Tag Archives: Baseball

Opening Day 2014

Today is Opening Day for the 2014 big league baseball season.  If there’s one change I’d like to see in the way baseball games are played and broadcast it is in the length and pace of the game.  Hitters as well as pitchers today take way too much time between pitches.  Hitters adjust their gloves, helmets, pants, belts and anything else you could think of before deciding to step back into the batter box.  Pitchers, meanwhile, fiddle with their caps, pace the mound, and make pointless pickoff moves before delivering a pitch.  It is unclear whether all these extraneous movements are product of “mind games” that pitchers and hitters are known to play on each other or if they are just a form of procrastination.  Either way, the fan is left to endure all these time-wasting movements and will be lucky if he or she can muster the patience to watch or listen to all nine innings.  Games today are also jam packed with commercials, ads and tie-ins so that sometimes it is unclear whether baseball is the main focus or the car that is being peddled by the announcer for the thirtieth time in the broadcast.

My hope for this season is to be able to score at least one game live (i.e., at the field) which is harder than it sounds if, like me,  you also have an infant and toddler to look after during the game.  With that in mind, I will simply settle for a hot dog, a cold beer, and making it to the seventh-inning stretch, scorecard be damned.   

 

Balls, Bats and Bucks

Baseball season starts in less than a week.  That means leisurely days (or, more likely, nights) at the ball park with a hot dog in one hand, a beer in the other, and, if you’re like me, a scorecard on your lap.  It also means being a part of what we have come to call the Great American Pastime, witnessing feats of sometimes supernatural athleticism and, if you’re lucky, achievements of monumental importance.  For me, as a Met fan, Johan Santana’s 2012 no-hitter comes to mind.

But something troubles me about the game, and at times, it makes me feel like I would be better off just forgetting about baseball altogether.  But then what would my wife and I listen to as we puttered around the kitchen on many a summer night with the day’s heat then dissipating and our conversations turning to who is hitting what and why isn’t he doing better.  In any event, my concerns are no different from those that a lot of other people now have, and, probably have had since the inception of modern baseball: overpriced players, overpriced tickets, interminably long games, lackadaisical play, too many strikeouts, and ballparks that are called PETCO Park and U.S. Cellular Field.

But I do wish things were different.  For example, I wish that a player that you never heard of (assuming you follow baseball, of course) did not make millions of dollars each year where the average joe makes a fraction of that and then has to suffer the indignity of having to pay a part of that player’s salary if he or she wanted to watch him in-person, and increasingly, on a screen.  I also wish that baseball organizations were less concerned about their bottom line and more about what could be done to make the game more fan-friendly (hint: shrinking the confines of a ballpark so the home team can hit more home runs is not one of them); the two, it seems to me, never appear compatible in theory or in practice.

Despite all this, I think the integrity of the game is still intact.  Players still play because they love being on the field and not because its just a way to make a lot of money without really working (another great American pastime).  Managers still get peeved when players don’t hustle to first base on a sure-out grounder.  And fans still recognize and respect players who play the game with passion and heart rather than those who simply show up to collect a paycheck.  So I look forward to the baseball season.  At the very least, it will allow me to realize a dream I have long had: taking my son to his very first baseball game.

Dispatch from Atlanta, Georgia

My apologies for the infrequent blog posts of late.  There has been little development on the Padilla retroactivity front.  Which is not to say that there are no Padilla-style motions gestating in the courts, and it is only a matter of time until the courts begin opining upon the reach of Padilla.  I did come across a “Padilla Resource Page” created by the ABA’s Criminal Justice Section and which may be accessed here.

In other news, Spring Training is in full swing and Duke Snider  died at the age of 84.  The Times carried an article after Snider’s passing entitled “Remembering When Players Also Were Neighbors.”  It’s worth a read and dovetails with what I had written about in my prior book review post on Roger Khan’s “The Boys of Summer.”

In world affairs, the tumult in North Africa/Middle East continues.  News on this is, of course, plentiful, if not humdrum.  For a more insightful perspective, I would suggest listening to a recent interview of Prof. Horace Campbell on Democracy Now, which can be accessed here.

 

The Boys of Summer

Today I finished reading “The Boys of Summer” by Roger Khan.  It is part memoir, part history book.  Its subjects are, besides Khan himself, the players for the Brooklyn Dodgers, back when baseball was as much a community activity — played and watched — as it was a professional endeavor.   Khan was a beat writer for the New York Herald Tribune during the heyday of the Brooklyn Dodger team, right before it was moved to the West Coast by Walter O’Malley.  In his book, Khan chronicles his life as an up and coming reporter who would eventually earn a coveted opportunity and then position covering the Dodgers.  The latter half of the book is devoted to the players themselves but in their post-baseball days, in a form similar to that of Lawrence Ritter’s “The Glory of Their Times.”

There are many things to say about “The Boys of Summer.”  But I will limit myself to the following observations:

1955 Brooklyn Dodgers after winning the World Series (L. to R. D. Snider, C. Labine, G. Hodges, and R. Campanella)

(1) By and large, the players whom Khan profiled led productive lives after baseball.  These lives were by no means glamorous.  One player tended bars (Billy Cox), another installed elevators in what used to be the World Trade Center (Carl Furillo).  But they were nevertheless purposeful lives that transcended professional baseball and its trappings of fame and glory.

(2) Money was just as important for baseball front office officials back in the 1950’s as it is in today’s game where players are given multi-million dollar contracts and  blustery high-priced agents put  on smoke-and-mirrors shows.  The amount of money involved in today’s game is of course multitudes greater than the paltry sums that were, for instance, paid to Duke Snider, then considered the league’s premier slugger.  And this rings true even when one accounts for every possible economic variable out there (inflation, cost-of-living, etc).

This raises an interesting question of whether players today envision leading productive lives after their playing careers are over.  I would venture to guess that they do not judging from the astronomical salaries that are demanded and ultimately paid.  But can one blame them?  Playing baseball day in and day out prepares one for little else besides, well, playing baseball.  And in today’s increasingly technical and skill-driven world, this does not bode well for the job-search prospects of the modern professional athlete.  Factor in the advent of free agency and the near certainty of permanent physical debilitation and one almost expects that today’s slugger or ace pitcher be paid up the wazoo.

Why then do we still hear people complain about overpriced ball players?  (A-Rod comes promptly to mind.)  Surely, this is a some reflection that there exists a disconnect between current salaries and what the average person thinks a professional ball player should be making.  This disconnect has in fact driven a number of folks from the game entirely.  Does this mean that a return to the “glory days” of baseball is in order?  A time when players were treated less like celebrities and more like Joe from around the corner or when the off-season was just as often spent working part-time as a grocery store clerk as it was spent conditioning one’s body for next season.  Is it reasonable to expect that players today not bank on their major league careers as the only time in their lives during which they will be productively employed in some shape or form?  And taking that one step further, would it be reasonable to expect that today’s player accept some kind of non-baseball related employment once their playing careers end?

These are questions that I pose to you, the reader, in hope of generating a discussion about this topic with baseball fans and non-baseball fans alike.