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.

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?

You’re My Favorite

After spending a great day at the ballpark with my family, surrounded by really nice people, great weather and ballplayers busting their butts, I’m reminded of what a great game baseball is to watch.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post called The Best of What’s Around. The post listed a team of players that I really enjoyed watching. Guys that played hard, weren’t jerks, and had a little personality. After today’s game, I’m inspired to write another one.

Once again, these guys aren’t the best players, but they’re all guys that I enjoy watching play the great game of baseball.

  • Catcher: Victor Martinez
    I like that he hits .300 and that he’s good for 20+ home runs a year. I love that he individualizes a different handshake for all 25 members of his team.
  • First Base: Prince Fielder
    Fat guys are jolly. And he’s the only 300-pound vegetarian in the world.
  • Second Base: Dustin Pedroia
    This is a no-brainer. He plays hard, he’s a smart-ass, and he’s my favorite player. Man-crush? That’s none of your damn business!
  • Third Base: Kevin Youkilis
    Sure, he looks like Yukon Cornelius, perspires like someone dumped a bucket of water on him, and has the weirdest batting stance in the league. I like that he gets super pissed
    like it’s game 7 of the World Series every time he makes an out. He’s a gamer.
  • Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki
    I’m really not crazy about any of the shortstops in the league. Tulo rakes, but he has the tendency to get hurt every season. I figured I’d include him to show my support for my Polish readers. Plus, he grew a mullet for charity last season, which is awesome.
  • Outfield: Nick Swisher
    Ok, let’s get this out of the way: Yes, I know he’s a Yankee. But Swisher seems like a really good dude. He has his own charity called Swish’s Wishes that helps out sick kids, and another that supports our U.S troops overseas. He’s a damn Yankee, but he’s ok in my book.
  • Outfield: Curtis Granderson
    Yup, another Yankee. This guy is fun to watch. My wife nicknamed him “Crazy Legs,” because when he sprints around the bases his legs are flailing around like a newborn giraffe learning how to run. Plus. this guy always has a smile on his face. If I played for the heartless, soul-sucking New York Yankees, I’d be pissed. But to each his own, I guess.
  • Outfield: Ryan Braun
    The Hebrew Hammer is the best outfielder on the planet and just too good to pass over on my team.
  • Pitcher: Ryan Dempster
    Solid pitcher. Does a great impersonation of Harry Caray. Provides the comic relief on my team.
  • Pitcher: David Price
    Signs more autographs at the Rays spring training practices than any other player. Plus, a friend of mine ran into him at a crappy Port Charlotte eatery and confirmed that he’s a good guy.
  • Pitcher: Ted Lilly
    His middle name is Roosevelt! Theodore Roosevelt Lilly. It’s the greatest name in baseball. Little guy, huge name.
  • Pitcher: Jon Lester
    The silent assassin. I like that this guy doesn’t say five words during the entire season. He just goes out and wins. I really like that he’s going to win the Cy Young award this year.
  • Pitcher: Cole Hamels
    There’s nothing that he does in particular that I love, except crushing the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series. And that’s enough.
  • Closer: Brian Wilson
    Without a doubt,  this New Hampshirite is the craziest guy in all of baseball. I fear the beard… big time!
  • Manager: Earl Weaver
    This guy was Bobby Cox before Bobby Cox was. Weaver was once thrown out of a game while exchanging lineup cards at home plate. This team needs a fiery leader, and this guy is downright nuclear. And I went to a Baltimore Orioles game today, so he’s in.

This is the team of favorites I came up with. Good all-around guys. Of course, no team is complete without a few good bench players. Who should we add to the team?

All Star

Baseball has some of the most passionate and knowledgeable fans in all of sports, but for some reason, when the fans have the chance to select the starters for the mid-summer classic, they have the tendency to pick with their hearts instead of their brains. As much as I like players like Jason Varitek and Ken Griffey Jr., they are not deserving of an All Star nod. With the All Star selections being announced at 2:00 p.m. today, I’m going to jump the gun and give you the players that have truly played like an All Star during the first half of the season.

Although I’d like to make the team entirely of Red Sox players, I’m going to try to be as impartial as possible, which means there may be a Ray or a Yankee on the team. Ugh!

American League

Catcher: Joe Mauer
Pencil him in for the next ten years.

First Base: Justin Morneau
This was a close race between Youkilis and Morneau. Both players have similar numbers. I just think Morneau is better.

Second Base: Dustin Pedroia
This guy is a great hitter and an under-appreciated defender. His defense gives him a slight edge over Ian Kinsler.

Third base: Alex Rodriguez
After a controversial week in the tabloids, this selection should soothe the Material Girl’s pain.

Shortstop: Michael Young
Sorry, Jeter. I know that this is the last year in Yankee Stadium, but Young is better than you.

Outfield: Josh Hamilton, Grady Sizemore, Carlos Quinton
There have been some great performances by AL outfielders during the first half of the season. These three have been the best.

Designated Hitter: Milton Bradley
Even with one arm, I think Big Papi should be the DH. But I’m afraid that Bradley will hunt me down and beat me to a pulp if he’s not picked.

Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee
11-1, 2.26 ERA. Lee has been the biggest pitching surprise in the league.

Reserves:
Dioner Navarro C
Kevin Youkilis 1B
Ian Kinsler 2B
Brian Roberts 2B
Evan Longoria 3B
Derek Jeter SS
B.J. Upton OF
Nick Markakis OF
Ichiro Suzuki OF
J.D. Drew OF
Roy Halladay SP
Ervin Santana SP
James Shields SP
Justin Duchscherer SP
Joe Saunders SP
Gavin Floyd SP
Jon Lester SP
Jonathan Papelbon RP
Francisco Rodriguez RP
Mariano Rivera RP

National League

Catcher: Russell Martin
Martin is in a class by himself. Easily the best catcher in baseball.

First Base: Lance Berkman
After an amazing first half, Berkman is the NL MVP.

Second Base: Chase Utley
24 ding-dongs on the season so far. He has carried the Phillies.

Third base: Larry Jones
Grown men shouldn’t be called Chipper, even when they hit close to .400.

Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez
This guy makes the game look easy. He’s a lock for the next ten years.

Designated Hitter: Ryan Howard
I like that this guy will either strikeout or go yard. There is no in-between.

Outfield: Nate McLouth, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Braun
These three aren’t the biggest names in the National League, but they’ve been carrying their respective teams.

Starting Pitcher: Tim Lincecum
This kid weighs 120 pounds and throws 98 MPH. The fact that he’s 10-1 and is the lone bright spot on the Giants also helps.

Reserves:
Geovany Soto C
Brian McCann C
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Derrek Lee 1B
Dan Uggla 2B
David Wright 3B
Jose Reyes SS
Miguel Tejada SS
Carlos Lee OF
Pat Burrell OF
Matt Holliday OF
Edinson Volquez SP
Brandon Webb SP
Dan Haren SP
Cole Hamels SP
Ben Sheets SP
Ryan Dempster SP
Kerry Wood RP
Jose Valverde RP
Brad Lidge RP

So there you have it, the official thefoulline.com 2008 All Star Team.