Saturday, March 31, 2007

2007 Arrests & Suspensions Toteboard

True, baseball could never rival with the horrible track record of the NBA and the NFL (even if Bonds is ever found guilty of using steroids), but the MLB does have its fair share of questionable characters. Let's see how many times Milton Bradley's name ends up on the list this year.

1. Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa arrested - DUI

2. Former Expos/Red Sox/Philies pitcher Ugueth Urbina sentenced to 14 years in Venezuelan prison - attempted murder of five workers on family's ranch with machetes and gasoline.

3. Devil Rays reliever Juan Salas suspended 50 games - performance enhancing drugs (05/07)

4. Yankees reliever Scott Proctor tossed & suspended 4 games - intentionally threw ball at batter's head (05/07)

5. Yankees manager Joe Torre tossed & suspended 1 game - related to same incident (05/07)

6. Mets minor leaguer Lino Urdaneta (AAA New Orleans Zephyrs) suspended 50 games - performance enhancing drugs (05/16)

7. Cubs manager Lou Piniella tossed & suspended 4 games for "aggressive and inappropriate behavior" directed towards the umpires...basically, he lost it. (06/04)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Trip Update

We officially hit that point in Spring Training about a week ago when there's nothing else to talk about until Opening Day (this Monday!), so I will take this opportunity now to briefly keep any eager readers aprised of what's been going on with the actual trip since we planned it about a month ago.

The first thing we did, obviously, was get this blog set up. Erik consulted a friend and got it up and running pretty quickly, and we try to post on it as often as possible. Erik has also created a logo for our trip, which I'm not going to post on the website yet until we are "officially" affiliated with Habitat for Humanity. That lead me into another thing -- Erik has FINALLY contacted Habitat about what we were doing. This will hopefully allow us to obtain free tickets/hotels, and maybe even sponsors for the trip. We plan on printing up shirts with the logo on the front and some of our sponsors on the back if we have any, which we'll wear while collecting donations.

On my end of things, I've been contacting teams, hotels, and sponsors since last summer. Most of them don't want anything to do with us since we aren't using Habitat letterhead in the letters, and therefore they think we're trying to scam people. This was why Erik and I felt that it was best to alert Habitat of our mission so we don't get arrested. Once we get the go-ahead, we'll go ahead and re-mail all the teams and hotels and go from there, in an effort to obtain free seats and/or permission to conduct raffles and donation tables outside the stadium(s).

Some teams have cooperated already through my first round of emails though, and I should mention them. We have received free tickets from the Diamondbacks and a hotel in San Francisco has offered us a complimentary room. I am in correspondence currently with the Mets and Nationals and I hope to close those deals soon. The tricky part will be getting permission to conduct our donation areas; most letters we got back from teams were something to the effect of "Awesome trip, great idea, we support this charity...unfortunately we cant give you seats and we cant help with your raffle/donation table." Hopefully things will go a bit more smoothly in the coming months, but I have no doubt in my mind that it will. Worst comes to worst, we'll just solicit people while tailgating.

That's it for now...first game this Sunday night!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Civil Rights Game

This Saturday, at AutoZone Park in Memphis TN (home of the AAA Redbirds), the Inaugural Civil Rights Game will be played between the St Louis Cardinals and the Cleveland Indians. This exhibition game will be an annual event, much like the NFL's Hall of Fame Game. However, the game this Saturday hold's much more significance. It is designed to commemorate the civil rights movement, and it is only appropriate that the game is initiated this year, the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers. And the site, of course, holds merit a well, as it was the city where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

Amidst all the turmoil in Major League Baseball over the past 15 years, namely payroll issues and strikes, the steroid scandal, and the closing of old stadiums at will, I am proud that my sport is setting up this event. It is a chance to show both how far the sport and America has come, but also how far we still need to go, and most importantly it is a chance to honor all the great African-American athletes of the past and present. Major League Baseball was the first professional sport to work with the Civil Rights Movement, and these socially significant and catalytic times are certainly worth honoring.

Filmmaker Spike Lee has been commissioned to do a short documentary on African-Americans in Baseball, which will be shown during the game festivities and subsequently at the Civil Rights Museum, also in Memphis. Several donations will also be made to the NAACP and the aforementioned Civil Rights Museusm on behalf of MLB. First pitch is at 530 ET. I will certainly be watching, and I hope that this event is a step in the right direction and a tradition for years to come.

(Hey Bud -- let's work on getting rid of the Designated Hitter now.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

An 88-year Tradition

Nobody does Opening Day quite like Cincinnati.

Amidst issues of gentrification, high crime rates, suburban flight, urban decay, and a constant loss of commerce/tourism over the river to Kentucky, Cincinnati has and always will find pride in at least one thing: its home team, the Reds, professional baseball's original 1869 franchise. Baseball defines Cincinnati, and this is never more evident than with a local tradition that has stemmed nearly a century, the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade.

I have lived in this city on and off since September 2004, and unfortunately due to school, it looks like I will once again not be able to make the Opening Day parade, and this will certainly be my one regret upon leaving this fair city after I graduate in 11 weeks. Being a baseball fanatic originally from the Milwaukee area, I was astonished upon moving to the city for grad school how into baseball people were. Although I visited old Cinergy Field in my adolescent years, my first memory of Reds Baseball was on October 2nd, 2004 -- Barry Larkin's last game. I could not believe the turnout and standing ovations on this cold rainy night. People live and breathe the sport here, particularly since the Bengals have sucked until recently. It is not just something to do here; baseball is certainly on the minds of most people from April through September (and sometimes October). From Crosley Field to Great American Ballpark, the city has followed its Reds, and I was honored to be in this city for at least this reason, to be around what I consider to be the best baseball fans in the country. True, they don't sell out like the Yankees and Red Sox, but it's pretty hard to be as dedicated to anything as Cincinnati has been for the past 140 years, especially since the Reds are considered a small-market team.

The first parade began in 1919 to celebrate the Reds' recent, albeit controversial, championship over the White Sox, and the city has continued it ever since. It's a rite of passage, and you know it's spring in Cincinnati when the parade arrives. Former Reds great Eric Davis is this year's honorary grand marshal. Following the parade, many fans will head to the park to watch the Reds beat the Cubbies at 2:10 p.m. Since the Reds have the distinction of being the sport's oldest franchise, they always have the honor of starting the season at home, thus facilitating the parade at the same time every year. It was originally more of a "pub crawl," describes the parade's spokesperson, in which the players also participated! Everyone walked down the street to old Crosley Field. The players lived in Cincinnati and were part of the community. Although it is more of a formality now, it is still important to the city.

It's a Cincinnati thing. Boston has Patriots' Day, and our local, "invented" holiday is Opening Day and the Findlay Market Parade.

(photo taken at 2000 parade)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Fantasy Baseball

As indicated by the title of this post, with opening day less than a week away, the new fantasy baseball season is also rapidly approaching. Here are ESPN's top 10 rankings per position to help with draft selections. These are also pretty comparable to USA Today's rankings.

1. Joe Mauer, MIN
2. Victor Martinez, CLE*
3. Brian McCann, ATL
4. Ramon Hernandez, BAL
5. Kenji Johjima, SEA
6. Jorge Posada, NYY
7. Michael Barrett, ChC
8. Mike Piazza, OAK**
9. Ivan Rodriguez, DET
10. Russell Martin, LAD

* will split time at 1B and C
** will make most of his starts at DH

1. Albert Pujols, StL
2. Ryan Howard, PHI
3. Mark Teixeira, TEX
4. Lance Berkman, HOU
5. Justin Mourneau, MIN
6. Derrick Lee, ChC
7. Paul Konerko, ChW
8. Victor Martinez, CLE*
9. Carlos Delgado, NYM
10. Richie Sexson, SEA

1. Chase Utley, PHI
2. Brian Roberts, BAL
3. Robinson Cano, NYY
4. Brandon Phillips, CIN
5. Rickie Weeks, MIL
6. Howie Kendrick, LAD
7. Julio Lugo, BOS***
8. Dan Uggla, FLA
9. Tadahito Iguchi, ChW
10. Josh Barfield, CLE

*** will split time between 2B and SS

1. Jose Reyes, NYM
2. Miguel Tejada, BAL
3. Derek Jeter, NYY
4. Michael Young, TEX
5. Jimmy Rolllins, PHI
6. Hanley Ramirez, FLA
7. Rafael Furcal, LAD****
8. Carlos Guillen, DET
9. Bill Hall, MIL*****
10. Felipe Lopez, WAS

**** injured
***** will make most of starts in CF

1. Alex Rodriguez, NYY
2. David Wright, NYM
3. Miguel Cabrera, FLA
4. Aramis Ramirez, ChC
5. Garrett Atkins, COL
6. Chone Figgins, LAA******
7. Ryan Zimmerman, WAS
8. Troy Glaus, TOR
9. Chipper Jones, ATL
10. Scott Rolen, StL

****** will split time at several positions

1. Alfonso Soriano, ChC
2. Vladimir Guerrero, LAA
3. Carl Crawford, TB
4. Carlos Beltran, NYM
5. Lance Berkman, HOU
6. Manny Ramirez, BOS
7. Grady Sizemore, CLE
8. Jason Bay, PIT
9. Ichiro Suzuki, SEA
10. Carlos Lee, HOU

1. Johan Santana, MIN
2. Chris Carpenter, StL
3. Roy Halladay, TOR
4. Roy Oswalt, HOU
5. Jake Peavy, SD
6. Carlos Zambrano, ChC
7. Brandon Webb, ARI
8. Francisco Rodriguez, LAA
9. Joe Nathan, MIN
10. B.J. Ryan, TOR

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Beyond 2007

Jason Stark wrote last week on that the success the Minnesota Twins have enjoyed over the past five years may quickly be coming to an end. Historically, the Twins have had one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. Now, several of their stars are coming to the end of their rookie contracts and are due a large raise. The group includes catcher and 2006 batting champion Joe Mauer, first baseman and 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau, closer Joe Nathan, and 2 time Cy Young award winner Johan Santana.

Santana signed a 4 year, $40 million contract in the winter of 2004. Stark questions weather or not the Twins will be able to afford him once his current contract expires. He points to this offseason's extravagant spending which resulted in an $11 million per season contract for Gil Meche (11-8, 4.49 ERA last season). This free agent class was very pitching poor and the few good ones were snapped up early which lead to teams like the Royals overpaying for mediocrity. Terry Ryan is the best general manager in all of baseball, as evidenced by his refusal to get into bidding wars for free agents and willingness to trade a star player for minor league prospects and draft choices rather than lose him with no compensation, and I'm sure will do everything he can to keep Santana in a Twins uniform. The Twins and Santana have already begun contract discussions, a good sign. Their early work may help the Twins sign Santana to a new contract before his price is driven up on the open market.

The Twins have also been in contract talks with Morneau, who is signed through the 2010 season and the opening of the new ballpark. Both Morneau and the Twins would like to lock into a long term deal but will not discuss a contract until next offseason. The Twins next target will be closer Joe Nathan, who came over in the A.J. Pierzynski trade, along with Francisco Lariano. Finally, Mauer just this winter inked a 4 year, $33 million contract this winter and he will also be in a Twins uniform for the opening of the new park (Morneau was offered a similar deal but feels he is worth more).

Overall, the Twins' future is not as bleak as Stark paints it. They are aware that their stars will be eligible to leave soon and are proactively addressing the situation with early contract talks. Should any of these guys walk, it will not be a total loss. Terry Ryan will not trade them for prospects and draft choices before they walk as free agents. In addition, thanks to Ryan's shrewd moves in years past, the minor leagues are stocked. Fans here are already clamoring for Matt Garza (feature in this week's Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview) and Glenn Perkins. Have no fear Twins fans, the team is going to be fine.

But get on down to the Dome to watch these guys soon (just in case)!!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

David Wells diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes

On Monday, the Padres' 20-year veteran pitcher David Wells, shown to the left on the Red Sox in all his masculine glory, was diagnosed with diabetes. This should come to no surprise to most baseball fans who even remotely follow the game, as they should know Wells to be "a man's man," to put it lightly. Let's just say that Wells feels that health, diet, and fitness are somewhat antiquated notions. Wells is the Fred Flinstone of baseball, and we all love him for it, but it looks now that his years of being massively overweight, smoking cigars before every start, banging lots of women with questionable character, and tying one on every night have finally caught up to him. He will now have to drastically alter his lifestyle, as his lack of energy from the disease has already been seen in camp, as he is 0-3 with a 15.26 ERA in three Cactus League starts.
I'm not saying I don't feel sorry for the guy, but come on, he had to have seen this coming. Personally, with all the junk he throws, I figured he would pitch until his mid-50s like Satchel Page and drop dead of a heart attack trying to throw a back-door 84 mph slider. This is just another sign of America's problem with obesity - even the 1-2% of the population that we consider "athletes" are even at risk. Even so, we typically only associate Type 2 diabetes with young children and the elderly. Way to break that norm, Boomer. I do hope he recovers and goes on to be productive for a few more years in the majors, because he is somehow still effective. I just hope that this change in lifestyle doesn't alter his outgoing and charismatic persona.
Wells seems to think he can do it: "'No more starches and sugar,' Wells explained. 'No more rice, pasta, potatoes and white bread. No more fast food. I've cut out alcohol. I can still have a glass of wine now and then. But I've got to watch what I'm doing. I'm not drinking.'" I'm not saying I have my doubts, but...can you put "raging alcoholic and lazy bastard" on an epitaph? Maybe "embodied the American spirit" is a better way to word it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tickets Are Here!!!

While we plan to buy walk-up tickets at most stadiums, there are a few ballparks where we need to get tickets in advance. Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, and AT&T Park regularly sell out. As we were planning the trip we immediately checked for ticket availability at these parks. We were fortunate to get Cubs, Yankees, and Giants tickets directly from the teams but had to use Stub Hub for Red Sox tickets. Well, they have started arriving at our doorstep. I've got the Yankees and Giants tickets as well as ones for the Angels and Cardinals and Peter has got our Red Sox tickets. (Warning to Cardinals fans: There will be three Brewers fans sitting in Section 509 at the game on July 28. We will cheer loudly for the Brew Crew and enjoy a quality beverage - Pabst Blue Ribbon - not the beer flavored water you call Budweiser.) Of course we need to use ticketmaster and to purchase baseball seats in March. The major drawback to this is that these tickets are not printed on the teams ticket stock. On great part of going to a baseball game is that the event comes with a built-in souvenir. I've got a tin full of all my stubs going back years at home and Peter displays him at his desk at school. Ticketmaster and use their own stock and deprive me of my souvenir.

An extra loud BOO! to whoever ordered Red Sox tickets and chose the Print-At-Home option. A sheet of paper is not a ticket!

A Victory For Tradition

In the glory days of baseball fans attended games at Crosley Field , Shibe Park, and the Polo Grounds. Today fans head to PETCO Park and Safeco Field. There are only a few parks with classic names left - Wrigley, Fenway, and Yankee Stadium. The White Sox had played in two buildings known as Comiskey Park since 1910. I guess money was a little tight a few years ago and the name was changed to US Cellular Field. The White Sox did more than change a few signs when they changed the name of the ballpark, they lost part of their history. Charles Comiskey was the Sox greedy owner from 1900 - 1931. Under his ownership the first Comiskey Park was built on Chicago's South Side. His penny pinching also caused baseball's greatest scandal - the 1919 Black Sox. Eight players of the American League champion Sox were paid by gamblers to throw the World Series and when they were caught were banned from baseball. Perhaps Charles Comiskey would have been happy with the White Sox profiteering but it disgusted baseball fans.

Yesterday, tradition beat out profits!

The Rangers announced that their agreement with Ameriquest Mortgage was ending. The team will now take the field at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers will lose the $2.5 million Ameriquest was paying to have its name on the ballpark each season but, in this fans opinion that's a small price to pay. I can't wait to get to Rangers Ballpark.

In my neck of the woods, the Minnesota Twins are working very hard to stay on track to open a new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis for the 2010 season. I am not nieve enough to think the naming rights to the new stadium will not be available to the highest bidder. Following the death of Kirby Puckett last year there was some talk about naming the new build Kirby Puckett Ballpark in memory of the Puck but this quickly faded. Minnesota does have an opportunity to make some money on the naming rights while still giving a nod to tradition. The Twins new park should be called Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Ballpark. (Tip of the hat to anyone who knew that's what 3M stands for.) 3M will give the Twins big bucks to put their name on the stadium and the elongated name would pay tribute to the industries that built this state.

Please Twins, anything but Best Buy Park!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Have More Fun Tailgating

This game was invented by my friend Joshua Huber and his friends in Rochester NY a few years ago. It is intended to be an alternative to overplayed drinking games like Cornhole and FlipCup. It's an extremely fun game to play at cookouts and tailgates.

(picture of Erik at 4th of July Frisbeer Tourney + Cookout this past summer at Josh's house)

(A) Setup:

1. place 2 empty glass bottles atop a bench, chair, ledge, etc., spaced 30-50 ft apart

2. a frisbee

3. lots of beer and plastic cups, at a location off to the side, equidistant from the benches

(B) Players:

- teams of 2, minimum of 2 teams (more for tournament style)

(C) Game Rules:

1. The teams shall set up by standing next to one of the benches/chairs/etc. that holds up heir team’s bottle.

2. Play begins with alternating members of each team taking turns with the frisbee trying to knock the other team’s bottle down from their respective position. A “knock-down” is defined by getting the bottle to fall on its side in any way; the frisbee does not have to hit the bottle directly, nor does the bottle have to fall all the way off of its perch.

3. Once somebody knocks the other bottle down, both members of the other team must run to wherever the beer is located, which should be poured into two plastic cups, filled about halfway. While the other team is chugging the beer, the member of the team who did not knock the bottle down must run to retrieve the frisbee and try to knock their own bottle off from the other team’s position.

4. When BOTH members other team finish the beer, they can run back and play “defense” on the 2nd bottle (the bonus point). Play continues until the 2nd bottle is knocked down from the other team’s position, or until the “defense” touches/catches the frisbee. The non-throwing member of the offensive team can do whatever necessary to keep the play alive, i.e. tackle/box out the defense, or play catch with his teammate in order to set up a better throwing position.

5. The game ends when one team gets to 11 points, and teams must win by 2. Each knockdown is good for 1 point, and the offensive team automatically wins the bonus point if the other team forgets to refill the beer cups after the play is dead.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Time to hear that 'ping' of the bat

Although the Major Leagues are in Spring Training, and high schools across America are still in the middle of track & field season, colleges everywhere started their 2007 seasons about 3 weeks ago. College Baseball can be fun to attend (particularly for me, since UC students get into all home games free). It's a chance to play "scout" and see who will be possible draft picks in the upcoming years. It's also always fun to watch people play for the love of the game, which is why I enjoy independent/minor league baseball so much. College ballparks are usually in the middle of the campus and provide a great atmosphere. It's also really awesome to see a guy play three positions in one game, or to see pitchers pinch-hit.

College ball will never compare to major/minor league ball for one reason: METAL BATS. Recently, a bill has been brought to the NY state legislature that would propose banning aluminum bats in the state at the college level. For years, the NCAA's argument has been that metal bats are cheaper in the long run because wood bats break so easily. However, it seems that people are finally starting to realize that these bats are dangerous to pitchers due to the speed that the ball flies off the bat, and they are a nuisance to hitters because of all the "stingers," and not to mention the 1+ year adjustment to wooden bats in Rookie ball. And let's not forget what might happen if there was a game during a rainstorm. NCAA Baseball, however, has taken a step in the right direction, as it has a partnership with several College Wooden Bat Summer Leagues across the United States, including the Northwoods League in the Midwest, and the Cal Ripken Sr League on the East Coast. These are 10-week leagues that give undrafted college students an opportunity to play ball in the summer...and most importantly, they use wooden bats. These leagues have spawned some of the MLB stars in the last 5-10 years, and certainly the use of wooden bats provided a smoother transition to the professional level.

In closing, metal bats are a hazard and should be outlawed, and make college ball less appealing (my ears are still ringing from Friday). However, the sheer passion and talent possessed by these players has the potential to make this a sport that is watched more than once a year on ESPN at the College World Series. Baseball is almost always the first sport to get dropped by D-I and D-II schools when funds are tight, and although wooden bats are certainly not the panacea, they could certainly help to market the sport better. Having lived in Madison WI for 6 months and witnessing nearly a dozen Northwoods League games there, I can honestly say that that was the most fun I've ever had at a ballpark in my life, and that definitely means something coming from a guy who loves the sport as much as I do. Baseball with wooden bats - accept no substitute.
(top photo - Marge Schott Stadium, University of Cincinnati
bottom photo - Warner Park, Madison WI, Northwoods League)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Mariners commercials

Every year, the Seattle Mariners get ready for the season by enlisting the services of several team members to do adverstising spots on FSN Northwest. This has been a tradition going back many years, and this year being the Mariners' 30th anniversary, the team went all out with 7 new commercials for the '07 campaign, one of which features the lovable furry mascot, Mariner Moose. The link below will take you to the Mariners Fan Forum page, where the last 5 seasons' worth of commercials are archived. They are all pretty hilarious and deserve a look-see.

Mariners, oh my.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

2007 Rule Changes

For the first time in over a decade, Major League Baseball's Playing Rules Committee has enacted several changes for this season.

(1) The allotted time between pitches has been reduced from 20 to 12 seconds, violation of which results in a called ball.

(2) Conversely, an called strike will be assessed whenever the batter steps entirely out of the batter's box between pitches, except for "certain gameplay conditions."

(3) Automatic 10-game suspension for scuffing the ball (the Kenny Rogers rule)

(4) Perhaps the strangest rule involves gender objectivity: the rulebook now includes the disclaimer that references to "he, him, or his" shall be deemed to be a reference to "she, her, or hers" where applicable. (Take note Catholicism)

(5) The guidelines by which official scorers perform their duties have been dramatically clarified and specified. This rule will be the one that most directly affects the fans, and includes things like when a steal will be ruled a "steal" or "catchers indifference," or when a play should be labeled an error or a single.

(6) Lastly, all games that end in a tie due to inclement weather or uncontrollable elements, these games should be picked up from where they left off before their next scheduled game; if the two teams do not play again, then the tie will stand unless an outcome would decide a playoff spot, in which the game would be replayed in its entirety.

Most announcers and analysts seem to be making a big deal out of all this, but personally I don't see how this will affect anything, aside from maybe the "games ending in tie" rule, which actually makes a lot of sense since it will prevent coaches from having to reconfigure their rotations for an additional game. I never even knew there was a time limit between pitches to begin with, and I find it hard to believe that umpires aren't going to be extra lenient in regards to the "keep a foot in the box" rule. It's no secret that MLB is trying to speed up the game, but you aren't gaining or losing any additional fans with the creation of these rules. People know when they come to a game that out of the 3-4 hours they are there, there is going to be maybe 20 minutes of "action." If you want speed go watch soccer or hockey. In general, people come to watch ball because of the atmosphere, the strategy, and the long ball, so all the time wasted inventing ways to speed up the game should have just been channeled into finally trying to put an end to this steroid/HGH stuff.

Whatever random intern came up with the new cap fabric though, kudos, because wool caps suck in hot weather, they itch, and they stink when covered in sweat/rain. So, the players got that going for 'em, which is nice.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Come On, Pete Rose!

After years of denial, in January 2004, in his book My Prison Without Bars, Pete Rose finally admitted that he bet on baseball while he was manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Today, on ESPN Radio, Rose told Dan Patrick and Keith Olberman that he bet on the Reds every night.

Come on, man!

You are not helping your case for reinstatement with stunts like this and your 'I'm sorry I bet on baseball' autographed balls last summer.

Note to Mr. Rose: Shut up. Continue your campaign for reinstatement but do it quietly, not with these sound bytes and publicity stunts.

Note to Commissioner Bud Selig: 4,256 hits. Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. He deserves to have his #14 retired by the Reds. And he deserves the honor of participating when baseball honors its legends on the field. I don't know if he should be allowed to manage or coach again but he does deserve credit for what he did as a player.

Not something you see every day

Today, during the White Sox-Brewers game in Tucson AZ, Eduardo Perez hit a towering 3-run shot off of Chris Capuano in the 2nd inning. Upon rounding 1st, the 36-year old Perez high-fived his 1st base couch, and immediately cringed over in pain, and laid between first and second base for several minutes. Perez ended up leaving with a strained calf and required the assistance of a pinch runner to finish the homerun trot.

Not only were myself and the announcers in shock over something neither of us at ever seen, the true parody and happenstance of baseball shone through on this play. Had Craig Counsell not botched a throw on the previous play, Perez would not have had the at-bat, and thus probably would not have gotten hurt. However, this worked out well for Perez anyways. He was already hitting a ton this spring, and since this injury will sideline him for the rest of the Cactus League season, he will most definitely make the team based on his performance up until now.

Thoughts on Spring Training

So I, of course, subscribe to MLB.TV. Having recently finished my winter quarter at UC (one to go until graduation!), I now have ample time to loaf around in my Brewers boxers all day and watch/listen to ball. And, if the weather stays nice like it is, perhaps a few tailgates are in order.
I've never been a fan of preseason in any sport, but in the last couple of years I have to say ive been more and more turned on to Spring Training. It's great -- everybody has a role on the team for this month, as you can see from Mr. Met helping load bats onto the team truck. It's not like stupid NFL or NBA where theres really no mystery has to who makes the team, and it's really just a few extra games for TV time. There are always some surprise stories every year as to who will make the team, and everyone has a shot.
Last year we were all in awe of the Marlins, who collectively make less money than most of the Yankees' starting 9 make in one season, who took a bunch of no-namers like Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, and Josh Johnson to within a couple games of the Wild Card. Tons of young guys stepped up in spring training and earned available spots. This year, we have stories like the return of Sammy Sosa and Juan Gonzalez, the continued demise of Mark Prior, phenoms like Homer Bailey and "Dice-K" proving their worth, and for you Brewers fans out there, it looks like Carlos Villanueva has a legitimate chance of being that 5th starter in a rotation that looked to be all but concrete last month. And you know what, if these guys wearing offensive lineman numbers don't make the team this year, they'll be in the minors, and have another chance later in the season, and again next spring. Every game for every player is a chance to impress, and every moment counts. Spring Training is awesome because it's about baseball, and its how it should be. Everyone is excited about playing, the youngsters are learning, the veterans are fighting off people going after their jobs, and the crack of the bat is reminding fans everywhere that April is just around the corner. Spring Training is about the game, not about contracts or winning or 40000 seat stadiums, or even LaRussian strategy. It's about showing what you can do, gettin' at it, and just having fun in the backyards of Florida and Arizona. Once the trip is over, making it to an All-Star Game and some Cactus League games are definiitely two things on my (and I'm sure Erik's) to-do list.
I'd say that I only have one beef with Spring Training this year. What the hell is going on with the caps? (
Sorry, i dont' know how to do a hyperlink. But the garbage above the ears on the cap is ridiculous. Major League Baseball, please don't commercialize my innocent spring training.
Alright, I missed about 2 innings of the Marlins-Orioles game typing this, so that's it for now. In closing, I think that Lou Brown from the greatest baseball movie franchise of all time, Major League, summed up March baseball the best:
Rube: "Wow, Willie's really got some power now!"
Lou: "Off a guy who'll be bagging groceries in a couple weeks."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Stadium We Won't Get To See

RFK Stadium is a dump. It was designed for football and is not very well suited to host baseball games. We visited the park last summer and were not impressed. It is confusing to get around the concourses, there is insulation falling off the duct work, and the movable seats leave very noticeable tracks in the outfield. There aren't even any bleachers and the food stinks! Thankfully, Washington DC is building a new $611 million ballpark for the Nationals on the banks of the Anacostia River. The new park looks gorgeous and today team president Stan Kasten announced that a grove of cherry trees would be located inside the ballpark behind the left field bleachers. I'm a big fan of this idea. The cherry blossoms are a signature element of Washington DC and will provide a unique element to the new stadium. I would have put them in center field though. They could match the waterfall in Kansas City and the rocks in Colorado as non-game related attractions. My career will eventually take me to DC and I will have season tickets at the new stadium so don't screw it up Nationals!


While watching SportsCenter today I saw highlights of the Mets @ Indians spring training game. Apparently a snake got into the press box and sent some of the writers running. Read the story here.

This would never be the reaction of baseball's greatest announcer: Mr. Baseball - Bob Uecker.

It's On!

After three years as a vague idea, the ball trip is now concrete. We originally started planning to visit just the major league stadiums. Some drives got to be pretty long so we though, 'Hey, why not stop and watch some minor league ball.' Plus there were a few sights we just had to see. Here's the schedule:

6/24/2007 Cubs @ White Sox time TBD, US Cellular Field, Chicago, IL
6/25/2007 Rockies @ Cubs 7:05pm, Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
6/26/2007 Richmond Braves @ Louisville Bats (AAA) 7:05pm, Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY
6/27/2007 Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory Tour, Louisville, KY
6/28/2007 Gateway @ Evasville Otters (independent) 7:05pm, Bosse Field, Evansville, IN
6/29/2007 Cardinals @ Reds 7:10pm, Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati, OH
6/30/2007 Twins @ Tigers 3:55pm, Comerica Park, Detroit, MI
7/1/2007 Devil Rays @ Indians 1:05pm, Jacobs Field, Cleveland, OH
7/2/2007 Brewers @ Pirates 7:05pm, PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA
7/3/2007 Open/Travel Day
7/4/2007 Ottawa Lynx @ Rochester Red Wings (AAA), Rochester, NY
7/5/2007 Open/Travel Day
7/6/2007 Indians @ Blue Jays 7:07pm, Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON
7/7/2007 Open/Travel Day
7/8/2007 Angels @ Yankees 1:05pm, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY
7/9/2007 National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY
7/10/2007 Hall of Fame
7/11/2007 Sussex Skyhawks @ New Jersey Jackels (independent) and Yogi Berra museum, Upper Montclair, NJ
7/12/2007 Blue Jays @ Red Sox 7:05pm, Fenway Park, Boston, MA
7/13/2007 Reds @ Mets 7:10pm, Shea Stadium, Flushing, NY
7/14/2007 Cardinals @ Phillies 3:55pm, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA
7/15/2007 White Sox @ Orioles 1:35pm, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD
7/16/2007 Astros @ Nationals 7:05pm, RFK Stadium, Washington, DC
7/17/2007 Open/Travel Day
7/18/2007 Augusta Green Jackets @ Savannah Sand Gnats (A) 12:05pm, Savannah, GA
7/19/2007 Angels @ Devil Rays 12:10pm and Ted Williams Museum, Tropicana Field, Saint Petersburg, FL
7/20/2007 Reds @ Marlins 7:05pm, Dolphin Stadium, Miami, FL
7/21/2007 Clearwater Threshers @ Dunedin Blue Jays (A) 7:00pm, Dunedin, FL
7/22/2007 Cardinals @ Braves 1:05pm, Turner Field, Atlanta, GA
7/23/2007 Open Date/Travel Day
7/24/2007 Sacramento River Cats @ Memphis Redbirds (AAA) 7:10pm, Memphis, TN
7/25/2007 Mariners @ Rangers 7:35pm, Ameriquest Field, Arlington, TX
7/26/2007 Padres @ Astros 7:05pm, Minute Maid Park, Houston, TX
7/27/2007 Portland Beavers @ Oklahoma City Redhawks (AAA), Oklahoma City, OK
7/28/2007 Brewers @ Cardinals 6:15pm, Busch Stadium, Saint Louis, MO
7/29/2007 Rangers @ Royals 1:10pm, Kaufmann Stadium, Kansas City, MO
7/30/2007 Omaha Royals @ Colorado Springs Sky Sox (AAA)12:35pm, Colorado Springs, CO
7/31/2007 Iowa Cubs @ Salt Lake Bees (AAA) 7:05pm, Salt Lake City, UT
8/1/2007 Angels @ Mariners 7:05pm, Safeco Field, Seattle, WA
8/2/2007 Open/Travel Day
8/3/2007 Yakima Bears @ Vancouver Canadiens (A) 7:05pm, Vancouver, BC
8/4/2007 Nashville Sounds @ Portland Beavers 7:05pm, Portland, OR
8/5/2007 Angels @ A's 1:05pm, Network Associates Coliseum, Oakland, CA
8/6/2007 Nationals @ Giants 7:15pm, AT&T Park, San Fransisco, CA
8/7/2007 Open/Travel Day
8/8/2007 Red Sox @ Angels 7:05 pm, Angel Stadium, Anaheim, CA
8/9/2007 Lake Elsinore Storm @ Inland Empire 66ers (A), San Bernardino, CA
8/10/2007 Reno Silver Sox @ Long Beach Armada (independent), Long Beach, CA
8/11/2007 Yuma @ Fullerton Flyers (independent) 6:05pm, Fullerton, CA
8/12/2007 Open/Travel Day
8/13/2007 Astros @ Dodgers 7:10pm, Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
8/14/2007 Open/Travel Day
8/15/2007 Rockies @ Padres 7:05pm, PETCO Park, San Diego, CA
8/16/2007 Open/Travel Day
8/17/2007 Open/Travel Day
8/18/2007 Open/Travel Day
8/19/2007 Open/Travel Day
8/20/2007 Brewers @ D-backs 6:40pm, Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ
8/21/2007 Open/Travel Day
8/22/2007 Memphis Redbirds @ Albuquerque Isotopes (AAA) 6:35pm, Albuquerque, NM
8/23/2007 Open/Travel Day
8/24/2007 Nationals @ Rockies 7:05pm, Coors Field, Denver, CO
8/25/2007 Sioux City Explorers @ Lincoln Saltdogs (independent) 7:05pm, Lincoln, NE
8/26/2007 Open/Travel Day
8/27/2007 Cedar Rapids Kernels @ Swing of the Quad Cities (A) 7:00pm, Davenport, IA
8/28/2007 Open/Travel Day
8/29/2007 Field of Dreams, Dyersville, IA
8/30/2007 Open/Travel Day
8/31/2007 Royals @ Twins 7:10pm, Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, MN
9/1/2007 Kane County Cougers @ Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (A) 6:35pm, Appleton, WI
9/2/2007 Pirates @ Brewers 1:05pm, Miller Park, Milwaukee, WI

It's on

Me (peter) in the War Room last week...

War Room

What a way to spend a weekend! Friday and Saturday, March 2-3, Peter and I spent locked away in the baseball room at his house and planned out the trip. We had planned on starting in Minnesota, Milwaukee, or Chicago and making a clockwise circuit around the country. Things were going swimmingly until we got to California. You'd think with five major league teams and scores of minor league ones, we'd be able to make our way through the state fairly quickly. Unfortunately, the schedule makers conspired against us and we were held up waiting for a couple of the teams to come home from road trips. So...we reworked the schedule and made the journey into a figure 8 pattern, heading north from Texas to Saint Louis and Kansas City then west to Colorado, north to Seattle, and finally south through Cali. The planing was greatly aided by the keg of Leinie's Honey Weiss in Mr. Nagel's kegorator. We did manage to get a few breaks in to watch the Milwaukee Admirals defeat the Hamilton Bulldogs in minor league hockey action and a trip to the Landmark 1850 Inn, Milwaukee's oldest and greatest bar.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Refined by Wisconsinites, Perfected by us.


(1) There need not be an event for you to tailgate. Tailgating opening day in a Wal-Mart parking lot in November or eating lunch on lawn chairs in the driveway are both perfectly acceptable.

(2) A follow-up to rule #1 is that it is also perfectly fine to tailgate at an event which you have no intentions of attending, so long as the event is seen/heard through some sort of portable device, i.e. radio, television, cell etc.

(3) Red meat and sausage should be the only things that touch the grill. No fish, no chicken, and especially no veggie burgers. On special occasions, a rare exception can be made for vegetables on a kabob.

(4) Don't rush a good tailgate. Show up plenty early to get a good spot, and get the coals nice and white. You don't want to be running into the stadium 5 minutes before gametime with a half-frozen brat in your hand.

(5) Recreational activities are allowed and encouraged while waiting for the coals or meat to get ready, so long as you are playing the appropriate sport. Namely, this applies to those people who play catch with a football or frisbee at baseball games. Cornhole, frisbeer, and/or horseshoes are acceptable in large parties consisting of people under age 25 and intoxicated.

(6) It’s a good idea to make your vehicle distinguishable when tailgating in large groups (if it isn’t inherently noticeable already), just in case one of you has to shag down a ball or run to the bathroom. Flags and balloons usually work, or a tent for extra large groups.

(7) Those sweet trays you get at A&W that hook on your car window come in handy, so "acquiring" one is a good idea.

(8) Always share. You never know when you’ll forget lighter fluid or buns, so don't be a dick and say "no" if others ask to borrow or use something.

(9) Although double-dipping is considered faux-pas, you can certainly always double-tailgate, also known as “re-tailgating.” Leave the hot coals on the grill, place under or near your car, and when you get back after the game/event, you should have enough heat for two or three more pieces of meat.

(10) Home field advantage is not limited to the stands. Always ridicule opposing fans walking past you to the gate, particularly if they support an arch rival team, or they’re from Chicago.

(11) For the frequent tailgater, keeping a roll of paper toweling, tongs, and a lighter in your trunk or back seat at all times is helpful, as these are the 3 most forgotten things at a tailgate.

(12) Always bring extra on the way to the stadium/event. Cans of beer will conceal nicely in your hood, and it’s usually a long enough walk to the front gate that you can down a burger on the way.

(13) Despite President George W. Bush’s many embarrassing public speaking blunders, he did say one great thing in his 8 years in office: “If a food is good, put melted cheese on it and it’ll be even better.”

About Peter

Peter grew up as a suburban Milwaukee kid for the first 22 years of his life. He attended high school and undergraduate school in Milwaukee, where he met Erik in winter 2003. These two bonded quickly, sharing a mutual passion for watching a ballgame and tying one on pretty much any day of the week. Baseball and partying were always Peter's two favorite sports, but Erik has proved invaluable in helping refine, sharpen, and enliven these two loves. Peter is prepared to graduate from the University of Cincinnati in June 2007 with a Masters in Architecture, and a minor in balltrip planning. Career aspirations include owning his own firm in the Midwest somewhere or in Washington DC and to own season ball tickets to whatever random team he ends up living within 20 miles of. Peter's hobbies include design, photography, drinking, ballgames, cooking, roadtrips, bowling, music, tailgating, and spending time with friends + family. Wherever Peter goes in life, this trip will certainly be something he tells his grandchildren about and an experience beyond belief. 77 days on the road with his best friend and his favorite yellow car watching ball is something that most people only dream of.

About Erik

Born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, Erik is a lifelong Brewers fan. As a kid, Erik would go to County Stadium with his family for every Bat Day, Helmet Day, and Glove Day. Erik fell out of touch with baseball when his childhood heroes Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, and Jim Gantner retired but the Great Home Run Chase of 1998 reignited his passion. Following high school, Erik bounced around to three colleges. As a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Erik became involved with the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity. With this group Erik traveled to Portland, OR and Baltimore, MD to work on construction projects and help the group raise $25,000 to partially sponsor a house in Milwaukee. Also at UWM, Erik met Peter Nagel. The two attended their first Brewers game together during Opening Weekend 2003. Despite their failure to ignite the coals at their first tailgate, the two had a blast and were soon making weekly trips to the ballpark. Following college Erik moved on to Minneapolis, MN where he works in politics and also has a part time job working in the suites of the Metrodome during Twins games. Erik is eagerly looking forward to the start of the season and this incredible journey.