Yes, The Playoffs Are Beginning Without Us

BaseballYou may have noticed that I haven’t posted very much on the baseball season since the All-Star game.  For those watching the Nats’ season fall apart, the reason will be obvious.  And now that the local nine have wrapped up a miserable year, we get to begin speculation here in D.C. on where Bryce will land next year.  Frankly, I’ve read about all the ink I care to on Harper.  I just hope he makes up his mind early and doesn’t drag this out all year.  Robles and Soto are two excellent young (and cheap) outfielders, so it isn’t like we’d have chopped liver out there in the outfield

But let’s move on to the teams still playing.  The team with the top record, the Boston Red Sox, look good, but I think they have a tough row to hoe to win it all.

To cut to the chase, here are my picks/hopes:

First in the American League:

  • I hope the A’s (now Claire’s team since she lives in Oakland) use their “new pitcher every inning” strategy and shock the Baby Bombers in the Wild Card.
  • In what may be the best series of the first round, I’m picking the Astros over the Indians.
  • With the A’s in out of the wild card game, I’ll take the Red Sox.
  • For the ALCS, I’d have to pick the Astros over the Sox. While the Sox have been great, they have too many problems in key areas (e.g., pitching).
DJB with ABB and CHB at Nats Park

With my two favorite baseball fans: Dad does his best to make baseball fans of the next generation

Then the National League:

  • While I’d like to see the Rockies win the NL Wild Card, I suspect it will be the Cubs.
  • I don’t want either team to win, but I think the Dodgers are getting hot and will take the Braves.
  • I’m going to take the Brewers over the Cubs, just because they are such fun to watch and I’ve loved Lorenzo Cain since he was with KC.
  • And on that note, I’m going to take the Brewers over the Dodgers to get to the World Series.

And in the World Series:

  • I think we have a repeat champion with the Astros, although the Brewers could give them a good run for their money.

Few teams had a more disappointing season than the Nats, but the Mets fall in that category.  So I sympathized—and laughed out loud—at this wonderful article on the announcers for the Mets.  Here’s just a small sample of some wonderful baseball writing:

“The problem, though, is that baseball — good, high-level baseball — often is boring. A “perfect game” is one in which, miraculously, nothing happens. Ten-pitch at-bats that end in routine groundouts are boring, and shaving a few seconds off them won’t fix that. Gary Keith and Ron aren’t magicians, but perhaps they do represent an alternate strategy for attacking baseball’s existential crisis: fix the game itself, yes, but fix the conversation around it too. Baseball is a peculiar sport, filled with dozens of climactic anticlimaxes, and wide pockets of time for digressions into movies or politics or, in Keith’s case, deeply felt opinions about uniform design. But too many booths are occupied by people with nothing to say — a problem some of them solve by literally not talking. With Gary Keith and Ron, meanwhile, each one has enough charisma to carry stretches of a broadcast on his own. And anyway, if things ever get too sleepy, Keith will just announce that he’s nodding off, which, ironically, is quite fun.”

Do yourself a favor and read this article.  And yes, you will note that the Nats consistently have one of the worst rated announcing teams in Major League Baseball.  After this season, that figures.

Let’s play ball!

More to come…

DJB

Baseball at (or just past) the Break

NOTE:  This was a post I meant to finish a week ago.  Then life intervened.

All Star Tickets

Scoring great seats at the All Star Game

In the past three weeks I’ve checked two items off my baseball bucket list and saw the most amazing comeback in my 40+ years of watching this always fascinating sport.  We’re now a little more than a week past the all-star break, the traditional midway point of the baseball season, so it seems appropriate to unleash a few thoughts on you, dear readers, in reverse chronological order to the way they happened.

The All-Star Game is Great Fun:  Washington hosted the 2018 MLB All-Star Game at Nationals Park earlier this month. Almost by a fluke Andrew and I scored great seats.  A colleague—who is British—was given two tickets by a former colleague of his from National Geographic. (Remember that Nat Geo is now owned by FOX, which was televising the game.)  Not caring a great deal for the American pastime, he offered them up to me. For free! Which is how Andrew and I landed in section 133 in fantastic seats for the game on a beautiful Tuesday evening.

Player Introductions

Player introductions at the All Star Game

I love Nats Park when there is a big crowd on hand, and this one was a sellout (even at the outrageous prices). It was great to see all the different jerseys on fans supporting every team in the league. We often see Phillies, Mets, Red Sox, and Orioles jerseys at the ballpark, but we sure don’t see many Trout, Altuve, or Verlanders on this side of the country. I ran into Kiki, a friend from St. Albans, in the long line in the clubhouse store, as we were both successfully seeking All-Star gear. The player introductions were terrific, with a big welcome-home for the Buffalo, Wilson Ramos (boy could we use that bat this year).  Seeing 29 Medal of Honor winners come out to be recognized before the game and having one of them throw out the first ball to Bryce Harper would stir the heart of even the most cynical. A male quartet sang an absolutely gorgeous version of O Canada.  A mass choir formed a flag on the field and sang the national anthem (pre-recorded, but that was okay…the quality was better). Flyovers. Max—the hometown hero—striking out the first two hitters before Mike Trout works him for a 9-pitch walk.  The man-child Aaron “Here Come the” Judge stroking a monster tater off of Max in the second to put the AL up 1-0.  A pretty decent presidents’ race where Teddy was taken out by a flying rabbit (had to be there).  Lots of home runs.  Even more strikeouts.  (Welcome to baseball in 2018.)  Neighbors in the seats nearby from Atlanta and Los Angeles. Everyone just thrilled to be there. Not really caring who wins, but just enjoying seeing these monster lineups (especially on the American League side) go up against pitchers throwing 96-100 mph because they knew they only had to do so for one inning.

I’ve always wanted to attend an All-Star game, but when I checked the ticket prices this year I balked. I’m still saving up in hopes that I will get to a World Series game in Washington before I die. But to have the chance to go this year in our hometown team’s park, in terrific seats, and enjoy it all with Andrew was more of a treat than I even imagined. It is a memory to treasure.

Chalk Up Another One:  Earlier this month I was in San Diego for a conference.  Of course I had checked to see if the Padres were in town.  Yes!  Playing the Dodgers.  Yes!! Since this was one of my stadiums still to be checked off the old bucket list, I invited three friends to join me for a game where monster pitcher Clayton Kershaw was going against the hometown nine.  It really wasn’t much of a match with the Dodgers getting a blowout win, but the ballpark is beautiful and the weather in San Diego is close to perfect every day.

Petco Park Panorama

For those keeping score, here is the list of ballparks visited:

  • Atlanta Braves – Fulton County Stadium (multiple visits in 1980s; never got to Turner Field before they tore it down, but this counts given my rules; don’t want to go to the new one…hate that they moved it to the northern suburbs)
  • Baltimore Orioles – Camden Yards (multiple visits in 1990s and 2000s)
  • Boston Red Sox – Fenway Park (1988)
  • Chicago Cubs – Wrigley Field (1964, 2007, 2012)
  • Chicago White Sox – US Cellular Field (2013)
  • Cleveland Indians – Progressive Field (2014)
  • Colorado Rockies – Coors Field (2008, 2013)
  • Houston Astros – Minute Maid Park (2016)
  • Kansas City Royals – Kauffman Stadium (2009)
  • Los Angeles Angels – Angels Stadium (2016)
  • Milwaukee Brewers – Miller Park (2005)
  • Minnesota Twins – Target Field (2014)
  • Oakland A’s – Oakland Coliseum (2008)
  • Philadelphia Phillies – Citizens Bank Park (2008)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – PNC Park (2013)
  • San Diego Padres – Petco Park (2018)
  • San Francisco Giants – AT&T Park (2012 and 2014)
  • Seattle Mariners – Safeco Field (2009)
  • St. Louis Cardinals – Busch Stadium (old – 1993; new – 2012)
  • Tampa Bay Rays – Tropicana Field (2012)
  • Washington Nationals – RFK (multiple times) and Nationals Park (multiple times + part of a season ticket group since 2012)

And here is the ballparks remaining to visit list:

  • Arizona Diamondbacks – Chase Field
  • Cincinnati Reds – Great American Ball Park
  • Detroit Tigers – Comerica Park (I’ve seen it from the outside, but haven’t made a game.)
  • Los Angeles Dodgers – Dodger Stadium (This is the only park that family members – Claire and Andrew – have seen before I have had the opportunity. In Claire’s case, three or four times, no less. That’s just not fair!)
  • Miami Marlins – Marlins Park
  • New York Mets – Citi Field (I think this is an easy one to do, but it never works out.)
  • New York Yankees – Yankee Stadium (I know – how can I not have made it to Yankee stadium yet?!  Just goes to show I’ve never been a big Yankees fan)
  • Texas Rangers – Texas Stadium (Seen from the highway but no game yet)
  • Toronto Blue Jays – Rogers Centre

Every Time the Nats Give You Hope…: Right after the July 4th holiday, Andrew and I went to Nats Park to see the Nationals play the lowly Miami Marlins.  So what happens…well, the Nationals fall behind 9-0.  Just about the time we thought we’d seen enough, our guys start an amazing comeback.  Suffice it to say that the 14-12 Nationals win was the wildest I’ve ever seen live.

Scorecard 14-12

Crazy scorecard for the 14-12 Nats win vs. the Marlins

Of course, you’d think that would build momentum.  But you would be wrong.  This weekend is a perfect example.  After winning three straight, they have the Marlins on the ropes in Miami, only to lose a bitter 2-1 game in 10 innings on Saturday night, and then look brain-dead in losing 5-0 today.

This year is feeling a lot like 2013 and 2015…and that’s not a good thing.  I miss Dusty.

It will be interesting to see if the Nats are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline on Tuesday.  I have no idea what they’ll do, but if they don’t do something quickly they will not be playing in October this year.

The dog days of summer have definitely arrived when it comes to the Nats.  But anytime you get to go to a ballgame – especially with one of your children – I’ll take that no matter how the hometown nine are playing.

2018 All Star Game with Andrew

2018 All Star Game with Andrew

More to come…

DJB

What You Know That Just Ain’t So

In the midst of the disruption and turmoil that can be found around us, I have been reminded of the quote that began with Mark Twain and then was adapted by the great Negro League pitcher and philosopher Satchel Paige:

“It’s not what you don’t know that hurts you, it’s what you know that just ain’t so.”

We seem to be having an epidemic these days of “what you know that just ain’t so-itis.”  There are many reasons this could be the case, but an important one is that we’re bombarded with information that requires work on our part to filter and understand.  Warren Bennis has written that “adults learn best when they take charge of their own learning.  Taking charge of your own learning is a part of taking charge of your life, which is the sine qua non in becoming an integrated person.”  Consider where we get information today.  In our interconnected yet at times isolated world, we all fall into the trap of letting others tell us how to think.  It is easy to let others take charge of what we learn.

Satchel Paige

Satchel Paige

What we know should be seen as only the starting point.  Author Colum McCann suggests that writers should not write about “what you know, write toward what you want to know.”

 “In the end, of course, your first-grade teacher was correct:  we can, indeed, only write what we know.  It is logically and philosophically impossible to do otherwise.  But if we write toward what we don’t supposedly know, we will find out what we knew but weren’t yet entirely aware of.  We will have made a shotgun leap in our consciousness. We will not be stuck in the permanent backspin of me, me, me.”

In times of turmoil, it is important to focus on what you know, what you don’t know, what you want to know, and what you know that just ain’t so.

Have a good week.

More to come…

DJB

What a Wonderful Washington Weekend!

It is a great weekend to live in Washington…

Stanley Cup Celebrations Continue — From bars in Arlington to today’s game at National Park to the Georgetown Waterfront, the Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals are having a great time celebrating the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship with the hometown fans.  While I was across the country when they clinched on Thursday evening, I could hear the city explode from Phoenix. We’re ALL CAPS here in D.C. It was an especially satisfying run, given 1) that they weren’t expected to go very deep due to losses of players to the expansion draft, and 2) that they got through a couple of perennial stumbling blocks:  John (Torts) Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets and—most significantly—the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Too bad Martin St. Louis—who was always a playoff pest—no longer plays for Tampa Bay.

If you want another thrill, watch the highlights from the cup-clinching game.

Pride 2018 Celebration — Thousands have descended on DC this weekend for the annual Pride celebration.  Andrew almost always makes it to Pride, but because of singing commitments out-of-town, he’s only able to attend Sunday’s festival.  (Work can be such a bummer sometimes!)  I have a number of friends and colleagues who are enjoying this celebration of diversity in the DC capital, and I suspect the good times are rolling.

Politics and Prose Member Sale — Several times a year, our wonderful independent bookstore, Politics and Prose , holds a big members sale…and it just happened to be this weekend.  So after our traditional Saturday morning farmers’ market visit and pastries at Tout de Sweet, we headed into town for the sale.

Candice was much more methodical in her research than I had been.  Nevertheless, I had a few titles in mind, and planned to trust my instincts when faced with a decision.

Books from Politics and Prose

Today’s purchases at the Politics & Prose members sale – what a treasure trove!

The books from Educated to the top are Candice’s choices.  Mine go down from there to the recent Pauli Murray biography Jane Crow.  Our summer reading bags are full once again!

And Did I Mention That the Nationals Won — Once the Nats were finished with the pre-game celebrations with the Caps on Saturday, they turned around to beat the San Francisco Giants 7-5, holding on to first place in the National League East.  Adam Eaton returned from the Disabled List and Bryce hit another home run.  Go Nats!

Have a great weekend…wherever you live (but this weekend, it is hard to top D.C.)

More to come…

DJB

P.S. — Oh, and not everyone stayed in Washington this weekend…that’s not a bad thing.

The Best Words of Winter

Spring Training

Credit: SpringTrainingCountdown.com

 

Pitchers and catchers report today. With those words, the end of winter is in sight.  SpringTrainingCountdown.com no longer has a daily tracker at the top of its site.  The baseball writers climb out of their caves.  Play ball, indeed!

More to come…

DJB

Hope and Redemption

This Wednesday features a coming together of events that cannot be a coincidence.  For those who believe in romance, the 14th of February is, of course, Valentine’s Day.  On the same day, Christian believers — especially of the liturgical persuasion — will observe Ash Wednesday, the first day of the penitential season of Lent leading up to Easter.  And for those like Annie Savoy* and me who worship at the Church of Baseball, February 14th is when, as spring training begins, we hear those magical words “pitchers and catchers report” that take ever-optimistic fans into flights of fancy about the prospects for their favorite team.

I’m going with the thought that this particular February 14th is a harmonic convergence of Hope and Redemption.

I was thinking of those two themes and how much impact they can have on our lives as I’ve been reading  Ron Chernow’s new biography of Ulysses S. Grant.  Chernow is one of the few historians who, through deep scholarship and powerful writing, can drive the country toward a full reappraisal of a historical figure’s life and impact.  David McCullough’s works on Truman and John Adams come immediately to mind as examples of this type of national reassessment, but Chernow has also worked his magic in the past with Alexander Hamilton and George Washington. He does so again with this biography of Grant.

Grant

Grant by Ron Chernow

The historical stereotype of U.S. Grant — especially if you grew up in the South — is of a failed businessman and drunkard who stumbled into military success in the Civil War by butchering his men in frontal assaults against the much greater military strategist, Robert E. Lee.  The South finally had to succumb due to the North’s overwhelming forces and resources.  Then, the story continues, Grant’s two terms as president were deeply mired in scandal, where ruffians stole anything that wasn’t nailed down (figuratively) from the federal government.  In 1,074 pages, Chernow not only destroys these stereotypes, but he paints a picture of a complex individual, both very wise and at the same time incredibly naïve, who played an outsized role in saving the Union during the war and in protecting African Americans and their rights during the years of Reconstruction.  He was an unassuming underdog who, according to one of his generals, “talked less and thought more than any one in the service.” When President Lincoln made Grant commander over all the Union armies in 1864, this quiet strategic sense came to the forefront in ways not always appreciated.  He was, in fact, the war’s most brilliant tactician and strategist who — in the words of General William Sherman — coordinated armies across an entire continent while Lee was focused on one small state.  The pleasant surprise of the book for me is Chernow’s description of  Grant’s role as president during a difficult expansionist and unregulated period in the nation’s history.  The South was in utter chaos when he assumed the presidency, yet Grant’s focus and convictions broke the power of the Ku Klux Klan through “legislation, military force, and prosecution” and his support for African American equality through the policies of Reconstruction has not been widely recognized.  Most Americans don’t understand this entire period of our history and its lasting impact today, which is one reason we have battles in the 21st century over Confederate memorials.

There is hope in this story, hopefulness that demands things of us, just as it demanded things of Grant as he dared to hope for the future of his country. The personal redemption of Grant from his period of failed businesses and binge drinking is also key to the story.  However, the ongoing redemption of Grant’s reputation remains important to all of us today, as we seek to understand our true history — the full American story — and how we have yet to face the unfinished business of race, emancipation and equality.

Hope is not easy. Redemption is not always around the corner.  As in Grant’s case, it may take over a century.  Yet hope that demands things that despair does not can help bring us — as individuals and as a nation — to a redemption we may not clearly understand but desperately need.

Have a good week.

More to come…

DJB

*You’ll have to watch Bull Durham if you don’t understand the reference.  And if you do, this will be your reminder that it is time to watch it again!

 

Super Bowl Rant IV

NFL Brain Diagram via SportsPickle.com

If it is the first Sunday in February, it must be time for my annual Super Bowl rant.  Let’s call it Rant IV, given that Rants I, II, and III have already played out here on the virtual pages of More to Come….

In past posts, I’ve given you 13 reasons why I won’t be watching the Super Bowl. (And yes, reason #10 is these stupid and pretentious Roman numerals.) Of course, #11 from last year holds true-to-form again this year (and most years):

“11.  It’s the damn Patriots.  Again.  Is there anyone more insufferable in sports than Bill Belichick/Tom Brady? (Wait, I’ll answer that.  Maybe Coach K. But that’s another post. And I know that Belichick and Brady are actually two people, but I’ve grouped them as one because they synch their grating to perfection.)  They push rules up to the line and over, and then act like their sainthood has been challenged when they are caught.  I hate Roger Goodell – he of the $40 million+ salary as a nonprofit executive (seriously) – but even I don’t wish for a Patriots victory so he has to eat crow and give them the trophy the year two years in a row after Deflategate.”

I will say that at least the game isn’t on FOX this year, as I’m not sure the world would survive the Adulation of Donald Trump that would be sure to overwhelm the pregame festivities.  I notice that the president is turning down the opportunity for the traditional interview in the pregame show.  Just as well.  We can use 8 hours away from alternative facts and fake news.

So let’s add another reason I won’t be watching the Super Bowl this year:

“14. Brett Favre:  “When I see little children playing football I cringe.”  In a Washington Post story two days ago, football legend Brett Favre said:

“I cringe…when I see video, or I’m driving and I see little kids out playing, and they’re all decked out in their football gear and the helmet looks like it’s three times bigger than they are. It’s kind of funny, but it’s not as funny now as it was years ago, because of what we know now. I just cringe seeing a fragile little boy get tackled and the people ooh and ahh and they just don’t know. Or they don’t care. It’s just so scary.”

Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?

The only good thing about the Super Bowl?  It means that pitchers and catchers report in ten days.

Winter bad. Baseball good.

More to come…

DJB