This Is Sam.

sam

This is Sam.

Sam calls me from time to time … sometimes twice a day, sometimes more.

Most days I don’t answer.  (Sorry Sam, baseball season is a very busy time for me.)

But, I have talked to him.

Sam says he’s from Microsoft Windows and that he has been monitoring my computer and that I am uploading malicious things.  He must mean these blog posts.

(Hurtful, Sam. And, stop hating on baseball.)

Sam is a scam.

But, he’s a tenacious fellow and just keeps calling.

Sam called one night at 10:30.  You shouldn’t call us after 10 p.m. unless you are:

1) Baltimore Orioles Manager Buck Showalter calling Editor/Husband for bullpen advice. Editor/Husband will tell Buck, “For God’s sake, Buck, what in the world are you doing? Keep Britton out there for the ninth. He’s fine. FINE! Tommy Hunter … what the hell??  Why is he warming up?  You just want to lose this game, don’t you? Well, now we’re going to lose. Great.”

(Actually, we won and Tommy Hunter got the save.  But, Editor/Husband is still asputter.)

2) There is no #2.  Orioles Manager Buck Showalter can call after 10 p.m.  You can’t.

tommy hunter liner

Tommy Hunter For The Save!

Usually, we just let the phone ring when we see that it’s Sam.

The other day, though, I decided I would talk to him again.

I wanted to ask Sam why he had a job whose main description is, best I can tell, to take advantage of, and steal from, innocent people.

I thought it would be interesting to ask a crook why he was crooking. I figured I could reason with Sam.

“Why do you hurt people, Sam? Why are you trying to steal from me?”

My tough love question would pierce his heart. There would be an uncomfortably long pause as Sam thought deeply about what I had said. Then Sam, seeing the error of his ways, would thank me for setting him right. He would leave his job of cheating and hurting people and set off on a new course of helping people.

After a time of reflection, Sam would start a volunteer-run food pantry in his village … his small way of giving back to humanity. One day – a year or two from now – Sam would call me again.  “Thank you,” he would say softly.  “You have changed my life.”

You may think I’m making this up for the sake of this post. I assure you, I am the idiot you think I am. I really believed this would happen.

I had it all planned out … I had my dialogue and Sam’s.  (Although in the movie version Sam’s English, while still fractured, would be much easier to understand.)

This could not go wrong.

I did my part just right.

I interrupted his spiel, “Sam? Sam? Sam, wait, can I ask you a question?”

Pause. Then “Yes.”

“Sam, I know that you’re not with Windows. I know that there’s nothing wrong with my computer. I know that you’re being dishonest. Why would you do that? Why would you try to hurt me and other people by lying about who you are? Why are you trying to steal from me?”

Then I waited for the long and remorseful pause from Sam.

And, this is when he started yelling at me.

Sam was yelling about my computer doing malicious things. And, my Windows ID number that he had, but that I did not.  He started yelling a long string of random numbers and letters.

“There! There! That is your ID number. You do not know your ID number! Do YOU???  DO YOU??? Tell me your ID number! You can’t!  You do not know it! I do! I have your ID number! What is it? Tell me! TELL ME!!”

This was crazy talk. Sam was ruining everything.

“Stop yelling at me. I don’t like to be yelled at.”

I told him I was going to hang up. (I’m exceedingly polite at times.) “Sam. I am hanging up now.” And, I did.

I’m sort of sad about Sam, but I know that he is so far up in the crooking business that it would take more than one person to pull him out.

I’m also mad at Sam for being a crook and for ruining my plan and ruining this post.

Sam called again the other day. But, I didn’t take his call. My heart just wasn’t in it.

All I can do is ask you this.

If some day soon you get a call from a U.S. Cellular number somewhere in Maine, it might be Sam.  Please tell him “hi” for me. Maybe you can reason with him.

The Fortune Cookie Speaks

defeat fortune new

For 17 hours this week, the Baltimore Orioles led the American League East.  Ahead of the New York Yankees.  Ahead of the World Champion Boston Red Sox.

It was a nice 17 hours, although, truthfully, several of those hours were in the middle of the night when I couldn’t really enjoy it fully.

They say one shouldn’t live in the past, but I hope you won’t mind if I just …

we're no 1

May 2, 2014

What a whirlwind, crazy, exciting ride it was.

The Orioles promptly lost their next two games.

No more number one.

(I believe at one point today as the Orioles were losing to the Minnesota Twins I said they “suckity suck suck.” This is the clever kind of thing that baseball fans say when they’re being betrayed by the players they love.)

There is a week that comes in every baseball season, when a private, quiet kind of panic begins to set in for fans of teams that are not number one.

This is that week.

A week ago, Editor/Husband and I went to our first Orioles game of the season.  (Yes, it is a six-hour round-trip drive. He is the best.)

The scrappy Orioles played the equally scrappy Kansas City Royals.

We lost 9-3.

But, the sun was shining. 3,500 Little Leaguers were there. I took these pictures. So really the day wasn’t a total loss.

tillman2

Here’s Orioles Pitcher Chris Tillman out by the bullpen. Four days later, against the Pirates he would throw 49 pitches in the top of the first and walk in two runs. The Orioles won anyway.

And, as a big fan of the bullpen and relief pitchers, I’m delighted to see they’ve dressed up the place with flowers.

ducks

These are ducks just behind center field.

little league2

These are Little Leaguers. More than 3,500 of them paraded around the ballpark before the game. It took more than an hour. The Orioles said “hi.”

Once again, I am besieged by protective netting. Let’s play “Guess The Infielder!”

??????????

Gold Glove Shortstop J.J. Hardy.

Lombo bw

Second Baseman Steve Lombardozzi.

markakis ghost

It’s a trick! It’s Right Fielder Nick Markakis playing first base, subbing for the injured Chris Davis.

bullpen

Obligatory bullpen shot. Hi fellas, stay warm!

clevenger bw

Orioles backup catch Steve Clevenger, born in Baltimore in the nearby neighborhood called Pigtown.

kid2

This is a kid who’s excited to be at a baseball game. He is a wide-eyed innocent who believes in his team and in a world that is just and fair.

sad kid

This is a kid whose favorite team is rolling over to the Royals. I think he’s aged a bit this afternoon, and from here on out every smile will be tinged with just a hint of sadness.

jjhardy bw compressed

Shortstop J.J. Hardy knew that if he stopped mid-game to pose for my photo he would get to appear in this post twice. Congratulations, Mr. Hardy.

despair fortune cookie

OK, maybe it’s too early to panic.

We’re number two.

 

Photos: Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland. April 27, 2014.

Kansas City Royals – 9.  Baltimore Orioles – 3. 

Free Baseball: “How Did Everything Go So Bad, So Fast?” Edition

Free Baseball refers to extra innings in a game.

You know the ones.Your team has a cozy, comfortable lead going into the late innings, and then the bullpen comes out, but things somehow start to go badly, the pitchers go sour and give up runs, lots of runs, homeruns, all sorts of runs, and the comfortable lead vanishes and suddenly the game is tied, and so the game continues for a few more innings, but your bats are cold, no one can hit, and you run out of relievers, and then you give up the game-winning run to the other team, and then the game is over, and you lost.  Then you go out and do the very same thing the next day.

Just hypothetical, of course.  Unless you’re a Baltimore Orioles fan, in which case, this is suddenly reality.

Sigh.

So, for your extra innings today … a few things to help settle the bullpen down, and to kill some time because it hurts just a little too much to talk about baseball today.

10th INNING ~ Get Smarter

Maybe our bullpen pitchers need to sharpen up the old coconuts. Get a little smarter, sharper, quicker.

A friend of mine recently turned me on to Lumosity.com, which offers you a few minutes of games and puzzles each day as a means to keep your mind sharp and your brain supple. My friend is pretty smart, so I thought I would give it a go. I’ve been at it for a month or so. I still don’t understand physics, but maybe I am a bit quicker at finding my car keys in the morning. So, progress.

lumosity

There’s a free version and a subscription version, which offers a few extra games each day. Try it out and let me know how you do feeding all those bloody confusing fish in that stupid koi pond.

11th INNING ~ Get Peaceful

Science has shown that meditation can soothe the mind and quiet the brain. Maybe it’s time to get your OM on. I heard a story this morning that reported on how meditation can help repair damage to the brain in soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You can find it here.

But, everyone can benefit from a bit of stillness. And, even if you’ve only got a minute … good enough. Try a one-minute meditation, here.

Maybe the bullpen pitchers can try a bit of quiet reflection, rather than flirting with the girls nearby, or throwing sunflower seeds at each other.

12th INNING ~ Get Bears!

So, if your team just got swept, your batters and your bullpen let you down (and no, my blog post about bullpens this week did not jinx them … it couldn’t of, could it?), then the only thing left are bear cubs.

The Wildlife Center of Virginia has 16 of them … and they’re all on the Critter Cam. You really do need to watch them. You’ll forget all about how your favorite team let you down this week.  Watch here (try Cam 1 … that’s where they’re usually hanging out.)

bears

photo courtesy of the Wildlife Center of Virginia

Oh God, they’re so cute.

Enjoy this free baseball … the Orioles’ amazing comeback begins tomorrow!

In Praise Of The Bullpen

“The two most important things in life are good friends and a strong bullpen.” ~ Bob Lemon (Cleveland Indians Pitcher, 1941-1958. Manager of the Royals, White Sox, & Yankees.)

What’s the difference between my good friends and the Orioles’ bullpen?

None of my friends melted down on Monday night. (Also, not as much spitting. Thank you for that.)

The Baltimore Orioles’ bullpen fell apart Monday night in Arizona. (It’s was a pitchfork-hot 108 in Phoenix yesterday, but that was nothing compared to the meltdown inside Chase Field.)

One by one the Oriole relievers came out to the mound. One by one, they gave up runs. Tying runs, go ahead runs, tying runs, go ahead runs.

Finally, with the game tied in the ninth, Darren O’Day, the trusty sidearmer, came out, threw one ball – just one lousy pitch. Emphasis on lousy. Homerun. Game over.

Oh sure, we all have bad days. But, I’m grateful that I don’t have thousands of people peering over my shoulder, second-guessing, and jeering when I have mine. It’s a gift, I think, to endure a bad day in the shadows … where no one can see you sulk.

The Orioles weren’t the only team with a leaky bullpen last night. By the end of the night, there were three blown saves recorded in that game. THREE. And, only one belonged to the Orioles. The Diamondbacks won, despite two blown saves from their relievers.

So, a bad night to be a reliever.

Baseball fans say that a lot.

But, instead of jeering and heckling and second-guessing, I’m here to praise the bullpen. The Orioles bullpen. Every bullpen.

Next to Umpires, the most thankless job in baseball.

It’s where starting pitchers are punished. A few bad outings, a few hinky pitches, and a starting pitcher is banished to the ‘pen. One is seldom “promoted” to the bullpen.

(And, how about the use of “hinky” in a sentence? I should stop right now.)

It’s where mascots are crammed together, squeezed in tight with the relievers, as they await a race around the warning track.

??????????

If you look carefully, you can make out the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cat relievers in the bullpen trying to ignore all the mascots.

It’s where Minnesota Twins’ relievers spend a year patiently waiting for that one brief perfect moment to prank the cameras. Oh, come on I know you want to watch … here.

Twins punchout

It’s where pitchers catch homeruns in their caps.

It’s where rookies carry backpacks filled with candy and snacks. (What else is there to do while you wait for your starting pitcher to fall apart?)

sean doolittle

MLB.com @Cut4 via Twitter

A’s Reliever Sean Doolittle’s Twitter Bio says this: I get to play baseball with my friends for a living and sometimes they even let me be pitcher for an inning!

It’s where no one ever gets to be hero and everyone is the goat eventually.

When you come in from the bullpen and fail, most likely you’ve cost your team the game. Even the greatest bullpen pitchers will fail from time to time. (Yes, even Mariano Rivera.)

They will be booed and heckled. Mercilessly. By the time they come into the game, your nastiest hecklers are already well into their cups … many, many beers to the wind. The more beer, the louder and stupider the heckle. It’s a fact.

When bullpen pitchers succeed, when they hold the lead, you won’t hear a word. The batters will be rewarded for scoring plenty of runs. The starting pitcher will be lauded for not letting a game get away. The bullpen? Hey, they were just doing their job.

Remember Jay? My new favorite thing to do is bounce ideas off of him. So, Jay, what do you have to say about relievers?

It is the nature of the role that relief pitchers make you nervous. The term “relief” implies you aren’t the real thing — you are on standby in case something happens – i.e., a relief valve. That is why relief pitchers got no respect at all until they invented euphemisms to class them up — thus, the “closer” – sounds important; “set-up guy” – sounds tricky; “long man” – actually sounds superfluous, but you get the idea.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong in a game. My Editor/Husband will moan like a cat with a hairball whenever a bad play unfolds. But, when the bullpen gets lit up, that’s when he gets really animated. (“Animated” is sort of like heckling but without all the beer.)

A position player can strike out once or twice in a game. But, as soon as he does this … all is forgiven.

crush landing

A starting pitcher can have a tough first inning, but somewhere tonight in America a broadcaster will say, “He’s settled down from a shaky first.”

Bullpen pitchers don’t have the luxury of a shaky first.

So, the Orioles bullpen had a bad night. But, they’ve had plenty more good nights.

So, yay, for the bullpen.

And, relievers everywhere.

For Moe Drabowsky, the wacky prankster. For Mike Marshall, who in 1974 became the first reliever to win the Cy Young (and in true quirky reliever fashion actually became a big league pitcher simply because he wanted to study pitching arm injuries for his PhD.)

And, for every reliever who has had a bad game … or blown a save (or two or seven). Rest up, guys, because we’ll need you to be ready to try again for us tomorrow.