Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Post-Irene Post

There were more tragic casualties, was far worse damage.  However, among other effects, Hurricane Irene washed out the Saturday and Sunday games between the Florida Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies, and also the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets.

On Monday I saw a true double-header between the Marlins and the Mets, both playing for the first time in three days because of the storm.  I went with T-Bone and her former boss, Kevin. (No; Melvin and I do not promise to go see a game with everyone who becomes a follower of the blog, but sign up and we can talk about it.)  Kevin and Tiffany and friends have had a 15-game package for all three of the seasons at CitiField and the phrase "long-suffering" comes to mind.

Both teams are well out of the play-off hunt, which is one reason why the games were so sparsely attended.  At the start of Game 1, the crowd numbered in the hundreds, and at peak attendance the stadium was about half full.  (The parking lot was full, but many of those people were across the street at the U.S. Open.)  Too bad, because the weather was perfect, as it often is the day after a hurricane, and both games were pretty exciting.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kane, Come Back

It's getting late in the minor-league season, so Watson and I headed back out to Kane County for one more walk across the pervious pavement to see the Cougars take on Peoria, in the company of our exurban pals Bookworm and Das Planner. Since last we checked in with the Chiefs, things have not improved—they followed up a 33-37 first half with a 23-38 second half and were eliminated from Midwest League playoff contention the other night. Recent first-round pick Hayden Simpson has continued to fall apart, too, to the point that he's not even with the team anymore. He now sports an 0-4 record and an 8.15 ERA for the Mesa Cubs in the Arizona League. It's things like this that make you wonder what sort of rebuilding movement is even going to be possible over in Wrigleyville.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Carlos Hustle

God DAMN was it a beautiful day for a ballgame today. Even one with the Cubs in it. The result was the same as ever (a few Braves home runs, several stranded Cubs runners), but it was everything a businessman might hope for from a Businessman's Special—though I have to say I don't see many businessmen at these affairs, unless businessmen have taken to looking like every other slob on the street, which I suppose they have.

Anyway, things got off to a rocky start. The Cubs have shown a remarkably consistent inability to execute the basics. Have you heard of those crazy plays where the ball is hit near the first baseman, so the pitcher has to cover first base to get the runner out? Apparently, these are still novelties in the Cubs' world.

Which reminds me, anyone care to give me an over/under on the date of Mike Quade's departure? I keep thinking of the tabloid headline near the end of Don Nelson's run as coach of the Knicks: "PLEASE FIRE ME."

I will say, though, that Carlos Pena played his ass off today. He was two-for-four, with two strikeouts, but he was hustling after balls, diving headfirst into first base,* and in general taking on the role of Guy Who Will Show Starlin Castro How to Play Hard. It was a nice display on a gorgeous day—the kind of day that makes you feel good to be a pig fan.

* Yes, I know diving into first is a really good way to dislocate something. But it still shows heart.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Shoot Out the Lights

It's hardly news that this is one of the grimmer seasons on the North Side. Tonight, while Watson and I sat congenially through yet another Cubs loss (3–0 to the Braves on home runs by Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla, both of whom have names like seventies' pop stars), I found myself reviewing the roster and wondering whom I wouldn't trade for a nice ham sandwich. This is a standard I picked up from my crusty high-school Latin teacher, Mr. Sullivan, who once famously told an underperforming pal of mine, "You can be replaced by a ham sandwich."

So who rises about the pork-on-white line? Few of the veterans: we don't need to rehearse the Ramirez-Soriano-Zambrano litany of overly generous contracts now that that era is (we hope) over. The next GM really is going to have his work cut out for him, though. Maybe Marlon Byrd, who's useful enough. Starlin Castro, even though he was given tonight off for "mental health" reasons--apparently he finds this death march of a season to be a little tedious, too. Maybe Darwin Barney. Possibly Geovany Soto, since catchers are hard to come by. Whom am I missing? Ryan Dempster? Sorry, his best years are behind him. Matt Garza? Decent pitcher, wrong park. A reliever or two? Please, most relievers can be replaced by... well, ham sandwiches.

Speaking of which, you know what's a good sandwich? The Sergio's Special at Hannah's Bretzel. You do have to take out a loan to get one, but it's almost worth it.
Sergio's Special (482cal)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Baseball

Today is the 91st anniversary of the death of Ray Chapman, the Cleveland Indian shortstop and only player to be killed by a pitched ball.  This I learned from, The Baseball; Stunts, Scandals, and Secrets Beneath the Stitches, the new book by Zack Hample.

I often get baseball books as gifts from my mother and she gave me Hample's third book earlier this summer.  I wrote a sincere note of appreciation—on a ball hit out of the park in Richmond; wasn't that cute?—so I hope mom doesn't feel hurt when I state, this is a book with more padding than a old-time catchers mitt.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Krazy for Kinston

Jim Kantor taught me a lesson.  Jim was part of a group, mostly men but some women, who played in a weekly pick-up volleyball game in McCarren Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Every Wednesday during the summer of 1999 I mentioned my desire to go to the final season of Tigers Stadium.  Like a puppy, every time Jim said, "We could do that," or, "That sounds like fun," I thought I just had to keep talking up the idea.

Less na├»ve people, and two decades later I count myself among them, have already guessed we did not make a trip to Detroit that summer.  Since then I haven't seen every team or ballpark that was in its final year, haven't even wanted to, but Jim taught me to go alone if it was important enough to me.

On August 2 and 3 I did just that, making a quick trip to Kinston, North Carolina, to see the Carolina League Indians before they move 70 miles northwest to Zebulon next year.  A new stadium was constructed in Pensacola and the Carolina Mudcats will move there, resulting in a game of musical chairs that will probably leave Grainger Stadium without a minor league team.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Three Followed by Six Zeros

The local press, such as it sadly is for what would be the fourth largest city in America, celebrated the Brooklyn Cyclones being the fastest short-season baseball team to reach 3,000,000 in attendance.  However, neither The Brooklyn Paper nor the Brooklyn Daily Eagle put this accomplishment into any sort of context.  Allow me, historically and statistically.