Baseball (Ok, Red Sox)


vick.jpgYankee fans kill dogs.

Here’s soon-to-be former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, his death hat, and his main squeeze.

Vick’s lawyer has announced that his client is prepared to plead guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges. (Which carry a max $250,000 fine and up to five years in prison.)

Pleading guilty to this kind of unspeakable cruelty [NB: very graphic image] means his career is over and the whole world learns just what kind of people support the New York Yankees…

Every guy asks himself this question at least half a million times before reaching the ripe old age of seventeen. Turns out what we thought they wanted — bad boy, bulging biceps, rippling abs — didn’t even come close.

What do women want? They want…women:

Two male faces, one more masculine and one more feminine, were presented side by side and the participants were asked to select the face they thought showed more of particular traits including dominance, ambition, wealth, faithfulness, commitment, parenting ability and warmth.

Faces with more masculine features (such as a square jaw, larger nose and smaller eyes), were judged to me more dominant, less faithful, worse parents and as having less warm personalities than those with more feminine features (such as fuller lips, wide eyes and thinner, more curved eyebrows).

Except, you know, for brief flings when the eggs are boiling:

Another recent study found that women who were in the fertile stage of their menstrual cycle preferred more masculine-looking males for short-term relationships, but more feminine-looking males while they were less fertile.

This just proves the hypothesis that guys tend to put forward by the age of twenty. No matter who you are or what you look like, you cannot win!

But the research does explain why chicks dig the New York Yankees:

arodpurse.jpg

(I’ll stretch any point to take a shot at the Yankees…)

Serious Baseball fans were left scratching their heads last Fall when the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series. The Cardinals barely played .500 ball all season and they finished 13th overall in a field of 30 clubs.

So how did a pitiful 13th place team walk away with the whole shebang? Science has the answer:

The 162-game major league baseball season may give underdogs a leg up in getting to the playoffs, say a pair of physicists.

[snip]

Two physicists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico ran simulations of league play to see how many baseball games National League teams would have to play in the regular season to ensure that the best team came away with the best record. The answer: a whopping 256 games.

Because there’s always some chance that a lesser team will win any given game, teams would have to play a larger number of games to overcome statistical randomness—specifically, the number of games should be the cube of the total number of teams, write Eli Ben-Naim and Nick W. Hengartner in an upcoming issue of the journal Physical Review E.

(Devil Rays fans may want to start lobbying to shorten the season by, say, 120 games.)

As I sit here I wonder if this can be applied to other fields of human endeavor like, for instance, presidential campaigns. Recently, politicos were surprised to learn that Ron Paul — my man for that big round office — had more cash-on-hand than John McCain.

Could it be that obscenely extended campaign seasons give lesser known candidates greater public exposure and, therefore, increased access to cold hard cash?

If so, Mike Gravel could be our next president…

____________

And speaking of science:

Business booming at Creation Museum Only in America…

In a political climate that defines anyone wearing a government uniform — from postman to Marine — as a “hero” it’s nice to be reminded that the private sector can get in the action too.

Ladies and gentlemen, Nomar Garciaparra, American hero:

“Then we heard a splash, and it sounded kind of close,” Victor [Nomar’s uncle] said. “We looked down and saw someone in the water [Boston Harbor], and so Nomar started running down.”

Victor said he was trailing Nomar when he saw the other woman fall in, apparently hitting her head.

“When she fell, it was about a 12- or 15-foot drop, and I thought she had hit the deck of the pier, so I jumped off a balcony,” he said. “I figured she was probably unconscious.”

By the time Victor Garciaparra got close to the second woman, he said he reached out for her only to find Nomar already in the water with both women in his arms. Victor said Nomar swam with them before the men pulled them onto the deck.

“They were kind of combative at first,” Victor said. “I think they were in shock from the fall, and one of them had a bump on her head. But then when we pulled them up, the one girl recognized Nomar and says, `Are you Nomar?’

“He didn’t respond to her, and she asked about three times, `Are you Nomar? Are you Nomar?’ Finally he said to her, `I think you hit your head pretty hard,’ and that was about it.” [Article]

Hats off to Nomah!

I own Red Sox mugs, Red Sox shirts, Red Sox pins, Red Sox cards, Red Sox posters, Red Sox banners, A Red Sox clock, Red Sox stickers, Red Sox magnets, a Red Sox license plate surround – and in my lifetime, they could have bought a middle reliever with all the hats I’ve purchased.

But now they’ve gone too far for this Red Sox fan:

null

After the 2004 Red Sox championship season, the entire field was replaced and the infield was preserved. Under the watchful eye of MLB authenticators, portions of the field were removed, transported and transplanted on a turf farm in Rhode Island.

A limited amount of Fenway Championship Sod is now available to become a part of Red Sox fans’ lawns and gardens.

Your piece of Red Sox history
The sod will be cut into 18″ x 9″ rectangles and can be purchased for $150 (plus 5% sales tax).

Fans will be invited to pick up their sod at 9 a.m. on September 24, 2005 at Fenway Park Gate B. Parking will be available in the Brookline Avenue parking lot across from the Red Sox ticket office. Sorry, orders cannot be shipped.

They want 150 bucks for an 18″ x 9″ piece of freakin’ dirt… and they won’t even guarantee that Nomar walked on it?!!!

They’ve now officially crossed the line between capitalization and exploitation.

Talk about balls…
________________

    Worth a read:

The way Great Grandpa Knew Baseball: Old-Fashioned Version of America’s Pastime Catches On Across the Country.

America’s Not Worth Saving: A new Harris poll confirms that the New York Yankees (a pox on them) are America’s favorite team.

Here’s the top 10:

FAVORITE MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL TEAM: 1999 – 2005

“What is your favorite Major League Baseball team?”

Base: Follow Major League Baseball

 

Rank

1999


Rank

2003


Rank 2004


Rank 2005

New York Yankees

2

1

1

1

Atlanta Braves

1

2

3

2

Chicago Cubs

3

7

2

3

Boston Red Sox

8

6

4

4

New York Mets

12

3

14

5

St. Louis Cardinals

4

14

13

6

Los Angeles Dodgers

7

8

=9

7

Cincinnati Reds

13

10

=19

=8

Pittsburgh Pirates

18

=18

=9

=8

Chicago White Sox

20

27

27

=10

San Francisco Giants

26

9

7

=10

Well, look on the bright side, public opinion can’t count for much in a nation that handed George W. Bush a second term…

Even the Red Sox.

See, this is what happens when you sign guys from Missouri…

They gathered in a makeshift house of God — a brick-walled retreat in Fenway Park otherwise reserved for postgame interviews — and prayed for dead and dying loved ones. They prayed for American troops in hot spots abroad. And for the poor souls in the path of Hurricane Katrina.

As the Sunday baseball crowd streamed into the park less than an hour before the defending world champions played their 128th game of the season, a dozen members of the Red Sox — the largest group of evangelical Christians on any team in Major League Baseball — joined an equal number of coaches and staffers in sharing a bond of faith that is fast becoming the stuff of national renown among religious figures in sports.

[snip]

Trot Nixon, Mike Timlin, Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek, Curt Schilling, Doug Mirabelli, Bill Mueller, Matt Clement, John Olerud, Mike Myers, Tony Graffanino, Chad Bradford: Each Sox player considers himself an evangelical Christian who believes in the sacred authority of the Bible and the promise of Jesus Christ as his savior. [Emphasis mine]

Ok, we’re the reigning World Champions and we go into September at the top of the AL East so maybe Jesus DOES love the Red Sox but can’t these guys leave it in church (or Missouri) where it belongs?

All this Red State extremism in the hub (pardon the pun) of Blue State America is just unseemly…

Ironically, the player who styles himself after the Savior of the World (Johnny Damon, center) is, happily, a once-born kinda guy.

At Ted Williams’ Memorial Service, Peter Gammons said:

The last time I saw Ted, he looked at me and said, “When you go back to New England I want you to tell those Red Sox fans that I’m not the greatest player to wear a Red Sox uniform. Nomar Garciaparra is.”

High praise indeed from the greatest hitter who ever lived. (And a man not remembered for his humility.)

Williams was before my time, but as a life long Red Sox fan – with the deep emotional scars to prove it – I’ve learned that you never contradict The Kid. Then again, I had no intention of disagreeing with the late-great because I agree with him; Nomar Garciaparra is the greatest player to ever wear the colors.

In the pantheon of Red Sox greats – the players whose names are emblematic of the team – I’d list Williams, Yaz, and Garciaparra. Each of them is/was so completely identified with the ball club that it would be impossible to hear their names without thinking of the Red Sox.

If you want proof that Nomar belongs on that list, go to a Little League game anywhere in New England and watch the kids when they come up to bat. They adjust their hats, tighten their gloves, tap their toes and twirl their bats. Sound familiar? The kids idolize him and even his most sanctimonious Boston Herald critics would have to admit that if their sons grew up to be half the man that Nomar is, they would be very pleased indeed.

To understand why Red Sox fans love Nomar Garciaparra (Or just plain “Nom-ah” if you live in New England) you have to understand the psychology of Red Sox fans in general. (There’s a doctoral thesis waiting to happen.) In many ways we’re like the Mormons of baseball. We’re a peculiar lot and we definitely have that “look” about us. We’re passionate, even evangelical, about the game and our team. We’re loyal to a fault and hope is never entirely vanquished. There’s a sense among us that if we persevere in the face of all too frequent disaster, we’ll eventually reap a great reward. No matter the hardship or the heartbreak we, in Mormon-speak, “endure to the end.”

The analogy does have its limits, of course. Unlike the Saints of the Lake, Red Sox fans drink heavily, bitch incessantly, and are never entirely satisfied with anything. And, to our great shame, we (especially if you make your living covering the Sox for the Boston Herald) make a sport of ruthlessly eating our young.

In New York they want larger than life celebrities. Real honest-to-god, superstars whose names are household words across America. They want flashy players who revel in their fame. In New England we want players whose talents and athletic abilities are second only to an incarnate god’s – but they’d better keep their mouths shut and never (EVER) get too full of themselves. Because if they do, we’ll destroy them.

Enter Nomar Garciaparra… Let’s praise him with words that would make him wince. I’ll avoid the numbers game for the time being and focus on character.

There are, to be sure, those breathtaking moments when he goes deep into the hole, backhands a hard ground ball, spins around in mid air and fires a dead accurate shot to First Base that will truly make your heart stop. But what makes Nomar unique – what sets him apart – is what he learned long before he ever played the game.

There’s something about the way Nomar carries himself that makes him immune to the usual occupational hazards of a Boston athlete. (Unless a fifth rate Boston Herald columnist with an incomplete grasp of the English language sets his sights on you.) The words have become trite but the language is limited: grace, dignity, humility, class. He has all of those things in abundance.

Nomar doesn’t argue balls and strikes. (Awww, the umpire may get an incredulous look but you’ll never see Nomar throwing his helmet down or getting in an umpire’s face.) He doesn’t charge the mound. He plays a good game; he doesn’t just talk one. He shrugs off the bad calls and keeps his focus. Nomar’s a gamer and a man who, as the French say, is comfortable in his skin.

In Boston, you could be batting .380 but have one bad game and the fans will let you know it. Nomar could go 0 for 4 and we won’t say a word. Such is our respect for the man. (Ultimately, we know that he’s his own worst critic.)

Nomar does something for fans that is rarely mentioned. He inspires confidence. Maybe you’d have to be a Red Sox fan to fully appreciate this but we tend, by nature and experience, towards pessimism. We’ve been in the situation a million times. Important game, down by a run, a couple of outs on the board and one man on. If Christ himself came to bat in that situation you could bet your last dollar that fans all across New England would be saying, “Damn, he’s gonna blow it!” We just instinctively believe that things will never go our way. (Ironically, when we’re playing the Yankees we have every confidence in them to pull it out in a similar situation.)

But that’s not the case when Nomar is on deck. It’s unspoken but it’s there. We have faith in him. A confidence that we place in no other player regardless of his numbers. For reasons that defy explanation Nomar Garciaparra is the one player who even the most jaded of Sox fans will never give up on. He transcends traditional Red Sox pessimism and defeatism.

That alone should make Messrs. Henry and Epstein think twice about trading him. Actually, gentlemen, think more than twice. Think a thousand times. Because if you trade an icon; a player who inspires confidence in his team mates and among the fans you’ll be assuring yourselves a place next to Harry Frazee and Walter O’Malley in the basement of baseball hell.

One day number 5 will hang on the outfield wall and Nomar will be in Cooperstown. Just like our fathers begin conversations with, “I remember the day Ted Williams…”, we’ll be telling our kids, “I was there when Nomar broke .400..”

Happy Birthday, Nomar.

Next Page »