Baseball is coming!

baseballsI will confess that, by the end of a 162-game season, baseball starts to wear just a little bit. If your team, or even another team you like, makes the playoffs, that can make it exciting again. And even if not, the playoffs usually feature some pretty good baseball; last year’s were really fun to watch, for example.

But at that point it’s been six months of baseball. I have the Fox Sports North cable channel, and between them and Fox Sports, it is possible to watch almost every single Minnesota Twins game. And I do try. (Some weekday day games I can’t watch, of course, but MLB has a Flash app that provides a way to monitor a game in near real-time.)

The flip side is that, come spring I’m cravin’ me some baseball!

Opening day for most teams is usually in very early April (often April 1st). This year the Twins host last year’s almost champs, the Detroit Tigers on April 1st. (Day game, and I’ll definitely be taking that day off!)

Spring TrainingAnd speaking of the Twins, they’re doing pretty well in Spring Training. They are currently 3-2. They lost the first two games, but won the last three. And as I write this they’re kicking Baltimore’s ass, 7-0 as we begin the eighth inning.  Pretty sure they’ll end up 4-2, although in baseball you never know.

I was sad to learn that Ben Revere, a player I’ve really enjoyed, was traded to the Phillies. Yeah, okay, he has a weak arm, which is not ideal for an outfielder, but he’s made some amazing highlight reel plays. And there was this amazing bit of base running back in 2011:

I had one of those weird moments of synchronicity today. I’ve been thinking it will be funny and odd to see Revere in a Phillies uniform, but kind of looking forward to seeing him play. Today I turned on the TV to see if there was a Spring Training game on, and there was. Then I noticed it was Braves @ Phillies.  “Oh, ho!” I thought, “Maybe I’ll see Ben Revere!”

Ben RevereThen I noticed the batter standing at the plate. It was a long shot, so I couldn’t see his face, but the stance sure looked familiar.  “Hey, that kinda looks like him! Wouldn’t that be weird if there he was at bat the moment I turned on the game?” Then he turned so I could see the name on the back of the jersey, and sure enough.

[I’m actually kind of impressed I recognized him from his stance. The coincidence of seeing him the moment I turned on the TV doesn’t faze me. That sort of thing happens to me all the time.]

The Twins have also traded Denard Span to the Nationals, but the one I’m especially sad to see traded is Alexi Casilla. As I’ve written about, he was my favorite Twin.  Ah, well, such is baseball. Many new faces on the team this year; let’s hope it makes a difference!

Alexi CasillaThe Twins did beat the Orioles today, 7-1. If they can play regular season ball anywhere near that .666 average (what I like to call “demon ball”), this season could be a lot better than the last two. (But I’m not getting my hopes up until I see how things pan out once regular play begins.)

And this year baseball fans get some extra baseball, and it’ll be played on the world stage. This year we get the third World Baseball Classic. The first was in 2006, and the second was in 2009. Both those predate my “rediscovery” (and falling in love with) baseball, so this is the first year I’m really aware of this (let alone planning to watch).

Because the games are played all over the world, the broadcast times are just plain goofy. The first game begins late Friday night, with another game very early Saturday.

WBCA number of Twins will be part of it. Joe Mauer is catching on Team USA, and Glen Perkins is pitching. Justin Morneau is playing for Team Canada (of course), and Drew Butera is on Team Italy. (There are other Twins going as well.)

What is it about baseball? I have some interest in NASCAR, but football, basketball and hockey don’t do a thing for me.  (I mean in terms of professional sports.  A casual game with friends is a different matter.) I did get into football for a while, but it didn’t last but a season.

Actually, I do know the answer. I know exactly why baseball is the best sport of all, but that will be the subject of a future post (or two (or three)).  One hint, though. Both George Carlin and Ken Burns know the answer.  If you’ve ever heard Carlin’s excellent bit comparing baseball and football, well, there’s a huge part of the answer right there.

MoneyballAnd I’ll leave you with this, another bit of synchronicity. (I’m tellin’ ya: All. The. Time.)  The other night flipping channels I surfed into the movie, Moneyball. It’s a great book and movie for baseball fans. The movie edges its way up my rankings every time I see it (three so far).

The synchronous bit is that I happened upon it during a keynote scene (see the YouTube clip below). It’s when Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) shows Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) the clip of Jeremy Brown‘s home run. Brown was a catcher who did well in high school and college, but lasted only one season in the majors. He was a solid guy, not quick, and he was generally lucky to make it on base.

In the clip, Brown gets a good hit, goes for a double, but stumbles and falls rounding first base. He desperately scrambles back to the bag to not be tagged out. And people are laughing. But it turns out they’re laughing with joy. Jeremy had hit a homer! You see the first baseman helping him to his feet and sending him off to round the bases.

Beane and BrandBrand shows this clip to Beane, because Beane was feeling defeated. The A’s had, beyond all expectation, made it to the playoffs, only to lose immediately (to the Twins—exactly how the Twins went down to the damn Yankees 1-2-3 in 2010). Brand is trying to show Billy that he’d hit a homer and didn’t even know it.

Billy’s line once that sinks in is, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”

It’s my favorite line about baseball, ever.

Baseball is a team sport that depends on individuals. And even the worst player can sometimes hit it out of the park. Tell me that isn’t a metaphor for life!

How can you not be romantic about baseball?

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

28 responses to “Baseball is coming!

  • heysugarsugar

    Ok babe, being your loyal follower I read all this and yes you wrote it fabulously as always…but I am so unsporty I was lost all all this baseball stuff. Maybe in time if i try hard enough I will understand it;) put those eyebrows down 😛

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Down where? 😛

      Being of an UK persuasion, we can forgive you not being up on baseball. If you ever visit these here United States, I’ll take you to game and you can experience the magic. (And some of my intended posts about it may help, too.)

      In the meantime, I will recommend (the movies) Bull Durham and Field of Dreams (and maybe The Natural and if you like them, For Love of the Game). At the very least, you get to watch Kevin Costner and Robert Redford! You might even come to love baseball!

  • reocochran

    Hey, did you see the movie Outside the Curve yet? It was not too original but I liked it anyway. Clint Eastwood, politics aside, does depict aging with its glaucoma and slow peeing problems well. I am excited about baseball, too! See you hopefully in Ohio next year’s season!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I have not seen it, but will when it comes around on cable. The reviews pretty much match what you said, so while I like Clint Eastwood (as an actor and usually as a director), and I love baseball, I didn’t make an effort to go see it. (Actually, I rarely go to the movies anymore. Ticket prices are bad enough, but the concession stands prices are outrageous, especially considering the service and food quality. And the theaters are dirty, and the bathrooms are disgusting. All in all they seem to have been sending me the message: We don’t want your business! Fair enough. Mission accomplished.)

      Yeah, still planning my 2014 All 30 MLB Parks Summer Tour! Lately I’ve been wondering if I can also swing going down to Florida for Spring Training, too.

  • charmarie221

    Baseball Fever still infects our household. Just did a blog on that very topic. Our main mission now is to sell at least 40 sets of tickets!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      You guys are missing some important players, but you’ll probably still do better than us. You’ll get to play the Lastros a lot now, too. I’ll be by when I can; kinda going through some stuff lately, and it’s got me in shut down mode.

  • charmarie221

    “important” is relative… Josh was a huge name, but a huge crapshoot many days. We’ll see which Josh shows up for the Angels–and we’ll see if our pitchers remember that he likes to golf at the low outside corner.

    I will miss Napoli (Riley’s fave player–she actually cried when she heard he had left the team) but his hip/leg obviously resurfaced as evidenced by his physical with Boston. And I wil miss Young because he was such a Ranger (Mr Ranger, the team captain) but he wasn’t the strongest player on the team.

    We have so many big names who can do SO MUCH when they are ON. Hoepfully they can turn it on.

    Sorry to hear about your shutting down. Hopefully it will rectify itself soon… in the good way… heh….

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I’ve been watching Spring Training games, so I’ve seen Hamilton and Napoli play on their new teams. I empathize with Riley; my favorite player got traded to the Orioles!

      Twins are about to play their opening game (at a 31-degree Target Field… I didn’t even consider going! brrrrr). They’re introducing the players now. We did well in ST, finished fifth in the Grapefruit League with a .515 win-loss. Not that Spring Training numbers mean anything….

      We’re about to face the Tigers with Verlander on the bump. Meanwhile, we’re fielding a relative unknown with a 5+ ERA. My expectations are extremely low! (We do have some decent bats, which may result with a season of high-scoring games that we nevertheless still lose.)

      But it’s baseball season again!!

      • charmarie221

        Verlander is a beast! Cy Young, hello!

        Haven’t seen the recaps of all the games today. Just our sucky game yesterday. And a couple others. I so wanted the Angels to lose their opener as well. Josh didn’t do much to help, except get a walk that was batted in by someone else. And Napoli went 0-5 in Boston and they still won. Need to check on my boy Michael Young in Philly.

        Who went to Baltimore? That’s my second team, as that’s where I grew up, mostly.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Well, you kind of got you wish. Angels are 1-3, while Rangers are 3-1. And Baltimore is also 3-1 (and the Yankees are 1-3). Twins could have been 3-1, too, except for losing to the Orioles yesterday. (I’ll just be happy if they can keep it somewhere near .500; that would be nice.)

        We didn’t win our opening day game at home, which was sad, but we did win the next two and took the series against the Tigers, so that was kinda neat! It’ll be interesting to see how the next two games in Baltimore go. I can’t really begrudge the O’s winning their opening day game at home. Obviously I would like to see us win the next two, but I’ll settle for even one.

        Alexi Casilla, former Twin, is now an Oriole. He was my fav due to a ninth inning walk-off hit that won the first game I saw at Target Field in 2010. And that was during that end-of-the-season slump the Twins were in after clinching the pennant that year (I think they won only two of their last 11 games–I got to see one of those wins).

      • charmarie221

        Made it to opening day… what a madhouse… and what a huuuuge pile of anger for Josh… booing does not even describe it. Riley was cowered in my lap covering her ears. We sold the tickets for the other 2 games of the series. Just not fun baseball. Gonna be a long 18 games with them this year.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I heard about the booing. I heard it was largely because of his comments about DFW being a football town (which is the plain truth, but not a very smart thing to say to baseball fans). Poor Riley; that’s gotta be horrible for a sensitive serious baseball fan. Youngsters are usually so loving; that kind of hatred must seem awful.

        We just beat the O’s 6-5, getting that last winning run in the top 9th. Now we’re 1-1, so tomorrow’s the tie-breaker.

      • charmarie221

        The thing is, it doesn’t matter if Texas is known as a football town, Rangers fans are real and honest and dedicated. 40,000+ pack that stadium. He saw those fans show up, and he had a gazillion people stand in line to meet him, and have him sign his book. He had to have felt the level of devotion to baseball… but he whines that Texas is known for Friday night football and there’s a big Cowboys following? Completely discounts the fanbase that put up with all of his shit and said “We believe in you; we support you.”

        Until they were stretched to the fan breaking point and some gave up?

        I was never a fan of the man before all of this, and I feel vindicated in my assessment of him as an ass. I respected his baseball talent, but off the field I was never impressed. Mostly because his off the field lifestyle was exactly the opposite of what I respect about people, or more specifically about husbands and fathers.

        But it is what it is. He burned a big bridge and then acted surprised that there would be retribution. But it’s all part and parcel of the package that is Josh. And that part was a sad part of Opening Day. So we’ll go again on Monday when we play the Rays.

        Congrats on your win against the O’s… did you stop Chris Davis’ homerun streak?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Sounds like an ungrateful ass, indeed.

        Yes, sorry, no homers for Davis, but he and Adam Jones did some damage (mostly Jones, actually: 3 RBI to Davis’ 1).

        We were foolish enough to try stealing twice on Wieters, but smart enough not to try it a third time.

        I don’t dare actually believe the Twins have a chance—that just leads to heartbreak—but it sure is nice to see them win a few early in the season.

      • charmarie221

        Yes a few wins are always good. It is a good thing to feel some hope for your team, especially when they beat a team like Baltimore who came off a glorious season and is hellbent on going post again!

        Although we Rangers fans know alll too well that early wins are NOT a sign of anything. We were in 1st place in our division from day 3 last year and never, not once, dropped out of first place the entire season. Until we fell apart the last 2 weeks and gave it up to Oakland. 150-ish games we held first place.

        And then: The Implosion.

        I think, for the most part, the teams that gel after the All-Star game are the ones that fare better in the playoffs. They hit their stride toward the end and then play strong to finish. Not a set in stone rule, but it has merit!

        Hope our game goes better today and we take the series. Yesterday was a rotten pitching day for us and it showed. Today Yu (not you–heh, we make that joke all the time around here) takes the mound and we’ll see if he can recreate Tuesday’s almost-miracle!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, last year really surprised me, and I’m sure it surprised Ranger fans even more. I wrote some code that allows me to access MLB’s GameDay data, and I use that to build all sorts of tables and “info sheets”. (If you’re interested, I’ll email you a link. Stuff is on my personal website.) On item I build is a chart that traces how teams are doing within their division throughout the season. The chart grows longer and longer as each day is added.

        So, looking at that chart, I can see the Rangers got into first place April 6 with a 3-1 record. And they didn’t budge from the #1 spot until the last two games. Oakland was in second place early (4/19 to 5/25), and then it was the Angels for a long time (5/26 to 7/27). A’s pretty much held second place from then on (Angels got ahead of them a few times, but couldn’t keep it). Even the penultimate game of the season had had you tied with Oakland (93-68), and it was only the last game that lost it. Heartbreaking!!

        I always wondered… was it that the Rangers fell apart or that Oakland just came from behind. From what you wrote, I take it their were end-season issues. You apparently weren’t the only ones. The Yankees had been pretty strong all season, taking first place on 6/11 and holding it until early September when your O’s started being in first place a lot. White Sox were in first place most of the season, but the Tigers were there the last eight games.

        Nationals were the surprise! First place on June 6, and there they stayed.

        I like my charts! Lots of fun to watch the season evolve.

        To say Yu is pitching today…. sounds grammatically wrong! 🙂

      • charmarie221

        nice on the spreadsheet! I knew it was in the last 2 weeks, but couldn’t remember when they gave it up… that’s even later in the season, which means they had 1st place for even MORE games than I thought… makes the implosion even sadder

        Yu is pitching… you are not! (see how fun!) but Soto is catching, so we’ll see how it goes… Pierzynski… gah that spelling… is off today for the first time this season… first time a catcher has started that the season with many games in a row since 2008 I think I read… he caught Yu when he had the near perfect game last week… we’ll see what Soto can do….

      • Wyrd Smythe

        We managed to beat the Orioles again today! So we’ve won both our opening series, although we lost the first game in both. Now we’re off to take on the Royals. That used to be a no-brainer for us, but the Royals have a much better team this year, so we’ll see.

        It’s too early to take this seriously, but for the moment, we’re tied with the Sox for first place in the AL Central!

      • charmarie221

        and we are not… in 2nd behind the A’s… see how things change from one season to the next? last year the A’s were losing players to injuries and pulling up young guys to fill holes (well maybe not this early, but it was happening) and suddenly they were in the playoffs…

        enjoy your standings–hold it as long as you can… or lose it and get it back when it matters!! Just don’t wait too long–as the Angels can tell you….

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Well, it’s way too early for any of that to matter. As you suggested, I agree that much of the “real” season happens after the ASG.

      • charmarie221

        I hate the ASG and that whole week… feels off kilter in the season… I think they should just alternate home field advantage in the WS and not mess with that whole ASG thing… I’m sure I’m missing some salient point as to its benefit, so go ahead and fill me in….

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I think its benefit is that, like the World Baseball Classic, it allows you to get injured players from a basically meaningless exhibition game. (Well, in fairness, to the non-USA countries, the WBC is a pretty big deal for them.)

        I do kind of enjoy watching the “All Stars” play… some of those games are very good, especially when one has been stuck watching sucky Twins baseball for months.

      • charmarie221

        so you’re not a big fan either, eh… it just seems weird to throw a group of players together who don’t normally play together… even as all stars, part of their chemistry is how they play together on a team… none of that ever gels on the all star teams

        but i guess that’s the system and there it is

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Good point about the chemistry! But, as you say, it is what it is. (Minnesota is hosting it in 2014. It’ll be interesting to see how (if) it changes things around here.)

      • charmarie221

        Oh, and check your sheets… was it this early last year that no one was undefeated?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        That’s harder to calculate then you might expect, because it depends on what you mean by “this early” last year. It was an odd season in that Seattle and Oakland played a couple regular season games very early (end of March!)… in Japan. Then the regular season didn’t start until April 5 for most other clubs (Cardinals and Marlins played a game on April 4). By April 8, most clubs had only played three games.

        FWIW, in that context, April 8, Tigers, Orioles, Rays, Mets and D’backs all had 3-0 records. (Which says a lot about how meaningless early season stats are.)

        Right now most clubs have six games under their belts (Oakland and Seattle have seven). Closest to undefeated right now would be Braves, D’backs and Rockies, all with 5-1 records (Oakland 5-2).

        Closest to the six-game mark last year is probably April 12, and no one was undefeated. Dodgers were 6-1, Tigers and D’backs were 5-1. Rangers and Cards were 5-2. Tigers, D’backs and Mets managed to get to 4-0 before losing a game. Rangers lost their second game. It took the Twins five games to finally win one.

  • bronxboy55

    I know people love other sports. But there’s a deep feeling about baseball that I don’t sense with football, basketball, or hockey. As Jimmy Dugan says in A League of Their Own, “Baseball is what gets inside you.”

    Still trying to see Moneyball. Netflix in Canada is pretty pathetic, so I may have to go to the video store, if I can remember how to get there.

    Great post, WS.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Exactly so. Loving any other sport is quite misguided. 😉

      I’m embarrassed to admit, but I’d never seen Eight Men Out, an omission that PBS (of all stations) helped bridge in a nicely commercial-free way. Good flick. I also recently saw Rookie of the Year, which is impossibly silly (young kid becomes the pitching ace for the Cubs), but embodies that special spirit of baseball wonderfully. A silly movie, but engaging and delightful.

      BTW: Moneyball is a pretty good book, too, and the movie might benefit from having read the book. So much more in the book, of course.

      I’ve been considering George Carlin’s assertion that baseball is the only sport that looks different in a mirror. With the possible exception of golf, I’m hard-pressed to name any exceptions!

      About 15 minute away from first pitch of the 2013 baseball season. I took the day off from work to watch!

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