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Rich Hill, Dave Roberts and the impossible decision

September 11, 2016

Rich Hill is 36 years old. He had one decent full season as a starter, almost a decade ago as a Cub. He was a fourth-round pick of Chicago way back in 2002, and should have been better than he was. After 7 major league teams, a stint as a 35-year-old in Independent Ball and a completely remade pitching arsenal, Hill is one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Hill is the closest thing to a modern-day Jack Morris (see: The Rookie movie) story as you’ll get. He’s dealt with blisters on his pitching hand for much of the last two months, but he has yet to allow a run in 19 innings as a Dodger. Those are important innings for an injury-ravaged rotation in the heat of a pennant race.

And, 7 innings into a start in Miami on Saturday, Hill’s long path back to prominence was at its peak. He was flawless. Perfect.

Hill was living every baseball player’s dream: six outs from absolute perfection on the mound. What would have been his magnum opus as a player, regardless of any future individual achievements. It’s what every pitcher aches for.

Perfection; 27 batters up, 27 batters down. Never going into the stretch, because you’re too good that day to have to. Like bowling a 300 or acing a hole in golf, tens of thousands try and very few achieve. There is nothing more impressive in sports than hurling 9 consecutive innings of untouched baseballs.

Of all people, it was Hill who walked off the mound in the 7th inning. More than a decade of frustration behind him. Two innings of glory ahead of him.

And then, he was done. He threw 89 perfect pitches, and his reward was a seat on the bench. Manager Dave Roberts, likely with some kind of influence from the front office, pulled the plug on Hill’s magnificent start and single-handedly shot down the veteran’s chance at immortality.

From a business standpoint, the move made sense. Again, the Dodgers have been crushed by injuries this season – especially to the starting rotation. And with an eye on October, they couldn’t afford to let one of their more promising arms fall victim to the DL with just a few weeks left to play in the regular season. As businessmen, they invested in Hill and need him as a healthy asset in the postseason.

Sometimes, glory trumps business. For the Dodgers, that rarely seems to hold true. In April, rookie Ross Stripling took a no-hitter into the 7th inning against the rival Giants in his MLB debut. He had never thrown as many pitches as he was going to have to throw to complete it. And he was in his first regular season start after Tommy John surgery.

Roberts pulled him, too. The Dodgers lost the game. It was frustrating, but it made sense. The Dodgers want the 26-year-old Stripling to be a member of their pitching staff for many more years, and they weren’t willing to sacrifice his surgically-repaired elbow for a long-shot chance at a no-hitter.

With Hill, the move was less sensible. The team held a healthy 5-0 lead, and Hill had only made those 89 beautiful pitches. Certainly, another 15 or so weren’t out of the question for a pitcher who has logged so many innings over his career.

The entire world would have been rooting for the walking, talking comeback story that is Rich Hill. Yasiel Puig had just made one of the greatest catches you’ll ever see to preserve a perfect game, and every inch of momentum favored the Dodgers and their starter.

But, from the manager came the order. From the front office, came the order: 89 pitches and 7 innings is enough. Your blisters could flare up again. Hill protested, emotionally. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime shot at perfection, which Hill has been working toward since the day he first stood on a mound. The argument went nowhere, though, and Joe Blanton came in for the 8th inning.

Twitter exploded. Fans booed. Hill grimaced. It was over.

Like a true veteran who has seen so many failings in this difficult game, Hill was diplomatic after Blanton, Grant Dayton and Kenley Jansen closed out the win, saying he understood why they made the move. He also mentioned that he felt fine, physically.

The artist had his paint stolen with just a few brushstrokes left to finish the masterpiece. And somehow he was okay with it, because that’s how you have to be in baseball. Still, you know that has to rip at Hill’s heart, knowing he was only six outs away from joining the ranks of the elite and going down in baseball lore as one of the most unlikely perfect-game-throwers you’ll ever see.

The pitcher wanted it. His teammates wanted it. The fans were begging for it. Hell, even Roberts desperately wanted it. But for this version of the Dodgers, it was business over pleasure. Blisters over perfection.

Hill had earned the right to see it through, but the powers that be denied him that, in favor of the bigger picture.

And if the Dodgers win the World Series, the decision will fade into oblivion…for now, a 36-year-old journeyman who deserved it more than most might never get another chance at perfection. And that is a travesty.

It is the definition of why baseball is a painful, unfair sport.

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A Toast to the Team With The Mostest (Wins In the NL West…)

September 19, 2013

Nine and a half back on June twenty two
Dodger fans singin the last-place blues

#FireMattingly trends every day
Time to trade Kemp, it’s already May

Too many people actin like quitters
Instead of embracing what I was preaching on twitter

Collarbones, hammys and shoulders galore
Forced us to play guys with negative WAR

I said “Wait for the lineup to finally click!”
These “fans” kept hating, making me sick

So I got off the web and tried to ignore,
But had to peek every batter or four

I changed my bio to a simple claim,
After the team’s 50th bad game
See y’all at the West title party
The jeers were loud, and the laughs were hearty

Then a godsend from Cuba got the call,
And Hanley recovered and stopped our fall

Dre started swingin, Jazz Hands too
And luck started turnin for Dodger Blue

Everyone surprised at the run they made
Except for the few who knew they could play

Kershaw making a historic run,
Greinke and Ryu and Ricky stun

Paco and Kenley lock it down,
While Crawford and Ellis continue to pound
9 and a half back on June 22
From worst to first goes Dodger Blue

Now it’s official, it’s finally here
The division is ours, playoffs are near
So to every single fan who stuck it out

Stand for Vin and give it a a shout:

“We at the West party there was never a doubt!”

To the fair weather fans who nearly gave up

Grab a drink and lift your cup

Take this as a lesson to NEVER give up

Sarcastically asking every day
If I “got World Series tickets? They can’t even play!”
Yes, I do, as a matter of fact
You should too, despite the faith you lacked

So even if you were negative all spring
Let’s cheers our beers and drink and sing

Raise your glass for a toast, I say

As we celebrate an awesome, glorious, happy #ClinchDay

To the team we all love
That came back from the dead
Made the #DodgerFam proud
And their opponents dread

Here’s to the Dodgers, our NL West champs,
Their march to October and a World Series chance.

Football in Arlington

May 31, 2012

Well, this is my last daily Jam Shots. After this, I’ll be moving to a weekly format. I know what you’re thinking (I will give you 50 bucks if you watch this whole thing).

And I apologize. But because I’ll have six extra days to think about each entry, you will get a super big, nutritious helping of Jam Shots each week.

There’s not a lot of baseball going on today – just three games. CarGo hit a homer in his fourth straight at-bat earlier today against the Astros, but that’s cliche at this point.

So let’s talk baseball from yesterday. My buddy Paddy suggested I write something honoring the 21-8 blowout in Arlington, TX yesterday. So here goes!

I, for one, had no idea that the Cowboys and Seahawks were playing a very, pre, pre-season game. Shut up, that joke is always funny.

But seriously, the Mariners absolutely obliterated the Rangers in Texas by the count of three touchdowns to one. And the Cowboys tried to make a furious come back, tacking on a two-point conversion, but it was far too late.

What does this mean? I’ll tell ya:

1) Texas pitching is (still) overrated. Mark my words – the Rangers will make the playoffs again, and the pitching will ruin them again. They need to upgrade the rotation before they can win it all.

2) The Seattle Mariners of Pullman (Go Cougs!) are actually going to be pretty solid soon. The offense is young and raw, but chocked full of talent. If the M’s go out and get a big bat this off season (don’t count them out of the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes) and one more solid arm (how does Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels sound?), they are legit contenders in the American League.

Ironically enough, Tony Romo threw out the first pitch at the Rangers game yesterday. Surprisingly, he didn’t fumble the snap like last time he was in a pressure situation against a Seattle team.

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Thanks for reading the daily version of Jam Shots. It’s been a great run. Starting this coming Sunday, I’ll be putting out one per week. Keep an eye out, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman!

More Baseball Fundamentals

May 30, 2012

Did you watch the Orioles versus Blue Jays game tonight? Of course you didn’t. Why would you? That’s not even 100 percent American, and the Orioles always suck…right?

Wait, they are in first place?! Holy Cal Ripken!

Now that I’ve successfully caught you up to speed on the 2012 baseball season, let me teach you a little somethin’ somethin’.

When you throw a pitch, you gotta finish. And I don’t mean like throw the ball when you’re holding you’re still holding your leg kick. I mean you release the ball and finish in a defensive position.

Because baseballs come back when you throw them, and sometimes they come back HARD. Just ask Javy Guerra. Or ask today’s victim, Brandon Morrow.

If you’re not ready to at least defend yourself against a small, hard object traveling over 100 MPH, you’re toast.

Morrow released a pitch today and was hit in the side of the leg by a line drive. He limped away before being helped off the field. He was very lucky with where the ball hit him, and escaped with just a bruise. But it could have been a lot worse.

And while I would never place complete blame on a pitcher for a thing like this, it’s not ALL Lady Luck’s fault either. Throw the ball, your throwing-side leg comes over with the finish, and you should be standing mostly square to the plate, knees bent, hands up, mind aware.

I kid you not – I tried to do this every single time I threw a pitch in high school. There were some close calls, but I was never hit by a come backer. I was also able to field my position very well.

Greg Maddux, 18-time Gold Glove winner as a pitcher, would tell you the same thing: be prepared for the ball to come back at you.

One of these days a pitcher is going to be severely injured or worse. And if guys like Guerra or Morrow would just be ready for the ball, like they should be, it could be avoided. And those young, up-and-coming little hurlers in middle and high schools might see how well they defend themselves on the mound, and maybe avoid future injuries of their own.

Oh, who am I kidding? Those kids weren’t watching the Orioles and Blue Jays play either.

Until next time, don’t hang that curve ball. Follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman.

Breaking Down a Badass Play

May 29, 2012

Holy macaroni. What an awesome play. That’s the coolest baseball-related video I’ve seen since being taken to school by Harvard baseball’s Call Me Maybe cover.

Let’s drop the beat and break this thang on down:

So the first thing I think of when watching this video is “no fair!” Why? Because I never got to play on such a sweet ass field when I was in high school! That thing is absolutely gorgeous.

Anyway, what exactly is that swing in the video? I’ve seen a ball get popped up like that, but not on a full swing. Either the batter has zero power, or that ball is of the wiffle variety. 

I’m still undecided whether or not the catcher purposely popped the ball back up in the air. If so, he’s a freakin’ genius. Sort of. Because if that was intentional, I immediately wonder two things:

1) Why did he pop it back up so far out of his pitcher’s way?

2) Why the hell didn’t he just catch the damn ball?

Verdict: He just kind of sucks. The ball should have been caught the first time.

Fantastically athletic play by the pitcher though to make a curling, diving, barehanded grab of the ball. Andddd then it all goes to crap because on a simple dive onto grass and dirt, he got the wind knocked out of him.

Just because you’re an athlete, doesn’t make you a manly man. Exhibit A: this video.

Thanks for reading my totally obvious filler/can’t think of a real topic blog for today. Follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman!

Brian Banks’ Big Break…Finally

May 26, 2012

Sometimes life just isn’t fair. Like when you drive to work and get a flat tire. Or you just have a really bad day, only to get home to realize you’ve had a booger on your cheek since breakfast. You know, things that can make you cry out of frustration.

For example, why can’t white people jump…except for this dude? Why wasn’t I blessed with those kinds of leg muscles?

Anyway, did you see that celebration in the video? That’s nothing compared to how Brian Banks must have felt the other day when he was finally cleared of all charges, stemming from a rape accusation that sent him to five years in prison. Even though there was no DNA test that proved him guilty.

“Life isn’t fair,” doesn’t even begin to do justice for what Banks has gone through since that fateful “makeout session” in high school. A once-promising prep football star had five years of his life ripped away by a conniving young girl, a corrupt legal system, and the worst lawyer of all time.

I’ll try to stay away from the details of the case, because my opinion really doesn’t matter at this point. Let’s just say that the accusation held about as much merit as Bobby Valentine calling another team’s coaches immature and unprofessional

So after all that torture. After seeing his dream ripped away from him on an evidence-less case by a robe and gavel he’ll never forget…what is the one thing Brian Banks wants to do as a free man?

He wants to play football. He wants a shot at NFL glory. And ohhhhh man, what a story that would be. I for one, am rooting for the kid. Anyone in a situation like this deserves a shot at reclaiming his dream. 

But would he be able to compete in the NFL? I did a little research. 

Initially, I could only find a report from ProFootballWeekly.com, that touched on his exoneration and included a little bit of background on his football career. And apparently, Banks was a star linebacker for Long Beach Poly in Southern California, an annual prep football powerhouse. 

He turned down scholarship offers from Ohio State and Michigan to verbally agree with USC. Linebackers from USC are historically good, most recently churning out Clay Matthews.

Video is hard to find. I couldn’t place any actual scouting tapes of Banks on-field. But anyone who gets scholarship offers to those three schools had to be taken seriously at some point. The game has changed in the last ten years, and it would certainly take Banks a while to get used to the NFL.

But if given a chance at a practice squad contract, and a little coaching, this guy could be a tackling monster. Check out his YouTube channel to see him working out at a local gym. The squats, box jump and dead lift are no joke. This guy is jacked, and could get even bigger and faster with an NFL training regimen.

He’s only 26, and could be had for at least 5 years or more once he gets used to the league. 

I’ll tell you one thing – I’m hoping Banks gets a shot. He’s a Californian, let’s have my 49ers jump on this and see if he can make an impact as a second or third-string linebacker. 

Life isn’t fair. But Banks being free, finally, is justice served.

Top Ten Thursday

May 24, 2012

The top reason I ignore you for three hours a day is that the Dodgers are playing. And by “you” I mean anyone that I’ve ever met. That includes you, dogs, cats and other furry creatures. Here are the ten main things I tend to ignore when watching my Dodgers:

1. Basic hygiene – Thank god for showers and cranberry Dove soap. For…men. I swear.

2. Eating – Thank god for pretzel sticks and lemonade.

3. Family and friends – I will literally forget who you are after the lineups are announced. Sorry.

4. Work – Thank god for unemployment pay.

5. Thinking – Derppppppppppppppppppppp.

6. Breathing –  Driving through all those tunnels as a kid really paid off.

7. Using the restroom – There is absolutely no way I don’t have a bladder infection at this point.

8. Blinking – This is me during Dodger games. Just not so frightened.

9. Sleeping – Have you ever tried a triple size, triple strength Rockstar? They are delicious.

10. Moving – No need to move. I pretty much eliminated any chance of those things happening with numbers 1-9.

Now you know. Don’t bug me from first pitch until final out. Why do you think I’ve had so much time today to write this blog? It’s an off-day! Duh.

Follow Jam Shots on Twitter with its author’s tag, @Jamblinman!

Defending Dodger Fans’ Honor

May 8, 2012

You know…there are some days when I log on to this blog and go, “What the HELL am I going to write about today?” When that happens, sometimes I post a bunch of crap. Other times, like today, something magically appears that I feel strongly about and feel inclined to write about.

When I was perusing the blogosphere this morning (yes, I do that), I came across THIS madness

Henry Schulman, I’m not one to call names. But you are a raging douche canoe. And you should be fired as a Giants beat writer, because you clearly don’t understand their most important rivalry.

Schulman was literally the only person in Los Angeles last night who thought Dodger fans were booing Matt Kemp. We are talking about a legitimate MVP candidate every season, who is hitting over .400 by the way.

Dodger fans may show up late, they may leave early. But they don’t boo their own players undeservedly. I want to punch Schulman’s puppy. Right in the face. Twice.

Also, I’m not one to engage in petty bloguments (yes I am), but if you want to attack Dodger fans, two can play at this game.

Let me just point out that Dodgers fans boo whenever the Giants score a run. And I don’t mean just against us. I mean when we see on TV that they score a run, we boo. In our living rooms. That’s what a rivalry IS. We wish ill will on the Giants in the form of going 0-162 every…single…season.

And we expect the same to happen the other way around. That being said, I’ve BEEN to AT&T for games multiple times. I live there, I can’t stay away from baseball. And I’ve sat in the bleachers, and never been more disappointed by a general group of sober fans’ lack of knowledge about their team.

I’m not saying those fans aren’t legit, and I definitely don’t think that faction represents the general knowledge level of Giants fans (trust me…tons of my friends are SF fans and they know their shit). But if this Schulman guy thinks he knows the rivalry, he needs to take a step back and make sure he’s not part of that bleacher crew himself.

Because even true Giants fans know that Dodgers fans wouldn’t boo our franchise player. We’ve been tortured since 1988, and the only thing we’ve done wrong since then is not sat in three hours of traffic to see them play in person.

Forget Tim Lincecum…Henry Schulman is now public enemy number one.

Follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman!

DOUBLE HEADER TIME!

April 21, 2012

We’ve got a doozy today, folks. A Detroit Tigers vs. Texas Rangers double header. The two best A.L. teams thus far in 2012 and the two favorites for the A.L. pennant. We’ve got reigning Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander on the hill for one of the games, and Matt Harrison, he of a sub-1.00 ERA for the Rangers as well.

And do I really have to tell you about the two offenses? If the answer is yes…well…time to get out from under your rock.

Here are my predictions for today’s double header:

Game 1 is actually already in the books. And I say that because Harrison is not gonna allow ten runs. Which is one more than what the Rangers have already scored through two innings. Yes, they are up 9-0 in the second inning. Josh Hamilton went deep AGAIN, so he’s now got 6 on the season.

The only thing I can really predict is how many runs Texas will finish with. And that number is…16. I think they win 16-2. BOOM.

Game 2 should be different, as Verlander is pitching. But this IS the Rangers. It seems that in double headers, the team that scores a ton of runs in one game, can’t continue the pace in game two. That’s also assuming said team doesn’t have nine all-stars in its lineup. If any team is capable of two crooked numbers in one day, it’s the Rangers.

This might be a surprise to you, but I’m taking the Rangers in a sweep. Why? Logic. The Tigers have a great offense, but the Rangers is better. I think they can scrape together a couple runs off Verlander, and I think Neftali Feliz will baffle Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and company.

Give me Texas in a sweep, combined score of 20-3. Ouch.

Lunch time here in Florida. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman.

Aces Wild

April 12, 2012

Let’s match the ERA’s to the aces through the first week of the 2012 season:

Matt Cain – 7.50

Tim Lincecum – 12.91

C.C. Sabathia – 6.75

Yovani Gallardo – 5.91

Zack Greinke – 6.75

Josh Johnson – 8.38

Dan Haren – 6.97

WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON???

I know it’s early, but my goodness those are some crooked numbers. My fantasy team got hit especially hard yesterday, when Sabathia, Lincecum and Johnson all got absolutely rocked in their respective starts.

Well, who’s for real? Who is going to bounce back and who is in trouble? I’ll tell you…NOW!

First of all, let’s be realistic. These guys are aces for a reason – there are four Cy Young awards spread throughout that group and a whole bunch of pretty stats. So they will all bounce back. But only to a degree. Here goes nothin’:

1. Matt Cain, Giants

The Giants made Cain a very, very rich man recently. How does he go out and reward them? By posting a hefty 7.50 ERA in his first start. Well, let me point a couple things out. Cain was throwing on the road against a red-hot Diamondbacks offense. Not to mention, I watched that game and it was really just a couple bad innings. He looked pretty solid for most of the game, but the hits kept piling up when he was missing location in a couple innings. Cain will be just fine.Panic Level 1-10 (10 is high):3

2. Tim Lincecum, Giants

The Freak is a huge reason why the Giants are floundering in last place early in the season. When Barry Zito (CG, 0 R, 4 H vs. Rockies) is your most reliable pitcher, things need to change. And quickly. Lincecum’s double-digit ERA is especially frightening, because he’s looked awful in his two starts. He’s lost velocity on his fastball, the breaking balls aren’t biting, and he can’t hit the broad side of a barn consistently. This is the second year in a row Lincecum’s velocity has dropped. Panic Level: 7

3. C.C. Sabathia, Yankees

I picked C.C. as my pre-season Cy Young favorite in the American League, so the big boy has a lot more than just his stats to worry about. I mean, would you want this human bicep coming at you?! Stop laughing…anyway, Sabathia’s 6.75 ERA is frightening. He’s getting on in age, and his last start was against the Baltimore Orioles. Sure, they have a penchant for big offensive outputs, but it’s still a last-place team that was ripping C.C. apart. Panic Level: 5

4. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers

Gallardo got absolutely torched by the Pujols-less Cardinals at the Milwaukee home opener last week. He allowed four home runs. In one inning. It was just stupid. Gallardo has a tendency to be very inconsistent. His stuff is some of the dirtiest in the game if he can get it over the plate. But when he starts hanging breaking balls like he was against St. Louis, the Brewers are in for a world of hurt. I’m calling this early-season struggles, rather than a decline in talent. Panic Level: 4

5. Zack Greinke, Brewers

Has the rest of baseball figured Greinke out? Aside from his Cy Young year in Kansas City, Greinke hasn’t been THAT good. He’s similar to Gallardo, where his stuff is dirty, but he needs to consistently get it over the plate. If both these guys struggle in 2012, the Brewers are in for a very long season. I think Greinke will bounce back to have respectable numbers, but he’s never going to return to the award-winning form we’re accustomed to. Panic Level: 5

6. Josh Johnson, Marlins

Okay, Johnson worries me. He got shelled by the oft-injured Phillies lineup yesterday, and got touched up for a few runs by the Cardinals on Opening Day. It’s not his abilities that have me wary – it’s the fact that he’s coming off an arm injury. Is he fully healthy? I hate to speculate, but this is so out of character for the young righty, that I think something must still be bothering him. Panic Level: 8

7. Dan Haren, Angels

The Angels have been struggling big time, despite their big free-agent transactions this winter. It’s partly due to an offense that is still struggling to find its identity. But Haren isn’t helping matters either. He only allowed three runs to the Twins in his last start, but got hit hard against the Royals in his first. I’m not worried about Haren yet. He’s still got a 12:2 K-to-BB ratio, and is always solid. Give him another start or two before the panic meter rises. Panic Level: 2

There you have it! Comment below and let me know who I missed or who has a level that’s terribly skewed. Follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman!


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