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Random Baseball Stuff

Joker, smoker, midnight toker.

– Every so often a publisher will send me a book in the mail to review, and I usually flip through it quickly and then absentmindedly set it on my bookshelf. If I’m too busy or uninterested, the book makes a home there, snug amongst the “serious literary fiction”, and gathering dust until I just happen upon it while searching for other things, which in turn brings upon pangs of guilt. I’ve waded through a malaise of baseball books–hundreds in fact–and I usually enjoy them more often than not. I must have been in the middle of reading one (I’m usually reading, or grazing multiple books at one time like a maniac) when I tucked in a baseball card moonlighting as a bookmarker. What a pleasant surprise to see the all-time greatest thief staring back at me with sun-blasted squinty eyes, the square jaw of Zeus, and an air of don’t fuck with me. Many years had passed, and I recalled that I had last seen this alluring piece of cardboard when I was going through a “my own worst enemy” caveat and floating through a listless existence of fast food, an unfulfilling job, innumerable cocktails, and memories of a failed relationship. 

– The Angel Hernandez fiasco will bring up more hyperbole (baseball fans are incessant complainers) about needing robotic umpires, but the conversation should turn to MLB and its incompetent hiring practices and institutional/generational standards. (amongst other amateurish discrepancies) I’ve watched Japanese baseball (NPB) for many years now, and it’s very rare that they miss a call at the plate. Perhaps they have more astute hiring practices? There’s nothing more frustrating than the American way of doing things–which is to call a pitch a strike that is a foot off the plate–and the announcers calling it a “pitcher’s pitch.” In many cases, you would need an oar to hit one of these things, and frustration just turns to laughter as the strike zone becomes more abstract than a Jackson Pollock painting as the game matures. Welcome to the theatre of mediocrity known as MLB. 

– Franklin Barreto, aka the biggest bust in Oakland A’s trade history and Billy Beane WonderBoy is batting a cool .200 with a .624 OPS for the Asterisks’ AAA team, the Sugar Land Space Cowboys. You can call him the most highly touted pinch-runner–and there have been many–in A’s history, just don’t call him Maurice–because he doesn’t speak of the pompatus of love. (yes, I am showing my age here)

P.S. please check out Hugh’s Atlanta Braves-based blog Cheap Hill 44 if you get a chance!

Who Needs a Beer?

Love unrequited

What’s a guy gonna do? I went with my normal routine of a quick-paced afternoon walk before stopping at the local rec. center to shoot some hoops. (My follow-through is a bit rusty, but coming along nicely) I knew I only had about 30 minutes to goof around before proceeding to walk the 6 blocks home. Today was Opening Day, and as Jerry Seinfeld so astutely said, “You’re not rooting for players, you’re rooting for laundry.” And in the end–I’m not convinced that this is a baseball team rather than a Ponzi scheme. The “suits” have seemingly crystallized everything I despise about hyper-capitalism and formulated a baseball team that epitomizes unchecked greed before the inevitable crash. Of course, the fanbase gives a collective yawn, indicating that they’ve been through this routine before.

So, what the hell…let’s put my slavish devotion to the test. You know, sometimes disaster porn can be fun. Is your temperature rising too? Well, buddy–pop a few Xanax, have a drink, and let’s get angry!

 I couldn’t look away. I had to indulge and examine how this bunch of ragtag misfits (I am not going to say lovable quite yet) were going to fare against a “pretender” like the Phillies. If I have to be pragmatic with myself, I felt like it was going to take a 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey-like effort to win one of the games in this series–no doubt the only historical reminder of most of these guys’ benign, hardball careers will be represented on a single baseball card that no collector will bother to safeguard in one of those plastic pages, inevitably ending up battered and pissed on by vagrants in a random 7-11 parking lot. Alas! The Phillies come out of the gate with a 4- run lead which felt insurmountable, even in this cheesesteak bloated, Santa-Claus-hating, bandbox.

The human equivalent of a facepalm, Elvis Andrus attempts to pull everything, and I usually just scratch 6-3 on my scorecard before the facade is over. When he finally grounds out to the opposite field, (4-3) A’s fans rejoice. This front office should have known something was amiss when the Rangers implored, “PLEASE take him off our hands….we’ll even pay half his salary!” The second half of that sentence predictably made owner John Fisher’s nipples rock hard as he undoubtedly daydreams about 100-foot yachts and “ladyboys” in stale-sheet-smelling Thai bedrooms amongst other slimy antisocial transgressions only the insanely wealthy seem to enjoy. (Did someone say modern art tax-write-off?)

It’s all about the little things, right? Who am I kidding? There just isn’t anything to be optimistic about unless you’re the owner’s accountant or a naive homer. The only saving grace/mental resolve is knowing that this team (or the league for that matter) isn’t going to pry one filthy nickel from my grubby hands this year or anytime in the foreseeable future.

Are you bored yet? My apologies for being one of those fussy saps that love to shoehorn their unparalleled virtue into any scenario–it appears that this affliction was satisfied (once again, as this primal scream seems to exemplify) by howling into the abstract abyss known as the internet, composing even more agonizing and just plain stupid first-world problems in these supposed apocalyptic times. Sigh…who needs a beer?

Whiskey and Baseball

Lucian-Hamilton Field

Summer is slowly creeping into the room, and I’m starting to wear tank tops and abandoning a blanket at night. I ran out of coffee and now I’m getting a headache. The cats are moving a little more slowly, seemingly without agenda, and sleeping more often as the sound of spring training baseball fills the afternoon air. The announcers are speaking to no one as I go about my daily tasks, and when I finally watch for a while they feign excitement for a team that exists for no other reason than for its owner to extort money from the fans, the league, and perhaps even the city they play in. I love this team but feel pandered to as they try to sell me a bowl of shit and tell me it’s chocolate ice cream with sprinkles on top. (What…no cherry?) There’s a sucker born every minute, and I suppose I’m the jive-ass mf’er P.T. Barnum was referring to when he uttered those words that are soundly more American than apple pie and a lobotomy–thrust into a blender that would be deemed irrelevant in mere minutes and dumped in a landfill. 

I went for an afternoon walk and decided to stop by the small (supposedly haunted) Catholic university near my home to watch a bit of baseball. The St. Edward’s Hilltoppers are a division 2 team, with a well-kept playing surface, a view of downtown Austin in RF, and a large awe-inspiring, red-topped, Gothic castle–simply called “Main Building” and built-in 1888–that can be seen for miles around slightly left of the diamond. There was purity on the field that day; an anachronistic system rooted in the previous century that had been missing as players chirped back and forth throughout. Talk of the soil. Distant were the absurd contracts, overpriced merchandise, and owners who had graduated to my drop-dead list.

Distant was the soulless institution of MLB as I took nips of whiskey from a flask that I had bought from a man in what can only be described as “barely a gas station” in some stink-pit outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. There was a turquoise, sort of abstract eagle on the front of that magical flask, and I’m not sure if it was the booze, the heatstroke, or the hoodoo placed upon the pewter–but I sure hell felt as free as that screwball eagle at that very moment.

It’s time to give 2020 a good, swift kick in the ass

An appropriate metaphor.

The specter of 2020 is almost over, and this baseball writing interloper must take pause and perhaps a deep breath in order to reflect. I’m going to refrain from giving you a redundant frame by frame analysis–as I’m assuming you haven’t reawakened from a coma–but I don’t think I’m reaching when I say that damn near half the population of the U.S. doesn’t care about logic, science, or even high-minded economic interests. (unless you’re raking in over 400,000 dollars a year) No, my friends, the major motivation was simply contempt. An eye opening and disturbing influx of psychotic persecution seemed to rule the day as high minded intellectuals scramble to try to figure out how to baby-sit/pacify the brains of the gullible as they are keenly aware that the singular vote of an idiot counts just as much as the singular well-informed in a demented and ironic twist of a democratic process that the former seems to disdain.

I have no light suggestions of benevolence as I am largely apolitical, and this is, alas, a simple baseball publication, and I’ve largely tried to keep it just that. The World Series was a light-hearted escape from the madness and then Justin Turner pranced around the field in celebratory mode with a case of ‘Rona and kicked everyone in the nuts with a dose of reality. No Bueno. But if anyone understands how misguided any sense of certainty is, it would be a baseball fan. History will largely scoff and turn a blind eye to the suffering and trials of the pathetic humans and when all is said and done, it will still be there in black and white on the written page (paper?) Dodgers 2020 World Series Champions.

I’ll probably have a few stiff drinks tonight in full celebratory mode as my friends and I watch pop stars prance around in confetti and the newest rendition of Dick Clark feigns having a good time in Times Square with his cajones in full refrigeration. There will be Bloody Marys, Chateau Pink Gins, and of course, the lethal Velvet Hammer ready to sweet talk you into staying in bed on the first day of the year as you watch episodes of Three’s Company with ironic detachment and weep into your pillow at the inhumanity of it all. I will be properly blitzed and locked into my fucking groove as the crescendo happens, and 2020 will still be there to scoff, “too bad you’re not double-jointed so you could bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.”

Steve Sax and the high school reject

“Sweet is the memory of past troubles.” –Cicero

Sax had 1,949 career knocks, 6 of which came in an Athletics jersey.

My high school career was less than stellar, quite different from Kevin Arnold’s 1970’s middle-class neurosis in The Wonder Years; and it was an often confusing and awkward time for me as it is for any young person who doesn’t follow the rules of engagement. My school was located in one of the poorer neighborhoods, so the styles and sophistication of the students echoed that. This was the life equivalent of tasteless, waxy American cheese.

There were minimal cliques in this school–the wannabe gang bangers, (and the real ones) the jocks, the hair-metal kids, the cholas and the cheerleaders. I managed to scrounge up 2 friends: one was a metal head who I had known since elementary school, and the other a punk rock reject that would wear a Dead Kennedys shirt everyday, carry a skateboard everywhere and never let anyone inside his house. In retrospect, there was nothing special about my teenage apathy. Everyone was dealing with the same emotions and questions, but with different parents, cultures, agendas and economic status. There was also a beautiful naivete concerning school shootings: we simply could never conceive of it happening–there was a better chance of aliens populating the earth or Elvis rising from the dead. I was also suffering from a strangulating boredom which I thought was to be my position in life…I was 16 and waiting for it to begin.

Baseball player Steve Sax was sort of a local legend in our little burg as he had attended the only and very same high school that I was attending. During P.E. (my favorite subject, besides lunch) I would stare at Sax’s school records on an amateurish hand-painted board above dented, graffitied, rusted lockers while fights broke out, coaches screamed and evacuations from the putrid sulfur smell of stink bombs were coalescing around me. He owned every single record. I couldn’t fathom that a titan on a baseball card had actually walked these same sweat sock-scented hallways from hell and dominated the very same pock-marked, weed infested ball field that I had played on as a Freshman just one year earlier. He probably thought he was hot shit and had all kinds of bell-bottom clad, Farrah Fawcett- haircut-fashioned girls throwing themselves at him; no doubt changing one letter in his last name as to give him a more studly and epically legendary nickname as his other conquests snickered knowingly with a hint of underlying jealousy.

Sax had a pretty solid career and even won a World Series with the Dodgers until he caught a case of the “yips,” which is a psychological malfunction of the routine play. In this case it was the across the body lob to the first baseman from the second base position. A fairly easy play unless pondered to the point of oblivion. This local hero and World Series winner was fallible and I could relate. I had acquired a case of the life yips at the age of 15 and couldn’t even have a routine conversation without stumbling through it. Girls were impossible as I took navel-gazing to the point of nonexistence. I would contemplate every single nonsensical conversation or see sideways glances as a character assassination. This sort of thought was an unhealthy E-4, something that was scratched on Sax’s scorecard more times than he would’ve liked.

We were worlds apart in every conceivable valuable attribute–with him having all the admirable ones, an enviable cross to bear; but we shared the same thoughts, fears and insecurities that all humans struggle with at one time or another, and with that, the inability to be shielded from the cruel elements that possesses us all.

My Corona

“My, my, my, my Corona.” –sang in the vocal stylings of the Knack’s “My Sharona.”

These are fantastical times. This Corona virus has run the full gamut and has completely taken over my life. I’ve been washing my hands upwards of 30 times a day, and like everything else that becomes an obsession in my life, it is imperative that I know every single detail about the origins and life of this villain. Listening to NPR and reading the NY Times has been vital in comprehensive avoidance and genuine insight to this fiend. This is a time of high anxiety.

All of the major sports have been cancelled and college and high school students have been sent home. I went to the library today and it was all but deserted, the only homeless person within eye-shot was wearing a mask. I went to the grocery store to stock up on food as to not leave the house for at least a few days. We are all pariahs, avoiding each other at all costs and giving anyone a side glance if they so much as come within 3 feet of you.

Whatever you do…don’t. touch. your. face. Donald Trump, notoriously obsessed with germs refuses to shake anyone’s hand, as does anyone in this time of trial. I listened to Trump’s presidential briefing (for the first time in his term) and his bravado and positivity seemed like more posturing even though he called for a national emergency in what can be seen as a hushed tone. After a carousel of “geniuses” were paraded on the mic (each one talking an average of 45 seconds, and included a representative from CVS) VP Mike Pence didn’t hesitate to put Trump on a pedestal in an embarrassing display of window dressing obviously written by someone who understands the President’s psyche. There were many hollow slogans of strength, patriotism and resilience in a fairly standardized ending.

I feel better already. (eyeroll) Let us not forget that Trump once downsized this virus comparing it to the flu and even went so far as to call it a “democratic hoax.” It seems to me that we as the people are going to have to fight this together by learning as much as we can about this virus with our elected officials having very little credibility or competence. Good luck to the readers of this blog and to us all, and as Tom Hanks famously said, “There is no crying in baseball.”

Hello again!!!!

Dallas Braden and I a few weeks ago. Note the troll to the right.

I haven’t posted on this site for about a year due to my laptop being stolen and I simply couldn’t remember the password. I must have had a moment of clarity this morning after a few cups of coffee because I was futzing around with random e-mails and passwords when lo and behold….here I am. For you new readers, (and as long time readers know) this is a baseball site that is ripe for psychiatric scrutiny, and I am every inch the eighth dimension.

Please follow.

 I watched the A’s last night and it was an exciting affair with Frankie Montas pitching a gem and Matt Chapman hitting a 3 run walk-off for a 5-4 win over the Rays. Chapman is the best defensive 3rd baseman in baseball and should be an All-Star. Montas is having a solid season and is looking like the ace of the team; the absolute glamour queen on a stage full of ugly cretins who wouldn’t have a chance in hell of answering the cliche pageant question of, “How could we accomplish world peace?” The bullpen is a ticking time bomb and has caused much heartbreak and frustration so far this young season; an absolute atrocity that leaves me scratching my head in so many fits that one would think I had a case of head lice.

All that being said, I am looking forward to posting here again. See you soon.                                                

The ‘Fro gives the week in review.

A's jonesy

My buddy, Jonesy chillin’ and listening to Prince.

We’re all excited
But we don’t know why
Maybe it’s ’cause
We’re all gonna die
And when we do
What’s it all for
You better live now
Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door
–Prince “Let’s get crazy”

It was truly a sad day when Prince died last week. In an era of cookie cutter, soul-less music he stood out as a mega-talented musician with magical song writing ability. Like every other human being I saw his death as a chance to reminisce about a moment, long forgotten, in my own life. The memories came rushing through, synapses released, and suddenly I remembered the first time I had seen a Prince video–it was in 1984 and I was nine years old and playing with a few cousins at my grandparents house. All of the sudden “When Doves Cry” came on the television and it was as if the world had stopped and my tiny brain was shattered. I had never seen anyone so ethereal and androgynous. He was calling the world “cold” and criticizing his parents as fallible human beings. I was instantly infatuated and intrigued by this new possibility of undermining expectations. Prince was something different, something refreshing in an era of faux reggae, (The Police) misogynist “cock rock,” and Phil Collins-esque waiting room music. A friend once told me that the movie “Purple Rain” scared the shit out of him when he was a small child. That is pure genius as far as I’m concerned. R.I.P. Purple One.
COGHLANThe A’s sweep of the Yankees last week was beautiful but the moment was a bit sweeter because of the fact that the Bronx Bomber’s telecasters had the pretension to call the Athletics a AAA team. I thought it particularly funny because of the fact that the Yankees lineup isn’t all that impressive and quite a few couldn’t even start over the regular players in Oakland. New Yorkers have been delusional about the Yankees for quite some time and seeing them as contenders this season is a bit laughable in its tedium. They drank the proverbial Kool-Aid.  Most people root for laundry but Yankees fans root for dissipated ghosts. Chris Coghlan hit a two run jack in the 8th inning in game 3 giving the A’s a 6-3 lead and all but insuring an A’s sweep. The cameras then panned to a kid about 8 years old crying in the stands. I am not one to enjoy seeing kids cry but this bratty Millennial (or whatever the hell kids are called these days) was crying because his delusions were being destroyed. Seemed fitting for a Yankees fan…here’s to hoping they have many terrible seasons ahead and the fans keep crying because of their own self-imposed importance.

Spring Training Update

saveI’m smoking a cigarette; a Camel non filter– the tiny object representing American ingenuity by the label being printed on the lit end. The Viet-Cong couldn’t identify the U.S. onslaught by a simple identification…blown away in the stressed out breeze.

Spring training is boring.

 

Cut and dry. I’d rather give a shout out to fellow bloggers that I enjoy:

https://verdun2.wordpress.com/

https://brokenbatsbaseball.wordpress.com/

https://brucekthiesen.wordpress.com/

 

The “Big A”

me and my buddy, josh (right) giving the thumbs down to the Angels 2002 World Series trophy. (note the old school Mariners cap…. he is forgiven)

I recently made a trip to Anaheim Stadium to catch the A’s play the Angels in a “must win”  game for both teams; a place I hadn’t been to since I was a young boy living in Buena Park with my grandparents….a span of 20 plus years. My grandfather and I were A’s fans, yet we enjoyed quite a few games at the “Big A” in the days of Wally Joyner, Lance Parrish and Mark Langston. The old cowboy and Hollywood legend Gene Autry still owned the team, and 80 something year old Jimmie Reese, who was the conditioning coach, was still roaming the field. The old man was called up to the Yankees in 1930 and was Babe Ruth’s roommate on the road, or as Reese explained, “I roomed with the Babe’s suitcase.” Reese coached the ball- club for 22 years until he died in 1994.
Times had changed. All three of the old men in the paragraphs above were long dead, and I was back in the ol’ ballpark not ready to re-live memories, but to watch the Elephants kick some ass and take no prisoners. (there’s a playoff spot at stake for fuck’s sake) The stadium was vastly “improved” since I had been there; from the large idiotic Disney-esque rock formation in center field to the gigantic Jack in the Box sign beyond that.  My girlfriend, (a Dodgers fan may I add) thought that the crass commercialism on the Jumbotron between innings was off-putting. “Even the hotdogs are better at Dodger Stadium,” she said. I agreed that this display of capitalism and homogenized commerce in the county known for its conservative Republican values was indeed off-putting. “Yes, but we hit more in this league,” I answered.

Yoenis Cespedes, the young Cuban who has one of the quickest bats I’ve ever seen hit a miraculous, long soaring jack to left center. The brilliance was confounded by super-rookie Mike Trout, and his attempt to rob him. Angels fans rose en masse, ready to see their new hero pull odd another amazing feat. He came up short. The wind went out of the stadium. The score was 1-0 and the desperation rose quickly. “How could a bunch of NOBODIES be doing this to us with our 126 million dollar payroll?” Angels fans seemed to be saying. By the time Brandon “The Boss” Moss hit a two run jack to left center in the 5th, we knew it was over. The fans were pleading for the man who had caught it to throw it back, but to no avail. Coco Crisp even added an inside the park job as creeky kneed, 35 year old, over- payed Torii Hunter couldn’t fish a ball out of the corner and it skipped passed him while Mr. Crisp jack-rabbited around the base paths to make it 6-2. Triple and E-9. Grant “The cardiac kid ” Balfour did his best to blow the game even yelling a few obscenities at the umpire on his way out with a 6-5 lead and a man on first and 3rd with no outs. I was yelling a few at Balfour myself and quickly felt vindicated as I had told a buddy of mine before the inning had started that Balfour was like a hooker at a truckstop… always getting rocked. The crowd stood the rest of the game as Jerry “Clutch” Blevins (as he will now be called) nailed  down the game by striking out Kendrys Morales and getting Howie Kendrick to ground out 5-4-3 for the victory. There was no joy in Mudville that night….. nobodies indeed.