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March 31, 2013

Opening Day with a Baseball Layman: The 5 Worst Things about Baseball.

Hello, baseball fans!  Today is among the biggest days of the baseball calendar, and since the Red Hot Family has elected to spend Opening Day discreetly peeking into every police box in Britain, I have been called into service to provide you with the content you crave so ravenously after a grueling offseason.

Now you may be wondering: what does a fair-weather Reds fan with tepid interest in baseball in general have to offer you, the erudite, blog-reading maven you are? Perspective, and list-based content, of course!  I have compiled for your reading pleasure the five best and worst aspects of baseball to a layman such as myself. We’ll get to the good stuff a little later, let’s start with the crap.

(In no particular order)


#5   Brawls and the aftermath

Grown-ass men.

Just like in all sports, baseball teams frequently piss each other off, both intentionally and unintentionally. The boiling point of this conflict tends to be the classic bench clearing brawl.  It frequently begins with the batter losing his cool and attacking the pitcher, which can have two hilarious outcomes.  Either the batter gets unceremoniously dumped from behind by the pursuing catcher, or the batter quickly realizing he’s in over his head and waits for his teammates to “hold him back”.

More commonly, however, a big sweaty wrestling match between grown men will occur until everyone loses interest.  The most offensively stupid aspect of this is that players and fans will whine about the events of the brawl after the players actively participated in it.  The most Reds-relevant example of this is the infamous Cueto-LaRue incident in 2010.  As everyone here surely remembers, Johnny Cueto started kicking in the scrum and gave Jason LaRue a concussion that ended his career.  Reds fans defended Cueto as safeguarding himself in a chaotic situation, while Cards fans decried Cueto’s irresponsible behavior.

Let’s revisit those ideas once more in roleplay:

a Cards Fan: “Johnny Cueto should have been more careful to not hurt anyone while fighting 30 professional athletes simultaneously!”

a Reds Fan: “Johnny Cueto had to kick someone in the head to keep himself safe in a giant fight that he entered willingly!”

Maybe we could avoid all injury by not settling matters like 5-year-olds?  I can hear the purists now, though, ranting and raving about the conventions and standards that the players of the game have upheld for generations!  Which reminds me…


#4   Unwritten Rules

Dusty excited to use Arredondo against the heart of the order in the 9th inning of a tie game with 2 runners on. Gotta save Chapman for the 11th!

Every now and then, curiosity will get the better of me and I’ll google a list of the unwritten rules of baseball. A lot of them exist to promote good sportsmanship, like not stealing when up big or taking the first strike after back to back homers.  This is all fine, but why not just have “Be a good sport” as the rule?  I don’t understand why these rules have to be so specific.

Beyond that, a lot of the rules I read are axioms on what should always be done in specific game situations. One example is only using your closer in late-game situations and with the lead. These are great because hard-and-fast rules that make no exceptions for the context of the game are always the best.  As a manager, why would you want to make a hard decision and take the blame for it when you can just cop out and regurgitate the cliche to the media afterwards?

Still more of these rules are in place because of the immense superstition held by seemingly everyone in the sport.  Hey! Speaking of the backward thinking of cavemen…


#3   The Boys’ Club


Nothing chaps my ass quite like idiots justifying their idiocy with an indignant “that’s the way it’s always been.” Baseball is hardly the only sport with gender issues, but baseball’s own issues came to the forefront in 2006 with Keith Hernandez’s on-air comments regarding Padres massage therapist Kelly Calabrese.

“I won’t say women belong in the kitchen. But they don’t belong in the dugout.”

As the expression goes, a gaffe is when you tell the truth.  Hernandez was properly excoriated for the comment in the media, but he unwittingly gave us a peek at a significant school of thought that exists in the baseball world.

But in the non-baseball world women have been (more or less) treated as equals to men for decades now, how about a group with more 2013 media buzz?  Let’s ask former Brewer Mark Knudsen!

“Personal agendas are not welcome. Nothing that infringes on the cohesiveness of the locker room can be tolerated…That’s why it remains the best option for any homosexual athlete in a team sport to keep his orientation private.”

Nothing worse than those selfish gays ruining everything with their personal agendas of gayness. When I picture the united locker room of a champion, it needs one out of every ten players deathly afraid that their secret become known and their career ending because of it.

Once again, baseball is not unique among sports with these problems, and it is not necessarily fair to paint baseball with a broad brush due to isolated comments.  However, these ideas obviously persist in a significant amount of the baseball industry, and they will never ever be acceptable.


 #2   The Farm System

Now that all the icky social issues are out of the way, let’s move on to something more small potatoes.  Of the 3 major sports in the United States, baseball has by far the least compelling farm system in terms of competition.

NCAA baseball is a putrid mess of unfair playing practices and regional bias.  As the season starts in February-March, cold-weather schools are forced to play every single game on the road until their campus weather permits play. NCAA Tournament selection occurs on Memorial Day, so these schools never have an opportunity to balance their schedule.  Notable collegiate prospects don’t want to shoot their own careers in the foot, and thus opt to play for warm-weather schools, and the cycle continues.  Only 4 of the last 30 NCAA baseball champions came from cold-weather states.

Minor league baseball is a step up.  The stadium environments are family friendly and some of the most affordable sporting events one can attend.  However, their ultimate purpose of grooming talent rather than winning championships puts a cap on how attached one can be to a team.


Well, at least the umps have never screwed up anything REALLY important.

 #1   Fear of technology

Baseball has a unique advantage over other sports in that there are relatively few judgment calls that umpires are forced to make like fouls in basketball or pass interference penalties in football.  In theory, fair or foul, strike or ball, and out or safe are black-and-white calls to be made with as much consistency as possible. However, baseball seems the most reticent of the major sports to place trust in replay and ball placement technology.  There seems to be significant resistance to depowering the umpires, which I can’t fathom.

There is no argument that replay in all facets will result in fewer calls being missed, and replay delays and other issues in more tech-friendly sports are nearly invariably due to referee ineptitude.


Are you all pissed at me yet?  Are you dutifully reading the entirety of the article before meticulously destroying my points in the comments? Good! I can’t wait to hear from you!


Stay tuned for my 5 best things about baseball. Yeah, I really do like baseball!


October 18, 2010

29 Other Baseball Teams Dodge Bullet

Tony LaRussa Signs with St. Louis Cardinals.

LaRussa manhandling defenseless petsDid you hear that? It was a huge, collective sigh of relief from fans of all Major League baseball teams outside of St. Louis, Missouri today. Tony LaRussa will not be taking his tired, team-hating antics anywhere else next year. No, LaRussa will remain a Cardinal.

The team announced the deal Monday and said it includes a mutual option for the 2012 season. Financial terms were not disclosed.

You might think it a little odd to bring back a manager who so clearly lost the ability to motivate his team to play good baseball at the end of the 2010 season. But apparently, that failure was all due to bullpen coach Marty Mason. He was fired today just as LaRussa’s rehiring was announced. Because the reason the Cardinals didn’t get first place was because their bullpen sucked. Right. I’m sure the rest of the National League Central will be quaking at the thought of whoever his replacement is.

Still, everyone with the possible exception of Cardinals fans should be very happy that LaRussa and the Cardinals won’t be much of a threat next year.

August 9, 2010

What I Love About Jim Edmonds

Go screw yourself, EdmondsWhen I first heard about the Reds trading Chris Dickerson to Milwaukee, straight up, for Jim Edmonds, I was pretty upset. Actually, I bit the head off a baby seal in my rage. But after watching a few innings of Edmonds’ stellar performance (not to mention the team’s improvement thanks to his veteran leadership), I’ve got better perspective and I’m completely sold on the deal. Here’s why:

The Reds have had so much excellent defense this season, and it’s clearly been holding the team back. If they want to ascend to that next level, they need the albatross of a 40-year old center fielder around their neck. He’ll be like those ankle weights that middle-aged women wear while power-walking: counteracting him will make them stronger.

Furthermore, the intra-team competition between Drew Stubbs and Chris Heisey was causing internal strife. The production these two young guys were putting together thanks to their struggle was well-outweighed by the damage it was doing to their friendship. Far better to take the responsibility off both of them and give it to someone older and wiser, who knows how to handle the pressure. Pressure made all the heavier the fact that he didn’t earn the responsibility.

And anyway, the net present value of Chris Dickerson is far less than the value brought to the team in one year by Edmonds. He was the best, most logical player they could get for him. The Reds had a surplus of outfielders: it only made sense for them to deal one of them. And once they did, well, then they were down an outfielder, so it only made sense for them to bring one aboard.

But the most important thing that swayed my opinion was the FSOhio text poll–where the kind of insightful fans who call in to sports radio and wear “In Dusty We Trusty” shirts show off their technological prowess by dialing six whole numbers–showed that the majority of fans are in favor of the move. I mean, how can 3,000 cell phone users be wrong?

May 7, 2008

We’ve been here before: Another Friggin Train Wreck

Ah well you may have noticed I have been curiously absent from the postings here at RHM. That is because, like you, I am in a state of absolute shock about the way this season has begun. Aaron Harang 1-5 with an ERA below 3? Just how cursed are we here? And more importantly how do we rid ourselves of this curse?

Well if your like me (and that would mean you are drinking beer morning to night while walking thru this nightmare) then you are ready to cut ties with Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn. Is it because we don’t believe they can turn it around? No not really. Its because they make a combined 25 million dollars while you and I are wondering if we can afford to go out to eat in a sit down restaurant tomorrow.

Did you see the play by Adam Dunn a series ago where he actually threw the ball backwards off the wall, allowing an inside the park homerun? Well, I tell you I meant to post that very day but watching that buffoonery has affected my own reflexes. And as I mentioned I am drinking constantly so forgive me for my tardy commentary on that particular play, but suffice it to say that I had a flashback to a scene in the Bad News Bears where that kid Lupus tried to pick up the ball and throw it unsuccessfully 3 times in a row. Buttermaker, the manager, on my wavelength apparently, numbs his thoughts with a constant beer supply while seated in the dugout. eventually he comes out and signals forfeit as his team cannot record an out.

The worst and best part of all of this is that the two unknown major variables, Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez, have been for the most part lights out. Okay Cueto blew up on one of his starts (and look back at my predictions and you’ll see I predicted that would happen based on his spring training results) but nontheless we could not have asked for better combined numbers for two new entries in the rotation. The bullpen is vastly improved from last season. The failures of this young season fall squarely on the shoulders of the offense. And believe it or not Paul Bako is not the culprit. No, in fact Paul Bako is gonna win the Joe Randa award for most amazing season by a low wage player. Seriously, at this juncture I wouldn’t mind seeing Bako batting fourth, if nothing else just to shame the rest of the team.

I didn’t want to call up Bailey and Bruce prematurely, but that was only in the case that we were within sniffing distance of a pennant race. Clearly that is not the case here. We are in major BLOW IT UP AND REBUILD THE DAMN THING mode. I expect Dunn and Griffey to get moved soon. The writing is on the wall. Today Griffey told USA Today he wanted to play for a contender and that “everyone wants to return to where they started.” If they want him in Seattle I think that is win-win as we need to start thinking about next year and Griffey at 16 million would be utter madness. If they fail to trade him this year they would have to exercise a 4 million dollar buy out.

All I ask is this: if we do indeed dump Griffey and/or Dunn we the fans should get a bone thrown our way. I’m talking about one dollar dogs and one dollar softdrinks for the rest of the season. I don’t think that is unreasonable. I wouldn’t mind watching a rebuilding project if I can kick back at a modest price. Otherwise there is no chance I would attend a game unless I got a free ticket.

Since we last spoke GM Wayne Krivsky was given the boot and Walt Jocketty was coronated. Walt, what the hell are you doing? Do you see the debacle that is our season? Can you please do something to show us that you have some general disapproval of the way the team is performing, beside swapping Bray and Weathers back and forth? We’re pissed as hell at the players but you aren’t exactly hiding in the shadows right now. Get your ass in gear!

Well my buzz is fading into a gentle numbness, and that isn’t gonna do the job, so I must go now to seek out my next beer. Good luck fellow Reds fan, try not to inflict bodily harm on yourself. I know it is tempting. Believe me, I know all to well.

February 27, 2008

Gary Majewski “shines” in Spring Training Debut

Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name!

By “shines” I of course really mean to say “explodes like a super nova.” The ST opener was rather uneventful except for Majewski’s ominous entrance in the 5th inning. At that time the Phillies held a slim 1 run lead. His line shortly thereafter: 1/3 of an inning pitched, 9 batters faced, 6 earned runs, and 4 wild pitches. His spring training ERA is 162.00. Sure these things happen in early games, but this is Majewski we are talking about here. The guy that was given (for what seems like the umpteenth time) a blank slate by management and their paid lackeys in the written media.

Baker on 2/23:

“Majewski’s throwing the ball well. He’s in better shape than I heard he was last year. He’s stronger.”

Reds Notes: Majewski turning heads 2/23/08:

With most of the Reds’ front-office brass watching from behind the cage, including Baker, Majewski provided another encouraging sign. Many of his pitches stayed down and none of the hitters connected too solidly.

In two unremarkable stints with the Reds in 2007, Majewski was 0-4 with an 8.22 ERA in 32 games. He allowed 43 hits in just 23 innings.

Unremarkable? Are you sure about that Mr. Sheldon? I have to disagree. Majewski was very remarkable not only in 2007 but in 2006 as well. Remarkably bad.

Or how about this charming tidbit from John Fay’s Insider last spring 3/9/07:

There is a very happy group of Girl Scouts running around Sarasota these days.
Reds relief pitcher Gary Majewski recently purchased $77 worth of assorted Girl Scout cookies – enough to fill the bed of his pickup truck – at the local Wal-Mart.

UPDATE: Majewski threw 20 pitches off one of the bullpen mounds on the back fields this morning. Word is the session went well.

Look, I hate to beat a dead horse here, but why do these writers insult our collective intelligence like this? We have seen this bum stink up the field now for 3 years. I realize this is just one game. But the man’s ERA is 162! That is how many games are played in a season. I suppose if they trot him out there enough times he might manage to trim it down to something less nauseating, somewhere in the vicinity of 27.00. Nontheless why go to the effort of giving this guy the benefit of the doubt by publishing such pure b.s. like this:

“I kind of figured out what I was doing wrong,” Majewski said of the video sessions. “It stinks it took this long to figure it out. It seems like it’s working now. I just need to keep working at it. A majority of my pitches are where I want them now — down in the zone instead of belt high where they were hitting them last year.”

Incidentally when that quote was originally published on Majewski used the word “sucks” not “stinks.” Like I said the writers really did their best to make the guy as appealing as possible. Too bad baseball isn’t politics. Maybe Gary can run for Congress or something.

Anyhow let us pray that Majewski’s days with this club are numbered. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice shame on you. Fool me a third time and ummm… err, ah, we won’t get fooled again!