Thinking Cap- The Fall Classic

Boy oh freaking boy, I love the World Series. I love everything about it. The drama- how each and every pitch has major implications on the outcome of the game and how the suspense builds between each delivery. The crowd- playoff baseball crowds, and more specifically those of World Series’ games, are electric. Comparing the atmosphere of a baseball crowd in early June to that of the scene for a Fall Classic contest is ludacris. Apples and carambola (star fruit, quite delicious). A Johnny Mathis crowd versus the insane throngs of tweens that come out to see my man Beebs.

And finally, the history. The Billy Crystal lead up for game one wasn’t spectacular, but did you happen to notice the seamless transition from “We will see you…,” Jack Buck as Kirby Puckett hit his 1992 walk off and “…tomorrow night!” Joe Buck, as David Freese won game 6 in 2011? It was timeless.  Oh, and any time I see Kirk Gibson pumping his fist, or entire arm, as he rounds the bases to  “I don’t believe what I just saw!” I get goosebumps.(Another Jack Buck beauty, boy someone should write about these guys- they’re fantastic!)

Ok, now on to the 2012 World Series. I get it. People love the NFL. For the most part, Americans would rather watch enormous men fly through the air and smash into other, equally enormous men than watch Doug Fister pound hitters inside with two seam fastballs or a perfectly executed piggy back relay by Marco Scutaro. But believe it or not, there are still some baseball purists out there, and they are being treated, not tricked, thus far by these World Series.

The first two games of this series have showcased great pitching, legendary individual performances, some wild bounces and much more. Let’s take a look at some of the things, small and large, that have made these two baseball games a baseball fan’s dream.

  • Great starting pitching. The pitching has been dominant! In fact, the only starting pitcher who hasn’t done his thing was Justin Verlander- the guy who is supposed to dominate hitters every time he takes the ball. Welp, “it’s why you play the game!”

Barry Zito was fantastic, keeping Tiger hitters off balance and avoiding barrels like Mario in the original “Donkey Kong.” Both Madison Bumgarner and Fister( two Fister tangents-1) Dude got smoked in the melon and continued getting outs all night long. 2) Fister! His name is Fister and he jams guys like that. Poetic justice!)pounded hitters in and generated ground balls. They owned the inner half and were relentless doing so. Just good old fashioned pitching.

  • Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols and Jack Black. I mean “Kung Fu Panda!” Pablo Sandoval launched three homers in game one, and launched himself into World Series folklore. I still can’t believe he was able to get that high and inside Verlander heater on the sweet spot. Thanks, Phantom Cam! The Panda became just the fourth player in history to homer thrice in a WS game. In case you’ve forgotten how great the Babe was, he did it twice.
  • Anytime you get Hugo Chavez commenting on a player’s performance, you know it’s something special. HUGO CHAVEZ! He tweeted about Sandoval’s incredible three-homer night.
  • The phrase “a game of inches.” Normally, it makes me want to puke. In most sports, inches make huge differences. The phrase is overused. Period.

But there have been so many moments in this series where minute details have made Giant differences. (round of applause, please) The double off the third base bag, the bunt down the third base line, the double play ball that traveled 3 inches into the field of play and, my personal favorite, the Hunter Pence triple hit have all shaped this series. Another shout out to the Phantom Cam for giving us some fantasy like views of all these plays .If these balls bounce the other way, Detroit has more than a Tiger’s chance in both of these games. (OK. You caught me, I made up that phrase)

It’s a game of inches.

  • Photo Bombs.  Sergio Romo, the Giants fiery, fill in closer for this postseason has also taken on the roll as the dug out devient. He has kept his squad loose with photo bombs of fellow players and of course, Erin Andrews. During a midgame interview in game two, Romo’s teammates retaliated. Romo was bombarded with handfuls of ice as he was bombarded by questions from Buck and Tim McCarver.. He did a decent job keeping it together, and a better job of shutting down the Tigers in the ninth.

Photo bombs. Ice fights. And people don’t like baseball!?

  • Redemption Song. Sports mimic life in so many ways. That’s why we love them so much. We love the peaks and valleys, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. (Cliché police just knocked on my door. Good thing I gave them a fake ID…sorry Miggles.) What we really love, is to see a player who has recently been down and out return from the brink of irrelevance to make his mark.  Early in this World Series, we have been lucky enough to see this twice.

The San Francisco Giants won a title merely two years ago. After the first two games of this series, its difficult to imagine that Barry Zito was left off the playoff roster in 2010 and Pablo Sandoval was benched due to his weight.

Things did not look very good for Zito and Sandoval. But flash forward a couple years and  Zito is dropping 12 to 6’ers like woah and Kung Fu Panda is back to Jiu Jitsu’ing balls out of the yard. The Giants have won Zito’s last 14 starts and Sandoval is batting .368 (21 for 57). He has six homers, four doubles and 13 RBIs.

Classic comeback stories.

Classic baseball in the Fall Classic.

Thinking Cap: What the Buck??

October. What a month! The thirty-one days of October are chalk full of NFL Sundays, college football Saturdays and Major League Baseball playoffs. October is undoubtedly one of the most exciting times to be a sports fan. It is also the time when one of sports shiniest stars shines brightest. (You’re all stars in my eyes!)

Derek Jeter. Derek Jeter is NOT whom we are referring to here!

No. The star I am referring to has never won a batting title. This man has never thrown for an NFL score. This guy hasn’t even played professional sports.

But he has played an integral role in some of the most meaningful, magical sports moments of our generation. At age twenty-five this man became the youngest person ever to announce an NFL season. He also is the youngest man to ever do the play by play for an entire nine-inning MLB game. This man, who has won countless Sports Emmy’s, is at the top of his industry in multiple sports. And this man is hated by hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Why!? Why do you hate Joe Buck?

The guy is great! His ability to do play by play is incredible. Sure, he sounds a bit pretentious and smug- almost like he is better than everyone else. News flash homies: HE IS!

Buck is one of the best NFL announcers we have ever seen(heard?), and that is his second calling. His play by play, alongside Tim Mcarver, for Fox’s game of the week and playoffs is unrivaled. His voice has grown to be the sweet, melodic background for American households on crisp, fall evenings.  (Well some of them. The ones that still enjoy a good pitching matchup whether the Yankees and Sox are involved or not. The ones who don’t throw up their hands and rep ADD. The ones who still love the original American Pass time.)

Just yesterday, Buck called the Packer- Niner game at Candlesick and scooted over to AT&T Park for the Cards-Giants playoff game. Incredible! I mean, who pulls that off? Joe Buck does!

This dude has so eloquently spoken the soundtrack to many of baseball’s most special moments. And get this, while doing so he has even paid homage to his father, legendary broadcaster Jack Buck.

In the 2002 series, just a few months after the death of Joe’s father, Buck had hoped that the proper situation would arise. When Angel closer Troy Purcival struck out Rich Aurilia to end game six and subsequently force a game seven, it did. Buck made an allusion to his father’s call of one of baseball’s most exciting moments of all-time- Kirby Puckett’s walk off homer in game six of the ’91 series. “We will see you tomorrow night!” the Bucks said.

Buck would go on to use the phrase in appropriate instances in the playoff series to follow, perhaps none more magical than game four of the 2004 ALCS. (Four is your answer people. It took me four “Thinking Caps” to mention ’04 and reveal my deep passion for a certain crimson stocking clad ball club that plays in Boston. [THE RED SOX!]) When Big Papi socked the 12th inning walk off, Buck altered the phrase to allude to the fact the extra inning game had gone into the early morning hours. “We will see you later tonight!” (Please excuse me while I shake off the goose bumps and go watch the 2004 World Series DVD…of course the one narrated by Dennis Leary!)

So again I ask, “why do you hate the grey hair?” No, for a second I thought I was talking to Magua from “Last of the Mohicans.” (I see you Daniel Day!)

Why do people hate Joe Buck?

I have two theories.

1)(Perhaps the more logical guess, but not nearly as fun. And isn’t that the whole point of this? Its not logical!)

The “Buck Gets Lumped with Tim McCarver who People Hate” phenomena. McCarver seems to be a target of disdain of Americans everywhere. They claim he is biased towards the Yankees, and well, they don’t like that.

I immediately discard this theory like Manny discarded the K-Rod offering in ‘07(oh crap, the phrase “slippery slope” comes to mind here) because, well, I like McCarver too! But that’s neither here nor there. Well, it sort of is. But moving on to the second theory…

2) The “Adam Banks/Paul Pfeiffer Syndrome”

Ok hear me out here! Buck grew up the son of a world famous sports broadcaster. He was wealthy and had access to sporting events that we normal serfs could only dream of.

Adam Banks was the rich, private school kid who everyone at first disliked. And remember when Pfeiffer’s dad invested in some on shore property and made it big? Kevin Arnold and his father, Jack, couldn’t take it and just about ruined their friendships with their geeky, Jewish long time friends.

Now of course the Ducks were able to move past this and win a Pee-Wee championship, a gold medal and a battle with the varsity squad of their own school, Eden Hall Academy. And Paul’s dad lost his money and Kevin’s sentimental epilogue touched upon the changing country and the resiliency of friendship just like it did every episode.

America seemingly has not been able to get over its jealousy of Joe Buck. And I think it’s damn sad.

So take my advice, listen to Mr. Joe Buck. Enjoy his craft. Appreciate him. And if you want to be one of those stubborn sports fans that just wants to moan and exclaim, “I hate Joe Buck,” well then you can Joe Buck yourself.

Get Real

Sargey

Past thinking Caps:

Boras Ruins America

You Don’t Break Tradition

Thanks Bud

Thinking Cap 3: Boras Ruins America

As I sit here and watch the Washington National pitching staff make the Cardinals look like “Murderer’s Row,” I can’t help but become furious. My blood is literally boiling.  The simple two word reason as to what is disturbing me to this level- Stephen Strasburg. Or is it actually Scott Boras? Not that simple I guess.

Strasburg, the upstart National’s young stud, is the face of the franchise. He’s their ace. Their guy.  And yet, as the Nationals forge into their first playoff series since 1933, the right handed flame thrower might as well be hawking Cracker Jacks in the stands. (“Actually Sargey, tossing the delicious, caramel covered snack to patrons in the crowd could cause added stress to Stevie’s [that’s probably what he calls Strasburg, Stevie{wow, brackets inside parenthesis, he’s lost his mind!}] throwing arm. No can do.”- Scott Boras)

Strasburg has been shut down by the Nat’s. They claim they are looking out for his future and want to care of their power pitcher’s surgically repaired arm to the best of their ability. Bull shit! “Bullshit!” I say. This is just another example of Scott “The Snake” Boras strangling baseball to death. (Sorry, I was just watching “Anaconda,” and had to get it in somehow. Voit!)

Strasburg is an elite athlete. He has been his entire life. What do elite athletes do? They compete, god damnit! They compete at the highest possible level. Like, uhh, the MLB Playoffs? Ding ding!

But Boras won’t have it. He has to ensure that Strasburg remains healthy leading up to his next contract, which will be ginormous and might I add -NOT WITH THE NATIONALS!

National fans are pouring their heart and soul into this team. Finally they have baseball in October. For a baseball fan, October baseball is what its all about. And unlike fans of other sports, we watch a hundred and sixty two games that all lead up to this. Now they have it. And this money hungry bastard is making them go it without their man.

Would Smalls, Porter and the other boys had gone to play the little league baseball version of the Socs without Benny?

No, because Benny hadn’t met Scott Boras yet.

Get real!

Sargey

Thinking Cap 2: “Thanks Bud”

Ok we have all had a good few day’s and then some to digest what transpired at Turner Field on Friday night. Let’s take a look at some of the things that stood out that perhaps we would have missed if our main man Bud didn’t add the bonus baseball, extra wild card, wild one game playoff.

  • Let’s get it out of the way here. Infield fly. The rule that people love to just shrug off and label as impossible to understand. Come on people. Any half-ass sports fan understands the rule. So if you want to be a lazy, sports dolt then fine. Don’t try to comprehend the phrase
    “advance at their own risk.” But please bozos, don’t blame the rule, blame your apathy.

As far as the call the other night- they blew it. Simply. It wasn’t an “ordinary effort” and the call certainly wasn’t made “immediately.” The replacement refs strike again. Oops.

No more infield fly talk. To quote the great DMX, “I washed my hands. I’m through!”

  • The “Tomahawk Chop” is incredible. I just can’t get enough of it! It gets baseball fans into the game. INTO THE GAME! It actually creates atmosphere in a major league baseball stadium that rivals that of a big time football game. I can’t imagine being an opposing closer, with runners on in the ninth and a tie game at Turner Stadium as “The Chop” is in full effect. Baseball needs more of this. (The last few MLB games I went to I was told to sit down and pipe down. I would have loved to “Tomahawk Chop” the loser ushers in the neck.)
  • The fan throwing trash onto the field phenomena never ceases to disappoint me. Get it together people. You are adults. We all have passion for our teams. But don’t act like a three year old when things don’t go your way.  You gotta think that thousands of people woke up Saturday morning hung over and thought to themselves, “jesus, I was throwing beer bottles at 10 dollar an hour employees of Ted Turner.”
  • A nip! The umpire was hit with a nip! Yes! And it was referred to as “a small liquor bottle like the one you are served on a plane.” You can’t write this stuff!
  • Champagne is beautiful stuff. Pundits like to complain about the over celebration of baseball teams. In todays format, a successful team can experience upwards of five champagne showers in one playoff run. I say, good for them! Looks like good old-fashioned fun to me. In fact, I’m heading to the store right now to buy 5 bottles of Andre just in case something good happens today.
  • Quality umpire mocking by the Brave’s faithful. After the IFFR that was botched, any fly ball to the outfield was welcomed by an “Infield Fly” chant. Well done! (Sorry Dark Man X)
  • The Molinas. Its unprecedented. Any time the name Molina is mentioned around Major League Baseball experts get weak in the knees. How can a set of brothers be so talented and so, dare I use the cliché, classy? Whether its Benji, Yadier, Jose or Keith(haha), the Molinas know what they are doing. Mr. and Mrs. Molina, cheers to you!

The latest CAM (Class Act Move) by a Molina was Friday night when Chipper Jones stepped up to the plate for what was most likely the final at bat of his illustrious career. Yadier Molina asked for time and went to talk to his pitcher, giving the Brave’s fans time to express their appreciation for one of the greatest Braves in history- truly a great moment in baseball. Atta boy, Yadi!

  • Chipper Jones. The guy who made me beg my mom to buy me soccer socks so I could wear my baseball pants up at the knee. One of the coolest baseball players of our generation. Jones is a hall of fame switch hitter, he played 19 seasons with the same Atlanta Braves team that drafted him first overall, played a thousand playoff baseball games, caught trophy bass and always played the game the right way.

Chipper’s career came to an end Friday night- in a less than ideal manner. Jone’s had a costly error and was 1-5 at the dish, with his only hit being a symbolic broken bat single with 2 outs in the ninth. In a way, Chipper refused to go quietly into that dark night, just as he has done over the past few injury ridden seasons. (That’s right, a Dylan Thomas allusion….fine, for some of you its “Dangerous Minds”)

Chipper will be remembered for his fantastic career, his intimidating, unflappable stare and for being a true professional baseball player.  He will be remembered a Brave.

Get Bun!

Sargey

Thinking Cap 1: You Don’t Break Tradition

Tradition. Even the word can give you goose bumps. Tradition. Feel’em?

Who are we kidding here? But seriously, there are certain things in sports that you can just count on, and well, that make you feel good.:

A rookie’s first career homer goes ignored and if he has any poise he walks down the dug out steps, stone faced and high fives and pounds the air as his teammates pretend not to watch.

The Tigers of Clemson enter “Death Valley by running down “The Hill,” touching “Howard’s Rock as they pass. (Get this! The rock was presented to head coach Frank Howard in the early 1960’s. A friend brought it to him from Death Valley, CA. Howard, who must have been a real gem, used it as a doorstop in his office. A few years later, as he was cleaning out his office he found the rock and ordered a Clemson executive to get rid of it. That man was Gene Willomon and he decided to place the rock on a pedestal and mount it at the base of the famous hill. After a 40-35 victory over Virginia, Howard decided to use his former doorstop as motivation. “Give me 110% or keep your filthy hands off my rock.”)  (Wow, long side note. Back to traditions)

The Temple Owl mascot flaps his wings continuously for the entirety of every basketball game. He doesn’t stop. It’s not allowed.

The Yankees, from Mantle to Jeter, wear pin stripes.

The Crazies jump up and down and cheer on the Dukies at Cameron Indoor.

The Fighting Irish tap the “Play like a champion today!” sign on their way onto the field.

Ah, the Irish! Now we’re talking tradition. One of the most storied college football teams in our great nation.  Knute Rockne. “The Four Horsemen. Rudy Ruettiger for god’s sakes!

There’s just something about turning on CBS early on a Saturday afternoon, hearing Brent Musburgur’s voice and seeing the bright South Bend sun shine on classic striped end zones and shiny gold helmets.

Wait, what?

Yesterday Notre Dame rolled one time rival, Miami. They are in the top ten for the first time since 2002 and are doing it in classic Notre Dame style. So why on earth did they get caught up in the ridiculousness that is college football uniforms.

The Irish traded in their traditional gold helmets for some outrageous, hologram like garbage, with the large leprechaun on one side. It looked they were wearing the hottest “Upper Deck” graphic that was cool when it was on a Ken Griffey Jr.  card in 1997.

Get real Irish! Rudy didn’t tirelessly polish these seizure inducing head shells. In fact, I think that next time the Notre Dame higher ups try to pull something like this each player should walk into Chip Kelly’s office one by one and slam down their helmet on his desk, and refuse to wear it.

Oh, and screw you Oregon.

Get busy!

Sargey