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!

Something is wrong with my site - I apologize

I'll fix it as soon as I can.

Monday, July 12, 2010

To be the best

Many of us baseball fans played Little League and other youth baseball. If you can think back that far, you might remember your post-game fifty cents at the concession stand when you bought Sour Patch Kids or Big League Chew, or maybe you remember wearing your uniform to the Dairy Queen after the game for a post game Blizzard or Dilly Bar. If you were a decent player, you might also remember your post-season tournament games, and, when older, you might remember hotel rooms and packed vans full of baseball equipment that drove across your summers.

Those traveling games affected my life in so many ways. I’m not sure traveling teams were as vital to success as they are now, but I can remember being asked to catch in a college league during the summer – when I was a freshman in high school. Those summers were awesome as far as being a kid went. I was introduced to the religion called U2 on one of those trips. I’m fairly certain I was introduced to several types of alcohol on those trips, too. I got to travel to Australia for one tournament, and I’ve been traveling every since.

But! This post is not about me. It is the story of a boy who played youth baseball and was good enough to advance to the next level, and the next, and the next, and was good enough for someone to pay him to play baseball so he could make a career of it. In small towns across America he pitched, and he got better and better and suddenly found himself pitching in Major League Baseball. It wasn’t a glorious position – though he started games early in his career, he soon moved to the pen. Middle relief may be vital to getting to the post-season, but it’s the least acknowledged.

He paid his dues. He pitched an inning here, an inning there, became respected among those who know but was a nobody among those who aren’t sure. He moved through his thirties off the radar, and then, what every young person fears – he turned forty years old.

On Independence Day 2010, almost four decades from the day of his birth, Arthur Rhodes made an All Star team.

The man hasn’t stopped smiling since. Can you imagine the joy he is feeling right now? Can you imagine winding down your career – good, but without your name in lights – and suddenly drinking from the fountain of youth, making your first All Star game one or two or three years from retirement? Can you imagine the accumulation of your life’s work finally culminating to being named one of the best in the entire world? Can you imagine the joy in your heart?

There are people who say Arthur needs the rest and shouldn’t pitch in the All Star game. I ask: why would you try to deny him this? Why would you try to deny him the joy of this, to be called the best, at least for one game. After all he’s worked for, after all the years of doing the inglorious job of middle relief? The man is having the time of his life right now.

Go out and kick as, Arthur! We’re rooting for you!

Yep, I'm a Grinch

I have lived in Washington, DC for most of the last seven years. I arrived with a car full of things in April 2003 and spent the first two baseball seasons watching the Baltimore Orioles. They were still semi-respectable then, as a decade had yet to pass without a post-season appearance. Camden Yards is still a great park today, though it echos sad songs of past glory among the empty green seats.

One fine March Saturday in 2005 I set my alarm clock for 6am and traveled to RFK Stadium for the first time to stand in line for Opening Day tickets. Baseball had returned to Washington. It was 7am, but I was wide awake, listening to stories told by old men who spoke of the Senators with a gleam in their eyes as if standing in that line had made them 30 years younger.

Was that a fun season, or what? No one expected that team to compete, yet there they were, sitting on top of the NL East at the end of June after losing only 6 games all month. Too bad July had to arrive. By the time the Cincinnati Reds rolled into Washington at the beginning of August, the Nats situation was so dire that I found myself rooting against my beloved Reds, for they had long since succumbed to their own mediocrity and were no longer in the race. Desperation filled RFK. The NL East lead had slipped away, and the Wild Card chances were unraveling, but the games were still meaningful. They haven't been since.

With the exception of 2008 when I was not in DC, I've gone to about 15-20 Nats games every season. In 2007, I had a partial season ticket plan that I received as a birthday present. I would call myself a Nationals fan.

But I feel that slipping away.

Why? Because I am so thoroughly annoyed by the Stephen Strasburg hype that I can hardly stand to read anything Nationals. Bill Ladsen, the Nationals beat writer for, even tweeted to me that Strasburg was the second coming of Christ. They call Strasburg's starts "Strasmas." Half the city walks around in Strasburg jerseys. And they feel they were slighted that a pitcher who only had four big league starts was not chosen for the All Star game.

Guess what? The Nationals are still awful, and they will be for quite awhile.

I suppose I'm a bit spoiled because I was born a fan of the first professional baseball team. The Braves may lay claim to the "oldest continuous franchise" title, but that spans 3 cities. With the exception of 1871-1875 and 1880-1881 (we got kicked out of the National League for selling beer and playing games on Sundays), Cincinnati has had a professional baseball team since 1869. There's a reason we get to start every Opening Day at home. We've been around, and we know how to be baseball fans.

Were we pumped to see Jay Bruce's first game? Yes. Homer Bailey's? Yes. Johnny Cueto's? Yes. Mike Leake's? yes. Did I travel five hours in standstill traffic in 90 degree heat and no air conditioner to see Jay Bruce and Joey Votto play in Richmond a few years ago? Yes. Are we pumped to see Aroldis Chapman's Major League Debut sometime in the near future? Heck yes, oh heck yes.

But we also have perspective. When Jay or Homer or Johnny came up, we knew we weren't going to win in those seasons. Granted, they aren't of the same stock as Strasburg, but both Jay and Homer were the best prospects in baseball, hitting and pitching-wise.

Do Nationals fans have something to look forward to in the future? Yes. With young guys like Strasburg, Clippard, Storen, Zimmerman, and Desmond, it seems there is a light at the end of the tunnel of the misery of the last five years. At last there is something to be excited about. But come on. On Friday, there was a Strasburg press conference after the game. A meaningless game. A meaningless game in which he only went 6 innings.

Don't get me wrong. I know Strasburg is a rare talent. But perspective is needed, and that's something Natstown seems to be lacking. It's pushing longtime baseball fans like me AWAY from the team while attracting casual fans who are always willing to jump on the bandwagon of the trendy thing. All I ask is for a little perspective. And to resign Dunn.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Sports are an emotion thing. In fact, they're all emotion, because there is no rational or biological reason for a human being to follow a sports team. I'd venture to say that baseball is more emotional than other sports (at least when your team is in contention) because your team plays almost every day for six months, and one day you could feel invincible and the next you feel like your season is over.

It's one thing to comment about a player's playing time or to question why a non-performing player is repeatedly put into the same situation. Fans will get emotional and call for heads to roll on occasion. It's a whole other thing to declare:
"In all my years of watching Reds baseball, this is the most frustrating and disgusting series I have ever seen."
Unless the 2010 season is your first season of Reds baseball, that is just nonsense.

The Reds are in first place at the All Star break. They have four players going to the Midsummer Classic. One of their rookie pitchers took a brilliant game into the ninth inning and the next night another rookie took a perfect game into the ninth inning against one of the game's best pitchers. Another rookie pitcher gave up only one run in the next start. And this was a disgusting series? They lead the National League in several offensive categories, but a baseball season is long, and there will be hiccups along the way. It's called Baseball.

The ninth inning collapse on Friday was a horrific inning, but for 8.1 innings, the Reds played brilliantly. The other games were 4-3 and 1-0 in extras and 1-0 in regulation. Hardly disgusting.

Another gem:
"Reds are an embarrassment to the game of baseball."
Did I mention that the Reds are in first place at the All Star break? Or that they have four players going to the Midsummer Classic? Or that they lead the National League in several offensive categories? Or that their young pitchers kick ass?

Perspective. Seemingly as rare as common sense these days.

That Tottlin' Town - Part 3

Sunday, July 4, 2010, Chicago USA. The day was hot but not blazing; the people were blue and red in the old stadium. Mike Leake was on the mound. We liked our chances. We never expected the ball to go flying out of Wrigley like Southwest flies from Midway, but it did, and it did again and again and again and again and again and again. Seven of them, three of them by Drew Stubbs and one by some guy named Paul Janish, who was only playing because a certain snubbed All Star first baseman had been thrown out of the game for arguing balls and strikes.

It was really unbelievable to see those baseballs fly out of the ballpark and watch the numbers on the scoreboard go up and up and up. We watched as a few of them off the bats of Stubbs and Miller leave the stadium and bounce on Waveland Avenue. You always see that on television, but it's really great to see in real life. I mean, when your team is the one hitting the bombs. Some Chub$ chump hit two out, too, but that was the extent of their meager offense. The Reds outscored the Chub$ 30-8 in that four game series.

The thing about our seats was the sheer number of beer vendors - sometimes there would be three all bunched up in the aisle and blocking the ballgame. Seriously, it's too much.

Chub$ fans were pretty quiet during the game for obvious reasons. I'd make a note about Mike Leake's greatness right here, but just his names stirs up painful memories of last night's travesty and Caca Cordero.

Here are my previous posts about the trip:

That Toddlin' Town Part 1
That Toddlin' Town Part 2

Other photos from the homerun derby:

That Toddlin' Town

My trip to Chicago USA over 4th of July weekend 2010 to see the Cincinnati Reds take on the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Music by Frank Sinatra and Sufjan Stevens, both songs titled "Chicago." Photos are mine. I honestly don't know how the picture you see when the video isn't playing is stuck on the scoreboard, but HA!

Hope you catch my subtle jabs at the Cubs.

Feel free to share. (Just give me the credit for the photos, please!)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

We are the lucky ones, not the better ones

This is a church. Here is a sermon. Listen up and get rid of the vermin.

The game is played using a small, white sphere stitched in red by the hands of the very poor. They work long, hot hours for little pay, pumping out 2.4 million baseballs a year to be shipped to a place called the United States of America.

Once upon a time, this place called America was a land of dreams, a beacon of hope, a place of magic where you could come to escape persecution and oppression from any part of the world, where one could break free from the chains of poverty and make a decent life for his family.

Today it seems like a mythical land.

Yet the myth persists in the minds of so many, especially at this time of year when people wave their flags and proclaim their pride to be something most of them had no choice in being. Coincidence of birth.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Each of those baseballs is only used for a few minutes until it is battered by men making millions of dollars to play a child's game. The workers in Costa Rica make about $2750 in a year. That's about $50-$60 a week, much more than the $15-$20 a week the Haitian workers made before a coup forced Rawlings to move its factory.

That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

The consent of the governed. What does this mean? The Haitians didn't choose their government - it was taken over by military force. We didn't choose to be Americans, either. We got lucky. Our ancestors were for the most part the bottom dwellers of their societies, and we benefited. Did we consent to this government?

Well, yes. We have consented for 234 years, and when there was a problem, we amended our governing document. We consent with our actions, but not just voting. It is not difficult to go to a polling station once a year and spend five minutes in a voting booth. If that's all the time you have to spend on America, then you really shouldn't be complaining about the government.

No, action is much more than a ballot box. Action is volunteering for campaigns, knocking on doors, making phone calls. Action is donating to campaigns, not only for politicians but for causes that are just and right and in line with American principles which promote human rights and freedom. Action is writing letters to your congressional representatives and senators and executives in corporations and the editors of newspapers. Action is serving your country in the United States Armed Forces instead of cheering wars from the sidelines.

But most of all, action is informing yourselves and being aware of the world that you impact every time you make a choice.

Today is the anniversary of the cancellation of the 1945 All Star game due to travel restrictions placed during World War II. It got me thinking about how ballplayers fought in the war, and not just the B players, either, but stars like Ted Williams. Can you imagine today's pampered players serving their country? Everyone made a big deal when Pat Tillman joined the Army, but why? He was just doing his American duty. Hardly any Americans serve their country anymore.

Despite four Reds on the team, the 2010 All Star events will have a green theme this year. MLB has teamed up with the National Resources Defense Council (you can follow them on Facebook) to promote environmentally responsible practices. I am so proud of Major League Baseball, which has been at the forefront of social progress in America throughout its history, most notably when Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers more than a decade before the Civil Rights movement.

I can already hear a certain segment of the population moaning. I just don't get it. Or maybe I do. Most Americans cannot see the consequences of their actions, therefore do not think about them. Some even deny these consequences exist. They chalk it up to "propaganda" by their political opponents because it doesn't fit with their narrow world view. A small minority don't care that their actions are negatively affecting the world. You can't change these people because they are sociopaths (in the clinical sense), but you can help others understand that the choices they make in their lives DO affect others. I am a fairly well-traveled individual, my most recent trip being a four month stint in Beirut. I am pretty cognizant of the world around me, too, but wow, were my eyes opened wider during my stay.

The consequences of climate change in Lebanon are visible to the naked eye. Desertification is ravaging the agriculture industry and is responsible for the frequent forest fires that are destroying the biblical cedars of Lebanon and what little forest cover the country has left. Water is becoming more and more scarce in this mountainous, beautiful land.

Where there is no water, there is conflict.

We didn't know the consequences our actions had on the planet until recently. As human beings, we have a right to water to drink, air to breathe, and the food we need to survive. That's why environmental issues are human rights issues.

Once upon a time, America really was that thing so many of us think it still is. Do the world a favor as we head into the All Star break. Think about what it means to be an American. I mean really think about it. Think about how lucky you are to have been born here when so many people of the world have nothing. Think about what your ancestors went through to come here, how they had to leave their homes behind to search for a better life. Think about the leadership role we play in promoting human rights and liberties.

Think about the choices you make. Think about what you buy. Pay attention to the consequences of your actions. Think about how buying a new phone every time one comes out is contributing to the mass slaughter and brutal rape of Africans. Think about how your gas guzzling vehicle contributes to such disasters as the BP catastrophe. Think about how your coffee consumption could be fueling child slave labor. Think about how many people on this earth are working in dangerous conditions for very little pay so we can live our fat cat lifestyles. Think.

It's not liberalism. It's humanity. It's not being a hypocrite. It's being an American.

America was founded on the principles of human rights and freedom. Let's stay true to our principles and reclaim our place in the world as the beacon of light and hope that brought so many of our ancestors here. And GO NATIONAL LEAGUE!

(This was supposed to be published on Independence Day, but I didn't have time to finish it before I headed off to Chicago.)

The Morning After

Rain falls softly on the East Coast on this Saturday morning, bringing with it not only a respite from the oppressive heat we have been suffering over the last week, but also bringing a heavy humidity that leaves everything damp and uncomfortable. The whole world seems gray and ugly. I woke up early this morning and smiled when I saw the time on the clock - I could go back to sleep and not feel guilty for sleeping the day away.

But this is a day to sleep away.

Still shellshocked from last night's whatever the heck that was, I feel the grayness envelope my spirit. I struggle to breathe the clammy air. It wasn't a nightmare, was it? It was losing a game after being up by six runs with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Suddenly, all of the confidence we had built up, all of the progress we had made in opening our hearts to this team after refusing to believe it was legit because we didn't want to be let down again, it was all blasted away by a few bats.

His name is Caca Cordero, and he smells really bad.

The league leader in saves, the league leader in blown saves, this piece of Caca of a pitcher reeks of processed meatballs and homeplates of wildness. He has always been an artery clogging type of pitcher who has induced his share of heart attacks, but recently he has been especially atrocious. Caca stinks, and his owner the Reds just leave him lying on the mound instead of putting him in the rubbish bin.

Are we overreacting? Perhaps. But for the past decade, there's always been that one turning point where seemingly decent seasons get pooped on by one or two games. This just feels like one of those times, and yes, do we know the feeling well.

But this team is different, isn't it? Isn't that what we've been saying all along? Well, flinging Caca at opposing hitters just makes them mad. It isn't working, and someone better cleanup this mess before it sets into the rug of victory and makes a stain on 2010.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Is this the real life? Is it just fantasy?

I chose to watch the Reds game on E$PN last night for a national perspective and just to watch it on a big television screen rather than the tiny computer screen.

The beginning was a Joey lovefest. Joe Morgan interviewed him before the game and Joey couldn't stop smiling. He is clearly loving the attention, even if he says it doesn't matter - he looks like a kid at Christmas. And wow, he really was upset - rightly so - in not making the All Star team. I hope he mashes the Phillies this week.

I have the Rockies-Deadbirds game on right now, cheering for Colorado like I actually cared about that team. Dexter Fowler is a hero. Jimenez is, too. I don't think twice about these guys for 156 games of the year.

The season began ho-hum enough. Like a lot of Reds fans, I didn't have the same level of enthusiasm for the start of the season as I had in the past. It didn't seem like the team had tried to improve much, and I knew better than to be fooled for the tenth season in a row. Losing on our Holy Opening Day was just icing on the ho-hum cake. April seemed pretty crappy - the team went 12-11 and there was still a long season ahead. Then suddenly it was June 1 and we were in first and everyone was looking for signs that it was all a fluke. You know the Texas saying (maybe it's Tennessee), "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice...uh...uh, you can't get fooled again."

We passed the halfway point in the season a few games ago and now we're three games up on the Hated Deadbirds and find ourselves wondering what the heck is going on. How are we supposed to act? Why are we watching a Rockies-Deadbirds game and cheering as the Rockies go up 4-1 in the 5th? Why did we just spend a great deal of time in the last few days voting for a fourth Red for the All Star team? Four? Really?

Last night's E$PN game seemed like they were introducing the Cincinnati Reds to America. From the Joey interview to the in-game commentary that was much more about the Reds than the Mets, it seemed like E$PN was showcasing our team for much more national attention to come.

Is this the real life? Or are we going to be let down like we have been so many seasons in the past decade? It certainly feels different. It certainly feels legit. And god, is it fun.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

That Toddlin' Town - Part 2

One can hardly imagine a more beautiful day than July 3, 2010 in Chicago, USA.

It would have been more beautiful with less Chub$ fans in the world, but hey, we can't always have everything we want. The Bleacher Experience at Wrigley Field is, well, if you're a grown up, not something you want to do again. (But if you're a Chub$ fan, go ahead and pay $50 for a general admission ticket to a baseball game where you have to line up at 10:30 in the morning for a 12:00 game and there aren't any beer vendors because you're all too drunk to handle them.)

We were staying near the airport and took a train into the city every day. Because it was the Taste of Chicago, the trains were running late, and we didn't get to the ballpark until 11am for a 12:05 game. (Oh, but that Polish sausage smothered with peppers, onions, tomatoes, and mustard I had at ToC the night before was divine.) I had to pick up tickets at will call, stand in the wrong line to get into the park, walk around the whole stadium to the bleacher entrance after we were told it was the wrong line, wait in line, get told the line on Waveland was shorter than Sheffield, stand in that line which wasn't shorter, enter, try to walk buy the beer concessions only to be told you had to have an ID bracelet, went to get the ID bracelet, went to find a seat, discovered there were no seats, asked the usher about it, got a rude answer, ended up finding seats, didn't move for six innings out of fear of losing the seats.

Because it was a holiday weekend, the tickets were more expensive than other games, which may have kept the really super obnoxious drunks away, because I didn't see any. Then again, the game started at noon, so that could have helped a bit.

The Reds didn't get a hit until the fourth or fifth inning. It's not like they were facing Cliff Lee, but they made Randy Wells look like Cliff Lee. I tried to start a #randywellsnohitter hashtag on Twitter to jinx it, and I guess it worked!

I should have started a #comeonredsletsgetsomeoffense hashtag, because they couldn't score runs. I thought maybe they should have saved some of those runs from the previous day's 12-0 romp. They ended up losing 3-0, but the Chub$ fans weren't rude to us in the Cincinnati gear. I guess they know their place in 2010! Anyway, some more pictures from the Johnny Cueto-Randy Wells match up on Saturday.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

That Toddlin' Town - Part 1

Have you voted Votto yet?

If there's anything all non-Chub$ baseball fans can agree on, it's that it's fun to make fun of Chub$ fans.

They don't deserve that gem of a park they play in.

I've been to Wrigley Field a few times in my life now, and it never gets old. I mean, yeah, the park gets old - it's quite old now - but the experience never does. This is how baseball is meant to be enjoyed - a day game, none of that Playstation garbage in the concourse, no pop music blaring from the speakers, no flashing television screen - just good old fashioned baseball, where people actually sit in their seats, watch the game, talk to each other, and enjoy each other's company.

For all the obnoxiousness of Chub$ fans, it sure is nice to see people excited about their baseball team, even if they haven't won a World Series since 1908 and have to resort to stories of curses to explain away their suckitude. I really love the rooftop culture, although it's sad how corporate it's become. Still, it's pretty freaking cool to walk down Sheffield or Waveland and watch people with their team's colors splashed across their bodies. If only they could name their team's starting lineup...

I love taking the train to a ballgame. Places where that isn't possible are missing that element of excitement that is found in places like Chicago, New York, and even Washington where you see the team names and know you're getting to go to a baseball game. There's none of the headache of finding and paying for parking, and you feel a sense of camaraderie with those around you on the train, even if you are rooting for opposite teams, because you're all Baseball fans, sharing this tiny quality in this vast universe.

It was nice of them to fly both an Ohio flag and a Cincinnati flag on the outside of the stadium. I can't think of any other stadium that does that.

I'll have more about my trip to see the Reds play at Wrigley last weekend, but I gotta go vote some more for Votto, so here are some other photos:

Good Parenting