Posts tagged ‘Baseball’

Baseball Calms my Soul and Makes Me Smile

Yes, I know. Many of you think it is too slow. Next time you get a chance go to a batting cage and if they will let you, turn up the machine to be throwing 100 mph fast balls. Still too slow? Once you understand how hard it is to hit a round ball with a round bat, the rest of the game starts to come into focus. What’s the pitch count? What’s he likely to throw? Based upon the pitch, where is the ball likely to go? What is going on on-base? Actually there is so much going on that it boggles the mind.

Last night I was in nirvana. The Dodgers were at the Giants and the Padres were playing Houston, both at the same time, both going into extra innings, both with amazing pitching and plays. I could not switch back and forth fast enough to get every pitch. Padres lost theirs in the 11th on a walk off infield pop up nobody caught. After all that, one little mistake…Giants won theirs in the fourteen with another walk off home run after one of the best at bats I have ever seen, fowling off pitch after pitch. I was exhausted. I like all those teams so there is joy and sadness when it is over.

Baseball is our spring, summer and fall game. It is not about busting heads, but great plays, great pitching, and great hitting. It is so summer to sit in the warm sun with a cold beer and no matter what is swirling around you, how screwed up the world is, here at the Park it is just great fun where the rules are respected, and so are the players. There is a civility about baseball that we seem to have lost in public affairs. Generally speaking we can go to the game with our friends who root for the other team and it is great fun for all of us. It is a game, not the end of the world.

The civility goes so much deeper than most understand. The players have for the most part climbed an arduous road to get to where they are. And they have to work hard to stay there, always learning. There is a great respect for each other. There are smiles and laughs between the players. There is the joy of young athleticism And then there are the unwritten rules. They are about respecting the game and respecting your opponent. If you are down by 7, it is the ninth inning, you don’t bunt into the shift. Doug Glanville wrote a great piece about them the other day.

The point is that it maintains our civility and perspective. It is an object lesson for what we have lost in politics today thanks to President DFF and his Republican friends whose new way of doing things breaks all the rules. Baseball reminds me of what we have lost, and that we can get it back. Watch these highly competitive young men play the game, and yet respect their opponents and honor the game, and it will make you feel good about yourself. It will make you feel good about the human race that could invent such a game and play it with such integrity.

Yes I love baseball and it is the end of my winter of discontent when spring arrives and they throw out that first ball. As I watch the boys of summer, I remember that the human race really isn’t so bad, maybe for a little while. Sit in the sun, get a dog and a beer, smell the grass, smile at your neighbor, sit back and just experience it. Yes, I love baseball.

Level of Frustration and Other Topics

Today is one of those days I truly hate being old. I look at the devastation in Sonoma and Santa Rosa, and I want to get out there and help. I look at the devastation in Puerto Rico and I want to hop on an airplane and help them rebuild. And the truth is, I wouldn’t be much help. I would just get in the way. That wasn’t always the case, but I simply can’t do it anymore. It is this stark reality of my limitations. It is that reality that I am not what I used to be nor am I going to be again when I could take on almost anything.

I think what makes this doubly frustration is there is so much that could be done and we have a government led by a moron. His best attributes are his ability to tear things down, lie, pander with ignorance and racists, and connive. I know in California, we have good government and good people who will rise to the occasion. So does America, but under the leadership of Republicans and the village idiot, we see a wrecking ball, not leadership to build from the ashes. There is no vision there except some super capitalist utopian hell envisioned by Ayn Rand. I read this this morning about one Santa Rosa woman who lost her home and wanted to get in my car, but again, I would just get in the way:

She’s answering the logistical questions one-by-one: Where will they live? When will the children return to school? She has no answer for the most difficult questions about her upended life: Will things ever be the same?

“Our house had a certain smell to it,” she said. “It was our house. When you come home it has that smell. How can I replicate that smell for my kids, or is it gone forever?”

“This is ranking up there with when my brother died. It’s right up there — one of the worst things that’s ever happened in my life. But I’ve got to suck it up and power through — for my kids and for my husband and for myself. I can’t have a pity party, party of one. Because if I fall apart, we’re all going to fall apart.”

I like to think that we Americans are optimistic and enterprising, that we can fix these things. We are actually, and we can, except we now have a Republican led government that can do nothing, and wonders along with their leader, how they can blame the victims for this tragedy. Remember in Puerto Rico it was their fault because they were in debt (again aided and abetted by Washington and profit sucking financial institutions).

I guess my biggest frustration is there is so much that we could do. There is so much to fix and I want to leap out of my chair and get at it. But like our now Republican enfeebled country, my knees won’t allow any leaping, So I sit here and write. My time on this planet is now limited. But couldn’t we just start fixing a few things so when I do leave I know we are moving in the right direction? I have to figure out how to turn this ship around if only one mind at a time. Like the woman above, and I will rephrase: This is ranking up there with one of the worst times in my life. But I’ve got to suck it up and power through — for my kids and for my wife and for myself. I can’t have a pity party, party of one. Because if I fall apart, we’re all going to fall apart.  We so need a leader to lead us out of the wilderness we have gotten lost in.

Okay, perspective. I can only control what I can control and I am actually a very very lucky man even with the prostate cancer. The world (bubble) which I live in is very blessed. So let’s turn to baseball. Last night the LA Dodgers beat those uppity Cubs and there was a controversial call at home plate. Since some of the disastrous injuries in baseball occur with the catcher trying to block the plate with a runner trying to score (See Buster Posey), it was ruled that unless you have the ball, you cannot black the plate. In this game, as the catcher was catching the ball, he stuck his leg out behind him to block the plate (good way to get your leg broken) and tagged the runner out. On replay it was overturned ruling the catcher was blocking the plate before he had the ball. The old farts in baseball were all aghast. Stupid rule! That is the athleticism of the game! It was great play!

On the contrary, I think they made absolutely the right call. To do anything else would have once again announced open season on catchers trying to catch the ball or make a tag. It would have turned baseball into football at home plate. The thing I love about baseball is that it is driven competition without the violence and hate. This would change that. What I get from all this is how hard change is for people who are used to a certain way of doing things. And that is in a microcosm the problem this country faces as change is accelerating and the Republicans feed fear promising to drag us back to a time that never existed.

One last thought from Nicholas Kristof who took some criticism for his trip to North Korea, which I actually thought was quite informing and alarming as we move toward war and the DIC has no clue what game he is playing. Nicholas defended his actions with this and in this world where news is now a profit center so on-site reporting is at a minimum, we ought to think about:

Being on the ground in a country lets you see things and absorb their power: the speaker on the walls of homes to feed propaganda; the pins that every adult wears with portraits of members of the Kim family; the daily power outages, but also signs that the economy is growing despite international sanctions; the Confucian emphasis on dignity that makes officials particularly resent Trump’s personal attacks on Kim; the hardening of attitudes since my last visit, in 2005; and the bizarre confidence that North Korea can not only survive a nuclear war with the U.S. but also emerge as victor…

I left North Korea fearing that we are far too complacent about the risk of a cataclysmic war that could kill millions. And that’s why reporting from within North Korea is crucial: There simply is no substitute for being in a place. It’s a lesson we should have learned from the run-up to the Iraq war, when the reporting was too often from the Washington echo chamber rather than the field. When the stakes are millions of lives and official communications channels are nonexistent, then journalism can sometimes serve as a bridge — and as a warning.

And let’s never forget how they failed us with the DIC, right here in our own country. Not my President.

The Good, The Bad, …

Let’s start with the good.  I love baseball.  It is a game played mostly by people who love it and even better, it is a game about scoring runs, not bashing your opponent.  These guys actually like each other and enjoy each others company on the field.  It is also a game about life where you mostly fail.  A superb batting average is .300.  That is failing twice for very three tries.  It is a game of chance because one bad bounce of the ball could be the ball game.  And yet they seem to learn to live with these challenges and move on.  It’s life in a game.

So last night my basement team the A’s have had a great second half so far winning 5 out of 8 games.  Night before last they won with a walk-off hit in the 13th.  Last night they came into the 9th down by two runs against a closer who has never blown a save.  The team is full of a bunch of young kids nobody has heard of, but they have game.  One of those kids hits a two run homer to tie the game in the ninth, and another one of those kids who has only been in the majors 1 week, two outs later hits a walk-off homer.  Sometimes good things do happen and we should never forget that.  The other lesson here is that the future belongs to young people, and maybe we ought to listen more to them.

Okay, so much for my antidote for the Donald and his doom and gloom.  Now for the bad.  I read an op-ed piece about our chaotic policy toward Cuba and since Congress has not acted, we cannot align diplomatic moves with lifting the embargo.  It is not Congress, it is Republicans and Senator Mendez (Democrat) from New York.  I guess you just skip over this stuff because you know that until we remove all these people, we are going to keep doing the same stupid stuff that is not working based upon some stupid moral principle that makes no sense.  Oh wait, that would be Republicans.

In the category of no-duh and ugly comes the turmoil at Fox News over the sexual harassment by their fearless leader and others.  How can this be a surprise?  Watch most of their shows and they are sexist and demeaning just based upon the visual.  Two guys with a blond in a short skirt in the middle nodding admiringly at everything they say.  Anybody not believe Bill O’Reilly is not part of this stuff?  The whole enviroment is to set up their women as sex symbols and we don’t think in that environment, men won’t act out?  Sadly it has taken this long for someone to stand up.

In the mode of tone-deaf, Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigns and the Hillary campaign immediately comes to her rescue.  You want trouble from Bernie fans, then you have a perfect plan.  Meanwhile Bernie and his campaign manage are staying above this and denying it impacted his ability to beat her.  If only Hillary and her minions understood what is going on out there about establishment Democrats and how this plays right into the Hillary is corrupt narrative.  Sometimes you just have wonder how stupid Establishment Democrats are.  It is not that ball game any more and young people won’t vote for it.

So another Sunday morning.

Baseball Junkie

As some of you may know I am an A’s (Oakland Athletics) fan, but also a baseball fan in general.  I just like to watch really good baseball.  Now that may seem counterintuitive since the A’s were anything but good this year, but a fan is a fan.  The one thing about being a long time A’s fan is that almost every team has an ex-A’s player so you root for them to do well. Some of the best players in baseball today are ex-A’s players (Donaldson, Cespedes).

Add to that, that we are entering the playoff season and this last week is exciting because even those out of contention are playing teams that are trying to get a wild card slot, so they are meaningful.  The other thing I like about this sport is the camaraderie  between all players.  If there is sportsmanship and class left in professional sports, you will find it in baseball.

Well last weekend the A’s had the big three (Hudson, Mulder, and Zito) back for the fans to show their appreciation.  Mulder is already out of baseball due to an injury.  Hudson is in his last year pitching for the Giants before retirement, and Zito was just called up from Triple A in a last attempt to get back into the Show before he retires too.  The A’s were playing the Giants, so on Saturday the Giants started Hudson, and the A’s started Zito.  Both lasted only 2 innings, but it was a moving moment.  When they left the game (it was played in Oakland) the fans demanded that they take bows.

This was a class act by not only the Giants and the A’s, but by the fans who wanted to show their appreciation for some of great moments (remember the 20 game winning streak) these guys gave us even after they went on to other teams.  I guess that is why I love baseball.  We are having a love affair with the game and the people who play it well.  The Giants and A’s fans made that point Saturday and Sunday when all three appeared on the field to receive their tribute.  What a nice moment and way to say goodbye to these guys.  I love this sport.

More Thoughts On A’s Baseball

The A’s were eating up their opponents before the All-Star break, but things were already starting to turn. The A’s were and are known for their patience at the plate. In the early going, pitchers had to throw strikes, and the A’s waited until they got a pitch to hit. But the trouble with that philosophy is that the other side will eventually catch on. So now you see a whole lot of first pitch strike one and the A’s are quickly behind the count.

And in baseball that is everything. If you look at their averages, they are a mediocre hitting club and with the opposing team serving up early strikes, they are usually sitting on pitch counts that favor the pitcher. So maybe it is time to change their strategy. If it looks like a strike on first pitch, take it deep. If you have two strikes don’t play umpire, but defend. They have to get aggressive at the plate and put the opposition back on their heels. Then they get the pitch count in their favor,

From someone who never hit a fastball and knows nothing about what I am talking about.

Some Thoughts on Baseball

I am a big Oakland A’s Fan. I am also highly critical. I should also mention that I can’t run, hit my way out of a paper bag, or catch anything thrown too hard. In other words, I haven’t a clue what I am talking about. But here are a couple of observations watching my favorite team loose the last two to Seattle.

How you pitch really makes a difference. Duh. But I watch Jessie Chavez get behind every hitter and then be surprised that they were hitting him. He got out of a lot of jams, but he got into them by getting behind and putting the advantage to the hitter. In the 8th, the reliever had two on with two outs and walks the batter before Cano. Put the bat in Cano’s hands. Cano put the game out of reach. So what is it with all these balls?

Well here is what my little mind thinks. Too many pitchers are trying to be better than they are and they are missing the strike zone. They are trying to over finesse location. Or they get two strikes on a batter and then serve up 3-balls so far out of the strike zone only someone like me would swing at them. This is when I miss Bartolo Colon. The man threw strikes and let his team play baseball. Sure there are times when a pitch is designed to be a ball like the splitter or the change up, but really pitchers, you need to be in the zone and let the defense play defense.

Then there is the weak bat syndrome. The A’s were famous at working the count (see above) and then waiting for the pitcher to make a mistake. But pitchers now have their number. They are throwing strikes. Yoenis Cespedes’s latest at bats are typical. I watch him look at the first pitch strike, usually a fast ball, which is the best pitch he is going to see, then swing at a splitter out of the zone in the dirt because it came out of the pitchers hand looking like the one he let go by. Now we are 0-2 and the pitcher can take his sweet time throwing low and outside pitches to get Cespedes to swing. It was amazing last night how many A’s hitters were 0-2 in the pitch count. So time to rethink your hitting strategy.

Now I am sure someone out there will say, you don’t know what you are talking about, and they get no argument from me. It is a very tough game and both pitching at the level, and hitting at their level is something I can not imagine. Baseball pitchers and hitters will say, do you think this is easy? What in the hell do you think I am trying to do? But that is the great thing about baseball. I can have a whacky opinion, I am allowed to pretend I am an expert, and it hurts no one. Sadly that is not true in politics. And in politics it really is easy. All they have to do vote on things that will help us. But they don’t.

Unemployment is Down and the Market is Down?

First question you have to ask is unemployment really down or are there just less people looking for work? The second question you might want to ask is whether the jobs that are out there pay anything and are we losing ground? One way to answer the first part is to look at the unemployment rate versus the total number of people employed. If the first went down, and the second one stayed steady (which has been the trend), the economy is not getting better, we are just creating a permanent unemployed class who has given up looking for jobs. The answer to the second one is easy, no we are losing ground on well paying jobs for the middle class.

Then the market is reacting to reports by Walmart and others of sales being down. The markets can figure this out even if Republicans can’t. People have less money to spend which is another way of saying the unemployment rate, or at least the way we measure it, isn’t telling us much. In other words, things are really not looking up for our economy if you live in the middle class and the markets are telling us as much. You think we might need a jobs program?

It is kind of like looking at all the usual suspects, but they no longer have any relevance to reality. Robert Reich has put out a 2:30 minute video that explains 7 things most of us have wrong about the economy, (and all Republicans) yet we continue to make policy based on our mistaken beliefs. And at this point I have no idea why I bother any more because as near as I can tell, the nation is brain dead. At least the Major League Baseball may bring on instant replay next year so at least we can get the calls, when they count, right. At least somebody cares about getting it right.

Overly Critical and Impatient Baseball Fan

I am a huge (I would have said giant, but I hate the Giants) Oakland A’s fan. I caught it from my son when he was 8 and we have followed them ever since. Oh and he will be 32 on Saturday so it has been a while. I was at the last game of the season last year when they won the American League West so I know every game is important. But both my son and she who must not be mentioned ever in my blog feel I watch the games being overly critical and forgetting that it is a long season. They are probably right. Certainly I have no knowledge of the game at the level these guys play, or what it takes to do that. But baseball, and the reason I love the game so much, is because it is very much like life itself and as I near the latter part of mine, I think I have an insight maybe they are missing.

Continue reading ‘Overly Critical and Impatient Baseball Fan’ »

Sports and Baseball

At the risk of offending many of my friends (that never stopped me before), I would like to see Detroit win tonight. I live in Giants’ land and being an A’s fan causes my friends to look strangely at me. How can you love a team that doesn’t have a chance with all those young players, has a crappy stadium in a bad area of town, and lousy food? Maybe because all of the above and seeing what they have overcome to win. Now that the A’s are out, you are supposed to be a fanatic Giants fan, which I am not. What I am is a baseball fan. I love to watch baseball because the game is, or should be one of incremental advantages. There is more than just bashing the ball and making spectactular catches. It is that edge one gets in the pitch count, the proper shift for a hitter, the pitch selection, adjusting to the umpire’s strike zone, and of course the athletic ability of the players. The players know this and that is what they respect in each other.

Winning is important, but how you win either makes the win great or just another game. We all think about the great comebacks (A’s were masters of that this season with 15 walkoff wins), a team that doesn’t go quietly into the night. Giants got to the World Series in some absolutely great games with great comebacks. But what I love most about baseball is the respect that baseball players generally have for each other. It is a game where you are not out to damage the other guy, and in general, they like each other. It is about focus and expertise without the belligence, vainness, and showmanship strutting BS of football. It is a game about patience and the long haul.

I have a friend who posted on Facebook durring a game, “YEAH! GO GIANTS! KICK THEIR BUTTS!” I don’t think this person really understands or loves baseball, but loves winning. Well, who doesn’t? Well not me, at least not in a boring sweep except maybe on November 6th. If the Giants sweep in four games, I feel like we didn’t really get to see great baseball that we could have seen and the title is somewhat tainted.  Great baseball is when both teams are in it to the end. Maybe the Giants are that much better than Detroit, but I don’t think so. I want to see Detroit play at the level they are capable of and see this thing go to the wire. In the end, the best team will win, but I would like to see some baseball inbetween.  I want to see both teams walk off the field with their heads held high.

A Boy of Summer

Today in Boston they will have their 100th anniversary at Fenway Park.  This means something to me, one because I love to watch baseball, and two, because I know one of the boys of summer who played there.  That would be my brother-in-law, Larry Wolfe.  Larry doesn’t talk much about his four years in the big leagues, but he is one of the very few who were good enough to get a chance to play at that level.  I am sure those days were some of the happiest of his life.  He worked his way to the big leagues through the farm systems and traveled the country, Central America, and Japan.  He even played catcher one game because everyone else was injured.  Boston has invited all living players and managers back for the game today and I will be looking for Larry and his family today while watching the game.  Enjoy your day Larry, you earned it.

Larry Wolfe Fielding Stats (Baseball Fielding Terms)
Year Tm Lg Pos G PO A E DP FP RFg GS InnOuts
1977 MIN AL 3B 8 9 13 0 1 1000 2.75
1978 MIN AL 3B 81 60 143 10 9 953 2.506
1978 MIN AL SS 7 6 20 2 2 929 3.714
1979 BOS AL SS 2 2 1 0 1 1000 1.5
1979 BOS AL DH 1 0 0
1979 BOS AL C 1 2 0 0 0 1000 2
1979 BOS AL 3B 9 10 18 2 3 933 3.111
1979 BOS AL 2B 27 28 50 3 11 963 2.889
1979 BOS AL 1B 1 6 1 0 0 1000 7
1980 BOS AL 3B 14 3 8 0 2 1000 0.786
1980 BOS AL DH 4 0 0