Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Great Day At The Ballyard For A Future Star

Last week I took our three year old to the Giants game vs. the Rockies to see his favorite player pitch, Tim Lincecum. He put on a lot better show than the Giants did. We arrived very early, as the Giants were unveiling a new feature, "The Wall of Fame" on the sidewalk outside the third base side of the park. Bronze plaques of Giants players who have either nine years of service with the Giants or five years plus an All-Star game selection. We met many players, JT Snow, Kirk Reuter (who shook his hand), Johnny LeMaster and sooo many more. We attended a "meet the young players" meeting, with the Giants top minor leaguers and prospects. It was dry for a three year old, so we walked around the club level of AT&T Park.

He remembers a "statue" of Snoopy, and I showed him the many pictures on the wall and jerseys and other memorabilia in glass cases. I showed him a big picture on the wall of Willie Mays' catch in the 1954 World Series. "I have that picture in my book" he replied. We went downstairs to our seats and ate sunflower seeds. He's pretty good at spitting them out. Before the game we watched Lincecum warm up. The next morning he showed Mrs. Scott how he did his stretches.

Several innings into the game, we hit the cable car and he rang the bell, went down the slides inside the Coke bottle, then hit the "kids fun lot." It's a mini diamond where small children can play whiffle ball. He made it clear that he needed his hat and glove. He already wore his Giants uniform. When it was his turn, he got up to the plate. The pitcher (a ballpark employee) took one look at his size (very small, even for a three year old), and scooted up to pitch. He drilled the first pitch on a line drive square into the pitcher's chest, nearly knocking him off his feet. He ran the bases, then took his glove out into the field, where later he played catch with some older kids, about 8 or 9 years old. I over-heard one of the older ones remark to his friend that our son was so talented that "he'll be a pro someday."

The Giants got killed by the Rockies so it was okay that we stayed in the fun lot for so long. In the late innings, most people had taken their kids home, so our guy was the only one left. He had dedicated BP. He drilled one pitch after another. The pitcher remarked that he was a "line drive back up the middle" type of hitter. He has his own batting stance, no doubt taken from watching on TV, a cross between Don Baylor and a right handed Bobby Tolan. The pitcher remarked to him that he doesn't mind the ball coming back up the middle, but to not hit him in the face. He also hit several balls over the fence of the yard. It was an amazing display of hitting. A crowd of 10-15 people had gathered outside the rail and were actively cheering him on in almost utter disbelief as to what they were seeing. I blew it by not having a video camera.

Possible World Series Rematches

I write as the Twins and White Sox are still scoreless in their tie-breaker game. There are a number of possible World Series re-matches this October. They are:

White Sox/Cubs - 1906
Red Sox/Phillies - 1915
Red Sox/Dodgers - 1916
Red Sox/Cubs - 1918
Dodgers/White Sox - 1959
Dodgers/Twins - 1965

Monday, September 29, 2008

No York

For the first time in quite a while, there are no New York teams in the postseason. Before I get too happy, this means that all the attention from FOX will now go to the Red Sox. Maybe they can lose in the first round. What is pretty cool is that I picked two of the teams in my Cynic's pick with one honorable mention still a possibility.

What a way to close out the NY ballparks. No October for the team that's played in more Octobers than anybody, and a collapse completed by the Mets in the last two innings of the season. Somebody should send some TV's.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Giants Loss Projection Through September 28 - Final Total

September 16 through September 28, 2008:

68-83, 89; 68-84, 90; 68-85, 90; 69-85, 89; 69-86, 90; 70-86, 89; 70-87, 90; 70-88, 90; 70-89, 91; 71-89, 90; 71-90, 91; 72-90, 90.

End Of Season

Final Loss Total: 90

In my first loss projection post, I figured the Giants would break the 100 loss mark. I was 10 games off as they only broke the 90 loss mark. Still, a bad season was very predictable. They were terrible the first few months of the season. The second half they upgraded to very bad. The kids were allowed to play and this made a big difference. The Giants need bats and will have to pick up at least two free agents to do it. They better get an offense before Cain and Lincecum split town. It would be horrible to waste those two.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Instant Replay Creates Pinch-Runner During Home Run Trot

I was at the Giants/Dodgers game last night and saw that weird instant replay play first hand, right in front of me. That had to be one of the most bizarre plays in baseball history. Giants catcher Benjie Molina came to bat with a runner on and hit a line drive off the top of the right field fence. It bounced back to the outfielder and he was held to a single. But the top of the brick wall at AT&T has a green tin roof that slopes back toward the field (link courtesy Google Image). Ground rules state that if the ball hits the tin roof (including both the edge and top) it is a home run. There's no need for the ball to go into the stands.

Molina is the slowest runner in the majors, so Giants manager Bruce Bochy sent Emmanuel Burris out to pinch run. The Dodger pitcher wanted a new ball, so threw the old one in. But it had green paint on it, proof that it hit the tin roof, so Bochy called for instant replay to determine if it was a home run. Somehow the powers that be missed the fans down the right field line twirling their fingers in the air with the home run signal and screaming "home run!". The ball obviously hit the roof because we could hear it. It is a loud thud, kind of like a baseball hitting a tin roof.

The umpires conferred and retreated to the instant replay area in a tunnel behind home plate. They reversed the call and declared it a home run. But Burris was already at first, and the umpires directed the runners to continue home. Burris had the most hilarious smile on his face, because he didn't hit the ball. Both runs scored and the game was tied.

But because the pinch runner was put in, neither Molina or Burris were allowed to continue playing. Bochy played the game under protest because if the umps had made the correct call in the first place, there would have been no need for a pinch runner. There will be a new rule next year regarding instant replay, for sure. There was also question as to how the play should be scored. Nothing like this has ever happened. Molina hit the home run, but Burris scored the run. Molina should get the RBI's, but does he score the run? Should Burris be in the box score? Essentially, the way the umpires ruled the play, a pinch runner was put in right in the middle of a home run trot.

What should have happened is this. The umps should have reversed the call, called Burris off the field and sending Molina back to first. Then the runners should have continued running the bases (giving the Dodgers the right to appeal in case either runner missed touching a base), allowing each to score. Burris' entrance into the game via a pinch running appearance should have been struck from the record, and Molina should have been allowed to continue playing. Burris would go back to the bench and be available to Bochy to play later in the game. The new rule should read that in case of instant replay overturning a ruling on the field, all interim lineup moves between the contested play and the first pitch (or pickoff throw to a base) afterward should be nullified.

Such a wacky play as this should have occurred at Candlestick Park. But it did happen in San Francisco.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tiebreaker Possibilities Galore

Heading into the last weekend of the season, there are some pretty good tiebreaking situations still possible. The Twins just swept the White Sox (in extras tonight) to pass them by 1/2 game. The Brewers beat the Pirates in extras to keep pace with the Mets in the wildcard, and the Mets are only 1 game behind the Phillies.

If the Twins and Sox finish within a half game, then the Sox need to play a makeup game against Detroit on Monday. If this lands them in a tie, the Sox and Twins will have a playoff on Tuesday. If the Phils, Mets and Brewers all tie with the same record, the Phils and Mets will playoff on Monday to determine the division winner, and the loser will play Milwaukee on Tuesday to determine the wildcard.

If the Brewers and Mets each get swept this weekend and the Astros sweep, there might be a three way tie for the wildcard, and would force a makeup game on Monday between the Astros and Cubs to determine if the Astros are to tie. I think there might be a mathematical tiebreaker between the Rays and Red Sox in case they tie. Either way they're both in the playoffs. I'd love to see as many tiebreaker situations arise as possible in one year. Now that would be a news story.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Giant Spoilers

Okay, the Dodgers are 2 1/2 games in front of the D-Backs with a week to play. They finish the season with 3 games against the Giants at AT&T Park. I would love to see the season come down to knocking the Bums out of the pennant race on the last day of the season, as has happened between the Giants and Dodgers so many times in the past. They play the lowly Padres this week, while the Snakes play the Cards and the Giants play the Rockies.

Sunday's game in Chavez Ravine saw the G-men win a 1-0 exciter in 11 innings. This is good stretch baseball, even if one team is out of it. Go Giants. Beat LA!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My First Ballpark Road Trip (3)

Read entire series here.

During that first game of my road trip, I just had to take a tour of the park during the game to get a flavor of the fans and different vantage points around the place. A bleacher bum just has to go sit out in the bleachers. So I headed for left field. What I found didn't resemble anything I knew of bleachers. They weren't wooden benches (I knew this from games on TV) and they weren't even called "bleachers" either. They were like "outfield reserved" or something. I forget whether they were even general admission. All of the outfield stands at Anaheim Stadium were an afterthought, being added in the 70's for the football Rams. So the left field seats were essentially football seats, extending all the way down to ground level behind the outfield fence. Nobody could sit in the first ten or fifteen rows because they couldn't see the field over the fence.

The fans out there weren't any more enthusiastic about the game that the fans in the box seats. They just had less expensive tickets. In Oakland, I was used to fist fights several times per game, fans starting chants, heckling the visiting outfielders, etc. This was obviously not happening here. I yelled to the A's left fielder, Dave Collins at the time, just like we did in Oakland. He was "our guy," no matter how good he was. He didn't seem to much more than acknowledge that an A's fan was there in Anaheim. Oh, well. I did talk to one fan for a bit, then returned. Overall, the left field section was a major disappointment.

Anaheim Stadium was a big memory for me my first visit there. It was a large ballpark, three decks high, completely enclosed, seating 65,000. It was shaped similar to Candlestick, and the outfield enclosure was similar in that it was done for football in the 70's and the left field stands were in the end zone. Both parks' right field stands rolled in to the side line, covering right field.

After the game, I remember heading to the players exit to see the A's come out. I vaguely remember this, but I have a Mike Davis autograph on my ticket stub. I must have hit him up. It was a great night and I headed out to find a motel for the night. I will write about that, plus my time the rest of the week in San Diego, and a return jaunt to Anaheim for another game on Monday in future posts.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My First Ballpark Road Trip (2)

Read entire series here.

As a continuation to Part 1 of this series, I'll pick up with the game in Anaheim. I had made it to Anaheim before the game started despite my car troubles. I was wearing my A's hat and I had field level seats down the first base line. They were pretty good as seats went, as they were purchased much earlier in the year. I collect ticket stubs, and the ticket wasn't an Angels ticket; rather it was a Ticketron ticket (their phone order ticket service), so it didn't even look like a baseball ticket. There was no Angels logo, and the ticket taker was kind of clumsy on the tear. He missed the perforation and ripped the ticket right down the middle. If I didn't know what the ticket was for, I'd have a tough time identifying it.

Anyway, I was alone at the game, so I had an extra ticket. I tried to sell the other one outside the park (face value was all I was asking), but it just didn't feel right, so I went in alone. The concession stands had a different feel, and sold some different (and better) items than back at home. I got a hot dog and went to my seat. I don't know if this was the trip to Anaheim where this occurred, but after putting condiments on my dog, I dropped the wrapper on the ground, just like any baseball fan would where I was from. In a half of a second, there was a worker behind me with one of those old scoop broom deals and whisked my wrapper up and scurried off. Anaheim Stadium was extremely clean and uncluttered.

As the game progressed, I couldn't help but notice the crowd. I've always loved people watching, and I always take note of the feel of the crowd at a game. Angels fans were extremely tame. There were no loudmouth fans, no hecklers, nobody pounding beer after beer. Yes, there were people drinking beer, but no drunks, nobody even a bit loose. It was relatively quiet for a baseball game, even though I would have expected Saturday night to bring out the rowdies. People dressed conservatively, and it seemed that there were relatively few people wearing Angels hats, jackets and other items. They just sat there. They were very attentive to the game, but just seemed to stare toward home plate. I did my usual and cheered wildly and loudly for the A's, but even though I was very loud, few people seemed to even care. There were no strange looks or evil eyes.

One huge difference between the Angels crowd and the A's and Giants crowds that I was used to was in the women. Okay, maybe the Orange County/Southern California stereotype was true, but there were amazingly beautiful women all over the place. There wasn't just one in the left field bleachers and one over there in the box seats, but there were hundreds of them. I saw probably more beautiful women that game than in all A's and Giants games in my entire life combined. Maybe it was just the thing to do down there in LaLa land. Who knows, but a single 21 year old male didn't complain.

More in my next post.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How To Heckle - Umpires As Targets

Heckling isn't limited to targeting opposing players. Umpires can be equally good targets. What's usually needed, though, in the case of umpires is a blown call or a bad attitude in ejecting somebody. It is tradition in baseball to yell, "Kill the umpire!" - a tradition that has fallen on hard times these past few decades. Umpires are frequently referred to as "Blue." That they have most often worn black shows that the term started during a period where blue was king. Umps in my company softball league used to wear red shirts and black pants but we still called them "blue." Go figure.

Eyesight is the most often maligned attribute of an umpire. I read an account once where a ballpark organist was ejected for playing "Three Blind Mice" after a disputed call. One traditional heckle goes like this, "Hey, ump, if you had another eye you'd be a cyclops!" Another less popular says, "Hey, blue, you're missing a good game; Giants and Cardinals at Candlestick!" I used to yell, "Hey, ump, turn around and watch the game!"

The centerfield bleacher bums in Oakland, when the umpires were announced before the game, used to collectively yell, "Oh, no!" after each umpire's name. Their favorite target was rotund AL ump Ken Kaiser, for whom they would yell, "OH, NOOOO!"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How To Heckle - Developing Your Voice

I started heckling early on in my life. I attended games every so often, and after a game of yelling, my voice was often hoarse. When I started attending games almost every day, I realized that my voice wouldn't handle it. There's nothing more embarrassing to the prime heckler in the bleachers than to have lost his voice. So I started experimenting with my voice and training it.

I once heard an ad for voice training for would be stock traders. These guys spend all day on the floor of the stock exchange yelling prices. This class would help train their voices for maximum volume at extended times of yelling. I dreamed of joining that class and showing up the first day not wearing a suit or collared shirt, but a ripped up t-shirt and faded ball cap.

I paid attention to airflow, vocal strain, projection, tone and many other factors. You could say I was self-trained in yelling. I maximized my voice so that I could yell very loud for nine innings every day. It paid off. To this day, I've only met two people with louder yelling voices than mine.

One A's double header vs. the Twins I started yelling at the Twins left fielder, constantly and loudly. There were some Twins fans sitting nearby who were a bit forcibly unimpressed with my heckling. They explained to me that I would lose my voice in just a few innings. To my surprise, several of the bums around me exclaimed, "No he won't!" One of the games went extra innings, and the left fielder had as bad a day as he could, going 0 for 11. Some day when I become rich, I'll start a class on heckling voice lessons.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Giants Loss Projection Through September 15

September 1 through September 15:

59-78, 92; 59-79, 93; 60-79, 92; 60-80, 93; 61-80, 92; 62-80, 91; 63-80, 91; 64-80, 90; 65-80, 89; 65-81, 90; 66-81, 89; 67-81, 89; 68-81, 88; 68-82, 89.

With this last game, the Giants have clinched a losing season for the fourth straight year.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Possible 20 Wins For Lincecum

A few posts ago, I said that Tim Lincecum would no longer be able to win 20 games. Well, there has been an interesting twist to this. Starting every fifth game, he would run out of starts to finish the season on a winning run at 20 victories. His 20th would be on the day after the season is over. But the Giants have hinted that they will clip their off day next week out of the rotation and move Lincecum up a game. He'll still pitch on four days rest, but not on four games rest. The last game of the year is against the Dodgers, and they are in a pennant race (uh, yeah) with the D-Backs. How sweet it would be for Lincecum to win his 20th on the last game of the year, knock the Dodgers out of the pennant race, and win the Cy Young award, all in the same day.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Giants Loss Projection Through August 31

August 16 through August 31: (I've been tardy my last several projections. I'll try to be better starting Sept 15.)

51-71, 94; 52-71, 94; 53-71, 93; 53-72, 93; 54-72, 93; 55-72, 92; 56-72, 91; 57-72, 90; 58-72, 90; 58-73, 90; 58-74, 91; 59-74, 90; 59-75, 91; 59-76, 91; 59-77, 92.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Last Chance For A Winning Season

The Giants are leading Arizona in the sixth inning, 2-1, as I type. They have 80 losses. So, if the Giants can hold on and win this game, then win their last 18, they will have a winning season with a record of 82-80. This just might be good enough to win the division, and the World Series.

Friday, September 5, 2008

My First Ballpark Road Trip (1)

Read entire series here.

My first road trip to another ballpark outside the Bay Area came in 1985 as I ventured out on vacation to Anaheim Stadium and then Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. I went south in late August, the week between the end of my summer intern job and the beginning of college classes in the fall. The future Mrs. Scott and I had broken up earlier in the year after dating for two years after the first time we met. We had planned a trip early in the year. I had turned 21 in the spring. She wanted to go to Disneyland, etc., and I wanted to go to baseball. She wasn't a fan yet. I wrote to each team for their schedule, and bought tickets for the late summer trip in advance.

She didn't accompany me on the trip, so I went alone. It was a defining time in my life, my initial adventure as an "adult." I drove south on a Saturday morning, planning on making it to Anaheim (440 miles) by late afternoon so I could see the A's play the Angels. But I was confronted with roadblock number one. Making it through the Grapevine, my car overheated in the mountains on the downhill side heading toward Los Angeles. I was stuck in the desert in 105 degree weather, after pulling off under the freeway to escape the sun. I called for a tow truck. It didn't come. A freelance roadside helper came across me and stopped. He checked under the hood and figured that I blew a radiator hose. For 40 bucks he would drive me to the nearest gas station, get the part, install it and add water to the radiator. Good deal. It took about two hours, setting my schedule back. Just as he fixed it the tow truck driver showed up and was ticked off that I told him I didn't need his services. Anyway, back on the road.

I got to Anaheim I guess about an hour before game time. Seeing the stadium for the first time was an experience. Unlike the Oakland Coliseum, which is sunk into the ground, or Candlestick Park, which is built into the side of a hill, Anaheim Stadium was built up from ground level, so appeared much higher than what I was used to. The colors were so much more pastel as well.

I really had to pee after such a long trip, so I ran in and found a men's room. What I saw in there really blew my mind. My OC culture shock had begun. There was a worker with a spray bottle polishing the urinals. Polishing urinals? What kind of place was this? I mean Candlestick's restrooms were slime pits; places to go get rid of things. Rusty plumbing, troughs full of sunflower seed shells and cigarette butts, paper towel and toilet paper strewn all over the floor, stalls you wouldn't dare sit in. But Anaheim was sparkling clean, like Disneyland, which is only four blocks away. The contrasts were startling to somebody who only knew one way of baseball things. The parking lot had rules against tailgate parties and alcohol! A game without a tailgate party? Were these people communists? But inside, there was a saloon, and you could buy hard liquor by the shot. Go figure.

I walked all around, getting a glimpse of other-worldly ballpark sights, sounds and smells. More in my next post.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

No 20 For Lincecum

No, the title to this post is NOT No. 20 for Lincecum, as in number 20. It is "no twenty" as in 20 wins for Lincecum. Today he got a no decision vs. Colorado. He has 15 wins, and now a sweep of the season will result in only 19. Unless there is a rainout that needs to be made up from out of nowhere and he gets one more start. As of today, he has four starts left this year. A run will put him at 19-3, easily within the Cy Young criteria, seriously.

Monday, September 1, 2008

No, No On Sabbathia's No-No

The Milwaukee Brewers are officially requesting a change of scoring from Major League Baseball on a play that, if reversed, would give CC Sabbathia a no-hitter. A fifth inning infield grounder was misplayed by Sabbathia allowing the batter to reach first base. The official scorer called it a hit, but replays show that a normal play would have easily beat the runner for an out. Sabbathia ended up pitching a one-hitter. The Brewers are contending that the scoring decision robbed Sabbathia of a no-hitter.

I hate it when people to this with the future, especially from baseball announcers. The scoring on that play didn't rob Sabbathia of a no-hitter, but merely the possibility of a no-hitter at that exact moment of the game. Who is to say that if it were scored an error that the Pirates wouldn't have scored ten runs following that? Simply knowing that it was still a no-hitter vs. knowing that it isn't a no-hitter any longer would have changed the mental outlook of every player, umpire and fan so as to change any number of factors with the very next pitch.

Here's a simple explanation. Suppose somebody was walking down the sidewalk and spotted a dollar lying on the ground. Taking five seconds to pick it up vs. keeping walking would change the entire future of the universe with infinite complexity. Picking it up might cause that person to bump into somebody coming around the corner, maybe an old friend from high school, an old friendship is started, they go into business together, maybe get married, who knows. Keeping walking causes them to miss their friend and none of that ever happens, changing everybody's life who lives on the earth, with six degrees of separation maximum. Jimmy Stewart's character in "It's A Wonderful Life" shows this when it is explained to him by Clarence the angel what the world would have been like if his wish were granted that he were never born. Another example from baseball. A runner makes an error in judgment and gets thrown out trying to take an extra base. The next batter hits a single. The announcers say, "well, that single would have scored the run!" No, not necessarily, because the single was on a first pitch curve ball, and if the runner didn't try for the extra base, his potential of stealing a base on the first pitch by still being on base because of not trying for the extra base would have caused the pitcher to start things off with a fastball, or maybe even a pitch out. The single wouldn't have occurred, and the game would have changed totally. Or if the single would have occurred, it would have occurred due to completely different circumstances.

It would be a great tragedy for MLB to reverse this scoring decision and award Sabbathia a no-hitter. It would prove that MLB brass have no clue as to how the world really works. I doubt that they do in the first place, but that is another issue.