Tag Archives: mlb

Schadenfreuders Unanimous, Engage!

So this looks like it might be fun! As I’m sure you know, the MLB playoffs are starting very soon. According to my calculations (mashes hand against keyboard), on Friday, in fact. I love watching playoff baseball, even in those years when my favorite team is not participating. Which is good, because they so seldom make the cut. I love the drama, the idea that a team’s every hope can come down to one solitary pitch. I love the idea that a player who barely anyone had heard of yesterday can become a celebrated hero today.

But more than anything else, I love mocking announcers, umpires, players, and managers whose idiocy demands such treatment. Because baseball, more than any other sport, has a postseason in which all of these people bring The Stupid in great, heaping bushels. I don’t know why this is, to be honest, but I do know that it is true and that I love it, and because it is bitter and because it is my heart.

So then, I’ve decided to do some features on this here site involving them there playoffs under the umbrella title of Schadenfreuders Unanimous. What, you can come up with a better title? Oh, that is pretty good, actually. Dammit, I should have asked you first.

No matter! We shall proceed. And what we shall proceed with is a series of recaps and live chats of as many of these games as I can humanly manage, with some of the more cringe-worthy moments and quotes from each broadcast. I imagine I will lean heavily on the broadcasting foibles, as those are the kind of things that tend to get under my skin this time of year (even in non-Buck/McCarver games).

Live chattery will probably wait until the LCSes, unless we get to some thrilling elimination games in the division series. I wouldn’t rule out that possibility, but if recent history is any indication, I wouldn’t hold my breath for it either. I did these way back during the 2009 World Series and found them an excellent way to stave off the dull, throbbing pain caused by watching the Yankees play the Phillies for a championship.

So keep watching this space! More details as they develop! Buy war bonds!

Take Me Out to the Nuthouse

As you’ve probably heard, Glenn Beck is leaving FOX News to spend more time with his tinfoil hats. There was a very interesting article in New York recently about how Beck made everyone at FOX very rich but probably cost the Republicans the next presidential election with his special brand of divisive wing-nuttery. The article basically said his conspiracy theories and apparent belief that he is a vessel for the word of Jebus got so out of hand that even Roger Ailes had enough and told Beck to hit the bricks.

In truth, Glenn Beck won’t be going anywhere. He was already a superstar on talk radio and will remain one. He was already doing sold-out, weepy live events about the fall of America and Christmas sweaters and will presumably continue to do those, too. He’ll even be expanding his empire with a new online endeavor called GBTV. (Yes, that looks very much like it should stand for gay/bi/transgender or something similar, but please, nobody tell him. Let’s just laugh about it behind his back for several years.) It sounds it will be mostly Beck doing a variation on his FOX show for a nominal fee; $4.95/month to watch just his show, $9.95 for the full array of GBTV (teehee) programming.

None of this would be remarkable to me if I didn’t know that GBTV (snicker) will be powered by MLB Advanced Media. Yup, the same outfit responsible for creating online clips of Major League Baseball games (but not responsible for allowing you to embed them anywhere) will now help make sure the special angel-monkeys in Glenn Beck’s brain have their message heard. I can’t see how this makes any sense for MLB, business- or publicity-wise, unless they just want to carry one show worse than Intentional Talk.

Granted, MLB is not the smartest outfit in the world (see: idiotic anti-replay stance, the WBC, the aforementioned refusal to make video clips of their sport embeddable). However, I think even Bud Selig and Co. have to recognize that they’re treading on thin ice here. Getting into bed with a guy like Beck–however tangentially–is virtually guaranteed to bring nothing but trouble.

I’m not saying it’s a risk because Beck is a conservative and I am not. I wouldn’t even call Beck a conservative because he’s anything but. A conservative, by definition, wants to conserve, to keep things the way they are. Beck wants to blow up everything up to and including the Magna Carta. This is not so much a right/left split as it is a crazy/not crazy split.

As I already said, he became so toxic that Roger Ailes–who cut his teeth as Richard Nixon’s media guru, and who can stomach Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity–wants nothing to do with him. As gross and disingenuous as FOX News is, the majority of programming is light years more fair and sane than Glenn Beck. Wal-Mart withdrew sponsorship from Beck’s program when he called President Obama a racist. If any business has the economic and political power to withstand public pressure over such issues, it’s Wal-Mart, and yet even they decided they’d rather not be associated with such a person.

But obviously, there is a sizable segment of the population that likes this guy. Why pass judgment on that, if you’re MLB? Fine, let’s look at this in cold, hard terms. From a pure dollars-and-cents standpoint, there is virtually no way that this GBTV (chortle) venture will become lucrative.

Why? Because if the internet has proven anything…well, I guess the number one thing the internet has proven is that people like porn. But the second biggest thing it’s proven is that nobody wants to pay for something they used to get for free. The Internet Graveyard is filled with the tombs of kooky ranters who captivated audiences on YouTube, then decided to try and monetize their nuttiness and fell off the face of the earth.

Not to mention, GBTV will not be the only way people who like Glenn Beck can get Glenn Beck; he still has his radio show, which costs virtually nothing to listen to. And yet you’re asking people to plunk down as much as 10 bucks a month–more than a basic Netflix subscription–to watch him do a show you used to be able to see for a sliver of your monthly cable bill?

Put it this way: If Howard Stern couldn’t get people to buy satellite radios en masse, Glenn Beck will not get people to pay for internet TV in significant numbers. It doesn’t matter if the fee is relatively affordable; people hate subscriptions. They especially hate them for anything online. It doesn’t matter whether it’s for The New York Times or 24 uninterrupted hours of Bababooey or an internet channel dedicated to hoarding your gold.

When Beck has his inevitable on-air meltdown–not if, but when–it’s going to be carried by the same online engine that brings you clips of America’s pastime. Bud Selig will be praying for the carefree days of the Mitchell Report and failed drug tests when that happens.

Bud Selig Knows Drama

I am seriously thinking about expanding the playoffs for next season and adding a wild card play-in game. Because when you have two teams battling for the last postseason berth, that makes for drama, and drama makes for big ratings. That’s why all of TV’s top rated shows are dramas. House. Gray’s Anatomy. The other one. You know, the one with the lawyer? Or lawyers? I dunno, the wife seems to like it.

But I’m not restricting these moves to the postseason. The regular season will have more drama as well. Once a week, we’ll pick a random superstar and mail him a letter taped together from newspaper clippings that says unless he has an absolutely monster game, he’ll never see his family alive again. Think the players will assume we’re bluffing? Would you want to take that chance?

Of course, we expect the same type of threat would lose its effectiveness when used repeatedly. So we’ll have other ones up our sleeve as well. Maybe dangle a player’s first born child over a cliff in an old Buick, just inches away from teetering over the edge. Maybe we’ll set his house ablaze, with the fire department just waiting to put it out as soon as he hits for the cycle. Maybe we’ll hire ninjas. Maybe we already have. Maybe there’s one in Adrian Gonzalez’s apartment right now. Not saying there is, not saying there isn’t.

We plan to roll this program out slowly, in stages, to acclimate players to this new environment. In spring training of 2012, we’ll start by threatening players’ possessions, like their cars and award trophies. Then we’ll work up to more severe things like sending threatening notes to their parents and hacking into their email accounts. By season’s end, each player will think he’s starring in his own personal version of The Game, which is easily the best Michael Douglas movie he ever made.

However, I want reassure everyone that just because we’re going to severely alter the way baseball in played by constantly threatening all that its players hold most dear, that does not mean we have any plans to make any truly drastic adjustments like instituting wider replay. I feel this would irreparably harm one of baseball’s most treasured features, the human factor. We must leave the sport’s most basic decisions up to humans, flawed though they may be. Like, does a player want to see his children eaten by fire ants? If not, maybe he’ll throw a complete game one-hitter.

Manny Being Test Case

Manny Ramirez retired over the weekend. This in and of itself is pretty noteworthy to me, since Manny is among many players whose monumental debuts and stratospheric heydays I remember. So to me, Manny hanging up his spikes serves as another signal of the relentless march of time. Baseball!

Of course, Manny’s retirement is made even bigger by the fact that he did so to avoid a second suspension for PED use. The immediate reaction among most fans and writers was that this was an intensely stupid thing to do, and that retiring instead of taking his medicine (ahem) was a chump’s exit, both of which I agree with to an extent.

Many also feel Manny’s legacy is irreparably tainted, and that this means no Hall of Fame for him. This may be true, considering the generally old-school views of HOF voters, but probably shouldn’t be.

Sooner or later, somebody who either tested positive for PEDs or admitted to using them is going to get into the Hall of Fame. Maybe Andy Pettitte. Maybe Alex Rodriguez. Maybe Mark McGwire. It will happen, and once it does, it’s going to be virtually impossible to argue that some PED users are more guilty than others. To do so requires verbal and logical gymnastics that no one is mentally limber enough to perform.

Case in point: The Manny news prompted Bill Simmons to tweet, “How roided up was Manny during his crazy ’08 Dodgers run? Had to be on par with Ivan Drago or Arnold in Predator, right?” Maybe, but who’s to say he wasn’t just as “roided up” when he played for Boston? Simmons (who is a Red Sox fan; I’m not sure if everyone’s aware of that) is assigning a blemish to Manny’s time with the Dodgers, while implicitly saying that Manny’s years with his own favorite team are untainted.

We’ve already seen Hall of Fame voters do essentially the same thing. The matter of Barry Bonds getting into Cooperstown is seen as so beyond the pale, it isn’t even discussed. But when Andy Pettitte retired, his chances to get into the Hall were soberly discussed, with his use of HGH mentioned only in passing, if at all.

It may seem ridiculous to put Pettitte and Bonds in the same sentence when it comes to PEDs. But is it, really? They both have the same level of “guilt,” which is being named in the Mitchell Report. Neither ever failed a drug test. There are a few differences, of course. Pettitte publicly admitted to using PEDs (after being caught), whereas Bonds never has. The other big difference is that Pettitte is well liked, and Bonds is a horrible human being. But if we’re going to keep terrible people out of the Hall of Fame, we’d have to retroactively kick out some of the best players ever (Ty Cobb being one huge, racist example).

And if we’re going to keep every “steroid cheat,” real or imagined, out of Cooperstown, we’re going to have some very lean Hall of Fame classes in the years to come. In the last HOF vote, Jeff Bagwell just missed out on induction in his first year of eligibility, despite some Hall-worthy stats, because there have been whispered accusations of PED use about him. He’s never been seriously accused, never failed a drug test, was not named in the Mitchell Report, and yet the vague notion that he may have done something at some point in his career was enough to keep certain voters from selecting him. How is this kind of lunatic reasoning better for baseball than possibly letting in a “cheater”?

The current sanctimony on the part of writers is a far cry from how steroids were discussed at the height of their use. While working on The 1999 Project and In The Year 2000 the last few years, I’ve pored over hundreds of articles written about baseball during those two seasons. You know how many times those articles mentioned PEDs? Zero. Not once. At the absolute zenith of steroid use in baseball, no one in the press was talking about it. In fact, when Steve Wilstein noted the unpleasant fact that Mark McGwire kept androstenedione in his locker during that “magical summer” of 1998, he was roundly criticized–most loudly by his fellow reporters.

The retroactive outrage was spurred in large part by Jose Canseco’s tell-all tome, but Barry Bonds was a huge factor as well. It wasn’t until Bonds, a player everyone outside of San Francisco hated, “threatened” sacred home run records that writers got concerned. In order to take steroids seriously, reporters needed to find a target who they enjoyed digging up dirt on, and who the public would enjoy seeing torn down. Then, for good measure, they ripped McGwire for being a “cheat” to atone for enabling him years earlier.

If you want to keep all PED users out of Cooperstown, I don’t agree with that stance, but I understand it. I find that point of view much more acceptable than the Animal Farm route, where some PED use is more equal than others. Jumping through hoops to explain why a certain player’s “cheating” is more acceptable than another’s is just shorthand for I LIKE THIS GUY BETTER THAN THAT GUY. And if that’s how you want to play the Hall of Fame Voting Game, just own it, rather than trying to justify it through flowcharts and moral calculus.

This Season, Remember This Mantra

As I’ve already written, it’s been a rough winter for Mets fans. We don’t need to go through it all. No really, we don’t. But it’s okay to be happy about opening day/night. Really, it is. I promise.

Why? Because baseball just a damn sport. I love it and I’ve loved since I was a kid and in all likelihood I will continue to love it up until and including my grave, but seriously. Let’s keep things in perspective. If the Mets won eight World Series in a row, that wouldn’t appreciably change your life in any way. It would be pretty awesome, but let’s be honest: You wouldn’t have done anything. There is nothing more sickening than a fan who tries to lord a championship over another fan by crowing about what we did. No, they rose to the pinnacle of their profession. You sat on your ass and inhaled nachos while watching it on TV.

So as the 2011 Mets season embarks on its epic journey, I would suggest all of you take the advice given by Mr. Bill Murray in this clip from Meatballs. Repeat it to yourself in times of stress. It will help. Honestly, it will. Because in the final analysis. it just doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER.

Coming this Summer: Lesbian Grandma, Starring Pete Rose

Just in case you missed it, the highlight of MLB’s Opening Day was Pete Rose showing up at the Brewers-Reds game in Cincinnati. Or more specifically, that he raided your grandma’s closet before going to it.

Hundred bucks says there’s an 8-ball on the back of that jacket. Pete would take that bet.

Scratchbomb’s Thoroughly Compromised 2011 MLB Preview: NL East

ATLANTA BRAVES

2010 record: 91-71, won wild card, lost division series to Giants

Biggest offseason acquisition: Dan Uggla, whose last name perfectly describes his powerful home run swing. And his fielding.

Biggest offseason loss: Closer Billy Wagner, now retired. Fuckin’ shocker.

How will the Braves deal with their first season without Bobby Cox since 1990?: Thanks to their talent and new manager Fredi Gonzalez, the team will be more than fine. I’d be more worried about Mrs. Cox.

Best name on 40-man roster: Jairo Asencio. You want white sauce and hot sauce with that?

The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Scott Proctor, who still has something resembling a human arm left after working in a Joe Torre bullpen.

Spring standout: Brandon Beachy has pitched to a 1.13 ERA, assuring himself the fifth spot in the rotation and many dumb puns on his name from headline writers.

Probable Opening Day starter: Tim Hudson, who continues to piss me off for reasons I can’t quite articulate.

Biggest question for 2011: Can the Braves challenge the Phillies for the division title, and if so, will anyone in Atlanta notice?

Strengths: Good young bullpen, lack of crowds at playoff games lessens pressure

Weaknesses: Chipper Jones running out of creative ways to end his season

Semi-serious assessment: As you get older, your hates fade. The white-hot rage I once felt toward the Braves has dissipated almost entirely. It helps that only one figure from the 1990s/2000s team remains (LAAAAA-REEEEE). But it’s also due to them having a team of mostly-home-grown regulars like Brian McCann and Jason Heyward who are much harder to hate than Brian Jordan and Greg Maddux ever were. That extends to the bullpen, which contains a lot of great young arms like Craig Kimbrel and Chris Medlen, with not a John Rocker in the bunch (that I know of). I foresee another wild card in their future, and if the Phillies’ injury woes continue, a division title is not as insane an outcome as it looked this winter. But do humanity a favor and lose the Tomahawk Chop, wouldja?

Continue reading Scratchbomb’s Thoroughly Compromised 2011 MLB Preview: NL East

Scratchbomb’s Thoroughly Compromised 2011 MLB Preview: NL Central

CHICAGO CUBS

2010 record: 75-87

Biggest offseason acquisition: Matt Garza, who, along with Carlos Zambrano, could give the Cubs the angriest 1-2 pitchers in baseball.

Biggest offseason loss: Tom Gorzellany, on purely technical grounds.

Is this the year that the Cubs…: Whatever you were going to say, no.

Best name on 40-man roster: Welington Castillo, Dominican duke.

The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Kerry Wood, whose presence here seems more weird than it should.

Spring standout: Last year’s star callup Starlin Castro has 12 RBIs and 4 home runs, which can only mean his untimely demise is imminent.

Probable Opening Day starter: I’m sure Zambrano has already made it abundantly clear to Mike Quade that he will start on Opening Day.

Biggest question for 2011: Has Alfonso Soriano been so underwhelming for so long he’s come all the way back around to being underrated?

Strengths: Idyllic ballpark with laissez faire attitude toward the wearing of shirts

Weaknesses: The oppressive weight of history

Semi-serious assessment: The Cubs are a little better than I first thought before taking a closer look at their lineup. Carlos Pena is a good fit for Wrigley, and Garza should fare well in the National League. I don’t know if it adds up to contending per se, but I think they’ll enjoy a solid season of not completely sucking.

Continue reading Scratchbomb’s Thoroughly Compromised 2011 MLB Preview: NL Central

Scratchbomb’s Thoroughly Compromised 2011 MLB Preview: NL West

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

2010 record: 65-97

Biggest offseason acquisition: Armando Galarraga, who will bring with him all the luck of a man who was denied a perfect game by an indecisive umpire.

Biggest offseason loss: Mark Reynolds. Now that he’s in the AL East, could he become the first man to strikeout 300 times in a season?

How can a team with this much talent perform as badly as it did last year?: With just the right amount of counterbalancing suck.

Best name on 40-man roster: Leyson Septimo, master of darkness!

The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Take your pick. Melvin Mora, JJ Putz, Aaron Heilman, Xavier Nady, Mike Hampton…it’s like the bargain bin at the Ex-Mets Yard Sale.

Spring standout: In a typically Diamondback-esque performance, Justin Upton already has 7 RBIs, 3 homers–and 13 strikeouts.

Probable Opening Day starter: Ian Kennedy, presumably due to his ex-Yankee pedigree. It certainly ain’t for the 25 hits he’s given up in 17 innings pitched.

Biggest question for 2011: Is this the year Arizona’s young core makes the transition from promising to disappointing?

Strengths: Well-regarded GM, no actual snakes on premises

Weaknesses: Copious amount of strikeouts can cause brief cyclones

Semi-serious assessment: The “young” Diamondbacks are rapidly becoming middle aged, in baseball years anyway, with little to show for the promise shown way back in 2007. In fact, much of that “young” lineup has been whittled away, to where it’s essentially Upton and Chris Young. The pitching has disaster potential written all over it. It doesn’t take much to compete in this division, but the Diamondbacks don’t have it.

Continue reading Scratchbomb’s Thoroughly Compromised 2011 MLB Preview: NL West

Scratchbomb’s Thoroughly Compromised 2011 MLB Preview: AL Central

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

2010 record: 88-74

Biggest offseason acquisition: Adam Dunn, who hates the game of baseball so much he hits 40 home runs every year without fail.

Biggest offseason loss: Jake Peavey’s fleeting healthiness

What outrageous thing will Ozzie Guillen do this season?: To top previous incidents, it will have to involve farm animals.

Best name on 40-man roster: Jhonny Nunez, currently being sued by Jhonny Peralta for copyright infringement.

The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Juan Pierre, who is apparently still considered employable.

Spring standout: Would you believe me if I told you Lastings Milledge? If not, why would you not believe me? I thought we were friends, bro.

Probable Opening Day starter: Mark Buehrle, who promises to get everyone back on the road in a lean 90 minutes.

Biggest question for 2011: How long can a team run counter to modern baseball thinking and still perform reasonably well?

Strengths: Lineup well suited to home ballpark, willingness to spend stupid money if needed

Weaknesses: Hawk Harrelson

Semi-serious assessment: The loss of Peavey (for however long that lasts) will hurt them, and after Buehrle the pitching staff is not fantastic. But they do have a pretty good bullpen, and a lineup that will hit many homers at their home ballpark (Dunn and Paul Konerko for starters). I would expect them, Detroit, and Minnesota to jockey for first place this summer.

Continue reading Scratchbomb’s Thoroughly Compromised 2011 MLB Preview: AL Central