It’s Spring

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There is something magical about Spring Training. It is not like the games you see in the season. Everyone in the stands are full of laughter and hope. Families bring their kids who can crawl on the grass and not even know that the player a few feet away is Ryan Braun. Because that is not what is important.

For the players, it is another day when smiles are on their faces as well. It is time to get into the rhythm of the game. Catch up with the fastball. Fire the ball right where you want it. Get a feel for the ball. Work on catching up with the slider. Get that winning feeling back.

It is a time when you get to see the stars of the game in a relaxed mood. The pitchers are just warming up as they throw to their 48 pitch count which will now be expanded to get ready for Opening Day. For some, the form already appears to be there. Sergio Romo, was on fire as his slider this week was amazing, especially as he completely fooled Kris Davis with the winning runners on base retiring the side and taking the win for San Francisco, with slider, after slider.

Kris Davis, for those who have not seen him at the ballpark this season, is doffing a Mohawk. Which brings us to the question: how does that ‘Do’ fit into that hat?

The fans are here to enjoy. The ‘where are you from’ is inevitable. The guy to the right of us on Friday was form a town in Wisconsin that I had never heard of. He informed us all that it was near Richland Center. When asked if there was anyone left in town now that he and his three friends had made the journey down, he informed us that his wife was still there and that she would have loved the weather. The fellow on my left was from nearby but was a Dodger fan. He is still confused about letting Kemp go. A woman in front of us showed off her amble assets and gave us all an opportunity to see the Diamondbacks logo in a whole new light…repeatedly. Which brought out a stern warning for a guy behind us as his wife (not from near Richland Center) said, ‘Stop looking’! To which he responded ‘I’m at a ball game. What am I supposed to do?’. She then knocked him over his head with a bag of Krackle Korn. Yup…there were smiles all around. ‘Go Diamond…..backs. Go.’ Or at least we think that was what was printed on her sort of cut-off jersey. You just have to love Spring Training Cactus League games.

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As the game progressed, the regulars walked from the dugout to the clubhouse after the fifth inning. They’ve had their at-bats. They smile and wave to the fans who are applauding them all the way down the line to the dugout. Lucroy is looking sharp as he appears over his hamstring issue. Garza, Lohse and Fiers walk down with the other Brothers of the Mound at about the same time calling it a day and heading for the links as Nelson pitched a good Spring outing. Peralta must have been resting as he was not to be seen. Aarmis did the unbelievable as he gave one of his game bats to you young boy in the front row which drew a standing ovation. Been to a lot of baseball games in my life but I have never seen a player give one of his gamers away like that.

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Over in the other dugout, there are two legit players who looked as good as ever. First is The Babe of Chase, Paul Goldschmidt, who looked in mid-season form. If only his team could win, he might be the MVP of the League. And, Mark Trumbo, is also in top form, driving in Goldy for the tieing run.

In the end, on a day when the old ballpark was nearly filled, and thousands on the grass around the outfield in front of the long line at the Leinenkugel Beer House in left center, along with the fans in the stands, sun-filled and still with smiles on their faces, enjoyed the 5-3 score in the home team’s favor. For them the point was to make sure their hope is still intact. For them, it was a day with family and friends, one that goes in the scrapbook of life, more for the parents and grandparents than their kids. But then again, on a beautiful spring day, one is reminded that her favorite thing about the ballpark in spring, in a text wishing she was here stated, eating funnel cake. Perhaps next year. Perhaps next year.

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But on this beautiful spring day, as the crowd wandered out following the path of the Racing Sausages, the questions in the mind could be heard, ‘Is this the year?’

It’s Spring.

Play Ball!

It’s Who’s Time

Labor Day weekend is a changing point for the fan. The first taste of ‘gridiron fever’ has been feed and few surprises developed, except for North Dakota State’s amazing upset. On the diamond, we already know who will be in and who will not make the playoffs, with a couple of exceptions. The biggest surprise of all is of course Pittsburgh. The Pirates will make the playoffs for the first time since the early ‘90s. Now it is time to make some predictions on who will win the big prizes and who will not be back. Of course, this is only one man’s view.

For the AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers. Nobody in modern baseball does what he does with a bat. There are only two that can be compared to him in the entire history of baseball…Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Yes. He’s that good. Yes. He is the MVP in all of baseball.

For the NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks. He plays in the middle of the night to most of the baseball world. So the world doesn’t know how good this young Gehrig really is. Stay up late one night and see the vision of young greatness.

For the AL Cy Young: Max Scherzer, Detroit Tiger. In one of the worst deals in baseball history, the Diamondbacks gave up on one of their true first round drafted superstars for who? Get this. In a three-team trade, Tigers get Scherzer for Edwin Jackson and sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees who sent Ian Kennedy to the D’Backs who was traded to San Diego for Matt Stites and Joe Thatcher. So, Scherzer (71-43) was traded for Thatcher (8-11 career). This year he is the best pitcher in baseball.

For the NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers. Inordinately talented, he is the best pitcher in the National League and perhaps in all of baseball. He is the one pitcher this year who ‘dominates’ in every game, even when he loses.

For the AL ROY: J.B. Shuck, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Batting .297 as lead-off hitter, he leads all American League rookies in hits. Has 2 HR and 33 RBIs. What makes this a tough choice is that he is from Ohio State but we needed someone from SoCal to offset THE Rookie of the Year in all of baseball. Saint Puig.

For the NL ROY: Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers. Descended from heaven, via Havana, and spread peace and grace upon Chavez Ravine as Düsseldorf mustard is to the Dodger Dog. OK. It’s Sunday. What do you want?

For AL Mgr Year: Ron Washington, Texas Rangers. With no star outfielder (Hamilton left for a place behind the Orange Curtain), half a season without their PEDBoy, without great pitching, he is in first place in the West and 16 ½ games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. This does not make Arte feel good.

For NL Mgr Year: Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers. Idiot sports radio babblers ranted about how he should be fired. Then St. Puig descended upon the masses and magic came from each and every decision Donny Ballgame made. Who should be fired? Sports radio personalities in the City of Angels. Who should be hired? Donny Ballgame. His team is 20 games ahead of the 2012 World Champion San Francisco Giants who went from first to worst.

BYE BYE

The AL GM: Jerry Dipoto, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, signed Pujols, Hamilton, traded Segura for Greinke, whom he couldn’t sign and keep. Left his manager hanging. He got rid of Segura, an All-Star shortstop. That alone should get him fired. Plus he doesn’t know how to sell billboard space.

The NL GM: Michael Hill, Miami Marlins, for working under Loria  He should be fired just for making the decision to accept the job and work for Loria. His team is the worst in baseball’s National League, 33.5 games behind division leading Atlanta.

The AL Mgr: Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals.  He should be fired because his name is Ned Yost, which rhymes with ‘most’ but leaves a taste of burnt toast. Neddly just doesn’t know how to manage, particularly young players.

The NL Mgr: Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee Brewers. He should be fired because he is not ready to be a manager. He cannot manage his players nor his coaches. Must have had over 100 lineup changes in first 130 games. His team is 20 games behind Pittsburgh.

The AL Coach: Jeff Manto, Chicago White Sox. Poorest hitting team in the AL and the  poorest performing team in nearly all of baseball. If you can’t hit, you can’t score. If you can’t score, you can’t win.

The NL Coach: Ed Sedar, Milwaukee Brewers, the worst 3B coach ever in the history of baseball.

It’s just one man’s opinion. Now let’s go out for one more month and ….

Play Ball!

Have You Seen Goldie Play?

Too often for those of you who live in the Eastern or Central time zones, ball scores and box scores from teams in the West simply are not available for a couple of days in the local newspapers. In the case of USA Today, it may not show up until Monday’s edition. Nothing that finishes past 8PM in the West rarely makes the Eastern or Midwestern papers.

That’s a shame because there are a number of things that are happening in the West this season that are really exciting stories. There’s a kid who was just called up for the Dodgers  this past week who is leading off, becoming one of only two players ever to hit 4 home runs in their first 5 games and is batting .435. His name: Puig…Yasiel Puig.

Then there is a fellow from the Valley of the Sun who is making everyone understand that this is the cornerstone of the Arizona franchise. And his team is leading the Western Division of the National League. His name is Goldie: Paul Goldschmidt.

It seemed nearly improbable that the San Francisco Giants would pitch to Paul Goldschmidt in the bottom of the 8th on Friday evening. They had just relieved a masterful Matt Cain for Jeremy Affeldt and proceeded to pitch to the National League’s RBI leader and potential MVP with runners on 1st and 2nd base. Miguel Montero was in the on deck circle. Montero was suffering with a .199 batting average and surely the Giants would pitch to Goldschmidt but with great care, probably walking him to load the bases and with a one run lead, hope that Miguel would hit into a double play.

But just when you think you have this game figured out, baseball managers more times than not, have brain cramps. Bruce Bochy, raise your hand.

On a 1-2 pitch, instead of tempting the odds, Affeldt released the pitch and (cue up the ‘The Natural‘ soundtrack) over the right centerfield fence the fastball landed in D’Back Heaven. Goldie then led the National League in RBI’s with 57 and the Diamondbacks padded their first place position in the Western Division.

Goldschmidt is batting .327, 74 hits, 15 home runs and 58 RBI’s.

This is the third season for the 25-year-old first baseman of the D’Backs, who came up with the team on August 1, 2011. The numbers he is putting up is no fluke. He led the minors in home runs before he was called up (30) and in his first game, coincidently against the Giants and Tim Lincecum, he blasted his first home run. Last night he batted in his 58 RBI which was the eighth straight game in which he has driven in a run, tieing the Diamondback’s record set by St. Luis Emilio Gonzalez (his miracle came on that beautiful November evening 2001, driving in the World Series, game 7 winning run off of New York Yankees great Mariano Rivera).

Paul Goldschmidt is the real deal. For all of you back East, put the name Goldschmidt on your All-Star ballot. He’ll be this years National League MVP early season leader.

Play Ball!