Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘baseball’ Category

Death and the Miami Marlins

with 4 comments

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

leave a comment »

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?

with 8 comments

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

leave a comment »

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.)

Brewers Trade K-Rod for Prospect — and I’m Not Happy About It

leave a comment »

Folks, when I read about the Milwaukee Brewers latest trade of closing pitcher Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez to the Detroit Tigers for single-A prospect Javier Betancourt — the first trade under new General Manager David Stearns’ tenure — I was not happy.

Why?

Well, one of the few bright spots I had as a Brewers fan, last year, was to watch K-Rod come out to save games. He was one of the few players to remain positive despite Milwaukee’s dismal season, and he had one of his best seasons, to boot.

As Tom Haudricourt wrote at JSOnline.com (aka the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):

“K-Rod” had a tremendous season for the Brewers in 2015, converting 38 of 40 save opportunities with a 2.21 earned run average in 60 appearances. But the club is in the midst of a significant rebuilding program, and Stearns decided it made more sense to acquire young talent rather than keep an aging closer.

And K-Rod is still only 33 years old, plus was signed at a low price for an elite athlete, too…less than $10 million, including a 2017 contract buyout.

What did the Brewers actually get? Haudricourt has that covered, too:

Betancourt, 20, is primarily a second baseman but has seen limited action at shortstop and third base. Rated the No. 11 prospect in Detroit’s system, he played in 2015 at high Class A Lakeland of the Florida State League, batting .263 with a .304 on-base percentage and .336 slugging percentage, with 17 doubles, five triples, three home runs and 48 RBI.

Betancourt had 29 walks and 44 strikeouts in 531 plate appearances. He played all 116 games in the field at second base, a position manned mostly by Scooter Gennett for the Brewers over the last two years.

In other words, Betancourt is a step under Double-A ball. He’s a prospect, and somewhat unproven; he is known, apparently, as a good and solid defender, but has no power potential whatsoever.

Granted, the Brewers are full of free-swingers right now. Only Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy, among the regulars, seem to know how to take a walk now and again.

That said, it’s extremely frustrating to me, as a long-time Brewers fan, that our new GM has traded one of the achingly few bright spots on the team for someone like Javier Betancourt. And, quite possibly, a player to be named later — though this trade, also according to Haudricourt, also has a player to be named later on Detroit’s side, too!

(How is it possible for Detroit to get another player, considering they’ve just garnered one of the best closers in the game in K-Rod? Your guess is as good as mine. But I digress.)

At any rate, I know the Brewers are in a major rebuilding mode. I accept that; I’ve seen it before.

What I don’t accept, as a fan, is the contention that anyone else could do as well as K-Rod on the 2016 roster. Nor that it’s not a salary-dump of some sort — despite Stearns’ assertion to the contrary. (Why Stearns would think any real fan who’s ever followed this team would believe that kind of baloney is beyond me. But again, I digress.)

Look, folks: What I want, as a fan, is for the Brewers to put an entertaining team on the field that at least tries to win every night. Having players who are happy to play in Milwaukee, despite the fact that they’re not likely to get one whiff of the playoffs for another three or four years, minimum, is a huge part of how the Brewers, as a team, can get there.

I fail to see how trading K-Rod away will promote team victories in 2016. Especially as the two most likely choices on the current roster to become closer — Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress — have zero closing experience. (Smith is a brilliant set-up man until July; after July, he’s competent or worse. And Jeffress, while I like him a lot, does not seem to be closing material, either.)

Maybe K-Rod will enjoy being in Detroit, because Detroit, on paper at least, is a better team than Milwaukee. (But as I’m also aware that K-Rod took less money last year to re-sign with Milwaukee because he liked it so much despite all the nonsense, I have to wonder about that assertion, too.)

Bottom line: The Brewers did not get nearly enough for K-Rod. And unless Javier Betancourt turns out to be the steal of the century, those folks in Detroit have to be laughing their butts off at the hicks in Milwaukee over this one.

Friday Evening Roundup: CHANGING FACES and Other Stuff

leave a comment »

Folks, this last week at Chez Caffrey has been full of angst.

Why? Well, I’ve been working on CHANGING FACES all week long. I have to turn this manuscript in a few, short weeks from now or I’ll completely miss my e-book publishing window for 2015 — and I don’t want to do that. (My publisher would be extremely displeased, to put it mildly.)

I’m happy to report that I have approximately 10,000 words reworked. I am confident of most of the next 25,000 to 30,000, but I have a rough transition right now to get to that point.

Basically, I’m halfway through my final revision, in short — but that rough transition continues to frustrate me. And until I can get that straightened out, I can’t go forward.

Now, I’d really like it if I could. But my writing process seems to work only one way. I have to first know where I’m going, then I have to work out the details as to how to get there. Right now, because of the additional material I’ve added to the beginning and the changes I’ve made there also, even though I know exactly where I’m going, the details I had before aren’t quite right.

This is why I haven’t blogged since earlier this week.

That said, much has happened this week. Wisconsin’s Governor, Scott Walker, bowed out of the Presidential race for 2016; Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner is set to retire at the end of October; my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, continues to play poorly — not least of which because the few remaining stars, Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy among them, have been held out of many games due to injury. (Lucroy has been cleared to play after a nasty concussion, but he will not catch and probably will play sparingly the rest of the year. And Braun has a back injury — a herniated disc, I believe — that will require surgery in the off-season.)

My quick takes on these last three things?

  • I’m glad that Scott Walker is out of the Presidential race. He isn’t ready to be President; truly, he isn’t a very good Governor, and he’s divided the state of Wisconsin in a way I’ve never seen in my entire life. This divisiveness has nothing to do with him being a Republican, mind; it has everything to do with his personality. The only good thing I can say about Scott Walker is this: When he bowed out of the Presidential race, he was classy and brief.
  • I actually felt sorry for Speaker Boehner today. He’s had a very difficult job, riding herd on the Republicans in the House. (40 of them are actually members of the Tea Party, meaning they are to the right of Boehner; the rest are a hodge-podge of beliefs and political persuasions.) And his decision to retire, effective in late October of 2015, actually drew cheers from some Republican voters — something I never thought I’d see or hear in a million years. Good luck in retirement, Speaker Boehner.
  • The only good thing about the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers season is this: it’s almost over. (Wait ’til next year, and hope it’s not as bad as this one.)

Anyway, if you don’t see me blog much next week, you’ll know where I’ll be — tearing my hair out over CHANGING FACES.

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 25, 2015 at 8:55 pm

Three Days, Three Quotes, and Three Bloggers Challenge

with 2 comments

Folks, the lovely and talented N.N. Light (also known as Mrs. N.), challenged me on her blog last week with the latest blog-hop called “Three Days, Three Quotes, and Three Bloggers.” You’re supposed to give a quote every day from something in pop culture — at least, I’m going to assume this, as Mrs. N.’s quotes were all in that realm — and challenge three other bloggers a day to do the same thing.

Now, I’m not sure I know nine bloggers who might be willing to take part in this challenge. But I do know at least six. And I have a few favorite quotes to try out…so, here goes!

Major League (1989) PosterMy quote is from possibly the best baseball comedy ever, the original Major League.

Bob Uecker, as radio announcer Harry Doyle, says:

“Ball four. Ball eight. Low, and he walks the bases loaded on twelve straight pitches.

“How can they lay off pitches that close?”

Now, why does this quote amuse me so much? It’s simple. Any baseball fan knows that if someone’s just walked the bases loaded, no pitches were actually that close. (So, Uecker is taking part in an old baseball tradition — sarcasm. Love it.)

As for why I picked this quote first? It’s probably my favorite quote ever — partly because it’s really funny, and partly because there’s actually somewhat of a moral in there if you dig deep enough.

See, part of the story of Major League is that of Ricky Vaughn, a pitcher who comes up with the nickname “Wild Thing” because he seemingly can’t find the strike zone — but he’s kept on the team because he throws hard and the manager believes Ricky will learn. (Plus, when the year starts, there really aren’t that many good players on his team that can outplay him. Keep that in mind.)

Usually, it’s only the talented guys who are left out on the mound to walk the bases loaded. The manager who does that makes the calculation that the pitcher needs to learn how to get out of trouble — including trouble of his own making. And the only way to do that is to put your pitcher in pressure situations.

Like pitching with the bases loaded. (Talk about a pressure-filled situation!)

So, Ricky’s walked the bases loaded. The pressure is on. What’s he going to do next?

All of that is summed up, laconically, by Bob Uecker’s character Harry Doyle in the quote I referenced above.

That’s why I love this quote.

Now, as for today’s three victims — er, bloggers? How about Jason Cordova, Chris Nuttall, and Dora Machado?

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 2, 2015 at 6:43 pm