Puppy Love

Are you all geared up for the MLB All Star Game next week? No? That’s great, because I’m not, either. I’ll watch it, no doubt, to cheer on Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair (should either make an appearance). I may need a supply of rubber bands to shoot at the television whenever certain broadcasters become particularly insufferable… in fact, I would recommend this measure to everyone. Until the All Star events actually commence, however, let us not trouble ourselves to think about them.

I’d rather think of other things for the time being. Like puppies.

Yes, puppies. And kittens.

Last year I had a post which consisted of little more than photos of MLB players with an assortment of furry critters. Since that well has yet to run dry, I figured it was a fine time to add another. And here it is.

Most of these are from pet calendars that were produced for charity. All are at least a little bit adorable.

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Houston Astros outfielder Jason Michaels poses with a feline friend.

O’s manager Buck Showalter and his quartet of Basset Hounds.

Cards and Clydesdales. It looks as if they’re trying to act like those horses don’t intimidate them, but I’m not buying it.

Trevor Hoffman. Baseball’s all-time saves leader is a lot less intimidating with that handsome pup in his arms.

Doggies in the dugout! I do not know the identities of these three Mets players, but who cares? The puppies are way more interesting. Look how cute the one on the far right is!

Holding a puppy becomes you, Brian McCann. Wearing an adjustable cap backwards? No so much.

Rich Hill! Remember Rich Hill, guys? I do. And this might be my favorite picture in the history of time. Although this next one is also in the running…

Look at that cat! Magnificent.

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Playoff Predictorama! 2011

Well folks, as the walrus said, the time has come. The MLB postseason kicks off today, which here at The FBB means it is once again Predictorama! time (playoff style.) It is hard to imagine that this year’s postseason could possibly be as awesome as the final days of the regular season, but you never know. That’s why they play the games, and that’s why we watch them.

And now, for the all-important prediculations!

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ALDS

Tigers vs. Yankees: Wait, the Tigers are in these playoffs? When and where did that happen and how did I miss it? I assume that Detroit will be relying heavily on the Justin Verlander magic in this series. I think (and certainly hope) that we will see some heroics from Mr. Verlander, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to save the Tigers. I predict that the Yankees will take the series, and Justin’s (well-deserved) Cy Young award will be Detroit’s consolation prize.

Rays vs. Rangers: I guess I don’t have to go out on a limb to say that one of the two teams I favor the most will be eliminated in the first round, seeing as they’re playing each other. T’isn’t fair, I say. We will soon find out whether or not Tampa used up all their fairy dust in September. I think they’ll have just enough left to take this series from the 2010 AL pennant winners. I say they win it in 5 games and the series clincher comes on an uber-dramatic walk-off suicide squeeze in the bottom of the 14th inning of game #5. I also predict that Sam Fuld will sparkle and that Ian Kinsler will somehow be the goat of this series.

NLDS

Phillies vs. Cardinals: Blech. If there is one series with not a shred of interestingness and with no possible happy outcome, this is it. The Phillies will win it. They will probably sweep it, if I had to guess (which I do.) And it will be super boring, unless Roy Halladay decided to whirl another no-hitter. Even that would be kind of “meh.” Just wake me up when this one is over.

Diamondbacks vs. Brewers: If I know anything about NL Central contenders (and I think I do), Milwaukee doesn’t stand a chance. If history is any indicator, look for another sweep. Of course, I don’t think anyone would be surprised to know that I am backing Arizona all the way on the NL side. If the Brewers did somehow pull it out, I’d throw a hissy fit. Get it? *Nudge* *Nudge*

ALCS

Yankees vs. Rays: A nation will collectively curse beneath it’s breath when the Yankees take it in 5 games, ending the Rays fairy tale run. Yes, that’s right. Unless it’s wrong, which it could be.

NLCS

Phillies vs. Diamondbacks: Since I based my choice for the ALCS on cold, hard reality, I’ll base this one on wishful thinking. I don’t honestly expect the Diamondbacks to win. The Phillies will probably clinch it without breaking a sweat. But since I don’t want that to happen, and because that is what everyone is probably going to say, I’m calling the Diamondbacks in six. There’s a good chance I turn out to be wrong, but if I’m not, how cool am I going to look?

World Series

Yankees vs. Diamondbacks: Oooh, you guys! De ja vu! De ja vu! It’s 2001 again! Only… it isn’t. I don’t think that Mariano Rivera really needs to redeem himself from that Game 7 blown save 10 years ago, but he will do it anyway. I’m givin’ it to the Yankees. In six games. Take that as you will.

Baby sloth: too sweet to pick favorites.

About last night…

I haven’t much excuse for not posting anything of considerable substance these past few weeks. I can only say that the well of writing inspiration has been bone dry as of late. It’s September… I’m a Cubs fan. (I’m sure the world understands.) In any case, if the events of last night weren’t enough to electroshock me back into a baseball state of mind, I cannot imagine what would be.

Baseball fans witnessed not one, but TWO of the most improbable comebacks/collapses in the history of the game. Pity the Braves and Red Sox nations. I have seen my fellow Cub fans rejoicing all over the place that some of the heat may at last be lifted from our 1969 squad; no longer shall they and they alone be looked upon as the pinnacle of baseball failures! Welcome back to the club, Boston!

The Cardinals comeback/Braves collapse, of course, is the least enthusing of the two. I don’t look on Atlanta with an unfriendly eye, and the Cards are, well, the Cards. There is one circumstance from this that I do look on with utter and jubilant satisfaction. Around a month ago (perhaps a bit more than that) my brother and I made a bet regarding a certain St. Louis first baseman. I thought he would finish out the year hitting below .300 for the first time in his celebrated career. The bro insisted he would finish on top of the mark, as he always has. Initially, my brother suggested we bet a penny on our little disagreement. Feeling confident, I insisted we up it to a nickel. We did not forget our friendly little bet, and would update each other on where it stood several times a week. Going into last night, Mr. Pujols’ average was sitting at exactly .300, or .301 (I don’t recollect.) I am happy to report, he went just 1-for-5 against Astros pitching and has finished 2011 with a batting average of .299. How’s that for drama? How’s that for sibling rivalry? Time to cough up that nickel, brother.

The Tampa Bay Rays comeback, and the Boston Red Sox ultimate demise is, in my opinion, the most exciting thing. Of this year. And… of a lot of additional years. A few weeks ago, the lowly Rays were nine games behind in the wildcard standings. Everyone was talking about how dumb and unfair it is how the Yankees and Red Sox have a stranglehold on the AL East and wildcard. Something must be done, people said. Well, something was done. And the Rays did it.

Last night around 10:00, it looked like it was just going to be one of those disappointing almost-great-stories after all. With Boston up on Baltimore late in their game, and Tampa trailing by 7 to the Yankees in the 8th, I supposed the whole thing had come to nothing. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was thinking things like, “Oh well, they made it interesting” and “They should be proud of themselves, they put up a great fight” and all that. And then, all of a sudden, BOOM! 7-run deficit… gone! I was still listening to the Cubs (who, appropriately, fell 9-2 at the hands of the Padres) at that point and it was amusing to hear the updates and reactions from Pat, Keith, and Judd. I think everyone was more interested in what was going on in Florida than in San Diego. Who could help it?

As the Rays and Yanks headed into extra innings, I switched over to watch them on MLB.tv, keeping tabs of the O’s and Sox on the side. Moments after Jonathan Papelbon imploded, allowing the Orioles to score 2 runs and snatch the win, my Twitter feed exploded. And then Evan Longoria sealed the deal with a walk-off homer for the Rays and it exploded some more.

I think everyone had the same reaction: “Did that just happen?” The chances, according to this article on Yahoo? One in 278,000,000. One in two hundred and seventy eight million. Think about that for a second.

If anything outnumbered the outcries of, “Can you believe it?!?!”, it was “This is why I love baseball.” This is, indeed, why we love baseball. If I may quote from the one and only Dirk Hayhurst (who Twittered much last night, to the delight of all), “What’s great is, this is what you play for all season: a moment to decide something, to feel destiny in you hands and touch its consequences”, “Tonight is baseball magic, the tangible, palpable kind that reminds you why you love the game—for feelings like this, perfect and timely.” Truth.

I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. Who’s ready for some postseason baseball???

I like looking at this picture and thinking about it out of context. The Orioles celebrate their last place finish after the final game of 2011, Etc.,

Tee hee.

While I Was Out…

I am afraid the FBB has been sadly neglected over the past few weeks, but I promise it has not been without just cause! I have been to and fro all over creation (well, really just New Market, Chicagoland, and Washington DC) and have had few moments to spare for writing.

Instead of spreading out or just ignoring the happenings of my hiatus, as I would probably usually do, I’m just gonna cram them all here into one awkward post. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get to it!

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Love & Marriage: I can’t not include this… My most loyal reader/commenter (who also happens to be my cousin and one of my favorite people in the whole wide world) was married on June 25th. It was pure joy being there with her on that special day. Congratulations, my dear Melinda!

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Cubs: It was sort of nice to be able to ignore the Cubs for awhile, as both losses and injuries have continued to heap up. Marlon Byrd, Matt Garza, Reed Johnson and Darwin Barney all returned from the disabled list. Carlos Zambrano went in the opposite direction. Jeff Baker also came off of the DL, but then he hurt himself again. But I think he’s OK, now. Ryan Dempster was on the fritz as well. Marcos Mateo had a really lovely outing on the same day that Big Z went down, then he went down himself in his next appearance. DJ LeMahieu and Lou Montanez were sent packing to triple-A Iowa. Casey Coleman was brought up from the I-Cubs and promptly sent back down. Chris Carpenter was sent down to the I-Cubs and promptly brought back up. It’s all very mind-dizzying and, as I said, it was nice to not pay much attention for a week or so.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, however, the Cubs had pretty much ALL my attention, as I traveled with my siblings to see them play a pair of games against the Nationals in our nation’s capital. In classic Cubs fashion, they lost both games. Our experience was most fortunately redeemed thanks to our success in the “souvenir” collecting department (autographs, baseballs, etc.,)

A few notes about individuals:

“Professional” ballhawk and grade-A nincompoop Zach Hample was in attendance at Tuesday’s game. I watched him push by an innocent person right in front of me, saying loudly and flatly, “Watch out.” What ever happened to “Excuse me?” I was incredibly disappointed that no opportunity to bump, fall into or step on Mr. Hample by “accident” presented itself. It probably would have been wrong, but I would have enjoyed it immensely.

Koyie Hill: I have decided that Koyie is a really cool guy. And I think that people need to quit treating him like a kitten-eater. I don’t care what his batting average is.

Sean Marshall: Also a really cool guy. Sean probably does really deserve to play for a team better than the Cubs, but I am a selfish fan and I hope he never ever goes away.

Matt Garza: The Muppet Man definitely gained a few cool points in my book this week. We saw him outside Nationals Park and he declined to sign any autographs, saying he’d “get us inside.” I assumed he was just saying that, but he proved to be true to his word. I thought it was very good of him.

Tony Campana: What a sweetpea. That’s all I have to say.

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Starlin Castro: Starlin gets his own heading in bold because he is just that cool. And because I love him. And because he was elected to his first MLB All Star team. Let us hope it is the first of many! Congrats, kiddo!

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Rebels: As always, the New Market Rebels have been bringing much fun, excitement, and chaos into our lives. Last Friday I sat through the longest game (inning-wise) I’ve ever attended. It spanned 19, easily beating the previous record 17, and we won, so it was more than worth it.

On Saturday morning, Rebel Park hosted an open batting practice for whomever wanted to participate. It was a small group, but we had a good time. I managed to hit a few balls that made it past the infield grass, and I think one of them might have rolled all the way into the outfield grass if it hadn’t been fielded. That’s right! Look out, Albert Pujols.

Among our number were two Rebels alumni, pitcher Tim Adinolfi (1999) and third baseman Adam Frederick (2004-05.) It was extra awesome to have those guys there. I turned into a total fan when “Freddy” pitched to me on my last turn in the batter’s box. Is it fair to blame my poor contact skills on the fact that I was thinking more about that unforgettable playoff series in ’05 in which he drove in 6 runs? No? Well, I’m doing it anyway.

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Elsewhere in baseball: I was definitely jealous of the hard-core campaign the Nationals have going to get Mike Morse onto the NL All Star team via MLB.com’s “Final Vote.” If I had that kind of fire-power, the Darwin Barney initiative might have gone somewhere. Oh well.

The Cardinals released former All-Star closer Ryan Franklin. On the surface, this was not a significant piece of news to me. BUT, as St. Lou chose to fill Mr. Franklin’s roster spot with none other than legendary 2006 New Market Rebels all star closer Cotton Dickson, it quickly became very significant indeed! Major, major congrats to Cotton! Here’s hoping he sticks around in the bigs for a good long time!

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Well guys, I hope that my posts here at the FBB will be more consistent the next few weeks. Thanks for sticking out the craziness with me.

 

Predictorama! 2011: Grand Central

It is time for Part II of Predictorama! 2011, which by now you have probably realized is little more than a mish-mash of nonsense, bias, and brain burps. Of course, 98.7% of this entire blog consists of little more than nonsense, bias, and brain burps.

Anyway, today I present you with my nonsense, bias, and brain burps (in future tense!) as the relate to the NL and AL Central divisions. I have excluded the Cubs, as I hope to churn out a Predictorama piece dedicated to them entirely before the season starts.

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AL Central:

Kansas City journeyman Bruce Chen will take a no-hitter into the ninth inning. I’ll giggle.

Justin Morneau will return from his concussed 2010 season with a secret super power (unfortunately, it’s x-ray vision, which doesn’t really help him in baseball at all.)

I don’t have any predictions  for Detroit. I just want to point out that they have got lead the majors in players native to Virginia.  VA PRIDE!

AL Comeback Player of the Year: Grady Sizemore. Unless he keeps being hurt.

First place: Minnesota Twins

Last place: Cleveland Indians

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NL Central:

Adam Wainwright is totally getting Wally Pipped by Cotton Dickson.

While on an early evening pleasure cruise in the Goodyear Blimp, Prince Fielder suddenly and inexplicably falls from the craft. Fortunately, he is wearing his game jersey, which acts as a parachute and he is able to float safely down to the ground.

Hunter Pence and Ryan Braun will meet and engage in a staring contest. It ends in a draw after 13 hours.

First Place: Because the Cubs aren’t a clever choice, I refuse to pick anyone. I’m bitter like that.

Last Place: Sorry, Pittsburgh, I really am. Well… not really, but sort of.

Hot Toast Report: “Would you like some toast?”

It’s December already. Can you BELIEVE it? The temperature is dropping ever lower, but fortunately the hot stove is starting to heat up a bit. Here are a few of the names/rumors that have been poppin’ out of the toaster lately.

Troy Tulowitzki signed an extension that will keep him with the Rockies through 2020. Lots of years and lots of money involved. Also, lots of hair (it’s Troy Tulowitzki, after all. Wait, how did he escape my MLB Worst Hair list?) If this was the Cubs, Mr. Tulo would certainly be plagued by constant injuries and a little something called “I-forgot-what-a-bat-is-itis.” Since it’s not the Cubs, I freely extend congratulations to Mr. Tulo AND the Rockies organization on what is sure to be a long and productive relationship.

Derek Jeter has been causing something of a stir. Supposedly, his representatives have actually been contacted by teams other than the Yankees! GASP! I would be shocked if this amounted to anything whatsoever. Fans and media like to indulge in a little off-season soap opera drama, and I think that is why it’s being played up. Derek Jeter has been a Yankee, is a Yankee, and will be a Yankee. (Did you see the fun that The Beckett Blog had with these rumors? Behold.)

The Cubs… so many names of first basemen and starting pitchers have been thrown around that I find it hard to take any rumors seriously. A few of the crumbs I deemed worth chewing on:

Carlos Pena’s name has come up. I love Carlos Pena. I love him. I don’t think that he is the answer to the Cubs problems. I do think I would prefer him to Adam Dunn. Especially if he would sign for a one or two year deal. Someone half-decent to hold us over for a year or two is what the Cubs should be looking for, in my opinion.

Lance Berkman. Lance Berkman? Lance Berkman. Yeah. That would take some getting used to.

Brandon Webb. Injuries, schminjuries. I’d take Brandon Webb in a New York minute. Unfortunately, I think there are plenty of GMs out there who feel the same way. Mr. Webb will return to glory with some other team and the Cubs will end up with Vicente Padilla or Kevin Millwood. Sigh.

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One last thing. The Dodgers shipped Ryan Theriot to St. Louis. If The Riot had any admirers left in Chicago, he lost ’em when he said: “I’m finally on the right side of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.” Ha. On a positive note, this comment inspired one of the best Twitter hashtags in recent memory.

Hot Soup Report: “Shhh! I gotta focus. I’m shifting into soup mode.”

The hot stove hasn’t been so hot for much of this offseason, and that is my excuse for neglecting the hot soup reports. Now there is suddenly a whole pile of soup-worthy tidbits. I’m just going to jump right in.

Trades

The big news since yesterday is the Roy Halladay deal, which has all but been finalized. Mr. Halladay will go to Philadelphia, Cliff Lee will go to Seattle and a tidy bundle of prospects will go to Toronto. It’s hardly thrilling to have Mr. Halladay join the National League. At the same time, I remember back when Johan Santana made the jump and we all thought nobody else would have a chance to win the Cy Young for years upon years to come. Not that that means anything. I’m just blabbering, trying to pretend that this move means anything to me. The Cubs will likely face Mr. Halladay and lose, yes. We probably would have faced Cliff Lee and lost as well. So what can I say?

The only other monumental trade was the Curtis Granderson tragedy, which I did mention previously.

Signings

Chone Figgins (Mariners): I was surprised how quickly this went down. I’ll tell you one thing… everybody is talking about Roy Halladay and such. Nobody seems to be noticing the Mariners. They’re getting things done, boy. They signed Mr. Figgins and have now traded for Cliff Lee. I’d say they’re looking pretty good. When one further considers that the Angels are losing Mr. Figgins, as well as John Lackey, well… one has to think that the AL West is gonna be a little more interesting this year.

John Lackey (Red Sox): Since his name already came up anyway… I don’t have anything to say about Mr. Lackey, besides that I’m not much of a fan. I randomly felt glad that the Cubs don’t have money to spend on such individuals this year.

Jason Kendall (Royals): I like Jason Kendall. I’m glad he isn’t a Brewer any more. For the record, I don’t like him so much because of the brief time he spent as a Cub (although he was charming in pinstripes), but because I used to enjoy his breakfast cereal.

Hideki Matsui (Angels): The only comments I can think of for this are attacks on the DH “position,” so I’ll refrain.

Randy Wolf (Brewers): Somehow, I don’t feel threatened.

Ivan Rodriguez (Nationals): This year, Pudge will become a lock to win the ‘Player-I’ve-seen-play-with-the-most-different-teams’ prize. Wherever this man goes, I end up seeing him play.

Mike Cameron (Red Sox): This pretty much narrows the Cubbies’ options for center-fielder down to Marlon Byrd. Unless we trade for someone. I vote for trying to talk the Yankees into giving us Brett Gardner. Otherwise, just give Sam Fuld or Tyler Colvin the job.

There are a bajillion other signings, but what interesting can really be said about Pedro Feliz to the Astros, or Bobby Crosby to the Pirates? This brings us to…

The Remaining Free Agents

Jason Bay: He won’t be returning to the Red Sox, according to the latest from MLBtraderumors.com. The front runners are said to be the Mets, Angels and Mariners, and the Yankees are “interested” (When are they not?) I want to see it down to the Angels and Mariners, don’t you? AL WEST INTRIGUE!

Matt Holliday: The Cardinals have, to my chagrin, made Mr. Holliday an offer for some obscene amount of money. If I was in power in St. Lou, the offer would have been: a box of Peeps from last Easter, a used copy of the original ‘Oregon Trail’ on CD-rom, a home-made Christmas tree ornament, and $1.42 in pocket change (lint included.) And that is my final offer. Not because I think ill of Matt Holliday, but because in this scenario I am obviously a mole trying to take St. Louis down from the inside.

Mark DeRosa: My offer to Mr. DeRosa would be the exhumed remains of my sweet baby turtle and a black shoelace. Anything to get him out of a Cardinals uniform.

Final Notes

The Pittsburgh Pirates picked up former Marlin prospect John Raynor in this year’s rule 5 draft. Here’s hoping he sticks! REBEL ALUMNI POWER!!!

Matt Murton, a former Cub and favorite of mine, will be pursuing his baseball career in Japan. I just want to publicly wish him the best. He’s a talented guy. I hope he finally gets a real chance to play and mops up over there.