As Britain reels to the triple blow of an only just failed terrorist plot, record summer rain and floods, and "America’s Got Talent" now being shown on British screens, this seems as good a time as any to look back on the D-Backs season so far (it’s actually raining so hard outside that there is little else I can do).
All good feedback should be in the form of a hamburger ( literally in the case of Frank Thomas) so I’ll start with some good, say what’s bad and then finish up with some good again so that Bob Melvin and the team approach tonight’s game in a healthy frame of mind (I have it from a very good source that this blog is required reading for every single member of the Diamondbacks organization).
The astonishing fact is that no team in the National League has won more games than we have. I doubt that many of us would have predicted that in April and it is almost certainly down to the starting pitching in the first few months and the bullpen throughout the season. The D-Backs are 9 games over .500 in the regular season and 9 games over .500 in one run games. The bullpen is the reason that they are where they are in the standings.
The disappointment of the season has been the hitting of the young players. Far more knowledgeable bloggers than me have pointed this out, but if their stats don’t improve then we may have to accept that they are not the bright young things they were touted as, or examine why so many of these prospects don’t live up to expectations. The other concern is that the starting pitching has looked vulnerable recently (although Livan went 8 innings last night) and only Brandon Webb is genuinely capable of consistently putting in quality starts, for the rest it’s a case of making sure their team is in the game for as long as they can. If they can do that then we will stick around in the standings.
The other plus points of the season have been the performances of Eric Byrnes and Orlando Hudson who seem to have taken it upon themselves to carry the younger players at times but even they have not been exceptional.So if I had to pick the one major positive about the season so far it is that even though not one single player is having a great season (and some are having quite bad ones) the team still has an incredibly good record. This would seem to indicate that there is a winning mentality within the squad and that, in itself, can be worth all the stats fit to print.
Away from the baseball I have had some good news in that I seem to have won the Democratic Republic of Congo’s annual lottery. The Leader of the Lotery Bord (sic) himself sent me an e-mail with this news, I’ve sent him my bank account and personal details and the money should be with me by the end of the week. Who knows I may even be able to buy a stake in the D-Backs!
Following on from the huge public response (1 comment) to my blog entry on the D-Backs and the philosophy of Kant, the Arizona Head of Media Handling has asked me to extend the series with an entry on the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre. As Matt Williams said to me over the phone last night "We need to make people forget about the Dodgers series, and nothing gets the fan in the bleachers talking more than a hefty dose of existentialism".
Let’s start with the easiest-Existence precedes essence- or to put it another way "if you’re not in the line up then you’re not going to get a hit". Consider this quote "Why should I be involved? Isn’t it a matter of choice? And if I am compelled to be involved, where is the manager—I have something to say about this. Is there no manager? To whom shall I make my complaint?" No, it’s not Augie Ojeda complaining about his lack of playing time but a character from Kierkegaard’s page-turner "Repetition".Essentially life for the existentialist is like being in a baseball team without a manager or a front office or any organization at all, for example, the Kansas City Royals.
Values are subjective- every baseball fan knows this, the strike zone for the D-Backs is never the same as the strike zone for the opposition, our guy is always safe at home, their guy is always out.End of discussion.
Bad Faith- Sartre believed that people lied to themselves about themselves, and thus negated their true selves.For example, Chad Tracy tends to harbor the illusion that he can catch a baseball.He is lying to himself.He is in Bad Faith (not to be confused with the late 60′s super group Blind Faith).
The Gaze- Sartre said that if you stare hard enough at the back of the head of the guy in front of you he will eventually turn around.
Being for others- A crucial tenet of existentialism is the belief that people who cannot embrace their freedom seek to be "looked at". This phenomenon can be observed at Chase Field during the home wrecking sociological experiment called "kiss-cam" or the yet to be fully explained hysteria that causes large sections of the crowd to stand up and wave their Fry’s discount cards in the air (a controversial,soon to be published, study by Professor Erik Schmidt-Staubach of Berlin University is believed to claim that some of the people don’t even have Fry’s cards, they are doing it either for fun,for food, or because the "big screen told me to").
Responsibility for choices- Or as Sartre put it "we are condemned to be free" because we have to ultimately accept responsibility for the choices that we make. So if, for example, Chris Young got thrown out at third trying to turn a double into a triple, even though the third base coach was holding him at second, and thus costing his team a possible game winning run, his teammates would say to him "Hey Chris, you have just demonstrated that you are condemned to be free". And they would all laugh.
**** is other people- The Mexican wave.
It’s time to dish the dirt on the game that we all love and tell you some of the things that drive me mad about going to the ballpark, after all there is an old British saying; "It’s better to hear the truth from a friend than a lie from an enemy" (actually I just made that up but it should be an old British saying).
These then are the things that I don’t like about the experience of watching baseball and expect them to be banned immediately.
It’s a sporting event right? So why is everybody sat around me either on a first date or holding some kind of office meeting? It’s a crucial part of an inning and some guy shouts to some other guy 5 seats away "Hey Chad did Billy Bob call about that e-mail I sent?" Is there a particular strata of American business that just uses ballparks as their offices? Is it cheaper?
Worse than that though are the people who continually get up and leave,come back, get up and leave, come back. I assume that they have mistakenly come to the game in the belief that this is an aerobics class, either that or they have medical issues that need urgent attention (a catheter?) I’ve learned to solve the problem by a strategically placed foot. A broken bone soon cures their incessant wandering.
Another joy of the game is the guy (always a guy) who shouts out the same thing every time a particular player is batting (Hey Bonds! Did you forget your syringe!). Yes, it’s mildly amusing the first time, but by the end of the night I’m ready to give him a tracheotomy with my cotton candy stick (it can be done).
I’m no expert but why do I always have to sit behind someone who is? Yes I know that this is a hitters count.Yes I know that you should never walk the pitcher.Yes I know a lead off walk always comes back to hurt you.Yes I know that my hands are around your throat.
All of these though are bearable. There is only one thing that makes me traipse from the stadium in a foul mood.The Mexican Wave. Now I know that America is a modern country, so why do some people persist in the very 1980′s pastime of standing up and sitting down in unison.Listen people,I’m trying to watch a game here, the only thing that should make you want to get out of your seat is a home run or a great play. If I wanted mass crowd co-ordination I’d time travel back to 1930′s Nuremberg or go to see the American Idol final (seriously, how did Melissa not win?).
If I had one wish to make the planet a better place it would be the elimination of the dreaded wave.
For an outsider, one of the strangest facets of American sport is the franchise system. Sports teams are surely supposed to be organic entities that grow out of the community rather than pre-packaged commodities that are brought into town and just as quickly removed at the whim of whichever businessman happens to own the right amount of shares. Let me first admit that I know next to nothing about the Tucson Sidewinders but even a brief glance at their history would seem to indicate that the Tucson baseball fan has been given the short end of a very short stick.
To summarize,from 1969-1997 the Tucson Toros were Tucson’s Triple-A team, after the expansion of the Diamondbacks the Toros moved to Fresno and became the Fresno Grizzlies, and the Phoenix Firebirds relocated to Tucson and briefly became the Toros before changing their name to the Sidewinders, and to quote that ever reliable source Wikipedia; "This was accomplished by what amounted to a "swap" in ownership in 1997, with Firebirds owner Martin Stone purchasing the Toros and Toros owner Rick Holtzman receiving interest in the Firebirds. The Tucson team retained management and staff primarily from the Toros, and traces its history from the Toros rather than the Firebirds" Now you may already know all this but quite frankly it leaves my head reeling! I’ve read the above about 12 times and I still can’t figure out which team I would follow if I was a long time Toros fan from the pre-Diamondbacks era.
You don’t have to be a Harvard trained business analyst to realize that this is no way to build up a strong and consistent fan base for any team, and unsurprisingly the attendances at Sidewinder’s games have been poor and the team has been sold (to further acknowledge my ignorance I had always assumed that the Diamondbacks Triple-A team belonged to the Diamondbacks) and may well be moved to Reno. Thus surely destroying any lingering loyalty the Tucson based fans may have had (both to the Sidewinders and the Diamondbacks).
I’m certainly not implying that sports in Britain or the rest of Europe is free from commercial considerations, in fact, Premier league soccer in England is probably the most ruthlessly capitalist organization on Earth (it makes MLB look like a more left wing Fidel Castro,that’s why there has been a massive influx of foreign investors into the Premiership including Malcolm Glazer, Randy Lerner, George Gillett and Tom Hicks) but it’s based on the premise that the teams "belong" to the area that they are from and where they began.
The big problem with the franchise system (and especially for the minor leagues) is that it is a really bad business model. The reason multi-national corporations always emphasize their links with the local community is because it engenders customer loyalty and makes people feel that this large organization is a part of them,what has happened in Tucson would seem to be the exact opposite of this.
I’m sure that there are some (maybe many) minor league organizations that are extremely well loved and cherished parts of the locale, but shouldn’t a team who, by definition,are still building their history and ties with the fans be extra careful about what happens to it’s affiliates?
Feel free to completely shoot me down in flames on this one, as always I am only to willing to learn from your superior and humbling knowledge.
Against my better judgment I decide to stay up to watch the D-Backs/Dodgers game on MLB TV. This means high amounts of caffeine and the hope that there is some seriously good TV on leading up to 02.40 first pitch. Luckily "Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot" is showing (one of Sylvester Stallone’s best comedies) and I have no problem in laughing my way through to the anointed hour.
Anyone familiar with MLB TV or even the much vaunted MLB Mosaic will be all too aware of the recent "Pong/Pacman" controversy, and I am still too traumatized to discuss the "****’s Sporting Goods Disaster of 2007". For those of you who are not aware then you should count yourselves lucky, suffice to say there is only so many times you can watch the same pacman animation between innings before you leave fingernail marking on the walls. But, as always, those wonderful people at MLB listened to the fans and we now have the safe image of diverse MLB merchandise that is for sale on the website. Obviously this is primarily Yankees, Mets, Red Sox stuff and includes a Boston bobble-head doll that may possibly be Josh Beckett(although at this time in the morning it could be David Ortiz for all I know).
The game begins, and a good Arizona first wakes me up slightly and the first four innings pass in a blur with the teams tied at 5-5. It’s then that the trouble starts; in the commercial break at the top of the fifth I find myself staring at that **** bobble-head doll. Is it my imagination or has it moved? By the next break I am ready for it, it’s definitely moved and I’m sure that it hadn’t got that menacing grin on it’s face before. I’m scared, but being British I decide that the best thing to do is ignore the problem. Still no scoring in the game and the caffeine is wearing off, and not even the thought of Sly Stallone’s hilarious antics can stop me from drifting into a state of half sleep, half waking. The only thing that keeps me conscious is the thought of that doll (I am convinced that during the top of the 7th he was holding a knife). I now have visions of a Barbarella style demise at the hands of a posse of little plastic Red Sox dolls, and to my horror the game goes into extra innings, if this doesn’t end soon then that doll is going to make his move, I believe that they go for throat when cornered but have been known to launch unprovoked attacks during the breeding season.
Finally one of the Abreu family hits a Home Run, and even though this means likely defeat for the D-Backs I can’t hide the relief. Arizona fail to score and lose a vital game, but the sun is starting to creep through the window and my fears are beginning to seem like the imaginings of a lunatic. I switch off the computer and head downstairs desperately trying to ignore the scuttling that seems to be coming from the basement.
There were celebrations in the offices of "Arizona via Slough" today as the fledgeling outfit made the front page of MLBlogs. The dedicated team of writers were said to be overjoyed by the news,and celebrated in the traditional British style by "going home early".
The Head of Publicity of "Arizona via Slough" issued a statement in which he wished to thanks MLBlogs for their support, and added that nobody involved in the enterprise felt in any way pressurised by the fact that it had been compared to the television program "The Office"; which was arguably the greatest British sitcom of the last 30 years.
It was turn the clock back time in Major League Baseball this week, and whilst many fans enjoyed the retro jerseys and the baggy pants the event was not without controversy. Here are just a few of the themes that may have been better thought out;
The Arizona Diamondbacks staged a "European Colonization" night in which Native Americans attending the game were given the best seats behind home plate.In the middle of the first a group of armed white men then forced them out of the stadium and into a nearby car park saying that "this is a good spot too". The men then returned to the seats and trashed them.
The Detroit Tigers opted for an "America First" night, which included a mascot dressed as Charles Lindbergh singing the National Anthem and then making a speech complaining about how the Jewish people had "large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government."
The Boston Red Sox chose an "Irish Need Not Apply" night, causing over twenty thousand fans who claimed to have Irish blood in them to be turned away at the gate.
The Atlanta Braves staged a "Jim Crow Law" night which caused consternation in the food stands due to the proclamation that "All persons licensed to conduct a restaurant, shall serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to the two races within the same room or serve the two races anywhere under the same license." Due to difficulties in playing the game they decided to by-pass the one about about the races playing baseball together.
Tampa Bay seemed to miss the point completely and held a "Species-ism" night in which fans were encouraged to laugh at the Devil Rays swimming in the tank in right field and call them "stupid and funny looking".
Summing up the whole affair an MLB spokesman is believed to have said "These turn back the clock events can be fun; but they can also remind us that the past is filled with dreadful horror,blood-shed and suffering." He is believed to have added "We are currently planning a "turn the clock forward" event in which fans will be given hover packs and food in the form of pills, but they will also be subjected to appallingly random acts of violence by increasingly diverse and zealous religious fundamentalists of all denominations."
It is expected that Tampa Bay will be severely sanctioned for the behavior of their fans.
The Representation of the People Act 1832, commonly known as the Reform Act 1832, was an Act of Parliament that introduced wide-ranging changes to the electoral system of the United Kingdom. According to its preamble, the act was designed to "take effectual Measures for correcting diverse Abuses that have long prevailed in the Choice of Members to serve in the Commons House of Parliament".
In other words "the voting system ******". Tiny little villages were electing more members of Parliament than the new industrialized cities, and the voting system was incapable of producing either what the general population wanted or the best men for the job.
Fast Forward 175 years and the subjects of William IV’s Britain would have had no problems in recognizing the iniquities of the All-Star voting process in present day America. Mass voting by individuals, powerful clubs campaigning for their men with the ruthlessness of a factory owner,the result as good as decided before the voting has even started.
The All Star Game is a bizarre anomaly that is no longer fit for purpose. It’s not the best players that get chosen it’s the best known. Individuals are not chosen because they are performing well within a team, they are chosen because they are performing for a team with a large fan base; and does anybody really care about the result? I mean really care?
If it has to continue then selection should be based on the cold hard stats that a player has amassed during the season, but in truth it should be scrapped completely,replaced with games between countries or to allow more time for the regular season to be completed.
It has been said that the 1832 Reform Act made the British parliament "more liberal and progressive in its policy than the Parliaments of old; more vigorous and active; more susceptible to the influence of public opinion; and more secure in the confidence of the people" When was the last time somebody said that about the people who run Major League Baseball?
The Diamondbacks highly regarded defense had a bad night last night against the Baltimore Orioles, giving away 4 unearned runs in the top of the second and tying a franchise high record for the number of errors committed in an inning. Now it could be that they were genuinely making errors, or it could be (and this is the more likely explanation) that the D-Backs have somehow managed to step outside Immanuel Kant’s metaphysical exposition of space and time and have cast doubt on the universality of geometry! Something that Kant said only a complete ***** would do (I’m paraphrasing).
For the few of you who are not fully up to speed with Kant’s "Critique of Pure Reason" he argued that time and space are not general concepts but intuitions meaning that we cannot help but perceive the world in terms of space and time.Chad Tracy quite often offers up a very convincing counter-argument to this.
Hopefully this will be the beginning of a philosophy themed home stand in which Arizona use the sport of baseball to examine and explain some of the most important philosophical ideas in the Western canon (following on from the success of last months Jean-Jacques Rousseau bobble head doll night).
Enjoy the game.
Of course I bow down to my North American friends when it comes to a thorough knowledge and grounding in the world of baseball. But I bow down to no-one (in fact I insist that they bow down to me) when it comes to knowledge of how an international sports tournament should work. I’m from Europe I grew up on them!
The World Baseball Classic is a good idea. It can work, but it needs to be changed. Here a few exceptionally good ideas that can save Mr Selig and the rest of the baseball uber-strata a few million dollars in research papers.
1) It has to be at the end of the season-all this substitute for Spring training nonsense has to stop, the only way that players will give everything and not worry about injuries is if they know they have a Winter of rest to follow.
2) In the year of the World Baseball Classic the regular season should end earlier-I don’t really care how this is done, start a week earlier, play fewer games (one week of inter-league games won’t be missed) or, my choice, scrap the All-Star game for that year. In fact, I would replace the All-Star game every year with international matches, but that is for another time.
3) Limit each group game to 9 innings- at the end of a season nobody wants 14 innings games, so the group tables should be decided on points i.e. 3 points for a win 1 point for a tie. I know it’s an anathema but believe me, seeing a pitcher pitch for a valuable tie is as exciting as seeing him pitch for a save.
4) Make the final a final- I mean one game to decide the whole thing, that way it becomes an event (hopefully worldwide).
5) Play it all in one country- initially this means the USA, but eventually it could travel around to Japan or Korea wherever, imagine how great it would be to see the USA winning the world championship in another country.Imagine visiting another country!
6) Make it last a short a time as possible- obviously international soccer tournaments go on for weeks and weeks but that is because the viewing appetite is there. Baseball needs to rope the international fans in before it milks them for every cent that they have.The quicker the early tournaments are the more likely people are to maintain an interest.
7) Change the name to the Baseball World Cup-then everybody knows what it is.
So there we have it, problem solved. For those of you who who are still not convinced by the idea remember that international rivalry in sport has enabled me to make instant pronouncements on the character of every nationality regardless of creed or colour. So you too could build up hatred of previously unthought of countries but (and this is the good thing) you will have a spurious reason.
Baseball is also the only American sport that has this kind of reach. Basketball is limited to a few European countries, Ice Hockey to Eastern Europe, and the NFL? Well, to quote Dave Barry "the Superbowl is the biggest sporting event in the world (if you don’t count the rest of the world)". The time is right for Bud Selig’s plan for world domination to come to fruition, he just has to listen to me.
Enjoy the game.