Monday, May 30, 2011

Never a Shortage of Peculiar Injuries

(Above: Joey Votto, one of many MLB players diagnosed with social anxiety disorder)

I think we can all agree that ballplayers today don't really seem to be as tough as they were in the golden era of baseball. As fans we certainly shouldn't underestimate just how mentally and physically taxing it is to play 162 games a year. But at the same time, there just aren't that many Mickey Mantles out there anymore that are going to play every single day with broken arms and bad knees and still be able to produce. The game just revolves too much around large guaranteed contracts nowadays to take any chances on long-term injury. However, over the last several years, the interpretation of what constitutes an injury has become a major gray area. It's certainly understandable that something like "elbow inflammation" or a sprained knee is just something that a guy 40 years ago would have played through and not said a word. But reading the disabled list reports these days is almost comical.

It used to be that I made fun of somebody for having "turf toe" in football, but even that is so commonplace that it has lost all humor, much like the infamous "oblique strain" in baseball. I barely have time to laugh at a guy for having a ridiculous injury now before another one comes along. Here are just some of the illnesses and injuries that have put millionaire, adult baseball players in the infirmary in the last 5 seasons alone: tired arm, stubbed toe, bilateral leg weakness, social anxiety disorder, bleeding testicle, blisters, anal fissures, carpel tunnel, mono, emergency appendectomy, fatigue, and my personal favorite - sleep disorder. It is just seems like everyday there is something new, and they just keep getting funnier. Now, I'm not trying to say that it's funny to have anxiety disorder, I'm sure that is serious. And if your appendix bursts, I mean not much you can do about that one. But it's just strange to me that you never saw these injuries even as recent as 10 years ago, and that there is always something new cropping up. Whether that's a product of toughness or just how the times have changed, I don't know. Maybe Cal Ripken would never have admitted that he pinched a testicle or had anal leakage for fear of ridicule in Kangaroo Court. Or maybe Mickey Mantle was just too drunk to realize he ever had anything wrong with him.

And let's keep in mind that the list I presented does not include the source of any of these injuries, just what they are listed as on the DL - because that would be a whole other ballgame. I'd then have to include former Brewer reliever Matt Wise going on the DL twice - once after falling down stairs, and once after stabbing himself with salad tongs. Or the time Milton Bradley tore ligaments in his knee during a heated argument with an umpire. The list goes on and on.

Brewers 29-24, -2.0 (3 @ Reds, 4 @ Marlins)
Reds 27-27, -4.5 (3 v. Brewers, 3 v. Dodgers)
Twins 17-35, -14.5 (3 @ Tigers, 4 @ Royals)

Erik - 4
Peter - 15

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mallards Rubber Ducky Race

All photos of the rubber ducky race available on Flickr.

A couple weeks ago, I was parousing the Mallards website looking at photos of the new Duck Pond renovation, and noticed an article about a Rubber Duck Race being held at Burr Jones park, on Madison's near east side. I was very upset with myself that there was an annual Mallards event that I didn't know about, so I emailed Erik about it and we immediately rectified that situation by purchasing 6 ducks/$10 for the fundraising event. All proceeds from this event benefit Madison Parks and the Goodman Pool Scholarship.

Of course, after 4 consecutive days of 75+ degree weather, it was in the low 50s and windy when we arrived at the park an hour early to tailgate. We now know for next year that we don't have to get there so early, as we had to kill over 2 hours by drinking in the parking lot, arm-wrestling Maynard, and figuring out what new Mallards gear we liked the best at the merchandise tent. Despite it being an event geared towards children, we still enjoyed ourselves and I was excited to see the new 2011 Mallards branding and mascot. It was a little chilly and Lauren had to spend some time in the car warming up, but we made the best of it, and by the time the race started I was too distracted to feel cold. The race was set up on a section of the Yahara River which runs through the park, and Maynard started it off by dumping a trash bin full of the ducks off of a pontoon boat into the water. The ducks traveled maybe 500 feet along the river to a couple of girls stationed in canoes by a barrier made up of plastic tubing and fish nets. The Yahara is a pretty slow moving river, and the fierce wind made the race even slower by blowing all the rubber ducks along the south bank. Eventually a winner emerged (sadly, not us) and took home 10 tickets to Opening Day. Erik and I were already on pins and needles awaiting the massive Warner Park renovation to be completed for the home opener in a few weeks, and spending an afternoon with Maynard at the Rubber Ducky Race only heightened our anticipation.

Brewers 19-21, -4.0 (2 @ Dodgers, 2 @ Padres, 3 v. Rockies)
Reds 23-17, +1.5 (2 v. Cubs, 2 v. Pirates, 3 @ Indians)
Twins 12-26, -12.5 (2 @ Mariners, 2 @ Athletics, 3 @ Diamondbacks)

Erik - 4
Peter - 14

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Brewers Debut of Zack Greinke

After spending most of spring training and the first month of the season on the DL with a cracked rib, Brewers prized trade acquisition Zack Greinke finally made his first starts for the team last week. He was limited to a 90-pitch count in his first start following 3 minor league rehab starts, and he was understandably a little shaky, giving up 4 over 4 in Atlanta. Zack's home debut was far better, as he struck out 9 Padres over 6 innings of 2-run ball. Most importantly, he didn't walk anybody, and showed the filthy command and break on all 5 of his pitches that he had shown the last 2-3 years with Kansas City. It wasn't quite the fanfare that CC Sabathia got in his first home start following the July 2008 trade, but Miller Park still drew nearly 30,000 on a rainy Monday night and gave Zack a warm welcome, rally towels in hand.

Watching Zack evolve over the final 5 (hopefully 6) months of the season will definitely be interesting. The things I like most about Zack are his intense competitiveness and athleticism, and like Ryan Braun he always willing to put it all on the line for the team and is not afraid to say whatever he's thinking. But what worries me is this is already his 8th season, so at age 27, Greinke has already logged as many innings as a typical 30-31 year old would have. For this reason, and the fact that he has only had a couple of great seasons, I feel that his talents have already peaked. But if he can stay motivated to pitch for a potential contender after years with the cellar-dwelling Royals, he is still going to help the ballclub immensely. I've gone on record saying that Shaun Marcum was the bigger trade of the offseason and will be a stud in the NL Central, but the Brewers are still going to need Zack to perform to the best of his abilities for the season to be a success, and to help them get out of the current funk they're in by staying healthy and taking the ball every 5th day. He is still young and still has the potential to be a legitimate staff ace on a team that already has two in Marcum and Gallardo. Along with our sporadic yet deadly potent offense, it is only a matter of time before the Crew goes on a big run.

Brewers 15-20, -5.0 (3 v. Padres, 3 v. Pirates)
Reds 19-16, -1.0 (3 @ Astros, 3 v. Cardinals)
Twins 12-21, -10.0 (2 v. Tigers, 3 v. Blue Jays)

Erik - 3
Peter - 14

Monday, May 2, 2011

10 Biggest Surprises of April

1. The Cleveland Indians have the best record in baseball at 19-8. And who's in 2nd in the AL Central? The Royals, of course. The Marlins are another team off to a surprising hot start.

2. Two of the biggest disappointments this season have been Derek Jeter and Justin Morneau. I honestly thought that these two would be extremely motivated by their tumultuous 2010's to have white-hot Aprils, but that hasn't been the case. Jeter is looking every bit his age, and I'm starting to legitimately worry that Morneau may never be the same following his concussion.

3. Joey Bautista is so far proving that last season was not a fluke. The three guys I was looking for at the start of the year to have huge regressions from 2010 were Bautista, Phil Hughes, and Mike Leake, and so far Jose is the only guy proving me wrong. Not only is he on pace to repeat his 54 HR performance from last year, but he is arguably one of the top 5 best players in all of baseball right now. I'm still keeping an eye on this guy but so far he has not let up.

4. Almost every single guy that the Yankees brought back from the dead - guys that we all laughed at when they signed - is not only contributing, but playing very well. Russell Martin was brought in to back up Francisco Cervelli and now is one of the team's offensive leaders. Freddie Garcia and Bartolo Colon both made the team as spring non-roster invitees and have salvaged the staff. And no, I haven't manipulated that photo on the left - Bartolo really still is that wide. Eric Chavez is killing the ball off the bench, and probably would be playing a lot more if they didn't have $500 million worth of players already at the corner infield spots and DH. Chavez will either be the Marcus Thames of 2011, or I can see him getting traded for a bullpen arm down the stretch.

5. On the heels of a lackluster second half of last season after breaking his pinky, Andre Ethier has started this season off with a 27-game hit streak, the longest April hit streak of all time. A hit today, and he's halfway to DiMaggio.

6. Lance Berkman looked to be in rapid decline following a deadline trade to the Yankees last year. But he signed a one-year deal with the Cards and actually decided to show up to camp in shape for his first spring not with the Astros, and he is destroying the ball. He is in the top 10 in most offensive categories including batting average, home runs, and RBI. What's even more remarkable is he's doing it as the everyday right fielder, a position he hasn't played regularly in four years due to bad knees.

7. Jared Weaver, Justin Masterson, AJ Burnett, Aaron Harang, and Kyle Lohse have a combined 23 wins.

8. The Pirates actually ain't half bad. Their record won't surprise you like the Royals or Indians would, but they have a very young and talented lineup that is hitting its stride. Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen are not far off from being perennial all-stars. Charlie Morton is 3-1 after three horrendous seasons in which he went a combined 11-29 with an ERA over 6. Kevin Correia is actually a legitimate ace of this staff so far.

9. The Twins have somehow made it through their 2nd April at their new outdoor ballpark without a snow-out.

10. Lastly, this one is off the field but I have to mention it. Ryan Braun, with 5 years remaining on his current contract, signed a 5-year extension with Milwaukee through 2020. Ryan Braun is a Brewer for at least another 10 years - it sounds better every time I say it. It is very refreshing in today's game to know that there are still guys out there like Brauny and Tulo that value hometown pride and staying with a team for life.

Brewers 13-14, -2.5 (4 @ Braves, 3 @ Cardinals)
Reds 14-14, -2.0 (3 v. Astros, 3 @ Cubs)
Twins 9-18, -10.0 (2 @ White Sox, 4 @ Red Sox)

Erik - 3
Peter - 13