Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Nothing Beats Baseball On The Radio

Today I enjoyed a very relaxing day off. My time hasn't been my own lately. 
So it was nice to do much of nothing today. After my nap I checked the MLB at Bat app to see if there was a game going on. There was just one, the Angels and Astros in Anaheim. It was tied 1-1 in the 8th. So instead of turning on the TV to watch, I listened on the radio through my MLB app.
It was much too late to keep score, so I charted the game. 
Keeping score during the game takes concentration and focus. You have to keep watching to keep ahead. The visual aspect certainly helps. If I were scoring sitting on the couch and I missed something, I can rewind and catch what I missed. Charting from the radio, you only get one chance. I was about to discover charting/keeping score listening to the game takes immense focus.
So I grabbed my legal pad and went to work. 
What I do is I just listen to the announcer, in this case it was Terry Smith of the Angels on KLAA 830 AM in Los Angeles.
I follow along and listen to how he described the pitch location and if it was a ball or strike. Sometimes he said the location, sometimes he didn't. There were times he was telling a long story and he didn't say anything about the pitch. I would listen to the crowd reaction to tell if it was a ball or strike. Mr. Smith would eventually catch up on the count and I was on track again. I used my multi colored pen just as I do on my score book.
So for example if on the first pitch was a ball away I would notate "Away B-1". If the second pitch was a strike swinging, I would notate, "Swing S-1", and so on and so on. Then just as in a scorebook, I would notate the final play.
I noticed that during TV, the announcers use the visual aid to describe the action. If there's a lull during the game, they plug away on commercials. I'll admit that's when I get up and get a drink, or get distracted myself. On the radio, the announcers are more descriptive of what a going on at the ballpark. I didn't dare go get a drink or distract myself as radio commercial breaks are much shorter and I didn't want to miss anything. I found myself more involved in the game. I felt like I was at The Big A. I even noticed the pace of the pitchers. Houston Street of the Angels works very slow. Josh Fields of the Astros worked very quickly. 
I don't always chart listening to a game on the radio. Sometimes I use a radio game as background noise. Today was the first time I did it actually. 
The game went into extra innings and the Angels won 2-1. I charted five innings. Sometime on a day where I have nothing planned, I'm gonna chart a complete game. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

This Blog Post Brought To You By.....

Remember the good old days when watching a sports telecast, after a pause in the action, the network would go to commercial? You know, your typical car, beer and razor commercials?
I was watching a ballgame the other day, and I was just blown away by the amount of product placement and plugs presented through a telecast.
You have the pre and post game snd halftime shows presented by a large corporation. Replays are sponsored by a company. Pitching changes during a baseball game are brought to you by a local oil change place.
It's advertising overload!
Then after the game during press conferences there's a Step and Repeat wall that's placed behind the athletes to remind you that the interview wasn't possible with another company.
Then there's the commercials themselves during the game!
Sometime in the future there will be advertising on the players uniforms. It's common in Japanese baseball. As a matter of fact, the teams are named after corporations there. Yakult Swallows, Nippon Ham Fighters to name a few.
Logos on uniforms dominate soccer worldwide.
I know advertising pays the bills, but with so much money to be made in advertising, TV and radio revenue and merchandising, why is it so damn expensive to go to a ballgame. (I know the answer, if people are willing to pay the price to go to a game, then squeeze every nickel out of them).
It's overkill. We're being brainwashed.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Watching A Threesome

Get your minds out of the gutter everyone, I was talking about a golf threesome!
Silverado Resort in Napa hosted one of the many US Open Local Qualifying across the country.
Ninety golfers competed for five spots in the Sectional Qualifying, which will take place next week.
Everyone is hoping for a spot at the US Open at Chambers Bay, just outside of Seattle, Washington.
I came to the course as the people who teed of on hole number 10 approach their back nine. At first it was pretty uneventful. It was like watching your friends play golf at the local muni.
I followed Jason Gilbert, Tom Johnson and Mark Nicoletti.
Who, your probably asking.
Jason Gilbert had personalized gear on, that's how I knew he was. Nice guy. We exchanged a few good words about the birdie he made on number 18. He spoke to me like a long lost friend.
Tom Johnson had his name on his bag. He's an assistant golf coach at UC Davis and he's from Arbuckle, near my hometown.
Mark Nicoletti was the "everyguy" of the threesome. He was chugging along and talking about his round with his caddie. He was also stuffing his face with a chili dog as fast as he could.
I watched for about two hours. It wasn't like watching a tournament. The "gallery", if you call two or three people standing around a gallery, consisted of friends or family of the players.
The winner of the sectional was Tom Johnson. It was funny because he was dressed like a hacker on Saturday morning. His game looked good though. He looked casual out there. It won't be casual for him next week.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Something Fishy Going On In Miami

The Miami Marlins led by meddling owner Jeffrey Loria made a very bizzare move this morning.
Last night they fired manager Mike Redmond (after signing a two year extension last fall) and today named their General Manager Dan Jennings as the new skipper.
What's bizzare about this is he's never played, coached or managed at the major league level. He briefly played in the minors.
Another bizzare thing is the Marlins have done this before back in 1996.
John Boles was named manager for the second half of the '96 season and did very well for himself, posting a winning record.
The following off season the Marlins rebuilt and went on a free agent shopping spree and brought in the highly respected Jim Leyland to manage the team in 1997. They won the World Series.
Before the team got they're World Series ring on Opening Day 1998, the Marlins went on a fire sale and stripped the team down to a very inexpensive roster.
Let's move along to 1999 and John Boles returns. Remember he had a winning record the second half of '96. You would think it brought him some credibility in the clubhouse. Things didn't fare so well in the couple years he was at the helm. Things got so bad a journeyman relief pitcher called him out to the press and said Boles knew nothing about the major leagues as he never played in the majors. He would eventually lose the clubhouse and eventually his job.
The relief pitcher calling out Boles reminds of a story I have heard many times about Lee May questioning a new manager the Cincinnati Reds hired for the 1970 season. This manager played one game in the majors. Mr. May walked up to his new manager and said, "What do you know about the major leagues? You're just a minor league mother-fucker!"
The new manager was Sparky Anderson and he did quite well for himself. He ended up in the Hall of Fame after winning over 2100 games and three World Series titles.
Which brings me back to Dan Jennings. He's respected in baseball circles for his scouting work and eventual rise to GM of the Marlins.
He lost his first game tonight. It's not going to be easy for him as he learns the day in and out routine of running a team. Every move he'll make will be under a microscope and second guessed.
Before the game Ichiro put a tie around his neck Jennings neck as a joke because he's only seen Jennings in a shirt and tie. Will the tie eventually become a noose around his neck?
One game down and hopefully many more to go for Dan Jennings. Will he be a Hall of Famer or just another minor league mother-f@&er?

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Arrogant Brilliance Of Bill Simmons

The man responsible for me becoming a blogger, the man who inspired me to be a journalist again was fired by ESPN late last week.
Bill Simmons, he of Boston Digital City on AOL, Page 2 on ESPN, Grantland, 30 for 30 film series and also his famous Sports Guy ramblings will no longer have his voice heard on the ESPN platforms. From what I've read, it looks like it's been a parting that was eventually going to happen. ESPN just pulled the trigger faster.
I started reading Mr. Simmons work way back in 2001. He had a very funny article about comparing a movie to a certain sports event that I don't remember, but he was just so funny. It was as if he was thinking about things that I thought about. He would make random 80's references that would make me laugh out loud. (This was before texting, LOL didn't exist yet)
He spoke of sports in the 80's as if he was a good friend sitting on my couch in Woodland and we were watching the game together.
I mean he reminisces of the NBA on CBS. He went on a long rant about the theme song. Who writes about the theme song to a sports show?
I was hooked on his stories about NFL pregame shows, baseball games from years past, his love and hate of NHL hockey. He wrote about the Greatest Sports Movies of All Time that had me checking the computer every other day to see if he added to the list.
He just had a very clever way talking about sports.
As someone said on Deadspin, he seemed like the kinda guy you could sit and have a beer with and talk sports. He seemed like one of us.
His first few years at ESPN, he was one of us. Then Hollywood came calling.
He left the east coast so he could be a writer on The Jimmy Kimmel Show.
He wrote of things that happened backstage, in writers meetings and of things that happened on air.
I loved reading about him adjusting to life in LA. You could tell by his writing he missed his friends (House, J-Bug and a few others he's written about over the years) and his father. His father seemed like a adviser/best friend to Mr. Simmons. His father seemed very influential in his life. According to his book, The Book of Basketball, Mr. Simmons sports journey started in 1974 when his father bought two season tickets to the Boston Celtics. I couldn't imagine being a five year old and going to the old Garden and watching a historic basketball team. Little did  five year old Billy Simmons know that eventually he would live a life most of us can only dream about.

He would attend historic Celtics games that would one day give him a treasure chest of future blog post about the great 80's Celtics teams. He would go on to call Larry Bird the "Basketball Jesus". It's clear in his posts Simmons worships Larry Bird. I found this interesting because as a teenager living on the west coast, I loved Magic Johnson and hated the Celtics. Simmons brought back great memories of the old Lakers/Celtics rivalry. I however agree with him in one aspect as I didn't care for Kareem Abdul Jabbar either. Just never liked how Kareem carried himself. 

Anyways, on to Holy Cross for college. He wrote amazing posts about his days in the dorms doing things most carefree college kids do. As I have written before, I didn't have the traditional college experience, so reading his articles gave me a glimps if what dorm life was like. (I had cousins tell me dorm stories, but Simmons' stories were more detailed and mentioned certain unmentionables).

Eventually he would go on to graduate and discover the power of the World Wide Web. He mentions writing for AOL Digital City Boston. I remember the Digital City format, but I can't recall reading Simmons' work as he wasn't a "name" yet. 

It was a column that bashed ESPN's ESPY's awards show that eventually got him a job with The World Wide Leader. Which when I along with the rest of the world discovered him. 

He became an internet sensation. He would go on to become a name at I remember him having a small section of ESPN's Page 2. He became so widely read he got his own page......The Sports Guy. 

In time the blog led to a book about the 2004 Boston Red Sox winning the World Series. "Now I Can Die In Peace" was a very long book about his love of the Red Sox. Actually it was rehashes of blog posts with clever footnotes at the bottom of each page. His footnotes were funnier than the book itself. I read it once as it was too much to absorb.

Moving forward he took a leave of absence from his Sports a Guy page to finish his second book. The Book of Basketball. This when I noticed he started to change.

When the book came out, he did the usual book tour to hype the book. He had a stop in SanFrancisco. I remember wanting to go to the bookstore to meet him, but a scheduling conflict prevented me from doing so. I read in the newspaper that the line to meet Simmons was very long and  he didn't meet everyone as time ran out. He was no longer one of us. He was a celebrity.

He eventually cut back on his blog post. His style of writing changed. His posts weren't so funny. 

He started to be more arrogant. It felt like he had a sense of entitlement. 

Then came what some feel was his own vanity project, Grantland. It was created by ESPN for him, it wasn't his own creation. I think it's okay, it's nothing special. Ill glance at it occasionally. It's more of the same drivel from Sports Guy page.........Mail bag, Vegas trips, gambling, his friends, his wife and kids. 

A lot of his fans thought he would be great on TV. He was on the panel for NBA on ESPN but I never saw him. I heard mixed reviews. He hosts a monthly show called The Grantland Basketball Hour. It's very entertaining and I feel it should have been a weekly show. But critics called it awful.

What finally got him on the hot seat was calling NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell a liar on one of his platforms. He then challenged ESPN to suspend him. So they did for three weeks. 

Eventually ESPN just decided to fire him. 

Now the talk is where will he go? Fox, NBC, CBS? For the time being there's a rumored Non Compete Clause which prevents him from doing anything until his contract is officially up in September.

Maybe this will allow him to regroup, focus and look back on his career. See where he went wrong and out of control.

All I know is I want the old Sports Guy back. Yep, I was one of his readers. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

This Is What First Place Looks Like

There were concerns about me entering a fantasy baseball league. Concerns about me not focusing on my lineup. I got kicked out of the league a few years ago for mis-managment.
This season I ponied up a $100 to join once again. Look at me now!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Another Hero Passes On

My earliest baseball memories are listening to KNBR and being introduced to Spring Training baseball by Lon Simmons. He would broadcast from Arizona at Scottsdale, Tucson, Mesa, or Tempe. The game sounded different. Like the crowd was more intimate in a smaller ballpark. The bat hitting the ball sounded more louder and crisp. The game sounded simple.
Sometimes Mr. Simmons would do a show from The Pink Pony in Scottsdale when the Pink Pony was the center of the baseball universe. He would interview players, executives, scouts, or anyone who was willing to talk baseball.
He would eventually do A's games to as I got older. Then as I got older, he went back to the Giants.
Great voice. I understand he was an even better man.
Mr. Simmons passed away on Sunday. Fitting he would pass away on Opening Day. His life would end as baseball would begin once again. He passed when baseball fans would be happy baseball is back. Yes we would be sad at his passing, but we could celebrate his life by celebrating baseball's return.
God bless you Lon Simmons.