Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘baseball’ Category

Pablo Sandoval, and Point of View

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Folks, I’m a baseball fan, so maybe this will make more sense to me than to you. But here goes…

A few years ago, third baseman Pablo Sandoval was on top of the world. His then-team, the San Francisco Giants, had won the World Series, and his power hitting was a big part of that effort. He had every right to feel proud, much less satisfied, and he certainly did.

But he also became a free agent, able to sign with any team, not too long after achieving that pinnacle. And because he was feeling buoyant, or maybe just because he was feeling “immature” (his own words now, but I’m getting to that), he got very angry with his team, the Giants, and signed with the Boston Red Sox instead.

Now, just signing with another team is not a big deal. (Yeah, it hurts as a fan when your favorite players do this, but it’s a part of the 21st Century baseball fandom experience.) But saying bad things about your now-former team is a big deal.

But at the time, Sandoval’s point of view was that he was a big power hitter. Surely, playing in Boston with the Green Monster (a very famous wall, for non-baseball fans) was going to help his power numbers. And anyway, he was frustrated with the Giants because they’d told him he had to keep his weight down. (My guess there is that the Giants wanted Sandoval on the field, and to keep him free from injury. But that’s definitely not how Sandoval took it. As a larger-sized person, I completely understand that impulse, mind you…but I digress.)

Unfortunately, Sandoval’s belief did not carry water. He went to Boston, but didn’t do particularly well. He ended up fighting nagging injuries, appeared to gain weight (which may have contributed, but may not have), and because he’d signed a very large contract, quickly fell out of favor with the Boston fans.

Then, he was designated for assignment this year, and given his outright release. Which is a very humbling thing for a baseball player…not something anyone ever wants, even though Sandoval’s contract was and remains guaranteed so he will be paid.

This story has a happy ending, of sorts, because Sandoval was re-signed by the Giants to a minor league deal. And Sandoval apologized for his previous comments, saying he was “immature” and that he really hadn’t felt that way. (My guess is, he was just angry over a wide variety of things, and didn’t know how to express himself.)

So, Sandoval adjusted his point of view, and realized that he’d had a good experience in San Francisco after all. The fans loved him there; the front office treated him well; he’d been given good medical support; and he’d played well.

That’s why he is back with the Giants farm system, and is attempting to get his hitting stroke back.

Now, what’s the lesson the rest of us non-baseball players can learn from this?

Sometimes, life is all about the point of view. And our point of view may not be accurate. We can make mistakes. And when we do, we have to own up to them.

It’s not easy, no. But if you can swallow your pride — as Sandoval did in signing a minor-league deal with the Giants — you have a chance to still achieve your heart’s desire.

I know I’ve made my share of mistakes in this life. I can’t take all of them back. (Some of them, I would not take back, because that’s the only way I learned. But again, I digress.) But one thing I have learned is that Sandoval’s reaction here was right on the money; he told his pride to take a hike, and did what was necessary to try to rejuvenate himself and his career.

More of us should be like Pablo Sandoval. (Further writer sayeth not.)

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GOP Congressman, 4 Others, Shot in VA

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Folks, I’m getting tired of talking about innocent people getting shot while doing innocuous things. But here we are again…

Anyway, GOP Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana (also the House Majority Whip) and four others have been shot in Alexandria, Virginia. The gunman has been identified as a sixty-six-year-old man from Illinois (beyond that, as is my policy, I am going to refuse to identify him); no one knows, as of yet, why this man opened fire today.

Making matters worse, this guy shot the Congressman during a baseball practice.

Yeah. Shot at baseball practice, after shagging flies, taking ground balls, and taking batting practice…one of the most all-American activities there could possibly be. (Does anyone but me remember the ultra-old Chevy commercial touting “baseball, hot dogs, applie pie and Chevrolet?”)

And supposedly, the guy asked, “Are those guys Republicans or Democrats?” before he opened fire. (The story is not clear there, but I’ve already seen this reported at least three times online and via TV in three different ways. There does seem to be some truth to it.)

At any rate, because Congressman Scalise is a ranking member and has a powerful position as party whip, the Capitol Police were there as a security detail. If they hadn’t been there, as newscaster Brian Williams just said on MSNBC, the potential for injuries (or worse, deaths) would’ve been even worse.

But to say “it could have been worse” is damning with faint praise.

The fact is, we have to get a handle on two things right now. First, we must somehow lower the partisan rancor in this country. (Virginia Governor McAuliffe is right about that.) If this guy shot at Scalise solely because he’s a Republican, that’s beyond unacceptable, and goes into the sort of reflexive hatred that was seen in the shooting of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords back in 2011.

I don’t understand hatred very well, to be honest. But we must identify it, and deal with it, and try to defuse it, before it ever gets to this level, if we possibly can.

Second, we must make it easier for people to access mental health care. It’s difficult now for people to go get needed help; they often can’t afford it, and yet without decent mental health, what kind of life can you have?

At any rate, I deplore this violence. It disgusts me. I do not want to ever see anything like this again.

But as it’s now happened so many times — at theaters, at various public events, now at a baseball practice — I can’t say that is likely.

And that makes me very, very sad.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 14, 2017 at 10:41 am

Latest Interview, Health Update…and Baseball?

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Folks, the book promotion efforts continue apace.

So, here’s my question: Have you met me yet?

(No, I’m not just being snarky, here.)

If you haven’t, or if you’d like to know more, and haven’t seen this interview, please go forthwith to Goodreads.

Why?

It might intrigue you. It might keep you motivated.

Or if nothing else, it’ll answer a question I’ve been asked over and over again regarding my newest novel: why did I set the story of CHANGING FACES in Nebraska, of all places?

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?
A: I lived in Nebraska for three years when I went to graduate school. I felt the heat, I saw the vivid colors of the sunsets and sunrises, I felt the scorching cold, and I knew exactly how to describe it.

It’s hard to explain, otherwise, but I’ll do my best.

If you’ve experienced something, that helps you to describe it. And I experienced Nebraska. I even met some LGBT people in Lincoln, when I lived there; there weren’t many, but there were some, and most of them, at the time (this being the late 1990s/early 2000s) did not want to call attention to themselves. The goal at that point was for civil unions to be accepted in various churches, and there were many disagreements about this.

So, it was important to me to set this story in Nebraska. These are two people who could live anywhere. They have talent in music, they are creative, they are honest, they love each other. But one of them is transgender and gender-fluid, and yet their love is like anyone else’s, and their communication problems are like anyone else’s, too.

It’s important that society as a whole comes to realize that people are people, and regardless of gender expression or sexuality, they are deserving of love and happiness and care. Whatever form that love and happiness takes (providing it’s consensual, preferably monogamous, and with people who are adult so they can make their own choices and take their own risks) ultimately does not matter.

Only the love matters. And that’s why I set this story in Nebraska in the first place, because it showcases just how much times have changed…and yet, remained the same.

Want to know more? Please go to the interview and take a look!

Now, as far as the health update goes…I continue to improve. I am a bit low on energy, but I wrote a new guest blog (for author Adriana Kraft and her readership, that will be posted Sunday if all goes well), I even worked a little bit on my fiction, and I’m starting to feel more like my normal self.

(Just in time for Friday, eh?)

I don’t plan on throwing any wild parties any time soon, mind, but I at least can write some again and I’m grateful for it.

Otherwise, I wanted to talk a little bit about baseball, as we’re nearly up to spring. (Hey, don’t correct me. I know it’s a few weeks, yet.)

One thing I noticed, recently, is that major league baseball has changed their way of indicating an intentional walk. Before, a manager had to call for it, but the pitcher had to actually throw the four balls (very wide of the strike zone) before the runner could take first base. This occasionally would result in a wild pitch or passed ball, but most of the time was a fairly routine deal.

Now, MLB is going to do it differently. The manager will somehow indicate that he wants an intentional walk, and the batter will go take first base. The pitcher will not have to throw the four balls, wide of the mark or otherwise.

What do I think of this? I don’t like it at all. I think it’s silly. I think it’s stupid.

And the reason they gave for it? They want to speed the game up.

(I don’t see that as being a particularly speedy thing, mind, but whatever.)

To my mind, the only legitimate basis for this rule-change is to save the pitcher unnecessary wear and tear on his arm. If, over time, this actually works, and a few pitchers here and there won’t hurt themselves, I might actually — someday — begrudgingly, of course, be willing to entertain this.

But for the moment, I think it’s stupid, nonsensical, and wrong.

What do you all think, baseball fans? Does this rule-change make any sense to you? (And if they really want to improve the pace of the game, why don’t they stop guys from getting out of the batter’s box over and over again during the same at-bat? Wouldn’t that be a lot more conducive to getting the speed down than merely eliminating the four pitches from the intentional walk?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 3, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Death and the Miami Marlins

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Folks, before I begin this post, I figured I’d explain where I’ve been the past four-five days. (No, I didn’t fall off the face of the Earth, nor did my in-progress novel CHANGING FACES swallow me up.) It’s a simple explanation — my computer adapter fried — but it’s the third or possibly the fourth time in the past year my adapter has done this. I have a new adapter now, thankfully, and am back online…and will be looking for a way to purchase a backup adapter soon. (Can’t yet, but it’s at the very top of my priority list.)

Now, to the blog.

When the news broke on Sunday that Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernandez had died in a boating accident, I was stunned. Fernandez was only twenty-four years old, and was having an outstanding year…his personal story of escaping from Cuba (he had to try multiple times before he successfully got out), his infectious joy, and his youth all touched my heart.

For several hours on Sunday, I had a hard time thinking about much else, other than Fernandez’s early death. Bad enough to die at twenty-four, but worse yet when your girlfriend was pregnant with your child.

It was a devastating loss on every level, that Fernandez was gone, suddenly and without warning. And the Marlins clearly felt it, postponing Sunday’s game.

After that, on Monday evening, the entire team wore Fernandez’s jersey number (16) as a tribute. Leadoff hitter Dee Gordon stepped into the opposite side of the batter’s box to honor Fernandez, and took a ball. (Opposing team New York must’ve known something like that was likely, I’m guessing.) Then, after stepping into the batter’s box  the usual way, Gordon did something he hadn’t done all year long.

He hit a home run.

The Marlins romped to a win, but that wasn’t why Gordon’s HR was so meaningful. It was the way he did it. He made it clear from the get-go that Fernandez was on his mind, and so did the rest of the Marlins, including all the coaches (manager Don Mattingly was particularly teary-eyed) and front office personnel.

And the classiness didn’t end there.  Even the Mets’ players cried after Gordon hit the homer, and during the seventh-inning stretch (where a trumpet played a solitary version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in a muted, moody tone). And they, along with many other teams around major league baseball, hung Fernandez’s jersey up as a show of support.

The Marlins win on Monday night was cathartic for fans, players, the management, and around baseball. It helped ease the pain a little, and helped honor Fernandez the best way the Marlins had to offer — by winning, and talking about their lost teammate, and wishing he were back with them.

All that said, I want to say a few words about the two others who died during that tragic accident, Emilio Macias and Eddy Rivero (both twenty-five). They had gone to Fernandez’s boat late at night because according to this article from Fox News Latino, Fernandez and his girlfriend had argued that evening. No one’s talking much about Macias and Rivero, but they were doing what good friends are supposed to do during a time of crisis — they were supporting their buddy, and they were trying to calm him down.

Their friendship mattered, and I honor them.

I do not understand why these three young men died that evening. I wish I could do something, anything, to bring them back. But it’s good that people are remembering Fernandez’s life and career.

Now, my hope is that people will also remember Macias and Rivero.They both have GoFundMe pages (go here for Macias and here for Rivero), as their families need help with burial expenses. If you can help them, please do it — and if you can’t, say a prayer for them, and for the loved ones they left behind.

Because that helps, too. Even if it’s not nearly enough.

Tough Day to be a Brewers Fan…Lucroy, Jeffress, Smith Traded

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Some days, it’s harder than others to be a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers.

My team has never, in its forty-six year history, won the World Series. It’s won only one league championship, back in 1982 — when the team was still in the American League. It’s competed only a handful of times in the postseason, including 1981, 1982, and 1983 (banner years, truly), 2008, and 2011.

That’s been about it, for me as a Brewers fan.

So I’m used to futility. I’m used to frustration. And I’m used to the best players I’ve come to know and appreciate ending up on better teams around the league, as only a few players these days play their entire careers in Milwaukee or anywhere else.

Still, today is a worse day than many, because the Brewers have done something teams rarely do — on August 1, 2016, Milwaukee traded their starting catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, their closer, Jeremy Jeffress, and one of their best bullpen arms in Will Smith away to two different teams. Lucroy and Jeffress went to the Texas Rangers, while Smith went to the San Francisco Giants. And what did the Brewers get back? Prospects…with one exception. (And that one exception, former Giant catcher Andrew Susac, has played fewer than 100 games in the major leagues.)

Up until now, the Brewers have been better than expected. While not a world-beating team by any means, they haven’t been embarrassing, either. They’re currently five games over .500 while home at Miller Park, and their overall record is 47-56.

In fact, a few weeks ago, my father asked me, “How many more games do you think the Brewers can win?” My answer was between thirty-five and forty, as they’d been improving lately…providing Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun were not traded. (I would’ve included Jeremy Jeffress in that, but trading a closer at the deadline that’s still extremely productive is almost rarer than trading a starting catcher, so I have to admit it never crossed my mind that this would happen.)

This year has had some good surprises — pitcher Junior Guerra being one of those. So it’s obvious that David Stearns, the Brewers GM, can find talent…but so far, he doesn’t seem cognizant of the fact that fans have to have something on the field to root for.

I expected this to be a bad year, mind. I expected this to be a year where top prospect, shortstop Orlando Arcia, gained time in Triple-A, and where we’d have a shuttle going back and forth from Triple-A affiliate Colorado Springs and Milwaukee — and we have.

I did not expect this to be the year the Brewers traded away two impact players, literally minutes before the trade deadline, and then expect fans to be happy about it.

I’m sorry. I’m not into pain, so of course I’m unhappy with this move.

Do I understand it rationally? Sure.

Do I appreciate it emotionally? Oh, Hell no.

And will I watch games? Yes, but quite frankly, I won’t expect very much…especially with the new closer almost certainly to be Tyler Thornburg. (I like him, but is he closer material?) And with the new starting catcher being defensive whiz Martin Maldonado…

All I can say is this: Dammit. (In lieu of a blue streak of profanity that none of you need to hear, or see, or that I need to say.)

And, of course, I need to add this, specifically to Lucroy, Jeffress, and Smith: Good luck to all three of you. May your teams go to the playoffs, and may you enjoy excellent careers. And someday, remember the fans in Milwaukee, still waiting for our day in the sun…and that we remain in your corner.

 

Why Can’t Female Reporters Make — and Correct — Bad Mistakes?

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Folks, I’m frustrated right now. I just read the story of former major league baseball sideline reporter Emily Austen (see link here from the story at AOL: http://www.aol.com/article/2016/06/10/mlb-sideline-reporter-fired-after-making-several-inappropriate-c/21393140/), who said a number of derogatory things during a social media video. This video was made on the Barstool Sports Live Facebook broadcast, and while I don’t like any of the things Ms. Austen said, none of them were so abhorrent to my mind as warranting her immediate dismissal from her sideline duties without at least giving her a chance to rectify her error.

Here’s a bit from the Business Insider story (carried at AOL at the address above):

During the broadcast, Austen made several racist and anti-Semitic comments. At one point, she said she “didn’t even know Mexicans were that smart,” then later said that everyone knows the “Chinese guy is always the smartest guy in math class.” While recalling stories from when she worked as a bartender, she called Jewish people “stingy.” She also referred to Kevin Love as a “little b—-.”

Edited to add:

I haven’t a clue why any sportscaster, male or female, worth her salt wouldn’t realize that when the camera is on, she has to watch what she says. With a beer, without a beer, she should be professional.

Much of what she said is insensitive at best, outright racist at worst. (Saying that she “didn’t even know that Mexicans were that smart” is ludicrous. Doesn’t she know any history at all?)

I don’t approve of this behavior. At all. But I also don’t understand why a male sportscaster like Curt Schilling, formerly of ESPN, was given chance after chance to rectify his own public off-the-job comments before he finally was booted out.

Now back to our regularly scheduled post, already in progress…

I am not a fan of this sort of behavior, folks. But I also don’t think it’s something that warrants an immediate dismissal.

Consider, please, that Ms. Austen was probably having a beer. She was off-duty, discussing her job as a sideline reporter for both the Tampa Bay Rays (MLB) and for the Orlando Magic (NBA), and was probably trying to make “good copy” for the folks on Barstool Sports. Male sports personalities push the envelope all the time, and only get suspensions, at best…yet Ms. Austen got the axe right away, without any possibility of coming back to say, “I know I went too far. I’m sorry.”

Note that to my mind, especially out of context, I don’t have a problem with her saying these obnoxious things as much as I have a problem with her being immediately booted from her job without any possibility of correcting the obnoxious things she said.

I’d only fire Ms. Austen if she refused to try to correct any of this. (What she said about the Asian guy in math class, while not necessarily a bad thing, is still a stereotype. My Japanese-American friend would be happy to tell you all about how much effort she put into her studies; she loved school, and still enjoys learning things, but effortless, it was not. And math was not her best subject, either.**)

This, to my mind, smells more like political correctness than a sensible personnel decision. If Ms. Austen was good at her work — and I’m going to assume she was, or Barstool Sports wouldn’t have wanted to have her as part of their Facebook Live broadcast after hours — she should’ve been talked with, and she should’ve been allowed to make amends. Giving her a chance to grow, to change, to learn that people are individuals and not stereotypes…that is a far better way to handle the situation than just firing her.

This way, what does Ms. Austen learn? That male sports personalities can be outrageous, but female sports personalities had best watch their backs?

In short, while what Ms. Austen said was not flattering, it did not warrant immediate dismissal.

Fox Sports Florida (and Fox Sports Sun, who together were her employers) should be ashamed of themselves. They at minimum should be called before the EEOC, and be prepared to defend their actions.

And in the meantime, Ms. Austen should do some volunteer work with the poor, the disabled, and those who are otherwise disenfranchised in this society. She’d learn a lot, I think…and never again would she be tempted to make such ridiculously stupid and bigoted statements as she did on Barstool Sports’ live broadcast on Facebook.

——–

**Yes, I know that Chinese people and Japanese people and Korean people and Laotian people and Vietnamese people are all different people, different cultures, different ethnicities, and all have to be taken for themselves. But the stereotype I’m referring to — that Asians are better at math than anyone else — is still real, and it’s done a lot of harm. (End rant.)

Milwaukee Brewers 2016: Opening Day Thoughts

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Folks, as most of you know, I am a huge fan of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team. I’ve watched them for years, through good years and bad…and this year is shaping up to be unpredictable at best, and downright awful at worst.

Why do I say this? It’s simple.

The Brewers have seven guys who’ve never been on an Opening Day roster before. Their best pitcher is Wily Peralta. And their leadoff hitter is likely to be rookie OF Domingo Santana, a high-risk, high-reward type player.

Or, to put it another way — “Who are these (flippin’) guys?” — quote from the movie Major League, 1989.

There are only a few players on this roster I recognize, including Ryan Braun, returning Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano (now a reliever), and Jonathan Lucroy — providing he isn’t traded anytime too soon.  Much of the roster is made up of guys like Jonathan Villar (before he came to the Brewers, I’d never heard his name before), Yadiel Rivera (good-field, little-hit IF prospect), Keon Broxton, and Ramon Flores.

So, with a team that I barely recognize, it’s almost impossible for me to say what the 2016 “new look” Brewers will do. But I can tell you what it’s unlikely they’ll do — and that’s win over 70 games.

Of course, the young Brewers are going to play with chips on their shoulder. And in a week or two, I’ll know these guys better and their capabilities/weaknesses/upsides, too.

Still. The Brewers play in the toughest division in Major League Baseball. They’re likely to be beaten regularly by the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, all division rivals with legitimate postseason chances. That alone makes their quest for a seventy-win season nearly impossible.

The 2016 Brewers will probably be fun to watch. They’ll give it their all, their fundamentals will be sound, they’ll steal bases and at least a few of ’em (like Santana, Braun, and new first baseman Chris Carter) will hit beaucoup home runs. And at least one pitcher will have a good-to-great year (perhaps hoping to pitch himself onto a contenting team at the All-Star break).

So, the 2016 Brewers are likely to have an entertaining team, but not a good one.

What do you think? (Give me a shout in the comments.)