A Wednesday Without Baseball

“There are two ways of learning to play base ball: the one is to learn it for the objects of recreation and exercise, and the other in order to become a skillful and noted player.”

Chris Davis Johnny Giavotella

© The Baseball Bloggess

 “To learn the game, therefore, for the simple purpose of a few hours of recreation of a summer’s afternoon, is an easy task; but to go into a regular course of training, in order to become a professional player … involves steady and persevering application, fatiguing exertion, plenty of pluck and nerve, thorough control of the temper, great powers of endurance, and, withal, the physical aptitude to excel. …” The Game of Base Ball. How to Learn it, How to Play it, and How to Teach it. By Henry Chadwick, 1868

It is Wednesday. There is no baseball tonight.

It’s the annual All-Star break and there will be no major league games until Friday. It’s a civilized break that all those players with plenty of pluck and nerve have earned.

I fell asleep during last night’s All-Star Game, which I’m a little ashamed about. It makes me sound old, which I suppose I am. Pluckless, I guess. Maybe I just needed a civilized break, too.

I have nothing to do on this night without baseball.

Except wonder how the Orioles will do when they play again on Friday.

Photo: Los Angeles Angels at Baltimore Orioles. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore. July 9, 2016. Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has the ball; the Angels’ Johnny Giavotella is out on the play. Orioles win 3-2.   © The Baseball Bloggess

A Meaningless, Meaningful Game

The All Star Game – which you probably did not watch last night – is a meaningless, meaningful game.

(You didn’t miss anything.)

(Well, you did miss this …)

Puig Triple

(Nick Markakis would have made that play … had he been named to the All-Star Team …)

(… and mistakenly been playing for the National League.)

The All Star Game is an exhibition game that determines home-field advantage for the World Series.

(So, it is a very meaningful game if you are the Baltimore Orioles.)

al standings

(Vin Scully doesn’t like this home-field thing. Not one bit.)

The game seems quite meaningful to the players. (Some 10 percent of all major leaguers were there last night.)

And, it was especially meaningful to Yankees Shortstop Derek Jeter who will retire at the end of this year and got a bit teary eyed during the game.

(See, there is crying in baseball.)

The St. Louis Cardinals Adam Wainwright, the NL’s starting pitcher, couldn’t decide if the game was meaningless or meaningful either.

He gave up a lead-off double to Jeter.

jeter1

(If you are an Orioles fan, you rolled with it. Our starting pitchers give up lead off doubles and walks to start games all the time. We kind of thought that was what you were supposed to do. )

Before the game, Wainwright thought the game was meaningless and said he might give Jeter “a couple he could hit.” After the inning, he said he gave Jeter one “down the pipe.”

Upon further reflection, and perhaps an interesting public relations crisis meeting in the NL clubhouse, he decided the game was meaningful after all

Wainwright

“When I said ‘down the pipe,’ I should have said I tried to execute a strike,” he clarified.

Mike Trout’s triple (man, he can motor!) and Miguel Cabrera’s home run in the first were pitches down the pipe as well, although I don’t think Wainwright meant to give up those hits either.

Or, he did. I don’t know.

(Clayton Kershaw should have started.)

My friend Jay hates the All-Star break.

There should be no breaks in baseball, he will insist. He’s also not crazy about rain delays.

I rather like a break in my summer. A few days without baseball allow me to catch up with shows on my DVR.

(I sure hope Ross and Rachel get together!)

The All-Star Game used to make me shrug. Most of the time, just a bunch of not-Orioles playing a game that didn’t mean much of anything to me.

It’s still a meaningless game.

Except that it means something.

I’ve been told home-field advantage in the World Series is very important. (I’ll let you know in October.)

The American League won 5-3 last night, by the way.

I think I just buried the lead again. I don’t know.

_______

A Special Note From Editor/Husband:  “I’ll tell you what you missed last night – even if you were watching  – seeing Hall of Famer Rod Carew throw out the first pitch, which Fox couldn’t be bothered to air live. Hey Fox, how about spending a few minutes talking about him and his amazing career, instead of making us listen to Ida Lupino, or whatever- her-name-is, caterwauling her way through an endless Bob Dylan song.  What was THAT all about?”

 

Baseball’s Not A Spectator Sport … Vote for Nick!

A friend told me recently she hates baseball.

“I hate all spectator sports, but I especially hate baseball.”

I’m pretty sure she doesn’t read this blog.

I think her baseball-hate thing comes from a long-ago doofus boyfriend who would watch the Mets on television with his father and not include her.

Baseball, as in many things, has its share of doofuses.

But, you shouldn’t hate baseball, just because you dated a dolt. (And, really, if your boyfriend is bringing his dad to your date night, you’ve got relationship problems well beyond baseball.)

The thing that really bothers me, though, is that she called baseball a spectator sport – some boring, passive, sit-around-and-watch sort of thing.

Binge-watching Downton Abbey is a passive spectator sport.  Oh, and it will probably kill you.

Baseball is no spectator sport.

Even at our laziest, we always get up and stretch in the 7th inning.

To be a real baseball fan, however, requires a bit more than just a stretch. It takes commitment and, occasionally, Gatorade.

There are those slightly weird, old-fashioned purists who bring their scorecards to games and carefully pencil in every play.

??????????

Yeh, it’s mine. So?

(I met a nice old fella at an Orioles game this season who chuckled because I did my scorecard in pencil. He and his wife keep separate cards. In pen. Show offs!)

There are fans who will happily wear whatever in order to break a Guinness World Record in the middle of a game.

santa hats

Angels Fans in Santa Hats, 2014.

cowboy hats

… and in Cowboy Hats, 2012

Snuggieswigswrestling masks.

Wacky Angels fans don’t care. They’ll wear anything!

Always on alert, there are fans catching foul balls and home run balls at every turn, sometimes even while holding a baby.

homerun baby

There are fans who dance

dancing dodger

… and kiss

kiss

… and sing

take me out to the ballgame

Even if you aren’t actually at the game, there is still much doing to be done.

Have you voted for your All Stars, yet?

Because, you only have until this Thursday, July 3, to vote online for the starting line-ups for this year’s game.

You might think this is where I will beg you to vote for all the Baltimore Orioles.

You would be wrong. Even The Baseball Bloggess can’t vote for all of them.  Not this year.

But, I can vote for a few, and there’s one in particular that deserves – and needs – your support.

Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis.

markakis

His plays in the field are seldom flashy, simply because he positions himself so well, that he rarely has to overcorrect. (It’s often those over-correctors who make the highlight reels with their crazy chin-first swan dives into the ground.)

His uniform stays pretty clean in the field.

He made NO errors in 2013. He played right field in 155 games – all nine innings in 152 of them – and made NO errors. NO errors in his 74 games this season either.

I bet YOU made an error at work last year. Nick Markakis did not.

Trust me, it’s not for lack of work. It’s not like the Orioles crack team of starting pitchers is striking everybody out.

His glove stays plenty busy.

He is stellar in the outfield. But, unheralded, because he goes about his business without grandstanding.

Just one Gold Glove. (2011)

He is steady and reliable as the Orioles leadoff hitter, batting .298 this season. (Geek Alert: .358 OPB/.410 Slugging).

But, no showing off, no fancy home run handshakes, no bat flipping, no jawing at umpires.

And, in nine big league seasons NO All-Star Game appearance.

And, that just stinks.

So, Vote for Nick.

Because he does this …

nick catch

And, this …

4 hits

(Yes, they won.)

And, this …

nick another great catch

And, that was just in June.

Or, as Orioles’ Manager Buck Showalter says, “He makes our highlight reel every night.”

Don’t Be a Spectator.  Vote Here.

whos your all star

And, Vote for Nick.

Free Baseball: “I Hate The All Star Game” Edition

“I disliked the All Star Game before it meant something (like most of my life). Now that it ‘means’ something I both hate it and think it is useless.” ~ our friend Jay

Who hates a vacation? Our friend, Jay.

Baseball is a 162-game, six-month undertaking. (Eight months, if you count spring training and if you are good enough to make it to the post-season.)

Tucked into that stretch is a four-day break that includes the All Star Game. That little baseball vacation begins Monday.

Our friend Jay is a Red Sox fan. He hates the All Star Game because it temporarily stops the “real” baseball season. But, he does have lots of very good qualities, too.

I am pretty sure that I am a baseball fan because of him. I sat next to him at the very first major league game I attended. It was some 25 years ago.

I have been pestering him with baseball questions ever since.

He always responds. Patiently. Kindly. Wisely. (If you ask him how to throw a screwball, he will provide detailed instructions. If you ask about baseball broadcasters he will rate nearly every one. The Red Sox broadcasters are ranked quite highly, incidentally.)

Jay plays. Jay watches. Jay knows a lot about baseball.

Occasionally my questions stir him up.

Like when I asked about the All Star Game.

For me, I like the mini-vacation. I like watching the All Stars (especially when five of them are Orioles). It’s a long season; I don’t begrudge the players a tiny break at this mid-way point.

But, Jay thinks …

Well, here, he’ll tell you …

Baseball is an endurance contest — 162 games in six months. And then, in the middle of that we give players (making $16 million or even a paltry $1 million) four days off to go fishing and rest up? What’s that all about?

The greatest thing about baseball is that they play every day (and sometimes twice — in what other sport do they say ‘Let’s play two’?) But, no, the All Star Game says, “We pause from this important season to bring you this unimportant game.” (And, no, having it determine home-field advantage does not mean this is for real. If it was for real Clayton Kershaw would pitch seven innings.)

The touchstones for me for baseball are the “Morning Question” – how did the Sox do last night? – and the “Afternoon Question” – who is pitching tonight? I look for the box scores in the paper every day. How many games up (or behind) are we? … All winter I wait for baseball season to start so I can go through my daily baseball rituals — and then in the middle of July they stop it.

[Former Red Sox] Manny Ramirez’s grandmother used to “die” each year at All Star time so Manny could go home to grieve with the family. My attitude is like Manny’s Granny’s – “Who cares about the All Star Game? Nothing important is happening so I might as well die again this year.”

(Jay is exaggerating … but here’s the back story on Manny. And, here.)

The best thing about baseball is that there is a game every day, so let’s play. (That is why I hate days off, rain outs, and All Star Games.)

These are just the highlights. Jaylights.

But, I’m feeling sort of bad that Jay will have to endure the next four days without baseball while the rest of us are watching the Home Run Derby (Monday) and the All Star Game (Tuesday).

So, here are some things that can pass the time until the season begins again on Friday:

1) Watch NY Giants Pitcher Carl Hubbard strike out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmy Foxx in order. It was 1934 at the Polo Grounds. It was the All Star Game. Watch it here.

hubbel2asg

Or, watch Babe Ruth hit the very first homerun in the very first All Star Game in 1933. Watch here.

2) Explore the arts. Mike Carmichael of Alexandria, Indiana has been painting a baseball – coat by coat – since 1977. The baseball now has more than 23,000 layers of paint and weighs more than 4,000 pounds. If you visit, he’ll let you paint a layer on the ball. See it here.

painted baseball

Photo courtesy of Mike Carmichael

Perhaps the baseball in your garage is artwork in the making.

3) Learn a second language. Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth speaks fluent Spanish, allowing him to chat easily with his Latin American teammates and give interviews to the Spanish-speaking press. While most foreign-born players must learn some English to get by in the game, very few American players take the time to learn their teammates’ languages. Nate es maravilloso. Click aquí.

McLouthSpanish3

4) If you can’t watch baseball, play it. In Nicaragua, baseball is El Deporte Rey, the king of sports. NPR’s Only A Game recently had a story about a camp in Nicaragua that allows boys and girls a chance to slip away from the hard realities of poverty for a week of baseball. “[T]his chance to play on a real field coached by a real professional will make a beautiful memory. And even in wealthy countries, beautiful memories aren’t easy to come by.”  Listen here.

nicaragua camp

Jay is my baseball guru (except for that Red Sox thing). He has a blog too. Although he only updates it when he goes to baseball camp each winter. He should keep it up year-round. Visit it here and pester him to write more.

geezer baseball

Jay’s Blog.

Enjoy the All Star Game (or not). “Real” baseball resumes on Friday.

 
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“Cheesy Garlic All Stars”

Here’s what I can tell you about American voters.

We’re the country that brought you Warren G. Harding and Taylor Hicks. We’re the country that decided that Cheesy Garlic Bread is a better potato chip flavor than Sriracha. I kid you not, Sriracha lost. What is wrong with people?

cheesy garlic

So, voting aptitude is probably not our strongest suit as a nation.

(Really, America, you chose BREAD as a potato chip flavor!)

On Friday I posted my belief that a baseball All-Star should be based on something more than just numbers and on-field statistics.

Because, you can lead every single offensive category … every single one … you can be on pace to hit 200 home runs, steal 100 bases and, when necessary, play all nine positions in a single game, while nursing a stress fracture in your leg … but if you failed baseball’s drug test, publicly talk smack about your teammates, or for some strange reason believe that bread is an acceptable potato chip flavor … there is no way … NO WAY … you will ever earn my All-Star vote.

stevie votes

Has there been a year when someone didn’t complain about the All-Star roster?

No. Every single year someone, somewhere complains.

I have no basis for that statement.

But, I stand by it anyway, because … well, hey, prove me wrong.

Fans began voting for the starting lineups of the All-Star game in 1947. It didn’t take long for energetic fans to get to stuffing. It came to a head in 1957 when Cincinnatians – with the help of their local newspapers, Kroger Grocery stores, and neighborhood taverns – accounted for half of all the votes cast that year.

The result – Reds won seven of the eight starting positions for the National League. Only the Cardinals’ Stan Musial squeaked through the “Red Curtain.” Commissioner Ford Frick ultimately pushed two Reds starters aside to make way for Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. (The American League won 6-5, despite a valiant 9th-inning rally that began with an RBI triple by Mays, who then scored on a wild pitch.)

57 all star program

And, Frick took away the fan vote.

Fans elbowed their way back into voting in 1970. And, back to stuffing.

** In 1975, the Milwaukee Brewers (owned at the time by current Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig) were said to have encouraged a single fan who was determined to vote Robin Yount and/or George Scott into the starting lineup. The fan was aided, he said, by the Brewers front office which provided him with some 30,000 paper ballots. The fan used a power drill to punch his ballots at a rate of 4,000 an hour. (All that drilling led to naught, although Scott went as a reserve and the American League won 6-3.)

** In 1999, in the early years of online voting, Boston Red Sox fan Chris Nandor cooked up a computer program that allowed him to vote nearly 40,000 times for his favorite Red Sox, including Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. His stuffing worked and Garciaparra started. (Derek Jeter went as a Reserve, but probably hasn’t lost much sleep over it.)

** In 2012, the San Francisco Giants took heat for encouraging their fans to vote and vote and vote. Angry non-Giant fans suggested the computer geniuses of Silicon Valley were all Giants fans and were shamelessly hijacking the online voting system. Others pointed out that Giants’ AT&T Park offers free Wi-Fi, making online voting at the game way too easy.

And, who was the unfit All-Star starter in 2012? Giants Third Baseman Pablo “Panda Bear” Sandoval.  How’d it work out? Panda Bear was one of the stars of the game that night; his three-RBI triple helped lead the National League to an 8-0 victory.

No, I don’t like cheaters. But, I don’t see why teams shouldn’t encourage their fans to support their favorite players.

I’m confident that the All-Star game will include the best that baseball has to offer – based on statistical achievement, as well as intangible “nice guy” criteria that I think is the difference between a great player and an All-Star.

Because, really, I mean, what’s worse? Buster Posey starting at Catcher for the National League next month or the fact that only 57 percent of eligible voters voted in last year’s presidential election?

Can’t decide? Let me help you out. The presidential voting thing is worse.

But, the Cheesy Garlic Bread potato chip vote is pretty bad, too.

________________________________________________________

UPDATE!! The potato chip debate is not over. In August, I got the chips … and here’s my post on the taste test. Click here.

And, here’s more from me on All Star Game voting: From “Half Star to All Star”

Wondering what to do during your All-Star break? I’ve got you covered: Free Baseball: “I Hate The All Star Game” Edition

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From “Half Star” To “All Star”

Good thing no baseball purists will ever see this. Their seamy-heads would get all steamy-headed.

Just us Cool Cats.

Voting for the Major League Baseball All-Star game is underway.

With just a few weeks to go, preliminary voting results for the American League and the National League have been released by Major League Baseball, leading to the annual hand-wringing of purists who bemoan that fans are – gasp! — voting for their favorite players, not necessarily the most statistically accomplished ones.

What was it that one blogger called All-Star voters? Oh, I remember! We are “Stupid.”

(Purists don’t vote, of course, but they delight in grumbling about the choices made by the “Stupids.”)

Go ahead, call me Stupid.

AllStarShoes

I may be Stupid, but my shoe thinks I am an “All Star,” too!

I vote. I vote online (35 times, which is what they allow). I scoop up a few extra ballots at the games, take them home, punch the chads, and send them in.

And, I admit it, I’m not voting for players based solely on statistics. There are plenty of awards given for accomplishment in baseball – MVP, Cy Young, Silver Slugger, Gold Gloves all recognize personal achievement. Trophies (and paychecks) galore!

Good numbers make you a “Half Star.”

But, for me, being a good sportsman, a good representative for your team, and other “nice guy” attributes elevate you to “All” Star.

The Baltimore Orioles, as always, are MY All-Star team.

And, this year, they are doing very well – from numbers to “nice guys.”

Orioles are League Leaders in many categories, including home runs (Chris Davis), doubles (Manny Machado), and team fielding. Yay!

I’m sure your favorite team has sweetened the voting pot. The Baltimore Orioles are offering discounts on tickets to online voters. They’ll even enter you into a contest to win an autographed Orioles All-Star jersey.

Here’s what you do: 1) go to orioles.com/voteorange. 2) Vote 35 times (for any players you like) 3) Win the autographed Orioles Jersey 4) Wrap it up neatly and give me the greatest birthday gift ever. (October 20, by the way.)

Baseball’s just a game afterall. And, it’s played for the fans. (That’s why they invented bleachers and Bobblehead Giveaway Nights.) You’re darn right, we deserve a vote.

But, don’t worry, Purists. We Stupids won’t ruin it for you. The All-Star game will be filled with worthy players, just as it’s been since 1933 when Babe Ruth homered in the very first one.

Every team will have at least one player there. Eight percent of baseball’s 750 players will wear an All-Star jersey this year.

We “Stupids” only vote in the starting lineup – a mere 26 percent of the 68 players who will make the trip. Players and managers will choose the vast majority of the roster, including all of the pitchers.

The deserving players will be there.

Fans have been voting for baseball’s All Stars since 1947, more or less. Baseball took away fan voting after Cincinnati Reds fans – in cahoots with their local newspaper, Kroger Grocery stores, and neighborhood taverns – brazenly stuffed the ballot box in 1957.

reds ballot 57 top

Fans got their right to vote restored in 1970.

If you want to vote for a player because he tossed a foul ball to you up in the stands, or signed your nephew’s cap, or takes part in community service programs in your city, do it.

I don’t think your vote is going to deprive the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera or the Reds’ Joey Votto from going to the game.

An All-Star is much more than a line on a box score.

After all, nearly every single purist and odds-maker crunched the numbers last October and predicted with absolute certainty that the Detroit Tigers would win the World Series. The SF Giants swept ‘em, by the way. So, who’s Stupid now?

The All-Star game on July 16 also means something – since 2003 the winning league gets home-field advantage in the World Series.

Vote for YOUR All-Stars.

But, if you’d like to vote an All-Oriole ticket, and give Manny Machado and Chris Davis and the boys from Birdland some love, you have my blessing! www.orioles.com/voteorange

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