It’s here. No more countdowns, no more crossing dates off the calendar, and no more staring at pictures. Pitchers and catchers are reporting and baseball is back.
There are a lot of pleasant memories in my life—things from my childhood and growing up on a farm. School or vacation memories. Places and events and birthday parties, times spent with friends. Lots of great music.
But I’m telling you right now, stack them all up (and they go well into the hundreds if not thousands) in a list—and the best of them pales in my mind to the absolutely real baseball times that come rolling back forty and nearly fifty years later.
The glove itself—the smell of worn-in leather, the soggy long leather thong that you chewed on between plays, and later when you got older the different smell that neatsfoot oil gave off as you rubbed it into the pocket of your mitt after school.
Your first pair of stirrup socks and the first time you put them on. The first time you actually put on a baseball uniform with pants, as opposed to the team t-shirt you wore in Pee Wee ball. The worn out fitted green cap from the year after fourth grade when I played on the Twins, with the vinyl band inside, that I wore for three years until the band was cracked and broken and the hat—blood and sweat and dirt stained—didn’t fit anymore.
The feel of the ball as you rolled it from hand to hand, gripping it, turning it over, simulating various pitch grips or just flipping it into the air. One summer, I think it might have been 1968 and my first little league season, I think I carried a ball with me everywhere I went.
The smell of fresh cut grass, whether on a hot Saturday afternoon or a humid dusky evening in a sultry Indiana summer. Kicking at it between pitches until you wore out a dirt hole, staring in at a far off batter from Centerfield while you pounded your glove.
Strapping on catcher’s equipment for the first time, and striding to the plate—clicking and clacking all the way—like you were a knight headed to the joust.
The tears welling up and the sting the first time you got hit by a pitch. The hot flash of adrenaline the first time you drilled one into the gap. Being out of breath when you slid into third base and thinking your head was going to explode your grin was so big.
That out of body experience of running as hard as you could to a point you only generally aimed at, thrusting your glove out, and feeling the ball thwock into the pocket as you fell to the ground, your arm raised in the air…only then realizing that you had actually caught the ball and you had no idea how.
The smell of popcorn or hot dogs in steamed buns. The free coke you got at the concession stand after every game. Large if you won, small if you lost.
Do I even have to say it? The crack of the bat. The pop of a fastball hitting the catcher’s glove.
The first time you entered into a major league park and realized Bob Gibson was a real human being…even more impressive and intimidating that he was in pictures. Seeing Lou Brock or Ted Simmons or Joe Torre for the first time. There was no cable television when I was a kid, and you got The Sporting News once a week—so it was a big deal to see these guys in person.
Speaking of The Sporting News, learning to score a game and read a box score. The first time you wrote 6-4-3, or 2B, or colored in the diamond when someone scored. The horrible struggle to comprehend and figure out an earned run average. Why was batting average so much easier?
The roar of the crowd the first time you saw the home team drive in a run and win in the bottom of the ninth. The dejected look of the visiting outfielder as his gait slowed and he watched the game winner sail over his head and into the stands.
I’m sure you have your own list. To paraphrase Terence Mann from Field of Dreams, “…memories…so thick you have to brush them away from your face.”
Get ‘em out. Every single one. Baseball is back, spring is upon us, and hope breathes eternal. Play ball.
(Due to technical difficulties...I had to help Hoov post this blog. Great blog Hoov! I am just sorry that lame ass Spruz would not allow me to post his pictures)
Hello ladies and gents, and welcome to this week's grumble with IHM. Pretty significant Grumble this week, as it comes on my final week of freedom. Starting next week I'll be working at the nut factory, so it will likely lead to shorter blogs out of yours truly... hopefully less quantity but the same level of quality you've come to expect out of me (not that I've set that bar very high).
This has been a fairly rough week for sports bloggers... the NFL is done. There is some combine talk, but the draft is still a month and a half away (April 30th-May 2nd), and even free agency doesn't start for about a month (March 10th)... so all we have right now football wise is speculation. Baseball is officially back today, as the Tigers and many other clubs open their Spring training camps. Pitchers and catchers have reported, and we aren't far away from seeing our first spring training games! Hopefully Florida's current cold snap is a one-hit wonder and we can get to the games quickly... nothing warms you up like getting to watch baseball!
The biggest story of the month around here is the speculation about DT Ndamukong Suh... will he stay or will he go? How much are the Lions willing to pay? How much is he really worth? Every Lions fan I know seems to shout "re-sign him", "re-sign him". I, however, have been shouting a very different tune... "don't waste the money, don't waste the money". Don't get me wrong, Suh is a great football player, and his impact on the game is obvious every time he steps on the field. But the issue happens to be the position he plays, and whether or not you are willing to pay 16 plus million a year for a guy who is going to give you 9 sacks at best.
Like I said before, don't get me wrong... Suh is a major talent and a major asset when he is on your team. The intimidation factor alone almost preceeds him when new offensive linemen come into Ford Field (or when Suh goes to their house). But I'd like to present my case evidence, which comes from Baltimore, MD this past NFL season, when the current highest-paid DT in football Haloti Ngata was suspended for PED use for the final four games of the 2014 season. Ngata is paid 16 million dollars per season... just a shade under what the standard bearer at defensive line in the league (JJ Watt) makes annualy. When Ngata was out, the Ravens didn't miss a beat, as Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Williams stepped into his spot (the two make a combined $2 million, by the way) and produced at the same level for an eigth of the price.
Long story short, the position of defensive tackle is one where greatness isn't separated from very good by much of a margain on the stat sheet. Maybe the Lions take the risk of signing him to a non-exclusive fanchise tag and allowing other teams to speak with him (and hoping someone bites to the tune of two first round picks in exchange)... but then you run the risk of paying $26.7 million for Suh next season... a devistating cap number when you add in the annual salaries of Stafford and Johnson ($32 million combined in 2015). On the plus side, the league is expected to announce a new-record high cap amount (expected to be in the 140-145 million dollar range), which could provide some relief. Either way, it is going to be a tough call for GM Martin Mayhew, who has proven he can produce on the free agent market in recent offseasons with guys like Glover Quinn and Golden Tate. We'll see what the Lions decide to do here, but no decision will be easy.
The NBA's trade deadline passed us by yesterday at 3, and we wound up seeing a few significant deals. The highest profile trade wound up being Phoenix sending Goaran Dragic (who cried his way out of town) to Miami for Noriss Cole and a few picks. But a few moments later the joke was on Goran, as the team also dealt Isaiah Thomas out of town, the main reason Dragic was angry with the team... claiming there was "no trust" there. You know, aside from the fact that they gave him a big contract to come there in the first place, played him enough so that he could become a superstar, and even signed his freaking brother and brought him over from Slovenia! Yeah, they brought in Bledsoe and Thomas... and now Dragic has to play off the ball a little more often. W'ah. Enjoy Miami... better hope Dwyane doesn't want to hold the ball all night there, either, because that isn't a battle you'll win.
One of the biggest names traded yesterday was Kevin Garnett, who was dealt back to Minnesota for Thaddeus Young. No clue why the Wolves wanted him, aside from maybe the expiring contract.
The NBA's other player to cry his way out of town, Reggie Jackson, wound up right here in Detroit. Oh boy. Evidently he's excited to be here, but I'm not sure he isn't Ben Gordon 2.0 to be honest. The biggest question, what does he do when Brandon Jennings comes back and also wants to handle the basketball. This seems to be becoming a recurring theme in the league... average at best players thinking they should have the basketball in their hands 48 minutes a fucking game. Hopefully Jackson is good and this trade ends up making sense. The Thunder got DJ Augustin, Kyle Singler, and Enos Kanter (from the Jazz) to strengthen their bench in the trade.
The Pistons made another move (for some reason) to bring in Tayshaun Prince... yeah, THAT Tayshaun Prince... giving up a pair of bench players to Boston to do so. Yeah, I'm not sure what the hell SVG is doing here, but I'll continue to give the guy the benefit of the doubt here.. until I have a reason not to that is.
Speaking of the Celtics (who traded Prince to the Pistons), they also were able to bring in Isaiah Thomas from Phoenix in exchange for G Marcus Thornton and one of the first round picks they had stockpiled.
In the other major deadline deal, the Bucks and Suns hooked up as part of a three team deal to exchange point guards, as the Suns wound up with Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall, the Bucks wound up with Michael Carter-Williams, Miles Plumlee, and Tyler Ennis, and the 76ers get draft picks... more draft picks. When the hell is the league going to step in there, btw?
A couple of minor moves saw Aaron Afflalo go from Denver to Portland to help bolster the Blazers bench, and the Kings deal Ramon Sessions to the Wizards to help their bench for a playoff run. The Kings got George Karl's boy Andre Miller back for Sessions.
Over in the NHL, I have to be honest... it is weird now that the Wings are in the Eastern Conference. It's easy not to notice the change, but when a team like Chicago comes to town that you used to play 7-8 times a year, suddenly it becomes very real again! Great hockey game between the two teams on Wednesday night, and on the plus side now these rivals can play each other for a Cup instead of for a trip to the Finals someday!
Well folks, that's all I've got for today's grumble. Thanks as always for reading and for any comments you leave on your way out. Have a great weeknd, Gabbers.
Kind of like the NFL collapsing Under deflate gate
The snow is heavy and the roof is about to collapse on the NFL. National Football Leakage. People from the NFL office keep feeding things to ESPN. They are feeding the piranha but there are signs everywhere not to feed the fish. It seems that folks from the leakages front office. They are making shit up and throwing chum in the waters of Bristol Connecticut
They have the Patriots on double secret probation and nobody involved in the deflategate investigation is suppose to be talking. That is of course unless you work for the NFL and are considered a source for ESPN. Tuesday night a 27 year veterarn reporter for ESPN said that a Patriots locker room attendant tried to get an un authorized kicking ball into the game. I think he might have been (Mr. Twinkles but I’m not sure..) He handed to an alternate official who discarded because it didn’t have Walt Andersen’s mark on it. For all you folks hoping for another scandal against the winners of the Pro Footbal’s 49th Champions. Guess again the alternate official as said early discarded the ball so it would have never made it into the game.
What the OTL reporter didn’t tel you as that ballw as handed to Mr. Twinkles or Jim McNally by a league official. Here is where it gets good. The league fired a guy that was in charge of Footballs, Kicked ones , under inflated ones and beat up ones, and over inflated ones as well because the guy was in charge of separating these balls and giving them to charity as they came out of the game.. Of course this was also leaked by the Leakage office. The guy apparently sold a ball to support his favorite charity himself. I’m not sure if the league brings these fine purveyors of craigslist and ebay to each game or only for the playoffs only.
AS the NFL draws at staws and continues to make themselves look bad. I believe there are still people in that office that simply have it out for the Patriots. Geez I’m sounding like Al Davis but this investigation has any more leaks the roof will collapse on the NFL.
The other night I was watching the NFL Network not as many leaks on that side of the house I guess. They had one of those It’s aFootball Life with the 4 photographers that have covered all 49 Superbowls. If you think about it that’s an amazing feat in itself. One of these guys brought up a great point. I’m quoting loosely here He said that the game has changed and grown from a game to major event. He said what he misses most is shooting the game in day light in that incandescent light with shadows and the sunlight. Now everything is indoors or at night and photographers are confined to a section of the field. It was a pretty interesting take on the world’s largest event.
The boys won one on Saturday well the other team was in a Tourney they forfeited. Sunday Blizzard Number 2 caused a cancellation to be made up at a later date. The boys played Yesterday afternoon. I got play by play at work via text. You couldn’t do that a few years ago. Lil Lanz banged one home from the left dot. Boys lost and than an about 6 of them including Lil Lanz went to their regular practice after the game. Game was at 2:30 (school vacation week) Practice at 5:20 36 miles away. I guess that was dedication. Laser got some coaching duties as the regular coaches had to work all but one.
Ole Lanz was talking to another dad from Lil Lanz’s Hockey team and he was saying he is playing in a fun hockey league and said they needed players. Next thing I know I’m signed up and on his team. I haven’t really played in about 10 years. However, I skate regularly or when ever I can and play some pond hockey with the boys. The guy said 4 team league and no idiots with the exception of a 70 year old guy who is a cheap shot artist and thinks he is Gordie Howe. So it will be fun.
The change of jobs hampered Basketball officiating this year. I was going to take the season off. Of course I received a call late last Wednesday Night to do 3 games in the next town. The games were on Saturday at 12, 1 and 2 made it out just as the snows came. 12 was a good game. The 2 I did by myself the partner in the 12 had just done 4 in a row. 1 O’clock game an 8th grade boys game. They are like a pack of wild dogs. I needed 12 sets of eyes. Both teams coaches were great and understanding . One guy is a cop and just stopped refereeing so he was awesome. I start the game 3 I’m 5 minutes in no partner. So I’m up top near the top of the arc. I look in and there is another Ref standing on the baseline with his whistle in his mouth. I was glad to see him.
A basketball game is hard to officiate in the first place at any level but doing an up tempo game by yourself really sucks.
Does anybody know how to get pics from MY docs into the blog?
Despite the cold temperatures, we are getting closer to spring. I don’t know if anyone
else has noticed, but I’ve been seeing robins already. I started noticing them 2-3 weeks ago. I hear them in the morning, provided the wind chill isn’t too much for them. Did they migrate this year? Have migration patterns been screwed up by climate change?
People in Kansas City are thinking warm thoughts too. Heck, they have a formidable baseball team again. What’s not to be excited about? The Royals have a class A affiliate in Wilmington, Delaware that decided to stoke the frenzy. The team decided to sell tickets to opening day for the same price as the temperature outside. The day tickets went on sale it was only 4 degrees. Fans were able to get tickets for four cents. That was a roughly 99% discount. Granted it’s the minors so tickets are usually cheap, but this was great. Fans who didn’t buy their tickets in person were hit with a $5 handling charge. I’d still be psyched with a $5.04 ticket.
What’s even crazier about the story was the promise that the team didn’t have to keep. Officials claimed that if the temperature had been zero or below, they would have given tickets away.
This weekend brought up the age-old question: do we really need All-Star games anymore? Are they still watchable?
The NBA thought so, until their mid-season showcase came up against the SNL 40 year reunion. The ratings for the SNL reunion crushed the game. Approximately 23.1 million people tuned into NBC, while only 7.2 million tuned into the All-Star game. The game featured an unheard of final score of 163-158. There was no defense to be had. It also featured a laughable fashion show and halftime concert. Very little of the game seemed to concern basketball as we know or appreciate it.
All-Star games are supposed to be for fans. The trouble seems to be fans want to see the players they like, who might not happen to be the guys having the best season. Fans voted in Kobe Bryant. They also wanted to see Carmelo Anthony play. Mark Cuban, and many others, want the vote to be taken from fans. Others simply want to distill the fans impact on who starts.
The NBA all star game means nothing. Neither does the NFL or NHL. Only the MLB has that dubious claim. Therefore, the MLB is the only league that I am ok with hearing folks talk about keeping starting duties away from fan votes. The games that are still exhibitions should still be fan controlled. Fans want to see Kobe. Despite everything, Kobe has been a great player and is the kind of talent you would want to see if you sense his time in the league is coming to an end. The games may be hard to watch for most people, but they are for the fans. As ridiculous as voting in guys who haven’t played all season are, these are the guys they want to see.
If you are feeling cold, check these crazy hijinks from China:
That is all for this week. Thanks as always for stopping in. We’re starting to understand the joys of home ownership. We got all our appliances in the purchase. We just might not have checked enough. We found out this weekend that ur stove only warms to 350. Luckily, George Washington and Abe Lincoln wanted us all to celebrate their birthdays with never ending sales. We took advantage of this to get ourselves a new stove. Let’s hope that is all.
Get ready for lots more like this...very painful for your humble scribe. I saw it firsthand.
This weeks hoodwood is a spec sheet as Ive barely have had time to look at sports much less bring you a full musings.
Atlantic Coast Conference Class-Power
Solid: Virginia, North Carolina, Notre Dame,,Louisville, Duke
Work to do: Miami-FL, NC State, Pitt Skinny on the ACC: The Cavs and Dukies are still way safe but the conference is getting to be a hot mess. Im moving the Irish, Cards and Heels in. NC State and Pitt are close but Im still wanting more wins from these two to move them up...
Key Game: Miami @Louisville Sat 7p (ESPN) The Canes are looking for a signature win, getting one at the Yum! Center would do the trick.
Atlantic Ten Conference Class- Major
Solid: Dayton, GW, VCU
Work to do: Rhode Island, UMass, Davidson, The A-10 Spec is: Im still going with 3 teams here though everyone here has been getting a case of the shakes none so mucj more than VCU but their numbers are still so good. I want the Flyers to get a signature win but they are missing opportunites
Key Games UMass @ Rhode Island Wed 7:00 Believe it or not this is a matchup of leaders in the conference, the winner gets a major resume boost.
Projected Bids: 3
Solid Temple, SMU
Work to do: Cincy,Tulsa All-American Spec: The Mustangs throttled UConn in front of a happy home crowd on Saturday and are getting closer and closer to lock status. Temple has suddenly turned into a shot caller after housing Cincy and whipping a sad sack East Carolina. THe Bearcats are looking mighty suspect after the aforementioned whipping by Temple and getting zapped on a buzzer beater by Tulane before a stunned collective in Cincy (including yours truly who saw the game at Fifth Third Arena) and have more bad losses to dodge than good wins to collect down the stretch. The Golden Hurricane are teetering dangerously toward falling off this list and I cant defend the Huskies any longer they are off the list
Key Games Xavier vs Cincinnati 7:30p (ESPN2) These two school are separated by about 5 miles and aside from this one game co-exist in the Queen City, but this game has high stakes for a quality win
Projected Bids: 3
Big East Conference Class-Major
Solid: Villanova, Butler
Work to do: Xavier, Providence, Georgetown, St. Johns, Seton Hall Big East Skinny: Nova is still way safe, Butler dodged a mammoth upset bid by Creighton and I feel good about making them solid, Xavier just keep mucking up every chance that they get to move up. Georgetown and Providence are the two teams that have the best shot at moving up for now. I cant take St. Johns or Seton Hall seriously.
Key Game: Xavier at Cincinnati Wednesday 7 (ESPN2) The Muskies need this win over their in-city rivals to keep their fledgling tourney hopes up
Projected bids: 5
Big Ten Conference Class-Power
Solid: Wisconsin, Ohio State, Maryland
Work to do: Indiana, Michigan State, Iowa, Purdue, Illinois The word on the Big Ten is: Maryland is still safe and ill give Ohio State the benefit of the doubt again after getting zapped by a Valentine in East Lansing which may make the Spartans safe. Illinois wasted a great chance to move more to the solid line but got housed by Wisconsin who is super safe. The Hoosiers are just running out of chances to
Key Game: Purdue at Indiana Thursday 7p (BTN) The Hoosiers and Boilers both need this win to solidfy their respective resumes
Projected Bids: 6
Big 12 Conference Class-Power
Solid: Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa State, Oklahoma
Work to do: Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas Skinny from the heartland: Ok Mountaineer fans, WVU is up to solid. Stop badgering me about me not saying I thought they were not totally legit. Their thrilling win over Kansas solidifies their chances. Iowa State comes uptown as well. But Ill wait on Baylor and Oklahoma State both having taken bad losses
Key Game: Texas @ Oklahoma Tuesday 9p (ESPN) The Longhorns are getting close, Ill admit it, winning at their hated rival gets them closer
Conference USA Conference Class-Mid-Major
Solid: Louisiana Tech
Work to do: UAB, Western Kentucky
Oh Say Can You C-USA Spec: The Bulldogs are in the drivers seat…for now. Im close to moving this conference to the single bid line
Key Game: Louisiana Tech @ Charlotte Thursday 7:00 (CBSS) The Niners are going nowhere but Halton arena has long been a house of horrors for conference leaders.
Projected Bids: 1
Missouri Valley Conference Class-Mid Major
Solid: Wichita State, Northern Iowa
Work to do: Evansville Missouri Valley Skinny: Both the Shockers and Panthers are circling each other till warmup showdown at the end of the month. The Redbirds are off but the Aces are on and need to keep winning to get noticed.
Key Game: Drake at Evansville Wednesday 8:00 (ESPN3) The Aces had better not overlook the Bulldogs in advance of their potential resume making showdown with Wichita State
Projected Bids: 2
Mountain West Conference Class-Major
Solid: San Diego State
Work to do: Boise State, Colorado State Spec from the Mountains: San Diego State is in the drivers seat, Boise State is in real trouble, and the Broncos need to get a signature win
Key Game: San Diego State at New Mexico Tuesday 9:30p (CBSS) The Aztecs had best be careful, a loss in the Pit is a bad one to take this year
Projected Bids: 2
Pacific 12 Conference Class-Power
Solid: Arizona, Utah
Work to do: UCLA, Stanford, Oregon Spec from the left coast: Arizona (yawn, snore) is still safe. Yes, Utah. You are safe now. Im not really sold on UCLA and Oregon just flunked their latest test.
Key Games: UCLA @ Arizona State 9p (ESPN2) The Bruins had better watch themselves in Tempe, they have no room for screwups
Projected Bids: 4
Southeastern Conference Class-Power
Solid: Kentucky, Arkansas
Work to do: Ole Miss, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia Spec is Down South: Marking time till they head to Indy, the Wildcats are a deadbolt lock. There are still no real bona fide locks in this conference beyond Arkansas who becomes the 2nd ranked SEC team and haven’t done anything to not be included. All the working teams are still needing major work on their respective resume to get anywhere near safe.
Key Game: LSU @ Texas A&M 7p (SECNet) Both teams are needing this win to get closer to lock
Projected Bids: 5
West Coast Conference Class- Mid Major
Work to do: St. Mary’s, BYU West Coast Spec: The Bulldogs (I refuse to call them them the Zags) are #3 in the country and are going to be a tough out in March. They are marking time till then. The Gaels are flunking every big test that the otherwise weak WCC is presenting them. BYU is at 20 wins but may need to win out to get a bid
Key Game: Gonzaga at St. Marys Saturday 11p (ESPN2) As luck would have it the Gaels host the Bulldogs, and the Bulldogs can clinch the WCC #1 seed with a win
Projected Bids: 1
There are others in the mix to be sure. Teams from the always dangerous Colonial and Big South always are in the mix and can send multiple teams. Of course the champions from the following conferences get an automatic bid: Amer. East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big West, Horizon, Ivy, MAC, MAAC, MEAC, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Sun Belt, Summit, SWAC and WAC projected bids from these conferences will be posted here starting February 24st
Since this is still early spec, nothing here is solid and we haven't even brought up the possibility of upsets. But those never happen, right?