Life in baseball without Ortiz

Sorry, I’m not one of the fans that keeps begging David Ortiz to come out of retirement.  He says his feet and his knees hurt all last season, but he kept on playing.  I don’t think we want him crippled by continuing to play.  Besides, I just saw the Red Sox come from 5 down to win a spring training game against the Twins; I don’t think we have a lot of worries if they keep not giving up.  Yes, it is only spring training, and I kept not knowing who was playing for either team, but everyone was out there playing hard.  And there were some lovely plays.  So happy it is time for baseball again.  But can I ask whose idea it was to have 38 – that is 38 – spring training games on top of a long season?  Blame World Baseball, I guess.

But I really want to talk about the game itself.  I have to say that I despise Rob Manfred, the Commissioner.  I don’t think he understands the game and the beauty of it.  He wants time clocks and other things to speed up the game.  I would speed up the game by doing away with that stupid instant replay.  It generally shows the umpires to be pretty damn good and it takes a lot longer than an instant.

This is why I loved Nick Cafardo’s column in the Boston Globe the other day.  He begins

Oh, I hear the moaning about this and that and the slowness of the game. But I love baseball just the way it is. I hate that it is using artificial means to “improve” things.

I already hate instant replay because I think it adds to the interruption and extension of play more than anything. Oh yeah — we have the technology, so why not use it? Well, why don’t we just ignore the technology?

I long for the days of umpire/manager disputes. That made the game exciting, whether the call was right or wrong. I’d rather see that than taking 2½ minutes for a replay decision to come down from New York. How boring.

I guess I can live with the pitcher throwing the ball for an intentional walk as there weren’t very many instances of a misfire, but we can stop right there with the changes.

The game goes better for everyone when the pitcher gets the ball back and then pitches.  None of this walking around between every pitch business.  (I’m talking about you, David Price.)  But this is something pitchers should be taught; they don’t need a time clock.

And I love what Tony Clark, the current head of the Player’s Association had to say to Cafardo.  Clark is a former player himself, not a lawyer like previous heads.

While Clark indicated that the players were “OK” with instant replay — not a ringing endorsement — and the collision rules that protect fielders at second base and home plate, he also made a good point: Many players would like the game preserved. They were taught to slide hard into second. They were taught to try to dislodge the ball from the catcher.

“You grew up playing the game a particular way,” Clark said. “You fall in love with the game a particular way. You appreciate and respect that history.

“You also are willing to have conversations on ways to improve, and that will continue with understanding and appreciating that you never want to get so far away from the game itself that those who love the game no longer recognize it.”

021116-mlb-tony-clark-pi-mp-vresize-1200-675-high_-85

Tony Clark

I understand that people have short attention spans these days and that a baseball game that runs close to 3 hours seems like an eternity to many.  But we all need to take a deep breath and learn to relax.  Didn’t someone once write a book on the Zen of baseball?

Clark continues

What about this seeming obsession to speed up the game?

“There’s checkers and then there’s chess,” Clark said. “But again, I am a bit of romantic there. There’s so much going on in our game that when it doesn’t look like it, there’s things going on.

I love watching live.  Any game at any level.  But baseball on TV can be difficult.  The answer may lie in better announcers who notice things and tell us about them.  Can the irrelevant chatter about what they had for dinner and tell us about where the third baseman is positioning himself.  Stop talking about neckties and tell us about the outfield.  I noticed that Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley were doing more of that last year:  Do even more.  I admit that I sometimes watch without sound and like the radio because they are forced to tell you exactly what is happening.

I’ll let Cafardo have the last word

Baseball is one of the few games where you can sit down and watch and let things unfold in a natural way. If it takes a while, who cares? You watch because you love the game. So love the game.

Enjoy the season, baseball fans.

Photograph: Jeff Fannell

Being fired

It is the summer of being fired.  The man who made the phrase “you’re fired!” was fired from a bunch of stuff:  The Apprentice, Macy’s, NBC, and the list goes on.  But Donald Trump has not been fired by the Republican Party.  There is a way to go before the first caucuses and primaries so there is time, but as long as he stays at 25% of the Republican vote it will be hard to fire him as a candidate.

But there was another Don fired this summer in Boston.  Don Orsillo, the Red Sox television play-by-play announcer.  The public announcement was made in a very ungracious way by NESN and the Red Sox brass while Don was on the air.  We can only suppose that he had been told in advance.  Chad Finn wrote in his column for Boston.com

We’re veteran bickerers and dedicated cynics around here – hell, it’s why two sports radio stations are not just sustainable but successful in Boston. We can’t get a consensus on which glove Hanley Ramirez should take to work each day, and yet the support for Orsillo is overwhelming. It says something about the man, I think. It’s a remarkable tribute.

The genesis of the consensus and the disappointment is fundamental. You feel like you’ve lost a friend.

Orsillo has been a television voice of the Red Sox since 2001 and the sole TV voice since 2005, when the excellent Sean McDonough’s tenurecalling the team’s games met a similarly graceless end.

To add the icing to the not so edible cake was the lack of comment from the Red Sox management.  When Tom Werner finally spoke he basically said nothing.  Steve Buckley wrote in the Boston Herald

It was going to be impossible for the Red Sox and NESN to move the popular and talented Don Orsillo out of the television booth without there being a major public outcry.

Still, the situation could have been handled better — with better timing and a whole lot more candor. But the news of Orsillo’s ouster was leaked out, as often happens in these cases, and then Red Sox/NESN management got quiet instead of getting out in front of the story.

Which brings us to the question of the day: Why, exactly, is Orsillo being replaced?

The answer, in the opinion of Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and NESN president/CEO Sean McGrail, is that they believe Dave O’Brien, currently the play-by-play man on the radio side, will be an upgrade.

Don Orsillo

Don Orsillo

I listen to the radio quite a bit and, yes, Dave O’Brien is good.  But the combination of Orsillo and Jerry Remy is what I call entertainment.  I don’t want to debate the merits of various play-by-play announcers, but to pay tribute to Don Orsillo.

Don Orsillo has stayed on the air without betraying any of the bitterness he has a right to feel.  Unlike the Red Sox owners, he is a consummate professional.  He will land on his feet somewhere and that will be Boston’s loss.  I wish him well.

 

The future of the Olympic Games: a permanent site needed

The United States Olympic Committee decided for some reason to pick Boston as the site for their bid.  Boston was a bad idea from the beginning.  Geographically too small, it would have destroyed neighborhoods even if some venues went to other parts of Massachusetts and New England.  From the beginning, it was promised that no taxpayer money would be spent on the Games.  How could that have been?  The Boston public transit system needs desperate upgrades already, and the crush of visitors would have overwhelmed it.  There would have to be investment in commuter rail upgrades to get people to out of town venues.  The final straw was, so it seems, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh refusing to sign a taxpayer guarantee.  Combined with strong opposition it spelled the end.

Hosting the Games has become expensive and disruptive.  Yes, I know there are countries that want the Games, but I worry about Brazil and how they can afford the games.  They will likely end up razing huge swaths of housing, as Boston probably would have done.  Actually, I worry about any place that wants the Games.

So I have a proposal.  Move the Summer Games permanently to Athens.  The facilities there are unused and deteriorating.

IN AN obscure corner of a park sits a forlorn reminder that, 10 years ago, Athens hosted the 2004 Summer Olympics.

The crumbling miniature theatre is inscribed with the words “glory, wealth, wisdom, victory, triumph, hero, labour” — and it is where visiting Olympic officials planted an olive sapling that would bear their names for posterity.

Once a symbol of pomp, the marble theatre is now an emblem of pointless waste in a venture that left a mixed legacy: a brand-new subway, airport and other vital infrastructure that significantly improved everyday life in a city of 4 million, set against scores of decrepit sports venues built in a mad rush to meet deadlines — with little thought for post-Olympic use.

This story is from last year.  And while no one blames the Olympics for the current meltdown of the Greek economy, it couldn’t have helped.

As Greece groans under a cruel economic depression, questions linger as to whether the Athens Games were too ambitious an undertaking for a weak economy. While economists agree it would be unfair to blame Greece’s meltdown on the 17-day Games, the post-Olympic era is seen as a decade of lost opportunities — including failure to significantly boost the country’s sporting culture. It’s a lesson to which Brazil may pay heed, as it races to complete projects ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“We didn’t take advantage of this dynamic that we got in 2004,” said former Olympic weightlifting champion Pyrros Dimas, a Greek sporting hero-turned-Socialist member of Parliament.

“We simply made the biggest mistake in our history: We switched off, locked up the stadiums, let them fall to pieces, and everything finished there.”

“We spent a lot of money for some projects (that) are shut and rotting,” said Dimas, who won his last Olympic medal in an Athens arena now reinvented as a lecture and conference venue. “There were projects that should have cost 2 and 3 million (euros) and suddenly became so big that they cost 13 and 14 million. There was no control.”

The latest government estimate sets the final cost of the Games at 8.5 billion euros ($12.2 billion), double the original budget but a drop in the ocean of the country’s subsequent 320 billion-euro ($460 billion) debt, which spun out of control after 2008.

Instead of picking still another host city, pick Athens.  Make it the permanent home of the Summer Games. Greece is, after all, the birthplace of the Olympics.  The countries and cities that would normally spent millions of dollars just preparing a bid could pool that money to fix all the Greek venues.  They can start work anytime.  In fact, maybe the 2020 games (I’m assuming the Brazilians are too far along to cancel now, but maybe not.) scheduled for Tokyo could be moved.  The Japanese probably could use the money for something else – and maybe they could contribute a restoration/redesign to a venue in Athens.  In fact, various countries could take different venues in Greece.  I think that would be real Olympic spirit.  And it couldn’t hurt Greece.

Meanwhile the Boston Games are down the drain.

Boston Globe cartoon by Dan Wasserman.

Boston Globe cartoon by Dan Wasserman.

 

19 Innings

Last night I came home from a wonderful concert to find the Boston Red Sox up 1 on the Yankees.  I watched for an hour or so  as the Sox held on to the 3-2 lead.  The Boston Globe reports

The Sox took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. Edward Mujica, filling in as closer in place of Koji Uehara, got two outs before falling behind Chase Headley. Mujica left a 90-mph fastball up and over the plate, and Headley lined it into the second deck in right field.

It was a terrible pitch in any situation, but especially with the game on the line.

It was the first earned run allowed by a Red Sox reliever this season, the streak ending at 10 innings. Uehara could be activated off the disabled list as soon as Monday and his return will be welcomed.

The New York Times reported it this way

Three times the Yankees scored in their last at-bats to keep the game alive, beginning with Chase Headley’s two-out home run in the bottom of the ninth, but they could not do it a fourth time when Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts scooped up Garrett Jones’s smash up the middle and started a game-ending double play.

The game dragged on so long that Mark Teixeira, who was 34 when it began, had turned 35 by the time it was over. By the end, there were only several thousand hearty souls in the stadium, which was so quiet that when a few fans broke out “Let’s go, Yankees” chants, they carried far enough for the players to hear.

Soon after the Chase Headley homer, I retreated to bed and to the radio.  At some point I dozed off and woke up to a report of a conference of the umpires that no one could explain.  I thought maybe someone had discovered some long forgotten curfew rule.  But no, it was the lights.  Because they went out first behind the broadcasting booth, the radio guys couldn’t tell.  The Times writes

As if the game were not already long enough, it was delayed in the 12th inning when nine banks of lights went out at the stadium, leaving the field dimly lit. It took 16 minutes for the lights to regenerate and for play to resume. The Yankees said the outage had been caused by a power surge through the stadium.

In inning 16, David Ortiz hit a homer breaking the tie and putting the Sox up.  But then as the Globe reported

Switch hitter Mark Teixeira [the Birthday Boy], batting righthanded against the righthanded Wright and his knuckleball, homered to left field in the bottom of the inning to tie the game.

I turned the radio off after the Teixerira’s homer.  The game, however, continued.

The Sox went up, 5-4, in the 18th inning on an RBI single by Pablo Sandoval. The Yankees tied it on a double by Carlos Beltran that Hanley Ramirez misplayed in left field.

Luckily, the Sox have some young guys.

Two young players had enough energy to win the game for the Sox. Xander Bogaerts, 22, singled with one out in the 19th inning. After Ryan Hanigan walked and Esmil Rogers threw a wild pitch, 22-year-old Mookie Betts delivered a sacrifice fly to center field.

Bogaerts, who was 4 for 4 in extra innings, easily beat a weak throw by Jacoby Ellsbury.

“I’m glad I was able to do something,” said Betts, who was 1 for 8 and had struck out four times. “I’m just glad we won. That was the best thing that could have happened.”

Bogaerts also helped end the game in the bottom of the inning. With Ellsbury on first and one out, he made a smooth pickup of a ball hit by Garrett Jones to start a double play.

Xander scores the winning run in the 19th.

Xander scores the winning run in the 19th.

Alex Speier from the Globe collected some stats from the 19 innings.  Here are a few.

The 6-hour, 49-minute affair was the longest in Red Sox history and the longest home game in Yankees history. That duration doesn’t include a 16-minute delay for a brief light outage.

■ Xander Bogaerts entered the game with a robust .364/.462/.545 line. Through the first nine innings, he dropped that line to .267/.353/.400. He then reached base in five straight plate appearances — all in extra innings — with a walk and four straight singles in extra innings, boosting his line back up to .421/.500/.526.

■ Per Elias, Bogaerts is the first Red Sox player since at least 1947 with four or more hits in extra innings. Alex Rios, in 2013, was the last big league player to do it.

Betts and Pedroia each had 10 plate appearances, tied for the most by any team member since at least 1914. They joined Jim Rice, Jerry Remy, and Dwight Evans as the only Sox players to hit double-digit plate appearances in a game in that 102-season expanse, with the trio of Rice, Remy, and Evans having done it in a 20-inning, 8-7 home loss to the Mariners on Sept. 3, 1981.

Starters Wade Miley (90) and Nathan Eovaldi (94) combined to throw 184 pitches. Each bullpen then threw more pitches than the two starters combined. Yankees relievers logged 238 pitches. Members of the Red Sox bullpen combined to accumulate 206 pitches. “That’s crazy. That’s insane,” said Miley. Wright got to 78 pitches in his five innings of work for the win. Rogers tallied 81 pitches in 4 2/3 innings.

■ The Yankees bullpen pitched a mid-game shutout, working nine consecutive scoreless innings from the seventh through the 15th inning.

■ The Red Sox left 20 men on base, tied for the fourth-most in a single game since 1945.

I suppose a true fan would have made it to the very end, but I was happy just to wake up this morning and find out the Sox had won.

Photograph:  BILL KOSTROUN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Dean Smith and Carolina basketball

My mother, Marii Hasegawa, loved Atlantic Coast Basketball, but she really loved the Tar Heels the best.  Even after my sister got her Masters degree from Duke, my mother refused to root for them when they played North Carolina.  I have only been to one Final Four, but it was in 1982 and I got to see North Carolina win it all.

Dean Smith, the North Carolina basketball coach, after the Tar Heels defeated Georgetown for the N.C.A.A. championship in 1982

Dean Smith, the North Carolina basketball coach, after the Tar Heels defeated Georgetown for the N.C.A.A. championship in 1982

My mother was happy; my aunt who favored Georgetown, was not.

Richard Goldstein writing the obituary in the New York Times points out that while Dean Smith was a legendary basketball coach he should be remembered for a great deal more.

Smith’s 879 victories rank him No. 4 among major college men’s basketball coaches, and his teams won two national championships. He turned out a host of all-Americans, most notably Michael Jordan, perhaps basketball’s greatest player, but he emphasized unselfish team play. He was a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and a four-time national coach of the year.

Like most successful coaches, Smith was adept at diagraming plays on a blackboard. But unlike many, he ran a program that was never accused of N.C.A.A. violations, and some 97 percent of his players graduated.

President Obama awarded Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, in November 2013, presenting it to his wife, Linnea, who represented him at a White House ceremony.

In addition to citing Smith’s achievements on the court, Mr. Obama praised his “courage in helping to change our country” through his progressive views on race relations.

He drew on a moral code implanted by his parents in Depression-era Kansas to break racial barriers in a changing South. He challenged segregation and recruited Charlie Scott, who became the first starring black basketball player in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“My father said, ‘Value each human being,’ ” Smith recalled in “A Coach’s Life” (1999), written with John Kilgo and Sally Jenkins. “Racial justice wasn’t preached around the house, but there was a fundamental understanding that you treated each person with dignity.”

Smith’s parents instilled a sense of racial tolerance in him, in a highly segregated state, long before the modern civil rights movement. His father [a high school basketball coach] put a black player named Paul Terry on his 1933-34 team, which won the state championship, though Terry was barred from playing in the state tournament by Kansas sports officials.

I remember hearing a lot of players say they made decisions well into adulthood only after consulting with Coach Smith.  I remember when Michael Jordan wanted to leave UNC early some of the announcers saying that Jordan was leaving only after promising his mother and Coach Smith he would get his degree.  He did.

The Charlotte Observer has this anecdote.

Smith the innovator also was Smith the motivator. But he didn’t give rah-rah pep talks. He typically explained what they needed to do to win and the significance of the moment.

Once at Maryland, however, he did promise to sing “Amen” – the Terps’ late-game theme song – if the Tar Heels beat Lefty Driesell’s club. Carolina won and Smith fulfilled his vocal promise, but according to reports, he would not have won the “American Idol” title.

“He was not much as a singer,’’ recalled guard Ged Doughton.

Many will write about Dean Smith’s contributions to the game of basketball.  For example, his “Four Corners” offense made the shot clock necessary.  But I want to remember him for his views off the court also.  In an article from 2013, Barry Jacobs wrote

Smith was periodically approached about running for the U.S. Senate from North Carolina as a Democrat. But the publicity-shy coach disdained the glad-handing involved in soliciting votes and raising money. Besides, he said, “I’d never get elected if people in North Carolina realized how liberal I am.”

He was probably right. Over the years Smith spoke in favor of a nuclear freeze and for gay rights. He opposed capital punishment. He joined a Chapel Hill street protest against the war in Vietnam. When President George H.W. Bush sent American troops into Iraq in 1991, Smith asked: “Why can’t the United States band together for some other good thing like (fighting) poverty? If you want to kill somebody, then everybody’s for it.”

 My mother loved Carolina basketball and she admired Dean Smith.  If they had ever met I think they would have had a lot to say to each other.

Photograph:  Pete Leabo/Associated Press

 

Writer’s block

I’ve been quiet for a few days.  Have lots of things I’m thinking about and have started some posts, but not finished any of them.  Is it because I am depressed and anxious about the upcoming election?  (I keep reading about the evils of a Republican takeover of the Senate and fear that voter turnout will be low.)  Or is it because there is no fall excitement with the Red Sox in the World Series?  (Although I have to say the games have been exciting with the Royals and Giants.)  Maybe I’m suffering from sleep deprivation since I have a cat who has decided she needs attention at 10:30, 11:30 and between 12 and 1 am.  I think she may be having delayed moving anxiety.  Whatever.  I still don’t sleep.

Then I came upon this humor piece from the New Yorker by James Thomas  

Well, here you are, looking at this, trying, hoping, floundering, scrabbling, wishing, dying to find out the mystery of “how to” write a sentence. Or possibly you have tried write sentence and failed utterly.

Ideally, you’ll aim to begin on the left (in this case, with the word “ideally”), head right (through the middle of the sentence), and stop at the far end of the sentence (in this case, right here).

Sentences have been around since the dawn of paragraphs, and indeed since before that, for sentences are essentially the building blobs of a paragraph. Right here, if you’re looking closely enough, you may notice that what you are now reading in fact is a sentence. But also—some will have noticed even more well—what you are reading is a paragraph. And I could go further than that, even, to declare that you are also reading words, letters, and indeed this entire page. Nobody thought you could do it, but here we are now and aren’t you having a good time?

All I need to do according to Mr. Thomas is write a bunch of sentences and blob them into paragraphs and before you know it I will have a post!

Even furthermore, you’re reading everything that has ever been wrote, but you’re starting with just this bit, because reading everything at once would be too much for anyone to attempt. Too much words in one go is unacceptable, and your writing should reflect that. Keep it concise and don’t stuff your sentence with unnecessary, superfluous, gratuitous content that smothers your prose, muddies your intentions, confuses the reader, clogs up the page with excess text, pads out the work with inelegant drivels, irritates the eye, examines giraffes, and renders your point unclear.

Also, keep your paragraphs short.

How importan is spelling? Well, very important. I don’t know why anyone would even ask that. If you have any sef-respect, you ought to be diligent about and with regard to spelling. If words are the bulding blocks of a sentence—and I would argue that yes, they are—then spelling is the stuff that holds them togteher.

Maybe tomorrow, after absorbing all this advice, I will finish one of my draft posts.  After I finish planting my bulbs for the spring.

Lady writer

Illustration from Mindy’s Muses @ mindysmuses.blogspot.com

 

Baseball and Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter will play his final major league games this weekend against the Red Sox.  A while back there were some rumors that if the Yankees were out of the wild card race, which they are, he would skip Boston.  But they were just rumors.    The classy man he is will be in Boston to play out the season, but he won’t play short.

And what a way to end his career in New York last night.  A walk-off hit.  David Waldstein wrote the New York Times story.

He almost started crying as he drove himself to Yankee Stadium in the afternoon. He had to turn away from his teammates before the game when they presented him with gifts, so overcome was he by the emotion. In the first inning, he said, he barely knew what was happening, and later, in the top of the ninth, his eyes welled with tears to the point that he worried that he might break down in front of the crowd of 48,613.

But when the time came for Derek Jeter to get a game-winning hit, to add another signature moment to a long list of achievements over his 20-year career, he knew exactly what to do, and seemingly no one doubted that he would.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Jeter stroked the winning hit and ended his Yankee Stadium career the way he had ended so many games — with both arms raised in celebration. The 6-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles was his 1,627th regular-season victory as a Yankee.

Jeter celebrates

Jeter celebrates

Will he be the first unanimous pick for the Hall of Fame 5 years from now?  The speculation, which has already begun, will just build over the next few years.

After the game, Jeter was greeted on the field by his former teammates Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams, as well as his longtime manager Joe Torre, and he hugged them all.

When the congratulations were over, and with the Orioles standing in their dugout watching, Jeter walked out to shortstop for a solitary moment of reflection.

“I wanted to take one last view from short,” he said.

When the team goes to Boston for its season-ending series, he said, he will play in one or two games, but only as the designated hitter.

“I’ve played shortstop my entire career,” he said, “and the last time I wanted to play was tonight.”

It is the end of a career played with only one team, without scandal, without a hint of drug use.  I hope this isn’t also the end of that type of ball player.  Pedroia, are you listening? 

Photograph: ELSA/GETTY IMAGES