Sunday, March 31, 2013

What I would change about the game...

                                    With opening day already in the books (a rather hum drum affair between the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers...although, the Astros won...the first of 43 wins they'll get this year ), I thought I would do a piece on what needs to change in the game.  Granted, most, if not all of these things probably won't change, no matter how much I stomp my feet, but maybe if I get enough people to sign a petition....sorry, that won't happen either.  Hey, even things you love have some elements you wish would change; here's mine about baseball.

1. Designated hitter: While I'm too young to even remember a world without a D.H. in the American League, I always have felt a little weird about it.  Installed in 1973 by commissioner Bowie Kuhn and Oakland A's owner Charles O. Finley (who also wanted to implement the "Designated runner", which his team actually had for two years with Herb Washington in '74 and '75, although it never caught on ), the D.H. has been a fixture not only in the majors, but in college and the Minors too, which I have a big problem with.  I mean, if half of these pitchers coming out of the farm league are going to the N.L.,  wouldn't it behoove the teams to have the pitchers hit?  Either that, or have the D.H. in the National League.  Having two rules just seems counterproductive.

2.Interleague play: When this whole Interleague jazz started, I didn't care one way or the other; then Bud Selig decided to have an Inter league game every day, which seems a little convoluted for such a marginal idea.  Used to be, you'd only see teams in the other league if they were on a National game or World series; now, you can see them throughout the year, thanks to ESPN and MLB Network, so interleague seems unnecessary.  Trying to create rivalries doesn't necessarily create them, and a Tampa Bay Rays v.s. Arizona Diamondbacks game- two teams with almost no history- is not exactly gonna put the asses in the seats.

3. FOX T.V.: With the news that Tim McCarver was retiring at the end of the 2013 season, many  are wondering what over- analysing, former ballplayer will replace him.  Thing is, McCarver used to be pretty good when he was doing Mets games; maybe too much exposure to that blowhard Joe Buck made him get into some bad habits. (btw, If Joe Morgan comes out of retirement to replace him, I will go to the nearest tower with a rifle ) The two announcers aside, I think the biggest problem is the station itself; whether it's baseball, football or (I'm assuming) NASCAR, every broadcast gets stretched out with more commercials than should be legal, half of them whoring their own network shows.  If I see one more American Idol contestant sing the National Anthem, I'm gonna puke. Even when the Saints were in the playoffs in New Orleans, a city rich with musical history, they still had a AI hack do the anthem. On the contrary, when the NBA All Star game was played in New Orleans a few years back on CBS, the Neville Brothers and Harry Conick JR. performed.

4. Scott Boras: Not to pick on him, as there are other culprits out there, but he's the most notorious agent out there. I know it's America, and we live in a capitalistic society, but when I see some of these ridiculous contracts, I have to say something. I won't list the players he represents, although I know A-Rod was one of the most notorious.  I remember watching the 2007 World Series btw the Red Sox and the Rockies, when the subject of his contract came up. ( most likely a Steinbrenner move to steal the Sox's thunder). It eventually turned into an extension of an already ridiculous contract he signed with Texas seven years before.  Turns out, he was roided up then, and is paying for it now, .physically-wise.  I long for the days when players other than Yankees' players stuck with their teams forever.

5. Playoff system: Back in 1995, when the Wild Card made it's debut, I was a little skeptical; my entire life I had been used to just the ALCS and the NLCS, the winner of both to meet in the World Series.  I was actually born the year that system was installed, 1969.  Of course, my dad and brothers would talk about the last "real"  pennant race in 1968 btw the Tigers and Cardinals.  The irony of me bitching about this, is that my team won in 2004 as the Wild Card's not really the Wild Card that I have a problem with (although the second one is a little annoying), it's the 3 divisions in each league.Can't they still do it with two divisions in each league, and pick the two non division-winning teams with the best records as the Wild Card?  That way, incidents like the Padres going 82-80 winning the N.L. West, are less likely to happen. That team was the closest anyone came to being .500 or below. It's happened in other sports; The Seahawks a couple years back went 7-9, as did the Buccaners in the late '70s.  In Hockey, the Minnesota Northstars had a sub .500 record and went to the Stanley Cup finals back in the early '90s.

                         Of course there's more;usually little nitpicky things ( I was gonna have a whole Bud Selig section, but his presence is felt throughout here...)...and there's obviously a lot about the game I love, which will probably be next week's entry...let the arguements comence...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Comparing Baseball to other sports...

                                With opening day a week away, I decided to do a comparison to other sports; Tom Boswell, writer for the Washington Post wrote " 100 reasons why baseball is better than football", about 25 years ago, so I'll try not to rip him off...Some say baseball is boring to watch. These are the same people who will tell me with a straight face that "The Jersey shore" is entertaining.  Sure, you have to think a bit, and it doesn't move all the time, but I believe baseball is the greatest sport opposed to:

Basketball-My second favorite sport, is great when it's close...until you get to the last minute and a half, then it's free throw city.  The older generation, ( which I guess includes me now...ouch! ) will bemoan the lack of team play and it's insistence on having one superdstar per team. I myself miss the fast breaks of the'80s.  Of course, back then, there were really only three or four teams who ever went to the finals: Celtics, Laker, Sixers, Rockets...and oh, then the I guess there's more parity now.

Hockey- I'm going to ignore the strike and not talk about it. ( labor talks are like chewing glass to me ) Mostly, I'm bothered by the wussification of the sport.  Used to be toothless men without helmets beat the crap out of each other for three periods, then a hockey game would break out.  Now, there's too many European- like rules to my liking.  It's also a much better sport to watch live than on T.V.; the puck is always hard to pick up...more so these days.. (I'm old, I get it)

Football- This sport is just the opposite; it's MUCH better on T.V. than it is live.  Live, it's just one stretcher after another.  Also, the worst fans in the world hang out at these games.  I have feared for my life on more than one occasion.  Sure, the pre game festivities in the parking lot are great, and a tie game with a field goal to end it is exciting, but it's much better watched at home.  Also, the "Monday night football theme" by that racist Hank Williams Jr. is atrocious.  Again, Tom Boswell wrote all you need to know on this.

Golf- Not a sport, really.  Fun to play if you're with friends drinking, but on T.V., it's more boring than watching someone read LBJ transcripts on CSpan 3.  Tiger Woods screwing around was more interesting than anything the sport has had to offer in the past 100 years...

Nascar- Not really a sport; more like one long advertising race.  To quote Mitch Hedberg, "Boy, you sure like Tide".

Soccer- People who tell me baseball is boring are usually soccer fans.  That's like Hitler calling Stalin an evil bastard.  During the World Cup this year, there were a total of seven goals scored...I'm kidding, but for a second there, you believed me.  Scoring is so few and far between, it makes hockey look like basketball...more specific: A game between the Nuggets and Pistons in the '80s ( I believe it was something like 187-185 ).

Tennis-I find female tennis more interesting, and not because I'm a perv..O.K., most women tennis players are hot, but anyway...I don't know, I miss crazy assholes like John McEnroe.  I wish he were playing now...mostly because he's a terrible commentator.

Boxing- Used to be a great sport.  Now it's more corrupt than a Buddy Cianci family reunion.  They still make great movies about the sport, though.

Wrestling- I turned 14 and moved on.  Without Jimmy "Superfly" Snooka, the sport lost it's appeal for me.

Ultimate fighting- I've never seen a gay porno, so this is as close as I will get...O.k., I lied, I have seen a gay porno; it's called Greco Roman Wrestling. (I kid, I kid )

Horse racing- Not sure if it's a sport,but I enjoy the three big races when they're on.  The only sport I have ever been successful at gambling on...which scares me. It's like LSD; I did it once, really liked it, and will probably not do it again.

Of course there are other sports, but who wants me to rant on and on about Canada's national sport? What, you thought it was hockey?  No, no,'s Lacrosse. (My mom's French Canadian) And yes, Bud Selig is doing his best to turn baseball into Times Square, (something for everybody...except hookers ) but I still think it's the best.  Why else would I waste my time writing a blog every 5 to 7 days?  Opening day, get here, will ya?


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Suck Never Sleeps...

                                  Move over, 2003 Detroit Tigers...move over, 1935 Boston Braves...move over, 1910-1912 St. Louis Browns, 1899 Cleveland Spiders, and (of course) 1962 Mets... there's a whole new brand of awful coming to town.  I'm referring to your 2013 Houston Astros.  Like it wasn't bad enough that they were stinking up the NL Central, now they're going to be competing in a very, uhhh...competitive division; the AL west.  Never mind the Angels, Rangers and A's, Houston will be lucky to come within 10 games of the Seattle "We think Jason Bay is going to help us win" Mariners.  Add the fact that their new uniforms are almost as ugly as their '70s ones, and this could truly be a hideous season for the ages...

                  I mean really, name one decent player not over the hill other than Jose Altuve, who my friend Steve Mulcahy calls the "Poor man's Dustin Pedroia".  It wasn't so long ago that Houston was a playoff team.  Two of the main players on those late '90s to mid' '00s are Cooperstown bound; Biggio and Bagwell.  At least one of them should already be there, but that was a rant from two months ago, so I'll let it slide now.  It must be killing the Astros front office to watch the Texas Rangers become such a powerhouse.  Even losing Hamilton won't hurt Texas that much; they still have good pitching, and a formidable offense...and you can name most of the team (ha)...

         The best Astros teams in my opinion were the 1980 and 1986 teams.  The '80 team would have beaten Philly if they had a healthy J.R. Richard...likewise, if the 'Stros pulled out that 16 inning, game 6 against the Mets, they would have had Mike Scott to probably win game 7 (.and most likely beat my Sox )...but "ifs and buts" and such. Houston also had the advantage of playing in the Astrodome, a home field, uhhh...advantage if there ever was one (sorry about the "uhhhs" ).  A pitching haven that made Dodger Stadium look like Coors Field circa 1995, the Astrodome paved the way for other domes like the Metrodome, also known as the "Homerdome", the Kingdome, which was a little more neutral, Olympic stadium (ditto), and then, Skydome (the only one left ).

                      To tell you the truth, part of me wants them to go back to their original incarnation; the Houston Colt '45s.  From their first year in 1962 to 1964, Houston went by that name; they changed the following year, to maybe cash in on the space age, or, more likely, to try and compete against other teams without having to deal with mosquitoes, gnats and other flying nuisances...and thus, the Astros, futuristic indoor home and all.  Lots of teams followed with the donut, cookie cutter stadiums; most of them using AstroTurf.  I'm glad most teams have gotten ride of the fake stuff, but I miss it a little.  Probably just a nostalgic thing...although, I do miss stolen bases...and Ozzie Smith doing his leap...and crazy hops over outfielders heads...and Enos Cabell.  I don't actually miss him, I just like saying "Enos Cabell". 

                                             Prediction: 45 wins, 117 losses....              



Sunday, March 10, 2013

There's a new movie about Jackie Robinson coming out...

                               While watching Mexico and Canada get into a brawl during the WBC, I saw an ad for something that looks like it'll be pretty good; 42: The Jackie Robinson Story.  The cast looks great, and it will no doubt be a thousand times better than the original Jackie Robinson story, which  not only came out while Robinson was still playing, but also starred him as himself.  Let's just say, Jackie was no actor (not as bad as Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in that horrible Doris Day, Carey Grant vehicle "Safe at home", but still pretty bad ), and a re-make was a long time coming.  The only thing I kind of wanted to happen, was to have them wait until next year to release it...that way, Mariano Rivera, the last person to be allowed to wear #42, would have been retired and it would have been more fitting...also, not for nothing, but every time they have Jackie Robinson day, it gets very confusing when everyone wears #42...not a big deal, it just annoys me.

                  I like the fact that they have an unknown playing the lead; an actor named Chadwick Boseman.  As for the rest of the cast, there are many well known names: Han Solo...I mean, Harrison Ford is playing Branch Rickey, Chris Merloni ( Det. Stabler from Law and Order: SVU ) plays Dodger's  Leo Durocher and John C. McGinity is portraying radio broadcaster Red Barber, the role I was born to play...not for nothing, but I do maybe the best old timey baseball voice ever, and this is kind of a kick in the gut...well, at least he LOOKS like him.  Oh, and Max Gail, who was on "Barney Miller, plays someone, although I can't recall who hat is right now...

             I'm trying to remember the last baseball movie that came out that I've seen..I saw "Knuckleball!"last year, but that was a documentary..."The Town" had to do with a bunch of thugs robbing Fenway Park, but that doesn't count.  Speaking of Fenway, I tried to watch "Fever Pitch" a few weeks ago on cable.  Even though I'm a huge Sox fan with nothing but fond memories of 2004, it was brutal trying to pretend that Jimmy Fallon's from Boston ( bad Boston accents are even more irritating than actual Boston accents ). I guess I could make a list of the five best baseball movies and the five worst that I've, let's do that:

5 Best Baseball Movies of all time.

5. Field of Dreams (1989)/ The Natural(1984)
Sure, it's a little hokey, and you really have to suspend disbelief, but it's still pretty cool to hear the story of Moonlight Graham, a real player who never had an at bat in the majors.  I can usually take or leave Kevin Costner, but he seems to be enjoying himself in the film, and does James Earl Jones...they go to Fenway to find clues, and Costner builds a field in his yard and so I said, it's a little hokey, but fun to watch.  Equally hokey, but a little more realistic...well, maybe not the ball exploding and the lightning and such, but the fictional New York Knights seemed like a real team from that time...wonder why they couldn't just call themselves "The Giants"? Seemed like that's who they were trying to emulate.

4. Major League (1989)
A really funny movie, which is almost completely stolen by Bob Uecker, as the play by play guy for the Indians.  Years later, it was revealed that Charlie Sheen took steroids for the role of pitcher Rick "wild thing" Vaughn, but that doesn't take away from this feel good, if fairly improbable, story of the Cleveland Indians rise from the ashes to the pennant.  I always found it weird that the premise of the movie is basically the new owner of the team trying to move them to Florida, where in real life, the Florida Marlins beat the Indians in the World series eight years later.  Cleveland is still the team with the second longest Championship drought (the Cubs being the first), although they still own the American record for there's that...

3. Pride of the Yankees (1941)
The Lou Gehrig story is pretty good, although I found out recently that Gary Cooper's image was reversed, so it would appear that he was batting left handed.  Babe Ruth makes a hilarious cameo; maybe he should have starred as himself in "The Babe Ruth Story"...couldn't be any worse than the job William Bendix did...

2. Bull Durham (1987) / A league of their own (1992)
I know that this is the second Costner film, but this is actually a really good movie.  Tim Robbins as the up and coming pitcher and Costner as the aging veteran catcher are pretty realistic . It paints a vivid picture of minor league baseball; the endless road trips, the heartache, and so on... I also like the fact that the role Susan Sarandon played was supposed to go to a younger actress, but she got the role after showing up to the audition dressed all sexy for "A league of their own", the story of women's baseball during World War II is funny, sad and pretty interesting. Gina Davis actually looks like she could play, although in reality, I believe only Rosie O'Donell and a few others actually had played baseball before filming began.

1. Bang the drum slowly (1973) / Eight Men Out (1988)
I now realize that it has become the eight best baseball movies of all time, mostly because I had forgotten a few while making the list.  These two would have tied for number one anyway.  "Bang" tells the story of a fairly slow (mentally slow) catcher played by Robert Deniro, who is diagnosed w/ a fatal illness, so the team rallies around him to win the pennant...fittingly,  the eighth movie in my top five list that has the same number; Eight men out is about the "Black Sox" scandal of 1919, and stars John Cusack and Charlie Sheen.  Not for nothing, but the casting of John Anderson as "Kenesaw Mountain Landis was looks EXACTLY like him... ( John Anderson, the actor, of course...not to be confused with the guy who ran for President in 1980 for the Independant party, or Jon Anderson, who was the lead singer for the prog rock band, YES )

5 Worst baseball movies

5. Fear strikes out (1957)
Not completely terrible, but Tony Perkins is just not that believable as Jimmy Piersall...his dad was portrayed by Karl Malden, and he was great as always, but it was more of an unrealistic psychological study rather than a baseball film. 

4. Safe at home (1962)
The aforementioned awfulness is bad mostly for some horrible baseball acting from the "M&M boys", and a thin story involving Doris Day and Carey Grant. The best/worst part of the movie was used  to great effect in the Ken Burns baseball documentary, where the umpire throws Maris Mantle and Berra out of the game for agreeing with Doris Day...gripping stuff...

3. Babe Ruth story (1948)
William Bendix goes through the Babe Ruth motions; the called shot, the drinking, the carousing, all to very mediocre effect...the "Babe" movie that came out in the early '90s  with John Goodman was a lot better by comparison, although, as my dad use to point out "Babe Ruth wasn't that fat".

2. Jackie Robinson story (1950)
Maybe the biggest mistake in the making of this film was casting Robinson as himself.  If any film needed to be re done, it was this.  It's been a while since I've seen it, but it's pretty forgettable, which is maybe is the worst thing you can say about a film...I'm really looking forward to "42"...

1. Fever Pitch (2005)
The fact that this movie tries to recapture one of my favorite baseball memories via a romcom w/ Jimmy Fallon makes this #1 for worst baseball movies...I couldn't even make it through to the end, but I saw enough, so  my disgust is valid.  Hey, I just realized that there are two RedSox movies in the bottom five...wonder what that means (ha)...

               So, that's my half-assed list...I welcome any and all opinions...



Friday, March 8, 2013

Baseball Esoterica is one year old today!

                                             While the Spring Training games slog on, and the World Baseball Classic is starting to show games before 2am, I thought I'd do a little retrospective on my blog.  After all, it's been a year since I started this thing, and 58 entries in, I thought a look back might be in order.  Now, I know the first few entries had many spelling and grammar mistakes, and were worded more like a ransom note rather than a blog, but thanks to a lot of constructive criticism, I've turned it into something viable.  I mean sure, some entries have been better than others; there are a few I almost wish I hadn't written : " Coincidence , probably", was kind of a weak entry, as I tried to make a connection between winning and the number of syllables in a team's name...I know, I wrote it while hanging out at Coney Island, and wasn't focused.  There was also the well intentioned, but ultimately arduous task of going over the playing career of present managers.  Of course, by the time I got about halfway through the list, a few managers had been fired, so it made the whole project superfluous.

                    In the year that it's taken to do 58 blogs, some other changes took place; a few former players and managers died, most notably Stan Musial and Earl Weaver ( I wrote a blog almost immediately on Earl, not knowing that "Stan the Man" would die later that day)...Miguel Cabrera hit for the triple crown and I wrote on that as well, but...I always try to write things that could be read years from now, and not seem like I was just reporting on current events, so my best blogs, I believe, are ones like, "You old bastards got a lot of nerve", which was based on something that I experienced, or silly ones like "Back in my day, we had bullpen cars, dagnabbit", which is about a particular time we may never go back to.

             Also in the past year, I had a chance to read a great baseball book by Dan Epstein entitled, "Big hair and plastic grass", which deals exclusively with baseball in the 1970's. Who wouldn't want toread about  no hitter on LSD, Disco demolition night, Ten cent beer night, the Big Red Machine and such? He goes into greater detail than I ever could about the decade's events, so, check it out if you can.  I've also rediscovered Bill Lee's "The Wrong Stuff", which I bought about 10 years ago; the man is never less than entertaining, and his hatred for the Yankees is always appreciated by moi. I've since lent these two books out to friends, so we'll see when I get them back (only kidding, Brett)...

                            I really can't wait for opening day, though...even though my best blogs may deal with the past, there wouldn't be a past without the present. (deep, Pat) There's always going to be some weird story that'll pop up and remind me of something that happened before.  Like this whole Blue Jay situation; it could be a dynasty, or it could blow up in their face.  The Yankees seem to be getting more hurt by the day...the Sox?...Who the hell knows...The Tigers look unbeatable, but I said that last October, and look what the Giants did to them...the Angels have a fairly scary lineup, unless Josh Hamilton gets hurt like he always does...can the Orioles (probably not), Nationals (probably) or Reds (either way) return to the postseason?  I love not knowing...

                    And finally, with the World Baseball Classic going on, who will be the emerging stars from countries who don't have many players in the Major Leagues ( think, Cuba, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Israel  etc.)...will any of those players impress scouts enough for a tryout?...Oh, and not for nothing, I'm watching the Netherlands about to beat Cuba; what's up with that?...that's why I love never know.  BTW...I would like to thank everyone who has read my blog; it's almost up to 3,000 views...once it reaches that milestone, a book deal can't be far behind.  That's how it works, right?