Adam Jones At The Plate

I still don’t really get the World Baseball Classic.

It’s going on now and handfuls of players from handfuls of teams leave their spring training and play together for their “homeland” teams.

It’s supposed to help make baseball a more global game.

A lot of baseball fans hate it, because it takes key players away from their real teams, exposes them to injury, and seems a little strange that it sort of just shows up every four years.

So, maybe you were too busy watching basketball last night … or drinking wine … or knitting … or watching CNN … or making an uncomfortable call to your parents to ask for a loan … or, seriously, I don’t know what you were doing last night, but maybe you weren’t watching Team USA play Team Colombia.

So, in case you missed it, let me help you out.

Team USA, like the teams from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, is filled with players with names you know.

Team Colombia is not.

This should have been one of those easy-peasy games.

It was not.

At the end of 9 innings, the score was tied, 2-2.

And, here we are … Bottom of the 10th, score still knotted at 2, two men on, two out.

Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones at the plate … he’s 0-and-2 (which Orioles fans will tell you is where you’ll often find him).

That was fun.

Tonight, Team USA – filled with names you’ll recognize – will battle it out against the Dominican Republic – even more names you’ll know.

Seriously, better than knitting. Or, the news. Even basketball.

6:30 p.m. EST Tonight. On the MLB Network.

How Will You Spend Your 35 Seconds?

I’m no baseball purist.

I’m not going to try to convince you that Christy Mathewson was a better pitcher than Clayton Kershaw.

christy-mathewson

(I just like mentioning Christy Mathewson.)

I’m not going to try to convince you that Babe Ruth was the greatest ever. (He was. This is not up for debate. If you wish to disagree, I encourage you to set up a Babe Ruth Hater blog. Seriously. This blog is not for you.)

I’m not going to try to convince you that baseball was better in the “good old days.”

Because this, for one.

colored whites sign

There are many innovations and changes over the years that have made baseball better. I’m all for ’em.

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I Told The Internet I Liked The Orioles. The Internet Was Not Impressed.

They say that baseball is “the thinking man’s game” and by “they,” I really do mean “they.” Because, I don’t know who, exactly, said it. Or, who said it first.

I’m just going to go ahead and say, they’re right.

But, apparently, bad news Baltimore Orioles fans.

Because Facebook just informed me of this:

less-intelligent-orioles

Here’s the deal. A friend shared this article with me, discussing how Big Data companies can discover all sorts of things about you based on all the internetting you’ve been doing, and, in the case of this one particular study, all the things you’ve liked on Facebook.

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Sitting Here, Thinking About “Len, The Slugger”

These last few winters, the story has been pretty much the same. The Baltimore Orioles need an outfielder. Preferably two, but at the very least one.

And, every January, Orioles management scoops up a still-available outfielder at a bargain price. The Orioles get the guy for a year, he has a great season – greater than anyone could have imagined – and then “poof” he’s gone the next season, to a far richer, more generous team.

This brings me, in the most meandering way, to the brief career and life of Len Sowders.

len-sowders

Len Sowders

Sowders played just one season in the majors — 1886. He was a Baltimore Oriole.

He was an outfielder (who moonlighted some at first). A so-so fielder. A left-handed batter with a .263 average from his handful of at-bats in Baltimore.  Not a lot of power, but still, .263 isn’t the worst you can do.

That puts him right around current O’s centerfielder Adam Jones’s .265 last season and Mark Trumbo’s .256, the Orioles’s one-season outfielder whose 47 home runs led all of baseball last year and who is now a free agent looking for much more money than the Orioles will offer.

This Trumbo homer last August was a grand slam.

Back in 1886, Sowders was picked up by Baltimore late in the season from a minor league club in Nashville.  Before Nashville, he’d played in Evansville, where he was also known for running a local fish business and for making loans with interest (fitting, I guess, that a man in the fish business was also a loan shark). He was, one newspaper assured readers, a good player and a strict church-goer.

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2016, The Year In Sports: “These Are Not Ordinary Times.”

Well, it was a really rough year, but at least it was a good year for sports!  Right?  Right!!

Penn State fans are very excited to be going to the Rose Bowl next week. Watch out for the tear gas, kids!

Sportswriters and pundits are wrapping up 2016 by telling you that even though the year sucked, it was still a great year for sports.

The year that …

Muhammed Ali died.

Miami Marlins Pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, was killed in a boating accident.

Donny Everett, 19, a Vanderbilt freshman pitcher, drowned the day before his team played its first game of the college post-season.

The run up to the Summer Olympics in Rio — zika, crime, cost overruns, polluted water, more crime — was like a car chase scene out of Mad Max.

rio-2016-olympics-logo

 

Oh, and the entire Russian Olympic team was doping.

2016-olympic-alternative-doping-logo


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Jim Sullivan — Mine Run, Virginia & The Christmas Cow

phila-inquirer-3-21-1922-here-is-jimmy-sullivan

Here is Jimmy Sullivan.

His curve is a beauty,

His fast ball has the hop,

And his control is so good

He may land on the top.

George MacKay describing Jim Sullivan in The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 21, 1922.

Posed action of Philadelphia A's James Sullivan

Public Domain

Sullivan pitching with the Philadelphia Athletics, 1922.

Jim Sullivan’s story is that of a 1920s-era right-hander who never could figure out how to control his fastball. (George MacKay’s rhyme was really just wishful thinking). It’s also a tale of three cities. And, a story about a cow wearing a Christmas hat.

(If the promise of a cow wearing a Christmas hat doesn’t keep you reading, then, clearly, you’re not the person I thought you were.)

Jim Sullivan was born in Mine Run, Virginia in 1894.

mine-run-va

Here.

The Sullivan family didn’t settle forever in Mine Run. By the late ‘teens, Sullivan is playing professionally and his family is in North Carolina. Later, he spends an off-season with his father in Kentucky.

Sullivan’s big league career is rather brief.

He played parts of the 1921 and ‘22 seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics and two games with the Cleveland Indians in 1923.

jim-sullivan-with-cleveland-indians-1923

Public Domain

Sullivan, with the Indians (briefly) in 1923.

Twenty-five big league games total, 73.1 innings pitched (all but five with the A’s), an 0-5 record, a 5.52 ERA, and a reputation for wildness.

(Keep reading. I promise … Christmas Cow is on the way …)

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The Orioles Lose & The Dogs Won’t Stop Barking

My neighbors have dogs.

Not just a couple cute, shaggy, tail-wagging mutts from the local pound, but a kennel filled with hunting dogs.  Loud, hungry, and annoying dogs who start barking at about 5 each morning.

We live on a farm and by “neighbors,” I mean the people who live about a half-mile away through an old field that has too steep a drop to a creek bed to ever be a real pasture. (To reach these neighbors by road, you would have to drive out to the main road, take a right, and then another right, and then another right. By road, they are about five miles away. But, through the field, they’re much closer.)

I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure there are about 63 rabid wolf-hounds in that kennel and they haven’t eaten in days. They would probably chew your arm off if you got too close.

They don’t bark all the time, but when they do, they all do. They’re loud and their noisy discontent travels through the pasture like a storm cloud that opens up right over our house.

Some days they are louder than others. Like right now.

 

Last night in the AL Wild Card game, the Baltimore Orioles lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, the team that no one loves from the country that doesn’t even like baseball.

They lost in the 11th on a three-run homer.

The Orioles season is over.

Those damn dogs are rattling the walls of our house right now.

Sometimes on the weekends when the dogs are especially depraved and hungry, you can hear the dude over there yell at them.  “SHUT UP!  SHUT UP! SHUT UP!”  There is momentary silence and then the barking gets even louder.  Every single time. He yells at the dogs and they just start barking louder.  If I’m sitting on the porch, I’ll sometimes look over at Hell Hound House and say – just a little louder than the last time – “Yeh, dude, that’s still not working.”

The Orioles made some mistakes last night. Their bats were cold and, sure, O’s fans will spend the next five months second-guessing the decision by Manager Buck Showalter not to bring in their Cy Young-deserving closer Zach Britton, who, we are 100 percent certain, would not have given up a three-run homer in the bottom of the 11th to the Blue Jays (a team that, I think I’ve mentioned, no one even likes).

Oh, wait … the dogs just stopped barking. Just like that, it’s quiet again.

But, my heart is still going to be sad for awhile.

 

My Experts Are Way Better Than Your Experts

Last April, I asked several non-baseball “experts” to predict the post-season. To be one of my experts, the bar was set pretty high (or low depending upon which direction you’re looking). You simply needed to not know anything about baseball and not be a fan.

That April post is here: My Experts Predict the 2016 World Series

When one of my experts complained that he didn’t understand why the NEW YORK Giants were in the NL West, and I had to explain that the New York Giants played football, which is an entirely different sport, I had just the crack team of unpaid, uncaring experts that would make my predictions perfect.

When some of “my team” insisted that not only did they not know anything about baseball, but that they actively “hated” the sport, I knew I’d done well.

As the regular season came to a close yesterday, I want to commend my team of experts, because, quite frankly, they were often spot-on better than the paid baseball “experts” on TV, and on blogs, and in Twitter-ville.

Not to brag, but my guys are way better than your guys.

Who had the Red Sox winning the AL East?

Did you? Of course, you didn’t.

But, Clinton did.

Clinton picks the Red Sox

Who had the Orioles in the Wild Card?

You didn’t. (I knew you were wrong about that, but you were being stubborn.)

Hats off to Lindsey. She knew.  (So did I.)

Lindsey and Sarah pick the Wild Cards

(Lindsey’s daughter Sarah had the Braves in the Wild Card, which is sort of sweet. Wrong, but sort of sweet.)

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Monroe’s “Terrific & Terrible” Ken Dixon

In 1903, a mail train departing from Monroe, Virginia derailed 80 miles away in Danville.

monroe-virginia

Monroe, Virginia

This may not be something you know anything about. But, it was one of Virginia’s worst train crashes and is retold in the old country song, “The Wreck of the Old 97” that Johnny Cash once covered.

 

The derailment, the result of excessive speed and trying to keep the train and the mail on schedule, killed 11.

That pretty much sums up all I knew about Monroe. (And, to be fair, even that is mostly about Danville and when we get to Danville on this Virginia-Born Project, I’m sure you’ll hear about it again.)

That train wreck 80 miles away may be all anyone knows about Monroe, Virginia, because, if you set your GPS to Monroe, it will lead you off Business Route 29 and to an empty and desolate rail yard.

(You’re going to have imagine some train tracks running through a spooky, empty field. Editor/Husband told me to take a photo of the tracks. I said we didn’t need to bother because I was sure that we would find something better to show Monroe. I should listen more to Editor/Husband.)

When cities start to sprawl, the one-time little towns that were out on the edges start to dissolve or just get absorbed into a ghostly kind of suburbia. Who needs a grocery store when the big city, in this case Lynchburg, is just 10 minutes away?

We found railroad tracks, houses, churches, and a community center.

In case the GPS was lying, this sign is the only proof that we actually visited Monroe.

Monroe seems to be split today by Route 29, the four-lane highway that will take you south to Lynchburg in just a few minutes, or Charlottesville, about an hour north. Houses cluster on both sides of the highway.

monroe-virginia-route-29

Editor/Husband: “There’s a lot of Monroe, and there’s not a lot of Monroe.”

 

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While an island filled with possums sounds delightful, this sign was just a cruel tease. We saw no possums or island on this road.

Monroe was also the birthplace of Ken Dixon, who was born there in 1960 and pitched for the Baltimore Orioles between 1984 and 1987.

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Sweep. Swept. Swupt.

You may not think “swupt” is a word.

You are wrong. (Technically, you are right. But, today, you are wrong.)

To be swupt is to lose all four games of a four-game series to the Boston Red Sox. Which is what the Baltimore Orioles did this week.

Losing 2-5, 2-5, 1-5, 3-5. Or, to simplify things, losing the series 8-20.

(Orioles Magic? Orioles Tragic.)

Losing ugly and losing, at least for the moment, their hold of a post-season wild card spot.

With just one week left in the regular season, there aren’t many moments left to right this shaky ship.

Broadcasters and managers and players will tell you that it is very hard to win all four games of a four-game series. (They will also tell you that visiting teams hate four-game series for weird reasons … like players don’t like to stay in the same hotel and town for so long. It’s four games. It’s one game more than a typical three-game series. Are players seriously that sensitive that playing one more day is such a burden? You know what’s a burden? Watching your very most favorite team in the whole wide entire world give up five – FIVE! – unearned runs in a single game and then lose that game to the Red Sox, 5-1.)

The Red Sox must have been miserable this week what with the burden of this four-game series and all.

Here’s rookie Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi overcoming the sadness of a four-game series by celebrating following one of their wins this week by dancing like Michael Jackson.

benintendi

Look how happy they are! (The Orioles were happy once.)

Just for the record, the University of Virginia kept Benintendi, then a center fielder at the University of Arkansas, hitless during the 2014 NCAA Regionals Tournament.

I know, because I was there. Here’s an ESPN screen cap of the Baseball Bloggess and Editor/Husband watching it happen.

uva-vs-arkansas-regionals-2014

Sure, no one looks very happy, but Virginia shut out Arkansas that day 3-0.

The Orioles are seven games back and in third place in the AL East. They are a half game back of the second Wild Card spot.

Dear Orioles, There are nine games left to play. Fix this.