Monthly Archives: June 2011
My friend TJ and I have decided to attempt to travel to all 30 MLB stadiums within the next 20 years. Obstacles will undoubtedly arise, but we hope to address and overcome those if possible. We are currently planning for one short trip every year, combining stadiums when practical.
There are 10 trips that could be worked to logistically include more than one stadium. Cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles each have two teams and a handful of other cities are close enough so that we could catch a Saturday game in one city and a Sunday game in another. If we squeezed as many stadiums into individual trips as possible, this project could be finished in 16 years. But hopefully we’ll have the means and opportunity to stretch them out a little bit, and enjoy the sights that each city has to offer.
Earlier this year, we officially kicked this project off with a trip to Atlanta’s Turner Field. Both of us had been to numerous Braves games before, but thought it would be a good starting point for our project. The Braves won 7-6 in extra innings, so we certainly weren’t cheated out of great baseball during out first leg. The picture to the left is the piece of fence from the late Atlanta Fulton County Stadium that Hank Aaron cleared when he broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. Turner Field is a relatively new stadium, having hosted Braves games since 1997 after it served as the home to the 1996 Summer Olympics. With both of us having lived in Atlanta for a good portion of our adolescent lives, it only made sense to make Turner Field the first stop on our MLB Tour-de-jour.
In two weeks, the two of us will head out on our first actual trip when we make our way to Cincinnati to visit the Great American Ball Park. Another benefit of planning these trips is that they will help me continue to fulfill another personal goal of visiting all 50 states. I have been to 32 states so far and will add several more if we do end up completing our tour of all 30 MLB stadiums, I will add at least six more states (Arizona, Texas, Washington, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Michigan). It’s also possible that during our trip to Boston to see Fenway Park that we take an extra day or two or three to explore a little more of New England.
Green states are ones that I have spent time in, whether it be years, weeks or days.
UPDATE 7/1: Father reminded me about our Plymouth trip which had completely slipped my mind. Driving from New York, we traveled through Connecticut and Rhode Island on our way to Massachusetts. A childhood trip to New Mexico and a college trip to Denison University add two more states to my current total.
C: AJ Pierzynski
Sometimes, you just can’t find a guy to hate. And other times, AJ Pierzynski makes it real easy. An overall punk, he’s had multiple run ins with opposing players over the year, including his most infamous exchange—Michael Barrett. Whether you are angry at Pierzynski for trying to sell an umpire that something that didn’t happen actually did, or because he put ridiculous looking bleach-blonde highlights in his hair or because your team gave up Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser to get him, Pierzynski is universally unappealing.
1B: Kevin Youkilis
There’s a rumor going around that no one has ever thrown a called third strike to Kevin Youkilis—the umpire has always made a mistake and called a ball a strike. I can understand frustration over inconsistent umpiring, but repeated temper-tantrums are simply unacceptable from a grown man. Plus, I can’t tell if that’s his actual batting stance or if Terry Francona just sends him up to the plate whenever he notices Youkilis has to pee.
2B: Dustin Pedroia
Anyone that refers to their own offensive production as a “laser show” and then promptly posts a .240/.351/.332 line is pretty full of themselves. Dustin Pedroia isn’t a bad player and most of the times he’s pretty good. But I hate the way that people talk about how it’s as if he’s overcome such huge odds to make the Red Sox. He was a damn good college player and a very high draft selection. It’s not as if he went undrafted and sent in an audition tape to Theo Epstein himself. Also, Fenway Park drastically increases the perception of his ability. He has a career OPS+ of 112 at home and 88 on the road. The presence of the Green Monster allows him to turn routine flyballs into doubles and singles. 114 of his 176 career doubles have come at home (65%).
SS: Yunel Escobar
Ridiculous blonde highlights aside, Escobar was a whiny punk in his time in Atlanta and I assume he’s continued his unflattering ways north of the border. I’m also unsure as to why he feels the need to leap high in the air before each at bat, but it seems to me to be an unnecessary injury risk and a way to make a pitcher want to drill you right between the shoulder blades.
3B: Chone Figgins
He’s fast and black and has somehow turned that, along with no marketable skills into a luxurious free agent contract. For his career he’s been a below-average offensive player and hasn’t ever posted an OPS north of .825. His pulls faces and throws tantrums and yet his teams continue to bat him atop of batting orders. A man that willingly chooses to have people call him “Chipper” takes second place.
OF: Milton Bradley
Another unanimous decision to be included on the all-annoying team. Bradley’s me-first style of play has seen him shuttled from team to team to team for his entire career. In 12 seasons Bradley has played on eight different teams and hasn’t lasted longer than 3 seasons with any of them. He’s perpetually angry and has some distorted vision that everyone everywhere is out to get him.
OF: Shane Victorino
When you hear that his nickname is the Flyin’ Hawaiian, Victorino sounds like a fun dude to be around and to watch. But on the field he’s more of dirtbag than the rosin bag on the mound. In addition to the cheap groin shot pictured here, Victorino’s been known as a player who will do all the wrong little things to rub teams the wrong way. Here he is breaking up a double play in a less than honorable way. He hides his guilt well because he’s always smiling or slapping someone playfully on the rump, but under that jovial islander exterior lies a cold-hearted competitor who will stop at nothing to gain a slight tactical advantage.
OF: Luke Scott
Luke Scott can sure run into a fastball from time to time but as we’ve seen time and time again throughout baseball history, athletic ability does not correlate well with superhuman intelligence. Or even average-human intelligence. There’s a time and place for Luke Scott’s political views and those never include anyone other than Mr. Scott himself.
SP: Josh Beckett
Perhaps one of baseball’s most enigmatic pitchers, his go-to move when things don’t go his way is generally to hit the next batter or two.
SP: Carl Pavano
Blisters, buttocks injuries and car crashes with supermodels for a guy that’s not even really any good. Plus, he grew that abomination of a mustache that looks like it belongs much more on To Catch A Predator than it does on any 1970s news anchor.
SP: Brad Penny
Third consecutive starter on this list that spent a considerable amount of time with the Florida Marlins. Perhaps it’s the crappy stadium, the disloyal fanbase or the overwhelming Hispanic population, but something in South Florida breeds discontentment amongst its hurlers. Along with Pavano, Brad Penny proves that you don’t need to be much more than a giant tool to be romantically linked to Alyssa Milano.
SP: Dallas Braden
I thought about throwing a hissy fit because Braden was on this list because after all, it is MY list but then I realized that that is exactly why he’s here. He’s like that terrible 2-year old that suddenly believes everything is “MINE!” You can spank the child but really, he’s still just annoying, but now he’s crying too.
SP: Carlos Zambrano
After five consecutive walks and a bases-loaded double, your team is up by 5 runs before recording an out. But the only thing the announcers can talk about and the only highlights from the game will be Big Z beating the crap out of a water cooler, breaking a bat over his knee and attempting to strangle six or seven teammates.
RP: Jonathan Papelbon
Jonathan Papelbon is nothing if not cocky. When he and Mariano Rivera were selected to represent the American League at the 2008 All Star Game at Yankee Stadium, he suggested to the media that should a save opportunity arise, that he be given the call. Well, after the AL tied the game at 2 in the seventh inning, Papelbon got the call and promptly gave up the go-ahead run the very next inning. He’s commanded more and more money despite fading performances and can regularly be found pouting and screaming in the dugout should he fail at his job.
RP: Jose Valverde
Winning a major league baseball game is a pretty big deal, I get it. I’ve never done nor will I ever, but sheesh — Jose Valverde celebrates every out of his ninth innings as if he’s won the freaking World Series. Hopping around, pointing to the sky and hollering at the top of his lungs, all because he closed out a 6-3 game against the Kansas City Royals. I mean good grief man, how would you feel if Yuniesky Betancourt beat out a bunt single off you and then stopped the game and asked to keep the ball as a souvenir?
RP: Francisco Rodriguez
Another closer fond of the excessive celebrations, “K-Rod” holds the single-season save record and the single-season rage record. 62 saves in 2008 landed him a sizable contract with the Mets, but an assault on his father-in-law at Citi Field landed him in jail and cost him over $100,000 in forfeited wages. Sounds like just the guy you’d want to bring home to dad…too soon?
Manager: Tony La Russa
Every once and a while I’ll be watching a Cardinals game and hear the commentators praising La Russa’s unorthodox style of managing. The pitcher is batting cleanup, his second baseman is playing left-field and he just went through four reliefs pitchers to face four batters in the sixth inning. And he’s somehow still winning. All that jazz and he’s a habitual drunk driver.
Announcers: Hawk Harrelson
Spending even a part of a half-inning listening to Harrelson and his crew makes you want to PUT HIM ON THE BOARD … the waterboard. He is an unabashed homer who distinctly and openly hates opposing teams and their fans. Harrelson is also a blow-hard individual from Chicago that is grating on the ears and spends a considerable amount of time loving on certain people while pooh-poohing on anyone that doesn’t think exactly the same way—has anyone ever seen Hawk Harrelson and Oprah in the same place at the same time?
Owner: Hank Steinbrenner
Another blow-hard who has rightfully been reigned in the past year or so by his much more well-behaved brother Hal. Hank certainly inherited his father’s flair for the dramatic and often over-the-top baseball sense. Certainly he cares, but in my opinion owners should be neither seen nor heard. True it’s their team but they’re most likely an MLB owner because of the sound investment returns rather than their overwhelming baseball operations knowledge. The McCourts in Los Angeles have to be up there now because off their all-too-public and all-too-messy divorce. The Brewers Mark Attanasio and the Marlins Jeff Loria are also good candidates here because of their constant whining and their frugal nature, respectively.
Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner recently tweeted a picture of well, his weiner to a college-aged female via his Twitter account. I wouldn’t imagine something like that would be appreciated by anyone except maybe Mrs. Weiner—and then maybe not even her. In the past few days, Rep. Weiner has had about as many stories as Aesop.
That being said, there are a number of members of Congress who I actually wouldn’t mind if they tweeted me a picture of their last name.
With two months of the MLB season in the books, and about a month and a half left until the 2011 All-Star game, the first round of all-star balloting was released.
Catcher: Russell Martin, Yankees
After being designated for assignment by the Dodgers in the offseason due to injury and performance concerns, the Yankees took a chance on a guy who was once one of the NL’s elite young catchers. It has paid huge dividends thus far as Martin leads all AL catchers in runs, home runs, RBIs and stolen bases. His weighted on-base average is also the highest of all qualified AL catchers and his 1.8 WAR is tops as well.
June 1 leader: Russell Martin
1B: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
There are three AL first basemen that have separated themselves from the rest, and Miguel Cabrera is the best of that bunch. Adrian Gonzalez (.329 average) and Mark Teixeira (16 HR) have had nice seasons, but Cabrera’s .310/.431/.556 triple slash line combined with his .412 wOBA and 2.0 WAR make him the elite standard in the American League.
June 1 leader:Mark Teixeira, Yankees (Cabrera 3rd)
2B: Ben Zobrist, Rays
With Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano having down seasons, the AL second base all-star competition is pretty open. Both Ben Zobrist and Howie Kendrick have been very good, but neither is a full-time second baseman. Zobrist has made 39 of his 52 starts at second base, and has rebounded nicely from a disappointing campaign in 2010.
June 1 leader: Robinson Cano, Yankees (Zobrist 5th)
3B: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
Nobody has set themselves apart in a field of good-not-great seasons from the AL’s third basemen. A-Rod got off to a blistering start, hit a prolonged slump and is now hitting again. He’s been well above average defensively and has earned the starting nod for the American League.
June 1 leader: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
SS: Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
Cabrera has been the American League’s best offensive shortstop, but it’s worst defensive one by far. Jhonny Peralta and Alexei Ramirez have also been very impressive for Detroit and Chicago, respectively. Cabrera’s starting nod is partly due to his performance but also a reward for Cleveland’s impressive start to the season.
June 1 leader: Derek Jeter, Yankees (Cabrera 2nd)
OF: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
Without a doubt, Bautista has been the best hitter in baseball this season. He has continued hitting for power, but also improved his average and ball ratio this season, making him as close to a complete hitter since Barry Bonds. He’s also been above average defensively and on the bases as well, furthering his case for best player. If Bautista had a .000 BABIP, meaning no singles, doubles, or triples, he’s still have a .315 OBP and a .476 SLG. For reference, Jeff Francouer has a .322 OBP this year and a .478 SLG and is having a very good season.
June 1 leader: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
OF: Curtis Granderson, Yankees
Remember when Granderson could not hit lefties? Me either. His nine homer off left-handed pitchers leads all of baseball by a considerable margin and three of his last five homers have come off of Jon Lester, David Price and Brett Anderson, arguably the three best lefties in the American League. He has cut down on his strikeouts and improved his walks in addition to swiping 8 bases and playing excellent defense.
June 1 leader: Curtis Granderson, Yankees
OF: Matt Joyce, Rays
Joyce has gone mostly unnoticed after taking full advantage of Manny Ramirez’s retirement. He still struggles against lefties and is benefitting from a .416 BABIP, but his performance overall all has been excellent. His 3.1 WAR trails only Bautista among AL outfielders. Along with right-fielder Bautista and center-fielder Granderson, Joyce would give the AL an exceptional offensive AND defensive outfield.
June 1 leader: Josh Hamilton, Rangers (Joyce, not in top 15)
DH: David Ortiz, Red Sox
Undoubtedly, Ortiz has been Boston’s best hitter this season. Are we sure it actually is 2011 and not 2005? His average, on-base percentage and slugging are all at their highest since 2007 and Ortiz has been a consistent threat this season when many of his teammates have slumped. He has twice as many home runs as the next best designated hitter.
June 1 leader: Michael Young, Rangers (Ortiz 2nd)
SP: Dan Haren, Angels
Haren and teammate Jered Weaver have nearly identical numbers this season, so this is the spot most likely to change. Weaver went 6-0 in his first six starts this season, but has since gone 0-4 in his last six starts. I gave the nod to Haren for more consistent excellence this season.
C: Brian McCann, Braves
No NL catcher stands out wuite so much as Russell Martin does in the other league, but McCann has put together another solid season, and with the injury to Buster Posey, he’s my choice. Colorado’s Chris Iannetta has been very good, but a .235 batting average will likely keep voters away.
June 1 leader: Buster Posey, Giants (McCann 2nd)
1B: Gaby Sanchez, Marlins
Joey Votto has forgotten how to hit home runs, and while he’s still been excellent this season, Sanchez has really come into his own after a solid rookie campaign. Only Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder have more HR and RBI than Sanchez, but both fall woefully short of Sanchez’s total offensive numbers. The Braves’ Freddie Freeman has more votes than Sanchez thus far and Sanchez’s lack of support is disappointing.
June 1 leader: Albert Pujols, Cardinals (Sanchez not in top 5)
2B: Rickie Weeks, Brewers
Rickie Weeks is without a doubt the National League starter at second. He has been consistently good in all facets of the game since Day 1 and holds statistical advantages just about across the board. Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips has also been impressive.
June 1 leader: Brandon Phillips, Reds (Weeks 2nd)
3B: Placido Polanco, Phillies
The NL’s usual cast of characters at third base – Chipper Jones, Aramis Ramirez and David Wright – have all had less-than-impressive seasons which has opened the door for guys like Polanco, Ryan Roberts and Chase Headley. But Polanco has been the most impressive of the three
June 1 leader: Placido Polanco
SS: Jose Reyes, Mets
At .335/.382/.493, Reyes has been far and away the most impressive shortstop in all of baseball this season, despite criticism from the Mets owner. He has only one home run and 17 RBI, but his 76 hits, 39 runs and 19 stolen bases lead all NL shortstops and make him an ideal leadoff hitter for the NL all-stars.
June 1 leader: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (Reyes 3rd)
OF: Lance Berkman, Cardinals
Many thought the Cardinals were insane to assume that Berkman could play the outfield every day at this stage in his career, but through the first third of the season, Berkman and the Cardinals are all smiles. His defense in right field hasn’t been anything special, but his league-leading .443 wOBA and 184 wRC+ sure have been. His 11 home runs and 36 RBI are coupled with a league-leading 18.6% walk percentage.
June 1 leader: Lance Berkman
OF: Matt Holliday, Cardinals
In some ways, Matt Holliday has been even better than Berkman for the Redbirds. Holliday’s poor performance in his short stay in Oakland brought expectations crashing down around rumors that he was a product of Coors Field. But he has been the best NL outfielder since arriving in St. Louis although you’d never know it judging from fan and media reactions.
June 1 leader: Matt Holliday
OF: Ryan Braun, Brewers
Braun has done nothing but hit since arriving in the big leagues and this season is no exception. He is one of two National Leagues with at least 12 home runs and 12 stolen bases this season. His inclusion forces a very awkward and susceptible outfield defense, but gives the NL one heckuva offensive threat.
June 1 leader: Ryan Braun
SP: Roy Halladay, Phillies
What else can you say about the man? He’s consistently phenomenal regardless of who he is facing, where he is pitching or whatever other extenuating circumstances there may be. He’s thrown a perfect game and a no-hitter in the last year and is once again the NL’s elite talent when it comes to starting pitchers. He has the league’s lowest BB rate and pairs that with nearly a strikeout per inning and an overwhelming amount of groundballs. He’s the ultimate video game pitcher pitching in real-life.