Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Reason to Dislike Steinbrenner #238

Talking about the Make-A-Wish Foundation, if you ever get unlucky (lucky? not really) enough to make one of those wishes, beware of George "Who-Gives-A-Crap-About-Kids-With-Cancer?" Steinbrenner. In 1998, I wished to go meet the Yankees and I was supposed to go onto the field and get to hobnob with the the team during batting practice, but George Steinbrenner showed up at the stadium and put an end to that. Apparently he doesn't like anything "distracting" his players before a game. The Make-A-Wish Foundation worked on their feet quickly, though, so I did still get to sneakily stand outside the clubhouse and get a picture with any players coming in and out, but I'll always hold a grudge again George.

Besides for that, though, the day was awesome. We got tickets about halfway up the stands right behind the plate, plus they paid for us to go out to dinner at "Mickey Mantle's" after the game (which is an incredible restaurant filled to the brim with Yankee memorabilia). The game was against the White Sox and the Yanks won 6-3, thanks to homeruns by Posada and Bernie. Okay, I didn't actually remember the score off the top of my head...I had to go look up the box score on Retrosheet. If you're curious and want to look it up too, the date was July 26th, 1998. But I did remember those two homeruns, especially the one by Bernie since he was my favorite player at the time (and still is to this day).

I suppose times may be changing with George Steinbrenner stepping down and leaving the ballclub in the hands of his sons, but I think the best bet is to ask to meet specific players like Sean Clayton did today. I think any player would be honored to be someone's Make-A-Wish, so you would probably be spoiled quite a bit. Although I really cannot complain at all because that day worked out beautifully. I still got to meet Bernie and O'Neill, which was enough right there to make that the best day of my life. Looking back now, I wish I'd run into Torre as well, but oh can't have everything. Maybe when I go home this summer I'll scan pictures from that day and put them up here. They're definitely really amusing, especially my one with Chuck Knoblauch. Even in the 5th grade, I was taller than him...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mets vs. Michigan, and Proof there are good guys in baseball even in the steroid era

The Mets took on the Univesity of Michigan baseball team today in an exhibition game. In between classes, I was able to listen to innings 6, 7, and 8 via the online broadcast. I actually had to leave for an afternoon class right after Michigan took the lead on a deep 2-run homer. With the Mets having removed all their regulars (and even primary backups having left the game by that point), my hopes weren't high for a comeback. I returned from class to learn that Michel Abreu had hit a game-tying 2-run shot to center field with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th. This will likely be Michel Abreu's only appearance on this blog, so I'm officially declaring February 26, 2008 "Michel Abreu Day." The game ended in a tie, since the Mets ran out of pitchers scheduled to throw today. While I was furious at the declaration of a tie in the All-Star Game in Milwaukee a few years ago, I didn't mind this one. My favorite moment of the game, which I didn't get to hear because it was in the bottom of the 9th, had to be 3rd Base Coach Sandy Alomar Sr. apparently going ballistic over Abreu's shot originally being ruled a double. As I wrote a couple days ago, I'm looking for some real fire on the Mets this year. If that passion starts with Sandy Alomar Sr., so be it. Whoever it takes.

Second best moment of today was definitely David Wright homering on the first pitch he saw in the first inning. As Steve noted in an earlier post, I have what some would categorize as a man-crush on Wright. Heck, why not? The guy is a great player, with the proper attitude toward the game.

Also, my sympathy to Aaron Heilman. As a proud Notre Dame alum, it must have been particularly hard on Heilman having given up a run to the Wolverines today.

Tomorrow is the first official Spring Training game for the Mets, as they take on the Tigers at 1:05. I will be listening on MLB Audio. I haven't ordered yet, but probably will soon. Mike Pelfrey will start on the mound for the Mets.


This is just another item from baseball I wanted to note today. As part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Roy Halladay today provided a 13-year old cancer survivor with a wonderful day. I always enjoy the Make-A-Wish Foundation segments when they're shown on ESPN and when I see stories about them online. Many people view Major Leaguers as a bunch of selfish [due to huge contracts] criminals [due to steroid and HGH use], but: A) I truly believe that performance-enhancing drug users are a minority in MLB, no matter what Jose Canseco and others say; and B) A lot of the players in MLB honestly enjoy giving back to their fans when they can. Doc Halladay has always struck me as a good guy when I've seen interviews with him and such, and I'm thrilled for young Sean Clayton for achieving his dream by meeting the Blue Jays' Cy Young-winning ace.

I know Sean Casey (now of the Red Sox) has consistently been voted the nicest player in MLB by the players. I wonder who all of you think of when you think of baseball players who are truly decent human beings? Tell me your thoughts on this in the comments.

Rookie Ball: Why are baseball fans such stats freaks?

Okay, that's not a very fair question. Not all baseball fans are obsessed with statistics, but if you've ever watched or listened to a baseball game, you know what I'm talking about. Baseball commentators use an inane amount of stats during their broadcasts, which can make it very tough for anyone trying to pick up baseball to understand what the hell is going on.

"Tejada is batting just .350 over the course of the last 10 games, plus he's also posting career highs with a .388 OBP this season. And just looks at all those 107 RBIs and 35 HRs...this guy is seriously raking it!"
"Good point there Chuck, but he is facing Roy Oswalt, who's got a career 10-2 record and 2.01 ERA in the month of August. Righties also only have a .211 OBP against him, so Tejada is going to have a tough shot getting on base."
"Ahh, right you are Bob."

If you happen to know what all of those statistics mean, then good for you! If you don't however, have no fear - that only means that you're probably normal, an unfortunate turn of events that I'm going to do my best to remedy.

To begin with, let's talk about why statistics are used in sports, period. Basically, they provide an objective means of measuring players and determining if one player is better than another. Duh, right? It seems obvious...if a player puts up good numbers, then they're better than someone who doesn't. The trick is, what statistics do you use to determine a player's worth? Also, can a player really be reduced to statistics? That last question is actually the center of a very big controversy in baseball at the moment and it would take way too long to get into, so let's focus on the first question for now: what stats are the most important? Well, here are the basics that every baseball fan worth their salt should know...


Runs (R): the amount of times that player scored a run themselves.
Homeruns (HR): the amount of homeruns the player hit.
Runs Batted In (RBIs): the amount of runs a player hit home.
Stolen Bases (SBs): when a pitcher is throwing the ball, runners on base are allowed to attempt to run and "steal" the next base. They have to be pretty damn fast and good not to get caught, but it is possible.
Batting Average (BA): the amount of hits a player has divided by their total number of at bats. This is normally rounded off at three decimal places.
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base, either by getting a hit or drawing a walk. This differs from batting average because OBP includes walks, while a players batting average simply measures hits.


Wins (W): when a pitcher starts a game and leaves the game with his team ahead, he qualifies for a win. If his team wins that game without ever relinquishing that lead or letting the other team tie the game, he gets a win.
Loss (L): However, if a pitcher leaves the game with his team losing, his team never ties the game, and then his team loses, he gets a loss.
Saves (SV): If a pitcher comes in with his team ahead and finishes the game, he can qualify for "saving" the game if he enters the game when his team is up by three runs or less.
Strikeouts (K): However many players a pitcher has struck out. You'll see this number represented by a K or sometimes a backwards K (this is for if a player struck out without swinging at the last pitch).
Earned Run Average (ERA): This statistic represents the number of runs that a pitcher would let up on average if they were to pitch an entire 9 inning game.
Walks + Hits / Innings Pitched (WHIP): The average number of baserunners that a pitcher lets on base per inning.

These are the most basic statistics out there and the most common ones in use by far. For a full list of baseball statistics, if you're curious, just check out this. Be warned, though, prolonged thinking has been known to lead to spontaneous combustion, so watch out how long you puzzle over all of those. If you want to know enough basic information to successfully watch a baseball game, those are the numbers you need to know.

Now, why are these numbers significant? How accurate do they actually predict performace on the field? These answers and more coming up!


Edit by Joe Cook: In order for a starting pitcher to qualify for a win, he must have pitched at least five full innings, leave with the lead, and have his team hold the lead for the remainder of the game. (E.g. Johan Santana pitches 6 innings for the Mets, and leaves with a 3-2 lead. However, in the 8th inning, the Braves tie the game. This disqualifies Johan Santana from the win, even though he is not the pitcher who gives up the lead.)

Also, a relief pitcher receives a win if he recorded the last out prior to the half-inning in which his team takes a lead which they do not then relinquish at any point. (E.g. Aaron Heilman comes in and pitches the top of the 8th inning for the Mets. When he enters the game, the game is tied 3-3. He records the three outs for the inning, and in the bottom of the 8th inning the Mets score to take a 4-3 lead. The Mets hold the lead for the rest of the game, and so Aaron Heilman gets the win.)

The final way in which a pitcher qualifies for a win is in a situation in which the starting pitcher leaves the game before completing 5 innings (for injury or any other reason). In this case, if the pitcher's team is leading when he leaves, and they lead in the score throughout the rest of the game, it is up to the official scorer to determine which subsequent pitcher had the largest impact on the game, and that pitcher receives credit for the win. E.g. Orlando Hernandez starts the game for the Mets. In the 4th inning, with the Mets winning 7-1, Hernandez is injured and leaves the game. Joe Smith enters for the Mets, and pitches 3 innings in relief without giving up a run. Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner each pitch an inning after that to finish the game. The Official Scorer would likely credit Joe Smith for the win in this situation. This is, by far, the most confusing of all scenarios.

Edit #2 by Joe Cook: As I continue to look through this post, my disappointment in Steve is growing (just kidding; I know he tried to make things very simple here). This addition is to the Saves section. Steve gave the most traditional, and most common, definition of how to record a save. However, in a couple of strange technicalities, there are other ways in which pitchers can record a save. For one, the pitcher is not required to pitch all of the 9th inning. However, a pitcher cannot come in with 2 outs in the 9th inning with nobody on base and get a save by recording the final out. If a relief pitcher comes into the game, and finishes the game without relinquishing the lead, he receives credit for a save if his team was leading by 3 runs or less when he came in. If there are already outs in the 9th inning when the pitcher comes into the game, he receives a save only if his team wins by one or two runs, unless runners are on base when he enters the game in the 9th inning creating a situation in which the tying run is on deck when he enters. (See now why Steve tried to keep this so simple?)
A relief pitcher can also record a save if he enters the game to start the 7th inning with his team leading, and finishes the game without giving up the lead. This 3-inning-save rule does not take into account how many runs the team is leading by. E.g. The Mets are winning 16-4 at the end of the 6th inning. Jorge Sosa enters the game as the Mets new pitcher to start the 7th inning. He pitches the remainder of the game, in which the Mets hold on to win 16-14. Jorge Sosa records a save for having successfully pitched the final 3 innings without losing the lead. Confusing, right?

For Baseball Newbies...

Since starting this blog, I've realized that most baseball blogs out there tend to assume that the reader has a very advanced level of baseball. In fact, most sites out there deal with specific details about individual teams and players, which to the baseball nut out there is awesome, but it's less than ideal for most casual fans out there. In an effort to be fair to everyone out there, I will be starting a new column here aimed specifically at new or only causl baseball fans called...drum roll, please...Rookie Ball.

In this column, I will attempt to cover things about the baseball that may seem confusing if you didn't already know a lot about the game, such as the proponderence of statistics (article coming soon!), the importance of the past and history, tips on how to become a baseball fan, and anything else that strikes my fancy. If you ever have a question for me or would like to know something about a topic having to do with baseball, feel free to email me at That being said, look out for the first Rookie Ball article to be coming your way soon!

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Dangers of Batting Practice

As I discussed in my last post, Brad Lidge will miss 3-6 weeks after injuring his knee when a spike got caught during batting practice at Phillies camp. The dangers of batting practice have since reached Tradition Field at Port St. Lucie. While taking BP, Carlos Beltran was hit in the arm by a pitch from Johan Santana. The arm is only black and blue, but any time anything happens to Beltran it is cause for concern.

Beltran is not taking part in today's intrasquad game, which began at noon.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lidge injured in batting practice

I admit it's never proper to take pleasure in a person injuring themselves. However, after several days of hearing Phillies fans tell me that their pitching staff is fixed with Myers moving back to the rotation and Lidge being inserted into the 'pen, I couldn't help but chuckle when I read today that Brad Lidge reinjured the knee he had surgery on four months ago. Apparently he got a spike caught on his first pitch of batting practice.

I don't expect this Lidge injury is serious; he will probably take several days off, which may put him slightly behind schedule for conditioning and arm-strengthening, but nothing major. The most severe trauma Lidge is going to suffer this year is the first homerun he gives up in the tiny sardine can that is Citizen's Bank Park. Granted those Albert Pujols homeruns that broke down his confidence were hit to left field in Houston, which can be a chip shot itself. But those Pujols shots were anything but chips. They were bombs. Still, let's see how Lidge reacts when his ERA is hovering around 6 due to cheap homers to the corners in Philly.



It was revealed today that Lidge will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his knee, and will miss 3-6 weeks. So the injury is more serious than I originally believed. Three weeks would still allow him a few appearences in Spring Training. However, if 6 weeks is more accurate, he could miss the start of the regular season.

The Phillies have got to be concerned about the possibility of persistent knee problems for Lidge. After all, they were hoping that he would shore up the bullpen this season. It was the acquisition of Lidge that allowed the Phillies to move Brett Myers back into the rotation. Could Myers head back to the 'pen if Lidge's knee continues to be problematic? That would require the Phils to go out and sign a free agent starter, since there isn't much depth at all in their farm system.

Goodbye and Good Riddance

I'll admit it, when the Matt Garza for Delmon Young trade first went through, I was saddened. Ever since I started rooting for the team, Delmon Young had been proclaimed to be the future of the Devil Rays, a 40 HR-per-year cornerstone to build the franchise around. The trade almost felt like Andrew Friedman and Stuart Sternberg were ripping our future away from us after only having him for one season. But then I blinked and hey, life began looking better already. We got some awesome players in return for him and there was always talk that he was a bad clubhouse presence.

Well, now this comes to light and I have to say, I'm very glad that the Delmon Young Era is done and finished in Tampa. Apparently Delmon can't keep his mouth shut, even though he's not on the Rays anymore. What strikes me the most about this whole "he-said" shenanigans is the fact that Crawford got pissed, which is something you very rarely see. Apparently Delmon wasn't too well liked in the D-Rays clubhouse last year at all, though no one admitted it at the time.

So Delmon can just add his name to the list of bad attitude players that trashed the Rays after leaving, joining the illustrius ranks of Aubrey Huff and Toby Hall. I suppose we may regret trading him away if he goes out and smashes 30 HRs this year and has an amazing career, but at this point, I'm just thankful to be rid of his attitude. We have a surplus of OF talent and I'm very excited to see Garza in action. Delmon is going to regret leaving once the Rays finish the year with a better record than the Twins (which is definitely possible at this point)....

I hope he gets boo-ed when the Twins are in town.

Man love for David Wright

For all of you out there that are David Wright fans, I just found this article and figured that even though the MVP voting from last year is long done, people might still enjoy it (especially if you're a David Wright nut like Joe). I have to say, though, even I can't deny that Wright is one hell of a player. And judging from this article, sabremetricians (?) love him a heck of a lot as well.

Just ignore the second half of the article. It's not too nice on the Mets.

Why I'm a Rays Fan

I believe that there's some explanation in order, since the fact that I'm a Ray fan probably seems as foreign and weird to most people as the fact that curling is actually popular somewhere. I am in no way trying to sway anyone's support or convince others to become Ray fans but hey, it it happens, I'm certainly not complaining.

My journey to enlightenment started somewhere around the spring of 2003, I believe. As I mentioned in my last post, a bunch of my friends and I were self-publishing a baseball magazine to sell in our high school. Up until this point, I'd been a born-and-raised Yankee fan and I had no desire at all to go against my family's favorite team. However, this is also the year that Rocco Baldelli got called up by the Devil Rays and became an overnight sensation due to the fact that he had quite possibly the best baseball name of all time and that he batted around .350 for his entire first month or so in the majors. One of my friends wrote an article for our magazine about how Baldelli could be considered the most important player in baseball at the time, since he was actually causing excitement for a team as lowly as the Devil Rays. Later on that year, I first jokingly referred to myself as a D-Ray fan. At the time, I had no idea how true that would play out to be.

The big turning point happened during that next offseason, when the Yankees went nuts after losing the Series to the Marlins and did what in my mind was a complete rehaul. They let Andy Pettite go (and Roger Clemens, but I didn't care nearly as much about him as I did about Andy) and they signed every big name player out there in the free agent pool: Javier Vasquez, Kevin Brown, Esteban Loaiza (who was coming off his only great year), Paul Quantrill, Tom Gordon, and Gary Sheffield. Oh, and they also traded for that Rodriguez guy. Ever since they lost the Series in 2001, getting the biggest guns available out there became the Yankee strategy. For an idea how ludricrous this was, take a look at these numbers...

2000 payroll: $92.9 million (1st in the league by $2 million)
2001 payroll: $112.3 million (1st in the league by $3 million)
2002 payroll: $125.9 million (1st in the league by $17.5 million)
2003 payroll: $152.7 million (1st in the league by $35.5 million)
2004 payroll: $184.2 million (1st in the league by $57 million)
2005 payroll: $208.3 million (1st in the league by $84.8 million)

If I were to graph this, it'd remind me a heck of a lot of graphs of worldwide population growth. While it took humans from the year 10,000 BC until 1804 AD to reach a population size of 1 billion, it only took us 123 years to reach our next billion. And then another 13 years to reach the next billion. And so on and so forth until we've now already eclipsed 6 billion humans living on this planet at one time. In the same way, it took baseball since its inception in the 1800s until 2001 for a team to break the $100 million dollar barrier. Four years later, the $200 million barrier was shattered as well. Since then the Yankees have scaled back and Brian Cashman has begun trying to rectify the mess they created, but the damage was already done.

Attribute their spending to market trends and inflation is you want, but I couldn't help but be disgusted with the Yankees' spending. Does having the largest pocketbook make you a great team? How can you feel good about winning when with that large a payroll, you're expected to win? And what happened to the history and tradition of the Yankee franchise? Do stars honestly think that you can become a "Yankee great" just by signing with the Yankees and playing a couple seasons there? Players like Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra...they were all homegrown talent that stayed with the Yankees for their whole careers. True, there are some exceptions to the rule...Babe Ruth and Roger Maris were traded for, but even they spent the vast majority of their years playing baseball in a Yankee uniform.

So in my mind, none of the players that the Yankees signed were or are true Yankees. Jeter, Posada, Bernie, Rivera, Pettite...those are true Yankees. The rest of them were just after big money and a World Series title, so in my mind they were a disgrace to the uniform. The Yankees had turned from a team of destiny in '96 to a team of sell outs. I simply couldn't stand it.

I gave the Yankees one last chance to redeem themselves, but when they lost in the playoffs in 2004 after being up 3 games to none to the Red Sox, I decided that the baseball gods had just passed their judgement. I knew before the World Series even started that the Red Sox would win. Once they'd beaten the Yankees, it was inevitable. The Yankees had so disgraced the name of their franchise, the Curse of the Bambino had broken. The way I like to see it, Babe Ruth figured that if the current Yankees were content to ignore the history and tradition of their franchise, then he didn't have to screw the Red Sox over for them anymore. The Yankees brought their ruin upon themselves.

In response, I switched allegiances. I switched from the team with the highest payroll to the team with the lowest, which at the time was the Devil Rays. Actually, the Brewers had the lowest payroll in 2004, but I was too attached to the AL East to make that drastic a switch. And anyway, the D-Rays were just so helpless. They'd completely and thoroughly sucked ever since their inception, so I wanted a taste of that misery. As I was observing, Red Sox fans had suffered for years on end, but it only made their eventual World Series win 86 years later all the more sweet. So hey, maybe I'm setting myself up for years and years of suffering, but at least the (Devil) Rays are running a franchise like I believe it's supposed to be built: using home-grown talent.

Heck, no one can accuse a Ray of being there for the money. Even recent signgings Troy Percival and Cliff Floyd aren't in it for the money, but because as they proclaim, they want to be a part of something great that's happening in Tampa. Carlos Pena just signed a 3 year contract to stay with the Rays, even though he could most definitely command more than what he signed for in the free agent pool. To me, this is a team that really has their hearts in the right place.

Also, this team has a bunch of players that you just can't help but root for. There's Scott Kazmir, who's been told time and time again that he's too small to be a starter. You have Rocco Baldelli, who has so much talent but such a fragile body. You have Jonny Gomes, whose family was in and out of a homeless shelter when he was growing up. Oh, and if that wasn't enough, he had a heart attack at the age of 22. But despite it all, he's up there swinging for the fences and playing his heart out every game he gets a chance. He donates to all sorts of charities and runs a baseball camp back in his hometown, so how can you not root for the guy?

Then there's Carlos Pena, who came out of nowhere to have an amazing season last year, and you'll never find a player who seems to enjoy himself more playing the game of baseball. There is always a smile on his face, a spark in his eye, and praise on his lips. He certainly doesn't take his success for granted, but takes every opportunity to express how lucky he has been to be where he is now. And you can't ignore Carl Crawford, who has always been the epitome of class even though he's suffered through 6 losing seasons as a Devil Ray. He has never trash talked the franchise, like fellow long-timers Aubrey Huff and Toby Hall. Instead, he signed a deal a couple years ago that keeps him as a Ray and at a much cheaper price than he'd get on the open market. How classy is that?

If you haven't figured it out by now, the Rays are a collection of good guys, feel-good stories, and underdogs trying to beat the odds. And then there's the Yankees, where all you have is more and more A-Rod drama. I'm sorry, but I'm definitely sticking with the Rays.

So that's my story. I certainly hope that the Yankees one day return to their roots and learn that home-grown talent is better than signing new free agents every year. They made great strides this offseason by not trading for Santana and instead hanging on to Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Melky Cabrera, and Joba Chamberlain. Now if they can only get rid of Damon, Giambi, Abreu, and A-Rod, I'd consider rooting hard for them again. At this point, though, my heart lies in one place and one place only....Go Rays!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!

I'm sure that if you all read MetsBlog or even or the NY Post -- or really any media that is covering Spring Training -- you are already aware that it has been suggested by Phillies players that there could very well be a brawl between the Phils and Mets in any of their 19 meetings this season. For the record, their first meeting will be on April 8 -- the Mets' home opener at Shea. Here's what Pedro had to say (Quoted by Bart Hubbuch in the NY Post) in response to the comments by the Phillies:

“I don’t believe there’s a reason to be fighting, but we’re over here. Basically, if [they’re] going to have to brawl or whatever, we’re over here. We’ll wait…I love Jimmy Rollins, I love [Brett]
Myers, I love everybody…but I would love to beat the [snot] out of them on the field.”

I love it, personally. I can't remember there being a single real brawl this past season. The closest I can remember was that ridiculous incident at the very end of the year when Miguel Olivo charged Jose Reyes at 3rd Base from the Pitcher's Mound. I think the lack of any actual fights is evidence enough that the Mets lacked the killer instinct they sorely needed down the stretch. Just looking back on Mets History, some of the first events that come to my mind are brawls (and granted that may just be because I have the subject in mind). But think about it: there was RoseBud. There were the Bad Boys of the '86 team, who -- on the rare occasion that they didn't beat a team on the scoreboard, they made certain to beat that team with their fists. In my own lifetime, I can still picture the Spring Training game when Guillermo Mota (yes, a lot of you forgot that we hated Mota long before he was blowing games even while on 'roids for the Mets) drilled Mike Piazza for the 3rd or 4th time in a span of just a couple years, and the benches cleared. Jeromy Burnitz charged literally into the Dodgers dugout and fought off several players (criticize Burnitz's strikeout total all you want -- I sure do -- but that guy at least showed every day that he wanted to win). And at his side for a part of that charge was the Light Brigade of Joe McEwing. But, just like the historic Light Brigade, McEwing was quickly pummeled by numerous Dodgers players (for those of you who are confused, No, the Light Brigade did not fight against Dodgers players. The players in this analogy are cannons). Joe McEwing may have been a scrappy player, but a master fighter he was not.

What I'm saying in all this rambling of memories is simply: Bring it on, Phillies. I'm not quite as afraid of your team now that Ugueth Urbina is rotting in a South American prison. If he comes back to pitch in your bullpen, then I think maybe the Mets and Phils should seek a truce. After all, the last thing we need is for any of our pitchers to get an arm hacked off by a machete, or to have Jose Reyes lit on fire. We need a fire lit under Reyes's ass, not a charred shortstop trying to swipe bases.

By the way, Pedro said later in the NY Post article that it's simply human nature to defend yourself when someone is coming at you. So there, he should now be completely forgiven for throwing Don Zimmer to the ground. After all, wouldn't you do the same? No? You would just step to the side and watch Zimmer pass right on by you? Well, I guess that works, too... But where's the fun in that? Zimmer may have been a fat grandfather, but don't let that simple fact deceive you, Jimmy Rollins. Pedro won't hesitate to throw you to the ground in the same way (assuming you simply put your head down and charge like a bull at Pedro's chest the way Zim did). Or maybe he'll just send a bunch of roosters to attack you...... You don't know what he'll do. And personally, I can't wait to see it. Ryan Howard is chubby, too; maybe he'll go on the attack the way the Zim did. 1000% pay raise or not, I'll still take Pedro in a fight over Howard.
Let the games begin.

The Start of an Era

Hello there everyone! My name is Steve Slowinski and you, my friends, have some very difficult questions facing you. Why should you read this blog? What is it about this particular sports blog that differentiates it from all the other dime-a-dozen sports blogs out there? Do these writers have any sort of expertise? Why should I even trust them? Why am I wasting my life in front of the computer and in particular, reading this blog?

Well, fellow baseball fans, the long and short answer is glaringly obvious: because you have nothing else better to do. But if you've stuck around this long and haven't already gone outside to play a game of catch (which like Joe, I highly recommend), then maybe you deserve to get something out of your two or three minute investment so far. You, those lucky few that have persevered this long, are lucky enough to be present at the beginning of an era. You, right now sitting in front of your computer and staring blankly at the screen, you are a witness to history.

No, I'm not talking about the beginning of the Era of the Rays (even though that might be true as well), but about this blog. This is no ordinary sports blog, the likes of which you can find out there on the internet simply by sneezing and clicking your heels together three times. As JRR Tolkien put it:

"From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken:
The crownless again shall be king."

I don't know where this crown is, but I sure as hell want it. For this blog, mark my words, shall soon be lord over all the blogosphere. That poem says it all, doesn't it? The Brewers ignited their fire last year, after years in the ashes of the NL Central. A-Rod has come out and claimed that he never did steroids, giving us a beam of shining, pure light in this moment of darkness (note the sarcasm...). And Sammy Sosa made his comeback last year, renewing that hollow blade he infamously broke, so obviously the moment of truth is upon us. We're simply here to receive our crown.

If it isn't obvious by now already, when Joe invited me to join this blog, I simply couldn't pass up the chance. I've been an avid baseball fan my entire life, ever since my dad took me to my first pro game in '95. It was at Yankee Stadium and although the Yankees lost to the Twins at that point, I was lucky enough to follow the Yankees closely all throughout their magical '96 season. More recently, I switched allegiances from the Yankees to the Devil Rays around the year 2002 (more to come on that later), and I have never wavered since. I've been playing fantasy baseball since middle school and by now, I'm completely and thoroughly a stats freak. Baseball, quite simply, is life.

As enthralled I'm sure you all are with my life story, what does this have to do with crowns and kings, you may ask? One word - everything. Ever since a young age, I knew I was destined for greater things. All my dreams came true when in high school, I self-published a baseball magazine with a bunch of my friends, earning us around 100 dollars total over three years and a trip to the principal's office. Glory days indeed...

And so, here I am. Here you are. Here this blog is. And here you shall read daily all the baseball news you never needed to know, but can't help but read anyway. Just think, years from now when we've bought out ESPN and have brought handball to the US, you'll be able to look back on this day and say yes, I was there when it all began. Be thankful. Praise baseball! Praise Babe Ruth! Allehuhia!

....I'm still waiting for that crown.

Condolences to David Wright and family

My condolences to David Wright and his family in Norfolk, Virginia. Wright's grandmother passed away this afternoon. According to Steve Popper at the Bergen Record, David will be flying home to Norfolk this weekend to be with his family.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

J-Roll, the Collapse, and disappointing Cubs fans

Well, it's Spring [Training] again, and you know what that means. That's right; Jimmy Rollins is talking and Cubs fans are depressed.

My college -- and especially my band of friends -- is a bit heavily loaded with Phillies fans, unfortunately. Remember in Office Space when Peter said that whenever he made a mistake, he had 8 different people coming by to tell him about it? Well, that's what every day of The Collapse was for me -- only the number wasn't 8; it was more like 20. And this wasn't limited to students on campus. I was hearing it from old acquaintances who had transferred, and even from professors. People were shocked the day after The Collapse was complete that I still walked around with a David Wright jersey and a Mets cap on. But hey, it certainly wasn't Wright's fault. His September still merited he could've won the MVP. But instead, that award became the ultimate kick-while-down: "Jimmy Rollins, MVP." That day, a bunch of my friends suddenly had Phillies jerseys -- some with the tags still on them... Hmm... I wore Mets jerseys and caps every day back when the only reason to go to Shea was to see if Todd Hundley could hit a moon shot from on his heels or on his knee or whatever ridiculous type of swing he took that day (Fun Fact: My pet cat which I've had for years now is named after Todd Hundley). I never stopped wearing my #20 jersey and believing Burnitz could come up with a big-fly (or an accidental single) in a big spot, only to see him strike out again and again. I threw a small party when Armando Benitez left the team. I've seen the bad. I wasn't going to let one month of poor baseball rule my fan-ocity (not yet Trademarked). Hopefully this year Rollins will be forced to shut up while Wright or Beltran receive the MVP (And Pedro for Comeback Player of the Year? Unless, of course, Juan Gonzalez can hit like in his Mitchell Report days...).

And as for Cubs fans... I admit, I don't know many personally. But the one I am friends with here at college is not expecting anything from the 100 year anniversary other than that number continuing to increase. His reaction to Ryan Dempster's proclamation that the Cubbies are the team to beat? "Thanks, Ryan, you @$$****." But I think Cubs fans should just continue to say "100 Years" no matter how long it takes. Heck, the Hundred Years War really lasted 139 years or something like that. I'm not sure whether the Cubs are the French and the Cardinals the English in this Hundred Years War analogy or the other way around. Wouldn't the French need an eccentric woman on their side as a Joan of Arc equivalent? Would that mean Marge Schott and the 1990s Reds? Or Anna Benson (photo link from and the '08 Phillies? Well, it's convenient if the Phillies are the French -- two groups of people I despise...).

I miss the Red Sox 1918 Curse. Their fans were so much more fun to mess with. Every year, they truly believed until the bitter end. Cubs fans are a different breed. They don't get their hopes up too high. It's disappointing. They're just sad.

Anyway, I'm not the only one pumped about Spring Training. I'm going to have a catch. I suggest you do the same. It's a much more fun way of emulating your favorite players than practicing Congressional Testimony, I found after attempting to watch the Clemens-McNamee circus.

Welcome to the Blog

Hey there, everybody in the blogosphere. Welcome to this brand new blog. The focus is going to be mostly on sports -- and specifically on baseball. Just to let you know, I'm a life-long Mets fan, and the posts will reflect that. I have no real access to players or coaches or anybody else affiliated with the organization -- or any organization. This is simply going to be a fan's perspective of the Amazin's. I was born 9 months too late to enjoy a Mets World Series title in my lifetime, so hopefully this will be the year.

I have no real expertise other than being an avid fan. For all-access, great coverage, check out Matthew Cerrone at I've seen more than my share of baseball games, and I hope you trust me when I say I know what I'm talking about (hopefully you'll at least bear with this blog long enough to give me a chance to show that).

I may occasionally post an angry response to something going on with the New Jersey Nets. I was a Phoenix Suns fan when J-Kidd was playing there, and I'm far from pleased with his recent departure to Dallas for a scrap heap of guys that includes Keith Van Horn. Heck, is it me, or did Keith Van Horn (I say did because Keith hasn't played a game since 2005) always seem like he would be getting wedgies from the other guys if the game was being played in the school-yard? I could just picture Van Horn being powerless as a guy pulls his jockeys all the way up to the 6'10" top of his head for an atomic wedgie.

But anyway, since talk of Keith Van Horn and the Nets is just making me depressed, let's return to baseball. Suffice it to say for now that I'm pumped about Spring Training returning. Heck, if there was a network that televised daily workouts, I would skip all my classes and just sit around watching David Wright take infield practice and Duaner Sanchez throwing live BP today to a group of guys (only D-Wright managed to make contact against him on a foul tip, and Easley was the only other player to take a hack, but swung and missed).

I'm also hoping I'll be able to convince my roommate, Steve Slowinski, to take up writing here, as well. I gotta give him credit; rooting for the D-Rays, he suffers more than Mets fans like I do. He's in Denmark now studying, and I don't waste a day reminding him that there's no baseball in Denmark. I think Spring Break we might have to both fly down to Florida for Spring Training. We'll see.

Well, that's enough of an intro for now. I'll try to post often on events down in Port St. Lucie. If nothing else, I'll try to post links to other sites' articles and posts that you might find interesting.

Go Mets!!!