Watch. Repeat. Be Happy.
Watch. Repeat. Be Happy.
Before their game with the Chicago White Sox tonight, the Boston Red Sox will retire Pedro Martinez’s number – 45 – two days after Pedro was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This is a big week for Boston and Red Sox Nation, as evidenced by the sheer number of times the word “legend” has been thrown around lately. (Exhibit A: NESN’s declaration in an article that includes “Absolutely Legendary” in the headline. Random Anecdotal Exhibit B: one of the staff at my physical therapy clinic randomly shouting “Pedro was a f*ckin’ legend for us!” a few weeks ago, context unknown.)
In light of this big week of news, and as I’m someone who was a die-hard Sox fan during Pedro’s heyday, I’ve been asked by the Powers That Be to share my reminiscences of Petey. Warning: rampant nostalgia to follow.
I was a big Sox fan when I was a kid, but my interest all but disappeared as I hit middle school and stopped playing little league. Despite my complete disinterest in baseball at that point in my life, it was impossible to escape the phenomenon that was Pedro Martinez.
I kept hearing about his heroics during the ’99 playoffs, and knew he must be good because of how much my Yankees-loving best friend hated him. I even stood up for him once as said friend went off on a rant about how much he sucked. I hadn’t even seen the guy pitch, yet I somehow already knew how important he was to Red Sox Nation, and knew his honor must be defended.
By the opening of the 2000 season I was watching the Sox religiously, and my childhood fandom was eclipsed by a new die-hard love. Petey was truly amazing to watch that season, which he finished with an incredible 1.74 ERA and 0.74 WHIP, oh, and his second Cy Young award. Any game he started was almost guaranteed to be a win, and you could feel the excited buzz on Pedro Days even way out in the ‘burbs where I lived.
It’s hard to explain the thrill I’d experience as Petey got in The Zone on the mound. He’d get locked in and throw strike after strike, zooming the game along… there was something almost electric about it and it made baseball fun to watch again. Even my mom, who hated baseball, started watching Sox games with me when Petey was pitching.
It wasn’t just Petey’s prowess on the mound that was fun to watch; his goofiness on days he didn’t start endeared him to fans as well. You never knew what he’d be up to when the cameras would zoom over to the dugout… would he be wearing a Yoda mask again? Would his teammates be taping him to a post in an effort to tame his antics for a few minutes? While his pitching made him seem superhuman, his silliness off the mound made him loveable.
The way Petey dealt with Boston’s rival New York Yankees also endeared him to Sox fans… “daddy” comment aside. I remember feeling so pumped when he said in 2001, “I don’t believe in damn curses. Wake up the damn Bambino and have me face him. Maybe I’ll drill him in the ass….” Hell yeah, drill the Babe – and “The Curse” – in the ass! That’s what we wanted to hear!
During the glory years of 1999-2001 Petey seemed to have the Yankees in his back pocket, schooling them on multiple occasions and giving turncoat Roger Clemens a run for his money. In a more divisive moment, Petey literally threw down during the infamous 2003 ALCS brawl, when he introduced the Yankees’ bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground.
Fun fact: remember the Yankees-loving best friend I mentioned earlier? The 2003 brawl caused the longest fight we’ve ever had in our 20-year friendship. She didn’t appreciate that Pedro treated an elderly man with such violence; I was of the opinion that Zimmer got what he deserved. What was Zimmer doing, putting himself in that situation in the first place? If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t jump into a brawl and charge at the other team’s ace. Simple. (Petey later said that this incident is the only thing he regrets from his career.)
By 2004 Petey was no longer quite the magician he had once been. He was still an incredible pitcher, but I no longer enjoyed the cocky feeling that a Pedro start automatically equaled a win. I even remember curling into a ball on the couch as he ran out of the bullpen during Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS; I thought for sure that was the end of Boston’s Series drive. (As a Sox fan pre-2004, you got used to having your hopes and dreams dashed right when they were within grasping distance, and I was scared that Pedro would become our ’04 Buckner. I’m sorry for doubting you, Petey!)
As I’m sure you already know, Petey proved not to be a bad omen and the Sox didn’t implode that night. In fact, they went on to sweep St. Louis in the World Series for their first title since 1918. Petey had prevailed, and I was able to see his goofiness in person for the very first time during the victory parade. My photos came out terribly, otherwise I’d be sharing the one of Petey in a helmet and cape, bobbing off the back of a duck boat. It was wonderful.
I never had the chance to see Petey pitch in person at Fenway, a fact which still bums me out pretty bad. I did finally get to see him pitch in person, but by that time he was a New York Met and it just wasn’t the same… even though it was kind of cool to see him bat.
Sidenote: I had the chance to see Pedro pitch at Fenway in the early summer of 2004, and I still haven’t forgiven myself for passing up the opportunity. Kids, take it from me: when your uncle offers you a free box seat for a game when a living legend is pitching, under no circumstances turn him down. Even if you think you’re doing the right thing by not ditching a new friend for the game, you should know that this new friend will figuratively stab you in the back multiple times in the near future, you will soon loathe her, and your trip to Trident Booksellers on Newbury Street to bond over being book nerds is not worth missing a Pedro game for. You will regret it FOR. EVER.
Pedro left the Sox after the 2004 season, and my love for baseball waned once again. Despite my unbridled glee at the World Series win in ’04, it felt a little like my heart had been ripped out when Nomar Garciaparra was traded, and I never quite recovered. It got worse each time another of my favorite players left, and it was just too hard to watch a team without my beloved Dirt Dogs.
In the years since he retired from baseball in 2009, Petey has returned to Boston many times, and each time his impending arrival has sparked a buzz in the city. Anytime he was spotted, whether he was getting a haircut in Jamaica Plain or handing out free ice cream, you could always count on an outpouring of love and nostalgia for Petey when he was in town.
It wasn’t just Sox fans who recognized his awesomeness; after he left, no one on the Red Sox wore his number again. I remember asking my dad during the 2000 season if he thought the Sox would retire Pedro’s and Nomar’s numbers, and I remember him saying “Pedro’s for sure, someday.”
Clearly we weren’t the only ones who found Pedro Martinez to be deserving of the honor, and today it’s official: the 45 will hang in the spot of honor at Fenway, next to the numbers of Bobby Doerr (1), Joe Cronin (4), Johnny Pesky (6), Carl Yaztrzemski (8), Ted Williams (9), Jim Rice (14), Carlton Fisk (27), and Jackie Robinson (42).
Of all the Sox I got to see play, whether on the TV or live at Fenway, no one is more deserving of this honor than Petey. Reading all the nostalgia pieces that have come out about him since his Hall of Fame election was announced, I feel incredibly lucky that I witnessed him at his prime. Thanks for making baseball fun again, Pedro.
Major League Baseball’s trade season – and the bevy of crazy rumors and speculation that come with it – is officially upon us.
The Mariners and Diamondbacks fired the opening salvo with last week’s six-player swap that was highlighted by the Mariners adding slugger Mark Trumbo to an underachieving lineup in hopes of pushing the club into contention.
Luckily, it seems that this was just the first of many potential early deals before the July 31, non-waiver trade deadline. This evening we’ve been treated to rumblings of two potential deals in the works.
Rumors are swirling today that the Mets and Brewers are in talks to bring the shambling skeleton that is Aramis Ramirez to the Big Apple as a fill-in at third base while David Wright battles spinal stenosis.
Ramirez, 36, would be an interesting addition to a Mets club that has struggled to score runs and could use a potent bat to pair with Lucas Duda. That having been said, Ramirez is a few years removed from being a true offensive threat himself; he’s hitting a meager .213/.257/.390 on the season, but that includes seven long-balls which would be more than Mets third basemen have mustered as a collective on the year.
Ramirez is making $14 million this season, but the Mets are legitimate playoff contenders and might be willing to take on some salary to improve one of the league’s worst offenses in time for a postseason push.
Rounding out our pair of early season trade rumors is someone we talked about over the winter, Jonathan Papelbon.
It’s believed that the Phillies have accepted their fate as non-contenders and are more-than-willing to move Papelbon. Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Cubs and Blue Jays are the likely front-runners for his services at the moment.
Papelbon, 34, is making $13 million this season and has an almost-sure-to-be-vested $13 million option for 2016. According to Rosenthal’s report, the club is reportedly willing to eat a sizeable chunk of his salary to net better prospects in a trade.
Potentially complicating matters is Papelbon’s limited no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to 17 different clubs, but his comments in the past indicate that he’s ready to join a contender if the opportunity arises.
Despite the financial roadblocks to moving Papelbon, his performance still ranks as one of the top closers in the game. On the season he’s racked up 12 saves (out of 22 total wins for a miserable Phillies team) with a 1.13 ERA, 0.917 WHIP, and 29/6 K/BB ratio in 24 total innings.
It’s still very early in the season and, with the second wildcard, only a handful of teams – Philadelphia, Oakland, Miami, and Milwaukee – appear to be obvious sellers, so it could still take a few weeks for the trade market to truly develop, but if these early rumors are any indication, it could be a very exciting run to trade deadline this season.
Within two days of Opening Day, the San Francisco Giants witnessed injury after injury. The comeback bid of Matt Cain fell short with a strained flexor tendon causing him to join Hunter Pence and Travis Ishikawa on the DL while Jake Peavy continues to battle back issues with a locked sacroiliac joint. The icing on the cake came on Tuesday’s game in Arizona when Brandon Belt suffered a minor strain in his right groin during a routine play. Before Wednesday’s game, the vexing ‘odd year curse’ was attributed throughout the baseball sphere for the Giants string of bad luck.
The Giants had the option to start Yusmeiro Petit, but elected to call up the 26-year-old right-hander Chris Heston, who would be doused with cheap domestic beer by his teammates after a much needed performance Wednesday night. Something that Giants skipper, Bruce Bochy said was a “shot in the arm.”
Heston shook off his rookie jitters in the first inning after he unintentionally plunked Arizona Diamondbacks A.J. Pollock on the back. Then a wild pickoff throw to Buster Posey, at first base, allowed Pollock to scurry to third base. Pollock then scored off a groundout by Chris Owings.
What followed was the magic of ‘Hesto Presto’, who hurled a sinking fastball, curve and nasty changeup to hold the Dbacks to three hits and a pair of unearned runs in six innings. Heston was given the nickname ‘Hesto Presto’ by Double-A Richmond announcer Jon Laaser for his ability to escape innings. He lived up to his catchy nickname in the fourth, after getting the third out when bases were loaded.
There is rumor that Heston will start the home opener next Monday when the Giants face the 3-0 Colorado Rockies. The question remains, how long until we see magician hats and wands at AT&T park.
Let the magic rumpus begin!
It seems like ages ago that we were debating whether or not Alex Gordon could have scored in game seven of the World Series (he couldn’t), but in reality it was just a few short months ago that baseball went into hibernation for the winter.
Since then, however, a lot has changed; the Giants and Royals are unlikely to meet in a rematch this October, Pablo Sandoval – that big guy who caught the final out of that classic game seven – is now in Boston, Nori Aoki left the Royals and will be leading off for the Giants this year, and James Shields – the Royals ace last season – is now plying his trade in San Diego.
That’s just a tiny sampling of the many changes we saw this offseason.
The San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Miami Marlins all underwent major turnover to compete this season. Both Chicago clubs, the White Sox and Cubs, spent big bucks in hopes of bringing another World Series trophy back to the Windy City. The Boston Red Sox reloaded on offense and reshuffled the rotation in hopes of pulling yet another worst-to-first championship run this season.
There was plenty more, but at this point, all anyone cares about is that tonight there will be real, live, honest-to-goodness baseball on national television and it’ll be a game that actually means something.
It’s Opening Day and that means we – like all sports blogs – are contractually obligated to make some predictions for the upcoming season.
Without any further ado, here are our 2015 Cheap Seat Chronicles’ staff predictions:
|Jeremiah Graves||Steven Kunkel||Justin Kunkel|
|American League East|
|American League Central|
|American League West|
|American League Wild Card|
|American League Wild Card|
|National League East|
|National League Central|
|National League West|
|National League Wild Card|
|National League Wild Card|
|American League Champion|
|National League Champion|
|World Series Champion|
Quick Prediction Analysis:
In the American League, the biggest stand out here – in my mind – is the lack of agreement across the board. The American League seems wide-open this year with no clear-cut favorite. All three of us have a different team representing the AL in the World Series and the Cleveland Indians are the only club selected by all three of us to make the postseason fray in the AL.
Surprisingly absent from all three of us are the defending AL Central champion Detroit Tigers who come into 2015 having won four division titles in a row. Also missing was the very popular sleeper pick in many circles, the Toronto Blue Jays.
In the National League, we all appear to be basically on the same page with the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers getting a clean sweep in the NL East and West, respectively. After that it’s a little more all over the place.
The surprise here is the lack of the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants on anyone’s radar, even as a wild card contender. It also appears that none of us are buying into the Chicago Cubs offseason activity as a sign that the club is ready to return to the postseason.
If that wasn’t enough to get you excited, we also took our turn at trying to project some individual awards for the upcoming season, take a peek.
|American League Comeback Player||Prince Fielder||Matt Moore||Prince Fielder|
|National League Comeback Player||Jay Bruce||Matt Harvey||Joey Votto|
|American League Rookie of the Year||Carlos Rodon||Rusney Castillo||Ruseny Castillo|
|National League Rookie of the Year||Joc Pederson||Kris Bryant||Jorge Soler|
|American League Cy Young||Felix Hernandez||Carlos Carrasco||David Price|
|National League Cy Young||Clayton Kershaw||Clayton Kershaw||Clayton Kershaw|
|American League Most Valuable Player||Mike Trout||Mike Trout||Mike Trout|
|National League Most Valuable Player||Andrew McCutchen||Carlos Gomez||Bryce Harper|
Quick Prediction Analysis:
So, there you have it. Mike Trout will continue to be the greatest hitter on the planet and Clayton Kershaw will continue to be the greatest pitcher on the planet.
Beyond that, however, it’s safe to say that the only other unanimous prediction is that we’ll spend all season arguing about pretty much everything else.
Love these predictions? Hate these predictions?
Give us your feedback and share your predictions in the comments!
Talkin' Giants Ball.
It is no secret. When a pitcher losses velocity and relies on a fastball and pitching catalogue of his former days, he is asking for a ticket home. More often than not, these starting pitchers are put into the bullpen. Then there are those rare moments when the reinvention process catches on. In Jake Peavy’s case, he has Hall of Fame quality catcher Gerald Dempsey ‘Buster’ Posey III or as we all like to call him, ‘Posey’ or ‘Buster’, behind the plate.
When Posey was up to bat against Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson on Sunday’s game, he found himself intrigued. What Posey discovered was Wilson’s nasty four-seam changeup, which looked like a four-seem fastball off the hand. It is a well-known fact amongst San Francisco Giants fans that Posey is an artful catcher and a heck of a hitter too (#MVPosey 2012). Peavy confirmed this when interviewed a day ago with Giants beat writer Chris Haft: “If you have one of the best hitters in the league as your catcher, and he acts like he’s batting when you’re facing the opponent…. He’s a special talent.”
Peavy is no rook though. A three-time All Star with two rings to brag, Peavy has been around the block and has seen pitchers reinvent themselves. Like those pitchers who lose velocity, Peavy took to experimenting. Oftentimes, these undertakings can range from a new pitch rotation and even sometimes, a new pitch to boot. Mechanics can be reworked. A new superstition adopted. The efforts are exhaustive and many times done with a pitching coach or a trainer.
But this native of Mobile, Alabama is not your average Joe. Posey came up to his right-hander the day after facing Wilson and described what he had witnessed and simply asked, “Can you throw one of those?” to which Peavy replied “I don’t know.”
“Can you try?”1
Was all Posey had to ask to trigger Peavy’s impulse of trying the new four-seam changeup on Monday’s Royals-Giants exhibition game; does the match-up sound familiar Giants fans? The result? Striking out Kansas City Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain to end the fifth, stranding a potential run at second base.
Peavy later told his catcher. “The changeup, I think we found something there.”1
Until next time,
Giants-Royals Recap: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2015_03_23_kcamlb_sfnmlb_1&mode=box
Last week, Adidas announced it would not seek a renewal of their contract to produce NBA-licensed product.
For now, this means nothing. The current contract runs through the 2016-17 season, meaning jerseys and on-court tee shirts will continue being made by Adidas. Starting with the 2017-18 season, things could start to look a whole lot different (or, really the same for a bit. Change happens incrementally, even with new vendors). Before then, however, there could be a battle.
Nike and Under Armour are both ahead of Adidas in market share in the United States, and early speculation is on those two vying for the NBA contract. Nike already has the on-field contract for the NFL (excluding headwear) and the undershirt contract (a real thing) with MLB. Nike is winning the player shoe endorsement competition far and away over Under Armour, with stars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant wearing their shoes. Under Armour has a small amount of players that wear their shoes, with Stephen Curry being notable, but the rest are generally afterthoughts.
Not that Under Armour hasn’t tried to work its way into the shoe market. Besides signing Stephen Curry, Under Armour made a big play to sign Kevin Durant when his Nike contract was set to expire. Nike outbid Under Armour and ended up retaining Durant.
Nike and Under Armour both make quality products. Nike, however, has the advantage of time and the balance sheet of a corporate titan. Under Armour is the underdog of the two, as much as a company with a market capitalization of almost $17 billion can be. Nike and their over $83 market cap can outbid Under Armour at each end to retain their dominance.
Nike’s largest advantages over Under Armour are in the footwear market and the international market. The NBA is growing in popularity worldwide and could potentially overtake the NFL in time, due to the simplicity of basketball as a game and the long-term health concerns of former NFL players.
If Under Armour is going to be stymied by Nike in the footwear market, it makes sense for Under Armour to go all-out and even overpay for the rights to make NBA uniforms. Getting their name and image out to a worldwide audience would do wonders to establish themselves not only as a player in the United States, but worldwide.
On the other hand, what would American professional sports look like with Nike creating jerseys for two of the big four (Majestic Athletic makes MLB uniforms and Reebok, now owned by Adidas makes NHL uniforms)?
A decision on the new on-court provider could be announced as soon as next month. Either way, things are going to get very interesting.
Baseballism - The Official off the field Brand of Baseball
Baseball has a rich history of aiding and serving our communities. Living in Boston, I see it firsthand with The Jimmy Fund which started out as a grassroots movement with lemonade stands, runs, walks, and softball games. Now, The Jimmy Fund plays a substantial part of the city’s culture. Recently, twenty Chicago Cubs and their skipper, Joe Maddon hosted “Respect Bald” where they had their hair shaved off to raise awareness and funding for pediatric cancer research. Major League Baseball Charities also supports organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (the official charity of MLB) and the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Many are familiar with their partnerships with Stand Up To Cancer, Autism Speaks and the ALS foundations. Whether through research or donations, these outreach programs make a huge impact in our communities.
When Travis Chock, Jonathan Jwayad, Kalin Boodman and Jonathan Loomis established the Baseballism brand in 2006, their goal was to create ‘premium, timeless, casual apparel’ that reflected the class, culture and history of baseball. Their success has allowed them to give back to the community by way of philanthropic projects ranging from free lessons for youth, equipment donations and college scholarships.
They didn’t start out in the retail business though. Baseballism began as a youth baseball camp in Eugene, Oregon, where the four friends (and former teammates from the University of Oregon) coached kids on the fundamentals and mechanics of baseball. Determined to expand the camp, they designed a variety of t-shirts with baseball-centric themes to spruce up their marketing campaign. The shirts were a huge hit and demand from not only the kids and parents, but the community fans, started to multiply quickly. It was then that the official Baseballism brand was born. As Jonathan ardently pointed out, “Baseballism was originally launched with a philosophy in mind based on the admirable values of the game.”
Baseballism’s philosophy stems from the lessons each of the founders learned from the game. Ducks alumni and two-time All American infielder, Travis put it best when he compared baseball to life. “In baseball you learn how to treat others with respect. You learn empathy, teamwork, and how to deal with adversity within yourself. You gain mental toughness while building stronger character” for future challenges. Making an error on the field or striking out is difficult to deal with. No one likes dealing with failure or the feeling of letting down a teammate. The same can be said for the realities of the day-to-day. To experience failure is one thing, but to learn and grow from these challenges is what life is all about.
Baseballism started their first charitable program in 2013. “Sacrifice” allowed customers to donate a portion of the profits from their purchases to their local teams and leagues. Ideas like these are often created at their annual retreats where they talk about the direction, innovation, and philosophy of their brand as well as creative ways they can give back to the community.
One of their goals is to bring baseball and softball back to rural areas and underserved cities with the program “Level the Playing Field” which offers free private lessons for young aspiring athletes. Baseballism also held a “Win the Battle” campaign where they launched Breast Cancer awareness merchandise to support funding for research. The gear from this, and the “Fight Off Childhood Cancer” project still can be purchased. A percentage of proceeds from these t-shirts and caps go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the American Childhood Cancer Organization.
Baseballism’s latest initiative has been to provide scholarships to college bound students who have been positively influenced by the game. In 2014, three scholarships were awarded based on a letter of recommendation from a coach or teacher, a Baseballism quote, and a short essay describing what they learned from baseball (or softball) and the impact it had on their life. One of the scholarship winners was Jacob Spady, who lost his brother to cancer. The boys bonded over baseball as young kids, and when Jacob’s brother passed away, their family formed The 4C Foundation in his honor to raise money for cancer research and awareness.
Baseballism continues to donate and offer clinics and scholarships. “We want to introduce something new every year” Jonathan said. “It feels good to give back to a community in different ways.” The future of Baseballism is still being written, but it’s meant to resonate with fans of all ages who love baseball’s authenticity and culture, from kids in mini-tees with #coachdad in Baseballism caps, to women sporting the Kit Keller tank.
Trevor expanded on their future hopes for the brand: “We want people [who root for different teams] to see others sporting Baseballism and unite.”
When not working on the fashionable designs for Baseballism.com, you can catch the four friends on the field teaching baseball mechanics to kids at their camp in Eugene, Oregon.
I hope you join me in sporting this amazing brand and the causes they support at Baseballism.com
Until next time,
 More details about Baseballism Scholarship 2015 can be found here: http://baseballism.com/pages/baseballism-scholarships
 More about the 4c Foundation can be found on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/4CFoundation/timeline?ref=page_internal
 quote from Jonathan Jwayad
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.
…but that’s not why – and this is an old wrestling fan trope if ever there was one – it’s still real to me, dammit.
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?
Especially you non-fans.
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?
A look at: Mike (King) Kelly
We’re talking Base Ball…
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.
That’s it folks.
 Engraved on the Cooperstown Hall of Fame plaque of Mike (King) Kelly.
 James, Bill. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York: Free Press, 2001.
 The statistic for a walk is known as “Bases on Balls,” abbreviated as BB.
 His nickname came from the title “the King of Baseball,” which was given to him in the 1880s.
 Play Ball: Stories of the Ball Field is an autobiographical collection of baseball stories written by King Kelly.
 Small, Frank O. “Slide, Kelly, Slide.” Print. 1880. Digital Commonwealth, http://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/sf2687821
 Unlike players today, the King played every position.
 For more about his stats, checkout: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/k/kellyki01.shtml
 This is one of the many great stories and legends of King Kelly found in aforementioned book by Bill James.
 For more on the injury and the rule see: http://blog.sfgate.com/giants/2014/02/25/sf-giants-catcher-buster-posey-satisfied-with-new-plate-collision-rules/ and http://m.mlb.com/news/article/68267610/mlb-institutes-new-rule-on-home-plate-collisions
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?
Let us know what you think.
The ink has barely dried on the four-year pact the Padres made with James Shields, but general manger A.J. Preller is already working on his next move.
The newest target appears to be free agent Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada.
That’s the word coming from Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
We covered Moncada in detail last week when he was officially declared a free agent and became eligible to sign with any team.
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.
It took him the entire offseason to find the right deal, but James Shields finally landed a new contract.
Shields and the San Diego Padres have agreed on a four-year, $75 million pact that will allow him to pitch close to his home and should immediately improve the Padres rotation.
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.
We’ve touched on Shields a handful of times this offseason, often with confusion about how his market never really seemed to come together the way it did for fellow free agent starters Jon Lester and Max Scherzer, both of whom signed mega-deals earlier this winter.
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.
Dayan Viciedo was released by the White Sox on Wednesday after the club designated him for assignment the week prior.
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.