Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘baseball’ Category

Sports Roundup: Alison Gordon, Ray Rice…and the Milwaukee Bucks?

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Folks, this sports roundup column will be unusual, as three disparate, but noteworthy things have happened in the past week that I want to comment on.

First, pioneering baseball reporter Alison Gordon died at 74. Ms. Gordon was the first-ever female reporter for any team in the American League and covered the Toronto Blue Jays, starting in 1979. She faced much criticism when she started her career — I’m just barely old enough to remember some of it — yet persevered and prevailed. Later, she wrote a series of murder mysteries where a baseball reporter solved crimes in and around baseball. Here’s a bit of her obituary from cbc.ca:

(The) Baseball Writers Association of America infamously issued her press accreditation as Mr. Alison Gordon, as it had no female-specific or gender-neutral honorifics at that time.

Gordon was also one of the first females allowed into a Major League Baseball locker room, which was controversial at the time but since paved the way for female sports reporters. She was also the first woman on the American League beat, the division of baseball the Jays play in.

Ms. Gordon’s accomplishments were profound, and it’s partly because of her that so many other female sports journalists have gone on to have stellar careers.

Next, Ray Rice’s long-awaited apology has been released as of earlier today (link is from Yahoo’s “Shutdown Corner” NFL blog). In it, Rice expresses remorse, but also thanks the fans of the Baltimore Ravens (his NFL team). Here’s a bit from that apology:

To all the kids who looked up to me, I’m truly sorry for letting you down, but I hope it’s helped you learn that one bad decision can turn your dream into a nightmare. There is no excuse for domestic violence, and I apologize for the horrible mistake I made. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me, and I hope to make a positive difference in people’s lives by raising awareness of this issue.

Now, you may be asking yourself why I said “long-awaited.” No one else, save perhaps Keith Olbermann, is likely to say this, but it’s the truth: without a heartfelt apology, it’s unlikely that Ray Rice can resuscitate his career, not in the NFL, not in the CFL, not anywhere.

See, there are female football fans out there — many of them, as I’m far from the only one in the history of the universe. And we need to see some remorse and some signs that Ray Rice has learned not to abuse women any more. (One wonders what female reporters think of Ray Rice; most haven’t said much, except that he needs counseling and a consciousness raising and to never, never, do this again. Which seems a bit incomplete.)

There are some players, such as Brandon Marshall of the Bears, who after an earlier incident have become outspoken advocates for women and domestic violence. These are players who’ve truly learned that they must do better as human beings, and I hope Ray Rice, down the line, will join their number.

At the moment, though, all I can say is that Ray Rice has apologized. And since he has, I think some team out there should give him another shot, providing Rice stays in counseling (both personal and marital) and gets the anger management he needs.

And finally, how about those Milwaukee Bucks?

Last year, I wrote about how awful the Bucks were. They didn’t even win two games in a row, they were so bad…they only won 15 games, and set a team record for the worst season in the history of the franchise.

What a difference a year makes.

This year’s Bucks squad is 30-23. They’ve doubled their amount of wins in a year, and they’re only at the All-Star break despite losing their #1 draft pick F Jabari Parker to a knee surgery, losing PG Kendall Marshall to a knee surgery, losing C Larry Sanders to a variety of issues, and losing F Ersan Ilyasova to post-concussion syndrome for a month.

Coach Jason Kidd has revitalized the Bucks. Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has become so much better this year in every respect. Center Zaza Pachulia’s career has been revitalized. PG O.J. Mayo has regained his three-point touch. And best of all, Milwaukee now plays excellent defense, something they decidedly didn’t do under former coach Larry Drew. The Bucks now believe they can win every single night no matter who’s in shape to play– and that enthusiasm and self-belief has become infectious.

As a long-time Bucks fan, I’m pleased with how the 2014-2015 season has turned out thus far. I fully expect the Bucks to make the NBA playoffs (if the season ended today, the Bucks would be the #6 seed), and I wouldn’t have believed that was possible a year ago.

Any thoughts regarding this sports roundup? (I’m guessing there might be a few regarding Ray Rice, at least.) Give me a yell in the comments!

Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub,” dies at 83

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Ernie Banks died last night at the age of 83.

Banks played his entire career for the Chicago Cubs. He was their first-ever African-American player, was an All-Star 14 times, won a Gold Glove as a shortstop in 1960, won two MVP awards in 1958 and 1959, and won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in 1967. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 on the first ballot. And he also won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

Banks had a remarkable career (check out this article from Yahoo Sports’ “Big League Stew” blog if you don’t believe me). He was a trailblazer, both as a player and as a coach.

But it’s not because of any of those things that I felt so terrible when I heard the news that Ernie Banks had died.

Banks was a quality individual, you see. He was one of those people who made you smile, simply by being around him. And he was the best ambassador for his beloved Cubs they’d ever had — hence his nickname, “Mr. Cub” — much less Major League Baseball as a whole.

Banks never went to the playoffs with his Cubs, but he always believed he would go — and nearly did in 1969, the year of the Cubs’ epic collapse. Because of his positive attitude, people loved being around him. And he enjoyed talking to the media, mostly because he saw it as a privilege rather than an obstacle. (Check out these great quotes as listed by the Chicago Tribune.)

Ernie Banks, quite simply, was a hero. He didn’t see himself that way, of course, but heroes never do.

I mourn his passing deeply.

Yovani Gallardo Traded to Rangers for 3 Prospects

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As expected, Yovani Gallardo was traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Texas Rangers around 8:30 p.m. CDT on Monday, January 19, 2015. In exchange for Gallardo, the Rangers sent twenty-one-year-old utility IF Luis Sardinas along with two pitchers — eighteen-year-old Marcos Diplan and twenty-three-year-old Corey Knebel.

Now, was this an equitable trade for a guy who’s racked up 89 wins and over 1000 strikeouts in his career over an eight-year span?

No. It wasn’t. Especially considering that the Rangers somehow got the Brewers to agree to pay $4M of Gallardo’s nearly $14M salary in 2015.

So let me get this straight. Texas gets Gallardo and $4M. And Milwaukee got a promising young utility infielder, Sardinas, who hit left-handers very well in a limited big-league sample, Knebel, who may not quite be ready for the big leagues yet (after looking at these stats, Knebel probably grades out needing another year of AAA), and a huge wild card in the young, hard-throwing Diplan, who has all of one year of professional experience under his belt in the Dominican Summer league.

How does this trade make any sense whatsoever?**

To give up someone as consistent at Gallardo has been for the Brewers for the sake of these three guys at this stage of their careers seems…well, the only word I can come up with is “risky.”

Yes, the Brewers desperately needed a platoon partner for Scooter Gennett, as Gennett cannot hit left-handers to save his life. And with Rickie Weeks gone, Gennett’s weaknesses would’ve been exposed. I also agree that the Brewers needed a major-league-ready bat who could play a more than capable infield, considering Aramis Ramirez is going to be 37 in June. Ramirez will need someone to spell him who can hit; it’s quite possible that Sardinas is that man.

So I can see why they went and got Sardinas, even though I don’t think they should’ve traded Gallardo to get him.

In the long run, this trade could work well for the Brewers. But in the short run, the only upside for Milwaukee that I see is that the Rangers will be paying $9M+ of Gallardo’s salary and that Sardinas could potentially help shore up the infield.

No matter what other noises the Brewers make, it is absolutely impossible to know right now whether Knebel could be someone to help Milwaukee fans forget about Tom Gorzelanny or Zach Duke or whether Knebel goes to Colorado Springs and stays there for the duration of 2015.

As for the “addition by subtraction” debate going on in some corners of Brewers fandom, I do not believe Jimmy Nelson is ready to become a solid, big-league starting pitcher. So getting rid of Gallardo to make a space for Nelson makes no sense, especially as Nelson has shown only two major-league ready pitches thus far (a fastball without much movement, and a hard slider) and needs a minimum of three to keep major-league hitters off-balance.

My bottom line analysis: Unless Knebel makes the big-league club and does well, this trade seems like an absolute steal for the Rangers. In Gallardo, they get a quality, durable #3 starter who likes Texas and is from there, so he should fit in well with their team. While we get one guy, Sardinas, who looks like he’s probably ready for the big show on a regular basis to play in various places around the infield, and two other guys who may or may not pan out.

———–

**Gallardo would’ve been a free agent at the end of 2015. So this trade is in effect a one-year rental for the Texas Rangers unless they can get Gallardo to sign an extension. But if the objective is to “win now,” as Brewers owner Mark Attanasio says it is, it makes zero sense to trade Gallardo unless you have someone better in the fold to take Gallardo’s job.

Jimmy Nelson is not that guy.

Hot Stove Heats Up in Milwaukee — Will Gallardo be Traded?

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Sunday was a big sports day in Wisconsin. First, the Green Bay Packers lost to the Seattle Seahawks in overtime in the NFC Championship Game, 27-22. And next…the Milwaukee Brewers are considering trading starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo to the Texas Rangers?

Really?

Apparently it’s true. This report from Yahoo’s “Big League Stew” column explains why a trade like this might take place. Gallardo was raised in Texas, so he’s familiar with the area. Texas’s pitching coach is Mike Maddux, and as longtime readers of this blog know, Maddux was the Brewers’ pitching coach before he left for Texas several years back — which means Maddux has known Gallardo for a long time. And in addition to all of that, this particular trade seems to make sense from a financial standpoint for both sides — that is, depending on who Texas is willing to send in return.

Now, just strongly considering the merits of a trade in this instance does not commit the Brewers to actually sending Gallardo to Texas or anywhere else. But it seems logical that the Brewers might do this for several reasons:

  • There currently are six potential good starting pitchers on Milwaukee’s staff, including Kyle Lohse, Wily Peralta, Gallardo, Matt Garza, Mike Fiers, and Jimmy Nelson. (Nelson is the most unproven of these starters.) Trading Gallardo would open a spot in the rotation for Nelson.
  • Gallardo never quite became the ace the Brewers faithful were hoping for. He’s more a solid number two starter, or a really good number three, not an ace. If he’s in Texas, behind Yu Darvish and Derek Holland (if the latter stays healthy), Gallardo would not have anywhere near as much pressure to deal with from the fans or from the media. (Not that the media is all that awful in Milwaukee, mind.)
  • Gallardo may wish for a fresh start, considering he got busted for a DUI last year.

Now, who might Texas want to trade to Milwaukee? Rumors are running rampant, from prospects like Joey Gallo to even potentially sending Prince Fielder back to Milwaukee (if all of the monetary stuff could somehow be worked out). Fielder is a particularly intriguing possibility because the Brewers have had a huge void at first base since he left (with the exception of Corey Hart for half a season).

And there are reasons for Fielder to want to come back to Milwaukee. He always did well here. The clubhouse’s family atmosphere also was appealing to Fielder and his sons. And the media in Milwaukee are, for the most part, far more forgiving than many other baseball markets.

That being said, most likely if Gallardo is traded, it’s going to be for several prospects and one utility infielder who can hit and play some occasional outfield (someone much like Tony Graffanino in his heyday with the Brewers). The Brewers need prospects. And they desperately need a MLB-capable utility player.

Personally, I’ll hate to see Gallardo go. I respect him, and I think he’s a quality pitcher.

But if he goes, I hope the Brewers will make the right trade — not simply trade him because he’s owed $13 million in 2015 and the Brewers don’t particularly want to pay.

So, what’ll it be, Brewers? Will we have a shake-up just in time for the Brewers On Deck event on Sunday?

Stay tuned.

Vinny Rottino Signs with the Miami Marlins, and Other Stuff

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Happy New Year, everyone!

I figured I’d write a quick blog tonight and mention a few things, mostly in passing, that may be of interest only to me.

First, as the title says, Vinny Rottino has been signed by the Miami Marlins to a minor league deal. This means he’ll have a job in baseball as a player during 2015, which is definitely worth celebrating. Rottino made the AAA All-Star team for the Marlins franchise back in 2011, and got a call-up from them in September as his reward. (I wrote about that here.)

I’m glad that the Marlins front office remembered Rottino, and is giving him another shot to play despite his advanced age (in baseball years only). He’s a smart player, he’s always maximized his ability, and while it’s unlikely now that he’ll be able to make a serious run at a major-league job as a player, it’s far from unlikely that he’ll be able to make the majors in some other capacity later. So it’s very good that the Marlins signed him; my guess is that Rottino’s going to end up mentoring other players in the minors, and probably playing every second or third day. And that may lead him to a managerial or coaching job down the line…which I’m sure he doesn’t want quite yet, but is something to consider for future reference. (Thank goodness it’s still “for future reference,” as I was really worried after he became a free agent again.)

Aside from that, I finished a new short story and sent it to the Writers of the Future Contest on 12/31/14 as I remain eligible. (Not enough book sales as of yet.) I’m glad I was able to do that, as with all of the editing I do — and the holidays, and the family appearances that are well worth going to but normally take away from any available writing time — I don’t get anywhere near as much time to write as I’d like.

And I’m working on two different editorial projects right now, so my blogs may be sporadic for a few weeks until/unless something really grabs my attention…but I do hope to have at least a few book reviews in January 2015 over at Shiny Book Review that may interest you. (Namely the three I didn’t get to at the end of 2014 like I’d planned.)

May your 2015 be all that you want it to be, folks. And may it be a better year for us all.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 3, 2015 at 2:10 am

My story “Baseball, Werewolves and Me” Included in Halloween 2014 Edition of Twilight Times E-Zine

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Happy Halloween, folks!

Since it is Halloween, the time of tricks and/or treats, what say you to a little bit of both?

I’m discussing my story,  “Baseball, Werewolves and Me,” of course, as it’s included in the Halloween edition of the Twilight Times e-zine. It’s absolutely free to read, so in that sense it’s definitely a treat. But there’s at least a little bit of trickery in play, partly due to the nature of the story itself.

Arletta James is a psychic, and a good one. She’s also a huge baseball fan. So when “Madame Arletta” is asked to help Hank Rayne, manager of the Brooklyn Knights, some pointers to try to get the Knights out of their twelve-game losing streak, Arletta agrees. (Of course, she is getting paid good money to do this, as Arletta is not a fool.) Once she talks with Hank Rayne, she realizes something else — something much worse — is going on that’s caused the Knights to go into a tailspin. Will Arletta figure this out, or won’t she? And what does her husband Fergus — a werewolf — have to do with it all?

Baseball, Werewolves and Me” is a fun story that readers should enjoy, especially as it’s about a subject that usually does not get covered overmuch in urban fantasy: baseball.

And who doesn’t like a free story? Especially when it’s Halloween?

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 31, 2014 at 2:11 am

Milwaukee Brewers Fire Two Coaches…But Not Manager Ron Roenicke

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The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Which is why I find the Milwaukee Brewers’ refusal to fire manager Ron Roenicke after the Brewers’ historic collapse in September 2014 so troubling.

This past Friday, in a press release, Milwaukee fired two coaches: first base coach Garth Iorg and hitting coach Johnny Narron. Hitting was a major concern for the Brewers down the stretch, so firing Johnny Narron wasn’t at all surprising. But firing Iorg made very little sense, as Iorg wasn’t to blame for Milwaukee’s players’ brain freezes on the basepaths or Mark Reynolds’ failure to remember how many outs there were in an inning or Carlos Gomez’s inability to lay off bad pitches or even Ryan Braun’s thumb injury.

While Roenicke wasn’t directly to blame for any of those things, either, someone has to be held accountable.

I mean, really. The Brewers were in first place for 150 days of the season. Then they went 9-22 over the last 31 games to miss the playoffs and finish 82-80.

And the person who usually is held accountable is — wait for it — the manager. Not the piddly first base coach.

Of course, if the Brewers had fired Roenicke, it’s very possible that every single one of the coaches on Roenicke’s staff would be looking for work right now rather than only two of them getting their pink slips. But it still looks very strange that Roenicke stayed while Johnny Narron and Iorg had to go . . . especially when you consider that Johnny’s brother Jerry Narron is still employed by the Brewers as their bench coach. (What sense is there in firing one brother but keeping the other?)

Overall, I am extremely disappointed that the Brewers retained Roenicke. But I am even more disappointed that the Brewers didn’t even have the guts to call a press conference; instead, they sent out a milquetoast press release on a Friday afternoon in the hopes that no one would be paying attention to the fact that Brewers’ owner Mark Attanasio has thus far refused to hold anyone significant accountable for the Brewers’ historic collapse.

My view is simple: Roenicke should’ve been fired, and someone else — perhaps former Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux — should’ve been hired instead.

But that’s not what the Brewers did. Obviously, Milwaukee hopes that fans will forgive and forget the Brewers’ historic collapse. But my gut feeling is this:

No. We won’t.

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