Hey y’all. Sorry, had to go the Paula Deen route. Hey, I figured while Sully was away, I'd have a little fun. Not funny? OK, on to the sports, where today I want to talk about Baseball:
“The one constant through all the years (Ray) has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”
James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams (1989) (imdb.com)
I was reminded of this quote recently and it’s amazing to me how accurate it truly is. As a kid, I couldn't get enough of Baseball and maybe it's a bit melancholy or whatever, but Baseball kinda did represent what was once good and now what can be again, as we witness what I call the rebirth of the sports since about 2010. No matter how down we get on the sport, we watch. We pay to travel nearly 2000 miles and watch a game between two teams that you really don’t know or care about. We go to Spring Training because we missed the game so over a long cold Winter – as if Ole Man Winter moves aside for the game. We get fired up in late March, early April for Opening Day, some going as far as taking the day off. You get the sense that Baseball is on the upswing…
But I also worry. When the LLWS outdraws MLB in TV ratings by nearly double, that’s a sign. I worry when I read and hear about casinos and sports books taking action on Little League games. I worry when folks care more about NFL training camps and preseason football then they do about compelling races, and that leads me to this:
MLB Commish. There is a lot of complaining from many places on the selection of Rob Manfred to replace Bud Selig by saying that it will be the same type of “leadership.” Look, I don’t know Manfred, so I’ll reserve judgment on that, but what I do believe is that MLB needs a tweak to its vision. Baseball has a lot going for it – tradition, fantastic Minor League Baseball that many fans eat up (both figuratively AND literally), and vastly improved MLB product in terms of competitive balance (on the field), but at the same time, I think it’s time we all look at the bigger picture and start to try to bring back the casual fan.
We’ve all talked about what we would do if we were commish, and from the outside looking in, this is what I would do (revised):
1. Enforce the pitch clock per Rule 8.04 of the MLB Rule Book, but tweak the rule so that the batters are penalized for delay of game just as much as pitchers are. Oh, what you say, there's rule 6.02(b)? You mean this, straight out of the MLB Rule Book...
6.02: The batter shall take his position in the batter’s box promptly when it is his time at bat.
(b) The batter shall not leave his position in the batter’s box after the pitcher comes to Set Position, or starts his windup.
PENALTY: If the pitcher pitches, the umpire shall call “Ball” or “Strike,” as the case may be. Rule 6.02(b) Comment: The batter leaves the batter’s box at the risk of having a strike delivered and called, unless he requests the umpire to call “Time.” The batter is not at liberty to step in and out of the batter’s box at will.
Once a batter has taken his position in the batter’s box, he shall not be permitted to step out of the batter’s box in order to use the resin or the pine tar rag, unless there is a delay in the game action or, in the judgment of the umpires, weather conditions warrant an exception.
Umpires will not call “Time” at the request of the batter or any member of his team once the pitcher has started his windup or has come to a set position even though the batter claims “dust in his eyes,” “steamed glasses,” “didn’t get the sign” or for any other cause. Umpires may grant a hitter’s request for “Time” once he is in the batter’s box, but the umpire should eliminate hitters walking out of the batter’s box without reason. If umpires are not lenient, batters will understand that they are in the batter’s box and they must remain there until the ball is pitched.
If pitcher delays once the batter is in his box and the umpire feels that the delay is not justified he may allow the batter to step out of the box momentarily. If after the pitcher starts his windup or comes to a “set position” with a runner on, he does not go through with his pitch because the batter has stepped out of the box, it shall not be called a balk. Both the pitcher and batter have violated a rule and the umpire shall call time and both the batter and pitcher start over from “scratch.”
Hmmm...this is getting scary, Olbermann is right, MLB ain't serious about this because if they were, they'd do it - it's all about the $$$...
2. Joe Morgan has or had an excellent program where he was trying to get baseball back into the inner cities. MLB needs to partner up with him if they don’t already.
3. This one isn’t realistic, but what I would summarily do as commish would be to put feet to the fire in Miami, Tampa, and Atlanta where fan support is minimal at best. I honestly would look at relocation and/or contraction with these three teams and warn these markets that they are at risk of relocation or demotion to AAA – after all, it’s a business and something is not right if you can’t get fans to games. Personally, I would look at Portland and San Antonio as relocation outfits.
4. If Gambling is such a HUGE issue for Baseball, if it is true that there are casinos and sports books taking bets on LLWS, I would pull my support of those casinos who partake and shut down their right to take bets on MLB.
5. I would hang my foot in San Francisco’s ass with their continuous blocking of Oakland trying to get into San Jose by charging SF a fee to MLB for their continued demand and claim of that area. Then I would hang my foot in the Oakland owners ass by demanding they and the city of Oakland either build a new stadium downtown, in the South Bay near Fremont, or in the East Bay valleys and give them three years to commit to it. If there is no agreement by 2018 with a scheduled groundbreak date, I would announce plans to move the team by having a previously written, binding agreement with either Portland or San Antonio to bring the franchise there in 2019.
6. Throttle back on the greed by 14.28% and make it more affordable for a family to go to a game and reasonably enjoy it one day a week. Now look, I don’t begrudge clubs for making their money, but can you at least take one day and cut the prices? Surely you can afford a 14% cut one day a week? Hell, maybe you could sell out a game or two?
Example: If you’re Minnesota and you have Cleveland or the New York Mets coming to town on a Wednesday, that won’t draw much interest, right? Drop the prices in advance, advertise it as a one-day a week special, and fill the place with the noise of families and kids. Wouldn’t that make sense for teams who are out of the race in September to bring in some fans?
7. I would also look at using “best interests of the game” caveat to go after organizations with poor ownership. By that I mean this, I would hire experienced and successful people to go in and consult on how to make their product more interesting to the organization in their city, and if there was no improvement over the years, well, like any other business, I would adjust in some way.
MLB. Colin Cowherd is like Keith Olbermann, a pompous, arrogant big city ass, the very embodiment of today’s media. But at the same time, he does have some fair takes. First off, he says he goes to MLB games every year, and he doesn’t go to NFL games – which I find interesting and a comment like that while only from one talking head should have the NFL at least thinking. Secondly, he talks about Bud Selig talking about his dinners with old MLB legends such as Al Kaline and Frank Robinson, to which Cowherd says “Spend dinners with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper”. Thirdly, he talks about the “regional” issue by saying yes, it exists, but he rightfully points out that the New York teams have problems getting people to go to games.
But then he gets stupid and says that San Francisco has been abysmal to watch the last four years. Hey Colin, I hate to burst your bubble in whatever alternate world you live in, but San Francisco has won two of the last four World Series titles. Idiot.
Baseball – Seattle. Should we be surprised by their performance this season? Ten games over .500 and making a good run towards the playoffs despite the naysayers who keep wanting to bury them?
Hitting. With every stat I could find, Seattle is consistent – they rank between 18 and 21 in every hitting stat. Seattle as a team is batting .246. I don’t care what anybody says, Robby Cano IS NOT a disappointment in Seattle (.329 BA, 11 HR, 69 RBI, 10 SB) and should be on his way to a 200 hit season. SS Chris Taylor was brought up recently and is hitting .338, though he is cooling off hitting .269 in his last ten.
Pitching. It’s pretty clear to me that pitching is carrying the Mariners to this point. As usual, King Felix is tearing it up, but this kid Hisashi Iwakuma isn’t too far behind at 12-6, 2.57 ERA, with 120 strike outs, while he has gone seven innings or more eight of his last ten games. Meanwhile Chris Young is 12-6 with a 3.07 ERA.
Future. #1 Mariners prospect Taijuan Walker has apparently made it to the bigs as a closer, though shoulder soreness is slowing him down, though I’m not sure why Seattle rushed to bring him up as he was struggling at AAA level. #4 Chris Taylor (SS) is having a strong 2014 at AAA (.314, 5 HR, 37 RBI, 14 SB) and has been brought up as well. In fact in 302 AB, has had 34 extra base hits. Yet another SS prospect doing even better? That would be #10 Ketel Marte who was tearing up AA and started off AA real strong. In 2014, he has a .306 BA, 51 RBI, 26 SB). Carson Smith is another RP AAA guy whose expected to be brought up soon, and #17 OF Xavier Avery has folks hopeful if he can remain consistent. Oh, and there is this guy Danny Hultzen who was taken overall #2 in the 2011 draft who will be coming back next season from a torn rotator cuff. If he’s healthy, you might see him in Spring Training with an outside shot at making the team.
The Bird is the Word… over the past week or so in the world of sports, the bird has indeed been the word. Hello folks, and welcome to Thursday, Friday’s annoying little brother. I’m filling in for our good friend Lanz today, as he’s out of town with the littlest Lanz for some travel baseball. Hope it’s a great trip my friend, and we’ll see you back here next week.
Back in 1976, a different type of Bird was sweeping the nation… as Mark Fidrych was using his unusual mannerisms to create a cult following for the Detroit Tigers ace. Unfortunately, that’s not the bird we get to talk about today…
A few years back, we had a bird flu scare. This, of course, came off the heels of mad cow disease, which came off the heels of upset horse disease, which came off the heels of swine flu, which came off the heels of disgruntled goat disorder. Again, not the bird we’re going to discuss today…
Of course the Trashmen had their moment in the sun thanks to the bird back in 1963… but we’re not talking about any Surfing Birds here.
Nope, the bird this week takes many forms. There’s the good ol’ fashioned, in your face variety…
The double barrel…
What’s this in my pocket…
There’s something in my eye…
The girly, over the shoulder as I run away bird…
The hidden message chin swipe…
No matter what way you use it, the bird has been the word recently. Last week, the Tigers were mired in the middle of yet another rough stretch, and closer Joe Nathan was in the midst of shitting the bed once again. Fortunately, he avoided disaster, and got a double play ball to close out the game. Unfortunately for him, after that he decided to go with the ol’ fashioned under the chin swipe directed at fans… and he took a lot of heat for the gesture locally. He has since apologized, and many of his teammates have backed him up, but the gesture paired with his ERA of 5.28 and six blown saves… the same number as he had combined in 2012-13, means fans are not likely to forgive this guy any time soon. Want some forgiveness, Joe, get your fucking ERA under four and quit shitting the bed on a nightly basis!
Then, of course, there is the performance of Johnny Football on Monday Night… evidently someone on the Redskins sideline said something that got him all butthurt, and he responded like this…
Dip shit move by someone who has proven to be a major dip shit over the past few months. The camera is ALWAYS on you dummy… I would have thought you’d realized that by now, especially after your little bathroom photo incident. At this point, I don’t know of anyone who isn’t rooting for this guy to fail. Maybe a season on the bench will give the little twat some perspective; but somehow I doubt it. ESPN will continue to cover him, build him up, and revel in the eventual teardown… like they’ve done with numerous players before and they’ll do many times in the future. When Johnny finally gets a shot as a starter, he'll be a hunted man. Seems that veteran players don't like little shits like Johnny Manziel coming into the league as cocky as this... and somebody will take him out.
But the real question here… why are people so offended by this gesture… much like profanity to begin with? We live in a world full of famine, suffering, war, with disgusting, unspeakable criminal acts being perpetrated against innocent people every day. So somebody used some foul language around you and you’re upset about that? Well, I’ve got one thing to say about that…
That’s all I’ve got for today folks. Thanks for reading, and for any comments you leave on the way out.
That was me at dinner last night, only with wings.
Happy Wednesday, Gabbers. Summer came back for the week. We got close to 90 here. According to the Pittsburgh news stations, we haven’t hit 90 yet. I think we have in places. Still, I won’t complain about a cooler summer.
Did you hear what happened again? A group of Alabama hunters caught another monster gator. A 5 person team pulled a 15 foot, 1011.5 lb beast out of the Alabama River. The good news is that could mean that the wetlands down that way are doing better if they can support any gators approaching that size.
Further on that topic, did anyone hear that people have been catching bull sharks in the Potomac River near D.C.? One of the catches was an 8 footer. Let’s encourage Congress to go swimming!
The ice bucket challenge is huge now. Everybody is getting behind this trend and all the videos have generated millions for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) research. Former Tennessee Titan and Penn State player Tim Shaw recently posted a video with a twist; he announced he was forced to retire due to a positive diagnosis with ALS.
I met Shaw a few times. I played with his brother Peter Shaw at Albion. On average, people can live 3 years after being diagnosed. I know Tim, Pete, and that family will make strides to do a lot of good in that time.
On a positive note, the Tigers pulled out an 11th inning win well after I went to bed. When last I was awake, J.D. Martinez hit a solo shot in the eighth, which was quickly countered by the Rays later in the inning. It was looking like our bullpen would be shinning again, but we managed to hold into the 11th.
Kinsler led off with a triple. The next three batters were walked, plating Kinsler. Torii Hunter scored on a wild pitch. The final run scored on a sacrifice fly. Joe Nathan was brought in to close. He got the save, even though he gave up a run.
Did you guys happen to catch Nathan’s chin flick to the Tigers crowd? Apparently he was upset that fans had the audacity to boo him. Nathan apologized, kind of. He brought up his kids, but noted they were too young to know what was going on. I don’t get why he’s upset with fans pointing out the obvious: he’s having the worst season of his career.
That’s all for today. Thanks as always for stopping in. We ran into a guy casting for an NFLSHOP commercial at our local bar last night. You could see AFD hawking for the shield. I just hope they don’t want my wife to wear a Ravens jersey.
Greetings from the Hoodwood where the locals said a tough goodbye as we saw Princess Katie depart for Arizona. That’s the toughest part of my summer.
More of the NFL Preview Lets look to the South in order of predicted finish
2013: 11-5 Division Champs lost to New England in Divisional Round
Coach: Chuck Pagano 22-10 in 3 seasons in Indianapolis (23-12 overall)
Man on the Hot Seat: Trent Richardson is needing to assert himself as the team’s top running back with Ahmad Bradshaw pushing hard to take the
Fast Facts: The Colts have only missed the playoff once in the past 12 years
Pagano’s 22 wins are the most by a Colts Coach in his first two years since Tony Dungy
Hoosier Football: The Colts are the class of a very weak division, as long as Luck has his health, the Colts are the team to beat in the AFC South.
2013: 7-9, Missed Playoffs
Coach: Ken Whisenhunt, 1st Season in Tennessee 49-53 overall in six seasons in Arizona
Man on the Hot Seat: Jake Locker has no more excuses, he is the starter and had better hit the ground running.
Fast Facts: The Titans five year playoff drought has matched their longest since they moved to the Volunteer state
Titan Talk: The Titans are a puzzle, no one can figure what structure their offense is supposed to be in. If they’re supposed to be a running team or develop a passing game under young Jake Locker. Ken Whisenhunt is a coach that can win, he made the moribund Cards fairly respectable but this team needs a direction and fast, if they start slow they could be watching the Colts gallop away fast
2013: 2-14 Missed Playoffs (worst season since 2005)
Coach: Bill O’Brien 1st Season
Man on the Hot Seat: Ryan Fitzpatrick, the well-traveled vet has to fuel a turnaround of a team that has potential but fell hard under a bad season
Fast Facts: The Titans lost their last 14 straight games, the longest losing streak in Houston football history.
Lone Star Football: Bill O’Brien has to reconstruct a once up and coming franchise who just imploded badly last year and needs to get its collective mojo back, Matt Schaub got more or less run out on a rail and Ryan Fitzpatrick picks up the thread
2013: 4-12 Missed playoffs
Coach: Gus Bradley 2nd Season 4-12 overall
Man on the Hot Seat: Chad Henne, how long he will he be able to keep the starting job with heir apparent
Fast Facts: The Jags are one of four teams to have never played in the Super Bowl
Life on the North Coast: I’m waiting for the Jags to LA talk to pop up again, with the Jags already headed to London again, the interest in this franchise has never been lower in its 20 year history and unlike the feline expansion cousin the Panthers they have yet to play for a Super Bowl and have no real franchise direction. Drafting local bred Blake Bortles is a nice step but will he spend his halcyon days in North Florida, SoCal or London?
New Orleans Saints
2013: 11-5 Wild Card lost to Seattle in Wild Card Round
Coach: Sean Payton 73-39 in 6 seasons in New Orleans 79-43 overall
Man on the Hot Seat: Pierre Thomas, given the Saints pass happy offense clicked right back on with Payton’s return. Thomas must do enough to keep defenses honest
Fast Facts: The Saints have won 10+ games in each of Payton’s last four seasons
Big Easy Gridironers: The Saints are a dangerous team, if Drew Brees stays relatively hale this team can easily be playing in Arizona come February, blessed with a solid receiver corps and the indispensable Jimmy Graham at TE the Saints offense can put the points up. Their defense may be the most underrated in the game, if this team stays healthy I could see a deep run
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2013: 4-12 missed playoffs
Coach: Lovie Smith 1st season in Tampa; 84-66 overall in 9 seasons in Chicago
Man on the Hot Seat: Mike Glennon can he run the up-tempo offense that new coach Lovie Smith is implementing
Fast Fact: The Bucs play 3 late or prime time games in the season’s first 11 days then their remaining schedule is all 1p kickoffs
Bayfront Football: Lovie Smith takes over a team that was in full revolt after the disastrous reign of Greg Schiano and has plenty of young if unheralded talent at his disposal. Doug Martin looks to bounce back to his breakout status of 2012 after a poor 2013 that didn’t even have him lead the team in rushing, I like the Bucs to be a surprise team in the rugged NFC south
2013: 12-4 Division Champs lost to San Francisco in Divisional Round
Coach: Ron Rivera 25-23 all in Carolina (25-24 overall)
Man on the Hot Seat: Cam Newton, after a solid season and getting the Panthers an unexpected division title he pressure is now on to keep the Panthers elite
Fast Facts: The Panthers 12 wins in 2013 matched a franchise high set in 1996 and matched in 2008
Marvin Lewis hold the team record for wins and losses
Big Cat Football: The Panthers took a massive leap in 2013 rolling to an unexpected division title by outdueling the Saints, but this scribe is still not really sold on the play of Cam Newton or the suspect running game. The defense is rock solid but I just see a team taking a step back here
Coach: Mike Smith 60-37 in 6 seasons in Atlanta, (61-40 overall)
Man on the Hot Seat: Steven Jackson came to the ATL in a hyped move but looked like a shell of his days in St. Louis if the Falcons want to be taken seriously he need to have a bounce back season
Fast Facts: The Falcons had a streak of 5 straight winning seasons, their longest in franchise history snapped with the 4-12 2013 campaign
Mike Smith hold the team record for wins
Dirty South Pigskin: Injuries derailed the Falcons from the word go, and they never got on any kind of roll. A lack of a solid running game will hurt a good offense but the defense seems to have more questions than answers now. This is a deep and tough division and a team with that many questions on defense is in trouble from the jump and if Jackson is slow to comeback from a balk hamstring, you are asking too much from the redoubtable Matt Ryan.
Ill add more as the day goes. Until next post fellow sports fans…
A rather unfortunate concomitant to the passing of Robin Williams is the fact that the Red Sox have not won on Ben Affleck’s birthday – August 15 - since the 1997 release of “Good Will Hunting.” It just so happened this year was the 15th anniversary, but it just happened to be the same week his co-star committed suicide. Just seems a little soon. Of course, the odds really were against the Sox winning this year anyway.
Now, never let it be said I’m wishing my summer away – I love summer – but with the Sox out of any kind of contention, the boy’s mind wanders to football. I can watch any NFL game and be engaged. I love the New England entry, but I actually care about what goes on elsewhere. There’s only 16 games, so everything matters. That seemingly arcane game now could be important later.
There’ll be an expansion of football this year as well – We all know Thursday and Sunday are NFL, and Saturdays are NCAA, and in some parts High School football takes up Friday nights – so where else can a football game fit in?
Wednesday. For six Wednesdays in October and November a new developmental league will begin play – the Fall Experimental Football League, FXFL will have teams in six cities with the idea being to get the players some playing time that may get them some notice. The first team to announce a logo and name is the Omaha Mammoths. Now, I really have no idea how well this will go over, but I’m sure it will have more going for it than say the XFL – hard to know why they chose that unfortunate combination, just google FXFL and you’ll get a bunch of stuff on the doomed football experiment. He hate me.