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Lovable Losers: The Baseball Edition

30 Oct

Are you a heart-broken baseball fan? Has your favorite ballclub been eliminated from the playoffs? Well only one team a year that can win a championship. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair– especially when a team is thoroughly fun and the brand of ball is oh-so-entertaining. Entertaining doesn’t always win championships or bring accolades, but cult followings have started on far worse premises than entertainment–just ask Jim Jones. Here are five of my favorite post season “losers” from the past 3 decades of playoffs.

2010-2011 Texas Rangers  

2011 World Series Game 5 - St Louis Cardinals v Texas Rangers

This was a particularly cruel era for Rangers fans. Front office guru and Texas legend Nolan Ryan put together a squad that was exciting and talented enough to make their first trip to the World Series in franchise history.

The 2010 season was a bit of a novelty because it was the first time in a long time Rangers fans had something to cheer about. Most were glad to finally be out of the Tom Hicks, “bad contracts to sullen players”era (they were floating the Yankees on a good chunk of Alex Rodriguez’s salary for years after he was traded). Players like Vlad Guerrero and Cliff Lee join Josh Hamilton gave Texas some nationally recognized star power.

It looked like they would give the San Francisco Giants a run for their money after disposing of the Yankees and Devil Rays, but Tim Lincecum and that vaunted pitching staff took care of the Rangers in five games. Fans were just happy that they made it so far, and the season was considered a success.

The 2011 Rangers team picked up where last season left off, winning the West with a 96-66 record. Though one of the best offenses in the majors, their pitching staff lacked consistency, as their best pitcher at the time was C.J. Wilson. This didn’t keep them from beating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Detroit Tigers on their way to the World Series, and getting to within one strike of a World Series title. Although Nelson Cruz gets scapegoated for the play that effectively cost the Rangers the season, the truth is they wouldn’t have gotten that far without Nelson Cruz’s offensive production–that was his only real gaffe during that run–albeit his biggest (one wonders why Cruz was in the game at that point anyway. Despite Cruz’s strong-arm, Manager Ron Washington could have put in a defensive replacement for the bottom of the 9th inning).

Everyone knows what happened in extra innings, setting up one of the biggest sports letdowns for a fan base since the 1986 World Series. It took me almost a week to tear down the protective plastic I’d hung up in my apartment for the post game celebration I’d had planned. A case of Budweiser went unopened–not for drinking, but for spraying around my living room (In case you’re wondering, yes I planned to throw and attend that party alone).

1993-94 Philadelphia Phillies

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Although not the prettiest of baseball teams (stylistically or physically), the 1993 Phillies were an entertaining bunch. Lenny Dykstra was the type of player I’d envisioned myself as. Scrappy, down and dirty,and often overlooked, but he did whatever it took to win.

Dykstra had 6 HR’s and 10 RBI as a lead-off hitter and would have been the World Series MVP had they somehow managed to win. He wasn’t the fastest, nor the strongest, but whenever a big play was needed, “Nails” made it happen.

John Kruk was also easy to love. He was a fantastic contact hitter, who barreled around the bases in his big and burly frame. Darren Daulton and Dave Hollins were big hitters, and with a platoon of players to insert around them (including former Ranger great Pete Incaviglia) they could score runs in bunches.

Their patchwork pitching staff often let them down as 14 runs were sometimes not enough to guarantee a win. Left hander Terry Mulholland was their most consistent pitcher, and this was the post-season where Curt Schilling started making a name for himself as a clutch pitcher; delivering goose eggs in the biggest moments of both the LCS and World Series.

The Phillies’ run inevitably ended when Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams came in to pitch with a 6-5 lead after a big 7th inning( sparked by yet another Dykstra home run)–setting up this World Series moment that would be the backbone to an Adam Sandler movie and a hip-hop diss record.

1991 Atlanta Braves

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Before the general public turned on the Braves organization from overexposure, Atlanta had a very likable roster. Their worst to first back story was a charming change of pace for the baseball media, and even non baseball fans got infected with “Tomahawk Chop” fever (my own mother always greeted each David Justice at bat with an exclamation of “cutie pie” to no one in particular).

After they dispatched the Los Angeles Dodgers (next to last day of the regular season) and Pittsburgh Pirates to emerge as National League champions, the Braves continued to amaze with their timely hitting and rotation of young pitchers. Steve Avery, John Smoltz, and Tommy Glavine would become household names after this season, and young guys  like Ron Gant, Deion Sanders (yes that one) and vets like Otis Nixon and Terry Pendleton made them a good team, but not too good to the point of being annoying.

As destiny would have it, the Braves would match up against another worst to first team, the Minnesota Twins. If Atlanta was one of the more lovable baseball teams of all time, then the Twins were one of the easiest teams to hate of all time. Put aside the off the field stuff written about Jack Morris and Kirby Puckett, and you still had villains like Chuck Knoblauch and Kent Hrbek. Plus, I hated Danny Gladden’s mullet, and Mike Pagliarulo’s mustache made him look like a dirty cop from an episode of Hill Street Blues.

Even though game 7 of that series will go down as one of the best World Series games of all time, in one of the greatest World Series of all time, I will always remember the unsettled feeling I had going to bed after the final run was tallied and the game ended. Lonnie Smith going for the Okie Doke was the difference maker, and Jack Morris was as clutch as clutch can be; pitching 10 scoreless innings of ball. In all honesty, the Braves just didn’t have the horses to win it all.

Kirby Puckett was transcendent and his game 6 heroics set up the most memorable World Series moment of my lifetime. One last bit of trivia that will forever be null and void is Braves’ 2nd baseman Mark Lemke’s World Series leading .720 batting avg. that had almost guaranteed him a vote or two for MVP had Atlanta won. Of course, the Braves would finally get their title in 1995, after beating Cleveland, but that ‘95 team was supposed to win. They had Fred McGriff and Greg Maddux, and had a stacked lineup. It was much harder to be happy for that squad.

1990-1992 Pittsburgh Pirates

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The first MLB game I ever attended in person was a Pirates vs. Astros game at the Astrodome. When I first started collecting baseball cards, Bobby Bonilla (I would pronounce it so that it rhymed with Vanilla) was one of the first in my collection. The Pirates outfield of Andy Van Slyke, Barry Bonds, and Bobby Bonilla was my favorite in this era of baseball, and I thought Doug Drabek (from Victoria,Texas) had cool looking hair because they were silver streaked.

The light hitting, but sure fielding double play combo of Jose Lind and Jay Bell (who nearly always led the league in sacrifice bunts) were steady and dependable. The Pirates were a good fundamental team with a likable manager in Jim Leyland, and I had not problem at all rooting for them when they came to town to face the Astros (mockingly called the “Disastros” or”the Lastros” depending on where they were in the standings).

The year that the Texas Rangers let Steve Buechele go to make room for Dean Palmer, I was happy for both Buechelle and Pittsburgh, and part of me wanted to see the Pirates make the World Series for Ranger fandom alone. It almost happened too. After losing to the eventual champion Cincinnati Reds in 1990, then again to the Atlanta Braves, the Pirates were one out away from finally getting out of the NLCS. Then this happened. Although Yankees fans will disagree, I still to this day can’t think of a better ending to an LCS elimination game.

1999-2000 New York Mets

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Though this wasn’t the Mets teams of 80’s folklore (Doc Gooden, Daryl Strawberry, and David Cone were long gone), this new Mets team was a fun bunch to watch. The strength of this squad was their Gold Glove winning infield with 3B Robin Ventura (yes THAT Robin Ventura), SS Rey Ordonez, 2B Edgardo Alfonso, and sweet swinging, sure handed John Olerud. Bobby Valentine had a couple of throwback names in his outfield platoon with Rickey (the GOAT) Henderson, and Shawon Dunston.

Their pitching staff was hit or miss. Orel Hershiser and Al Leiter, their aces, both had an ERA well into the mid 4’s, and their best 2 relievers were lefthanders Dennis Cook (former UT Longhorn great) and John Franco. Mets fans got a little dose of what past and future franchises would endure with high stakes appearances by Kenny Rogers and Armando Benitez; both of whom are legitimate red flags that you have a suspect pitching staff.  

For every exciting grand slam single the Mets produced, there was Kenny Rogers giving up a frustrating game ending (and series ending) walk, or Mike Piazza letting opposing pitchers punk him get into his head.

History is not kind to losers. At best, one gets a footnote in some book somewhere detailing one’s  valor in the face of defeat. If a fanbase is lucky, those losses are assuaged by a win the following year (with luck, it may even be against the previous year’s opponents) . These wins have a way of negating that empty feeling one gets when they realize they care way too much about the success and failure of millionaires playing a kid’s game. I’d personally rather root for players like Ozzie Smith and Robin Yount than cheaters like Alex Rodriguez and Kent Hrbek.

I mean sure the latter two won championships with their respective teams, but both are renowned cheaters. I bet you that if either Hrbek or A-Rod were invited over to a teammates’ house for dinner, that their wives were counting silverware the minute the guests were out the door.  Hopefully this post helps to reposition the perspective that these are only games, and that winning and losing is less important than playing the game with enthusiasm and integrity. This is the core of being a fan of your favorite teams. You want your team to play hard, and do their best, but win or lose, there is always the possibilities that come with the next season.

BM

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at FullsassStudios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Loosely Connected Thoughts From This Past Weekends’ Baseball Games

18 Oct

Some of you may have noticed that there was no ALCS ADHD Playoff Preview this past weekend on Fullsass.com. It is not because I think American League ball is inferior (even though I do), and it is not because I think that Cleveland is racist for their dismissive attitude in demeaning depictions of Indigenous Peoples (although I do).

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We had a post lined up, but we experienced some site difficulties and the series was already 2-0, in favor of Cleveland by the time we got things right (as of 1:30 pm today, Cleveland is up 3-0 and have yet another game in an hour and a half). For what it is worth, I had Cleveland winning in 7 games, but that is a moot point, because that organization is wack, and their fans are wack for perpetuating something so blatantly disrespectful as Chief Wahoo.

 

Anyway, here are some thoughts that I had over the weekend while watching America’s favorite past time:

 

  • A Cleveland-Chicago World Series would be a great storyline for both franchises and the MLB as a whole; all but guaranteeing that one city’s team would be breaking a curse that has spanned multiple decades and generations of fanbases. That alone could carry the World Series, and it would matter little how competitive the games were.
  • This is not the Cito Gaston/Pat Gillick lovable 90’s Blue Jays we’re seeing right now. Eff these Jays, and eff their Drake and Danny Gladden look-alikes. It is too bad I don’t watch much A.L. ball (outside of the Rangers) because I feel like I  should be enjoying this Toronto beat down more. I miss the Devon White, Joe Carter, John Olerud, Juan Guzman, David Cone, Roberto Alomar, Jack Morris, Dave Stewart, Dave Winfield led squads. NOW THOSE GUYS WERE FUN TO WATCH PLAY BASEBALL!!!!
  • How am I just now finding out that Eddie Vedder is a Cubs fan? How did he avoid being a fan of the number of teams strung along the west coast that were winning when he was a child? I can see why Mariners fever somehow missed him, but Oakland was a good franchise up until the mid 90’s, and the Dodgers were easy to like back in the day. I wonder if Eddie was like the rest of us during summer vacation, watching Harry Caray on WGN, doing the play-by-play for those Ryne Sandberg, Shawon Dunston, Andre Dawson, and Mark Grace teams. I actually always liked the Cubs. It is Cubs fans that make you want to root against them. I’ve been to quite a few baseball stadiums in the 25 years I’ve been a baseball fan, and Chicago Cubs fans are some of the least knowledgeable, frontrunning fans north of Cowboys stadium. I’ve been to Wrigley Field, and although the field is nice, the fans make you want to avoid any establishment that serves Budweiser products for the rest of your life.
  • National League baseball is incredible to watch during the month of October. Those formative years I spent living in Houston molded my love for the game. As much as I loved watching the Rangers with my grandmother, I never found A.L. games as stimulating as I did watching those late 80’s early 90’s Dodgers,Giants,Cubs, and Mets play. I still get giddy whenever I see a pitcher hit a homerun. I think the reason Joe Maddon was underrated all those years in the American League (other than coaching for Tampa Bay) is that he wasn’t able to utilize the full extent of his baseball genius. Those wacky moves he pulled at Tropicana Field (how do they still have a team down there again?) don’t seem so crazy now that he has to master using that number 9 spot in the lineup. Seriously, the difference between the two leagues is like checkers vs. chess. I’m happy to see Maddon get his due finally. I think he is the best manager in the game right now.
  • Lastly, as much shit as I’ve talked about Cubs fans, I have to say the playoff games at Wrigley have been electric. I could feel the energy from the crowd when Miguel Montero came out for his curtain call after that 8th inning grand slam. It gave me chills. This is what postseason baseball is all about. Well that and this here.

 

Enjoy the rest of the LCS series.
BM

Summer Holiday Day 5

28 May

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009

A Season to be Proud Of

13 Jan

Cowboys and Cowboys fans have nothing to be ashamed of. They should be proud of the season that they had. No matter what the scoreboard read yesterday, it was a success. Big ups to my people out in Dallas who never gave up on the team.

Interleague Play

5 Nov

Someone threw a punch
out in the right field stands
“Big. Mistake.” I said.
Hit a female cop in the face
they all took a turn
beating the shit out of him.

As they hauled him off
I took a drink from the flask.
The guy in the next seat
offered me a little nip
the tasty whiskey
took the edge off the crazy game
.
Armando Benitez came in
to close out the ninth inning,
gave up three runs–
Giants’ fans were pissed
then grew silent.
One threatened to stab me
and any other A’s fans in the adjoining row.

The top of ninth inning over,seagulls
descended upon the trash and the garlic fries
as if they knew the game was already over.

~Edward Austin Robertson

10 years gone: Randy Johnson’s Perfect Game Revisited

20 May

2 days ago marked the 10th anniversary of the Randy Johnson’s perfect game in Atlanta. I happened to be in town the week the Diamondbacks were visiting the Braves. One of my good friends from high school moved there for grad school and having loads of student loan money to blow, I decided to pay him a visit.

Going to a game was always on the plate, but after looking up the schedule and seeing that Randy Johnson was pitching on the 18th. This changed things from being “maybe we’ll go to a Braves game while I’m in town.” to ” We are going to see Randy Johnson pitch tomorrow.” I’d seen randy Johnson pitch once before when Seattle had played Texas (back when Seattle had A-Rod,Griffey, Jay Buhner, and Edgar Martinez) and the Rangers had rocked him for 7 early inning runs. Johnson didn’t make it into the 4th inning I think. I was banking on Johnson having a better performance this time around.

We were able to score some great seats thanks to my buddy’s grandma. We helped her and her friend clean out a storage unit (an unfair that left us stinky, tired and sweaty–for some reason I think it didn’t go as smoothly as it should have) and we parlayed that windfall into seats behind home plate.

As excited as I was about the game, I was just as geeked up about the vast amount of tail at the ballpark. Georgia is renowned (and rightfully so) for the absurd number of hotties the state produces (rivaling only Texas) and the females provided a distraction for the first 3 innings. By the fifth inning, I noticed that the Big Unit hadn’t put anyone on base. I mentioned this to my buddy (who had thrown a no hitter in high school himself) and he shook me off. “Too early to be looking at that kind of stuff” he said.

By the 7th inning, he admitted that we might have something special brewing. By the 8th inning I was texting everyone who would give a damn about a regular season baseball game, and by the ninth inning the remaining spectators (you wouldn’t believe how many people left because the Braves were losing) were cheering every strike that Johnson threw. After the final out, there was a lot of clapping, and after the five minute on-field celebration, we all speechlessly filed out of the stadium–our faces stunned. We were buzzing on the ride home, wide eyed and mostly silent. We just kept saying to each other, “I can’t believe it!”

We went to a bar out in Buckhead and had drinks and listened to the jukebox. We even met a couple of guys who were at the game, which led to another round of “Can you believe it’s?”
That was ten years and two days ago. It may as well have been 20 years ago. My high school buddy is married with a kid now, and I haven’t watched an inning of baseball in almost 3 years. The last time I attended a baseball game was when I lived in Oakland. I fell asleep during the 3rd inning and it took me until the 5th inning to decide to call it a day.

I sometimes wonder if that game didn’t ruin me somehow. My interest in non playoff games wane the minute both teams register hits on the scoreboard. The game is way too slow. I prefer soccer and basketball to baseball and football now. I thought about going to a couple of games this summer, but I know it would be impossible for me to sit still that long. One of the things that stick out the most from that game is when I got back to Texas and told one of my buddies about seeing Randy Johnson pitch. He wasn’t very impressed. “You mean no one on the other team got a hit? Psst. Sounds boring to me.”

I thought about giving him a lecture on why seeing a good pitcher’s duel is way better than a slugfest, and how defense, pitching, and stolen bases got me just as excited as a towering home run. Instead I just laughed and shook my head. He didn’t understand and there was no way for me to make him. I might as well have been talking about some life altering acid trip from my late teens.

That was only 10 years ago, and the relevance of that experience diminishes with each passing year. Baseball’s popularity has only dwindled since then, and with each passing day, the story about “seeing a Randy Johnson perfect game” becomes less cooler to share. Someday there will come a point in my life where the people who know me will be shocked when they find out that I not only liked baseball, but grew up playing it. It’ll be like when someone tells you they study Latin in college. I myself can barely believe how Gung Ho I was about the game when I was a youth (collected baseball cards and everything).

“Why?” They’ll ask. And I’ll just shrug my shoulders. Perhaps I’ll even dredge up this story. And maybe they’ll feign interest for the first couple of sentences before I realize they are just humoring me. Then maybe I’ll just give up and say “you had to be there.”

But seriously, you should have been there.

New Blog

25 Dec

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I haven’t posted much in the last couple of months. It’s not that I haven’t been writing, my focus has been on writing about basketball. So for those of you who like only the sports posts and don’t care about the whiny emo poems or goofy you tube posts, you can go to http://thapick2click.sportsblog.com/

For those of you who could care less about the sports stuff……well I will post some dreamy poetry soon I’m sure. Although I must admit I’ve been enjoying playing music more these days than writing poetry. Whatever you prefer, happy holidays to you. See you next year.

~Mick