Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It's Opening Day!

Well, in a matter of speaking.

The very first exhibition game has arrived:  Florida State University vs. Philadelphia, first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m.  (Charlie Manuel has already announced his lineup.)

Yes, even in rainy 34-degree Lansing (wind chill: 24 degrees), it's beginning to feel a lot like spring.  I went grocery shopping yesterday and passed several shelves filled with "Fastball Flakes" at the local Meijer.

With Grapefruit and Cactus League action stirring up (in Florida and Arizona, respectively), you can expect regular updates in the coming weeks on how former Lugnuts are succeeding on their way toward the Majors.

Outside of the Parent Club:
 
*  2009 shortstop Tyler Pastornicky is expected to win the starting position with Atlanta, and that suits us fine.  19-year-old Tyler was just awful for the first month with the Lugs in '09, batting just .203, before figuring out the league and sizzling toward an August promotion.


Members of the Toronto Blue Jays' 40-man roster we're rooting for:  

Pitchers Henderson Alvarez '09, Chad Beck '09, and Joel Carreno '09, who all debuted last year.  Henderson in particular will be fighting for a spot in the starting rotation, while the other two are likely to begin the season in Triple-A and receive mid-season call-ups.
*  Lefty Evan Crawford '10, catcher-turned-first baseman Mike McDade '08-09, and rocket-armed right fielder Moises Sierra '08, who all might debut this year at some point.  Sierra's arm is jaw-droppingly strong, while McDade is an excellent defensive first baseman with power from both sides.


Non-roster invitees who we'll be watching closely:

*  It all starts here with pitchers Drew Hutchison '10-11 and Chad Jenkins '10, each of whom should break into the Bigs this season.  They're expecting Hutch in particular to make an impact, though Jenkins should bull his way into a fine position down the line.

*  Outfielder Anthony Gose (a non-Lugnut) will grab headlines, but we're just as interested in catchers Yan Gomes '10, A.J. Jimenez '09-'10, and Carlos Perez '11.  Sure, they're mostly only there to provide catching depth... but let's see what sorts of rave reviews A.J. gets.


Prediction:  

*  Last year, Drew Hutchison was given a spot start against the Phillies and opened eyes on his way to a sterling season.  This year, I'd guess that the Blue Jays will give the same opportunity to the similarly polished Justin Nicolino.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Photographic evidence of Jackson Field


Bear with me, I'm learning Flickr.

Why?

Because the sun is out in Lansing, the snow is melting, and I wanted to show you how the ballpark looks right now.  And from another angle.

*

A moment of silence for Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter.




*

Here is Alexis Brudnicki's well-researched story on the second season of the revitalized Australian Baseball League.  Alexis provided terrific ABL coverage all winter long -- with winter, of course, being a relative term.

In case you wondered what Graeme Lloyd is up to...

*

I refuse to allow overcoverage by ESPN (and its mass sports media brethren) turn me against Jeremy Lin.  But still, good G-d.  There's nothing like sports media to take a great story and just ram it into the ground any way they can, day after day.  I really couldn't blame a rational person for hoping that Lin stops hitting game-winning shots.  It's the equivalent of the "Today's Hits" radio station taking a popular song and playing it over and over throughout the day until you're just sick of hearing it.  The song isn't the real problem, and neither is Jeremy Lin.

(Former Lugnuts broadcaster Jim Tocco - shout-out! - has termed it "Lindigestion.")

In the same respect, tabloids will continue to hammer at Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan and Kim Kardashian, and it's not really their fault --  Ha.  No, I kid.  It's totally their fault.  Bad example.  I'm pretty sure that trio does whatever they can to search out attention wherever they can find it.

But I'm going to keep on rooting for Jeremy Lin -- and if that means I watch a heckuva lot less SportsCenter, so be it.  I've already tuned down my sports talk radio listening habits.  (You would too if your choices consisted of Colin Cowherd vs. Jim Rome, not to mention the excruciating nightly Rob Dibble Show.)

*

Unnecessary sports stories that ESPN thinks are important:

"LeBron could see return to Cavaliers" is a classic.  When his current contract is up, of course.  Several years down the line.  Hypothetically speaking, with key emphasis on "could."

And naturally there's a Tebow story.  There always has to be a Tebow story.

"GM says Vikings not interested in signing Moss"  That's the ol' "This wasn't a story before you heard about it, and it's not a story now."  Well done.

*

Finally, via Grant Brisbee at SB Nation, here's video of 19-year-old Greg Maddux of the Peoria Chiefs, pitching against the Quad City Angels in Midwest League action.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A blind guess at the 2012 Lugnuts roster

First, two matters of business:

- A profile on me by MLive's Larry Hook.

- Here is my most recent article for TheGoodPoint.com, contrasting Yoenis Cespedes with two great Cuban sluggers who never played in the Major Leagues, Omar Linares and Orestes Kindelan.

*

Any guess at the 2012 Lansing Lugnuts roster has to begin with a link to this extensive 1BlueJaysWay preview.  It gives you a terrific overview of the entire organization.

A caveat:  I'm biased.  I included as few 2011 Lugnuts as I could because I hope they all go up the ladder.  For the '11 Lugs listed below, it would be just excellent if I turned out wrong and they headed to Dunedin or New Hampshire instead.

With that out of the way, let's continue.

The starting rotation will be loaded with talent.

Everyone is agreement about this.  At the very least, a triad of top prospects will be descending upon Cooley Law School Stadium in Justin Nicolino, Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard.  Maybe we'll get to see Griffin Murphy or Daniel Norris at some point, too.  Adonys Cardona?  Joe Musgrove?  Further down the road.

#1 starter - Syndergaard
#2 - Nicolino
#3 - Sanchez
#4 - Misaul Diaz, a wild card, began year with Lugs before injury -- hey, why not?
#5 - Michigan native Jesse Hernandez

Bullpen:

Brandon Berl
Philip Brua
Aleson Escalante
Bryan Longpre
Dayton Marze
Blake McFarland
Drew Permison
Tyler Ybarra

Starting Lineup:

C - Pierce Rankin
1B - Kevin Patterson
2B - Jon Berti
SS - Peter Mooney
3B - Bryson Namba
OF - Jonathan Jones
OF - Kevin Pillar
OF - Nick Baligod

Bench

C - Luis Hurtado
C - Chris Schaeffer
INF - Garis Pena
OF - Matt Newman


Your thoughts?

(P.S.  I guarantee there's a member of the Blue Jays brass somewhere who stumbled across this and is now laughing himself/herself into a better mood.  Hey, painters paint, talent evaluators evaluate... and broadcasters make uneducated predictions.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Let's make it official

I am officially back with the Lansing Lugnuts as Radio Broadcaster, in charge of the website and media relations for the Toronto Blue Jays' Class-A affiliate in the Midwest League.

As such, this blog's purpose changes.  Mostly.

During the off-season, I post about whatever I feel like posting about.  From now through the end of the season, my focus turns mainly toward Lugnuts and Blue Jays news.

* Here's what I've been working on in the office:  Your 2012 Lansing Lugnuts schedule.

* I'm also looking for a broadcast/media intern.  The details, if you're interested.

I'll drop in other little tidbits here and there, depending on what interests me.  I am an avid reader, for example, so I might quickly mention that, say, Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" is fantastic.

Or, since I am an avid sports fan, I might comment that while Jose Calderon gave Jeremy Lin way too much room to shoot last night, this was truly the awesomest basketball shot of last night.  30-footer for the win, baby.

But generally, we'll be talking about baseball.

It's good to be back.

Friday, February 10, 2012

This headline is misleading

Generally speaking, I'm not a big fan of headline writers.

Case in point, this article:  "New York Knicks PG Jeremy Lin admits Linsanity a bit overwhelming"

The title comes from this part of the article:


...[T]here has been an inordinate amount of attention heaped upon the 23-year-old guard, who was asked Friday if this past week's lovefest has been overwhelming.
"Uh, yeah. Yeah. But when I get on the court and I play with our team, none of us are thinking about all of this other stuff that's going on," the former Harvard standout said.

In other words, Jeremy Lin was asked "Has this been overwhelming?" and he said, "Uh, yeah.  Yeah.  But..."  And that's the headline the editor chose to go with.

By the way, I enjoy Lin's success.  I think it's terrific for him.  I also think that the hype train is at ridiculously full steam, and I don't doubt there will soon be people already sick of hearing the poor kid's name.  Sports media has no understanding of the concepts of "overcoverage," but sports fans certainly do.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

ESPN churns the gossip mill

Just your run of the mill lead stories on ESPN.com from yesterday and today:

* "LeBron:  No Perkins apology, tired of blame" a day after "Perkins Rips LeBron"

* "Bird likes Kobe as teammate over LeBron"

* "Ex-Pat Harrison:  Gronk partying 'not right' " which has this great paragraph:  "I guarantee you this, if Willie McGinestTedy BruschiLarry IzzoRichard Seymour or myself had been at that party, [Gronkowski] probably would have got his head rung," said Harrison, who admitted he has not seen the video or photos of Gronkowski dancing at the party. "There's no reason for that to happen."

* "Giants' Jacobs apologizes for Gisele comments" which was nice of him after the previous day's "Giants' Jacobs says Gisele should 'shut up' "

This is what ESPN has become.  Instead of showing highlights of the games you missed last night, the original reason I loved them in the first place, it's now a network of the worst co-workers you've ever had, gossiping and instigating trouble.

My favorite parts of SportsCenter are 1) the highlights, and 2) the top 10 plays.  (I also enjoy the "Not Top 10.")

But ESPN seems to think my favorite parts of SportsCenter are 1) their crowded collection of "experts," 2) gossip and speculation, and 3) repeating the stories that they've just spent the first half hour running into the ground.

I remember when our biggest problem with SC was its talking heads and their increasingly stupid catchphrases, but at least those came during highlights.

On the bright side, baseball's nearly back...

Friday, February 3, 2012

On Nonsense and Racism

I'm currently reading The Prevalence of Nonsense, which came out in 1967.  It's about exactly what you'd think it's about, pointing out all sorts of nonsensical beliefs that folks persist in having, which is all very cute until you get to Chapter 5, "Absurdities About Race," when authors Ashley Montagu and Edward Darling need to take time out of their busy book-writing schedule to tell us, with statistical and scientific backing and footnotes:

1)  No, there's no such thing as different human "races," such as a Black race and a White race.  We're all one race, with far more similarities than differences.  A member of the Maori tribe and a member of a New York hedge fund are part of the same race.

2)  The "white race" is not inherently more intelligent or superior than any other people, same as any other culture is not inherently more intelligent or superior.  Test scores of intelligence are cultivated by environment.

3)  There is not, nor has there ever been, an "Aryan race."  The notion was invented by Professor Max Muller in 1861 -- and then refuted by Professor Muller for decades thereafter.

4)  The whole idea of "mixed-blood" with relation to mixing cultures and causing "mongrel offspring" is ridiculous.  Blood is blood.  Besides, we're all various "mongrels," anyway, which has been proven to be a very good development for the human race.

5)  There is no such thing as a Jewish nose.  (I liked this one.  A doctor studied hundreds of Jews and hundreds of noses and discovered no correlation.  "The fact seems to be that Bavarians, American Indians, many Asiatic, Alpine, and Mediterranean peoples show a much higher percentage of hooked noses than do Jews.")

6)  Then there are a bunch of other sections exposing awful slurs equating non-whites with animals; for example, comparing Black hair to ape hair (White hair is more similar), comparing Black hands to ape hands (nope, human hands are human hands), comparing size of brain and head (humans are all relatively similar, and besides, size of brain and cranium has no relation to intelligence), specific cultures do not have specific odors (a definitive slur in the South, equating Black smell to the smell of animals), and there's no correlation between slope of forehead, high or low, and a high class or intellectualism of person.  (The whole idea of "lowbrow" and "highbrow" humor is therefore grounded in a lie.)

It's a terribly disturbing chapter.  I'm thankful that Montagu and Darling were motivated to put the lie to such hateful rubbish.

However, much as we wish it were otherwise, even knowing that we live now in 2012 rather than 1967, there is still an enormous amount of racism in every state in this country (and also in a vast amount of nations in the world, if not all of them).  It really should be considered culturalism over racism; the idea that my stereotyped idea of my culture is better than my stereotyped idea of your culture.  (Although I see that "culturalism" is an already defined term for something different.)

It's all about notions of personal superiority and inferiority, pure and simple.  The more we use 'race' and 'racism' as terms, the more we give credibility to the false notion that there's more than one race.  It's not true and it never was.  People are people, same as ignorance is ignorance.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Putting Together a Championship Team in 3 Easy Steps

As a fan of D.C.-area teams in the other major and minor sports, I know a little something about - well, if not rooting for teams who win championships, then at least rooting for teams who play against teams who win championships.  (You can't really avoid it; they're on the schedule.  It's the same reason you had to take Physics in high school.)

Here, for the benefit of the Washington Wizards, Washington Redskins, and all of those other teams who have lost their way, is how to assemble a title contender:

Step 1.  Acquire Talent

The quality of your coach is negligible.  A coach is for motivating and scapegoating.  Your chances reside solely with the quality of your roster, and there are quite a few ways for compiling a championship caliber roster.

The NFL Way:  draft superstars, keep said superstars from getting concussions and career-ending neck injuries.

(note that The NFL Way also doubles as The Non-Pittsburgh Penguins Way)

The SEC Way:  lower your academic and moral standards until everyone's eligible, then choose the best guys

The NBA Way:  live in a cool city, draft a cool megastar, have him convince his friends that they also wish to live in aforementioned cool city

The Soccer Way:  live in Europe, sign a South American superstar

The Rays Way:  put together a genius front office that works its tail off, draft really well, sign top talent to long-term contracts that favor you, watch the rest of your top talent depart for much larger contracts, sign well-valued free agents every single year, bite your fingernails

The Yankees Way:  live in New York, win a ton of championships decades before you were born, start your own TV network so you can print your own money, draft franchise talent in the 1990s, sign high-priced overseas prospects and free agents, scapegoat someone to the media and fans when you lose two games in a week.

Step 2.  Surmount Your Competition

Note that if your local competition is inferior, you can set the bar lower for yourself.  Not too low, mind you.  The ACC may be embarrassing at football, but the Maryland Terrapins still managed to go 2-10 this year.  (And look great in doing so!)  Still, measuring your opponents' strengths and weaknesses, and then being a little bit better than them is a fine place to start.

A popular fallacy pops up here.  Some folks think it's best to be as outstanding an outfit as possible regardless of the mediocrity of one's opponents.  But what does Boise State get for beating up on their conference?  A bowl game on December 22nd and annual disappointment.  So leave the annual disappointment to Cubs fans and improve yourself only incrementally over your foes.  They'll test you all season, helping you improve, and then you'll triumph in the end.  That's not a win-win.  That's a straightforward win.

Speaking of which...

Step 3.  Don't Lose

Losing's for losers.

Best of luck.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Super Bowl parties are miserable - except for yours

Look, most people go to Super Bowl parties in bad moods, ready to complain.

It's a forced communal event -- the majority of the folks there probably don't even care about the football part, but they're there because in this day and age you have to be at a Super Bowl party.

And you're ready to be unhappy.

You don't really care about who's playing, except you know Tom Brady's on the Patriots and you hate Tom Brady, so go Giants!  Meanwhile, the food is overwhelming and none of it is healthy, and you're going to keep eating and hating yourself for it, as if it's a second Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or New Year's.  (You know, there's a lot of eat-now/exercise-later holidays around this time of year.)

You're also going 100% eagerly silent for every single commercial break, especially when Matthew Broderick's Ferris Bueller's Day Off commercial airs, which one friend loudly introduces as soon as it starts and loudly shushes everyone, but other than that rare reprise, when the commercial break ends, everyone gets disappointed and complains about how the commercials just aren't that good this year, and remember how good they used to be?  This puts you in a worse mood, and you start arguing over great commercials from past years -- at which point everyone agrees that, forget the beer commercials, Eminem's spot from last year was really the best.

So everyone looks it up on their phones, and all of the football fans get upset because everyone's ignoring the game, which hasn't been all that great yet, but that's okay, it's the Super Bowl.  The football fans all talk too much anyway, trying to show off their great knowledge and impress each other and all of the non-fans, and soon they're getting into conversations even more inane than great Super Bowl commercials.

At which point someone asks, "Hey, who's the halftime concert this year?" at which point someone else grouses, "Madonna!" and everyone groans about how there's never been any hot halftime acts representing you know, music going on now, except one person does try to speak up and say they heard that Cee Lo Green might be cameoing this year.  That doesn't help too much, but everyone watches the concert anyway.  When it's over, some people complain, some people shrug, and some people say, "It wasn't that bad."

And then all the non-football fans realize, yes, there's still another half of football to go, the best commercials have already been shown, and they're starting to get stomach aches from eating too much terrible food.  And then Tom Brady and the Patriots win, and you're angry at the world.

Really, it's just a miserable experience for everyone.

Except That at YOUR Super Bowl Party

... you'll have awesome friends as company
... you'll have excellent food
... you'll laugh at the commercials
... the game will be great
... you'll all be rooting for the winning team