The “Los Angeles” Angels clinched the Western division last night, finally living up to their “potential” and bloated pay-roll. Their mellow, almost boring to the point of tears fans were given kudos for sticking around after the game and watching the Athletics’ Sean Doolittle achieve a karma-like implosion on the big screen as the Rangers scored 6 in the 9th to take the game 6-1. I think it is pertinent to understand that Doolittle had just come off of the disabled list a few days earlier but seeing that the A’s bullpen had decided to smear feces on its collective faces the past month or so, his comeback was seen as just slightly below the second coming of Jesus Christ himself. Mike Scioscia, who has the character of a stoned sloth summed it up this way, “Guys are aware that this is one little milestone that we need, and I think they’re proud of that, but we have a long way to go. I think these guys know the bigger prize that we need to keep our eyes on.” Well said, but let’s not forget that their pitching staff would be/and will be considerably worse than any team in the A.L. playoffs. Now the baseball world will be able to see the owner of the worst contract in Angels history, Josh Hamilton, do what he does best–swing at virtually everything, and look bad while doing it. His MVP season of 2010 feeling like decades ago as he is now just an average player at best when they can get him on the field. A’s fans also have no love for outfielder Kole Calhoun who complained about the Oakland fans in RF being “too loud” in Anaheim and actually had a few ejected. Perhaps I am looking at this with a jaundiced eye, but besides Mike Trout, Howie Kendrick and maybe Jeff Weaver this team just isn’t very likable. They are as homogenized as the city they play in. Here’s to hoping they choke on a giant chicken bone in the playoffs. Godspeed.
The A’s have continued their frustrating nose dive into oblivion, now only percentage points in front of the Mariners, and a half game above the Tigers. The slump is somehow baffling and understandable at the same time, and if the ball-club fails to make the post season it would be seen as the biggest collapse of the Wild Card Era. (and one of the biggest in baseball history in my opinion.) No team with the best record at the All Star break (again, in the Wild Card Era) has failed to make the playoffs. The season is rapidly coming to an end, and what was in the beginning that elicited pure joy now only brings feelings of deflation. Deflated enough to talk about a t-shirt….
I’ve owned this Eric Chavez t-shirt for many years now, almost too many to remember. It is faded, the letters/numbers are cracked, and I usually only wear it to bed or if I’m doing yard work. I cut the sleeves off of it a couple of years ago because I needed a sleeveless shirt for the unbearably hot summers. It’s comfortable and broken in just the way I like it. My girlfriend wants me to throw it away, but I refuse. That would be like tossing away a friend, and we have too many stories and experiences mutually shared.
Eric Chavez, who retired on July 30th, was the greatest 3rd baseman in Oakland A’s history. (Sorry, Sal Bando!) “Chavy” won the Gold Glove 6 times in a row, is 4th on the on the Oakland all time home run list with 230, (Bando is 6th with 192.) and is universally seen as one of the most beloved players that ever put on an Athletics uniform. It’s frustrating paying homage to a player in such dire times, yet Chavy’s legacy will live on– if only in the life of a battered t-shirt that covers a broken heart.
It is no secret among my cohorts that my sense of dislocation and fluid relationship to language gave me an extremely strong sense of the arbitrary when it came to systems of communication. In layman’s terms: I can see through the bullshit.
But, before I turn this into a slander against greedy owners, bitchy players, or “literary” based baseball blogs whose editors couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag; I would like to take a short walk down memory lane…. (if you can wade through the labyrinthine stories and digressions)
Jack Kerouac was a “be-bop” writer and one of my heroes as a teenager. I tried to dress like him (khakis, newsboy hat, white t’s) and even did funny things like taking hallucinogenic mushrooms in cemeteries and writing poetry. (anyone who sees this as “wrong” should probably analyze their own connection with a reality based culture in which facts, opinions and lies are interchangeable) Although my admiration had waned for “Ti Jean” by the time I had reached my 30’s, I was astounded when I had learned Kerouac had devised a fantasy baseball game as a child. The game was based on a set of cards that had precise verbal descriptions of various outcomes (“slow roller to SS or 2B,” for example), depending on the skill levels of the pitcher and batter. The game could be played using cards alone, although sometimes Kerouac determined the result of a pitch by tossing some sort of projectile at a diagramed chart on the wall. In 1956 he switched to a new set of cards, which used hieroglyphic symbols instead of descriptions. He collected their stats, analyzed their performances and wrote about them in homemade newsletters and broadsides. I, too, had played a similar game as a child, using baseball cards, dice and statistics; (this was how i figured out the E.R.A., an arduous task as a boy) keeping track of careers (this involved ungodly amounts of paper), sending players to the minors (yes, I had minor league systems too!) and conducting drafts. It was sort of therapeutic to find out that one of my idols had done something so cerebral and individualistic with the same obsessive quality that I had. This was a testament to my love for the game and a secret I had held close until now.
Thanks to Jim Nash for the personalized autograph. In the interviews I’ve listened to, you seem to be a good guy and have a lot of hilarious stories to tell.
Is it time to panic? Was it all wishful thinking? Do we have a rational chance?
I’m not sure if I wrote about the following experience on this blog. (I tend to write in the grand tradition of self-absorbed blow-hards…the tediousness still exists to this day.) We live in a world full of holes. That’s always how it seems with thoughts that transition into stories: one minute there’s nothing, and the next minute it’s there, already sitting inside you. Memories…
I was a bad kid. Juvenile hall and all that shit. My mom sent me to live with my grandparents when I was 16. I moved from Northern California to the southlands of Orange County. My grandparents ran a motel in Buena Park, Ca. not but 5 miles or so north of Anaheim. Grandpa and I used to go to Angels games now and then to see the likes of Gary Gaetti, Jim Abbott, Mark Langston, Chili Davis, and old man Jimmie Reese. (Babe Ruth’s roommate) Jimmie was an honorary coach because of his age and stature, and he would sign autographs and answer any questions the young kids had about baseball. I loved it and would ask him casual questions about the Babe. We were Oakland A’s fans until the grave, yet we were baseball fans overall, so we took what we could get. I had nothing but great memories of the “Big A.” Mind you, all of this happened before the new ownership, the condescending attitudes, bloated payroll, self-righteous disdain and that idiotic Disney rock pile in the left/center field. (Now everyone in the “real” Los Angeles area makes fun of the Angels because of their unfortunate name and “intellectually inferior” suburban plight.)
The recent collapse by the Oakland ballclub has thrown the fan base into a bit of a controlled rage. The Anaheim Republicans recently swept us in 4, putting us into that unfortunate abyss of Wild Card hell. But…as every Oakland fan woke up on Saturday; no doubt bleary-eyed/ hung over from the festivities of Labor Day from the day before…..we decided to sign Adam Dunn. Adam Fucking Dunn.
The rest of the league laughed at our desperation! Not ONE team wanted him at the trading deadline. Dunn was a has- been. A steaming pile of crap on a junkies’ ball sack. The limping, lame orphaned dog that everyone wished would be put out of its misery. The cyst on your ass that you never noticed until it bleeds through your pants.
Our kind of guy.
Dunn hit a homer in his first AB as an Athletic on a hot, sticky day at the Coliseum on Monday afternoon; not a moon shot , but a moment of hope. This was a meaningless homerun in the baseball world, yet to Athletics fans it was akin to the battered and bloody boxer that had recently been knocked down in the 12th round. Yet, in this story the boxer gets up…again, as he had done so many times before….and he says, “I’m still here….let’s get it on.”
Just a few random thoughts……The A’s bullpen has stunk this season. The Jim Johnson fiasco and Luke Gregerson’s 7 blown saves has given a crap team like the Angels a chance to compete. (and let’s face it, Bob Melvin has enough on his plate– worrying about 3 platoon catchers, Brandon Moss’ slump, where to play him and all that jazz.) There are the people who think the ‘pen is fine based on BABIP and SIERA , (no, not Ruben!) but I tend to go with my eyes rather than a bunch of stats conjured from thin air by numbers-crunchers and the jobless. It gets so ridiculous at times that you wonder how they could ever cross the street until they figured out the Pythagorean projection of success. (A note to the ladies…they are most likely bad in bed.)….
…Is former Athletic and current Astro Chris Carter the new Dave Kingman? His stats suggest so. He has amazing power, low batting average, strikes out a lot, yet throw a hanger and that fucker will have its own stewardess. The only difference being that Chris is a soft-spoken “good guy” and Kingman was known for being one of the game’s biggest assholes…so much so that after hitting 35 round-trippers no one signed him….and he NEVER PLAYED AGAIN…
…The vape pen is the best thing to ever happen for all you low-key weed smokers/baseball fans. It’s compact, and you can get your smoke on without any of those corny ass, nosey, do-gooders getting in your face for no good goddamn reason. It’s the perfect ballpark accessory. (this works extra well late in the post-season and early summer when the “on the cusp” bring their kids and ignorantly see the ballpark as Disneyland.)…
The season is slowly/quickly and sadly coming to an end.
Here I am again, sitting by the poolside with a screwdriver, one of my favorite adult beverages. You may think that I’m trying to be a braggart, but L.A. summers are hot, man. I’m not having the time of my life or anything. Mind you, I live in a post WW 2 bungalow (L.A. is known for these….look for them in just about EVERY movie) so I don’t have air conditioning. Yep….tough times.
OK…OK….on to baseball. As you may or may not know my answers are unfiltered and to-the-point, often poignant but always unsentimental, not rude but refusing to infest the garden of honest human communication with the Victorian-seeded, American-sprouted weed of pointless politeness. What was the question you asked?
Well, the A’s sucking major ball-sack lately.
The A’s hitting has been anemic since “the trade”. They are 7-10 since trading the “Cuban Missile” and have currently lost 7 out of their last 8. They got a great ace in Lester but traded their 4 hitter to get him. Losing Cespedes has an effect on your 3 an 5 hitters and, ultimately, your entire lineup…..and that’s fine. There is a philosophy at work here. And that philosophy is based on “gamers”, L/R matchups (the baseball du jour) and amazing starting pitching.
I’ll take the above mentioned any day of the week over a guy who had an OBP of barely .300 and would make a great play every now and then. This is baseball…it takes patience, articulation and grittiness to win. If I know anything about this team….we’ll be alright. This is a desperate plea to all the nerds out there in internet land….CALM DOWN! I DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING! ENJOY BASEBALL! SOMETIMES YOU LOSE! LIFE GOES ON! QUIT BLOWING UP MY INBOX! …..and now…..back to my screwdriver.
In some ways, the home run is like the bright colors in a modern painting. They immediately attract attention, and for those not schooled in viewing modern art, they may overshadow other more subtle tones that are of equal or greater interest. But for those who appreciate the variety of baseball strategies and skills, the home run is not required. And importantly, the walk is not inherently disappointing. The walk opens up new tensions, new aesthetic possibilities, new kinds of drama, new story lines. – R. Scott Kretchmar
Coco Crisp was the singular player that made my mother fall in love with baseball. What makes it an interesting, even head-scratching affair was that she was in her 50’s when this happened. (A testament to his likability and edge of your seat playing style.) Perhaps it was his strange batting stance– bat held high and chin resting firmly on shoulder in an almost exaggerated motion. Or maybe it was simply because he always had a smile on his face and looked like he was actually having fun out there. (Hello, Mark Ellis!) She loved the tension in the ballpark when he was on the bag and eagerly awaited the eventual stolen base attempt. (surprisingly, he has only led the league once, with 49 swipes in 2011.) “He’s like a little flea!” she would exclaim.
As much as I love home runs, for me the most exciting plays in baseball are the triple, the stolen base and the bench clearing brawl. And as Coco could conceivably achieve 2 of these 3 in any game, he became one of my favorite players as well. (I digress– Crisp did actually charge the mound as a member of the Red Sox. James Shields had come up too far and inside buzzing Coco’s “junk.” Crisp ran at Shields at full speed, side-stepping a wild, girly haymaker before throwing one of his own. He was eventually tackled which gave current teammate Jonny Gomes the opportunity to pummel the now incapacitated Crisp. After the fracas Crisp had a smile on his face whereas Shields looked like he was going to cry.)
“We tend to think of true fandom as a virtue and of bandwagon jumping as a vice. But why? What’s so great about pulling for a team even when it does poorly? And what’s so bad about pulling for a team even when it does well? Humans rightly value loyalty. Being a loyal friend means being a friend even in bad times. Fair-weathered fans are like fair-weathered friends. They display a culpable lack of fidelity. Conversely, one who exhibits genuine fan-hood displays the same exact virtue of a good friend. For the good friend has a reasonable hope and expectation that the friend to whom he/she is being faithful to in the tough times would do the same for them.”
–Thomas D. Senor
I despise the Giants. It isn’t the panda hats and the Disneyfication of baseball. It isn’t the fact that their two biggest stars, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds are crotchety assholes and everyone knows it. It isn’t even the obnoxious, loudmouthed “fans” who couldn’t tell you why you would want to hit a ball to the right side of the infield with a man on second. These same fans use the Giants World Series victories as a sort of personal bourgeois self vindication. (“We live in San Francisco, a world-class city…Oakland sucks.” Whether they be educated and wealthy or not– a typical, though not uniquely American way of group-thought.) This self-vindication has led to some serious deep-rooted racist and classism issues. (seeing Dodger Stadium or the Coliseum as “dangerous” and “full of gangsters” read: blacks and Latinos, while ignoring the multiple murders and beat downs that have happened outside of Pac Bell, which are strangely swept under the rug.)
Baseball is a business, but it’s one made possible by the illusion that each of us has a personal connection to their team and its place. Apparently, this “illusion” has made some fans blind as well. Most Giants fans refuse to acknowledge the territorial rights given to them (for free) by the Oakland club when the municipality extortionists/owners threatened to move the Giants to Tampa Bay in 1992. (once again–loyalty issues.) The Athletics thought it would be in the best interest of baseball to have two teams in the Bay Area. Conversely, over a decade later when the Giants had a sparkling new ballpark of their own, they refused to even sell the rights back to the Athletics ball club, no doubt secretly in cahoots with commissioner Bud Selig in order to get the Oakland ball-club to leave Northern California for good. I will take my leave with a quote from Homer when he wrote The Odyssey some 3000 years ago; “Home is all the sweeter when you’ve braved adventures to get back to it.”
I always go for the underdog — hell, always have. I was one myself. You don’t get many opportunities growing up in a single parent home. Dad left us when I was around 5 and was never around, so we had many dinners of pot-pies and vinyl cheese on white bread. I have strong memories of watching cartoons while my mother would pace the room, chain smoking Marlboro reds in her Kenny Rodgers tour 1982 t-shirt. Even at such a young age I knew she was stressed about the rent– and probably even had regrets about her children (my sister and I) because we were born while she was still a teenager and was left holding the bag. These kind of things make you tougher than a bulldog in a junkyard and my cousins and random kids took the brunt of it. I would spend a lot of my time alone, and liked to hide my pain and confusion in comic books.
Brandon Moss was an underdog until he became one of the best power hitters in the A.L. (and unlike that human turd David Ortiz, can actually play multiple positions) I know that it’s difficult to compare one’s economic background to that of the the career of a sports figure, but to me it’s a reminder of the memories that could possibly fall into the abyss because you get so wrapped up in what you are doing now…and the passage of time had stored them away in the deepest, darkest recesses of your mind. Mr. Moss was let go by the Red Sox, Pirates and Phillies, never really getting the chance to excel despite putting up great minor league numbers. He once even contemplated retirement in order to work for the Fire Department. He has since excelled in Oakland and is great in the club-house, respects the game, his teammates and fans (who have deemed him “Boss,” the perfect fit) I now hide my pain and confusion (now non-economic) by reading comic books AND watching Boss hit soaring ‘taters; his Oakland teammates proving that you don’t have to use “unwritten rules” as an asshole tactic by being GOOD. A refreshing approach to the crybabies that the rest of the league embraces…an approach that turns a mild-mannered individual like me into the bulldog that I thought I had left long ago.
The last couple of days have been pretty rough for me. My girlfriend’s dad passed away unexpectedly on July 18th, and through the tears, laughs, memories and funeral arrangements it has been quite the stressful ordeal. Carlos was extremely knowledgeable when it came to World History; I also immensely enjoyed his conversations on conspiracy theories, U.F.O.’s, and yes….baseball. Carlos was a Dodgers fan since he was a young boy who migrated from El Salvador at the age of 11. He would talk excitedly about Mike Piazza and Steve Garvey, and it wasn’t too long ago that we chatted about Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter over some pupusas. His favorite player was Roberto Clemente because of his grace on the field, giving heart, and courage to face the racism against Latinos that was prevalent in baseball at the time. I will miss his baseball talk and infectious laugh. R.I.P. Carlos Ernesto Castro