Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hey, Cincy sportswriters, get it right this time

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


(Sorry, I could have done better on the Photoshop, but I was running out of lunch break!)

Take that, Sox "fans"

USA Today recently proclaimed the Boston Red Sox America's team in a front-page article about their rabid fan base and national following.

Whether Red Sox Nation is bigger or more fervent than Cubs Nation is a debate that could draw some heated arguments.

Cubs reliever Bob Howry, who played in Boston in 2002-03, says there's no comparison, because Cubs fans are there in good times and bad.

"Their fans wouldn't show up if they were losing like we were last year," he said, referring to the 3.12 million attendance figure for a 96-loss Cubs team.

The Cubs had an average road attendance of 36,780 through Saturday, third in the majors to the Yankees (38,106) and Red Sox (38,664).

Rich Hill, who grew up near Boston and still makes his off-season home there, said Red Sox and Cubs fans are very similar.

"If you do well, they love you" he said. "If you don't, they're not there. That's the way it is… It's a tough environment to play in, especially guys like Nomar [Garciaparra]. He'd go 4-for-4 one night, and then 0-for-4 the next night and get booed.

"In Boston, like in any other city that wants to win, it's what have you done for me lately."

Of course, Cubs fans also have been known to boo on a whim, which Hill understands.

"They're hungry for a championship, so that's the other side of it," he said.

"They haven't done it in a while, and they're tired of waiting around for it." article
Even as I direct all of my negative energy towards the Chub$ these days, I have to tip my Reds cap to Howry for saying this. Not only is he giving props to his team's fans, but he's just saying what needs to be said to all of those people who bought Red Sox caps in 2004.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Off day dreaming

After yesterday's win and subsequent gain in the standings, I thought it'd be easy to wake up this morning. Problem was, I was so excited last night that I couldn't sleep. At about 1:30am, when I realized unconscious dreams were far off, I began to feed my conscious, somewhat irrational dreams about October baseball by reading everything there was to know about the game in the wee hours of a Monday morning. Now I'm sucking down the coffee to stay awake.

I read how Pirates fans think they have a chance, and I laughed. But hey, we're all grasping for the dream that has been denied to us for so long. They've had it a little worse than we have - at least we won 96 games in 1999. (Curse you, Al Leiter! I can't help but get a tear in my eye when I think of that season.)

I read how David Wells won in his Dodger debut and recalled how he helped us get to our last October baseball in 1995.

I read about how Aaron Boone will have season ending knee surgery. Boone was a key part of that 1999 team. Sniff.

I read about how Scott Kazmir got his 10th win for the worst team in baseball on Saturday night, striking out a career high 13. (Chris Gruler? Really, Leatherpants, thanks a lot for that one.)

I have vague recollections of how it feels to win. I want to feel it again.

Oh, the illogic of it all! The irrational and absurd thoughts of crisp, cool autumn nights with baseball being played in Great American Ballpark for the first time in its history. The visions of that tiny little sphere glowing under the incandescent lights as it sails towards the moondeck from Dunn's bat. The goosebumps as I imagine the roar of a soldout stadium believing irrationally and emotionally that this flawed team with its patchwork rotation and its suspect bullpen can win it all. Oh, my heart aches for these experiences, these joys!

And what is logic in baseball? No amount of statistical analysis can explain the magic behind the improbable, the feelings we have deep in our souls that cannot be quantified, the insatiable thirst for a sip of that October air, one last hurrah before summer's final breath. Hope is the essence of baseball, a game where nothing is impossible. When we were kids, our belief in our team was not confined to logic or probability! Part of the beauty of this game is that we never have to let go of that innocent faith that the good guys always have a chance. Our spirits quiver with a joyous anticipation of something for which we have been longing for too many years. Put your calculators down, throw away your logic and your pessimism, and just let yourselves believe!

And now, a song for Monday:

October, October,
The whole day through
Just a check of the standings
Keeps October on my mind

I say October
A vision of you
Comes as sweet and clear
As a baseball through the night

Pitchers' arms reach out to win
So do rooks like Hamilton
And in peaceful dreams I envision
The glory of a ring

I said October,
Ooh October, no focus can I find
Just a Reds win streak
Keeps October on my mind

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Reds - cherry or strawberry flavored Kool Aid?

Holy cow, Cubs, here we come...

So a lot of us in the Fandom of Redsland have secretly begun to scoreboard watch. I know, I know, non-Reds fans think the team is still The Suck because of how they played during the first half of the year under Jerry Narron. But what you don't realize is that since Narron was fired after the game on July 2, the Reds have the best record in the National League with a .604 winning percentage. That's not just a short, flukish couple of weeks - it's two solid months. And in those two months, we've gone from being 17 games out of first place to 7.5 (Cubs lose! Cubs lose!) 6.5 back.

In the month of August alone, the Reds are 1st in nearly every major offensive category. I take no offense at that! Pitching woes aside, this team is finding ways to win. And it seems that the players, too, are drinking their own Kool-Aid.

You could say it's impossible because we still need to leapfrog three other teams. Well, we play those three other teams six times each. The Sausages are in a freefall, the Chub$ are only four three games over .500, and the Deadbirds, well, who knows? On Tuesday, we start a week of the NL Central beating up on each other. We play the Pirates and the Deadbirds, the Chub$ play the Sausages and the Asstros, and the Deadbirds play the Asstros and us. Who knows what this division will look like at this time next week?

Yeah, so the NL Central is the worst division in baseball. That didn't stop a team from our division from winning the World Series last year, did it? We all know it's a ridiculous notion, yet something is stirring inside our hearts.

UPDATE - Apparently, our hope is on the national radar now:

Saturday, August 25, 2007

In the American League

I attended my second O's game of the month on Thursday against the Twins, just one day after the O's let the Rangers score 30 runs against them. I hadn't been to Oriole Park at Camden Yards since 2004 prior to the O's-Red Sox game a couple of weeks ago, and these two games have reminded me of the first two years I spent in DC, back in the day when I was pretty happy here in our nation's capital. What a great park they have in Baltimore. Too bad Peter Devilos has gutted the heart out of the team.

The announced attendance was 19K+. Actual attendance was about half of that, which is pretty sad for a Thursday night - it's even less than the Nats get. Then again, the Nats don't exactly have a proud winning tradition like the O's do, so the disgust is not keeping Nats fans away. My soul could hear the echos of greatness in the emptiness of the stadium, and though the O's don't take up much space in my heart, I was thoroughly depressed at the fanless void before my eyes.

When we arrived at the game just in time for the first pitch - thanks to the difficulty in navigating the jungle of traffic that made a 45 minute trip much longer - I looked down at the concourse floor and what was I standing on? The spot where Ken Griffey Jr. had once hit a mammoth home run. I wonder how they knew the exact spots where these balls hit? I mean, they didn't exactly have people standing around waiting for homers to be hit way out of centerfield so they could put little baseball plaques into the ground.

Not seeing many American League games, I can't remember if I've ever seen Torii Hunter play. I'm sure there was a Twins game in 2003 or 2004 when I went to more O's games, though I only remember the Yankees, Phillies, and Kansas City. No, I don't know why I remember seeing Kansas City! It was definitely my first glimpse of Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer, and Justin Morneau.

Matt Wieters was introduced during the game. Some people gave him a standing ovation. I'm not sure most people even knew who he was. It's like the only real hope O's fans have is in something happening to Devilos, as a good draft pick is not going to save the franchise from his wrathful incompetence. It's too bad baseball isn't a democracy and you can't vote owners out of office. Viva la revolution!

Here are a few more photos:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Tale of Four Cities

Marc Fisher wrote a column in today's Wapo entitled A Warning from Cleveland: Could Baseball Fail in DC? The sense of the article is that building new stadiums in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Detroit have not brought about economic development to these cities in the manner described in stadium proposals and this could happen to DC as well.

Apples and oranges.

I read the Raw Fisher blog from time to time, and well, this time he failed. I realize it's a blog post, but come on, all he's doing is feeding the anti-stadium crowd with misconstrued ideas based on his apples to oranges comparison.

I don't know much about the city of Cleveland, though I have been to several games at Jacobs Field. I don't know much about the city of Detroit, either. But I do know that they are located in a part of the country that has seen better times. And I do know Cincinnati and the problems they are having in getting the Banks development project underway. Just last week an article appeared in the Cincy Post about the Cincinnati Planning Commission's decision to allow height changes to the buildings in the Banks area. It's been one petty thing after another that has stalled the project. It seems like construction may actually start before the end of the year, though. So there's that.

It's also been the economy, stupid. As people who live in Ohio can attest to, things ain't all George Grande in the Buckeye State. And Marc, both Cleveland and Cincinnati fit inside that mangled heartshaped piece of the Northwest Territory, you know? Ohio is one of the states in the transition phase from what is known as a "smokestack economy" to a "new economy," and while Ohio was ranked 29th in the Kaufman Foundation's New Economy Index, its residents aren't exactly rolling in disposable income these days. In comparison to other states, Ohio has been in a persistent decline in economic performance for years. Companies are leaving to go to more prosperous states. Employment has stagnated, and there's been a brain drain as a result. Part of the reason is that the state's policymakers continue to focus on traditional manufacturing sectors rather than supporting initiatives that would bring the state into the 21st century. (Why is that? Because Ohioans keep electing the same old fools into office, but that's a whole other can o'worms.)

Contrast that with the DC area, which continues to enjoy substantial economic growth despite national trends, even regarding the housing market, which has been the bane of the United States economy of late. DC is the place where young people flock to, young people with disposable income and an appetite for nightlife. Marc has seen with his own eyes what building the MCI Center has done for Chinatown, those same eyes which noticed nothing around the baseball stadiums in Cincy, Cleveland, and Detroit. Ten years ago, that area of DC was pretty much the red light district. Now it is a thriving place to spend, spend, spend. It's strange to see him write about how a baseball stadium may not bring the same.

Marc, your column just didn't make sense, sorry.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Thirty runs?

I'm going to the O's game tomorrow - too bad I couldn't witness something like this:
Catalanotto, 1B6232210.267
Kinsler, 2B7332104.249
Young, SS5120005.303
Metcalf, 3B1214100.238
Byrd, CF5424211.318
Botts, DH7232041.234
Cruz, RF7220025.220
Murphy, LF7552011.550
Saltalamacchia, C6547112.262
Vazquez, 3B-SS6447110.240

A dilemma

So the Reds are in Pittsburgh next Tuesday through Thursday. Sadly, it's as close as they come for the rest of the season. There is a doubleheader scheduled for Tuesday - a true doubleheader, you know, the kind where you get to see both games with one ticket. Now, if I left at noon, I could be there in time to see the first game and even get back at a decent hour. Problem is, I'd want to stay for the second game, too. How could I not?

Why are they playing the first game so late? If it started at 1pm, I could skip the whole day and go to both games without issue! But the first game starts at 5pm, and barring any bullpen blowup extra inning disaster, the next game won't start until 8:30, meaning if it's another normal game, it won't be over until 11:30pm.

Then there's the whole drive eight hours for a three hour ballgame. And if I stayed for the second, it'd be six hours of baseball, still less than the time it takes to drive there and back, and I'd either have to stay in Pittsburgh and miss half of another day of work or I'd get back after 3am.

I guess it's not so much of a dilemma. If Wayne had fired Jerry sooner, there might be a pennant race card thrown in there, but since they are out of it, I might as well just stay here and save my days off, which are dwindling to a precious few at this point in the year. Perhaps I should save it for one more trip to Cincy before the season expires.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cubs win! Cubs win!

Ryan Dumpster does Harry Carey:

Of course, this impression is much better:

Monday, August 20, 2007

There's always next year

I'm sitting here trying to get through another bureaucratic nightmare that has become part of daily living in this office, and I'm feeling pretty depressed. The weather is crappy and cold, especially for August, I'm thinking about the end of summer, and I realize there are some things I love so much that I can never actually enjoy them because I am all too aware that they will end.

Baseball is not like that, though. Baseball was here long before I was born, and it will be here long after I'm gone. While summer will come again, too, I will be another year older, a bit more jaded, and already too aware that this one will also end. But Reds baseball is an institution. While players and logos and seasons come and go, the Cincinnati Reds will always be there, and there is a farm system and a future and there is always next year.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Abe here, filling in for disappointed Daedalus

Two score and five years ago, some architects gave us RFK Stadium.

The stadium, though multipurpose, was built with baseball in mind, as the city was trying to get the Senators back after losing them the previous year to Minnesota. The 1961 season - the first for the expansion Senators - was played at Griffith Stadium located two blocks from where Daedalus used to live. What was then known as DC Stadium was ready in the fall of 1961, so the Washington Redskins got to play there first. The Redskins were good in that stadium. The Senators were not, and they moved away to Texass in 1971.

Luckily, we got baseball back in 2005. The team honored me last night. I sat in section 458 out in centerfield, so I got to see a lot of Carlos Beltran and Nook Logan. Can someone explain to me why Nook Logan is starting in center instead of Ryan Church? That Wily Mo trade was a good one, but Church is getting screwed again! Logan is batting .273/.323/.359 to Church's .264/.342/.433. While Church's numbers aren't great, he's certainly a more valuable player than freaking Nook.

This is me going to get a beer after the Nationals get the Mets out. Boy, those Mets sure have some good players, don't they? Jose Reyes is one of my favorite baseball players. And David Wright, too! It's just too bad the Nats couldn't pull out a win for my special day at the ballpark. It was kind of a boring game - they just didn't get on base enough for my excitement.

Now, I'm a very honest person, but I don't think those umps were very honest in their calls last night. During one inning, each of the four umps made questionable calls. We couldn't watch the replays on the scoreboard because of the whole "controversy" rule. That should be changed. Umpires should be held accountable for their miserable failures.

It was a beautiful summer night, not hot, not muggy, just a perfectly pleasant evening except for the losing. We don't have too many of these warm nights left - better enjoy them all now before it gets cool. Kind of makes me sad that we don't have too many nights of baseball left in this dump of a ballpark, either.

Daedalus said it was weird seeing Young, Lopez, Kearns, and Pena in the starting lineup, like she was watching the Reds. She and her friend kept yelling "Go Reds!" half the night. The Reds lost to the Sausages, so they were both bummed about that. Speaking of Sausages, I won the President's race last night. Yay for me!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Eleven o'clock, tick tock

It was a dark and stormy night.

Actually, I don't know if it was. It was either 3am or 3pm - I can't remember which - and it was San Diegoish California in January 1977. I was born.

Surely somewhere in my little Tin Drum mind at the moment I took my first breath I knew I was destined for the heartbreak that comes with being a baseball fan. I should have avoided it. I did it anyway. I took the plunge, took a chance on being a fan, even when all I could see was light and darkness. I knew there was something else, something more than black and white - there was red, bright red, brighter than all of the joy in the world. Yet I have felt the nirvana only once in my life, a very young, naive, probably unappreciative life. I was thirteen years old. It was 1990, practically another lifetime.

I tore out my next tickets in my Nats package today and gasped in horror when I saw how many were left. Six. Six of twenty in the best birthday present ever. Six shiny blue tickets with the colorful baseball logos, Game 64 out of 81, then 67, 69, 71, 73, and 79. My heart is breaking as it does every year when I realize summer is dying, when I notice the sky is completely dark at eight o'clock and I check the standings to see the Reds are once again out of the race, that the whole season was once again for naught. My heart breaks as I think about the impending autumn, the cold, cruel wind whipping through the empty trees, and the darkness, oh the darkness, coming out of the office at 5pm to a dead day, reminding me that life is passing far too quickly, and I am gasping for air as I fail to keep up.

I've said it before, but it's so true - that shirt they have out there that says "Baseball is Life" really is the essence of being. Summer, that season when as kids we were totally free, when we climbed trees and rode our bikes to the baseball card shop and ate butterscotch dipped cones from the Dairy Queen, when we caught lightening bugs and put them in a jar, when going to the pool was just about the best thing you could do aside from a baseball game. Baseball is summer, summer is life, and I can hear the ticking louder and louder and louder now. Game 64. Game 67. Game 69. Game 71. Game 73. Game 79.

Game 162.

The emptiness of autumn for all but a few lucky fans.

I remember back in March when I first received the ticket package. People who had them before complained they weren't in a fancy box. I thought my booklet with the tear out tickets was the best damn thing I ever had. I have one full page left. It nearly makes me cry that it's the only one, that my beautiful, beautiful book has but one page remaining. That summer is almost gone.

I gasp for summer air. It's getting tough to breathe.

Eat the contract, Wayne

Eat. The. Contract.

DFA Mike Stanton now!

Just when I was starting to feel good about the team again after the disaster here in DC, Stinkton gives up a month's worth of runs to put a one run game out of reach.

The guy has sucked all year, but he just keeps getting worse. It was stupid enough that you signed his ancient arm to a two year contract, Wayne, but it is just as stupid that you keep him on the team. DFA him - nobody's going to claim him and he'll clear waivers. Then he can pitch in the minors and teach all of those young 'uns down there.

2007 53 43.0 52 23 4 15 30 1 3 0 0.0 1.56 .297 4.60

That's not counting today's disaster.

The least you could do, Wayne, is put him on the DL for the rest of the season and pray that a miracle will take place between now and next year.

A rare game recap after a very long night

Boy, that one was kind of fun. Just seeing the dejected look on the Chub$ fans' faces when Stormy managed to get that last out made staying up until 1:30 to watch the end worthwhile.

I admit, I like the Chub$. I wish they were in a different division than the Reds like they were back when retarded baseball geography had them in the East while Cincinnati was in the West. And there's a magic about Wrigley Field that sends joy to the soul. It's not like the team has ever been good or anything. [1908! 1908! 1908! I wish the Reds would have a 1908 day when the Chub$ come to town, because I am sick of GABp turning into Wrigley 3 during these series. Any time the Chub$ fans started to cheer, they could have the scoreboard operator flash 1908! 1908! 1908! so Reds fans can start mocking their losing tradition.] Mine is the WGN generation - I watched a lot of Chub$ games as a kid because they were always on after school. Plus I love the City of Chicago and well, the Cubbies are the heart of the Chicago organism.

That being said, I don't actually want them to win since that would mean the Reds have lost. And they are a large market team, and since the income gap between rich and poor teams has turned into a chasm, they are benefiting.

So I flip on the game last night at Central Time 7pm, and it was raining lightly. Then it was pouring. The old man was snoring. I had yet to realize that I wouldn't be doing much of that myself over the course of the night. The Banana Phone rings, and surprisingly, not a lot of typical bananaphoners called in, although Calvin got through, the "baseball guy" who can't pronounce the players' names correctly. He butchered Guardado's name, which led Marty to say, "I'm going to take a stab at which player you're talking about." Still no game. Lightening and thunder reign over Wrigley. We're sent back to stations, where some WLW guy who doesn't understand baseball was fielding more calls. Dumb answers. Waiting for game, waiting...I go to cook dinner - fresh tomatoes from the garden, spinach, oregano, basil, some olive oil, red pepper flakes, black pepper, a dash of cinnamon, a bit of onion, simmered over the stove and poured over rice. Did some laundry. Came back. Still no game.

Suddenly, a hideous version of the National Anthem comes over the airwaves, and Norris Hopper bunts his way on for a basehit. It was 9:35 EST. I had a feeling it was going to be a strange game. Reds got the first two on against Ted Lilly, who was trying to win his 14th game, but they couldn't get them around to score. Rookie Phil Dumatrait (pronounced Dum MA tray) looked bad from the beginning but managed to get out of the first without giving up a run.

Second inning Ryan "replacement catcher for DL'd Ross" Jorgensen comes to the plate with two outs and a walked Dunn, who had made a very heads up baserunning play in tagging and going to second on a fly to center, standing on second. Jorgensen has all of four Major League plate appearances in his lifetime and a .220 AAA average with 2 homers this year. So what better way to defy the odds and get your first Major League hit than to send a bomb into the leftfield seats, where you know you're gonna get to keep the ball because Chub$ fans throw it back? Unfortunately, Phil "Can't get head out of ass" Dumatrait proceeds to give up a bunch of doubles and with them, the two run lead. Reds down 3-2.

It just got wild from there. Cincinnati scored four runs on a three run homer from Jeff "I'm not done yet" Conine, then Dumatrait walked a couple and was replaced by No Victory Santos, who walked the next two before deciding that wasn't a productive way to blow the lead. So he gave up some hits instead, allowing two more Chub$ runners (or, more precisely, walkers) to score. But he didn't blow the lead, so he decided to give up a homer to Ramirez in the next inning and another to Kendall in the fifth, giving a solid three run lead to Ted Lilly and the Chub$ (doesn't that sound like the name of a rock band?) Lilly had settled down after giving up the six runs, but he had thrown like a million pitches and was replaced by Michael "I hate October" Wuertz in the sixth. Thanks, Lou, for that. Dunn hit his 31st off Wuertz in the sixth, and the Reds added two more to tie it at nine.

Then, a weird thing happened.

The Reds' pen shut the Chub$ down. Billy Bray was awesome in the 6th and the 7th, Jared Burton threw gas in the 8th, and Stormy closed it out. After a night of horrendous pitching, suddenly, it became brilliant, and I think we caught a glimpse of the future in those last innings. A very near future.

Speaking of the future, after the morons at MLB.TV kept the commercial screen on for two outs of the top of the eighth and Hobbs' first two strikes, it flipped back on just in time for Wonderbat to connect with the ball, sending it sailing through the Chicago night sky into the leftfield seats, a pinch hit home run and an 11-9 lead. Jorgensen had preceded the homer with his second hit of what had to be the night of his life.

There are some things about baseball - the smile on Jorgensen's face as he was rounding the bases on his homer, a guy making the most of what will probably be a short time in the Majors and enjoying every last drop of it, for instance - that make it such a joyful game. Especially when you win!

And here's the thing: the Reds were supposed to lose this game. It's obvious that Dumatrait doesn't know what he's doing out there, and the Chub$ had a thirteen game winner on the mound. Yet the team pulled it out. The team has played .568 ball since that fateful July 2.

If only Krivsky would have fired Narron sooner...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Birth of the Small Market Brigade

The year was 1996. I had just begun my sophomore year at Miami U, and I was taking my first international politics course, the course which introduced me to the ways of the world and the New York Times. As autumn began its life in earnest, I remember being caught up in the excitement of globalization in seeing a front page photo of some Bosnian kids - one was wearing a Yankees cap - in the midst of a very exciting pennant race.

It had been a disappointing season for the Reds after going to the NLCS the year before - I did not know then that it would be the last post season appearance for the Reds in a very long time. I did not know that baseball was changing so that it would be very difficult for any small market teams to get to October. No, when the New York Yankees went to the World Series for the first time since 1977, I did not know that a decade later that Yankees cap I wore to class, the one like the Bosnian kid's - would be buried in a closet and that I would hate the team with the passion of a thousand Julliets. I was caught up in the fever of the Yankees going to the Series after 19 years of failure to get there, a storied team with a mythical history and larger than life legends finally returning to glory.

I was a naive kid.

See, the thing is that I don't want to hate the Yankees. I don't like how my appreciation for the Red Sox has fallen into such rapid decline, either. It's just that the teams have such an unfair advantage over smaller market teams that this sense of injustice has become overwhelming. How could I have known back then as I sat in Dr. Hey's class learning how small the world is that baseball was about to change drastically, that the Yankees would make the playoffs every year until last year and that they'd win four WS and go to two others in the next decade?

Bud Selig likes to proclaim that this is a golden era of baseball because attendance continues to climb every year. Never does he acknowledge that the climb in attendance is not due to any rise in baseball's popularity but in the rise in the number of corporations buying season tickets. If actual butts in seats were counted rather than ticket sales, it would make many a baseball fan cry. But big business is all about deception, isn't it? It appears Selig is deceived by his own devices.

The drop in popularity can be attributed to many things, but I'll tell you what is never mentioned but may be the biggest reason of all: the inability for small market teams - teams like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City, to compete. And you know what happens when teams are perennial losers? Fans go away. Bye bye. Onto something else that excites them. Where is NASCAR most popular? In the Midwest, where the teams (aside from mid market St. Louis) never win and in the South, where there are no teams (aside from the Braves, I know, but think about the region as a whole - the Carolinas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, even rural Georgia, places that are pretty far from Atlanta).

It used to be that at least small market teams who were smart could compensate for some of the income gap by scouting and signing good young players - that is, when the draft was a more level playing field. However, the Tiger's signing of Porcello for $7.3 million has changed all of that and leaves some New York fans salivating:
Yesterday, baseball had some good news. Yankees and Mets fans, especially, should be happy: They should even send flowers and gift baskets to Detroit.

The good news is that the Tigers signed New Jersey's Rick Porcello, their first-round pick in this year's draft. Porcello, a Scott Boras client, was widely regarded as the best high school pitching prospect in the draft, and perhaps the best full stop. But he fell all the way down to the Tigers at no. 27 because of concerns that he would demand a large signing bonus, and that he would attend the University of North Carolina if he didn't get it. Happily, the Tigers bought him out of an education with the richest contract ever given to a high school player. The deal will guarantee him $7.3 million and place him on the Tigers' 40-man roster, thus surpassing the $7 million deal Josh Beckett earned coming out of high school in 1999.

You might wonder why you (or the Yankees or Mets) should care one way or the other about how much the Tigers are shelling out for some kid barely old enough to shave. By doling out so much cash to Porcello, the Tigers are sticking it to the man -- and are making it easier for New York's teams to do so as well.
Call this the birth of the Small Market Brigade, but those of us fans who suffer from the gross discrepancies in income and market share are the only ones who can do something about it. So here's the plan:

You there, in Kansas City in those pretty blue caps - you guys are in charge of kidnapping Bud Selig and replacing him with George Brett as an "interim" commissioner. You remember how long Selig was "interim" commissioner, right? The purpose of this is to remind the nation that our teams, too, once had great players.

And you in the steel city with the long losing Pirates - you guys are in charge of getting the Homeland Security Department to freeze the assets of the Yankees and the Red Sox. Make sure you get it done before the end of the season so we can all have access to the free agents on the market. (Though to be honest, this year's crop isn't all that great.)

You guys in Milwaukee - don't think just because you guys are narrowly holding onto first place means that you are exempt from this. You realize that even if you do manage to hold onto your lead, you're going to end up getting slaughtered by some larger market team in the playoffs. So you guys are in charge of getting all of the large market scouts deported from Asian countries.

You guys north of the border with your bubblers and your aboots and all, you guys are in charge of getting the large market scouts deported from Latin America, eh? I mean, just look at what Selig did to the other team in your country! Les Expos were probably the best team in baseball in 1994, but as those young players got older and unaffordable, the large markets snapped them up.

And you guys in Minnesota and Oakland, well, you may get to the playoffs every year (not this year - remember how it feels?), but you don't win World Series anymore. Heck, you don't even make it to the Series. So you're in on this, too, ok?

Hey O's fans - remember Jim Palmer? Remember Brooks Robinson? Eddie Murray? Come on, you guys have a great history, aren't you sick of never having a chance in hell to compete in your division?

Small market fans of the world, unite! Let the ruling teams tremble at a small market revolution! We have nothing to lose but our pinstriped chains! We have a World Series to win! Free at last, free at last, godalmighty, the Reds win the pennant! The Reds win the pennant! The Reds win the pennant!

What'd I ever do?

Hi, my name is Edwin Encarnacion. Many announcers call me EncarnaRcion. I've been called Edward, too. Oh, and there was that Calvin guy from North Carolina - one of those bananaphoners - who called me Enconcepcion.
Yesterday, I was batting eighth in the lineup. Eighth. You know, where the sucky players bat. See, the Reds don't like me. They don't give me much of a chance, and when I do get to play and have an 0 fer night, they do things like bench me or send me down to AAA. Now they're talking about letting this scrawny white dude Keppinger play instead of me all because he's hitting like .360 something in a fairly small sample size. I mean, the only reason I got to play last night was because Gonzo's kid is sick and he wasn't there, so Keppinger played in his place.

Don't get me wrong, Kepp's a good dude. He'd make a really nice bat coming off the bench. And yeah, I'm a big believer that when a guy is going good, you have to play him. But why am I the one getting screwed?

I hear some Reds fans say that what Marty says, everyone believes. Well, he doesn't really like me. Pretty much called me a baby when he said Kepp "has to be in the lineup, and I don't care whose feelings are hurt." That sort of pisses me off. How would you like it, Marty, if you went out there, played hard and never complained, yet for some reason, you find yourself riding pine all of the time? It really gets into your head, especially for a young guy like me, and it affects your game. How am I ever supposed to prove myself if I'm being treated this way?

Last night I was 2-4 and scored a run, so hitting eighth was not all that bad. But I'm a pretty good RBI guy - career .291 hitter with runners in scoring position and a big old .484 with the bases loaded. So why was I hitting eighth? I guess we had a pretty good lineup going last night, what with Hobbs back and all, but we did leave ten runners on. Maybe I should have been further up in the lineup?

Anyway, I have to go. Despite being the team punching bag, I'm still working hard, trying to improve and all, you know? Hey, maybe next year we'll get a new manager and, if we're lucky, a new GM who know talent when they see it and nurture it instead of letting it rot away on the bench or eighth in the lineup.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Johnny Bench was a Yankee

And so it comes to this.

I woke up yesterday morning and leaned over to check my email. Would I have tickets to the sold out Red Sox game up in Baltimore? Yes, I had taken to calling it the Red Sox game despite having donned an O's cap during the first two years I lived in DC before the birth of the Nationals and before my personal boycott of Peter Devilos' club. With the Nats on MASN, however, I had no more reason to boycott the team. Anyway, I had two messages, made arrangements to pick up some great tix, and set off to Baltimore. The seats were 8 rows back from Manny, who acknowledged both fans and hecklers throughout the game. I kind of rediscovered a love for Manny because of it.

We could have been in Boston.

Now, as a baseball fan, I have a great respect for the Boston Red Sox franchise, and I have no problem admitting I rooted for them in 2003 and 2004. That 2004 Series was one of the most memorable in my lifetime. Now, though, I'm kind of torn. Yes, they are the anti-Yankees. Yes, they have some great and interesting players. But yes, they are part of the large and small market phenomenon that has come into creation under Selig's reign. And yes, the new bandwagon "fans" irritate me to no end.

Case in point:

Idiot blond chick sits behind me with three of her new Sox fan buddies, all of them pretending to know baseball but none worse than she, who spits out incorrect facts incessantly, especially as she continues to imbibe brain rotting pleasures that she can ill afford to use. For most of the game I either ignore her or roll my eyes, like when she and her guy friend are talking about how Eric Gagne had "one good year" during his career, and neither of them could remember if it were with the Dodgers or the Rangers. Now, you have to understand how much these people thought they knew about baseball to understand why it was annoying. But like I said, I ignored it as best as I could. Until I heard her say something that should be put on a bandwagon Red Sox "fan" t-shirt. I can remember it word for word, because it appalled me so and sent me on a sort of tirade.

"There was this catcher in the seventies - Johnny Bench, I think he played for the Yankees - who didn't like a pitcher calling him off so he caught the ball with his bare hand to show how bad the guy was pitching."

I went off. I didn't turn around and address her directly because I wanted all of the stupid bandwagon fans to hear what I had to say. It went something like this:

Johnny Bench on the Yankees? John-ny Bench on the freaking Yankees?!!?! Here's another example of those faux Sox fans, the ones who bought their caps in 2004, the ones who don't understand anything about baseball but think it's "cool" to be a Sox fan. These are the same people who think Yastremski hit the home run to win the '76 World Series because they've seen the footage on television, this despite playing against a team that could have beat the '27 Yankees, a team who has three starters in the Hall of Fame and only three because Pete's banned and Conception is not in because it's seen as having too many players from one team in it, and you have these morons who think that Johnny Bench was on the Yankees? Because they can't fathom that there is any other team besides the Yankees and the Red Sox, and this despite the fact that the Red Sox have sucked for most of their existence? I wonder if these people can even name other teams in baseball who don't play on the East Coast.

I then went into the large/small market/Bud Selig/E$PN stuff, how these bandwagon fans don't understand that the small market teams have not always been bad. I should have added that the 1975 CINCINNATI REDS were the team who started wearing the St. Patrick's day green, NOT the Red Sox, despite the popularity of the green Boston garb and the overwhelming majority of people thinking the Red Sox started it all.

Oh yeah, and Manny Ramirez played his first eight seasons with the CLEVELAND INDIANS.

Every time that woman said Sox this, Sox that, it made me ill. That I can focus so much about "Johnny Bench, I think he played for the Yankees" rather than the game speaks volumes about my irritation and my many, many encounters with these "Sox fans" who know nothing about baseball (yet pretend to, which makes it all the more irritating.) It was actually a great ten inning baseball game. To see such a crowd, every single seat filled, no one leaving until that last batter...well, putting the sentimental aspects of my three games in Cincy aside, it was definitely the most exciting atmosphere of a game I've seen this season.

Self-righteous bastard Curt Schilling, whom I can't stand more than any player in baseball aside from Jeff Kent, was on the mound for the Sox against Steve "Don't do anything to change public perception that baseball is a slow, boring game" Trachsel. Schilling went six innings before his ancient arm gave way to the recently bad Sox pen. Gagne, who blew Friday's game for the Sox by giving up a four run lead, came into the eight to protect a 3-1 lead and proceeded to blow yesterday's game, too, by giving up a game tying home run to Miguel Tequila, sending the minority O's fans into a joyous frenzy and a secret desire to turn to their Sox fan seat neighbor and say HA!, though that first place position made it pretty tough to act upon that desire. Statheads like to tell you that there is no such thing as momentum, but they are so wrong. Momentum is that feeling inside the stadium you get when you just know the tide has turned, when everyone gets this sensation in his gut and you just know what's going to happen. When Millar came to bat in the bottom of the tenth after the O's had put runners on first and third, several people in the stands said something to the effect of "He's gonna hit it out right here." It wasn't the standard prediction said in jest. It was one of those precious moments in baseball when you just knew what was going to happen, and numbers can never call these shots. And my god, was it beautiful to see a game winning home run sailing towards us in that majestic arcing flight, watching as that tiny sphere suddenly became bigger and bigger, everyone holding their collective breaths, waiting and hoping, standing, all eyes at the wall, and explosion of cheering and fireworks! God, I love this game.

Dear Moron Girl:

Johnny Bench was on the Cincinnati Reds for his entire career and played for the BIG RED MACHINE, arguably the best team in the history of the game. There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball, and yes, the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, and my own Cincinnati Reds - the first team in professional baseball that has more World Series wins than every team but the Bankees and the Deadbirds (and yeah, technically the Red Sox, though they got their first five when most people were still driving horse and buggies) - have storied pasts and many Hall of Famers. That you think Joe Morgan is an E$PN announcer rather than a Cincinnati Red is testament to your own ignorance and his magnanimous suckitude as an announcer.

I'm half inclined to start a group called the Small Market Brigade, a collection of fans from those above mentioned teams to try to educate the ignorant populous about baseball and to fight E$PN and FOK$ putting on the Bankees and the Greenback Sox on every freaking weekend. I'm sick of it.

Anyway, here are a few more photos from the game:

Friday, August 10, 2007

I'm in a Friday state of mind

So here are some random baseball notes and thoughts...

You know I hate the Deadbirds with every ounce of my being - but the Rick Ankiel story is pretty incredible. That he hit a three run homer in his first game back in the big leagues since 2004 just makes the story all that more appealing. Ankiel is replacing Scott Spiezio, who is having substance abuse issues. Now, I can't stand Spiezio and that stupid red soul patch on his chin, but I hope he gets the help he needs and overcomes his problems.

Does losing make all GMs sound like jackasses? The Padres Kevin Towers is blaming former D'backs GM Joe Garagiola Jr. for not winning the NL West the last time they didn't win it. Why? Because Garagiola wouldn't trade him Steve Finley to him. Towers told the Union Tribune that Garagiola treated the Padres like a leper colony.

The Chub$ are a half game out of first. Sorry Sausages, you aren't going to win this division. The Sausages just lost Graffinino for the rest of the season. Ben Sheets is still hurt. Plus, the Chub$ are rich now that they've undertaken the blasphemy of putting advertising all over the sacred Wrigley Field. Let me ask something - when you see a sign at the ballpark, does it make you buy the product? I mean, having a giant outfield sign saying "Toyota" actually makes me NOT want to buy a Toyota because their garbage is on the wall. I realize that teams need the revenue, but I think some outside the box thinking would work really well in today's rapidly changing baseball. You know what I think would be interesting? A team having a private school in its home city - a baseball academy, if you will. They have these things in the Caribbean, where kids go to school and then play baseball. Just think of what kind of revenue a private school could bring in - or not just revenue, but player development, too. Shoot, if the Reds had a private baseball school, I'd have a kid just so I could send him there. Or what about selling customized paint jobs for cars bearing the team logo? Not only would you have people buying the paint jobs, but you also would have cars driving around with the logo - free advertising! There's a ton of stuff that can be done if execs would just step away from conventional thinking. And we don't have to see the eyesores on the outfield walls and the insanity of "This call to the bullpen brought to you by..." and "Bank of America Presents the National League Player of the Week."

The Apocalypse is on - the Giants and the hated Dodgers made a trade with each other.

And finally, this guy has an awesome story about a game at Shea Stadium in the seventies against the Big Red Machine.


Shoot, I forgot

I wanted to try to go to RFK last night to see David Beckham make his American debut. It would have been nice to see a full stadium for something - they got 46K for an American soccer game! I've never seen a picture of RFK converted to a soccer field - the very large, empty space in the outfield makes total sense now, as that's where the seats down the leftfield line are moved to!

You know? These multipurpose stadiums are so practical, I almost wish we still built them. Just in a better style.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Interview with a Bonds Fan

When I went to see the Reds play the Giants, I was interviewed before the game by the Ohio News Network. Never heard of it. I wonder if I was on television?

That's one of the Wright Brothers in bronze there. No, not the airplane Wrights, but the Wrights who started professional baseball. Harry Wright, an English businessman, was the manager of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, who went 51-0 during the first season of professional baseball. He and his brother George were both players on the team. George was a shortstop who many baseball historians say was the best player on the team and maybe even in the country.

The traitors moved to Boston in 1871 and started the Boston Red Stockings team.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Pete Rose - 4256*
Ty Cobb - 4191**
Hank Aaron - 3771***
Stan Musial - 3630****
Tris Speaker - 3514*****

*Total jerk, admitted to using greenies, banned for life for betting on baseball, cusses in front of kids, curses Marge Schott for not leaving him money in her will.

**Total racist jerk, played in the segregation era, sat out final games of the 1910 season so he could win the batting title (for which a car was awarded as prize), treated his good friend Shoeless Joe like crap near the end of the 1911 season to psyche him out so Cobb could win the batting title, assaulted a heckler in the stands who had no hands in 1912, stabbed a black watchman in a fight after a dispute with an elevator operator, grew jealous of Babe Ruth and went 6-6 with 3 homers on May 5-6, 1925 after telling a reporter he was going to "swing for the fences" to show he was just as good as Ruth, was coerced into retirement by Commissioner Landis for betting on a Detroit-Cleveland game (couldn't be proven, and Cobb was let back into baseball), ended his friendship with Ted Williams when Williams said Rogers Hornsby was a better hitter than Cobb.

***Played in an era of bad pitching and short fences.

****Played during wartime. Replacement pitchers, stress of apocalyptic warfare.

*****Played most of his career in the Dead Ball Era.


Cy Young - 511*
Walter Johnson - 417**
Grover Alexander - 373***
Christy Matthewson - 373****
Jim Galvin - 365*****

*Pitched his entire career in the Dead Ball Era with teams such as the Cleveland Spiders, Boston Americans, Boston Pilgrims, Cleveland Naps, and Boston Rustlers. Spit balls were allowed, and the same ball was used in a game until it began to unravel. In his days, pitchers made 40-50 starts a year and nearly always completed a game. He still gets his name on the best pitcher award, however.

**Played 13 of his 21 seasons in the Dead Ball Era. Major league batting averages hovered between .240 and .255 during the era. The lack of power in the game also meant lower slugging averages and on-base percentages, as pitchers could challenge hitters more without the threat of the long ball.

***Dead Ball Era

****Dead Ball Era

*****Played for teams like the Pittsburgh Burghers, Buffalo Bisons, and St. Louis Brown Stockings from 1875-1892, even before the Dead Ball Era.


Cy Young - 316*
Jim Galvin - 310**
Nolan Ryan - 292***
Walter Johnson - 279****
Phil Niekro - 274*****

How'd so many of the same names for top winners also show up in the top losers? Hmm...


Nolan Ryan - 5714*
Roger Clemens - 4653 and counting**
Randy Johnson - 4616 and maybe counting***
Steve Carlton - 4136****
Bert Blyleven - 3701*****

*Pre QuestTech Era
**Suspected steroid use
***Unfair advantage because is second tallest pitcher in MLB history
****Pre QuestTech Era
*****Pre QuestTech Era


***Only two players in the top 50 for ERA - Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax - played after 1950. Tells you something about baseball eras (no pun intended), doesn't it?

Statheads don't even use ERA as a measurement for good pitching anymore, the game has changed that much.


Barry Bonds - 756 and counting*
Hank Aaron - 755**
Babe Ruth - 715***
Willie Mays - 660****
Sammy Sosa - 604 and counting*****

*Suspected of using the cream" and "the clear" when it was not against MLB rules and when many, many players, including pitchers he hit against, were also using said products.

**Played in an era of bad pitching and short fences.

***The Yankee Stadium fence was 295 down the rightfield line, where the lefthanded Ruth hit most of his home runs. Balls that bounced over the fence were counted as home runs. Ruth did not play against black players.

****Ahh, Willie Mays would have been the greatest no matter what era he played in!

*****Also suspected steroid user in the Steroid Era.

Congratulations, Barry. You, like ALL baseball players, are a product of your era.

Congratulations, Barry!

I remember back in the eighties when I was growing up I thought Hank Aaron's coveted record would never be broken. At least, I never believed I would get to see it happen in my lifetime.

What an awesome career you've had, Barry. Thanks for hitting it out before midnight so that I can get some sleep!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Fire Wayne Krivsky!

This idiot calls up freaking Gary Majewski from AAA instead of Bill Bray and sends down one of the most effective pitchers in a tragically ineffective bullpen (Jon Coutlangus)? And Toad Coffey is still on the team?

The guy doesn't have a freaking clue.

I don't care if frequent GM turnaround is bad. Wayne Krivsky will kill this team and needs to go NOW.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Dear Governor Kaine,

Virginia is for morons. Or at least moron drivers.

Look, all I wanted to do was drive myself down to your capital city to catch the baby Reds take on the baby Braves. I wanted to see Joey Votto, who is swinging for the fences in this shot, and Jay Bruce, who may be my favorite Red before even putting on a Major League uniform.

I ended up having a pretty terrible weekend, and it wasn't just because the Bats lost both games I saw. No, it was because of your stupid roads and your stupid drivers and your stupid inability to do anystupidthing about the stupid traffic in stupid Virginia.

Ok, so Virginia's not all bad. Had I not been sweating miserably in my unairconditioned car on a 100 degree day with five billion percent humidity sitting in standstill traffic on black asphalt taking five hours to go 107 miles instead of the two hours it should have taken, perhaps I wouldn't have had such a terrible weekend. Perhaps I wouldn't feel the need to curse Virginia.

I had planned on arriving about 1:30pm to Richmond to explore the city a bit before heading to the ballpark for batting practice around 5pm. When I arrived in Richmond at 4:30pm instead, drenched to the bone, to see that the stadium was in a crappy part of town (directly across from the Greyhound station) and nowhere near any little cafes or bars to grab some refreshment, I figured I'd just drive around a bit using the Richmond info Basil from Federal Baseball gave me - you know, the places I WAS going to visit before traffic ruined it.

I saw some things that interested me in your city, Governor, and I was disappointed that I would not be able to see anything else when I began to head over to The Diamond about 5:15. When I discovered that the park didn't open until one hour before game time, I pretty much screamed myself hoarse inside. And seeing the Hated Braves tomahawk all over the stadium was cause for utter misery. The creepy Indian guy was laughing at me as I tried to figure out what to do to kill another forty-five minutes. I felt oh so gross, my clothes were soaked through, and I said something aloud that was kind of like "stupid Virginia." Then I noticed the Holiday Inn sign a block away.

Have you ever paid $135 for a shower, including state and local taxes? I bet old Larry Wayne Jones never has. So there's something I've done that he has not. That was essentially what it was, a misery-driven decision to stay in Richmond, and to maybe get to see some of the city the next day - before, of course, the second Bats game!

I have a "best shower" ranking sort of like my "best stadium" ranking (San Francisco, Wrigley, Fenway). My top shower ever was after a weekend trip down to Cinque Terre, Italy when I was living in Luxembourg. We took an overnight train down there, hiked through through three cities to the fourth on a very hot day, slept on the beach in Vernazza, and hiked to the final city to catch another overnight train that arrived back in Luxembourg two hours before class started...

Oh wait, I let myself dream a bit, I guess. Sorry for that, Governor. (Have you fixed the traffic problems yet? I mean in some other manner than charging residents $1000 fines for speeding?) So yeah, I was really refreshed after that shower. I had put my clothes over the airconditioner, so they were nearly dry. My mood was completely different the second time I arrived at the ballpark, especially when I was first in line for tickets. I got box seats ten rows behind the Bats' dugout...FOR TEN DOLLARS!!!

I couldn't believe it. I mean, I knew that minor league games were much cheaper than MLB games, but I was still expecting to pay about $25 for good seats - about half of what I would pay for the same seats at RFK. I mean, this is AAA - the last stop before the big leagues - and you have a lot of Major League caliber players there. Shoot, one of the reasons I went down in the first place was because it'd be the last time I'd be able to see Jay Bruce and Joey Votto in the minors.

The Diamond was very Bull Durhamesque. I looked around for Crash Davis but saw only Chad Moeller instead. I tell you what - I felt so bad for that guy. He really was jerked around by the Reds coughWayneKrivskycough this year. He should have never been on the roster in the first place. He was very nice - I got him to sign my 2007 Reds scorecard.

But that was the second day. On the first day, the very first player I saw, the very first autograph I got, was none other than my new favorite Red before he's even played on the Reds, Jay Bruce.

I knew immediately it was him though I haven't seen many pictures. There was just something about him, something about the way he carried himself, some sort of quality I just couldn't put my finger on, but man, he had this aura around him that just said ballplayer. I mean really good ballplayer. I mean really great player.

I'll tell you who I wasn't excited to see - Elizardo Ramirez. Why? Because I think it's just crap that he got to pitch once for the Reds and got sent down again. When I saw him in the hotel last week and said, "Hey Elizardo, glad to see you again!" and he responded with a beaming smile and a thank you, he looked so happy. Not so in Richmond. The poor guy was abused last year by the Reds and Jerry Narron (a start the day after a bullpen appearance?!?), I hope his arm isn't ruined forever. That pinstripe suit he wore in the hotel when he was called up last week? Sweet. That inning he pitched in DC last week? Sweet. The only thing sweet about going back down to Louisville is the manager.

Speaking of unsweetened baseball, see what Elizardo is signing up there? He was signing a dozen baseball cards for a bunch of potbellied older men...wait, for ONE potbellied older guy. There were a few of these vultures who obviously were just going to sell them. That really pissed me off, because I was directly affected by such types at least twice: 1) Jay Bruce was not allowed to sign the sweet spot (more unsweetness) of my new ball (remember, he was the first one I saw) because of these types of profit-sucking scavengers, and 2) Joey Votto would not sign my ball because he would "only sign for the kids" (I'll speculate more on that in a minute).

I tell you what - Bill Bray will significantly upgrade the aesthetic factor of the team.

I made a stupid, stress-induced mistake after Sunday's game regarding Bill Bray. I'll explain the source of the stress in a minute, but I got to say hi to Bill's family, who were all wearing Reds gear, and I ran away to deal with car issues. Stupid me. I should have hung out there - I could have met Bill. At least I got him to sign my ball, right under Jay Bruce's ink. Yeah, I think he's right-under-Jay-Bruce worthy.

Bill is from the area (I believe he went to school at Virginia Commonwealth University?) and had a ton of family and friends at both ballgames. I think you can tell a lot about a person by his family and friends, and well, Bray's family and friends seemed pretty down to Earth.

He was so nice. I asked him about his arm and he said it felt 100% better. I told him I couldn't wait to see him called up, which was not one bit of an overstatement. I really think he'll be a good asset to the pen and may even end up being the better end of The Trade. He's been pitching well, and well, Toad Coffey stinks. There's no reason that Bill can't be wearing a Cincy uniform in his roster spot tomorrow. Wayne? Get him there Tuesday!

You know who shouldn't get called up? Gary Majewski, he who walked in a run the first game. I really don't know what happened to him. Damaged goods? Or maybe just a bad pitcher? He was really popping the ball in there, though. It just was going in places it should not have gone.

I got to see Eddie Guardado's (hopefully last) rehab appearance. I bet he's called up this week. Seeing him pitch in comparison to most of those other minor league guys made me realize how great a difference there is between AAA and the Majors. I mean, wow. He really had some fire - the ball just sounded different when it hit the catcher's glove. I got him to sign my 2007 Reds scorecard, too, which was cool. It really is amazing how you get a chance to actually talk to the players. Or maybe I was just really lucky. Or maybe it was the Reds cap?

So, the traffic, Governor? Fixed yet? Here's a start. Take my advice, because I learned how to drive in the Midwest where people actually know how to drive. And believe me, I'm not biased. I've lived in California, Texas, and the East Coast, and though I do believe that Maryland drivers are a little worse, Virginians are right up there in terrible. See, Governor Kaine, you people have to learn how to MERGE. You don't put traffic lights on an on ramp. You build really long ramps, not really short ones. And you teach people to get over into the left lane when a car is trying to enter a highway. You know what else you DON'T do? You don't put "use entire lane" on a flashing sign when a lane is ending and cars need to merge into one lane. No, you put signs a couple miles back saying the lane is ending. Then you put another, and another, and another, and you teach people when they are learning to drive to get over into the other lane as soon as they see a lane is ending. By the time the lane ends, they are all over, and there's no need for stopped traffic. Using the entire lane is what CAUSES these traffic issues! It's quite a simple concept, actually. You can drive through downtown Columbus - a metropolitan area of about 3 million people - at 5pm on a weekday, and you're only going to slow down to maybe 40MPH on a bad day. You know why? Because Ohioans and other Midwesterners KNOW HOW TO MERGE! You Virginians, Sir, are no Jay Bruce when it comes to driving. No, you are more like the Anderson Machado of driving. Never heard of him? Exactly. He can't hit!

Ahh, Joey Votto. What a bittersweet experience with him. First of all, he didn't play on Saturday night. No, Jorge Cantu got the start at first. Votto coached first base. Then came the second day. The sweet spot on my ball - the bittersweet spot - was still open, ripe for a Joey Votto signature, one of the two players I had been so pumped to see. I wait and wait and wait and wait for the opportunity for him to come out and sign. And then, finally! I pretty much forget where I am and dart over to him. I let the kids around go first, and then I hand him my ball.

Or try to. He says, "Sorry, only the kids today." Well, there were ONLY kids and me. And the vulture guys. But they already knew he wouldn't sign for them. And I had a ball with other signatures on it, so it wasn't like I was going to sell a sweet spot Joey Votto top ten prospect ball. And every other player had signed for crazy stalker girl types like me. I heard those words. "Sorry, only the kids today." A million simultaneous thoughts fly through my head. The five hour trip. The sweat. Missing the Bonds homer on E$PN by an inning. The rude pizza guy on the phone when I tried to order food. The broken flip flop I had to tie on my foot with the strap of my camera because I had no other shoes. Saturday night's loss. Having to look at Chipper Jones' picture as I entered the stadium. That bitch in the black SUV that cut me off during one of the few times we were actually moving on the highway. The disgusting fast food I ate for lunch at the time I was supposed to be in Richmond eating lunch - only I was still two hours from getting there. That stupid mocking Indian. My car sitting dead out in the parking lot...and what did I say? I said "Ohhhh!" like a spoiled little brat, turned away, and then mumbled under my breath "But I came all this way to see you play." Dude, I was totally bummed, Governor. I mean there I was, my last chance to see Joey Votto before he becomes a Major League All Star, and he wouldn't even sign my ball. Yeah, I pouted. And yeah, he noticed, because he gave me a dirty look when he saw me sitting in the front row right next to the Bats dugout when he was on deck for the first time. And yeah, I was embarrassed. It was the second "I carried a watermelon" moment I'd had in a week. The first was with Junior at the hotel. But Votto hit a homer during the game, and I was cheering the loudest. Am I a groupie?

I don't like that word "groupie." But yeah, I'm a huge fan, Joey, for many reasons that I've mentioned on this blog. I am on the Free Joey Votto bandwagon. And your teammate Jay here in this photo deserves to be there, too.

Man, are the Reds going to be good in the next couple of years.

As long as we don't carry three catchers.

Speaking of third catchers, let me tell you about what happened to my car while in your state. I suspect it has something to do with FIVE FREAKING HOURS OF DRIVING IN 100 DEGREE HEAT WITH 100 BILLION PERCENT HUMIDITY FOR A DISTANCE OF ONLY 107 MILES!!!!!! See, I drive from the back of the hotel to the lobby area to checkout. I'm ready to see Richmond since I didn't get to the day before. I checkout all cheerful and ready for some baseball, get in my car, and nothing. Car's dead. Sounded like the battery, but how could a battery die in ten minutes, even if you left the lights on?

Now, I have a 2002 Chevy Cavalier, not exactly a Tom Shern model of a car (seen here warming up for Saturday's game.) In fact, my next car will probably also be a Cavalier. They have big, durable engines, get amazing gas mileage, have room inside, and are a very practical car. So I begin to scream inside again and look up at the sky as if God has decided to be mean to me this weekend for some reason. (Is it because I made fun of that giant statue of Jesus on I-75 north of Cincinnati, you know, the one that looks like he's pleading to God to rescue him from his followers in the church?) Then I slowly trek back to the front desk, whose employees aren't exactly a picture of efficiency. And you know what? They couldn't help. They had no clue how to help a stranded motorist. At that time, I was not a member of the Bats, I mean AAA.

I stretch my brain like Chris Dickerson here trying to figure out what to do. I need someone to jump me, right? So I go into the restaurant there intending to ask someone to jump my car. When the hostess asks if she can help me, I tell her my problem. She calls maintenance for me. Apparently that's too tough for the front desk people. Maintenance guy comes with no car and no jumper cables though I asked for a jump. Speaks no English. I don't know the word for "jumper cables" in Spanish, so I can't get him to understand that I need my car jumped. Well, he pops the hood, takes one look at the battery, and sees that the whole battery is broken. Yes, broken. The plug where you attach the battery cable was completely broken off.

Like Aaron Herr here, I hung my head. I thought this a disaster. I counted the vacation days off work I had left in my head. I wondered how long it would take a repair guy to fix the thing. Dollar signs appeared in my head. D'oh! Why had I spent $135 on that shower!

The maintenance guy tried to clean out the corroded mess. Battery acid had been leaking all over the place - hoses and other under-the-hood car stuff looked like stuff was growing on it. I tried to start the car again. Nothing. He waves his hand signaling "again" as I wrack my brain trying to remember the Spanish word for "again?" Nothing. He says "Uno minuto" and goes inside.

Then, a hero arrives.

No, not Jay Bruce. A nice Virginian guy in a huge Dodge Ram who was willing to rescue a damsel in distress. (Ick. I am certainly not a helpless damsel!) The guy was awesome, jumped my car, told me to drive around or let it run to charge it up, and so I ended up driving around Richmond for awhile. Dude, you rock! Thank you!

I drove around for a half hour, accidentally going through a part of town that made me check the lock on my door. Thanks to my grandfather and then my mother who passed it on, I have one of the skills I am most grateful for possessing - an awesome sense of direction, which makes driving around aimlessly very easy, as well as getting out of not so, um, comfortable neighborhoods for a woman alone. I drove back to a better part of town with no problem. As I had not intended on staying in Richmond, I didn't have the basic toiletries I needed for a day, nor a change of clothing, but I had washed all of my clothes in the sink and dried them on the airconditioner overnight, so that was no problem. But it was another 100 degree day, and I needed deodorant. Which meant I had to stop. Like Marcus Mcbeth in the photo, I needed some pity when I stopped and heard the funny noise that told me I was not going to start up again.

Another hero arrived.

No, not Jay Bruce. I went into the CVS/Rite Aid/Walgreen's/Whatever It Was without any concern at all. I can't say I sensed things would work out, but for some reason, I didn't worry. I simply went to the deodorant aisle, picked up my kind, forgot to look for new flip flops since the camera strap was working so well (MacGyver was my favorite show as a kid!), paid, and asked the cashier if she or any employee in the store had jumper cables. It didn't seem like there were any customers, so I had to rely on CVS/Rite Aid/Walgreen's/Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim and Disney employees to get me to the ballpark. None of them had cars. But this awesome customer guy who appeared from nowhere had them and was so nice about giving me a jump! It was a bit tougher to get started this time, but it finally worked. And did you know that BMWs have their batteries in their trunks? Dude, you rock! Thank you, too!

It was at this point when I realized that if I turned my car off, I would not be able to start it again. So here was my dilemma: Should I go to the baseball game and risk getting stuck in Richmond (because the gates to the parking lot closed only one hour after the game) or should I just go home? Baseball or Practicality? It was only about 11:45 at this point and the game didn't start until 2pm, which meant I had an hour and fifteen minutes before I could get in. Since I couldn't stop my car, I had to drive around while deciding. I even got gas with my car running, which is supposed to be a no no. I obviously couldn't see any of Richmond, at least any of it that couldn't be seen from a car window.

You know, I kind of felt like Chris Dickerson in my luck. I mean, last year he deserved to be on the Reds more than Dewayne Wise or some of the other jokers we had. The guy is fast. He's on the 40 man roster. With some of the others who have been given the chance, why hasn't he? Look at his dirty uniform. He's a basestealer.

I'm not advocating him because I think he's a star; no, he'll never be more than a fourth outfielder. But the alternatives who got a chance were no better than he is. I should name my car after him.

So of course I chose to go to the game, but not before I got on the highway to go home. But then I thought, shoot, there has to be one person out of 5,000 people who go to the game who will jump my car one more time, if indeed, it will start one more time. I'm not very knowledgeable about cars, but I know once your car is running, you don't need a battery. So I turned around and took the chance.

You wouldn't believe how tough it was to find someone to jump my car after the game out of all those people. You could see looks of guilt across some of their faces as they lied and said they didn't have jumper cables. I must have asked twenty people before one finally was helpful and told me to go back to the stadium because they had a service for things like this.

Another hero arrives.

No, not Jay Bruce. The ballpark guys. I got to ride on a golf cart from the stadium out to the parking lot. The ballpark has one of those jump generators, so they set me up. But it was reaaaaally difficult to start the car. At that point I was becoming religious. And then...vroom! It started! And the wee lads proved that they understood cars even less than me by saying "You aren't going to get very far with that." It's just a battery! But I had to drive for 3.5 hours (better than 5, still not the 2 it should take) to get home. Which meant no beverage of any kind in the terrible heat. But I made it.

Yeah, I had a bad weekend, but you know what? I wasn't in last place. I got to see two baseball games. I got autographs on a ball from Jay Bruce, Bill Bray, Paul Janish, Jeff Bannon, Marcus Mcbeth, Gary Majewski, Jason Kershner, and Jorge Cantu and on my scorecard from Eddie Guardado and Chad Moeller (my scorecard is now filled with signatures, but the funny thing is that no one will sign on Brandon Phillips' face). I sat next to father and son Reds fans on Sunday so I didn't feel like I was behind enemy lines. (Hope you guys check out my blog!) The ushers were awesome. The beer girl started pouring my beer while I was still three or four back in line. I had french fries in a big baseball helmet. Joey Votto hit a home run. Governor, it's baseball. How can anything dealing with baseball be bad?

So look, Governor Kaine. I put up signs for your campaign. I volunteered. Check your mailing list - I'm on there even though I don't live in Virginia. But the traffic in Virginia sux. Saturday's traffic was hands down the worst traffic I have ever seen in my entire life, no exaggeration. You guys have to teach your young drivers how to merge (And ticket people who pull over to the side of the Interstate - when there wasn't a ramp or a lane ending that caused the standstills, there was a car pulled to the side EVERY SINGLE TIME no exaggeration. I'm a very observant person and made sure I took note of this. There was no exception for 107 miles.) But I gotta say - getting a jump three times (despite those 19 people, about half of whom were lying), getting help as a stranded motorist with very little problem, well, you Virginians are pretty awesome.

As a sort of epilogue to this monstrous blog post (I hope at least one person reads all the way through!), I'll let you know that last night I joined the Bats - I mean AAA - online. This morning I called to have my car jumped so I could drive it to the shop to fix this horrible, financially breakable problem with my car. The guy came, looked at my battery, said, "Oh, I can fix that. I see this quite often. You see that with these AC Delco batteries." I now have a new battery in my car, which I just sent in the last payment for, by the way, and everything is just great - didn't have to go to the shop and only paid for a new battery and a Bats membership. Now if only the Reds would call up Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Bill Bray, and Eddie Guardado, but not Gary Majewski, and if they would just win every game for the rest of the season...

The things I do for baseball.