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I think it’s time to decompress, if only for a moment. The events of the past week left anyone with an iota of compassion emotionally distressed and even questioning their own integrity and place in the social/political spectrum concerning the unfortunate and dynamic happenings. But I digress– it’s time to embrace escapism and take a mental diversion by watching and then talking about the most brainless activity known to man…the MLB draft. In the past (pre-internet) this activity was relegated to a blurb in the local newspaper, but now must be scrutinized to the point of exhaustion on any self respecting (don’t get any ideas about this particular one) baseball site. I’ve got the beers cooling and I’m already 4 deep. It’s high time I act like a professional journalist and do an impromptu review of the least hyped of the professional sports drafts. Let’s do this.
There is nothing more entertaining than watching a stiff Rob Manfred stand at a podium and announce a draft pick with the driest, most mundane zombie-like voice that any human can comprehend. Is there an elemental soul in there? The jury is still out if he’s a man, robot or a left-over from the cast of Night of the Living Dead. This is the type of show you’d want to watch if you actually hated sex because there is absolutely nothing on this earth that can turn off a woman more than Harold Reynolds talking about “statistical trajectory” or “cost/benefit analysis.” These guys are actually frothing at the mouth and full of hyperbole about guys that may never even sniff the majors but you’d think every single one of them was the next Mike Trout. It’s turned into an all out pissing contest. I’m 7 beers deep at this point. (hiccup)
It’s pick 26 and the Oakland ball club takes an 18 year old high school kid out of Turlock, a tiny valley town in California that is known for farming, meth busts and the Hell’s Angels that the locals have christened, “TurdLock.” This is a confusing pick because the A’s have made it a habit to take college players: at least during the Billy Beane era. Alas, this is the David Forst era. Tyler Soderstrom is a big kid with a big left-handed bat that probably will switch positions from catcher as he wasn’t even the best defensive catcher on his high school team. The most compelling aspect is that Soderstrom was voted the best high school player in California, a state traditionally deep in baseball talent. The sky’s the limit for this kid. He may be the next Terry Steinbach, may have a fledgling career in the minors, or may be packaged in a trade for a rent-a-player to help in a late season Wild Card run that has yet to be contemplated. Good luck young man, welcome to Oakland and good night. (hiccup)
“One of the most endearing things about baseball history is that it’s so packed with bullshit.” –John Thorn, MLB official historian
Joe Marty’s is a small-ish little bar and grill stuffed to the gills with baseball memorabilia located on a hobo-strewn, dusty section of Broadway in Sacramento, California. It isn’t uncommon to see a few meth needles lying around; the old Chinese ladies with shopping carts and straw hats are oblivious to the nefarious items as they go about their business of poking stray cans from garbage bins in filth infested alleys. This street was the hip place to be at one time, high school kids would cruise in low riders up and down the street trying to hook up with a hot girl or guy, but that was 40-some odd years ago.
There used to be a P.C.L. ballpark a few blocks away, but a wayward cigarette caught fire with a peanut and, poof, up it went in a ball of flames in 1948: a metaphor for a city that can, like a petulant child, never seem to take care of the nice things that it gets. Today, a Target store sits where the ballpark used to be, with the bodies of the forefathers of the city neatly tucked away in the earth for over 150 years in the cemetery across the street.
I was at Joe’s for Game 7 when the Cubbies finally kicked the billy goat in the face and won their first World Series in over 100 years– not the first American institution to be seemingly forever mired in a curse, as this seems to be the lot in life for the rich just much as the poor in a heartless, money-hungry mechanism such as ours. Erstwhile, they say every dog has their day, and I had a shit-eating grin on my face as the swarms of Cubs fans jumped around me in transcendent jubilation: as someone who enjoys seeing a rarity such as pure and unadulterated glee, I was also enjoying it historically as something more rare than Haley’s Comet or a sober Irishman. I felt that I was a kindred spirit to the ghosts that had suffered with this team and were no doubt sleeping more peacefully even though their lives had been long forgotten. I drunkenly kissed an Indians fan clad in Chief Wahoo amid the fracas although she was too young too know Albert Belle and didn’t seem too be broken up about the game. Do you think she was from Cleveland?
Around 1993-1995 I completely lost interest in baseball. Being in my early 20’s my childhood interests waned and became retrograde, as they tend to do, and in my delusional mind my new interests were a bit more sophisticated and engaging. My interests in music and punk rock in general were blossoming into a near obsession as I decided to join a garage band, and I was also delving into the literary and modern art worlds: doing my duty as a young person trying to “figure it all out” with a speculating, cynical and sometimes critical mind. And as much as I loved to scan the box scores, I just didn’t have time anymore with my band-mates, job, and girlfriend needing my immediate and rapt attention.
F. Scott Fitzgerald thought that one of his pals had invested too much time writing about baseball. “A boys game,” Fitzgerald said, “with no more possibilities in it than a boy could master, a game bounded by walls which kept out novelty or danger, change or adventure.” I couldn’t stomach Fitzgerald’s stuffy writing and disagreed vehemently with this statement. (I valued Descartes opinions much more, and wasn’t his vocation to think about thinking?…the absolute essence of the game) So after reading a tiny smattering of the classics: Genet, Hemingway, Hesse, Volmann, Didion, Auster, I decided one day through a haze of smoke that baseball was indeed a cerebral sport more suited to a literary rather than pictorial culture and returned to it for the ’96 season. The A’s were still the same pile of dung that I had flushed 3 years earlier, finishing 3rd in the West with a 78-84 record, but the game was interesting to me again, even fun. It was a catharsis that I hadn’t seen before.
This was to be Mark McGwire’s last full year with the “Elephants” (his trade the next year was devastating and truly the end of my childhood) and he finished with 52 homers. This was also Jason Giambi’s first full year and he finished with a pathetic (for that time) 20 round-trippers. I attribute this to youth and the lack of steroids–a reputation that would turn out to haunt both players. Terry Steinbach was typically solid behind the dish; and a fan favorite with a funny name, Geronimo Berroa was coming into his own. There was also a curious player, Ernie Young, who hit 19 homers that season, never to hit more than 5 in any other season in his career.
As I enjoyed another season of watching my lovable losers, I had decided that baseball not only doesn’t acknowledge the passage of time, it ignores it. Then began my post-adolescent and lifelong obsession with the game that has taken over my daily existence with mind-boggling statistics and an even stranger anomalistic visual affair. I find that the more I know about this game, the less I know about this game. It keeps unfolding in ways I could never imagine.
Spiritually and morally, everything in life is a compromise. These are the kind of revelations that clank around your grey matter when you are experiencing day 15 of quarantine. I know what you’re thinking: tell that to the people hoarding everything. I haven’t showered in 2 days and my hair can only be described as “putting your fingers in an electric socket.” You can only read books, watch movies or scroll through social media (where the practitioners of uppity, hollow slogans are having a field day) for so long before tediousness stalks you like a hungry coyote. These days are a like a horror movie for a hypochondriac. The stores are out of bread, rice and toilet paper. We must distrust our natural inclinations to go out to eat or drink and socialize. I go for evening strolls and the streets remind me of Vincent Price in Last Man on Earth. And even though, by my estimation, we are all experiencing existential distress on some level or another, I thought I’d share a bit of the media that I’ve been digesting. For some reason or another.
Music: Duran Duran “Rio”– this album is silly, poignant, sexy and stupid. I haven’t listened to much music but this seems just about perfect because of its ability to see life the only way someone who has eaten the red pill can. And palm trees. Lots of palm trees.
TV: The Muppet Show– The jokes are corny and it feels like a psychedelic trip, but damned if you don’t forget that a pandemic is happening as you’re watching 70’s has-beens interact and sing with crazy animals, monsters and umm…Gonzo. Jim Henson was a genius.
Movies: Bad News Bears– Billy Bob Thornton plays the alcoholic, washed-up, ex-baseball player coach of a bunch of misfit kids on a little league team. A decent, funny remake of the 70’s classic starring Walter Matthau. Disappointingly, BBT never did ask for some french fried potaters mmm-hmmm. (Slingblade will forever be his best role) Highlight of the movie is when coach passes out on the mound while pitching BP.
Green Room– A touring punk rock band gets talked into playing a gig at a nazi skinhead shithole club in the middle of nowhere. Highlight of the movie is when they cover the Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” throwing the crowd into a hissy-fit. One of the band members stumbles in on a dead skinhead girl and all hell breaks loose in a bloody mess of punks, skins and random weaponry. Patrick Stewart stars as the leader of the fascists in a strange roll that really works for him at this junction in his career– strange that Captain Picard doesn’t anymore.
I was sad to hear about Kenny Rogers floating to the Great Beyond a few days ago. My mother loved “The Gambler” and would proudly wear his tour t-shirt when I was a child. His death was sort of a revelation as I had forgotten about the baseball player Kenny Rogers. My friends and I would always snicker whenever we came across his card in a wax pack. Rogers had a solid season with the Athletics in 1998 going 16-8 and pitching a workhorse-like 232 innings before being shipped to the Mets the next season for Terrence Long. Long, of course, turned out to be a bust while The Gambler (the baseball player) went on to play 9 more seasons before retiring at age 42. Rogers most famous moment on a baseball field came in 1994 when he pitched the 14th perfect game in ML history against the Angels. Kenny Rogers most famous moment came when he did the duet “Islands In the Stream” with Dolly Parton. R.I.P. Kenny. (the singer)
“My, my, my, my Corona.” –sang in the vocal stylings of the Knack’s “My Sharona.”
These are fantastical times. This Corona virus has run the full gamut and has completely taken over my life. I’ve been washing my hands upwards of 30 times a day, and like everything else that becomes an obsession in my life, it is imperative that I know every single detail about the origins and life of this villain. Listening to NPR and reading the NY Times has been vital in comprehensive avoidance and genuine insight to this fiend. This is a time of high anxiety.
All of the major sports have been cancelled and college and high school students have been sent home. I went to the library today and it was all but deserted, the only homeless person within eye-shot was wearing a mask. I went to the grocery store to stock up on food as to not leave the house for at least a few days. We are all pariahs, avoiding each other at all costs and giving anyone a side glance if they so much as come within 3 feet of you.
Whatever you do…don’t. touch. your. face. Donald Trump, notoriously obsessed with germs refuses to shake anyone’s hand, as does anyone in this time of trial. I listened to Trump’s presidential briefing (for the first time in his term) and his bravado and positivity seemed like more posturing even though he called for a national emergency in what can be seen as a hushed tone. After a carousel of “geniuses” were paraded on the mic (each one talking an average of 45 seconds, and included a representative from CVS) VP Mike Pence didn’t hesitate to put Trump on a pedestal in an embarrassing display of window dressing obviously written by someone who understands the President’s psyche. There were many hollow slogans of strength, patriotism and resilience in a fairly standardized ending.
I feel better already. (eyeroll) Let us not forget that Trump once downsized this virus comparing it to the flu and even went so far as to call it a “democratic hoax.” It seems to me that we as the people are going to have to fight this together by learning as much as we can about this virus with our elected officials having very little credibility or competence. Good luck to the readers of this blog and to us all, and as Tom Hanks famously said, “There is no crying in baseball.”
It’s not important that I bring to task a Spring Training update; personally I find them to be tedious, but I suppose I must write something considering that this humble dissemination has over 2,500 followers and people actually read the thing for crissakes.
After last years embarrassing one game playoff loss to the Devil Rays, the following remarks swirled in my mind: pointless, not again, now what?, same old shit…who in the hell is Yandy Diaz? The ever graceful and future ace Sean Manaea blamed himself for the loss although it was a team effort as the offense was anemic and made to look bush-league. Watching the game was every bit the “Babylonian” experience. This squad, however, isn’t a “soft reboot” as the youngsters have aged a year and have playoff experience with the following players expected to have a breakout year: Matt Olson, Sean Manaea, Mark Canha and Ramon Laureano. Little was added or subtracted this off-season because of the aforementioned. The template for most prospective playoff teams is a daily set lineup, (depending on L/R matchups, of course) and this team doesn’t have many question marks. Bob Melvin should only have to do a bit of airbrushing here and there.
No Spring Training review is complete without a contrarian view and the second base/bullpen situation must be addressed here. Second base: Franklin Barreto has proven to be impotent, still can’t lay off the slider, and has spent more time in Nashville than Johnny Cash. He has two things going for him: he is young and the A’s front office refuses to get fleeced in the Josh Donaldson trade. Sheldon Neuse should get a look at the position as well because of the big season he had in the desert for Las Vegas. Bullpen: This was definitely a weakest spot as the ‘pen blew more than 25 saves last year with most of the guys being question marks except for Petit and Hendricks. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of non-roster guys made the team. Melvin will be working with patchwork and will be criticized many times this year for how he handled it whether it be his fault or not.
I see no reason why this team can’t pull together, win a roll of the dice in the playoffs and haul the “piece of metal” as Ron Manfred so elegantly called the WS trophy. I think the Nats of 2019 proved that miracles can still happen when you have strong pitching and a lineup that works together without one self-absorbed prick mucking up the works.
I woke up late Sunday morning to gallop on down to the local coffee shop when I found a rolled-up cocaine-laden ten dollar bill on the ground. My lucky day, I thought. The neck bearded hipster behind the counter was talking to what I previously thought to be a homeless person about “simulated reality” before the conversation segued into Brad Pitt’s 1999 vehicle Fight Club. I love this violent and political story-(although I find the characters to be juvenile, simplistic and self-serving)-of disenfranchised middle-class masculinity but this wasn’t the time or moment for a conference and debate.
“I highly recommend the movie in addition to the novel. It’s worth the time and it helps put the book into perspective,” said the espresso expert, and moments before I was about to disconnect his head from his flannel wearing body he takes my order of a medium black coffee with a splash of half and half. It was about 1 o’ clock so I headed over to my “baseball buddy” Manny’s house to watch Super Bowl LIV. We decided to play a game of Madden 2019 to kill time and he proceeded to “shart” on himself moments before halftime. Gross. After showering he eventually beat me 27-25. (Did you expect this blog entry to reek of any sort of profundity? The joke’s on you.)
The game itself was a pretty well played, entertaining enterprise and this may be America’s first look at a future super star in Patrick Mahomes. There was laughter at the mostly contrived commercials, debate on the attractiveness and booty mass of J-Lo and Shakira, beer drankin’ and pizza eatin’. Need I say more? The Chiefs eventually pull it out in the 4th quarter in a exciting affair, 31-20. Manny fell asleep and I walked home in a semi-drunken state pondering the game and thinking about the upcoming baseball season with a sort of mild euphoria.
Spring Training starts February 12th.
The Holiday season is upon us yet once again. I know a lot of people love the holidays, but all the crass consumerism and overcast/rainy weather puts me in a sort of pessimistic mood. Alas, I do enjoy time with my family, as we’re all getting geriatric and slower, and the Christmas turkey smothered in gelatinous gravy is something I could never complain about. There is also something special about watching kids opening presents with a pure jubilation that is hard to replicate at my age and is a much needed recess from the ills that one faces every day on this planet. That being said: I expect to spend a lot of time sleeping, sitting on the toilet and imbibing on spiked egg nog. Sometimes being less than exemplary is the most comfortable narrative.
The World Series seemed like it happened an eternity ago (who won again?) and no one seems to care about anything besides the Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon signings. Maybe these guys will buy a small island or perhaps a third world country with their earnings as the fans cry into their 15 dollar beers. Baseball is getting a bit ridiculous when a guy can pay my rent with the money he made from one pitch. It’s kind of ironic that MLB is promoting baseball in the inner-city but none of these kids could actually afford to attend a live game much less buy a hot dog. Baseball will certainly have a conundrum on their hands when all the Boomers start to become worm food in the coming decades. It’s certainly time to adapt or face the humiliation of antiquity: if you ignore them will they come?
There is no reason to get your panties in a bunch…Rendon and the Angels will continue to lose because of piss-poor pitching and horrible front office decisions, (like the Pujols signing) and Cole will be every Yankee fan’s wet dream until he loses a couple in a row and their fans have a collective idiot brain implosion. This shit-show will be completed with fans calling into sports talk radio with heavy Bronx accents and a million asinine complaints. (why didn’t they pitch Joe Blow in the 7th? ad nauseum.) I mean, who really gives a shit about global warming and plastic pollution when the Yankees are losing!? You dumb hippies.
The A’s lost Tanner Roark and Blake Trienen to free agency, but no one on Oakland seems to be crying in their soup as the fan-base threw up a shoulder shrug. Don’t expect the Oakland ball-club to make any evocative moves this off-season besides signing the minor-league guy nobody wanted and turning him into a star. There were whispers of acquiring second baseman Jed Lowrie but that news was about as exciting as your mother-in-law spending the weekend on the couch or the dog vomiting on the rug.
Baseball, in its never ending quest to mind-fuck, has presented me with more questions than a Jim Morrison midnight acid trip on a Santa Monica beach during the apocalypse of the Four Horsemen while a werewolf rubs salt crystals on his body and howls at the moon.
In the baseball scandal of the decade, protagonist Mike Fiers announced that his teammates, the Houston Astros stole catcher signs electronically during their 2017 World Series title, relegating the team to the moral garbage heap of Pete Rose, Barry Bonds and the 1919 White Sox. Every ill-informed gas-bag has thrown their opinion into the fray, and I suppose I must do the same considering that I subscribe to both.
The above offense certainly slanders baseball’s unwritten rules, and the Astros should be punished accordingly. The coaches that knew about/masterminded the offense should be suspended for life or fired, but the World Series title shouldn’t be taken away (although Yankees and Dodgers fans may disagree) as that would cause even more confusion and would destroy what little credulity the average working class fan has in a large, money-hungry conglomerate such as MLB. Let this be a reminder and momento mori for what little integrity there was in America’s Game. Commissioner Rob Manfred, largely ornamental and as interesting as a piece of blank paper certainly has a conundrum of epic proportions on his hands.
Fiers and the Astros will forever be tangled in a 21st century sociological courtship of slander, deceit and moral ambiguity…until the next scandal. The whole ball of wax is exhausting, tiresome and seemingly never ending. Welcome to big league sports and modern day capitalism.