You can’t fix stupid…

 I am just going to write a few short sentences about Game 3 of The World Series, and then I am going to move on. Why just a few sentences? Because I get very tired of seeing the phrase, ‘You can’t fix stupid’ applied almost every damn day. Not Just in baseball, but in life in general. The headlines from Game 3 will read that the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Boston Red Sox 5-4, with a controversial call in the bottom of the 9th inning, where 3rd base umpire Jim Joyce (of the Andres Galaraga’s not-so-perfect game fame of a few seasons ago) called interference on Boston’s Will Middlebrooks and allowed Allen Craig of the Cardinals to score the winning run. There will be much debate over whether or not the interference rule was correctly applied, and truthfully I am not interested in going down that road. My issue goes back to why this happened in the first place. In Game 2, Boston pitcher Craig Breslow made a remarkably boneheaded throwing error which allowed two runs to score, and ultimately cost the Red Sox the game. It was a throw that he never should have made, and he will probably ever make again. So why did Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia repeat the almost exact mistake in Game 3? What was he thinking? Anybody who has ever been a catcher (yes, myself included…) knows that you NEVER make a throw on a play like that. You-eat-the-damn-ball! And WHY don’t you make a throw? Because on a play at third base, with the score tied in the bottom of the 9th, and a fairly weak hitter due up next (Pete Kozma), you don’t take the chance of making a bad throw and having it sail past the third baseman (Middlebrooks) into left field and allowing the winning run to score, THAT’S WHY! You rely on your pitching and defense to get the last out (in this case, Pete Kozma)! There were already two outs, and Kozma probably would have continued his frigid hitting (.091), and we might still be playing. But instead, Saltalamacchia shut his brain off, made an errant throw down to third base past Middlebrooks, and you have heard, ad infinitum, about what happened next…

 

 Did you read that after the catcher-vs-base runner collisions in the ALCS between the Tigers and the Red Sox, there is now a movement to ban collisions at home plate? Let me say that again. There is now a push from some baseball people to ban collisions at home plate between the base runner and the defensive player. Yes, you read that correctly, and if you are sitting there with your jaw on the floor or you are shaking your head in disbelief, then you are not alone…

  Let’s examine the sentiment behind the movement first. The object is obviously to protect the players and prevent injuries (knees, concussions…) that can occur on plays at the plate. Message received. We all want a safer game, and if there is a way to make it so, then let’s get it done. There have been many careers ended or altered by a violent home plate collision. Do you remember Ray Fosse? He was the all-star catcher for the Cleveland Indians, and he had his career seriously altered by a home plate collision with a certain Cincinnati Red named Pete Rose in the 1970 Major League All-Star Game. It didn’t end his career, but he suffered a dislocated shoulder, and was never the same player after that. A little closer to recent times, we examine the severe injury to San Francisco Giants all-world catcher Buster Posey. After a Titanic-sized home plate collision with Scott Cousins of then-Florida Marlins, Posey suffered a fractured fibula as well as torn ligaments in his ankle that required season ending surgery. And then there are the concussions…the endless parade of concussions. They have become Public Enemy Number One of the sports injury world, and I agree that they are a serious issue that can have life altering consequences. Mike Matheny, who is the current manager of the National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals, was a Gold-Glove winning catcher in his playing days, and was considered to be the best defensive catcher of the era in which he played, retired from playing due to the lingering effects of post-concussion syndrome. I cannot think of a single catcher that has not had some sort of injury, be it serious or not-so-serious, from a play at the plate. There is a reasonable argument to be made for banning this play, and as one Baseball Executive said, “I don’t know who would argue to keep it, or what their argument would be. There is no reasoned argument to keep it [in the game].”

 Now, for the other side of the coin… If a base runner is coming towards home plate, and the catcher is standing there blocking the plate, what is the runner going to do? Is he going to let himself get tagged out? I don’t think so. There is a rule in baseball (yes, real rule, not like the ‘in the neighborhood rule’) on the books that specifically addresses obstruction of base runners. Rule 7.06 states that. “The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner, and the catcher should only be there when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand”. But should a base runner be allowed to barrel in to the catcher when he is trying to score? That is the question. A play at the plate is one of the most exciting in all of baseball, but is the one-run really worth the injuries?  There are those who will say that it is just part of the game, and we should just leave it alone. After all, there have been home plate collisions ever since Abner Doubleday invented The Game. No one complained when Ty Cobb skewered an opposing catcher (or any other player) with his spikes flying high. Why now? Is it because concussions are the hot-button issue nowadays? Was the baseball watching public so mentally traumatized watching David Ross crash in to Alex Avila that they feel that something needs to be done…NOW? Or is it because MLB owners and GM’s are getting tired of having to pay the ever increasing salaries of players who are riding the pine because of injury? Perhaps in light of the NFL players winning a massive concussion lawsuit against the NFL, MLB is running scared?  You can decide the rationale behind it. I just string words together…

 But what about implementing a viable solution? What changes can actually be made that will not hurt the Game?  How do you eliminate the contact from a contact sport? Would stricter enforcement of Rule 7.06 be the answer? I am not going to offer a solution, because I think that everyone can come up with some ideas on your own. You intrepid baseball aficionados don’t need help from me. I would be interested to hear some of your thoughts on this, no matter which side of the argument you come down on…

 See if you can picture this conversation taking place… ‘Hello, Old NFL Quarterbacks Retirement Home. May I help you?’

‘Yes, this is Old Man Ram Fan. May I please speak to Mr. Brett Favre?’

‘I am sorry. Mr. Favre is having his weekly high-colonic right now.’

‘Ok, how about Mr. John Elway? Or maybe Mr. Jim Kelly?’

‘I am sorry sir, but Mr. Elway is playing horseshoes with Mr. Marino right now, and I believe that Mr. Kelly is taking a nap…’

‘Oh, I see. Well, is there another retired quarterback that I can speak to that might be interested in stating for the Rams this Sunday?’

‘Please hold for Mr. Tebow…’

 The St. Louis Rams actually reached out to Brett Favre to test his interest in playing QB for them. Sigh…

 

At Years End…

Hello readers!
I apologize that it has been a little long since any blog entries, and I cannot promise that I will be any better about it. My real job keeps me away from doing this sometimes, and the last month or so has been no exception. The next few months will be more of the same, but rest assured that as time allows, I will post various items that might be of interest…
As I write this, it is a balmy 5 degrees outside. The truth is that I do not mind how cold it is. It is the snow that I don’t like, and we have our share in America’s Heartland (hint, Dorothy and Toto aren’t there anymore…). Allow me to offer a ‘job well done’ to the road crews who keep the streets here clear and safe. Of course, with it being so bloody cold, it makes it hard to really go anywhere that involves being outside. And that leads to us being inside, a lot. What does this lead to? Cabin Fever, of course! I am not very good at being an entertainment committee, nor am I any good at coming up with answers to ‘there’s nothing to do….’. I a perfectly happy just sitting and reading or watching TV (or writing a blog every now and then…)
Now, I want to get this out there early. To all the Politically Correct morons who seem to forget the reason why they will get off from work early today, and will probably have tomorrow off. They have forgotten why they will (or won’t) put up a beautifully decorated tree, run around and buy gifts for their friends and loved ones, go to parties and eat too much, and simply enjoy their friends and families. But mostly, these idiots have forgotten the reason that season exists at all. They are so worried about offending anyone or anything, that common sense has left the building. To these people who seem to need a reason to be up-in-arms about something, and to everyone else who understands the ‘reason for the season’, I say MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! And, if you are offended? GOOD!!!
I was going to post a long drippy list of all the things that I am grateful for this year, but I felt that it would be better left between me and God. It is to Him that I owe everything. He has truly blessed me and humbled me this year. On that note, I say Happy Birthday Jesus Christ!
There has been a lot of nonsense this year. Let’s see. We have had political folly of an unprecedented amount, and that even includes shutting the whole thing down for 16 days. The world of entertainment lost some legendary folks. We watched in horror at some of the heinous acts and atrocities that were perpetrated here and around the globe, wishing it would stop, but knowing that it probably won’t. There was abject cruelty and incredible stupidity, ignorance and intolerance, life, death, and everything in between. We have watched the over-sensitivity of people played out to a more and more ridiculous extreme on an almost daily basis. A little 6-year old boy kisses a little 6-year old girl on the hand in the schoolyard, and he gets expelled from school and idiots in the school district want him labeled as a sex criminal? REALLY??! It seems that every year, we go further down the rabbit hole…
In my beloved world of sports, what can I say? The Boston Red Sox won the World Series! What else could I possibly want? Well, the New York Rangers winning the Stanley Cup would be nice. They went pretty far in the playoffs last year, but they needed a change at the top, and coach John Tortorella was let go, only to be replaced by Alain Vigneault. The jury is still out on that one. Manchester United won the EPL Barclays Cup, so that is a good thing. Sir Alex Furgeson retired, and things have not been quite right since. The Winter Olympics are coming to us from Sochi, Russia this winter from February 7th-23rd. Of course, the NFL is heading in to week 17 with the playoff picture still not quite in focus. There is a lot riding on what happens this weekend, and there several ‘win-and-you are-in, but lose and you go home’ scenarios being played out. It makes for compelling drama, to be sure. The true miracle of this season is that the Jets could finish with an 8-8 record, after I predicted them to finish 2-14. A .500 record may save Rex Ryan’s job, but this is the NFL, and just mediocre will not a coaching job make. Who would have thought that the Giants (6-9) would have a record almost identical to the Jets (7-8)? Not me! I wonder if Tom Coughlin will have a job after the season is over? After the season ends, we say good-bye to The Hubert H.Humphrey Metrodome in Minnesota, and venerable Candlestick Park and Bill Walsh Field in San Francisco. Did you know that the Beatles last concert was held at Candlestick in 1966? And, on a final football note, how about the Super Bowl being played at Met Life Stadium in the Meadowlands in New Jersey?!? I think that it s great! But let’s get back to baseball…
First, ‘Truck Day’ is February 8th, and for those of you that are counting it down, it is only 46 days away! For those of my readers who do not know what ‘Truck Day’ is, I will let you in on it. Truck Day is when the big 18-wheelers pull up to the service entrance of Fenway Park in Boston, and load everything up for the journey to JetBlue Park in Ft. Myers, Florida for Spring Training! It is a special Boston Red Sox tradition, and I think it is pretty cool. Sadly, the Sox will report to camp minus a few stalwarts. CF Jacoby Ellsbury (free agent, signed with the Evil Empire Yankees), C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (free agent, signed with Marlins), LHP Matt Thornton (free agent, signed with Yankees), and LHP Franklin Morales (traded to Rockies). New arrivals are RHP Burke Badenhop (trade with Brewers), C A.J. Pierzynski (free agent from Rangers), RHP Edward Mujica (free agent from Cardinals), and INF Jonathan Herrera (trade with Rockies). Still available free agents are SS Stephen Drew, RHP Joel Hanrahan, INF John McDonald, RHP Andrew Bailey, and OF Ryan Kalish. In my humble opinion, the Red Sox really need to re-sign Stephen Drew. This should be a priority in BIG RED LETTERS. Are you listening, Mr. Cherington?
What is also a tradition is the Evil Empire New York Yankees throwing their wallet at their problems. Gone are 2B Robinson Cano (free agent, signed with Mariners), LHP Andy Pettitte (retired), RHP Mariano Rivera (retired), OF Curtis Granderson (free agent, signed with Mets), RHP Phil Hughes (free agent, signed with Twins), C Chris Stewart (traded to Pirates), RHP Joba Chamberlain (free agent, signed with Tigers), LHP Boone Logan (free agent, signed with Rockies), and INF David Adams (non-tendered, signed with Indians). This roster full of departures has been replaced by C Brian McCann (free agent from Braves), CF Jacoby Ellsbury (free agent from Red Sox), 2B Kelly Johnson (free agent from Rays), OF Carlos Beltran (free agent from Cardinals), LHP Matt Thornton (free agent from Red Sox), and just the other day signed 2B Brian Roberts (free agent from Orioles). They may also lose DH Travis Hafner, 1B Lyle Overbay, 1B/3B Mark Reynolds, 3B/1B Kevin Youkilis, INF Jayson Nix, and RHP Matt Daley. Kevin Youlilis (YOUUUUK!) has already signed with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the NPL (Nippon Professional League in Japan). George Von Steinbrenner must be smiling from his Great Owners Box in the Sky.
Are you delirious yet? I hope not, because this has been a very active Hot Stove season. Even before the Winter GM Meetings in Florida a few weeks ago, there as a lot of business getting done, headlined by the Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler trade. Oh, and just my own opinion, but with the moves made by the Kansas City Royals, they could be a dark horse in the AL Wild Card Race. Just sayin’…
Let me finish this up by saying this. I want to wish everyone, all my friends and family, and especially my amazing wife Judy and my awesome daughter Tyler, may you all have the Merriest of Christmases. Be safe, stay healthy, and enjoy all of the wonder that the Season brings. And remember The Reason For The Season, and the most amazing gift of all that we have been given…eternal life and salvation in Christ The Lord.
Now, I am gonna hop on the ‘Net, and go to the NORAD Santa Tracker website. I want to see when the Jolly Old Elf in the Red Suit gets here!
MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

At Years End…

 Hello readers!

I apologize that it has been a little long since any blog entries, and I cannot promise that I will be any better about it. My real job keeps me away from doing this sometimes, and the last month or so has been no exception. The next few months will be more of the same, but rest assured that as time allows, I will post various items that might be of interest…

 As I write this, it is a balmy 5 degrees outside. The truth is that I do not mind how cold it is. It is the snow that I don’t like, and we have our share in America’s Heartland (hint, Dorothy and Toto aren’t there anymore…). Allow me to offer a ‘job well done’ to the road crews who keep the streets here clear and safe. Of course, with it being so bloody cold, it makes it hard to really go anywhere that involves being outside. And that leads to us being inside, a lot. What does this lead to? Cabin Fever, of course! I am not very good at being an entertainment committee, nor am I any good at coming up with answers to ‘there’s nothing to do….’. I a perfectly happy just sitting and reading or watching TV (or writing a blog every now and then…)

 Now, I want to get this out there early. To all the Politically Correct morons who seem to forget the reason why they will get off from work early today, and will probably have tomorrow off. They have forgotten why they will (or won’t) put up a beautifully decorated tree, run around and buy gifts for their friends and loved ones, go to parties and eat too much, and simply enjoy their friends and families. But mostly, these idiots have forgotten the reason that season exists at all. They are so worried about offending anyone or anything, that common sense has left the building. To these people who seem to need a reason to be up-in-arms about something, and to everyone else who understands the ‘reason for the season’, I say MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! And, if you are offended? GOOD!!!

 I was going to post a long drippy list of all the things that I am grateful for this year, but I felt that it would be better left between me and God. It is to Him that I owe everything. He has truly blessed me and humbled me this year. On that note, I say Happy Birthday Jesus Christ!

 There has been a lot of nonsense this year. Let’s see. We have had political folly of an unprecedented amount, and that even includes shutting the whole thing down for 16 days. The world of entertainment lost some legendary folks. We watched in horror at some of the heinous acts and atrocities that were perpetrated here and around the globe, wishing it would stop, but knowing that it probably won’t. There was abject cruelty and incredible stupidity, ignorance and intolerance, life, death, and everything in between. We have watched the over-sensitivity of people played out to a more and more ridiculous extreme on an almost daily basis. A little 6-year old boy kisses a little 6-year old girl on the hand in the schoolyard, and he gets expelled from school and idiots in the school district want him labeled as a sex criminal? REALLY??! It seems that every year, we go further down the rabbit hole…

 In my beloved world of sports, what can I say? The Boston Red Sox won the World Series! What else could I possibly want? Well, the New York Rangers winning the Stanley Cup would be nice. They went pretty far in the playoffs last year, but they needed a change at the top, and coach John Tortorella was let go, only to be replaced by Alain Vigneault. The jury is still out on that one. Manchester United won the EPL Barclays Cup, so that is a good thing. Sir Alex Furgeson retired, and things have not been quite right since. The Winter Olympics are coming to us from Sochi, Russia this winter from February 7th-23rd. Of course, the NFL is heading in to week 17 with the playoff picture still not quite in focus. There is a lot riding on what happens this weekend, and there several ‘win-and-you are-in, but lose and you go home’ scenarios being played out. It makes for compelling drama, to be sure. The true miracle of this season is that the Jets could finish with an 8-8 record, after I predicted them to finish 2-14. A .500 record may save Rex Ryan’s job, but this is the NFL, and just mediocre will not a coaching job make. Who would have thought that the Giants (6-9) would have a record almost identical to the Jets (7-8)? Not me!  I wonder if Tom Coughlin will have a job after the season is over?  After the season ends, we say good-bye to The Hubert H.Humphrey Metrodome in Minnesota, and venerable Candlestick Park and Bill Walsh Field in San Francisco. Did you know that the Beatles last concert was held at Candlestick in 1966? And, on a final football note, how about the Super Bowl being played at Met Life Stadium in the Meadowlands in New Jersey?!?  I think that it s great! But let’s get back to baseball…

 First, ‘Truck Day’ is February 8th,  and for those of you that are counting it down, it is only 46 days away! For those of my readers who do not know what ‘Truck Day’ is, I will let you in on it. Truck Day is when the big 18-wheelers pull up to the service entrance of Fenway Park in Boston, and load everything up for the journey to JetBlue Park in Ft. Myers, Florida for Spring Training! It is a special Boston Red Sox tradition, and I think it is pretty cool. Sadly, the Sox will report to camp minus a few stalwarts. CF Jacoby Ellsbury (free agent, signed with the Evil Empire Yankees), C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (free agent, signed with Marlins), LHP Matt Thornton (free agent, signed with Yankees), and LHP Franklin Morales (traded to Rockies). New arrivals are RHP Burke Badenhop (trade with Brewers), C A.J. Pierzynski (free agent from Rangers), RHP Edward Mujica (free agent from Cardinals), and INF Jonathan Herrera (trade with Rockies). Still available free agents are SS Stephen Drew, RHP Joel Hanrahan, INF John McDonald, RHP Andrew Bailey, and OF Ryan Kalish. In my humble opinion, the Red Sox really need to re-sign Stephen Drew. This should be a priority in BIG RED LETTERS. Are you listening, Mr. Cherington?

What is also a tradition is the Evil Empire New York Yankees throwing their wallet at their problems. Gone are 2B Robinson Cano (free agent, signed with Mariners), LHP Andy Pettitte (retired), RHP Mariano Rivera (retired), OF Curtis Granderson (free agent, signed with Mets), RHP Phil Hughes (free agent, signed with Twins), C Chris Stewart (traded to Pirates), RHP Joba Chamberlain (free agent, signed with Tigers), LHP Boone Logan (free agent, signed with Rockies),  and INF David Adams (non-tendered, signed with Indians). This roster full of departures has been replaced by C Brian McCann (free agent from Braves), CF Jacoby Ellsbury (free agent from Red Sox), 2B Kelly Johnson (free agent from Rays), OF Carlos Beltran (free agent from Cardinals), LHP Matt Thornton (free agent from Red Sox),  and just the other day signed 2B Brian Roberts (free agent from Orioles).  They may also lose DH Travis Hafner, 1B Lyle Overbay, 1B/3B Mark Reynolds, 3B/1B Kevin Youkilis, INF Jayson Nix, and RHP Matt Daley. Kevin Youlilis (YOUUUUK!) has already signed with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the NPL (Nippon Professional League in Japan). George Von Steinbrenner must be smiling from his Great Owners Box in the Sky.

 Are you delirious yet? I hope not, because this has been a very active Hot Stove season. Even before the Winter GM Meetings in Florida a few weeks ago, there as a lot of business getting done, headlined by the Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler trade. Oh, and just my own opinion, but with the moves made by the Kansas City Royals, they could be a dark horse in the AL Wild Card Race. Just sayin’…

 Let me finish this up by saying this. I want to wish everyone, all my friends and family, and especially my amazing wife Judy and my awesome daughter Tyler, may you all have the Merriest of Christmases. Be safe, stay healthy, and enjoy all of the wonder that the Season brings. And remember The Reason For The Season, and the most amazing gift of all that we have been given…eternal life and salvation in Christ The Lord.

 Now, I am gonna hop on the ‘Net, and go to the NORAD Santa Tracker website. I want to see when the Jolly Old Elf in the Red Suit gets here!

 MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

No Experience Required

To all my readers..
I know that his blog tends to be sports-centric, and I do try to cover other topics. Allow me to apologize in advance, because this one is all about BASEBALL!
We have all heard throughout our lives that experience is the best teacher. We have been told at one time or another that in order to do a thing, be it a job or a task, that you need experience first. There is no one that I know that has not lost out on something to a ‘more experienced’ candidate. I am finding that if you look at the world of professional sports over the last few years, that there is a growing trend towards hiring head coaches, managers, and general managers who have no experience sitting in ‘the big chair’. Let’s take the last three managerial vacancies that a have been filled in MLB in the last 10 days. The Detroit Tigers have announced the hiring of Brad Ausmus as their new manager. He will be taking over for Jim Leyland, a manager with a boatload of experience. Brad Ausmus has no managerial or coaching experience at any level of baseball, although in his last Major League game, he was inserted as Dodgers manager on the final day of 2009 (a Joe Torre tradition), and inserted himself as pinch runner for the slow-footed Jim Thome. Aside from that, he has absolutely no experience, except for that of a player who spent 18-years in the Majors. The Washington Nationals just recently named Matt Williams as their new skipper, replacing the retiring Davey Johnson. Williams brings 4-years of coaching experience to the Nationals, after quite a good playing career (17 years in the Majors. He was named an All-Star five times, won four Gold Glove Awards, led the NL in home runs in 1994 [before the players’ strike squashed the season], played in the World Series three times and won it with the 2001 Diamondbacks). And the Cincinnati Reds recently named Bryan Price as their new manager to replace the recently dismissed Dusty Baker. Bryan Price brings many years of being a Major League pitching coach (including the last 4 seasons with the Reds), but has no managerial experience at any level. The Seattle Mariners filled their managerial vacancy with Lloyd McClendon (who has considerable managerial experience), and it will be interesting to see if the Chicago White Sox keep Robin Ventura, or make a change after their dismal season. Also, the Chicago Cubs recently named Rick Renteria as their new bench boss. Again, he has player-coach experience, but has never managed.
This does not only translate on to the field of play. Let’s take a quick look at MLB front offices. Several years ago, the Boston Red Sox took a gamble on an inexperienced GM named Theo Epstein. Well, we know how that turned out, don’t we? In late 2002, he became the youngest GM in the history of Major League Baseball when he was hired at the age of 28. In 2004, he was general manager of the club that won their first World Series championship in 86 years, and was in the position when the team won another championship in 2007. He was replaced by someone else who had no GM experience, a fellow named Ben Cherington. History has repeated itself, and the Red Sox are once again World Champions in 2013.
There are countless examples of inexperienced managers finding immediate success, just as there are many more who have failed miserably. That list is extensive, and I will not even attempt to list them here. So now on to the question… Is prior managerial experience a prerequisite for managerial success? Sure, there have been many examples of catching lightning in a bottle with managers, just as there have been with players, but is the success of inexperienced managers a growing trend? There used to be a U.S. Army recruiting commercial on TV that featured several young people applying for various jobs and all being told, ‘Sorry, but no experience, no job…’, and the young interviewee countering with the question , ‘Well, if no one will hire me, then how do I get the experience?’ It is the age-old question, and it becomes almost like a ‘chicken-or-the-egg’ dilemma.
New managers with no experience offer some advantages to team owners, as well as some disadvantages. The new manager cannot command a large salary based on experience or past success. He probably doesn’t bring a busload of managerial baggage (the late Billy Martin, Bobby Valentine…), and he will most likely be more prone to ‘behave’ (read: listen to input from the Owner /GM). The disadvantages are defined as trusting your multi-million dollar business to someone who has never done it before. There is the unknown of whether or not this newly minted, inexperienced manager will hold up under the bright lights and scrutiny that he will be under as a new manager? How will he run the clubhouse? Will he be a ‘player’s manager’, or will he be a tyrant, and the type of manager that the players will quickly turn on? How will he handle the wins and losses? What about the ups’ and downs’ that come in the long season? Will he be able to harness the egos of 25 highly paid players and all of their idiosyncrasies? The wild card is that a new manager may have new and fresh ideas and concepts, and these may or may not work out. We all know how well MLB as a whole embraces progress and change, and how tolerant they are about breaking with tradition, and accepting new ideas.
With all this said, we are now in the days of the Hot Stove. It is past Thanksgiving, and now we are looking ahead to Christmas and the New Year (2014 if you are counting…). It has been a busy off-season so far, and I will address the changes on a future blog. There have been big trades, shocking free-agent signings, and there will be much more to come before pitchers and catchers report to Florida and Arizona (roughly February 15th…). I can’t wait!

No Experience Required

To all my readers,

 I know that this blog tends to be sports-centric, and I try to cover other topics. Please allow me to apologize in advance, because this installment is all about BASEBALL!

  We have all heard throughout our lives that experience is the best teacher. We have been told at one time or another that in order to do a thing, be it a job or a task, that you need experience first. There is no one that I know that has not lost out on something to a ‘more experienced’ candidate. I am finding that if you look at the world of professional sports over the last few years, that there is a growing trend towards hiring head coaches, managers, and general managers who have no experience sitting in the ‘big chair’. Let’s take a look at the last few managerial vacancies filled by MLB teams over that last few weeks. The Detroit Tigers have announced the hiring of Brad Ausmus as their new manager. He will be taking over for Jim Leyland, a manager with a boatload of experience. Brad Ausmus has no managerial or coaching experience at any level of baseball, although in his last Major League game, he was inserted as Dodgers manager on the final day of 2009 (a Joe Torre tradition), and inserted himself as pinch runner for the slow-footed  Jim Thome. Aside from that, he has absolutely no experience, except for that of a player who spent 18-years in the Majors. The Washington Nationals just recently named Matt Williams as their new skipper, replacing the retiring Davey Johnson. Williams brings 4-years of coaching experience to the Nationals, after quite a good playing career (17 years in the Majors. He was named an All-Star five times, won four Gold Glove Awards, led the NL in home runs in 1994 [before the players’ strike squashed the season], played in the World Series three times and won it with the 2001 Diamondbacks). And the Cincinnati Reds recently named Bryan Price as their new manager to replace the recently dismissed Dusty Baker. Bryan Price brings many years of being a Major League pitching coach (including the last 4 seasons with the Reds), but has no managerial experience at any level. The Chicago Cubs hired Rick Renteria to be their new bench boss. Again, a wealth of player/coach experience, but no managerial resume. The Seattle Mariners filled their managerial vacancy with Lloyd McClendon (who has considerable managerial experience), and it will be interesting to see if the Chicago White Sox keep Robin Ventura, or make a change after their dismal season.

This does not only translate on to the field of play. Let’s take a quick look at MLB front offices. Several years ago, the Boston Red Sox took a gamble on an inexperienced GM named Theo Epstein. Well, we know how that turned out, don’t we?  In late 2002, he became the youngest GM in the history of Major League Baseball when he was hired at the age of 28. In 2004, he was general manager of the club that won their first World Series championship in 86 years, and was in the position when the team won another championship in 2007. He was replaced by someone else who had no GM experience, a fellow named Ben Cherington. History has repeated itself, and the Red Sox are once again World Champions in 2013.

There are countless examples of inexperienced managers finding immediate success, just as there are many more who have failed miserably. That list is extensive, and I will not even attempt to list them here. So now on to the question… Is prior managerial experience a prerequisite for managerial success? Sure, there have been many examples of catching lightning in a bottle with managers, just as there have been with players, but is the success of inexperienced managers a growing trend? There used to be a U.S. Army recruiting commercial on TV that featured several young people applying for various jobs and all being told, ‘Sorry, but no experience, no job…’, and the young interviewee countering with the question , ‘Well, if no one will hire me, then how do I get the experience?’ It is the age-old question, and it becomes almost like a ‘chicken-or-the-egg’ dilemma.

 New managers with no experience offer some advantages to team owners, as well as some disadvantages. The new manager cannot command a large salary based on experience or past success. He probably doesn’t bring a busload of managerial baggage (the late Billy Martin, Bobby Valentine…), and he will most likely be more prone to ‘behave’ (read: listen to input from the Owner /GM). The disadvantages are defined as trusting your multi-million dollar business to someone who has never done it before. There is the unknown of whether or not this newly minted, inexperienced manager will hold up under the bright lights and scrutiny that he will be under as a new manager? How will he run the clubhouse? Will he be a ‘player’s manager’, or will he be a tyrant, and the type of manager that the players will quickly turn on? How will he handle the wins and losses? What about the ups’ and downs’ that come in the long season? Will he be able to harness the egos of 25 highly paid players and all of their idiosyncrasies? The wild card is that a new manager may have new and fresh ideas and concepts, and these may or may not work out. We all know how well MLB as a whole embraces progress and change, and how tolerant they are about breaking with tradition, and accepting new ideas.

 With all this said, we are now in the days of the Hot Stove. It is past Thanksgiving, and now we are looking ahead to Christmas and the New Year (2014 if you are counting…). It has been a busy off-season so far, and I will address the changes on a future blog. There have been big trades, shocking free-agent signings, and there will be much more to come before pitchers and catchers report to Florida and Arizona (roughly February 15th…). I can’t wait!

 

It needs to stop…now.

It needs to stop…now.
Before I go off on my semi-monthly rant, we should take a moment and offer our prayers and condolences to the people of the Philippines, and all the victims of Typhoon Hayian. They have a very long road ahead of them, and they have many thousands of dead to bury. We know firsthand of the suffering and misery that lies in front of them. May they somehow find peace in the midst of this national tragedy, and find the resiliency and strength to recover and rebuild.
This weekend marks the 238th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. I have several friends who are Marines, both active and non-active (there is no such thing as an ex-Marine…), and I have been proud to serve beside them. The Marines exemplify the fighting spirit, the pride, the honor, the dignity, and spirit of brotherhood that are admired throughout the world. The world as we know it would be a very different place without them. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for the freedoms that we enjoy today. Semper Fi!
My Achilles injury is healing, and I hope to start running again soon. Triathlon training does not stop however. This injury has allowed me to concentrate on my pool training, and I have been putting down ¼ mile swims about 3 times per week. Luckily, the swimming does not aggravate the Achilles injury, so I can pretty much swim as much as want. I am generally swimming sub-10 minute quarter miles, and the other day, I swam a personal best of 9:39. Two days ago, I tried to best that mark, with a goal of shaving 9-seconds off my PB, and turning in a 9:30. I failed (sigh….). My first attempt was a 9:52. I was rather annoyed, and vowed, after a 10-15 minute break, that I would hit the mark on my next attempt. I failed again, this time going even slower and finishing with an 11:05. Let’s face it, I had just swum (swam, swimmed, flapped my arms?…) for a half a mile, and I was gassed! The take-away from this is not that I swam a half a mile in 21 minutes… it is that I SWAM A HALF A MILE AT ALL!!!! To me, this is great! The time thing is just a number, a measurement, and in my journey means absolutely nothing. I swam a ½ mile, and I am regularly swimming ¼ miles. I am very happy about it! This is a victory for me, when it is put in the context of where I was physically not so long ago, and it these small victories that I will bask in, albeit very temporarily, as I still have many more mountains to climb…
BULLYING… It is an ugly word. It immediately conjures up memories of the schoolyard, and if you were a victim, it is generally bad memories. It is hard to believe that something that we think of as a ‘school yard problem’ is actually much more prevalent in our politically correct and supposedly more enlightened society than you would think it should be. I will say it plainly…it makes me sick! I don’t understand, and I have never understood, why people feel the need to be bullies and why is it tolerated? The bigger question is why does it exist at all? WHY? How many peoples’ lives have been made totally miserable and almost unbearable because of it? How many people has it caused to become shut-off and alienated from their worlds? How many days of school, how many days of work, how many activities have been missed out of fear of being bullied? How many people have had their self-esteem crushed because of bullies? How many people have harmed themselves or even ended their own lives because of bullying? WHY???
I have no intention of addressing the questions that have been asked many times before. Why does it start? Where does it start? How is it learned? Where does it end? Who is at fault? I don’t know that there are simple answers to these questions, and I probably have not even scratched the surface of the questions that need to be asked. All I know is that it is widespread, it is tolerated, it is eminently hurtful, and it is totally wrong. From little kids on the playground, to bigger kids in high school, to even bigger kids in the locker rooms of professional teams, to the meeting rooms and board rooms of corporate America, it lives and breathes, and sadly it exists. It has infested all levels of society, and while it is slowly being brought out into the light of scrutiny, will it be enough? Is it even possible to put a dent in the massive epidemic that it has been for eons?
We all, well at least almost everyone that I have ever spoken to, carries a scar or two from being bullied, and I was not immune. I was the smallest kid in my class, so naturally, there were a few ‘tough guys’ who wanted to flex their masculinity by picking on a much smaller sized person. I have often wondered what ever became of the supposed ‘tough-guys’, who were too cool for rules, and didn’t feel that common respect was something that they needed to display, and the dignity of another human being was not important. I am willing to bet that some of them wound up in jail because they never grew out of it. I am willing to bet that some of them probably made a career of being a rag-boy in a car wash. Maybe some of them did eventually grow up. I wonder what they say to their kids? “Yeah, Junior. When I was in school, I was a scumbag bully. It was great! Haha!…’ One of the little things that I take comfort in is how things turned out. Look at us now. I am where I am, and my life is great! Whether it is great or not for them is subject of conjecture. The other thing is that I am completely confident, that if my bully-or-two came across me again, the outcomes would be VERY different. Let’s just say that the circumstances have changed… It was amusing that one of my (and most other peoples’) tormentors crossed paths a few years after he got kicked out of, or dropped out of high school. He was walking down the block, and I was coming right at him. The look of fear was in HIS eyes, not mine. The bully sort-of looked at me and mumbled a ‘Hi, Bruce…’ It was with great satisfaction that I just glared at him with the cold disdain that I reserve for only a select handful of people, and he put his head back down and scurried on his way, never to be heard from again. I always enjoyed that moment…I actually only have one other bully from my past that I would love to meet now. I mean, I would adore it. He is out there, but I will probably never have that opportunity. That’s too bad. Things now would be very different. I wonder if he ever thinks of his bully days, and if he does, what does he think of those days? Does he have any regrets? Does he wish he could make amends? Does he ever think to himself that he was a piece-of-crap of a human being? Does he believe that karma is indeed a bitch, and someday karma will cash the check that he wrote? I believe that movies and TV shows are made about bullies getting their comeuppance…
The reason that I bring this up is that I understand. Again, of everyone that I know, I can’t count out on one hand, people that have not been touched by this bullying epidemic. It is everywhere in our society now. You hear with much too alarming frequency the severity of the effects of bullying. I am not going to jump on the sensationalist bandwagon about Richie Incognito bullying Jonathan Martin in the Miami Dolphins locker room. This disgusting story has been hyped to death, and it only reached the level of infamy that it did because the two men involved were huge professional football players. What about everybody else? What about the people who are afraid to speak up out of fear of reprisal? What about the people who remain victims because of the shame of having to admit that there is a problem with a bully that they cannot cope with, and the social stigma that goes along with it? I laugh when I hear the age old advice of ‘just stand up to him/her, and they will back down.’ Or, ‘just slug him in the mouth. That will stop it.’ Really? More often than not, this is really bad advice. I am not saying that it will not work in some cases. What I am saying is that it will not work in most cases. Do you think that the lonely nerdy-girl working in an office full of she-bullies, (who take a special pride in ganging up on and bullying another girl in the way that only girls can), can really just walk up to the queen-bee and slug her in the mouth? The way bullying works today is much different than when we were kids. We didn’t have 24/7 access to other peoples’ lives. There were no hidden cameras to catch you in your most intimate moments. There was no Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram. Truthfully, I think that the bullies of today are much more malicious than the ones that we dealt with as kids. If you need examples, I refer you to any news outlet. You will understand.
I leave you with this. Bullying is not a schoolyard problem anymore. It is a society wide problem. It is a culture problem. It is a ‘me-me-me’ mindset problem. It has ruined many childhoods. It has crushed the spirit of countless gazillions more. It has caused people to take their own lives. It needs to stop…now.

Winning it at home…

 I have been waiting to say this since a cool evening in Denver, Colorado in October 2007, when the Boston Red Sox had just swept the Colorado Rockies out of the World Series, winning it all in four straight games. We of Red Sox Nation were thrilled that we were World Champions again, but there was this feeling that something was missing. In 2004, when the Red Sox had won their first Championship since 1918, nobody cared where the trophy was presented to the Sox. All we knew was that we wanted it, we earned it, and now we had it! When Edgar Renteria hit that little comebacker to Red Sox pitcher Kevin Foulke, who then tossed it over to Doug Mientkiewicz, the weight of 86 years of futility was lifted, and the Sox, as well as their fans went wild, celebrating at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. It was perfect…almost.

 What was missing,  both in 2004 and again in 2007, was that the Red Sox had to celebrate their Championship moment on their opponent’s fields, first at St. Louis in 2004, and then at Colorado in 2007. What was needed was for the Sox to win the World Series at home, on OUR field…our beloved FENWAY PARK. The city of Boston had survived two terrorist pieces of filth planting a bomb near the start/finish line of the Boston Marathon back in April 2013. This city and its people, along with the people of this nation, came together to guide Boston through this tragedy. They became ‘Boston Strong’. The players split off into groups, and visited people who were affected by this horrible act. They visited hospitals, homes, made public appearances…you name it, and they did it. The fans of the Sox said that this team put the people of the City of Boston on their backs. One Red Sox player said that the City of Boston, and the citizens who were BOSTON STRONG, put the Red Sox on THEIR backs, and willed them to the Title. For these deserving people, the Red Sox needed to win it all, at home…

 For the fans who were born after 1918, they had never tasted what it was like to see a championship at home…So that means that if you are younger than 95 years old, you have never witnessed it. Think about that. There were people who lived their entire lives without ever seeing the Sox celebrate a championship at Fenway Park. When I was watching the FOX coverage of the game, and it was becoming more and more evident that Boston was going to win, they kept showing people in the crowd, but not just any people. They were showing the older fans, those who were finally getting their Red Sox-win-it-all-at-Fenway prayer answered. It was touching. Erin Andrews of FOX interviewed a gentleman who was in his 80’s who still worked at a shop across from Fenway Park that sells caps and shirts and other Red Sox memorabilia, and you could hear the emotion in his voice. The love of the Red Sox in Boston is passed down from generation to generation. Love of the Sox is instilled early on, and it goes to the grave. The gentleman who was interviewed by Erin Andrews said almost exactly that same thing, that this is not only for those fans who have waited a literal lifetime to see this happen, but for the new generation of Red Sox fans, so that they may pass it down to the next generation. Pretty amazing…

 For me personally, just a few things here. I cried in 2003 when Aaron Bleeping Boone hit that extra inning HR off of Tim Wakefield in the ALCS and send us home. I will never forget 1978, when Bucky Bleeping Dent, who had hit just TWO home runs all season, sent a pitch over the Green Monster in left field, and jabbed the dagger into the championship dreams of us all. I suffered through the collapse of 2011, the farce of the 2012 Bobby Valentine reign of futility, where we finished dead last in the AL East, and posted our worst record since 1966, and many other disappointments. BUT, there have also been great moments. I cried again in 2004, when on a cold night in late October in St. Louis, the ‘Curse of the Bambino’ was ended with a World Championship. I screamed and hooted and drove my neighbors crazy when Jonathan Paplebon shut down the Colorado Rockies in 2007. So many great moments and memories…

 Ok, now to what I have been waiting to say since 2007. Now in 2013, we have won the World Series again, for the third time in the last 9 years, and we won it at home, in Boston, in Fenway Park!!!  We have been through a lot, and we have come a long way. For the fans, for the City of Boston, and for me, I simply say, ‘Thank You, Boston Red Sox… You are Boston Strongest!’

 A happy by-product that comes with the end of the 2013 World Series is that Fox analyst and former MLB catcher Tim McCarver, is retiring! I have been listening to him since the 1980’s, when he was just starting out as a broadcaster for the New York Mets. Back then, he was new and different, and he was full of useful insights, and he really brought a special knowledge to the broadcast booth. But over the years, he truly lost his way. I am sure that his own wife mutes the sound on the TV when he is calling a game. He, along with his broadcast partner Joe Buck, are probably the two of the most annoying broadcasters in baseball today. Even John Sterling of the New York Yankees broadcast team is not this grating. The ultimate nightmare broadcast team would be the triple threat of Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, and Joe Morgan.  I wish Tim McCarver well in his retirement, and pray that he does not decide to make a comeback…

 Lastly, there is this. Did you hear about the NFL player who says that two assistant coaches on his team gave him a hard time because he helped an opposing player to his feet after a play? Are class and sportsmanship really that far removed from the game? I understand that pro football is a business, but this is a little ridiculous. They try to sell people on that they are ‘going to war out there’, and ‘the other guy is the enemy’…really? First of all, it is not a war. It is a GAME. These guys have spent their football lives being told how great they are, and having people kiss their butts because of that. They have no concept of what a war really is, and I get offended every time that I hear a player, in any sport, refer to the playing a game as ‘going to war’. Believe me, you guys are nowhere near as important, or as honorable, as our service men and women who put on the uniform every day, and who don’t get paid millions of dollars to play a game, go to a real war every day. They risk their lives every day. You get to go home and relax in the hot tub in your overpriced mansions. Don’t talk to me about that you are going to war. You aren’t. The same thing goes for the ‘enemy’ thing. The other guy is your opponent, not your enemy. The players on the other team are not trying to bomb your country, and they are not trying to kill you or your friends and family. Maybe you all need to give the hype a rest…As far as the coaches who got on the player who helped his opponent to his feet, I say this. You should be ashamed. Perhaps you could use some perspective Have you been to Afghanistan lately? You would love the place.