Friday, January 22, 2010

Uh oh?

I have a big problem.

The world wide web, while world wide, has varying levels of functionality depending on where you are. In a dysfunctional country like Lebanon, broadband might as well be dial up, and that's with electricity, which is out an average of three hours a day. That's what 15 years of civil war followed by 20 years of corruption, the occasional bombing by Israel, and the outbursts of various militant groups will do for you.

I'm leaving for Lebanon on Monday, but I'm not losing sleep over that. No, what I'm losing sleep over is will I be able to watch Opening Day on April 5th, or will the internet be too slow to stream it? Funny how ten years ago this wouldn't even be an issue, as there was no MLB.TV. What times we live in! I might need a boat ride and an overnight stay in neighboring Cyprus at that time.

Come to think about it, this might not be such a problem after all.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sinking the Mayflower

Something on baseball...something on baseball... You know, I believe I only have so many words to use a month, and I think I've used them all up. That and there's really nothing too exciting in baseball to write about. Sure there was the McGwire admission, which took ALL press attention from the Reds on the one day they should have been in the news. Can't you big markets give us small market folks just one day in the spotlight?

I've written before that I don't care about steroids, that Barry Bonds is my favorite non-Reds player ever, and that I think this whole "controversy" is largely just a bunch of that brand of moralizing horsey doodoo that is so typically American. Drugs Are Bad. War on Drugs. Mandatory Sentences. This Is Your Egg Brain. Everyone and his brother and sister and mother and father and neighbor and dog has weighed in on the subject, so I will say no more.


Comparisons of Rose to the Roid Boys are stupid, though I think Rose would have used had steroids been available back then, which brings me to another who-cares-about-roids point. People keep saying "The Steroid Era," but how many ballplayers of the past would have used if the drugs had been available to them? Yep. That weird thing we call nostalgia has purged all the evil from the past, and the HOFers are all saints. Except Ty Cobb. Everyone knows he was a jerk, thanks to Tommy Lee Jones.

The Roid Boys didn't murder anyone. They just wanted to be the best and they used the technology available to them to get there. Bud "National Disgrace" Selig let this happen because baseball needed something to bring it back from the strike. If anyone should be banned from baseball, it should be him. Did the Roid Boys cheat? Well, steroids weren't specifically banned in baseball. We know both hitters and pitchers did it. That's pretty much all we know, because we'll never get all of the names of the guilty. Was McGwire's apology one of those non-apologies? Maybe, but you could see he really did regret using. What's done is done. It is what it is. Time to move on.

So I guess this is my steroid post, or another of them anyway, and despite "not caring," I had to say something. Because McGwire belongs in the Hall. Bonds belongs in the Hall. Sosa belongs in the Hall. I enjoyed every minute of watching them play, even as my hatred for the Deadbirds and Chub$ was growing. I sat on the floor of my door room at Miami one September day in 1998, eyes one with the television screen, and nothing will ruin the way I felt watching that game, especially not some puritanical blabbering from the can-do-no-wrong self-righteous sports-writing generals of the nothing-but-sports crusader army who have an uncanny ability to lead the mouthbreathers to arms.

I guess I did have some words left.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Andre Dawson was NOT a National

The blogosphere full of comments from Nationals fans about how the team should retire Dawson's number and how he should go into the Hall of Fame wearing an Expos cap.

Newsflash: Andre Dawson was not a National.

Yes, I know the Nationals are a reincarnation of the Montreal Expos and that they possess the legal rights to all things Expo, but Dawson never played baseball in Washington, DC. There WAS no baseball in Washington, DC when the Hawk was flying across Olympic Stadium. The only connection Dawson has to the Washington Nationals is corporate. That's it. There's no sacred bond, no soul. Just cold, hard cash.

Now, I realize that there isn't much for a Nationals fan to root for. I stopped going to so many games in 2009 because I was tired of seeing shitty baseball. (Rooting for one shitty team is hard enough, but rooting for two shitty teams is depressing.) But mooching off another city's hero?

Baseball is a game of three periods of time - the past, the present, and the future, with the past arguably playing the most prominent role in the love of the game. Baseball exists to create memories. In no other sport is the sense of nostalgia so strong and so necessary. That's why a team belongs to the city in which it plays. What happens on the field becomes a part of the collective psyche of the city's denizens. No, baseball teams aren't about trademarks and copyrights, they are about the people who invest their emotions into them. That's why the Cincinnati Reds claim to be established in 1869. Sure, the current franchise dates back to 1882, but the baseball teams that played before the business were as much a part of the city as the corporation that owns the trademark. George and Harry Wright are as much a part of the Cincinnati Reds as Johnny Bench and Frank Robinson, and that is why they are enshrined in the Reds Hall of Fame.

Inside Nationals Park stand three statues - Walter Johnson, Frank Howard, and Josh Gibson. These three men never played for the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos franchise. Yet they belong here. They were an inherent part of Washington baseball, part of the city itself, its history, its culture, its people. Those statues deserve a rightful place here in our nation's capital. Dawson, as good as he was, does not.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

This is my Aroldis Chapman post

The thing that got me was the snow. He'd never seen snow before. I know there are people in California and other parts of the USA who have never seen snow in their lives, but this was different. I was looking for a justification for the significance of the tall man at the table, and I found it all in the comment about snow.

I thought of Havana - hot, sultry Havana, with its perpetual summer, warm, tropical breezes, palm trees, and...poverty and oppression. I thought of John F. Kennedy, of Che Guevara, of Fidel Castro, of Nikita Khrushchev. I thought of Bay of Pigs and Missile Crisis and all of those Americans and Cubans who wondered if they'd wake up to see the sun rise the next morning or if they'd die not knowing that the politicians had sold their innocent souls for power and greed. Everything I know about the homeland of Aroldis Chapman revolves around these things.

That very tall, very young man sitting in front of cameras in a room full of people whose language he doesn't speak appeared nervous and shy even when he broke into his big, dream-fulfilled smile. All the talk about the man's character is b.s. That table stood two transatlantic flights and a courageous decision from where the dream began, and just sitting at that table showed his character.

I hope someday soon the embargo is lifted (and the Marlins move to Havana so we can go on awesome baseball vacations!) and relations are normalized so Cubans can start to lead lives that aren't mired in missed opportunities. Until then, young men like Aroldis Chapman will continue to have to make decisions us Americans can't even imagine - leave behind our family and friends to fulfill our dreams and destinies or stay and forever wonder what might have been.

I also hope we'll stop thinking of this man as the Cuban defector and start thinking of him as an ace in a rotation of aces, and maybe, if the baseball gods have finally forgiven us, a (whispers) future Hall of Famer? (I'll settle for a World Series game winner!)

What to watch

The documentary, Cobb Field - A Day at the Ballpark, will have its national broadcast premiere on the Major League Baseball Network (MLB) on Sunday night, January 17th at 10:00PM Eastern time.

I wrote about the documentary here: A Handful of Banana Split Coupons at the Dairy Queen

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bet you thought you'd see something on Chapman here today, didn't you?

Well, I'm working on something. The words are just all scrambled in my head right now. Call it shock...

Oh, and McGwire belongs in the Hall.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dear Walt

For my birthday today, I'd like a shortstop and a leftfielder. Thanks.

UPDATE: Or Aroldis Chapman?

UPDATE: RT: @JeffPassan: Non-stop Delta flight left FLL for Cincinnati at 9:20 this morning. Another source said $30 million deal is for five years.

OMG. Could it be true?

UPDATE: OMG, it is true! Thanks, Uncle Walt!

UPDATE 5:46pm: OMG, it's still true! I really can't believe it. In this day of Bankee$ and Bread $ox, the Cincinnati Reds got the top prospect IN THE WORLD. Just wow.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Can't believe I'm going to watch another football game today

That's three in 2010, more than all of 2009.

For the first time I'm starting to understand the bandwagon thing. Well, not really. I'm not a football fan, but when a team does pique my interest, it is because it's a local team doing well. It's not like I grew up in Pittsburgh and became a New York Yankees fan because they were good and the Pirates were not.

I often think about this because I wonder what it's going to be like when the Reds start winning and the stadium starts filling. (Will it fill? The Bengals had a hard time selling out a playoff game. Is Cincinnati too lazy to fill a stadium these days? I ask in sincerity. And don't give me that "too expensive" excuse - you can take a family of four to Great American Ballpark for $27, which includes parking two blocks from the stadium. If you can't afford $27, maybe you shouldn't have cable television.) One of the great things about watching losing teams play is that you can always go to the stadium and buy a ticket, just like you'd do for a movie. It might be the only good thing, but, you know, there has to be something, right?

Anyway, I have no problem with the casual fan from Cincinnati suddenly appearing at Great American. I suppose my problem with bandwagoners stems from the sheer number of Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers fans who've never set foot in Chicago, New York, Boston, or LA, who root, root, root for the Large Market team and perpetuate this whole six out of eight teams in the playoffs are the same every year nonsense we've had for most of Emperor Selig's reign.

(Sorry if I permit myself to dream that the Reds will be a good team in the near future.)

So is it wrong that I can't stand bandwagoners but I'm going to watch the Bengals take on the Jets today in their playoff game? Is it hypocritical? It does seem a tad inconsistent, doesn't it?

It's weird having a Cincinnati team in the post-season of anything.

I'm colded out, ready for baseball. Seems a lot of people are starting to get restless - lots of "X days until pitchers and catchers report" scattered across cyberspace.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Robby was robbed!

This Hall of Fame election was important to me obviously because of Barry, but there was another player whom I liked as a kid who did not make the cut, either. That was Roberto Alomar.

My mother and I once went shopping at an outlet mall soon after the Orioles had changed their caps from the cartoon bird to the realistic one they still wear today. The outlet store had a bunch of baseball caps for a deep discount. I picked up an Orioles cap, the same Orioles cap I wear when I go to Camden Yards these days. (I also picked up another one but I won't say which team because it is shameful.) They were good then, and their DP combo was something else, though their shortstop moved to third base soon after.

I wore that cap around Miami University's campus (alternating with the shameful cap) during my college days. I liked to watch Alomar play. Who didn't? When he went to Cleveland, I was happy about that. But his career withered and faded too early.

I suppose that even if it weren't Larkin's time to enshrine, Alomar's election would be a big deal to me. Why? Because I was old enough to watch his entire career. I have his Donruss Rated Rookie card and that card with the Alomar family. I remember Andre Dawson from the times I watched him on WGN, but I didn't see the beginning of his career, and I was too young to remember most of it. But Alomar? I saw the whole thing and was aware of how good he was. That's what it's going to be like from here on out with these Hall of Fame elections. I watched their entire careers. Sure, I saw most of Cal Ripken Jr, Tony Gwynn, Ryne Sandberg, and Ozzie Smith's careers, but I did not know who they were in 1983, not like I knew Barry Larkin or Roberto Alomar or Mark McGwire (who should have gone in last year) when they were rookies.

It's not the most pleasant feeling, this aging thing. A bit disconcerting.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Wait til next year

The date was September 16, 1992. I had a high school soccer game that night, but it would be the only game in four years I didn't play. Why? Because I would be at Riverfront Stadium, not only watching the Cincinnati Reds take on the Atlanta Braves, but also to watch the two teams take batting practice - ON THE FIELD. I've written about my good fortune in winning the celebrity bat girl contest here. What I didn't write about how that was the day Barry Larkin became my favorite player.

Now, I'm not going to get into the whole need-to-reform-voting-process thing now. Suffice it to say that 278 BBWAA members voted for Barry, quite good for a first ballot (although how 115 voters picked Alomar and not Larkin is a head scratcher. Barry was just as good as Robby!)

I am part of the beginning of the post-Big Red Machine generation. I was a child of the eighties and grew up with a bunch of second place teams and the heartbreak of Pete's downfall. When I look back on it, I see that we needed that 1990 World Series. Pete, the hometown hero, had taken the plunge and took the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Club down with him. But in 1990, well, the team came right back and returned the heart back to the city, stitched it up with 108 double red stitches.

It was a ragtag bunch, that 1990 team, made up of guys whose careers were defined by two or three seasons - Todd Benzinger, Hal Morris, Mariano Duncan, Chris Sabo, Glenn Braggs, Tom Browning, Jose Rijo, Danny Jackson, Rob Dibble, Randy Myers, Norm Charlton, Herm Winningham, Joe Oliver, Billy Bates. You won't find their names mentioned in a debate on the Hall of Fame. The Reds' star, Eric Davis, had a down year that season. There was one guy, though, a 26 year old shortstop from Cincinnati, Ohio, who led that team back to respectability.

A hometown boy was a hero once again.

There are no numbers for that, no stats, no measurable quantities. There are no trophies or awards for picking up the pieces of your shattered city and restoring honor and respect and dignity to your ballclub.

Barry Larkin was in his fifth season when he hit .301/.358/.396 in 1990. He won his third Silver Slugger that year and was chosen for the All Star team for the third time. He finished 7th in MVP voting. People thought Eric Davis was the star, but that team was Barry's team.

Barry was always overshadowed by someone or something or somewhere, that where being Cincinnati. By the time 1990 had rolled around, people outside of Southwest Ohio/Northern Kentucky had all but forgotten about the Big Red Machine with its two World Series wins, four pennants, and six division titles. Cincinnati was some quaint town in Ohio on its way to economic decline - baseball belonged to the coasts. Oakland was supposed to mash the Reds to a pulp that year but somehow couldn't muster one win and the Reds had a perfect season, wire to wire with a trophy on top.

Barry was overshadowed by the Wizard of Oz, who won a lucky number 13 Gold Gloves in a row before finally turning over the honor to Barry. You know how the Gold Glove voting works - once you have it, it's yours to lose. Had voting been less biased, Barry would have had two or three more to add to the three he did win. But hey, it is what is.

Barry was overshadowed by Cal Ripken, Jr., who hit more than double the number of homers as Larkin's 198 and had over 700 more RBI. (Though Larkin's average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+ were better than Ripken's: Larkin's .295/.371/.444/.815/116 to Ripken's .276/.340/.447/.788/112) Barry won nine Silver Sluggers, the award for best offense at a position, while Ripken won eight. He was the best hitting shortstop in the National League.

Barry may have been one step short of Ozzie's defensive greatness and one step short of Ripken's offensive greatness, but Ozzie didn't have Barry's offense and Cal didn't have Barry's defense. Barry Larkin was the complete package.

But Larkin is more than numbers to most of us. To people my age, he defined our childhood. Players would come and go and rosters would change and free agents would follow the money, but number 11 was always worn by one guy in one place. Like Marty Brennaman, he was the constant in our lives, the stability, the one guy we knew would be there as we moved through high school, through college, through work, through marriage, through weddings and funerals and births and baptisms. His career grew with us. We smiled when he smiled, we hurt when he hurt, we were frustrated when he was frustrated (and that was quite often!)

He was never able to give us another World Series, though he did deliver a division title in 1995 and would have given us another in 1994 without the strike, I'm quite certain of that. The 96 wins team of 1999 saw him play 161 games, his highest total of any season. (Curse you, Al Leiter!) The Reds would not have had those four great seasons in the nineties without Barry Larkin manning shortstop, even if he did have to have a sub frequently.

When he won the MVP in 1995, criticism of the pick abounded. His numbers were not the best in the league (several others had much better numbers.) Yet the voters got it right, and for once, Barry Larkin was recognized for what was his greatest asset - his leadership, an intangible that rarely gets the credit it deserves. He was truly the Most Valuable Player in baseball - the Reds could not have won the division without him. Indeed, he was the Reds' most valuable player of the decade.

He chose to retire rather than play somewhere other than Cincinnati, which says volumes about his commitment to the city of his birth. His community service was boundless - you don't find many star players who put in the time and effort that he did to make his community a better place. Now all of us Reds fans are sitting back and waiting for the day when he will return as manager of the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Club, where his number 11 waits for him to wear it once again. That day will come, I am certain of it. So, too, will his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Also read Brendanukkah on what Barry means to him.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

I actually want to pray for this...

I wanted to write something beautiful here, or at least attempt to do so. But I can't. I feel so helpless. For the first time in my life the Hall of Fame elections actually mean something - really define a chapter of my life. But I can't say anything, because I know that I will be disappointed. And yes, I will be girlish and get tears in my eyes when the announcement comes at 2pm and Barry Larkin is not among the names. It's only my childhood at stake, after all.

I had sort of fooled myself into thinking that the whole large market-small market dichotomy had been a recent phenomena, a twenty-first century creation born out of the bosom of Bud Selig. I knew better. I knew that the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Club died the day free agency was born. I knew that when Pete departed, he left a bunch of putrid, rotten roses behind.

If Barry had played in a big market, he'd get into the HOF no doubt. His numbers, which are pretty much the same as Alomar's, warrant it. But he played in a small market, and the world has changed. No longer is there such thing as capitalism. It's corporatism, the leviathan, and it eats teams like Cincinnati for breakfast.

I have no doubt my heart will be broken. It already is just thinking about it. Yet Phil Rizzuto is there. Barry Larkin blows him out of the water, yet he's in the Hall. (I know - Veterans Committee. Still...)

They should make admissions to J-School much stricter, because some of these baseball writers don't know how to think.

Player Vs Player - Guess Who?

Can you guess these players with remarkably similar numbers in their careers? (Click to make large)

And a partridge in a pear tree

Final day of 12 Days of Christmas by the Numbers. Tomorrow is the Epiphany, when the baseball writers will or will not have an epiphany about Barry Larkin.

The only Red to wear number 1 was Fred Hutchinson MGR (1959-1964). It was retired in 1964 when Hutch died of cancer. Hutch's brother, a doctor, founded the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, located in Seattle, where the family is from.

One is the number of World Series the Reds have won in my lifetime.

One day is the next time the Reds will win the World Series.

"...and this one belongs to the Reds!" will forever be played in the stereo of our hearts.

One is the loneliest number.

Monday, January 04, 2010


Today's 12 Days of Christmas by the Numbers is 2:

Some Reds who've worn 2: Cot Deal CH (1960), Jim Bragan CH (1969), Alex Grammas CH (1973), Russ Nixon CH (1978-1981), Gary Redus (1983-1986) Scott Breeden CH (1987), Sam Perlozzo CH (1990), Darren Lewis (1995), Jason LaRue (2000), Deion Sanders (2001)

Derek Jeter, who was still available for the Reds to take in the draft, wears number 2.

Two is the number of ends to each of Bronson Arroyo's hairs.

Two is the toughest position on the diamond.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Reverse voodoo?

Do you think if all Reds fans went and bought one of these banners that the Reds would win the World Series, immediately putting the banner out of date? You know, how you think about something and then it doesn't happen? Or you think something won't happen, then it does? Like when you bring an umbrella somewhere because you know if you don't bring one, it will rain? So we buy these because we know the Reds won't win the World Series so we'll be able to enjoy our not-outdated banner, then they do win? Am I making sense here?

We have to try everything, don't we? :)


Continuing with 12 Days of Christmas by the Numbers, we get to 3:

Some Reds who've worn number 3: Wall Moses CH (1960), John McNamara MGR (1979-1981), George Scherger CH (1973,1976,1978,1983-1984, 1986), Larry Rothschild CH (1990), Ken Griffey, Jr. (2007-2008), Willy Taveras (2008-hopefully no more).

Three is the number of children Ken Griffey, Jr. has.

Three is the position of my current favorite Red.

Three bases is the hardest hit to get.

This is the third year of Dusty Baker's three year contract. Hopefully, it is the last.

Three is how old the average Chub$ fan acts at a ballgame.

There are three more months until our Holy Opening Day.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Grand Salami

Today's 12 Days of Christmas by the Numbers is brought to you by the number 4.

Red's who've worn number 4: Ed Bailey (1957-1958,1960), Johnny Edwards (1963), Woody Woodward (1969), Bob Barton (1973), Jeff Sovern (1976), Alex Grammas CH (1978), Bill Fischer CH (1979-1981,1983), Bo Diaz (1987), Ron Gant (1995), Brandon Phillips (2006-present).

The number of Reds broadcasters who SHOULD be in the Hall of Fame is 4.

There are four bases. Adam Dunn hits all of them with one swing quite often, but the Reds, well...

Both Pete and Rose have 4 letters in them. I'm sure there were plenty of fours on his betting slips.

Four is the month our Holy Day in the Baseball Religion usually occurs.

The Reds have 4 mascots now. They should do a live mascot race every game.

You get 4 RBI when you hit a grand slam. Best grand slam ever was the one Dunner hit in the bottom of the ninth against Cleveland in 2007 when the Reds were down by three to win the game. That is one of my all-time favorite Reds memories.

Friday, January 01, 2010


Continuing with 12 Days of Christmas by the Numbers, I present you with number 5.

The Reds have won 5 World Series, which is the fifth highest for any team in Major League Baseball (not counting the Bankee$. They don't count. They just don't, ok?) I am convinced they would have won it in '81 and '94 if strikes hadn't screwed them.

Only two Reds have worn 5: Whitey Lockman (1960), Johnny Bench (1968-1983). That's according to a website I have since lost, so maybe they're wrong. (If so, let me know.)

Bench's 5 is retired by the Reds.

Five is the position played by Grandpa Rolen for the next three years.

Five is the number I wore as a catcher in high school. The reason is obvious.

Five is the number of pitchers in a starting rotation, regardless of how often Bronson Arroyo thinks he can pitch.

Five is the place in the rotation most of the Reds starting pitchers of this decade would have pitched in if they had played for other teams.

Five is the number of fingers most players have on their hands, the notable exception being Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, who actually played for the Reds during the 1913 season. (He has his own website!) Antonio Alfonseca, who last pitched in MLB in 2007, has six fingers on each hand and foot, a condition known as polydactyly.

There are five games in a division series. It better remain that way.

Our Holy Day in the baseball religion will occur on the 5th of April this year.