Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

Everybody Talks

Apparently I went to a baseball game yesterday. I say apparently, because I found my ticket stub on the kitchen counter this morning, and a cooler with a couple of beers in it in my car. But oddly enough, I don’t recall watching a minute of baseball.

This could only mean one of two things. I’ve either had a stroke, or the gang from thefoulline.com got together for the second year in a row to “watch” a game.

It was another spring training game, where we found our spot by the left field berm and commenced with three hours of baseball talk. The usual subjects were covered: the upcoming draft, our spots, who are the October Boys taking #1,  why are the Yankees and Rays so unlikable, and is it possible for Allan to drink all the beer at Charlotte Sports Park?

It was a great time, with knowledgeable baseball fanatics. Thanks to Dan “The #1 Rays Fan” for setting it up, and to Willis, Mike, Allan, & Dennis for coming out. It’s nice that we can still be friends, before the competition starts in a few weeks.

I still have no idea who won the game.

The First Days of Spring

Another Spring Training is upon us! The sun is shining. The grass is freshly cut. The birds are singing. Baseball is back!

And I still despise the Tampa Bay Rays.

I feel the need to clarify this, because today I spent yet another morning at the Rays Spring Training facility in the beautiful, historic town of Port Charlotte. My motivation to go see the Rays practice is always the same. I get to spend a few hours in the beautiful weather watching baseball, and if I can trip a few Rays players while I’m there, even better!

Here are my short and sweet observations from Rays camp today:

  • I watched every catcher in the Rays system practice throwing to the bases. Newcomer Ryan Hanigan has the worst arm out of all of them.
  • Grant Balfour was already in mid-season form with his potty mouth. He dropped more F-bombs during practice than the first hour of Pulp Fiction. But he curses in Australian, so it wasn’t that bad.
  • Chris Archer looked great today, and it wasn’t hard to notice that everyone in the Rays organization likes this kid. Brains and talent!
  • It was easy to see that David Price and Evan Longoria have taken a leadership-by-example approach this season. Both guys were the first ones in the drill lines, and would run to the next field during their 15-minute rotations.
  • Jose Molina is still really fat.
  • Not to beat a dead horse, but how does Dave Martinez not have a manager job yet? Even worse, you don’t even hear him being in the discussion anymore.
  • The Rays will win the AL East and play in the World Series this year.

I’m going to go watch practice again later this week. I’ll be sure to bring a few Rays voodoo dolls with me.

Off He Goes

There are 750 active players on Major League Baseball rosters. 30 teams, consisting of 25 players. With such a large number of players, there are bound to be a few bad apples in the mix. Alex Rodriguez, A.J. Pierzynski, & Carlos Gomez come to mind as being world class jerks. Unfortunately, it’s these guys that tend to get the attention of the media. Steroids, pimping homeruns, initiating bench clearing brawls, are just a few of the “contributions” that these guys make to the league. I cringe whenever these guys are on the news getting the headlines that have little to do with the game of baseball.

The reason for dusting of thefoulline.com keyboard on a random Sunday in February, is that one of the true good guys in sports has made the decision to step away from the game today. Ryan Dempster chose today to not play baseball in 2014, and forfeit his 13 million dollar salary, citing physical & personal issues. Dempster could have easily just gone on the disabled list, and try and figure out how to spend the millions of dollars coming to him in unearned salary.

Ryan Dempster epitomized mediocrity during his 16 year career. This is evident by his 132-133 win/loss record. But, he was always an affable, hard nosed, competitor that was genuine role model to the kids that watch the game.

All signs are pointing to him retiring from baseball. If so, I’m glad that I was able to see him play a season for the Red Sox. I appreciate the respect he showed for the game, when he drilled A-Rod last year. But, I’m most happy that he was finally able to win a World Series, in what might be his final season.

It’s about time the good guy finished first.

Question Authority

Tomorrow I’m going to my fifth and final Spring Training game. I hadn’t planned on going to any more, but RedRays (Trent) made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. RedRays is one of those guys that gets along with everyone and has friends from many walks of life. One of those friends is MLB umpire Chad Fairchild.
Chad Fairchild photo by Adrian Wyld
Chad Fairchild has been umpiring in the big leagues since 2004. He’s been involved in two Division Series, and he was also on the field for A-Rod’s infamous “got it” call when running towards third base in Toronto.

One of the perks of being friends with an umpire… four free tickets to every MLB game in which he is umpiring.

RedRays took advantage of this a few years ago and traveled up to Fenway Park to catch a game. Tomorrow, he’s getting taken care of again, but this time it’s Port Charlotte for a split-squad game. Hey, any baseball is good baseball.

The reason I’m writing this post is that I hope to meet Chad Fairchild and maybe ask a few questions for the site. So, I pose this question to the readers. If you could ask an MLB umpire any question, what would it be? I’ll ask him the best ones tomorrow.

Blowin’ In the Wind

My good friend Dylan – original thefoulline.com fantasy league member and Foul Line contributor – and I have a tradition where we go to at least one spring training game a year. This has been going on for several years, and it’s always a great time. The thing about going to a game with Dylan is that something crazy/fun/outlandish happens every time. That, and I’m pretty certain that we’ve never witnessed a Red Sox victory. During the years of going to games with Dylan, some of the highlights have been seeing the two Red Sox World Series trophies and getting great pictures with them, getting interviewed by MLB.tv, the Jed Lowrie foul ball game, meeting Nick from the Penalty Box bar in Rhode Island, the Great Ellsbury Birthplace Debate, and meeting Dewayne Staats. But today’s game may have been the craziest. Today’s game will be known as “the one where we almost watched someone die.”

The best thing about going to a game with Dylan is the constant banter. All the topics are covered: baseball, personal lives, politics, travel, The Foul Line. It’s always witty, and I’m constantly laughing. It makes for a great baseball viewing experience. A few weeks back, Dylan texted me and asked if I wanted to go see the Sox and Cardinals play on February 26th at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers. He was going to get standing-room-only Green Monster tickets. Of course I was in.

I picked him up at his house for the five-minute drive to the park. Upon getting to the stadium an hour and a half early, we noticed a strong 30-mph wind blowing straight out to center field. It was going to be a bad day to be a pitcher. Dylan grabbed a sausage & pepper sandwich with a Sam Adams. I opted for the Fenway Frank and a 312 wheat beer, and we made our way to the top of the Green Monster. The thing about jetBlue Park is that that everyone working there is a prick. I didn’t see one person smile the entire day. They’re working at a beautiful stadium, watching the most beloved team in all of sports, and they treat everyone like they’re wearing an “I love George Steinbrenner” shirt. It’s bizarre.

Anyhow, Dylan and I grabbed a spot on the wall and started watching the Cardinals take batting practice. Balls just started launching out of the park. Texas-Leaguers were carrying in the monsoon-like winds. At this point, more and more people were making their way to the top of the Monster with hopes of catching a BP ball.

It was the typical crowd: the 45-year-old dude who brought his mitt and was chasing down every ball with Jim Edmonds-like enthusiasm; the dad with his kids trying to score two souvenirs for his baseball-loving boys; the middle-aged woman who flinches and ducks at any ball that hints at hitting the wall; and Dylan and me, eating our food, sipping our beer, and watching ball after ball fly over our heads.

As the Cardinals were wrapping up their batting practice, some unknown player started crushing balls over the wall, one after another. The souvenir-baseball feeding frenzy was in full effect. People were chasing down balls like they were the Wonka Bar golden tickets. Dylan and I continued to watch and take it all in.

As Mr. Unknown was winding down his impressive power display, he launched one more ball high over the wall. As the ball carried, it appeared to be hit so well that it was going to leave the entire stadium. At the last minute, an overaggressive ball-hound jumped up for the ball and began to tumble over the rail to a 25-foot fall. When he was half way over the wall and on his way down to certain peril, the 45-year-old, with his mitt still on, dove and grabbed the guy’s legs, saving him from having a really bad day. It was the best and most important catch of the day.

This led to me saying to Dylan, “Damn, that guy almost died!”

To which he replied, “And that’s why I don’t chase after BP balls.”

And here are your Dylan-centric Quick Hits

  • Due to predicted lousy weather, both teams put all their scrubs in the starting lineups. When Daniel Nava is the big name, you might be in for a snoozer.
  • The experience of watching a game from the vantage point of the top of the Green Monster is unparalleled to any seat at any sporting event I have ever had. I highly recommend it.
  • Sox starting pitcher Ryan Dempster was on the mound today. With the scrubs backing him up in the field, Dylan commented that he hoped Dempster had his Eh game. You know, because he’s Canadian. It’s funny, eh?
  • There are fewer things I enjoy more than a Fenway frank, a cold beer, and watching baseball.
  • Dylan was able to turn two standing-room-only tickets into two prime seats on the monster, just by being in the right place at the right time.
  • (For the confused Rays fans, “Standing Room Only” seats are when your team sells all the seats at your park, and your only option is to stand.)
  • 312 beer is poured using an old telephone receiver tap. I’m not sure why, but it was awesome.
  • We’re still waiting for the final three spots to get filled on thefoulline.com fantasy league. Clock’s ticking.
  • I’m returning to the Yankeehaters team name. It was fun being the Boston badboys for a season, but the Yankeehaters just feels right.

Thanks to all for reading! The baseball draft is ONLY 4 weeks away! Start prepping now.

Follow @thefoulline on Twitter.

You Complete Me

I don’t consider myself a writer. I’m a guy that enjoys talking about baseball and sharing my opinions with a group of educated baseball fans. During the baseball season, I read every article I can get my hands on, and I follow a bunch of baseball writers on Twitter. Of all the writers I follow, there are a handful that are a must-read every day. Pete Abraham & Nick Cafardo with the Boston Globe, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, and Jayson Stark and Tim Kurkjian with ESPN. But my favorite of all is Buster Olney.

Buster Olney is everywhere… Baseball Tonight, Twitter, Podcasts, SportsCenter, and ESPN’s baseball telecasts. He also writes a daily article on ESPN.com in which he links all the baseball news for all the MLB teams. It’s always a good read. He really is the hardest working guy in baseball.

I had planned on going to the Rays practice today with my buddy Trent (RedRays) and a couple of friends from work. While making our plans, I noticed on Twitter that ESPN and Buster Olney were going to be in Port Charlotte. I relayed this to Trent, who replied, “We gotta get a pic with him for thefoulline.com!” This became our mission.

We arrived at the stadium at 9:30 to a capacity crowd of twenty other fans. The gates opened and we made our way to the closest field to watch the Rays stretch, run 20-yard dashes, and play catch. We were able to score a prime fence-line position in front of the immortal Shelley Duncan (who promptly shouted “Nobody likes you!” to an annoyingly obnoxious fan that has some sort of personal vendetta against Jose Molina) and the enigmatic Yunel Escobar, who for some odd reason got along great with the loud obnoxious jackass. He even tossed the loudmouth a ball. That sounds about right.

We worked our way around the park checking out the different fields. No sign of Buster.

We watched Matt Moore throw batting practice. I know it’s early, but he was all over the place. I only saw him throw a handful of strikes the entire session. We witnessed James Loney making a SportsCenter top-10 catch during fielding drills, and a bewildered Jeff Niemann having trouble keeping the ball down in PFP.

Practice was winding down, and still no Buster. I was receiving texts from thefoulline.com headquarters inquiring on the status of the Buster meet & greet. I had nothing to report.

But as the clock struck 11 am, who do I see walking down the center sidewalk, notepad in hand? It’s Buster Olney!

I walked up to him and told him I was a big fan and enjoyed his writing. He seemed taken aback by this and maybe a little embarrassed. Maybe he doesn’t have many lunatic blog writers bum-rush him at spring training practices? I asked for a quick picture with him. Redrays was Johnny-on-the-spot and snapped a keeper. I thanked Buster for his time and said it was nice to meet him. He replied, “Any idea which field Wil Myers is on?” I just happened to know exactly where he was. “Sure, I’ll show you.” As we walked to the field, we had a quick Q&A:

Buster: so are you a Rays fan?
Me: Nope… I like the Red Sox. This park is just so convenient to watch practice.
Buster: How do you think they’re going to do this year?
Me: They have to be better than last season, right?
Buster: It’s hard to say… They all really hated each other last year. The guys they brought in may make a difference.
Me: They were hard to watch. Hopefully their mojo is better at least.
Buster: Well, gotta go… Good luck with your Sox this year!
Me: You complete me!
Ok, that last part didn’t happen, but this encounter with Buster Olney confirmed my thoughts about him. He’s engaging, friendly, and professional. It was worth the trip to Charlotte County Stadium.

Rays-centric Quick Hits:

  • How does Dave Martinez not have a managing job? When he was asked this today by a fan, he replied, “I want to win one in Tampa before going anywhere else.” He’s a class act.
  • Luke Scott is crazy. He hung the boar’s head that he killed with a spear in the Rays clubhouse. He talks to everyone – players, coaches, fans, security guards. Is he the new Jonny Gomes in Tampa?
  • I watched Chris Archer throw some serious cheese. He has an easy, effortless delivery that pops the catcher’s mitt on every throw.
  • Speaking of impressive performances… Juan Sandoval had quite a crowd around him during his pitching session. He looked good, throwing strike after strike. What made this even more impressive? He’s blind in his right eye.
  • I saw Super-GM Andrew Friedman walk into a port-a-potty while chatting on his cellphone, then walk out while still talking. I’m guessing he didn’t wash his hands.
  • Watched super prospect Wil Myers take BP today. He didn’t rake like I had hoped, but RedRays and I both noticed he doesn’t wear batting gloves. This led to RedRays asking, “Do you think he pees on his hands like Moises Alou?”
  • It blows my mind that the Rays don’t have more fans. They have a quality organization, great spring training facility, and legitimate superstars in Price and Longoria, and they compete every year. They deserve better.

We finished the day at The October Boys’s restaurant, Bocca Lupo in Port Charlotte. It’s the best pizza around. It was a perfect ending to a fun day. Check it out when you’re down here for spring training!

Spring Love

The Major League Baseball season is a 162-game grind. Thirty teams come in with a clean slate and a fresh start, and excitement for making the coveted playoffs is high. Well, maybe not in Houston, Minnesota, or San Diego, but you catch my drift. Everyone is going to predict the Tigers, Nationals, Braves, and Giants as potential World Series contenders. And they should – those teams are loaded. Tension will build. Expectations will be high. Questions will be asked. Who’s going to be this year’s surprise team? Who are this year’s Oakland A’s and Baltimore Orioles?

Right now, who cares? It’s Spring Training!

ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian sums up Spring Training up perfectly: “It is a time for optimism, a fresh start and hope.”

So for now, let’s enjoy six weeks of good weather. Let’s watch the bright-eyed prospects fight for a spot on a Major League roster, and the aging veterans trying to delay the inevitable. Let’s watch teams that we typically don’t get a chance to see. Let’s enjoy the cheaper ticket prices and the intimate stadiums.

It’s spring. It’s baseball. Everyone is 0-0. It’s anyone’s ballgame!

Not Ready to Make Nice

After a disastrous 2012 season, the Red Sox owners added some character guys on the tail end of their careers. In an effort to make the team more likable, Sox owners signed Ryan Dempster – great Harry Caray impersonator, got shelled in Texas last year; Shane Victorino and his .255 batting average; Mike Napoli and his two necrotic hips.

But the the most egregious signing of all was Johnny freakin’ Gomes! What the hell was that all about? How can Gomes ever get cheered at Fenway after his sucker punching and hair pulling of Coco Crisp in the bottom of the “fight” pile? I can understand defending your teammates, but what I can’t comprehend is having this orangutan patrol left field in Fenway Park. I’ve disliked a lot of players in my time, but it’d be hard to find anyone I dislike more than Gomes. But what the hell… It’s only $10 million, and he’s all ours for two seasons.

Quick hits:

  • Speaking of that fight… Does anyone wonder if Coco and James Shields have ever thrown a punch in their collective lives? Whiff… whiff!
  • I still hate the Rays, but I’m interested to see Wil Myers play.
  • I’m making a return to the Rays Opening Day game. Last year’s Rays vs. Yanks game was one of the best I have ever seen live.
  • I’ll be not-so-secretly hoping that the Cleveland Indians do well this season. I’m still a huge Francona fan.
  • I’ll be not-so-secretly hoping that Bobby Valentine contracts syphilis. I still can’t stand that guy.
  • Am I the only one that feels sorry for Houston Astro Carlos Pena? They are by far the worst team in MLB. Moving to the American League is not going to help.
  • It’s my tradition to buy a new Red Sox hat before the start of every season. I might skip it this year. I’m really starting to dislike the Sox ownership.
  • The word around Red Sox camp is that John Lackey is in great shape. They’re also reporting that he’s still a mouth breather.
  • I made the decision a few weeks ago that I was going to cut back on Spring Training games this year. Next thing I know, Dylan hooks us up with Sox vs. Cardinals. Followed by my brother scoring Sox vs. Rays. Then the October Boy asks me to go to the Rays vs. Phillies. Followed by my buddy Nate getting Tigers vs. Mets tix. Suddenly, my spring is looking up!
  • I really, really hope Ryan Braun isn’t a juicer. But I think he is.
  • AL East final 2013 standings: 1. Blue Jays, 2. Rays, 3. Yankees, 4. Red Sox, 5. Orioles
  • What are your thoughts on a 12-team league? Does that interest anyone?

Well, that’s two posts in two days… Is it baseball season yet?

Last Chance

After a really disappointing end to the 2011 Baseball season, I was close to saying “Screw you Boston”, throwing away all my Red Sox memorabilia and finding another team to follow. The problem was, I love baseball and would have to follow someone. But who?…what team would be so lucky to get me as their #1 fan?

Here was my criteria:
1. Had to be an AL team ( NL sucks..although the Brewers and Cubs were considered)
2. Can’t be on the West Coast- the games are on to late. But when we move to Seattle in 10 years, I will support the Mariners.
3. Has to be an American team – Sorry Toronto.
4. Yankee’s and Rays are automatically out- my hate burns too deep.
5. Preferably a team with a bit of history/tradition.

Surprisingly, the two team that I came up with were the Detroit Tigers and the Baltimore Orioles. For some odd reason, I have a really old picture of myself and my dad wearing Tigers hats. I was maybe a year old? I think my Dad bought them was because he really liked Sparky Anderson..or maybe it was because there was a “D” for Dave on it? Who knows, I never asked. I do know It’s one of my favorite pictures.
As for my second choice, Baltimore. I really can’t pinpoint it- they seem like a nice team, their players stay out of trouble, Boog’s BBQ, Camden Yards and who didn’t like Cal Ripken. Plus, my Little League team was once the the Oriole’s. Silly reasons, I know..but they made the cut to the short list.
I want to follow a team that plays hard, has me on the edge of my seat on every pitch and hopefully win their fair share of games. That’s not too much to ask for is it?
Ultimately, I fought the urge to become what I loathed- a fickle sports fan. If my fandom can survive Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner and Aaron Boone- surely it can be resuscitated after a historical 2011 collapse. I guess we’ll have to see what this team is made of in 2012.

All this leads up to my question- if your favorite baseball team ceased to exist for what ever reason…who would you follow, and why?

The Safety Dance

I was playing some disc golf with my buddy Kyle the other day, and we stumbled upon a collegiate baseball tournament that was being played on the adjacent fields. I came to find out that there are 25 baseball teams playing in a month-long tournament in Port Charlotte (Snowbird Baseball Classic on Florida’s Suncoast). After dominating Kyle in golf, we caught a few innings of Montclair State University vs. Carthage College. If you put a gun to my head I couldn’t tell you where these school are located, but I can tell you it was really enjoyable to watch. This just further proves what I always say… Any baseball is good baseball.

Enjoy thefoulline.com’s Quick Hits:

  • Manny Ramirez has 3 sons, all named Manny.
  • How is it possible that the frickin’ New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys conglomeration of suckiness is having a concert at Fenway Park this summer and Pearl Jam is not?
  • If I had the chance to spend a day talking baseball with any two people in the world, Don Zimmerman and Yogi Berra would definitely top the list.
  • If I had the chance to spend a day talking fantasy baseball with any two people in the world, Ginger and the Bostonbadboy would definitely top the list.
  • Big, bad, burly Dan Johnson’s walk up music is Men Without Hats, “The Safety Dance.” Odd choice.
  • I’m really looking forward to a season of ESPN baseball broadcasts without Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. Joe Morgan is a pompous ass.
  • I just read that Chipper Jones is having a great spring and is swinging the bat better than he did in 2008. I expect to be reading in two weeks that Chipper Jones is on the DL with a hang nail.
  • I think the Baltimore Orioles have a chance to go 81-81. Their pitching isn’t quite there, but the lineup with Vlad, Markakis, Mark Reynolds, Luke Scott, Brian Roberts, and Matt Wieters should be fun to watch.
  • Quick! Not counting Fausto Carmona, Grady Sizemore, and Carlos Santana, name three players on the Cleveland Indians. (Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Hafner were all I could come up with.) I think the Royals may have some competition for worst team in baseball.
  • I’m not sold that Josh Beckett is going to have the great resurgence that a lot of fantasy experts are projecting.
  • I’m predicting that Jonathan Papelbon will be the Baltimore Orioles closer in 2011.
  • Dear Seattle Mariner ownership: Please do not trade King Felix to the Yankees regardless of who they offer you. He’s your franchise guy. Build around him!
  • Has anyone seen Unsportsman Mike? I don’t want to hear any more lame excuses about an auto-drafted team this year. He had a three-week notice.
  • I’m hoping for the 4th-6th pick in this years draft. Not a fan of the bookend position.

12 days.