Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category
Friday, April 13th, 2012
It took me a while to notice. Other things going on, and all that. But I discovered yesterday that the Blue Jays have given a roster spot to the seemingly-ageless Omar Vizquel this season. I mentioned it in passing yesterday, and my wife looked at me blankly. Who the hell is Omar Vizquel?
I threw out a bunch of names, she knew them all. Derek Jeter? Oh yeah, he’s the Yankees guy. Alex Rodriguez, he dated Madonna. Ozzie Smith – he was on the Simpsons. Cal Ripken – he’s the guy who played all those games. Tony Fernandez – Blue Jays! But Omar Vizquel? Total blank.
I can’t blame her. To be honest, I had sort of forgotten about Omar Vizquel myself, and had to do a little refresher to see if he was the same one I remembered – the sensational defensive shortstop who had been an offensive liability for the Cleveland Indians throughout the ’90s. So I did a very small amount of digging, and discovered that this man, who I had believed to be an “offensive liability”…is closing in on 3,000 hits! Like, 159 hits away!
The thing is, upon further examination of his stats, he was a solid hitter at best. One year with 180 hits. One year with a .300 average. A .272 lifetime hitter. One 70-RBI season. One 10-HR season. Four seasons of 30 stolen bases, and two of 100 runs. Not exactly Hall of Fame offensive numbers.
But then, baseball is a sport that celebrates longevity as much as it does brilliance. And the 3,000 hits club has, historically, meant automatic entry into the Hall. While Vizquel has not provided any real offensive excellence along the way, he has endured. He is 17th all time in at-bats – one of only three players with 10,000 at-bats who do NOT have 3,000 hits. (The others are Hall of Famers Frank Robinson and Rabbit Maranville.)
But of course it was his defense that made Vizquel special. The best defensive shortstop since Ozzie Smith, he won eleven gold gloves (including eight in a row) while making only three All-Star games. He never had the flashiness that made Smith so popular, and never became a household name, or even one that would be known outside baseball fanatics. But it IS enough to justify a spot in the Hall of Fame. Provided he gets to 3,000 hits. Which, if he gets regular playing time, he might do by next year. And who knows how long he can go? Julio Franco hung on until he was almost 50!
Final note here though – although I absolutely love Jamie Moyer, and think that his wins-in-four-decades achievement (when he finally gets it) is incredible – Moyers is NOT a Hall of Famer. While Vizquel was superior in only one area – fielding – Moyer has never been anything more than a solid pitcher, albeit one with incredible longevity. While 3,000 is plausible for Vizquel if he hangs on long enough, Moyer will never get to the pitchers’ equivalent – 300 wins. Moyer is currently at 267, and would have to play seven more years to get there. At which point he will be 56. Not gonna happen.
Monday, March 12th, 2012
Has it really been 20 years since this classic baseball brawl? The 20-something Robin Ventura charges the mound so that he can have his ass kicked by 46-year-old Nolan Ryan. I bring this up because the Rangers have officially announced that they will no longer be showing the video on their jumbotron. I guess they have actually been playing and replaying the fight for TWENTY years now.
I guess it WOULD be a little unseemly if, when the White Sox were in town, the Rangers played a video of their current team president beating the crap out of the visiting team’s current manager. And maybe, after 20 years on the jumbotron, the thing has actually run its course.
Friday, October 28th, 2011
There’s a baseball short story by W.P. Kinsella about a barnstorming baseball team that takes on the National League champions in an exhibition game. They manage to keep pace with the big leaguers through nine innings, then ten, and eleven…the game is being controlled mystically somehow by a native shaman of some kind – every time the pros manage a run or two, the shaman tries just a little bit harder in the bottom of the inning, and the amateur team always manages to tie it up. The game stretches on and on – the pro team never returns to the major leagues, obsessed as they are about winning the game, which lasts for months.
I can’t remember the name of the story, and my half-assed google efforts haven’t managed to turn up a title either. But it’s the kind of story, as Kinsella (Field of Dreams) wrote so often, that really illustrates the beauty of baseball – it’s a sport that theoretically could have a game that lasts forever. Sudden death applies only to ONE team in baseball - the home team, who bats in the bottom of the inning.
That was the kind of game we saw last night, one that reminded me of that Kinsella story. (I’m sure someone remembers it, somewhere, and will correct me if I’m wrong on any of the details. Or all of them. I read it when I was nine years old or thereabouts.) A three run lead in the eighth? Should be insurmountable. Two in the ninth? Almost impossible. Two in the tenth? Who’s gonna overcome that twice? No way.
So twice, the Cardinals are down two, down to their last strike in the game, the season, the World Series. And both times they come through to tie the game and push it onward – creating a game that not only felt like it would never end, but one that will certainly live forever in the memories of those who watched.
But it wasn’t the two miraculous two-out two-strike game-tying hits, or even the walk-off bottom of the eleventh home run, that I will remember. For me, one sequence of plays stands out for me in this game, one that should remind everyone of the beauty of baseball. And it happened in the fifth inning of what was, in many respects, one of the sloppiest, most error-filled games I’ve ever seen.
It’s the top of the fifth. Leading off the inning is Josh Hamilton, who hits a shot way up into the sky, a pop-up to the left side of the infield. He puts his head down and trudges toward first as David Freese settles under the pop fly, about to make a catch that is a sure thing even in beer league games and T-ball games around the world. And he drops it. This is where it all begins.
Now, who’s the goat on this play? Freese? Maybe, but not right away. Right away, the goat is actually Hamilton, who failed to put any effort into his run for first base, accepting the out without trying at all. When the ball falls to the ground, Hamilton is standing at first. With even a tiny amount of effort, he would be standing at second instead, in scoring position right away. If the next batter hits a single up the middle, and the Rangers get no runs out of the inning, Hamilton is the goat, not Freese.
Michael Young is the next batter. Instead of a single, or a double that leaves Hamilton stranded at third, he smacks a triple down the right field line, scoring Hamilton easily. Hamilton is now off the hook – he looks silly, but now Freese is the goat, as the Rangers are now ahead 4-3 and have scored what could be the go-ahead run in the Series clinching game thanks to the huge mistake by Freese.
The Cardinals get out of that inning, and have given up only that one run. They are still down 7-5 in the bottom of the ninth, and Freese remains the goat (or at least one of them – there were many mistakes), should they fail. And he delivers the two-out, two-strike, two-run hit that ties the game. Goat no more!
Top of the tenth. Josh Hamilton is up again. The Rangers’ best player, the heart of the team, who had shown such a lack of heart back in the fifth. And he becomes the hero with one swing of the bat, hammering a two-run shot to centerfield to give the Rangers back the lead, and likely to win the World Series. But the Cards tie it up.
And then it’s the bottom of the 11th, and it’s Freese again. Benji Molina is more important to the Cards. Albert Pujols remains the best and most feared hitter in baseball. Lance Berkman has had a better game and more clutch hits, including the tenth inning two-out two-strike two-run hit. But it’s Freese the hero. It’s Freese with the eleventh-inning walk-off home run. It’s Freese who will be remembered, and not for dropping a pop fly my kids would have caught. That’s the beauty of baseball. And that’s why this game was perfect. Game seven tonight!
Monday, August 22nd, 2011
This post is, in reality, a complaint against Major League Baseball and their policy of allowing NO amazing baseball plays to make their way onto the internets. You would think that baseball, America’s pastime, would want to reach as many young fans as possible in order to keep their fan base relevant in the years to come. And I think the best way to do that is to put the amazing highlights from this beautiful game on youtube, so those plays can make their way around the world via computers, for the consumption of young’uns.
But that’s just me. The NFL does the same thing, but I get that – they are a corporate juggernaut that has the power to force tuning to the NFL network, or to nfl.com, and their fans are there for life. Baseball, on the other hand, is less likely to make mlb.com a destination website just so people can see amazing baseball plays. Just sayin’.
That brings me to triple plays. There were TWO amazing triple plays in Major League Baseball last week alone. I would definitely have put both videos up on this blog, had that been possible. Of course it isn’t, and you would have seen the “this video disabled at the request of major league baseball” message when you tried to play it.
In the minor leagues, on the other hand, we get to SEE the cool plays. And this triple play was one of the coolest in a long time – far cooler, I might add, than those in the majors. Did Jed Lowrie start that Red Sox triple play by bouncing the ball off his head? I don’t think so!
Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
Boxing is over. I decided this on the weekend as Bernard Hopkins became the oldest champion in boxing history with his light-heavyweight victory over Jean Pascal in Montreal. 46 years old, and he’s the champion. Any sport where a 46-year-old can be the best in the world is no longer a “sport”. There are now six “sports” I can think of where a 46-year-old can be the “best”. Curling. Golf. Archery. Chess. Croquet. And now boxing. It isn’t the fault of Hopkins who, much as I dislike him, is still a good fighter in great shape with solid skills. It’s that there are no more decent boxers in the world. There’s Manny Pacquiao and a million jars of mayonnaise. It’s over, boxing.
I LOVED the Red Sox-Cubs series over the weekend. Well, except for the results of the games, which didn’t favour my BoSox. But what other sport can see two teams play each other for the first time since 1918, and they play in…the same stadium in which they met 93 years ago? No arena in the world has the history of Fenway Park, and no sport has the incredible history of baseball. That being said, the “throwback” uniforms really showed that in some ways, baseball has improved a LOT over the years. I could barely tell who was who. The team in the potato sacks beat the team in the cut-up bedsheets, I think.
It’s too bad Canadians are paying little or no attention to baseball these days. Toronto isn’t going to win anything this year, or any year, but they have the best hitter in the bigs and the best reason to watch game in game out – Jose Bautista is a monster. 19 homers already? In the low-production post-steroid era? Ridiculous.
What’s Tim Thomas thinking, guaranteeing the Bruins win in the series? That’s just asking for trouble. If I’m a defenseman, I’m not even trying any more. We’ll just go ahead and win this one – the goalie’s got it. I’ll just skate around a little to make it look good.
Why is it even news when someone else gets drawn out to tell the world he saw Lance Armstrong using steroids? Is there a single person left in the universe who believes Armstrong, the greatest performer in the dirtiest sport in the world, was clean? And if you give him the “benefit of the doubt”, and say “innocent until proven guilty”, and all that crap, aren’t you just being soft-headed and a little hypocritical? Would you extend the same suspension of disbelief to Barry Bonds? Michael Vick? Mike Tyson? Or are you willing to ignore the mountain of evidence because Armstrong is such a good guy and has a great story? Snap out of it people – the entire myth of Armstrong, the great story, and his feel-good impact on the world is all based on a lie. All of it. Bite me Lance Armstrong.
There is, however, some good news in sports. And that is, the Badminton World Federation is mandating skirts for female badminton players. This might well have the effect of boosting ratings for televised badminton to maybe half the take of beach volleyball, after that federation mandated two-piece bathing suits.
Thursday, April 14th, 2011
Chickenfoot’s Joe Satriani and Sammy Hagar took to the field to perform the American national anthem on Saturday night in San Francisco. Hagar, to his credit, remembered most of the words.
Tuesday, November 30th, 2010
It occurred to me while I watched the Grey Cup that although I am a bigger fan of the NFL, there are some things the CFL does WAY better. For example – when the referees announce a penalty, the CFL is vastly superior because the refs are allowed to say the NAME of the team that committed the penalty. “Unnecessary roughness, Montreal number 56, fifteen yard penalty, first down.” Simple, right?
Contrast that to the NFL, where the refs don’t seem to be allowed to mention teams by name. Let’s say there’s a kickoff, and it gets fumbled, and the kicking team recovers and runs it back. And there’s a penalty during the run back. The refs will come out and say something like this – “block in the back, by the defense, which was the receiving team, after the fumble recovery by the kicking team, which became the offense, during the runback off the turnover, number 21, half the distance to the goal, first down.”
It also occurred to me that the main reason I don’t care as much about the CFL these days is that we have no team here in Ottawa. I cheer for the Bombers, a little, and against the Argos and Alouettes, but without a real home team I can get behind, it’s tougher, and more of an effort, for me to follow the rest of the league.
I think the best tweet of all time belongs to Stevie Johnson of the Buffalo Bills. He dropped a gimme, gift-wrapped pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick in the end zone, in overtime, that would have given the Bills a gigantic upset win over the Steelers this weekend. Then he took to Twitter and – blamed God!
“I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO...”
Amazing. I have always thought it was the dumbest thing ever when athletes thanked God for a win. If it was up to God, why the hell did you train so hard, and run all those sprints, and lift all those weights? Why wouldn’t you just show up and pray real hard? But even more so, I have thought that it’s terribly disingenuous for athletes to thank God for their victories but NOT to blame him for their defeats. Thank you, Steve Johnson. You’re the first one to do so, and you make me happy.
I think the reason Ottawa Senators fans are so quiet at hockey games is that beer costs forty-one dollars a pint. This might also contribute to the fact that Ottawa is the only Canadian team of note that doesn’t consistently sell out games. I have a solution that will fix both problems, and be a huge boon to Ottawa’s economy, overnight – tailgating. Legalize parking lot tailgating, and we’ll have a raucous, jam-packed arena every night. Problem solved.
I think the Yankees are very, very stupid. I hate the Yankees on principle, because they throw so much money at big-name free agents that no one else can compete. Except, occasionally, my beloved Red Sox. And on principle, I therefore hate Derek Jeter, the face of the Yankees for the past decade. But I am squarely on Jeter’s side in his contract dispute with New York. A franchise icon, the face of the most famous team in sports, still playing at an extremely high level, and you lowball him?
So the Yanks are willing to drive dumptrucks full of cash to the houses of CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Texeira et al, but you want Derek Jeter to take a huge pay cut to stay? And you try to embarass him and tell him to test the free agency waters? You dicks. I hope he does – I’d love to see him in a Boston uniform – but this is a lot like one of those insurance companies that gives new customers an incredible rate, but keeps the rates of their longtime existing customers stupidly high.
I think the Heat struggling is good for basketball the way the Cowboys struggling is good for football. I love it when the most hated team is easy to cheer against – each loss makes more and more people happy. Then again, I think they had better make the playoffs – for the same reason.
Okay. That’s all I think right now.
Thursday, July 29th, 2010
Ottawa has made an art out of picking one hometown hockey player to hate, every year, since the first time the Senators made the playoffs. Now, I thought we were ludicrous. But we’re not Cleveland. I was in Cleveland last year for a Packers-Browns game. I wore my Packers jersey and Packers hat and I sat right behind the Dawg Pound. Nothing happened to me. No one yelled at me or harassed me or the guys I was with (some with Packers jerseys as well). They talked to us and offered us beer and food when they found out how far we’d come for the game. They were pleased.
I had always heard it was treacherous to go to a Cleveland sporting event in the opposing team’s shirt. But that proved to be a lot of hot air when the Browns were lousy and no one cared. Then this story today…a guy showed up at a Cleveland Indians game wearing…gasp…a LeBron James Miami Heat jersey. And the fans were, indeed, upset. And had him removed from the game by the police! Yes, they are cracking down on LeBron-love, like the jilted lovers they are. Seriously. The police.
Just how hated is LeBron James – and by extension his new team the Miami Heat? Sports Illustrated had to come up with a list of the top 25 most-hated teams in sports history, just so they could then include this year’s Heat on that list. The Heat are #25. Bizarrely, the 2001-02 Toronto Maple Leafs (of Darcy Tucker, Tie Domi, Pat Burns et al) came in at #22. The top 10:
- 1986 University of Miami football team
- 1988-89 Detroit Pistons
- 1992 Dallas Cowboys
- 1974-75 Philadelphia Flyers (Broad Street Bullies)
- 1978 New York Yankees
- 2007 New England Patriots
- 1993-94 New York Knicks
- 1976 Oakland Raiders
- 1989-90 UNLV basketball team
- 1998-99 Manchester United soccer club
For the full list, click here.
Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers was one out away from throwing the third perfect game of the season. He got the final out. It was a perfect game. Until umpire Jim Joyce blew the call, called the runner safe, and created a place for himself in the baseball hall of shame.
I really feel bad for Joyce. At the post-game press conference, he was almost in tears after watching the replay that showed the runner was clearly out. But I think maybe the biggest story here is this - this is the THIRD perfect game thrown in the majors this season. There has never before been a baseball season in history with more than one. And we still have 2/3 of the season to go. I’m thinking…maybe players are a little more tentative now that most of them are off the steroids?
Here’s something maybe even more impressive than the perfect game – Bob Gibson holds the record for lowest Earned Run Average for a pitcher in a major league season, 1.12 back in 1968. Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies, through a third of the season, has an ERA of 0.78. Less than a single run in every nine innings he’s pitched. He has a 10-1 record on the season, and he got the win in nine of his last ten starts. In his one loss, against the Dodgers, he gave up one run. One. Unreal.
Wednesday, April 7th, 2010
The Ottawa Fat Cats, our newest baseball team out at Lynx stadium, are holding open tryouts this Saturday for anyone interested in playing ball. Our last team, the Ottawa Rapidz, did the same thing a few summers ago. I tried out. This was, of course, before I started losing a little weight. Here’s the video: