In The Air

“I love playing this game and every spring training feels like the first.”, said Rickey Henderson. ‘People who write about spring training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball.’ stated Sandy Koufax. Harry Carey, the great announcer for the Cardinals, the A’s, the White Sox and the Cubs gave us a fans perspective. ‘It’s the fans that need spring training. You gotta get ’em interested. Wake ’em up and let ’em know that their season is coming, the good times are gonna roll.’

Everyone has a different view of how spring training is part of the most wonderful times in our lives. Spring training is all about hope. Today, it is in the 70’s in Arizona and Florida. The air is beginning to warm up. No clouds in the high, blue sky.  With very little wind, it is a great spring day. For those in Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati, its a different story. And it it that which makes spring training the first ray of hope of the coming year.

Down on the 101 in Scottsdale, the sound of bats hitting balls, balls slamming into gloves is loud and clear. At Camelback Ranch, the same sounds are beginning to be heard. Twenty miles apart, the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers begin their training ahead of all the others because they will be playing in the first regular season series of the year…down under in Australia at the end of March while the other big league teams are reaching their peak of spring training.

Steve Earle probably summed it up best when he rambled, ‘I love baseball. I’ll probably be one of this old farts going to spring training and drive from game to game all day.’ It’s that kind of wonderful dream many desire and dream about but few achieve. Chasing that dream to see our heroes in the cathedrals of spring is never ending.

But that is what spring training is all about. It is now the season of hope. Now we know this winter of misery will end. Baseball is back. Our worries are over.

Play Ball!

Eight Eyes Fail Sight Test

There they were. Gathered in the night, with a close game at hand, the home team Cleveland Indians were hanging on to a one run lead when up to the plate stepped Adam Rosales.

Last season,the Oakland A’s, Rosales’ team, won the Western Division of the American League by one game. On this night, they were trailing by one and all they hoped was to get one more run to have the change to win the game.

Road wins are always better.

This is the way Billy’s ball players do it. Come back late in the game after hanging the fans out to dry, and then snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. But that is not when Angel Hernandez and his band of daffy umpires rule on a play during a game. Beware baseball fans if this crew descends upon your city and calls the balls and strikes along with fair and foul balls.Which get us to ruling on a ball that went into the stands in left center field hit a railing behind the wall and dropped back onto the field where most of the 14,000+ fans in Cleveland and nearly everyone else in the stadium believed it was a home run.

Adam Rosales go the Hernandez WigWag.

This little know part of the game is when an umpire crew headed by one Angel Hernandez looks at a play, then goes into the video replay booth and comes out claiming they didn’t have a clear enough view of the play. They called Rosales shot into the stands a double, not a home run.

Rozales protested. But went back to second base.

The A’s manager, Melvin, protested. He went to take a shower after being thrown out by this daffy crew.

The world protested. We have not been heard. The Commish ain’t listening to people like us who treat baseball like a religion.

This past week in baseball has been a mess with umpires making bad calls and no calls at all. One umpire was suspended for two games. Three others fined.

But the problem here is that an umpiring crew made a call that was clearly wrong in every one’s eyes. Eight eyes were not enough in Cleveland on this night when the A’s were robbed of a chance to win a game.

The solution suggest here is that Major League Baseball have a former retired umpire placed in the stands for every single game and have the right to call for a replay and review it himself. Perhaps it now takes five sets of eyeballs to make the right decision. Can ten eyes get it right?

The game demands accuracy. It is time to understand technology exists and we must use it even if Sir Bud of Selig Ford or Chevrolet waffles back and forth and forth and back on this issue.

Bruce Froemming in the stands is better than four umps on the field these days. Knowing Bruce is looking down should scare the living bugs out of these umps. They won’t be traveling with these crews and becoming ‘buds’ but will stay at home at one site throughout the season. Bruce and other fellow retired big league umps have a new payday ahead of them. And this time, the fans are demanding it.

Play Ball!

It Was A Season To Forget For 29 Others

The San Francisco Giants are champions of baseball, once again. Their sold out season at home was a testament to their power in the West and throughout all of the game. The center of attention come spring will be Scottsdale. That is where they will begin to defend their title this past season and second in the past three years. For other teams it was a season to forget.

In Miami, what should have been a season to remember, became a nightmare quicker than you can say Fidel Castro. Of course when Ozzie said those two words, the beginning of the end began. Ozzie is no longer the manager of the Miami Marlins. He’s out of the fish tank. Now he can spout off about the aged dictator in Cuba all he wants with his profanity laced vocabulary. Así que lo siento. Me encanta el béisbol.

In Boston there was a tea party like only Beantown can deliver. They had fired the most successful manager in their history, who won not one but two World Series supposedly because he had lost control of his team. Guys were actually drinking beer in the clubhouse. Imagine that. Baseball players drinking beer in the clubhouse. After that horrible discovery was blabbed throughout New England on every fish wrap and sports talk mediums, there was a long debate between the candidates they would select as the next great Red Sox manager. Suffice to say the guy they should have taken grabbed the job with the Cubs before the Red Sox decided on Bobby Valentine. Yikes!

In Philadelphia and Milwaukee, great pre-season pitching staffs do not materialize to automatically put them into the playoffs. In Minneapolis, they found out that you can’t have a team built around one high-priced catcher. On the North side of Chicago, Dale Sveum is facing, like others who have taken over that franchise before him, another losing season which must be followed with a winning season or Sveum will have swum. On the South side of Chicago, they let a season of great leadership by one of their own disintegrate in September. St. Louis, Atlanta and Cincinnati had hopes crushed by the tidal wave known as the Giants. Arizona’s owner showed how he knows more about baseball than anybody because he has all the baseball cards Topps has ever printed. That makes him an authority. Unfortunately, Gibson can’t manage cardboard players. Houston was seen rushing over to the American League. They forgot to play ball in 2012.

Seattle had a season to remember. They gave up the greatest player in the game to the Yankees but had more great pitching performances at their stadium than anywhere on the planet ever. They are smiling in Seattle. Same with the fans in Washington, DC, where they were rewarded with a team that brought the city their first divisional championship. Quite an accomplishment for a City that had not seen a title winner since 1933.

Pittsburgh did it again. After a hot start, they faded badly. What do you expect from a team  that is managed by Clint Hurdle. Cleveland was never in the papers the entire season. Nor were the Padres. The New York Mets were non-factors this past season. Colorado disappeared in their own thin air plus their manager left after the season. Kansas City’s only claim to fame this season was hosting the All-Star game. The two ‘T-Towns’, Toronto and Tampa Bay had flashes of brilliance but not enough to put them in the big dance. On top of that, the Blue Jays lost their manager who became the head dude of the Boston Valentines.

Then there were the New York Yankees. The rapid loss of skills of A-Rod and the physical loss of The Captain, doomed the pinstripers this past season. In Dallas, the almost unexplainable coldness of Hamilton’s bat late in the season doomed the Rangers third attempt to win it all in three straight seasons. This franchise still hasn’t realized it needs pitching to win. Did you hear that Nolan Ryan? Remember what you did better than most? It wasn’t hitting. And what can you say about Detroit that hasn’t already been said?

That brings us to Baltimore. What a magical season Buck Showalter brought to baseball. 93 wins. Finally, Buck got his due. After rebuilding the Yankees and then getting fired; after building the Diamondback from scratch and setting all of the pieces together to win the World Series and got fired; after rebuilding the Rangers before he got fired; he took over a team that had won only 66 games the year before he got there and in two short years took them to the door of greatness.

Then there is Oakland and Billyball. The Athletics won the American League West title. And they played for the Championship of the American League. Go ahead. Name three players on the A’s besides Coco Crisp. They won an exciting 94 games. This was one of the most amazing stories in baseball. Billy Bean for President. He is the star of this franchise. Nobody understands the game better…on how to get the most out of talent like Mr. Bean.

On the other side of the equation is the Battle for LA. On one hand there is a billionaire who  bought a pig in a poke and thought he could win the American League pennant and finished third. On the other hand there are billionaires who not only  have to improve a team on the field but a stadium they play in and make it once again safe to go and see games. The Pujols Angels were only exciting because of one rookie. Their manager finally showed what he is made of. Arte has to take a look at his manager if he hopes to capture a title soon. As for the former LaLa Dodgers, they have gotten rid of all that has been bad over the past couple of years by taking out of the game the battling McCourts.

Which leads us to the Giants of San Francisco. Jack Elliot once said “Baseball is grown men getting paid to play a game.” In the City by the Bay, men enjoyed playing baseball this season like few before them. The had food fights before the games. One of their biggest boosters was an injured pitcher who played Ernie Kovacs routine of The Nairobi Trio in the dugout during the game. There were more than smiles. There was laughter and joy of being in a game they love to play. Pandemonium ruled. They put new gas into the gashouse gang. Think of them as the laughing gasers. They have all winter to smile the smile of victory.

Play Ball!