Cincinnati Reds


Dave Parker, crushing it.

Dave Parker, crushing it.

A few years ago at a place of business we shall leave nameless, I was feeling less than inspired. It was hard to see what, if any, impact I was really making beyond just getting through another day without throwing an inkjet printer three floors down into the lobby. It’s your run-of-the-mill office restlessness, but it was mine and it came at a point where it all felt like one cumbersome weight.

The saving grace here was that I wasn’t alone. I had three or four co-conspirators who were just as frustrated and annoyed by our rigid 8-to-5 life, and we came up with a series of inside jokes to help pass the time.

One of them featured the gentleman in this card, Dave Parker. By the time I learned about him, he was augmenting the Bash Brothers in Oakland, a still-viable designated hitter in his late 30s who could send 20 or more baseballs out of the park. We discovered some truly amazing pictures of Parker in his earlier days as a veritable baseball hurricane in Pittsburgh, winning MVP awards and sporting some terrifying face gear and occasionally lighting one up in the dugout. We printed up all of these and hung them up around the office.

I also had this card of him as a Milwaukee Brewer and I taped it to the monitor of my computer. When things got tough or our boss gave us yet another meaningless or impossible task, it was, “be strong like Dave Parker,” or “what would Dave Parker do?”

It’s March now. This is the time to start thinking about baseball and bitching about lineups and Spring Training scores, typically. But always, it seems like a good time to chill before crushing whatever problem is staring us in the face into oblivion.

What would Dave Parker do? He’d chill. Then he’d take care of business.

Cobra

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This is Dustin Pedroia. I'm pretty sure he still plays baseball, but it's been a while.

This is Dustin Pedroia. I’m pretty sure he still plays baseball, but it’s been a while.

Today, after work, I walked off the T and picked up a package of ground beef on my way home, changed into my Marco Scutaro t-shirt, relaxed and then got down to the business of making dinner. Tonight was enchilada night, not that every Tuesday is enchilada night, but just to give you a little bit of color this evening.

While I made dinner, I had the Eddie Vedder Water on the Road DVD playing in the background, and “Sometimes” and “Rise” and “Guaranteed” and such provided the soundtrack while I chopped peppers and browned the beef with the taco seasoning.

After dinner, I sat down with a drink and I turned my full attention to the Red Sox game, as they hosted the Padres in the first of a three-game series to dovetail with the Fourth of July. John Lackey was pitching, but I decided to stick with my decision to watch it anyway.

And it was right around that time that I realized this was the first time I was sitting down to watch a baseball game in earnest in more than a month. (more…)

Alex Gonzalez, in his element.

Alex Gonzalez, in his element.

I’d like to take a moment, if I may, to sing the praises of defense and its superiority over the offensive side of baseball.

The best part of the game is when a favorite team is in the field. The pitcher controls the tempo as much as the opposing batter will allow and, if he puts it in play, it’s in the hands of the fielders. When those hands are as delicate as a field hockey club tied onto some brute first baseman’s forearm, watching the ball be kicked and muffed and dropped can be a frustrating experience. Typically, the guys who play at the major league level are sure-handed enough to have fewer errors than games played, at least.

But when a fielder transcends mere capability and approaches something else, something approaching art, there’s little as exciting in baseball. And reading about the ficticious Aparico Rodriguez and his zen-like student Henry Skrimshander in Chard Harbach’s The Art of Fielding let me with memories of Alex Gonzalez, who enjoyed a remarkable career (and may well again in the future), but truly found a place in my brain when he anchored the Red Sox’ infield in 2006. (more…)

I had a weekend away, happily, from a computer, traveling a few states south for a wedding. But my Sunday night routine didn’t change much — come home, drop down my bag, flip open the laptop, and tune into the Sunday night game of the week.

The Reds were hosting the Atlanta Braves, both teams eying the top of their respective divisions, and the Reds were up 3-2 when I tuned in midway through, around the fifth inning. And the announcers were noting how good the starting pitcher had looked so far, how he could mean the difference for the Reds in the pennant chase.

They continued, while I was half distracted with unpacking and airing out a stuffy apartment, noting his long road back to the majors. Then came some otherwise innocuous comment, acknowledging another 1-2-3 inning for Willis.

Willis? Dontrelle Willis? (more…)

 

Is this the end for Rocco?

 

Here, a collection of random thoughts on the Major League Baseball playoffs for your enjoyment:

• Roy Halladay is a cold, cold dude

In the first playoff start of his career, he threw a no-hitter, needing only 104 pitches over two hours and 34 minutes to destroy the Cincinnati Reds. And the next night, the battled back from a 4-0 deficit for a 7-4 win over flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman and the Reds bullpen, via hit batsmen, walks and errors. Ugly, but effective.

Earlier this season, I waxed poetic on just how good Halladay was. And in this game, it was pretty obvious early that the Reds were done. He had his fastball, his changeup and his curve working to ridiculous extremes. Old friend Orlando Cabrera complained that the umps were giving him the corners; I didn’t see that. I saw Halladay clicking on all cylinders, and when that’s the case, there’s basically no hope. One walk where he nibbled a bit was all that kept him from sending all 27 batters back to the bench unsatisfied. Eight strikeouts, all dominance.

So much for playoff jitters.

I love Dennis Eckersley

I do believe Eck needs his own show. Red Sox fans are spoiled by his presence in studio all season, so it’s nice to see his talents on display for a national audience.

I caught this gem after Halladay’s no-hitter. I hope you did, too:

Matt Winer: “Can you imagine having his control, with his stuff?”

Eckersley: “Yeah, ’cause I did.”

I love Dennis Eckersley.

The Freak, the Giants, and the betrayal of the Atlanta Braves

I feel legitimately guilty here. I promised the mighty Matt Berry that, in lieu of a postseason appearance by the Red Sox, I would root for the Atlanta Braves.

I’m sorry I’ve deserted you, Bobby Cox and Derek Lowe so quickly.

It happened about halfway through Tim Lincecum’s gem in Game 1: 14 strikeouts, one walk, no runs.

And to follow that up, the Giants came out in Game 2 (currently underway) in their orange uniforms, which just makes me think of Jack Clark. And for some reason, I’ve always loved Jack Clark.

I may truly have left my heart in San Francisco. I love that city, I love the Bay, I love their record stores and I think I’ve fallen in love with the Giants this October.

Sorry, Matt.

• Is this the end for Rocco Baldelli?

Rocco Baldelli has always been a favorite of mine. Rhode Island’s native son, I’ve rooted for him since he came up with Tampa Bay in 2003. My former editor referred to him as look like a big dog galloping out in center field, racking up hits and wheeling around the bases.

Of course, injuries and a rare mitochondrial disorder have derailed his career. Just look at the baseball card I posted, his 2008 Topps issue: he looks labored. Every at-bat since that diagnosis has been precious. After signing with the Red Sox last season, he was valuable when he was in the lineup, but injuries kept him from making a meaningful contribution, even in a reserve role.

He signed on as a special assistant with Tampa this season, played his way back onto the team by Sept. 1, and made the postseason roster, serving as Tampa’s designated hitter in Game 1. It made for a nice little comeback story.

But the comeback is over. Baldelli was dropped from the roster with another injury related to his disorder. Willy Aybar took his place, and the Rays are down two games to the Texas Rangers. Whether or not they move on, this might be it for Rocco.

• The Twins, the Twins…

Alex Rodriguez likened a Yankee defeat of the Twins to David beating Goliath. Alex Rodriguez needs to learn to keep his mouth shut, because whenever he opens it, he removes all doubt that he’s a complete and hopeless idiot.

But the bigger point here is that the Twins, a longtime second love of mine as the jersey in my closet will attest, are on the verge of being knocked out by the Yankees again. Even if they were the victim of horrible officiating, this is pretty depressing.

Speaking of the umpires…

What the hell is wrong with the umpires?

Honestly, I never remember them being as bad as they are in the regular season as they’ve been in the playoffs. This is the second year of this. It’s as if their brains power down in October.

Greg Golson’s catch being called a non-catch. Buster Posey called safe in a steal of second when he was clearly out. Hunter Wendelstedt’s seizure-inducing strike zone. Chase Utley likely not actually being hit by Aroldis Chapman. On and on and on…

After his game, Buster Posey mused that it’s a good thing, for him, that baseball doesn’t have instant replay. I love that. I love that Posey, baseball’s newest darling, is already, albeit indirectly, needling Bud Selig, who must be the last man on Earth to believe that baseball doesn’t need more instant replay.

Baseball absolutely needs this. They need to protect themselves, and these umps clearly need someone to save them.

In the meantime, at least these games have been pretty incredible. And we’re only three days deep…

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