Life Is Sad

The only problem with the fact that baseball is awesome is that sometimes it isn’t. Case in point: this year’s divisional playoff series. Underdog lovers everywhere were united in excitement at the number of unlikely contending teams. Such a variety of desirable match-ups! Such potential! We could have had, like, the Mona Lisa of playoff pictures.

But then, just like that, all such dreams were gone.

Oakland? Out of it. No mo’ moneyball.

O’s? Schmos.

Nationals? Defeated the Cardinals like Dewey defeated Truman.

It is a reminder to us all… sometimes, life is sad. As a Cubs fan, I don’t feel I really needed this particular memo. And, let me tell you. Being handed it by smug St. Louis loyalists ain’t helping much.

To those of my readers who are actually fans of the aforementioned clubs, you have my sincerest sympathies. I know how you feel, and then some. You are welcome to join me in the waiting-til-next-year queue. There is plenty of room.

I guess now all I can say is Go Tigers, but it is with very little enthusiasm.

I think it would be more fitting to close with: Here’s to 2013. May it be kinder to us all.

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Obligatory Stephen Strasburg Post

Since everybody is talking about Stephen Strasburg, and since Stephen Strasburg plays for the Nationals, and since the Cubs are currently in a series with the Nationals, I suppose now is as good a time as any to further pollute the internet with my opinion of the Strasburg situation.
The facts are these:
1. Washington is currently perched neatly atop the National League standings.
2. Mr. Strasburg is the treasure of their starting rotation.
3. They do not want to break their treasure, therefore…
4. They intend to shut him down before the season is finished.

That’s it in a nutshell, and everyone from here to Honolulu has something to say about it. Some feel that deactivating Mr. Strasburg is a sound move, and respect the Nationals for not backing down from the intentions that have been known since before the season started. Others feel it is madness to take the ball away from one of the best and brightest young pitchers in the game.

Yada, yada, yada.

My thoughts on the matter are very simple.

First, I completely understand why Nats had planned early on to shut Stephen Strasburg down. They want to protect him. Starting pitchers are not like they used to be… I’m pretty sure they’re all made out of K’Nex these days. Keeping Stephen’s arm young and healthy and magical is important to this organization. I get that.

Here’s the thing, though. Reaching the play-offs is the goal of every good baseball player and franchise. Playing in the postseason and hopefully getting to the World Series and winning a championship is kind of what it’s all about. So pulling one of your best players off the table when the glory of October baseball is within your grasp just doesn’t make sense to me.

What is the purpose of Stephen Strasburg, or of any player, if it is not to help your team get as far as they can? What is the point of having a star pitcher if you’re just going to pull him out when it counts the most? Is it really worth it to try and save him for the future when you have such a good chance now? The Nationals obviously believe that it is. Maybe it’s just because I’m a fan who has so much experience watching teams that have failed, but I disagree. When you have an opportunity to do something special, it’s not the time to play it safe. Which is why if I were in charge of Mr. Strasburg’s fate, I’d take the risk and keep throwing him out there. Carpe Diem and Que Sera Sera.

And, really, that is all I have to say about that.

Predictorama! 2011: Something stirs in the East

With the beginning of the regular season just a few weeks off, it is once again time to dive into that fun, murky chasm that is MLB prognosticating. Folks from here to Chula Vista are consulting crystal balls and asking the questions they (apparently) can’t wait to know the answers to… who will arise victorious in the AL East? How bad will the NL Central actually be? Who will surprise us all? Who will fail miserably?

I am here, of course, to share with you the divination of my own crystal ball… it may have a huge crack in it, but I’m pretty sure it still works.

Today we will kick things off with a look at the American and National League East divisions. BEHOLD:

~

AL EAST:

Brett Gardner will steal 70 bases this year. Baltimore will officially change its name to “The City of Misfit Cubs”. With the additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, Boston will will 231 games. Toronto will finish in 4th place, winning 15 more games than any NL Central team.

First place: Boston Red Sox

Last place: Baltimore Orioles

AL Wildcard winner: New York Yankees

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NL East:

Raul Ibanez will take up playing the ukulele. The Phillies geriatric offense will be their Achilles heel… you heard it here first, folks. The Washington Nationals will regret signing Jayson Werth to that obscene contract by the end of the first week of April.

First Place: Philadelphia Phillies

Last Place: New York Mets

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“I’m gonna go to the game. They could win. It could happen.”

I was in attendance of Monday’s contest between the Cubs and the Washington Nationals up in DC. What follows are a lot of random thoughts and details of the experience. If they seem boring or trifling to you, just keep in mind that I’ve left out a lot (like being waved, nodded, and smiled at by several different Nationals players who we did not recognize.) But let us commence…

Talking about my collecting of autographs makes me feel not-cool at the best and just plain creepy at the worst. I suppose I could just NOT talk about it, but as this hobby (let’s call it a hobby… hobby is a nice word) makes up half the fun of going to MLB games for me, it’s a bit hard to avoid.
The routine in my family involves arriving to the ballpark a good seven hours before game-time and camping out at the player’s entrance. The sister and myself arrived at that very destination in Washington DC at noon on Monday. It was just the two of us there, and it proved to be a day worth remembering. Our creepy autograph stalking could hardly have been better and the game itself could hardly have been better.

As we walked from Nationals Park back to the Metro station after the game, there were a number of squealing and whooping Cubs fans (probably inebriated) surrounding us. Someone in front of us (probably a Nats fan) muttered that you’d think it was the World Series. Some people consider it stupid to celebrate meaningless wins in the midst of horrible seasons… I won’t comment on that extensively, but I have got to admit that it was an undeniably fun and enjoyable day. I had a blast. And if that is wrong then I can’t say I want to be right.

Here are some blurbs for each player on the Cubs roster inspired by observations made on Monday. Only I didn’t really have anything to say about Carlos Marmol or Aramis Ramirez, so they aren’t part of the list…

Justin Berg & James Russell: James and Justin. Justin and James. A lot of people seem to get them confused, which I don’t get. However they do both seem nice and I proclaim each to be adorable in my sight.

Andrew Cashner is sorta fun to watch in the outfield during BP. Threw lots of baseballs to the crowd… Cash is a people pleaser.

Nothing but *applause* for Casey Coleman. The kid threw a heckuva game.

Ryan Dempster: Dempsty is always awesome. Al-ways.

Thomas Diamond emerged from a cab outside the stadium carrying a messenger bag and I totally did not recognize him ’til he was almost gone. Yes, I am ashamed of myself. Sorry, Thomas.

Was the mystery man with a round face and light colored hair Tom Gorzelanny? I think it probably was.

Sean Marshall is still really tall.

Marcos Mateo seems jolly.

My sister doesn’t like Randy Wells. I do. She also doesn’t like Tyler Colvin, so I think everyone knows who’s in the right on this one.

After BP, there was a gentleman next to me who was genuinely put out with Carlos Zambrano for not stopping to sign autographs and engage with the fans. I always see/hear people like this a pro ballgames, and I am always a bit amused and bit incredulous. I am neither defending nor accusing Carlos. I’ve been to plenty of games, and never personally seen him sign an autograph for anyone. That doesn’t mean he’s never done it. It just puzzles me that people can be so selfish as to not understand that there are 162 games in a season, and at every single one there are thousands of people vying for the attention of players. There is no possible way for every fan to go home with an autograph or a free baseball. Obtaining such coveted freebies is all about being in the right place at the right time. Just because a player doesn’t respond to the masses screaming for attention, that does not make him an inferior human being. OKAY?!?!?

Koyie Hill’s autograph (at least the one he graciously gave me) consists of just his first name. Perhaps he’s trying to be like the Cher of baseball. It’s Koyiejust Koyie.

We saw Geovany Soto’s face through a cab window, and he looked sad.

Jeff Baker… He may not be the most valued or exciting player on the roster, but you’d have a hard time convincing me he wasn’t one of the nicest. In all seriousness, I like Jeff enough by this point to warn anyone who would dare to insult him that you’re gonna have to deal with me.

Darwin Barney has a cheerful face. Doesn’t he?

I love Darlin’ Starlin Castro more every time I see him. Watching him play is an absolute pleasure and his boyish enthusiasm has melted my heart. I want to adopt him.

Blake DeWitt does NOT look the same in street clothes. At ALL. That’s my only excuse for not knowing who he was at first. As with Thomas Diamond, I am ashamed of myself. I’m sorry, Blakey Bear.

I WANTED TO SEE SAM FULD, WHAT IS MICAH HOFFPAUIR DOING HERE???? … Kidding, kidding, of course! I’ve always been fond of Micah.

I have Marlon Byrd’s autograph! *Giddy giggles*

Kosuke Fukudome didn’t spit in my face or run away when the Sharpie I offered him proved to be dried up. Thats’ a proper gentleman.

Xavier Nady did not arrive at the ballpark between the hours of 12 and 4. Was he really late, or really early? You decide.

Alfonso Soriano: The same as always.

+ Corey Miller: Bullpen catchers just seem like cool guys to me.

~

Weeks 11 & 12 in Review (Sort of, not really)

I have pretty much been on a blog-cation for the past two weeks. I haven’t been bothered in the least about planning, writing, or material-collecting, and have in large part been tuned out of the goings on in baseball land. This review of the last two weeks is really more a review of the two major league games I attended in that span…

June 15th, Wrigley Field, Athletics @ Cubs

MVPs of the game: The grounds-crew, who collectively said “Rain delay, schmain delay” and got the field into playing condition. They deservedly received the evening’s loudest ovations.

Game highlights: There weren’t many to choose from, as the Cubs lost in embarrassing fashion. But it was a thrill to see Rebel-alum Brad Ziegler pitch at Wrigley, and a Tyler Colvin home run.

Thumbs down: The institution of at bat walk-up songs for Cubs players is very disappointing. If Gary Pressey can’t play it, I don’t wanna hear it.

Thumbs down even farther: The “fans” who were booing Derrek Lee ought to have been forcibly removed from the ballpark.

Say what? : I barely even realized that we got to witness Conor Jackson’s debut as an ‘A.’ I heard his name mentioned in some capacity before the game, but it didn’t register for some reason. I was thinking he was a minor-league call up or some such thing. But I DO know who Mr. Jackson is, and I rather like him. Because, y’know, his dad was on JAG and stuff.

Why I feel upbeat about what was, in fact, an error-filled, rain-delayed Cubs loss: Victor Hugo, in Les Miserables, said that “To breathe the air of Paris preserves the soul.” I don’t know about Paris, but that is essentially how I feel about Wrigley Field. I don’t get to visit often, which might be a good thing. I hope never to take for granted the fact that we’ve got a beautiful little gem of a ballpark.

June 23rd, Nationals Park, Royals @ Nats

On the fourth day of Strasmas: Mr. S recorded his first hit! Also, his first loss! The latter will be so much more special in our memories when he finishes his career 428-3.

I’m melllttiiinnngggg!: Unfortunately, the numbers on the thermometer that afternoon were even higher than those the radar gun was flashing. In fact, the heat index was up over 100. Being out of doors in such sweltering heat for such an extended period of time (6+ hours) made it nearly impossible to enjoy any part of the day.

Not that anyone noticed, but…: Kansas City’s Brian Bannister really outpitched the Nationals’ phenom. And my second favorite American League Central closer (the chipmunky Joakim Soria) notched another save.

My heartfelt sympathies to: The individuals who must have been absolutely cooking inside those president mascot costumes. I do not believe that running around in one of those things on such a day could possibly be healthy or safe.

Thanks for the giggles: Royals relief-men Bruce Chen and Anthony Lerew were in high spirits despite the weather. They made me like them… Mr. Lerew deserves some sort of award for his hair alone.

+ A lot of cool points: Pudge Rodriguez, Cristian Guzman, Jordan Zimmerman. Congenial and obliging autograph signers, all. You gentlemen made the day for my brother and me.

Predictorama 2010: Wagons East!

This is the continuance of my 2010 divisional projections… Last week I covered the West, now it’s time to tackle the big East! So let’s giddyup!

National League East – Will the Phillies keep up a stranglehold on the division? Will the Mets hit rock bottom? Will this be one of those strange random years when the Marlins win the World Series? If you’re looking for real answers to these questions, I’m sorry… you have come to the wrong place.

Philadelphia Phillies: Paparazzi will photograph Ryan Howard eating a sub at Quiznos and scandal will ensue. During a game in July, a stray kitty cat will find it’s way onto the field at Citizens Bank Park and Chase Utley will adopt it on the spot. I predict that the Phillies will not be the best team in the NL. Not because I believe it, but because I just really want to.

Florida Marlins: I’ll finally uncover the truth of Taylor Tankersley’s mysterious origins. Hanley Ramirez will learn to wink with both eyes.

Atlanta Braves: Though Tom Glavine has retired from baseball, expect him to soon announce a new deal with the National Hockey League’s Atlanta Thrashers. Jo-Jo Reyes will still be the only major leaguer with that first name.

New York Mets: Troubled mascot Mr. Met will run away from home. The health of the Mets’ key players will continue to crumble like a stale cookie. Someone will invent a memory erasing machine (like in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) so everyone will finally be able to forget 1969.

Washington Nationals: The Nats will make the postseason (YES THEY WILL) due entirely to the acquisition of Jason Marquis. Adam Kennedy will pitch. Nyjer Morgan will be my fantasy steal of the year.

American League East – The most frightening league in the Majors. In so many ways…

New York Yankees: Derek Jeter will introduce some exciting new products in his Avon line! Nick Swisher won’t change a bit. I will go on loving Brett Gardner no matter what he does.

Boston Red Sox: Jonathan Papelbon’s face won’t get any prettier. The green monster will eat Jeremy Hermida. Tim Wakefield will throw some more knuckle-balls.

Tampa Bay Rays: B.J. Upton will melt your heart. Carlos Pena will sign your taco.

Toronto Blue Jays: Bench coach Brian Butterfield will go on the Brian Butterfield diet plan and gain 23 pounds in the first two weeks. Edwin Encarnacion will be eaten by a garfoose.

Baltimore Orioles: The O’s will sign a member of their grounds crew to a major league contract and he’ll become the ace of their pitching staff.

“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.”

Spring is in full swing, guys. At least in Arizona and Florida it is. It’s still about 2 degrees here in Virginia. The first game of the exhibition season was played Tuesday, and the Cubs have their first this afternoon. Randy Wells will take the bump! Perhaps the biggest question is whether or not I’ll burst into tears the moment those sweet words, “Chicago Cubs baseball is on the air!” reach my ears. *Ahem.* Anyway, all I’ve really got for y’all today is a mess of springy odds and ends.

Around The Majors

-Up-and-coming Washington outfielder Nyjer Morgan is apparently an Alex Ovechkin fan and hockey enthusiast in general. And when I say “enthusiast,” I mean he moved to Canada for four years to play hockey. Check out the video interview Yahoo’s Big League Stew put up. You learn something new every day, eh?

-Pheeew. That Tim Lincecum just has a way about him. Click here and watch the hilarious video, which features everyone’s favorite diminutive Cy Young winner doing some Snuggie modeling. (Also, look out San Francisco area Bed, Bath & Beyond shoppers! You might see little Timmy one of these days. And apparently he will drop his pants at the drop of a dime.)

-Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals’ 15 million dollar baby, has been living up to the hype so far, displaying both sick pitching prowess and poise. Whether he’ll start the season in the Major Leagues remains to be seen. Washington manager Jim Riggleman had this to say: “He could probably do it. We all know that already. But there’s a lot more that goes into it than that. It can’t hurt him to go somewhere and work on his craft, to get used to pitching every fifth day instead of every six or seven days, which is the schedule in college. The most important thing is how long he’s going to pitch in the major leagues, not how quickly he gets here.”

Regardless of where he starts out, it looks like the Nats found a keeper.

From Cubs Camp

-Starlin Castro won’t start in the Cubs’ first Cactus League game this afternoon as was originally reported, but is supposed to be coming off the bench. Hopefully within the next few weeks we’ll all have a good idea of what’s cookin’. Lou Piniella observed that, “He handles himself very professionally for a young kid out here, he really does. He’s calm. He’s not awed by being here. He’s relaxed. He’s not starry-eyed. If you didn’t know he was 19 years old, you couldn’t guess he was 19.” Bench coach Alan Trammel, who himself debuted at shortstop for the Detroit Tiger at 19, added some observations of his own: “He showed professionalism. I know he’s young and most guys are quiet, which he is, but he’s attentive and he’s under control.” From this and everything else I’ve heard, I feel like Starlin has the right kind of attitude.

-Comcast Sportsnet Chicago has a nice little video library. Check out the one from 2/27 to catch some glimpses at Mr. Castro and some fellow prospects. While you’re at it, take a look at the Xavier Nady clip. I keep forgetting about him, but if this guy is healthy he could end up making quite the impact.

-Has anyone seen Micah Hoffpauir lately? Man alive! It looks like he’s trying to give Jeff Samardzija a run for his money in the hair department. You would hardly recognize him. Unfortunately I have been unable to procure any photographs.

One for the road.