Siberian Baseball

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Twins sure like it when you eat

Aside from the usual late-June spamming from teams to vote early and often for the local All-Stars, the e-mails I receive from MLB are usually of the "Buy this!" variety. Already this week, I've gotten word from two teams that it's time to gear up for the All-Star Game and I can click one simple link to start dropping cash on dated jerseys that my favorite players will wear once at most.


The Twins have bucked that trend by not only urging me to vote for Joe Mauer in his heroic fight against Varitek and Posada, but by sending three food-related e-mails in a little over a week.

In their defense, two were for their all-you-can-eat section, but that's still a lot of invitations to come and power through a few pounds of nachos and a half dozen hot dogs.

It's important to note that, "Beer will NOT be included in the 'All You Can Eat' package but will be sold next to the All You Can Eat concession stand along with ice cream and candy."

Still, at five bucks a pop for a hot dog, you start making money in the middle of your seventh dog. That's a total steal of you come dressed in some sort of pants with an elastic waistband. Additionally, the games offered are against good teams - Tigers, White Sox and A's - I totally would have scheduled these during games against the Royals and other assorted bottom feeders.

For the serious bargain hunter, the other e-mail should raise some eyebrows - $30 for a skybox with one small catch. No peanuts, no Cracker Jacks.

I guess it comes down to how you feel about bumping a child with food allergies from a spot for your shot at sitting in a skybox.

Regardless of the moral implications involved with implying a serious allergy for better seats, tonight is the evening where both worlds collide and you can either opt for a peanut-free evening or jump on board the glutton train headed for Severe Heartburn Junction with a stop in Roll Down the Windows On the Car Ride Home Gulch.

If you ask me, the team is just getting the jump on clearing out their warehouses before the new ballpark opens and the team switches concessions vendors. Really, how else do you offload a few hundred gallons of bright green relish without drawing the suspicions of the EPA?

(Image from: Flickr User anglerove)


Friday, June 27, 2008

A true subway series

In addition to the regional rivalries gearing up again this weekend - including Cubs/Sox on the heels of a sweep at Wrigley last weekend - New York will see a relative rarity today between the Mets and Yankees.

After playing the afternoon game at Yankee Stadium, the teams will head to Shea for the nightcap.

This marks the third time in Major League history that the teams will do this, providing a scheduling quirk for fans of both teams to enjoy. Aside from Chicago and the Bay Area, this is a tough schedule to swing in a single day.

If nothing else, this serves as the warning prior to tomorrow morning's SportsCenter - those tired of New York coverage on the national baseball beat might want to sleep in Saturday.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Proof Wisconsin is a fooball state

I wanted to pass along the rough transcripts that a friend of mine sent me after his trip to Miller Park last week. I wish I could say I was surprised, but it seems like he had much the same experience that I used to have at Twins games as a carousel of fans sat behind me and asked increasingly bizarre questions.

It's worth noting that the guy who sent this was born and raised in Wisconsin, so if the Sconnie accents got on his nerves, it had to be pretty bad. He's also the one who took delight in the Prince Fielder/vegetarian mini-scandal where he pointed out that Wisconsin was one of the few states where a professional athlete would be criticized for losing weight and eating healthy.

From the semi-retarded people sitting behind me last night at the Brewers vs. Toronto (who also spoke in great Wisconsin accents)

Girl 1 - "What place are the Brewers in?"
Guy 1 - "Third I think..."
Girl 1 - "What place are the Blue Jays in?
Guy 1 - "Third I think."
Girl 1 - "Oohhhhh, so this is a really important game, eh"?
Guy 1 - "Yeah"

Also, Guy 1 or 2 (hard to distinguish) couldn't stop talking about how awesome and tough Jason Kendall is - and how much he loves him - who is currently batting .259, with 1 whole HR and 22 RBIs. Lighting it up.

And again Guy 1 or 2 talking about how great Scott Rolen is (well - I guess if you think Jason Kendall is good, I could see that). Obviously he was good - this year, not so much.

With 2 outs in the eighth inning and a man on 1st and third:

Guy 1 - "I wonder if they're going to manufacture a run here" - i.e., put on the suicide squeeze like they did earlier in the game. I'm sure I don't have to point out to you the problem with that. Also, they were winning.

Retarded girl one astounded that a guy got to third from first on a hit and run:

"Oh, he was already halfway to second when he hit the ball?"

And I can't stress the accents enough. I also had to listen to a whole conversation between them and the beer man about their kids and shit, who they apparently knew - and also was semi-retarded - sounded like something straight out of Fargo.

Jesus. Christ .... I just can't do justice in an email to the general stupidity - and listening to it all in the worst Milwaukee accent you can imagine.

In situations like these, it's best to not try to find any meaning in what is going on around you. It's like sitting next to the person who can't keep track of the action on the field and ends up roaring his approval when his team strikes out only to be forced to sit down sheepishly.

I love when that happens.

(Image taken for Siberian Baseball)

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sox fans jump ship

A quick link from Daniel Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer who is politely asking to defect from Red Sox Nation, especially in light of the recent championship won by the Celtics.

I feel your pain, Mr. Rubin.

I remember being on the train in 2005 and seeing more Red Sox hats than White Sox hats on the Red line headed to The Cell and wondering if Chicago had that many transplants from Boston or if the natural parallels between the Northsiders and the Red Sox fans was too great of a temptation for those starved for success after nearly 100 years without a championship of their own.

I wonder retroactively if those fans also traded Red for White in their Sox loyalties that fall, especially after Chicago steamrolled the punchless Boston team in the playoffs that year.

Still, even without an increasingly loud and obnoxious fan base, it's difficult to not start pulling for the local team when you're a stranger in town. With two years in Minneapolis and season tickets for the Twins in 2006 and 2007, it was hard to not get wrapped up in the team you see most often, even with a full dance card of rooting interests.

When you're looking to talk baseball with your boss, it's much easier to start following the team that you hear about on the radio, see almost exclusively in the papers and have instant access to on local television. If you're even remotely interested in baseball, it's nice to be able to talk about the ups and downs of the season, even if it's not about your favorite team.

So, I don't blame anyone looking for a new team to call their own, especially when your home ballpark starts shutting you out by way of overpriced seats and sold outs games filled to capacity with fans from out of town who will show up, regardless of how poorly the team is doing - looking at you, Wrigley fans.

And as for Mr. Rubin, enjoy your newfound family in Philly. Try to keep the hooliganism to a minimum.

(Image from:

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Just let him in, already

The Sun-Times has picked up the scent of another story about how this might be the year for former Cubs third baseman, Ron Santo, to enter the Hall of Fame.

Wait, were you aware that Santo wasn't in the Hall yet? No, OK, well he's not and he's more than willing to shoehorn that into all sorts of situations. I'll be honest, I rarely have the stomach opportunity to catch WGN radio broadcasts because I rarely drive these days and if I'm going to catch a game now, it'll be on TV or in person. Still, when I do, it's the Santo factor that sours the experience for me.

I know he's a loveable, heart on his sleeve kind of guy and I still don't care. Save your defense of Santo in the comments section - I'm a disciple of Vin Scully and his style of calling a game where you're unaware of the score based on his game calls.

What Hawk Harrelson is to the White Sox, Santo is to the Northsiders - a polarizing figure who is generally seen as a liability by the other team's fans and is mocked when the two groups meet.

Now thanks to Joe Morgan - this just keeps getting better - it appears that Santo might have an easier road to get to the Hall when the veterans meet to vote. The ballots will be collected in a two part process now, with the top 10 vote-getters making it to the lightning round to compete for the final spots.

Personally, I have nothing against the guy and agree his numbers should have put him in the Hall years ago - I'm just tired of hearing about it, especially from Santo himself. It comes off as whining whenever I hear him speak about it and just want a decision one way or another. It seems that letting him in is the easiest way to bring some sort of resolution to the situation.

In addition to throwing down the double jinx - thanks, Ron - Santo would be more than happy to celebrate entrance to the hall but would trade it for a championship:

'This year, win the World Series and I get in the Hall of Fame -- what is there left? It would be wonderful,'' he said. ''I'm just afraid to feel like this is the year because I'd be too disappointed if it isn't. But if we win the World Series, I can overcome that.''

I'd be tempted to trade a championship to never have to hear another fan defend Santo's stats, veiled (and not so veiled) references made by former players speaking to the great injustice of Santo's exclusion and the endless speculation when the Hall prepares to announce its new inductees.

For that kind of peace, I could be talked into not only forfeiting a championship, but for handing it personally to a Yankee of your choice.

(Image from:


Monday, June 16, 2008

Too little, too late?

First, the bad news.

For a team that was active in the offseason and appeared to be stacked heading into the middle of a less than impressive crowd in the American League Central, the Detroit Tigers have underperformed by anyone's standards.

Injuries to members of the bullpen (Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney), rotation (Dontrelle Willis, Jeremy Bonderman) and lineup (Gary Sheffield at the top of that list) haven't helped matters as the Tigers have been subjected to "What's wrong with Detroit?" pieces in newspapers and every three episodes of Baseball Tonight.

Now, the good news.

Despite a less than impressive start, the Tigers are only six games behind the front-running White Sox (Chicago is second only to Arizona for fewest wins among division leaders with 38).

Detroit is currently on a six-game winning streak and is closing the gap as one of two teams with a winning record in the division.

The best news? Zumaya and Rodney should be back this week and Sheffield thinks he's very close to heading back to the big club. Detroit can come back - simpler if the White Sox continue to streak and fade - by playing consistently as they have of late.

Whether or not those bullpen arms come back in playing shape to help remains to be seen, but it certainly can't be any worse than some of the stopgap solutions Detroit was forced to employ. Sorry, Twins and Indians fans... Get ready to drop a spot.

(Update - 11:30 p.m. - Rodney just served up a three-run homer while trying to protect a one-run lead in San Francisco on what appeared to be a changeup that he hung to the first batter he's seen since returning to the majors. The second batter he's faced tagged him for a double. Welcome back to the bigs, Fernando.)

(Image from:


Friday, June 13, 2008

Back up so he can throw it...

I guess there's more than one reason the mound is 60 feet, six inches from home plate.

This is just the easiest one to figure out.

See more funny videos at CollegeHumor


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Well, you don't see that every day...

For those who weren't paying attention this afternoon, the Cubs added a new way to win in strange ways to their bag of tricks with a walk off hit by a pitch against Atlanta.

With the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th, Reed Johnson got plunked to send home the winning run, cement the sweep of the Braves and make it two undefeated homestands in a row
(though this one was of the three-game variety).

This season just keeps getting weirder and weirder for Chicago.


Monday, June 09, 2008

If they won't allow a suit, what are the chances you'll see a laptop in a dugout?

The Chicago Cubs announcers sparked my curiosity Friday night when they touched on a subject that's been troubling me for some time now - what's the big deal with a little technology in a major league dugout?

They spoke a bit that evening about the need for Lou Piniella to leave the dugout during the previous night's game to talk to the umpires and check on the status of his bullpen when the phones at Dodger Stadium went down and cut the line of communication between the dugout and the bullpen.

The announcers - Len Kasper and Bob Brenley - dipped into the rules behind the communication breakdown:

Kasper: "I guess it wouldn't ring in the pen and they were trying to find out - I think it was Marmol at the time - if he was ready.

"Now, this is an interesting point, but some may wonder, 'Why didn't somebody just get on a cell phone or text message?' You can't have any sort of communication device anywhere in that dugout, right? Other than the official phone that goes from the bullpen to the dugout?"

Brenley: "That's correct and on occasion if the phone does go down, they've allowed teams to use walkie talkies."

Awesome. If a technology from the 1870s breaks down, they let you use one from the 1930s. Who says baseball is afraid of change?

This only furthered a question I've been kicking around since the beginning of the season - with so much being done in terms of statistics and probability in baseball, why don't you ever see a laptop in a major league dugout? While I'm sure there are plenty of managers who would bristle at the mere thought of some snot-nosed stathead e-mailing him mid-game to tell him what to do with his bullpen, when he'd rather rule with his gut, there'd be at least one manager open to having that information at his fingertips, right? Doesn't this seem like something Joe Maddon would try? He's got hipster nerd glasses, after all.

After a minimal amount of digging, I had an answer in the form of a Popular Mechanics article from four years ago. Jim Kaat of all people wrote for the magazine, pointing out the new technologies in baseball for the year.

Not surprisingly, there are reams of paper in countless binders in each major league dugout to keep track of matchups on the field. In a slightly more sophisticated variation on the time-honored tales of pitchers who keep notes after every inning from college through the major leagues, the binders give managers extra information at a (few) moments notice.

All the information packed into that loose-leaf binder is gathered by a team's scouts and outside scouting services such as Inside Edge Scouting Services of Minneapolis, MN. Managers can check not only the history of a particular hitter/pitcher matchup, they can break it down to the fine details such as what kinds of pitches were thrown, which ones were hit and to where. Some of the reports available from Inside Edge include Hitter Profiles (hot zones, chase zones and power zones), Hitter By-Count (performance on each count), Hitter 1st Pitch and Pitcher Profiles (pitch selection on each count).

Know what else would do that? A laptop computer.

To no one's surprise, MLB hesitates to allow laptops in the dugout to allow faster access to the same information found in the binders - presumably printed from a computer out of sight 15 feet away.

Hey, for a league that is tearing through wooden bats like they were toothpicks at the cash register in a diner, I'm guessing they don't sweat wasting a little paper.

(Image from:

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Mark Cuban still sniffing around sale of Cubs

For those who don't listen to much sports talk in Chicago for whatever reason - living out of town now / working a job inside a concrete bunker at a suburban office park / warden took away your radio privileges after shanking fellow inmate over a pudding cup - you probably missed the discussion on ESPN Radio today with Mark Cuban.

Cuban confirmed that he is an approved buyer as far as MLB is concerned and that he was still very interested in the prospect of owning the Cubs.

In addition to the usual show of respect for the owners already in place, Cuban made attempts to reach out to the population within a few blocks of the ballpark:

Does Sam Zell owning the Cubs help your bid?

Cuban: Well it really depends on what the other bidders do. You know, Sam's obviously a smart businessman and he's gonna do what's best for him. Major League Baseball has survived a long time without Mark Cuban and they can survive a long time without me and so they'll do what they think is best for them.

And my job is to convince everybody involved that not only is it a good financial move to sell to Mark Cuban but it's also, you know, a good partnership move that I can add value beyond just my checkbook to not just the Cubs, to not just the city of Chicago, but also to Major League Baseball. Because to me one of the thing's I've learned with the Mavericks is when I thought I bought the Dallas Mavericks when I wrote the check eight years ago, and in reality even though I wrote the check the city of Dallas and Fort Worth still own the Mavericks and it's about being a good citizen, it's about contributing to the community and to me that's viewed to be just as important as Major League Baseball or the Tribune company, you know, what can I do for Wrigleyville, what can I do for the community, and what are the ways that I fit in and add value.

Because, you know, part of the issue that's been apparent to me in looking at all this is that, you know, the previous owners before Sam Zell bought the Tribune, you know, the Tribune and the Wrigleyville area around Wrigley Field didn't always get along so well and so I think there are a lot of things we can do community-wise that can enhance my chances and so, you know, I'm gonna pull out all the stops, that's about the best way to describe it.

In the past, I've been pretty lukewarm on the prospect of a superstar owner breezing into town to "save" the Cubs. While it would be nice to have one person to hold accountable - being able to point fingers at one person in their luxury box for a poor product on the field instead of a faceless board of directors at Tribune Tower would be nice - the possibility of a strange, unconcerned tyrant isn't all that appealing, either.

Perhaps it's been my reading of God Save the Fan this week and its laundry list of horrible owners who do little to nothing in terms of keeping a team competitive that make me a little more skittish than usual about this interview.

Still, if I go back one more book on my summer reading list to One Day at Fenway, I start to feel just a bit better. The book was written based on one Yankees/Red Sox game in 2003 when a team of reporters followed fans, players, management and staff members at Fenway, the book patches together a game experience from multiple angles.

Obviously, Theo Epstein, John Henry and Larry Lucchino were part of the story and it was Henry's portrayal that gives me some hope in the whole sales process on Addison. It's no stretch to compare the Cubs with the pre-2004 Red Sox and two World Series championships later, that ownership group has proved themselves in Boston.

While it remains to be seen whether or not a new owner for the Cubs would be able to turn the franchise around so quickly, a change of pace certainly couldn't hurt. Say what you will, but I feel that one person who takes the heat for a futile season feels more obligation to change course and try to build a winner than a small group that goes largely unnoticed by the fans.

Chicago's future owner faces a similar punchlist that Henry's ownership group did when they took control of the Red Sox. This includes:

* A World Series drought spanning many decades
* A team known more for losing than winning
* The perception that the fan base is more than comfortable backing a loser every season
* A crumbling relic of a stadium that is "historic" but is more accurately falling apart
* A large, but unfocused payroll
* A popular team that makes boatloads of money almost in spite of itself
* A perception that the team will never, ever win the World Series because of a cursed history

Much of the book plays out like a love letter to baseball, so I suspect there's a degree of artistic license woven in there somewhere, but Henry comes across as being a man who wants to win. Taming the beast that is 100 years of false starts, late season collapses and teams that didn't stand a chance is a major challenge, but comes with immeasurable rewards as well.

An owner that prizes winning and makes an effort to connect with the fan base is what the Cubs should be hoping for above all - an owner who paces a bare patch into the carpeting in his box when things turn south and puts together a strong plan to turn the page on the team's history of losing by aggressively addressing the team's shortcomings.

Epstein even has a twin brother - someone should get his number, just in case.

(Image from:

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

What? Do you hate America or something?

Every now and again, I'll see something - usually a building like the Mall of America or the Rock n' Roll McDonald's - and say, "that's one of the reasons other countries hate America."

This is one of those times.

France sends the Statue of Liberty over to us as a sign of friendship and we're cool for a while and then we had to go and do this.

In what looks like a series of junior high school art projects MLB is selling trying to sell collectible Statue of Liberty figures with the logos of the teams and All-Star Game splashed across them (thanks to

Nothing says, "America and baseball" like the Statue of Liberty in what appears to be the old Washington Capitals uniform, right?

Here's the basic breakdown of these tiny monstrosities:

* The Kansas City figure - Wow, talk about phoning it in. I suspect they know that no one will buy these things, certainly not for the Royals, so why spend any time on it, right? Paint it blue, slap a logo and let's move on.

* The Toronto figure - I'm American and a baseball fan and have no desire to own any of these... why would a Canadian shell out for a team's logo on an American icon? Aside from the highly favorable exchange rate, which makes them practically free for residents of America's hat.

* The Brooklyn figure - Way to rub it in, Yankees. Brooklyn loses its team which goes on to win championships in their new home in California. Now you're going to try and pawn these off on aging fans who never fully recovered from the trauma of seeing their beloved Bums ship out for Los Angeles.

* The Yankees figure - Essentially the only passable one of the bunch. I fail to see this as a coincidence.

(Image from


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I miss Big Papi already

Not that anyone needs to panic quite yet, but the "sign Barry Bonds" buzz is getting louder by the day as the prognosis for David Ortiz's ailing left wrist fails to get any clearer with time.

I'm guessing damage to the tendon sheath is probably pretty serious. Can we give him the Curt Schilling treatment and sew a new one in there from a dead guy or something?

This ray of sunshine comes from Eric Wilbur at

Putting aside all talk of steroids and perjury charges, it's hard to imagine Boston becoming even more of a media circus, but it would happen. Pedro Gomez would have to start re-using his Marriott points. As much as America hates the Red Sox already, Bonds would add an extra element of hatred for fans across the country. Boston fans, on the other hand, would face yet another moment of pure hypocrisy, reasoning why the man they derided so viciously in the past was an OK dude. Aside from all that, Curt Schilling -- the man who last summer famously boasted that Bonds cheated on his taxes, family, and the game -- and Bonds on the same team? The Jim Rice-Joe Morgan and Mo Vaughn-Mike Greenwell snafus of years past could potentially look like thumb wars if these two got together.

Wonderful. Can't wait for that.

The Red Sox rarely get any attention from the national media and I think that this is just the kind of move that would put them on the map.

(Image taken for Siberian Baseball)


The difference between entertaining and good

Though it's a bit late in coming, I felt I'd be missing out if I didn't chip in my two cents on last Friday's 10-9 come from behind win in the Cubs/Rockies game.

For the quick refresher, here's the box score from the game. It's the one where the Cubs had to climb out of a 4-0 deficit heading into the home half of the first inning and ended up on top in a slugfest thanks in large part to a six-run seventh inning.

Don't get me wrong, the game was pretty exciting, especially in the seventh when Wrigley came back to life after Mark DeRosa's home run to put the Cubs on top - one of seven total homers in the game - but exciting and entertaining can be miles away from good.

And that's where the Wrigley faithful should have some suspicions about the Cubs and their chance to win the pennant this year.

In a game decided by which team could get more fly balls into a healthy tailwind that afternoon, the team was able to survive the early fireworks by the Rockies, something that won't always happen. Unfortunately, not all teams are playing down to the level of Colorado thus far in the season and won't give up a solid lead so easily.

Chalk up Ted Lilly's rough outing to a possible rain delay and a few false starts before the game got underway, but getting run in the third is usually a pretty solid indicator that you're going to have the loss pinned on you for the day.

Still, it was a pretty sloppy game all around for both teams. While it's apparent that the Cubs threw out a lineup to give some of the starters a rest, there's no good reason why the team was able to get the win, especially after the first three innings were in the books.

When we get to the point in the season where we hear that the team would rather be lucky than good, don't forget it was in full effect at the end of May. For a team historically short on luck, maybe that's not a bad sign.

(Image from:


Monday, June 02, 2008

Hey ump, look alive

My favorite part of the Deadspin write-up where this video was posted is this:

The catcher and pitcher say it was a sign mixup. The only way that was a sign mixup is if the catcher had given the sign to "remain standing and catch the ball."