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An interview with Major League A*Holes

Is it common knowledge that Jose was a cuckold with his brother or is that just all in my head?

I hate most baseball podcasts if only because they usually re-hash things you already knew last week or act like fabricated shills for an organization that doesn’t give them one thin red dime for their efforts. The hyper-positivity is nauseating. I stumbled upon this podcast and fell in love instantly because of Ryan and Pete’s grittiness and ability to “tell it like it is” with character, integrity, and a sense of humor. Ladies, Gentlemen, and Non-Binary… I give you…Major League A*Holes.

1) Let’s start at the genesis of the operation. How did you guys meet, and why did you decide to do a baseball podcast?

Ryan: We started working together at a Chicago ad agency in 1998. I walked by Pete’s desk one day when he just blurted out “I can’t take it anymore, I have to go buy some AC/DC!” so I immediately thought we should be friends. We also had a mutual love of sports and started a fantasy hockey league with a spreadsheet and newspapers (pre-internet boom).

We started a fantasy baseball league in 2004 called Burnt Ivy after some fucker poured acid on a portion of the Wrigley Field ivy. My team name was Major League Assholes after President Bush 2 got caught calling a reporter that on a hot mic. We changed the league name to Major League Assholes the next year as it still is today.

In 2010, we got the idea to start an irreverent baseball blog covering Pete’s White Sox and my Tigers & Cubs. Ten years later we got lazy, stopped writing, and started a podcast instead because it was easier.

Pete: So Smitty and I met at work at a marketing agency in Chicago working on print ads for Sears… yes we’re fucking old. I was his manager, and I can tell you that he was a decent employee, now we’ve come full circle and he’s really my manager with our podcasts. (Laughs) We loved to talk about baseball and I don’t remember the exact event, maybe Smitty does, but it went like this. “If Carlos Zambrano ever does this, we will start a baseball blog.” It was something we had thought up because it was such ridiculous behavior. I think we made it ridiculous because we really don’t know anything about doing a baseball blog, so we kind of were like we want to do it, but were kind of nervous. Well, I think a year later Zambrano did said thing, we texted each other, and Major League Assholes was launched. We changed it shortly after to Major League A*Holes so we could have a consistent name on social media and advertise on T-shirts at baseball games.

2) What are your favorite teams and what players did you follow growing up?

Ryan: I grew up in Michigan as a Tigers fan. Mark “The Bird” Fidrych was the first player I remember but he blew out his arm after a year so I couldn’t really follow him. But after that, the ‘84 Tigers were the shit and I got to watch Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker turn double plays for 20 years. By the way, BOTH should be in the fucking Hall of Fame, but I’ll spare you from that long-winded that tangent again…

After Tigers Stadium, Wrigley Field was the first major league ballpark I ever visited back in the mid-‘80s when I was 16. My aunt and uncle had season tickets in the upper deck down the first baseline. And I was hooked. Everything about Wrigley and Chicago, in general, was fucking awesome compared to the boring suburban landscape I was born into in mid-Michigan. From that day forward, my goals were to go to college and then get a job in Chicago. I moved to Chicago after I graduated from Central Michigan University in 1997, got a job, and eventually bought a condo a mile north of Wrigley Field in 2003.

I’d say my first favorite Cubs player was the Shooter, Rod Beck. If anyone tries to tell you Kenny Powers from East Bound & Down wasn’t based on him, they’re full of shit. Dude was fucking legendary — glorious mullet, terrifying fu manchu, sizeable gut, cool nickname, ominous presence on the mound, lived in a Winnebago, got fucked up with fans after games — he personified everything awesome about baseball in my mind.

Probably gave Eric Clapton a run for his money.

Pete: Born and raised on Chicago’s Southside, so I was birthed into White Sox-dom. I was even born at a hospital on Chicago’s Southside that was five minutes from Comiskey Park. My entire Italian side of the family grew-up in Bridgeport the neighborhood where the Sox play still to this day. The new stadium is just across the street from the original Comiskey Park. I have a shadowy memory of my first game in the mid-‘70s where Wilbur Wood, Tom Kelley, and Dick Allen signed a ball for me. My favorite teams outside of 2005, are 1983 and 1994 in that order. ‘83 had those sweet jerseys with Luzinski, Kittle, and Baines hitting roof shots. Then you had a coked-up Lamar Hoyt dominating batters, whatever it takes, right? I kid, I kid. So many characters on that team and Tony La Russa brought them together. Hopefully, he has an encore performance left. It was around the same time I was playing little league and was always on the Giants, every year. I loved the uniforms, so I started following the Giants the best I could back then. I was limited to appearances on network TV and newspapers. Not the best way to follow a team, but I did. Will “The Thrill” Clark was my favorite Giant growing-up. He looked like some guy you could hang out with that could crush the baseball. Of course, in the ’90s Barry Bonds became my favorite Giant and my hatred for Dusty Baker began. I was so excited when he ended up with the Cubs. I’m like he’s going to fuck up your pitching staff and fall short every year. Enjoy!

3) Talk a bit about the legendary Game 7 of the 2016 WS–where were you and how did you process it?

Ryan: As the t-shirt says, ‘The best game ever played was on a November Wednesday night in Cleveland.’ I was watching it at my place a mile north of Wrigley Field with a buddy of mine. He panicked and took off after Rajai Davis hit the home run to tie it in the 8th so I was left alone pacing laps around my small condo. The rain delay and isolation certainly didn’t help my fractured mental state. When they finally won it, I freaked out and didn’t know what to do so I just left and started walking down to Wrigley. My street and the entire neighborhood was completely packed with cars honking horns and people going nuts. The cops had built a perimeter around the stadium so I couldn’t get closer than across the street from it, but it was all good. I skipped work the next day and captured a lot of fun photos of the scene.

Pete: Game 7 is the game I wanted to end in a tie or never be played. I’m a White Sox fan watching the Indians play the Cubs. Fuck me. Anyway, I was happier with the outcome because, while the Cubs are intra-city rivals, they are not division foes and I couldn’t wait to see the frat party unfold with all the stupid shit that fan base would do. The average fan knows the ingredients of a can of Bud Light better than the starting line-up. It was also nice to see Jason Heyward earn his $21 million as a public speaker. Although, there have been some recent theories that it never happened or was blown out of proportion… I was watching the game at home with a bourbon. I shit you not, not living on the Southside you could walk into a bar and get a seat with no issues during the Cubs World Series. I went to our local tap house in Lemont, Pollyanna for Game 2, showed up around game time and the place only had two tables occupied, one by Cubs fans. It’s a pretty hard divide in some areas of Chicagoland.

4) What is going on with the trope of a Chicago sports fan either being a cigar-chomping fat ass or a drunk college bro?

Ryan: The former is a Southside stereotype perpetuated by the Super Fans SNL skit, but it’s pretty accurate. The latter is just Wrigleyville. I can’t imagine how much worse it’ll be once the world gets back to normal and the bros come out to party again. But that’s more of an issue outside the ballpark in Wrigleyville, the neighborhood bar scene around the stadium.

Pete: The cigar-chomping fat-asses are the post-50 crowd (shhhhh, I’m getting close). Those are normally tied back to Bears fans too. It’s been a thing here forever. The older crews love to eat a shit-ton of unhealthy food, that’s delicious, and smoke their cigars. Da Bears skit on SNL is dead-on. I have relatives like that. I would say the cigar-chomping fat-ass for baseball favors my beloved White Sox more than the Cubs, but there are a few in every crowd. Drunk college bro is pretty much a Wrigley thing. Millennials with disposable income going to day games during the week. The reason most Sox games are at night is they are the blue-collar team of Chicago, and they’d have even smaller crowds if they played day games. For the Cubs, a tourist attraction for their field, it doesn’t matter. It’s a white-collar team with tons of disposable income. It’s a party, and even though it took 17 years for me to attend my first Cubs game, which I sat behind a post, I can honestly say that a sunny day in the bleachers is a good time.

Toilets are overrated.

5) Are the Wrigley bleachers really as bad as everyone says they are? (drunk college kids puking everywhere and pissing on themselves)

Ryan: That’s more reputation than reality. It hasn’t been that bad for close to 15 years now, but it certainly was before ticket prices went thru the roof. No one wants to pay $100 to get into a game just to blackout or get kicked out. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all getting fucked up out there, but it’s not a puke/piss-fest.

Pete: Not anymore, the bleachers have changed throughout the years, it’s kind of funny. Originally, they were the cheapest ticket in the park and were the home of middle-aged Cub fans getting wasted during the day. That was the 60’s through the mid-’80s. Then the Cubs hired Harry Caray away from the White Sox and the frat party began. It was brilliant marketing by the Cubs. That’s one thing they became really good at back then, marketing a shit product, but filling the stands. They sold the beauty of the park along with the party atmosphere… “loveable losers”. Seriously, kudos to them. Especially because back then Wrigleyville was not the thriving bar scene it later turned into in the early 2000s. So yes, the ’90s and a lot of the 2000s the bleachers were a mess. No doubt about it, but then Theo came to town, made the bleachers the best seat in sports, raised the price to $50 a ticket average, and now it’s just fun. Yes, fans can be seen wasted, but that’s on both sides of town.

6) You guys do a segment on your show called “Asshole of the Week.” Who are the biggest assholes in MLB today and why?

Ryan: I’ve got to give that honor to Commissioner Rob Manfred. We just gave him our prestigious Asshole of the Year award for 2020 so he’s the reigning champ. His bad faith negations with the Players Association, leveraging the pandemic to dismantle the minor league system, which put a lot of people out of work just because he could, and his ability to talk out of both sides of his mouth makes him the biggest asshole in MLB today. I seriously question if he even likes baseball.

Pete: I’m giving it to Manfred hands down. I named him, Commissioner Palpatine because of his constant attempts at manipulation of the players and fans. His absolute power clauses in these agreements are so Star Wars prequels it’s not even funny. He only has his own interests and the owners’ interests in mind. He couldn’t care less about the players and fans, and I fear this will lead to a strike in 2022. I hope I’m wrong.

7) What do you see in the future for the podcast?

Ryan: It’s weird because we started the podcast just before COVID hit and it ended up being the perfect hobby to have when you can’t hang out or go to games. We haven’t even gone through a full season yet, but we’ve had so much to talk about starting with the Astros scandal, then all the bullshit negotiations to get the season started, the 60-game sprint, the White Sox rising, the Cubs imploding, the Tigers rebuilding, and the Giants doing whatever the fuck they’re doing.

But to answer your question, I think it might be fun to start doing some interviews to get a little broader perspective so it’s not just Pete and I barking at each other for an hour at a time. I’m also kicking around the idea of adding a 5th team that we start to cover extensively in addition to the Cubs, Sox, Tigers, and Giants. Hell, maybe Pete even has some ideas for the future… Stay tuned, mofos!

Pete: The great thing about Major League A*Holes is Smitty and I don’t take ourselves too seriously and we go with the flow. Sometimes we change the show on the fly because while we always have a preset outline, the conversation takes us in a different direction. I think the future of Major League A*Holes is anyone listening can be promised that we’ll always be trying new segments, we’ve already introduced two new staples this year; “askhole” and bad tweets. Askhole is we each ask either a completely assholish question about each other’s teams and bad tweets started out as Bob’s Bad Tweets dedicated to the disaster known as Bob Nightengale and already morphed into bad tweets by sports media personalities. We’re always going to be trying to make things better and more entertaining for everyone.

Website

majorleagueaholes.com

Social

Twitter: @MajorLeagAholes

Insta: @majorleagueaholes

Facebook: @majorleagueaholes

The A’s are caught, once again, digging through the trash

Is there any more pitching in there? We need bullpen help.

I’m sitting on the toilet regretting last nights consuming of toxic sludge and listening to the Minutemen “Shit You Hear at Parties,” and it is 1 minute and 11 seconds of pure L.A. South Bay punk rock gold. Immediately after, I had an ex-girlfriend randomly text me to talk about this, that, or the other and I sort of had to stifle a chuckle. There was a time, long ago, that my sister had bought Tears for Fears tickets for just the two of us, and I couldn’t magically conjure a third ticket from the already sold-out show from thin air or my asshole so an argument and an unsubstantiated break-up ensued. (So much for “Sowing the Seeds of Love”) Pleasant reminiscing quickly turned to anger and I scatter-brained a quick click on the “block” button and let out a sigh. Disaster averted and personal level of Zen attainment unchallenged. Let’s check the news…shall we?

Nothing can gloss my eyes over quicker than billionaires arguing over revenue sharing and salary caps, yet I see that the Brokeland Pathetics continue to “piss in the ocean” and threw the fans into a fervor by acquiring pitcher Cole Irvin from the Phillies on layaway, (cash considerations) essentially doing their yearly dumpster diving and claiming to be cash poor, virtually homeless and small market. According to Forbes, owner John Fisher is currently worth $2.9 BILLION and thus is one of the richest owners in all of baseball. (Where’s Walter Haas when you need him?) As of this writing, the team currently sits $121 million under the luxury tax and has yet to sign a single free agent. This team is essentially banking on “Moneyball” rhetoric to pacify nitwit, short-sighted sports fans as close-fisted owners continue to profit off unprecedented increases in MLB revenues. In the end, sadly, my main concern and desperate priority concerning the A’s for the next decade isn’t winning, but their commitment to staying in Oakland.
As the world turns…

This Cole Irvin kid has had a terrible pro career but he absolutely tore up AAA for some team called the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. This leads to more confusion. Why would the Phillies give up on a guy that had an iota of talent for cash? And what exactly is an Iron Pig? In the end, we have become what Cubs fans used to be (without the idyllic ballpark): happily skipping to the yard to have a hotdog, beer, some sunshine, and a good time with the kids or grandpa, but ultimately having no delusions about a chance to win the “worthless piece of metal.” (Hello Rob Manfred!) It’s certainly disheartening when you see a young, fun, and razzle-dazzle “small market” team like the Padres signing big-time free agents, but that’s been the life of an A’s fan for the past 30 years or so. We are simply and inexorably the Ramen Noodles of pro sports, and Irvin settles nicely into that “cheap” and “organizational depth” category that the Oakland front office will happily pluck off the swap meet scrap heap. In the end, what do I know?… I’m just an ill-informed gasbag who is now stepping off his soapbox to happily one day put more money in the pockets of the grifters known as MLB. It’s a disgusting and hypocritical cycle and proves that the opinions of sports fans are often silly and redundant.

It’s almost time for grown men to play with balls and grip some hard wood

“Sports are like the reward for a functioning society.” –Sean Doolittle, Nationals

My choice for 2020 Covid A.L. MVP

Is there any reason why we, as a barely functioning society descending into chaos, deserve this “reward?” My feelings heading into the 2020 baseball season are an equal mixture of pure wonder, curiosity and the fetishization of a shit show. 60 games during a pandemic doesn’t really prove anything and is akin to a beer league or a wiffle ball tournament, and I believe that’s where the “wonder and curiosity” stems from. The “shit show” on the other hand should be fairly explanatory to any purist with a semi-open mind, as the winner of the World Series of Corona will be seen in hindsight as *Asterisk Champions (although slightly more legitimate than the Astros nefarious and refutable crown, but this time Manfred will supply a keg for the after party)

There will be cardboard cutouts in the stands and guys wearing masks sans spitting and licking with piped in crowd noise to simulate a good time; and why not throw a few drunk guys in the bleachers for maximum “realness?” How wonderfully psychedelic! How absolutely kitsch! Do we get pizza and snow cones after the game too? And I think we should all take a moment to thank whatever god we worship that at least one tradition–cup readjustment–isn’t going anywhere. Although ass slapping might still be up in the air because there still isn’t any proof the virus does or doesn’t spread through swamp-ass. Perhaps the players can celebrate with a slight nod and half-smile, akin to seeing your ex-girlfriend in a public setting as your current lover stands there, oblivious to the fact.

There is trepidation because of the naked truth that a few players (namely pitchers) that aren’t physically or emotionally ready will be absolutely GOD AWFUL and will single-handedly take away their team’s chances depending on how many times they trudge to the hill. One dreadful closer or set up man (think Jim Johnson in 2014) and your season is kaput, over, doneski, ancient history, yesterday’s news, finito. As you may or may not know, hitting is traditionally ahead of pitching for the first few months of any season. This means there will be many games that will be high scoring, good ol’ fashion “western shootouts” with pitchers in the interview room being quoted through gritted teeth, “I just couldn’t get my breaking shit over.” Remember that debacle in London last year? Get used to it, because there are going to be quite a few fireworks shooting off with the spark drizzle ready to inflame any random dumpster in the general area.

Hot button issues aside, athletes are not deities that are fundamentally different from us, but human beings that live in time and space. It will be interesting to see how they handle the psychological pressure of competition blended with mortality. Both will grip the continual psyche of all of the players in one way or another as the pelota flies out of the yard and the cash registers sing “God Bless America” while grandma quietly gives up the ghost in the next room.

The ‘Fro takes a roadtrip

The signing of this washed up turd was another desperate attempt at relevancy for the D’Bags

My travel buddy and I decided to take a break from the incessant driving to pause for a moment and take a look at the ominously beautiful and deadly Joshua Tree National Park. The sign at the entrance gave you the true indication of what the desert landscape had in store when it read, “No gas for 42 miles.” The lack of water and an eerie feeling of peacefulness seemed to envelope me, but in the back of my mind there was also the thought that human life in all its totality is not needed and scarcely wanted in this section of the world. It’s almost as if humans take some sort of sadistic pleasure in their environment slowly trying to sap the life out of them. We soaked in the atmosphere while hiking a small trail and enjoyed the lovely desert flora for awhile before heading to Phoenix.

Phoenix was 105 degrees in the shade, and the downtown streets were a veritable ghost town as we searched for Chase Field, home of the Arizona D’Bags. There was obviously no baseball due to the Rampant ‘Rona, but we decided to check out the stadium at any rate so I could cross it off my bucket list since I had never been to Arizona and scarcely had any desire to go to Chase Field before this trip. The park had a very nice early 20th century brick facade but was a little boring besides that and had a noticeable lack of any sort of player statue. (Luis Gonzalez?) I took the opportunity to take a photo with the over-payed, fake tough guy and infamous red-ass, Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner, unarguably had some great and damn near epic World Series moments, but will always be known by this writer as a guy who screamed at another player, Max Muncy, who apparently didn’t run the bases fast enough after crushing a ball into McCovey Cove. Muncy’s response? “Go get it out of the ocean.” Muncy was apparently so intimidated by Madison “Fake Tough Guy With a Girl’s Name” Bumgarner that he had t-shirts printed of the above response and wore it to the ballpark the very next day.

Bravo.

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 often a 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.

I’ve got the spirit of Milton Bradley running through me, and baseball sucks right now

This is “Tar Man” from “The Return of the Living Dead,” the greatest zombie movie of all time. You can thank me later.

In lieu of baseball, I’ve been watching a lot of movies; and you’d be surprised by how many flicks there are about nuns possessed by the devil, nazi zombies, and undead sharks. There is even a film, I kid you not, titled “Killer Sofa,” with the protagonist being a piece of furniture with a mean streak. MLB should take note, especially in modern day, about how many diversions are available to a slack-jawed couch potato like me. I’m a hardcore baseball fan in the average age range of your typical MLB consumer and even I don’t care if baseball comes back in 2020. Something is very wrong here. They say Rob Manfred is a lawyer but does that title still have any meaning after the frontal lobotomy?

***

The Red Sox recently released a statement confirming that some of their deplorable fan base uses racial slurs, which was a great first step in race relations, but doesn’t racism begin at home? The Sox didn’t sign their first black free agent until 1992 (!) and still to this day have NEVER had a black manager. If your fans are a “reflection of larger systemic issues that as an organization we need to address,” than why don’t you start with yourselves and whatever dumb ass policies that you adhered to before June of 2020? My guess is that they were too busy stealing signs to even give a shit…the whole “storied franchise” can burn in hell with now deceased, noted philanthropist (but only if you’re white) and former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey for all I care.

***

It’s recently come to my attention that some of the “gatekeepers” of baseball writing don’t take kindly to my presence in the grandiose and accolade-laden world of baseball blogging. (insert heavy eye roll here) I’m apparently a pariah among these very same anachronistic baseball writers who learned their trade either by replicating newspaper hacks or idealistic, fluffy poets who want to lovingly reminisce about the “good old days” (ok, Boomer) and never saw the game from a critical perspective. These same writers, who I assume to be literary experts, are compelled to criticize but still can’t pull their eyes away from lil ol’ me. In the end it’s just a pissing contest in which I never wanted to be involved. I started this project for simple enjoyment and to connect with fans of a singular baseball team, not to compare and contrast book deals, MLB connections and dick size. (which I would win anyway because most of you are old, shriveled up fart bags.)

***

–Support black owned businesses always, and not just during June 2020.

–Read black authors always, and not just nonfiction books about racism.

–Oh my gosh, please just wear a dang mask.

The ‘Rona gives you time to think and reminisce

Ernie “Big Ern” Young

Around 1993-1995 I completely lost interest in baseball. Being in my early 20’s my childhood interests waned and became retrograde, as they tend to do, and in my delusional mind my new interests were a bit more sophisticated and engaging. My interests in music and punk rock in general were blossoming into a near obsession as I decided to join a garage band, and I was also delving into the literary and modern art worlds: doing my duty as a young person trying to “figure it all out” with a speculating, cynical and sometimes critical mind.  And as much as I loved to scan the box scores, I just didn’t have time anymore with my band-mates, job, and girlfriend needing my immediate and rapt attention.

***

F. Scott Fitzgerald thought that one of his pals had invested too much time writing about baseball. “A boys game,” Fitzgerald said, “with no more possibilities in it than a boy could master, a game bounded by walls which kept out novelty or danger, change or adventure.” I couldn’t stomach Fitzgerald’s stuffy writing and disagreed vehemently with this statement. (I valued Descartes opinions much more, and wasn’t his vocation to think about thinking?…the absolute essence of the game) So after reading a tiny smattering of the classics: Genet, Hemingway, Hesse, Volmann, Didion, Auster, I decided one day through a haze of smoke that baseball was indeed a cerebral sport more suited to a literary rather than pictorial culture and returned to it for the ’96 season. The A’s were still the same pile of dung that I had flushed 3 years earlier, finishing 3rd in the West with a 78-84 record, but the game was interesting to me again, even fun. It was a catharsis that I hadn’t seen before.

***

This was to be Mark McGwire’s last full year with the “Elephants” (his trade the next year was devastating and truly the end of my childhood) and he finished with 52 homers. This was also Jason Giambi’s first full year and he finished with a pathetic (for that time) 20 round-trippers. I attribute this to youth and the lack of steroids–a reputation that would turn out to haunt both players. Terry Steinbach was typically solid behind the dish; and a fan favorite with a funny name, Geronimo Berroa was coming into his own. There was also a curious player, Ernie Young, who hit 19 homers that season, never to hit more than 5 in any other season in his career.

***

As I enjoyed another season of watching my lovable losers, I had decided that baseball not only doesn’t acknowledge the passage of time, it ignores it. Then began my post-adolescent and lifelong obsession with the game that has taken over my daily existence with mind-boggling statistics and an even stranger anomalistic visual affair. I find that the more I know about this game, the less I know about this game. It keeps unfolding in ways I could never imagine.

There ain’t no cure for the quarantine blues

Wash them thangs!!!

Spiritually and morally, everything in life is a compromise. These are the kind of revelations that clank around your grey matter when you are experiencing day 15 of quarantine. I know what you’re thinking: tell that to the people hoarding everything. I haven’t showered in 2 days and my hair can only be described as “putting your fingers in an electric socket.” You can only read books, watch movies or scroll through social media (where the practitioners of uppity, hollow slogans are having a field day) for so long before tediousness stalks you like a hungry coyote. These days are a like a horror movie for a hypochondriac. The stores are out of bread, rice and toilet paper. We must distrust our natural inclinations to go out to eat or drink and socialize. I go for evening strolls and the streets remind me of Vincent Price in Last Man on Earth. And even though, by my estimation, we are all experiencing existential distress on some level or another, I thought I’d share a bit of the media that I’ve been digesting. For some reason or another.

Music: Duran Duran “Rio”– this album is silly, poignant, sexy and stupid. I haven’t listened to much music but this seems just about perfect because of its ability to see life the only way someone who has eaten the red pill can. And palm trees. Lots of palm trees.

TV: The Muppet Show– The jokes are corny and it feels like a psychedelic trip, but damned if you don’t forget that a pandemic is happening as you’re watching 70’s has-beens interact and sing with crazy animals, monsters and umm…Gonzo. Jim Henson was a genius.

Movies: Bad News Bears– Billy Bob Thornton plays the alcoholic, washed-up, ex-baseball player coach of a bunch of misfit kids on a little league team. A decent, funny remake of the 70’s classic  starring Walter Matthau. Disappointingly, BBT never did ask for some french fried potaters mmm-hmmm. (Slingblade will forever be his best role) Highlight of the movie is when coach passes out on the mound while pitching BP.

Green Room– A touring punk rock band gets talked into playing a gig at a nazi skinhead shithole club in the middle of nowhere. Highlight of the movie is when they cover the Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” throwing the crowd into a hissy-fit. One of the band members stumbles in on a dead skinhead girl and all hell breaks loose in a bloody mess of punks, skins and random weaponry. Patrick Stewart stars as the leader of the fascists in a strange roll that really works for him at this junction in his career– strange that Captain Picard doesn’t anymore.

***

I was sad to hear about Kenny Rogers floating to the Great Beyond a few days ago. My mother loved “The Gambler” and would proudly wear his tour t-shirt when I was a child. His death was sort of a revelation as I had forgotten about the baseball player Kenny Rogers. My friends and I would always snicker whenever we came across his card in a wax pack. Rogers had a solid season with the Athletics in 1998 going 16-8 and pitching a workhorse-like 232 innings before being shipped to the Mets the next season for Terrence Long. Long, of course, turned out to be a bust while The Gambler (the baseball player) went on to play 9 more seasons before retiring at age 42. Rogers most famous moment on a baseball field came in 1994 when he pitched the 14th perfect game in ML history against the Angels. Kenny Rogers most famous moment came when he did the duet “Islands In the Stream” with Dolly Parton. R.I.P. Kenny. (the singer)

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.”

Spring Training is here! A’s to win the A.L. West in 2020.

I didn’t even shell out the six bucks for a copy of Baseball Prospectus.

It’s not important that I bring to task a Spring Training update; personally I find them to be tedious, but I suppose I must write something considering that this humble dissemination has over 2,500 followers and people actually read the thing for crissakes.

After last years embarrassing one game playoff loss to the Devil Rays, the following remarks swirled in my mind: pointless, not again, now what?, same old shit…who in the hell is Yandy Diaz? The ever graceful and future ace Sean Manaea blamed himself for the loss although it was a team effort as the offense was anemic and made to look bush-league. Watching the game was every bit the “Babylonian” experience.  This squad, however, isn’t a “soft reboot” as the youngsters have aged a year and have playoff experience with the following players expected to have a breakout year: Matt Olson, Sean Manaea, Mark Canha and Ramon Laureano. Little was added or subtracted this off-season because of the aforementioned. The template for most prospective playoff teams is a daily set lineup, (depending on L/R matchups, of course) and this team doesn’t have many question marks. Bob Melvin should only have to  do a bit of airbrushing here and there.

No Spring Training review is complete without a contrarian view and the second base/bullpen situation must be addressed here. Second base: Franklin Barreto has proven to be impotent, still can’t lay off the slider, and has spent more time in Nashville than Johnny Cash. He has two things going for him: he is young and the A’s front office refuses to get fleeced in the Josh Donaldson trade. Sheldon Neuse should get a look at the position as well because of the big season he had in the desert for Las Vegas. Bullpen: This was definitely a weakest spot as the ‘pen blew more than 25 saves last year with most of the guys being question marks except for Petit and Hendricks. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of non-roster guys made the team. Melvin will be working with patchwork and will be criticized many times this year for how he handled it whether it be his fault or not.

I see no reason why this team can’t pull together, win a roll of the dice in the playoffs and haul the “piece of metal” as Ron Manfred so elegantly called the WS trophy. I think the Nats of 2019 proved that miracles can still happen when you have strong pitching and a lineup that works together without one self-absorbed prick mucking up the works.