Friday, July 31, 2009

Plaxico Burress Makes His Case In Court

Word is that he started his defense with the words "Chewbacca...is a wookie."

On the Pirates' Fire Sale

For those who would bemoan the trading of such baseball immortals as Adam "Wait, it's August?" LaRoche, John Grabow, and Freddy "Extra Base Hits Are For Suckers" Sanchez, I would point out with all due respect that these guys really aren't that #@@#$#@ing good.

Whether the prospects Neal Huntington got back for them will be good themselves someday is an entirely different question, but moaning over the breakup of this juggernaut is like crying bitter tears of blood over the news that there will never be another GTR album.

Ever.

Mike Schmidt Flipped My Father The Bird

(crossposted in my LJ)

30 years ago, Mike Schmidt flipped my father the bird.

For those of you who are baseball fans, this is probably amusing and/or impressive. For those of you who are not, Michael Jack Schmidt was the perennial all-star third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies teams of my youth, a Hall of Famer and the man widely regarded as the greatest third baseman ever to play the game.

And he flipped my father off.

Not that Dad didn't necessarily deserve it. He was at the game with some friends when Schmidt booted a routine grounder. Dad, being Brooklyn born and bred and heir to the legacy of Hilda "Cowbell" Chester and her Bums-loving cohorts, shouted "Way to set up the double play!" Since Dad and his friends were in seats right on the field, Mr. Schmidt heard him, turned, and made what Monty Python used to refer to as "a splendid gesture".

I've been telling that story for years. It amuses the hell out of me for numerous reasons - Dad's heckling, Schmidt's perfectly understandable reaction, and the pure Philly-ness of it all. It couldn't happen today, of course - someone would throw the video of Schmidt's extended middle digit up on YouTube, there would be an artificially generated controversy that would rage across sports talk radio until another football player ran over a llama while watching porn on his SUV's dashboard DVD player, and there would be insincere apologies all the way around. But no, I like it the way it happened. Dad made a smart-ass comment, one that stuck to the events on the field, stayed clean, and didn't touch personal matters or family - in short, what heckling is supposed to be. Schmidt responded. End of story, except that it's a great story.

Fast forward three decades.

Dad and I are at Five County Stadium, watching the latest incarnation of the Carolina Mudcats run themselves out of a ballgame they should be winning handily. Half the lineup is staring up wistfully at the Mendoza line. The starting pitcher spends the third inning grooving belt-high fastballs at 91 MPH, which get turned into wall-rattling doubles with startling regularity. Matador defense is the order of the night, with multiple errors called and more there for the calling.

And after a few more innings, the Mudcats' third baseman boots a routine grounder. I figure, what the heck, give Dad a laugh. The guys in the rows in front of us are heckling like crazy anyway, so why not jump in?

So I cup my hand to my mouth and shout, "Way to set up the double play!" The folks sitting near us laugh. Dad turns around and says, "That's my line from thirty years ago." He's grinning. So am I. We're too far away from the third baseman for him to have heard us, so no birds are flipped, and we all get a good laugh.

Until the next batter comes up and rips a shot down the first base line. The first baseman makes a spectacular play, then flings the ball to second. The second baseman catches it and makes the exchange from his glove hand in the instant before the runner from first barrels into him. He lauches a throw wide of the first base bag and the pitcher, racing to cover it, goes nearly vertical to snag it while dragging his foot across the bag.

Double play, 3-6-1 as the kids might score it. Inning over.

Dad and I, we don't say anything. We don't need to, except, a little later, "Helluva game, isn't it?"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Random Thoughts

Michael Vick...Has there ever been this much airtime and print wasted over the possible comeback of a mediocre quarterback who's been out of the league for a couple of years? Because, legal issues notwithstanding, that's what we're talking about here.

Brett Favre...So he decided that the first day of work was his deadline for deciding whether or not to show up for work? And then decided he needed more time? The fact that Favre's latest bit of waffling came to light only after the media frenzy lurched over to Vickville is, I'm sure, strictly coincidence.

Roy Halladay...Clearly the teams offering the Jays top prospects are doing it wrong. If you want to get J. P. Ricciardi to bite, offer an overpriced centerfielder on a long-term contract. He luuuurrrves those...

Speaking of which...As a Phillies fan, I'm mildly boggled that we have prospects good enough to be considered "untouchable". As in "prospects", plural.

Alex Rodriguez...Just curious. How do you think the media would have reacted if he'd been the one sued for sexual assault instead of Ben Roethlisberger?

Speaking of which...All the "He's no good without the juice" stories seem to have died down lately, don't you think? Funny how giving a player coming off major hip surgery might a day or two off here and there helps him stay productive, don't you think?

Tony LaRussa...He got a big bat - two, really. He got a shortstop. He got everything he's asked for, and the Cards have gutted their farm system to give it to him. If he doesn't win the NL Central, who's going to get blamed?

The Yankees' radio broadcast team...They're possibly the worst I've ever heard at calling a game. Incoherent, nonsensical homers who wander away from the action to make their random points, and who are more interested in catch-phrases - I think I heard four attached to a single Mark Texeira home run - than in describing the game. No, thanks.

Tony Bernazard...I've got his rookie card around somewhere. It's one of those "Future Stars" things with 3 guys on it. Oddly enough, in the biographical data on the back, nowhere does it say, "Will someday go completely batshit insane in a minor league clubhouse".

Monday, July 13, 2009

Random Trade Thoughts

Pirates trade OF Nyjer Morgan and a random arm to Washington for OF Lastings Milledge and RP Joel Hanrahan
What Pittsburgh gets: The best talent in the deal in the form of Milledge, whose rep as a knucklehead seems largely to have been foisted on him by A)the New York media and B)reigning Mets knucklehead Billy Wagner. He's not a center fielder, but with Andrew McCutcheon out there, the Pirates can put him in right where he belongs and give him time to mature into his freaky-good talent. As for Hanrahan, when he's right he throws gas, which is something lacking in the Pirates' pen. If they straighten him out - and I have a random sneaky suspicion his control problems this year are elbow-related, not "can't pitch"-related - then Pittsburgh may have gotten a steal.
What Washington gets: A fungible bullpen arm in Sean Burnett, in a year when the Nats are this close to throwing a strong-armed peanut vendor into the pen and hoping for the best. Also, an actual center fielder. No, Morgan doesn't have the upside of Milledge - he's older and has minimal power. But he's an actual, honest-to-God center fielder who can catch the ball and play the position, unlike the parade of Lurch clones the Nats have been throwing out there all year. There's value in putting a strong defensive team behind a staff of young pitchers you're trying to develop, and doing it sooner rather than later can only help the development of guys like Jordan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler, and The Once and Future Strasburg.
Who Wins: Pittsburgh. They didn't need Morgan with McCutcheon up, and they got the better player and the better pitcher. It's not a a terrible trade for DC, but the tangible results will most likely favor the Pirates.

Atlanta trades wind machine Jeff Francoeur to New York Mets for OF Ryan Church
What New York gets: Someone the casual fan might of heard of, seeing as he appeared to beat the hell out of the ball for the Braves back when casual Mets fans were paying attention. Decent defense and durability in right field. And that's about it - Francoeur's still young, but so's Lady Gaga, and she's got a better swing than he does.
What Atlanta gets: A solid outfielder with a history of concussions and a bad rap in New York. Church won't set the world on fire, but when he's on the field he can rake a little and catch the ball. Touching third base is a different question, but hopefully he's figured that part of the game out by now. If he avoids getting kneed in the head again, he's a definite upgrade at a position that was a sucking black hole for the Braves offensively. As has been noted elsewhere, going from "awful" to "decent" is often as important an upgrade as "decent" to "star".
Who wins: On the field? Atlanta, which gets a solid platoon outfielder who's likely to improve once he's away from Citi Field. Off the field? New York, which adds a new heartthrob for the team to market the heck out of.

Royals trade two minor league pitchers for Seattle for SS Yuniesky Betancourt
What the Royals get: An expensive shortstop-type who's in career free-fall. His early promise with the bat has evaporated, his defense is increasingly matador-like, and by all accounts his interest level in the game is now largely occasional. Then again, he's also expensive, and the Royals should have a decent shortstop option next year when the much cheaper Mike Aviles returns from surgery. (That is, of course, if the Royals' medical staff doesn't accidentally graft him to a monkey with five asses or some such. Read Rany Jazayerli's piece on the Royals' medical woes, and tell me it couldn't happen.)
What the Mariners get: Two minor league arms with upside. Huge righty Daniel Cortes' two problems are A)control and B)getting his head out of his ass, as indicated by his recent arrest for public piddling in Arkansas. One suspects fixing B might help with A, and if he can get back to the 96 MPH he was throwing last year, he could have a big impact. The second pitcher in the deal, Derrick Saito, looks like he has "situational reliever" written all over him, but getting one of those isn't necessarily a bad thing. Just ask the Nationals what they'd do for a guy they could trust to get tough righties out.
Who wins: If the move to Kansas City, the city of Gates BBQ and endless steak, re-ignites a desire to play hard and condition himself well in Betancourt, then the Royals might come out of this all right. I don't like the chances, either. Even if neither Cortes nor Saito pans out, this is a win for the Mariners just by dint of payroll flexibility. If either of the pitchers turn out to be something, then this just gets ugly.
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