Tagged: baseball

Memorial Day Baseball

Braves 2012 Memorial Day HatMemorial Day is a day set aside to remember soldiers who have lost their lives in battle. It has also become the unofficial beginning of summer filled with swimming and BBQs. Lastly, Memorial Day is a day to enjoy a lot of baseball. All 30 teams are playing today, and a lot can happen.

After coming off back-to-back sweeps for a seven game losing streak, the Braves find themselves four games behind the Nationals and fourth place in the National League East. They need to turn it around and today could be the day. The Mets are surprising everyone being in second place in the East. There is still September, though. The Dodgers just about have the West wrapped up at the end of May, leading the second place Giants by 7.5 games going into today. This is essentially the same team that had a horrible 2011 season. It seems that the right ownership makes all the difference. The Reds are making me look like a genius holding onto first place by half a game in the Central.

In the American League it is even more exciting. The Rays can overtake first place and knock the Orioles down for the first time all season. If they do, we will see how the Orioles respond to adversity. Will they fold up and return to the bowels of the East, or will they step up and prove they are for real. The lead can also change hands in the Central division where the Indians are clinging to a half game lead over the White Sox.

There are a lot of things that can happen before the end of the season. There are a few of divisions that only have five games separating first place from last place. Some divisions are farther a part, but you can’t count anyone out yet. Any team can get hot and make a run. So on this Memorial Day, enjoy the games, enjoy the BBQ, but let’s not forget those who have sacrificed themselves for us.

Yes, It is Too Early to Throw in the Towel

With teams already in the cellar, many people want to call an early death for their least favorite team, or even their favorite team. When a, usually, under performing team starts off hot, it’s a lot of fun for the fans of that team because they finally have something to cheer for. However, when a team that is expected to do well starts off slowly, it’s very common for fans of those teams to give up on them.

This is especially true for fans of the Red Sox and Yankees. As a Braves fan, their 1-4 start has me starting to rethink my playoff predictions for them, but I remind myself that the Braves start out slow and start getting hot with the weather in July. This is another thing that seperates baseball from other sports.

If this were football, a 1-4 start would all but eliminate you from the playoffs, giving little hope to the fans. With baseball, it’s a bad week, series, home stand, or road trip. In my coaching days, after a particularly bad loss, I tried to solace the kids by letting them know that they had a chance to erase that with the game the next day. That really only happens in baseball.  In other sports, you might have to wait a few days, or a week to erase the loss, and the losses can really start to build up once you’ve had a chance to stew on them for a while.

We’ve all had our fun with predictions, but baseball is played on the field, not on paper. It is also a marathon, not a sprint. There are many, many other cliche’s and I can throw out, but I won’t. All I’ll say is that we learned last year, that you can’t throw in the towel until game 162.

Opening Day 2012

Happy Opening Day, everyone! To baseball fans, it’s almost like Christmas. The fantasy teams have been drafted, and the stadiums will soon be open for business. Every team has an equal chance of winning it all. The best part is, is that the games count now.

I hope that we have a baseball season with limited controversy, and that we can all enjoy a great season of baseball. The season hadn’t even started before we got our first bit of controversy, but hopefully it won’t be a sign of things to come.

I have already posted my predictions for the season, so I will not get into that, but I am looking forward to seeing how the season progresses for some teams. One team, in particular, is the Royals. The whipping boy of the American League since the departure of George Brett, the Royals were actually buyers this offseason signing guys like Jonathan Broxton and shoring up some of their prospects for long term deals. They aren’t that far away from turning a corner. The Pirates on the other hand…

Of course, this season will be bittersweet for me because it’ll be Chipper’s last season, but I’m hoping the Braves will step it up for him and get him to the playoffs, and beyond, one last time. He certainly deserves it.

The Postseason on FOX

Every year I look forward to the MLB postseason. It’s always a special time filled with memories that have been seared into pop culture. However, in the last 15 years, it’s become sullied somewhat. Ever since FOX took over the postseason it’s been mostly known for horrible announcing, awful camera angles, and gratuitous advertising.

When FOX started broadcasting baseball games, I thought it was pretty cool. There games were fresher than the outdated broadcasts of other networks and had a lot more features than local broadcasts. Simple things like keeping the score and base runners on the screen throughout the game was a big thing back then. They also added cool features like the “hot/cold” zones for each hitter, overlaying the dtrike zone of a given hitter letting us no where the ball would have to be for him to hit it.

Then, it seems, they got greedy. They introduced the “catcher cam” in the late 90s. It was cool for about one came. It provided you with a camera view from the catcher’s perspective. However, the cameras were such low quality, that you could hardly see anything and were useless. This didn’t stop FOX from showing it early and often. Then they added a camera in the dirt in the front of the batter’s box. This was worse than the catcher cam because not only was it too dark to see anything, but it was usually covered with dirt.

Then there is the gratuitous advertising. Every inning they would find someone in the audience who was starring in a show on FOX. Most seemed like they had no idea what was going on. When you factor in the entourage that came in with each star, that’s 5-10 tickets per person that could have been used for an actual fan instead of a pseudo-celebrity that would be on camera for about five seconds for an ad that appealed to no one watching. Other networks are guilty of this, but FOX takes it to another level.

Another part of the FOX postseason is the bombardment of graphics. When the batter is batting, we are treated to the hot/cold zone, what field the batter hits the ball to and replays of just about every pitch. After the at-bat we get the pitch by pitch breakdown in case we had forgotten what happened five seconds before that.b When runners are on base, we get red and green graphics to let us know if the batter is thinking about stealing. It’s overwhelming.

In the last 16 years, or so, that FOX has shown the postseason, they seem to have forgotten that people just want to watch baseball. We want to see the game in it’s purest form played by the best teams of that season. We know what we are getting into. Just let us watch the game.

Softball is Starting

For men that long ago gave up their dream of playing professional baseball, the consolation prize is starting up soon – softball. I’ve been playing softball for over 12 years now. I started playing in California where we had the luxury of playing all year round, and I went overboard. Tuesday and Wednesdays were set aside for softball in the winter and fall, and Tuesdays and Fridays were for softball in the summer. This went on for about 5 years. I also joined leagues that played on Sundays and I fit other games in when I could.

At my height,I was regularly playing four games a week. I was even in one league where I traveled 33 miles one-way in rush hour in southern California to play. To say i was addicted would be an understatement. It was a bit of a rude awakening when I moved to the east coast and softball wasn’t as prevalent.

Because it gets cold in the fall and the winter, we can only play once a year, but I’ve learned to live with it and I still look forward to it every summer. I’ve been able to curb my appetite, somewhat, but I still try to get in multiple leagues. in 2010, I was able to get into three leagues, but it was a struggle, so I’ve cut it back to one league. I’m not getting any younger.

It makes me feel like a kid again every time I step on the field, but my body quickly reminds me that I am not. It’s also more than just softball. It’s the friendship with your teammates and just the fun of being out there. For a guy who realized that he couldn’t play professionally a long time ago, softball has been great.

Oversaturated with Stats

Quality starts? Holds? Wins Above Replacement? What do these stats mean? For the most part, they mean nothing. I’ve never seen a pitcher go to the Hall of Fame because he has the most holds (or even the most saves for that matter). Furthermore, it is a stat they just starting counting. Why? I have no idea.

Ever since Bill James starting writing books and ranking players based in statistics he thought were important there has been a stats bonanza. The introduction of fantasy baseball has only exacerbated the problem. The problem is that it is driving people away from the game.

There are two chief problems casual observers have with baseball. 1) the games are too long and 2) there are too many stats. This was before the addition of hundreds of meaningless stats. We can get rid of well over half the stats and baseball would still survive. It survived for many years without most of those stats.

The biggest problem I have with stats and the problem I have with teams that are built based on minute stats like this is that it revolves around the premise that the players are robots that you can program to only produce the stats you signed him for. It gives no accounting for the type of person the player is in the clubhouse, or the intangible qualities he can bring to the clubhouse.

With the addition of more useless stats, baseball will only appeal to a very small fraction of the population and will get more and more unpopular. No one will ever care what your average is with runners on first with one out against lefties in day games on grass infields. Let’s try to cut down..