Sunday, December 18, 2011

Didn't See That One Coming

I really, really thought that Albert Pujols would remain a St. Louis Cardinal.  It's been a little over a week since Albert signed with the Los Angeles Angels and I think I've read everything possible about this deal and how it unfolded.  Financially, I knew it would be hard for the Cardinals to keep Albert but I thought they would find a way to make it work.  The team, the city, they all wanted Albert to be a Cardinal forever.  As for the Angels, I didn't see that one coming but in hindsight it all makes sense. 

It happens like this so often.  We keep hearing about one team (in this case the Marlins) and all reports make it seem like a done deal.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, another team swoops in and grabs the prize.  It took less than 48 hours for new Angel GM Jerry Dipoto to quietly make it work.  $254 million over ten years.  It was agreed to in the wee hours of the morning.  Just to make his all-nighter worthwhile, Dipoto also inked pitcher C.J. Wilson to a five year $77.5 million deal.  That total, $331.5 million, is more than owner Arte Morena paid for the team.  I guess the Angels were tired of being second to the Rangers in the AL West.

Albert got what he wanted in both money and years.  It's the second richest baseball contract in the history of the game.  Cardinals GM Bill DeWitt was very honest when he told fans that the organization had a 50-50 chance of re-signing the face of their franchise.  With the Angels recent influx of cash, the Cards didn't stand a chance.  They offered a good contract, $210 million over 10 years, but not great.  They offered what they could afford to pay.  They weren't willing to sacrifice so much of the teams future on one player.   A player who has, ever so slightly, begun his decline. 

What Albert gained financially in Los Angeles, he gave up historically in St. Louis.  He will not go into the baseball history books as the greatest Cardinal of all time.  I'm certain there are those in St. Louis who feel betrayed.  Those who are angry and bitter will, in time, remember that baseball is a business.  I know it was a tough decision emotionally for Albert to leave St. Louis.  I wonder if it was somehow made easier by the departure of Tony LaRussa?  Walking away in the glow of their second World Series title together.

I'm glad that I always made it to the Ted when the Cards were in town.  Over the past 11 seasons I've been fortunate to see Albert quite a few times.  One of my favorite at-bats came during the 2010 season.  In Albert's last plate appearance in Atlanta for the year he faced Billy Wagner.  Great versus Great.  Wags got Albert out with two pitches and the entire ball park went nuts!  I'll miss seeing Albert but it's better for Braves fans to see Albert wearing an Angels uni than that of the Marlins!

One thing is for certain.  St. Louis fans can still rest assured that Albert Pujols will go into the Hall of Fame as a St. Louis Cardinal.  And years from now, Cardinals fans will see Albert in his red sports coat at Busch Stadium on Opening Day.  That they can count on.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Divas & Drama Kings

Let's all just sit back and watch the drama unfold now that Jose Reyes is officially a Miami Marlin.

When rumors began swirling that the Marlins were courting the soon-to-be-former Mets shortstop, I saw an interview with current Marlins shortstop and resident drama king Hanley Ramirez.  Ramirez described Reyes as "a pretty good player" and said that he would be ok with Reyes joining the Marlins.  Ramirez also emphasized the fact that he was the team's shortstop.   Hanley's demeanor and body language didn't seem to be too ok with Reyes joining the team and I found it interesting that he described  Reyes' playing as only "pretty good".  Reyes is waaay more than pretty good. 

It was made clear that if the Marlins signed Reyes, Ramirez would be moved to 3rd base.  Ramirez was well aware of this.  Ozzy Guillen spoke to him about it.  Now that Reyes is officially the Marlins new shortstop, Ramirez says he's not moving to 3rd.  In fact, he's told the Marlins that he's not moving to any other position. 

Grab some popcorn and sit back folks.  This is going to be good!

In other Marlins/Winter Meetings news, it appears that four teams are now involved in the Albert Pujols derby.  The Cardinals, Marlins, Cubs and Angels.  The Marlins want a quick resolution, preferably today.  They've signed closer Heath Bell, Reyes, and they're hoping for Pujols.  Yes, I definitely smell the distinct aroma of the attempt to purchase another World Series title.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Win One For The Skipper

MLB's Winter Meetings begin on Sunday and I'm very curious about what will transpire.  When Frank Wren returns to Atlanta will Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens still be Braves?  I'm doubtful, especially with all the interest swirling around Martin.  If Martin is gone, we sure as heck better get someone really, really, really good in return.  That's all I'm saying.

On Tuesday the 6th, the Hall of Fame will announce the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award which is presented annually to a broadcaster for "major contributions to baseball."  Frick Award voters look at a number of criteria, including longevity, continuity with a club, honors, national assignments such as the World Series and All-Star Games and popularity with fans.  To be considered, an active or retired broadcaster must have a minimum of 10 years of continuous Major League broadcast service with a ballclub, network or a combination of the two.  This year, the Brave's Skip Caray is one of the finalists. 

I would LOVE for Skip to receive this award.  Sadly, I don't think he will.  Skip has always been under-appreciated and very often overlooked as a baseball announcer.  In order to not be disappointed on Tuesday, I've set my expectations low.

Skip's calls are the soundtrack to the Braves successes in the 90's.  I still get chills when I hear those classic calls.  My heart still races with anticipation when I hear this:
"A lotta room in right-center, if he hits one there we can dance in the streets. The 2-1. Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream! Here's the throw to the plate! He! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!...Braves win!"
 What about this one?
"There's a drive, deep right center field. Nixon goes as far as he can go....He caught the ball! He caught the ball! I can't believe it. What a catch by Otis Nixon! He took the home run away."
And every Braves fan's favorite:
 "Swung...flyball...deep left center...Grissom on the run..."Yes! Yes!   Yes!  The Atlanta Braves have given you a Championship!"
Seriously, I get chills when I read these.  And I know when you read them, you hear them in Skip's voice.  That was the power and passion of Skip Caray.  He loved the Atlanta Braves as much as we did and he let us know it every game.  He was a homer.  He was one of us.  But the big difference is that Skip was at the games in the '70s and '80s too, when many fans weren't.   Skip was masterful at keeping us entertained and interested in Braves games when the team couldn't.   I don't mean to insult the teams of those eras but let's face it.  They were bad.  Remember these classics?
"The bases are loaded and I sorta wish I was too."

“And like lambs to the slaughter, the Braves take the field.”

 “The stadium is filled tonight, but many fans have come disguised as empty seats.”
It's easy to be an announcer when your team is winning.  Try doing it when your team is losing year after year after year.  Skip did it with style and ease.  Dare I say it, Skip had panache!  Yes, he could be a bit of a curmudgeon.  He was sometimes grumpy, maybe snarky, but always honest.  Skip was real.  I use to love listening to Skip's pre-game show.  Skip shared his knowledge and insight before every game.  But God forbid someone ask a stupid question.  If you did, Skip let you know it.  I never understood why people would forever ask for an explanation of the infield fly rule. You knew Skip was tired of answering that one and he let the caller know it.   I seriously think that people intentionally asked that question just to get a rise out of him.

I hope the voters remember that in the early days of cable tv, Skip, along with Ernie Johnson Sr., Pete Van Wieren and a few others, brought the Atlanta Braves into homes all over the United States.  A team that truly became America's team.  Skip Caray was heard by more listeners than any other baseball announcer of his time.  He was the first local announcer with a national audience.  He brought the Atlanta Braves into homes all over the country and helped create a nationwide fanbase.  The Frick voters should recognize this achievement. 

Tim McCarver is on the ballot for this award too.  If he wins, well, that's just salt in the wound for every Atlanta Braves fan.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Change.  Sometimes it's good.  Sometimes not so much.  For me, this is a not so much time.

I have a very big problem with the way MLB held Jim Crane hostage and would only let him buy the Houston Astros if he agreed that the team would be moved to the American League.  Supposedly, the rationale is that two  15-team leagues would create a more proportionate schedule.  Bud Selig tweeted that "15 teams in each league would necessitate interleague play every day but it will be better schedule overall.''  Oh, where do I begin?

My first thought, if it's that important to have balance between the two leagues, why didn't they simply move the Milwaukee Brewers back to the American League?  Honestly, I don't remember what necessitated that move but I do remember that Bud's former team had to be the one to bite the bullet and make the move that no one wanted to make. 

I have a huge problem with the second part of Bud's statement.  Interleague play every day!?!  I want MLB to do away with interleague play!  Sure it was a novel idea at first and I was thrilled to see Cal Ripken Jr. play at Turner Field but the novelty has worn off.  I think interleague play ruins what was one of the greatest things about the World Series.  Two teams that had never played each other.  What's next?  Forcing the National League to permanently add the DH?  In fact, why even have two leagues?  If everyone plays each other all the time, do we really need two leagues?  Ok, now I'm all riled up!

Let's move on to another change that I don't like.  The second Wild Card team.  Nope, don't like it.  You think I would.  If that had been in place this year, my Braves would have been in the post season.  So would the Red Sox.   And we would have lost the most exciting last day of the regular season in baseball history.  It would have been a ho-hum ending and two teams that didn't deserve to make the playoffs would have.  Am I making sense?

Of the big four sports in our country, baseball has the fewest teams that make the post season.  Over the past few years, that has become a bad thing.  In baseball, the best of the best made the post season but now it seems that we need to throw in some teams that were only pretty good.  Why does MLB want to get away from the very things that set it apart from the rest?

I know change has always been a part of the game.  I just wish that the changes would be good for the game.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Show Me The Money. Seriously. Where Is It?

Perhaps one of you can answer this for me.  Apparently the Florida, I mean Miami, Marlins have made offers to Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Ryan Masden.  Where is Miami's magical money tree?

I know the Marlins are christening a beautiful new ball park this year and they're expecting attendance to go way up.  Lord knows it can't go down much further.  But what if attendance doesn't go up?  How are they going to fulfill these massive contacts?  Rumor has it they've offered Albert a "substantial" amount over nine years and Reyes $90 million over 6 years.  There's still money left for Buehrle and Masden after that?  How are they affording this?   Inquiring minds want to know.

The Marlins have always fascinated me in a train-wreck kind of way.  They basically bought a World Series title in 1997 and then had a massive fire sale.  They did the same thing in 2003.  It's no wonder they have such a weak fan base.  But what really intrigues me is that they always trade away their best players (Josh Beckett, Edgar Renteria, Miguel Cabrera) but still manage to stay competitive.  I guess it goes back to their farm system and trading good players (the ones they won't be able to afford to re-sign) while they can still get something good for them. 

Knowing how the Marlins have operated year after year and seeing what is going on now makes very little sense to me.  It's so out of character and hard to figure out.  Are they attempting to buy another World Series title?  For the sake of their fans and the integrity of baseball, I hope not.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Congrats to Craig Kimbrel!!  Not only for winning the National League's Rookie of the Year Award, but for doing it in such a strong fashion.  It was a unanimous decision for Kimbrel.  Who was the last rookie to do that?  You might have heard his name before.  Albert Pujols.  That's certainly nice company for Craig to be in.

How dangerous is the Braves closer and how do other teams view him?  Well, look at it this way.  The Phillies tried to re-up Ryan Madson quickly.  When they hit a road block, they immediately went after and signed Jonathan Papelbon.  Yes, the Phillies are tired of collapsing in the playoffs and signing Papelbon was part of rectifying that.  But also, the road to winning the NL East goes through Atlanta and the Phillies know what they're up against when facing Craig Kimbrel.  They're trying to fight fire power with fire power.  I'd take Kimbrel over Papelbon any day. 

Freddie Freeman finished a strong number two in the National League voting and I couldn't be happier for him!  The Braves have numbers one and two in the Rookie of the Year voting.  It speaks volumes about the Braves scouts and farm system.  I can hear the champagne corks popping in Atlanta, Gwinnett, Rome and Mississippi.  They all played a huge part in this.  And let's not forget.  The Braves had the National League's number two vote-getter last year in Jason Heyward. 

Craig Kimbrel is the fifth Atlanta Braves player to win Rookie of the Year.  The number should truly be six and don't even get me started on that.  It still gets me all wound up when I think about it...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Parting With Prado?

It's no secret that the Braves are entertaining offers for both Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens.  Don't freak out.  In the past, the Braves have always listened to offers for any player.  If someone called today and asked Frank Wren about the availability of Brian McCann, Frank would listen.  But that doesn't mean he'd make the trade. 

I don't want the Braves to lose Martin Prado.  I think it would be a huge mistake for them to let him go.  Yes, he had a sub par year in 2011 but much of that can be attributed to the time he spent on the DL with a staff infection.  He wasn't right the rest of the season.  Knowing Martin's work ethic, he didn't take a day off after the season's last game.  I can guarantee that he's already been working harder than ever to ensure that he has a huge turnaround next year.  It's the one constant thing we hear about him.  Martin Prado is the hardest working player on the Braves roster.  Omar Infante once said that he always watched Martin and did exactly what Martin did so that he could succeed at the major league level.

After the disaster known as September, I knew the Braves front office would react strongly. We're certain to see some big changes.  I just hope that it doesn't include Martin.  The Royals and Rockies have expressed an interest in him.  I don't know what they could give us in return to make it worthwhile.  It would have to be something huge.  Something that neither of those teams has. 

Could Martin move to short?  Could the Braves pick up Michael Cuddyer?  There would have to be some rearranging but the team needs more plate production from the outfield.  Cuddyer plays right and center.  As much as I love Michael Bourn, we only have him for one more year and Scott Boras is his agent.  That's never promising. 

What will happen?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Look Into The Crystal Ball

The books are officially closed on the 2011 season, free agency is in full swing and the awards are being handed out.  We all hope that our favorite team will have multiple winners and that our favorite players will garner even more national recognition.  We want the world to be reminded that our team has the best players, even if they didn't go all the way.  We all have our predictions.  There are those who we want to win and those we don't.  It's true.  We never want to see the validation of our least favorite players and teams! 

We saw some amazing performances all season long.  There are multiple, quality candidates for every award and strong cases can be made for each.  No category is cut and dry. but for me the toughest to choose is MVP.  Each league has 3 or 4 players that are well-worthy of the award.  It simply depends on the way you choose to view it. 

We all have our picks and it's fun to see how close we come to the "right" answer.  "Right" has to be in quotations because we don't always agree with the recipient, especially when it's based upon the opinions of others.   So here is your chance.   I want to know who you think should be awarded each league's biggest honors for 2011.

  • Rookie of the Year
  • Manager of the Year
  • Cy Young
  • MVP

I'm a gamer so here are my picks:

National League
Rookie of the Year - Craig Kimbrel / Atlanta Braves
Manager of the Year - Kirk Gibson / Arizona Diamondbacks
Cy Young Award - Clayton Kershaw/ Los Angeles Dodgers
MVP - Ryan Braun / Milwaukee Brewers

American League
Rookie of the Year - Eric Hosmer / Kansas City Royals
Manager of the Year - Joe Madden / Tampa Bay Rays
Cy Young Award - Justin Verlander / Detroit Tigers
MVP - Jose Bautista / Toronto Blue Jays

Now it's your turn.  Your picks are....

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gentleman Jim

I suppose I 'discovered' Jim Thome in 1995, his fifth year in the big leagues and on the biggest stage of all.  Even though he was a major threat and I got very nervous every time he stepped to the plate, there was still something extremely likable about him.  I liked his attitude and the way he played the game.  Sure, maybe I wouldn't like him quite as much if the World Series had ended differently, but since that October I've always been a huge fan. 

So I was excited this morning when I saw that Jim had signed a 1 year deal with the Phillies.  I'm happy he landed somewhere and very happy that I'll get to see him often in Atlanta.  But what I don't quite understand is the move back to the National League.  Jim's basically been a DH for the past six years.  He started off at 3rd base, moved to first in the late 90's and has only dabbled in both since moving primarily into the DH role.   Yes, I know he'll be coming off the bench as a pinch hitter late in games, sometimes staying in the game to play either first or third.  But wouldn't he get more plate appearances if he stayed in the American League?

I think a large part of the decision is that Jim will be reunited with Charlie Manuel.  Charlie was Jim's hitting coach in Cleveland.  Earlier this season, after Jim hit home runs 599 and 600 I watched his post-game press conference.  After talking about his parents (his father was at the game, his mother had passed away in 2005 after a long battle with lung cancer ) the next person he spoke about was Charlie Manuel.  Jim was very excited, grinning ear-to-ear and it seemed almost still in disbelief of what he had just accomplished.  He mentioned Charlie and then almost as if he was thinking aloud said, "I don't even know if he knows about this yet."  Jim went on to talk about what a huge part Charlie played in getting him to 600 home runs.  The things that Charlie taught him as a young player had served him well and extended his career.  It was so wonderful to see someone so accomplished immediately shine the spotlight on those who had enabled him to get there.  

That is one of the many reasons I love Jim Thome.  He's a class act, he knows how fortunate he is and he shares it.  He's putting his ten neices and nephews through college.  And at 41 he still has gas in the tank and a pure passion for the game in his heart.  One of my favorite Jim Thome quotes?  "I think I'll love this game long after my body gives out."

I wish there were more players like him.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


There is no question that Brian McCann is the best all-around catcher in baseball right now.  He plays smart, he knows how to call a good game, he plays hard every day and he's doing what he needs to do in the 
off-season in order to have a long and productive career.

Brian won his fourth Silver Slugger Award yesterday.  Fourth in a row actually.  He's the only Brave to have ever won five Silver Sluggers and he's only the sixth catcher in baseball history to win at least five.  Congratulations Brian!

All that said, I was a little surprised that Brian won the award this year.  Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled, but I really thought it would go to Yadier Molina, the second best catcher in the game right now.  Yadier is the better defensive catcher.  We were reminded of that in the post season.  Brian is the better offensive player.  But this year, he wasn't.

I don't know all the details and ins-and-outs on how the Silver Slugger is awarded, but comparing stats Yadier had a better season at the plate.  Maybe I'm missing something or there's something that just I don't know.  Either way, I won't feel too bad for Yadier.  He won the Gold Glove Award.  Oh yeah, and he got a new ring.  His second ring, in fact.  It's not easy keeping up with those older brothers!  And seriously, what did Mrs. Molina feed those boys growing up!?!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Who's On First?

The feeding frenzy for two of the best players in baseball is underway.   Prince Fielder may have played his last game as a Brewer.   Albert Pujols may have played his last with the Cardinals.  I hope not in both cases.   I love the idea of both men spending their entire careers with one team. But that doesn't happen too often anymore.  Can either team even afford to keep those players?   Probably not.  Would either player be willing take a home town discount?  How creative can these teams be from an accounting perspective?

I started writing this post a few weeks ago, before the Cardinal's World Series victory and before Tony LaRussa retired.  Now there's a whole different wrinkle in St. Louis.  Can the Cardinals afford (in a non-monetary way) to let the face of their franchise go?  The names Pujols and LaRussa are inextricably linked in baseball lore.  Can the Cardinals suddenly be without both?  But we must remember, baseball is a business and emotion must, and will, be set aside.

The teams that can best afford Albert or Prince aren't in need of a first baseman. The Yankees have Teixeira.   The Red Sox have Gonzalez.   The Phillies have Howard.   Perhaps the Cubs?   Would Albert dare consider them?   That would drive a stake through the heart of St. Louis.   The Rangers may need someone new at first and we know they have the ability to spend money.  The question is whether they'll spend it on keeping C.J. Wilson or someone new at first base.  Is there enough in their coffers for both?  Mitch Moreland is signed for awhile but he is very tradeable.  What about San Francisco?  Their season was a huge disappointment and a big bat in the lineup would really help turn things around.  Aubrey Huff has one only year left on his contract.

Not only are Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols great players, they're good people too.   The kind of people that every team wants.   They lead by example.  They are leaders on the field, in the clubhouse and in the community.  I don't know where they'll end up.  Your thoughts?

Monday, October 31, 2011

And So It Begins

The Braves acquired left-handed pitcher Chris Jones from the Indians in exchange for Derek Lowe and cash.  There's no surprise here, except for the fact that the Braves were actually able to trade Lowe.  The Indians are also taking $10 million of the $15 million that the Braves still owe Lowe.  That's nice chunk of cash to free up.  Jones went 7-1 pitching A ball last season.

I think there's still some gas left in Derek's tank.  Not a lot.  Just a teeny bit.  He had a very rough 2011 and his last start as a Brave was horrific.  I hadn't totally given up on him this season.  Remember, 2010 started off bumpy for Derek but then he ended up being the Braves best pitcher after the All Star break.  He was lights out in September.  So this season, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  Derek didn't come through. 

The Braves also exercised their option on Eric Hinske and declined their option on Nate McClouth.  Again, no surprises here.

It's Halloween, Not April Fools Day...

And so it must be true.  Tony LaRussa is retiring.  Not to sound cliche, but that came straight out of left field.

I hadn't heard even the slightest of rumblings about the possibility of LaRussa hanging up his spikes.  Admittedly, I don't have my finger on the pulse of the Cardinals organization but I do have many friends who are extremely loyal and passionate Cardinals fans.  I'm certain they are in a state of shock and disbelief right now.  Management knew Tony's thoughts in August but his coaching staff and players found out Sunday, after the World Series victory parade.  What a buzz kill.

LaRussa is going out the way everyone wants to.  On top.  Off the top of my head I can only think of one other person who's done the same.  Jerome Bettis.  Perhaps y'all can remind me of others.

I don't want this to read like a news report because that's not what I do, but some of LaRussa's accomplishments are worthy of repeating. 

  • A 33 year career, the last 16 spent as manager of the Cardinals made Tony LaRussa the longest tenured manager this season.
  • LaRussa is the 3rd winningest manager in the history of baseball behind Connie Mack and John McGraw.  Bobby Cox is fourth on the list.
  • Only Connie Mack has managed more games than LaRussa.  Mack retired at the age of 87.  LaRussa is 67.
  • LaRussa led teams have won 6 Pennants and 3 World Series.
  • LaRussa has been named Manager Of The Year 4 times, twice in each league.
  • LaRussa is one of two managers who have won a World Series title in both leagues. One with the Oakland A's and two with the St. Louis Cardinals.  The other is Sparky Anderson. (Cincinatti Reds, Detroit Tigers)

LaRussa needs only 36 wins to pass McGraw on the all-time wins list.  At his press conference he was asked if he considered staying one more season so that he could surpass McGraw.  I love his answer.

"I'm aware of the history of the game," LaRussa said.  "But I would not be happy with myself if the reason I came back was to move up one spot.  That's not why you manage ... it's not something that motivates me.  Wherever you finish, you finish."

I'll be honest with you.  I am not the hugest Tony LaRussa fan.  I do have a great appreciation and respect for what he has accomplished over his career.  He has a brilliant baseball mind and his numbers speak for themselves.  What I haven't always liked what he's said in the the press about other managers and teams.  Very often he comes across as whiney and petty.  He's very taciturn and often seems arrogant.  That's something I don't care for.  Then again, his players and coaches love him and it seems they'll do just about anything for him.  This season, we even saw them rise from the dead for him.  LaRussa also does a great deal for charity, especially animal charities, which I totally love. 

Here are the real questions.  There are now two, more than likely three, prime managerial positions open.  St. Louis, Boston and probably Chicago.  Who will go where?  Yesterday morning, re-signing Albert Pujols was the first order of business for the Cardinals.  Now they need a manager too.  My thinking was that with the World Series crown there was absolutely no way that the Cards could let Albert go anywhere else.  With LaRussa gone, it's even more vital to keep Albert in St. Louis.  Will Bill DeWitt and John Mozeliak go after Terry Francona?  Or does Theo Epstein want him in Chicago?  I don't even know the state of that relationship right now.  We know one thing, Theo is aggressive.  Does Theo want both Terry and Albert?  The Cubs are always willing to spend.  If Albert goes to Chicago, does Prince end up in St. Louis?  Or is it Terry and Prince in Chicago?

Help me out.  Where do you think all the pieces will fall?  What do you think about Tony LaRussa's retirement?  Did you see it coming?  And who else retired at the top of their game?

Oh yes, and Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

I love autumn.  It's my favorite season for so many reasons.  The summer heat is finally waning, the leaves begin to turn, post season baseball arrives, it's great hiking weather and...Halloween!

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday.  I love everything about it and everything that goes with it.  I decorate for Halloween (more than I do for Christmas) I send out Halloween cards and to a few special people, gifts.

A few Halloweens ago, I sent a book to a 6th grader who has never liked to read.  It was titled Haunted Baseball.  I had the hope that his love of baseball and Halloween would get him reading.  I don't think he ever finished the book, but I LOVED IT!  Yes, I read it before I wrapped it. 

The stories told are from people involved in all aspects of the game, players, umpires and front office personnel.  From the hidden passageways at Dodger Stadium, to a haunted spring training complex in Florida to the legendary ghosts who wouldn't leave the old Yankee Stadium these stories will pull you in.  Who has experienced these hauntings?  Jim Thome, Johnny Damon, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Roberto Clemente all have hair-raising stories to tell! 

Haunted Baseball is a fun and easy read and perfect for this time of year!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Please Don't Say It's Over!

I don't think anyone would disagree that baseball fans were treated to one of the most exciting, competitive and compelling post seasons in baseball history.  The two wild card teams weren't decided until the witching hour on the last day of the regular season.  In fact, we almost got one extra day of regular season play.  Of the 41 playoff games that could have been played, 38 were.  The majority of those games were close and the mostly unlikely and unexpected of post season participants took home the Commissioner's Trophy last night.  Wow!

Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals!!  Even the most loyal of Cardinal fans had to think that their team didn't have a snowball's chance of making the post season, let alone going the distance.  Spring training began with their best pitcher, Adam Wainwright having Tommy John surgery.  The team played ok, but not well enough.  As we've heard countless times, on August 25th, the team was 10 1/2 games back in the Wild Card race.  Forgive me if I can't bear to mention who they surpassed in that race.  They were a team not playing like Cardinals teams are suppose to and they knew it.  The front office made the right trades at the right time. The team got it together and got hot when it mattered.  And they never cooled off. 

There are two players I am especially happy for.  Arthur Rhodes and Lance Berkman. 

Arthur Rhodes is 42 years old and this was his first World Series.  He's played for 9 teams in his 20 year career and last year he played in his first All Star Game.  Every time Arthur takes the mound, before he throws his first pitch, he scratches the initials 'JR' on the back of the mound.  'JR' stands for Jordan Rhodes, Arthur's son.  Jordan passed away in 2008.  He was only 5 years old.  Arthur is a private and stoic man.  He never spoke of his son's illness or death.  Arthur Rhodes keeps playing baseball to honor his son's memory.

Lance Berkman has been in the bigs for 13 seasons.  I have a love/hate relationship with him.  That comes from his 11 seasons with the Astros.  He ALWAYS had the Braves number.  Lance is a gamer and I love to watch him play.  He's a throwback player and he always plays one way, hard.  He's played in one World Series, 2005 when the Astros were swept by the White Sox.   Lance was traded to the Yankees in the middle of last season as the Astros were trying to free up money and build for the future.  (Don't they always seem to be doing that?)  He signed with Cardinals as a free agent in the off season and, ironically, was almost traded to the Rangers this year.  He told the Cardinals brass that he understood if they needed to trade him but he wanted to come back to St. Louis at some point.  Instead of trading him they signed him for 2012 too.  That was a good move.

Some baseball players wait a lifetime and never get to play in a World Series.  Some players go early in their career and never get to go back.  And some players, like Arthur Rhodes and Lance Berkman play their hearts out season after season and get a World Series ring in the twilight of their careers.  Even Rangers fans have to be happy for them.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Who Said Baseball Is Boring?

My heart is still pounding! 

I can't believe the Game 6 we were treated to last night!  It was baseball at it's finest, not always well executed, but still a heart stopping game.  Heart wrenching if you're a Rangers fan.

Not once, but twice, the Rangers were one out away from the teams first World Series title.  Not once, but twice, the Cardinals tied it up.  Then the local boy hit a walk-off home run.  The boy who quit playing baseball after high school.  They simply won't go away quietly.  The Cardinals almost seem to be a team of destiny, given up for dead in late August and now one win away from the team's 11th World Series title.  But what about the Rangers and destiny?  Winning tonight would make it even sweeter than winning last night.  More stressful, but much sweeter. 

Not one player on the Rangers roster has a World Series ring.  Not a one.  That's pretty amazing considering the mobility of baseball players today.  Wouldn't it be wonderful for Michael Young to be a World Series champion?  11 years with the Rangers.  He's done everything the team has ever asked of him.  He is Mr. Ranger.   Josh Hamilton, baseball's ultimate story of redemption.  Having it all, losing it all, and working so hard to get it all back.  Nolan Ryan, fighting for the team and rebuilding it from the deepest part of his baseball-shaped heart.  Every team has their stories but some in Arlington are nothing short of poetic.

What's it like to be a baseball player in the promised land of football?  For the past few years the Rangers have been a much better team and organization than the Dallas Cowboys.  But they still play second fiddle to America's Team.  The Stars, the Spurs, the Mavericks.  They all have Championships.  It's time for the Rangers to join the club.

The Cardinals have been around for 111 years.  The Rangers 40, 51 if you count the years as the Washington Senators.  Three teams younger than the Rangers have won the World Series.  The Blue Jays twice, the Marlins twice, the Diamondbacks once.  That has to smart if you're a Ranger.

So which team is the team of destiny? 


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

Maybe that's what Tony LaRussa should have said when Derek Lilliquist answered the bullpen phone.  

It's been nothing short of bizarre, keeping up with this ever changing story.  Yesterday I read, listened and watched so many different reports on what happened and the subsequent commentary on what now has been dubbed "Bullpen Gate".  What I find strange is how these stories have evolved with each passing hour.  There are so many inconsistencies and so much finger pointing.  I don't get it. 

From Lilliquist getting the wrong pitchers up, to LaRussa not remembering if he or Dave Duncan called the bullpen to the just as intriguing storyline of whether LaRussa or Albert Pujols called for a hit and run, where does the truth lie?  Not that any of that is important now, the Cardinals lost Game 5 and that's all that really matters.  And while the Cards deal with the circus, the Rangers are quietly and solely focused on Game 6.

What do I find the most humor in?  That all the analysts are shocked that the great Tony LaRussa may have made a mistake.  As the kids say, OMG!  Don't get me wrong, LaRussa is an incredibly smart man and he has a great baseball mind.  But that doesn't make him infallible.  One analyst on the MLB Network even made reference to LaRussa's age.  So now they think he's senile!?!  To me, it looks like the man made some mistakes during the game.  It's that simple.  Oh, and maybe he doesn't want to take all the heat.     

I'm curious about a comment from today's press conference. 

“Some of you don’t know me very well, but it’s been the same philosophy since I started,” LaRussa said. “…Treat the club like a family…I don’t throw this family under the bus…I’d rather take the hit.”

But isn't that what he kind of did to Lilliquist, Duncan and Pujols?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

They Call Him King Albert For a Reason.

From two pitching duals to nothing short of a pure slugfest, Game 3 of the World Series was a complete turnaround from Games 1 and 2.  And Albert Pujols proved once again why he is the most feared hitter in baseball. 

Three home runs in one game.  5-6 at the plate.  6 RBIs.  What left many of those in Arlington jaw dropped last night is what Cardinals players and fans have come to expect.  Albert was hitless in Games 1 and 2.  0-6 with a walk.  Simply put, Albert was due.  Perhaps overdue.  In Game 3, Albert caught up.  He now keeps company with Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson and it all seems so very right.

Albert took a little bit of heat for not speaking to the press after Thursday's loss.  He said he waited 25 minutes but no one approached him in the locker room.  Maybe the reporters were scared?  The travel day gave Albert extra time to think or perhaps dwell on the first two games.  Some players can struggle through an entire post season (Alex Rodriguez)  I don't see how that is humanly possible for Albert Pujols.  He is that good.  He may have a few sub-par games at the plate but Albert gets himself back on track more quickly than any other player in the game.  His legend is growing right before our very eyes.  Do you realize how lucky you are to witness to this?

Tonight, Game 4, I expect to see Albert walked more than once.  Honestly, can you blame the Rangers?

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Lifer or a Journeyman?

Very few baseball players spend their entire career with one team.  Everybody loves the storied careers of lifers like Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks and Cal Ripken Jr., a forever Oriole.  Perhaps we're seeing a few of those players now.  Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, Todd Helton and Michael Young have all spent their careers with one ball club.  Some players, even though they're so strongly associated with one team, have played for another.  Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Ozzy Smith all spent time elsewhere, although sometimes it's hard to remember where.

For many loyal fans, it's hard to even imagine one of our favorite players in any other uniform, but it's a harsh and ugly reality we sometimes have to face.  It broke my heart to see Tom Glavine in that Mets uniform and I never got use to it.  Next season, we may think how odd Prince  Fielder and Albert Pujols look.  Or perhaps they'll look exactly the same.  Only time will tell.

Baseball players change teams for a myriad of reasons.  Sometimes it's their choice, many times not.  Free agency, trades, waivers or signing a player who's been cut loose.  You never know when or where a player will resurface.  Throughout the post season I've seen so many familiar faces.  Players that were once an Atlanta Brave are on other teams now.  Some came up through the farm system and others via a different avenue.  Some were here for awhile.  Others, just for a cup of coffee.  Let me know if I missed anyone.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Henry Blanco
Jason Marquis (on the DL, wasn't on the post season roster)

Detroit Tigers
Wilson Betemit

Milwaukee Brewers
Mark Kotsay
Takashi Saito

New York Yankees
Andruw Jones
Rafael Soriano
Mark Teixeira

Philadelphia Phillies
Pete Orr

St. Louis Cardinals
Octavio Dotel
Rafael Furcal

Tampa Bay Rays
Kyle Farnsworth
Casey Kotchman

Texas Rangers
Elvis Andrus
Neftali Feliz
Mike Gonzalez

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Oh Say Can You Sing?

One of my favorite moments at any sporting event is the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner".  We don't have the opportunity to sing our National Anthem very often and as far as national anthems go, it totally rocks!  It's not an easy song to sing and we've seen and heard it butchered many a time.  But those who have done it right, they've given us goose bumps and we've never forgotten it. 1991.  Super Bowl XXV.  Whitney Houston.  Need I say more?

Game One of the 107th World Series is upon us.  Me, being a music person, I'm curious as to who our performers will be.  The Super Bowl has one performer.  The World Series has up to seven.  Here is my issue.  Over the past few years, as Fox has been broadcasting our biggest sporting events, singers from other Fox television programs (i.e. "American Idol" & "Glee") have cornered the performance market.  I don't like it.  Don't get me wrong, Carrie Underwood does a fantastic job.  Others not so much.  This year, I'm certain we'll see dude who won American Idol last season.  What's next, a dance interpretation from the winner of "So You Think You Can Dance"?

That's one of the things that I like so much about the two League Championship Series.  The singers/musicians who perform our National Anthem have a connection to the city, not the network.  How cool was it to see Aretha Franklin and the Four Tops singing in Detroit?  And the Silver Bullet Band's Alto Reed performing on the sax.  Stellar!  In Arlington we saw Fourtwelve and Jack Ingram.  Chuck Berry performed in St. Louis and Milwaukee called upon three un-famous but very talented local artists.  It came across so much more meaningful.

The World Series is a national event but it still has a very local vibe to it.  There is always a team connection to the person who is given the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. It should be the same way for the musician(s) who perform our National Anthem.
And before y'all harass me, yes I know his name is Scotty McCreery and he is from North Carolina.

Your suggestions for performers?

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Table Is Set

The Brewers made an exit just as ugly as the Tigers.  Two very lopsided Game 6s.  I wanted to see better games.  I expected more.  And as I said previously, I hate to see any team go out that way, especially in this case for Prince Fielder and Brewers fans. 

If we hopped into the time machine and went back to mid-season, tons of folks would have said that the Rangers would make it to the World Series.  The Cardinals, not too many.  And yes, I'm including Cardinals fans in that poll.  As for the World Series, public sentiment will be with the Rangers.  The red-headed stepchild of Dallas. 

I love it when people do the right thing.  Last night that person was Albert Pujols.  Recognizing that Prince Fielder may be taking his last at bat in Milwaukee as a Brewer, he called for time just before the first pitch.  Brewers fans were able to continue cheering for one of their most beloved.  It was something that Prince richly deserved.  Albert's moved showed class and respect.  I tip my cap to both of you.     

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Halfway There

Congrats to the Rangers for making it back to the World Series!  It speaks volumes about the players, coaching staff and front office for making it back.  That's no easy task.  I'm sure many thought the Rangers were doomed after losing Cliff Lee but this team is stacked.  They're firing on all cylinders and they'll be tough for anyone to beat.

I do feel really, really bad for the Tigers and the shellacking they took last night.  I'll be honest, I could barely watch it.  Luckily, I was multi-tasking with my main focus on the Georgia/Vandy game.  As an aside, I love my Dawgs and in my world there is no football like SEC football.  When I'm not bleeding Braves blue, I'm bleeding Georgia red and black. 

Back to last night.  After the Dawgs squeaked out the win, the ALCS got my full attention.  At that point, the game was so out of reach for the Tigers.  Ugly is the only word to describe it and no one wants to go out that way.  The Tigers are a great team, they're building the right way and they'll be back in the mix next season. 

I am a HUGE fan of Jim Leyland.  It seems like he's been around for forever and I'm guessing that's because he was a National League guy for so long and I saw him so often.  I can still see him in that Pirates uni, smoking in the dugout.  It makes me laugh to think that was ok!   The Braves and the Pirates played some tough games in the early 90's.  Talk about a stacked team...Bonds, Bonilla, Drabek, Van Slyke, Neagle and a young Tim Wakefield.  I still get chills when I see Sid Bream and the slide that got the Braves back into the World Series in 1992!  And Jim evened the score with the Braves when he led the Marlins to a World Series victory in 1997.  He's the best thing that's happened to the Tigers in the last 20 years.  He's a classy guy and he showed nothing but in his post game comments last night.  I know someone has to lose, but I hate it when it's someone who's so deserving and someone who's given so much to the game.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Tale of Two Collapses

Baseball fans witnessed two epic collapses at the end of this regular season.  One in Atlanta.  One in Boston.  From my Braves fan point of view, it was like watching a slow motion train wreck.  Honestly, I truly believed the Braves were going to pull it out at the end.  The Braves love to torture us and I knew that it was going to come down to the last game of the regular season, just like last year.  I knew that the Braves would make the post season as the wild card.  In all my Pollyanna-ness I knew Atlanta would see October baseball again.  Nope.  At the end of that game on September 28th I stood there in disbelief, watching my team walk silently into the sunset of the 2011 season.

The Braves acted swiftly.  Hitting coach Larry Parrish was dismissed.  President John Schuerholz sent what is best described as a letter of apology to Braves Season Ticket holders.  The local media was the toughest they've ever been on Fredi Gonzalez and the failings of individual players were openly dissected.

But that is NOTHING compared to what is going on in Boston!  Terry's gone.  Theo's gone.  Am I watching sports reporting or some baseball version of the Real Housewives!?!  I won't even bother to laundry list the names of Red Sox legends who are rolling over in their collective graves.

Terry Francona has gone from being the savior who broke The Curse to what various news sources are portraying as a pill-popping, hotel-dwelling, head case.  Certain superstar pitchers, were reportedly drinking beer, eating and playing video games while their teammates were on the field.  There are reports of players whining about a day/night double header due to Hurricane Irene and then ownership appeasing the players with a gift of pricey headphones and a party on owner John Henry's yacht.  The Red Sox are airing their dirty laundry and it's getting uglier and uglier.  What's left of upper management seems to be in disarray and the players are looking like what we don't want them to be...spoiled millionaires. 

Red Sox.  What has become of you?  For the past decade you were the shining model of how to build a championship team.  It was the ultimate comeback story 86 years in the making.  And just to prove it wasn't a fluke, you did it twice.  Now, it's a circus, a soap opera, an embarrassment to your Red Sox Nation.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Baseball is brimming with superstition.  The Curse of the Bambino. The Curse of the Billy Goat.  Hitting slump?  Wear your socks high.  Hitting streak?  Follow the same pre-game ritual.  Yes, in baseball they're called rituals.  In all the years I was lucky enough to see him pitch, I never saw Greg Maddux step on a foul line on his way back to the dugout.  Craig Kimbrel wouldn't give the Hall of Fame his cap when he broke the rookie saves record this season.  He gave them his spikes.  But the cap?  No, he'd been wearing that cap all season long and well...

So then it makes sense, being that I'm a baseball fan, that I'm a bit superstitious too.  A few years ago I was having a conversation with my boss.  I made the comment that I didn't want to jinx something.  He shook his head and said to me, "You baseball people, jeez."  This past season, an opposing pitcher (I can't remember who) was no-hitting the Braves.  I called a friend who was at the game and told her to switch seats with whoever she was with.  They did.  No hitter gone.  It sounds crazy, but it worked.

Last night I was watching the Rangers/Tigers game.  The Rangers were up 2 games to none.  The series was back in Detroit and I'm thinking about all my Tiger-loving family members in Michigan.  They're probably getting a little bit nervous at this point.  No one wants to be down 0-3  They're all great fans and I feel their anxiety.  The Rangers are up 1-0  early in the game when I go into the kitchen for a glass of sweet tea.  I return, the game is 1-1.  I'm not sure what happened as I can't hear the tv from the kitchen.  An inning or so later, I go back into the kitchen for a snack.  Upon my quick return it's 2-1 Tigers.  Now, while I'm watching the game, the Tigers look ok, but not great.  They're pretty banged up and there's no disguising it.  A little bit later I need a refill.  I swear, when I return to the living room, 3-1 Tigers.  At this point I know what I have to do for my family.  I change the channel.

"Parenthood".  It's a cute show with a good cast.  I'm sure a lot people can relate to it.  But I'm still curious about the game.  10:19 I flip over to check the score.  4-1 Tigers.  10:28 I check back.  5-1 Tigers.  The final score ended up being 5-2.  I'm not saying the win was because of me, but I did what I could for my family.

Now, my concern is about my family and friends in Texas.  What happens when they read this?  As Ricky would say, I might have some splainin' to do...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


So you think the playoff viewing schedule is perfect, one game following another.  No problem, right?  And then...FREE BASEBALL!!

I stayed with the ALCS game and my Lord, what a finish!  Ron Washington said it before the game, "Nelson Cruz has the ability to carry this team."  Manager, prophet, soothsayer.  And with all the years of playoff baseball, I can't believe that no one has every hit a walk off grand slam in the post season.  Crazy!

As for the NLCS game, well, that's why they call Albert "The Machine"...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Caching Up on the DLS

Now that I'm up and running I have to jump back to the NLDS and the ALDS.  There were two outcomes that pleased me very much.  The Cards beating the Phillies and the Tigers beating the Yankees.  Before you call me a Yankee hater or think that I'm just angry because the Phillies are the best team in the NL East, read on.

I'm all about the underdog.  I can't think of anyone, in any form of sports media, who picked the Cardinals or the Tigers to advance.  Everyone said the Cards would be too tired and emotionally drained from September.  The Tigers, well, they just didn't seem to be as talented as the mighty Yankees and once you factor in New York fans, well...


I love the fact that the two teams who are seemingly the best on paper are out of the post season.   It once again proves that marquee players and huge salaries do not always win championships.  The Phillies have the most daunting pitching staff in baseball.  Combine that with the bats of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley.  Then add Hunter Pence at the trade deadline.  There was absolutely no way that this team wasn't going to the World Series.  In fact, they'd probably win the whole thing.  Hmm...just like everyone said last year.  What actually makes me happiest about the dismissal of the Phillies goes back to game 162 at Turner Field.  There were two very obnoxious Phillies fans sitting right in front me.  They turned around to 'chat' quite often.  Yes, I think of them, and I smile.

As for the Yankees, it's that whole the rich get richer thing.  I'm not a Yankees fan.  I never have been.  I never will be.  That said, I have a lot of friends who are die-hard Yankees fans and some of them are very nice people!  Here's the disclaimer. I don't like the Yankees as an entity but I do have a certain appreciation for aspects of the organization.  I love their history.  I love the respect and adoration they have for former players.  I remember how sad it was when Thurman Muson died and how fitting the team's tribute was.  I'm glad Joe Torre is in the Commissioner's Office.   I think Derek Jeter is a classy guy and player.  But still, I'm glad the current team is at home watching the post season on tv.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Welcome to Chicks Dig Diamond & Dugouts!

I've been toying with the idea of writing a baseball blog for a little over a year now and needless to say, I'm very thorough in my thinking.  I love baseball.  I love going to games.  If I'm not at the ballpark I'm either watching the game on tv or I listening on the radio.  That's the beauty of baseball, any way that you watch it is magical! 

For me, there's nothing like the sights, sounds and smells of the ball park. We all love the excitement of seeing our favorite players in real life, settling into our seats on a warm summer night with a hot dog, peanuts and in my case, an adult beverage.  Sometimes we're kicked back and relaxed, other times, on the edge of our seats.   On any given night you don't know what you'll see.  You might see a future Hall of Famer hitting his 599th and 600th home runs.  Or perhaps you'll see one of the games fiercest competitors throwing his 3000th strikeout.  Sometimes you know something big is on the horizon, but there's always the excitement of the unexpected too.  A perfect game, an unassisted triple play or manager getting tossed for the 153rd time. 

However, there's a lot to be said for watching the games on television.  The insight of the announcers, a much better view of where those pitches actually went, instant reply on a controversial play and most importantly, no lines for the bathroom!  As for radio,  personally, I love it!  The images that the faceless voice creates in my mind.  It's a voice that becomes a friend and oftentimes, my co-pilot on the drive home.

I have several purposes in writing this blog.  I want to give the world a view from the ladies side of the plate.  There are quite a few of us with ovaries who love the game!  I've been told by many a male friend/coworker/whatever that I know more about baseball than any other girl they know.  I'm flattered by the compliment but I also know that there are many more ladies like me out there.  If you're looking for nightly updates on games, box scores and such, this isn't the place for you.  I'm here to write about what I see, what I hear and what I feel about my favorite game.  In addition to all of that, I love to write! 

For purposes of full disclosure I will tell you that I am from Atlanta and I am a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan.  I'm not happy with how our season ended but honestly, I don't think the Braves would have made it too deep into the post season.  A friend recently said to me, "I don't know how you still go to so many Braves games.  They always break our hearts."  Maybe, but being a lifelong Braves fan includes the 1970s and 1980s.  Now that my friend is heartbreak!  The highlights were few and far between.  Thank goodness for Hank Aaron, Dale Murphy and 1982! 

The past 20 years of Brave fandom have been stellar.  Yes, we've become spoiled but I always stay grounded and appreciative by remembering the lean years.  We've been lucky to have players like Glavine, Smoltz, Maddux, the Jones' (both Chipper and Andruw), McGriff, Lopez, Nixon, Pendleton and so many others.  But I also love and appreciate the players from the lean years...Niekro, Horner, Benedict, Chaney, Walk, Camp, Butler and again, so many others.

I didn't really expect my first post to be this long.  Please subscribe.  I'll definitely make it worth your while!  And now, to get this baby up and rolling there's really only one thing to say...PLAY BALL!