Category Archives: Baseball

The 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame class

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Someone asked me over e-mail what I thought about the fact that the Baseball Writers Association of America elected no one to the Hall of Fame this year.  Unexpectedly, I found myself rambling on and decided, especially because I haven’t blogged since the World Series, that the e-mail would make a reasonable blog post.  So without further ado, my answer to “So, relatedly, how do you feel about no Hall of Famers this year?”  [The “relatedly” part is that I made a Pete Rose joke when asked to enter a pool on when I thought the Mystery Hunt would end.]

The concept of no Hall of Famers in a year doesn’t bother me per se — it happened in 1996 for no real good reason.  I don’t think they should be forced to induct someone if no one got the votes — and the Veterans Committee put Hank O’Day, Jacob Ruppert, and Deacon White in, Paul Hagan gets the Spink award, and Tom Cheek is getting the Ford C. Frick award, so it’s not like there will be no induction ceremony. But really what you’re asking me is my opinion on the steroid issue, right?

And speaking of Pete Rose, I think they ought to be consistent about Bonds/Clemens and Rose.

All three are unquestionably three of the greatest players to play the game on the basis of stats, all three knowingly cheated the spirit of the game, all three got caught, and all three lied about it despite an overwhelming amount of evidence against them.

So when Rose has his ban lifted, Bonds and Clemens can get in.  But Bonds and Clemens are likely going to get in in the future without Rose — also the 8 people who voted for Clemens and not Bonds need to have their heads examined.  (Or maybe living in San Francisco where Barry is still beloved has rubbed off on me a little.)  Likewise the person who voted for Aaron Sele, although if I had a vote I might have thrown one to Todd Walker just to be a bit of a troll and keep people on their toes.  Plus, Walker hit his first Major League homerun on my friend’s 15th birthday and we always kind of irrationally loved him for that.

As for the guys who didn’t get caught and are only suspected of steroids on the basis of “they had muscles,” then I’m a little more lenient.  After all, players in the 70s were all pepped up on greenies and Doc Ellis threw a freaking no-hitter while tripping on LSD.  (If you don’t know that story, or even if you do, you need to watch this.)  Not to mention that most steroids weren’t technically banned by baseball until 2002.*  Also a friend of mine once told me that his high school football coach more or less made all the starting players take androstenedione, which is what McGwire was caught taking in 1998.  And if high school football coaches were coercing their athletes to take the “supplement” (*cough*steroid*cough*) in the late 90s, perhaps we ought to place a little less blame on the athletes who took it and a little more on the entire sports culture that told them they had to take it.

[* Posnanski style addendum because I fact checked myself: Apparently commissioner Faye Vincent sent a memo to the teams saying steroids were illegal in 1991, but it was never enforced. A drug policy was enacted in 2002, but one of the terms was that first time offenders would be sent to treatment and their names not released. The current drug policy was enacted in 2005 after the whole BALCO scandal.]

Also Jack Morris, god love him for the greatest game 7 in World Series history, is not quite up to Hall of Fame caliber.  He’s close, but I don’t think he’s there and I don’t think he should get in on the basis of one game.  I say this even though I own a Jack Morris bobblehead doll that I once did this with (he’s the one that keeps morphing into Tom Kelly).

And at this point, I just want to point out that [Harrison] asked.

World Series Game 1: Giants 8, Tigers 3

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World Series Game 1: Giants 8, Tigers 3

The World Series started yesterday down the street from me and my favorite pitcher (Justin Verlander) was pitching.  I knew tickets were going for insane prices, but I also knew that there was a dip in prices shortly before the game started.  And so, I bought a ticket for a 5:07 pmstart at 4:35 pm, printed out the ticket and ran to the stadium — literally.  Actually, I didn’t run straight there.  I stopped off at home and grabbed my camera first… and then continued running, Forrest Gump style.  I made it into the stadium just as the Star Spangled Banner was being played and made it to my (upper upper deck) seat just in time for the first pitch.

Now, I primarily decided to go to this game to see Verlander.  I even had my Tigers shirt on.  Unfortunately, dominant JV did not show up.  He gave up a solo homerun to the third batter, Pablo Sandoval… which would be the first of three homeruns for the Kung Fu Panda, putting him in a class with Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols.  Verlander settled down after that initial run and it looked like he might be his usual self, but then Angel Pagan’s double in the third with two outs happened and everything unraveled for the Tigers.

Now, to call Pagan’s hit a double was generous.  It looked initially like a routine grounder to third that might go foul.  But Miguel Cabrera was playing deep and just before it looked like he was going to field the ball, the ball bounced of the base, took a crazy hop, and wound up past Cabrera in left field.  By the time Delmon Young recovered it, Pagan was on second.  Marco Scutaro followed with a single that scored Angel and then the Tigers pitching coach went out for the most ineffective mound meeting ever.  The next batter? Pablo Sandoval, who hit his second homerun of the game.  It was really hard to keep rooting for the Tigers at this point, because the Giants fans were so excited.  (But I should note that at no point were the San Francisco fans even remotely as excited as the Oakland fans in the ALDS a few weeks ago.)

Once Verlander was pulled after the 4th, I zipped up my jacket and covered up my Detroit allegiances.  When the Panda hit his third homerun of the game, I was cheering right alongside the rest of the Giants fans.  After all, I was seeing history.

Game 2 is happening right now.  I thought briefly (not really) about going again, but StubHub tickets were more than double what they were yesterday, with no pre-game dip.  And so, I’m listening to Game 2 on the radio in the office instead of being at the stadium.  But I was there last night, so I can check “Attend World Series game” off the bucket list.

Pictures after the jump…

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ALDS Game 3: A’s 2, Tigers 0

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My first playoff game was last night… game 3 of the ALDS in Oakland, A’s vs Tigers.  Thanks to Bud Selig and his infinite “wisdom” (and by wisdom, I mean general idiocy), having the “home field” advantage meant that the A’s started the series with two games on the road, which they lost.  They came back to Oakland last night to take on Detroit on their terms.  Incidentally, this is the first time I’ve seen the Tigers in Oakland and actively rooted against them.  Sorry, Justin Verlander.  I still like you and all, but I want to be able to keep going to as many baseball games as possible.

The A’s came through for me and I’m going to another game tonight… which means I’ll wait to write about the series.  Just like I’ll wait to write about those four baseball games I went to and never blogged.  But in the meantime, here are pictures from last night.  I’m off to the Coliseum where baseball will be played at least one more day!

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Oakland A’s 12, Texas Rangers 5

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Holy exciting baseball!

So, lest you think I’ve been avoiding baseball all September because the Twins have been bottom dwellers, there are four September games I went to and never blogged, including my first game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.  I’ll probably bullet point summarize them tomorrow — when there’s no baseball being played anywhere.

But ignore September — it’s October baseball, baby!

At the beginning of the year, no one expected the A’s to do much of anything.  Moneyball was nominated for a bunch of Oscars, but the actual Oakland A’s were predicted somewhere near the bottom of the AL West.  At the end of June, they were 13 games back of league leader Texas.  At one point, they were nine games under .500.  The pre-season predictions seemed to be holding true.

And then came the second half of the season.

Somehow, the A’s came to life in a way that no one had predicted.  (I like to think it’s because they picked up my former second-favorite Tiger, Brandon Inge.)  They crawled back into the race and passed the Anaheim Angels and suddenly found themselves in contention for one of two Wild Card spots.  After Sunday (coming soon: my summary of Sunday’s game), the A’s opened a series with the Texas Rangers, only one game back for the division lead and three games up in the Wild Card race.  One win this week and they clinch a playoff spot.  A sweep and they win the division title.

Obviously, you know because I’m writing this (and because you pay any attention to baseball at all), they swept.  And I took the afternoon off to join the sellout crowd at the O.co Coliseum (still a dumb name).  To save you from having to read my summary of the game (Sitting next to a drunk ADHD guy! Having drunk ADHD guy leave and be replaced with a more sane guy! Coming back from a 5-1 deficit! Coco Crisp’s double! Josh Hamilton’s error! Ryan Cook’s strikeouts! Derek Norris’s homerun! Bernie leans! Balfour raging! High fiving lots of random strangers!), here’s the video I took from section 114 of the final out of the game.  Apologies for the shaky cam effect — the adrenaline rush of the moment made it impossible to keep a steady hand, especially when I zoomed in.  [YouTube’s video stabilization feature is amazing!] At some point, I might post highlights of all the pictures too.

Of course, baseball is still just a game.  And even this joyous celebration was dampened this evening.  On Monday when the A’s clinched a playoff spot, Pat Neshek — a fellow Minnesotan, former Twin, and current A’s pitcher — had to quickly fly out of town to join his wife who had gone into labor.  A few hours after the A’s won the division, Gehrig John Neshek, all of 23 hours old, died suddenly.  Neshek was always one of those baseball players who seemed more a fan than a celebrity — he used to keep a blog about all the baseball cards he collected.  Hearing about his loss is just shocking and heartbreaking and makes celebrating a division title seem kind of silly.

Twins 1, Tigers 5

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Blah, blah, blah, went to a Twins game on my 22 hour stopover in Minnesota.  Blah, blah, blah Twins lost.  Blah, blah, blah Tigers won, but Verlander wasn’t pitching, so there’s no silver lining there.  Blah, blah, blah I won a free shirt at the game from the Twins twitter account.  Blah, blah, blah…

I’m in Switzerland!  I spent yesterday in Paris!  (I know at least one person reads my baseball posts and inserts the “blah, blah, blahs” in his head.  Figured I’d add them for everyone this time because I AM IN SWITZERLAND and I’m only blogging this game as a formality.)  I just woke up at 6 am and watched the end of the Twins loss to the Mariners in Seattle.  Timezones are weird.

 

Dodgers 4, Giants 0 (July 29)

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Oops… went to a game that I forgot to blog.  I barely remember the game itself at this point, except that the Giants got beat by their division rival and were never really in it.  What I do remember (and what prompted me to write this), were our seats.  Back in May I won a pair of Giants tickets at a curling bonspiel to sit in the Virgin America Club Level.  (This is more or less equivalent to the Legends Club at Target Field… and because the two stadiums were designed by the same architect, when I say more or less equivalent, I mean they pretty much felt like the same place.)

Having never been to the club level before, this was the first time I was able to walk around and see all the Giants memorabilia they have up there.  There’s the standard stuff: signed baseballs and bats, the World Series trophy, newspaper articles, game worn jerseys, homages to perfect games, and so on.  But I also noticed that the Giants seem to have a Peanuts fetish — not the legume, the comic strip.  First of all, there were large statues of Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy Van Pelt.  But also, hidden in the collection of game used bats is a bat “used” by Joe Shlabotnik.  Who is Joe Shlabotnik, you ask?  Why, none other than Charlie Brown’s favorite (fictional) player!

Growing up, I always assumed that the Peanuts characters were Twins fans, since Charles Schulz is from Minnesota and the strip is sort of autobiographical.  Then again, there were no Twins when Schulz was growing up, and he eventually moved to the Bay Area (Santa Rosa), so the Giants thing makes a lot more sense.  Also, Harvey sent me some proof:

Below the jump are my pictures from the club level…

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A’s 3, Red Sox 2

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A’s 3, Red Sox 2

Having missed the Red Sox entirely in 2011 — a first since either 2000 or 1998, I’m not sure — today I celebrated the 4th of July by heading across the Bay to watch Boston take on the A’s.  And the thing I realized?  I’m so over the Red Sox.  2004 was amazing, 2007 was still pretty fun, but now?  The only guy left on the team I still like is the only one left from 2004: Big Papi.  As such, I wore my A’s jersey and my David Ortiz hat (with the big 34) and wound up happy: Ortiz hit his 400th career homerun and scored the Red Sox other win after his 1000th career walk, but ultimately the A’s won the game 3-2.  Brandon Moss was a triple away from the cycle and Coco Crisp picked up the slack with a triple in the 7th that turned into the winning run.

No better way to celebrate the USA than by spending the afternoon watching the National Pastime… and then coming home to catch the Twins-Verlander… uh, I mean Twins-Tigers… game on TV.  And now I’m off to watch some fireworks with the roommate.

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Cubs 4, Astros 0

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Cubs 4, Astros 0

With all the stadiums I’ve been to, the most surprising omission has always been Wrigley Field.  After all, it’s the second oldest stadium in existence and I used to semi-regularly drive through Chicago on trips from Ann Arbor to Minneapolis.  You’d think that at some point I would have stopped to see the Cubs play.  But no, my first trip to Wrigley Field wasn’t until this Friday when I flew to Chicago to visit Anand and drag him to a game.

My initial impressions of Wrigley are that it is very sparse — no jumbotron to show highlights and replays, no sideshow attractions, and no real decoration other than the ivy in the outfield.  You’re there to watch a baseball game and nothing else… which is how it should be.  It feels a lot like Fenway in places, mostly because of the age and similar construction style.  There’s even a giant mechanical scoreboard in the outfield that’s reminiscent of the Green Monster.

The day started with a Chicago dog from Murphy’s Red Hots down the street and a rain delay.  The storm cloud coming in from out of nowhere was an awesome sight to behold.  While Anand and I waited for the rain delay to pass, we sat in the Wrigley basement doing a cryptic crossword out of the Enigma… because that’s the kind of people we are.

Once the clouds cleared (and the heat came back), we sat in the bleachers, on a recommendation from Harvey that the Cubs bleacher bums are not to be missed.  And while we both got a little tired of “HEY DAVID!  HOW MANY OUTS?” being shouted at David DeJesus, the Cubs centerfielder, the Bleacher Bums certainly have character.

Being in the bleachers meant we were also in prime location for homerun catching — and the Cubs hit three on Friday.  One went clear out of the park onto Waveland Avenue behind us, one went to right field, and one landed right behind us.

Right behind us — in fact, we were on WGN’s broadcast of the homerun where I can be seen chastising Anand for not getting out of his seat to try and catch it.  I think we could have had it, despite whatever comment he inevitably leaves says to the contrary.  He did get in to the bleacher atmosphere later, yelling at Astros second baseman Matt Downs when he made an error in the field.  “I’ll give you a hint: you’re looking for a round white thing!”  I think I may have created a monster.

The mini-homerun derby paid off for the Cubs, even though one would have been enough.  Pitcher Paul Maholm was on fire, going 8.1 scoreless innings before getting in a mini-jam in the 9th.  But Marmol came in to shut the Astros down with the bases loaded and they raised the W flag over that big mechanical scoreboard while playing “Go Cubs Go!”  (And that song is *still* in my head.)

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Battle of the Bay: Giants 9, Athletics 8 (Saturday); Athletics 4, Giants 2 (Sunday)

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This weekend I discovered the time and place for interleague — when two teams actually have a rivalry built up based on both geography and a previous grudge (in this case, the 1989 World Series).  I went to two of the Oakland-San Francisco games held this weekend in Oakland at the O.co Coliseum.  The stadium was split pretty evenly with people sporting green and gold and people sporting orange.  No matter what happened, somebody cheered and somebody groaned.  Unlike the Red Sox-Yankees glory days, while still a serious rivalry, the Bay Bridge allegiances cross friendships.  Thus, the atmosphere was closer to that of a friendly family feud than a blood sport — not unlike when my grandmother’s house gets split for Vikings-Packers games and then we all eat turkey together afterwards.  (I’ve been told that the Giants-Dodgers game happening down the street from me tonight is what the Giants fans save their true hatred for.  The A’s fans don’t seem to really hate anyone, except for Red Sox and Yankee fans who takeover their stadium.)

Saturday it appeared that the Giants were going to massacre their hosts, up 9-4 going into the bottom of the 9th.  Most of the A’s fans left early and the Coliseum became AT&T Park East.  But the A’s battled back and brought it within a run.  With two outs, they loaded the bases… and Jemile Weeks popped out to shallow right in what turned out to be the longest nine inning game in Oakland history (4 hours, 15 minutes).  The multitude of Giants fans around me actually hugged the one A’s fan left in the bleachers and told him “Better luck next time!”

On Sunday I went with a bunch of curlers and we tailgated in the parking lot before the game.  It reminded me of our family roadtrips to County Stadium in Milwaukee, except that this time I drank a beer with my freshly grilled bratwurst.  Inside the stadium, the game was much tighter than the previous day’s game — and I sat next to quite possibly the world’s biggest A’s fan.  (Jeff Francoeur bought her pizza earlier this year.)  Thus, I decided that unlike my neutral cheering on Saturday, I’d be an A’s fan this time.

Once again, the game came down to the bottom of the 9th.  The A’s were down 2-1.  Cespedes and Inge singled their way on base, but Seth Smith and Brandon Moss struck out.  This left it up to Derek “not the son of Chuck despite similar heroics” Norris, who at this point had all of one major league hit — a single in Saturday’s game.

His second hit was much more memorable: a no-doubter three run homer to left field to give the A’s their first win of the weekend.  It was a good day to be wearing my A’s jersey.

(And then, because we are curlers, we all went to the bar and resumed the tailgate, including grilling some steaks in the outdoor patio at the bar.  It’s nice to know people who are in with the bartenders.)

Twins 5, Brewers 4 — 15 innings

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Twins 5, Brewers 4 — 15 innings

As previously mentioned, the day after Martini’s wedding, I took Quinn, Harvey, and Katie to Target Field to see the Twins play the Brewers.  Except that Quinn was, uh, recovering and didn’t show up until the top of the 5th.  No worries however — he still got to see 9 full innings of baseball as the Twins and Brewers decided it was a good day to play 15.  In fact, Quinn saw more innings than Harvey and Katie, who had to leave after the 9th in order to catch their respective flights.  There was also a 45 minute rain delay in the 12th, during which I got to visit the Metropolitan Club for the first time, thanks to a new friend I had previously only known on Twinkie Town and twitter, who happened to be sitting a few rows in front of us in the third deck.  Thanks, Anelle (not her real name)!

As for the game — the good guys won!  Both teams scored a run early through a combination of small ball, but then the Brewers went up 4-1 in the 5th on a Corey Hart 3-run homerun.  (This coincided with Quinn arriving at our seats, so we decided it was his fault.)  The many Brewers fans in the park went crazy, but their joy only lasted a few innings as the Twins tied it up in the 7th on a walk and four singles.  And then the score stayed tied… and stayed tied.  And then it rained… and rained.

After our field trip to the Metropolitan Club, where I checked out some Blyleven memorabilia and some Twins china, we relocated to the first level, right behind first base.  Jeff Gray came in to pitch for the Twins and performed like an ace for three innings, before getting replaced by Swarzak in the 15th.  In the bottom half of the innings, the Twins managed to load the bases in the 12th, but failed to score.  Then came the 15th and they put two runners on.  Jamey Carroll hit a single and Trevor Plouffe came around to score what I was sure would be the winning run, only to get caught in a run down.  After a Brewers pitching change and some defensive indifference, Denard Span came to the plate with runners on second and third… and boom!  Solid single to right to win the game!  Twins win!  The crowd (all eighteen of us left — which apparently included my uncle and cousin) went crazy!

Take that, Wisconsin.  Here’s some pictures.

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