were real!

 

My Dad loved to tell me the story about how I was three years old watched the World Series with him as Reggie Jackson launched back-to-back-to-back home runs in one game against the Dodgers. How he hit the first pitch all three times against three different pitchers. How he told me “Remember this! This is something special. You want to remember you saw it!”  

 

I may not remember it, but I remember him telling me about it and I still to this day tell him I remember it.  Having read about it multiple times and seen the replay, I cannot remember if the memory is real or not, but what is important to me is that my Dad remembers it and its a special and shared memory of us spending time together.

 

My Dad was an inner-city high school science teacher so he the entire summer with us kids every year. As he invested the time in us playing sports, he made sure that we learned the valuable lesson that if you are going to do something, you are going to do it right. I’ve written before about my unhealthy obsession with baseball as a youth memorizing statistics, reading volumes of baseball history, and absorbing every ounce of anything baseball related I could watch, read, or play.

 

There was the usual Little League days, but my Dad would encourage, support, and push above and beyond for us. I remember many a summer morning getting up at sunrise to hop in the car and drive to the softball field up the street. My Dad would hit ground balls, pop-ups, flyballs, etc as he honed our fundamentals. From there, it was stepping up to the plate for batting practice. The rest of us (my closest in age older sister and younger brother and sister) would join my mother in chasing down the balls. For me it was heaven every day; for the siblings it was closer to the opposite of that maybe...but it was great for me!

 

We had to practice early on the field before the heat of the summer sun and the teams practices would take over the field. Throughout my playing career in baseball through high school and many years of fast-pitch softball after that, my fielding skills and contact at the plate made up for my lack of power and arm strength. I credit all that to the fundamentals passed on by my Dad.

 

There were also the summer programs at the school he taught at where I spent a few weeks in the baseball program. It was terrifying at the time being eight years old and from a small town where I was in a one-room schoolhouse with the same 20 kids from kindergarten through the third grade being thrown in with about 100 other kids from the inner-city where I knew absolutely no one.

 

But that too was a test--one I’d like to think I passed. I earned the respect of and made friends with kids I would have never met and was forced out of my comfort zone to learn to interact with a variety of peers from different backgrounds. That served me well later in life entering the world of business and now in public service as a government worker. These skills were part of growing up and learning--a lesson from sports.

 

My son inherited a lot of his mother’s personality and sometimes I think he enjoys the fact that video games and the like trump sports and how it tweaks his old man. Of course, he loves watching football on Sunday mainly I think because Uncle Tim teaches him creative new words during the game every time there is a fumble or interception. He loves going to baseball games and loading up on the ballpark food. Basketball is a sport he enjoys and he does watch many games with me. Hockey is a playoffs only thing. Baseball on television is also playoffs only.

 

For me, I’ve been very careful that I not force him into playing or watching sports he does not like. I have encouraged him (and his sister) to try any sport they want to play.  That said, I was not going to go overboard and be a parent to push their unrequited sports dreams onto their children. I remember two friends of mine in Little League who were absolutely miserable being forced into not only playing but having their Dad coach and make them pitch whether wanted to or not. To see a friend so miserable playing a sport that gave me so much joy to play was heart-breaking. I think of them when I get a little “overbearing” at times.

 

My Dad always made a point to me that he was never going to put me in a position to gain an unfair advantage. I was not going to play first base and bat clean-up because he was friends with the coach and bought him beers at the local watering hole. If I wanted it, he told me I should earn it through hustle and hard work. Otherwise it would mean nothing.

 

That stays with me to this day as valuable life lesson and teaching tool to this day. Cronyism exists everywhere while working in a government job but I refuse to play that game. I applied for the job, I earned the job by bringing needed skills I developed, and I work my way up through nothing but the lessons I learned from my Dad: If you do something, do it right Sometimes you are out of your comfort zone and you need to learn to adapt and interact. If you want it, earn it through hard work.

 

Sports mean even more to me than that with my relationship with my Dad. They were also a glue. As a teenager (those days are getting so close with my own kids!) sports remained as something that we had in common no matter how sullen, moody, introverted, and rebellious as I may have been as I transitioned from childhood slowly towards adulthood. No matter how much a typical teenage jerk I could be, either one of us could say to the other “Did you see the game last night?” and it would start a conversation and keep us communicating no matter what.

 

I got my love of sports, my desire to make the world a better place, and even my name from my Dad. My Dad named me after his Dad, making me Hal Bent the third. My son is Hal Bent the fourth. I did not name him after me in an act of hubris or some silly desire to keep the name going. I named him after my Dad because I love him. I appreciate all that he did for me throughout my life and I honor him by naming my only son after him.

 

When my son was born it was an interesting day for my wife. We were about a week overdue (normal for the first child) and we went out for dinner Saturday night with her parents. When we came home, we found the house had been broken into while we were out. We called the police, searched the neighborhood, and found out it was the two teens on each side of our house (aka our neighbors) who assumed we were off to the hospital for a few days and broke in through a back window. Amazingly, we recovered almost everything from the idiots that night, but by 5:00AM after neither her nor I slept she was in labor.

 

I remember it was some kid named Tom Brady’s second start at quarterback for the New England Patriots that Sunday afternoon as I sat holding her hand and watching them jump to a 10-3 lead against the Miami Dolphins and the game was interrupted by news cut-ins as the United States was bombing Afghanistan in retaliation for the Taliban’s role in 9/11 just a few weeks before. She was in pain as the epidurals were not cutting the pain. Then, our baby boy’s heartbeat dropped dangerously. The doctor said an emergency c-section was needed. She was wheeled into surgery and I was locked out to wait with my parents and her parents.

 

After what seemed forever, a nurse finally let me in. There he was with all ten toes and ten fingers...my baby boy. My wife was fine, just still a little out of it from all the pain pills. They brought him to the nursery and I got to bring my parents and in-laws to see him and I just cried and cried as I held onto my Dad. My mom was crying, he was crying, we were all just so relieved everyone was alright.

 

We looked in at him and I remember saying to my Dad that day as I showed him my boy who was going to be named after him, I said “Dad, he’s here. He’s named for you. Thank you so much for everything. I owe everything I am to you.” I meant it then and I mean it now just as strongly. I am so blessed that both my kids have had the opportunity to have their grandparents and so much family to love them.

 

Of course, once I stopped crying my wife started to wake up. As she came to, the television was on and the Patriots game was ending as by then it was late in the fourth quarter. Tom Brady had an unspectacular performance and the 10-3 lead was now a Dolphins 30-10 lead.  Her first words as she woke up were “What the ---- happened in this game?” (can you see why I married this girl!)

 

After we got home from the hospital this Brady guy started playing better. I remember holding my son and watching the Snow Bowl (or Tuck Rule Game) as New England improbably came back to win. My three month old boy was in my arms as the favored Steelers fell in the AFC Championship Game. As I watched the Super Bowl with my buddies with my son again in my lap, the Patriots improbably leaped to a 17 point lead. I put him to bed at halftime, and the Rams came storming back. With the game tied and the clock ticking closer to overtime, I ran upstairs to grab my son thinking it was what the Patriots needed. With him in my lap yet again the most amazing drive in New England Patriots history ended in the field goal that kicked off a dynasty. After the game, my first phone call was to my Dad.

 

Sports. A father and son.

 

Later I celebrated two more Super Bowl wins with my son. Three World Series victories for the Red Sox. A Stanley Cup for the Bruins. The Celtics winning a championship. The kid must think championships are a way of life in New England.

 

I grew up watching the Red Sox lose in spectacular fashion. I remember my Dad going to bed during game six of the World Series in 1986 versus the Mets with the Sox in the lead. “Wake me up for the last inning” he told me “I want to see them actually win the World Series with my own two eyes.”  

 

I had sat through the first two outs of the ninth inning afraid to wake him and jinx the Sox. Finally, I rapped on the door to wake him as I could not bear to let him miss it after he endured the 1946 World Series, the collapses in 1947, 1948, and 1949. How his beloved Boston Braves moved away in the fifties. How he gave up on the Red Sox until being dragged back in the summer of 1967 from Tennessee where he was in a science course there with six or seven kids in tow only to have them falter in October. Then 1975 and the Carbo and Fisk home runs before the game seven loss. 1978 and Bucky Bleeping Dent. So I woke him up.

 

We watched the collapse together not saying a word. Finally, as the ball rolled through Bill Buckner’s legs and the Mets celebrated he said “Same God-damned Red Sox” and went back to bed. We watched game seven but it was a foregone conclusion after game six. Thank God they finally won at last (and three times!) in his lifetime.

 

Sports have meant so much to me and my relationship with my father and in my role as a father. I remember after the sonogram/ultrasound at the doctor’s office showing that I was going to have a son (I had a bit of reasonable trepidation as my Dad had nine girls before me being born!) and stopping at Target to get newborn Red Sox and Patriots outfits because I just could not wait. Afterwards, we stopped at my parents house to show them and tell them they were having a grandson.

 

I know no one is perfect, myself included, but in following the example of my father I try everyday to be a good person, a good husband, and a good father. On this Father’s Day weekend, I just needed to take some time and thank him and thank baseball, basketball, football, hockey and all the sports that helped build that bond that remains strong to this day.

 

To my son (and daughter), you make me so proud everyday. So smart, so precocious, so funny with such great sense of humor, such good people you are growing into. Delivering you both to me are the only gift I have ever needed for Father’s Day. What a gift you are from my beautiful and wonderful wife. I love you all so much.

 

To my Dad, he is named for you. Thank so much for everything. I owe everything I am to you. I love you.

 

Happy Father’s Day to you, Dad.

 

And Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there.

 

Now let’s find a ballgame to watch...

Deep Thoughts 6-11-14
Category: FEATURED
Tags: Austin X games Longhorn baseball Atwater baseball Manny Machado The devil and Paul Harvey

 

 

 

 

 

Hello and welcome to another Wednesday of deep thoughts.  There is a song from an old musical entitled, “June is busting out all over”…that pretty much describes life in Austin this month. Although I get tired of the traffic and congestion, there is no doubt that this place is quickly becoming a mecca for music, food and entertainment. Since I am now an “old fart”, I don’t enjoy many of these activities…but my kids certainly do. Last week, the X game made their debut in Austin. Both of my daughters spent the weekend enjoying the new event. From all that I heard, the weekend was a tremendous success. One thing that is certain, there was plenty of sun to bathe the event.

 

 

Another event was happening in Austin last weekend that I did manage to see. The Longhorn baseball team hosted the NCAA super-regional against the Houston Cougars. I have to admit that with all of the college baseball that we watched this year, that I have become rather hooked on the game. This Longhorn team faced long odds to reach Omaha this year. After not being good enough to qualify for the 2013 conference tournament, this team had much to prove in 2014. Great pitching and good defense has been the Longhorn calling card…which is exactly what I saw last Saturday. Houston battled hard, but in truth…they were just overmatched by the Texas arms. Texas rewarded their sweat soaked fans with a final home game shut-out…4 to 0. It was hot and humid, but to be honest…it was awesome to see this Longhorn bunch celebrate. Having a personal connection to this team really made a difference. After watching Ben Johnson the past several years play with my son Blake, it was also very cool to share the excitement with our friends. Did I say it was hot? Damn…that was the hottest 91 degree day on record.  We finished the afternoon with the first swim of the year…a perfect end to a summer afternoon. It is pretty cool also that 3 Big 12 teams made it to Omaha. Texas, Texas Tech and TCU are headed to Omaha...very cool.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Last week we packed our son off for a summer of collegiate baseball in Atwater, California. So far he is really digging his team and his summer digs. He and a teammate are living with a host family and it sounds like they are enjoying talking Giants baseball. The host family loves baseball and specifically the Giants. They play almost every day, but a day off on Monday allowed Blake and a few teammates to go check out the redwoods. The summer has begun just as I hoped a chance to have fun playing baseball without the constraint of a coach micro managing the game. I found a comment Blake made very interesting. He is really enjoying the opportunity to bounce ideas off his summer coach. He said it was nice to have a relationship with a coach that communication was more than a one way street. I will never understand coaches that don’t realize that a player can add value to a conversation regarding baseball.  We are hoping to spend a week in July in California and hopefully be able to see BOB when we are in his neck of the woods. Maybe it will be cooler then, but I doubt it. Oh well, at least it won’t be as humid as Austin.

 

 

 

 

Manny Machado has been in the news this past week. BOB and others have covered this topic extremely well, but I want to take this to a bit different place. Machado was dead wrong with regard to throwing his bat and I completely agree with the 5 game suspension that baseball slapped on him. But, I am wondering if Showalter and the Orioles might take action beyond the suspension. I like Buck Showalter. He is old school and as hard-nosed as any manager in the game. The Orioles have a great tradition and are quietly building a very exciting young team. Personally, I suspect that Machado’s struggles this year created the weekend tantrum against the Oakland A’s. What Machado really needs is a dose of minor league baseball.  I doubt that the Orioles can afford to lose their young star for a week or two, but it might be the best thing in the world for his development. In the old days, Machado would never be in the show. He would be spending several more years in the minor leagues toiling away and learning how to be a big league player. I am not talking about his skills; they are certainly good enough now…what Machado needs is the maturity needed to be a professional. As a professional ball player, Manny Machado has a responsibility to his teammates, organization, fans and the game. This may sound like some vague unknown unwritten baseball rules, but it is more than that. For me a huge part of being a professional is understanding that respect for your opponent is paramount to being in the big leagues.

In today’s MLB, young phenoms are rushed to the big leagues. To be honest, I have no problem with the Mike Trout’s of the world zooming through the minor leagues. But, how many Mike Trout’s are there? To be honest, I suspect we will see more young players like Manny Machado. Physically ready to play the game, but not fully equipped with the proper understanding of how to play the game. As I sit here typing this blog; I am struck with the thought that Machado is exactly what Alex Rodriguez was. Both are Dominican, from the Miami area. Rodriguez was the #1 pick of the draft; Machado was the #3 pick of the draft. They both had short stints in the minor leagues, before having almost immediate success in the big leagues. Of course they were both shortstops that ended up playing 3B. Really…the similarities are pretty amazing. We have seen this story before and we know how the story ends. I am hopeful that the Orioles surprise me and change the ending to Machado’s story. For the record, I suspect that much of Machado’s struggles this year have to do with his injury. It is a story that is repeated over and over again. Players are deemed physically ready to play, but are not mentally ready to compete. Success in baseball has much to do with confidence. My guess is that Machado will have a much better second half and will see him back to his normal studly self. Hopefully, his struggles this year will prepare him for the rest of his career.

 

 


 

 

                                                                                  Juicy fruit anyone?

 

Things are bad in Tampa this year. Do you want to know how bad they are? Things are so bad in Tampa that Joe Maddon brought in a Seminole Medicine Man to sprinkle some juju juice around the clubhouse…it did not work. Seattle beat Price and the Rays 3 to 0.  But you have to love that Maddon…

 

 

Lonnie Chisenhall had a career game on Monday night…5 for 5 with 3 HRs…you know what is crazy? Prince Fielder finished the 2014 season with 3 HRs…In this same game, the Indians kicked a field goal late to beat the Rangers 17 to 7. You know something even crazier? The Astros are only 2.5 games behind the Rangers in the AL West. Don’t look now, but those Angels are starting to get on a roll. Their closer called his shot this week and predicted that they would beat the As on Monday night. Damned if they did not do it on Monday and again on Tuesday. The AL West should be a dog fight the rest of the way…

 

Some Tiger fans are pushing the panic button over the recent blown saves by Joe Nathan and struggles of Justin Verlander. Would you be surprised to know that the Tigers record on Tuesday was identical to their record this time last year?

 

In case you were wondering…Michael Jackson’s kids get an allowance of $8 million dollars per year. It was originally $4 million, but it has apparently grown.

 

I saw something very funny Tuesday evening. After watching the Spurs take game two from the Heat, I switched over the MLB channel and caught the end of the Dodgers-Reds game. It was really a pretty boring game. It was 6 to 1 Dodgers, and because the game was in Cincinnati, the stadium was mostly empty. You know how a stadium sounds when the game is over but the game is not. That was what this game was like…but, suddenly in the top of the 9th…excitement began to circulate among the remaining fans. It turns out that a pizza place in Cincinnati gives out free pizzas if the Reds strike out 11 hitters. When the strikeout total reached 10, the fans were suddenly amped again. It was as if it was the end of the game and their team was preparing to close out a win. Fans were on their feet and kids were literally jumping up and down with excitement. When that 11th batter swung and missed…it was joyful pandemonium. The game may have been boring but I am glad I spent 20 minutes of my life watching this game. It is another thing that I love about baseball. Your team may have lost a game, but because the season is so long, getting free pizza is just as exciting as getting a win.

 

 

 

                               What is it about the Cuban's and their arms? Is it something in the water? This is amazing!

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

I was reading a bit last week and I ran across something that stopped me in my tracks. I ask that you put aside your political beliefs and religious leanings for a moment and read these words…

 

“If I were the devil, I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree—Thee. So I’d set about however necessary to take over the United States. I’d subvert the churches first—I would begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: “Do as you please.” “Do as you please.” To the young, I would whisper, “The Bible is a myth.” I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. I would confide that what is bad is good, and what is good is “square”. And the old, I would teach to pray. I would teach them to pray after me, ‘Our Father, which art in Washington…’

And then I’d get organized.  I’d educate authors on how to lurid literature exciting, so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies and vice versa. I’d pedal narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

If I were the devil I’d soon have families that war with themselves, churches that war that themselves, and nations that war with themselves; until each in its turn was consumed.  And with promises of higher ratings I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flame.  If I were the devil I would encourage schools to refine young intellects, and neglect to discipline emotions—just let those run wild, until before you knew it, you’d have to have drug sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.

Within a decade I’d have prisons overflowing, I’d have judges promoting pornography—soon I could evict God from the courthouse, and then the schoolhouse, and then from the houses of Congress.  And in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion, and deify science. I would lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls, and church money. If I were the devil I’d make the symbols of Easter an egg and the symbol of Christmas a bottle.

If I were the devil I’d take from those, who have, and give to those wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. What do you bet I could get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich? I would question against extremes and hard work, and Patriotism, and moral conduct.  I would convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun, that what you see on the TV is the way to be.  And thus I could undress you in public, and I could lure you into bed with diseases for which there is no cure.  In other words, if I were to devil I’d keep on doing on what he’s doing.  Paul Harvey, good day.”

 

This was from a Paul Harvey broadcast in 1965. Think about that for a moment…and how amazingly accurate Harvey was in his vision of the future. As each day goes by, I see so much of what was being stripped away and wonder if there is a solution. Paul Harvey was a unique guy with unique wisdom. As I look around, I just do not see people like this anymore. I wonder if things have changed so much that we simply do not have a place for the voice of someone like Harvey. Damn, that is scary…

 

That’s all I have today, but I will leave you with a bit of Jack Handey…

 

I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it.

Remember, kids in the backseat cause accidents; accidents in the backseat cause kids.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a few deep thoughts of your own…

 

 

World Class...and not so much...
Category: Daily Blog 2.0
Tags: Soccer FIFA Baseball

This week kicks off the quadrennial FIFA World Cup.  Now, I love soccer – it’s really the only game I was ever really any good at – and I do like watching the game, but I don’t know that I can handle the orgy of soccer play that the World Cup represents.   I mean, I get it – you wait 4 years for a championship  and you get your binge on soccer for a month and a half.   There’s 64 individual matches played from the first game to the championship. 

Compare that to say the 11 NFL playoff games.  Over 4 years, that would be 44 games.   Can you imagine what a circus a once-every-4-years NFL playoff would be?

“March Madness” is 63 games and goes 3 weeks.  Every year.   THAT’S a binge.  There’s also a bit more scoring in those games.  But that’s not really the point.  The World Cup is intense.  You wait 4 years for your shot, 90 minutes separates you from either going home or advancing…and one goal could be that deciding factor.

There are 12 different stadia being used to play the  matches – there are some pretty cool Google Street Views of the places.  According to one site, a day in Rio for the Cup will cost you about $700 without including the tickets.  Tickets for the final – about $5600.  Now, figure you spend a week in Rio and get a ticket to the final, you’re into it about $10,000.  Super Bowl tickets were about $2,500, plus hanging around, so I figure going to the World Cup final is probably a less expensive take comparatively…I mean, figuring it only happens once every 4 years and all.

Now, on an entirely different note – from world class soccer fetching some $5600 a ticket to very minor league baseball – we went out to our city’s new team’s inaugural homestand this weekend.  Now we had a team called the “Tornadoes” a few years back, part of the Can-Am  league, but they folded…perhaps imploded is probably a better way to describe what happened.  At one point, Can-Am had 8 teams – they’re now down to 4…hardly a league.  How hard up are they?  Well, the Tornadoes still have a page on their site, even though the team hasn’t existed in 2 years.

At any rate, the new team in Worcester is the Bravehearts, part of the Futures League.  Now, Cam-Am is/was just an inexpensive ticket and still not quite worth the price.  Bad baseball, bu

t a kid friendly night out.  Now, the Futures League  is 10 teams in New England made up of college kids playing for exposure.  It’s a pretty cool concept – I mean as an adjunct to the Cape Cod League (which is funded by MLB), you have to assume there’ll be SOME scouts about, and the teams are not unreasonably distant from the Cape.

I’m going to go on the assumption that it was because we went to the third game of the season, because 3 errors a side was pretty sloppy, but I’m happy to chalk up the sloppy play to college kids getting used to playing with each other.  They’re not professionals, they don’t get paid, they’re playing for the game.  That’s totally cool with me.  With a name like “Bravehearts,” you’d like to think the logo would be pretty damn cool, all Mel Gibson like.  Not so much – it’s like a heart surrounded by olive leaves or something.  It’s kind of stupid.  Now minor league ball is a haven for great logo art.  This is a relatively new league without the kind of funding of, say MiLB, but the logos (with the exception of the Bravehearts) are pretty cool.  My favorite is the “Martha’s Vineyard Sharks,” who just happen to be the league champions.  Interestingly enough, the Brockton Rox – one of the other teams – was a member of the Can-Am league before they left for this new format. 

Have a great week.  USA! USA! USA!

Sports Friday with Hal: Memories of Zim
Category: FEATURED
Tags: Baseball Red Sox Fenway Park Don Zimmer


Don Zimmer, the baseball lifer, Popeye-lookalike, baseball lifer died at the age of 83 on Wednesday in Dunedin, FL. Zimmer was famously married on a baseball diamond as a bonus baby in the minor leagues in 1951.There is a famous picture of Zim and his wife at home plate under a canopy of crossed bats held by his teammates.


 

He was was signed out of high school as a shortstop by the Dodgers’ organization in 1949. Later he was Pee Wee Reese’s backup at shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers’ only World Series championship team. He survived not one but two horrific beanings in the pre-batting helmet era.

 

In the summer of 1953, Zimmer was playing for St. Paul in the American Association and was a top prospect as a shortstop with both speed and power. But he nearly lost his life when he was beaned in a game in Columbus, Ohio. He sustained a fractured skull and fell into a coma for almost two weeks. Doctors drilled holes in the sides of his head to relieve pressure on his brain saving his life.

 

Amazingly, Zimmer came back and made his major league debut in 1954. He hit 15 home runs in 88 games for the Dodgers’ 1955 World Series championship team, but he endured a second severe beaning in 1956 against the Cincinnati Reds. It left his cheekbone shattered and his eyesight permanently damaged.

 

Zimmer returned to baseball and remained with the Dodgers through their 1959 World Series championship season in Los Angeles, played two seasons for the Cubs, even making an All-Star appearance in 1961, and then joined the expansion Mets as their third baseman in 1962. He retired after the 1965 season with a .235 career batting average and 91 homers.

 

Zimmer managed the San Diego Padres (1972-73), the Red Sox (1976-80), the Texas Rangers (1981-82) and the Cubs (1988-91). He was Yankees manager Joe Torre’s bench coach from 1996 to 2003, and then quit, maintaining he had been treated abusively by the Yankees’ owner, George Steinbrenner. He joined Tampa Bay the next season, providing tips to players and doing community-relations work in his advisory capacity until just recently when health reasons limited him severely.

 

Zimmer is best known in New England for having managed the 1978 Boston Red Sox, who were overtaken by the Yankees for a division title on Bucky BLEEPING Dent’s home run in a one game playoff. The Red Sox blew a fourteen game lead that summer highlighted by a sweep still known as the “Boston Massacre”. An injury to right fielder Dwight Evans, playing Butch Hobson at third base (49 errors!), pitching staff issues (the bane of Zimmer’s career as a manager was handling the pitching staff), and a hot Yankees team did in the Sox that year, but few remember that Zimmer managed to rouse the Red Sox from a deficit the last week of the season to win eight straight and tie the Yankees and force the one game playoff.

 

In Boston, his run-ins with the pitching staff were legendary. Red Sox pitcher Bill “the Spaceman” Lee likened Zimmer to a gerbil for his bulging cheeks. Zimmer and Lee had a number of clashes over the years. Lee and his gang of pitchers called themselves the Buffalo Heads and made their main goal to be making Zimmer--the straight-laced image of 1950s baseball--the butt of their long-haired 1970s radicals of baseball.

 

In the midwest, Zimmer will be remembered as the National League’s manager of the year in 1989 when he led the Chicago Cubs to a surprising division championship. Of course, the Cubbies found a way to lose in the playoffs that year. That team had Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, and Andre Dawson on offense and young Greg Maddux and Rick Sutcliffe leading the rotation with Mitch “wild thing” Williams in the bullpen. In an upset, they lost to an inferior San Francisco Giants team in five games in the NLCS.

 

The other Zimmer low-light while in New York was as a Yankees coach in the ALCS in October 2003, at age 72, he charged Boston’s star pitcher Pedro Martinez during an on-field melee. Zimmer swung and missed, and then was thrown to the Fenway Park turf by Martinez. Probably one of the most embarrassing moments of Zim’s career, he immediately and tearfully apologized for sullying the game.

The final Zim moment in the spotlight was in the 1999 playoffs. He was struck in the face by a ball fouled into the Yankees’ dugout by Chuck Knoblauch. The next game, he wore an Army helmet.

For me, I remember Don Zimmer as the manager of the Red Sox when I fell head over heels in love with baseball.  Don Zimmer was the manager of the Red Sox in 1979 and 1980 when I was five and six years old, and he became my favorite. Not Jim Rice. Not Yaz. Not the Eck. Not Freddy Lynn. Not Carlton Fisk. Not Dick “the Dragon” Draco (OK, maybe he was my second favorite player...the Dragon, c’mon how cool is that to a five year old!). Not Bob Stanley or Bill Campbell. Not Tom Burgmeier (second or third favorite for sure). Not Tony Perez. Not Steve Renko. Not Win Remmerswaal (Dutch pitcher...I remember my Dad told me he wore wooden shoes and I would sit as close to the television as possible to see if his shoes were really made of wood).

 

Nope, my favorite player on my favorite team in my favorite sport was the manager with the grumpy look and giant jowls. I know it was a source of amusement for the family (I have a cousin who I remember greeted me many years later with “How’s your pal Zimmer doing?”), but I was rooting for the manager. (Yeah, guess I was an odd kid).

 

Anyway, I remember being six years old and DEVASTATED that the Red Sox fired Zim. I could not comprehend it. It was wrong, WRONG, W-R-O-N-G!!! (to my six year old mind).So the team didn’t do well, fire the players!


 

I remember my Dad telling me how Zimmer was hired by the Texas Rangers and I was ecstatic. I pulled out my Baseball Digest that had the addresses of all the baseball teams, a green crayon, and penned a congratulatory letter to Zim c / o the Texas Rangers. Humoring me, my parents actually stuck a stamp on the letter and mailed it.

 

Not long afterwards, an envelope arrived with the Texas Rangers logo on the return address. Someone in the Rangers offices must have received my letter and obliged to take an autographed Don Zimmer picture and mail it back to me. Of course, at the time I believed Zim had read my green crayon penned prose and was struck speechless by the support for him back in Boston. Unable to find the words to respond, he could only write his name in return.

 

Zim didn’t last long in Texas, but Ialways kept an eye on his continued career. Other sports, life, the universe, puberty and girls soon interfered with my love affair with baseball and my Don Zimmer infatuation, but in many ways I was still that goofy six year old pasting the picture of Zim and the envelope in a scrapbook at sixteen, at twenty-six, thirty-six, and today. That personal connection, even if it wasn’t personal (no, I never wrote and asked Zim if he ever saw my letter...it would be too crushing to my inner six year old), is what has me glued to the TV, shelling out cash, pounding the keyboard, rummaging around the internet, and just immersed into sports in such an unhealthy way to this day.

 

In 2004 Zimmer relented to writing a biography with Bill Madden titled the “The Zen of Zim”. A great quote (which was published the other day in the New York Times feature on Zim after his passing) sums him up perfectly: “All I’ve ever been is a simple baseball man, but it’s never ceased to amaze me how so many far more accomplished people I’ve met in this life wanted to be one, too. What a game, this baseball!”

 

Sometimes you forget why you love baseball and then the passing of a baseball legend like Don Zimmer happens and it all comes pouring back. For me, Don Zimmer is a large part of my love affair with baseball. I may not have been more accomplished than Zim, but damn he hit the nail on the head with the hammer there: I sure would have loved to be a simple baseball man.

 

Thanks again, Zim. Goodbye and Godspeed.

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