Tag Archives: baseball writing

Time Keeps on Slippin’…Into the Future

I guess ice cream sandwiches seemed more important.

All it takes is one minor “insignificant” thing to enter labyrinthine corridors that lead to dreams, memories, and fantasies…and watching the 1988 ALCS Game 3 on youtube was the meager catalyst that jolted the brain and shook free a few locked away memories that slowly clambered to the surface. Although memories of childhood often walk that fine line of the unholy hybrid of the fictional and the real, the rusty time capsule had been jarred open rather coarsely with a crowbar whether I liked it or not.

Tim C. was a boy who lived in my neighborhood and I remember watching the 1988 ALCS at his house, although the details tend to get foggy like a faded photocopy. (One detail that isn’t foggy is the Red Sox holding a 5-0 lead that ended in an eventual 10-6 loss) We would get bored and go outside to toss the football and once even walked to the store to get soda, ice cream sandwiches and baseball cards. I remember there were a considerable amount of commercials for the upcoming presidential election between George Bush and Michael Dukakis, but we didn’t care in the slightest who won–someone would probably punch you in the stomach at that age if you dared to talk about such nonsense. Besides, there were bigger debates like–who was hotter: Samantha Fox or the red-headed vixen dry-humping two Jaguars in the Whitesnake video? 

Her hit was, “Touch Me (I Want Your Body)”

Tim’s parents were never around, (they were notorious barflys) so his house was a bit on the grungy side, and damned if I can remember him ever offering me anything to eat or drink. He was an early example of the vulgar inequities of life–with his family being dirt poor–but he was a good athlete and wasn’t averse to getting into a fistfight with older boys so he was almost admired around the neighborhood. For reasons that elude me, I also remember that he had a poster of Led Zepplin’s Houses Of The Holy in his room, and I would often stare at the cryptic image of naked, golden-haired children crawling around an apocalyptic landscape in wonderment and felt touched in a way that resonated in what felt like murky, neolithic repressed memories perhaps representing a past and an ancient life long forgotten.

After elementary school, we sort of outgrew each other, as boys tend to do, and friends seem to be transitory as you cultivate life as a 13-year-old. We would give each other knowing glances in the hallway but were worlds apart as growing teenagers. Tim, being far more mature than I, was already into heavy metal and girls, and I was sort of still trying to figure things out at this vulnerable age, albeit awkwardly while wearing Bugle Boy jeans, multi-color fluorescent t-shirts and listening to generic pop music on a transistor radio covered with stickers.

Tim died in a car accident not long after graduating high school–something I didn’t find out about until years after the incident as I had already moved 500 miles away from our tiny little culture(less) vacuum. The driver was drunk, killing his wife as well as 19-year old passenger Tim–who left this cruel world forever a teenager.

More Ranting About a Dumb Kid’s Game

Bow at the feet of Dick Mountain, he of the perpetual blister and fellow jizz user.

“Baseball opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one and most of ’em stink.” — Harry Caray

Baseball “agitprop” continues as the Houston Asterisks became yesterday’s news, (bad timing for the hot new book exposé, Cheated) and the new squabble concerned pitchers using a goo/sunscreen/coca-cola/spider-tack jizz concoction on their fingers to have better control and higher spin rate. Of course, MLB was impartial until the media fired shots about baseball being “boring” due to the 3 true outcome trends, no-hitters becoming run-of-the-mill and baseball’s collective batting average dropping quicker than a high school girl’s panties on prom night. It wasn’t uncommon to hear the game’s old coots/heroes spewing nonsense about “going the other way” and “choking up” when they never had to face the otherworldly velocity and wicked breaking shit day to day that the modern-day players have to face, essentially making their points void and out of context. (Ty Cobb floated the same criticism Babe Ruth’s direction, and on and on and on…ad nauseam

It’s the stale old case of baseball being better “back in the day” when in reality it probably wasn’t. The strike zones in the 70’s/80’s were more horrendous than today with the zone changing arbitrarily from AL to NL, and pitchers getting called strikes a foot off the plate from East to West. Banjo-hitters were playing daily and barely batting above .220 with little power, and pitchers were also proving their “toughness” by losing games in the later innings when it was obvious to everyone in the ballpark that they were barely throwing above 90 at that point while a bullpen guy who could throw peas sat on his ass and stared at a blonde in the front row. (Tony LaRussa is now hearkened as a “genius” for being able to compute basic math and daring to challenge the norms) These same standard-bearers are also nostalgic for .300 batting averages (a stat that is not as relevant as it used to be) even though Tony Gwynn, he of multiple batting titles, didn’t score a seasonal 100 runs after his 27th birthday. Do you smell what I’m dishing here? The key to winning is runs, not hits, and being stuck in the Mesozoic Era doesn’t necessarily mean better unless you enjoy beating the shit out of a dinosaur with a bone and dragging your significant other by the hair into a dingy cave. 

In the end, organizations are trying to win, not look aesthetically pleasing to old farts who should probably take a trip to the ballet if they are looking for dainty and pleasing visual cues that remind them of their younger years–which begs the question: if baseball is a dying sport, why has attendance averaged (roughly) 30.000 asses in the seats when it barely reached 15-25 in the ’70s and ’80s? The “get off my lawn” argument just doesn’t hold water and sounds just as ridiculous, pious, and nonsensical as a wrinkled, childish, dunderhead spit-spewing while wearing a red cap that states, “Make Baseball Great Again.” These people want the facade without the meat and potatoes even though they claim to want both. They hate the numbers just because they’re not the right numbers. Didn’t we just endure a blazing hot point of discussion about moving the mound back a few months ago? Or banning the shift? Quit tinkering! Leave the goddamn game alone! This game was here long before you and your cultural heroes were enjoying their lives and the fruits of their labor and will be here long after this generation and the next are in the ground rotting aeternum

 

Free at Last! Summer Is Here!

Hook ’em Horns

I dragged myself to one of those fancy movie premieres, and it was an experience that was embraced as a heroic poem and not just a regular, boring Saturday evening–this was a communal, but at the same time extremely individual moment that felt like an atonement of sorts. I had not been to the movies in over a year (since the short-lived and limited re-issue of Alien) and it was the longest I’d gone without being in a cinema since I sat down to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983 as a little devil child. There was the nostalgic, yet forgotten hint of popcorn mixed in with the notes of cleaning spray and faux-butter sludge to welcome me with open arms. I was a tad bit leery about being around so many skin-sacks, but calmed myself on a few occasions by telling myself that the world was a different place– and it was as simple as breaking free of a routine, and a miserable one at that. In conclusion, the movie sucked, but I enjoyed it nonetheless as a free flowing, maskless and anxiety-free critic unperturbed by low-brow cinema. 

The after-party was at the Flamingo Cantina, and their mezcal margarita hit me straight behind my third eye. Matthew McConaughey was making his rounds, flittering amongst the packed club and making benign conversation, but as an ex-denizen of Los Angeles, we just aren’t that impressed by fame. We are used to seeing our screen heroes at the grocery store buying jarred pickles or matzo ball soup and shrugging it off with an, “Oh,”  after getting a 10 second cheap thrill. I can enjoy the craft of acting (some would say the basis of the craft is to act like a disingenuous, self-satisfied prick with a set of veneers, tendencies to show-off, and a healthy case of nepotism) without caring a lick about their social life or even trying to be near them to suck their “aura.” And in the end actors simply don’t impress me as much as athletes (or musicians) as most of them are smaller in stature than even the average person on the street. (Hola, Tom Cruise) Size matters–am I right ladies? 

Noted Austin-ite and former Oakland Athletic Huston Street was standing in the corner nursing a Bud Light and wearing some vintage-aviator-style Jeffrey Dahmer glasses that are all the rage with Generation Z hipsters and dads in the 80’s if you happen to have access to a time machine. I’m not sure if he was there for the after-party or if he was just hanging out, but the bartender told me he is now a coach for the Texas Longhorns and I had no reason to believe he was being untruthful. Street had a few excellent seasons as a closer in Oakland before moving on to greener pastures and giant sacks of money elsewhere. I remember being impressed at the time that he was a 21 year old rookie who had to learn how to “piss standing up” with very little minor league experience. Mr. Street had been relegated to oblivion in my mind, and now it all came rushing back with a sun-baked bang. I suppose we didn’t know how good we had it considering we had to endure and agonize with the likes of Jim Johnson and Brian Fuentes since his departure, which now seems as if it happened so many moons ago. 

Junk Wax Era for a Junk Wax Culture

No one jumps when the phone rings at Todd Van Poppel’s house. It rings almost constantly, and not just because Todd is a typical high school senior. It rings because Todd just may be the next Nolan Ryan.” —Sports Illustrated

Who farted?

I was a baseball crazed ankle-biter when i read the above article in a 1990 issue of Sports Illustrated, but gave the zit-faced high school senior nary a second thought because my esteemed Oakland A’s had no shot at getting him with the 14th pick that year. Ol’ Todd didn’t help out the situation by saying he was going to college, in turn scaring off most teams, including the Braves who swallowed their pride and took some second-rate scrub named Larry “Chipper” Jones. The A’s, being the perpetual team of desperation took a shot on the guy and “Zitface” decided that Oakland was better than wearing flip-flops and kicking around a hacky sack once he got a taste of the oodles of greenbacks, loose women, unquestioned admiration, and the sycophantic ass-kissing big leaguers deal with in every city around the country.

Apparently, when the A’s signed Van Poppel, they signed him to a major league contract and not a minor contract. Consequently, the A’s could only use a limited number of minor league options on Van Poppel, so they had to rush him through the bush-leagues and he never really had time to develop. In scouting reports, Van Poppel was described as having a blazing fastball with no movement, which helps explain the discrepancy between scout analytics and the reality of his career. In the end, Van Poppel was a career reliever who bounced around from the Tigers, Rangers, Pirates, Cubs, and Reds; never coming close to Ryan’s 324 wins and ended his career with a paltry 40-52 record, essentially becoming one of the biggest busts in baseball history. I, like every other red-blooded American dipshit bought into the false and largely propagated by Upper Deck baseball card craze of the 90’s and hoarded “Van Pimple” cardboard –never dreaming that you could find it (with case) 22 years later for exactly 25 cents on amazon.com. (with the case being more valuable than the card.)  I should have listened to my economics teacher explaining why you can’t print more of something and expect it to keep its value–and would have been better off putting the damn thing in my bicycle spokes.

The First World Pit of Hell

It has many stories

I wasn’t close to my father, who was a rather opaque person. He wasn’t unkind — I mean, he didn’t have any malicious thoughts toward me, just a kind of a vague indifference. Eventually I started to feel the same, even forgetting for years at a time that he even existed. One day, out of tremendous boredom, I decided to stalk him on the internet, and there was only one thing: a news interviewer asking him why he thought the water in the port near his home was so green. He didn’t know, but remembered swimming in the muck as a small boy, thinking nothing of it. I instantly regretted this action.

Many hours later I was a little (majorly) tipsy and tired of swimming in the salty sea of regret and memories when I did what anybody in that situation does–I turned to internet consumer therapy. I have been a Nordstroms credit card holder for several years now and have always had good standing on my account, so I decided to buy brand new A’s cap since I had worn the same one since 2010. I spent nearly 30 minutes placing an order only for it to be canceled 5 minutes later. I then spent 30 minutes on the phone with an operator who decided I should re-start the entire process again. In conclusion, I decided to stick with the soiled, banged-up cap I’ve had since 2010. I had a guy spill an expensive, local, craft brewed, 15 dollar beer on it in Seattle trying to catch a foul ball in what could be called a mosh pit within a legion of outstretched hands, and you can’t replicate those types of lovely memories. (In the end, yours truly caught that ball)

Please accept our apology for the inconvenience.” At times that feels like a representation of what I feel about the world and how I’ve observed the mechanics of reality: but it was only a baseball cap they were speaking of. I decided to rate them 1 star, and thought it was amusing how we are constantly rating things on a five star scale, from movies, hotels, Uber drivers, Amazon gift cards, and even The Statue of Liberty. (How do you rate her?) This has just been one of those days. It feels like a game of MadLibs where you are sort of blindly filling in the blanks and hoping it makes sense in the end. There is a keen sense of raw honesty and ironic detachment filling me as the sun beats down like a goofy friend with a Peter Tosh record and some words of encouragement.

Interview with poet, baseball writer and Brewers fan, Steve Myers

Steve was one of the very first (if not the first) individuals to post a comment on this blog, and we’ve been “internet friends” ever since. 10 long years later, we are both published and still banging away on our keyboards–what a strange, wild, wacky world.  I recently contacted him to chat about his book, Dreaming .400: Tales of Baseball Redemption. 

Let’s start at your formative years. Talk a bit about where you grew up, how you gravitated to the game of baseball, and who were your favorite players?

I grew up in Milwaukee, but to say that would be kind of a lie since I was raised in a suburb of Milwaukee – Whitefish Bay… people around town called it “white folks bay” for obvious reasons. There were no bars there either, but there was a city bus line…the number 15 took us down to Milwaukee’s east side and elsewhere, to eat at diners, slip flasks into laundry mats and drink at bars which was always a scary self-conscious venture, for me anyway. I don’t know what initially triggered my interest in baseball but my dad took a bunch of friends and me to a doubleheader at County Stadium against the Red Sox. I don’t remember who won. I think it was in 1977? I woulda been seven at the time. I also remember my dad bringing home a pack of cards in 1975, all those colored Crayola explosion borders. I remember one of the cards – Jim Brewer, probably because I knew the Brewers played in Milwaukee, and yet, here was this pitcher with Brewer for the last name and he played for the Dodgers? It was confusing. I was no Einstein.

My favorite player was and will always be Harold Baines. I first saw him on WFLD channel 32 Chicago in the early ’80s. I don’t know what it was about him…maybe because he was an outfielder and so was I…maybe because he batted left-handed and so did I or maybe because he just seemed so mellow and humble or maybe it was the way he lifted up his front foot when batting?  I later got to meet him in Sarasota, Florida where the sox trained and where my grandpa lived. He was standing with an Amish family. I waited my turn. He didn’t talk too much to me, but he sort of smiled and signed the ball I handed him. I later learned that Baines was from St. Michaels, Maryland and that there are a lot of Amish there. That explained that. Anyway, the contrast of Baines in his uni and the Amish family in their unis stuck with me in a whole lot of democracy happening on the urban street corner sort of way.

I have a nice baseball card collection, nice as in large. When I was a kid, I was a sucker for the rookie cards, thinking I would make a money-killing future. I bought tons of Dwight Gooden rookies in 84 and then a few years later, John Kruk and Kal Daniels and Barry Bonds and Barry Larkin, McGwire, all from that wood border 87 Topps set. I did score a 1968 Nolan Ryan rookie at a card show for 10 bucks which I’ve since sold for 500. I wish I wouldn’t have. it’s the only card I’ve ever sold. I did it to send money to my kid’s mom. I should have talked my way into postponing alimony.
I also got a Johnny Bench rookie, the same year, 1968. I still have that one. I still collect too. I’d like to one day have every Brewers card ever made or at least every Topps Brewers card. Seems doable since the Brewers are not that old…51 years. So am I. I like knowing that I was born the same year the Brewers were. I haven’t been too loyal. I spent many years away from “The Crew,” but they always welcomed me back…a forgiving family.
I played Strat-o Matic baseball as a teenager and into my adult life. The awesome thing about our strat-o group (there were five of us) is that one of the players was Craig Counsell, former MLB player and current manager of the Brewers and another guy was Galen Polivka, bass player for The Hold Steady. It’s awesome because their dreams came true!!!….Craig became a big leaguer and Galen became a member of a rock and roll band. The Hold Steady just came out with a new album too so they’ve been together for a good stretch. Anyway, I’m happy for them both and a little jealous too, mostly because I hate my job. I work in a hospital, in the warehouse, delivering supplies all over the place. too heavy. bad for my back. I’m freaking 160 pounds and not strong, but there is that team dimension that’s kind of interesting like a dugout with all the ages and personalities, plus I don’t have a boss breathing down my neck so it does award me time to jot down notes for my blog posts and stories. I’m currently working on a second collection of short stories which is supposed to be out in September or October 2021 but these dates always change which is cool because deadlines suck. I like the extra time and freedom to further develop characters, clarify themes, and whatever else to make a story more compelling.

 

  • You have an interesting and unique writing style. Who were some writers that influenced you, and who are you reading at the moment?
I didn’t do much reading as a kid, only baseball books and one book about pro quarterbacks in the NFL. I knew all the quarterbacks in the early ’80s and weird, I still remember them…Jim Plunkett, Steve Grogan, brian sipe, and on and on I guess the shit from our early teen years stays stuck in our mind somewhere. I took a beat generation class at UW-Milwaukee in the early 1990s and that rocked my world, from narrow stretches to the wide open. The teacher – James Liddy was from Ireland and a poet, the kind of guy who looked under your hood and provoked, brought us closer to ourselves.  He encouraged us to hang out at bars and really demonstrated how to live a happy, single life, a life of drink and friends. Kerouac is definitely an influence, maybe Huxley and Hesse too. I read a bunch of their books. I also liked Shoeless Joe by WP Kinsella. that’s probably an influence too since I write short stories with baseball references sprinkled about. And then there’s my fellow bloggers like you, Gary…I love your rants and creativity and excellent writing so somehow I’m sure you’ve influenced me too. I’m currently rereading Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl…a book about a psychiatrist stuck in Auschwitz and other concentration camps and how he put to use psychology he had developed prior to the war. It’s called it logotherapy — and in summary, seems to say that if there is a meaning to our lives, we can endure any circumstances. The psychological terms are a bit boring and hard to grasp, but the narrative from his time in the camps is fascinating. I love the metaphor of prison life…I often feel like I’m a prisoner at work, even worse, since, at work, I have to deal with so many people and in prison, you get some time alone or maybe most of the time is alone or with the bunkmate or whatever. I tend to be a hermit which is kind of good since writing fiction is one of the main reasons I wake up in the morning and to do that requires time alone, lots of it….and getting down? depressed? writer’s block? those things happen but talking to my psychiatrist or an afternoon whisky helps. It’s a good thing I live in Canada. my doctor doesn’t cost me a penny. not to go on a tangent, but I think socialized medicine helps individuals from feeling estranged, knowing that a government cares a bit about them. the other book I’m reading is Journey To The End of the Night by Louis Ferdinand Celine. I’m only a few pages in but he strikes me as a badass, a hardcore cynic, a massive critic, and a great writer. I learned about him from an interview with Kerouac way back when. At work, on my lunch break, I read Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller. I like the way it flows and the low-life beautiful characters he creates or chronicles. I’m never sure if it’s autobiographical or fictional or maybe both?  And the book I just finished was Adventures of Wim by Luke Rinehart. It took me a while to know what the freaking thing was about but when i did (it was a long book) I dug it. the concept reminded me of that Kafka book – The Castle…if I remember right…something about knocking on a door and hoping to get “in” when in fact, there is no ‘” in” with the trick being to keep knocking? That longing is the secret to some sort of happiness or a reason to wake up in the morning or afternoon…or ride around in a hearse…whatever you like.

 

 I’ve read your excellent book Dreaming .400: Tales of Baseball Redemption, and I was wondering what your writing process is like, and when did you realize that you wanted to partake in the life of the scribe?

I wrote my first poem in that beat class I took back at UW-Milwaukee so I guess that’s when I thought about writing when I started to take it seriously or not seriously but having that ambition, that vain desire to be published. The poem went something like — “didn’t catch the train but beats blow fresh air my way… the Ferris wheel begins.” I remember Liddy, the teacher liking it and that made my day or my year or my life since I still remember him liking it. I wrote hundreds and hundreds of letters, back and forth with three friends, in particular, Liddy too, so they probably influenced me as well. I’m not sure what my process is other than the story idea comes in a specific moment like a flash of light with a lead sentence, a good sentence, a provocative one…and that sentence is like a miner’s light that shines through the whole story. I don’t really have to try to stay on subject because that first sentence guides me subconsciously or if it doesn’t, I make changes where necessary. I very rarely sit down and write a story in one sitting. I work and rework sentences and like my theme to be somewhat invisible so the reader has to do some connecting dots and thinking on their own, but not too much… I don’t want the reader to be confused. I think my writing is simple and straight-forward, probably because I’ve become simple and straight-forward. I think I used to be more confusing because I felt confused. Now, more than anything, I’m pissed off. One other thing about my writing process…I often take long breaks from stories, to let characters and plots marinate awhile in my mind. But there’s a danger in that because if i neglect a character, he or she won’t speak to me, not literally. I don’t have hallucinations, but speak to me in the sense of giving me ideas of things for them to do, things so the reader can get a better understanding of who they are…same with plots…I have to focus on it, give it attention. then the miracle can happen, that breakthrough that links the first paragraph to the last one. And as far as length goes, I find that a 4-page story is sometimes too long and a 14-page story is too short. Reading helps my writing.

 

  • Do you have any Brewers predictions for 2021?

I didn’t watch many games last year, but the word was that second baseman Keston Hiura stunk up the place so what do the brewers do this off-season?  they signed Kolten Wong and moved Hiura to first base… a brilliant move, not that 1b is so easy to play…in fact, all that footwork strikes me as very challenging, not quite “spinning nine plates at the same time,” but easier than picking grasses in left field. Having a middle infield of Wong and Arcia….gonna be fun to watch. i’ll say 90 wins and another trip to the playoffs or maybe I’m too optimistic, unlike my dad who is from Boston. He knows better, being a Red Sox fan all those years before BIG PAPI and Manny and Pedro strolled into Bean-Town. Kind of a laugh in the face of Yawkey Boston tradition, if my history is right since Boston was so late to integrate. Thanks for having me on the FRO!!

Beer and Japanese Nachos

I’ve come a long way since I had to meticulously set up my VCR to record the Game of the Week on my lousy, buzzing and rolling miniature television crowned with broken rabbit ears. (and Mel Allen’s TWIB!)  It almost seems absurd that I can now watch any game of my choosing on my phone while exercising or sitting on the toilet, and up to four different games simultaneously on my laptop. And that’s exactly what I decided to do on a lazy Friday. Escape. Open a few cans of Lone Star, tear open a bag of chips and salsa, and…just…escape. Does anyone care about Spring Training and its shuffling of bush leaguers and odd rules? Probably not.

Shohei Ohtani was on the hill for the Halos and that made me harken back to the time I saw him pitch in an exhibition game at Dodger Stadium one curiously freezing night in Los Angeles. The bleachers were teeming with Japanese, no doubt there to see their fellow countryman Ohtani pitch, and a young lady walking by my seat in the aisle spilled a large tray of nachos on me and my F*** the Angels t-shirt. (The stains exist to this day and I am still resolute about that idea) She apologized profusely and meekly in broken English and I felt terrible for her and assured her that I would wash myself off in the bathroom and there were no hard feelings. I also made a mental note of the very odd cultural difference/dichotomy of the Japanese dressing as if they were attending a business function/fashion show rather than the American way of dress which was mostly casual and lacking visual ingenuity with a few jerseys and baseball caps thrown into the mix. I honestly had never seen anyone wear a suit and tie at a baseball game that didn’t involve black and white footage of a guy cheering for Babe Ruth and tossing a fedora into the air. Is this a thing?

These glorified practices are opiate-inducing, laid-back affairs and I was watching passively as Mike Trout was pulled from the game in the 3rd and was probably teeing off by the 5th. Matt Olson does what Matt Olson does and hits a moon-shot to RF in his “feast or famine” playing style that is popular with big leaguers and Olson seems to excel at. The A’s decided to throw in a pitcher by the name of Brian Schlitter (who didn’t play last year because the minor leagues went the way of the dodo) and I had to stifle a laugh as I had written about this dude waaay back in 2019 before that mystery guy even thought about eating the delicious flying mammal that caused a global pandemic: A’s call up Brian Schlitter, A’s bullpen still in the shitter.  You ever hear that tired cliche–“the more things change the more they stay the same?” As you may have guessed, Schlitter did indeed put the game in the shitter, but I didn’t notice as equal measure of beer and Spring Training kicked in, and I was soon floating on clouds while verbal sparring with Morpheus in lotus land. Final: Angels 7 A’s 3

John Fisher really, really, really sucks

He’s not dead!

In life, it’s best to go about it removed of preconceptions. Things tend to work out better that way. Besides purging potential disappointment…Ah, fuck it…welcome to the well-worn, mundane path of innocuous disagreement known as Hot Stove Baseball Talk!

If this is a time when Oakland fans are supposed to stand back and admire “The Process” and the genius(es) behind it, then let’s face it, these are moves you imagine and contemplate while hammered at the bar with buddies. Of course, you laugh at the inadequacy, stupidity, and audacity the next day, if not in the present moment. But damned if this isn’t *ahem* reality, or as I like to call it–the “Moneyball Hangover” set in motion due to piss-poor ownership.

Do the “geniuses” ( Is Brad Pitt still part of this process? Inquiring minds want to know)
have deeper insight than I do? Do they feel the same deflation or laid-back apathy? Because the passage of time and the numbers on a page usually tell you the value of a player and his present capabilities. And hardly ever, if ever…lie. And as a fan, you can be caustic and cynical, but also supportive. I believe this is called tough love.

Elvis Andrus: The epitome of average with a career .702 OPS and that includes the younger, career-high years. (The sad thing is that the A’s would settle for that OPS, and for readers that aren’t complete geeks–those numbers would quantify as average–not special, and not a beautiful and unique snowflake.) Every time this guy takes hacks against a Rangers pitcher this season half of his salary would be paid by the team he was trying to hurt–a shocking sign of the absolute desperation to wash their hands of him, and since they are AL West rivals, confidence in the inability to perform against them 18 times. The press releases say he “smiles a lot” and “appears to have a good time.” Oh, goody! We got an old guy with back problems who can’t hit and smiles a lot. I’ll have to remember that next time I’m contemplating watching a game. “We’re getting our asses kicked, but at least ol’ blue suede shoes is out there smiling and having a good time. My mind is at ease now.” That may be fine for the casual fan, but give me a guy like Mark Ellis who never smiled.
silver lining: we needed a SS…nothing more. He’s a body. A very expensive body. D+

Adam Kolarek: He’s a pretty darn good LOOGY (google it) in an era when the LOOGY is dying because the higher strikeout rates soar, the less that exploiting lefty-versus-lefty matchups matters. (And this makes Kolarek especially vulnerable as a ground ball pitcher) Conspiracies aside, he averages less than an inning per appearance but can be a valuable late-inning asset in a tough situation with a left-handed bopper at the dish as they had a minuscule 0.34 WHIP against the guy. If this tall drink of water can give us 50 innings and an ERA a little above or below 3.50 I would consider this a win.
silver lining: shut down the lefties and send their ass to the bench shaking their heads B-

Sergio Romo: Here’s a situation of, “whatever happened to…?” and then you find out he’s a 37-year-old has-been who was dumped by the Marlins and the Twins and is currently doing Kenny Powers cosplay in the Mexican League….because he has risen from the baseball graveyard. At this point in time, he is undoubtedly a gas can as proven in the AL Wildcard last season when he destroyed the Twins chances in the 9th inning of Game 1, essentially giving the Asterisks the win and all the momentum they needed to take the series. Probably not thought of too fondly in Minnesota. This guy was also a prominent SF Giant during their fugazi dynasty, so the fans may not accept him (may even boo him mercilessly, just ask Jim Johnson) if he struggles right away because of provincial disputes.
silver lining: he’s known to have a really good slider and we needed a bullpen guy. I don’t know….apparently any guy. C-

RIP Tommy Lasorda

Lasorda pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1956, a lifetime before the SlimFast commercials.

Like most non-Dodgers fans, I was hard wired to detest Tommy Lasorda growing up–specifically because his Dodgers defeated the ’88 Oakland ball-club for the World Series title, a team that was the (still) adored childhood entry point for my current baseball obsession. Tommy and his Dodgers introduced me to the heartbreak that only baseball could bring and in turn dulls your hardball spirit each year with consecutive disappointment– a vital learning lesson on this mortal coil that you must shake off the dark moments, realize pain is a part of life and proceed with an open mind and an open heart while you deal with it and get on with it.

Of course, as I got older I had learned to appreciate the larger than life paisan as a great ambassador with a wicked tongue and a great baseball mind. Often interesting was how he crafted the masterful friction between his foul-mouthed, devil-may-care, volatile attitude and the tenderness (although Dave Kingman and Kurt Bevacqua may disagree) he offered his players and adoring fans. We came to love this Italian boy weaned from a hard-scrabbled existence and a distant and foreign era in hardball history, a time when sports figures weren’t concerned with the avatar of virtuousness so much as when they could sneak in a beer or three.

In the Summer of 2014 I was attending Dodgers games quite often as I lived fairly close to Dodger Stadium. One day my girlfriend’s brother–who had on a lark brought binoculars–pointed out that Lasorda was in his typical seat behind home plate dozing off. We checked on him every inning or so out of humorous curiosity and, sure enough, Tommy was still in slumber with nary a stir even with a rise in excitement from the crowd. From then on when we attended a game we would bet a hotdog or a beer on what inning Lasorda would decide to visit slumber land with the smart bet being most often than not the 5th.

RIP, Skip.

The Asterisks may have the can, but the A’s prove to be the garbage

“Baseball is visceral, tragic, and absurd with only fleeting moments of happiness; it may be the best representation of life.” –Adrian Cardenas

Sorry, baseball world. It was up to this ball-club to exact some sort of small revenge for the inadequacies against the universe and they failed. This was a demoralizing series, as the swingin’ dick Asterisks, in a perpetual climate of contradiction, proved that cheating without repercussion or self-reproach is the new American way of life. This approach is celebrated in the White House (and politics in general) and has trickled down into the muck of the baseball world as the catalysts bounce back and forth from “powerful” to “victim” at the drop of a hat or whenever it is convenient to benefit from said situation. When did we become a bunch of cowards? Even as a child I knew that when I did something terrible I felt remorse without trying to rub it in the victim’s face. That basic and humanistic concept is way over the heads of these “men.”

Am I being dramatic here? In the end, despite the unmitigated disaster, my friend (who doesn’t give a toss about baseball) and I toddled down to the local art museum after the game, (don’t judge, we wore masks and the tickets were very limited) and afterward, in the suburban slob tradition, we scarfed a bunch of fast food, coddled in blankets while embracing auteur status of gory B-grade camp/crap horror movies. (Only because there were no more Cobra Kai episodes after binge-watching the shit out of the first 2 seasons) Very sophisticated stuff. This led me to forget about millionaires prancing around in pajamas and playing with balls. Embracing the important things in life. And we all need that in these trying times of pandemics, assholes, liars, cheaters, and pricks that surround us every day lacking any sort of compassion, justice, or truth that ultimately corrupts their blackened hearts.

The Asterisks won this series fair and square and undoubtedly have a powerful lineup, but in the playoffs pitching is always the Prom Queen and they have a noticeable lack of it. (So did the A’s but that is another story) How good is this team? Perhaps they stumbled upon a “playoff hot streak” à la the 2019 Nationals. Ahh, except that team had– you guessed it–pitching. Their shit-smudge dream will inevitably end, although, regrettably not by our hands, and their classless fans will crawl back under the rocks from whence they came. Go Rays! or Yankees? (I can’t believe I actually said that) 2020 can you please burn in hell? Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to go put my head in a cheese grater while searching for early signs of senility.