The World According to Keitho

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Archive for the ‘baseball’ Category

Milwaukee: Not for the faint of heart.

Posted by keithosaunders on May 5, 2019

I watched Friday’s Mets/Brewers game, and while it was an ultimately unfulfilling evening – the Mets lost 3-1 – there was some redeeming value to the broadcast.  It is a time honored Mets broadcasting tradition that whenever the team plays in Milwaukee –  the cheese capital of the world – the announcers make a point of talking about the concessions.  The gold standard belongs to longtime radio announcer, Howie Rose, who after a five minute monologue about the preponderance of cheese in Milwaukee, summed things up with, “Milwaukee:  Where arteries go to die!” 

During the mid-innings of this past Friday night’s game the television announcers began their usual tribute to Milwaukee’s Miller Park concessions, showing the concessionaires preparing  something something called a stuffed potato.  The trouble was that you couldn’t see the potato.

To begin with, what looked to be two pounds of pulled pork swimming in a glutinous sauce was slathered onto a baked potato.  Then (of course) came the grated cheese followed by a mass of caramelized onions.  This was followed by more cheese. The piece de resistance was sour cream.

How does anyone eat something like this without looking like an extra from Night of the Living Dead?!

 

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In praise of the 1979 World Series

Posted by keithosaunders on February 25, 2019

You can watch countless old baseball games on youtube.  Last year, during the off-season I watched some of the 1974 World Series between the Dodgers and the As.  This year I’ve been watching one of my all time favorites, the Pittsburgh Pirates versus the Baltimore Orioles.

Played in 1979, This was a rematch of the 1971 Series.  Like its counterpart, the ’79 Series went a full seven games –  both were won by the Pirates.  1979 was particularly dramatic, however, as the Pirates fell behind 3-1 in games and had to win three elimination games. To top it off the final two games were played on the road in Baltimore.

Here are some random observations:

In those days ABC and NBC would alternate years broadcasting the Series.  1979 was an ABC year and I was reminded why they were the inferior broadcasting network.  ABC had a bizarre fixation with showing the ball players wives, which quickly grew tiresome.  Their camerawork also seemed sub par – replays rarely yielded a satisfying shot.  And then there was Howard Cosell.

Cosell was as insufferable as I remembered him being.  He was smart, could be glib, and yes, I would take him any over Joe Buck (I would take a trained seal over Joe Buck) but he couldn’t help but make the game about himself.  Cosell did, however, provide one laugh-out-loud moment.  After catcher, Manny Sanguillen, won game two with a pinch hit ABC went down to the field to interview him.   As  the camera fixed on a closeup of the scraggly, bearded veteran, Cosell waxed,  “LOOK at that time-worn face!”

Keith Jackson was the play by play man for the games in Baltimore.  Although he was a consummate professional and had a good set of pipes, he was more of a college football guy.  That weekend he was absent from the Series as he was sent to work the Oklahoma-Texas Tech game.  Jackson’s sub was a young Al Michaels, whose voice was a half an octave higher than it is today.  Michaels was a marked upgrade from Jackson and it was good to hear him during his formative years.  The booth was rounded out by Don Drysdale, or Twin D, as Cosell referred to him.

The uniforms were garish, but delightful.  I always did love the banana-yellow Pirates uniforms.  The Bumblebee Bucs!  Even Baltimore got into the act in game 2, donning flaming orange tops.

It is a delight to watch pitchers pitch with tempo.  Jim Palmer versus Burt Blyleven was a sight for sore eyes.  Most of the pitchers I saw pitched with a tidy rhythm, with the exceptions being Jim Bibby and Dennis Martinez.  Kent Tekulve, one of my favorites at the time, did not disappoint.  He also has a good quote in which he said that he takes one look at the scouting reports, throws them away, and then pitches his game.  Take that, metrics freaks.

In game three there was an hour rain delay after three innings.  Both starting pitchers, John Candeleria, and Scott McGregor, remained in the game.  McGregor, who had allowed 3 runs in the first two innings, settled down and pitched a complete game.  Somehow pitchers in those days could get through the lineup 4 times.  Go figure.

Relief pitchers were allowed to stay in the game for more than one inning and closers were sometimes called upon to get outs in non save situations.  In game 4 The Birds had come from 6-3 down to take a 7-6 lead.  Earl Weaver was pulling all the right strings employing a successful string of pinch hitters.  With two on and one out Weaver allowed relief pitcher, Tim Stoddard, to hit.  Stoddard, being an American League pitcher,  had not had one at bat the entire season.  Of course he singled to center, driving in a run.

[John Sterling voice] That’s baseball!

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Happy birthday

Posted by keithosaunders on August 24, 2018

When I was young I fell in love with jazz music.  I studied, practiced, jammed, and gigged.  I was precocious and thought I was much better than I was.  Harmonically, rhythmically, and technically I was callow – less than the player I am today.  I didn’t care.  There was joy and abandon in my playing and the optimism that is the domain of the young.

When I was young I went on dates.  I had infatuations, rejections, romances, and breakups.  There were no dating aps — I  was judged on my poise and insouciance in the moment.  Sometimes I fell flat on my face and other times the stars aligned for great successes.  It didn’t matter – there was time.

When I was young if I wanted to go to a ballgame my greatest worry (living in New York) was whether or not there would be a rain out.  The cost was not prohibitive, the game, though slow, was not marred by interminable booth delays or a revolving door of relief pitchers.  I was not made to feel like a criminal upon entering the stadium.  There was joy in the experience.

So begins my 58th year.  Bring it on.

 

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Keith Hernandez – my favorite Met.

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MLP: Major League Pandering

Posted by keithosaunders on May 31, 2018

I’ve loved the game of baseball for most of my 57 years, but I have to say that MLB makes it more and more difficult to remain a fan.  They have become a league that panders, mostly to a jingoistic, right wing fan base.

Must I be reminded of the worst day in New York City history every 7th inning of  baseball game I attend?  What used to be a corny and quaint sing-along to Take Me Out to the Ball Game is now an enforced, falsely patriotic tribute to our soldiers.

Exhibit B are the army fatigue uniforms that the Padres wear every Sunday and that many other teams, the Mets included, don on special occasions, Memorial Day being one of them.  When I watch games on mlb.tv every other commercial serves as recruitment tool for the U.S. military.  Are baseball fans inherently warlike?

The most inane of all pandering is Jackie Robinson Day,  in which every player wears the Robinson’s number 42.  On that day you can’t tell the players even with a scorecard.  I love and appreciate Robinson but isn’t there a less confusing way to honor him?

On Mother’s Day I actually feel sorry for the players who are forced to wear pink uniforms and caps.  Come on, baseball.  I loved my Mom but I never felt the need to prove it by wearing a dress on Mother’s Day.

 

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It begins

Posted by keithosaunders on March 29, 2018

Well that off season went by pretty fast.  Another baseball season is upon us and the Mets are 1-0.  Extrapolated to a full season that comes to…[gets calculator]…162-0!  Who am I kidding,  I’ll be happy if Syndergaard and Cespedes can stay healthy for a full season.

This year, in a herculean effort to speed up the game, baseball had limited catchers trips to the mound to 6 per game.  If this is successful the time of game may decrease to that of what it was in the pre-replay review era.  In other words, not much.

In an era where teams carry 13-15 men pitching staffs and relief pitchers are expected to pitch no more than one inning, the idea of having ballgames last shorter than 3.5 hours is a pipe dream at best.

I would be happy, however, if baseball banned the playing of God Bless America in the 7th inning stretch.  If they must have this jingoistic nonsense at least move it to the 6th inning, leaving Take Me Out to the Ballgame to reclaim its rightful place in Americana.

Play ball!

 

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Rise of the Planet of the Relief Pitcher

Posted by keithosaunders on February 28, 2018

And now for some baseball madness.  I was reading a magazine article about the pitcher, Shohei Ohtani, who the California Angels signed during the off season.  Ohtani is a two-way player – a pitcher who can also hit.  Angels manager, Mike Scioscia, commented, we’ll be using Othani to pinch hit, as well as pinch run, since we’ll only have a 3 man bench.

My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.  3 MAN BENCH?!   Is this what baseball has come to?   If this is a harbinger, and I think it is, teams will soon be comprised largely of relief pitchers.

It’s hard to get excited about rule changes designed to speed up the game when managers change pitchers more often than Trump changes cabinet members.  Pitch count clocks are cute and all, but between booth reviews and  6-10 pitching changes a game, the era of the four hour regulation game has arrived.

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We turn the page

Posted by keithosaunders on November 2, 2017

Another baseball season has come and gone and even an old curmudgeon like me has to admit that this was a good one.  The Astros won their first ever championship and they did it in dramatic fashion, beating the high-profile Dodgers in a riveting seven game series.  The Dodgers dominated the regular season, as well as the first two thirds of the post season.  When it came time for the World Series, however, the middle of their lineup went into a collective slump, and their metrics-loving manager, Dave Roberts, spit the bit.

The Series was probably lost in game 2 when Roberts pulled his effective starter, Rich Hill after 4 plus innings and began using his bullpen (many of whom will almost certainly face rotator cuff surgery in their near future) with impunity.  Then in game 7, when Roberts should have taken a piss-poor Yu Darvish out of the game before facing George Springer, the hottest hitter in the universe, he left him in to deliver a cantaloupe.  The resulting three run bomb effectively put a fork in the Dodger’s season.

A word about the announcers:  Joe Buck and John Smoltz are a terrible listen.  It’s not that they don’t know baseball, but that they are dull as dishwater and humorless to boot.  Throw in the timber of Buck’s voice, which is akin to an amplified washing machine, and you can go crazy.  It’s as if someone was using a jackhammer outside of your apartment — for 5 straight hours!  I’m convinced that the best way to watch these games is at a bar with a TV and a jukebox.

Onwards.

 

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Pitching Madness in the World Series

Posted by keithosaunders on October 28, 2017

The way managers have been handling pitchers in the post season is beyond insane. It’s a mixture of by the book, automaton managing, and desperate gambles of 6 out saves from pitchers who have never done it before.

So far A.J. Hinch is thoroughly out managing Dave Roberts. Yesterday he played it old school allowing pitcher, Brad Peacock, to gut out a 3 & 2/3 inning save. Why not stay with the hot pitcher? The rest of his bullpen has been shaky at best. Go for the jugular while you can.

How much does Dave Roberts wish he had stayed with Rich Hill for a couple of extra innings on Wednesday night? True, his bullpen had been great, but even the best have bad outings as witnessed by Kenley Jansen’s last performance. You’re doing the other team a favor when you take out a pitcher that the opposing team is not hitting. The Astros should send Roberts a Christmas present.

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World Series Memories: 1986

Posted by keithosaunders on October 26, 2017

Haley’s comet reached its closest point to earth, the U.S. traded arms for hostages with Iran, and a 20 year old Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history.

1986!

Alcoa presents: Keitho’s World Series Memories!

If one team personified the cocaine-infused, go-go 80s it was the New York Mets! Led by Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, Daryl Strawberry, and Doc Gooden, they went through the regular season like Pablo Sandoval at an all you can eat buffet, polished off the Houston Mike Scott’s in 6 games, and advanced to a date with destiny with the Boston Redsox.

Game 6 found the Mets down 3 games to 2 in the Series and me ensconced at my best friend, Jeff’s house in the Bronx.

Most people think it was Ray Knight’s clutch hit and Mookie Wilson’s grounder through the legs of Bill Buckner that completed the most improbable comeback of all time, but I know what really happened.

At last it can be told.

You see, it came down to Jeff’s Yankee souvenir watch and Pez dispenser from hell. Little did poor, hapless Calvin Schiraldi realize that his implosion on the Shea mound was the result of Jeff having dangled the Yankee watch in front of the TV (alternating with the Pez dispenser) while shouting, “Callllvinnnn!”

It was the jinx, you see. The jinx.

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Replay is killing sports

Posted by keithosaunders on October 16, 2017

Replay reviews is the worst thing to happen to sports in the past ten years.  Fans of replay never tire of saying you have to get the call right.  Never mind that it makes a slow-moving sport slower, the truth must win out!   My response to that remains that the game is losing its soul.  A shortstop makes an error and so does an ump.  And you know what?  The umps usually get it right.  It’s not as if they’re on the take.  As for the close plays…who cares?!  That’s life.

In the 8th inning of the deciding NLDS game five between the Cubs and Nationals – a one run game – Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton was ruled safe on a close pick off play.  Let’s go to the video tape!  The review folks in the New York bunker proceeded to spend five minutes reviewing the play frame by frame, Zapruder-style, to discover that for 1/100 of a second Lobaton’s foot was off the bag.  He was ruled out.

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post wrote, ‘For 100 years, Lobaton would have been safe, the original and seemingly obvious call, and everybody would have moved on to the next pitch, unbothered and riveted to the eighth inning of a one-run game. As Thursday night became Friday morning, a ballpark engaged in near-forensic video study, squinting to see if Lobaton’s leg had come off the base at a moment when Rizzo’s glove touched him.’ 

I’ve thought all along that replay is ruining sports and nothing has come along to change my opinion.  Between replay reviews, innumerable trips to the mound, and double digit pitching changes leading to five hour (9 inning) post season games, we’re stuck with a sport that is fast becoming unwatchable.

Say what you want about the other three major sports, they aren’t interminable to watch.  What’s the difference between a bunch of technocrats painstakingly making a call – that is still debatable – and an ump making a bang bang call in the moment?  The difference is that one is anti-climatic (and still sometimes wrong) and the other is exciting.

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