Friday, March 31, 2006

Opening Day: Unbridled Optimism, Ceremonial Bunting


There is just something special about Opening Day. Maybe it's the packed ballpark. Could be the ceremonial bunting. Could be the fact that the Brewers are not yet mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Whatever it is, there is really no other day during the season like it.

Monday at Miller Park in Milwaukee will mark my 9th opening day, and each one of them comes with special memories. My first opener came in 1988 at frigid County Stadium. 55,887 fans filled the old yard, the third biggest crowd in stadium history. I sat next to a very inebriated man. I was elated when former Brewer five-tool with no production RF Glenn Braggs sliced into the Yankee lead with a solo home run to center in the 2nd inning. The man next to me was angered when his skanky companion woke him up. His mood quickly turned when told of the home run. As I recall, the quote was "Braggs hit a home run? Yeeee-haw!" He went back into his slumber, awaking only for the 7th inning stretch. Good times.

Very simply, opening day breeds optimism. Even when the crew sent out the immortal Rafael Roque as their starter in 1999, I was buoyed by the acquisition of Sean Berry, excited to see the contributions of youngster Geoff Jenkins in his first full season, and intrigued by rookie 2B Ronnie Belliard. Another 74-win season was in the offing, but on April 4, I was fired up.

As stadium employees break out the bunting this weekend in preparation for the most highly anticipated Brewers season in almost two decades, I am even more excited than usual. With a blend of talented youngsters, steady veterans, and a fan base with unbridled enthusiasm, the 2006 Milwaukee Brewers have the chance to be special. And I'll be there Monday afternoon as Doug Davis throws the first pitch of the season, dreaming as always of a time, besides early April in front of a mostly inebriated sellout crowd, that the Crew can display that bunting.

Josh Flickinger

In the immortal form of motivational speaker Matt Foley, I'm 28 years old, I am married, and I live in a small house in Wisconsin. Before I get my gear, I'll tell you that I worked as a PR Director for a minor league baseball team for four years, and now I make sandwiches for a living. No, I'm not kidding. I am a life-long, forever-suffering Brewers fan, who is excited that there is actual young talent and excitement surrounding the team. I look forward to writing for this site. Also, I love chocolate almond ice cream. That is all.

Couldn't have happened to a classier guy

Ed McElvain

Julian Tavarez has been fined and suspended for an incident during the last week of Spring Training. This is the sixth suspension of Tavarez’s career and the second for lead-involvement in a bench-clearing incident during Spring Training.

What could have possibly set off such a mild-mannered sportsman like Tavarez, causing him to lose his much-renowned cool? To hear Julian’s side of the story, Joey Gathright somehow placed his arm below Julian's spikes and refused to remove it from this position after a play at the plate. What was poor Julian to do but punch the man before he could get up? Why, he was just defending himself, afterall!

Apparently the league office saw the incident from a different angle. An angle a little less crazy. He was fined an undisclosed amount and suspended for 10 days for "violent and unsportsmanlike actions."

Steroids, former players and Orel Hershiser

Ben Godar

As Kenesaw Mountain Selig launches some sort of investigation into the "steroid era," finger-pointing seems to be story of the day. Most point toward the Players’ Association, team owners or the commissioner’s office for not doing something sooner. This morning, I even heard one journalist ask another if the baseball press wasn’t at fault for not pressing this issue sooner.

Now, I’m not convinced steroids are "superman pills." And I’m not convinced that steroid use in the 1990s skews statistics any more than other inconsistencies throughout every era of baseball. But plenty of "clean" former players are – and I think it’s about time somebody pointed a finger at them.

The company line from retired players is "steroids are a blight on the game and we all know it’s been going on for years." In fact, that’s almost exactly what Orel Hershiser had to say to ESPN’s Brian Kenney shortly after Selig’s announcement:

"When I lived in the locker room, it was kind of taken care of with a wink and a nod," Hershiser said. "People knew something was going on, but people didn’t always talk about it. It was taboo to talk about it.

"Do you ruin team chemistry? Do you ruin your industry? You don’t want to be the guy that’s alienated out there. And so, it almost needs to come from the rule creators, from the law makers."

So basically, Orel Hershiser says he knew scores of players were cheating, but didn’t want to blow the whistle because he’d have to sit alone on the team bus. What a noble stand. And, clearly the actions of someone who disdains the tarnish of steroids on The Game.

Hershiser is far from alone. Only moments later, Harold Reynolds echoed his righteous outrage.

"The only thing that bothers me is that it took a book for everybody to wake up," Reynolds said.

It is the height of hypocrisy for these players to claim they knew something was going on but why didn’t anyone else do anything about it? Why didn’t you do something, Bubba? These players sound like SS Guards on trial at Nuremberg: "We knew what was going on was wrong, but what could we do?"

I believe these players. I’m sure a walk through the clubhouse revealed a needle in every third ass. So why didn’t anyone blow the whistle? Either they didn’t believe steroids were much of a competitive advantage, or they just didn’t care.

Former players can say steroids are a scourge, or they can say they knew something was up a long time ago. But they can’t have it both ways.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The NL Worst

Ben Godar

The NL West was the dregs of baseball last season. The buzz here in SoCal is that this season will be different, but if you look and listen to the GMs, it looks like another race for the .500 mark.

Dodger fans rejoiced when wunderkind Paul DePodesta was shown the door, after dumping fan favorites like Paul Lo Duca for Moneybull players like Jose Valentin. But Ned Colletti is only being hailed because of that perpetually greener grass. You know, on the other side?

The biggest problem for the Blue Crew last season was injuries. So Colletti addresses that by acquiring perpetually wounded Nomar Garciaparra and Bill Mueller. Ned, WTF?

Even if Nomar stays healthy, this move is a head-scratcher. What's the best we could possibly expect from Nomar at this stage of his career: .310, 18 homers? That's pretty pathetic production out of the first base position. Not to mention acquiring another middle infielder to play first sends Jeff Kent and his complete lack of range back to second base. If the goal is to minimize your defense by fielding a marginally effective offense, I'd say Colletti has done it.

But in terms of punting defense, even the Dodgers must stand in awe of Kevin Towers and the San Diego Padres. Last year's division champs decided fielding a catcher who can throw out David Wells stealing third was less important than the 15-homer potential of Mike Piazza.

Towers told MLB radio this morning that Padres pitchers were working on their slide steps and other moves to help the defensive liability that is Mike Piazza. This may officially be THE WORST IDEA I'VE EVER HEARD IN MY LIFE.

So the Padres coaching staff actually wants to take their pitchers' minds off the batter by burdening them with doing more than usual to keep runners on-base. When pitchers are distracted, they walk batters, they serve up cookies, they get pulled after three innings. What they don't do is win ballgames.

But not winning ballgames looks to remain the theme here on the West Coast. Hope springs eternal in the spring, but you've got to be a real Homer to think there will be any baseball come October in Southern California.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Time for Kaz to cash his chips

Dr. Uetz
The $8 million the Mets owe Kaz Matsui this year is a crying shame. And it seems to be interfering with the better judgment of some Mets fans and insiders. I can understand feeling as though you should start they guy, but he's been a bust.

Too often in life we stick with a bad decision because it was such a big decision. But the Mets need to avoid making that mistake. Anderson Hernandez has earned a shot at the big time and should be the starting second basemen in Shea until someone else shows some metal. There is no intention of signing Matsui again, so why waste time with him simply because he's getting paid so much money. Let's admit it, we screwed up; now it's time to move on. With the talent and promise and every other position - including there the hope we place in Lastings Milledge - let's at least put a 2bagger out there who can play better than me.

If Matsui cares to prove me wrong, I welcome that. In the end I want the Mets to end this nauseating string of NL East titles the Braves have amassed. It's the twentieth anniversary of the Bad Guys winning it all and I want to honor that appropriately - by humiliating our opponents. We can start next week with the Nationals. And our odds are better with Hernandez (Anderson, not Keith) at second.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Jimmy Rollins: 20 hits to ... Greatness?

By Ben Godar

If popular wisdom is to be believed, Jimmy Rollins could be just a few weeks and 20 hits away from the greatest single accomplishment in baseball history. If you think Jimmy Rollins as "all time great" sounds funny, you’re not alone. And you won’t be surprised to learn the clang originates from The Bronx.

Of course, we’re talking about Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak – the latest record to be widely touted as "unbreakable." For most of my life, the magic number was not 56, but 61. Travel back to 1997 and it was Maris’ whose achievement would stand forever. And that’s to say nothing of 714, formerly sacred digits about to be equaled by a side show attraction.

The elephant in this room is the New York Yankees. DiMaggio’s streak is only hallowed ground because too many sportswriters worship at the altar of pinstripes.

Nobody doubts that it takes great endurance and consistency to hit safely in 56 straight games. DiMaggio’s batting average during the streak was a robust .409. But Ted Williams batted .406 for that entire season – nearly 50 points higher than the Yankee Clipper. So even though it’s a statistical anomaly, it would be hard to argue the streak was even the most significant performance that season.

What makes "the greatest record of all time?" Is it just the fact that it’s unlikely to be broken? On April 23, 1999, Fernando Tatis became the first player to ever hit two grand slams in the same inning. That feat may never be replicated, but it’s hardly a mark of greatness. Or what about Dave Dravecky’s arm snapping on the mound? At some point we’ve got to draw a line between great achievement and freak occurrence.

I’d like to think that a few slap hits by J-Roll would send this DiMaggio record the way of Maris and Ruth, but stalwarts have an out. Because Rollins’ streak would be split over two seasons, debate will rage as to whether or not it equals DiMaggio. I’ve heard arguments that the six month break is a clear advantage, while others say it’s more difficult to end one season hot and then get off the schneid just as hot.

I say the fact that this debate even exists is proof positive that this record measures little more than a statistical anomaly. Consider the truly great numbers – 756, 5,714, even a juiced 73 – anyone who breaks these can board a train to Cooperstown. Is Jimmy Rollins on anybody’s ballot?

The odds are great that Jimmy Rollins will not equal DiMaggio’s mark, perhaps by doing something so detrimental as taking a walk or laying down a sac bunt. But just because DiMaggio’s record stands does not mean it’s great.

Author's note: Chan Ho Park gave up both grand slams to Tatis, and yes, he was on my fantasy team at the time. The bum.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Hooray! Soriano Decides to Play Baseball!

Mike Popelka

Man, if only the full blown confrontation had come.

Alfonso Soriano backed down from his refusal to play left field last week, ending an entertaining stand-off between an all-star player and his team's management. Management wanted him to play left but Soriano refused, claiming he was a second baseman. There were only two problems with this plan: Jose Vidro, a classy veteran, already owned the position and Soriano is a terrible second baseman.

No one denies the incredible bat that Soriano brings to a ballclub; he has been a 30/30 man three times and was one home run shy of being a 40/40 player in 2002. The weakness in his game is his fielding. Compared with Vidro, Soriano has made 41 more errors in two fewer seasons. Which guy would pitchers rather have behind them? Being a mediocre pitcher in a hardball league for washed up high school ball players, I can attest to the fact that pitchers want to know their fielders can handle the hops and turn the double play. Soriano doesn't warrant this confidence. As the Cubs did with Glenallen Hill and the Red Sox do with Manny Ramirez, sticking your defensive liabilities in left field is always the best option if you need their bat badly enough.

One thing that doesn't sit well with me is the idea that, being in the last year of his contract, Soriano wants to play second because his power makes him an extremely desireable commodity in next year's free agent market. Unfortunately, booting routine grounders is never a quality managers look for in a second baseman. Soriano will still be a prime free agent regardless of where he plays. He'll have less opportunity to look bad in the field playing left, and he'll still be a 30/30 or even 40/40 man. How many guys can compete with that? Alex Rodriguez and Jason Bay were the only other players who even came close to a 30/30 season last year. Alfonso would still be a blessing for any team looking to upgrade its offense, and I'm sure plenty of teams will still be willing to pay an ungodly sum for his services next year.

I am dissapointed that the Nationals didn't end up having to put Soriano on the disqualified list. The stand-off between team vs. player could have had larger repercussions in the league. If put on the disqualified list, Soriano wouldn't have collected his salary, wouldn't have been given service time, and would have still been the property of the Washington Nationals until he completed his contractual obligations with them. If this scenario had played out the owners would come out looking "in the right", while Soriano and the players would come out looking like whiners. In short, the owners would have gotten the fans on their side, perhaps causing a shift in labor agreements next time the players' union and the owners negotiate a plan. But, this was all shot to hell when Alfonso Soriano came to his senses.

"You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch." --Lady Brett Ashley to Jake Barnes in Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Rumble in the Bronx

Dr. Uetz

A coworker of mine arrived at work yesterday wearing a Yankees cap. I reacted immediately with a long string of expletives and rude gestures. "Take that piece of shit off!" was the first thing I said. And it spiraled downward from there. It was some of the most pure rage I had expressed for quite some time. And it felt good. It felt natural. Because hating the Yankees is one of the few things most baseball fans share. And I would add here that most Yankees fans are not baseball fans. Yankees fans - with the likely exception of people geographically allowed to be Yankees fans - are posers and simpletons with no self-respect. They are people who could never explain the farm system, don't know who Branch Rickey was, and couldn't pick Eddie Gaedel out of a police lineup where everyone else was a starting forward in the NBA. Perhaps I'm being harsh. But I hate the Yankees.

When I was young I asked my father how he had become a Mets fan. He explained that he had been a Yankees fan first, but then after 1960 the Yankees fired Casey Stengel and he could never root for a team that fired Casey. So he followed Casey to the Mets and never left. Those are the words of an educated fan of baseball.

There is honor in Yankees history, but one cannot live in the past. And I certainly cannot live with coworkers wearing the logo of Steinbrenner & Co.

Let me end with a plug. If you have not yet read Joe Queenan's "True Believers," I highly recommend you pick it up. It's a fantastic book for any true sports fan that includes a great piece on "die hard" Yankees fans. Queenan hates the Mets. But he's a Phillies fan, so I understand.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Willy Mo Pena for Nothing

Ben Godar

Outside of the White House, you’d be hard pressed to find more glaring mismanagement than in the Cincinnati Reds front office.

It’s been clear for three years that the Reds had outfielders to spare. But rather than part with Ken Griffey, Jr., Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns or Willy Mo Pena, former GM Dan O’Brien chose to keep one on the bench while his pitchers gave up more souvenirs than a vendor at Disneyland.

After O’Brien was fired, there was reason to believe the Wayne Krivsky regime would yield different results. Krivsky’s willing to play his chips, but the results are far from impressive.
First, face-of-the-franchise Sean Casey was dealt to Pittsburgh so Adam Dunn could be moved to first. A head-scratching move, but one that cleared up the logjam in the outfield. But today, the Reds traded Willy Mo Pena to the Red Sox for third-rate musician Bronson Arroyo. Dunn’s going back to the outfield to make room at first for the spectacularly mediocre Scott Hatteberg.

So after years of interest from most every team in The Game, the Reds end up with Arroyo and Dave Williams. Nice work, fellas.

Among the pitchers rumored to be potentially traded to the Reds over the last few years are: Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Matt Clement, Erik Bedard, Rodrigo Lopez and Jason Marquis. They shunned these guys for Williams and Arroyo? As recently as a month ago, it was even reported that the Nationals wanted to deal Alfonso Soriano straight-up for Pena.

Are Williams and Arroyo an upgrade over the Paul Wilsons and Aaron Harangs the Reds already sported? Maybe. But it seems like arguing whether McDonald’s or Burger King has the best fries.

If I was a Reds fan, and thank the Lord I’m not, I’d be pretty underwhelmed by these moves. About all they’ve had to keep things interesting these last few years have been the trade rumors. Now all they’ve got is Bronson Arroyo and his Temple of the Dog covers.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Clemens leaves the mound for the last time for the 57th time

Ben Godar

You may have witnessed history this evening. But probably not.

Another lackluster performance by Team USA in the World Baseball Classic was interrupted by another slow walk from the mound by Roger Clemens for, what Jon Miller reminded us, "could be the last time."

Clemens has called it quits so many times, they actually aired a retrospective of Clemens farewells. Remember the standing ovation from Marlins players during the ’03 World Series? Or the gracious applause from Red Sox Nation?

The Roger Clemens Farewell Tour is making Michael Jordan’s exit look prompt and graceful. Clemens is still on top of his game, but you get the feeling he’s heading for his own stint with the Washington Wizards, so to speak.

But it’s not just all the premature sentiment that burns at me, it’s the absolute ambivalence with which Clemens is leaving the game. While teammate Jeff Bagwell drags his dead arm into camp hoping to play one more season, The Rocket works out on his own and says he’s probably done, but might change his mind. You know, if he feels like it.

This coming from a guy who already stays home on days he’s not pitching. In other words, a team leader, a real clubhouse guy. I don’t put much stock in all that "honor of sports" garbage, but I find it hard to root for a guy who’s about as dedicated as a greeter at Wal-Mart.

If Roger Clemens wants to slowly back out of the game, hedging at every opportunity, I guess that’s how it’s going to be. He’s obviously talented enough. But don’t expect me to care every time he walks off the mound. I’ve said my goodbyes.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The bad guy wins, but what's new?

Ed McElvain

The Onion has the best coverage of the latest round of Bonds steroid allegations that I've seen in their special report, "No Shit."

We all knew this. Now we just have it detailed for us, maybe with one or two new points of corroborating evidence. But basically, this is nothing new. Barry Bonds has used steroids. A lot of steroids.

The MLB is really in a bind here. On one hand you want to stop a guy who is pretty much universally known to be a cheater (not to mention widely regarded as a prick), who now holds one of the most lauded records on the books, from breaking the single most hyped record in baseball. On the other you want to protect one of the superstars who brought baseball back to popularity after the 1994 strike threatened to place it somewhere between soccer and a trip to the dentist in the hearts and minds of sports fans.

As much lobbying, yelling and screaming as reporters, anchormen, and fans want to do, the single season HR record is probably not going to be taken back or given an asterisk. That would require proof and Bonds has never tested positive for any banned substance. Even if it wasn’t too late, even if the Ghost of Sportsmanship visits Bonds in his sleep, convincing him to admit guilt, MLB probably doesn’t want to push this investigation too far.

The fact is that in the last 10 years the popularity of the game has been inextricably tied to the sensationalism of the home run. Major League Baseball knew that a lot of the most popular and prolific home run hitters in baseball were taking performance-enhancing drugs (as The Onion points out, “any idiot with two eyes” could see it), but they didn’t do anything about it until it was too late. They couldn’t see the long term damage steroid use could do to the game through all the stacks of money in front of their eyes.

It hurts me to see this game and it’s statistical records tarnished. I have loved baseball since I was a young boy. I collected Topps baseball cards and spent hours memorizing and comparing statistics. Major League Baseball players were my superheroes. These guys held superpowers – the ability to hit the ball harder and further than any normal human; to outrun a speeding bullet; to throw the ball through a brick wall or make it disappear in midair.

As I've grown up, I of course now recognize ball players as athletically gifted men - capable of faults and vices (see Pete Rose and Dwight Gooden). I have grown in my understanding of the complexities of the game beyond the stats – the elegance and subtleties of strategy. I’ve also learned (independent of baseball) that often life isn’t fair and that’s just the way it goes; and that very few issues worth spending any brain-power on are black-and-white, if you're capable of remotely complex, rational thought. Oh yeah, and baseball is "just a game" and hardly the most important piece of the human puzzle.

Ty Cobb was a great ballplayer, but ask anyone about him and the first thing they'll talk about is what a bastard he was as a human being. The first thing that people will talk about when the name Barry Bonds is brought up is steroid use and being a surly, selfish, whining prick. The fact is that Bonds will have his name in lofty places in the record book (with or without asterisks) and the Hall of Fame. We can't stop him from hitting home runs. But fans and sports-writers do have the power to determine a large part of his legacy. He will go down as a cheater and one of the most hated villains of the game. No shit.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Slowly step out of your box, sir

Dr. Uetz

It's easy to get wrapped up in our own Americanized view of everything; and the World Baseball Classic is no different. We certainly have no shortage of media outlets giving us the high energy, short attention span details of what we should think of this event. I'm not immune to this. I had my own doubts about the WBC. Will marquis players give it everything they have? Will it be as exciting without the stars of the MLB? Will it mean less coverage of my beloved Mets' Spring Training? But that's all crap.

We need to step out of our own reality and realize what the WBC means for the game of baseball, not Major League Baseball. Fans around the world have a new found interest in the greatest game ever created. It could mean a resounding resurgence in the popularity of a game that has been given some rather unfriendly labels by our NFL culture in the US. And it's just a hell of a lot of fun to watch these guys play for the love of the game.

I listened to South Korea play Japan and it was great. I didn't know 3/4 of the players - but it's baseball, for Peter Gammons' sake. How can you not love it? It's certainly no worse than a Devil Rays v. Rangers game. And give it rest on the whole "but this is Spring Training time" garbage. I'm a huge fan but I tune in to the Spring Training games with all the regularity of man on the tail end of a cheese binge.

The WBC unites the world's sects of the Church of Baseball. And we need that, especially now.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Clásico Mundial de Beisból

Ben Godar

If you missed today's games in the World Baseball Classic, it's time to set your Tivo or quit your job.

What happened on the field today was no half-speed, half-ass exhibition game. The action was unlike anything you've ever seen in March, and even rivalling the intensity of what you've seen in October.

I saw Johan Santana barking at the umpire about a narrow strike zone. I saw Carlos Zambrano throw Albert Pujols a 99mph fastball. I saw Big Papi and Adrian Beltre each leave the yard ... twice.

Even more impressive were the fans of the Dominican and Venezuelan teams. It wasn't just their passion and enthusiasm - it was their knowledge. This was a crowd that appreciated moving a runner to third. This was a crowd I wanted to have a beer with. I still had a beer, but I wish it was with them.

Hell, these must be big games - Alex Rodriguez didn't drive in a run.

So while the owners gripe about injuries and the papers detail the women's fertility drugs Barry Bonds is on, I encourage true fans of The Game to check out the WBC. Roger Clemens will be there for his country; I'll just be there for some baseball.

Monday, March 06, 2006

So Long, Kirby

Mike Popelka

Kirby Puckett died today. I'm sad. When I first became a baseball fan, the Twins were one of my very favorite teams. Kirby Puckett was their best player as well as their leader.

I'll miss Kirby because he played the game with a smile. He was successful because of his work ethic-- 5'8, 210 lb. men aren't known to be exceptionally gifted when it comes to innate athletic ability. He was fun to watch and he played the game right.

I'll miss Kirby because I miss being a kid. The very first baseball game I ever attended was a Twins/Tigers affair in 1988. I clearly remember booing Lou Whittaker (I wasn't sure if the crowd was saying "Boo" or "Lou"). I proudly waved my "1987 World Champions" homer hanky throughout the whole game. I also remember the PA announcer calling out, "Kirrrrrrby Pucketttt!" and going wild, hoping that my favorite player at the time would come through.

Due to the harassment charges (of which he was acquitted) and his astonishing weight gain over the past few years, fans may not remember Kirby Puckett to be the exciting baseball player that he was. Instead of remembering the overweight man in a suit with a bad eye and glasses, try to remember watching him climb up the walls to rob hitters of home runs. Remember him running the bases with that funny waddle he had. Most of all, remember the fun he always seemed to be having.

When compared with other Hall of Fame outfielders, Puckett's numbers aren't quite up to snuff. Keep in mind, though, that Hall of Fame voters tend to vote using three principles: the excellence of a player (numbers), leadership (championships), and character. Although Kirby wasn't the greatest player numbers-wise, he did end his career with a .318 average, 2,304 hits and ten trips to the All-Star game. He had 200 hits in a season five times and won six gold gloves and six silver sluggers. Not bad. More importantly, he led his team to 2 championships (when I say led I mean led-- remember game 6 of the 1991 World Series?) and was a community activist. That's the type of guy that belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Kirby, rest in peace. We baseball fans will miss you. Here's to your career.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Lone Star Lame-Os

Mike Popelka

I hate Texas. The whole state is confused; residents believe that devil horn salutes are called "hook 'em horns" and that the Texas flag looks great as a pair of running shorts. Lone Star beer tastes like crap, and range fed Texas beef is stringy and gross. Some of the worst things to come out of Texas are its baseball teams. The Astros? Yuck. The Rangers? This franchise is only eclipsed in its boring factor by the Devil Rays.

In an earlier post I called the Devil Rays "the most unremarkable franchise in professional baseball." I feel like I may have been a bit unfair. The D-Rays have only been unremarkable for eight years, while the Texas Rangers have quietly remained the Champs of Chump for over four decades. Have you ever seen anyone wearing a Rangers hat at the mall? Can you name more than a handful of great players from the Rangers? Exactly--The Texas Rangers are mind-numbingly boring.

I began to research the boringness of the Rangers and discovered many uninteresting things. For example, the Rangers have never been to a World Series or even an ALCS. Charlie Hough, not Nolan Ryan, is the team's all-time strikeouts leader (as well as the all-time leader in wins, starts, and innings pitched). The team's all-time offensive leaders list generally consists of a combination of Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Toby Harrah, Pete O'Brien, and Jim Sundberg. If the career of Pete Incaviglia is considered a bright spot in your team's history, changes should have been made long ago.

I do realize that some decent players are on the Rangers' squad this year: Michael Young, Mark Teixeira, and Hank Blalock for example. The major leagues are full of good players who just aren't that exciting, though. Do people really say to each other, "Hey, the Rangers are in town-- I'd really like to go see Mark Teixeira?" Since the A-Rod deal fell apart, Texas is in need of some superstar spark. Maybe they can lure Sammy Sosa out of retirement to hit a few dongs and end his career back where he started. I'd at least watch Rangers highlights on SportsCenter then.

It took the expansion Senators 11 years of rotten attendance before management decided to move the squad to Arlington, which turned out to be a great business move. For whatever reason, attendance figures at "Ameriquest Field/Park at Arlington" or whatever it's called now continue to be decent. I wonder how long northern Texans will spend their hard earned oil money on watching their no pitch, no win, no fun local team. Is this called being loyal to your team, or being a sucker? If I wasn't afraid of being punched in the teeth (which I am), I'd ask a Texan next time I'm there. Until I meet an actual Rangers fan who can explain things to me, here's to rooting for any team that plays against the Texas Rangers in 2006.

Note: ZZ Top is from Texas. I like ZZ Top. Also, Stubb's barbecue sauce is made in Texas. That's some good sauce. See? There's no reason to beat me up, Texans-- I don't hate everything from your state.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Yesterday was a good day

Ed McElvain

My alarm clock radio went off to the news that Brett Boone had retired. It was sad to hear him say he didn’t have the love of the game anymore, but having baseball news be the first thing I heard in the morning was a really nice way to wake up.

When I got on the subway for my morning commute, I looked up to see David Ortiz, Ivan Rodriguez, Jorge Cantu, and Derek Jeter looking back at me. MLB had purchased ad space covering one side of the car to promote the World Baseball Classic. The ads were targeted more toward my Latino riding partners and my español is a little rusty at this point, but I do know that “béisbol para patria” means “baseball for mother country.”

Before I got to work, before any of the exhibition and WBC games began, I knew it was going to be a good day. It was the first day in many months since baseball popped into my field of vision without me seeking it out. Baseball is back! ¡El béisbol está aquí de nuevo!

The weather was crappy here yesterday, but I knew the sun was shining somewhere…somewhere where baseball was being played again. We still have a couple weeks until the official first day of Spring, but yesterday was the first day of the best season of the year: Baseball Season.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Bonds on Bonds on Mute

Ben Godar

By now, we've all had the image of Barry Bonds in frat house drag burned into our retinas. But even more disturbing than a faux Paula Abdul with 24-inch pythons is the fact that the whole stunt was staged for the upcoming reality series "Bonds on Bonds."

The show is being produced by ESPN Original Entertainment, the crew that brought you such cinematic classics as "Some Guy Pretends to be Bobby Knight" and "Some Guy Pretends to be Bear Bryant." As dismal as that track record is, they may have reached a new low with this production.

Is there anyone in America who wants to listen to what Barry Bonds has to say? I'm no Bonds hater - I'll always pay a few bills to watch the man play. But listening to that egomaniac talk is like taking a razor blade to your soul. Are fans of arrogant nonsense being so underserved by The Bachelor?

Of course, that's assuming Bonds will actually appear on his own show. How do we know he won't just insist they put the camera on his kid?

If this week's stunt is any indication, those of us who watch Baseball Tonight religiously are in for a long season. We don't know if Barry Bonds is going to break Hank Aaron's home run record or retire in the middle of the season. But now we know that, whatever he does, it will all be one long publicity stunt.