Siberian Baseball

Sunday, September 30, 2007

They couldn't find anyone better than Morandini?

Fresh off the front page of tonight is word that seven of the eight playoff-bound major league cities will have "Rally Monday" tomorrow.

It all seems pretty standard - fans gather downtown, the club will play music, the mayor will speak, etc. - but it struck me as strange that the Cubs will not only offer the city's most powerful White Sox fan in Mayor Richard Daley, but also Micky Morandini?


The Yankees do not appear to be participating, but the Padres will rally without even having a ticket to the postseason.

They will be playing the game on the Jumbotron tomorrow, though - if you're in the neighborhood in San Diego, head on over at 4 p.m., local time.

Oh, and try not to jinx the hell out of your team by participating, Padres fans. The whole thing smacks of bad juju.

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I'm so sorry... I don't think I can make it in today...

The playoff schedules are being rolled out tonight for the National League - American League is already set and can be found here, where the NL should pop up this evening - but despite this wealth of information and on the Internet as a whole, there aren't enough web sites dedicated to slackers.

Yes, despite years of Madden Day promotions, there are big goose eggs on the board when you Google, "24 hour sick, sick for one day" or any combination of those important key words.

Most of us will be expected to "work" in order to collect a paycheck this week, regardless of the teams playing and your deep emotional involvement with them. I say if your place of employment can't provide you a few short hours of uninterrupted quality time with your television and team, it's your right as an American to take that time - by force if necessary. I think Thomas Jefferson said that.

Given the day baseball that will be played this week, I'm considering this a public service and will write off my time and the electricity involved to compose this post on my taxes this year.

Fatigue - This seems like a gimme for a potential truant, but be careful. While weakness and fatigue are full of plenty of nondescript symptoms that wouldn't keep you from returning to work the day after with no noticeable symptoms, be careful it can get a lot more complicated than you would like.

Thyroid problems and a host of other nasty sounding causes for these benign symptoms can have you answering more questions than you would like. Plus, it could lead to you needing to produce a doctor's note. No one wants that.

Sore throat - The old standby of a sore throat seems to be pretty safe, proving that there's a reason every kid trying to duck a math test cops to the sore throat defense.

Bonus points for allowing you to use this as a go-to illness once you've blown out your vocal chords at the bar the night before from a deadly combination of rot-gut whiskey and karaoke.

Stomach flu / Food poisoning - The twin threat of a 24-hour flu (perfect timeline!) or it's partner in crime food poisoning are God's gift to slacking fans. Hard to refute and leaving themselves open to plenty of disgusting details if your boss gets a little too nosy, the only problem with these illnesses are the fact that they're almost too perfect.

Still the threat of forcing a gassy, potentially explosive employee in to work is enough of a deterrent for all but the most hard core bosses.

Like this guy on the left.

Migrane - Migranes aren't just for your wife or girlfriend anymore. While it may seem like an illness that most men wouldn't think of off the bat, that is the secret to its strength.

Feel free to lay it on a bit thick and convince your boss that it's stress-related from your Herculean workload. It's like a license to print money.

Make sure they see you rubbing your temples the day before and it couldn't hurt to stop in the middle of the cube farm while crossing your eyes.

Rotavirus - I learned about this one from a friend whose kid took out a whole house of adults with a few dirty diapers. Drop a few hints about your friend / neighbor who has a newborn on Monday and reap the rewards mid-week. Make sure you don't talk about a direct family member if there isn't a baby in the family within 50 miles - you might need to falsify pictures and birth certificates to cover your tracks.

I'm pretty sure one of those is a felony.

Common cold - It's a little early in the season for this one, but there's something to be said for being the first one to the party, right?

Just keep track for when you need a day in December to go skiing.

According to "On average, adults get two to four colds per year. Children tend to rack up between six and 10. In the U.S., common cold symptoms result in more doctor visits than any other health condition."

Budget them wisely.

Of course, these are just scratching the surface of the possibilities - it is allergy season, after all. Feel free to get creative and drop a little knowledge in the comments section.

We can't all have food poisoning on the same day in Philly, Chicago and New York. That would be suspicious, right?

(Images from: /


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Someone is going home tomorrow

OK, maybe not immediately, but it's coming down to the last game of the season for either the Phillies or the Mets to seal the deal.

With a 13-0 win over the Marlins today, New York roared back after hitting rock bottom on one of the worst collapses in Major League history. Call it karma for 1969.

This sets the stage for tomorrow when the Phillies close out their season versus the Nationals and the Mets face Florida. Both games are at home.

One of the strangest occurances at the end of each season is taking mental stock of all the games pissed away over a 162-game season. Simple acts that cause losses over the course of a season, from stupid plays to pitchers blowing out in the middle of the third inning to wearing a Royals jersey come back to haunt fans when teams fall just a few games short of the postseason.

For all of the fans going through that this weekend, my sympathy is with you. Rest assured, though it will all be forgotten next year and we'll be back to letting the losses fade away again.

Just as easily as we let them go this year.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

That beeping sound is the Cubs backing into the playoffs

Nothing like closing the regular season out with a loss hundreds of miles away, huh?

The Red Sox officially locked down the AL East for the first time since 1995 with a 5-2 win over the Twins coupled with a New York loss to Baltimore. The Cubs are back in the postseason in their yearlong attempt to destroy my pending nuptuals with a 6-0 win over the Reds and the Padres taking care of business in Milwaukee in a 6-3 win.

While both teams have had their ups and downs this year, Cub fans can't feel too confident about their chances in October, while Boston seems to have weathered the storm and won't face New York until the second round of the playoffs, assuming both teams advance.

This means that the American League is squared away now with Boston, Cleveland and Los Angeles winning their divisions and New York picking up the Wild Card.

The National League is still a bit murky, with the Cubs clinching the Central and Arizona locking up a yet-to-be determined spot. San Diego leads the Wild Card race by two games and the Phillies are up by a game in the East.

While there will be plenty of time to pick apart the matchups when the season concludes this weekend, everyone can prepare their favorite excuses about why the goat is a stupid curse, how two NL West teams actually have a shot at making the playoffs and why the AL East is primed for a fall.

Until then, enjoy the inner peace, Wrigleyville - this is the least stress you'll feel for at least a week. Maybe you should get out and get some sunshine or something this weekend.

Update: It will be Red Sox/Angels (like in 2004) and Yankees/Indians.

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Two from Sweet Lou

For Cubs fans looking for a little relief from the ballclub's recent sweep at the hands of the Florida Marlins - now with 100 percent less Bartman! - here are two wonderful little time-wasters.

First up the the Piniella-gram, which is a hastily done little page from the Chicago Tribune's site that allows you to put words into Sweet Lou's mouth, depending on your mood and/or level of current Cubs-induced panic.

Second is this YouTube offering which I can only imagine is as close to a day in the life of Piniella as most would like to experience.

Ah, the awesome power of positive thinking.


Goodbye Johan, Hello Barry?

Some things just don't fly here in Minneapolis. I can safely say that after two years in the Twin Cities, there are some things that will go over well and others that are so jarring to the pace of life that they are rejected out of hand.

Call it a side-effect of having that many stoic upper Midwesterners in one place.

Honking your horn in traffic, even if the elderly gentleman ahead of you has dozed off at the light, is considered bad manners here. So is directly placing blame, even on the most incompetent of people. In still other situations, things are considered to flashy or too over-the-top for Minneapolis or Saint Paul - it's not like the citizens are Amish - that they are ignored by the population as a whole.

Imagine my surprise then, that the team that drove off AJ Pierzynski for being a clubhouse distraction is not so subtly in the running for - wait for it - Barry Bonds. (Hat tip to Nick and Nick's Twins Blog.) And this hot on the heels of last night's rumor from Los Angeles that Johan Santana might need to sell his winter coats and snow tires. (Thanks to Bucs Dugout for this find.)

How the hell does anyone in the Twins' organization see this as a winning formula?

With a new ballpark on the way, why on earth would you trade one of the most marketable players on the team and a definite fan favorite before you open the doors on your new stadium?

More than that, why would you then trade for one of the most controversial players of the decade and try to place him in Minneapolis?

I would like to hear him complain about trying to start his car on a cold October morning and then blaming it on the media, though.

As for Santana, you'd be losing one of the faces of the franchise - second only to Joe Mauer - over a reluctance to pay him market value. In discussions today, the general consensus is that you need to sign four players -five tops - to keep Twins fans interested. Santana, Mauer, Torii Hunter, Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau are the cornerstones of the casual fan's acceptance of the premise that Minnesota is a contender.

Most teams can't find a top-shelf lefty even with a high price tag. Why the Twins would be involved in the discussions is beyond me.

Sure, it will be a staggering price tag, but given the spotty pitching that has dogged the Twins this year, the last thing they need to do is move Santana prematurely.

With a stable of talented young arms, there needs to be a stabilizing force in the rotation. Given the flameouts of Sidney Ponson and Ramon Ortiz, the help hasn't come from outside the organization this year.

The return of Francisco Liriano next year is a wild card, but what the team will need as the pitchers grow as ballplayers is a stopper to keep things from getting out of hand.

I know that the Twins pride themselves on thrift - such as the Pierzynski for Liriano, Nathan and Boof Bonser trade - but you can only play with fire so many times.

The sick twist to this situation of course is that it was Santana himself who called out the organization for keeping the team as a solid C+ type team that was just better than most, but not an overpowering squad. Shipping off older ballplayers - it was Luis Castillo who sparked Santana's outburst - in favor of young or sub-par talent like Alexi Casilla, Castillo's replacement and Nick Punto, the team's third baseman has not proven to be the right answer during this stretch.

So, while trade rumors are generally ridiculous, and these are more ridiculous than most, it's still scary to think that this is the way Minnesota is leaning.

That leaves one basic question left for skeptical fans: How is Brad Radke's arm feeling these days?

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Movin' On Up

I've just been informed by my soon-to-be wife webmaster that we're all official here on the tundra now.

Many None of you have written me to say, "Hey, I'd love to read Siberian Baseball at work, on the train or on the toilet at work or on a train, but that web address is just too darn long and/or confusing. What can be done about that?"

Fear not, forgetful readers - getting your favorite frozen baseball fix just got several keystrokes easier.

Feel free to simply type in and you'll be reading the best baseball commentary money can buy I can muster on a semi-regular basis.

Enjoy the new home of Siberian Baseball... and wipe your damn feet before you come in. That's new shag carpeting there, partner.

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Cardiac is a stupid word

The Cardiac Kids.

The Cardiac Cardinals.

The Cardiac Cubs.

Every year, there's a team that picks up the Cardiac Moniker and every year it annoys me to no end.

This year, the Chicago media seem dead set on selling us on the Cardiac Cubs. Still, it was pretty entertaining to see this story on the Chicago Tribune's site this morning posing the very real question - Could the Chicago Cubs really kill you?

Aside from instantly picturing Lou's recovery in the hospital in Major League, I also thought of a famous quote from Red Sox Nation that, "The Red Sox killed my father and now they are coming after me."

I'm not sure if those numbers are still valid when the only time Chicago's magic number moves in a given week is with a Milwaukee loss.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What will I do for fun now?

Fanhouse is reporting that Rondell White will no longer be a Twin next year.

For that matter, he'll no longer be an anything - more on this when I get done searching this year's baseball records for a player more inept to gently mock when things get slow around here in July.

Oh Rondell, how I'll miss you.


Countdown to October

As I was wading through the rookie hazing links - check here and here and here - I ran across a series of black and white portraits on the Sports Illustrated site.

It's a strange mix - I really enjoyed the awkward posing done by Jeter and Rivera - of great portrait work and over hyped snapshots. I think it's good that Yankee and Red Sox players are finally getting their pictures online - their mothers must be so happy to finally have some sort of photographic record of their time playing in the big leagues.

Both of these occurances are surefire signs that the post-season is around the corner. Still time to screw around and take pictures or embarrass your rookies before the media comes down on your head for not paying attention to the business at hand.

As I keep an eye on the scoreboards tonight, the Cubs are officially losers in Florida as Dontrelle Willis successfully made it out of the second inning for the first time all season (8 IP, 7K, 2 ER) and thus kept the ball out of Kevin Gregg's hand in the late innings.

As a fantasy owner of both pitchers, this has only happened once or twice so far this season.

Milwaukee is smoking last year's champs, which will narrow the lead in the NL Central as the final week works itself out.

Cub fans are officially warned - it will be best to avoid the national media this week - it's going to get ugly.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

You're either with us or against us

As I'd mentioned this week, I was able to get to Wrigley this weekend for the Saturday game against the Pirates and in between bets on how many hot dogs I could eat and catching up with old friends, I actually managed to watch some baseball.

It's been too long since I was last at Wrigley and despite Frank the Tank's reports to the contrary, the usual, lazy crowd is still a hallmark of Cubs' games - with a new, vocal minority that is appreciated in my view.

I must say, though that there is a marked difference between the crowds I'm now used to versus the Chicago crowds. This was made more clear as I drove home and caught the Vikings post-game call-in show, where a caller ripped all Minnesota franchises for failing to provide a worthwhile product for fans.

Given the high demand for Cubs tickets, it's a fairly fluid fan base inside the park. Sure, there are some lucky individuals who own season tickets at Wrigley, but by and large, the fans rotate in and out on a game-by-game basis.

Get a crowd in a surly mood and it can be a long day for the players. While I'm not saying it's not an accurate barometer of Chicago fans, it is a very different feel from the stands. Twins crowds tend to be more slanted towards die-hards with a strong mix of single game spectators and vice-versa for the Cubs.

As a result, it seems like Chicago fans are ready to jump on the team vocally at a moment's notice - might as well get your money's worth for the one game you'll see in September, right? - while Twins fans have a long haul mentality which doesn't reward you for getting so worked up every night.

As a result of this, all of the cultural differences seem to magnify themselves between the two cities as well. A Chicago fan, already assumed to be louder and more offensive is rewarded for screaming his peace while he's actually at the game, while Twins fans maintain their Minnesota nice cred for quietly waiting for the team to right itself in a rough stretch.

In either case, it was nice to be home and surrounded by a pretty knowledgeable home crowd for a change. By that, I mean a crowd that didn't outwardly embarrass itself within earshot.

Each trip to Wrigley that Frankie and I take is traditionally marred by someone trying to look smarter than they are, arbitrarily making up rules to impress their girlfriend or demands for trades that include dead or retired ballplayers.

Of course, it's pretty easy to look intelligent when all that's required of you is to shut up, eat some peanuts and wait for the next homer to leave the park.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

That would never happen in 100 years

I don't agree with announcers often, but they might be on to something here.

Stuffing lead in into the head of your bat must be the new cork.


The home stretch

I'll be home this weekend for my bachelor party, which features the Cubs vs. Pirates game Saturday as the keystone event thanks to Best Man extrodinaire Frank the Tank's planning skills.

It should be a blast.

Granted, I'd love for the Cubs to be running away with the NL Central by this point in the season, but barring a major meltdown - and yes, I am aware of the past century of Cubs baseball - Chicago should have an easier road in the final two weeks of the season.

Milwaukee will face a three-game match-up with Houston and four with Atlanta on the road and finish at home with three games against spoiler-hungry St. Louis and four games to close out the season against San Diego.

Chicago sees Cincinnati and Pittsburgh three times each at home and then hits the road for three each against Florida and the Reds.

Chicago has this Thursday and next Monday off and Milwaukee plugs ahead without a break until the end of the year.

Worth noting: Atlanta is effectively out of the running, but San Diego is holding a slim one-game lead over the Phillies for the NL Wild Card spot and are two games back from the division leading Diamondbacks. The Braves probably won't take too kindly to missing the post-season two years in a row and have enough punch to do some damage.

Why am I on edge?

Because I was at the Metrodome last year, watching the Tigers piss away their lead to the Royals and allowing the Twins to take the AL Central crown on the last day of the season.

Never underestimate the ability of a team to kill itself - especially when wearing Cubbie blue.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Insanity must breed loyalty

There was an exchange during yesterday's Red Sox/Yankees game regarding the different salaries of Terry Francona and Joe Torre which led to a short conversation on Ozzie Guillen's new deal in Chicago.

While the point was that Francona was underpaid - especially in light of Ozzie's payday - it got me thinking again about what Guillen brings to the White Sox, especially in terms of player retention.

With Torii Hunter set to test the free agent waters - and the wild speculation that his departure led to Terry Ryan's resignation in Minneapolis - it's just another reminder that the hometown discount isn't always in play.

Unless you're the White Sox.

With Paul Konerko on the market following Chicago's championship season, I chimed in here that if loyalty was part of the pre-draft testing, the White Sox had cornered the market on giving that a value.

This year it was Mark Buehrle that showed how badly players wanted to stay on the South Side. That makes two marquee players who took deals that were below the market value to play for Guillen instead of cashing a major payday for a team with money to burn.

Make no mistake about those moves - these guys aren't sticking around for the amenities offered on Chicago's south side - they clearly signal that the organization is doing a phenomenal job to keep players. Guillen is at the top of the list of reasons that players are staying with the Sox.

Following the Red Sox championship season, they saw Johnny Damon leave a year later and Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe jump ship immediately. The Cardinals saw attrition this year from nearly half their pitching staff to role players who cashed in on a big postseason.

For the White Sox to only lose players that they apparently had no interest in keeping and locking up two of their stars in Konerko and Buehrle, they have their team on the right track, at least as far as player retention is concerned.

While their North Side neighbors must lean on the perks of day baseball and a national fanbase, the Sox have an uphill battle in that regard. Ozzie seems to be the difference, despite the results this season.

Crazy as he may be, the man is doing something right.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Canada shows A-Rod the love

Fresh off the Ballhype wires is a story from Toronto, where the team was apologizing to the Yankees for a ballpark stunt gone digitally awry.

Between innings, the team plays video of a video game played between two random fans, where they were throwing at Alex Rodriguez's head, eventually beaning the Yankee star.

Joe Torre wasn't amused and the Jays have promised to police the game a bit better in the future.

Call me crazy, but if this is what gets Blue Jay fans through the end of a tough season, just let them be. For that kind of money, he can take a virtual beanball every now and again.

Besides, the worst slam of the evening reportedly came from a sign posted by fans over the out of town scoreboard that said simply, "A-Rod: We hate you."

And they're Canadian - they like everybody. They're the Mikey of international politics.

(Image from the Associated Press)

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Terry Ryan is out

It's been a strange summer in Twins Territory with an underperforming team, a new ballpark on the way and hints that Johan Santana might actually be human.

Now this.

Terry Ryan is stepping down as GM and it's being sold as a simple matter of burnout.

According to the Twins' site:

"I felt a lot of elation when we won, and sorrow when we lost," Ryan said. "Now, all of a sudden, the defeats are getting a little harder to take, and the wins aren't as much fun. That's not a good thing to experience as a general manager."

Speculation that he's jumping ship before the off-season that will see the possible departure of Torii Hunter and Santana's free agent year in 2008 was clogging talk radio this afternoon.

Personally, I think spending summer afternoons hanging around minor league ballparks is worth whatever pay cut he's likely to take.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Nick Punto, gaping hole

Granted, it's one quote that could be taken out of context, but if you're Twins third baseman Nick Punto today, you might want to check the housing markets around the majors. You know, just to see what's out there, just in case.

According to the NBC affiliate in town:

(Joe)Mauer and the Twins were worked up on Monday after both local newspapers published columns calling for Mauer to be moved to third base.

"Fill one big gaping hole at third base? Let's just make another gaping hole behind the plate? Tell me which one's more important," manager Ron Gardenhire said.

So, while I'm almost positive that Gardenhire was baited into the quote, probably frustrated and more than a little angry at being second guessed by reporters who smell blood in the water with a team that is done for the season, that is still a brutal quote.

As much as I agree that Punto is in fact a gaping hole on that team, I never thought I'd see that quote in print, especially from the manager.

If only that can become a term of endearment from the fans - kind of like "Human Rain Delay."

Gardenhire might as well have said that Punto sucks as a third baseman, but is really good at picking up after himself in the locker room. Actually, wait, that would have been much better.

At least that's marginally positive.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Finally, a voice of reason

Had I been thinking, I would have asked for some ID - I just think I was so shocked that I wasn't quite sure how to act. Today, I began to hear serious voices of dissension at the Metrodome and in our own section, to boot.

For all I know, it was out of town fans causing problems in the Dome today. It would certainly explain things.

The "Dump Rondell White" bandwagon has found another gear and I had a new audience to preach to regarding his new depths of disappointing play. The three most telling stats had to be that: he's a.) a designated hitter, who is b.) slotted seventh in the batting order and c.) is hitting .148 in 25 games.

This is not going unnoticed by the Dome faithful. My disappointment with the way the Twins have handled the DH situation has been brought up time and again here, but this was new ground for us. Last year was a different story, with a complete turnaround pulled off in a matter of months, but for as lucky as Minnesota got during last year's playoff push, the Twins seem to be paying the debt on that karma this year.

Justin Morneau isn't hitting, Joe Mauer is hurt again this season and people are starting to warm up to the idea that he should be moved to third base and the team simply isn't winning. Even the gold standard of wins, Johan Santana, has had a hard time through July and August.

This is the exact opposite of the buzz last season, where the team caught up late and backed into the AL Central crown and Mauer's run at the batting title had everyone forgetting exactly how injury-prone he had been.

Is this year's team horrible? Not by a long shot, but it is weak in key positions and the front office dump of Luis Castillo didn't do anything but piss off the team's veterans and kill morale. I grew up with the Cubs - this all makes me homesick some days.

Now the fan base seems to be falling in line with the sour mood the team is in - more than one fan was asking for the team to at least pretend to care as long as they were going to keep collecting ticket revenue for the new stadium - and the overall feeling went downhill at today's game when Alexi Casilla (Castillo's replacement) played two balls off his chest in the opening innings.

Unless the Twins are planning to field a rec league soccer team this fall, those skills aren't really going to be in high demand. Lord knows they'll have the time on their hands in October.

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Sometimes you just have a good day

Just a quick note on the two pitching gems of the weekend - Scott Baker's near perfect game for the Twins on Friday night and Clay Buchholz pitching a no-hitter for the Red Sox a day later.

I especially liked these two performances because they came out of nowhere for both pitchers. Baker is still a relatively unknown quantity in Minnesota and Buchholz is a rookie in every sense of the word, but they both managed to put together strong showings, albeit against some pretty suspect competition in the Royals and Orioles.

Considering there are at least two or three starters who are much more likely to pitch no-hitters on each players' team, it made the respective feats that much more exciting.

While I don't quite agree with Josh Beckett's assessment that Buchholz was one better than Curt Schilling - well, maybe Saturday he was - it's what makes these late in the season matchups worth watching.

Given a good day, you're never sure what will happen. Even in a worthless game against the Royals.

(Image from: The Associated Press)

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Highights from the State Fair

It's been a bit of a media blackout here this weekend, as I've taken a few days off from work to travel, hang out with my dad and head to the Minnesota State Fair this weekend.

My favorite sports-related highlight of the weekend - aside from a Red Sox no-hitter yesterday - was walking by the Twins whiffle ball field this afternoon, where kids played on a small field, ran the bases and burned off some sugar-induced energy.

One of the kids, no older than 5 or 6, got plunked with a whiffle ball and started trotting to first.

"Get back there," said the pitcher/guy who kept an eye on all the kids playing. "There's no free bases in whiffle ball."

When the kid started complaining, the pitcher told him to shut up or he'd hit him again.

I'm not sure what was more ridiculous - threatening to bean the kid (with a whiffle ball for crying out loud) in the first place or doing it in front of everyone and some livestock at the fair.