Tuesday, March 31, 2009

On the Occassion of Baseball

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 2:52 PM

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Summers are easily categorized as generically good or bad. When you’re, say, eight or nine, the three holy months of freedom might be measured by whether you convinced Susie from around the block to be your girlfriend. Or maybe by whether your Little League team made the playoffs.

If Susie kissed you, it was a good summer. If you made the all-star game while pitching, leading off and playing shortstop, it was a great summer, especially if Susie met you behind the concession stand to give you and your cherry-slurpee-stained lips a smooch. Double that if it was the first year you got your name on the back of your jersey.

Of course, if you’re stuck at the end of the bench behind the coach’s son who gets showered with praise for hitting a home run every once in awhile, even though he strikes out every other time, and Susie decides that your best friend Brian is funnier and cuter than you are, or your brand-new bike gets stolen, well, it’s a bad summer.

You get a little older and eventually you stop playing organized ball, maybe because you’re still three feet tall while everyone else in the world has gone through puberty. And while that sad fact of adolescent hormonal inequality is disastrous for the prospect of convincing your coach you won’t break your arms swinging at the inhuman fastball coming from some beast on the mound who you faintly recognize as Joe from down the street (but who now has a mustache and looks like your dad), it’s even worse for the prospect of trying to get noticed by any girl, let alone Susie. She says she likes guys who are more mature now. Sure.

The point is: Eventually, summers evolve from being defined by ice-cream trucks and frontyard baseball and first loves. Instead, there are jobs and college tours and lame high-school parties where Susie still ignores you. Although, in her defense, you’re still three feet tall, so she probably just doesn’t see you behind the keg.

This is all, ahem, hypothetical.

If you grow to live and die with your favorite team, baseball becomes the barometer of those balmy months. Anything else in the world can happen and does happen, but when you look back, those summers are measured generally good or bad by how your team does. It’s an overriding sense that can be accentuated one way or the other by real life: But the base is the silly commitment, made all the more silly by the fact that you have absolutely zero control over what happens to your team.

Anyone who truly loves baseball knows this to be true. The ones who don’t will never understand how you can pin so much on something so seemingly trivial or how seasons morph into strong collective memories or why you remember that the Indians went 80-82 and the summer of 2004 sucked, even though that’s when you met your wife. Admittedly, it’s a screwed-up hierarchy of Important Things, but name a summer and the first thing I think about is how the Indians did.

One of my favorite baseball anecdotes comes from Roger Angell’s essay “Takes: Digging Up Willie” (1991) from his collection Game Time: A Baseball Companion. Angell’s in Scottsdale and catches up with Willie Mays, then 60 and working with the Giants in some capacity for the spring. He asks Willie what his favorite home run of all time was. Mays’ answer isn’t one of his milestone home runs, not a walk-off game winner. It was one against Claude Raymond. Mays claims Raymond threw him 13 straight fastballs that he fouled off before hitting a homer to tie the game. He says he can’t remember much more than that. Angell should talk to Raymond himself.

Angell double-checked with a researcher, and they found that on September 14, 1965, Mays did indeed hit a game-tying home run off Raymond, but he had only fouled off four pitches. So Angell tracked down Raymond and asked him if he remembers that battle. Writes Angell: “‘I threw Mays 13 straight fastballs,’ he said, even before I could ask. ‘And he fouled off thirteen.’”

Willie was right after all.

Angell included the anecdote in a New Yorker story about home runs and later received a letter from a fan who had tracked down the tape of the game in question. “It was four fouls, not 13,” the fan wrote. “Nothing impeaches the memory of an old ballplayer more than another old ballplayer who remembers the moment the same way.”

I was thinking about that story the other day. Maybe I’ve forgotten a ton of golden moments over the summers. Maybe the Indians and baseball have repressed some truly happy occurrences in my life, irreparably altering my psyche and memories forever. What if those good summers were really bad, or vice versa?

Then I come to my senses. The summer of 2004 really did suck, and the summer of 2007 was truly one of the best of my life. And you know what? Tribe fans will back me up on that.

Nothing salves the wounds of a bad summer like the grass-clippings-fresh start of a new one. Here’s hoping we look back and remember a good one.

(Photo courtesy of Dan Mendlik and the Cleveland Indians)

A Guy To Really Root For

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 2:07 PM

(This is a guest post by the estimable and hilarious Steve Buffum, who can be found during the season over at The Cleveland Fan. He's a must-read, and I'm lucky to have him contributing here as well.)

Juan Lara signed a minor-league contract with the Tribe:

Now, really, there's no sense in ragaling you with tales of how I once thought Lara would eventually become what Raffy Perez is now: thefact is, I'm really quite pleased that Lara can WALK, much less PITCH.

By all accounts, the Indians have been really stand-up throughout Lara's recovery (surgery and therapy were performed in Cleveland), in fact, the Indians had gone so far as to sign Lara to a contract after the
accident so that his medical care would not be interrupted
. So, this is kind of a feel-good story all the way around.

Things To Read That Might Not Suck: You Can Never Have Enough World. B Free Edition

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 11:56 AM

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"Groundbreaking. Thoroughly enjoyable. A family-friendly fun ride through the world of sports imagination." — The Editor of this sports blog.

— We featured K1X's upcoming summer line, which is entirely created around and inspired by World B. Free, the other day. Today, here's a link to an extensive and entertaining interview with the man himself where Free discusses Rucker Park, the NBA, and why he always shot so damn much. An excerpt:

K1X: Who was the best player you went up against? You mentioned that MJ listed you as one of the toughest players he went up against. What about you?

FREE: George “Iceman” Gervin. He was one of the best players I ever played against. When this man was rolling, and this was like every game, he could get 50 on you in a half—and not even break a sweat. And that’s why they call him “The Iceman.” I asked him about that and he just said “World, I just scored 60 on you, and I’m not even sweating.” [Laughs]

K1X: What about your own quote, “passes don’t get paid”?

FREE: Uhh, I got that from Fred Carter. When I was a rookie he came to me and said, “Rook, let me tell you something: In this League, passes don’t get paid. Passes do not get paid.” And that stuck with me as soon as I stepped on the basketball court. It wasn’t my own theory, though. I got it from a veteran. There could be five guys open and he would still not pass it to you. [Laughs]

(Slam online)

— In case you ever wondered, LeBron doesn't really sing in the shower, is listening to "Urban Legend" from the soon to be incarcerated TI right now, and thinks 50 Cent and Rick Ross should throw down. (CNNSI.com)

A very well thought out post on the problems the Cavs face in regards to the rotation among their big men once Ben Wallace returns.

So perhaps the chemistry will be the bigger issue. But if you’re considering chemistry on the team as a whole, you should also consider chemistry on an individual level as well. Particularly, the chemistry between LeBron James and Anderson Varejao is key. With Andy at the 4, the Cavaliers’ offense has been playing some of the best, most efficient offensive basketball of the season. Assists are up and turnovers are way down. The ball movement has been the best its been all year.
(Waiting For Next Year)

Man arrested for a DUI while driving a motorized barstool. Genius. (Columbus Dispatch)

Guy No. 25: Zach Jackson

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 10:56 AM

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(This is a guest post by the estimable and hilarious Steve Buffum, who can be found during the season over at The Cleveland Fan. He's a must-read, and I'm lucky to have him contributing here as well.)

I don't really have the hang of this "blogging thing." I started writing a post, and it bled and wandered and bled and by the time I decided not to submit it after all, Vince had already posted three more entries. I'm largely incapable of saying anything in fewer than 1000 words.

Anyway, when you look at a baseball team, its ability to be in the discussion of contenders comes from its top ten guys, and its ability to stay in the discussion depends on the next ten guys, so I'll talk about the Indians' Last Five Guys this week instead.

Guy 25: Zach Jackson

This was the last "official" roster decision, and it came down to Jackson and Vinnie Chulk, a sort of supra-journeyman reliever who had some nice seasons in Toronto before sandwiching a good season between two poor ones in San Francisco. To my untrained eye, Chulk has had the better spring, getting guys out and approaching a whiff-per-inning ratio you like in a reliever.

Of course, he's also purely a short guy: Jackson started last season, so the roster spot was more defined by role than by talent. Chulk went three innings his last spring game, and that's very nice, but he's not really that kind of pitcher. This is the Jason Davis Commemorative Role that Davis couldn't really grasp: sit for a while, then pick up a lame-assed start in the second and go four or five, then sit some more, then maybe match up against a tough hitter in the 4th or 5th with a couple guys on, then sit some more.

Jackson didn't get this gig because he's left-handed, but because he can go multiple innings, and because you're not feeling like your wasting a Real Asset if he sits for four games in a row. You probably WOULD be wasting Chulk in that role: getting him regular work in Columbus makes him
a more-viable replacement for No Masa Kobayashi or in case of injury to a Real Reliever (Smiff, Betancourt, Jen Lewis).

Anyway, in April, I can't really argue with this decision, but it won't take many three-run outings by either Jackson or Kobayashi to make me sharpen the argumentative knives.

Note that a discussion of Zach Jackson's Actual Quality has not taken place here. This is because, like Jackson itself, it is almost totally devoid of relevance.

(Image courtesy of Dan Mendlik and the Cleveland Indians.)

Gerald McNeil says, "Good Morning, Cleveland"

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 9:45 AM

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I always pretended to be Gerald McNeil when I was growing up and playing football in the backyard, mainly because we were each built more for being horse jockeys than running back kickoffs. I loved how his helmet looked five sizes too big and how the Browns probably had to borrow a uniform from a Pee Wee league to suit McNeil up.

1852 career kickoff return yards, 1717 career punt return yards, 1 Pro Bowl, 5-foot-7, and born in Frankfurt, Germany.

Monday, March 30, 2009

First MLB Player to Tweet During a Game?... Now With 100% More Fake Kerry Wood Tweets!

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 3:05 PM

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Shaq twittered at halftime of a game, as did Charlie Villanueva. Members of the women's professional soccer league twittered live during their inaugural game. As Opening Day approaches, I have to wonder who will be the first player to twitter a home run. Will players be allowed to tweet during games?

Who the hell knows which players a) Know what Twitter is, b) Are on Twitter themselves, or c) Are actually the ones beyond their accounts. CC's got Twitter, but it isn't updated frequently. Nick Swisher has one that a ton of people follow also. I'm sure there's plenty more, but that's just off the top of my head.

If Milton Bradley was on Twitter, my money would be on him to be the first to tweet mid-game, probably while in the outfield and during which he probably would miss a fly ball.

The bullpen guys are probably where your money should go though. Huge amounts of down time. Bubble gum on the hat routine has to get old after awhile. Did I mention huge amounts of down time already? Did I mention how happy it would make this guy?

Just imagine:

kerrywoodWahoo: sitting

kerrywoodWahoo: still sitting

kerrywoodWahoo: when carl pavano's arm flies off, i just hope it doesn't hit anyone in the head

kerrywoodWahoo: if it does fly off, i think i'm safe out here in the bullpen

kerrywoodWahoo: i've had 2,546 surgeries on my arm and still throw faster than borowski, worship me Cleveland!

kerrywoodWahoo: uhoh, winning, time to get ready

kerrywoodWahoo: nevermind, Masa just let up the tying runs

kerrywoodWahoo: i have a magnificent goatee

kerrywoodWahoo: switching seats, Jensen smells today

kerrywoodWahoo: home run! gotta go!

kerrywoodWahoo: time to go fuck 'em up and make Rick Vaughn seem like a pussycat

This License Plate Speaks the Truth

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 2:00 PM

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Saw this the other day while driving and had to snap a shot. (It reads: LBJ4MVP.)

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