I’ve been a pro wrestling fan my entire life and, unlike a lot of people, I’ve always been more than willing to admit as much.
As such, it probably won’t come as much of a shock to you that I’ve received more than my fair share of snark over the years from non-fans.
I’ve heard the following phrases probably eleven bajillionty times:
“You know it’s not real, right?”
“How can you watch that garbage, it’s all scripted.”
“That’s all so fake!”
“Dude, they’re not even really hitting each other!”
“They’d be dead if that was real.”
..and so on and so on.
The thing that non-fans rarely get is that it’s not about it being real. It’s about it feeling real.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. It is plenty real in the sense that you can’t fake falling off a ladder through a table. You can plan it in advance. You can do everything to mitigate risk, but you can’t fake it.
It’s real to me because it is long-form storytelling with compelling characters and plot twists that you’d see in any other entertainment format and never question. It’s fiction that exists in a cartoon world of legalized violence where bullies get the comeuppance, underdogs triumph, and everyone goes home happy.
The problem is, before you get more than ten seconds into trying to explain why you actually like wrestling – and not, like, ironically, but legitimately – the detractors’ eyes have glazed over and they’ve stopped listening and labeled me a total rube who is entertained by low-brow, fake violence.
Luckily, filmmaker Max Landis has done something that – if any non-fan will actually watch all 25 minutes – will do more to legitimize wrestling as “entertainment” than any single fan has been able to do in the last fifty years of defending their love of pro wrestling.
The short film “Wrestling Isn’t Real” chronicles the career of one wrestler, Triple H, and explains over the span of 25 minutes why loving pro wrestling isn’t about thinking that what you’re watching is “real,” it’s about loving that it’s not real and still allowing yourself to get lost in it the way we do with all forms of entertainment.
If you’ve got 25 minutes, sit back and enjoy the ride.
(Note: mildly NSFW because of language and because you may be embarrassed about your co-workers knowing you’re into pro wrestling)
I laughed. I cried. I geeked out over all the cameos. I fell in love with Chloe Dykstra.
..but that’s just me, please let me know what did y’all think?
In addition to my role as “occasional columnist” here at”Cheap Seat Chronicles,” I work in a retail store that sells sports merchandise; clothing, hats, knick-knacks and other, non-knick-knacky miscellaneous items.
With the regular season starting soon, new batches of baseball-related merchandise are on the way to stores. Here are ten of my favorites:
1) Retro baseballs Team baseballs with a throwback look. I’ve seen the catalog and this is not all of them (there’s an especially sweet San Diego Padres one), but this is a good sample of what’s available at the moment. I bought the Minnesota Twins one the first day it came in my store. I will probably own at least five of these, if not all.
2) Uniframes These are produced by Photo File, which makes cool (you guessed it) photo-related items. You can get something as small as a 8×10 photo of Tsuyoshi Nishioka or as large and magnificent as a canvas print of your favorite player. The Uniframes are a classy version of a name and number (or just a number in some cases) to put on your wall.
3) White Front Neo Cap Flew off the shelves. Has the mesh in the back like the other “Neo” caps and a clean white front to show off your favorite team and a team-color bill to accentuate it.
4) MiLB Shirts/Sweatshirts Minor League Baseball teams have some of the wackier names and logos in all of professional sports. Celebrate this by getting a tee or sweatshirt of some team you’ve never heard of and whose major-league affiliation will probably change in a few years anyway! (personally, I’m probably going to get a Clinton LumberKings shirt… and I hate wearing t-shirts)
5) “Slouching Toward Fargo” Darryl Strawberry (yes, that Darryl Strawberry), Jack Morris (yes, that Jack Morris) and Bill Murray (yes, that Bill Murray) are just pieces of the story of the 1996 Saint Paul Saints and the writer who achieved a sense of inner peace spending a year at the ballpark. Involves the writer a little too much, but for $2.99 on the kindle, it’s definitely worth a read.
Cost: $14.17 paperback, $2.99 Kindle.
6) Video Board Proposal If I ever get around to finding a woman to propose marriage to, I’ll probably do it at the ballpark. If she doesn’t accept, I’ll still be able to enjoy the rest of the game. Cost varies by park (some don’t even allow it at all), but it’s the only way to really know if your partner is a keeper.
Cost: varies ($209 at Target Field)
7) An entire baseball stadium This is for those of you who aren’t reading this on a desk you purchased from IKEA. You could have an entire baseball stadium to yourself and your buddies. I’m not going to speak for Loves Park, Illinois’s zoning laws, but you could probably hook up a Nintendo 64 to the video board and play some killer Goldeneye (video board compatibility not guaranteed). Great for high school reunions, birthday parties and destroying disco records.
Cost: $1,500,000 (starting bid)
8) Replica Twins Home Jersey Majestic Athletic changed the replica uniforms this year to a lighter, more breathable fabric. The cost of a blank team jersey did go up to $89.95 from $79.95, but the lightness of the material will be more comfortable on a humid day at the ballpark. Get the new Minnesota Twins home jersey or any jersey and only sweat the extra $10 that’s no longer in your bank account. Also, props to the one reviewer on this piece.
9) MLB Mini Helmet Standings Board For those of you who want to know what team leads each division, but not by how many games. While this product lacks a “Games Back” and “Wild Card Standings” column, you do get every single team’s helmet represented. Think of it as more of a decoration than a standings board.
10) Seats from the Metrodome Hey, I’d never want to sit in those again, but it’d be cool to have them in your “man cave” or “sports lounge”. Plus, you can lie to your grandkids and say you were in those seats when Jack Morris (no, not this Jack Morris) thew the 10-inning Game 7 shutout.
Cost: $132 (current bid)
Cheap Seaters, what do you think? What gifts are great and what did I miss?
Not only a game, baseball is a part of us. Like any relationship, baseball requires time (162 games and then some), emotional support (bring on the blogs and the forums), and has a special language of its own (‘he’s a horse!’). As kids we relish in our favorite heroes who launch souvenirs across the field like shooting stars—surreal and worth fighting Joe Schmo for—and we sit through 9 innings regardless of weather or score to take in that special moment. We embrace the aromas of roasted peanuts and ballpark dogs. Cherish the wins and shrug off the losses with bitterness and booze. Baseball is truly one of the greatest games this country has to offer that has its roots deeply embedded in our cultural history. I invite you to indulge in the 1880s with me to examine one of the characters that enriched baseball history. A “colorful player and audacious base-runner” named Mike (King) Kelly. A ballplayer that changed the way rules of the game were designed and with eccentricities to delight.
Get your peanuts!
The 1880s was a time in baseball history when rules were constantly being negotiated and changed to meet with the growing demand. Gloves were introduced dropping the rate of errors and flat bats evolved into round bats. Pitchers no longer threw underhand, and the overhand style we know today became standard. It was a known fact that the committee on playing rules accepted suggestions one season and announced new rules in the following season. For those who think baseball is too slow (how dare you), this will make you count your blessings: the number of balls required to issue a walk (BB) fluctuated seven times. Initially, it took a pitcher nine-pitches to walk a batter; it was not until 1889 that the accepted number was four. The reasoning behind these changes rings on the contemporary issue concerning speeding up the game. Baseball is a game that is constantly looking for a balance between offense and defense. In attempt to meet this balance with a more formulated time conscientious game, the rules were mended back and forth based on the development of the stadium, equipment, umpires and – more importantly – the defining 19th century ballplayer.
Before The Babe, there was The King…
One prime catalyst for propelling rule change in baseball is the great Mike Kelly known by the nickname, King Kelly or The King. Celebrity player in his heyday, Kelly would be spotted with his pet monkey readily signing autographs for admiring fans before a game. He was embraced by not only baseball, but also American culture. His charismatic face and iconic mustache were conveyed through art, music, and literature. The well-known painting by artist Frank O. Small depicting King Kelly sliding swiftly onto second soon replaced formally celebrated paintings behind most bars in the city. The base stealing Kelly even inspired one of the first hit pop songs of the 19th century, which was attributed to his entertaining style of baseball, “Slide, Kelly, Slide.” You could even argue that he inspired the Jay-Zs and Beyonces of the 19th century.
An artist of the game…
As legend has it, “half of the National League’s rules were written to keep King Kelly from stealing ballgames” (James 36).2 Kelly was a utility player who led the league in batting in 1884, hitting .354 for the season and with the best record in baseball in 1886 winning him the NL batting title with a freakish .388 batting average (BA). He helped lead the Chicago White Stockings to five pennants and then was purchased by the Boston Beaneaters for a whooping $10,000.
Nonetheless, it was his antics that brought a zest to the dish of greatness. The outfielder was known for tucking an extra ball into his pocket to quickly return a ball back into the infield and get the out. If ever did we ask for an example of a rule change being enforced because of the actions of a ballplayer, this is one of them. At that time, in-game substitutions were allowed; meaning, all a ballplayer had to do was call himself into a game. Naturally, during the ninth inning when the third out was popped over the head of King Kelly, who at the time was seated on the Chicago bench, sprouted up calling himself into play only to catch the game ending out. There are countless accounts of Kelly cutting across the infield while running the bases to dropping his catcher’s mask on home-plate preventing a runner from touching home, and most notably for his pioneering of the fake limp to first base (seen oftentimes with players nowadays) where he would then suddenly (it is a miracle friends!) dash off to steal second. There are many descriptions of the King stealing five bases in a game, there are even reports of six steals in one game (the speedy Kansas City Royals have a lot to learn from this Hall of Famer). King Kelly averaged over 50 stolen bases (SB) in four consecutive years and ended with a career total of 368 SB.9 He was well known for this entertaining style of play and innovative tactics of eluding the rulebook. I am sure modern ballplayers would love to be admired for their shenanigans.
[Kelly’s] strongest playing point was that he was always ready. He could take advantage of a misplay which others wouldn’t see until afterward. He played the umpire as intelligently as he did the opposing nine. He would make a friend of him, engage his confidence, and in various ways get the best of close decisions.”
– Teammate Fred Pfeffer
Rethinking the rulebook…
Rules such as calling yourself into a game at anytime do not exist today. Cutting across the infield…forget about it. Changes in equipment, professionalization of the leagues, and player development (with the shaping of the minor leagues in the late 1880s) all contributed to the once rowdy and reckless origins of baseball. Players like The King certainly contributed to changes in the game and – at the same time – enabled the charm of the sport to capture the imaginations and hearts of Americans. There is no other decade in baseball history that has contributed to so many modifications in such a short timespan. With that being said, this type of influence is not unknown today. Player impact over the game is still prevalent, as we have seen with the fairly nascent home-plate collision rule in the wake of a tragic collision. The memory still lingers like a bruise on the hearts of Giants fans.
In 2011, Scott Cousins’ slid directly into Buster Posey—2010 Rookie of the Year, 2012 National League MVP, and three-time World Series champion catcher for the San Francisco Giants—causing a serious and, as all Giants fans feared at the time, potentially career-ending injury. Fortunately, that was not the case. Buster Posey made a unimaginable recovery only to return in 2012 where he went on to lead his Giants into the World Series with a memorable and very satisfying win.
Alex Rodriguez was slated to issue a public apology to fans at Yankee Stadium this spring, but that all changed earlier today when Rodriguez switched gears and issued a hand-written letter apologizing to fans for his past indiscretions.
The Yankees third baseman is coming off a season-long suspension in 2014 for his use of performance-enhancing drugs and his involvement with Biogenesis.
It’s an interesting move, but one that the beleaguered former MVP attempts to justify in his letter.
We’ve got the transcribed text below, but you can also view the original if you prefer.
To the Fans,
I take full responsibility for the mistakes that led to my suspension for the 2014 season. I regret that my actions made the situation worse than it needed to be. To Major League Baseball, the Yankees, the Steinbrenner family, the Players Association and you, the fans, I can only say I’m sorry.
I accept the fact that many of you will not believe my apology or anything that I say at this point. I understand why and that’s on me. It was gracious of the Yankees to offer me the use of Yankee Stadium for this apology, but I decided that next time I am in Yankee Stadium, I should be in pinstripes doing my job.
I served the longest suspension in the history of the league for PED use. The Commissioner has said the matter is over. The Players Association has said the same. The Yankees have said the next step is to play baseball.
I’m ready to put this chapter behind me and play some ball.
This game has been my single biggest passion since I was a teenager. When I go to Spring Training, I will do everything I can to be the best player and teammate possible, earn a spot on the Yankees and help us win.
So there you have it.
We’ve got his apology and he sounds like a man who is ready to move on and play baseball.
I already gave my thoughts on Rodriguez earlier this offseason, but I’d love to hear what the rest of our readers thinking about A-Rod headed into 2015.
What are your thoughts? Can you forgive Rodriguez?
The 19-year-old is arguably the most coveted free agent still on the market and is widely-viewed as the top prospect out of Cuba.
Signing Moncada would be yet another win in an already impressive offseason for San Diego, long one of the games stingiest and quietest teams in the free agent and trade game.
The Padres have already added a slew of talent this offseason including: Shields, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Brandon Morrow, Derek Norris, Will Middlebrooks, Shawn Kelley, Brandon Maurer, and Josh Johnson.
Moncada is expected to play at second base or third base when he reaches the majors, but the Padres could continue to try him at shortstop in hopes that he could stick at the position for the long-haul, despite his size.
No matter where he ends up defensively, he figures to contribute in a big way on the offensive side of the ball. Moncada is a switch-hitter with great bat speed and raw – but burgeoning – power that could make him elite if he sticks as a middle-infielder.
He also brings tremendous speed on the bases and in the field and the type of arm strength that will allow him to play anywhere on the diamond.
The Padres will, obviously, have a lot of competition for Moncada. He’s already held a public showcase that was heavily-attended and has taken part in a number of private workouts for clubs as well.
The usual suspects when it comes to big spending – the Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox – are heavily-speculated to be the front-runners, but Moncada has “game-changing” potential and figures to draw heavy-interest all around the game.
San Diego’s new-found aggressiveness under Preller makes the club an absolute wild card for Moncada – and/or any other free agent or trade candidate – and makes the Padres a very, very intriguing club to watch in the coming season.
The deal reportedly includes a $16 million club option for a fifth year.
This deal is the largest free agent contract in San Diego’s team history, eclipsing the $15.5 million the club gave Joaquin Benoit last offseason. Shields also becomes the first free agent pitcher to sign a contract in excess of $50 million after February 1, a time when most free agents will take any offer they can get.
There was obviously some concern about Shields’ age – he turned 33 in December – and the many, many miles he’s put on his right arm over the years, having racked up nearly 2,000 innings in his big league career.
To pile up that many innings, one can pretty quickly deduce that Shields has been one of the most durable pitchers in the game since breaking into the league with Tampa Bay in 2006.
The right-hander made 31 starts and tossed 215 innings in his first full-season in 2007 and never looked back. He’s now posted eight consecutive seasons of 200+ innings and 31+ starts; including his current run of four consecutive years with 227+ innings pitched.
In recent years, Shields stepped up his game and transitioned from just an innings-eater to a reliable, front-of-the-rotation starter for both Tampa Bay and Kansas City.
He really came into his own in 2011 while still with Tampa Bay.
That season Shields won 16 games – including 11 complete games and four shutouts – with a 2.82 ERA, 134 ERA+, 1.04 WHIP, and a 225/65 K/BB ratio in 249.1 innings. Those numbers earned him a trip to the All-Star game and a third place finish in the American League Cy Young award voting.
Despite all of those innings and markedly improved results over the past four years, Shields is still far from an ace; which likely explains why it took him until two weeks before spring training to find a new contract.
Here is where Shields ranks among all qualified starters in a number of categories since his breakout campaign in 2011:
Don’t get me wrong, those numbers are nothing to sneeze at, and he certainly makes San Diego a better team than they were yesterday, but he’s not an ace. He will, however, be a very solid front of the rotation starter.
At the price they’re paying Shields and having avoided the type of long-term commitment that free agent hurlers generally require, I think the Padres will be very happy with their return on investment.
San Diego general manager A.J. Preller spent the first part of this offseason improving the offense by bringing in Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Matt Kemp to anchor the lineup and Will Middlebrooks and Derek Norris to serve as complimentary pieces.
Now he’s added Shields to a rotation that already includes Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy, Brandon Morrow, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Robbie Erlin. The club also has Cory Luebke and Josh Johnson working their way back from Tommy John surgeries as well.
That’s a lot of potential firepower for a club that routinely ranks near the top of the pack in pitching categories.
The Padres indicated earlier this week that they were expecting their payroll to climb to new heights and that they still had room for another big move, it looks like Shields was the target in all of that talk.
Now the club can prepare for spring training with a loaded rotation, a revamped offense, and a very real chance of making the postseason for the first time since 2006 and just the sixth time in franchise history.
As for Shields, while he didn’t quite land the five-year, $100+ million deal everyone was expecting when the offseason began, he does get the comfort of pitching close to home and It’s safe to say that he won’t be hard up for cash any time soon either.
Viciedo, 25, should – in theory – be an interesting option for a number of clubs.
He’s young, he’s still under team control for three more years, and he has some serious right-handed power at a time where clubs are placing significant value on power.
Unfortunately, those are the only three items that would show up on the good side of a “pros and cons” list if a team were evaluating Viciedo in the same manner that I use to decide which Doritos flavor to purchase.
You see, despite those three very solid positives, the other side of that list would be chock-full of reasons not to sign the guy; he’s a very bad outfielder, he is mediocre running the bases, he’s flat-out horrible at getting on-base, and he can really only hit against lefties.
Oh yeah, and if that weren’t enough knocks against signing the guy, it seems that he’s looking for regular playing time as well.
That’s the message coming from Cincinnati Reds general manager Walt Jocketty in response to rumors that the club was interested in signing Viciedo:
“We talked to his representative but I don’t know if we have a fit for him,” Jocketty said. “They’re looking for more playing time. With our outfield the way it is, I don’t see it as a good fit.”
Cincinnati appears to have a fully-stocked outfield with Jay Bruce, Billy Hamilton, and Marlon Byrd already in place for Opening Day.
I’m going to operate under the assumption that maybe – just maybe – Viciedo is balking at becoming a fourth outfielder/bench bat as opposed to operating in a platoon.
If that’s the case, I get it. He’s only 25-years-old and marginalizing himself by willingly becoming a bench bat could be problematic toward future earnings.
That said, if he’s flat-out unwilling to settle for anything less than regular playing time and at-bats, then this dude is off his rocker.
He’s got some serious power, no doubt about it. He hit 21 homers last season, 14 long balls in 2013, and 25 dingers in 2012 for Chicago; but all of that power is accompanied by a career .254/.298/.424 batting line and 388/95 K/BB ratio. Not pretty.
The bigger issue is his inability to do anything against right-handed pitching; against whom he has a career .679 OPS. When facing southpaws, he has a decidedly more robust .837 OPS.
It’s hard to find an immediate match, but I’ve scrounged around and put together a list of four potential suitors that could make some sense – assuming Viciedo is willing to play a much smaller role than he did in his time with Chicago.
Without any further ado, here are the four potential landing spots for Dayan Viciedo:
San Francisco Giants
The defending World Series champions watched Pablo Sandoval (.465 career slugging percentage) and Michael Morse (.473) depart via free agency this offseason. To replace them, the club brought in Casey McGehee (.400) and Nori Aoki (.387). Needless to say, that’s a step backwards in the power department for a club that wasn’t exactly a Murder’s Row with Sandoval and Morse.
Viciedo doesn’t deserve to start anywhere on this club, but as a right-handed bench bat, he could provide some solid pop. When injuries or interleague play call for it, he could form a nifty platoon with Travis Ishikawa who has a career .735 OPS against right-handers and just a .595 OPS against southpaws.
While Jocketty has seemingly ruled him out, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Cincinnati circle back his way if/when Viciedo reassesses the marketplace for one-dimensional ballplayers in early February. Needless to say, I’m expecting Viciedo will realize the ball isn’t exactly in his court right now.
As touched on earlier, he wouldn’t have an obvious role in Cincinnati, but he provides far more power than any of the bench options currently available – especially against lefties – and, if he learns to play a passable first base, he could allow the club to rest Joey Votto at DH during interleague play and give him the occasional day off to keep him healthy and in the lineup.
This one mostly falls into the category of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ until we get some information after Victor Martinez undergoes knee surgery on Tuesday. If the Detroit slugger requires a significant recovery time, Viciedo is basically the only legitimate power bat left in free agency that the Tigers could bring in to replace Martinez.
The club would still, undoubtedly, want to find a platoon partner for Viciedo – perhaps Alex Avila gets a “day off” at DH instead of behind the dish – but he would be a cheap stopgap solution if the need should arise.
Viciedo’s poor on-base skills mean that he’s not a very strong fit with the type of players that Billy Beane generally targets, but the club could use some power. Since last season the club has traded away Josh Donaldson (.458 career slugging percentage), Brandon Moss (.460), and Yoenis Cespedes (.464). They replaced them with Billy Butler (.449), Ike Davis (.423), Brett Lawrie (.426), and Ben Zobrist (.429).
As it currently stands, Sam Fuld is the club’s every day left fielder and, as a lefty, he would seem to form a natural platoon with Viciedo; except that Fuld has an odd, reverse-split in that his OPS against lefties (.673) is better than his OPS (.640) versus right-handers. Despite the obvious lack of a fit, the need for some additional pop is definitely there.
So, uh, there you have it. Those are the four potential landing spots for Viciedo in the final days before spring training.
Admittedly, it took a lot of digging to find a situation that made much sense, but I believe I’ve chosen a winner (and we’re using that term very loosely for this exercise) – the Oakland Athletics.
Ultimately, the Athletics make the most sense because it fills the (likely) needs of the team and the desires of the player.
Outfielders Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick haven’t been iron men in recent years so the potential for increased playing time is certainly there and – despite all of Viciedo’s short-comings – he can probably hold his own, offensively, in competition with Fuld or Craig Gentry if/when the club has a need in the outfield.
He’s far from an ideal solution, but the Athletics are hoping to make another bid for the American League West and adding some firepower to their bench – and utilizing him correctly – could go a long way toward making that happen.
As for Viciedo, it’s the best likely landing spot to maximize his playing time and potentially continue his career as an everyday player in lieu of a platoon or bench role.