Stop Selling Yasiel Puig Short

When Yasiel Puig came into the league, his energy, talent and high level of performance made me and many others fall instantly in love with him. He also frustrated many, by making a good dose of boneheaded mistakes; often trying to do too much. “He’s immature,” they said, “he’s reckless.” “He’s going to hurt himself or someone else.” This negative storyline within his rapid rise was covered with a stupendous fervor across the internet and it stampeded across television and talk radio because it was a point of view people could understand and because we love to trash our stars.

Baseball broadcasters heard so much of this take on Puig that they became indoctrinated as well. They began to default to using “Puig being Puig” as a fallback explanation for all of his errors large or small, mental or physical. Eventually, they got so lazy they just started talking about it to fill airtime, even when he began making many fewer mistakes. More unfortunate still, they threw their candy bar wrappers and bags of rotting leftovers on him even as he played a huge role in lifting the Dodgers into first place in the NL West while effortlessly switching to a more challenging defensive position.

As of today, his maturity is not an issue that warrants discussion (it barely did to begin with). Yet his progress in this area has received only minor attention. The real story of Puig, which is that he is one of the best and most exciting players baseball has to offer, has been under-publicized as a result. Instead, airtime is still filled by announcers shaking their heads and groaning about stuff they wouldn’t even notice about other players.

And then, yesterday, Dick Enberg said something that showed us just how divorced from reality the perception of the Wild Horse has become and just how much that has contributed to a warped Yasiel Puig viewing experience.

A game that had been 8-4 in favor of the Dodgers entering the 8th inning was now hanging in the balance with two out in the 9th, the score now 8-6. Abraham Almonte was on second after a throwing error by Kenley Jansen. Jedd Gyorko stepped up to the plate and fired a line drive single to center fielder Yasiel Puig, and you’d never know it based on Enberg’s description of the play, but what actually happened is that Puig charged the base hit, came up and made a great throw that would have surely nailed Almonte at the plate if it had been allowed to continue its flight. This surprised Almonte and caused him to scramble back to third. But the throw was hard and low (right out of the textbook), enabling Adrian Gonzalez to cut it off and fire the ball to third base where he nailed Almonte to end the game.

But that was not what was relayed by the broadcast team, operating seemingly with it’s eyes closed. While recapping the action during a replay Dick Enberg, like so many before him, pretended Puig was disgracing the game instead of winning it. 

“And it’s one of those mistakes Puig makes. He shouldn’t be trying to throw out the runner at the plate, because that would move Gyorko into scoring position. But because Puig is Puig…”

Ludacris. This has nothing to do with the action on the field. It is just a regurgitation of what Enberg has heard others brainlessly repeating for a year. The reality is, Yasiel Puig made a great play to stop the bleeding for a Dodger bullpen that had seen Jansen and Brandon League allow two runs on four hits in just one and two-thirds innings between the eighth and ninth frames. Puig provided a special moment, sealing what was becoming a very uncertain victory.

Continuing to dispense pure bullshit about “Puig being Puig,” while completely ignoring fact that the guy is saving his club’s ass in spectacular fashion isn’t just dishonest, it is robbing us of the ability to enjoy Puig’s star.

But for all the negative things on-air personalities have done to distort the common man’s view of Puig, they can do just as much to dissolve our dated, cliché collective thinking about him as well. If we focus on his prowess, as opposed to dwelling on an exaggerated version of his past, we can enjoy Yasiel Puig for what he is: one of the hungriest and most gifted players in the game.

Please, Broadcasters: Let’s properly revere Yasiel Puig’s unique ability and style of play. Let us acknowledge the fact that we are lucky to watch a player building his legend, just like we do when Mike Trout steps into the box.

Medica’s Memoirs & Venable’s Nickname

About 50% of all words spoken between my father and I are about baseball. About 85% of that is Padres baseball. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Many good nuggets come out of those conversations. My day and my Padres baseball experience at large have benefitted tremendously. The past couple weeks have produced some fruit, which should certainly be digitally preserved forever.

Ghostwriting Tommy Medica’s Memoir

My dad and I went to the Arizona Fall League last year where you can sit right behind the on-deck circle for seven dollars and watch some of the game’s best prospects zero in on future stardom. You may also find you have the opportunity to overhear Tommy Medica shooting the shit with his shady ass friend. We did both.

Medica came off as a 30-pack-a-night kind of guy. In case you’ve never seen Tommy Medica interviewed, he sounds like any other athlete, but he has this look in his eyes like a dehydrated gorilla on the brink of death. There just doesn’t appear to be a lot going on up there. But then again, you can’t have a ton on your mind if you want to hit a 98 mile an hour fastball, so he’s just uniquely prepared to do his job. We speculate he is a genius but that the 30-pack is employed to suppress his complex theories on the meaning of life and keep his mind whisper-quiet at all times.

During a recent Medica hot streak I expressed the hope that he has a long and storied career, not just because I root for the Padres, but because I want to ghostwrite his memoir “Dumber Than My Bat.”

Will Venable’s New Nickname

Will Venable is a favorite topic in frustrated times. His swing mechanics are like the Middle East. His hands are Israel and his lower half is Palestine. They are never in agreement, they have never gone the same direction for long. There are moments of progress followed by long, disturbing patches of the wretched, monotonous turmoil we are accustomed to.

This year my dad pointed out something interesting about Venable.

He was touted as being “raw” coming up, back when it was viewed as a plus that he hadn’t played much baseball coming out of Princeton. And for the first few years, this seemed to properly explain his on-field flailing. But Venable has been in the league for parts of seven seasons now and every year he goes through a long, awful stretch where he looks like he’s just getting used to the big leagues for the first time.

Will Venable, you are “The Eternal Rookie,” and we are “The Really Fucking Sick of it.”

[RA ROWE]

Why Hiring A.J. Preller is the Turning Point

A.J. stands for Amazing Judgement. (Photo courtesy of mighty1090)

I’ve said for a number of years that I wish Billy Beane was the Padres GM. This is hardly a breakthrough, I think most people who understand the game inside the business of the game feel the same way. Most people think he’s just smarter than everybody else, but that’s not the whole story.

Being smart is great, but for your smarts to consistently win out over hard-working, intelligent competition, you can’t just cast in any direction, you have to have a core methodology. But in baseball, everyone copies your core methodology in short order, once it’s proven to work. That means the core methodology has to be to create an environment where trends begin, and where you always pivot in order to find the next trend by the time the league catches up. Beane’s greatest skill is keeping this environment charged.

Meanwhile, the Padres have been clueless about the reality of their own situation, grasping at straws (the kind of straws with soggy knees who are better suited as a DH). They have failed to develop any kind of method for themselves to target talent. This is why they’ve failed to sustain the brief glimpses of success they’ve had. Essentially, when you’re not trying out a theory and seeing if it works or fails, you can’t know what part of what you are doing is working or failing.

But the sequence of events leading up to the A.J. Preller era show that maybe that the Padres’ days of spinning their wheels are over. And Preller seems to be exactly the guy to get things moving. For me, it all started with an email from Ron Fowler:

“We are terribly disappointed in the team’s offense this year and staying the course (waiting for a turnaround) is becoming less appealing as the ugly losses continue.”

After ten years of virtually unwatchable offense, I had rarely heard anything but excuses. But when Fowler’s chubby fingers graced our internet with that digital caning of the club’s position players, I was finally hearing someone with the power to change things actually convince me they hated that and wanted much better.

More importantly this quote reflects an understanding of how bad things really are. This is new for the Padres and incredibly significant.

Josh Byrnes got canned and on the hunt for a new GM we went. The self-aware candor from the Padres continued as Mike Dee gave an interview about why the decision to send Byrnes packing was made (interview recapped here). He said great General Managers have a vision and that the Padres need to have a blueprint for success.

This reinforces that the original Fowler email might not just have been an angry swipe of the claws, but a considered and lasting understanding that building an organization that can achieve sustained success requires efforts to be guided by a thesis statement.

The hiring process for the new GM highlights another aspect of how the Padres have begun to establish they may have made a material change for the better.

In the final week of the hunt the field had essentially been narrowed to two names. Billy Eppler and A.J. Preller. As I anxiously gnawed on the backgrounds of each candidate I began to view the decision as a fork in the road. With Eppler, I became horrified at the possibility that this break in the clouds might just be a brief interlude of sanity before a comic thrust back into business as usual.

Any hope that things might have changed could have been drowned in the toilet if they had chosen Eppler, a man who has family ties to the Padres organization and is buddy-buddy with evil slug, Kevin Towers. Eppler’s most notable experience is as an Assistant GM with the New York Yankees, an organization that has spent the last 10 years masking spectacular failure in drafting and development by burning small continents of money.

This means Eppler has no experience achieving results of any kind, and could not possibly understand how to create the kind of ecosystem of ideas Billy Beane has cultivated and sustained all these years. Choosing Eppler would have been like playing the same track we’ve been blaring for decades on a different radio. I feared this most of all, because it would be “so Padres” to cluelessly pull the trigger on more of the same full-spectrum misery to which we have been captive, basically forever. The two candidates represented such different possible futures to me, I even started to become almost paranoid about how the name “Eppler” was like some taunting, demonic anagram of “Preller.”

But they did not choose Eppler. When I heard this news, I truly felt like I had been freed from something horrible I thought would never end. All the perceived change of  the past few weeks gained more traction and I felt the deep, core tingling, hot juice blast of a better tomorrow. I, a man of 27, learned what if feels like for a girl.

Interviews with A.J. Preller produced quotes, which fueled my beautiful little ember of hope into a small flame. I don’t want to get bogged down in the particular quotes, as the interviews can be readily digested around the internet by you, dear reader, but the Padres Social Hour interview and the press conference to announce the hiring in particular, provided the kindling.

The most obvious thing about Preller is that he is not a groomed, TV-ready lozenge of bullshit, he’s a baseball guy. Obsessed with talking and watching the game, he acknowledged that advanced stats are to be considered equal building blocks as tools and approach in “talking about the game.” He strongly emphasized high ROI methods of player acquisition as the only means for an organization to create sustained success. The Padres’ market and current state of disarray both happen to demand this approach.

He spoke about the importance of knowing your own players. This is crucial to making sure you trade overvalued assets and hold onto those, which have more value than others perceive, as well as making better decisions about who you extend (like probably not Cameron Maybin, whose bat path resembles a very steep sided parabola).

He did something almost no people are good at, inside or outside of baseball, inside or outside of the Padres front office: he admitted a time when he was wrong. He explained that in Texas he had originally written off “make up” entirely, before realizing that guys with certain make up are much more likely to make the strides in development needed to become impact Major Leaguers. This shows he is testing a hypothesis and objectively analyzing whether it fails or not, and then reevaluating his position based on real life. There will be no hand-wavy strategies crapped out of a late night drinking session with an old frat buddy.

But the most important thing he did was talk about how you always have to find new ways to win talent and ballgames. He acknowledged that creating the dynamic I have so loved in Billy Beane’s Oakland Athletics, is a vital aspect of running an organization. He explained that you have to be the club generating innovative strategies, but that you also have to understand that the rest of baseball is going to swarm to that idea if it works. This means that you have to move on to the next idea by the time they get there. I call this the “head of the snake” mentality. By the time the body gets to where the head was, the head is farther along.

By revealing that his staff will be working hard to understand itself and the game better than anyone else, he made me feel, for the first time since 1998, that I can entertain the possibility of the Padres winning a World Series before I am bones in the dirt.

The ownership group gets it. They get it so well that they actually chose the right guy and hopefully, they give him the power to be that guy. If that is what is about to happen with the Padres, then welcome to the Enlightenment. Things are going to be different.

[RA ROWE]

The Rymer Timer

It’s almost time for Rymer Liriano’s MLB debut! Find out how much time you have left to learn to saber champagne!

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Jesse Hahn’s Curveball is Educational

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

The Backstory

If you’ve heard this part or if you just don’t feel like engaging in foreplay, skip ahead. I won’t be upset.

Over the offseason the Padres traded Logan Forsythe, infielder Maxx Tissenbaum and pitchers Matt Andriese, Brad Boxberger and Matt Lollis to Tampa Bay for Alex Torres and Jesse Hahn. Basically, a bunch of spare parts for a good lefty reliever and somewhat of an unknown.

Hahn’s “question mark” status stems from his needing  Tommy John surgery in 2010, very shortly after being drafted out of high school, then recovering in 2011, and then not really logging a ton of innings since then. But he started to look pretty sharp last year in limited action.

Now, Torres wears the big funny hat, but since making his MLB Debut on June 3 against the Pirates, Hahn has made the deal look a lot sweeter for the Padres. But more importantly, Jesse Hahn has exposed something interesting about the way the game changes and how going against the current of change can be incredibly useful.

The Arsenal

Hahn spots the fastball, sitting at 91, but his curveball stands out when you watch him. It’s an old-school, slow twelve-to-sixer, and it certainly passes the eyeball test as being utterly filthy, inducing a lot of bad looking swings… and misses.

But that’s not all. His change-up, which sits at 83mph, has been extremely effective as well. In order to quantify this, I’ll turn to Fangraphs. They keep track of a metric called wCH/C. In basic terms, this is a park, luck and league adjusted measure of the value of a given change-up expressed in runs above average, per 100 times thrown.

Hahn’s wCH/C of 4.16 would put him well ahead of any qualified starter (if he were one himself), dancing past Felix Hernandez’s 2.83 mark this season. (R.A. Dickey actually leads the league per Fangraphs, but I have my suspicions about how mis-categorization of his pitches might be influencing that result, so I skipped down to Hernandez.)

The Results

This extraordinary compliment of off-speed stuff has Hahn striking out 8.6 batters per nine, and has propelled him to a 2.28 ERA, which is slightly outperforming his xFIP (3.39), largely due to a low BABIP (.233) and a high strand rate (80%). But that curveball though!

The Revelation

Watching Jesse Hahn’s curveball is fun, and it sent my mind racing one night. It was as if suddenly all the dots connected.

There is a trend in MLB toward pitches which involve maximum arm speed. That basic package is a 93mph fastball, a hard breaking ball and a change-up. The key to throwing a good slider or changeup? Max arm speed. The split finger is thrown this way as well. I believe this could be giving Jesse Hahn’s curveball an added advantage in two ways.

First, hitters may be less concerned with arm speed. If everything a hitter sees features max arm speed, a hitter can no longer use the speed of the arm to judge what pitch is being thrown, so why should he pay attention to it? If it is increasingly unnecessary for hitters to judge arm speed, this would mean the slower arm Hahn uses to throw his curveball is not being noticed as a dead giveaway like it might have been to hitters in previous eras.

Second, batters are used to a harder breaking ball with a more side-to-side break, as compared with the top-to-bottom shape of Hahn’s offering. The data backs this up:

hahncurvearticle

 

breaking ball movement

We can see here that the use of the curve has curtailed since PITCHf/x data started being collected in 2007. We can also see that the curve that is being thrown, is coming in faster, and that the shape of Hahn’s curve is not only markedly more pronounced than the average curveball, it’s even further removed from the shape of the slider, which is the predominant breaker around the league today. Another differentiating factor is that Hahn’s curve averages 74.3mph, as compared with the 77.3mph curveball of the league at large.

The Take Away

All this is to say that Jesse Hahn has a freakish hook, a dandy Charlie, and he locates it well too, but the fact that it’s also different probably contributes to why it’s so effective. Hahn’s curve helps to illustrate the fact that running the opposite direction of a trend can lead to great things. After that thought occurred to me, I watched a start by Odrisamer Despaigne, who is really a complete throwback to the starters I watched as a kid in 1992. I watched him in a different light and I really enjoyed it. Jesse Hahn’s curveball bent the lens through which I watch baseball and I am richer for it.

 

The revelatory deuce in eternal gif repetition mode, sorry Mr. Carpenter

The revelatory deuce in eternal gif repetition mode, sorry Mr. Carpenter

 

[RA ROWE]

Super Bowl Preview

A portrait of the author in his fortress of baseball

A portrait of the author in his fortress of baseball

If you don’t really like music, or care about the possibility of it’s function as a cultural document, and you just want to get midnight-gutter-nap drunk and shake that ass, then pop music is your answer. If you’d rather watch millions of dollars worth of shitty advertisements, a pop star who’s past their prime jumping around in a spray of fireworks, while a bunch of backup dancers in black-light makeup grind against a sea of invisible dongs, while you eat ground meat and fried potatoes, but you want to pretend all of that is somehow about football, then tune in to the Super Bowl this Sunday.

The average Super Bowl party attendee has more interest in cheese sauce than the outcome of the game. Most people watching the Super Bowl (or any football game really) don’t care about strategy, or a psychological showdown between men, or a game’s place in the history of a city, or Peyton Manning as an example of how perfectionism does not necessarily have to equate to self-destructive obsession (as in the case of a Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods). They just want to scream for a color.

American Football fandom is about pageantry, just like International Football (Soccer) is. Just replace singing songs, rioting and scarves with chanting “D-fense,” eating and hats that look like cheese. Yes, there are some people who actually engage with football’s unique brand of incredibly complex strategy, the subtle chess match deep within the game which is the closest football has to it’s own special virtue. But, unless crudely paraphrasing what little they have heard commentators explain over the sound made by crunching nachos resonating through their skulls, most fans don’t engage with strategy. They are solely consumed with the barbaric thrombo of testosterone and ego that are the game’s poisonous byproducts, which leave our culture mutilated in it’s cock wake.

This mania reaches it’s height at the annual Championship of American Football, the Super Bowl. And how fitting they call it “super” as I haven’t heard the word used in a non-sarcastic way since circa 1992. Just keep in mind that this game is not about people or sport, it’s just a lot of dopes taking a break from watching reality shows to feast on garbage while pretending they are part of some basic approximation of a thing they heard about. It’s a commercial for a diversion. It’s about creating such a quantity of hype and build-up and ritual that the game is just a part of the static that fills our lives. It is the cultural equivalent of packing popcorn. It’s the day before Monday.

[RA ROWE]

The Only Great Scorebook

The Eephus League Scorebook (image: eephusleague.com)

The Eephus League Scorebook (image: eephusleague.com)

Keeping score is somewhere between a rite of passage and a badge of honor for any serious baseball fan. There is a secret code involved that all scorekeepers learn. Once one progresses to the level of veteran, a scorekeeper generally expands upon this basic code with symbols and notations of their own. The act of charting the game is somewhat meditative. There is a singularity of focus, which makes one a conduit for the game for the span of each half inning.

Conjoined with the act of scorekeeping is the scorebook. The scorebook is a memory bank. It is a chart of the game’s actions, but it’s great strength is to recall the game’s stillness as well. Looking back at old games recalls the people and the time that the game lived alongside.

But almost all scorebooks are ugly as shit. First off, for something that’s supposed to be portable the things are honkin’. Some have 15 batters, some have only 9 innings. Many have a ton of unnecessary columns and rows for keeping stats like caught stealing and sacrifice flies. And they all feature a tragically hideous cover, bound by a plastic spiral. Well, all but one.

The tidy little scoresheet (image: eephusleague.com)

The tidy little scoresheet (image: eephusleague.com)

The scorebooks from Eephus League are attractive. Bethany Heck ( @EephusLeague ), their creator, did a phenomenal job. They are actually portable, as they cut out all the extra batters and moved some stats summaries out of the game section. They even managed to squeeze in a 10th and 11th inning. Plus, for the tactile aware, the paper feels terrific to write on.

The Pre-game Sheet (image: eephusleague.com)

The Pre-game Sheet (image: eephusleague.com)

They also feature a page which precedes each game, wherein the scorekeeper fills in who sang the national anthem, or denotes the weather and their seat number for the day. This adds a lot to the value of the scorebook as a document, since you are drinking in these details of your surroundings and building a memory. So later, as you flip through the old scorebook, that memory is richly and easily evoked.

Eephus League also includes both a detailed fold out and a quick reference card, for teaching the beginner how to score. As someone who has been keeping score since around age 5, I can’t tell how effective these are, but they seem extremely clear, and are certainly attractive and well organized.

Oh, and you can buy them here. They also to put out a more traditional full-size book in July of 2013, which looks great as well. You can get the scoop on “The Half-liner” here.

It’s nice to look forward to carrying something attractive to the yard or having something of quality to keep score on at home, as I wait for the season to start. It’s even nicer to know that other people out there are deeply in love with this little corner of the game.

[RA ROWE]

Fantasizing About Minor League Baseball

It goes without saying that I want the season to start. But I actually enjoy the offseason portion of baseball’s annual cycle. In past years it was a time for getting antsy to again watch for the familiar things that are the standard currency of a baseball season: a great rookie, an aging veteran delivering one final elite season, a milestone statistic on the horizon, or cooking up strategies for fantasy baseball. But as I have grown older and more thoughtful (and have quit fantasy sports) I enjoy reassessing what is left of the game (and of life) that I have not yet fully explored. This year, I hope to place a heavier focus on minor league and college baseball.

Last year I took trip to my alma mater, Cal State Fullerton and then attended games at Lake Elsinore and Inland Empire, Class-A Advanced California League affiliates of the Padres and Angels, respectively. I had been to college and minor league games before, but something had changed for me.

I like how weird minor league fans and towns are, and how easy and cheap it is to sit in the first row behind the plate. Watching elite talents like Austin Hedges in a developmental stage provides an exciting glimpse of the player a prospect might become, and it enables a richer appreciation for the quality of play in the Major Leagues. But the minors are also an experience in their own right. The towns, parks and names are smaller, but the character of each minor league yard is truly unique and usually a little bizarre.

As of today, I have decided to attempt to attend a game at every minor league park in California this year. That means 12 parks spanning nearly 500 miles.

Northern California

San Jose Giants (SF/A+)
Sacramento River Cats (OAK/AAA)
Stockton Ports (OAK/A+)
Modesto Nuts (COL/A+)

Central California

Bakersfield Blaze (CIN/A+)
Visalia Rawhide (AZ/A+)
Fresno Grizzlies (SF/AAA)

Southern California

High Desert Mavericks (SEA/A+) – Adelanto, CA
Inland Empire 66ers (LAA/A+) – San Bernardino, CA
Lake Elsinore Storm (SD/A+)
Lancaster Jethawks (HOU/A+)
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (LAD/A+)

The reason I mention this here, besides being consumed with it at the moment, is that I hope to create profiles on each park and provide a glimpse into what it’s like to watch a game at each one. I will try to bring the flavor of each city and stadium into the mix to help give those of you who can’t make it to a game an idea of what is out here in California. And for those of you that would like to go to these parks, I will try to make it easier for you to decide where to head first.

Having been to Inland Empire, I can tell you that unlike relatively charming towns, like nearby Riverside, San Bernardino is depressing and ugly, owing mainly I imagine to the imploded housing market. The stadium is featureless except for the vaguely-Spanish-mission style facade, the 66ers have one of the ugliest mascots in the world, and I saw some people who I am almost certain have been exposed to high levels of heretofore unknown radioactive elements. Clear some room on the periodic table, Dr. Scientist.

Entrance - San Manuel Stadium - San Bernardino, CA (photo: http://www.fccfontana.org/)

Entrance – San Manuel Stadium – San Bernardino, CA (photo: http://www.fccfontana.org/)

Lake Elsinore is a different story. Yes it’s a rectangular, manmade lake. But there is a place where you can get a sandwich and killer pasta salad at the top of a mountain with a panoramic view of the valley and lake below. There is a solid, friendly craft brewery in town and the stadium includes a view of a range of hills so rolling it looks like the background of a cartoon.

The Diamond at Lake Elsinore - Lake Elsinore, CA (http://unclebobsballparks64.tripod.com/)

The Diamond at Lake Elsinore – Lake Elsinore, CA (photo: http://unclebobsballparks64.tripod.com/)

And the difference between those two places and experiences is the same as the difference between any two minor league destinations. This tempts me to wager that there is more in the way of surprise and variety among minor league towns than you might experience in your travels to different big league parks.

And I think that points toward something in our culture. I think we tend to look at strange things, little experiences and wonky places and think less of them, in favor of an aesthetically coherent and consistent “normal.” It’s a facet of mall-centrism maybe. I am not necessarily concerned with finding out if it’s better to be the way we are or some other way, at least not for the purposes of this blog. But I am interested in finding out what the other way is like and I want to see Carlos Correa in the process.

[RA ROWE]

A Conversation of Baseball, etc.

You may remember I attempted a Podcast here a while back. It had a great name (National West Dispatch) and was really fun to record, but it wasn’t fun to edit and, while I think it turned out fine, it missed the mark. Simply put, I am not a professional talker and I wasn’t able to recreate the natural quality of conversation I normally enjoy outside the context of the podcast with my then co-host, Jeff.

The following post is copied and pasted from a conversation he and I had on google chat. It’s been formatted to look good, But it’s largely unchanged, and it’s what I wished the podcast could have been, maybe it still could be.

It features Dodger Stadium policies, the worst food decisions of 2013, colorful language and some surprisingly professional discourse regarding MLB’s new expanded replay. It begins with Jeff sending me a link to an article about how some jackass little league coach is suing a kid for $500,000. The kid chucked his helmet off celebrating as he scored the game winning run and the helmet severed the jackass coach’s achilles. He’s also so suing the league for another $500K.

Jeff: Every couple of years you get a great heartwarming story like this.

RA:  “Fuck all humans” is the first thought that comes to mind, the second one is “that’s a bit extreme.” But the third one is “well, maybe not that extreme, though.”

J:  That kid must’ve tossed the shit outta that helmet!

RA:  Or that guy is made of hay. I wonder if anyone had a radar gun pointed at it.

J:  Did John tell you about my Dodger Stadium research? About bringing in coolers and radios and stuff?

RA:  No.

J:  Oh, I was sitting around the other night thinking “I’ll never eat another Dodger Dog,” so I started trying to game plan around that. I’m actually considering bringing a cooler into every baseball game I go to this year, loaded with delicious sammies and bottled waters. It’s not earth shattering stuff, but it’s a pretty clear indication of where I’m at in my life.

RA:  Let me just say, it sounds like you’re in a good place. Those are healthy thoughts. But what’s the research part?

J:  First, stadium policies. Second, mini binoculars. I want to go to at least 10 dodgers games this year, like $8 tickets. I probably went to about that many last year so maybe I’m shooting low.

RA:  It’s surprising that you’re allowed to bring in coolers.

J:  Yeah, coolers. No ice. 16x16x8, so nothing big.

RA:  Haha.

J:  I thought “no way they’re letting you bring in a meal!”

RA:  Same. This is making me realize that I am really at odds with stadium food. In fact, it’s the one part of the game experience I don’t like that much. Either you pay out the ass for something that is barely acceptable or you eat total shit.

J:  I have a history of making rash food decisions at stadiums.

RA:  I have seen it happen several times. Exhibit A: Spring Training nachos. Exhibit B: Jumbo picante dog.

J:  Those nachos were a top 10 worst meal of 2013 contender. Followed by that weird office tamale thing. What was that??

RA:  Haha. It was a tamale… sort of.  It was called a tamale, but I would contend it was not one.

J:  What was it covered in though? My memory is telling me it was a tamale on a hamburger or something.

RA:  Haha, gross ass chili… well, chili slime.

J:  Chili slime is right. That was the number one worst thing I ate in 2013. It had that microwave burrito soggy bottom covered in chili slime.

RA:  Ugh fuck.

J:  I can’t wait to see how poorly prepared MLB is to execute its new replay policy this year.
1. 50% of the coaches/managers will be reading about it for the first time this spring.
2. There are a maximum of 3 play-by-play announcers that will have even close to a clue about what’s happening by June. It’s going to be utter chaos.

RA:  Haha, possibly true. I don’t know actually, I went to some AFL games and they had it going so they could diagnose some of the issues. So the league is at least in front of the curve to that extent.

J: Haha, that doesn’t fix the fact that it’s the league employees that don’t give half a shit. You can’t fix that in the AFL.

RA:  No not the AFL employees, they had guys in from MLB to test it in live situations, with zero at stake.

J:  They should make the coaches challenge calls in the spring so they get the hang of it.

RA:  That’s actually what they were doing in the AFL. They were encouraging the managers to challenge any close plays just so they could run through the process as often as possible. I think the league is very freaked out about how this will go down, which means they are actually preparing in a somewhat effective manner.

J:  There’s still a bunch of coaches that won’t know what the fuck is happening.

RA:  Kirk Gibson, we’re looking at you! Actually the manager’s role is relatively simple, they just challenge or don’t and they either run out of challenges or they have more left over. Anything they don’t understand can be explained in the moment. Plus, the action of the challenge stems naturally from the flow of the game. They just replace going out to argue with going out to challenge. I’m more worried about how bad announcers will affect public opinion against it because they just aren’t clear enough on the play/procedure/etc.

RA:  This is a good conversation. It has good stuff about being at the ballpark, MLB replay, funny food. You mind if I post it as an article? I’ll send you a transcript so you can omit anything you think is unsavory, etc.

J:  Haha. Screw it, post away.

RA:  You don’t want to take out all the stuff you said about how black guys make bad managers? And how you hate it when people have a gay looking face?

 
 

- RA Rowe with Jeff Walters

 
 

Meaningless Nonsense from the Cubs

The one redeeming quality of the Cubs used to be that Wrigley was pure. The fanciest thing about it was Old Style, which if you’ve ever had Old Style you know is as far from fancy as craft singles are from Iberico.

Now this:

Clark the soulless bear | courtesy of the Chicago Cubs

Clark the soulless bear | courtesy of the Chicago Cubs

Is there anything more meaningless than a mascot? If you’re going to add distractions invented in the eighties and injure something as pure as Wrigley Field, shouldn’t you get something out of it?

The Cubs claim to have based this decision on many survey answers they received to the tune of people wanting more family friendly entertainment. But just because people say they want something doesn’t mean they will actually pay for it. And aren’t there larger impediments to family atmosphere at the stadium. Does a short sweaty guy in a bear suit 30 sections over turn the drunk Chicagoans sitting next to you into puppets that sing about the alphabet?

There are also some really interesting aspects of the renovations the Cubs got approved in 2013. Let’s revisit what they plan to do. Let me just flip through these here.

rendering from wrigleyfield.com

rendering from wrigleyfield.com

Oh cool backwards plates in the batting cages, weird, but at least fans don’t see that. Also, those guys are really crowding the plate and that water cooler is on the ground. Does Anthony Rizzo have to hoist it up every time Starlin Castro wants a drink. Hot tip: if you are doing an artist’s rendering with the purpose of getting baseball fans excited, put someone in the room that gives a shit about baseball. It’s obvious to baseball fans when that doesn’t happen and it telegraphs the fact that this has nothing to do with baseball. Woooooopsies!

rendering from wrigleyfield.com

rendering from wrigleyfield.com

Moving on. So let’s say you can do whatever you want for new restaurants and you have Wrigley Field as a potential backdrop. Does it make the most sense to build an Appelbee’s with windows facing away from the interior of the park? Hmm, table for zero please!

rendering from wrigleyfield.com

rendering from wrigleyfield.com

Oh and how about a Buffalo Wild Wings dungeon?

rendering from wrigleyfield.com

rendering from wrigleyfield.com

Alright let’s head into the stands, and- wait, what? I know I’m at Wrigley Field you morons, you don’t need to build enormous signs to remind me all game and blind the catcher on throws from the right field corner. It says the name of the stadium on the outside of the stadium. What does this add?

And hey now, a video board. Boy I’m glad you got one, now we can block some of those rooftop seats and I can stare into screen glow instead of engaging with my surroundings or loved ones. Mental sedation uber alles.

I don’t think I need to offer any further explanation when I say the Cubs are out of touch and that Wrigley Field has been fully slain for no baseball reasons. Before you leave during the seventh inning stretch, could you please do the wave and the YMCA while they fire the organist. Oh and don’t forget your bobblehead!

[RA ROWE]

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