Sunday, December 26, 2010

Weekly update

Internet connection still stinks...

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, blah, blah, blah.

So, we lost Rhodes? That saddens me a bit.

Still no Joey long-term signing? He really doesn't want to play in Cincinnati, does he?

I wore a t-shirt and sat outside for the bulk of the day. Very nice, very nice. I was going to go to the beach just to rub it in, but I was too lazy to walk down there after two days of Christmas celebrating. Cooked up some mulled wine yesterday when the night temperatures dipped into the low sixties. It just isn't the same when it's so warm.

I see retreads are being mentioned as possible Reds acquisitions - Podsednik, Webb,, no, and no thank you. Have we completely rid ourselves of the Edmonds menace yet?

Still a long way to go until Opening Day...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weekly update

In a way, life without a good internet connection is better. You find yourself going out more, living socially instead of behind a computer screen. But it is really impeding work, blogs, etc. And the fact that I am limited to merely 24 MB of Blackberry use a week, I find myself disconnected from the world. I managed to see the Reds signed Jay Bruce to a six year deal, which is great, but I saw nothing from Redsfest and still haven't heard of their signing Joey Votto to a ten year deal.

Wait, that didn't happen yet?

Get it done, Walt.

Anyway, things are good here in the land of the cedars. Beirut has put up some Christmas decorations that I think were manufactured before the war in the seventies. But the weather is such that it doesn't feel like Christmas time at all. That's this week, isn't it? By the time I update again, Christmas will have come and gone, right? So weird...

All I want for Christmas is world peace.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Al 'Ada min Al-Qahera

The return of Cairo. Whoopdeedo. Do we have a shortstop yet? Do we have a leftfielder yet? Big Donkey went to the White Sox, so that's out. The Reds never do anything at the winter meetings. Why do they even bother sending people? Save the money on the plane tickets and the hotels and all and use it towards buying Votto forever. (Yeah, I suppose that would take a billion winters to save up for. Joey might not be the same player in a billion years.) Someone actually used the word "splash" in a title for the article about them resigning Cairo.

Nice they "locked up Bruce for the long haul." Wrong player, though. Anyone else sense that Votto doesn't want to play for the Reds for the "long haul?"

My internet connection is slower than dial up. This post might not even post. Lebanon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I'm alive

I'm afraid the Hot Stove has been the Cold Stove for me. After Joey got his trophy, I sort of forgot baseball existed. A little disappointed the Reds are letting Rhodes walk. Still hope we can get him back.

Weird to be sweating next to palm trees while staring at Christmas decorations. My internet access is somewhat limited by my own laziness, meaning I have to go to a cafe to get online, aside from when I have my weekly 24 Blackberry MB, which I have been using up in three days. That's ok, there's not much to write about baseball-wise right now. I'm going to try to post twice a week from now on - every Sunday and one day in the middle of the week.

Cheers from Beirut.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Happy Free Agent Day!

Ugh. Free agent day is like festivus for the rich of us, a time when the havenots lose the players they nurtured and raised to the haves. Like poor folks, the havenots sometimes win the lottery, but like all else in life, the chances are slim.

The Cincinnati Reds Baseball Club won its division in 1970, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, and 1979 but even all that winning wasn't enough to prevent the loss of its players when the greed of free agency went into effect after the 1976 season. Baseball hasn't been the same since.

As November 2, 2010 showed us that most people aren't capable of grasping the idea that change doesn't happen overnight, teams continued to remain competitive for years after free agency. But the eighties were a period of fundamental change to the way business runs, a period where the Golden Rule was replaced by Anything for My Precious, and we know all too well that baseball is a business. Selfishness became a badge of honor and Wall Street wonderboys bragged about screwing people out of their money. Being a terrible person was cool.

For baseball, 1981 marked the beginning of a new era, and a strike ripped off what remained of the Big Red Machine. The Reds were screwed out of the playoffs again in 1994 by another strike. By the end of the nineties, salaries were out of control, and a few teams dominated baseball.

Brainwashed folks scream "Market!" every time you try to make a social argument about athletes being millionaires while teachers get a pittance. These folks are no different than those who defend Columbus Day because they were taught that "Columbus discovered America" in elementary school. Today, conventional "wisdom" dictates that capitalism is a veritable Disneyland, a place where dreams are made, the One True Religion. If you criticize it and question the status quo, you are called names like "communist" or "dirty hippy." People defend the Yankees outrageously unfair advantage because it's "The Market" and make a stretch to say there is parity when even a broken clock is right twice a day. A salary cap would be "socialist" and therefore "evil." Some try to use a "player value" argument, saying a salary cap is "unfair" to the players (indeed, this is the players argument.)

What's "unfair" is that one team can spend $200 million a year on their team while most others spend less than half that." What's "unfair" is that some incompetent owners can continue to operate their perennial losing franchises because they are making money so they don't care (Baltimore and Pittsburgh come to mind.) What's "unfair" is that first class jerks can make $15-20 million a year while a teacher - a vital part of a strong, healthy democratic society - makes $40-50,000, less than median income in the US.

Free agency, while meant to protect players from the owners, has become a symbol of all that is wrong with our society. It represents greed, corporatism, and misplaced values. It twists the knife in the backs of struggling industrial towns. It fuels animosity and exacerbates the mentality of tribalism among fans of various teams.

Major League Baseball may wonder why it had the lowest rated World Series in history, and it may even be plotting ways to ensure the dominant market teams get in (making Wild Card more difficult is one example.) What MLB doesn't realize is that Americans don't like baseball anymore. Putting the ADD Nation argument aside, the business of baseball has completely swallowed the children's game once woven into the fabric of our being. Those of us who still love the game are clinging to worn and unraveling threads. Don't look now, but those threads are connected to a starred and striped cloth.

Yeah, I hate losing players to free agency and can already feel the heartbreak of losing Votto and Bruce and all the players we've seen grow.

(For a brief history on free agency, see this.)

Saturday, November 06, 2010


I like to say I've been collecting baseball memorabilia since I was eight years old, but quite frankly, I don't remember where I came up with that number. That would have been in 1985, two years before I started collecting baseball cards and two years after my family moved to Ohio. I have my ticket to my first Reds game in San Diego in 1978, but I was a year old and can truthfully say I was not the one who made the conscious effort to save the ticket stub. I also have the "Pete's Back!" Shirt my grandfather gave to my sisters and I when Rose returned to Cincinnati in 1984. So I must have made the number up.

It might have been the year when I decided I wanted to own a Reds-themed restaurant, however. I've wanted to do that for a looooong time, although as I grew older, it changed into a sports bar. I've already created the menu - one appetizer, entree, and desert and one beer on tap from every Major League city - and I've drawn sketches of the place, complete with where certain pieces of memorabilia go. I've even designed a lounge area with couches and bookshelves full of my baseball books. It's a marvelous place, really.

But now I have doubts. They stem from an increasing gravitation to asceticism and a rejection of material things. True freedom is freedom from possessions, freedom from mortgages and debt, freedom from worrying about people stealing your things or natural disasters destroying them. True freedom is the ability to go anywhere and not have to make arrangements to have your stuff watched or stored. It is also not having to throw your life away and enslave yourself in a cubicle just to afford your lifestyle.

The global economic downturn has produced some wonderful stories of Americans rediscovering their souls after years of thinking they had to buy this or that, from tales of family picnics in city parks instead of wasted hours over video game systems to families who sold their oversized houses and their possessions to travel the world together. While so many Americans are angry because they can no longer afford to be irresponsible in their spending, these inspiring tales of transformed outlooks on life are a welcome relief from the chains of materialism that have incarcerated the planet, leading to wars over resources, terrorism, and so much death and destruction.

I still have things stored in Ohio, and I will have to deal with it when I get a chance. There are boxes of clothes, books, CDs, and the things I've hoarded from my travels that I have been easily living without for two years. Most of my boxes, however, are full of the baseball memorabilia I have spent years collecting. I'm sure I could get a sizable chunk of change for it all, but I am clinging to it, because maybe one day the desire to open the place will return. After all, the whole point of the bar is to provide a place where people can have a good time and enjoy the game they love and all the pleasure and nostalgia that comes with it, and really, that's what I want for everyone in life.

I've packed up two large suitcases and am going on a long trip. The suitcases contain clothes, books, and not much else. I'll also have a backpack with a laptop, Blackberry, and camera on my back, necessary tools for survival. (And how else will I be able to keep up on the Hot Stove happenings and watch the press conference when Votto gets his MVP award?) Life is so simple. It's amazing to me that people kill each other over crap they don't need (or let their politicians decide to do the killing so they can buy crap they don't need.)

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Spark that Set the Flame

Sparky. I grew up only with the legend of the man. Sure, I vaguely remember the Tigers uniform and the 84 World Series, but his Reds days were over by the time my child brain was ripe enough for memories. He led those Tigers to victory just as Pete was returning to Cincinnati, before Pete's sports gambling days, before the wishbone C was disgraced, before my memory was capable of more than vagueness.

But I grew up on the legend of the Big Red Machine. Sparky in the Tigers uniform wasn't the same man as the Reds legend. Sparky in the Tigers uniform was just an old man whose baseball card showed an Old English D on his breast.

Of course years later, both Sparkys are a legend, and both are vague childhood memories. The Big Red Machine seems like a myth to me, just as the legend of Daedalus and his labyrinth. Free agency is Icarus, free agency flew the Big Red Machine too close to the sun, and Sparky with the wishbone C fell into Detroit.

We can be sure that the baseball gods welcome Sparky with open arms into that magical cornfield in Iowa.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Peace through baseball

So I’ve written about how I am leaving for Beirut soon – Monday. Perhaps I should pull a Pete Rose and do some sports betting at Sports Interaction to help finance my trip. One of the projects I hope to raise money for is a peacebuilding exchange project that will bring high school baseball players from the US to Lebanon to teach Lebanese students how to play baseball. I would love to get kids from Lebanon, Ohio – Reds country, of course – to participate in the exchange program. After all, the Lebanons of the United States were founded by Lebanese, and what better way to grow the Cincinnati Reds brand throughout the world than to bring folks from Reds country across the ocean to teach it?

The world needs more East-West peacebuilding programs, because the biggest problem between the Orient and the Occident is misunderstanding and ignorance. Americans have this idea that everyone in the Arab world lives in tents and rides camels and wears long, flowing robes with bombs strapped to them underneath. The Arab world thinks we all live in mansions and eat whole cows at every meal and drink oil to wash it down and give all our disposable income to Israel.

It’s all a bunch of stupidity, and neither side is less guilty than the other. But it’s easier to shout at each other and to succumb to the violence of hatred than it is to listen. We’ve had all of this Quran-burning, mosque-building nonsense in the US, which sadly is not the behavior of extremists. People are proud of their hate. It’s disgusting.

The essence of conflict is cowardice.

The peacemakers of the world all shared one thing in common: courage. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Yitzhak Rabin all lost their lives because peacemaking is a threat to the weak men who wage war. Gerry Adams, Ian Paisley, and Tony Blair had the balls to sit down at the same table together to end the 800 year long conflict in Ireland. Mikhail Gorbachev risked his life and was exiled to bring change to the Soviet Union, and Boris Yeltsin stared down tanks in the front of the Russian parliament building to stop a coup that would bring back communism. Conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Cyprus were resolved because people were strong enough and brave enough to put aside their hatreds. Europe’s entire history is defined by war, so some very smart and very brave men sat down and decided to create a system that would ensure if one country attempted to wage war on another, the warmongering country would be destroyed in the process. Today we call it the European Union.

Peace is not a “liberal elitist hippy” idea. It is a reality. For the life of me I can’t understand why there are people on this planet that are fine with war. Unbalanced chemicals in their brains, I guess. If only the warmongers of the world would smash the houses and kill the families of the other warmongers of the world and leave the rest of us out of it…

The East and West are not destined to be enemies forever, but you need to cut the crap, stop letting cable news tell you how to think, and find the courage to say “Enough!” Some people need help with that. We need better channels of communication, more direct contact, and the desire to live in a peaceful world. What better way to bring the two worlds together than with the beautiful game of baseball, a game that is as much about strategy as it is about physical ability?

Hopefully, though, the two sides won’t end up using baseball bats the way the mafia does.

If you would like to make a donation to the peacebuilding program, you can send through Paypal to

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Restoring sanity in baseball

Yesterday I tweeted a link to a column by some small town paper guy from some Texas site no one's ever heard of. The premise of the lunacy is that San Franciscans don't deserve to win the World Series because they are liberal hippy elitists, while people from Texas are hardworking "regular Joes." He makes fun of Mayor Newsome's name, brings up the coffee cliches, and broaches the subject of Nancy Pelosi.

He says,
"I'm sorry. I don't mean to inject politics into baseball. But it's hard to imagine two places more different facing each other in the World Series – one right, one left."
You don't mean to "inject politics into baseball?" Yes you do, or else you wouldn't have written the column. Duh.

A few weeks ago during the NLDS, some Philly sportstyper (writer is too noble a term to use for him) typed a similar column that was not political but no less arrogant mocking the city and people of Cincinnati. This was published in a real paper, the Philly Inquirer, as opposed to that Texas Cable News site, so more people read it. I never saw any apology for it.

Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall to watch two comedians put on a show that addressed this very topic: the polemic vitriol that spews from the mouths of self-righteous folks who must have gotten journalism and broadcasting degrees in a box of Cracker Jacks. Granted, they were talking about something far more important than baseball, but as you can see, the contempt has trickled down into the realm of sports, too.

I'm sick of all of it. I wish the Earth would just open up and swallow these media types who get off on division, who are not good enough writers or broadcasters to be successful on their own merits so they pick fights and say "controversial" things just to get attention. Once I was a political animal; now I view politics as animosity. Unfortunately, a whole generation has grown up on Rovian politics, where people smarter or more experienced than you are "elitists" and intelligence is ridiculed, where no one is ever wrong except the other side, where people get angry over taxes and government domestic spending but support debt-escalating wars, where you are allowed to stomp on the head of someone who doesn't support your candidate, where you can call something socialist without being able to define that word, where paranoia drives political activity and politicians use fear to gain votes, where respect does not exist and you can say anything you want without shame or guilt or even truth. There are people who honestly cannot see anything wrong with this, that this is poisoning the country, and in turn, the world.

I wonder if Steve Blow (yeah, that's his actual name, and HE has the gall to mock someone else's name?) has ever been to San Francisco. It's a beautiful place full of intelligent people (can we stop denigrating intelligence - this country wasn't built on stupidity) who care about more than themselves. Yeah, sure, there's some frou frou stuff in San Fran - there's frou frou in Austin and Dallas, too. In fact, Austin is full of liberal hippies who drink four dollar lattes and drive environmentally friendly cars. So what? Also, last time I checked, California had a Republican governor. So what?

What on earth is the purpose of Steve Blow's piece of trash except to make people angry?

Jon Stewart is right. Unfortunately, it might be too late to restore sanity. We might have already flown from the cuckoo's nest.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Life update

I haven't had much trouble sinking into this World Series like a comfy couch. Many Reds fans say they are having difficulty with this postseason because of the Division Series loss. I, on the other hand, have had no problem, probably because I never could believe the Reds were in the playoffs in the first place.

We're all so excited for next year that we all wish we could skip the off season. But don't forget! The off season is what makes Opening Day such a holy day! The waiting and anticipation contribute the appreciation for the game - if it were baseball season all year around, it wouldn't be so special. But while we sit in the darkness with our artificial heat and our dried out winter skin, the baseball clock seems as if it stops.

I'm skipping winter this winter. I'm traveling again - back to Beirut, back to the functional chaos of a conflict-prone state, back to my friends with their bullet-riddled psyches and their broken Lebanese souls, back to Hezbollah and Fatah al-Islam and the Salafi jihadists coexisting with wealthy capitalists and pious Christians and scantily-clad women and communist students and Buddhist bartenders.

I'm going to be doing a lot of writing while there, and I vow to update this blog at least twice a week as well as my travel blog, Travellingrox. I'm over my baseball-doesn't-matter-when-people-have-no-food-to-eat stuff, and I will write about why over the course of the next few months. Until I leave, I will enjoy this World Series, and though I am root, root, rooting for the Giants, I hope Texass can win a couple of games to extend it a bit.

You all can enjoy scraping your windshields and driving 30 miles per hour in a 55 zone over icy roads and shoveling your sidewalks and freezing your butts off. I'm going to the Mediterranean sunshine, where fifty-five degrees is bone-chilling and palm trees have Christmas lights and...oh! Christmas in Lebanon! A new experience! I love seeing the way other countries celebrate Christmas. (Yes, Lebanon has Christians - 30% of the population is Christian.)

All of this warmth comes at a price, however, for when the cold rains of February cascade from the gloomy Midwestern sky, the jubilance of rebirth becomes a glitter in a baseball fan's eye. Oh, who among us has not been filled with joy at the sound of the words "pitchers and catchers report?" The sight of these exalted beings, their shiny red shirts covering their wintry white skin until their arms turn brown from the glorious southern sunshine...a symphony for the soul!

Part of the joy Spring Training brings us has to do with suffering through winter. When you don't suffer through it, that joy is suppressed, as I found out last spring. But I was new to Beirut then. I had been in country for three weeks when pitchers and catchers reported, had no internet access in my residence, and didn't know where to go to get good enough internet to watch Spring Training games. Oh, but I know now. When I went back last month and it was time for the Reds to clinch the division (did that really happen?), I watched Jay Bruce hit the homer (The Homer?) two days after it happened. And I am just remembering now the guy at one of my cafes asking me if I was watching baseball as I sat there staring at my laptop. He knew. They all knew. It was funny to be watching the clincher in the same city I had watched the start of the season. (Though I had watched Opening Day in Cyprus.)

Anyway, being abroad when baseball starts is a bit dispiriting, even with the miracle of the internet.

I made my return ticket for March 30. Obviously there's a reason for that...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Short reflection

I started this after the Reds lots the NLDS. Just never got around to finishing it but thought I'd post it anyway.

This was a different year for me personally. I missed Spring Training and the first two months of the season due to a 7 hour time difference and crappy internet connections. I flew from Beirut to Cyprus and stayed at a five star hotel in Nicosia to watch Opening Day.

We lost.

Remember that? That was the day I felt like this year would be the same as all the others, that all of the promise of the future was just going to waste away. At the most, we'd win 82 or 83 games and have a winning record.

When we finally got around to being in first place in May, I thought, this is just another one of those years. We'd been there before. We had started off strong many times in the last decade of losing, only to stumble and fall come July. We were swept by Philly before the All Star break and I thought, this is it, this is where we go back to being the Cincinnati Reds of the twenty-first century.

The All Star game was fun. Four Reds? Really? And they had a hand in winning the game, too! Nothing like seeing that All Star infield full of Reds.

There was still half a season to play, still half a season to screw it all up. Then, we played that St. Louis series, when they walked away with first place. I thought, this is it. We finally blew it.

September saw some pretty crappy baseball in Cincinnati. I thought, this is it, this is the collapse.

Yet somehow, after 162 games, the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Club sat atop the standings by a comfortable margin. 91 wins. A division title. Playoff baseball.

Just wait til next year...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Winning Team

In the absence of a baseball game yesterday, I watched a baseball movie I had never heard of called The Winning Team, starring Ronald Reagan and Doris Day. It is a cheesy account about the interesting and somewhat tragic life of Grover Cleveland Alexander, one of the greatest pitchers in MLB history.

After awhile I forgot it was actually Ronald Reagan in the film, which was interesting in its own right. The fact that we had a not-so-great actor become POTUS says a lot about this country.

Anyway, Alexander, who was for some reason nicknamed Pete and for obvious reasons called Alex the Great, was beaned in the head by a throw while trying to break up a double play before he even made it to the Majors. The accident left him unconscious for two days, and he suffered from double vision for a year. Then, by some miracle, it cleared up right before Spring Training in 1911, and Alex made his Major League debut with the Phillies, winning a stellar 28 games against 13 losses. He completed 31 games that season with a league leading 7 shutouts.

Granted, Alex pitched his best years during the Dead Ball Era, so his pitching stats are padded by that, but in a category that transcends time, he excels by even today's standards. The guy had impeccable control, posting a 1.6 BB/9 over his career, contributing to a 1.121 career WHIP.

Alex went 19-17 in 1912, 22-8 in 1913, 27-15 in 1914, 31-10 in 1915, 33-12 in 1916, and 30-13 in 1917, all with the Phillies. Then, at age 31, Alex went to war.

Sergeant Alexander spent most of the 1918 season trying to save Europe from its own destruction and save himself, too. He suffered shellshock, what we know today as post-traumatic stress disorder, losing some hearing and suffering from dizzy spells. It is said that his wartime was cut short by alcohol abuse and insubordination.

He had been sold by the Phillies, who were broke, to the Cubs. He started 3 games in 1918 and returned to his Hall of Fame form the next year. You can figure out from deduction that he never played in a World Series for the Cubs. He pitched for Chicago until 1926, when the Cubs cut him because of his alcohol problem. What they didn't know, what no one knew, was that Alex suffered from epilepsy that may have been a result of his war experience, and his frequent blackouts were often epileptic seizures. He hadn't even told his wife about his illness, as he was afraid he wouldn't be allowed to play baseball if anyone knew. His alcohol use was partially a result of the stress from his secret.

When Roy O came into the Phillies game last week, it was reminiscent of old time baseball. Alex, in what would become the best-known moment of his career, came into the 1926 World Series game for the Cardinals the day after he had started and won a game. He was pitching for the Cardinals after being out of baseball for part of the season. According to the movie, Alex's wife called Rogers Hornsby and convinced him to sign Alex, who was working in a circus. Who knows if that's true or not? Like I said, the movie is cheesy. Anyway, Alex got a Yankee to strikeout with the bases loaded and a one run lead to end the seventh inning, and he finished the game to give the Cardinals the Series.

The movie showed actual footage of the Series, and the most interesting part of this was footage of a square in St. Louis full of hundreds of people who were watching a scrolling sign that gave updates on the game. Now we can watch games from anywhere in the world thanks to signals from outerspace. Really incredible to think about.

The Winning Team ended after that World Series game, but Alex's career went on for three more seasons and part of a fourth. In 1927 at age 40 he went 21-10 for the Cardinals, won 16 more games the next season, and went 9-8 in 1929. He was traded to the Phillies in December 1929 for one last Philadelphia hurrah, pitching in 9 games (starting 3) in 1930. After he was released by the Phillies, he played with traveling teams until he was 51 years old.

Alexander wore no number to retire, but the Phillies retired the P logo they wore back then in his honor. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1938. While The Winning Team is not that great of a movie, it is still worth watching.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Bankeele$$ World Series

I can genuinely say I am happy for Rangers fans.

Forty years of nothing, and they finally get to the World Series.

Colby Lewis (there are TWO players named after cheese in baseball?) pitched the game of his life, and I hope he doesn't drink too much tonight, because I want him to remember this night forever. Three hits? Against a team full of All Stars and Hall of Famers?

Congrats. Now, GO GIANTS!

Time to give some thoughts on the game

My friend Ash says that time does not exist. He's British of Indian decent who grew up with a religious father well-versed in Eastern philosophy. We met at the best dive bar in the world that happens to be in Beirut owned and operated by a Lebanese guy who is as equally in touch with his spiritual side and has become a dear friend of mine.

What Ash means by that is that time is a concept that measures the movement of celestial bodies that we use to gauge the aging process. He doesn't put it that way, that's my own simplified explanation, but he's right. Time is a product of our minds, nothing more. Of course, most people can't wrap their heads around that notion because it is so ingrained and let's face it, most people don't spend much time reflecting on abstract concepts as they go through the motions of their daily lives. It's a shame, really, because there is so much more to existence than birth, childhood, schooling, marriage, death. Few people question the notions that are part of their perceptions of "reality."

Take, for example, the idea of space. Not Star Wars space, but physical space, like distance (which is part of the time/rate equation.) I am physically sitting in a room in Washington DC. I am trying my best to be mentally here, but I lack focus and discipline and my thoughts seem to be stuck somewhere across the ocean. It is quite possible that our minds and spirits are separate entities from our bodies. There's a reason people use the term "whole" to describe various states of happiness. If someone is physically, mentally, and spiritually all in the same place at the same time, he is most likely to be happy.

In the past, I experienced baseball with my full being, but this year has been a little different. I felt distant from the game. I thought I lost my faith in the great religion of baseball. But there was a moment last night as I watched the Phillies-Giants game when I was fully into it, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Nothing in particular had happened in the game at that moment, but I felt the excitement surge through me, like I had been transported back to days past.

It reminded me of how the notion of time is an inherent part of baseball. Nostalgia is as much a part of the game as what is actually going on on the field. In no other sport do we speak with revelry about players who died a hundred years ago. In no other sport do we argue with such passion about the criteria for entering a Hall of Fame. For many of us, we are raised on baseball, so as adults the game is inseparable from our childhood memories, and indeed, as parents we try to instill the love of the game in our children and dream that they, too, will do the same for our grandchildren.

In baseball, there is no separation between the past, present, and future. The game cannot exist in one phase of time without the other two, so there really is no time in baseball. Just look at how it is measured - in 9 innings, not with a clock (although we'd love to see fewer commercials and shorter games.) These games will go down in history books and talked about fondly (or for fans of the losers, with heartache) just like all the other post season games.

I'm sure there was a point to all this rambling when I started it. Oh well, bring on the game! Go [insert team playing Bankee$]!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Twitter Playoff Notes

This is the first baseball playoffs on Twitter for me. Last year, I had an account but didn’t really use it during the playoffs. It has allowed me to connect with baseball fans across America in a way that I never have, and I’m seeing some interesting things.

1. Most people find the Rangers-Bankee$ series dull. Most of us are rooting against the Bankee$, not for the Rangers. God, has this series been dull.

2. Last night’s Giants-Phillies game was amazing. Many folks were commenting about how exciting it was, and it really was, although I wouldn’t go so far as MLB on Fox did and say it was one of the most exciting NLCS games in baseball history. It was pretty great, though, especially since Roy O took the loss.

3. Bankee$ fatigue is real. While Fox and TBS and MLB executives salivate at the thought of a New York-Philly World Series, in the real world, the only folks that would care about that series are in New York and Philly. Fans of other teams are sick of the Bankee$.

4. Lots of Reds fans aren’t watching the rest of the post-season. I’ve never understood how you could be a fan of one team, but not of the sport. Next year at this time I hope to be hearing The National play the National Anthem in Cincy.

5. When football is on, baseball does not exist for many people. Sad that people would watch a game versus two teams they are not fans of over the playoffs of the “National Pastime.” (We all know that bird flew a long time ago. Still, you’d think with all this faux patriotic nonsense that floats around America these days, baseball would be more popular.)

6. Many folks are not of the sieg heil mentality and despise the playing of God Bless America as I do. Hallelujah.

7. There are as many commercials as there is baseball, and we can’t help but comment on all of it. Geico “Stanley” bestiality ad is disturbing. I wish there’d be a requiem for that DirecTV commercial. It’s generally acknowledged that the Conan commercials are retarded. And please, UPS, please stop making Dean Martin roll in his grave.

Monday, October 11, 2010


It hasn't sunk in yet. Actually, I spent most of the playoffs trying to grasp that we were actually IN the playoffs.

I'll write something here later about the series and the season. Right now I feel like my pet goldfish has died of something preventable.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Well, crap.

Go Giants.


I never hated the Phillies. They were one of my "surrogate" teams I rooted for in the playoffs in the absence of the Reds. I had liked them since the Daulton and Dykstra days. I rooted for them over the last few years.

But no more.

I hate them. I hate them with the same level of intensity as Albert Poopholes. I hate them like dogs hate cats. I hate Chutley. I hate Werthless. I hate Coward. I hate Ruinz. I hate Plunko. I hate Victorpeeno. I hate Ibumez. I hate Boweladay and Bozowalt and Camels and Sludge. The earth could open up and swallow them and I'd laugh as they were screaming.

Phillies, I put a curse on you.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Hangover

The beers were cheap, $1 bottles of Miller Lite, but they weren't as cheap as the loss. As soon as it began, things seemed right with the world - a leadoff blast into the leftfield stands, cheering and high fives in the bar, a genuine happiness. Another run, another blast, another run, and the starter who could do no wrong in the eyes of the phans was out of the game.

We were cruising. We had Chapman. We had shots of Jaegermeister.

The television next to the one with the baseball game had been tuned to the Caps hockey game. Now it was filled with paramedics and a stretcher and what seemed like a corpse in goalie gear. The Thrashers goaltender had collapsed on the ice when no one was around him. He laid motionless, unconscious, and suddenly I forgot there was a Reds playoff game going on.

The universe was out of line again.

A blown call by the ump, a ball lost in the lights, miscue after miscue and we were sent home in misery.

Today my head aches from the cheap beer and my heart aches from the cheap loss, but my perspective is as clear as ever. It's a game, nothing more. It may give us moments of great pleasure or pain, it may give us bonding with friends and family, it may even nourish our souls when our spirits are in the midst of famine, but in the end, it is still a game with no life or death implications.

Of course, I am still overwhelmed with disappointment and desperation.

Friday, October 08, 2010

I umpire you when you're stupid

Let's get one thing straight: I have no tolerance for people who refuse to think or who are not as smart as they think they are. The worst is people who think they are entitled to their opinions even though they have no clue what they are talking about and have never put an ounce of thought into forming arguments to support their opinions. Nor do they understand that simply saying something doesn't make it true, that you need evidence to back up a case, and they don't even understand that they don't understand, that their underdeveloped, underused brains are not capable of grasping the notion that they don't understand.

Take, for example, the needlessly outraged who claim Major League umpiring is getting worse. Not only do they have no evidence to back up those claims (nor is it possible to obtain that evidence), but they fail to take into account that technology is what is permitting us to see more bad calls. Some guy writes "Major League umpiring has gotten progressively worse over the last 20 years." Prove it, I say. You can't - it is impossible, because the technology to capture it wasn't there. There was no X-mo twenty years ago. There weren't cameras at every angle with the zoom power we have now. Hell, there really wasn't internet 20 years ago. Technology has given us the power of sight that our eyes can't give us and the ability to spread that information in a click. Technology is the reason umpiring seems worse now. Major League umpires have been umping baseball for decades; they didn't suddenly become incompetent.

Umpires have always blown calls just as players have always made errors. Our "I'm Special!" culture makes people believe they are perfect and they can do no wrong, so when they see others being human, their blood senselessly boils. This is the epitome of American stupidity. Baseball is a game played by human beings, managed by human beings, watched by human beings, and umped by human beings, AND HUMAN BEINGS BY NATURE ARE FLAWED. YOU TOO.

Calm down, STFU, and just enjoy the game of baseball. The Braves had 27 opportunities to score a run but did not do so. The umpire did not lose that game, the Braves did.

Edit: I'm not making a case for or against replay, just that umpiring hasn't gotten worse and the screaming is out of proportion to the "crime."

Thoughts on the non-Reds part of October baseball

I sat drinking one of those frou-frou seasonal coffee drinks, outrageously priced, contemplating my future on a fairly warm October afternoon. The Reds had been no hit the previous day. The Rays and Rangers were playing but still I sat, not in the office, not doing work, just sitting there sipping that pumpkin latte with my faded old Mr. Redlegs cap atop my head.

After awhile, the latte was gone and I was done sitting there, so I sort of moseyed towards home, but along the way, I decided to stop in a sports bar to watch the game that was going on as a sort of obligation or something. In years past, I wouldn't miss a playoff game. I'd sit for nine hours straight if I had to, rooting for one surrogate team after another or at least rooting for whoever was playing the Bankee$ or the Braves. This year, since the Reds are in it, I find myself disinterested in the other games. A strange feeling, indeed.

I do like the Giants, as I have written about in the past. I am happy they won the NL West and would love for the Reds to defeat them in the NLCS. But I didn't even watch the end of that game. I had the Bankee$-Twins game on as I made a video of my Paris photos, but I really wasn't watching. I did not watch either ALDS Game 1. I find myself asking if the worst happens, if the Phillies come out on top, will I even bother with the rest of October baseball?

So GO REDS! And remember, a Roy O is a broken Arroyo.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

It's only a fifth of our lives

Yesterday, baseball was such an easy game to play, now we need a place to hide away...

But I believe in tomorrow.

The day was spent staring at the clock, waiting, waiting, tick tock tick tock. We were excited, we were nervous, we were anxious, we were hopeful, we felt like all was right with the world for a day. We gathered around television sets in bars around the country, we were there on the national stage, waiting to prove to the country that they were wrong, that this wasn't just a lucky team from a backwards part of the country to go down in history books as also-rans.

Then we had to go and support their words with offensive inactions.

Ah, but it's history! they tell us, unable to comprehend how long is 15 years in a desert of disappointment. Even those old enough to remember 1975, 1976, 1990 struggle to recall what it feels like to have electricity surging through the veins. Our excitement was innocence, our nerves were inexperience, our happiness was...shortlived?

We were numb. Our faces were heavy and dark. We could barely make eye contact with each other anymore. And the outs kept coming in consecutive order, ugly outs, without a glimmer of hope as they left bats - if there was even contact. Sure, the strikezone was a bit unfair. Nobody wants the Reds to win - it'd be murder on the ratings! But few Reds had a clue at the plate, most of them swung wildly at pitches out of the large strikezone, and they all swung early in the count. Without looking it up, I'd bet 20 of the 28 Reds at bats swung at the first pitch. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)

And so today, we wait. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in its petty place. Our innocence is destroyed, our hope more desperate, our lives inching ever closer to their ends. Fifteen years is a long time to wait. Let's get a messiah in here to get us out of this desert, because I sure as heck am thirsty for victory.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The clock is not moving

I woke up early this morning, got dressed, threw my Reds jersey over my sweater, put on my faded, filthy Mr. Redlegs cap, and walked to work at 8am. I never leave before 9, yet I arrived in the office at 8:15. By the time 9am rolled around, I was clock watching.

Three hours and forty-five minutes until game time, and I can't sit still. I'm excited, I'm nervous, I'm anxious, and I'm a little peeved that the nation has written off the Reds as also-rans. If you had asked me yesterday how the series would go, I'd have said the Reds would lose Game 1 but maybe win the series in 5. Today, though, I feel like the Reds are going to win tonight, too.

I finished all of my work for the day - I really don't have anything else to do, as I'm waiting on some responses from other people, so I can't help put look at the clock as each minute passes. I swear it's moving backwards. My friend Ash says time doesn't exist, that it is only a figment of our minds. Well, my mind is incarcerated by the clock, and my stomach is in knots.

I got some comments this morning about my jersey. There's an appreciation in baseball fans that the Reds have made it, that they're finally back as a legitimate baseball team. The respect still isn't there, but that will come.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


I was sitting in Camden Yards one afternoon when the Phillies were in town. The Orioles were celebrating the 20th anniversary of their last World Series win in 1983. I remember thinking how sad it was that a team went twenty years without a World Series win and hoped the Reds would never get to the point when we were celebrating a twenty year drought. Then we did.

Even more improbable to me at that time was going 15 years without a playoff appearance. It had been eight years since the last one, four since the 96 win 1999 team. It just didn't seem like it would be possible that we'd be losing much longer. We had Ken Griffey, Jr., after all, and he couldn't always be hurt.

Well, it took some time, but those days are OVER. I still find myself saying the Cincinnati Reds won the division with disbelief. It hasn't fully hit me that the Reds are in the playoffs. The Reds are in the playoffs. The Reds are in the playoffs. THE REDS ARE IN THE PLAYOFFS!

I wore my Reds skull cap today - it's freezing outside! - and wanted people to look at it and think I must be happy because my team's in the playoffs. Probably none of them thought that, but maybe, just maybe, one of them did, and even if he's a Phillies phan, at least he could acknowledge that wishbone C.

I have a hard time believing we're in it. But I have no problem believing we can win it.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Still in shock

I finally got a chance to watch it.


Wow, what a finish. My heart is racing and I am shaking.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Where bombs don't mean homers

Yesterday I was having a late afternoon latte when my friend who owns one of the old bars in Hamra passed by and invited me to stop by for a beer, so when I finished my coffee, I headed over there. It was around 7pm. When I arrived, only my friend and his friend were there. I stayed for about an hour and a half but no one came. I asked why, and he told me business was bad because of sectarian tension. Later I went to my very dear friend's pub. He was sitting there alone at 9pm on a Friday night. The night before, he had kicked out three Sunni men who were about to cause trouble with a Shia.

Things are bad. Last week Prime Minister Saad Hariri ordered the arrest of a man at the airport, and Hezbollah folks (who control airport security) ignored the order. The politicians go on television nearly every night giving propaganda speeches accusing one another of wild and stupid things. The Tea Party folks seem sane compared to the nutjobs in the Lebanese government. The decent ones who genuinely want peace, like Hariri, are ridiculed as weak or are even accused of being agents of Israel.

As my dear Amigo said, there is fire in the ground.

It's a reality the Lebanese people have to deal with every day. Right now I'm sitting across the street from a bullet-riddled building wondering which conflict put them there. A few weeks ago some idiots spent 5 hours shooting up one part of town with rocket-propelled grenades because some Hezbollah idiot and some Sunni group idiot got into an argument over a parking space and killed each other. The city has been molten since then.

Because I've spent so much time in Beirut, I've come to have many friends here, so the conflict here has become personalized. As the Reds sit poised for their first playoff appearance in 15 years, my excitement is tempered by a sort of - how to put it? - something resembling guilt for having been born in a country where we can devote ourselves to such trivial things as baseball. It just doesn't seem fair for these people to have to keep suffering one stupid conflict after another while us Americans sit on our couches watching sports. That's why the Tea Party idiots make me so angry. Instead of counting their blessings that they were born in the USA, they whine about petty shit and make up things to be afraid of. That mentality is no different than the sectarian bullshit that goes on here.

So, go Reds! But it's not the end of the world if they don't do well. It doesn't even matter.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Support the Troops!(TM)

They are not saints.

The uproar over the decision of Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez, and Luis Castillo to forgo the team visit to Walter Reed has gone beyond nonsensical. I'm not talking about these Mets players not being saints. No, I am talking about the United States military. I have had it with the glorification of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines by a nation that has no concern for why these troops are fighting wars in the first place. I have had it with God Bless America(TM) in the seventh inning and the "Proud to Be an American" with soldiers on the scoreboard to standing ovations. Our troops are not saints. Some of them are good people. Some of them are great people. Others are scumbags who are only in the military because they couldn't make it anywhere else in life.

These are scumbags. Their names are Andrew Holmes, Michael Wagnon, Jeremy Morlock and Adam Winfield. They are four of
twelve American soldiers [facing] charges over a secret "kill team" that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.

Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year. Seven others are accused of covering up the killings and assaulting a recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians.
These are not isolated incidents. Many atrocities have been committed by these glorified folks that would make any real Christian - or any good person - disgusted. Yet many who call themselves Christian think this is ok, that the US military can do no wrong.

Somehow, the notion of US soldiers being akin to gods has taken root in the unthinking masses, and now, three baseball players are being crucified in the press for not worshiping at the altar of the BDUs. Why should baseball players be expected to visit wounded soldiers who may be great people or may be scumbags like Andrew Holmes? What's more, Perez and Castillo are not even Americans, and Beltran, while technically an American citizen, is Puerto Rican, a country where many don't call themselves Americans, either. Why the heck should they be expected to visit the wounded soldiers of a country not of their nationality?

How many of those outraged at the Mets players have visited wounded troops?

People who join the military have various reasons for doing so. Some do it to defend the country. Others do it for college money. Still others use it as a means to escape a life of crime or to get out of poverty. Soldier is a tough job and an honorable profession, when, in fact, it is done in an honorable manner. War is abhorrent, waged by the maniacal minds of the unjust, insecure, and ignorant. Sometimes, defending one's country from ruthless psychopaths is necessary, but war should NEVER be waged as a choice, and it is never glorious.

A visit from Carlos Beltran is not going to give a soldier his leg back. Enough with the outrage. If you want to be angry about something, be angry that soldier was put in the situation where his leg was blown off in the first place. If you truly supported the troops, you'd be taking action to prevent them from being put into situations which might force a trip to Walter Reed, altering their lives forever.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

First Place version 5.0

It is 92 degrees right now and the trees are still awesome summer green, but the afternoon light is waning and there's a rustling through the leaves that whispers August's impending death. One more month and I won't be sitting outside in shorts, a tank top, and flip flops. This beer I drink is Sam Seasonal, but it has changed from the fruity summer ale to the Oktoberfest variety. Oh.

But what a festive Oktober it will be.

For the last month, I've been writing about how I can't believe this is happening, how I expect it all to collapse like it always does. But it persists, this thing large cities call "first place," and it is swelling into something that can bring us immense pleasure. There is a whole generation of first place virgins that have been waiting for...I, uh, should leave this metaphor before I am excommunicated from this holy church...

Five games. Thirty-two games remaining.

Five games.

FIVE games.

We're talking magic number territory here, and today I have never appreciated the number 29 so much. I am right at this moment recalling a feeling, a vague childhood memory of the Reds smiley face on the front page of the Dayton Daily News with a quotidian reading of magic numbers. I am remembering the feeling of newspapers, Hal McCoy articles in his prime, turning my hands black with newsprint. I can feel the first cool nights, the crispness that accompanies pennant races, playoff baseball sans Tim McCarver or Fox or tea parties or terrorism when mudslinging wasn't laced with toxins and Americans were just Americans and not "real Americans" versus whatever the opposite of "real Americans" is. I have just experienced a return to childhood in my head, when the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Club was a respected franchise, families sat down together for nightly dinners, you could arrive at airports and just get on your plane, and the internet was not yet a weapon of mass destruction.

Ah, the times they are a changing. Good thing, because if time weren't changing, it'd mean we're dead.

The excitement - or whatever is the chemical in my brain that reacts to the success of my tribe - is pumping through my body, producing physical sensations unknown to me or forgotten, unknown to all of us for a long, long time. I don't pine for the innocent days of childhood one bit, however. Innocence = ignorance, and ignorance, while perhaps producing a state of temporary bliss, only compounds our troubles in our lives. I, for one, would rather know and work towards solving the problems of the world rather than ignoring them and then fearing things I don't understand when they begin to affect my life. And though not being ignorant can result in worry or sadness at times, we have things like the beautiful game of baseball to give us respite.

What better way to experience that respite than to enjoy the fruits of the divine favor of the baseball gods who have finally forgiven Pete Rose for his transgressions and have ended our long suffering.

Unless they are just playing a cruel joke...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mike Leake and Shoulder Fatigue

I get it, Mike, I really do. A Major League Baseball season is so very long, and you have never pitched this much in a year. Believe me, I understand the lack of endurance, for I, too, am not used to this much baseball in a season.

See, for the past decade, the Reds have stunk. By the time late July or early August came around, they were done, and so was I. For the last few weeks, I have been suffering from season fatigue, from burnout.

Not all of it can be contributed to baseball. Politics, the internet, Washington DC, the United States – I’m kind of sick of everything. All I want to do is go back to Beirut and spend my days on the beach and my nights in Evergreen Pub and roam the streets of Hamra in the wee hours of the morning until the sun comes up and forget the whole stupid world. I hate this time of year, the end of summer, when the shortening days remind you of the cold wet misery that is just around the corner.

But back to baseball – I was a bit sad because I haven’t been able to be as excited about the first place Reds as I thought I’d be if this moment were finally ever to come. I suppose I was just waiting for the collapse. I had baseball fatigue, but I've had my rest.

In all of these losing seasons, though, September comes around and I start to be interested again, and I’m starting to feel that come back; I’m starting to feel recharged. You will, too, Mike, after you get your two weeks of rest and the crispness comes into the air and the word October becomes magic.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Baseball = Not Important

Some morons shot up Beirut last night and now the Army is patrolling the streets. They're having funerals for three dead idiots and there's concern that more violence might be on the way, especially considering a Hezbollah moron was involved in the conflict, which began over a fight for a parking space. Damn idiots better not mess up my trip to Beirut next month.

Meanwhile, we have idiots here stabbing cabbies (sounds like a great name for a white supremacist band) because the American idiots, who aren't much different than the Hezbollah idiots, have stirred up anti-Muslim hatred. It's only a matter of time before someone dies thanks to GlennBeckology. Trying to decide if the racist rally on the Mall this Saturday is safe enough to go to. I wanted to witness the zoo animals creep out of their cages, but I'm not sure it's a wise thing to do in light of rising tensions here.

So Joey Votto's on the cover of Sports Illustrated? Is that SI's way of collaborating with Fox so the small market Reds don't get into the playoffs because they would bring poorer ratings? Remember the SI curse?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

So after the sweep...

I stopped watching the Reds. And they haven't lost since. Now I'm afraid to watch.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gone fishing in the Mediterranean of my mind

So I checked my Blackberry (that people probably died to make) this afternoon to discover the Reds had swept the Fish. I watched exactly zero of the games in this series. I had exactly zero interest in watching these games. I blame Arcade Fire. And a bartender in Beirut. And the St. Louis Pigeons, who crapped all over last week, crapped out the trash they eat, those giant rats with wings.

First, the Arcade Fire album (number one in the USofA.) Something so amazing shouldn't send a person spiraling into the mire of depression and despair. But a hundred years from now when Chinese and Indian scholars are studying the demise of the American empire, they will make this album a big part of their research, because it says exactly what is happening now with nice music to go along with the narrative.

As for the bartender in Beirut, well two phone calls from Lebanon in a weekend and a homesickness for a place I don't belong and have no business longing for has plagued me to the point where I'm shaving days off my trip to Paris, a city I have pined for over the last decade, to go to a city where war could break out at any time, a filthy city where I can't breathe from the smog and the smoking and that gave me food poisoning five times in four months because of a lack of health and safety regulation enforcement, a virtual anarchy...but the human body is 75% water, and my slowly aging body is 75% Mediterranean water. Oh, this is a place where you can see snowcapped mountains next to the most beautiful body of water on the planet, a place where you can ski and go to the beach in the same day, a place where there is a bartender who drinks his Almaza beers with a Cincinnati Reds jersey coolie. Hmm...I wonder how that got there...

And the freaking Deadbirds, well, where's Dickhead Cheney when you need him? That series just made me realize how much making the playoffs and then NOT winning the World Series is going to stink. Because I really believe we are going to the playoffs. But I don't believe we are going to get to the World Series. I just don't think we have that extra It you need to win it all. They couldn't step it up when it mattered. But hey, at least I'm developing that little shield thingy around my heart so it won't hurt so much when we Paul Keels over. And hey, it's a heck of a lot better than Paul Keelsing over in June.

Isn't it?

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Second game in a row I'm not watching. Still reeling from the sweep. They couldn't step it up when it counted.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Even more voodoo

More Voodoo

For tonight

In case you hadn't heard, a couple of weeks ago Kings of Leon canceled a concert in St. Louis because they kept getting crapped on by pigeons as they were playing. Well, being as juvenile as I am, I've run with the whole Pigeon Poop thing for anything dealing with the Deadbirds. I wanted to have this graphic done in time for the series, but didn't finish. Maybe tomorrow. The voodoo just needs to be put out there now.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Friday, August 06, 2010

In Dusty We Trusty?

If you had asked me in April or even May if I thought Dusty Baker should be given a contract extension, I would have said no before you even finished the question. Three years ago, I was pretty happy when the Reds brought Baker in due to having followed the Giants in 2001-2002 when I was in California. But 2008 happened, and 2009 happened, and I had all but given up hope for 2010.

But now it seems like Baker will be back. And I feel ok with that. I mean, why shouldn't we be? We're in first place on August 6th.

Today, he put together the best possible lineup he could (Phillips, Heisey, Votto, Rolen, Gomes, Bruce, Hannigan, Janish, Arroyo) for the first time in maybe ever. Old dog, meet new tricks? It was shocking for me to see Heisey in the two hole. Folks, your 2010 National League World Series starting lineup? We can dream...

It's funny how winning can change your outlook.

Next year, we pretty much get everyone back. Harang will be gone, but he hasn't been missed this year. I hope Arroyo's still on the team. Cordero can go away, for all I care. Cabrera and Gomes? Well, I don't know what to think about them. They seem to be integral parts of clubhouse chemistry (vastly underrated by statheads who were never good enough to play on competitive teams), but Cabrera doesn't contribute anything on the field (despite announcers drooling over his shadow), and Gomes is really bad when he's bad.

This club is in it for awhile. Our decade of suffering is finally over. And I don't mind Dusty controlling the reigns.

As long as we're winning.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

No Sweat

Psst…it’s August. August 4, 2010, to be more precise. The bank sign says 99 degrees. I’m pretty sure it’s wrong, though, because aside from the sweat rolling down my back, it’s pretty comfortable. What? You don’t think sweat rolling down your back can be comfortable? You’ve been spending too much time inside air conditioning. Here’s a little secret: sweat is your body’s very own built in cooling mechanism. Without it, we would have died out a long time ago, like the dinosaurs and the dodo bird and common sense. Here’s another secret: if you don’t use your air conditioning all the time, hot doesn’t feel so hot. Honest.

Hot doesn’t feel so hot. It’s August 4, 2010 and the Reds are in first place. But it doesn’t feel like first place. I mean, yeah, we’ve gotten kind of arrogant and expect to win every game now and we’re filling up a baseball stadium, but the seesawing is like sun then thunderstorms then sun then thunderstorms then light drizzle then partly cloudy then night then day then a rain delay. Oh sure, it’s fun and we can write real time comments with a lot of exclamation marks every time a Reds player does something good, but the minute Caca Cordero walks someone, it feels like someone has bombed the Promised Land.

The Deadbirds are panicking. They’re only half a game out but they’re already juggling their rotation with a couple of nice round juggling balls and a few sticks that are on fire. They just trashed their not-as-potent offense for a little pitching. (I vaguely remember a certain team trashing a quarter of their offense for a little pitching a few years ago…that didn’t turn out too well.) And why are they panicking? Because they know what winning is like and we’ve forgotten and so even though it’s enjoyable and the sight of Cincinnati atop the standings and Votto atop every offensive category is orgasmic, there’s always that nagging thing in the back of our minds wondering when it’s all going to end.

I asked my Phillies phan phriend about the first year the Phillies started winning and he told me much of what I am feeling is the same as what he felt back then. The logical part of my brain knows this team, even with its holes, is good, maybe better than the Deadbirds (without Pujols, they aren’t that great.) It also knows we play the Padres in San Diego during the last week of the season and that we have another West Coast trip a couple of weeks before that. The emotional part of my brain can’t handle even the thought of the disappointment I will feel if we don’t go all the way. And disappointment is something we know a little bit about.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

La Dolce Votto

• Ranks 1st in NL in BA (.322)
• Ranks 1st in NL in HR (26)
• Ranks 2nd in NL in RBI (70)
• Ranks 2nd in NL in R (72)
• Ranks 3rd in NL in BB (60)
• Ranks 1st in NL in OBP (.423)
• Ranks 1st in NL in SLG (.599)
• Ranks 1st in NL in OPS (1.023)

They're gonna have to change it to Most Vottomatic Player. If Crusty would stop batting Cabrera second, Votto would have more RBI. Holy crap - there's a guy going for the Triple Crown and he plays for the Cincinnati Reds!

(HT: Jake)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My Dream Trade Deadline Acquisition

One of the top Dunn moments just happened yesterday.

Ballpark Bio

I'm sitting outside at a cafe wondering if I should subscribe to MLB Gameday Mobile so I can listen to Sunday games (as I don't spend free summer afternoons indoors) and I started thinking about the ballparks I've been to. I was shocked to think about how I've seen as many Nationals games at home as I've seen Reds games in my life.

I'm really just estimating, as there's no way of knowing how many Reds games I've actually been to (although I have nearly every ticket stub stored in Ohio.) I'm 33 years old, didn't move to Ohio until I was 5, and missed a couple of seasons due to hurt after the strike. As a kid we probably averaged about three games a season - the straight A tickets, my grandfather's friend's season tickets in the blue seats, and another game sometime at Riverfront. In high school it was a bit more - I remember feeling triumphant at having attended one game in every month of the season and vowing to do that for the rest of my life, having no idea of what real life is like. In my days at Miami U in the late nineties I went to maybe five games - none in 1998 or 1999. It took the signing of Ken Griffey, Jr. to return to fulltime Reds fandom. Then it was Army time. I squeezed a couple of games in June before heading off to Basic for the rest of the season and spent two years in Monterey, though I still managed to get back to Cincinnati to catch a couple of games.

I ended up in Washington, where I've mostly been since 2003, aside from 2008 in Ohio, 3 months iin Bulgaria, and 4 months in Beirut. But my time in Washington has been as an adult with an adult salary, so I've managed to get back to Cincinnati for three games every year, though I'm not going to get back there for this season unless it's for October baseball on account of saving up for a September trip to Paris and Beirut.

So that brings me to how many times I've seen the Reds at home. I'd estimate that I saw 50 games at Riverfront and 20 games at Great American Ball(p)ark for a total of 70 games in Cincinnati over the course of my life.

The Nationals came to DC in 2005. I went to 50 games at RFK over 3 years, missed 2008 because I was in Ohio, went to 10 games last year and have been to 4 games so far this year for a total of 64, but given that I'm sure to go to 4-5 more this year, that puts me about even with games in Cincinnati and RFK about a tie with Riverfront.

Because the Nationals weren't here when I first moved to DC, I got my baseball fix at Camden Yards for two seasons and have been back for one or two games a year since. I'd say I've been there 10 or 11 times. Next up is Giants ballpark, where I saw 8 or 9 games when I lived in Monterey, including a World Series game. It is followed by Jacob's Field, Citizen's Bank, and Wrigley Field at 4 games, though I saw a game at Municipal Stadium back in the day so Cleveland has the edge. Jack Murphy Stadium is next at 2 games, including my first Reds game ever at age 1, and Shea and PNC come in at 2 games as well. Old Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and Oakland are all 1 game a piece.

So that's my ballpark bio, typed on Blackberry. Is there any other game on the planet that could inspire such useless but ultimately nostalgically fun thoughts? I think not.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sacred 600?

Is A-Rod really about to hit number 600? Why does it feel so ho-hum?

I remember him as a wee lad, a skinny thing with an M's uniform and a genuine smile. I tore the cover off a Beckett Baseball Card Monthly with his face on it and hung it on my dorm wall in college. He's only a year older than I am, but he was playing Major League Baseball when I was still in high school.

I stopped liking him as a player after the things he said about Ken Griffey, Jr. when the Reds got him. I was even more disgusted at the outrageous sums of money he received when he went to Texas, but when he threw the fit about his contract with the Yankees - a contract HE signed - and demanded the contract be renegotiated despite the fact that he was the highest paid player in baseball, well, that made him become one of my least favorite players of all time.

I've written before how I really don't care about steroids, how they are just another technological advance that players didn't have back in the "good old days" and that it's a Nancy Reagan view of drugs that make steroid players evil in the eyes of society. I've written about how the "good old days" have never really existed, too, but that's not saying things haven't changed or that the business of baseball often drowns out the game itself. It's not just player salaries or greed. People criticize him but see nothing wrong with selling historic homerun balls for hundreds of thousands of dollars, average Joes and Janes who want to cash in on a bit of luck rather than just appreciating the game for what it is - a game. People complain about how expensive it is to go to a baseball game but they don't see that they don't need to buy concessions or souvenirs that will just sit on shelves.

The fact is, Alex Rodriguez wanted to be the best in the game, and he would do anything to get there, and that is just a product of the society we live in, where doing the right thing is only right when it doesn't come with a high dollar profit and enjoying life is a measure of how many possessions one has rather than the number of breaths he takes each day.

The number 600 feels cheapened, but I don't blame steroids. The mystique of the great game of baseball is vanishing, and that's not simply misguided nostalgia or a kids-these-days mentality. I don't know what it is. I'm struggling to understand time and space and the evolution of humanity, and baseball is a mere reflection of the rise and decline of an empire and the struggles of a society to overcome its flaws and wrongs. What? It is! From it being the first professional sport (evolution of capitalist entertainment industry) to its racial separation and subsequent integration (before the Civil Rights Movement began) to its becoming the corporate behemoth it is today, baseball is the story of America.

Someday I'll look back on the career of Alex Rodriguez, look at that long list of stats and just marvel at what he was able to accomplish. But he'll never achieve the mythical quality of those I never got to watch, probably because I got to see his entire career when I was old enough to appreciate it.

But I can't help feeling Ken Griffey, Jr. is already a mythical creature. And so is Bonds. Go figure.

Friday, July 23, 2010

It's deja vu all over again...

I hate losing to bad teams. I hate losing to bad teams who think they are just a step or two away from being good teams. (Sure, if those steps are like a decade long, I guess they're right.)

It's funny how you can feel on top of the world one day but the next day feel like a season is over. Just like that, I find myself losing interest in the Reds. Two losses to a bad team and wham! I feel like moving on. I just don't want to invest any more emotion only to be disappointed again. I'm glad we don't play the Cardinals right now, because surely that would be the end.

I hate all this talk of wild cards, as if the tiny WC lead the Reds have can't be overcome by two or three other teams.

Maybe it's because I'm sick in the middle of summer and it's going to be 110 degrees this weekend. Or maybe I feel Disappointment creeping up again. Or maybe I'm just at the low point of a cyclical mood swing. Who knows? I'm not saying the season is over or that I won't be excited again next week. But something doesn't feel right.

And can't we wait until the end of the season before we start talking about contract extensions with Dusty Baker?

Friday, July 16, 2010

It's not a hill, it's a mountain...but we're gonna make it all the way to the light...

Welcome to "If I Were a Sportswriter," the game where I pretend like I actually get paid to write about baseball.

Cincinnati, Ohio (CoB) - Sweltering summer heat was no match for Cincinnati Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, who earned his tenth win on the season with a victory over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night. Arroyo gave up two runs in seven innings in front of a large crowd of 37,188 at Great American Ball(p)ark, most of whom had found themselves in the stadium after being sucked through a time machine back to 1990.

Arroyo himself nearly was transported through the machine back to Toronto, Canada. After six brilliant innings and one ok inning, he gave up a homer in the eighth to Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo, which was needlessly reviewed and left the Reds clinging to a one run lead. Shaken and stirred after the umpires confirmed the homer, the blond haired rocker put two on with no outs before Reds manager Dusty Baker went to rescue him, replacing the one time All Star with current All Star Arthur Rhodes, himself having gone through a time machine earlier in the season back to the days of his youth.

"I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him," said Baker to Rhodes as his badass self reached the mound. But some Reds fans in the stands, who had witnessed too many bullpen meltdowns even as they worshiped at the alter of Arthur, shouted such things as "Oh god! The Deadbirds are up four nothing on the Dodgers!" and "If we blow this, we're gonna be in second place!"

Arthur replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." A bunch of fans ran to buy hotdogs and topped them with mustard. And so, after walking the first batter, he moved those Rockies off the basepaths with a popup and two badass strikeouts to preserve the Reds' one run lead. "You can't touch this," he said as he strutted to the dugout.

The ninth inning was not without drama, as Caca Cordero took the mound and allowed his customary coronary before he sealed the game and recorded his 25th save in 400 opportunities. As the last out was mercifully recorded, Reds fans could hear the immortal words echoing through the depths of their souls, the most beautiful seven words in human language: "...and this one belongs to the Reds!"

On MC Hammer night...

On this day in 1990 the #Reds beat the #Expos 8-3. Tim Layana was the winner. Reds were 7.5 games up on the Giants at 54-31.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

3013 Miles

I can feel the heartbreak every time I think about it. It's like the souls of those New Yorkers who breathed Giants and Dodgers baseball can't rest, like they are condemned to roam the Earth for as long as California holds captive their beloveds. I feel the shadow of their devastation in the black and white footage of the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field, the cold fist of avarice smashing the innocence from a people.

Baseball. No other name for a sport can inspire so much emotion and memories as the great game of baseball. Football is named after the grossest body part. Basketball is named after something you put fruit in. Hockey is named after bored Irish shepherds who'd hit around a ball with their staves while watching their sheep. Soccer sounds like domestic abuse, and golf sounds like an environmental disaster. But baseball invokes feelings of safety and security, the foundation of nostalgia.

Ken Burns' Baseball is not about baseball. It's about America.

This documentary has been on PBS for the last couple of weeks. I had never seen it before (surprising, I know), but I've been watching several segments of it after Reds games, and I have to say, it is beautiful. But it seems to hurt more than anything.

Baseball has always been a business. In fact, the whole history of the world is business. Commerce - that's the sexier term - Chamber of Commerce and Department of Commerce and Commerica. Business is busy, but commerce is calm, smoooooth. Games are supposed to be leisure but then leisure became business and we were left slaving away in business so we could enjoy leisure. The Dodgers were Brooklyn more than anything else in Brooklyn but then they were gone and a hole was left in dark blue hearts, and hallowed Ebbets became hollowed and then it vanished. Where was the loyalty, they asked, but there is no loyalty in business. There is no loyalty or love or life, only money. Only money. They said it felt like a death in the family and I can imagine it. There was no Paxil or Prozac then but they could have put it in the water supply if there had been.

You look at the old footage without the colors and the high definition and you are taken back to a time that never really existed. We look back at shots of the Babe and Stan the Man and the Splendid Splinter and we are flooded with nostalgia for something most of us never experienced and we think about the good old days. The fans - mostly men - in their hats and suits seem so...innocent and happy in the time before California baseball. Yet if you asked them, they'd see nothing wrong with the way they treated people with dark skin.

We're not that far removed from that time, and it seems that racism is back en vogue. Racism cut short Jackie's career. It killed Josh Gibson. Curt Flood said, "I am pleased God made my skin black. I wish he had made it thicker." It makes me physically sick to my stomach when I watch footage and interviews of what black players had to go through and see tears well up in the eyes of a guy like Flood. They well up in mine.

But we still cling to this notion of the good old days and we are excited as children in talking about these mythical creatures who are the gods of this religion we call baseball. We filter out the past or pat ourselves on the backs for how far we've come, and why shouldn't we? When it all comes down to it we are really just stupid creatures who don't even know if the universe is infinite or not, so we take our pleasure in games and look at the past as if it is merely a story book. Baseball when it isn't breaking our hearts is filling them with joy and that is enough to get through another day.

Los Angeles is 3,013 miles from New York City, just about as far away from Brooklyn fans as O'Malley could get. Hard to believe that Dodger Stadium is the third oldest ballpark in baseball these days. Things never change. My, how we've thrown away our heritage and our history in the name of the Almighty Dollar. But that is life and we've been doing it for eternity.

More Cubs Vottoversy

This is too awesome.

They just grow up to be Cubs fans anyway. Ha ha.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The lowest rated All Star game in television history (since we kept track)

I had only completed my freshman year of college the last time the National League won the All Star game. It was the first year of the new Bank€€$ dynasty. It was the fourth year after realignment. It was a year after the Reds went to the NLCS. It was two years after The Strike.

The last time the NL won an All Star game, Hank Aaron was the homerun king, cheating meant a corked bat, and the Br€ad $ox hadn't won a World Series since before women were given the right to vote. It was before no one came to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates or the Kansas City Royals. It was before big screens in every room, before there was a word "blog," before the great game of baseball drowned in the corporatocracy of €mperor Selig.

Last night, the All Star game received the lowest television ratings since we've been keeping track. Why is that? I'd like to throw out the possibility that it's because MLB has allowed €$PN and Fok$ to dictate to us which teams we can watch for more than a decade now, and people are exposed to the same teams, the number which you can count on both hands, and those teams didn't dominate the field. The Br€ad $ox were hurt and there was only one Bank€€ in the starting lineup. There were four Cincinnati Reds and four San Diego Padres on the NL team. (Gasp! They have TEAMS in those cities?)

How else do you explain it? Maybe everyone just turned it off because they thought the game would never start after that five hour pre-game show. Or maybe everyone's electricity went off in thunderstorms. Or maybe everyone is unemployed and had to sell their televisions. Is there a new Harry Potty movie that came out last night that I don't know about?

Meanwhile, the ratings were way up in Cincinnati, and we thoroughly enjoyed watching our guys. That victory felt like a Reds victory for me. It was exciting, it was worth watching, it was fun. How awesome was it to see Rolen and Phillips on the same All Star infield or to watch Votto and Rolen bat back-to-back? (You may have missed Votto if you blinked during either of his two ABs.)

So when the Reds are playing at Great American Ball(p)ark for Game 1 of the World Series against the Texass Rangers, will no one in the country outside of Cincinnati and Ohio expats and Dallas watch? (Who DID shoot JR?) Will €$PN and Fok$ and NB¢ conspire to destroy these two teams to ensure they don't make the playoffs and lower their ratings? (My tinfoil hat has a wishbone C on it.)

Major League Baseball thought it was making baseball more popular by promoting a handful of teams while ignoring the rest. In the end, it's going to kill it. Only 36% of Americans say they follow the "national pastime." Why should someone from Milwaukee or Oakland or Houston who wasn't born a baseball fan follow baseball in their hometowns (even when their teams are winning) when it's like those teams don't even exist on a map of America?

Who except us diehards knew Matt Thornton or Martin Prado or Evan Meeks or Matt Capps or John Buck or Omar Infante or Cory Hart (the other one) or Ian Kinsler or Andrew Bailey or that Ryan Braun is in reality bad at defense? I mean, people don't even know one of the best players in the game - Joey Votto - or the best non-Chutley second baseman in the game - Brandon Phillips. How would they? They're never on national television, and the major sports sites rarely give them any attention.

The Reds are going to be good for a long time, but will there be a bandwagon? Most people don't know that Cincinnati had the first professional team or has won more World Series than all but five teams (and tied with two others, plus Boston won all but two of theirs before the existence of the Soviet Union, so do they really count? Also, the Reds won an American Association title in 1882 when the AA was considered a Major League. They were only in it because they got kicked out of the National League for selling beer and playing on Sundays.)

I know the All Star game is a circus these days. I know I complain about this small market stuff all the time. I know the Reds were awful for the last decade. I know the Bank€€$ have been to 40 of the 105 World Series that have been played and their dominance is nothing new. It seems something about the game has fundamentally changed, and the lowest rated All Star game in television history is an indication of that.

But baseball has always been a business. It's just enshrouded in nostalgia and mystique and childhood memories that keep it pure in our minds.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Arise, black vengeance, from thy hollow cell!

In the last ten or fifteen years, I have probably skipped more All Star games than I have watched. Why?

1. It's a spectacle, not a baseball game. Excessive pomp and circumstance has buried the actual baseball. As a kid, I remember All Star games as fun - the memory of Larry Walker putting his helmet on backwards and batting from the wrong side of the plate stands out in my mind.

The phrase "pomp and circumstance" comes from Othello (Act III, Scence III):
I had been happy, if the general camp,
Pioners and all, had tasted her sweet body,
So I had nothing known. O, now, for ever
Farewell the tranquil mind! farewell content!
Farewell the plumed troop, and the big wars,
That make ambition virtue! O, farewell!
Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump,
The spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife,
The royal banner, and all quality,
Pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war!
And, O you mortal engines, whose rude throats
The immortal Jove's dead clamours counterfeit,
Farewell! Othello's occupation's gone!
This is after Iago lies to Othello about his wife's infidelity.

Modern All Star games are infidel to the game of baseball.

2. There are too many teams in MLB, resulting in too many not good players on All Star rosters. People complain about the rule of having one from every team, but I wouldn't watch without a Reds player on the roster, and I'm sure there are others like me.

I'm an advocate of contraction. There should not be baseball teams in Florida - nobody goes to the games anyway. Florida is for Spring Training. Thirty teams has watered down the pool of talent and contributed to having guys like Omar Infante on All Star rosters (ok, so that one's Manuel's doing.)

3. The internet has destroyed any meaning the fan vote had. Granted, the fan vote has always had its flaws (Larkin should have started at least two or three of the games Ozzie did), but at least it was more, well, legitimate? Now you can vote a billion times with a few clicks. Bored at work? Click click click! It's gotten so bad that teams are actively trying to stuff ballot boxes (1957'd).

4. The unlevel playing field that arose during Selig's reign between large and small market teams, admittedly ignoring historical New York dominance, the advent of free agency, and the willful incompetence of Carl Linder, has made me disinterested in watching someone from the Pirates or the Royals come to bat. (I imagine people feel that way about the Reds, or at least felt, but at least we had some decent players like Griffey and Dunn over the last decade, though Dunn usually got the shaft.) Selig's inability to put more salary controls than the Yankees/Red Sox revenue sharing scheme has given rise to the Yankees/Red Sox/Dodgers/Angels/Cubs/Cardinals/token other two teams annual playoff scenario.

5. MLB has partnered with E$PN and Fox$ to dictate to us what teams to watch, instituting a blackout policy that has fans of other teams yelling at that television sets and cursing baseball. Without looking it up, I'd be willing to bet that 90% of nationally televised games on these channels have featured at least one of these teams: Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, Cardinals, Phillies. There are 22 other teams in baseball. People see players from these teams and vote for them. I don't want to watch a Phillies-Yankees All Star game. I want to watch the best players on my team mix with the best players from other teams.

6. The current All Star games lack the luster of historical ones. Who among us has not seen footage of Pete Rose plowing into Ray Fosse or Tony Perez's blast in '67 or Reggie Jackson hitting the light tower at Tiger Stadium? But can you name one memorable moment from the last decade? I mean aside from the tie?

So I am usually indifferent to the All Star game for these reasons. The "this time it counts" nonsense is the moldy icing on the stale cake. The NL hasn't had homefield advantage in what - a decade? When half of the AL team comes from the almost $400 million payroll of the Yank Sox, how is the NL supposed to compete?

But this time, I'm interested. Excited, even.

Four Cincinnati Reds are going to the All Star game. FOUR Cincinnati Reds get to show that country that this historical franchise has returned to the glory of its past. Some past All Star facts:

  • In 1975, the Reds had four starters - Bench, Morgan, Rose, and Concepcion - as well as a reserve - Perez.
  • In 1976, the Reds had five starters - Bench, Morgan, Rose, Concepcion, and Foster - as well as two reserves - Griffey and Perez.
  • In 1990, the Reds had two starters - Armstrong and Sabo - and three reserves - Larkin, Dibble, and Myers.

That is, of course, if Charlie Manuel plays them. He couldn’t even pick arguably the leading NL MVP candidate on the original roster – what are the chances he plays him after we took it upon ourselves to get him in? And even after all of the national coverage, Manuel still doesn’t get it, for he chose Ryan Howard as DH.

Guess it’s just another reason not to like the modern All Star game. But hey, FOUR Reds! GO NATIONAL LEAGUE!