Archive for the ‘Monday Morning Memo’ Category

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Brewers

It’s simple. The Brewers have the best record in baseball for three very obvious reasons, unrelated to the fact that we’re 12 games into the season.

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MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays

Roy Halladay returned to Toronto, just for one night, to deliver the first pitch before the Jays’ home opener on Friday. The smitten crowd showered the former Jays ace with a rousing, heartfelt ovation as he rushed out to the mound, acknowledged the roars, tipped his cap to the visiting Yankees, and threw a cutter to Mark Buehrle, the ceremonial catcher and Halladay’s opposite number for many a beat writer’s dream – the two hour pitchers duel.

It was sort of surreal to watch from a distance, in the auxiliary press box furiously trying to find highlights of this monster home run Giancarlo Stanton pounded at nearly the same moment as the speakers boomed Halladay’s name in Toronto. The Blue Jays best player for a decade then did what he always did – he wasted no time. To blink was to miss it, a hacky analog for his brilliant career.

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MLB: Spring Training-Detroit Tigers at Washington Nationals

Big bit of news here: baseball players make a lot of money. It’s true – if you climb the myriad rungs of the baseball ladder and manage to stay healthy and driven and good enough to become a professional, you can become rich. Provided you can keep performing at a high level and keep avoiding injury as well as the trappings of pro athlete life, you can became extremely rich.

Rich for an employee, mind you. The owners are still wealthy, as Chris Rock famously said, but the athletes are merely rich. The wealth gap between player and owner is enormous but the gap between player and fan is larger still.

Once fans hear about players not only accepting enormous contracts but turning down life-changing money, it attracts ire from every corner of the universe. Undeserved ire borne out of ignorance? Of course. But it is ire none the less.

Because the season begins next week, many teams scurry to lock up deals before the long grind begins and the full attention of both club and player shifts to the field. As such, the broken telephone provides gory details as players turn down reported deals that would make them private island rich.

Without the benefit of hindsight, let’s rank the gamblers and dreamers who reportedly turned down a lifetime of riches in exchange for a shot at even more money down the road.

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Diamondbacks pitcher Miley throws a pitch during the opening game of the 2014 MLB season against the Dodgers at the Sydney Cricket Ground

Did you know they played two baseball games in Australia over the weekend? It’s true, they did. Despite one game beginning at some ungodly hour here on Earth, these games count in the standings! For real!

The Dodgers raced out to an insurmountable one game lead in the NL West. Is their hot start for real? My column:

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MLB: Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees

Spring Training is probably twice as long as it needs to be. The players universally arrive to camp already in peak physical shape, such that a player who comes to camp out of shape is mocked and derided and roundly questioned.

But the owners like selling tickets and the players like all the off days so, for now, it is a six-week odyssey. All anybody in uniform wants from Spring Training is survival. Just head north (or west) in one piece and the spring is officially a success.

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MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers

It was never going to be easy for Ervin Santana. The draft pick compensation attached to his name and the stink of allowing 39 home runs just one year ago all but assured he wouldn’t receive the nine-digit payday for which he longed.

It was the longing for that novelty-sized check that helped land Ervin Santana here in limbo. The same limbo that he still calls home just three weeks away from the start of the season. His long time agent broke away from the Bean Stringfellow umbrella and it appeared the timeline shortened considerably. Deadlines and reported offers and Santana narrowing his choices down to two teams – it looked as though Santana wanted to get into camp in hurry.

But still he waits.

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MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles

Belittling Spring Training is easy. It is easy to build up an immunity to the banality of Spring Training, the increasingly profitable exhibition season that seems to drag on forever. Too many years investing too much energy is following spring boxscores and attempting to extrapolate team results from the Grapefruit or Cactus League schedule generates a lot of scar tissue in a hurry.

But Spring Training isn’t about results or immutable truths. Spring Training is about hope and joy. It is about winter-weary folks from norther climes hastily tossing wrinkled shorts and misshapen tshirts into a suitcase, sitting in the sun and basking in the glory that is baseball. A stakes-free version of baseball played as close to halfspeed as baseball can manage? Sure. But who cares?

Even the baseball-adjacent activities of early spring beats the pants off pre-playoffs NHL and NBA action. Those sports feature a conspicuous lack of sunlight, which Spring Training offers in spades.

So get as excited as your heart allows when your favorite team wins a bunch of home ST games against 2/9ths of a contending team, take the “he looks greats/he’s just working on some stuff” reports in stride, and do the impossible: enjoy Spring Training. It won’t be too long before you’re complaining about how much stupid coverage NFL mini camps get, enjoy the time in the sun for the scant minutes in which it actually shines.

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