Archive for the ‘baseball’ Category
Folks, my health has delayed this blog significantly, but as I promised an end-of-the-year wrap-up talking about the World Series, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Carlos Gomez and his Gold Glove, and any significant trades, I figured I’d better get down to business and write one. Because of the rather lengthy wait, I’ve even thrown in a Corey Hart update in the bargain . . . so let’s get started.
First, the World Series did not go the way I expected it to whatsoever. I’d expected that the St. Louis Cardinals, which had been the best team in baseball over the latter two-thirds of the season, to waltz away with the Series. But instead, the Boston Red Sox played much better than the Cardinals, even though neither team was anything close to error-free.
In fact, Boston’s pitching was better; its hitting was better; even its defense was better, which was extremely surprising as the Cardinals had been among the best defensive teams in the majors all year long.
And, of course, David Ortiz had a monster World Series, hitting .688 (no misprint) to carry the Red Sox to victory in six games.
After that shocker of a Series, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Carloz Gomez of the Brewers won a well-deserved Gold Glove for his play in center field during 2013. Gomez was most definitely the best defensive center fielder in baseball, but it wasn’t a lead-pipe cinch that he’d win the Gold Glove as Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates is also a very good center fielder and had a much better offensive year than Gomez. Fortunately, McCutchen won the Most Valuable Player Award, a well-deserved honor, but did not win the Gold Glove due to an increased focus on defensive metrics.
Since the Gold Gloves and MVP Awards were announced, there have been two trades that caught my attention. The first of these was the trade of Detroit Tigers first baseman (and former Brewer) Prince Fielder to Texas for the Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler. At first, I was extremely surprised at this trade because of Fielder’s offensive value to Detroit, but after reflection I thought I understood it. Detroit needed better defense, which Kinsler will provide at second, and by trading Fielder it’s possible for the Tigers to move Miguel Cabrera back to first base.
But I really think Fielder would still be a Tiger today if not for his really awful postseason. Fielder looked bad defensively throughout the postseason, but worse than that, he looked as if his bat speed was not there — extremely distressing when your primary value as a player is due to your offense. Even so, he might’ve rode out all of that if not for his infamous “belly-flop slide” into third in game six of the American League Championship Series that may have cost his team the ALCS, then some ill-advised comments afterward (which I’ll get to in a bit).
Since Fielder’s been traded, it’s now common knowledge that Fielder is in the process of getting a divorce. I don’t normally comment on player divorces, but I’m going to make an exception in Fielder’s case because he and his wife were so prominent in Milwaukee.
I don’t know when Fielder was served with divorce papers, but it’s quite possible that Fielder’s “indifferent season” (where he “only” hit .275 with 25 home runs and 106 RBIs and again backed up AL MVP Miguel Cabrera nicely) was made far less meaningful to him once he found out his wife wanted out. This seems like a very trite statement — and perhaps it is — but Fielder is very well known in Milwaukee as a family man, and he took great pride in his wife and two young sons while he was here. So it’s very possible that getting a divorce, for him, is much more difficult than it might be with someone else . . . not that divorce is ever easy.
In addition, Fielder wanted economic stability for his family. This was the main reason he turned down the Brewers’ offers of roughly $20 Million a season for five or six years (there were several offers, but that is the last one I remember) to go to Detroit in the first place. (Not that Fielder didn’t have any other offers; I’m sure he did. But he liked Milwaukee, found it a stable and safe place for his family, and enjoyed the family friendly Brewers clubhouse, and was known as someone who was interested in more than just the greenbacks.)
Finally, my guess is that Fielder’s psyche is a bit more fragile than it appeared. He’s a big, strong, tough man, sure — and he plays a great game of baseball. But his own father, Cecil, was not a model father — this is well-known — or a model husband. Prince took great pride in being both, and to find out that his wife didn’t want to be married to him anymore must have been devastating.
I said all this because without that context, Fielder’s comments after the ALCS was over (he said, roughly, that he wasn’t going to lose any sleep over his performance because he still had two young sons to take care of) make no sense. And fans excoriated him over it, because it sounded like Fielder just did not care what happened.
After going 9 for 40 with 0 HR, and 0 RBI in 12 playoff games this postseason, it’s understandable that Prince would be upset. But many believe his comments are crossing a line. We all know he’s going through a now very public divorce, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for yet another awful postseason.
It wasn’t so much what he said to the media post-game, but how he said them. To me, it was evident his head was elsewhere this season. Almost as if he didn’t care.
I’m not saying Prince should ignore his family issues and focus solely on baseball, but when you’re making $25 million a year, you have to be able to cope with them. And if you can’t, take yourself off the field because you’re hurting your name and your teammates. Many people go through tough times in their life, especially over the past few years in Detroit. Yet, we still go to work and get our jobs done. Why should Prince Fielder be any different?
There’s a lot of truth in what Deacon said, and I completely understand and agree with the frustration in Detroit over Fielder’s comments. But Fielder made many similar types of comments in Milwaukee long before his divorce, and we didn’t get upset with him over it.
Maybe this is because Brewers fans understood Fielder a little better, or maybe it’s just that Fielder was not going through his divorce when he was with Milwaukee.
At any rate, my view of what Fielder said is simple — as bad as it sounded, Fielder pointed out that the season was over. He didn’t want it to be over, for sure, and he assuredly wanted to play better in the ALCS. (No one, most of all a prideful professional baseball player, wants to look bad in the national spotlight.) But he has to look at the big picture, which is how he takes care of his two sons from here on out and how he rebuilds his personal life after his divorce is finalized (probably sometime late next year if Mrs. Fielder filed in Michigan and my understanding of Michigan divorce law is correct — which, admittedly, it may not be).
So had Prince Fielder still been in Milwaukee and said something like this, it’s unlikely there would’ve been as much of a furor. Instead, fans would’ve been likely to forgive him, because Brewers fans always saw Prince as one of their own and would be likely to empathize with him over his impending divorce.
Anyway, let’s get to the second trade that sparked my interest, which was of Brewers relief pitcher Burke Badenhop to Boston for low minor league pitcher Luis Ortega. Ortega is only twenty years of age, pitched in the rookie league last year, and is in no way, shape or form an equal talent to Badenhop.
Look. Badenhop did a fine job for the Brewers this year, appearing in 63 games, pitching 62 1/3 innings with a 2-3 record and a 3.47 ERA, but he was due to make more next year in arbitration than this year’s $1.55 million. The Brewers have to know that Ortega may or may not develop into a major league pitcher of any sort, as Ortega is just too young and raw to make any judgments, but they may have seen something in him that caused them to make this trade (giving them the benefit of the doubt).
My view, though, is very simple: the Milwaukee Brewers are again in “salary-dump mode” if they’re willing to jettison a proven major league reliever like Badenhop for someone like Ortega. I’m so tired of the Brewers doing things like this, especially considering Badenhop’s more than adequate year as a middle reliever — he’d only been with the team a year, did a great job keeping the Brewers in games during an exceptionally difficult season and seemed to truly enjoy playing baseball in Milwaukee despite all the ups and downs of the 2013 Brewers season. Which is why I’m sad to see Badenhop go.
One final thought — it looks like the Brewers are going to make a serious run at Corey Hart once Hart is medically cleared for baseball activities on December 3, 2013. This is very good to hear.
But I’m worried, again, that the Brewers will make Hart a low-ball offer due to Hart’s stated wish to stay in Milwaukee, especially after the Brewers jettisoned Badenhop for next to nothing. The fans need our favorites after the dreadful 2013 season, and Hart’s one of the most fan-friendly players around . . . here’s hoping the Brewers will offer Hart enough money to stay in Milwaukee, where he’s comfortable and wants to continue playing.
I know it’s early Wednesday morning, and it’s been a week since my last blog. But there’s been a good deal going on that’s taken my energy away from blogging — plus, there really haven’t been any stories that have demanded I write about them, either.
Let’s start out with the good news: The story I worked so hard on was bought. I cannot tell you who bought it yet, as the contract hasn’t been signed and the editor hasn’t made a public announcement. But I can tell you the story was accepted, and I’m looking forward to receiving the contract and signing it.
I also am nearly done with a book-length edit. I have three others in progress at this time, not counting my own final edit of the first half of ELFY, which is over 3/4 complete as of this writing. As this is most of how I make my living, it’s obvious I’ll be spending a lot of time editing in the weeks to come (as I always do).
My plans for the week include a new book review for Ash Krafton’s BLOOD RUSH over at Shiny Book Review (long-delayed due to my health), an interview with author Stephanie Osborn (it may be up next week, but I’m working on it right now), and continuing to write, edit, and comment as often as possible.
Now let’s talk about the World Series, which starts later today between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. I’ve already said on my Facebook page that I am underwhelmed by this matchup for two reasons: One, Boston is an older, veteran team without superlative pitching and thus doesn’t seem to have the wherewithal to stand up to St. Louis, a younger team with far better pitching. And two, I’m really tired of seeing the same teams going year after year.
Look. I basically lost interest in the National League playoffs once the Pittsburgh Pirates were out. I really wanted the Pirates to go to the National League Championship Series because it’s been so long since they’ve been there (or to the World Series, either). I knew that Pittsburgh had the best shot of knocking the Cardinals out — and if Pittsburgh couldn’t do it, it was likely the Cardinals would sweep everyone else out of the way and go to the World Series.
Which, of course, they did.
As for the American League playoffs, I lost interest there far earlier as what I’d wanted to see was a Cleveland-Boston matchup — the old Red Sox manager turned Indians manager Terry Francona against new Boston skipper John Ferrell. But Cleveland lost the Wild Card game and was out right away.
After that, while I had a mild interest in Detroit as I wanted to see if Prince Fielder would be able to hit any better in the postseason this year (he didn’t), I wasn’t riveted. I did think Detroit would go back to the World Series because the Tigers have two excellent pitchers in Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander and Boston’s pitchers, while still good in Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester and John Lackey (the latter victimized by poor run support), weren’t in the same class.
However, in a short series anything can happen. Detroit was plagued by some poor defense, some baserunning miscues (poor Prince Fielder, getting caught off third base in a rundown), and just wasn’t able to handle the pressure of returning to the World Series.
My best guess as to what will happen — knowing full well guesses don’t mean much until at least one or two games have been played — is that St. Louis will win easily over Boston. (I like Boston better. But they don’t seem to stand much of a chance.) St. Louis’s pitchers are far better, they have excellent hitters and their defense was among the best in the National League all year long. I just don’t think Boston has enough to compete with the Cardinals.
The main questions remaining are: Does Boston have some fight left? Or did they use it all up getting Detroit out of the way in the ALCS?
If they don’t, this particular World Series is likely to be a yawner for all but hard-core Cardinals fans.
The 2013 season for the Milwaukee Brewers was one of intense disappointment, yet with some glimmers of hope for the future. The play of the “baby Brewers” (Caleb Gindl, Khris Davis, Scooter Gennett, et. al.) down the stretch was extremely enjoyable, and the starting pitchers finally rounded into form in late July to help them along.
So, without further ado, here’s my take on the Brewers’ high points, low points, and “huh, what were they thinking?” points of 2013.
The high points:
Brewers CF Carlos Gomez’s many highlight-reel worthy catches made watching the Brewers far less painful after Ryan Braun ended up getting a 65-game suspension. Gomez had his best overall season, batting .284 with 24 home runs, 73 RBI and 40 stolen bases, and was named to the 2013 All-Star team. Gomez has a legitimate chance to win a Gold Glove award for his work this past season; if he wins, he’ll be only the second Brewers OF to win (Sixto Lezcano was the first, in 1979) and will be the first Brewers player to have done so since Robin Yount in 1982.
Brewers SS Jean Segura, in his first full-time major league season, performed extremely well with the exception of his running the bases backward (see below). Segura played well defensively at short (committing only 15 errors in ’13 versus 10 in ’12 in a much smaller sample size) while batting .294 with 12 HRs, 49 RBI, and 44 SBs, and was named to the 2013 All-Star team.
Note: Segura was easily the top first-year player in major league baseball during 2013, but is not eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award because he played too many innings for the Brewers during the 2012 stretch run.
The Brewers bullpen was the best in the league for most of the 2013, slipping only in August and September due to their season-long heavy workload. The best of the bullpen were Francisco Rodriguez, who notched his 200th overall save before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles, Jim Henderson (5-5, 2.70 ERA, 28 saves in 32 chances) and setup man Brandon Kintzler (3-3, 2.69 ERA, 26 holds, 77 innings pitched). Kintzler’s success story is remarkable in two ways: One, he sustained an injury last year that resulted in him getting designated for assignment in late June — fortunately for the Brewers, every other major league team passed on Kintzler and they kept his rights and contract. And two, it wasn’t so long ago (four years, to be exact) that Kintzler was just a regular guy, pitching in one of the independent leagues to keep his baseball dreams alive and driving a limousine to support himself.
Finally, the outstanding pitching of starter Kyle Lohse (11-10, 3.35 ERA, 20 quality starts in 198 2/3 innings pitched) needs to be discussed. Lohse was signed right before the season started, so it took him a few months to get into his regular season form. But once he did, Lohse became the ace of the Brewers staff while mentoring many of the Brewers younger pitchers. Lohse’s record is deceptive due to exceptionally poor run support during June and July, which caused Lohse to get a substantial amount of no-decisions rather than wins.
Lohse’s best game was that wild win in Atlanta just one week ago, where he pitched a complete game shutout while giving up only two hits and throwing only 89 pitches. This particular effort was noteworthy because of the game’s odd start — Carlos Gomez hit a home run, then was impeded from scoring by Atlanta Braves C Brian McCann. An altercation ensued, punches were thrown (by bench player Reed Johnson, mostly), Gomez and Braves 1B Freddie Freeman were both ejected while McCann and Johnson were inexplicably allowed to continue onward. A lesser pitcher than Lohse would’ve allowed himself to get thrown by all this drama; instead, Lohse concentrated on what he had to do — and did it brilliantly.
The low points:
Oh, brother. Must I even say it? (Yes, I suppose I must.)
Obviously, the suspension of Brewers LF Ryan Braun was the biggest, baddest low point of the entire 2013 season. (See my blogs here, here and here for further details.) Braun is the best player the Brewers have; he’s a former MVP, has been named to the All-Star team several times, and was also a former Rookie of the Year. So when his season was cut short due to a 65-game suspension (after having significant time on the disabled list for a thumb issue), it couldn’t help but adversely affect the Brewers.
Once Braun had to admit that he’d lied about ever taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), he was excoriated in the court of public opinion. This was due to the fact that before the scandal broke, he had been seen as what the best of baseball is supposed to be about — a clean game played by clean players on a clean field.
(Yes, that’s hyperbolic for a reason. I’m getting to that.)
As you might expect, no one is as perfect as all that, most especially not a major league baseball player.
When Braun finally had to admit that he’d lied about taking a performance-enhancing substance (believed now to be some form of quick-acting testosterone), all Hell broke loose in the media. Jeff Passan was possibly the worst offender, writing several columns about Braun that showed that Passan viewed cockroaches above Braun — way, way above — and making a major journalistic mistake late in August when he failed to check his sources before again excoriating Braun, then having the sources roundly deny his allegations. But other respected writers like Christine Brennan and Bob Nightengale also were extremely critical of Braun (though they didn’t make Passan’s sourcing mistake), mostly because they seemed to feel a sense of personal betrayal that usually is only felt by fans, not by reasonably impartial journalists with major reputations to consider.
Nothing else — no, not even the Brewers woeful 6-22 record in May — came close.
But because there were obviously many, many other low points to consider, I’ll name just a few:
- The revolving door at first base due to Corey Hart’s knee surgeries was a major key to the Brewers’ failures, both defensively and with regards to driving in runs. None of the replacements did particularly well, with Juan Francisco being perhaps the worst of the lot due both to his slipshod defense and his propensity for swinging wildly at balls in the dirt.
- The infield defense was suspect, partially due to the gaping hole at first base. When utility infielder Yuniesky Betancourt ends up playing 137 games (including numerous stints as a defensive replacement at first despite never playing the position in the majors prior to this year), that’s a sign of desperation right there.
- Second baseman Rickie Weeks’ season (.209, 10 HRs, 24 RBI, 7 SB in 10 attempts with 105 Ks in 399 plate appearances) was abhorrent. Weeks has lost what little defensive range he ever had, lost the vast majority of his speed on the bases along with his bat speed, lost most of his power . . . in some ways, it was almost a blessing that Weeks tore his hamstring because nearly every Brewers fan was calling for Weeks’ head due to Weeks’ $11M contract. It’s even money that Weeks will lose his job to rookie Scooter Gennett in 2014.
- The starting pitching in the first two months of the season was Godawful. (‘Nuff said.)
- John Axford’s early meltdown as the Brewers closer was both surprising and sad. While Axford eventually rebounded as a setup man (allowing only one ER from May 15 to July 27), he never got close to sniffing the closer’s job again due to the joint performances of Rodriguez and Henderson before getting mercifully traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.
And the “huh?” points:
The first one is obvious — what on Earth was Jean Segura thinking back in April when he first stole second base, then “stole” first base and tried to steal second again?
For that matter, why did Segura make so many baserunning mistakes early in the season? It seemed like he was always getting thrown out at third, or at home, or trying to stretch a double into a triple . . . granted, Segura’s fast and smart, and he did eventually learn from these mistakes. But it was really difficult to watch him make these mistakes over and over in the first three months of the season before he finally caught on.
That gets into the second “huh” — that is, so many Brewers got thrown out on the bases that I was tempted to send them all to baseball re-education camp. (Sample re-educator dialogue: “Now, children, you don’t want to make the first out by getting thrown out due to carelessness. Pay attention to what the other team is doing, children! Don’t let your mind wander so much! Don’t run yourselves out of innings! You’re old enough to know better, really! Pay attention, pay attention, pay attention!”) There was no excuse for this, either, aside from the whole “youth and inexperience angle” that was trotted out time and time again for Segura — and as he was far from the only offender, and as the others on the team were much older than his own twenty-two years, I just didn’t understand this at all.
Why did the Brewers re-sign Alex Gonzalez, anyway? Yes, he was and is a quality individual; yes, he probably was a good role model for the younger players. But after a year on the disabled list, Gonzalez had lost his hitting stroke and was never able to regain it, and was released midseason.
Everything else from the 2013 Brewers season falls into the realms of what might have been. To name just two burning questions:
- What would’ve happened had Corey Hart not played on his bad foot during the tail end of 2012, when the Brewers were desperately trying for the second Wild Card spot? Hart’s injury to his plantar fascia was the same one suffered by Albert Pujols of the Angels this year, and the Angels quickly put Pujols on the season-ending DL. Had the Brewers done the prudent long-term thing and shut Hart down rather than taping him up to the point his bad foot was immobilized and it was hard to watch him move around in the field or bat, would Hart have ended up needing not one but both of his knees surgically repaired in 2013?
- What would’ve happened had Braun told the truth in 2012? If he’d have served a 50-game suspension then, would he have been treated like Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon rather than the pariah he’s become? And would it have made any difference whatsoever to the 2013 Brewers’ record? (It surely would’ve made a difference to the Brewers players — not to mention Brewers fans.)
So here’s to 2014, Brewers fans. And let’s hope that for all our sakes that Braun will rebound, that Hart will be re-signed and have a monster season, and that if Weeks is still the starting second baseman at the start of 2014 that he actually deserves to be.
Sometimes, folks, I just need to vent. And what better thing to vent at than our electronically driven lives?
I’ve had four things happen lately that are really vexing, but in a very slow-burning sort of way. The first one was when I took an online exam for a place of employment — this is something many employers do these days — and was told after I took it that I “must be a computer” because I’d “gone too fast to be a human being,” and was immediately disqualified from that particular job!
I still don’t know what to think about that one, with one exception: I’m obviously not a computer. No matter what that particular program thinks.
The second thing was back in August, when I played the contest “Beat the Streak in a Day” through MLB.com’s fantasy page. In case you don’t know about the whole “Beat the Streak” contest, it’s named after Joe DiMaggio’s legendary 56-game hitting streak. Fans pick 57 players (over time in the regular Beat the Streak contest, but in one day for BTS in a Day) who we hope will all get hits. You can pick any position player (it won’t let you pick pitchers), providing they’re not on the disabled list, the suspended list, or are otherwise unavailable.
I saved all my picks, did everything the program said to do — and then seven of my picks somehow were not updated even though the site said they were.
When I compared notes to the picks I knew I had made, I had 43 out of 57 right. This would not be enough for a prize. It certainly does not beat Joe D’s streak, and many others came closer than I did to getting all of the players they’d picked to get hits right. But I was annoyed with this program for saying I’d only gotten something like 35 out of 57 right rather than the 43 I know I had right.
When this happened again with the BTS in a Day contest this past Friday — where I couldn’t even check to see how my picks had done because the site glitched, though I checked twice before all the picks were locked and made sure of my actual picks (I wanted no repeat of the August issue, thanks) — I was extremely frustrated, and did write to the contest to ask for an explanation.
This time, the results page said I got 36 right. I don’t have any idea if this is correct because I cannot check it; I can basically go over every player I know I picked, painstakingly (which is what I did last time), but my rough estimate had me getting around 44 or 45 right rather than 36.
I don’t know if I’ll get an answer. I don’t know if they’ll actually get my real picks right — the “results page” I got was for the earliest BTS in a Day contest back in June, I think, because some of “my picks” were Ryan Braun (who I used to pick before his suspension), Yasmani Grandal (same) and a few others like Paul Konerko who I know I didn’t pick this last time.
So that’s two and three — which means you might be wondering what the fourth vexing issue is. (Even if you aren’t, I’m going to tell you anyway. Lucky you, huh?)
It’s simple. An e-mail to me got trapped somehow in the ISP aether, and I didn’t get it until five full days after it was apparently mailed. As it was a professional e-mail — meaning it has bearing on one of my joint careers (music and writing) — this was not good.
Obviously, I couldn’t answer the e-mail until I saw it. But I didn’t see it in my inbox for five full days — and then, it showed up only as spam, which it wasn’t. (I check my spam folder every day, and I know it was not there all that time before it finally did show up.)
Because of this electronic glitch, I wasn’t able to answer this professional e-mail. And it was a time-sensitive e-mail, to boot, which makes me appear less than professional — all because of my ISP doing something really bizarre.
Mind you, this sort of thing happens far less than it used to. But e-mail, reliable though it usually is, can still go astray . . . I just have to hope that my explanatory e-mail will make sense, and that they’ll believe me that this really did happen.
Anyway, that’s four solid things that have something to do with computers, computer programs, or otherwise electronically driven oddities. And while I understand how programs can get messed up from time to time, I’m beyond tired of it.
Let me know if I’m the only one these weird things are happening to, OK? Because I’m starting to wonder if Murphy has my number on speed dial.
Folks, I’m in one of those places right now where I have a lot to talk about and very, very little time to do it in. So let’s get started.
First off, Carlos Gomez was suspended yesterday and fined for one game due to his part in the bench-clearing incident in Atlanta. Brian McCann, who to all intents and purposes precipitated that incident more than anyone else, did not get suspended, but did get fined. Freddie Freeman got fined, too . . . still not sure what Freeman did that was so egregious . . . and Reed Johnson, the guy who actually threw two haymakers at Gomez before ducking down behind much more brawny fellow players to avoid retribution, also got a one-game suspension and a fine.
I think the suspensions for Gomez and Johnson were fair. I think McCann not getting suspended, not to mention failing to get thrown out for blocking the plate and refusing Gomez to even touch home plate after hitting a booming home run, was utterly ludicrous. McCann was the instigator there as much as Gomez or Braves pitcher Paul Maholm (who’d thrown at Gomez back in June, thus creating bad blood), and all he gets is a piddly fine?
What’s up with that?
Next, I wanted to update you all about what’s going on with Michael’s two “Joey Maverick” stories. The files mostly tested out well after being converted, but there were a few minor bobbles. Because of that, I’m going to take the opportunity to go over them one last time as I found a few minor issues after the file was sent off (why, oh why, does it always seem to happen that way?) before my good friend ends up reformatting the files for me to get the extraneous code out.
The reason the formatting is so important is because these files are over ten years old. (At least, parts of them are.) Michael and I used to use Word Perfect exclusively; I still like it better than just about any word processing program I’ve found, but these days I mostly use Word 2002 or, if pressed, Word 2010, because everyone has these programs and they’re the easiest for other writers and editors to deal with.
Anyway, because these files are older, there are artifacts in them that are not compatible with newer software. Thus when converted into an e-book, odd things can happen. As I try to present myself as a professional no matter what — even though I’ve been sick often this year, even though I’m not well known — I want to put out files that are as close to clean as possible. Partly because that’s what I demand as a reader and partly because that’s what I demand from myself, but mostly because they are Michael’s stories and I want to do right by them.
Speaking of illnesses, I’ve been fighting a bronchial infection, again, for the past ten days or so. I can think again, my chest is no longer really tight, and I feel much better than I did. But because of this, I haven’t been able to play in the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Community Band since the second week of rehearsals for the first concert, and I’m still not really up to playing. It’s very difficult to be in this position, but I have to think long-term, both about my music and about my overall health.
A quick update regarding the status of my book, ELFY . . . I’m working on the final edit, and have an editor working with me who I trust. I may start writing quick blogs as to what my progress is with regards to going over it one, final time, as that has seemed to help a number of my fellow writers (most particularly the excellent Katharine Eliska Kimbriel). So my health has slowed the progress there, significantly, but it hasn’t completely stopped it — and if I can just shake off the last of this nasty bronchial stuff soon, I should be able to get it done within another few weeks to a month. (Sooner is better than later, obviously, and you wouldn’t believe the pressure I’m putting on myself to get this done, even though I know that this sort of pressure is counterproductive at best. I just want ELFY out so people can read it, that’s all . . . just have to do what’s required and believe it’ll get done. I’m way too close to the goal to quit now.)
As far as the writing and editing goes, I have talked much about what I can’t do this past year. I haven’t talked much about what I can do. I am a good editor, an excellent proofreader, I can handle conceptual editing just fine and can still bring something to the table if someone wants to work with me no matter what my health is like. And I can write . . . I’ve kept up this blog now for over three years, I’ve done many, many book reviews both at Shiny Book Review (SBR) and at Amazon, and I’ve actually sold a science fiction story this year to HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD.
Mind you, I’ve also been turned down by the Writers of the Future contest (again), so it’s not all a bed full of roses, but I’m trying my best and have made some slow progress.
And any progress beats none . . . right?
Anyway, over the next week, I will have a guest blog by fellow author and book reviewer Jason Cordova, and I hope to have an end of the year summation about the Brewers 2013 season. So please, do stay tuned for that . . . and thanks for bearing with me during one of the most fractious, difficult years of my life.
Only the 2013 Milwaukee Brewers could start a game with a bench-clearing brawl after, of all things, a home run — but end up with a 4-0 shutout over the Atlanta Braves behind the golden arm of starting pitcher Kyle Lohse.
The Brewers started out Wednesday night with a home run in the first inning by CF Carlos Gomez. However, Gomez didn’t actually end up touching home plate due to Braves C Brian McCann standing in the middle of the baseline — in effect, impeding Gomez’s progress toward home plate. Words were exchanged, the benches cleared, and after that somehow McCann stayed in the game but Gomez and Braves 1B Freddie Freeman both ended up ejected.
Why Freeman was ejected rather than McCann remains a mystery, especially as Freeman didn’t really do anything. Reed Johnson came off the bench and threw two haymakers at Gomez, at least one of which actually connected, but Johnson wasn’t thrown out, either.
Anyway, as odd as that start was, none of it mattered once Lohse took the mound in the bottom of the first. Lohse was fully in control of the game, threw only 89 pitches, and gave up only two hits in completely shutting down the Braves. The 4-0 win brought Lohse’s season to a close; he finished with a 11-10 mark and a 3.35 ERA.
As a Brewers fan, watching Gomez hit a home run, then get thrown out, then have the umpires figure out whether or not Gomez should get credit for a HR or a triple as Gomez did not touch home plate (eventually, they gave Gomez the HR, probably because of being impeded by McCann) . . . all of that was quite wearying. The last thing I was expecting was for Lohse to come out and pitch his best game of the year after all that drama.
Yet Lohse did exactly that. Which is why this particular win was one of the wildest ones of the season — yet also one of the most satisfying.
Personally, I’m glad that Lohse was still with the Brewers to pitch in this game. Lohse was a hot commodity at the trade deadline, precisely because he’s a solid pro with a good playoff record. When he wasn’t traded — probably due to his three-year contract — I breathed a sigh of relief.
Tonight, Lohse proved, as if he needed to, that he’s still a big money pitcher. But he also showed heart. He was not fazed by what happened in the first inning. He just went out, did his job, and shut down the Braves.
Every Brewers fan should tip his or her cap to Lohse tonight, precisely for reminding us all what the game is all about. And reminding us that with just a few different breaks (Corey Hart not needing a second knee surgery, for example, or Ryan Braun not being suspended for 65 games), maybe the Brewers could’ve been a contender after all.
Folks, most of you know very well by my previous blogs on the subject that I have been very interested in Ryan Braun’s situation, both before he accepted a 65-game, season-ending suspension earlier this year, and since. Which is why I’m not at all surprised that I heard from at least a few of you privately regarding these questions:
I think what Braun said is the best he’s able to do right now. Witness these lines from the letter the Brewers sent out to fans of the team last evening (including yours truly):
I am so sorry for letting you down by being in denial for so long and not telling the whole truth about what happened. I am ashamed and extremely embarrassed by the decisions I made. There are no excuses for what I did and I take full responsibility for my actions. I apologize to all Brewers fans for disappointing you.
Braun’s letter appears to be sincere; more to the point, as a writer and editor myself, it sounds like Braun’s personal speech (insofar as a letter ever can) rather than a canned, prepared statement by a PR firm.
But some pundits just cannot get over the fact that Braun lied in the first place about his past PED usage. They’re upset that, in Braun’s statement, Braun only had this to say about what he took:
Here is what happened. During the latter part of the 2011 season, I was dealing with a nagging injury and I turned to products for a short period of time that I shouldn’t have used. The products were a cream and a lozenge which I was told could help expedite my rehabilitation. It was a huge mistake for which I am deeply ashamed and I compounded the situation by not admitting my mistakes immediately.
But as Craig Calcaterra put it at Hardballtalk.com today:
Wow, I’m gobsmacked. I really and truly thought that, after Ryan Braun‘s apology last night, people would embrace him and say that he addressed every concern they had and now we could move on. Imagine my shock and horror this morning when I read multiple takes from the usual suspects about how Braun left questions unanswered and didn’t go far enough.
Yes, Calcaterra is being sarcastic. But he has a point. There are some pundits out there, Buster Olney and Jeff Passan among them, who will never, ever be satisfied by what Braun does ever again. Braun could drop dead in the street after rescuing five little children from a housefire, and it still wouldn’t be enough to satisfy them.
In addition, players often do not know exactly what they are taking. As Calcaterra says elsewhere in his article:
Braun probably doesn’t know (what he took). Heck, even if he does what difference would it make? Show me one instance where baseball writers have made meaningful distinctions between anabolic steroids, HGH, testosterone and other things. They all treat them like magic pills which bestow super powers, so Braun not breaking them down here makes zero difference.
While my anger over Braun’s deception has cooled (see my previous blog on the subject), much of what I actually believe is the same. From my earlier blog:
My attitude regarding PED use remains much the same as it’s always been. I think if you’re trying to stay healthy to play baseball, that’s a lot different than trying to cheat the system, which is why McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Bonds (if he really did use them) should be given a pass, as all of them had well-known health problems that steroids/PEDs may have alleviated. And if you’re willing to accept all sorts of adverse effects on your body, as seen by Lyle Alzado’s tragic death after his brilliant NFL career not so long ago, have at.
(And I called for Braun to “come clean,” which he has now done.)
As I’ve said before, I believe in redemption and second chances. And the first step in redeeming yourself is to admit what you’ve done and take personal responsibility, which is why I’m pleased Ryan Braun has finally come out with these explanations and apologies.
Ultimately, though, what Ryan Braun needs to remember is this: It’s not important what other people think of you. It’s important what you think of yourself. Providing you can look yourself in the eye and tell yourself you’ve made an honest effort to do better, that’s all that any human being can ever do.
Or to boil it down to brass tacks: Yes, I accept Ryan Braun’s explanation and apology. And I hope he’ll play well throughout the rest of his career, because he’s a really good baseball player and I’ve always enjoyed seeing him play.
But for those of you who still expect better than this from professional athletes, I have news: The Tooth Fairy isn’t real, either.
What is wrong with Yahoo Sports writer Jeff Passan?
Passan wrote yet another column condemning Ryan Braun this past Sunday, despite this new column being at least the fourth such column in the past month. This seems excessive under the circumstances, as a number of other baseball players, including Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers, Everth Cabrera of the San Diego Padres, and Jhonny Peralta of the Cleveland Indians are also suspended, while Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees continues to play pending his upcoming appeal of a lengthy, 211-game suspension.
Anyway, Passan’s newest column on Braun cited an ESPN report that said Braun had supposedly lobbied fellow MLB players prior to his successful appeal regarding the reportedly high level of testosterone in his urine sample. ESPN’s slant was that Braun was perhaps looking for support from his fellow players as Braun was prepared to lose his hearing. According to ESPN’s original report, Braun supposedly told several unnamed players that the urine specimen collector, Dino Laurenzi, Jr., was both a “Cubs fan” and an “anti-Semite.” But when Braun unexpectedly won, that lobbying wasn’t needed.
However, Passan’s column as initially reported said that Braun had told specific big-name players such as Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies and Joey Votto these very same allegations. (The inference in both columns, of course, was that Braun had said that Laurenzi, Jr., had it in for Braun.) And because Passan’s column named these names, it made this particular report sound that much more compelling.
Then came the reports here and here that stated that neither Tulowitzki nor Votto had spoken with Braun about this particular matter. And that Braun had most emphatically not slandered the urine collector in any way as far as either one of them knew.
So, what should you do as a writer when something this big blows up in your face? Most people would print a retraction and an additional article saying, in effect, “Sorry. I/we screwed up, and it won’t happen again if we can help it.”
But that’s not exactly what Passan did here, though he did back off a few of the worst of the allegations against Braun:
ESPN.com first reported that Braun had reached out to fellow players. While Yahoo! Sports previously reported Braun had contacted Joey Votto and Troy Tulowitzki, on Monday they denied having any conversations with Braun about test collector Dino Laurenzi Jr. (emphasis mine — BC)
Note that this slight backing off seems to be blaming ESPN’s initial report, which is silly at best because it wasn’t ESPN who named Tulowitzki and Votto as being among the players Braun had supposedly reached out to for support — it was Jeff Passan himself.
Worse yet, other reports are still being written that are going off the original source material, including this one from UT-San Diego, which was written one short day ago.
Look. I understand why Passan felt the need to write his column, at least in part. ESPN had put out a report. Yahoo wanted to have its own story. Passan wrote it because, quite frankly, he cannot abide Ryan Braun (he’s previously called Braun a “cockroach”) and Passan, being a baseball writer who fully understands what’s going on with regards to the 2013 suspensions for performance-enhancing drug use, was probably the best person to write this particular column.
Where Passan erred was when he decided to name Tulowitzki and Votto without getting quotes from them on the record. Both players are among the biggest names in baseball; Tulowitzki came in second to Braun in the 2007 Rookie of the Year Award, while Votto won the Most Valuable Player award in 2010.
So when Passan named them without quotes, he had to know that fallout was possible. Yet for some strange reason, that didn’t seem to bother him at all.
What Passan did wasn’t a small error. Instead, this was a big, fat, huge error considering Passan’s name, his reputation, and the fact that he has thousands upon thousands of people reading his columns every single day. That’s why whatever Passan ends up reporting on any given day needs to be above reproach.
Passan screwed up by naming two players who apparently had absolutely no contact with Braun whatsoever regarding this issue without checking his sources and making sure they were unimpeachable. And thus far, Passan has failed to offer one shred of reasoning as to why he, Jeff Passan, did this at all, when Passan had to know they would both be asked about these allegations . . . especially considering that Passan obviously had no idea what these men were going to say.
If Jeff Passan didn’t realize that these two men were going to deny these allegations, much less in the heartfelt way both men picked to do so — Tulowitzki and Votto are known as straight shooters — why on Earth did he print such inflammatory allegations?
While the slight clarification currently in the Yahoo Sports article by Passan (referenced above) is better than nothing, it is extremely puzzling that Passan would not print an apology under these circumstances.
Because really and truly, Passan owes all baseball fans an apology. His report regarding Braun’s apparent slander was inflammatory. He couldn’t back it up — in fact, it was roundly denied by two of the people Passan sourced in his original column as supposedly being upset and offended by Braun’s reported remarks — and then, he only had the wit to partly backtrack and blame ESPN instead for ESPN’s initial report?
I’m sorry. That does not cut it.
Writers must have integrity. Honesty. Believability. And be able to tell a fair and accurate story, especially when it comes to nonfiction sports writing and current events . . . otherwise, the writer in question has nothing at all.
We all know this, as writers. Which is why most writers would’ve apologized for making a mistake of this magnitude immediately.
Otherwise, why would you want to trust us, or believe that we’re giving you the best information possible on any given day?
Whenever we fail, as writers, we must own up to it.
I don’t care if there are one thousand people in baseball who think exactly what Jeff Passan reported . . . if Passan hadn’t named names, he’d be in the clear. But he did, he was wrong, and he should apologize. Profusely.
And if he refuses to apologize, I have only one more question for you: Why on Earth should we believe anything else Jeff Passan ever says?
**Note: Both the ESPN report and the column written by Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports have been updated to reflect the record that both Tulowitzki and Votto have denied these specific allegations. ESPN’s report quite properly credits Passan’s Yahoo sports column for making those direct allegations.
Folks, I’ve been working on a short story for an anthology this past week. Between that and editing, I just haven’t had time to do anything else — no books got reviewed over at Shiny Book Review (SBR), no blogs got written since early last week, and even though I’ve had much to say as there have been plenty of targets (Wisconsin’s R Governor Scott Walker actually had the nerve to compare himself to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, if you can believe that), I just haven’t had the time or energy to spare for blogging.
However, as I have sent off my story to a friend for a quick read-over, I have enough time to comment very quickly on a few things. So here goes:
I think it’s ridiculous that people are praising Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig for his “vision” and “good sense” in suspending a number of baseball players today, the most high profile player of the lot being Alex Rodriguez. (The others include OF Nelson Cruz, SS Jhonny Peralta — yes, that’s how he really spells his name, it’s no misprint, and SS Everth Cabrera.) As former Brewers pitcher (and current New York Met) LaTroy Hawkins said today on Twitter:
PLEASE STOP PRAISING
And here’s my take on Bud Selig, again from Twitter:
Otherwise, I’m keeping an eye on the national political scene, as per usual, even though nothing’s getting done as the House of Reps (not to mention the Senate as well) are on a five-week paid vacation right now.
My take on that? Who the Hell else gets paid for doing absolutely nothing, then goes around telling people they’re “fighting Washington” as have the House Rs (or, if that doesn’t read well to you, the House GOP as led by Speaker John Boehner)?
I’m sorry. If you are an elected public official, as John Boehner is, you’re not fighting Washington — you are a part of Washington. Thus, you are a part of Washington’s dysfunctional culture. And you can either fix it, or not . . . but if you refuse, don’t be surprised when you’re thrown out the door next time around. (Or if your own seat is saved, your position may not be — which is why Boehner is likely to be the minority leader of the House next time if his inaction and lack of leadership keeps up.)
Granted, the House Ds aren’t doing much of anything, either, save bloviating and grandstanding — but they have no power, as there are far too many Rs to make anything the Ds do worth the time. Which is why I, personally, blame the Rs far more than I do the Ds.
Finally, I’m very glad that the current Wisconsin law as signed by Gov. Walker that restricts abortions has been placed in abeyance — that is, an injunction has been filed that blocks the law — by a federal court judge. I think that law needs to be studied in depth before it’s implemented, if it ever is. Because on its face, it’s yet another biased law by a bunch of people who, to be charitable, don’t seem to know what the Hell they’re talking about.
More blog updates when I have ‘em . . . and thanks for reading, as always.