Sunday, March 19, 2006

World Baseball Classic

I'm not following the WBC for several reasons. I don't care much for it. I'm not a big fan of nationalism, and there are elements of artificial teamwork in piecing a "team" together made from players who haven't played with each other. Baseball, more than other sports, has a greater element of any team being able to beat any other team on any given day. That is the strength of Major League Baseball. A 162 game season and seven game playoff series to separate the men from the boys.

It's really no big surprise that Team USA was eliminated. Any team could be eliminated on any given day. I'm not much for low numbers in elimination, so for Little League, college and Olympic baseball, a winner doesn't mean as much.

Now if MLB uses the WBC as a tool for scouting and drafting future talent, then I'm all for it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

On Being A Baseball Fan

I am a baseball fan, and have been my entire life. I'm a big baseball fan, a huge fan, intense, hard-core and whatever other synonyms people have used to describe my love of baseball. But I'm not really a fan of the game of baseball in the most general sense. I'm a fan of very specific and narrow bands in the spectrum of baseball.

True, I love baseball as a game, as defined by its rules, but it's only certain rules that I truly love. To finally get specific here, I can say, after much thought on this, that I am a fan of Major League Baseball. But even more specifically, I'm a fan of MLB as it is played on the field during the regular season, post-season and All-Star games. I am also a fan of major league fans; I love fans and how they act at games. I am also a fan of statistics and statistically oriented history. I am a fan of baseball on the radio, team uniforms, and I absolutely love major league ballparks.

Everybody I know knows how big a fan I am, and I am constantly approached by any number of people on the topic of baseball, usually to get my opinion. But quite often they are amazed at my lack of interest in certain aspects of baseball. Just today somebody at work engaged me about the World Baseball Classic. I had no answer because, well to be blunt, I don't care about it. I haven't kept up with any of it, either through the papers or online. "Oh, I thought you'd know because you're such a big fan." If anything I hate it because it's taking ballplayers away from where they're supposed to be; with their major league teams. My brother is coaching a teeball team this year, my nephew's team, and approached me last year about the topic. He was shocked to find out that I have no interest whatsoever in coaching Little League. But, of course I'll watch my nephew play. He's my nephew.

I'm not a fan of Little League, high school, college, the minor leagues, or even spring training. I couldn't care less about Olympic baseball or the WBC. I don't even know who's on team USA except for the exhibition game they played against a Giants split squad last Sunday. I only listened to that game because it was broadcast on the Giants station, and my interest suffered because it wasn't two major league teams. And also, I'm not a fan of many of the perhipheral happenings in MLB. I couldn't care less about the contract between the players union and MLB, I don't care much about salaries (generally), drug testing policies, front office stuff, Rule 5 draft picks, fantasy baseball, gambling, hot prospects playing in some swamp somewhere, mascots, the national anthem, Sandy Alderson, 19th century baseball, video games, to name a few.

I love going to games in other ballparks and will compare how a team's fans will react to a play or player with how other team's fans would react to the same. Dodger fans do this, A's fans might, but Giants fans don't. I love baseball's architecture in its ballparks. I love the roster of the 1985 Pirates and the uniforms worn by the '67 A's. I love yearly schedules, standings, all-time records. I love Topps 1971 baseball cards. I love going to games, drinking a beer, spitting sunflower seeds, yelling at the players, watching the fans, and talking about baseball.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Baseball Is Back!

For me, the return of baseball each year is not marked by pitchers and catchers stretching out their muscles, by intra-squad games, by the first scheduled spring training game, by the first televised game, or even by the World Baseball Classic. It is marked by the first time I hear a game broadcast on the radio. This is simply the sound of baseball. This last weekend, baseball returned.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Remembering Kirby Puckett

News of Kirby Puckett's death came as a surprise today. I'm not up to date much on former players, and had trouble recalling his retirement even after my wife reminded me of his glaucoma. But I do remember a gamer, a player who made things work, a loyal Twin, respected and loved by the Minnesota fans and community and the baseball world, a hall of famer.

He was a prime heckling target of mine from the Coliseum bleachers even though I had a great deal of respect for him personally. I knew he could hear me from left field, but he was one of those players who tuned the fans out with no discernible reaction. His baseball skills were beyond legitimate criticism, so I concentrated on his person, with emphasis on his width-height ratio. My favorite line was, "Hey, Puckett, you look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy!," or maybe the Michelin Man, which usually made people laugh a good deal.

"Kirby Puckett" was also one of the best "baseball names" in history. A baseball name is an odd name that doesn't make it in the general population, but has a quirkiness tailored to the grand old game. His name kept good company with Dizzy Dean, Wade Boggs and some pitchers named Lefty.

Kirby, I'll remember you always, and consider it a gift to have watched you play.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Fonzie on the Wall

Each opening day, the Giants give out wall calendars with that year's schedule built in and each month is dedicated to a certain player. Pictures, stats, trivia. Unlike the typical calendar, it is laid out for a baseball year. April to March. Well, the other morning I came to work, March 1, and flipped my Giants calendar from February to March.

Edgardo Alfonso.