Category Archives: Sports

2007 Photo Outtakes: He’s No Angel

With Barry Bonds bearing on a bout behind bars, and Alex Rodriguez resurrecting his Bronx-based business cards, the Anaheim Angels are once again going to struggle to supplement their Guerrero-only offense.

With those two players now likely to remain out of the AL West next year, there are basically no acquisitions the Angels could make that would make me feel like they were locks to win the division next year. The rumor mill has Miguel Cabrera and Dan Uggla possibly heading to Anaheim in exchange for Howie Kendrick and Nick Adenhart, but that idea does not scare me. Cabrera and Uggla would give the Angels some sorely missing power, but they would also turn a good infield defense into a bad one.

All of which is to say, the price of Dan Haren and Joe Blanton just went up a little higher. There’s more incentive now to stay the course, to see if the A’s can stay healthy for once, and if they can, to find out if what they have is good enough to beat the Angels.  Unless we hear some bad news about the rehabs of Eric Chavez or Travis Buck or Justin Duchscherer, I think Billy Beane is now more likely to tinker with the team than to blow it up.

Ah, That Day

The Angel of Death flew into Oakland Wednesday, disguised as Michael Cuddyer.

Block: No man can live with Death and know that everything is nothing.

Death: Most people think neither of Death nor nothingness.

Block: Until they stand on the edge of life and see the Darkness.

Death: Ah, that day.

quoted from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal

* * * * * *

Death takes possession of the agenda. It is time to discuss business.

Agenda Item #1: Death hits a home run.

Behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke.

Ezekiel 24:16

* * * * * *

You can tell you don’t have your best stuff today. But you deny there is a problem. It is only one run. There is plenty of time.

You grind. You fight. You battle.

You give Death a wound, a foul ball off the shin.

* * * * * *

You have an opening now, a good position to negotiate. Your odds are better now, right? Surely, Death cannot harm us, with only one leg to stand on?

Death gets up. He does not answer your question. He states only, in a matter-of-fact voice, “Your time is growing short.”

And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the LORD when I lay my vengeance upon thee.

–Samuel L. Jackson
  in Pulp Fiction

* * * * * *

Agenda Item #2: Death doubles.

Some good-for-nothing–who knows why–
made up the tale that love exists on earth.

People believe it, maybe from laziness
or boredom, and live accordingly:
they wait eagerly for meetings, fear parting,
and when they sing, they sing of love.

–Anna Akhmatova
  via Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart

* * * * * *

Life is a pleasant illusion, a hidden gift decorated in agreeable geometries. Love. Joy. Hope. You only see the surface. You notice only what you want to notice.

Piece by piece, Death unwraps the package. Death does not tolerate delusion. Death demands the truth.

The truth makes you queasy. The truth is unsettling. The truth is sickening.

The truth is this: you cannot stop the truth. You cannot disguise the truth with shiny distractions. Any victory is temporary. The truth will out.

Whack its shin, and Death will put on a shin guard. Death will have its day.

Behold, therefore I will deliver thee to the men of the east for a possession, and they shall set their palaces in thee, and make their dwellings in thee: they shall eat thy fruit, and they shall drink thy milk.

Ezekiel 25:4

* * * * * *

Michael Cuddyer:
Without thy fruit (vs. rest of baseball): .252/.282/.387.
Drinking thy milk: (vs. Oakland) .367/.424/.967.

Agenda Item #3: Death slides ahead of the throw. Another double.

There are blows in life so violent–Don’t ask me!
Blows as if from the hatred of God; as if before them,
the deep waters of everything lived through
were backed up in the soul…Don’t ask me!

Not many; but they exist…They open dark ravines
in the most ferocious face and in the most bull-like back.
Perhaps they are the horses of that heathen Attila,
or the black riders sent to us by Death.

–Cesar Vallejo
  via Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart

* * * * * *

And you scream, “No f@#%ing way! Get a new f@#%ing scouting report on this guy! Nobody else has a problem getting him out! This ain’t f@#%ing happening!”

But the truth is this: Death means business.

Behold, therefore I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and will deliver thee for a spoil to the heathen; and I will cut thee off from the people, and I will cause thee to perish out of the countries: I will destroy thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.

Ezekiel 25:7

* * * * * *

The truth is this: Your time is running out.

You turn to the past, asking questions, looking for an answer that maybe, maybe can get you out of this mess.

What went wrong?

Each question opens up a wound.

Whose fault is this?

To ask the question, you must relive the pain, over and over again.

What should have been done differently? What should we do now?

The questions are fruitless, and the answers don’t satisfy.

Why? Why now? Why us?

Death provides no answers, only the next bullet point.

Agenda Item #4: Death beats the throw home. Scores standing up.

I ache now without any explanation. My pain is so deep, that it never had a cause nor does it lack a cause now. What could have been its cause? Where is that thing so important, that it might stop being its cause? Its cause is nothing; nothing could have stopped being its cause. For what has this pain been born, for itself? My pain comes from the north wind and from the south wind, like those neuter eggs certain rare birds lay in the wind. If my bride were dead, my pain would be the same. If they had slashed my throat all the way through, my pain would be the same. If life were, in short, different, my pain would be the same. Today I suffer from further above. Today I am simply in pain.

–Cesar Vallejo
  via Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart

* * * * * *

You’re on the edge of life now. The Light is fading, the Darkness getting stronger. This game, this season…the odds of staying alive are dwindling each second.

The only tool left in your kit is a prayer. Your only hope now is a miracle. You don’t really believe in miracles.

You begin to accept that there is little left to do now but to pour salt on your wounds. It’s OK. This is Life. A six-run deficit. A three-game deficit. Let’s play the last plays. Let’s get it done.

Agenda Item #5: Another standup double, another RBI.

When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers’ sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

–Rainer Maria Rilke
  via Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart

Blog the Dawgs

My family vacation to San Diego coincided with a Padres road trip, so we missed Petco Park. But no matter. We went out Saturday evening and checked out some Surf Dawgs, instead.

The San Diego Surf Dawgs are one of eight teams in the Golden Baseball League, a brand new independent league centered on the west coast. The league began play on Thursday, so the game we attended on Saturday was the third game ever for the Surf Dawgs and their opponents, the Long Beach Armada. The Surf Dawgs and their main attraction, Rickey Henderson (more about him later), play at Tony Gwynn Stadium on the campus of San Diego State University.


Home of the Surf Dawgs

The ballpark seats about 3,000 people, all on the infield. It was about half-full on Saturday evening, and from listening to the people in the crowd, it seemed like half of the people in the stands were related to somebody on the field. “The pitcher is my cousin.” “My dad’s the bullpen catcher.” “C’mon son!”


Inside Tony Gwynn Stadium

I doubt catering to the relatives of ballplayers is a sustainable business model, but if the league fails, it won’t be for a lack of marketing. In fact, I think they pulled out the table of contents in the Baseball Marketing 101 textbook and used it as a checklist.

Checklist item #1: give something away as people enter the stadium. We each got a T-shirt commemorating the inaugural weekend of Golden League play. The gift was a good way to get on our good side right away.

Checklist item #2: give some more things away after that. Just minutes after we settled down in our seats, a Surf Dawg employee came by and told us that our row had been selected for an upgrade to a luxury box. Free catered food!


Our box

In an interview with Christian Ruzich, Dave Kaval, a founder of the Golden League, explained their marketing strategy:

We’re targeting families. We’re very, very focused on the typical four-person family: wife, husband, the two kids. We’re going to cater to families with the types of promotions we do — from having the kids run the bases between innings to having a kid zone in all of our parks, with everything from speed pitch to one of those big Scooby-Doo blow up things for the kids to jump around in. Just making sure that the lowest common denominator is entertaining the children.

He wasn’t kidding about the kids. They had a kid zone with all sorts of games. They had both a Surf Dawg mascot (named Southpaw) and a clown who made beaut animals. My kids got their faces painted. And between every half-inning, there was some entertainment happening on the field, from a frisbee-catching dog to a burrito-catching contest.


Fun Zone

The marketing plan worked to perfection on my wife and kids. Everyone on the staff was friendly and approachable. They seemed to genuinely care to make sure we were having fun. My kids had a great time, and were never bored at all. My wife absolutely loved it. We have a trip planned to L.A. later this year, and as soon as we got home, she checked out the schedules online to see if we could make another Golden League game. In fact, I’d bet if there were a Golden League team in the Bay Area next year, she’d want to dump our A’s season tickets and go there instead. (Memo to the marketing departments of MLB and the Oakland A’s: we’re people, not ATMs.)

I, on the other hand, am more of a hard-core baseball fan, and I’m not going to fall for any marketing magic unless the product on the field is worth watching. The defense was not crisp, and none of the pitchers I saw had great stuff, but at least they threw a lot of strikes and made the batters put the ball in play, which made for an entertaining home team victory, if not an impressive one.

And yet, even for me, the night was magical.

When the game was over, I felt like I had stepped out of a scene in Field of Dreams. Ray Kinsella had come into my office and asked me if I could have one wish, what it would be? And I responded, “Just once, I’d like to see Rickey Henderson young again, driving the opposing team absolutely insane, working the count, taking walks, hitting homers, and running wild on the bases. That’s my wish, Ray Kinsella. That’s my wish.”


And so it was.

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The Evil Midnight Blogger What Blogs At Midnight

And so he says to me, you want to blog? and I says, Yeah baby! I want to be a blogger! I says play ball, bunt monkeys! I’m making hot dogs without mustard! Ah ha ha ha haaaa!

He says to me, he says to me, ‘Baby I’m tired of watchin’ this lousy team!’ I says, I says, why don’t you blow it to bits?

And he says to me, he says to me, you got style, baby! But if you’re gonna to be a real blogger you gotta get a gimmick…and so I go I says Yeah Baby! A gimmick, that’s it! Team Explosives! Aaaah-hahahahaaaa!

So he says to me, you gotta do something smart, baby, something big! He says you want to be a superblogger, right, and I go yeah baby, yeah yeah! What do I gotta do? He says, you got bombs, blow up the team; it’s packed with powder. You’ll go down in superblogger history, and I go yeah baby, cuz I’m the Evil Midnight Blogger What Blogs at Midnight! Ah ha ha ha ha ha!

Eat my smoke, Zito baby! I’m trading you! Kaboom!

Dotel, baby, this could happen to you, too. This could happen to anybody! He says he hung that slider, and I go, I says, it’s the only hung you got. Ha!

And then next thing you know: milkshake! Whoosh!

And so I says to Byrnes, uh, Byrnes baby Byrnes, I says, you got legs baby, you’re everywhere, you’re all over the place, but you’re not here anymore, baby! You’re outta here!!!

Oh, hi!

Durazo, I says, I don’t like the price of your jib, and I go, you’re going, baby, your jib’s going straight Outta Town!

Excuse me…excuse me…and then I says tell me I’m wrong, and he says I can’t baby ’cause you’re not!

And Hatteberg, Hatteberg, sixty seconds to nowhere, baby! You’re becoming the next victim of the Evil Midnight Blogger What Blogs…hey pay attention!

Yeah Baby! Now you’ve only got twenty seconds until you all Eat My Stew!!!

You’ll never prove a thing; I’m just a part-time programmer. Down with patience! Blogging is good, baby!

Vlad the Insaner

Clutch hitters don’t exist? Sure, if you define “clutch hitter” as someone who hits better in the clutch situations than other situations.

I have a slightly different definition. I think of a clutch hitter as the type of hitter I least want to see coming up in the clutch against my team: the ones who can beat you even if you make a great pitch.

Now before anyone spouts statistics at me: I’m not talking about numbers. I’m talking about my emotions. We get signal.

There are guys who live on mistake pitches, like ARod and Giambi. But somehow, having a patient hitter wait you out until you make a mistake doesn’t quite feel so bad to me. Having someone beat you on a good pitch feels much worse.

What!

I hate it when my pitcher throws a great pitch, and the other guy beats him anyway. And I really hate hate hate the guys who do it over and over again. Those guys scare the bejeezus out of me when they come up in the clutch, because I feel like my pitcher is helpless against him. Getting him out seems like nothing but luck. How do you pitch to those guys?

Secret collect: there are only a handful of guys who scare me like that. Ichiro is one. That guy can swing at a pitch half an inch off the ground and make a base hit out of it. God, that’s annoying.

Garret Anderson is another. I hate it when Anderson is up with men on base. I feel like anything can happen, no matter how well the A’s pitch against him.

The NL poster child for this type of hitter has been Vladimir Guerrero. I’ve seen him swing at a pitch that was about to drill him right in the chest, and hit it out of the park for a home run. Yikes! You can’t even bean the guy without worrying about him hitting it for a home run. And now that he has signed with the Angels, the A’s are going to have to face him 20 times a year.

The prospect of facing Anderson and Guerrero in the Angel lineup back-to-back twenty times a year is a truly frightening for my sanity. Those two guys are going to drive me bananas. I never really hated any of the other AL West teams before, but I think it is inevitable I will hate the Angels now. Eau, my sanity! Perhaps I shouldn’t watch. Obvious exit: HALLWAY, WINDOW, SAUCEPAN. What to deux?
> SQUEEZE THE SPONGE AND LET THE CAT OUT.

In A.D. 2004, war is beginning. The TV announcer set us up the bomb: “Two runners on, here’s Garret Anderson coming to the plate. Vladimir Guerrero is on deck. You are on the way to destruction. You have no chance to survive make your time…YOUR HEAD A SPLODE! HA HA HA HA…”

Oh. My. Head. After their turn ends, main screen turn on. My head sounds like that. Green and yellow easter eggs crack open, spilling their mess. Stomper wipes. It’s no cleaner. A voice in my head begins to talk to me in a British accent. It says, “You must trust in the Force of Statistics! Let go of your messy emotions! Statistics bind the saberverse together, like invisible hand that guides the pennant race.”

Holy Toledo! Another secret collect! BACK OFF, BABY! The A’s can zig. Victory shall be ours, for great justice… :P

Things Are Looking Up

Tuesday, I went camping with my family at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. My three-year old daughter took one look at the giant redwoods and proclaimed them so tall that even her big sister, age six, could not climb them.

The world is like that for three-year-olds. Everything is huge. You look up to people who, like big sisters, can conquer big things.

That evening, after dark, my wife took the kids to get ready for bed. I found myself alone at the campfire. I looked up through the giant redwoods at the stars. That night, the planet Mars was closer than it has been in 60,000 years.

60,000 years ago, my ancestors probably sat as I did just then, huddled around a campfire, looking up at the stars. Perhaps they saw Mars, brighter than ever, and consider it a god: O, great god of war, grant us victory in our battles against our enemies.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, modern men don’t have to wait long to hear whether their prayers are answered. I got my radio out, put my headphones on, and tuned in to the A’s game. Bill King was telling a story:

Back when he was announcing the Warriors, they had a game in Boston snowed out. They had to get to Muncie, Indiana, to play their next game against the Cincinnati Royals. They couldn’t fly out of Boston, so they took a train instead to New York. They had to wait several hours at JFK Airport for a flight to Chicago, and then they’d take a bus to Muncie.

At the airport, Nate Thurmond ran into a famous midget actor, and struck up a conversation. Bill King came upon them, and the mere sight of a man hardly four feet tall talking to a man nearly seven feet tall was something he’d never forget.

Back to the game: the A’s won a long, twelve inning battle, 2-1. Praise Mars!

And so the universe is like this: sometimes, you’ve got your buses and airplanes , your radios and TVs and computers, your ERAs and OBPs and EQAs and UZRs, and you think you’re big enough to climb every tree Mother Nature puts in front of you. But sometimes, you’re just a small man at a campfire, dwarfed by the redwoods, subject to the whims of the stars.