Monthly Archive for December, 2011

Pitchers & Poets: 2011, a Year in Review

Now is the time of year when we all take a moment to acknowledge how quickly time slips away, and how the events of January, 2o11, don’t seem like they happened a whole year ago. I’m glad to have done this, though, as I’ve had to the chance to re-examine our efforts on the year, and to appreciate just how much we’ve accomplished here. There are so many great voices represented, and a cabinet of baseball wonders available any time.

So some months did fly by, but we did some great things this year, and we don’t mind checking back in on the mad dashes and the meditative moments. We hope, of course, that you enjoyed the ride as much as we did, and we look forward to future flights of fancy with you, our fantastic readers and fellow passengers on Steamship Baseball.

Scorekeeping Week

Our first foray into themed weeks, Scorekeeping Week was a fine jaunt through the habits of fans and professionals as they log a baseball game’s events.

I interviewed Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims, about his scorekeeping habits, and we learned more about Bethany Heck and her brilliant scorekeeping books. Paul Franz, Alex Belth, Patrick Truby, and Patrick Dubuque offered their stories and memories.

Scorekeeping Week was a quiet, pleasurable affair, and it stoked our interest in themed content. See below for the Frankenstein’s monster that resulted.

1990s First Basemen Week

Looking back at P&P2011, we would be crazy not to give full due to the year’s biggest, insanest phenomenon on the blog. Eric and I started with a simple idea: let’s talk about first basemen from the 1990s, and let’s get as many great writers involved as we can.

We released a salvo of emails, and the only directive was to pick a first baseman and talk about him. The breadth of responses and creative output was amazing, and the response overwhelming.

It all started with a Short Hop on Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas from Jonah Keri, and an essay on J.T. Snow by Eric Freeman. Readers started to understand what we were doing, and the purity of our goal. The nostalgia started to flow, and the content barreled onward, with work from Will Leitch on Pedro Guerrero, longtime reader playwright Larry Herold on Rafael Palmeiro and Will Clark, and Jesse Thorn on the grace of Mark Grace.

The 1990s first baseman embodied something beautiful and sad and nostalgic for us and for our readers. The big men stirred the poetic inside us. Tom Ley remembered an encounter with Andres Galarraga, and Joe Posnanski remembered a quixotic slugger in Jeff King. Josh Wilker thought about Carlos Quintana, I went on for some length about Jeff Bagwell and Sadaharu Oh and batting stances, Eric thought on Eric Karros, and how could we forget Dylan Little’s imagined interview with Hal Morris.

And, of course, Pete Beatty cleared the bases with his meditation on Jim Thome and ruin porn.

There are so many more contributors who made this such a great couple of weeks for us at the blog, and the best thing that you can do is click the headline above and read every last one of them. For us, 1990s First Basemen Week was just awesome.

P&P Reading Club: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

he art of fielding by chad harbachIn late September, we started the P&P Reading Club by collectively reading and opining about the above-mentioned best-seller about baseball, life, and the convergence. Hey, just like our little web site here! It was great fun, and again we featured lots of great writers (can you sense a theme in our approach to content development?). Chapters flew by with our posts tagging closely at heel, and we all had a fine time basking in the literature of it all.

Click the header above to find all of those fine posts. Contributors included Carson Cistulli, Adam Webb, Megan Wells, Patrick Dubuque, Pete Beatty, Navin Vaswani, Dayne Perry, Bryan Harvey, Eric, and myself.

The Milton Bradley Saga, Continued

Eric has become something of an expert on the culture of Milton Bradley, and his essay on the troubled outfielder, Encino Man, early in the year, affirmed the honorary. “If individual players can embody Pitchers & Poets and how Ted and I have come to consume and understand baseball, he is one of those players. By his attitude, his place in the ecosystem, his style of play, his perception in the media, he heightens our understanding of baseball.” He revisited the player in April, 2011, around the time Milton started to wear earplugs.

Month-to-Month

In February, we redesigned the site. We still love it.

In those doldrum days, we also got news of Miguel Cabrera’s feisty run-ins with the law, and Eric’s Manifesto called for making nostalgia modern. And hey, do you remember when Albert Pujols still seemed like he’d re-sign with the Cardinals? The measured meter of money spelled bad news for Cardinal fans.

Opening Day meant a live chat, as Eric and I watched 37 games in a row and all at once, while my wife made ballpark franks. It was a marathon.

April brought Eric’s realization that ownership issues were afoot in Dodgerland, and I contemplated the newly settled Cliff Lee. Other topics included Otis Nixon’s hair, the language of Coors Field, and the burgeoning Legend of Sam Fuld. I also discussed the odd couple Rangers, who did well to carry through with the promise I noted.

May, see 1990s First Basemen Week.

June saw us bring Patrick Dubuque into the fold of regular contributors. He immediately started bringing the thunder, as we knew he would. Jesse Gloyd took us fishing in the shadow of Chavez Ravine, I opened the Joba File and learned to appreciate Jered Weaver, and Eric Freeman explored the style of Bryce Harper. Eric remembered Northwest icon Clay Huntington, too, and caught us up on the power and the glory of Matt Kemp.

July was a quieter time, though Aaron Shinsano checked in to provide a scout’s view of the President’s Cup in Korea.

In August, Eric couldn’t get a Dodgers cap at Dodger Stadium, I explored the Best Show on WFMU, Simon Broder viewed the cursed celeb and Amy Winehouse through the baseball lens, Pete Beatty did some girl-storytelling, and Jesse Gloyd brought us thoughts on Satchel Paige.

September and October passed like a hard fall wind as we dipped our heads in literature (see Art of Fielding above), and November brought some pensive missives from Aaron Shinsano with more tales from scouting in Asia, Patrick on injury as metaphor, Brian K on new life without LaRussa, and some chat from me on the retro trend in new uniforms.

Which brings us to December. Eric and I have been hitting the podcast hard, polishing it up and filling it with quirky, enjoyable content so that we can hit the new year in fine stride. Podcasting is the perfect complement to the site, we think, because, really, we’re into conversations first and foremost.

2011 at Pitchers & Poets was a year of backs and forths, of multitudinous viewpoints, of unending conversations, multi-leveled stories and sing-alongs.

Here’s to a happy new year, and a fruitful and thoughtful 2012.

Pitchers & Poets Podcast 35: The Mat Latos Game

In episode 35 of the podcast we feel our way through the offseason’s latest transactions, consider on the antics of one J. Burnitz, and suffer with poor Yorvit Torrealba — he of the suspended from Venezuelan baseball for hitting an umpire in the face. We weave baskets with Derek Jeter and take an absurdly difficult quiz about Matt Latos. Plus, everybody wears masks, especially R.A. Dickey.

 

To subscribe in iTunes yourself, or via any RSS reader, enter this feed url:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/ThePitchersAndPoetsPodcast

To download the episode directly, right click and Save As the following link:

http://pitchersandpoets.com/podcast/PnP_035.mp3

Tunes by Jesse Gloyd

Jeff Blauser Should be in the Hall of Fame

I saw this headline on Google News:

Voting for Hall of Fame too complicated these days

I so badly wanted the enclosed article to be about the convoluted and absurd process of electing members to the Baseball Hall of Fame that I clicked on the link right away. Alas, it was not about the dumb, difficult Hall of Fame. Rather, it was about the tough moral questions brought on by this corrupt era of steroids.

Now, thanks to the taint of the steroid era, the arrival of the ballot brings dread instead of anticipation, suspicion instead of admiration.

For the second straight year, I look at Jeff Bagwell’s name and wonder if he beat the system while he was also pounding baseballs out of ballparks all across the country. I’d love to vote for him, because he was always a class act whenever I had to interview him and his numbers scream Hall of Famer.

Dread! Suspicion! What is a baseball columnist to do in times like these? After all, this is a world in which terrorists could be hiding under the hedges at the country club and children are just as likely to play soccer as they are tee-ball. Truth is scarce, the Culture is changing. Baseball remains safe. In Baseball things remain the same. There are clear lines drawn between Evil and Good, between Good and Great. Or at least there used to be. (Also: Hall of Fame ballots still come by mail? Really?)

Whining and whispering about which names on the Hall of Fame ballot may have used steroids is a new annual tradition. It’s not likely to go away anytime soon because Hall of Fame voters are losing a grip on the only world that they control — that world of illusions comprised of discarded Gold Glove trophies and dusty Hall of Fame plaques. In their world, morality consists of things like “clutchness” and “being a class act.” It also consists of not hitting home runs between say 1997 and the present because doing so makes you suspicious and suspicions are like fog and fog makes it harder to see.

So we’re stuck with a bunch of writers losing their grip on the one relatively meaningless thing they are tasked with controlling. We’re stuck with poor Bob Brookover at the Philadelphia Inquirer, who after grousing about Jeff Bagwell, concludes that he would rather not have to vote for the Hall of Fame at all because it’s just so damn difficult.

I did not enjoy actually filling out the ballot and I am starting to believe it is an impossible task that would be better left to someone else.

Actually Mr. Brookover, it’s just the opposite. Filling out a Hall of Fame ballot is a super easy, super possible, and totally inconsequential task. All you have to do is look at a bunch of names, decide which ones you like, and then write them down or check the box next to them — I’m not sure how precisely a voter marks his or her choices on the ballot.

Previously I’ve argued that we should let more people into the Hall of Fame because the institution’s purpose should be bringing joy to fans, not operating as a vehicle for exclusion. Along those lines, it seems foolish to let suspicions rules our thinking about a place that is meant to celebrate baseball, not moralize over it. Let’s make things easier, not harder. (Pete Rose and Joe Jackson should be in too, of course.)

I’ve suggested adding fan voting and lowering the threshold for election from 75 percent to 70 percent of writers. I’d like double down on the call for a popular vote — let’s make room for beloved players who don’t have the gaudy numbers — and then go one further. The writer vote should should go by a simple majority: If more than 50 percent of writers think Jeff Bagwell is Hall of Fame worthy, then he is Hall of Fame worthy. And if Atlanta fans can make a compelling case for him, Jeff Blauser ought to be Hall of Fame worthy too.

More speeches. More plaques. More joy.

Pitchers & Poets Podcast 34: Winning the Fan Cave

In episode 34 of the podcast, we go for a little more structure, including actual quotations from around the web! The Braves attempt to protect their brand, Yu Darvish faces high expectations (from us)and Barry Bonds becomes an expensive scapegoat. Plus, the MLB Fan Cave — our favorite topic — has gotten even more discomfiting, but nothing is as discomfiting as the BBWAAA’s response to the Bill Conlin scandal.

 

To subscribe in iTunes yourself, or via any RSS reader, enter this feed url:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/ThePitchersAndPoetsPodcast

To download the episode directly, right click and Save As the following link:

http://pitchersandpoets.com/podcast/PnP_034.mp3

Tunes by Jesse Gloyd

Pitchers & Poets Podcast 33: Derek Jeter Fan Fiction

Derek Jeter orchestrates a walk of shame that is both intriguing and deeply sad, the Houston Astros are on the mend, we struggle to care about the Ryan Braun situation, and we discuss the nature of names in the latest episode of the podcast. Bon chance, Melancon!

 

To subscribe in iTunes yourself, or via any RSS reader, enter this feed url:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/ThePitchersAndPoetsPodcast

To download the episode directly, right click and Save As the following link:

http://pitchersandpoets.com/podcast/PnP_033.mp3

We Are Taking The Talent: As Told By Former Miami Marlins Scout Ramos Crews by Dylan Little

To paraphrase Bruce Chatwin, the fictional process is at work.

There used to be a pair of trees that jutted over the skyline of San Cristobal, D.R. My bartender Diego said they were called the Hermanos del Fuego because smoke poured out of their heads at night. Sometimes when I was too drunk to tally pitch counts I’d imagine the fat parrots gliding around their branches. Often I spent half the night on Diego’s patio watching them fume and wondering if the trees were hiding some kind of secret toothbrush handle factory. Diego told me it was time to quench my curiosity or he would close my tab.

The day after I signed a thirteen year old for $600 I packed a machete, three mayonnaise sandwiches, and four bottles of Chupacabra Delite and hiked towards the trees. I reached the trees around nightfall. At first they looked like a normal pair of trees but then I started to inspect the trunk. When I scratched the surface the bark flaked apart like wet cardboard. It was perturbing. This tree investigation would be no Woody Woodpecker cartoon. It would be like watching one of the long movies where sometimes you don’t see an ass or a helicopter for an hour. I was committed for the duration.

I wandered around collecting lumber for the sake of heat and light. I had dumped about six handfuls of kindling into a pile when I heard a creaking noise. I silently hid behind a boulder, within eyeshot of the Hermanos. I watched as the trunk of the westerly tree slid open like an elevator door, then slid shut. A few minutes later the Hermanos del Fuego began to smoke and a red beacon began to flash in the canopy, as if from inside a jungle submarine. After a few minutes all the smoke and the lights stopped and one of the trees pooped out a freeze dried cube of paper. I made sure the coast was clear and dragged the cube back to my fire pit. With the heat from my fire I was able to peel off a couple thawed memos. The letterhead showed the logo of the fucking New York Yankees.

Working my way through the cube I found several contracts. These weren’t your typical seven figure butt slaps. The Yankees were sharing ink with Madonna, Pepsi and Godfather’s Pizza. Most of the papers fell apart in my hands like wet toilet paper so I couldn’t make out the alphabetics for shit, but I was able to peel out a complete set of hieroglyphics. When I deciphered the contract code I almost had an angina. Per the written words in my hands, the Bronx Hillbillies were paying Halliburton to genetically manufacture baseball players.

Yep, I got pissed. Yup, I ate all my sandwiches in thirty seconds.

Next thing I know I’m thumbing through a dripping wet series of email exchanges. The subject heading of the email chain was “The Methuselah Project”. The Yankees wanted a lab mercenary (I will call him Dr. Turducken) to mix the genetic material of Jamie Moyer with that of Julio Franco. They wanted create players that would last for thirty years. Turducken said that the genetic material had been realized but there was only a thirty percent chance that a Methuselite would become a professional athlete. There was a sixty percent chance the offspring would be born without elbows. The Yankees wouldn’t listen. They demanded an eternal lineup. It reminded me of the movie where the alien general was desperate to teach the enchanted piglets to invade the earth.

When I discovered that Turducken’s address was Hermanos del Fuego Laboratories my heart began to spasm blood into my eyes. I was a scout for the Miami Marlins. This was our turf. In a decade we had won two World Series but had remained the fourth most popular professional sports team in the tip of our peninsula. We took a lot of abuse. A week after we won the World Series I was denied lodgings at Don Shula’s bed and breakfast. Lebron James keeps on saying the Marlins are his favorite soccer team. We couldn’t afford Jeff Conine. Twice. How could we get respect in South Beach if word got out that the Yankees were manufacturing a dynasty right under our noses? That night, I sat by the fire and got hotter and hotter.

When day broke I heard the pinging of the retractable door. I waited until I saw Dr. Turducken walk out of the tree and I popped out from behind the big rock. He was looking at his cellphone. I cut his head off with my machete. Blood was still spurting when I rolled Turducken’s skull down the hill. I drug his body inside the tree and used his still warm fingerprints to gain access to the laboratory. The industrial fridge was stocked with vials, test tubes, and buckets of genetic essence. I also found some buffalo wings.

While they were reheating, I took a Louisville Slugger signed by Jim Leyritz and made ice shavings out of every piece of glass I could find. By the time my wings were done I had demolished every computer and all of the lab’s centrifugal technology stations. I snapped all of the candles at the Derek Jeter altar. I propped the fridge door open with a trashcan, rendering millions of dollars of genetically engineered sperm completely inert.

On my way out of the tree I got a text saying that we had signed Jose Reyes. It was a great feeling, knowing that I wasn’t acting alone, but then again Fishies like to swim in conspiracy. Of course I had to leave the country after I destroyed the lab but before I left I signed into FB using my daughter’s account. I left a note on the Marlin’s official FB wall. It said “Don’t fuck this up. This isn’t a rebuilding year. This is the year we build on the demolished bones of our enemies.”

Pitchers & Poets Podcast 32: Airboat Liberace

The podcast is back! After an impromptu hiatus, we’re back to talk about the mind-bending flurry of off-season news from the baseball multiverse, from Albert Pujols at home in the suburbs to the weird new sheen of the Miami Marlins.

 

To subscribe in iTunes yourself, or via any RSS reader, enter this feed url:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/ThePitchersAndPoetsPodcast

To download the episode directly, right click and Save As the following link:

http://pitchersandpoets.com/podcast/PnP_032.mp3