Saturday, April 10, 2004

Priorities. I agree with the great George Solomon of the Washington Post when he writes a column, at about this time every year, regarding the inexcusable fact that Washington, DC does not have a Major League Baseball team. This year he writes:

Another Opening Day With Nowhere to Go
By George Solomon
Sunday, April 4, 2004; Page E02

A year ago, District Mayor Anthony A. Williams told three Post staff members, including myself, that 2003 would be the last time Washington would not have an Opening Day for Major League Baseball.

Williams was wrong. Neither he nor the Fred Malek-led D.C. ownership group make enough noise, or show the fire or creativity to win this fight, nor does the governor of Virginia, Mark Warner. Or much of the local baseball media -- preoccupied with covering the Hall of Fame's "Baseball as America" exhibit at the Smithsonian or the condition of Oriole Omar Daal's left arm. The only laurel from me goes to Bill Collins, who has worked for 11 years to get Northern Virginia in the game.

So for the 33rd consecutive year, MLB did not have its Opening Day in the nation's capital, choosing instead to officially begin its season last week matching the Yankees and Devil Rays in Tokyo, the capital of Japan, while we were left to host a state visit from Michael Jackson.

Tell me who got the better end of that deal.

In the more than three decades since Washington (an original American League city from 1901 to '71) lost its baseball team to Texas, there have been expansion franchises awarded to Toronto, Denver, Miami (the Marlins), Phoenix and Tampa.

In each instance, Washington lost out. Nor has there been a single franchise relocation in that time, as MLB Commissioner Bud Selig proudly point outs, despite a number of teams drowning in red ink. But for the past three years, the Montreal Expos have been without an owner or much support in their town -- kept alive by the other 29 MLB teams and playing more than 20 games in each of the last two years in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to offset huge financial losses.

Washington and Northern Virginia have sought the Expos, along with Portland, Ore. (apparently out of the running), Las Vegas, San Juan, Norfolk and Monterrey, Mexico.

It would seem that the metropolitan area -- the nation's seventh largest market -- would be a slam-dunk choice for the Expos, if it wasn't for the greedy and formidable opposition of Orioles owner Peter Angelos, a staunch Selig ally. MLB's nine-member relocation committee is supposed to make a decision this summer on where to relocate the Expos for 2005. But that decision could be delayed again, as it was last month, and for the past two years.

If this was a fair process, the Expos would be here. But Selig's recently stated "I don't want to hurt any franchise" policy counters his previous statement that the Washington area was the "premier" relocation site. His preference probably would be to eliminate the Expos, along with the Devil Rays and who knows who else. If Selig has no intention of putting a baseball team here, he should stop this charade and say so.

In the meantime, when the O's open their season tonight hosting the Red Sox, I'll be watching "The Sopranos." I give you permission to go.

I agree that Washington, the city that I now call my home, is an attractive market for baseball. If baseball is our nation's game, it should be played at a professional level in our nation's capital.

But how we get the Expos to relocate to Washington is another story. The Post reports today that "Mayor Anthony A. Williams is preparing to tell Major League Baseball officials that the District can fully fund construction of a new stadium for less than $400 million at several sites, an idea that has rankled many city leaders who wonder where the money will come from."

Yeah. Here are just a few statements from City Council members on the subject, and I agree with all of them.

David Catania, Republican at-large councilman: "I'm still curious where the money is going to come from. I have not moved away from my position of not increasing taxes to fund a new stadium. I'm just unwilling to do that with so many other needs left unmet."

Adrian Fenty, Democratic Ward 4 councilman: "People don't support spending lots of public dollars on a baseball stadium. It's not going to happen. New libraries and rec centers, but not a new baseball stadium." (Ward 4 is a working class area).

Council member Kathy Patterson a Democrat from Ward 3 says that even though Washington is a good baseball market she says that any plan to raise the gross-receipts tax on businesses to finance a statium is "dead on arrival." (Ward 3 is the most affluent part of DC).

Let’s pay for the school books, first-responders, and road repairs first, Mr. Mayor.

Stay tuned.


Friday, April 09, 2004

My trip to Charm City. Leaving aside the outcome of the game, it was a spectacular trip to Baltimore for the series finale last night. It was one of those expect-to-see-something-you’ve-never-seen-before-because-this-is-baseball games.

Some things I’d never in seen person before and some observations…

I’d never seen a runner tagged out at the plate in extra innings with “do-or-die” outfield positioning. The crowd reaction was incredible; you’d have thought it was late September as opposed to early April.

I’d never seen an appeal play that worked, except when I pulled it off in high school.

Scott Williamson is small.

Keith Foulke is effeciant.

There are a hell of a lot of people in Red Sox hats in Union Station two hours before a Sox game in Balitomore.

I think the game was going to be suspended after the 13th. The rain was coming down hard and an official looking gentleman in an Orioles jacket came out and spoke to the home plate umpire who then conferred with the Red Sox bench.

It was a treat to see the Burks’ first homer back with the Sox and the fans reaction to it. He got a long standing ovation from the Sox fans behind the visitors dugout.

Baltimore fans call Javy Lopez “J-Lo”. Yikes.

Baltimore fans are knowledgeable. I heard a great discussion between to Orioles die-hards about whether or not Tejada should bunt Melvin Mora over to third with no out in the bottom of the tenth. Foulke through a wild pitch, Tejada struck out and the point was moot. I was disappointed by some punk kids sitting behind me and my mother who were unbelievably foul-mouthed and offensive throughout the game. My mother, mind you, appricates jokes about the possibility of a non-plutonic relationship between Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, so I wasn’t concerned about her reaction. But when one guy yelled “Fuck you Damon!” after he threw out Mora at home, I turned around and yelled at him to shut up. Mom starred he down. You just don’t fuck with Johnny Jesus.

Embree threw the ball great. I was thinking about how nice it is to have Bobby Jones in the pen as a second lefty so that Embree doesn’t need to be saved for lefty-lefty situations. I was thinking it’s nice to have Jones in the bullpen, that is, until we got to the 13th.

Bobby Jones works slowly. With men on. In the thirteenth inning. With pouring rain. I took the MARC Train from Union Station to Camden Station. To get back to DC, you have to take a bus. One of the train conductors walks up and down the aisle on the way to Baltimore and asks how many people are taking the bus back. I guess this is how they know how many buses to have ready after the game – and you can’t leave early, which I think is wonderful. Busses leave exactly 20 minutes after the game, which last night was at about 12:10 AM.

Home opener’s a-comin’. Let’s get busy,.


Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Jesus Christ, superstar. Johnny Damon went five-for-five tonight with two runs, to RBIs, a stolen base, and one hell of a catch in center. Okay, so I just wanted to use the Jesus Christ line before my fellow bloggers. (DirtDogs' "Christ Has Risen" headline is already up). I happen to like the hair and beard look. One of these days I'll post a picture of myself from about five years ago.

Pathetic excuse. Francona on the Martinez flap. “I didn’t communicate [the rules] very well. I passed out some of the guidelines early and that was my fault because Pedro didn't even get it. Remember he came a couple days late? I overlooked that. It's my fault.” (Cafardo, Boston Globe, 3/7/04).

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Things of beauty. I’m going to be having dreams about the way Keith Foulke set down the O’s 1-2-3 in the ninth. And there’s no way I’m missing Schilling’s next start.

I remember how in the 80’s you never missed Roger. Or those magical seasons that Pedro strung together in ’99 and 2000 – you never missed a start because you knew you would see a win at the least and if you were lucky, something historic. Schilling gave me that exhilarating feeling again today, that uncommon confidence of knowing your team is totally in control.

Six innings. Six hits. One run. One walk. Six K’s.

Foulke didn’t give the overwhelming feeling of confidence that Schilling did – until he threw his first pitch. My god, he goes after hitters and works fast. It’s not like he overpowers anyone, but he’s in such control.

Nine pitches. Seven strikes. One groundout. One flyout. One K.


Sunday, April 04, 2004

One down. The game wasn’t crisp or exciting. The outcome wasn’t what Red Sox Nation wanted. But it was big league baseball and it’s back.

The regularity of baseball is beautiful. We can hurt tonight, but it will be back, 161 more times this year.

Red Sox Nation will awaken to columnists and fans screaming about Pedro’s arm, Pokey’s bunt, and Timlin’s ineffectiveness. We’ll hear little about how Mark Bellhorn tore the cover off the ball or Bill Mueller’s defense of his batting title. But we’ll all be talking about tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, because the baseball season is underway.

And away we go. It's better than Christmas morning kids.

Casey At The Bat

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day,
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.

And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair.
The rest clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast.
They thought, "if only Casey could but get a whack at that.
We'd put up even money now, with Casey at the bat."

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake;
and the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake.

So upon that stricken multitude, grim melancholy sat;
for there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all.
And Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball.

And when the dust had lifted,
and men saw what had occurred,
there was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
it rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;

it pounded through on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat;
for Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place,
there was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile lit Casey's face.

And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
no stranger in the crowd could doubt t'was Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt.
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.

Then, while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
defiance flashed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
and Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.

Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped --
"That ain't my style," said Casey.

"Strike one!" the umpire said.
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
like the beating of the storm waves on a stern and distant shore.

"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand,
and it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity, great Casey's visage shone,
he stilled the rising tumult, he bade the game go on.

He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew,
but Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, "Strike two!"

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered "Fraud!"
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.

They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
and they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer has fled from Casey's lip, the teeth are clenched in hate.
He pounds, with cruel violence, his bat upon the plate.

And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
and now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright.
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.
And, somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout,

but there is no joy in Mudville --
mighty Casey has struck out.

Ernest L. Thayer.

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