All Things Bubba

Because how can you not love a baseball player named "Bubba"?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Mets

My bank failed yesterday. Too many mortgage defaults. It's the largest thrift failure since the S&L crisis. I should be covered by FDIC insurance, but it's rather unnerving to wake up and find my accounts are all frozen. They said access would be restored by tomorrow at 5pm, but still. I never saw this coming.

That must be what the New York Mets feel like today. Earlier this season, there was a lot of talk about how the Mets were finally taking the spotlight from the Yankees. The Mets seemed to have a solid lead, even two weeks ago. Now they are on the verge of being eliminated.

The poor Mets. I actually feel sorry for them. I was vacationing in NYC during the "Subway Series." The city was just electric. Total strangers were talking to each other (which doesn't often happen in NY), asking about the score. Times Square was like a big block party, with parked cars blaring the game on the radio, and even the cops glued to the windows of bars and restaurants, watching what they could of the game. Whenever there was a score, it was shouted from cars or by people in the bars who ran out into the street to tell one and all.

But everyone was a Yankee fan. I talked to a lot of people over the three days I was in the city: taxi drivers, businessmen in the hotel elevator, teenagers on the subway, pedestrians on the street. And everyone was a Yankee fan. Many seemed surprised at the very idea that a New Yorker might be a Mets fan instead. (Admittedly, I spent most of my time in Manhattan, which might have something to do with it.) Still, I really got the impression that the Mets are the red-headed stepchild of NY sports. Along with the Jets.

I can across this rant today, while looking for something else. A Mets fan rails against the Yankees, including Bubba Crosby. (It was written after the walkoff homer game.) It's two years later, and some of the names have changed, but not much else has.


posted by BubbaFan, 1:38 PM | link | 1 comments |

Friday, September 28, 2007

Wild Card

Well, it's settled. The Yankees lost in extra innings tonight. It looked like they had the game put away, but Mo blew a three-run lead in the 9th. After that, they were just plain out-managed. The Orioles IBB'd the bases loaded, and it worked for them.

The Yankees tried the same thing, but it came back to bite them. With the bases loaded, Mora put a bunt down the third base line. The Yankees were caught flat-footed, and could only watch the winning run score. Yup, it was a walkoff bunt.

That means the Red Sox are the AL East champions, and the Yanks are the wild card. The Yankees weren't really playing to win, knowing they had a playoff spot no matter what. Still, finishing behind the Sox bothers me more than I thought it would. Going to extra innings roused my competitive spirit, I guess.

Pitching still worries me. Moose wasn't great tonight. Hughes hasn't been exactly lights-out either. Kennedy has been shut down for the season. Clemens is a question mark. And most alarming of all...Mo has not been pitching well. Tonight wasn't a fluke. He's been loading up the bases a lot lately. Maybe it's just a slump, but if so, it's ill-timed.

posted by BubbaFan, 11:05 PM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bellhorn's Back

Surprise, surprise. Trent reports that the Reds have called up Mark Bellhorn. I thought they might call up an outfielder, but I wasn't expecting them to call up an infielder. The Reds are going through players like Kleenex, with Hamilton, Griffey, Dunn, Hatteberg, and Gonzalez shut down for the season. They've activated Jerry Gil, but he's only available to pinch run. So they needed reinforcements for the bench, and Trent thinks they picked Bellhorn because he's a switch-hitter.

Sigh. It's really too bad Bubba got hurt. He'd have gotten a chance with the Reds if he could play.

The Yankees clinched yesterday, while the Mets' postseason chances are fading fast. Unbelievable.

posted by BubbaFan, 6:28 PM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

When September Ends

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the cooler weather, the beautiful leaves, Halloween. But it's also a little depressing. The shorter days mean dark and dreary winter is on its way. And of course, it means baseball season is ending.

Barring a truly monumental collapse, the Yankees will clinch a postseason berth tonight. The excitement of the playoffs and the World Series looms ahead.

But after that, it's a long, cold, baseball-less winter. I can't believe it's the last week of the season already. Seems like spring training was only yesterday. Where did the time go?

posted by BubbaFan, 10:15 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, September 24, 2007

Off to see the wizard

Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Shelley Duncan, and Phil Hughes

Yup, it's rookie hazing day for the Yankees. It's traditionally done the last road trip of the season. I have no idea how this tradition started, but all the teams do it. The Reds already did it, their last road trip being last week. The Reds rookies were given a pretty random selection of costumes. The Yankees always have a theme. Last year, all the rookies had to dress up as George Steinbrenner. The year before, it was cheerleader outfits. Before that, it was Elvis costumes, and before that, pimp costumes. This year, the theme was The Wizard of Oz.

Phil Hughes was the Tinman:

Chase Wright was Glinda, the Good Witch:

He was so cute in the pink dress and blond wig that Joba Chamberlain hit on him.

Joba Chamberlain as the Cowardly Lion:

Shelley Duncan was the Scarecrow:

Ross Ohlendorf as a palace guard:

Ian Kennedy was Dorothy, complete with ruby slippers:

Kei Igawa was a Flying Monkey:

(Tyler Clippard also got a Flying Monkey costume, though I haven't found any photos.)

Edwar Ramirez was the Wicked Witch of the West, but I haven't found any photos of him, either.

Unlike some teams, the Yankees always give the press and the fans a chance to take photos.

Welcome to the big leagues, kids!

posted by BubbaFan, 8:23 PM | link | 5 comments |

I want that

Remember "The $100 laptop"? It was designed for children in Third World countries, who might not have access to regular electricity. It was supposed to be powered by a hand crank.

A lot of Americans loved the idea. Laptop batteries are a pain. They never last as long as claimed. Spares are expensive and heavy. There's nothing worse than running out of juice while you're in the middle of something (unless it's having the batteries explode).

Well, if you wanted one, you can get one:

Give a low-cost laptop, get one free

The project that hopes to supply developing-world schoolchildren with $188 laptops will sell the rugged little computers to U.S. residents and Canadians for $400 each, with the profit going toward a machine for a poor country.

The One Laptop Per Child project expects that its "Give One, Get One" promotion will result in a pool of thousands of donated laptops that will stimulate demand in countries hesitant to join the program. It will be offered for only two weeks in November.

It's not quite $100. They actually cost $188 each to manufacture, though they hope to bring the price down to $100 in a couple of years. And at least for now, the November "Give One, Get One" promotion is the only way to get one in the US.

I have a laptop, but I still want one of these. It would be great to have a crank-powered computer. Just in case Richard Duncan's Olduvai Theory is correct. Even if it's not, it would be very convenient to use during blackouts, while camping, or on long layovers in the airport when all the outlets are full. Since it's meant for children, it's very sturdily built. It has a screen made to be viewed in bright sunlight, and built-in wireless with extra range. I think there's a built-in video camera, too. And it's light - only 3-1/2 pounds. Easy to tote to the ballpark if you want to blog during the game. (I know, that's incredibly nerdy. But people do it, with laptops and Blackberries. This would be a lot better.)

In other news...this guy thinks Bubba Crosby is the greatest baseball player of all time. Now that's a fan!


posted by BubbaFan, 6:38 PM | link | 0 comments |

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Running out of outfielders

Adam Dunn has been nursing a sore knee, so yesterday, he was given the day off. Joey Votto started in left field instead. Griffey, Freel, and Hamilton are out for the season with injuries, and Hopper was ejected for arguing a bad call in the first at-bat of the game. So the rest of the outfield was covered by Jason Ellison and Buck Coats. I'm sure many Reds fans were saying, "Who?"

The Reds had so many outfielders in spring training, and acquired more along the way. Now they're running out. Who'd have thunk it?

The Yankees played 14 innings last night. They had an early game today, and it was at almost the 5 hour mark after nine innings. And that was not counting the rain delay before the game. Then it went to extra innings. It feels like they've been playing the Jays for about year. Good thing they have the expanded rosters, or I don't know what Joe would have done with the bullpen.

posted by BubbaFan, 6:17 PM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Right Behind You

It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Which means it's the anniversary of Bubba's walkoff homer. Two years ago tonight:

Tonight, the Yankees once again faced the Baltimore Orioles. And once again, it was a pitchers' duel. And once again, the Yankees won by one run. The win puts them only one game back of the Sox. Holy guacamole. I did not think it was possible to catch the Red Sox this season, but they've really gone into a tailspin. With ten games left to play, the Yankees could very well take the division.

posted by BubbaFan, 10:08 PM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Minky Rolls On

Well, Eyechart is staking his claim to a post-season roster spot. He was 2 for 4 tonight, with a 3-run homer. That, with the best first base glove on the roster, will likely win him the spot over Betemit.

Someone sent me this link:

The Magical Bat

Check it out. It's short but amazing.

And some good news:

NY Times to drop charges for website

That means free access to their archive of Bubba Crosby articles, like this one. (The free access was supposed to start at midnight tonight, but it looks like it's already started.)

posted by BubbaFan, 11:07 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, September 17, 2007

Playing Scrabble

Many Yankees fans were underwhelmed at the idea of playing Doug Mientkiewicz, AKA "Scrabble," at first base. But it turned out to be a good move. He was 2 for 3, and more importantly, made some great plays on defense. In particular, he made an amazing diving grab last night that turned a two-run double into an out. Since the Yankees won by one run, Scrabble's glove saved the game. It was a very tough play. I don't think any of the Yankees' other first basemen make that play.

The Reds started their last road trip yesterday. Which of course means it was rookie hazing day:

DRESS UP - Before Sunday's game with the Brewers, Reds reliever Mike Gosling was wearing the traditional Wisconsin headwear of a cheesehead to watch the start of the Green Bay Packers game. A native of Wisconsin, Gosling is a big Packers fan and was rooting on his team. And as ridiculous as it looked, it was much better than his postgame attire.

In the time-honored baseball tradition, the Reds had their rookies dressed up for the bus trip to Chicago after Sunday's game. Gosling was one of the lucky ones - he wore a full-size baby outfit, complete with bonnet. His was at least baby blue, while Bill Bray had to don a pink baby outfit.

Jeff Keppinger, who went 3-for-5 with a run in the game, found a "naughty nurse" costume in his locker. It was the third time Keppinger has been considered a rookie for this particular ritual. Two years ago he dressed as Robin from Batman with the Mets and last season he had to wear a Slim Jim costume with the Royals.

"They don't care on this team," Keppinger said when asked if he'd already paid his dues. "We've got a lot of clowns."

Keppinger, already in fishnet stockings, then looked down at his nurse's uniform.

"They could have at least given me one with pockets," he said. "Well, I guess I do have the purse."

Along with a stethoscope, Keppinger had a first aid box.

Jared Burton looked at the yellow costume in his locker and was asked what it was.

"I don't know," he said. "But I'll probably look pretty good in it."

For the record, it was a chicken outfit, and Burton, 6-foot5, did fill it out well.

Coats had a Dog the Bounty Hunter costume, complete with a wig, Brad Salmon was dressed as the movie character Nacho Libre, Joey Votto had a pilgrim outfit, while Phil Dumatrait wore a turkey costume. Even bench coach Pat Kelly had an outfit, a silver pimp suit complete with hat.

After plenty of pictures were taken, the rookies not only had to ride the bus to Chicago in their outfits but also had to wait for the veterans' bags at the team hotel and then deliver them to their rooms. After delivering the luggage, they were going to be led on a parade down Michigan Avenue.

Very disappointing that there don't seem to be any photos available.

Then there's this....

Fate of Bonds’ historic ball in hands of fans

Fashion designer Marc Ecko spent $752,467 to buy Barry Bonds’ record 756th home-run ball, and now he wants baseball fans everywhere to decide what to do with it.

Ecko is offering three choices: Donate it as is to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.; brand it with an asterisk and donate it to the Hall of Fame; or put it on a rocket and blast it into space.

“I wanted the ball to democratize the ball and to give the ball to the people, to give the ball to America,” Ecko told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer during an exclusive interview Monday.

Vote here.

posted by BubbaFan, 7:20 PM | link | 0 comments |

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Strange Days

Rubber game for the last Yankees-Red Sox series of the year tonight. (Assuming they don't meet in the playoffs.)

It's kind of weird to be playing Boston and have it not really matter. The Sox pretty much have the division locked up. The Yankees' wild card chances are looking pretty good, even if they lose tonight (though it's certainly not guaranteed).

Very strange series thus far. The Yanks played terribly on Friday night. Bad at-bats, errors, missed balls that weren't errors but could have been caught, etc. Many fans thought they were lacking in concentration, but I think it was the opposite: they were over-anxious, and were thinking about it too much. Once the game seemed out of reach and many gave up, they actually came back and won.

Then Saturday, the Sox hung a 10-1 drubbing on the Yankees. While ace Chien-Ming Wang was on the mound, no less. To add to the agony, Torre used practically everyone in his extensive bullpen to get through the game. Ugly.

So far, tonight is a pitcher's duel between old warhorses Clemens and Schilling. My guess is it's going to come down to the pens.

In other strangeness...60 Minutes revealed tonight that Alan Greenspan actually wanted to be a pro ball player. He said, with pride, that he could hit a curve ball when he was twelve years old. Didn't work out, but he's still a baseball fan. They showed him at a Nats game, filling out a scoring sheet. People were lined up getting him to autograph dollar bills. Funny. Would they have recognized him if the CBS camera crew wasn't there?

Michigan won their first game yesterday. Thoroughly embarrassed Notre Dame. I can remember my dad marveling at how Notre Dame was so good, for so long, not hitting the slumps that most college teams do. Not any more, I guess.

And the Dallas Cowboys beat Miami convincingly. They're 2-0.

The Giants lost, and are 0-2. Looks like they're picking up where they left off last year. During the Yankees game yesterday, one of the announcers introduced Edwar Ramirez by saying, "That's 'Edwar,' with no D. Like the New York Giants." LOL!

Can't afford box seats? Maybe you can buy your own regular seats. Hey, it's probably a better investment than most real estate these days.

Then there's this bittersweet story about Bernie Williams. He's enjoying his music career, and getting to know his children. But he also misses baseball, despite the toll it took on his family. He says he can't watch Yankees games too long, because he gets too emotional. Not surprisingly. Heck, I sometimes have a hard time watching Yankees games because Bubba's not there any more. I can't imagine what it must be like if you played for the team, with those guys, for 17 years.

I wish the Yankees would offer Bernie a job as a coach or something. Maybe it would be easier for him if he were involved in baseball in some other role. Then again, maybe they already have, and Bernie's not willing to accept that his playing days are over. That article hints that Bernie is still hoping the Yankees give him a call next season.

posted by BubbaFan, 8:13 PM | link | 1 comments |

Friday, September 14, 2007

Cardboard Crosby: 2000 Topps Chrome

Sorry the scan isn't very good on this one. It's one of those shiny ones, and it seems to confuse the scanner. I should try photographing it with a polarizing filter or something. A project for the off-season, maybe.

The date on the card is 2000, which means the info is from 1999. Here's the back:

It says:

The Dodgers' first round pick in the 1998 draft, Crosby caught the attention of scouts with a monster junior season at Rice University, where he batted .394 with 25 homer runs and 91 RBI in 58 games. He concluded the season with a school-record 30-game hitting streak. His feats included four homers in a game and giners in seven consecutive games.

posted by BubbaFan, 7:51 PM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Adventures in outfielding

The Reds and the Yankees have both been on a roll lately. But they both hit minor potholes recently.

The Reds' winning streak is intact, but they've likely lost center fielder Josh Hamilton for the rest of the season. It's pretty ironic. Many fans were irate with manager Pete Mackanin, because he benched Hamilton for a couple of days with a tight hamstring. Hamilton said he was fine and could play. (Like any player, especially a rookie, would say anything else.) Well, Mack started Hamilton yesterday, and the kid ended up pulling his hamstring running out a grounder. He couldn't even walk. He had to hop to the dugout. Today he had an MRI, and they announced that he won't be traveling with the team. That likely means his season is over. (Not that there's much left of it.)

Some fans are joking about "the curse of Norris Hopper." Seems like any players who stand between Hopper and center field get hurt. Ryan Freel...Josh Hamilton...Chris Denorfia...and Bubba Crosby? Hmmm....

The Yankees' winning streak ended tonight. Ian Kennedy pitched a gem, but AJ Burnett matched him. Kennedy might have had a no-hitter, except Melky Cabrera just missed a ball at the wall. Melky tends to play shallow, and doesn't read the ball hit over his head well. (Though he is improving.) He did well just to get there, but appeared to be distracted by the wall. The ball missed his glove by an inch or so.

Melky also had a role in the walkoff single that ended the game. He had to throw home, and he did...but it was offline, and the runner scored. Game over. Melky has a strong arm, but it's not always accurate. I was really impressed with some of his throws when he first came up last year, but eventually I came to realize it was sort of a fluke. He can throw the ball all the way in, but sometimes it rockets right into the catcher's glove, sometimes it sails into the stands or halfway down the 3B line. His throw wasn't too bad tonight; it would have been a tough play for anyone.

Nevertheless, the natives are getting restless when it comes to Melky. Mainly because he's been in a slump, and went 0 for 4 tonight. He's also been kind of klutzy in center field lately. I think, like many players, he tends to take his struggles at the plate into the field with him.

I'm still not sure if Melky is going to end up sticking with the Yankees. When he's hot, he's great. When he's not, he's terrible. He's still young yet, but I wonder if the Yankees will have the patience to stick with him.

posted by BubbaFan, 10:21 PM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

An Extra Home Run

This is an excerpt from a book called Haunted Baseball. I shared a different snippet before. This one is a little different. It's not really a ghost story, though some might see a hint of the supernatural in it.

Among those lost on September 11 was firefighter Kenny Marino. A lifelong baseball fan, Marino played local ball, was an avid Strat-O-Matic junkie, and rooted like crazy for the Mets. When he was killed in the World Trade Center attacks, his obituary in the New York Times was headlined: KENNY MARINO. A DEVOUT BASEBALL FAN. At the end of a memorial service for him, members of his Rescue I fire squad led a mourning procession to the organist's rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

"We used to have a running joke," says his wife Katrina Marino. "His list of favorite things. Firefighting, baseball, the kids...and then me!"

Though not a baseball fan herself, Katrina didn't really mind sharing her husband with his boyhood passion. "I was pretty easy-going about it, because it's such an innocent, sweet, good sport, you know? I encouraged it."

When it came to his favorite player, there was no contest. Kenny Marino considered himself the world's biggest Ken Griffey Jr. fan. "He followed him since he was a rookie," says Katrina. Marino had Griffey on all his fantasy league teams. The only picture in the couple's bedroom was of Griffey. When their son was born, he was given the middle name "Ken" - not just because it happened to be Marino's first name.

"He wanted it more because of that - because of Junior - than his own namesake," Katrina says with a laugh.

Early in their relationship, Katrina, then a flight attendant, flew Ken out to Seattle for a Mariner's game. Marino got to the park early to see his idol. He didn't speak to Griffey ("He was kind of quiet," Katrina explains), but he got close enough to pass the slugger a present he'd brought along for his son Trey: an FDNY

In the aftermath of the attacks, Katrina Marino "was in a tailspin. I didn't know which end was up." On September 24, she went online using her husband's account. "I just remember feeling like I wanted to connect somehow," she says. She immediately got messages from Kenny's Strat-O-Matic buddies, who saw the e-mail address and hoped it was their friend.

Perhaps that was what spurred her to send an e-mail to the Cincinnati Reds.

Ken Griffey Jr. was my husband's favorite baseball player, she wrote. If Ken Griffey Jr. could hit an extra home run for Ken, I know he will be looking down with a big grin.

"And I kinda just left it at that," she recalls. "I didn't think anyone would get it. I was just kind of reaching out in general." Katrina had no great designs on invoking any kind of spirit. "I don't really believe in the supernatural. Another life. I wasn't sure. But I thought, 'Well maybe if he sees it, or if he's around...,' you know?"

The e-mail made its way to Rob Butcher, the team's director of media relations. He showed it to Junior shortly before the game.

The 200I season was not one of Ken Griffey Jr.'s best. He sat out a third of the Reds games with injuries. After averaging nearly 50 home runs in the previous five seasons, he would hit only 22 that year. His RBI percentage drop was even greater.

In the week since baseball resumed, he was batting a mere .190. That night's game against Philadelphia seemed unlikely to turn things around: The Phillies were the only team he'd never homered against in his career. In fact, he'd never gotten a hit off them.

But in the fourth inning, having already singled his first time up, Junior got hold of a 1-0 pitch and sent it over the rightfield fence.

He hadn't been thinking of Kenny Marino when he stood at the plate, but says that "around first base, I realized what happened. I was just shocked. Things like that don't normally happen to me." More than anything, Griffey was happy for the family. He had no explanation for what he did, other than a belief that God had him hit one out for the Marinos.

Back in Monroe, New York, Katrina had been too busy dealing with the tragedy to follow the game. That day in particular had been one of the worst. "I went down into the city. We had to bring in DNA stuff [to help identify remains], like his razor, and toothbrush - whatever we could find. So I had been down there all day filling out all this awful paperwork. "

"Then I came back and the phone rang. And someone said, 'Do you know that Ken Griffey Jr.'s just hit the home run for your husband?' And I'm like, 'No! We didn't know that!' And it was pretty neat."

It gave Katrina a small ray of happiness in the midst of some very dark days.

"Everything around that time was just so...surreal. I think I said something like 'Well, I know Kenny's looking down smiling.' Because he had the biggest grin. Especially for something like that. I had a warm feeling like, I know that he saw that. I know that."

Katrina also appreciated the special home run as something her son and daughter - just one and three years old at the time - would always remember: a connection to their father, through the sport that he loved.

"He would throw balls at three-month-old Tyler," she recalls. "He couldn't wait to play ball with them. He wanted to be their coach; he wanted to teach them how to play. And I definitely feel that's one thing I haven't been able to give them," she says. She then adds with a laugh, "He might be a little angry at me!"

The Reds invited Katrina and the kids to attend a game and receive the home-run bat, but the timing was difficult. "Around that time, I didn't know if Kenny was going to be found, and flying was really hazardous.") Instead, the team sent her the bat. The following year, she met Junior for the first time at a game at Shea. "I have a picture of my kids climbing all over his back. He threw a ball with them. He's just a genuinely nice guy," she says.

Griffey had another surprise for Katrina. He still had the FDNY T-shirt Kenny had given him years earlier.

The Marinos did eventually make a trip to Cincinnati, where Junior again met with them. In 2004, when Griffey hit home run number 500 on Father's Day, he wore two armbands, one blue and one black. He sent the black one to the Hall of Fame. "He gave us the blue one, which is actually Rescue 1's color," says Katrina fondly.

The whole experience has Katrina rethinking her ideas about what lies beyond.

"I don't usually believe in that stuff, but I started kind of believing in certain things," she says. "When I went to the park and met Ken Griffey Jr. that first time, we were on the field and I remember standing out there feeling so lost. And I started tearing up. I don't cry very often. I don't usually go there. And I remember thinking, This is Kenny's moment. He knows all these guys. He would appreciate who every single person is. He would appreciate knowing all their scores and stats, and how many hits they had. And I thought, 'I hope he can see this. Because this is his moment.'"

For Griffey, the homer he hit for Kenny Marino will be "in the top five" of all his dingers.

"This situation is bigger than baseball," he says. "There's not a day that I don't think of [the family]. He risked his life for other people. That's a hero. What I do, I just play baseball. I'm not a hero."

When Griffey sent the armband on Father's Day, his mind was on the Marino children. "I was thinking about their father that they lost. I don't want them to ever forget that."

For Katrina, the story is not about her, and not about Griffey. "It was more like giving something to Kenny. This is for you. Maybe he could see that, enjoy it, and appreciate it. It was more for him than it was ever for me. Just knowing the satisfaction that if Kenny was watching, he would see it."

Tonight, Katrina Marino and her children will be at GABP:

9/11 REMEMBRANCE: On Tuesday, the Reds will host Katrina Marino and her kids, Kristin, 9, and Tyler, 7. On Sept. 25, 2001, Ken Griffey Jr. dedicated a home run in honor of Kenny Marino, husband and father, who was a Rescue 1 firefighter and died in the Twin Towers tragedy. Tyler will throw out the ceremonial first pitch and Griffey will catch it.

Labels: ,

posted by BubbaFan, 8:01 AM | link | 1 comments |

Sunday, September 09, 2007

What a fan wants

Someone sent me this article by Joe Posnanski. Great stuff.

Football season has started, which means that for the next four months or so, many of us spend a lot of time talking to televisions. Some of the time, we will talk to the players behind the screen or the coaches or the guys doing those ridiculous fake news conference Coors commercials. No. Mostly, though, we'll talk to announcers.

"That is not a fumble!"

"The quarterback is not having a good game! Quit saying that!"

"Why don't you tell us something - anything - we didn't know?"

And so on. Every year, I talk more to the TV. It may be because announcing has gone downhill. It may be because I'm growing grumpier as I get older. Personally, I think it's the announcing - I'm not grumpy at all. And I don't appreciate you saying that.

No, I think it's more or less a consensus that announcing has, on the whole, gone bad. Color commentators these days are almost all former stars who know 100 times more about sports than we do. But you could never tell by their announcing. They yell at us. They repeat obvious stuff. They defend players who are having bad games. They speak in cliches. More than anything, they won't just talk to us.

This really hit me Wednesday night, while I was watching - of all things - the Roger Federer-Andy Roddick match at the U.S. Open. I don't watch much tennis these days, but Federer is a genius, and Roddick hits his serve about a million miles an hour, and night tennis at the U.S. Open is still one of the great shows around.

Anyway, eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi was in the booth as a special guest announcer. Now, special guest announcers are almost always a disaster.

As far as I know, this was Agassi's first time in the booth.

And he was great.

No, I mean he was great. Thoughtful. Fascinating. Incisive. For two-plus hours, I sat mesmerized in a recliner and listened to Agassi talk about tennis and sports. He offered his theory that speed is the most underrated skill in tennis (and sports). He explained why Federer always seemed to have more time to hit his shot (it has to do with his movement before the opponent even hits his shot). He said one of the hard parts of growing older as a great athlete is that you stop to appreciate the moment more; when you're young you just play without nostalgia.

He talked a little about his own career. He talked about the differences between Federer and Pete Sampras. He encouraged Roddick to hit the ball as hard as he could, impose his will, because, "as an athlete that's really all you can do." He even explained how he could anticipate which way Boris Becker would serve based on whether or not he was sticking out his tongue.

What was Agassi doing that made him so great? Well, it might be easier to say what he wasn't doing. For one, he wasn't screaming. He wasn't trying hard to be funny. He wasn't trying to be hip or controversial or glib or silly. He didn't try any goofy gimmicks. He did not talk down to us.

I think this is what's missing most. Look, we as fans know more about football than ever before. We've seen enough football and played enough video games that we don't need announcers to tell us about stunts and blitzes like we've never heard the term before. We've watched enough replays that we can make up our own minds about whether or not a call will be reversed. We've seen enough touchdowns that we don't need sound effects. We've heard the cliches.

We really don't want all that. Just talk to us. Tell us what it's like. Be honest. Share your experiences. Stop screaming. Agassi made it simple: We just want to get closer to the game.

Agassi has always been one of my favorites, and I'd be glad to see him as a broadcaster now that his playing days are over. Interesting that he thinks speed is the most underrated skill in all sports. He was always known for his wheels, but at one point his career, he really bulked up. Worked out with weights and put on about 20 pounds of solid muscle. He was stronger...but slower. Being so much heavier, he just couldn't move as fast. He ended up cutting back on the weight training and going back to his skinny physique. The extra strength just wasn't worth the loss of speed.

Anyway, the last line of that article is spot-on. That is what fans want: to get closer to the game.

That's why Dirk Hayhurst's prospect diary is such a delight. Actually, Hayhurst is 26 and still in AA, so he's not really a prospect any more. He knows this, and has changed the name of his blog to "Non-Prospect Diary."

He writes extremely well, and if his dream of playing in the big leagues never comes true, he could probably go into journalism or something. But it's what he writes about that makes his blog so appealing. Some of his subjects are trivial: the rules of claiming seats on a minor league bus trip, how you never put your hand in another player's glove. Others are more profound, like the sacrifices made for baseball, and his doubts about whether it's worth it. I enjoy reading it all. Probably the closest I'll ever get to knowing what it's like to be a pro baseball player.

If you only read one of Hayhurst's articles, read this one.

posted by BubbaFan, 6:48 AM | link | 4 comments |

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Nibbled To Death By Ducks

Well, that's not quite accurate. The Michigan Wolverines were stomped by the Oregon Ducks, 39-7. Ouch. To add to the pain, they also lost their QB to injury, for at least a week.

It's going to be a long season for the poor Wolverines. College football is brutally unforgiving. It's basically one strike, and you're out. And Michigan now has two.

In other college football news, the Aggies won a shootout: Texas A&M 47, Fresno St. 45. Holy guacamole.

Scranton's season ended today, and the Yankees' final round of callups was announced: Kei Igawa, Jeff Karstens, Matt DeSalvo, Sean Henn, Ross Ohlendorf, and Bronson Sardinha. Ohlendorf is not on the 40-man roster. He'll have to be added, which means someone will have to be removed. They could move Ron Villone from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day.

posted by BubbaFan, 9:38 PM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, September 07, 2007

Fare thee well, Kevin Thompson

The Oakland A's claimed Kevin Thompson off waivers. (This is the team that was so desperate for outfielders that they traded for Chris Denorfia when he'd just had Tommy John surgery and wouldn't be able to play until next year at the earliest.) They say they're going to give Thompson a chance:

"We'll put him in the mix in the outfield," A's manager Bob Geren said. "We'll put him in for defense and have him start some games. He can play all three outfield spots. We'll give him a chance and see what he can do."

Good luck to you, KT. I have a feeling you'll get more of an opportunity in Oakland than you'd ever have gotten in the Bronx.

The Reds also made a move today, trading pitcher Victor Santos to the Baltimore Orioles for "cash considerations."

posted by BubbaFan, 9:51 PM | link | 4 comments |

Juicy Juice

The blogosphere is abuzz with the news that the feel-good story of the year, Rick Ankiel, used HGH. Some are saying this tarnishes him irrevocably. But most aren't getting too excited. For once, I think Celizic is right: fans just don't care.

I wonder if HGH even helped him. He sure didn't play very well when he was using it. And some studies show HGH doesn't improve performance.

The jury's still out on the effects of HGH, but some research has found that it can speed healing, and it is sometimes prescribed for this purpose. I could see that being a big advantage for a pro ball player, where injuries are always an issue. But again, it's not clear how helpful HGH is in this regard, or if it's even helpful at all. (It didn't seem to help Ankiel, who was plagued by injuries.)

This article, by an athlete/journalist who took steroids and HGH for eight months just to write about it, has some interesting stuff about effects...and side effects. Some he would take, if he could afford it, some he would not, because of the nasty side effects.

HGH was something he would take if he could afford it. He said the reason he liked it was that it improved his eyesight dramatically. He didn't need glasses when he took HGH.

If that's true (I don't think it's ever been formally studied), that could be a huge advantage for a batter. But at the time, Ankiel was a pitcher.

I guess I'm in the camp that doesn't see this as a big deal. Yes, he cheated, but the cheating didn't help him any. The major problem I have with cheating is that it hurts those who don't cheat. But if the cheating doesn't actually give you an advantage, no one is hurt.

In other juicing news, we now know why Bats catcher Ryan Jorgensen wasn't called up. The Reds said he was passed over because he had a "personal commitment." That sounded really weird to me. I couldn't imagine a personal commitment that would keep a minor leaguer from a callup to the bigs.

Today, it was announced that Jorgensen has been suspended for 50 games. For juicing. They didn't say exactly what drugs were involved, but probably steroids, since HGH is not tested for or detectable.

That's too bad. Jorgensen had a great cup of coffee earlier in the season, hitting clutch home runs and even a grand slam. Now his baseball future is in doubt. The Reds may not want him back when the suspension is over.


posted by BubbaFan, 8:17 PM | link | 1 comments |

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Medical Report

Andy Phillips' surgery went well. He had a small bone (the pisiform, on the outside of the wrist) removed. It was broken when he was hit by that pitch, and removing it will let him heal faster.

Weirdly, that seems to be a common treatment when an athlete breaks one of the small bones in the wrist. They just remove it. You'd think they'd miss it, but apparently, the surgeon can rearrange/reattach tendons, ligaments, and such so that the missing bone isn't missed.

Andy is still hoping to rejoin the team in October, if they make it that far, but it's probably a long shot. Even if he's physically recovered, he'll be awfully rusty by then. And there's no time (or teams) for a rehab assignment.

In other medical news, Roger Clemens has gotten a cortisone shot in his elbow. They don't know when (or if) he'll return to the rotation. Luiz Vizcaino has also been shut down for a few days, due to shoulder pain.

The Yankees took two of three from Seattle, which makes their chances of winning the wild card pretty good. Still, they only have two starting pitchers they can rely on right now. Even if they do make it to the post-season, you have to wonder how far they can go.

Haven't heard any news on Bubba recently. The Bats' season is over, so maybe he's gone home to Houston. For those who asked, no, I don't know if he'll be doing winterball this year. He might, since he missed so much time during the regular season. I'll be scanning the winterball rosters once they're posted.

posted by BubbaFan, 9:37 PM | link | 2 comments |

Monday, September 03, 2007

Bad Break

Andy Phillips during spring training

Poor Andy Phillips. If it weren't for bad luck, he'd have no luck. He left the game yesterday after being hit on his right wrist by a pitch. Turns out, his wrist is broken. He'll have surgery tomorrow, and is expected to be out 4-6 weeks. While it's theoretically possible that he could return if the Yanks make the post-season, the odds aren't good. Assuming the Yankees even make the post-season.

That chance grew a little dimmer today, with a decisive loss to wild card rival Seattle. Clemens was pulled early for Moose. The Rocket was sent to the hospital for an MRI, because he felt something "catch" in his elbow. Without Clemens, you can put a fork in the Yankees.

Meanwhile, the Reds had their best, Aaron Harang, up against Pedro Martinez. Harang wasn't at his best, but he kept the Reds in it...except Mackanin left him out there too long. You could see he was struggling, but given the Reds' bullpen troubles, you could understand Mackanin taking a chance and leaving him out there. Like Torre yesterday with Pettitte, he rolled the dice and lost.

The Louisville Bats have played their final game of the season. (They beat Indianapolis, 8-2.) And the Reds have finally revealed the top-secret list of players getting called up.

According to the Bats radio announcers, these players are getting the call:

Todd Coffey, RP
Kirk Saarloos, RP
Brad Salmon, RP
Buck Coats, OF
Ryan Hanigan, C
Joey Votto, 1B

Buck Coats is kind of a surprise. He's been hitting well, but do they really need another lefty outfielder?

Sigh. Looking at that list, you have to figure that they'd have called Bubba up if he were healthy. But jeez, the Reds have a ton of lefty outfielders. Not just in the big club, but in the minors, too. The only right-handed outfielder on the Bats' roster is Jeff Bannon, who is actually an infielder. You gotta figure that Bubba will probably be moving on next year.

posted by BubbaFan, 8:52 PM | link | 3 comments |

The one you gave away...

Once again, the Yanks prove confounding. They swept Boston, the best team in baseball, but lost two of three to the Devil Rays, the worst team in baseball.

To add to the agony, much of the damage was done by two players they basically threw away. Catcher Dioner Navarro was traded to Arizona as part of the Randy Johnson trade. Yeah, that sure worked out well. Arizona didn't even really want him (they flipped him almost immediately), and we desperately needed (and still need) a young catcher to be Jorgie's backup and successor. Then there's Carlos Pena, who was languishing in Columbus last year, and finally bolted when the Yanks refused to call him up. He's the best first baseman in the league this year, and we were (and are) desperately seeking a decent first baseman.

The Times has an article about Pena and his stint with the Yanks.

After toiling for the Yankees’ Class AAA team last season without the hint of a call-up, Peña needed resiliency to make it back.

“I’ve always envisioned this, ever since I was a little kid,” he said yesterday, after bashing a three-run homer that put away Andy Pettitte and the Yankees in an 8-2 victory. “I try not to put any numbers in my head. Just go out every day, keep it as simple as possible and know that there are no limits. Why put a limit on yourself?”

Peña has 34 home runs, tying Aubrey Huff and José Canseco for the most in a season by a Devil Ray, and 96 runs batted in. Only three major leaguers in the last 25 years have hit more home runs after being a nonroster invitee to spring training.

Kevin Long, the Clippers' hitting coach last year and the Yankees' this year, is apparently a friend and mentor to Pena.

When Peña got to Columbus, Ohio, where the Yankees’ farm team was then based, his career had flatlined. A first-round draft pick who had been traded by Texas and Oakland, Peña hit 27 home runs for Detroit in 2004 but slumped so badly the next season that he was sent to the minors. In the spring of 2006, he was released.

“There was a reason he was in Triple-A,” said Long, the Yankees’ hitting coach, who mentored Peña in Columbus. “He had a lot of holes, there was no consistency to his swing, there were a lot of strikeouts, and there was a low average. He’s just a much different hitter now than he was when he came to Columbus.”

Long found that Peña, now 29, was willing to listen. He spread his stance wider, tried to stop drifting forward and controlled the movement of his head.

Kevin Long is credited with turning around Melky Cabrera's and Robinson Cano's careers in Columbus - one reason Long is now with the big club.

Meanwhile, in Louisville yesterday the Bats announcers mentioned Bubba for the first time in awhile. They haven't even been naming him when they read off the disabled list any more. But yesterday, in a sort of season summary, they mentioned that he spent the most time of any Bat on the disabled list. Sigh. Not exactly the kind of recognition I'd hoped for him.

Ah, well. It's gotta be better next year, right? Craig Wilson had the same kind of shoulder surgery, I think, and they seem to be expecting it to improve his hitting as well as his throwing. Maybe it'll work that way for Bubba, too.

posted by BubbaFan, 10:52 AM | link | 0 comments |

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Clay Buchholz

Boston's young phenom, Clay Buchholz, pitched a no-hitter last night. Wow. He was just called up yesterday, to sub for the ailing Tim Wakefield. He'd had just one big league start before that. He started this season in AA.

I saw Buchholz pitch in July, in Pawtucket. He was very impressive that day, though he ended up with the loss. I'm happy for him, even if he is wearing the enemy uniform.

It is kind of depressing, though, that our phenoms haven't done quite as well. Ian Kennedy did all right yesterday, but he's clearly still a bit raw. (He's also dreadfully slow. We may have another Al Leiter on our hands.)

And of course, Yankee fans still remember that heartbreaking night when Phil Hughes took a no-hitter into the 7th before blowing out his hamstring. He hasn't been quite the same since.

The Reds' phenom, Homer Bailey, has had growing pains very similar to Hughes'. He will not be called up, at least for awhile. The Sarasota Reds have made the playoffs, and the Reds want Hughes to pitch for them. He has struggled in his two starts in Sarasota, so leaving him there for now is probably for the best.

Ah, well. No-hitters are about luck as much as skill. Bailey and Hughes will have plenty of opportunities.

Phil Dumatrait may not, however. I watched the Reds game last night, and it was a disaster. It wasn't all Dumatrait's fault, but, well, he was in no danger of pitching a no-hitter.

Of course, that was in part due to his fielders. The Reds infield couldn't catch a cold last night. It was just plain ugly.

Miguel Cairo was indeed called up yesterday, and even started at 2B for the Redbirds. He was HBP in his first at-bat, and grounded out and flew out in the next two. He was double-switched out after that.

Monday, the Reds play the Mets. It's Pedro Martinez vs. Aaron Harang. That should be a good one.

posted by BubbaFan, 11:14 AM | link | 4 comments |

Saturday, September 01, 2007

September Callups

September already. Where did the summer go?

Rosters expand today. Doug Mientkiewicz was activated off the DL, and Jose Veras and Alberto Gonzalez were called up. Veras and Gonzalez were already on the 40-man roster, but Minky, on the 60-day DL, was not. Kevin Thompson was DFA'd to make room for him.

The Reds have recalled Phil Dumatrait and Marcus McBeth.

There will probably be more callups coming, once the minor league season ends.

posted by BubbaFan, 12:45 PM | link | 2 comments |

Saturday Shopping

Wow, the bidders were busy last night. When we last looked in on the Bats' pink jersey auction, Joey Votto was in the lead, followed by Mark Bellhorn.

We have a new leader this morning: catcher Ryan Jorgensen, whose jersey has a $310 bid. (Wonder if they spelled his name right this time?) In second place is Jay Bruce, whose jersey is currently going for $290. Former frontrunner Joey Votto's jersey is up to $280. In fourth place is Mark Bellhorn, now at $245. Fifth place is held by Paul Janish's jersey, at $210.

The bidding remains open until midnight September 3, so there's plenty of time. There was a lot of last-minute action in the last Bats charity auction.

And over on eBay, there's this auction. It's a Bubba Crosby game-used bat. Black, maple, with "19" written on the end.

(Last season, Bubba lost his bat into the stands in Columbus, when it slipped out of his grip on a swing. I wonder if this is it?)

Anyway, it's a nice item. It already has a bid from someone who appears to be a fan of Bubba's, judging from his/her user ID.

posted by BubbaFan, 11:58 AM | link | 0 comments |