Brandon Phillips is a good sport

In St. Louis (or at least in Busch Stadium) Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips is public enemy number one.  Last Aug – as many of you remember – Phillips was quoted by the media saying some not-so-nice things about the Cardinals.  It was printed on the first day of a 3 game series between the two teams at Great American Ballpark.

“I’d play against these guys with one leg. We have to beat these guys. I hate the Cardinals. All they do is bitch and moan about everything, all of them, they’re little bitches, all of  ’em. I really hate the Cardinals. Compared to the Cardinals, I love the Chicago Cubs. Let me make this clear: I hate the Cardinals.”

The Cards chose higher ground, and took the field to play as if nothing had happened.  That is, until Phillips stirred the pot.  In his first at bat of the 2nd game, he gave catcher Yadier Molina a ‘love tap’ with his bat.  Yadi was not happy and words were exchanged.  Before you know it, benches cleared, bullpens emptied and a full out brawl was underway.

A local tee-shirt company in St. Louis called Rina Wear, known for their comical and sometimes not-so-nice verbiage, made a shirt I couldn’t resist.  It has the Reds logo with Phillips’ name in it, and underneath it said “St. Louis’ Bitch”.  I folded it to hide the bottom half, and was able to get Phillips to sign it.  He never saw what it really said, but I rather enjoyed it.  (I was even offered $100 for my shirt later that night)

This year – Phillips gave me more to work with.  When he got to St. Louis he tweeted that his teammates were asking him about a good place to eat here.  He told them he’d take them to the store to get lunchables.  (I gotta say – this guy is kinda funny)  Sunday during batting practice (wearing my signed, anti-Phillip’s shirt but folding my arms to hide the bottom) I called him over, showing him that I had a gift for him.  He came out – then doubled back to grab one of his bats – and walked right to me.  We exchanged his bat for the red and black gift bag I had put together earlier in the day, and my mom took this pic.  He seemed excited to be receiving a gift; he even asked me for a hug.

I wasn’t expecting the bat – and I actually felt a little bad as he walked off into the clubhouse having not yet opened his gift.  I’m sure when he did – finding a lunchable inside – he got a good laugh out of it.  I also slid a picture of my shirt in the bag – with a note thanking him for signing it!  He must have been thinking “Damn!  That bitch got me TWICE!”  (The next time CIN came to STL, he did come out to sign my bat, so he couldn’t have been too mad lol.)

Brandon Phillips – I hope you enjoyed your fine complimentary dinner last night.  Thanks for the bat, and thanks for being a good sport!

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Rick’s still got love for the Lou

Cardinals fans know the story and know it well.  It’s the Cinderella story of one-time pitching phenom turned center fielder and hitting phenom Rick Ankiel.  Eleven years ago the 21 year old rookie left hander came to the Major Leagues and won 11 games as a starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, helping the team into the playoffs.  But the pressure of October baseball, or perhaps being the Game 1 starter, proved to be too much to handle as he sailed wild pitch after wild pitch to the backstop.  He was sent back to the minor leagues to try and work out his problems in hopes that he could one day return to the stellar form of an ace in the making.

Now when a young pitcher is trying to get signed, he typically throws a few sessions for management to show them what he’s got.  But after Ankiel showcased his talents from the mound – he refused to let the decision makers leave until they also watched him hit.  Wait – that’s right.  He made them watch him – a pitching prospect – hit.  This kid knew he could hit and wanted to make sure they knew it, too.

After spending several years in the minors, unsuccessfully able to recover from his pitching meltdown, he decided to give up.  He made a decision to walk away from what he thought was his best God-given talent – the ability to pitch a breaking ball that drops off a shelf and win games for his team by dominating from the mound.  Though he was done with pitching, he wasn’t done with baseball.  He spent 2-1/2 more years in the minors – this time working on his hitting and fielding skills – so he could try to make it back to the show as an outfielder.  Throughout all of this – he remained in the Cardinals organization, a club that refused to give up on him.  Eventually he did make it back, and he even hit a home run in his Major League Re-debut in front of a packed Busch Stadium.  I was there, and it truly was a touching moment.  (Even Tony LaRussa, who is rarely seen smiling, was grinning ear to ear as Ankiel made his trot around the bases.)

Rick is now a member of the Washington Nationals, who are currently in town to play the Cardinals.  To show his deep appreciation for the fans of St. Louis and how much their willingness to stand by him meant as he worked his way back, he took out a half page add in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

The quote reads:

“Many Thanks to Cardinals’ fans and the City of St. Louis for your support and cheers over the years.  It was a privilege and an honor.” 

Ankiel may not wear a Cardinal uniform anymore and he may sit in the 3rd base dugout now when he plays at Busch Stadium, but I have a feeling that in reference to his baseball career – he considers St. Louis to be his home.  We raised him, broke him down and built him back up, all the while refusing to give up on him, just as he refused to give up on baseball.

Rick – I think I speak for Cardinal fans everywhere when I say congratulations and good luck to you – even when your playing against us.


Everyone wears 42

Yesterday – April 15 – marked the 64th anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by making his debut into Major League Baseball.  An infielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he stood up for his rights and the rights of all people of color despite the difficulties he would face for it.

When he came up to bat catchers would spit on his cleats.  Pitchers often threw at his head or his legs.  He received countless hate mail and even death threats.  Some of the death threats were very specific.  A man once wrote to Jackie that he was going to shoot him during the game on a certain day.  Jackie told his teammates before the game that he understood if they didn’t want to sit near him in the dugout for fear of a bad shot hitting them by mistake.  Regardless of all of these things – Jackie played ball.  And he played it well.

Jackie’s father, not a man of fidelity, split when he was an infant, leaving his mother to single-handedly raise her four kids.  He excelled as an adolescent in football, basketball and track in addition to baseball.  He spent some time in the army and was court martialed for refusing to sit in the back of the bus.  (Charges were eventually dropped and he was honorably discharged.)  He then went on to play in the Negro League and eventually – for the Dodgers.

 Jackie was named Rookie of the Year and later won MVP awards as well.  Martin Luther King, Jr. has credited Jackie Robinson with starting the civil rights movement as his debut in baseball marked the first major integration of blacks and whites.  He accomplished so much and has earned the undying respect of people nationwide for decades, and that respect will likely carry forward for who knows how long.

Yesterday every player in baseball wore number 42 on their backs to pay tribute to the great Jackie Robinson.  His number has been retired league wide (Mariano Rivera was grandfathered in and still wears 42 today) and every year we celebrate the many things that one brave man accomplished.

Thank you Jackie Robinson.  Your courage and talents changed baseball, and America, forever.


My blog may not be much, but at least it’s about baseball…

As some of you know (and many of you don’t know) I recently applied for a job at MLB that they were calling the “MLB Dream Job”.  Obviously I didn’t get it – as I was competing with approximately 10,000 other people and hardly possess an “encyclopedic knowledge” of the game.  (I knew I was a long shot but just had to apply.)  The job was to consist of residing in NYC and spending a great deal of time in a setup that was conducive to being able to watch every single game throughout the baseball season.  (For those of you who are mathematically challenged – that’s 2,430 games in all.)  Using social media such as facebook and twitter, as well as their own website for the MLB Fan Cave, the Dream Jobbers would then talk about everything baseball.  They would be expected to attend media events, press conferences and other baseball related things, plus have the opportunity to entertain various players and celebrities as they stopped by the “Fan Cave” and write about what they were seeing and experiencing.

Having not gotten the job – I was still excited to see how it all turned out!  I was eager to know more about the guys who had beaten me out for the job I was almost slightly qualified for, and to see exactly what fun stuff they get to experience.  MLB hired two guys – Mike O’Hare, aka Mikey Oh, and as his wingman Ryan Wagner.  Both guys seem to be a good fit for the Fan Cave in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and held their own while being quizzed extensively about baseball by the MLB Network’s staff.  Their resumes are extensive and their video submissions make mine look like I recruited my 5-year-old niece to direct it.  Mostly though, I was looking forward to having a one-stop-shopping blog that could keep me up to speed with everything baseball, as well as being entertained by their witty style and interesting stories.

So far I have been disappointed.  The blogs have been about a variety of things, some of which only slightly relate to baseball, and many not at all.  Writing about Joe Maddon being ejected from a game is great if the blog talks about the conflict that caused the ejection, or managers who are commonly hot heads and get ejected, or whether or not you agree with ejections – presenting various arguments for and against it, or how a team’s manager being ejected affects the rest of their game…  But instead the blog was nothing more than a mere mention of him being thrown out with a description of how sharp he looked as he argued with the umps.  It did state that his cool and trendy attitude is a good fit for the young Ray’s, but I would have liked an elaboration on how and why his style works so well with his players.

Maybe I have misunderstood the concept.  According to the “About” tab on the MLB Fan Cave’s page – Mikey Oh and Ryan Wagner are supposed to blog about their day-to-day experiences in the fan cave and about…pop culture?  Really??  Because that doesn’t exactly make sense to me.  Let’s put 2 guys in front of 15 screens and make them watch every single baseball game that is played in the 2011 season, up to 15 games a day, and have them talk about Snookie retiring from Pro Wrestling and Harry Potter’s graduation from Hogwarts.  I mean obviously that requires “encyclopedic knowledge” of the game of baseball and obviously you can’t write about those things having not seen every baseball game to date. . .is anyone else confused?

Listen – I know that these guys are as new to this job as this job is to – well – existence.  And I’ve enjoyed some of the blogs on things like stadium foods and tweeting your beer vendor.  But it seems like there should be a larger focus on baseball and less on pop culture.  I, personally, would prefer to read about player analysis, team analysis, even division analysis; who’s hot and who’s not, bloopers and big plays, fantasy impact on the rise and fall. . .I want to read about what is currently going on in baseball!  Is that so much to ask from a couple of guys who are living the dream and being paid to do nothing but watch the games and hang out with the players?!  Because honestly, from what I’ve read – I’m over-qualified for that job.


And so it begins. . .

First of all – let me apologize.  Here I am starting a blog, telling everyone I know to read it, subscribe to it and tell all your friends all about it….and then I stop posting!  Aghhh – what a pain-in-the-ass am I? 

Well, first off – writing a blog is not exactly difficult, but it’s not exactly easy either.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time lately learning how to use all the gadgets and menus and widgets and blogrolls…and spent very little time writing.  Also – I work a full-time job that often takes up far more than 40 hours a week, and it’s a little hard to keep up with all of baseball and write about it.  But I promise I will try my best do a better job moving forward.  So, with that said….

What a start it has been to the 2011 season!  This year seems to have everything off base (pardon the pun).  So far we’ve seen a bottom rung team start off 6-0 (BAL) and a top pick for the WS start off 0-6 (BOS).  We’ve seen the reigning WS Champs struggle to play .500 ball (SF).  Pujols can’t hit – except into double plays, and a random rookie from PIT has had a hit in each of his first 10 games! (Pujols is batting .229 and is on pace to hit just over a dozen homers this year.  Jose Tabata, PIT, didn’t get a hit in his 11th game but did still get on base.)  Jeter is struggling.  Hanley sucks.  Cliff Lee’s ERA is reaching for 8.00!!  Now wrap your head around this: Some sources list the #1 overall player in the game so far this year as – Dan Haren, LAA!  And right behind him is Jared Weaver, LAA at #2!!  With somewhere around a dozen games behind us, things sure aren’t looking as many would have expected.  The thing to remember here is that baseball is a marathon, not a sprint.

While many teams are playing uncharacteristically good or bad, the season is young and a lot can change before the pennant race…or as quick as a single 3 game series.  Chances are both the Red Sox and the Giants will get into their grove and be contenders down the stretch.  The Orioles will likely lose more games than they are right now and slip into a more familiar spot near the bottom of the standings.  Pujols will start hitting the ball into orbit and Tabata will go 0-for.  Cliff Lee’s ERA will plummet, Hanley will improve and Jeter will, well, age.   As far as those 2 angel’s pitchers?  Well I doubt they’ll remain in the top 2 spots in all of baseball.  What is interesting though, is that a lot of teams and players can surprise you.  How a team looks on paper can vary drastically from how they play on the field.  It will be interesting to see how these oddities normalize themselves and which teams and players will shock the baseball world with above-their-potential abilities.

What I find entertaining is how quickly the fans will turn on a guy (or an entire team) who’s slumping for a mere handful of games.  I’ve heard numerous people already talking about Pujols, saying things like the bastard should have signed when he had a good deal in front of him…the way he sucks right now he’ll be lucky to get $20 million for 7 years…let the Cubs have him!  Seriously people??  He’s off to a slow start and yes I’m frustrated about it.  But give the man a break – he’s put in 11 solid, awesome, amazing,freakishly phenomenal seasons, and you want to toss him aside over a rough couple of weeks??  I know — the at-bats are piling up and the man just doesn’t seem to have it, but the offense around him looks to have finally kicked in.  Lets see if that can spark him and give him a few more games before we castrate him and curse him to the Cubs of all teams!

Other interesting tidbits in baseball thus far – Bud Selig completed 1,000 consecutive days riding a bike.  No – seriously.  Now that’s no Cal Ripkin, but is worth noting (or so I read).  This week celebrated the 134th anniversary of the catcher’s mask.   Where would our backstops be without that?!  On a more serious note – a Giants fan, Bryan Stow, decided to attend the team’s season opener in LA against the Dodgers and was beaten to a pulp in the parking lot outside the game by several Dodgers fans.  He remains in critical condition as teams, fans and others raise money and support for the victim and his family.  Seriously people – I love baseball and I love a good rivalry – but to resort to violence just because someone likes another team more than yours?  Are you 14 years old?  WTF?