Welcome To The Club

The Baltimore Orioles were “Sweep … Swept … Swupt” by the Cubs this weekend. They were clobbered. Drubbed. Smooshed. Crushed. Laid to waste.

This morning, the O’s are nine games back in the AL East and tied for last (Good morning, last-mate Blue Jays!). They are seven games under .500.

The Orioles’ starting rotation’s ERA is 6.02 which is nearly the worst in baseball (thank you, Reds starters, whose 6.04 ERA has kept the O’s pitchers out of last place. At least for now).

How will I know it’s over? I’ll know it’s over when the beat writers headline their morning wrap-up “Available Orioles” … when fans hashtag their O’s tweets with #DumpsterFire and #Sell … and when in-the-knowsters like Ken Rosenthal name the teams that, like hungry dogs, are circling the Orioles looking for players.

(Uh-oh.)

I wrote a poem for you.

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A Call To Arms

No matter who you are – your gender, ethnicity, country of origin, or age – if you win something big, you will raise your arms in victory.

Doesn’t matter who you are … your arms go up. It’s hardwired in you.

(The scientists who study this would want me to tell you that the arm-raise often comes with a chest puff and a shout. They call this behavior the “dominance threat display.”)

Researchers studying the activities of blind Para-Olympians discovered the very same thing. They raise their arms, too.

Even though most of these blind people had never seen anyone else do it, they instinctively raised their arms with joy upon winning a competition.

The feeling of winning, it seems, is uniformly uniform.

In other experiences, we’re individuals. The foods we like, the people we’re drawn to, what makes us laugh. We’re all a little different.

Except when we win.

When we win, we throw our arms in the air.

So, on June 24, when University of Virginia pitcher Nathan Kirby soundly struck out Kyle Smith of Vanderbilt looking, ending the College World Series and bringing UVa their first-ever national baseball championship, Kirby did exactly what evolution told him to do.

Allow Nathan Kirby, now a member of the Milwaukee Brewers organization, to demonstrate the “dominance threat display.”

But, here’s the funny thing.

I was sitting a thousand miles away from Omaha, watching on television. And, I raised my arms, too.

(I may have also whoo’d. Can’t remember. Sometimes I skip the whoos because I don’t want to annoy the cats.)

You may wonder why it has taken me more than a month to tell you that UVa won the College World Series.

I’m not sure I know the answer.

I’ve never really had a team I follow win anything like this before, so I’m not sure how to throw my arms up in the air on a blog without sounding gloaty or pompous or just annoying.

I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

(Dear Vanderbilt fans, I’m very sorry the Hoos beat you.)

(Dear Everybody Else, I’m not really, but I just don’t know what else to say to them.)

UVa wasn’t expected to win. Heck, they weren’t even expected to go to the post-season. They barely made it to their own ACC tournament and, frankly, they were awfully stinky once they got there.

But, baseball is a funny game and on any given day a team can suddenly find the rhythm they’ve been missing all season.

If you still don’t believe how improbable this was, just take a look at the tee-shirt that the NCAA had to hastily doctor to celebrate Virginia’s win.

ncaa teeshirt

Thanks, Ron! :)

Yes, the UVa championship tee-shirt … features Vanderbilt gold.

vandy logo

UVa logo

Thanks, NCAA.

I know it was a month ago, but I still want to share three special moments from UVa’s post-season.

Because, like throwing your arms in the air, these three moments are universally wonderful, regardless of whether you’re a UVa fan, or a college baseball fan, or any baseball fan (except, maybe, Vanderbilt’s).

1) That Smack Down.

In Game 2 of the Super Regionals in Charlottesville on June 5, the Hoos entered the bottom of the 9th down 4-2 to the University of Maryland. It was must-win for Maryland. The Terps starting pitcher, who had pretty much shut down the Hoos all day, loads the bases. No outs. Maryland brings in their can’t-fail closer Kevin Mooney.  He walks in a run. 4-3.  And then, UVa freshman Ernie Clement does this …

ernie clement supers

Check out Clement after the hit (at 1:41). 

Former UVa Hoo and current Oakland A reliever Sean Doolittle helpfully provides the part I’d like you to watch again.

An exceptional display of victory arms, don’t you think?  The smack-down? That’s junior Kevin Doherty.

I believe this is a lesson for all of us. Throwing your arms in the air can feel really good if you’ve just won a trip to the College World Series. But, it puts you in a tough spot should a jubilant teammate wish to make you the flaky crust of a dogpile pie.

2) That Play.

UVa senior Kenny Towns has been “Old Reliable” down at third throughout his college career.

When the Angels picked him late in the 20th round of the MLB draft this year, I thought, wow, they just got themselves a player that’s much, much better than any scout realizes.

(When you see Towns and Trout in the same lineup someday, you’ll think back and say, “That Baseball Bloggess sure was right. I bet she’s cute, too.”)

After the Series I had more people email, text, and mention this play to me than any other. And, they’re right. I love amazing plays in the hot corner. And, this one was nasty, hot, and sweet like when you tell the waiter you want your vindaloo “Indian hot” and he believes you.

3) That Dogpile.

Baseball Prospectus determined that the first World Series dogpile – run, jump, fall into a heap – was done by the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals. 

Take a look … victory arms, dogpiling, fans swarming the field. Wait? Fans swarming the field? What kind of savages were we? Watch here.

Prior to ’82, there was a lot of running, hugging, and weird, awkward jumping around. But, no dogpiles. Prior to 1962, most winning teams didn’t even stick around to hoot and holler. The game ended and they simply ran off the field to party in the clubhouse.

So, celebratory dogpiles are younger than my little Metropolitan dumpling Bartolo Colon (look, I’ve mentioned him again!).

I’m not sure that this is the most perfect, wonderful dogpile in baseball history.

Wait. I’ve watched it again.

Yup.

It is.

 

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.” ~ “Nuke” Laloosh, Bull Durham.  

National Public Radio recently suggested that, as we age, we lose our competitive drive. We play fewer sports, ergo we are less interested in winning or losing.

Some researchers speculate that this lost interest in playing sports – and in winning – comes from the “negative reactions to not winning” in our youth. In other words, blame your parents for Earl Weavering at your Little League games and for instilling in you the old adage, “It’s not whether you win or lose, Sweetie. It’s just win.”

I don’t usually argue with NPR. And, I realize that taking offense to this implies that I’m somehow older than I realized.  (Young enough to still remember what I heard on NPR a week ago, but old enough to use Earl Weaver to make a point.)

Do fewer people over 40 or 50 play sports?

Well, sure. Point, NPR.

Not everybody can hang in like an Ichiro Suzuki or Bartolo Colon, the 42-year-old New York dumpling, who gets more endearing with every additional year and every extra pound.

bartolo2

Look Out!

But, unlike Bartolo, it gets a little harder to find time to play as we get older. Sure, we lose the physical ability. Who wants to get tackled on a football field when you’ve already got bursitis?

But, we also lose the time. We lose opportunities and, eventually, teammates.

Hey, we’ve got better things to do than volleyball anyway.

I hate volleyball. One time in junior high I was hit in the face by a volleyball, cracking my glasses and bending my headgear up toward my nose.

Yes, I wore a headgear. As though wearing braces wasn’t humiliating enough. You can stop chortling now. (You know I can’t hear you.)

In any event, is there no wonder I hate volleyball? That upon leaving high school, I promised myself there would be no time in my life where I would ever – ever – play volleyball again? Screw you corporate team-building retreats. Family picnics, or that awful weekend at the beach with friends who binge-played volleyball and Pictionary, which is even more hateful than volleyball, except that a game of Pictionary never crushed my teenage headgear.

no volleyball

There are even anti-volleyball tee-shirts! Clearly I’m not the only one with headgear stories.

But, just because volleyball sucks, doesn’t mean that I’m no longer competitive. I still like to win.

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