Friday, February 28, 2014

The 28th of February

The Last Day of February is a special day every year. It signifies & symbolizes the closing of Winter. We know March 21st is the real end of Winter, but the 28th of February has meaning beyond Days and Seasons. The Sun becomes brighter for us in the North-Western Hemisphere. The Snow melts into the soil for another green Spring ahead. And for sporting groups and individuals, Spring Training Baseball begins.

February 28th gives birth to the month of March in a myriad of inspirational ways that can be seen in the outdoor landscapes & reflections of those peering into that very gaze. It's something you Warm Climate people just can't understand, with your year-round 70 degree temperatures. You don't know what its like shoveling a thousand pounds of snow from your sidewalk & garage or off your roof. For us, this time of year is opportunity again to go find and seek new paths, where weather has no effect or constraint on our lives.

A metaphor creates a fire. When I wake up it's dark & cold in this cave, but a couple minutes pass and a light stirs-up a warmth. I'm ready to go wherever my path leads. Nothing stands between me and everything I've ever dreamed. It's this time of year that inspires me to be free. The Winter has once again hardened me and strengthened my resolve. The only thing left to do, is act.

The Turning of Seasons from cold to warm has always reminded us that change is constant & revolutional. We need only look at our kids and our mirrors to notice it. Another Season of Outdoor Pleasure is nearing and I can't wait to be the ball again and again. What changes will occur this year? There are things in store we do not yet know about. Do the Phillies have a World Series run left in them? Can Jimmy Rollins hit above .270 with a .330 On Base%? When things appear to be getting too serious I like to ask Sports Questions. Not that I don't take them seriously, but unless I'm at the game or defending my Phils I feel a little ridiculous being high & mighty during Spring Training. Yet Optimism Abounds when the Sun shows.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Cathedral Gallery

1950s Cards are Timeless. The Photographs are so personal & vibrant. You can tell Topps and Bowman took the process very seriously, as a form of Artistry in addition to a commercial venture. Richie Ashburn was one of the more camera-friendly players of the time, like a Tom Brady today. Some people have that Look where a bad angle just isn't possible.   

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Twenty years ago Alex Rodriguez was an eighteen-year-old kid running around the Seattle Mariners clubhouse the way a child wakes up Christmas Morning to a house full of presents; everything was bright, new and for-the-taking. But one strange thing occured that season which affected Baseball and every player in the League. 1994 was the year MLB players went on strike due to Owners demanding a salary cap per the new collective bargaining agreement. The World Series was canceled and replacement players were hired to play the 1995 Spring Training schedule. It all got straightened out by late April and the '95 season was cut to 144 games. No Salary Cap was ever enacted & Players and Owners have carried on like it was never an issue. Meanwhile, Alex played in the minor leagues till August when he was called up to the Mariners permanently.

1996, Alex's first full year in the Bigs was historically good. He hit .358, slugged 36 homers, drove in 123 runs and had a 1.045 OPS, which vaulted him into 2nd place for MVP. Rodriguez like any First Overall Draft Pick had high expectations, but nobody foresaw the numbers he put up that first year. As you might predict, A-Rod came back to earth a little his second year hitting .300 with 23 homers and 84 RBIs, but still made the All Star team and helped the M's to a 2nd place finish.

From 1998 on, A-Rod solidified himself as the Best Shortstop in the game making perennial All Star teams and high MVP finishes. After the year 2000 A-Rod was up for his first Free Agent contract. Everyone knew the number was going to be too large for the Mariners to afford, so the bidding war began. The Texas Rangers outbid every other team, offering Rodriguez 10 years, $252 million the richest contract in sports history. That is until 3 years later when the Rangers traded A-Rod to the Yankees, whom agreed to pay Alex $275 million for the next 10 years (the Rangers paid $67 million of it).

click pic for the article
So the question remains; What went wrong? How did Alex go from a pure ballplayer to a-fraud? Rodriguez told Peter Gammons it was "the pressure." Alex claimed he felt enormous pressure to live up to the huge contract the Rangers gave him. The more realistic answer we've come to find is other ballplayers were doing it so why shouldn't I? Rodriguez admitted he was between 25 & 27 years old when he first took steroids. How can someone so dominant, so vibrant, so elite resort to taking performance enhancing drugs in his prime?

Looking back at that time period in Baseball, from the Strike of '94-95 to 2006 when MLB Banned PEDs & Steroids, the Culture of the Game was all about the
'Long Ball.' The '96 Colorado Rockies had 3 guys with 40+ HRs. 1998 was the year of the chase. McGwire & Sosa both broke Maris' record, hitting 70 & 66 HRs. And of course in 2001, HGH, Cream-&-Clear Barry hit 73 illegitimate HRs. The Whole World became obsessed with HRs; How Many, How Far and How Many More can we hit? Turns out, after the Strike, Offense brought people back to the Ball Parks in record numbers, so of course no one at the time cared to question how or why all these records were being broken.

What it all comes down to with A-Rod is, he is simply a man of the times. A follower. Everyone else was doing it so of course he had to keep up. In actuality, not everyone else was doing steroids, but the 'cool' kids were. You can't place all the blame on the players of the Steroid Era. Major League Baseball deserves blame for enabling and practically encouraging the use of PEDs for that ten to fifteen year period. But no one forced any of them to take drugs. The ones who took them to survive are forgivable; the guys who needed them to make the Show or stay on the team. The ones who took them to get rich or break records are not forgivable. They can rot with their shriveled balls, floppy tits & fat bank accounts.

Alex Rodriguez was a special talent, but not a special person. Alex's Ego & his Salary became more important than Baseball. The young guy who looked up to Ken Griffey Jr. grew up to be nothing like him. A-Rod chose Vanity & Greed where Jr. chose to be a BallPlayer. A-Rod cheated, lied, played the victim and tried to get away with it. That pretty smile and that 'say & do the right thing' persona was all a facade. We all now know the Real A-Rod. Funny how you can be teammates with Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr yet still remain fraudulent. All the Talent in the World but still just a scared, little boy on the inside. No dignity. No Class. All Vanity & no Hall pass.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Baltimore Colts

Falling in Love. Just where does that phrase originate? Somewhere in Paris maybe. Did Romeo slip and fall off the balcony when climbing up to be with his Juliet, and in Shakespeare's head he thought, "He risked life & limb to be with Her, and so the morning dew acted in that vein causing Romeo to fall for his Love. He lay in a bed of flowers below as Juliet looked down upon him, and he knew she was his everything." Or something along those lines:)

The Baltimore Colts were William & Pop Gildea's mutual love. William was a boy when his father introduced him to the team, when they were still wearing the green jersey's from their days in Miami as the Seahawks. When the Colts Belonged to Baltimore is William Gildea's tribute to his father & the team they didn't just root for, but shared a community with back in the days when professional football players were regular joe's. Father & Son bonded over the games at Memorial Stadium and in front of the family television set, spending endless hours recounting great plays and memories that children not yet born would relive through their telling.

I suppose as children we tend to fall for a team the way we fall for a girl when we get a little older. There's an initial introduction by a loved one and then in time a passion is revealed through devotion and care. We look out for their better interests and tell others about the exciting moments we share together. Your team, like a significant other, is at times a joy & occasionally they drive you insane. Nevertheless, the relationship is fulfilling and makes your life more enjoyable than if she or they weren't around.

My own love affair with the team in red & white pin stripes began as a six-year-old, baseball-card-collecting, momma's boy with a Father and Grandma that watched their games religiously. I attended my first game back in September of 1987 when the Phillies played the Mets and we sat in the upper deck of Veteran Stadium. Damn it was cold! But anyway ever since, I've been a devout Phillies fan. I hated seeing Harry go. Games just haven't been the same since 'Harry the K' passed, but I was very glad the Phils captured their second title in '08 before 'the voice' relocated to heaven early next season.

Our relationships with our sports teams become as important as the ones with actual people in our lives. Some of us even spend a little too much time on the games and teams. It's good to have a hobby, but when it becomes an obsession you really should re-evaluate the situation.

I think the most that can be derived from cheering on your team is a sense of community. William Gildea spoke of this in his book. A large group of people from varying backgrounds come together to root, root, root for the home team. The comraderery is especially gratifying when someone you love shares it with you. Sports are a Gathering Place. It's not just men & women playing kid's games. It's people falling in love while watching their team. It's Father's & Son's playing catch in the backyard. It's Mother's & Daughter's at the game together. One day you grow up and realize it was never about the team you were cheering for. It was all about the great times and memories you made with the ones you love, and the folks who wore the same colors as you that cheered so hard, cried, yelled at the tv, high-fived at the stadium and bled for the team, same as you. That's what Sports are all about.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bryce Harper: First Impression

It's May 27 2012 early in the morning. I've watched this kid hit now for about a month and each time I see a new AB for Bryce Harper I think I am watching greatness. HOW CAN THAT BE!?!?!?! THIS KID IS 19! How can a nineteen-year-old hitter dominate in the major leagues? He hits like Tony Gwynn. Harper sprays the ball to all fields like a seasoned veteran. He hit a home-run in Atlanta to the opposite field alley on a line last night. Atlanta's power-alleys are 390 feet, he hit a low line drive over that fence. I don't know if I'm watching a reincarnate of Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial or a left-handed throwing and hitting version of Willie Mays? But this guy Harper is the real deal for sure.

Right now he's only hitting .278, but its the greatest .278 I've ever seen. I guarantee you Tony Gwynn watches this guy hit and just smiles and says, "Wow." His at-bats are unlike any other 19 year old you've ever seen in the Big's. If you watched Barry Bonds hit during his prime HGH years, that is how good Bryce Harper's hitting approach is. He takes pitches that are inches (or maybe quarter-inches) off the strike zone. I swear for the first month I've watched him play, I've watched in complete disbelief. Like, "How is this possible?"

A month ago I was gushing at how good Matt Kemp is. Now I'm watching Bryce Harper in his first year, at 19, and I'm thinking there is no ceiling for this kid. He already stole home on Cole Hamels after Hamels hit him intentionally in the first inning on the first pitch. Hamels admitted he did it on purpose after the game and got suspended. Harper stole home on Hamels as if to say, "That's all you got Cole?"

3 HRs, 10 RBIs, a .278 average and a .366 on base% never looked so damn good as they do for Bryce Harper's first 26 games in the Major Leagues. He runs, throws, hits, competes and interacts with the field of play as if he knows he is the best player, not only on the field but in the entire game. I know this sounds like hype. I know this article sounds like an over-excited column about a ball-player having a great first month, but no one can deny what we're seeing. This is not hyperbole, this is reality. Bryce Harper believes that no one on a baseball field can touch him.

Right now the numbers are not great. They don't even project into a 'rookie of the year' type season. But when you watch Bryce Harper play, when you watch him hit or run the bases or make a throw from the outfield, U CAN SEE IT. The guy IS better than everyone else on the field. Ok, his stats probably won't prove him to be the best this year... but next year and the year after, watch out. Bryce Harper's talent is freakish. You know how Lebron James fills a stat sheet like no other & how his player efficiency is tops by far. Bryce Harper will fill stat sheets just like that. The new statistical ratings that measure player efficiency like Wins Above Replacement (WAR) will prove Harper to be a top 10 player as soon as this year.

Is a slump even possible for a guy with an approach this good? It's not as if he's tearing the cover off the ball at .278. I just can't remember seeing a batter hit a baseball better. Not for power, but for sheer hitting ability. For pure batting skill and swing fluidity. For a 19 year old to possess this type of prowess is astounding. He won't have the best numbers in baseball this year, but for talent level and overall ability, he just might be the best player in the game. ALREADY.

Update: Ok Mike Trout is better.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


They didn't turn their shoulders & aim for the chest. They didn't keep their heads-up when a wide-receiver came across the middle. If a running-back broke through the line, they weren't going to hit him low. These guys were taught to go for the head. You think a Legion of Boom is tough with their loud crowd? Well put the children to bed, cuz the THROWBACKS make these latte-drinkin' Momma's boys look soft as labial tissue.

Dick "Night Train" Lane, Jack Tatum, Jack Lambert and Ronnie Lott were the hardest hitting Linebacker's & Safety's the NFL had ever produced. They didn't just make tackles, they inflicted punishment on opponents. In a time when the only cameras on an NFL field were that of NFL Films, the lone objective was not to make SportsCenter, but to make your adversary regret the day he signed up for this shit. You can almost feel the pain & taste the blood.

We no longer celebrate the mass destruction of professional athletes the way we used to. We're more humane & educated now. But every now and again an NFL player delivers a hit. I MEAN A REAL, FUCKING HIT where the defender gets low and sends a shockwave through the helmet all the way down the sideline. Every coach and teammate feels it. Today it costs you $50,000 but you still get the respect. You still command the fear. Everyone gets so hype they roar like a Lion standing over a kill. Just ask James Harrison.
Maybe it's better this way. Afterall, arthritis in the legs is better than not knowing where you were 5 minutes ago. The Game has changed as far as intent, but you still have to make the tackle, you still have to run hard.

The players of old will never apologize for the way they played football, nor should they. The NFL was different back then. Today, it's still a great game... just a bit more vaginal. XOXOXO