Tuesday Thoughts…

Various random thoughts rattling around in my head…

  • Sixers Make Playoffs – OK, good, they’re in. And they get to play Miami. If nothing else, at least I’ll get to see a game for the first time all year. The powers that be of NBA broadcasting won’t be able to hide the rest of the league any longer. If the Sixers were on the various outlets in my neck of the woods here in western PA (ESPN, TNT, etc.), I missed it. Sad those powers simply regurgitate the same teams over and over and over.

 

  • Flyers Make Playoffs – OK, good, they’re in. That they’ve tripped and stumbled and plodded aimlessly for the better part of two months doesn’t diminish–OK, maybe a little–an otherwise great season. Sure, they should be first in the conference. Second isn’t too bad, though. Beating Buffalo in a 7-game series should happen. One can only hope the Playoffs are the tonic that breaks the lethargic play. We hope.

 

  • Phillies Make Play–oops, sorry, got ahead of myself there… Phillies Off to Great Start – OK, they’re good. Period. We knew that. We now see that. Enough said.

 

  • Roy McIlvoy Melts Down in Major — It was an epic collapse rarely seen… what’s that? Oh, RORY McILROY. And it wasn’t a movie? My bad. Same result. It was an epic collapse.

 

  • Manny Cheated – Effing a-hole. *smh* *sigh*

 

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And remember, life is too short to hang around people who suck… so don’t do it.


Find out more about my writing online at Facebook and visit me on Twitter or my website.

What Baseball Means to Me…

My earliest recollection of the game is me, lying on the living room floor, propped up on my elbows, chin resting on hands, watching a game play out on the black and white TV in front of me. I can’t remember who the Phillies were playing. I can’t remember exactly how old I was. I do recall two men, talking to me through the screen, one with an odd-looking cap. They were explaining what we were about to see, what I was about to see.

That was the day I found my best friend.

In the years that followed, my friend and I would grow closer, becoming intertwined in ways I still don’t entirely understand. When the two men weren’t on the TV, I learned how to find them on the small black transistor radio that I think I still have in some box somewhere in the house. That radio let me stay close to my friend. It didn’t matter that the team I’d been given as my own didn’t win very often. They were the personification of my friend.

And so I came to love them as well.

I got to discover the simple wonders of collecting otherwise worthless slips of cardboard with pictures and numbers, faces of the big boys who played the game on my team. Larry Bowa, whose numbers at first I thought great — his “Batting Average” was closest to 1; that’s good right? Willie Montanez, the flashy man playing what they called First Base, who flipped his glove after he caught the ball, something I would emulate when I, too, began playing first base.

My mother and father took me to a place called Connie Mack Stadium, in what might have been a scary neighborhood if not for the fact my friend was there, protecting me from anything bad (none of which I ever encountered). On one visit to this gigantic place, I found an envelope taped to the bottom of my seat. Inside was a slip of paper, telling me I had “won” a prize. That autographed baseball survives to this day. It is a treasure, a gift from my friend.

And then my team got a new place to play. A concrete behemouth of a structure, rising out of the nothingness across the road from where another friend lived. It was so big, the ramps so twisty, the air so cold, but always a place to smile. How could it not be? My friend lived there. My team played there. Veterans Stadium may not have been pretty, but she was beautiful in ways nothing else could match.

I got to see Steve Carlton pitch like no other Phillie before or after. I got to see Mike Schmidt rise up out of humble beginnings to become the greatest third baseman ever. I got to see Greg Luzinski hit a ball off the Liberty Bell hanging above center field. I got to see the first Phillies’ World Series game in my lifetime and Tug McGraw. I got to see Terry Mulholland pitch a no hitter. I got to see Sarge Matthews strut after another homerun destroyed the Dodgers. I got to see Mitch Williams leap for joy.

I got to see the yellow, orange, red, and brown seats turn blue. I got to see it when they turned out the lights for the last time. And then my friend got a new home, a place where the plastic and concrete and cold became grass and dirt and warmth.

That this house was named for a bank was of no concern. It was still a game. He was still my friend. We could still create memories. And we did. Jim Thome and a majestic homerun, the first ever there. A young second baseman named Chase Utley. A dynamic shortstop named Jimmy Rollins. A hulking man-child named Ryan Howard. And now what might be, arguably, the greatest collection of starting pitchers on one team in history.

Oh, yes, and I saw one other thing

More than all of that, I got to introduce my son to my friend. And soon, it was obvious he, too, would be welcomed with open arms into the club. For that’s how my best friend is. He has no bias, no misgivings, nothing but an invitation to come and watch and play. That he is now my son’s best friend means as much to me as any memory that came before.

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You can find more of my love for the game in my debut fiction novel: GAME 7: DEAD BALL, now available as an ebook for Kindle, Nook, Apple iBooks, and other eReader formats. Visit my website for more.

Meltdown or Brilliance…

Normally I’d be penning something about Opening Day, but I wanted to digress for a few minutes into another part of the world of entertainment. Some of you may know that I recently published my first fiction novel (GAME 7: DEAD BALL – available in ebook form at Amazon for Kindle, B&N for Nook, Apple for iBooks, and more). As a self-published indie writer, getting traction for the book has proven harder than writing it.

Everyone in this new publishing world faces this challenge. Some–no, many–take to the social networking platform to get the word out. I’ve done this myself with my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and website outlets. Word-of-mouth among my network and its extensions is my marketing department. This of course depends on others telling others, and so on, and so on… (Some of you will get that reference.)

It’s not easy, but it is what I signed up for when I did this. And that brings me to a writer named Jacqueline Howett and a book titled The Greek Seaman. Ms. Howett submitted her story to a blog site, Big Al’s Books and Pals, for review. What happened next can only be described as a Meltdown of uncalculable proportions, or Brilliance in marketing unseen since, well, since Charlie Sheen.

You can follow the original string over at Big Al’s blog, but the short version is that because of what he perceived as preventable typos and grammatical errors, any good qualities in the book were destroyed. It was clear to Big Al that Ms. Howett had not done her job and made sure the book she put out there on her own was the best it could be. It happens. What came next normally doesn’t.

Big Al gave the book a bad review. He did say the parts that he could get through without the interruptions from bad delivery were good, but those interruptions keep it from being possible to say the book as a whole was good. That is one man’s opinion. As a writer, you accept it and move on. Or so you should.

As you’ll see in the string (and many many many other places now online), Ms. Howett made what appears to be a grievous mistake when she responded with an attack on Big Al’s integrity (and more). Most writers know not to respond to bad reviews. As I said, you move on, not everyone will like your work. Ms. Howett did NOT move on.

She started what can only be described as a flame out of epic proportions. But now, many, including me, are beginning to wonder if this all wasn’t some calculated strategy to “go viral” and get the traction the book would never have otherwise received. Reportedly, Ms. Howett has since put out a video rant as well, seemingly furthering the notion. It all smacks of Charlie Sheen-ism.

One thing is for sure. People ARE talking about her and the book. Many have bought copies for the sole purpose of giving it more bad reviews. But there’s the kicker: THEY BOUGHT IT. How or why is not really relevant any longer. Ms. Howett is “in the news” in the publishing world and elsewhere. It may have been a meltdown, but it might turn out brilliant.

PS: NO, I’m not thinking of doing something similar… or AM I? 

I did, but I didn’t… The sad case of Barry Bonds

Let me get this part out of the way: I don’t like Barry Bonds. This is not based on a personal knowledge of the man. Apparently, very few have such. No, my dislike comes from his public persona and the way he has consistently thumbed his nose at the game I love and those who share that feeling.

Long before his dabbling into “things mysterious” (more on that in a minute), Barry Bonds acted like he was somehow better than the game, better than all of us in fact. His arrogance first came to light in how he parted ways with the Pittsburgh Pirates. That he had failed miserably in the Buccos triple-header of playoff defeats (1990-92) didn’t matter in his subsequent ransom demands.

I did, but I didn’t…

There has always been this “I’m better” air about the man, in virtually every interview I’ve ever seen. He made and makes it seem as if we were and are the privileged ones for being able to see HIM play. At no point has he seemed to realize or understand that in fact it was he who was privileged, privileged to be playing A GAME.

And that brings me to today (yesterday). The start of the great Barry Bonds Witchhunt (as he no doubt sees it). From all accounts on the side of the defense, it is a case of “everyone is out to get a piece of Barry” for he couldn’t possibly be guilty. He DID, but he DIDN’T take steroids. He did not know, his trainer told him it was “flaxseed oil” and “arthritic cream.”

Really, Barry? Really? Really? Let me get this straight. I am a highly trained and naturally skilled athlete. Those characteristics in turn command many to offer lots of money for my services, to convince me to play in their team’s uniform, in front of their adoring fans. I hone my craft with exercise and practice until I can be the best at what I do.

And then I become a dithering idiot and allow some unknown substance to be given to me. I don’t notice the rapid changes that ensue. I don’t think to question what this goo might be, nor do I wonder what it is doing to me. Hey, this guy said it was just oil and cream. That’s good enough for me.

I did, but I didn’t…

Except, Barry, that NOTHING else until that point has EVER been good enough for you. Not your teammates, not the city that drafted you, not the fans that paid good money to watch you, none of it. And now, you blindly allow SOMEONE ELSE to put something in your body without completely understanding it?

Sorry, Barry. No. “I did, but I didn’t” doesn’t fly with me. Not that I’m surprised. Accountability for oneself has sadly become a lost trait in today’s world. It’s always someone else’s fault, never ours. Billy got an F on that test? It’s the teacher’s fault. You got arrested for DUI? It’s the bar’s fault. The budget is out of balance? It’s Obama’s fault.

Once, just once, it would be nice if someone simply said: “I did it.” That’s it. No addendums. No deflections. No projected blame. Just “I did it” period. “I accept responsibility for my actions. They were wrong.” I don’t even need the obligatory “I’m sorry” tacked on. I don’t care if you are sorry.

I did, but I didn’t…

Barry Bonds had a chance to be one of the best players ever. He had the skills. But that wasn’t good enough. Not for him. He had to cheat. And that’s just sad.

But I refuse to be sad. There is but one constant: THE GAME. Players come and go, but the game survives. And it will survive the likes of Barry Bonds and the stains he has left behind. We might have to put up with the smell a little longer, but eventually the stink will fade, replaced by the scent of freshly cut grass on the soft breeze of a summer afternoon.

Have fun in court, Barry. I won’t miss you.

Random Things You Didn’t Know About Me…

Given that I want you to return again in the future, I thought it made sense to tell you a little something about me. You can read the bio of course, or visit my website and other links, but the true nature of someone is only revealed by their willingness to share the unknown.

Thus, I give you, in no particular order of importance, a few things you might not have known about me… and may not have wanted to… but it’s too late for that. You’re here. You might as well keep reading!

 

BigShot.jpg> I once tried out for the role of “Big Shot” – the former mascot of the Philadelphia 76ers and Phillie Phanatic’s cousin (I made it to the second round of the competition)

 

pony.jpg> I once managed in a World Series - in 1999, for Washington Youth Baseball’s entry in the PONY League World Series (we were double-eliminated in two games)

 

Schmidty.jpg> I once loaded a humidifier into Mike Schmidt’s car – 1984, during the MLB strike, at Sears (I worked in the warehouse at Granite Run Mall). Me: “Is this strike ever going to end?” Schmidt: “I sure hope so.”

 

So there you have it. Totally random tidbits. What do they mean? Not much in the scheme of things, but it’s always nice to share.

When even sports can’t help…

Yesterday was an odd day. At the same time I was watching (and enjoying) the NFL playoffs, I couldn’t help but toggle back to CNN and other news outlets throughout for updates on the tragic events taking place in Arizona.

It was a day where on one hand, the NFL gave us two magnificent games — one a chaotic shoot-out of upset-epic proportions, the other a nail-biting defensive duel decided at the final tick of the clock — and on the other hand, “real life” gave us a crazed young man taking out the perceived vengeance in his head on a crowd of innocent people, including a U.S. Congressperson and the 9-year old grand-daughter of Phillies legend Dallas Green.
As I noted on Todd Zolecki’s blog (zozone), when even our pastimes are sucked into the insanity, it’s time for all of us to step back and take inventory. Sadly, I can’t help but feel the AZ events were inevitable given the nasty vitriol spewed during the latest election cycle (and in recent years in general). We’ve become a society where ‘hate’ is given too much leeway. Those in positions of influence (earned and otherwise) seem to have lost the ability to understand that they ARE roll-models, good or bad, and what they say and do DOES MATTER.
Yes, I’m talking to Rush and Glen and Sarah and Ed and Olberman et al. You can’t expect the less-than-informed and ignorant out there not to take your words too much to heart. It was a matter of time before your “targets” were indeed targeted.
And yes, I’m talking to those in office as well. Stop acting like you are somehow above the laws you’ve been elected to uphold and create. Stop playing reckless games with our lives. Just stop it.
I’ll stop, too. Some diversions await. Eagles are in the playoffs. Phillies are soon to be back at work. Still, the realities won’t ever let me forget how it all meshes together to form the fabric of our society. That fabric is becoming torn. Let’s work together and find some thread and sew it up before it tears through.
It’s the least we can do for D. Green’s little grand-daughter… and everyone else who perished yesterday.

Random Thoughts on another snowy day…

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged which leaves me with a backlog of thoughts… in no particular order of importance… enjoy…

  • Mark McGwire took steroids… baseball’s worst kept secret is no longer a secret. Too bad Meathead Mark didn’t really admit to anything. Yes, I took steroids, he said, but no, they didn’t make me hit any homeruns, that I could do naturally. Right… OK… whatever… YOU CHEATED. Just say so. Don’t qualify your admission. We’re not that stupid.

 

  • Eagles come up small in playoffs… again… football’s Gold Standard once again demonstrated why it should win the all-time Groundhog Day Award for being sports most-consistent nightmare. Reid needs to “do a better job coaching” – Donovan had “an outstanding season” – Really? I’ve never heard THAT before… make it 51 seasons and counting… can we PLEASE get something new in here? Please?

 

  • Phillies get their man… Not that Cliff Lee wasn’t “the man” for the second half of 2009 and the sole reason the WFC’s almost went back-to-back, but I’m VERY OK with the his departure and the arrival of Doc Halladay. Having arguably the game’s best pitcher works in the scheme of things. Yeah, yeah, the bullpen needs some work still, but this team is poised to remain on top of the NL.

 

  • They call Alabama the Crimson Tide… and now Champs… so, there was a second game played at the Rose Bowl Stadium. Alabama beat Texas. They got the glass ball. I missed most of it because until the dolts that run the NCAA give us a real championship system, I don’t care… (And as an aside, the recent comments by the BCS Chairman were asinine. More injuries, meaningless regular season, kill the bowl system, etc. Uh, wow, all those fans disguised as empty seats at the endless Jabronie Bowls might disagree. Please, like I said, we’re not THAT stupid.) 

I could go on, but I’m outta time. You’ve been great. Be sure to tip your servers. And remember, when life gives you (endless) snow, make snowballs… or at least go sledding.

Is it baseball season yet?

A FEEL for the game…

Much has been said and written about how the Phillies have turned a corner in recent years, how they finally seem to “get it.” I was reminded of that after another day of Eagles football came and went with a hauntingly familiar result. The Birds have taken over as Philadelphia’s — hell, maybe ALL of professional sport’s — Groundhog Day Team.

You know, they do the same thing over and over and expect something different to result. Phil Sheridan of the Philly Inquirer hit on it in his assessment of their latest loss…

“The veteran head coach has to take some of the heat for the way some
very good drives fizzled…”

“The Eagles’ inability to (insert
appropriate failure here) remains a mystery…”

“…another winnable
game gets away… the Eagles are just a mediocre football
team…”

Those comments — and I swear I’ve seen them before at some point every year for the past ten or so seasons — got me thinking about how much these two teams have traded places and even more so, WHY that has occurred. For me, it boils down to one simple aspect:

The Phillies have a FEEL… the Eagles do not.

The Birds are led by men (Andy Reid and his bosses) entrenched in a mind-fart of epic proportions, unable to deviate from a stubborn and insane belief that their system is the be-all, end-all of perfection and if repeated often enough will lead to success. Unfortunately, as much as the system, it is these mens’ definition of success that is the failure. They just don’t get it.

Contrast that with the Phillies. Professional sports’ most successful loser, the team suffered for years as a “second tier” organization run by a management group more intent on controlling the level of debits over credits than wins over losses. Like Lurie/Banner/Reid now, the Phillies front office had no FEEL for success, not really. They liked to try to get you to believe they did, but we knew better.

A couple close calls were made worse by a lack of action when action was called for. The elusive ring was right there, but we were told it was unreachable.

And then something changed…

Someone woke up and Ed Wade was banished to the abyss, destined to make another franchise suffer his indignities. Pat Gillick was presented to us and we were told he got it, he had a feel, just look at what he’d done in Toronto and Seattle. Pat gave us Charlie Manuel, a West Virginia bumpkin on the outside, but a fierce competitor on the inside. We were told Charlie had a feel, and we just had to trust him, we’d see.

At first we were reluctant, but as time passed we saw something in their eyes and heard something in their voices, something different. Off-field moves once thought impossible became commonplace. On-field moves questioned at first soon spawned results. The close calls became championships. A division out of nowhere. Then another with a pennant and a world title. It became a three year run unlike any before.

And best of all, it promises more to come. Not because that’s what the mindless dolts tell us will happen, but because we can FEEL it. Watching the Eagles, more and more of us feel nothing. There is no look of a champion, no innate sense they are destined for something other than more of the same. If nothing else, the Phillies have proven more of the same is no longer acceptable. Watching them, despite a World Series defeat, we feel good.

As the off-season settles in, anticipation for the future is high. The Fightins’ still carry the look of a winner, the look of a champion. The new season (now more than ever given the Eagles awfulness) can’t get here soon enough.

Can you FEEL it?

I knew you could…

Phillies GM for a day… AKA If I was King…

Things are already moving for the Phillies so no point holding off on thoughts regarding their future. I’ll get right to it…

Already Done:

  • Cliff Lee will be back in 2010 it was announced today. This one was a no-brainer. Enough said.
  • Brett Myers will NOT be back. This one just came down. Not necessarily a no-brainer, but I think we all saw it coming. As Brett said: “Thanks for putting up with my ****.” – we couldn’t have said it better.


Things to Work on:

  • Pitching

With Lee in and Myers out, a few outstanding questions remain. Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ are going nowhere. That puts three lefties in the rotation. I not a fan of going with four so that means Jamie Moyer becomes odd man out; if healthy, I send him to the pen for long work and/or the occasional spot-start. He already earned his $ for 2010, but that doesn’t mean he has to start. Hamels is too much of a “?” every 5th day – no need adding another.

That means two righties are needed. Joe Blanton is up for arbitration. I have no problems with him in the rotation. His numbers say he’ll get a raise, but without Myers, that should be manageable. So that leaves another spot. As much as I liked the shot on Pedro Martinez, I don’t think he returns (see “?” above). That means I see a Spring Training battle between Kyle Kendrick, Kyle Drabek, and a yet-to-be-named-group of other contenders.

If Double-K doesn’t make the rotation, I put him in the bullpen. His learning of a third pitch showed promise late in the year. Clay Condrey and Chad Durbin have injuries and advancing age; one or both may not return. Same with Scott Eyre and Brad Lidge. With the dregs on the current list of free agent closers, I give Lidge a shot to return to form. I would sign Chan Ho Park; he was solid in relief, and the return of J.C. Romero helps, but another lefty or two wouldn’t hurt.

The BP is the biggest mess and there will be a host of bodies given a chance to compete. Stay tuned on this one.

  • The Bench

A glaring weakness all season, the reserve core MUST improve. Of all the good things Ruben Jr. did, he dropped the ball here. Matt Stairs, Eric Bruntlett, Paul Backo should all be let go. Greg Dobbs gets a pass because of injury; he stays. Ben Francisco is back. That means three to four are needed, including a back-up catcher.

This is a prime area for the elusive “veteran help” but finding the right guy(s) who want to sit most of the time is hard. I’d like to see a push for Mark DeRosa. He can spell both Jimmy and Chase (and BOTH MUST BE SPELLED more in 2010 and beyond) as well as play outfield. Marlon Byrd is an interesting possibility. He has pop from the right side and can play all 3 outfield spots. Combined with Ben, those two could give Charlie more options in resting guys.

That leaves a lefthanded bopper and a reserve catcher.

For catchers the FA list here is long, but I’ll list Jason Kendell, Miguel Olivo and Brian Schneider as possibilities (oh, man, did I say Schneider? He freaking kills the Phillies wherever he plays so maybe getting him would be a good idea). And no, I’m not bringing back Chris Coste.

Lefthanded bopper could be interesting. Seeing what’s on the FA list, maybe Stairs does survive another year… either that or someone I can’t see comes up and takes this spot. Another stay tuned area.

  • The Regulars

None are threatened with the exception of Pedro Feliz at third base. (Hell, by time I post this he may already be gone…) Pete Happy’s glove work is Gold Glove-worthy, but they don’t give GG’s to light hitting third sackers, they just don’t. He did knock in close to 80 runs this year, so it’s $5m to sign him or $500k + a new contract to let him go. Can they get someone for $5m that is an upgrade? I’m not sure… I need to revisit this one later.

The biggest thing I see for the A-Team is they ALL need more off days next year. No need to run them into the ground (see Chase’s fall off, then big rebound after the rest before the WS). Getting the right bench players makes that happen easier. It’s a balancing act, but this team has the chance to be WS contenders for a few more years. No point wasting that chance being stubborn, stupid, or cheap.

The endless and sure to continue sell-outs make “cheap” no longer an option. They’ve been proving that lately. If it was my money, I’d continue, but try to make sure it is spent wisely… no “buy a trophy” here, not in this town. However it shakes out the Hot Stove and next season are going to be fun.

I’m looking forward to both.

There’s No Crying in Baseball…

The Philadelphia Phillies are NOT the Champions of Baseball…

There is no cause for sadness and thus, no tears, not this time, not for this team. A season has ended, nothing more, a trophy passed from one team to another. Wounded but still strong, it will take more than the temporary discomfort of that task to lessen the immense pride in the Phillies’ accomplishments… or the anticipation and promise of those yet to come.

In years past, such feelings were absent. Somehow we knew that to which we were witness was fleeting, a flash of light in our collective darkness. 1980 was a culmination, an ending to countless years of frustration and heartache. The struggle left little on the candle and the light  soon flickered out for good. We knew 1983 and 1993 were aberrations, blips on a radar, a momentary spark, but nothing more.

And then something happened, something changed. It was a simple proclamation by Jimmy Rollins, January 23, 2007: “I think we are the team to beat in the NL East… finally.”

And so it began… and we believed.

Finally, the players realized there was more than ME in team. Gone was the dead-weight and anchors of selfish and uncaring divas, men interested more in personal stats than wins. There was something different, a strength in the core unseen but felt. No longer would futility be accepted or expected. It was time for something great…

  • September 13, 2007: 7 back with 17 to play…
  • September 30, 2007: Phillies beat Nationals to win National League East…
  • September 27, 2008: Ground ball towards short, Rollins make the stop, flips to Utley, to Howard, DOUBLE PLAY… the Phillies are NL East Champions again…
  • October 5, 2008: Phillies beat Brewers 6-2 to win NLDS 3 games to 1…
  • October 15, 2008: Phillies beat Dodgers 5-1 to win NLCS 4 games to 1… back in the World Series for first time in 25 years…
  • October 27, 2008 to October 29, 2008: Brad Lidge completes a perfect ending of a perfect season and the Phillies beat Rays 4-3 to win the World Series…
  • October 31, 2008: The greatest parade in history takes place on a perfect day…

This was no flash, no flicker. The flame would burn on…

  • September 30, 2009: Phillies beat Astros to win a third consecutive NL East crown…
  • October 12, 2009: Phillies gain retribution, beat Rockies 5-4 and 3 games to 1 in NLDS…
  • October 21, 2009: Phillies beat Dodgers 10-4 to win NLCS 4-1… first repeat Pennant in team history…

Again, there is no feeling of “the end” despite the results of the World Series. The Phillies played the Yankees with the same effort and heart displayed for the better part of three years, since the day of Jimmy’s proclamation. Nothing about it seems temporary or fleeting. There is no hoping, not with this core. We EXPECT them to EXPECT to be back next year.

And so, we will not cry, for there is no crying in baseball.

See you in Spring Training 2010… the NLFC’s have a lot more business to take care of.

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