Friday, April 30, 2010

Link Love

Today's a busy day, so The Common Man wants to send some link love out to the peoples:

If you're going to read one take on the Arizona Immigration Law (AZ 1070), make it Bill's at The Daily Something. Bill even manages to make an appropriate baseball analogy. Bill's take on the bill is reasoned, calm, and detailed. If you read it and still can't see problems with this bill...The Common Man just doesn't understand....

But if you're going to read two takes on the Arizona Immigration Law, read Jeff Passan's terrific article about how the law could influence baseball players. More than a quarter of major league players come from outside of the United States, and the percentage of minor leaguers is even higher. Many teams, as a precaution, hold onto these players' documentation for them, given how often players are asked to fly around the country, in order to ensure that passports and work visas are not lost. And not only do the Diamondbacks and their opponents play in Arizona, but half of the league trains there, and minor leaguers play there at extended spring training and in the Arizona Fall League. Why isn't Guillermo at the ballpark? No one knows, but somebody should probably check the local sheriff's department. After all, he's brown and in the state of Arizona. Obviously, he's a suspect.

The Players' Union is also weighing in on the controversy (h/t to Maury Brown), threatening potential legal action if the law is enacted.

Lar's chart at Wezenball makes The Common Man miss Herb Carneal almost as much as having to listen to Dan Gladden and Jack Morris broadcast Twins games. And that's saying something. By the way, feel better Bob Uecker. You, Moe Berg, and Mike (naked batting practice) Redmond are the greatest back-up backstops of all time.

Padres 2B prospect Matt Antonelli posted video from the aftermath of his wrist surgery the other day. Antonelli had to have his hamate bone removed.

Matt is awfully chatty, but seems very good natured about the whole thing. Best of luck to him. The worst part, however, is that he'll undoubtedly have to take a break from his sideline career as a Nerf Basketball superstar.

Via MetsGrrrl, say what you want about the Mets, they really know how to engender loyalty in their season ticket holders. To paraphrase the great Norm MacDonald talking about a Kenny G Christmas Album, "Happy Baseball Season! Hope you enjoy crap!"

Morgan Ensberg is kind enough to take you through the day he was released from the Rays and his career ended. It is sad, but also poised and hopeful. TCM is really enjoying Morgan's writing and his willingness to share a ballplayer's perspective on the inner workings of the game. He writes with a great deal of humor and humility, and his topics are always interesting. For instance, just for his specialest readers, he showed off baseball's unwritten rulebook.

John Bonnes has been writing about baseball for a long time as TwinsGeek, and is an essential read for Minnesota fans. But he also does cool stuff like figuring out which stats are most predictive from year to year. Awesome.

Guest blogger Ryan Kath, writing on Howard Sinker's A Fan's View, asks an interesting question. How well will Twins fans travel in 2010 and beyond? Ryan, a Minnesota native and reporter in Kansas City, remembers Twins fans who wanted a change from the Metrodome flocking to Kauffman Stadium in previous years. With a brand new gleaming park in the Twin Cities, will so many fans follow their team to KC, Milwaukee, and Chicago?

Finally, James writes about the politics of booing over at TrueGrich. The Common Man happens to agree with him, that booing struggling players generallly sucks. That said, and TCM hopes James will forgive him, TCM plans to boo the hell out of Torii Hunter the next time he sees him.

Fig. 1 Booooooo!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Nickname Review: Arizona Diamondbacks

The Common Man is back from his Southwestern vacation. He basked in the desert sun, drove the vast empty expanse between L.A. and Phoenix twice, saw Mickey Mouse and rode roller coasters with The Boy and The Uncommon Wife, and went whale watching (but sadly missed out on watching any whales, who had all swam past on their way up north already). Along the way, if you were following his frantic tweeting, you might have noticed TCM took in a Diamondbacks game at Chase Field. It was an interesting game, as Dan Haren struggled on the mound, but managed to collect four singles in four trips to the plate. The final one came as manager AJ Hinch apparently sent Haren up to hit for himself with two outs and a runner on 1st in the 6th inning, despite being up just a single run. Haren was replaced by Juan Gutierrez to start the next inning, so it seems that Hinch simply wanted to let his starter try for his fourth hit rather than going for a pinch hitter. The move worked, but it’s hard to justify it.

Anyway, in honor of his hosts last week, The Common Man thought it would be appropriate to honor their nickname by objectively reviewing it. Let’s get started.

Basic Stats:
Name: Arizona
Nickname: Diamondback (Rattlesnake)
NicknameTypology: Snake
Color: Brown
Size: 120-150 cm (3.9-4.9 feet)
Special Abilities: sliding on belly, metabolic manipulation, rattle, poisoning your ass, swallowing large objects whole

Best thing about the Diamondback Rattlesnake: The Western Diamondback rattlesnake is freaking deadly. It is responsible for the most deaths by snakebite in Mexico and second most in the U.S. (behind the Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake). Make no mistake, you don’t want to mess with a big rattlesnake. They will totally kill you if you get near them. Their intimidation factor is high and they have no problem attacking things that are bigger and tougher looking than they are. You’d be pretty confident too, if you had fangs dripping with proteolytic venom.

Worst thing about the Diamondback Rattlesnake: While you might think the rattle is cool (after all, it gives you the warning you need to back slowly away and continue to live), it’s not so good when others can see you coming. One wonders why, exactly, a snake needs to warn you at all. Why doesn’t he just kill you and be done with it? Alas, the Diamondbacks will never sneak up on anybody.

More good news: Rattlesnakes have the ability to slow their body metabolism, allowing them to go up to two years without eating. If the Dodgers ever get their act together and start acting like a large market team, this will be important, allowing Arizona to wait out lean years in between competitive squads. All of the time snakes spend sliding around on their bellies are excellent practice for those close plays at 2B and 3B. Plus, again with the ability to kill you.

On the other hand: Nobody really likes rattlesnakes, except weirdos who keep them as pets. But these people are generally anti-social, and live alone for most of their 20s and 30s, and nobody likes them either. Alas, that probably makes them bloggers. That said, what does a rattlesnake care if you don’t like it? It’s solitary and ornery and will totally poison the hell out of you if you come near it. Not big on teamwork, the rattlesnake, but still awesome.

Addendum: Before we get to the final analysis, I wanted to point out that, while the Diamondbacks may use a snake for their nickname, their actual mascot is Baxter the Bobcat. Baxter is a cheap looking, emotionless furball, who doesn’t really do anything interesting. He is named after the team’s original name for the ballpark (Bank One Ballpark: BOB), but since that’s gone the way of all corporate sponsorships, he is pretty much disconnected from everything else the team has going for it. The Common Man gets that having a snake for a mascot might not make sense (what with its no arms and legs, and all), but putting beefy arms and legs on a snake certainly makes as much sense as letting some random bobcat become your team’s mascot, especially when that mascot seems to serve no real purpose. He’s not funny and he’s not acrobatic, and he basically just throws t-shirts during one of the inning breaks. TCM has no use for that, and neither should you.

Final Analysis: Despite the epic fail of Baxter the Bobcat, the Diamondback is actually a pretty awesome nickname. It’s bad-ass and intimidating. It takes no guff from the artful Dodgers or the prissy Metropolitans, and will totally bite their calves when they go walking in the desert in their Chuck Taylors. In that way, the Diamondback Rattlesnake is not only scary, but it does a public service. The fewer yuppies and hipsters there are, the better. And because of this awesomeness, the Diamondbacks get The Common Man’s first A. Nice job. Baxter the Bobcat, however, gets an F-.

Other nickname reviews so far: the Mets, Blue Jays, and Cardinals.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Beer Leaguers: Four Peaks Hefeweizen and Jonathan Papelbon

First, a programming note: The Common Man is on vacation this week in Scottsdale. From work, not from blogging. But that may mean that some of the blogging may be erratic, as he tries to schedule writing around family-type activities. Also, tonight TCM will be attending the Diamondbacks-Cardinals game at Chase Field in Phoenix. If you’re going to be there, drop TCM a line at the email address on the right and let’s grab a beer. Also, if you have suggestions of things to do or eat at the park, let TCM know.

Speaking of things you ingest, The Common Man and The Boy (The Uncommon Wife doesn’t join this vacation until Wednesday) were treated to dinner by The Boy’s grandmother last night at Oregano’s, a terrific pizza joint in Scottsdale (although there are 8 locations in Arizona. While it’s set up for adults, complete with an outdoor bar and patio, it’s a terrific place for kids as well, as The Boy got his own pizza dough to play with. The beer was also terrific.

Four Peaks Hefe-weizen is brewed locally, in Tempe and is terrific. It’s a springtime or summertime beer, which is perfect since it’s always spring or summer in Arizona. The flavor is smooth and light, but very flavorful, especially when accompanied by a lemon wedge. The citrus is a perfect complement to its maltiness. It presents as a cloudy yellow, as a result of being unfiltered. The yeast mellows the bitterness of the hops and makes this beer eminently drinkable. It’s not overly complicated, but it is a crowd-pleaser.

It’s a lot like Jonathan Papelbon, actually. As discerning baseball fans know, Jonathan Papelbon may actually be insane. He is loud and goofy, and prone to say ridiculous things. For instance, why does he wear his undershirt? “It’s a free shirt. You can’t beat it with a stick. I don’t have any reason behind wearing it. It’s just a free shirt.” What’s his entrance music? “'Let the bodies hit the floor,' something like that. I think the fans were more worried about my entrance song than I was. They can send in suggestions if they have some.” How’s married life? “I'm all good. I'm married now, man. All I've got is one person to answer to.” What’s his favorite board game? “Don’t make me bring the Scrabble board to the locker room. I will bring it." Why did he name his son Gunner Roberts? “Just a badass name, so we went with it.” What should be done about long game times? “Bundle up and drink beer . . . If you don't want to be there, don't be there. Go home. Why are you complaining." What does he think of Manny Ramirez? “For him not to be on the same page as the rest of the team was a killer, man! It just takes one guy to bring an entire team down, and that’s exactly what was happening. Once we saw that, we weren’t afraid to get rid of him. It’s like cancer. That’s what he was. Cancer. He had to go. It sucked, but that was the only scenario that was going to work.” How do you handle clubhouse disputes? “Even a guy like me, just heading into my fourth year in the big leagues — if David Ortiz gets a little, you know — I’ll tell him what’s up! I’m not afraid to do that. I’m not afraid to put him in his place, because I think everybody needs that. And if somebody does it to me, I understand that. I most certainly understand that. Varitek tells me all the time, 'Just shut up. Do what you’re supposed to do.'” Now why would Jason Varitek say that?

Plus, nobody dances a jig quite like Jonathan Papelbon:

But as unbalanced as Papelbon can seem, there is no doubt that he’s a fantastic pitcher. In his first four full seasons, Paps garnered 151 saves across 264 innings, with 312 strikeouts. He had a 5.20 K/BB ratio and just a .917 WHIP. He had a 1.74 ERA. He converted his save opportunities 90% of the time, and was asked to go more than three outs in 17% of his appearances. By contrast, Joe Natan had 159 saves and more innings and Ks, but a lower K/BB and went more than 3 outs in just 7% of his outings. He has a devastating fastball that averages 94-95 MPH. And despite an overreliance on his fastball last year, it was still one of the most 25 effective fastballs in baseball for anyone with more than 50 innings. Like the Hefeweizen, Papelbon may be unfiltered, but he’s crazy good.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nickname Review: New York Mets

The Common Man’s nickname review picked up an additional endorsement today with the support of friend of the blog Craig Calcaterra, of HardballTalk. Craig is concerned, however, about the long term potential of this project, writing “I'm not sure that TCM is going to get to them all -- there's scant scientific data on the traits of "metropolitans" and most varieties of "sox" -- but it should be enjoyable while it lasts.”

Oh really, Craig? That’s how it’s going to be? Fine. To put Craig at ease, TCM is going to break from his avian theme from the last few days (sorry, Baltimore), and take his friend up on his challenge. The New York Metropolitans it is.

Basic Stats:
Name: New York
Nickname: Mets (Metropolitans)
NicknameTypology: Human
Definition: “A person who has the sophistication, fashionable taste, or other habits and manners associated with those who live in a metropolis.” (
Fig. 1 Metropolitans
Characteristics: refinement, sophistication, sissiness, ninnism, laziness

Best thing about the Metropolitan: The Metropolitan generally know where to go to get the best lattes, what time the gallery opens, and which symphony is in town. This is exceedingly important if you are a fan of such things. Frankly, TCM doesn’t know how this helps you if you’re a baseball player, except that someone once told The Common Man that knowledge is power.

Worst thing about Metropolitans: Metropolitans are apparently so lazy they have to shorten the name of their team to the Mets. Perhaps that’s why the team has become a haven to Oliver Perez.

More good news: Metropolitans might appreciate the game in the way that other great artists do and have. US Poet Lauriat Robert Pinsky is a devoted Red Sox fan and wrote in 1998, “There's too much high brow writing about baseball. And the idea of baseball as a bit sacred is corny, I know. But still, this splendid season reminds us that there is something about the game. Baseball combines the predictable, the ordinary, with the extraordinary in a way that more obviously exciting sports don't.” Robert Frost famously compared his profession to the game, “Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things.” John Updike wrote one of the greatest essays ever about baseball, in chronicling Ted Williams’ final game. Jack Kerouac privately created, maintained, and wrote about his own fantasy baseball league. Walt Whitman was a fan of the game in general, “I see great things in baseball, It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism, tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set, repair those losses and be a blessing to us.” He also told Horace Traubel, “it's our game: that's the chief fact in connection with it: America's game: has the snap, go fling, of the American atmosphere — belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life." Metropolitans should eat that stuff up.

On the other hand: Metropolitans tend not to be very athletic. There’s not a lot of space to run freely in the metropolis. TCM tends to imagine half of them going to work in tall office buildings, grabbing quick smokes outside every couple hours, and heading home to order take out from the Chinese place on the ground floor. The other half spends every available daylight hour in a coffee shop, then goes home to get ready to go clubbing. In other news, TCM has a bad imagination. These aren’t the same kids who were playing stickball in Little Italy in the ‘40s. Rather, the Metropolitan is a high falootin’, upper crust, snob if you ask this Common Man from the Upper Midwest. There’s a difference between hailing from a city, and being a Metropolitan.

Final Analysis: It’s hard to take Metropolitans serious as a nickname. Yes, they are likely to be impressed by the people that like baseball, but they probably would never deign to dirty their hands, let alone put on a sweaty glove or grimy helmet. And when the Metropolitans show up with their opera glasses, cigarette holders, and upright posture how can the other team even hope to be intimidated. So you’re from a city. Big deal. So is The Common Man. He doesn’t make a big deal about it. D- Deal with it yuppies and hipsters.

More nickname reviews available here and here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nickname Review: Toronto Blue Jay

As a companion to yesterday’s Nickname Review, which Rob Neyer linked to this morning (thanks Rob!), The Common Man is going to press on and objectively assess another member of the MLB nickname avian community: the Toronto Blue Jays.

Basic Stats:

Name: Toronto
Nickname: Blue Jays
NicknameTypology: Bird
Color: Blue, black, and white
Size: 22-30 cm (9-12 in.), 70-100 grams
Special Abilities: Flight, Speech, Teamwork, Super-intelligence, General bad-assery

Best thing about the Blue Jay: Blue Jays are tough as hell. They bully smaller birds, and can band together to fight off predatory birds, such as hawks and owls, that hunt them. They’re kind of like Voltron like that. If the Toronto club is ever going to leapfrog the big boys in the AL East again, that kind of teamwork and toughness are going to be absolutely essential.

Worst thing about the Blue Jay: They’re kind of jerks. As TCM said above, they push around other species that are smaller than they are. While that’s a positive as they try and win ballgames, they’re loud and obnoxious about it. And they’re highly aggressive at taking over other teams’ territory. Indeed, Toronto has recently become the only MLB team in Canada after successfully pushing out the Montreal Expos (or such is TCM’s interpretation of events). And not having baseball in Montreal is a bad thing.

More good news: These birds are super smart. Not only have they learned to work together to survive, but they also can learn to mimic human speech. There is some speculation that they can make and use tools to obtain hard-to-reach food. They also will patiently watch farmers and gardeners plant seeds, remember where those seeds are buried, and go dig them up. If they have a surplus, they’ve been known to save food for later. They are extremely adaptable, to the point where they can even survive the complete deforestation of their habitat, if they can find other sources of food. It helps that they’re omnivorous. Perhaps the new regime headed by Alex Anthopoulos and the Jays’ hot start in 2010 is indicative of this flexibility, intelligence, and resilience. And also, they fly. That’s awesome.

On the other hand: Because they’re intelligent, young blue jays can be easily distracted. They’ve been known to pick up shiny objects and make off with them. They’ll fly around with, say, tin foil in their beaks and play with it until they get bored and remember that they were supposed to help fight off a hawk or eat a caterpillar or something. As Toronto looks to rebuild and get younger, they will have to work hard to avoid this problem. Also, blue jays are kind of amoral.

Final Analysis: Blue Jays do have an AJ Pierzynski-esque jerkiness to them. But we should expect them to have a chip on their shoulder, having to deal with the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox. Other than that, they’re pretty awesome. When the Blue Jays replace man as Earth’s dominant species, TCM hopes they will find this post and fondly remember The Common Man as one of their truest and earliest supporters. And for that reason, they will spare his descendants from the horrible swarming and pecking death that await you all. Blue Jays are bad ass. Don’t piss them off.

Good work, Blue Jays, The Common Man gives you an A!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

MLB Nickname Review: St. Louis Cardinal

This past weekend, The Common Man was inspired by an NPR story of two intrepid bloggers with a book coming out, who were handing out letter grades to animals. Jacob Lentz and Andrew Nash brilliantly decided, probably over a lot of alcohol, that the really cool animals were not getting their due, and that someone should take to objectively assessing the performance of each species. So they created Animal Review. For those wondering, pandas, Africanized killer bees, and alpacas get an F. King cobras, great white sharks, and sloths get an A. It seems fair.

The Common Man thinks it’s important that everything get objectively graded, which is why he’s beginning a series of articles grading your team’s mascots/nickname. Frankly, some of you deserve to be taken down a peg or two (I’m looking at you, Red Sox Nation!), and some of you deserve to be rewarded in the face of your great suffering (Pirates…well, not nation…Guy). So in honor of the inspiration for this new series of articles, The Common Man will begin with the only team nickname/mascot that the budding minds over at Animal Review have looked at thusfar: the Cardinals.

First, some basic stats:

Name: St. Louis
Nickname: Cardinals
NicknameTypology: Bird
Color: Red
Size: 20-23 cm, ~45 grams
Special abilities: Flight, Singing, Being Easy to Spot (males only)

Best thing about the Cardinal: The bird is fiercely territorial. According to Animal Review, it “will even attack its own reflection in a mirror.” That equals a massive homefield advantage, Cardinal fans!

Worst thing about the Cardinal: Apparently kind of dumb. It is attacking itself in a mirror, after all.

More good news: Not only are Cardinals fiercely territorial, but they are non-migratory. In fact, as Animal Review reminds us, they rarely stray far from where they were born. Also, they mate for life and are monogamous. Those tidbits are welcome information for Albert Pujols fans who would like to see Prince Albert stay in red.

Also, they have a terrific singing voice, as part of its flashy attempt to pull in a mate. Flying is never not cool. Finally, the sale of cardinals as pets is banned thanks to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (despite the fact that it’s non-migratory, but whatever), which means THIS BIRD CANNOT BE CAGED!

On the other hand: It’s awfully small. I mean, 45 grams isn’t a lot. And it’s not very aggressive toward non-Cardinals. Given this, TCM is surprised the Whitey Herzog clubs stole as many bases as they did. Frankly, they’re not very scary. Sure, sparrows are small too, but they divebomb the hell out of The Common Man when he rides his lawnmower, and even useless birds like pigeons and seagulls might poop on you as they fly by. The Cardinal is just kind of pretty. Also, that territorialism could lead to some clubhouse friction.

Final analysis: Cardinals are all right. They are generally beloved because they’re pretty and they sound nice. And they have some really nice qualities that baseball fans look for. They’re very loyal, after all; and that’s nice in an era of free agency. Also, cardinals are very popular. The Arizona Cardinals play in the NFL, there are lots of colleges (including Ball State!) that use them as mascots. Also, seven states have adopted them as the state bird. That said, they just aren’t very exciting as a mascot. Nobody is going to be intimidated by a cardinal, unless he’s wearing a football helmet. And even then, they’re only threatening once every 20-30 years. They simply aren’t very tough. Instead, fans of the cardinal are going to stare politely at it through binoculars and leave food out, hoping to entice them to return.
They’re nice, but not awesome. Like our new friends at Animal Review, The Common Man is forced to give the Cardinals a B- for a nice effort but meh execution.

Update: The Common Man's second nickname review, for the Toronto Blue Jays, is up here.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


The Common Man returned from a night of general amusement and debauchery. While TCM put The Boy to sleep, The Uncommon Wife passed out in bed, and TCM was left alone. Naturally, he wandered downstairs to watch the last 5 innings of the Twins game when…


Where are the Twins? They aren’t on TV? Wait, TCM is talking to his friends on the internet. They get to watch the game, either because they are in the Twins’ market or because they have MLB.TV. No less important a figure than ESPN’s Rob Neyer tweeted, “Wait a minute .... Twins and Angels aren't on TV? What sort of world are we living in, where I can't watch whatever I want???”

While The Common Man pays $200 a year (sorry, $199.96) to get to watch his Twins. Sure, he wants to watch the other teams, but the fact is that if the Twins were not part of the Extra Innings package, there’s no way TCM would pay for the service. The Common Man is certain that devoted fans of other teams feel similarly. However, for some reason, tonight’s Twins-Angels tilt is not included in the Extra Innings offerings. However, he’s able to catch highlights on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. So someone is freaking filming the game. Hell, fucking Dick and Bert are there, and are providing the inane commentary for which they are famous. But The Common Man can’t get none.

Meanwhile, TCM’s smarter online friends have paid $120 (and some of the just $20) for MLB.TV, but get to see the games that TCM is missing for paying up to $180 more. Seriously, what the fuck, Bud Selig? Why is The Common Man not getting to watch his Twins? TCM thought we had a deal. You get TCM’s hard-earned money. You give him the non-blackout (whose rules TCM is glad you finally got around to changing) games he paid to watch. How is the 4th game of the year not on the list of fucking approved games, Bud Selig? WHY WON’T YOU ANSWER ME??????????

OK, breathe. Sorry, TCM didn’t mean to break into the 1st person. This is just traumatic. Listen, Major League Baseball, The Common Man demands that you refund him the money for this game that you, for inexplicable reasons, decided not to broadcast. You and The Common Man had an agreement, and you reneged. $200/162 games=$1.234 per game. Therefore, TCM demands that you remit $1.23 for the game and $.02 for pain and suffering to The Common Man’s DirecTV account, or write him a check for that amount and send it to him. The Common Man will happily publicize your efforts to make this situation right. Please email The Common Man (TCM’s email is immediately to the right on your screen there).

Random Thursday: Happy Foreman Meets George Bernard Shaw

It’s been a couple weeks since TCM randomly explored the career of Balor Moore. Mr. Moore kindly sat for an interview with The Common Man, and that still is coming to this site. But the man talked for an hour and that takes a long time to transcribe. It’s all gold though. In the meantime, enjoy a new random Thursday, as The Common Man jumped from Moore’s player page to Happy Foreman, a left-handed pitcher who threw 11.1 innings in the 1920s for the White and Red Sox. Foreman’s brief career spanned 49 batters, and he posted a 3.18 ERA in 6 games, good for a 137 ERA+. Despite his success, Foreman barely got a chance to play in the Bigs, and seems to have been washed out of the minors after 1927. Yet, Foreman still had a remarkable experience in the Major Leagues.

In 1924, Foreman pitched just four innings in three September games for the last place White Sox (who may have been the first team ever managed by three separate Hall of Famers in the same season: Johnny Evers, Ed Walsh, and Eddie Collins). Nevertheless, he was invited along when the Sox traveled to Europe to play a series of exhibitions against the NL Champion New York Giants. Ralph Perry, of the Miami Daily News, writes in late 1924, “Happy is in Miami these days as one of the nine important members of the new Miami professional baseball team, doing its bit in the Sunshine League. The White Sox pitcher…was a member of the…team which toured Continental Europe last winter and among things showed the Britishers how the great American game of baseball was played.“

Despite Perry’s optimism, the tour, by almost all standards, was a failure. The clubs played four exhibitions in Canada before heading to England. In England, the clubs played in front of 2500 spectators in Liverpool, then before several thousand in London. The teams then departed for Ireland, where they played a rousing game for fewer than 20 paying customers (and canceled a second game because of lack of interest). The tour was called back to London, however, to play for King George, Queen Mary, and their sons. Afterward, they went on to France, where they played to generally disappointing crowds in Paris and Lyons, and cancelled the rest of the tour (which was scheduled to make stops in Brussels, Nice, Rome, and Berlin.

Foreman apparently did not endear himself to Charles Comiskey or the White Sox on the trip, because the next year he was back in the minors. He was in good spirits though, according to Perry, “A few things like kings and queens, not to mention a few princes, princesses, dukes, duchesses, barons and baronesses thrown in for good measure, have had no disasterous effects on ‘Happy’s’ normal frame of mind, but he is still in a somewhat dazed condition as the result of assimulating [sic] some of the English sports writers interpretations of American baseball, not to mention a few whizz-bangs which George Bernard Shaw slipped over with his little quill of steel and printer’s ink.”

Foreman did, however, come back with a collection of press clippings about the tour, which he shared with Perry. Want to know what the British thought of the great American Pastime? Atherton Wilson, of “The People” apparently wrote,

For whatever one may say in defense of baseball, it may or it may not be one of the cleverest of all ball games, it is certainly nothing more nor less than glorified rounds. It has one advantage over cricket. It does not take so long to play. No cricketer, of course, would deign to wear a big glove like a frying pan on his hand to catch the ball, and no fielder unless he were a test match player would try to field a ball coming toward him with his feet apart.

A reporter from the London Evening News was even less amused by the game:

Leaving out of account a smashed hat, crushed toes, and a bruised back, I have come through my first baseball match with my life. Quite unsuspectingly I took my place this afternoon at Stamford Bridge among a group of wild-looking Americans.
Immediately the game began their apparent innocence fell from them like a cloak and they reverted to primeval savages. They shrieked, they stamped and they cheered. What a hullaballoo it was. Every time a particularly good hit was made, I was thumped vigorously on the back, while they shouted “Good Lad.” I did not think so. I was hurt….

With a bat which looks like an overgrown Indian club, the men struck the ball an increditable distance and twice the spectators on the bank of the opposite side of the field had to scatter for safety. What the public enjoyed the most was the barracking or baseball heckling.”

Finally, Foreman also returned with the essay by George Bernard Shaw, who wrote up his observations on his first baseball game for the London Evening Standard. These observations were reprinted in 1962 in Sports Illustrated. Among the highlights:

“It was as a sociologist, not as a sportsman-I cannot endure the boredom of sport-that I seized the opportunity of the London visit of the famous Chicago Sioux and the New York Apaches (I am not quite sure of the names) to witness for the first time a game of baseball.”


The British spectators were bewildered by the proceedings at first. The players began by playing without a ball, and with an Indian club instead of a proper bat. They varied this by imitating a slow-motion cinematographic picture. All this we in our ignorance took to be part of the celebrated but to us unknown game; and when the real play began we made no distinction, and innocently supposed that for some mysterious reason baseball was played partly without a ball and partly with one. The Indian club was a terrible stumbling block. We could not conceive any serious player using such a thing. As to the bowling, an English bowler would have been ordered off the field for it. The bowler began like a Highlander throwing the hammer, and then shied the ball with all his might straight to the wicket-keeper for a hard catch. The batsman incidentally swiped at it as it passed with his absurd club; and if, as sometimes happened, he caught it with a masterly drive to square-leg, everybody said foul (without the least foundation), and nothing else happened. But if he drove it back, then it was a case of Tip and Run and Puss-in-the-Corner, unless he was caught out, in which case we of England applauded heartily, as it was the only transaction in the game which was in the least intelligible to us.

I regret to have to say that the Sioux and Apaches played equally badly, for after extraordinary exertions their scores were 1 and 2 respectively. An English cricket team would have hit up hundreds with half the trouble. Either the Apaches or the Sioux—I forget which—managed at least either to hit up 3 or to fail to hit up anything, at which point they suddenly left in disgust for Dublin; and the cricket-trained Duke, who had been looking forward to the usual five or six hours' innings, slowly realised that the match was over, and, after some incredulous hesitation, rose and made for his carriage…. Baseball is swift, intense and (as to what it is all about) inscrutable.


As I left the ground one of my courteous hosts expressed a hope that I would come again. When a man asks you to come and see baseball played twice it sets you asking yourself why you went to see it played once. That is an unanswerable question. It is a mad world.

There is a wealth of greatness in Shaw’s essay, which TCM encourages you to read in full, including his comparison of the game to cricket (“it has the great advantage…of being sooner ended”), his impression of John McGraw (“in whom I at last discovered the real and authentic Most Remarkable Man in America”), his confusion over the banter on the field (“There is no reason why the wicket-keeper should not incite the bowler to heroic exertions by combined taunting and coaxing, or why the field should not try to put the batsman off his stroke at the critical moment by neatly timed disparagements of his wife's fidelity and his mother's respectability.), and his favorite part of the game ([it is] long enough to give you all the amusement you desire but not long enough to give you time to begin wondering which is the bigger fool of the two, the Apache who is whacking at a ball or you who are looking at him”). [ed. Is this why Red Sox/Yankee games are so annoying?]

And while you’re enjoying Shaw’s essay, remember that you’re reading its genius thanks to an unknown, random lefty who has finally made his mark on the game.

One final note: maybe the tour wasn't so unprofitable. According to Heritage Auction Gallaries, this 1924 Muddy Ruel Game Worn Tour of Europe Sweater sold in 2005 for $20,315.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Evidence To Use Against TCM Later: The 2010 Prediction Post

Well, it’s that day, isn’t it? The day Major League Baseball cranks back up in earnest. And The Common Man couldn’t be more excited. The Twins look good, TCM has a lot of writing irons in the fire, and there’s baseball for the next seven months. Just so that he can be on the record, here are The Common Man’s predictions for 2010:

AL East Wins Losses
Boston 96 66
New York 94 68
Tampa Bay 90 72
Baltimore 70 92
Toronto 55 107

Team Previews:
Red Sox
As TCM mentioned over at It’s About the Money Stupid, the Sox lost Jason Bay, but added Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron, John Lackey, and Marco Scutaro. They are a better team than last year, when they won 95 games. It will be enough to hold off the Yankees.

The Yankees look strong, and I like the Granderson addition. He hits a lot of fly balls, and was disproportionately hurt by playing in Comerica Park. New Yankee Stadium sees a lot of homers by left-handed hitters (see Damon, Johnny). Curtis Granderson will have a big bounce back year, and will get a few MVP votes. But there are enough question marks regarding this team’s durability that I think they’ll struggle to take the Wild Card.

Tampa had a good offseason. With a little luck, they’re perfectly capable of winning 95 games and forcing their way into the playoffs. Look for continued improvement by David Price and the debut of Desmond Jennings, and bask in the glory of Evan Longoria.

I like the O’s rebuild; Andy MacPhail has done a great job infusing this organization with young and potentially dynamic talent, while not mucking around with long term deals for mediocre veterans. I hope they’re able to flip Kevin Millwood, Garret Atkins, Mike Gonzalez, and Miguel Tejada for even more pieces to put together a contender next year or in 2012. Will the real Matt Wieters please stand up, please stand up?

Blue Jays
Hey, silver lining: The club locked Adam Lind up into a very club friendly contract through 2016. The new regime is smart, but it will take a lot of time to get out from under the Vernon Wells deal.

AL Central Wins Losses
Minnesota 92 70
White Sox 86 76
Detroit 78 84
Cleveland 72 90
Kansas City 60 102

Minnesota was having such a great offseason until Joe Nathan went down. TCM has written extensively about that, but suffice to say that he’s not terribly concerned about the implications for this season. Aside from the NL Central, this is my second biggest disparity between the division winner and runner up in the league. Look for Delmon to be reduced to a platoon role by mid-season, with Jim Thome picking up additional ABs at DH.

White Sox
Their pitching looks legitimately great, if Peavy comes back at 100%. Gavin Floyd, John Danks, and Mark Buehrle are terribly underrated, and the bullpen looks strong again with a slimmed down Bobby Jenks at the back end. Aside from Carlos Quentin, TCM just doesn’t see where the offense is going to come from though.

The Tigers are starting two rookies and are using Jeremy Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis as their 4th and 5th starters. The team was seriously banged up last year, and Brandon Inge and Carlos Guillen figure to break down again. Figure the Tigers to drop below .500, and to be manager shopping next offseason.

There is just not enough pitching here to make any noise. Fausto Carmona had a good Spring, and for the sake of his career, I hope he bounces back. Look for the club to try to move Jake Westbrook, Kerry Wood, and Russell Branyan at the first opportunity. After that, the freefall will be over.

There’s a lot not to like here, aside from Zach Greinke and Billy Butler. No team throws money away like the KC Royals. Meche is injured again, Jose Guillen making $12 million, Yuni Betancourt will make $4 million to be the worst everyday player in the American League. Kyle Farnsworth is getting $4.5 million, sucks, and the team tried to make him a starter for the first time since 1999. Jason Kendall parlayed naked pictures of David Glass with a lemur into $3 million this year and next. Seriously, if it weren’t for Joe Pos, TCM might forget the Royals are still in the league.

AL West Wins Losses
Texas 90 72
Anaheim 90 72
Seattle 86 76
Oakland 77 85

If Ian Kinsler’s high ankle sprain doesn’t knock him out for too long, TCM thinks the Rangers will win a squeaker in the AL West. Kinsler and Elvis Andrus form a ridiculously talented middle infield, and Michael Young continues to produce at the hot corner. Chris Davis figures to bounce back somewhat at 1B, and if not, the Rangers can look into renting a 1B at midseason, trusting that Justin Smoak will be ready in 2011. The rotation and bullpen look very strong. A lot hinges on Josh Hamilton’s health.

The loss of John Lackey will hurt, especially since Joel Piniero has to prove he can maintain success away from Dave Duncan. The bullpen is very suspect. The lineup looks good, but the team has no depth to deal with a Hidecki Matsui, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, or Juan Rivera injury.

The M’s took a big step forward last year, and were savvy in picking up Cliff Lee and resigning Erik Bedard. And the addition of Chone Figgins is a terrific move. But Lee and Bedard are both hurt, and there is absolutely no power in the lineup. TCM likes Milton Bradley more than most people, but no team needs a thumper like Seattle. Will they look into a midseason pickup?

What happened, Billy Beane? You used to be cool. The A’s are going with the pitching and defense model that is so en vogue now, but TCM wonders whether the genius of Billy Beane was that he was a good listener when Sandy Alderson was still around. The A’s are counting on a lot of guys who have significant injury histories. And even their young guys (Wuertz, Bailey) are starting to show cracks. This could go poorly.

NL East Wins Losses
Philadelphia 95 67
Atlanta 90 72
Florida 84 78
New York 83 79
Washington 55 107

The Phillies upgraded from Cliff Lee to Roy Halladay this offseason, and while they could have kept both, they will still go into 2010 as the NL Champs and the prohibitive favorites to repeat. Ryan Howard has slimmed down and Chase Utley is an absolute beast (will he finally win the MVP this year?). Jimmy Rollins can’t be any worse than he was last year at the plate and is still only 31. Placido Polanco is a big upgrade over Pedro Feliz at 3B. Hooray for Jamie Moyer, the last active player from the 1987 Panini Sticker book, as the #5 starter!

Expect some growing pains for 20 year old phenom Jason Heyward. Jesus himself took several years to get 12 guys to follow him around, so give the kid a break. The rotation looks excellent, even with the loss of Javier Vazquez, and the outfield defense will benefit from having Melky out there. Nate McLouth is in Atlanta for the full season this year, and Martin Prado will be starting full time. TCM expects some bumps and bruises to Chipper may derail the Braves’ pennant hopes, but they should finish with the Wild Card in Bobby Cox’s swan song.

Another year comes and goes, and the Marlins are still a player or two short of being a contender. One of these years, it would be nice for Jeffrey Loria to spend some of the revenue sharing money he pockets, but then that would mean that he has to start giving a shit. And at this point, he looks incapable. It’s a shame. Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, and Josh Johnson could form one hell of a core. If hell freezes over and Loria opens his checkbook, add the Fish to the list of teams that will be going after a rental 1B.

Craig covered this this morning, but look at the Mets’ opening day lineup. Does that look like the lineup of a contender to you? TCM is so sorry, Johan. The Common Man wanted better for you. Omar Minaya is a dead man walking.

Who cares about the Nats, all everyone wants to talk about is the Harrisburg Senators, for whom Stephen Strasburg will be debuting on Sunday, April 11. Mark your calendars, Altoona Curve fans! Also, look forward to June, when 17 year old Bryce Harper joins the fold. Also, Ryan Zimmerman is good.

NL Central Wins Losses
St. Louis 96 66
Cincinnati 85 77
Milwaukee 84 77
Chicago 81 81
Houston 74 88
Pittsburgh 72 90

The Cardinals have the clearest path to the playoffs of any team in baseball, as their rivals all seem to have fatal flaws. Meanwhile, the Cards have Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, the best 1-2 punch in baseball. Plus, they have a healthy Chris Carpenter to match with Adam Wainwright, giving them the best 1-2 pitching combo in the National League (note: unless Matt Cain steps it up a notch). Plus the team is filled with good role players (Felipe Lopez, Skip Schumacher), and has a rising star in Colby Rasmus.

TCM likes the Reds and thinks they’re making good decisions. As he laid out a couple weeks back, TCM thinks Jay Bruce is poised for a big step forward. Joey Votto is a stud. The pitching should be solid 1-4, and either Mike Leake or Ardolis Chapman look to bring some excitement to the 5th spot. If Scott Rolen stays healthy and Drew Stubbs develops as expected, the Reds might make some noise in the Wild Card race.

There is just not enough pitching here. Yovani Gallardo, Doug Davis, and Randy Wolf are the only starters who figure to be above average, and none qualifies as an ace. Jeff Suppan, David Bush, and Manny Parra are frightening in their badness. Corey Hart has gone from All Star to headcase trade bait in the span of a year and a half. The Brewers are a decent team, but there are just too many question marks here.

The offseason didn’t treat the Cubs well, as they were forced to fall back on Marlon Byrd to play CF and Carlos Silva to fill out the rotation. The Cubs need Alfonso Soriano and Geovanny Soto to bounce back in 2010 to get into the Wild Card race, but don’t count on it. There are good players here, but also an awful lot of mediocrity.

At this point, aren’t the Astros just thumbing their nose at us? Everyone outside the organization seems to think that rebuilding is the only option, but the ‘Stros just keep signing mediocre veterans and hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, win 86 games, and compete for a Wild Card. It just isn’t happening. Brandon Lyon is not a difference maker. Pedro Feliz is not a difference maker. And both are not likely to be as effective as the players they’re replacing (LaTroy Hawkins, Miguel Tejada). Now Lance Berkman’s hurt, so it looks like a long season in Houston.

The Bucs seem to have finally bottomed out. Their roster turnover seems to be complete, and they are starting to put pieces into place to build a quality club. Andrew McCutchen is crazy talented, and will probably be one of the 10 best CF in the game this year. Lastings Milledge still is likely to be a productive player. Jeff Clement and Andy LaRoche still have some promise. Aki Iwamura is a perfectly acceptable player at 2B. And Ryan Doumit is a good catcher, if he’s healthy. And the Pittsburg top 3 starters are decent. That said, the team is not going anywhere this year, but this reminds me of the 2000 Twins a little bit.

NL West Wins Losses
Colorado 92 70
Arizona 88 74
Los Angeles 84 78
San Francisco 79 83
San Diego 52 110

Mark this down, the Rockies are good. Troy Tulowitzki has made the leap, and is TCM’s choice for NL MVP as the rest of the league starts to realize it. Todd Helton continues to be strong at 1B. Dexter Fowler is a terrific young player. And their starting rotation, provided Jeff Francis gets healthy fast, is sparkling.

Pundits aren’t as high on the D-Backs this year, and they appear to have gotten the raw end of the three-team Granderson/Edwin Jackson deal. But Jackson is, in the short term, a good pitcher. But if Brandon Webb is healthy for most of the year, they will have a good Top 3 in the rotation. Offensively, they’re poised to make a big step forward as Justin Upton comes into his supreme talent. Chris Young also improved last year and will be 26 in 2010, and Stephen Drew seems to have finally hit his stride. Mark Reynolds is a three-true-outcomes champ, and new additions Kelly Johnson and Adam LaRoche figure to provide some additional firepower. Arizona will be there at the end.

The Dodgers just didn’t do enough to improve their team this offseason. Matt Kemp is a transcendent talent, and Clayton Kershaw will finally be an ace this year. But Manny’s older and was already shaky last year. Andre Ethier can’t hit a lefty. James Loney has no power and is miscast at 1B. Rafael Furcal is going to be 33 and has established a new level of performance that is far below what the Dodgers thought they were getting. Russell Martin is run down. And the back end of the Dodgers rotation is a flaming mess. Add that to the distraction of the McCourt divorce, and the team’s probable inability to add payroll midseason, and 84 wins is being generous.

The Giants have two of the three most fun players in the majors to watch in Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval (the other being Joe Mauer, yes TCM is a fanboy). That said, they’ve stashed Buster Posey at AAA again, even though he’s the best catcher in the organization. And they have nobody else who is a lock to be above average offensively. TCM likes their rotation though, and thinks Matt Cain could break through with a Cy Young type season in 2010.

Things don’t look good in beautiful San Diego. Adrian Gonzalez may be a golden god, but he’s not likely to last the year Southern Cal (TCM predicts he’ll go to the Mariners). The Pads may be all about family (Nick Hundley, the Hairston brothers, Max Venable, and Tony Gwynn Jr. all are Big League Legacies), but they just aren’t much good. Nevertheless, there are good young players here. Chase Headley seems to have found a home at 3B. The giant Kyle Blanks is a stud who will move to 1B when Adrian is dealt. Everth Cabrera looks like he could be a terrific young player with more experience. But the pitching doesn’t look great at this point. Look for a Gonzalez deal to try to bring back one or more MLB ready starters.

AL MVP, Cy Young, ROY
Adrian Beltre, Felix Hernandez, Scott Sizemore
Beltre’s offensive numbers will rise thanks to the move to Fenway, and his defense will continue to shine. When the Sox win the division title, he’ll get a lot of the credit. Felix has to win one sometime, doesn’t he? And Sizemore benefits because the Tigers will not be in the playoff hunt, and have no one else to play at the Keystone.

NL MVP, Cy Young, ROY
Troy Tulowitzki, Roy Halladay, Jason Heyward
It’s Troy’s world, you just don’t know it yet. Roy Halladay goes from the big boy league to the pee wee league, and has a terrific defense behind him up the middle. Heyward will struggle at times, but will hold down the RF job all year and will have good counting stats.

AL Playoffs
Yankees over Rangers
Twins over Red Sox
Twins over Yankees
NL Playoffs
Cardinals over Braves
Phillies over Rockies
Cardinals over Phillies
World Series
Twins over Cardinals

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Giving In to the Dark Side

As many of you know, The Common Man recently began joined Jason Rosenberg’s new team of bloggers at It’s About the Money, Stupid. While TCM is sure the writing schedule will be tight and demanding, he anticipates no drop in his posts here. The Common Man loves this blog, and only a monetary offer of a non-zero amount could pry him away from it. That said, The Common Man’s new association with IIATMS, will necessitate a rather large change.

The Common Man is excited, but also very nervous, to announce that, as a condition of this new affiliation, TCM will have to renounce his Minnesota Twins fandom. Jason is a fair man, but he’s also demanding, and so The Common Man will trade in his blue TC cap for Yankee black. The Common Man is sorry if your trust feels violated or you need a moment to accept this change. Rest assured, it was not an easy decision. It was strictly business.

Fig. 1: Sadness.

As part of the deal, TCM has turned all of his Twins jerseys (Santana, Mauer, and Morneau), as well as his T-shirts, sweatshirts, Crocs, and Underoos over to the good people at St. Vincent DePaul’s and has sent the confirmation receipt of the donation to Jason via first class mail. As soon as Jason receives this confirmation, TCM will be free to post over on IITMS and reach far broader audiences than he can here.
In the meantime, The Common Man will begin the process of removing all positive Twins-related content from this site, or editing the material to reflect the philosophy of his new employer. TCM wants to be clear how much he has enjoyed following and praising the Twins over the years, and how much he will miss it.

However, the good news is that The Common Man will now be able to blog daily about how incredible Derek Jeter’s defense is, and how he should have been named MVP last year. Also, together we can explore the depths to which the Red Sox truly suck. Think how much fun you’ll have learning about random Yankees from the past, like Johnny Blanchard and Jack Chesbro. Tuck Stainback and Bill Monbouquette. And how great will it be to talk about which stars deserve to be Yankees this season, next season, and the year after, as though no other team in the league has a rich history or a tradition of success. Indeed, on Tuesday of next week, The Common Man will be live blogging his visit to the tattoo parlor, where he will get a single pinstripe running from his shoulder to his ankle in tribute.

So hold onto your Reggie Bars and strap yourself onto The Rocket, because things are going to change around here. The Common Man can’t wait to take you all along for a ride.

Fig. 2: The Common Man's got a new attitude.