Well, actually, there's not a whole lot to review. The Pacers drafted Miles Plumlee, who I don't think will see the floor unless the team needs somebody with some extra fouls. They also gave up some cash to get somebody from UCSB, who I also don't think will have an impact. The core is the there for the Pacers, this draft was going to be more or less a waste and everybody knew it.
My bigger problem is that a player like Meyers Leonard, who did approximately jack squat in two years of college, gets drafted eleventh overall. Players who gave four years of excellent production, like the Purdue trio of Johnson, Moore, and Hummel, get drafted late first (JJ) and late second round (the others). That just doesn't make sense to me. This is why you see so many draft busts. It's kind of sickening, actually.
So, basically, the less said about the draft, the better. On the baseball front, Anthony Rizzo looks like the real deal. I know the Cubs most likely kept him in Iowa until June so his arbitration wouldn't kick in for an extra year, but this guy just looks like a hitting machine. I guess we'll see in a couple months after scouts and pitchers get a good look at him, but so far, the hype looks justified. It's probably not enough to keep the Cubs out of the basement, but one can hope.
In some other news, the Fourth of July is coming up, and your first-place Indianapolis Indians are at home, complete with a great fireworks show. You should go check it out if you don't have any other plans. Or if your plans are done before seven.
To send you into your weekend, here's a nice video of a boy snagging a foul ball away from an older gent using his popcorn bucket.
There's a very good argument to be made that Larry Bird is the most famous name in Indiana basketball. That's not a lightly-populated list, either. Others gunning for that title would have to be John Wooden, Gene Keady, Bob Knight, and Oscar Robertson. Throw in a few more contenders like Joe Barry Carroll and Isiah Thomas, and yeah, Indiana has probably the most top-tier names of any state. Which is how it should be. There aren't many states that care about basketball the way Indiana does.
So when Larry Bird first came back to the Pacers as a coach in 1997, there was much rejoicing. The Pacers were a perennial contender looking for what it was going to take to make that next step. Donnie Walsh (who, probably-not-coincidentally) decided the next level had a distinct Larry Bird-shaped hole in it. So he filled the void. Bird told the world he was only going to stick around for three years. He wrote the reason in his autobiography, Bird Watching. "I believe coaches need to move every three years if they are going to be effective. Athletes get tired of listening to the same voice. I’m not sure I’m going to make it three years."
Long story short, he did make it three years. And in that third year, the Pacers finally took the step they needed to get to the finals. I've written about it before, but the Pacers were pretty well doomed from the start against that Laker team. But, it was a more competitive series than I think most people remember now. After that run,* Larry Bird was not forced out by any means. In fact, he was begged to come back for another year. But, he had all he wanted and left on his own terms.
*Although, let's be honest. Things would have to be going pretty badly for anybody in Indiana to want to fire Larry Bird.
After taking a couple years off, Bird joined the front office in 2003, and fairly quickly found himself more or less running the team. This took him through some pretty lean years with the Pacers, which can be directly attributed to the brawl. That was a Pacer team on the brink of making a return engagement to the finals the year before,* and this year's team looked even better. There was no doubt in many Pacer fans minds, or the Pacers themselves, that this was the year. All blown apart because Ron Artest, well, is Ron Artest.** But, in the heart of darkness that was those lean years, Larry Bird stood up and said "We will be in the playoffs in five years." He cleaned house, and things initially got worse. The payroll went way down. The fans stayed away in droves. But, Bird worked his magic through the draft, made some shrewd trades, and five years later, there they were playing the Bulls in the most evenly matched 4 games to 1, 1 seed versus 8 seed playoff you will ever see. The core was there, the team was ripe, and Bird knew it.
*And really should have. The Pacers pretty well laid in egg in the last game against the Pistons, and were a dunk away from beating them the first game. Unfortunately, as Pacer fans can surely recall with a groan, Reggie Miller decided to lay that ball up, and Tayshaun Prince hustled back to block it. I've wondered if that still haunts Reggie, or if he has the good sense to focus on all the success he had in Indiana.
**He can call himself "Metta World Peace" or whatever, but that elbow he landed on James "The Beard" Harden pretty well sucked away any goodwill he had built up. How that didn't turn into another ugly brawl, I'll never know. Maybe because that game was in LA and not OKC.
He struck while the iron was hot, landing David West in free agency. This was the first big free agent signing since the brawl, and I think sent the message that the Pacers were back. And were they ever. After rolling to a three seed in the playoffs and easily handling the Orlando Magic, they had the eventual-champion Miami Heat throttled. They blew the first game, won the second, beat the Heat's ass in the third, and continued that beating through the first half of game four. Then, the wheels came off. They were only blown out in one of the resulting games, but the Pacers couldn't quite finish what they started. Maybe it was the James-Wade connection waking up, maybe the Pacers were just too young and didn't quite have the stamina to keep up that level of play for that many games just yet. But the dream ended there. Still, as a Pacer fan, you had to take heart in what the future held. And I'm sure Larry Bird knew this team was on the up-and-up.
He expressed interest in coming back. I had every thought he was coming back, even after David Morway resigned. That seemed odd to me, but I didn't give it too much thought. Because, hey, Larry Bird was really the one pulling all the strings here, right? And this Pritchard guy, he was supposed to be the next wonderkid in Portland. There's nothing bad about this. But then, the next morning, I saw on the Pacers' Facebook page that there was another press conference called. I think everybody knew what was about to happen then. And, sure, enough, Larry decided he had enough.
Herb Simon came right out and said it. Larry could have stayed as long as he wanted to. But, just as with coaching, he decided he was done right when it looked like the best was about to come. I suppose we shouldn't be surprised with this. But, I can't say I'm too broken up about it. I'm sure Bird will continue to hang around in some capacity if he wants to. But, the franchise is in good hands with Donny Walsh. He built the great Pacer teams of the '90's, and he's paired with (allegedly) a brilliant GM in Kevin Pritchard. And, well, I think Frank Vogel was absolutely robbed of Coach of the Year this year. The Pacers will continue to grow and improve, and this core will continue to make noise. But, I think we all have lost a little part of our blue and gold hearts w
So LeBron finally got his ring last night. And, as hard as I've tried, I can't find it anywhere in me to give a damn. I'll fully admit that I would have been all for it if he had stayed in Cleveland. But, chasing rings is just distasteful. It's another thing entirely when a player has given nearly everything he had to a franchise and the franchise just clearly isn't going to have the pieces in time. For example, I don't think many people begrudge Kevin Garnett or Ray Bourque. But, these guys had spent their entire primes with a team, and the team acknowledged they had to go to get a shot.
LeBron did not give his prime to Cleveland. And there's no getting mad at management like what usually happens in these situations. The Cavaliers bent over backwards to get the best pieces they could to put around LeBron. Cleveland embraced LeBron like no other athlete has been embraced since at least Michael Jordan in Chicago. And all this is made even worse because Cleveland was the city that raised LeBron. That would be like me walking out on the Pacers or Cubs. I couldn't even imagine.
So, yeah, I really can't get too excited for LeBron to find his ring after chasing it.
Unfortunately, the sports world can't really talk about much else. I had another idea to write about today, but I seem to have totally forgotten it. Enjoy the weekend, folks. The Indians are home this weekend. Why not spend a day at Victory Field?
While watching the Cubs get beat badly by the White Sox, I noticed that Reed Johnson was in line up, but not in center field. Normally, that means Tony Campana is patrolling center. It's hard to argue with that, as there's a good chance that Campana is the fastest guy in the major leagues. But, Campana was in left field last night. David DeJesus was in center.
This seems to pretty clearly indicate that Reed Johnson is not the athlete he used to be. Which is sad to me. When I think of Reed Johnson, I'l forever think about when he got the game winning hit in extra innings in the first (and to date, only) game I was at with Kristine, and when he totally robbed Prince Fielder in one of the best plays I've ever seen. Though my memory is a bit faulty. He was in right for that catch, too. I guess this era has been over for longer than I realized. Still, any excuse to show this catch is a good one.
What is incredibly sad is that Reed made an even more unbelievable catch against the Nationals (on April 25, 2008), but no video seems to exist of it. It was of course uploaded to YouTube numerous times, but MLB and their complete non-understanding of how social media is beneficial has forced it down. And to reward us, that catch no longer seems to exist on their servers. The internet is supposed to be this huge, grand depository of human knowledge and experience. Only to be taken down by stodgy old men* who can't understand that you will make more money in the long run by opening things like this up. So, because of all that, all I can offer you is a link to a small photo montage of the catch that totally doesn't do it justice. That's no fault of the website, but there are no pictures that are going to show the kind of ground he made up, or how hard he went into the wall.
*Just guessing here.
I know I'm biased, but I will always think of Reed Johnson as a Cub thanks to those moments. I'm sure Toronto fans would have something to say about that, but that's just how it is around here. Oh, and Reed is a staunch supporter of stirrups. Does this guy do anything wrong?
In a somewhat related story,* debate is raging about Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals saying they're going to limit him to 160 innings this season, no ifs, ands, or buts. If I saw PTI right while I was waiting on my B-Dubs to go yesterday, he's currently sitting at 77 innings pitched. At this rate, he'll run out of innings in, what, August? Early September at best?
*Related only in that it's still about baseball, and we kinda-sorta talked about the Nationals.
Here's the problem. Strasburg is your ace, as he would be on a lot of teams. Right now, you've got your team poised to make the playoffs for the first time since the team has been in DC.* And you're going to shut down your ace for fear of injury?
*And only the second time in franchise history. And making it that year was a fluky deal. The Expos went into the 1981 playoffs because a player strike forced the season into halves, and Montreal won the second half division title. They would have finished second in the division (behind St. Louis, who didn't go to the playoffs at all). The Expos even managed to beat the Phillies in the divisional round (the first divisional round in baseball, thanks to the halves set up that was supposed to be a one-off. Thanks, Bud!) and pushed the Dodgers to a deciding game five. Not a bad showing for your first crack at it.
Look, I'm not a big proponent of pitch counts or inning counts. You know how you get stronger? You push yourself. You go just a little further than your body typically goes, which will break down the muscles in your body. Then, when your body rebuilds those muscles, it makes them able to withstand the new toll you're taking on them. Now, does that mean you need to push it to the point you need Tommy John surgery? No, but I don't think putting restrictions on how many innings your guy throws is going to prevent that. If anything, it will promote that. He won't throw enough innings, so his arm won't continue to develop and get stronger. Which means the first time you really tax him, in, say, a deep playoff run, he'll probably injure himself.
As of right now, the Nationals are leading the East by three games. There is every reason to think they can take this division. Shutting down your ace is going to put that in peril. Now, would it be worth it to let him skip a few starts? Probably. He has some well-documented arm issues. Clearly his arm is not quite built up enough, and nobody wants to see him turn into Mark Prior. But letting him bulldoze his way to 160 innings and calling it a season isn't going to help anybody. Let him skip some starts in August, maybe even in July. Let that arm rest and rebuild itself. That way you have a fresh and healthy Strasburg to barrel into September and October. You shorten your rotation to be Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Edwin Jackson, that's a rotation that could drag your offense kicking and screaming into the World Series.
And for God's sake, MLB, get your pitchers throwing long toss as soon as they're drafted.
Actually, go ahead and look. The Pirates have been on the up-and-up for a few years now, but now they are starting to see some real success from the Indianapolis Indians, too. The Indians are sitting at 42-29 at the moments, which gives them an eight and a half game lead in their division. That's also good for second in the whole International League. Pawtucket is sitting at 45-27, so certainly within reach.
If it's at all possible, you really ought to find your way down to Victory Field sometime this season. The Indians haven't won their division since 2006, and haven't taken a league title since 2000. Both seem very well within reach this year. With any luck, maybe Indianapolis will be your AAA champion this season. They would be hoisting the trophy in Durham this year if that happened.
In other news, the All-Star Game is coming up in just a couple weeks. I finally submitted my ballot. Here's how it broke down.
I wasn't really aiming to be so Reds-heavy, but I guess that's just how things shake out. I also could have easily voted for Derek Jeter, but I've not voted for him in my life yet, I don't see any reason to start doing it now. Besides, the Orioles are still only two and a half back of the Yankees and pretty overlooked, so I thought it was deserved enough. For the curious, here are your current leaders.
For the most part, I can definitely buy the leaders. I do think it's a damned shame that Pierzynski is way back in fourth. He has more homers and more RBI than everybody in front of him, and a higher average than all but Mauer. But, he's never been the most beloved player outside of Chicago (or whoever he's playing for at the moment), so he gets the shaft.
I also think it's sad that Billy Butler can't even crack the top five when the game is in Kansas City. Ortiz does have better numbers across the board, but I still get the feeling he's running on popularity power. Ortiz is hitting .314 with 17 homers and 45 RBI. Butler is hitting .303 with 13 homers and 41 RBI. Pretty comparable, no? And as far as Rios is concerned, I just watched him have a monster game against the Dodgers, which I'll admit to swinging my vote. That was probably a bad pick.
Over on the NL side, I really don't have a problem with any of the picks. Obviously I'm a sucker for Andrew McCutchen, he was the guy when I was going to at least one Indians game a week. And Jay Bruce harkens back to that era, too. Also, I obviously made Chipper my pick mostly for sentimental reasons, though I will say that, while Sandoval is having a better season than I realized, Chipper has just as many homers and more RBI, and he plays a bigger role on his team. The real travesty here seems to be Ryan Zimmerman. I don't think he should be leading, but I don't think top five is asking too much. But, I guess that's what you get for playing for the Washington Nationals. They aren't quite in the public conscious yet, even though they're probably the class of that division.
All things considered, though, I think the fans are doing a great job this year. I don't see anybody that is totally there because of their name instead of their talent.
Another nation to add to the fold! Welcome to the Czech Republic! Through all my history classes, I still have no real idea why you split from Slovakia. All I know is it ruined the second greatest theme song from my childhood. Rather than link to it, I've decided to put the two best (which are head and shoulders above any others) in their respective order here.
It's okay, though. Somehow, we've all struggled on.
Anyway, in baseball news, the Cubs finally exploded, but it's not going to change much in the grand scheme of things. So, it's hard to get too worked up about it. In more exciting news, though, R.A. Dickey, he of the knuckleball and bats named after literary swords, now has consecutive notched in his belt. I felt pretty sure that's a new feat, but apparently not. Dave Stieb, I've read, did it for Toronto in 1988. Jim Tobin threw a one-hitter followed by a no-hitter in 1944 for the Braves, but that's not quite the same animal. And, of course, we have Johnny Vander Meer's back-to-back no-hitters, which is probably the most impressive thing ever done on a baseball field. Truly, that is the one record that will most likely never be broken.
I don't really have much else to add today, except for this excellent Adam Sandler cover by Bronson Arroyo, featuring Aroldis Chapman. I don't know how good Chapman's English is, or how much he really understands what the hell is going on, but I find it hilarious.
Before we get going, let me welcome France to the international fold. I don't speak any French, but my buddy Nelson does, and my brother probably remembers a bit, too. But, here's a picture of me in my Marseille Virtolles jersey that my mom got me while she was in France. That also happens to be what I was wearing when I renewed my drivers license, for whatever it's worth.
Today, I'm pulling a page of Bill Simmons' book and going to do a retro-video diary of sorts. Instead of doing a recent game, though, I'm going to do what was named the number one WWF* match of all time by Ask Men. That would be "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat in Wrestlemania III.
*It was still the WWF at this time, and that's how I grew up with it, so that's how it's staying here.Capiche?
First, a little background. I wouldn't exactly call myself a wrestling fan. I watched when I was really little, and then went through a little flirtation with it in middle school. But, generally, I haven't kept up with it. I'll watch a bit if I see it's on when I'm flipping through channels. I do regularly read the Masked Man over at Grantland, though, so I usually have a decent idea of what's going on in the world of wrestling. Or WWE,* anyway. My wife followed wrestling growing up even more closely than I did, though, and her dad still buys all the pay-per-views. So, yeah, I think I'm at least a little knowledgeable about it. At least as knowledgeable as a casual fan.
*Yeah, it's WWE here. Grantland, being an internet publication, wasn't really around when it was the WWF, so he writes about the WWE. Look, it's not my fault they didn't keep a consistent name, okay?
I won't get into any background in this match beyond what is in the videos. If you want to follow along, I watched on Daily Motion. Part one is here. Times will be the time on the video.
0:00 - It's still a little bittersweet to see (and hear) vintage Randy Savage now that he's gone. And, we get a little background here. Ricky is making a big comeback, and taking a shot at the Macho Man's belt. That's motivation enough, right? No big convoluted storyline.
1:15 - Does anybody do valets any more? Is there an modern day Elizabeth or Sensational Sherri? I can't think of any off the top of my head.
2:06 - Ricky Steamboat. Kind of an unlikely name for being such a martial artist, isn't it? Ah well. He's still a deserving legend in his own right. But, that does bring up a good point. I don't know about anybody else, but I really miss when wrestlers really had definite characters and not some reality-blending "character." Wrestling seems to be getting back to that a little bit these days, but it's still not back to this era just yet.
4:30 - I forgot about the whole story line between Elizabeth and George "The Animal" Steele. I'm sure that's going to play a role later.
4:50 - I know the announcers here are Jessie Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon, but that also made me think about the days when everybody thought Vince McMahon was just the announcer. Only in the wonderful world of wrestling.
6:24 - I love how the announcers in these old-school wrestling matches go on and on about how badly these moves can injure these warriors. And usually about how quickly and miraculously they bounce back.
8:48 - Just an observation. I know Randy Savage was always known as such a high-flyer growing up, but wrestling from this era just doesn't have the same kind of big spots that modern wrestling does. Not saying it's better or worse, but it's interesting to see the difference in what makes a match great now versus what made it great then.
10:18 - A staple athletic move pulled by Ricky Steamboat there, pulling himself back up and flipping over the ropes back in the ring. Now, I'm sure in today's wrestling, that would lead to a big momentum shift every time. And maybe it typically did in those days, too, but the near-non-reaction by the crowd doesn't tip us off to seeing a big shift. And, to the point, Savage simply turns around the finishes the job of getting Steamboat out of the ring.
That brings us to the end of part one. Just like cassette tapes, it's time to flip over to side two to follow along in the story. God, does that ever bring back memories of the Voltron story books I used to have that came with a tape.
0:23 - "A Pearl Harbor job!" I cringed and grinned at the same time.
1:06 - Steamboat is just being thrown around like a rag doll. I think he's spent more time out of the ring than in it. And there goes Savage to the top of the ropes for a flying axehandle. I remember seeing Savage do that in other matches and just think that was the second coolest thing, next to the flying elbow. Growing up, climbing up on anything made you think you should be doing flying elbows off of it, and that if you got hit by anybody jumping from any height, it might as well be a deathblow. It's funny now how dated it looks.
1:48 - Another double axehandle from the post. If this weren't Wrestlemania, that would have finished the match. But, this is a big deal, Steamboat kicks out a couple times.
2:28 - True suplexes look impressive, no matter the era.
3:20 - Here's the big momentum shift. Steamboat finds his feet after being thrown over Savage's shoulder. And after a minor setback, gives Savage a taste of what he's gone through all match.
4:03 - Steamboat to the top! We're talking now! I'm not sure exactly what you call the move he pulled from there, it wasn't quite as impressive looking. But, it leads to what looks like the end of the match. But no! Savage has a foot on the ropes! It's getting awfully tense now.
5:00 - Sunset flip! Maybe! No? Yes! He got it! But Savage still kicks out!
5:25 - Great combo here from Steamboat. Package, to scoop slam, to slingshot. And Savage still finds a way to get out of the pin. And Savage counters with his own pin, but Steamboat kicks out, too, where he quickly finds himself going off the post like he just put Savage. We're definitely into the back and forth of the match.
6:43 - A version of the Easily Distracted Referee, we get the super-fragile referee. In a bit of a subversion, though, Savage (the heel in this match) doesn't take advantage by pulling out the gouges and chokes and other illegal moves. He instead goes to probably the greatest move of my youth, the aforementioned flying elbow. But, there's nobody to count!
7:30 - Well, maybe not as big of a subversion as I thought. But, we do get some story continuity, and a bit more background that I'm sure I would have been aware of if I were watching this at the time. Steamboat is making his comeback because Savage injured him with the timekeeper's bell, and he's got a mind to do it again. But George Steele to the rescue! Not quite how I thought that was going to play out.
7:49 - George Steele is still playing hero, through a kick from Savage, but notice that the ref is getting back to his feet in the background.
8:06 - Savage is picking up Steamboat for another slam, and now that ref is up, that might spell the end. But no! Steamboat rolls it into a small package! 1! 2! 3! It's over! Steamboat regains his title! The crowd goes wild!
8:30 - We get some concerned Elizabeth shots. She didn't play nearly the role she usually did. A bit disappointing.
8:53 - Steamboat is champion, but he's battered. He has to be carried to the getaway carriage by George Steele.
So, there it is. A very good match that still generally stands up today. I don't know about number one of all time, but I have no problem with it being ranked awfully high. It had quite a bit of drama, plenty of twists, some big spots, especially for the time. And it wasn't even the headliner of Wrestlemania III.
Sorry for the late post today. I watched part of a documentary on crucifixion that turned out to be much more graphic and brutal than I was anticipating. It really gave me the willies, so I've taken some extra moments to collect myself after that ordeal.
The History Channel did inspire me to write what I've settled on, though.* The other thing they were running last night was a documentary on the plague. As a cultural historian, this was right up my alley. They did have a little bit on how they've definitively nailed down a strain of bubonic plague as the culprit and how epidemics spread, which was interesting as well. But, it would probably be more interesting to somebody who considered themselves more of an environmental historian, like my good buddy Jesse James.** To get back to the point, most of the documentary focused on how society more or less broke down during the outbreak. The Catholic Church found itself ineffectual to the cries for help and mercy. And, according to your average person in that era, it was the Church's problem, mostly because germ theory hadn't been developed yet.
*I didn't specifically say the crucifixion thing was on History, but you probably guessed. Also, don't ask me what I was expecting with crucifixion. I mean, it's not like it's a big secret about how brutal and torturous it was. Seeing some crazy Filipinos actually put themselves through a non-lethal version, though, was more than I bargained for. That's for sure. And I don't mean non-lethal in the way that you would see in your local church's passion play. I mean the crazy bastards actually put nails through their hands and and feet and put the crosses in the air, then get taken down and carried away before they can die. AND THIS DRAWS TOURISTS! People are a fucked species.
**Of course, Jesse probably considers himself more politician/lawyer these days. Probably always did. But, I sat through more than one history class with him. I know what I heard. And I know what I won't print here to further damage his political aspirations.
And, because my mind wanders in directions it maybe shouldn't, that got me thinking about important civil institutions that aren't technically civil institutions. It's a bit in a different vein, but sports teams are much like that. People are deeply attached to their teams, and generally that attachment goes by where you live. Most people take a lot of pride in their local teams and their local stadiums. And with one important exception, all of these local institutions are owned by somebody who is not the government.
Now, granted, local and state governments have always had a little skin in the game. Very rarely have stadiums ever been built solely with owner money. Granted, it used to be that the team would rent out whatever the most suitable stadium the city had to offer, which is a bit different than getting all sorts of tax breaks and tax hikes going directly to building the latest coliseum. But, it's an investment all the same. And, as any average Roman would tell you, bread and circuses are an important part of civilized society. If you don't entertain your people, there's a decent chance they'll revolt out of boredom.
So, just in Indianapolis, we get the Pacers and the (still) top-notch Fieldhouse. We have the Indianapolis Indians, who play in (still) arguably the best stadium in minor league baseball. And, in an interesting topic in this debate, we lured the Colts away from Baltimore and gave them a great-at-the-time stadium. And have since built another state-of-the-art stadium using those same tax tricks mentioned above.
Obviously, Baltimore did not own the Colts, and as such, they were technically free to move. Was is morally the right thing to do? Various books and documentaries would have you believe that it was not. Maybe it's because I'm from Indiana, but I would say things all worked out in the end, since they more or less did the same thing to Cleveland. But, and here is the important part, did we have to take the Colts name? I think that was a major misstep that the NFL did a nice job of finding a solution to when the Cleveland situation arose. While the team and the franchise might be free to move, the Colts should have stayed in Baltimore. And when they did get another team, they should have been able to use the Colts name and adopt the Baltimore history.
Now, this wasn't always quite as big of a deal, because sport wasn't always the multi-billion dollar industry and 24-hour news cycle that it has become. And in those less serious times, there have been some teams that have taken on a bit of a vagabond identity. Look at the A's. They've gone from Philadelphia to Kansas City to Oakland, and now maybe San Jose.* In basketball, the Rochester Royals became the Cincinnati Royals, became the Kansas City Kings, and now the Sacramento Kings. And maybe now the Anaheim Kings. And the Buffalo Braves became the San Diego Clippers, and now the LA Clippers. Teams with that background don't generate quite the same kind of fury as teams that have truly become connected with their city. Teams like the Colts. The Browns. The Super Sonics.
*But maybe not, because the Giants say that's moving into their back yard. I don't really know if it's any more back yard than being able to see the A's stadium from the Giants' stadium, but that's the argument. So the A's might be in for an even bigger move than originally planned.
This is one area that, Bud Selig or no Bud Selig, baseball tends to do better with. Maybe because the teams are older and generally more entrenched than basketball or football teams. The only team that's moved in my lifetime was the Montreal Expos. And, frankly, take a look in the stands at those games the last decade in Canada would tell you why. Clearly, Montreal wasn't going to notice the loss of the Expos. But if a team like the Cubs or Cardinals, or one of the New York teams were to move? That would be a travesty. And, luckily enough, we have a good example of that. The Giants and Dodgers, as you might be aware, were once New York teams. It was probably a good move for baseball to put some teams out on the west coast, but if they had to do it over again, MLB would probably handle things a bit differently.*
*Actually, the St. Louis Browns were going to be the first west coast team, but Pearl Harbor changed those plans. You now know the Browns as the Baltimore Orioles. Notice the name change?
Anyway, it's just interesting to me how teams become so entrenched in their communities, and yet, in many cases, the community has no real sway over the team. I wonder if there will come a day when most teams will follow the Green Bay model. You have to admit, being publicly owned hasn't hurt them the past several years.
Is this what baseball in the 60's was like? It seems like every other week there's a no-hitter or perfect game going.
I was getting ready to look up if I was just overly sensitive to this, or if this was a real thing. Turns out, Sports Illustrated already did the work for me. From the linked story, since the start of the 2010 season, there have been fourteen no-hitters, including four perfect games. Not including the whole Armando Galarraga/Jim Joyce debacle.
What is the reason for this uptick? The Sports Illustrated article didn't touch that one. Just went on to say that Matt Cain has always shown this sort of potential, which is true. I don't think it was necessarily a fluke. Just like it wasn't a fluke when Roy Halladay threw a perfect game early in the 2010 season, and then followed it up by no-hitting the Reds in the playoffs that year.
I won't even say a disparaging word about the "no-name" pitchers who have done it. Dallas Braden,* Phillip Humber, they're fine by me. There have always been the Bud Smiths of the world. No, it seems whatever the problem, it wouldn't be with the pitchers. Why are batters lagging behind so badly?
*I can never think of Dallas Braden without thinking of this excellent Flip Flop Flyball infographic.
I don't really have an answer for that. The story we hear most often is that pitchers are finding new ways to get a baseball to move all the time, but batters are just stuck with the same piece of lumber they've had for over a century. So, of course pitchers are outpacing hitters. That's why hitters had to turn to steriods and all that. Which, I mean, I get the logic. I'm just not sure I buy the logic. Sure, a new pitch can be devastating at first, but over the course of a 162 game season, you're going to tell me nobody can figure out how to hit it? It's not like the strike zone has expanded. A whole book (which I haven't read, but need to) as been dedicated to this topic.* However the ball gets there, it's still ending up in the same area where hitters have been raking for years. But, it sure seems like hitters are having more and more trouble at the plate.
*Okay, that's probably not quite true, either. But you can bet there is some substantial discussion about the strike zone in that book.
Maybe it's just a cyclical thing. In the 80's, you had track teams dominating the game. Astroturf was all the rage, players routinely stole a hundred bases, and slap hitters who could leg out a single (a la Wille Mays Hayes) were all the rage. Or, if they weren't all that fast, they could still find holes everywhere, like Tony Gwynn. Nobody really played a power game. In response to that, we got the 90's and 00's, when power was everything. We got all the puffed up sluggers that are presenting some challenges to the Hall of Fame, and the puffed up power pitchers that evolved to deal with them. Or, at least, Roger Clemens. When we all got bored of home runs and the steroid thing kind of blew it's top, we already had a generation of top-shelf pitchers ready to go, no doubt pushed along by coaches and mentors who knew that pitching was going to be in high demand to combat all the offense they were seeing in their youth. Now that pitching is back on top, look for the subtle ways to beat great pitching to make a comeback. That is, look for base-stealers, leg-it-out guys, and an army of Tony Gwynns* to dominate the game again when the next crop of big talent comes along.
*Incidentally, don't look for Tony Gwynn Jr. to be part of that army. I don't know that is .249 batting average or 73 stolen bases over seven years is going to cut it. But, then again, maybe that's what a Tony Gwynn-like player looks like these days with the sort of pitching talent that has developed. Everybody is a product of their era in one way or another.
It's interesting to think about. I haven't done research all the way back, but the speed game of the 70's and 80's? Coming right off the pitching-dominated heels of the 1960's. It's food for thought.
Anyway, in a little more personal news, everybody's good buddy back in Covington got some good news the other day. Taylor Dennis, whose dad I certainly know, who played for my dad, was basically one of two real pitchers the JV team had (along with my brother) in high school before my brother decided to concentrate on tennis,* was the Division II College World Series** MVP a few years ago with Southern Indiana, drafted late by the Texas Rangers after that, was promoted from the Arizona League to the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League. Here he is on the official roster and everything. That league starts tomorrow. Give 'em hell, Taylor. And if you haven't already, learn to eat without getting everything on your shirt. That could make for some awkward interviews down the road.
*Long story there. Maybe I'll tell it some time.
**The NCAA doesn't like using the name College World Series for anything other than Division I. And to that I say "Suck it, NCAA."
I must be doing something right, though I couldn't for the life of me tell you what it is. I got an email earlier today from a lady wanting to write a guest spot for me, and she would pay me forty dollars for the honor.
I suppose you can't say you're really making on the internet until you get spammers, right?
Anyway, have I mentioned how much I don't care for interleague? It's not to the same level as my hatred for a second wild card, and theoretically less than for the DH.* Still, it leaves me awfully cold.
*Not in practice, though. I would so much rather see pitchers hit than watch two people split a position, but I do appreciate that it gives a real difference between the American and National Leagues. So, for that, I don't mind the DH being around. If we're going to have one blanket rule, though, it should be National League rules.
As with so many other things, it comes down to an appreciation of history and where baseball has come from. I like that there is a distinction between the leagues, as they were fully separate leagues for the longest time. Legally, the leagues ceased to function independently in 2000. And, frankly, I think that was a step in the wrong direction.
I guess I'm just not a very trendy guy, but it seems like mirroring the other professional sports and adopting their conference set-up just feels wrong in every sense. Real baseball fans, and probably even most casual fans, can appreciate the differences between the American and National Leagues and their different cultures. A lot of it goes back to how the DH impacts the game, which has me worried that baseball will soon adopt the DH in both leagues. And, frankly, I will probably stop following the sport at that point. The changes Bud has made lately already have me leaning that way.
Baseball has always been geared towards the regular season. There was always so much pride in capturing the pennant, maybe even more so than winning the World Series. The World Series has been, in many ways, a glorified exhibition. And that was because both teams were already champions in a real sense. Not in a merchandising sense, the way conference champions are in football or basketball. But in a real, prideful way. And that was because the National League, other than the World Series,* had nothing to do with the American League. You could be a serious baseball fan, following your team, and know nothing about the other league, because it wasn't relevant to you.
*And maybe an All-Star game or two. But the less said about the mess that game has turned into, the better.
And by-God, that's how it should be. If you want to follow both leagues, that's great, and encouraged. But what happens in the American League should not affect what goes on in the National League. And vice versa. We will meet once in July to check up on things, and then see you again in October for a pissing match.
I can tell this is starting to devolve into ranting, and I apologize for that. But having constant interleague play starting next year, and the addition of a wild card this year, I don't know what I'm watching any more. I used to defend Bug Selig pretty passionately, because I really thought he had great respect for the history of the game. But the moves he's made in the past year have shattered that perception. If I wanted a league set up like the NFL, I'd watch football.
Quit ruining the game, Bud.