Okay. So maybe that headline may catch me some flack. But I’ll back it up.
CNNSI recently released their list ranking all the ballparks in the major leagues. They surveyed fans about their ballparks, weighing such factors as affordability, tradition, neighborhood and fan IQ.
They said their rankings hurt the old ballparks like Wrigley (15), Yankee Stadium (20), and Fenway Park (21). I have to agree with their list; I personally am trying to lead the campaign to tear down Fenway. It’s a terrible place to watch a game. Hell with the romance. I want a comfortable seat that looks toward home plate instead of centerfield; open-air concessions instead of a cement dungeon.
Number Three was PNC Park in Pittsburgh, which I visited last year and absolutely loved. Number Two was Milwaukee, and Number One was Cleveland, both of which I hope to visit someday soon.
Now, here is the reason for the headline. In the CNNSI article, they ran the following photo:
Maybe CNNSI should have taken away points for overt racism. Because, as if the team name isn’t racist enough, I would really love someone to explain to me how it is okay to paint your skin red in Cleveland.
Indians fans have defended their team logo/mascot by saying it is tradition. But it is a tradition rooted in racism. What if your team came up with a black man as a mascot 100 years ago. Would fans defend that today? Would they show up at the ballpark painted in blackface? If their team name was the Chinamen, would they have a cartoonish (s)lant-(e)yed guy on their hats, while fans painted their face bright yellow? And if they did, would they get away with it without any outcry?
Maybe I’d feel different if I was a Cleveland Indian fan. But I hope I wouldn’t. Because if I was a Cleveland Indian fan who painted my face red, wore a shamefully racist logo on my hat and defended it all as “tradition,” that would make me a bigot.
- A week ago, I was heading to Fenway park, with the Sox enjoying a nice winning streak and the best record in the AL. That night, I thought nothing of it when they lost; I even went “cha-ching” to my brother when K-Rod saved the game for the Angels (he’s on my fantasy team). The Sox then dropped five straight, including a three game sweep at Tampa. That’s why you never take the success of your team for granted.
- Sometimes, I watch The Office and think, “Oh no, I’m Michael.”
- I’d be a hell of a lot happier with Lester’s performance last night if he hadn’t sucked so bad in his previous outings. Because of that, he was sitting his (a)rse on my fantasy team’s bench when he finally decided to be a real pitcher. Ninety-six pitches in eight innings? Usually he hits 96 pitches by the middle of the fourth. And he never goes deep into games. I actually was beginning to think he wasn’t so much a starting pitcher but more an early reliever.
- When I flipped it over to the C’s the other night (Why watch the entirety of a first-round game since they’ll crush Atlanta anyway?), they had a comfortable 10-point lead to start the fourth quarter. Now the series is tied 2-2. I want to watch tonight. But, for the good of the team, should I skip it?
- The Seventh Sign of the Apocalypse: My imaginary brother has posted two of the last three blog posts.
The Sox needed a big game tonight and John Lester delivered. His line is impressive: 8IP 97pitches 1hit 0runs 4walks 6K’s. The young kids in the rotation have had two masterful starts in the past few days. Its a good sign. The Sox will need either Lester or Buchholz to win 15+ games to go anywhere this year. They are trending in the right direction. I’m looking forward to see them hit their stride within the next six weeks.
On the series, the Sox have a golden opportunity to really pile on Toronto. The Jays are off to a horrible start — save their sweep of the Sox. I think they Jays have the talent to compete in the division this year still (I picked them to finish 2nd, after all). The Sox really need to build off tonight’s win and sweep the two-game set.
All of a sudden, Julio Lugo is finally hitting the ball like that offensively-above-average shortstop he was billed as when Theo signed him. Think it has anything to do with a certain prospect call-up who has been hitting great and just happens to also play shortstop? Hmmm.
But before we all get too excited, let me rain on your parade. First, this has been a minor stretch, and Lugo just isn’t this good. He’ll soon revert back to that guy who makes you physically ill to watch him at the plate (and occassionally in the field, too). And before you start having sugar plum visions of the Sox dumping Lugo and playing Jed Lowry at short this year, it just ain’t gonna happen. As well as Lowry has been playing, this Sox brass is notorious among some fans for sticking with struggling veterans instead of rushing prized prospects to the bigs. The Sox have no plans to make Lowry their starting shortstop this year, no matter how well he plays. But next year, don’t be surprised to see a situation similar to Ellsbury and Crisp, with the Sox looking to deal Lugo’s contract (yeah, good luck) in the offseason to make room for Lowry.
On another note, after being screwed out of a Sox game recently by my local Planning Board, my brother did something right and came into some tickets for tonight. So, I finally get to Fenway tonight. Weather is warm, beer should be cold, and with a win it will be a great night.
Taking advantage of a work meeting in Chicago, I was able to catch Sunday’s shellacking of the Buccos at the hand of the Cubs. Despite the games outcome, I had a great time. Catching a game at Wrigley is a must for all baseball fans and this was my second trip to the park. Here are a few likes, dislikes, and general observations about Wrigley and Cubs fans.
Like: The bleachers were pretty much full an hour before the game. You’ve got to love that type of enthusiasm.
Dislike: I paid $5+ for a bratwurst in a bun that was falling apart only to have it cold in the middle. If I was from Milwaukee, I could have justly started on fight on those grounds. Oh, and the hot dogs weren’t any good either.
Like: There was 100% participation in ‘take me out to the ball game.’ I knew this was a thing at Wrigley, but it was still impressive. Fenway seldom gets half the energy of that for the 7th inning stretch.
Dislike: The bathroom lines were horrible. How have they not added a few more restrooms in the place? To top it all off, there’s no radio feed in the concourse. That’s bush league. If you can figure out lights, you can figure out radio in the bathroom.
Like: Despite the fact that its was darn cold in the shade. The Cub’s female fans were in mid-season form. You’ve got to love their … enthusiasm.
Dislike: Wrigley is clearly a scene. People don’t just go there for the baseball. It might even be worse than Fenway is right now. It seemed like every inning the same people would strut by me, on their phone – of course, running here or there. Its like they were there only to say they were.
Like: opening song after the ceremonial first pitch was Tom Petty’s “won’t back down.” It’s a kick-as tune; way better than that saccharine “Play Ball” that’s played at Fenway. I’d take the cliché “Centerfield” any day over the Sox’s current tune. Petty would be even better.
Dislike: What’s up with every second person having one of those stupid “rising Sun” headbands? Just because there is one Japanese player on the team, 20,000 fans need to look like idiots? We’ve got them in Boston too, but no were near the saturation of Wrigley. Simply put, Rising Sun headbands are the Thunder Sticks of fan apparel. They should be banned.
Observation: I saw at least 50 Nomar jersey’s at Wrigley (to one Sosa shirt). He played there for a year and a half. Last Friday, I lucked on some tickets to Fenway (by the way, everyone in that ballpark just knew that Ortiz was about to hit the grand slam. I’ve never experienced so sure a feeling among so many people. It was freaky, but we all knew it was going to happen.). In the course of the game, I didn’t see one Nomar jersey. Not one. He was our best position player for eight years and was probably the most exciting player (in his prime) that we had in the previous thirty years. Why then does Chicago show Nomar more love?
Observation: Every time I saw someone wearing a Red Sox hat, they were getting harassed. I was camouflaged in Pirates gear, which drew some snickers but no harassment (the Cubs are 6-0 against the Bucs this year). But, the hatred of the Red Sox by Cub fans in unbecoming. I get the White Sox V Cubs thing. Why do the Cubs fans hate us? Cause we won? Cause we got more attention when we weren’t winning (you remember, before we won in 2004 AND 2007)? Cause we had a legit curse and not some weak-as story about a sheep? Whatever it is, Cubs fans need to get over it.
-Check out this poll question from CBSSportsline’s SPIN: If MLB were to expand, where would the first NON-NORTH-AMERICAN franchise be located? The potential answers are -Japan, -Europe, -MEXICO, -South America, -The Caribbean. Does Mexico know it has been kicked out of North America? Is this part of our new immigration policy? Does that mean Mexico is out of NAFTA? Once again, geography takes a hit. Remember: Without geography, you’re nowhere.
-I found it disturbing this week when MLB ran a poll on its homepage asking if the number of wildcard teams should be expanded. Last I checked I believe it was around 52 percent for this, 48 percent against. I am passionately opposed to expanding the number of playoff teams. One of the great things about baseball is the regular season means something. In hockey and basketball, the regular season is almost completely meaningless. It is like watching a season of spring training games. If your team is elite, there is no drama; you are just waiting for the playoffs. If your team is mediocre, you know they aren’t winning a title. And are fans really hoping their team clinches one of the bottom three playoff spots? Wouldn’t they rather miss the playoffs and get a good draft pick? Smart fans (and most team owners) would prefer that. Baseball is exciting now, exciting for most teams and the fans. That’s because the regular season means something, including fighting for that sole wildcard spot. Let’s keep the season exciting and meaningful.
An interesting tidbit came up last night while Yankees reliever LaTroy Hawkins was shutting down the Red Sox offense. Seems that Hawkins has been catching a lot of heat and hearing a lot of boos because he has been wearing Number 21 — the number formerly worn by Paul O’Neill, the moody/firey rightfielder who helped the Yanks reach five of six World Series between 1996 and 2001.
Apparently, teammates Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada explained the problem to Hawkins and convinced him he’d be better off switching numbers. So last night, while he was quashing the Sox, he was wearing a new number: Number 22. If you remember, that was the number worn by Roger Clemens during his Yankees career. Seems nobody really has a problem with a middle reliever wearing The Rocket’s number.
While Roger may have envisioned being retired as a Yankee great, that feeling may not be mutual. Red Sox Nation; Yankee Nation. Seems Roger is a man without a nation.
We are just over two weeks into the season and hitting that fun early time of year when some teams are doing surprisingly well early and making excited fans wonder: Are they for real? Let’s seperate the pretenders from the contenders.
Baltimore Orioles Sure, the O’s may have started out 6-1, but c’mon. This team has nobody on it except for some young players who are still a few years away from making an impact. Pretender.
Kansas City Royals I know, they’re the Royals. Still, Zach Greinke and Brian Bannister are the real deal — exciting young arms with great stuff. Gil Meche might be considered the ace of the team, but in reality he gives the Royals a very good Number Three. The lineup has some exciting young players with a world of upside, the tops being Alex Gordon who after disappointing last season looks ready for primetime. Funny as it may sound, this might be a team who could really use a stick like one Barry Bonds. They could stick around long enough to contend for a wild card this season, so consider them a contender, but this team is truly poised for next season.
Chicago White Sox The White Sox are a tough, tough team to read. On paper they have more talent than a team like K.C., so if I’m going to consider the Royals contenders, then . . . Still, there is something uneasy about a team that tanked so badly last season and is made up of a lot of aged vets. Given that the division suddenly seems wide open, it is hard to count anybody completely out of it. Still, I just don’t believe in the White Sox. Call it a gut feeling. Pretender.
Detroit Tigers Okay, so they’re not surprising in a “good” way for their fans. Still, their start has been surprising to say the least. The national media, which was on the Tiger bandwagon in a big way a month ago is suddenly jumping off like it is the Titanic. Slow down. This is still a very, very good team. And by August their mini-slump in early April will be a distant memory. Contender.
Oakland Athletics In the midst of a rebuilding phase, the A’s seemed poised to battle the Rangers for the basement of the division. However, despite three losses to the Red Sox, Oakland has started off the season in first place. But don’t believe in them. They have good arms in Joe Blanton and Rich Harden, but Billy Beane knows this isn’t his year. The team will fade toward the back of the pack quickly, and don’t be surprised if Beane deals Harden this summer (Boston is a nice place to live, Rich). Pretender.
Florida Marlins Before last season, I picked the Marlins as one of the teams I thought could surprise in 2007. But, they didn’t. Still, this is a team stacked with great young talent. It could be that time when that young talent clicks, and if Anibel Sanchez comes off the DL looking strong in June, watch out. All that being said, at the end of the day I liked this team a lot better when they had Miguel Cabrera. And, the team that won it all in 2003 was built by one John Henry — not MLB Public Enemy Number One Jeffrey “The Bandit” Loria. That team also had some vets on it, including Ivan Rodriguez. And there are too many other titans in the division. So where do they stand? Hell, if I know. They probably won’t beat out the Mets and Phillies, as those teams have the resources to make a mid-season deal. But, the Marlins could conceivably contend for third place, which is a good season for them. So . . . Contender.
St. Louis Cardinals What’s up with the Cardinals having the best record in baseball right now? They have no business doing that, especially when I picked them to contend for the division’s basement. They’ll fade soon . . . I think. Pretender.
- Last night’s game was a perfect example of the old adage that it takes everyone on the roster to win a championship (unless one of those guys is Eric Gagne). Last night, with the bullpen hurting and Daisuke back to being Daisuke, guys like Javier Lopez and David Aardsma stepped up to play key roles in an important win over the Yankees. Aardsma’s a guy who might not even be on this team in a few months. But if the Sox go on to win the division or make the playoffs by just two or three games, it is because of performances like this. And this is why when you win a championship you give everyone who appeared on your team a ring (except Eric Gagne).
- Mike Timlin is just coming off the DL, so it is too early to be worried about his woeful performances lately. That being said . . . I’m really worried about Mike Timlin.
- Sure, I’m a diehard Sox fan, but this being April, I changed the channel in the third inning to watch the season finale of Rock of Love II. It was awesome, and Brett Michaels did not disappoint, dumping the hopelessly annoying and sort of hot – but in a very store-bought, plastic, discount-mediocre-surgery-gone-wrong kinda way – Daisy, and instead choosing the charming and cute-but-not-stripper-hot Amber. Of course, Brett – being the gentleman he is – flew them both to Cancun and apparently slept with each of them before making his final decision. And this is why I tell my wife I should have had a reality show contest to decide who to marry . . . or at least who to hook-up with for a few weeks before the start of the show’s next season.
- Anyway, after the hour-and-a-half show, we turned back to the game and were amazed to see it was only the fifth inning. At first, I thought there must have been a rain delay. Then, since my wife has Daisuke on her fantasy team, I made a joke that he had walked six people. What a surprise to find out I was right. Guess it was too soon to get excited by his command the last few games. Uh oh.
- Glad to get the games back on NESN tonight. Is it a job requirement that all national baseball broadcasters have to suck?
Some half-wit sports talkshow host — who obviously isn’t very good because he’s working weekends — yesterday decided to try to do something controversial to get some ratings, so he wondered why nobody was booing Papi yet and called Sox fans hypocrites for not doing so. Unfortunately, I was driving at the time and had to hear it. While callers overwhelmingly called that idea stupid, at least one yahoo agreed, and even made the point of saying Mark Bellhorn was a clutch hitter like Papi and we booed him. First, I never booed Bellhorn. Second, comparing their collection of clutch hits is like comparing a cold can of Schlitz that hits the spot after you mow the lawn with a pub draft Guinness. I mean, c’mon.
Big Papi is the single most-beloved player in Red Sox history. He is the greatest clutch hitter in the history of the game of baseball. And perhaps no player is more responsible for bringing Boston two championships after a long 86-year drought than Ortiz. So, if you happen to be at the ballpark and see someone booing Papi, here is a list of proper ways to respond:
1. Violence. In most cases, this would be the last option. But here, it is the first. I don’t like encouraging violence (and, lawyers take notice, this is just a joke . . . . kind of). But if you see someone booing Papi, it is like that person is standing up at Fenway Park and screaming, “I’m an idiot and I need to be pounded! Please help!” Now, if this person is bigger than you, remember you are surrounded by Red Sox Nation, and you should therefore stand up and yell, “Let’s get him!!!” Finally, if you frown on getting arrested, try the other options listed.
2. Taunting. Start yelling at/teasing the guy doing the booing. Call him names, pick on his clothes, whatever. You’ll find there are always two or three other drunk fans around who are all-to-happy to join in with the taunting. (Tip: If he has a girlfriend, she is probably already embarrassed and planning to dump him, so feel free to hit on her.)
3. Throwing Stuff. If violence and overt name-calling isn’t your style, the greatest weapon available to you is a peanut. Hunker down, look inconspicuous, keep your eyes glued to the game, and every once in a while plunk him off the ear with a 70-mile-an-hour salted peanut. He’ll turn, see a thousand faces just watching the game. When he stops looking, do it again. He’ll leave. Oh, yeah. He’ll leave.
Other Thoughts On Yesterday’s Game:
- Jon Papelbon is a bad, bad man.
- Fox’s last-out transition debacle has to be the most botched transition I’ve ever seen. Back in the 1980s television came up with this cool split-screen technology. FOX may want to look into that. With no announcement to switch channels, it was like some sweating, bug-eyed producer just panicked and hit a button — with the final at-bat already in progress. Then, over my screaming, I couldn’t hear the NASCAR guys (who went immediately to commercial anyway) say switch to FX. Luckily, my wife did. Please explain to me why the final out of a one-run Yanks-Sox game gets switched away for the BEGINNING of some 300-lap, 3-hour-long car race named after a sub sandwich restaurant chain? (Not even something cool for the kids like a tire company or a brand of smokes.)