Monday, July 17, 2006

Reasons Dave is Glad He is Alive

First Reported by Dave Mandel


"STILLWATER
, Okla.
- The final totals on the scoreboard Saturday afternoon at Boone Pickens Stadium during Oklahoma State’s annual Orange-White game showed the White team on top of the Orange squad by a 44-38 margin.

"The White squad was spotted 14 points before the game started and 24 more at the beginning of the second half. The points were added to offset the fact the majority of the starters competed for the Orange squad and to keep the game competitive for the fans. Without the added points, the Orange outscored its teammates by a 38-6 margin as the Cowboys concluded spring football drills."

I mean, if you are honestly attending an intrasquad scrimmage hoping for a serious nailbiter, such that added points makes the game more enjoyable, you really need to question a) your purpose for attending the spring game in the first place and b) what you’re doing with your life.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Face of the Franchise

Posted by Chris Kenna

Recently, while listening to the morning radio programming which wakes me up on my alarm clock every morning (it happens to be ESPN's Mike and Mike, the only sports talk radio program worth listening to for any amount of time) I heard of an upcoming promotion by Major League Baseball that caught my attention.

Apparently, Major League Baseball, in conjunction with DHL Shipping, I believe, will be choosing 5 players from each team's history to compete for a vote to represent each franchise. From that point, the general online public will be able to vote for their choice to represent each team online.

The competition starts on July 17, but given my immense interest in the history of the great pasttime of baseball, I simply could not wait that long to delve into this issue and make my determination on which player should be considered the face of each Major League franchise. I thought I would share my thoughts and maybe get some debate started before the competition officially begins.

Before I begin, let's keep in mind that this vote does not necessarily mean picking each team's "best" or "most talented" player, but the player that would best represent your franchise. If the team was listed in the dictionary, this player would most likely be in the accompanying picture.
So, without further ado...

  • Arizona Diamondbacks - Randy Johnson
    Had his best seasons in Arizona and brought this young franchise a World Series.
    Others considered: Luis Gonzalez, Curt Schilling
  • Atlanta Braves - Hank Aaron
    The all-time home run king makes this one an easy choice, especially when you consider he played for the Braves in Milwaukee and Atlanta for all 23 of his seasons in the Majors. Others considered: Greg Maddux, Eddie Matthews
  • Baltimore Orioles - Cal Ripken
    Baseball's ultimate Ironman is a relatively easy choice, despite a rather storied history of success in Baltimore and St. Louis before that.
    Others considered: Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer
  • Boston Red Sox - Ted Williams
    Arguably the greatest pure hitter the game has ever seen.
    Others considered: Carl Yastrzemski, Cy Young
  • Chicago Cubs - Ernie Banks
    His nickname was Mr. Cub, isn't that enough?
    Others considered: Ryne Sandberg, Fergie Jenkins
  • Chicago White Sox - Joe Jackson
    One of the game's most well-known and most-respected hitters.
    Others considered: Frank Thomas, Nellie Fox
  • Cincinnati Reds - Johnny Bench
    The greatest all-around catcher of all-time anchored the powerful Big Red Machine. Others considered: Joe Morgan, Pete Rose
  • Cleveland Indians - Bob Feller
    The only great Indian to spend a majority of his career in Cleveland was a member of the last Indians team to win a World Series.
    Others considered: Manny Ramirez, Tris Speaker
  • Colorado Rockies - Todd Helton
    The best among a shallow selection pool.
    Others considered: Dante Bichette, Larry Walker
  • Detroit Tigers - Al Kaline
    You can't mention the Tigers without mentioning Kaline.
    Others considered: Hank Greenberg, Ty Cobb
  • Florida Marlins - Miguel Cabrera
    With a lack of great candidates, Cabrera could easily earn his place among the elite on this list over the next 10 years.
    Others considered: Dontrelle Willis, Josh Beckett
  • Houston Astros - Jeff Bagwell
    The leader of the Killer B's and the most recognizable player in franchise history.
    Others considered: Craig Biggio, Nolan Ryan
  • Kansas City Royals - George Brett
    One of the all-time greats at third, and easily the best Royals player of all-time.
    Others considered: Brett Saberhagen, Dan Quisenberry
  • Los Angeles Angels - Rod Carew
    Edges out World Series hero Garret Anderson in this franchise's rather non-descript history.
    Others considered: Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson
  • Los Angeles Dodgers - Jackie Robinson
    No one contributed more to the game more than Jackie Robinson.
    Others considered: Sandy Koufax, Mike Piazza
  • Milwaukee Brewers - Robin Yount
    A tossup between Molitor and Yount is decided by the fact that Yount spent his entire career in Milwaukee.
    Others considered: Paul Molitor
  • Minnesota Twins - Kirby Puckett
    Kirby represents the golden age of baseball in Minnesota.
    Others considered: Harmon Killebrew, Walter Johnson
  • Montreal Expos - Tim Raines
    Baseball's second-greatest leadoff man of all-time.
    Others considered: Andre Dawson, Vladimir Guerrero
  • New York Mets - Tom Seaver
    Leader of the Amazin Mets of '69, and one of the greatest pitchers baseball has ever seen.
    Others considered: Keith Hernandez, Daryl Strawberry
  • New York Yankees - Babe Ruth
    No explanation needed.
    Others considered: Lou Gherig, Mickey Mantle
  • Oakland A's - Dennis Eckersley
    Baseball's original dominant closer edges out two incredible players with character issues.
    Others considered: Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson
  • Philadelphia Phillies - Mike Schmidt
    Arguably the greatest third baseman in the history of the game.
    Others considered: Steve Carlton, Chuck Klein
  • Pittsburgh Pirates - Roberto Clemente
    Combination of talent and contributions to the betterment of the game makes this as easy as any choice on the list.
    Others considered: Willie Stargell, Honus Wagner
  • San Diego Padres - Tony Gwynn
    One of baseball's best and most likable hitters.
    Others considered: Trevor Hoffman, Dave Winfield
  • San Francisco Giants - Willie Mays
    The first, and best, legitimate 5-tool player.
    Others considered: Barry Bonds, Christy Matthewson
  • Seattle Mariners - Ken Griffey, Jr.
    Before he left Seattle, he was on pace to become one of the 5 greatest players of all-time.
    Others considered: Ichiro, Edgar Martinez
  • St. Louis Cardinals - Stan Musial
    They called him "Stan the Man," and he is often recognized as the most underrated player in baseball history.
    Others considered: Ozzie Smith, Bob Gibson
  • Tampa Bay Devil Rays - Carl Crawford
    See the Florida Marlins. This kid could be a great one.
    Others considered: Scott Kazmir, Fred McGriff
  • Texas Rangers - Nolan Ryan
    Played for many teams, but recorded several milestones in a Rangers uniform. The Robin Ventura fight seals this one.
    Others considered: Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez
  • Toronto Blue Jays - Joe Carter
    Sure, there's the game-winning World Series homer, but Joe was a pretty decent player beyond that.
    Others considered: Roberto Alomar, Carlos Delgado

This post is dedicated to Dan Clarin's favorite comedian, Red Buttons, who sadly enough, passed away earlier today. RIP Red Buttons.

Live from Glass Shard Stadium....

POSTED by David Mandel

It all started as a normal day in the history of CSTV Slammer softball. A whole day of overanalyzing starting positions, batting order, substitution patterns and the potential impact that a 2-game sweep over the Buccaneers could have on our playoff seeding. Then the usual 4:00 pre-game meal, 4:15 Locker Room, 4:30 “Where’s Brent?,” and the ensuing 10-minute late departure. The well-wishers telling us they expected a sweep as we made one of the best strolls in sports from the back to the front of the 85 10th office. The quiet, cocky stroll from the office to the Subway. The praise of God and awkward celebratory handshakes for putting the inevitable 3-train on “the board.” And of course, the stop at 145 G&T and the uncomfortable walk through the gates of Glass-Shard Stadium. After pre-game stretches and soft-toss the only out-of-the-ordinary thing that had happened to the Slammers was to learn that G&T’s head cashier’s name was Mohammed.

Game 1 versus the Buccaneers started inauspiciously to say the least. The Slammers’ offense was stifled by the 73-year-old Buccaneer hurler’s deceptive knuckle-curve. The defense was shotty at best, turning ground balls into doubles and fly balls into dingers. After two-and-a-half innings, The Slammers came back into the dugout sweaty and lifeless, and trailing 8-0.

But that’s when a run of the mill blowout turned into an instant classic. Skipper Scotty Brandwein called the team together and delivered one of the all-time great impassioned speeches. Perhaps the motivation came from Antoine Walker’s famous speech for the Celtics between quarters 3 and 4 of Game 3 of the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals, sparking the C’s to the greatest comeback in NBA playoff history. Or perhaps more likely, his words came from within.

“Do you guys even want to be here today?!” Coach begged of his team. “This is *&%$# ridiculous! The team we played last week was 2 times better than this! We’re playing like @#$%! What the @#$$! Wake up!” On his way to his customary third-base coaching box, Brandwein took several viscous cuts at the bat rack and fired the Gatorade Cooler onto the field, leaving the team to think about what it had done.

And just like that, it clicked. Okay, well maybe not just like that. The Slammers went quickly and quietly in the bottom of the third, an inning of pondering Brandwein’s words still necessary before taking action. 4 more runs crossed the plate for the Bucs in the top of the 4th making it 12-0 leading to a slew of Buccaneer “everyone has to play” substitutions and threat of the Slammers getting mercy-ruled if they couldn’t pull it together.

Brent Miller led off the bottom of the 4th with a seemingly meaningless single and Dan Komyati followed with a double, leaving runners at second and third, no one out. Coach Brandwein asked the home plate umpire, “How many are we behind?” just in case things got interesting. And interesting they got! With a barrage of trademark Slammer at-bats, combining brute power with Litke-inspired rattiness, the Slammers scratched to within 12-9, two on, two out. Dan Komyati, who earlier in the inning predicted he would “go yard” next time up sent a towering drive over Willie McGinest’s head in left, a ball so far gone he could’ve rounded the bases twice before McGinest returned it to the infield. Just like that, tie game. Two batters later, a William Massi XLVI single plated David Mandel and the Slammers led 13-12. The Buccaneers, stunned by the turn of events, responded with their typical class, several players firing their gloves in the dugout, another positing “I’m not playing this $#%^ anymore,” and still another asking for an unprecedented mid-game trade to the Slammers.

The Buccaneers attitude foreshadowed their performance after that. Big Cat Dowlat, as is typical of his career, got stronger as the game went on. With his defense suddenly transformed from parking cones into rangy cheetahs, Dowlat was able to use all his pitches to set up easy grounders and can ’o’ corn flyballs.

The Slammers scraped across 1 in the 5th, 2 in the 6th to help Dowlat going to the top of the 7th. As a harbinger of things to come, several Bucs came out to discuss the score with the umpires prior to their final at bat. One gentleman suggested it was 15-12. McGinest suggested it was 13-12, prompting Mandel to snidely remark from the safety of the dugout, “Sir, if you think that’s the score, you haven’t been paying attention,” wisely making sure to speak his comments at a level audible only to his teammates, not McGinest himself. Finally, abacus utilized and base-ten number system mastered, the score was agreed upon as 16-12 Slammers.

The Bucs started the inning well, plating two runs before recording an out. John Wenk’s advance scouting report provided the first out for the Slammers with his pinpoint defensive alignment, but the Bucs brought the tying run to the plate with one out, down two with a man on. The batter sent a brilliant strike sharply on the ground back at Dowlat, who, doing his best Cam Ward impression, got a piece of it with a kick save, sending the ball careening towards the middle of the infield. On came a charging Miller, who barehanded on one hop and fired to Alexis Arguello at first, just in time for the out. Surprisingly, the Bucs argued. Miller’s play proved to be a game-saver, as the Bucs plated the 15th run before Dowlat recorded the final out, disappointing those that had fired on Slammers’ run-line but much to the delight of the Slammers, who play solely for the love of the game.

Game 2 featured the Slammers as the road team, and they jumped out with a bang. With one out in the top of the first, Arguello sent a fly ball down the left field line towards a coasting Curtis “50-cent” Jackson. Jackson, too cool to be bothered with a second hand on the glove, tried pimping the easy play and dropped it. Arguello, heeding the old baseball cliché “make them pay for extra outs”, sent a line bullet to the left-center gap, good for an easy home run and a 1-0 Slammers lead. The Slammers’ scored two more in the top of the first thanks to William Massi XLVI’s RBI single and great base-running, as he challenged Jackson’s notoriously weak arm, leading to ye olde “dugout ball” and another run.

The Bucs actually showed a little life in the bottom of the first, plating three runs to knot the score. How they scored doesn’t matter. The Slammers were held scoreless in the top of the 2nd inning, and that’s when the carnage began. As the Slammers took the field in the Bottom of the 2nd, several Bucs came to argue that the Slammers had batted out of order, which, of course, they had not. This prompted a rare 7-minute, 26-second argument delay. After the game, Massi XLVI would remark, “I was lying down in the outfield during the delay, and three feet away was a switchblade.” After a painstaking scorebook re-creation, it was determined that the Slammers indeed had 3 runs and had batted in order.

That was the first in a multitude of arguments that, much like Zidane’s World Cup head butt will overshadow Italy’s thrilling victory, will no doubt mar CSTV’s amazing performance on the field yesterday. Tensions mounted between the two teams causing even one of the nicest Slammers, Alexa Salomon to get into the mix. “Guess I’m not gonna get a hit,” she taunted back after lacing a single to left, proving the cat-calling Buccaneer prognosticators incorrect. The argument train quickly gathered momentum towards Catastrophe Station. And one-inning later, in the bottom of the third, after Brandwein was allowed to advance 2.5 bases on an overthrow, after two out/safe arguments, and after a base-running interference call gone wrong, Arguello, from his first-base post, correctly instructed the complainants to “Stop your [bad word].” Words were exchanged as Arguello readied himself to throw down. Jeff Foxworthy and Miguel Tejada attempted to intervene for the Bucs. The umpires tried to settle things until one of the pint-sized Bucs “snuck up” one the larger of the two umpires, causing him to fittingly instruct the minute individual “Don’t sneak up on me!” Chaos reigned as the Bucs struggled determining whether they were pissed at the umpires or the Slammers. One rather large Buccaneer came storming into the Slammers’ dugout undeterred by Mandel’s feeble efforts at staving him off, shouting threats at all the Slammers who came within shouting range (which was everyone). Finally the umpires did what they should’ve done long ago, calling the game in favor of the Slammers. The Slammers, fearing for their safety, gathered the equipment and hurriedly left the field, but not before getting the prized signature of a head official, who called himself only “Louie” and vowed to report the ugly incident to C.J. the commissioner.

In the end, the day will go down as two victories for the Slammers, an epic comeback and a major meltdown resulting in a Buccaneer forfeit. Several Bucs may never again get to roam the hallowed grounds of Glass-Shard Stadium. After suspensions were handed down and fines were levied, the Bucs will be significantly shorthanded for the season’s stretch drive. And, if one reporter may editorialize for a minute, it’s for the good of the game. Certainly, one of the most bizarre days you will ever see.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Just Clownin'

The Sioux Falls Minor League, Semi-Pro, Part-Time, Baseball Clown squadron participated in the sporting world's most recent atrocity last night. This team (who knows what level of professional baseball they actually play?) allowed an 83 year-old man to leadoff the game for them. That's right. At "83 years young" (the worst politically correct phrase in our language), Jim Eriotes stepped into the box, swung 4 times, fouled off 1 pitch, and then struck out. At this juncture, most people would question why an 83 year-old man would be participating in a pro baseball game. Others would question the fact that Mr. Eriotes believes he would need only 4 at-bats at the major league level to record his first base hit. I choose to take a different path in analyzing this situation. I want to pose two questions. First, why is minor league baseball the chosen sport for clowning around? And second, why is it so difficult for people to understand that pursuing their dreams is only good until a certain point?

Do you remember 4 years ago when Phil Mickelson indicated that he wanted to pitch in the minor leagues? Thankfully those shenanigans never made it past Phil throwing batting pratice before a scrimmage.

How about Bode Miller, a favorite athlete of mine, recently signing a contract to play one minor league baseball game? What is he thinking? And what is the team thinking? They don't even know what position he is going to play! Here's the thing: that's a big problem! This is not slow pitch intramural softball. You can't station someone behind homeplate as a stand-up catcher. Minor league baseball, or semi-pro, or whatever it is, is actually a real pro sport. I think we should start treating it as such.

And what about Ricky Henderson? He continues to pursue his dream by playing for whatever semi-pro team will issue him a jersey.

Has Jose Canseco graciously ridden off into the sunset? No. And why should he? He will always be able to play baseball in some kind of independent league.

Occassionally, we see Tony Gonzalez, Terrell Owens, or Roy Jones, Jr. attempt to play in an NBA summer league game. At the very least, these guys have demonstrated athletic ability at the professional level. Jim Eriotes has not! And more importantly, I would argue that baseball requires more skill than basketball. Once in awhile, we see an athlete with superior physical gifts excel on the football field or the basketball court, while lacking some of the fundamental skills usually associated with success in these sports. But in baseball, it is hard to find someone succeed at the pro level without demonstrating a level of excellence in hitting, fielding, throwing, or some combination of the three. Running is an integral part of baseball, but the other skills are far more important. An individual can "hide" to some extent on a basketball court. But it is much harder to do that on a baseball diamond. When it is your turn to bat, the pressure is on you. And if you're playing third base, there's not a lot of defensive help around you.

All of these factors make it quite puzzling to me that baseball is the chosen sport among clowns who refuse to let their lives end without saying, "Yeah, I was a pro jock."

I will not be able to satisfy the curiosities listed above. I will never manage a baseball team, and I will never decide to have a man with one foot in the grave bat leadoff. But before I end this rant, I will make the following assessment on life in general.

This is a tough concept for people to grasp, but sometimes, an individual's window of opportunity closes. You often don't want to see the window close, and you often don't know the window has closed, but it has.

Rickey Henderson. You had a great career. Let's just leave it at that. Your window has closed.

Jose Canseco. You have been stealing from society for years. Just leave us be. Your window has been slammed shut.

Bode. For the rest of your life, whatever you are thinking about doing, please do the opposite. There's still a crack in your window, but there's not a lot of air passing through.

Jim Eriotes. I am deeply sorry that you were unable to play professional baseball in your 20s and 30s. I really am. But see, one of the challenges of being an adult is realizing your limitations, and realizing when each window of opportunity has closed. If you have not stepped into a major league batter's box by age 82, it is unlikely that another year of practice will help you reach your goal. And there is no shame in never playing athletics at the professional level. Lots of people have tried and failed. It's ok. Just deal with it.

Several years ago, my father and I were flipping through channels, and learned that Lance from NSync was planning on paying 20 million dollars to fly to the moon.

"I don't think I would spend 20 million to fly to the moon," I remarked.

"Oh, I would love to fly to the moon!" my Dad told me.

Puzzled, I asked, "You would?"

"Absolutely," he replied. "I know it will never happen, but I would love to go."

My father's words can teach all of us a lesson about life. The man would love to explore the far reaches of our universe, but he has come to grips with the fact that it won't happen. I would love to be a professional rodeo star. In hindsight, if I had been born in New Mexico, I would have attempted to rope as many cows as possible during daylight hours, with the hopes of turning pro. Who wouldn't want to be chased by women wearing Anne Hathaway's jeans and ultimately be rewarded with a seat next to Burt Reynolds at the Man Law table? But I have realized that my window of opportunity to be a professional steer roper has closed. I can still do lots of fun things, I just can't be a pro rodeo star. I can watch rodeos on TV. At age 83, if I am so inclined and if my friends are still alive, we can all gather and attempt to rope saw horses. Better yet, we could ride around on horses and rope whatever we can find. We just can't rope cows at the National Finals Rodeo!

One day, while Mandel, Clarin, Sells and I were playing golf at Colgate, a course employee stopped us on the tee box in order to allow an older group of cart-riding gentlemen to play through. As we watched them ride toward their 105-yard bombs the pro shop employee smiled and told us, "These guys just love the game." Of course they love the game. I love the game. And I hope I continue to love it for quite sometime. But I think all of us should show our love for the game by holding up a group of college students on an amateur course. Not by attempting to take a few cuts at professional pitching.

Mr. Eriotes, show your love for the game on a recreational softball diamond. Your current actions are setting a bad example for Bode.