Part of the Game

“Baseball teams go south every spring to cripple their players.  In the old days they only stayed a couple of weeks, and they couldn’t get many of them hurt in that time, but nowadays they stay until they get them all hurt.”  Will Rogers

MLB teams are making their final roster cuts this week as they prepare to break camp and head north for the start of the 2013 season.  Some “can’t miss” prospects are being told their road to Cooperstown includes stops in a few more minor league cities (see Jurickson Profar – TEX; Wil Myers – TBR).  Many aging veterans are being asked to swallow their pride and accept minor league assignments, and they agree just to preserve one more opportunity to return to the Show (see Matsuzaka, CLE; Nady, KCR).  Their impatience and indignation may not be suffered long, however.  History has shown that the #1 opportunity-maker for both prospects and hangers-on are injuries to those filling out the major league roster, and many have already occurred.

The trials of NYY have been well-documented, with A-Rod, Jeter, Teixeira, Granderson and Hughes all opening the season on the DL.  Several other teams also have been hit with injuries that could impact their season’s performance.   STL starts without Carpenter, Furcal, Freese, Motte and perhaps Carlos Beltran.   LAD starts without Crawford and Hanley Ramirez.  ATL starts without Mike McCann and Johnny Venters.  ARI lost Adam Eaton for at least six weeks.  This latest list goes on and on, and can be viewed here:  http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/fantasy/injuries/.  Most of these injuries can be explained by the horrendous wear and tear an athlete’s body suffers during the time it takes him to make it to the highest level of play.  Some, however, are caused by less noble circumstances.  See Jayson Stark’s report here:  http://espn.go.com/blog/spring-training/post/_/id/1135/strangest-injuries-of-the-spring.

Whatever the cause, injuries are a part of the game and in making our 2013 predictions we must take into consideration those we know about – new and old.  Recall that the injury with the most impact on the 2012 season occurred in 2011!  Stephen Strasburg’s limited recovery from Tommy John surgery kept him from pitching in the 2012 post-season and likely kept the Nationals out of the World Series.

Like the uncertainty of a MLB disabled list, there are many questions to be answered among our illustrious group:  After rebounding from near the bottom of the 2011 standings to win the 2012 title,  can Steve Jacobs stand the pressure to repeat?  Will Marc Whyte break through for his first B.A.B.E.S. title after 2 second place finishes?  Will Tony Liccione regain his top form?  Will Tom Marchiando’s daughter’s softball schedule even permit him time to submit an entry?  Can Bill Cupelo overcome the psychological trauma that is MLB in the Northeast and think clearly enough to pick winners?  Will Robert Carington and Tim Turek decide not to pick the Cubs and then watch them break the 105 year curse?  Will Carl Rose bleed Dodger Blue until he finds himself in the ER, not the post-season?  Will I finish first in my own family, let alone among all the B.A.B.E.S?

Should be a fun year.  Best of luck to all of you in this year’s race for the Rocky.

And, finally, speaking of a year and the Rocky (and the ultimate part of the game), I am reminded that March 18 was the first anniversary of Rocky Walker’s death.  I miss him. http://babesbaseball.com/2012/03/20/remembering-rocky/.

Classic Baseball

“You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”  Jim Bouton, Ball Four

March 20, 2013

The third Spring World Baseball Classic finished last night in San Francisco’s AT&T park just as the MLB annual Fall Classic concluded last October – in a cold, persistent rain that couldn’t cool off a hot team.  The Dominican Republic nearly equaled SFO’s 4 game sweep of the Tigers by beating Puerto Rico for the third consecutive time in the championship game.  Both DR and SFO ended their title runs on seven game winning streaks.

The DR may not have been the underdog in the 2013 WBC that the Giants were in the 2012 World Series, but just about everything went right for both teams on the way to their respective championships.    In the WBC title game, timely hitting got the Dominicans a lead in the first inning that was preserved through nine innings by solid starting pitching and dominant relief work.

Yes, the classic formula for winning baseball championships remains the same even when the calendar reads March, not October. It was great fun for me to sit in front of our family TV watching a meaningful baseball game in the month of March with two of my kids showing interest in the outcome and asking me many questions about sport’s greatest game.  I’d call that classic family entertainment, wouldn’t you?

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The winner of our first WBC competition is first-time B.A.B.E.S. participant Walter Stone, a globe-trotting Aggie petroleum engineer who was in Kuwait for the entire month.  No word on whether he got to watch any of the games, but he claims he didn’t study the teams and mostly just followed the betting line.  With a total of 32 points (a .667 batting average), Walter may have taught us all something about Aggie engineering.   Congratulations, Walter, on winning a coveted “Rocky” in your very first try.

Runner-up was our youngest member, Jack Rose, who at only 11 years-old adds yet another meaning to our name B.A.B.E.S.  (that would be the third definition we have ascribed).  Jack amassed 30 points in his first competition and immediately proved himself to be superior to his father in baseball predictions.  (If he had only gone with Cuba instead of China in the First Round he would have tied Walter for the title.)  Well done, son!

I did manage to finish 3rd with 23 points, and was the only one of us to pick 3 of the 4 finalists.  That gives me hope for a better showing in the upcoming MLB season.  Of course, that shouldn’t be too hard since I was next to last in last year’s standings.

So, all of you guys who finished ahead of me last year better be thinking hard.  Eleven days to go before your picks are due and play begins with TEX @ HOU.  The Astros announced today that Bud Norris will be their starter who will throw the first pitch of the 2013 MLB season and the first American League game in Houston’s history.  Now, if Ron Washington will only repeat on Opening Night what he did last week in a Spring Training game – bat Lance Berkman lead-off.  What a classic moment that would be.

If the name fits, trademark it!

Most of you know that I don’t care for NYY.  There are several posts in the B.A.B.E.S.’s archives evidencing this fact (for example:  http://babesbaseball.com/2012/10/22/leaves-of-grass/; ).  However, in keeping with my Advent pledge of last December, ( http://babesbaseball.com/2012/12/01/love-your-enemies-part-1-the-yankees/ I have refrained from referring to baseball’s winningest organization in pejorative terms.  I now strive to let the facts speak for themselves and let lesser bloggers resort to insults. Well, apparently one man’s insult is another man’s intellectual property – and don’t you dare try to steal it.

In a recent proceeding before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, a merchandising company called Evil Enterprises sought to register the name “Baseball’s Evil Empire” for exclusive use on t-shirts, hats, jackets and related sports apparel.  MLB filed an objection on behalf of NYY (Bud knows what they are!), and the TTAB agreed.  In a holding that I, as B.A.B.E.S. Commissioner, agree with completely, the board ruled:

“The record shows that there is only one EVIL EMPIRE in baseball and it is the New York Yankees….”

http://www.mondaq.com/unitedstates/x/225186/Sport/Baseballs+Evil+Empire+Strikes+Back

So from now on I am free to reference NYY as Baseball’s Evil Empire (or BEE) so long as I don’t try to use the name for monetary gain.  That is now officially the legal property of Messrs. Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, and rightly so.  Their Dad would be so proud.

Unfortunately for the Steinbrenner Bros. and the entire NYY organization, this court ruling is about the only thing they have won lately, and may be the last thing they win for a while.  One championship in the last 13 years is not the kind of legacy the Boss had in mind, and even title #27 might require an asterisk since we now suspect it was obtained through the PED-assisted performance of Alex Rodriguez.  But even without PED suspicions, it is hard to win title #28 when all your stars appear on the DL rather than the daily line-up card.  Last year it was Rivera, Pettite and Jeter all going down with major injuries.  A-Rod was lost again in the off-season due to hip surgery and now barely 2 weeks into Spring Training Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira have sustained serious injuries that will cause each of them to miss several weeks of the season.  Even GM Brian Cashman was injured in a charity sky-diving routine.

What exactly is going on here?  Are the forces of good somehow striking a blow against evil? Or is this just the inevitable breaking down of an Empire that has become  more Aged that Evil?  Whatever the cause, I know the result: no striking back for this Evil Empire and no October baseball in the Bronx this year. That is as much of a triumph as the forces of good can ask for.  (That characterization does not violate my Advent pledge because NYY voluntarily adopted the name BEE, therefor juxtaposing themselves against the forces of good, whoever them may be.)

Note: The World Baseball Classic completed first round play in Pools A & B at about 7 am this morning, EDT, when Cuba smacked Japan for its third straight win in Pool A to clinch a top seed in Round 2.  Japan, not surprisingly, also advanced even with this loss.  They will be joined by two mild surprises, Netherlands and Chinese Taipei.  Either one of them might have been picked to advance but most observers expected 2009 finalist Korea to be the other second round qualifier from Pool B.  Not this year.

Several B.A.B.E.S. members picked 3 of the 4 qualifiers from these pools, but no one started with a perfect score.  See the results at the WBC page: www.babesbaseball.com/world-baseball-classic-2013.  Pools C and D start play tomorrow night with a great match-up between Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, two teams that have been picked to win the competition.  Venezuelan players today dedicated their efforts to the memory of controversial president Hugo Chavez who died yesterday from cancer at age 54.  Every sports team needs motivation and every country wants international respect.  It will be interesting to see once again how sports and international politics mix.  I’m especially interested since I picked Venezuela to win it all.