A new way to think about outfield defense

As pitchers and catchers are finally in camp, rather than hanging out at the Capitol trying to decide exactly how stupid Chris Shays is, I thought I should share the baseball-related dream I had the other night–from which I woke up laughing.

I was at Fenway, following David Letterman around on a videotaped tour, and I learned two things.

First, from where we were standing (in the press box?), I was able for the first time to see why Manny Ramirez is such a bad fielder. Turns out that outside the foul line in left, just off-camera, where you can’t ever see him either live or on the broadcasts, there’s a hobo who’s always standing there badgering Manny for money. And Manny’s too nice to have security get rid of him. Who knew?

Second, there’s a giant apple in a hat just outside the outfield wall. Letterman asked Baseball Related Program Activities Hanger-on (and MLB employee) Dan Rivkin, “So, I know the one at Shea, when it goes up, it’s because the Mets have hit a home run. What does this one mean?”

“Well, Dave,” said Dan. “This one’s about government. When it goes up in the air, everyone in, like, Congress, and the Vice President and President, they all have to resign. And then the 37 Amazing Dudes, who’ve been sitting patiently on the bench for like years and years, they take over.”

That’s when I laughed out loud and woke up. It made a tiny bit more sense in my dream. The 37 Amazing Dudes were presented as if they were just this ordinary group we all knew about.

Let’s play ball.

And he would rather be anywhere else than here today

This is not official hanger-on Dan holding up this sign — which means there are at least two Mets fans

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who are also Elvis Costello fans!

Opening Day 1994 seems like such a long time ago

Hanger-on Dan just sent out an e-mail with the subject line “News of earth-shaking impact” that turned out to contain a link to an mlb.com news story and the words “Prepare to be a Reds fan.” Now, I don’t have an especially fast connection, and I was using much of the speed I do have to download clips of the new Australian version of “Family Feud,” so after I clicked on the link in Dan’s e-mail, it took quite a while to load. I pondered — what could it be? What could it be?

It was better than I could have imagined, especially if Tuffy makes the team (and I like Quinton McCracken, too, but he’s no Tuffy).

Incidentally, you may note that Channel Nine in Australia appears to be using the slogan “Still the One.” This was the slogan of the ABC network in the U.S. way back in the late 1970s, tied to the then-reasonably-current song of the same name by the band Orleans. Wow, things take a long time to get to Australia!

Remember these golden classics

Bet you weren’t expecting this at this late date! Courtesy of Mrs. Levi, we have some late additions to the pool of photographs of the 2004 trip. In Cleveland, here are Maura, Jim, Dan, and Dianne, and you may notice that Dan is eagerly showing off a Hostess Baseball:

And eight days before that, in St. Louis, standing in a location that doesn’t exist anymore, here are The Flash, Trainman, Cap’n Slap, and Bicycle Repairman (in their not-so-secret identities as Tony, Jim, Levi, and Luke):

Baseball brings people together

On our trip last year, two of the hangers-on for the game in Cleveland were Dan and Dianne. They’re getting married next Saturday, and Levi and I are going to be in attendance — in fact, Levi was apparently a last-minute addition to the wedding party.

The room we’re sharing at the Hilton Garden Inn in Twinsburg, Ohio, does have free high-speed Internet (probably wired), but since this isn’t a baseball-related trip, I wouldn’t expect there to be much blogging going on for a few days.

Actually, on Thursday evening, Levi and I might be doing some live blogging aboard Amtrak train 354, in the coach where they put passengers bound for Ann Arbor, especially if he brings that Bill James book along:

Levi: Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Me: Now what?

Levi: (Quotes a Bill James wisecrack about some player I vaguely remember, because I wasn’t paying as much attention to baseball in 1982 as Levi was)

Me: (Chuckles politely)

Now, since our first trip led directly to a marriage between two of the participants almost exactly a year later, whenever we do a second trip, I’m going to sharply curtail attendance to me, Levi (already happily married and therefore out of the equation), and whatever attractive single women I can convince to join us for all or part of the trip (“I swear, it’s just a baseball game.

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I have no ulterior motives!”).

놀이 공!

Someone on Baseballprimer found a bunch of Korean baseball cartoons. As Dan Rivkin would say, they’re awesome!

If you’ve got a lot of time to kill at work, you can read the comments to the post at Baseballprimer for some translations. And the guys at The Birdwatch have picked out some related to the Cardinals.

Original comments…

Dan: Wow, those ARE awesome!

Levi: In Korean, “Those are awesome” translates to: “그들은 최고 이다!”

At least according to a robot.

Dan: I think my favorite is the one with the nude Tony Batista, but I also really like the one with Bernie Williams and his guitar and the Yankees watching porn.

Cleveland Rocks, or, The Sox Don’t Rock Yet Again

Sunday morning dawned gray and muggy, help and it looked like maybe our luck would finally run out and leave us rain-delayed on getaway day. Maura used the Internet to find an hour-by-hour forecast for Cleveland, sales and it didn’t look good, alternating between storms, showers, and drizzle all day.

Undeterred, we crossed the bridge, left Pittsburgh, and made our way in the direction of America’s poorest city, Cleveland, where we met Cleveland residents Dan and Dianne. The two MLB employees in our party could get two others of us into the game free, but that left one unaccounted for, so we headed to the ticket window. But our good fortune continued, as a man who was heading a group of 37 people but had 40 tickets gave us ticket 38, gratis.

Jacobs Field, right in downtown Cleveland, is a definite improvement on Municipal Stadium. I liked Municipal the one time I was there, for a fireworks night in 1993, because it was huge and squareish and old, but the odd configuration of the stands, built for multiple sports, meant the sight lines ranged from okay to crick-in-the-neck lousy. The Jake, one of the earliest of the throwback stadiums, is similar to all the new parks we have been to: huge concourses, lots of food stands, comfy seats. But it’s got cozy dimensions, a high left-field wall, and, even for a meaningless game in August, a good, attentive crowd. The field itself seemed extra-pretty and green, though it might have just appeared that way in contrast to the threatening skies.

My search for vegetarian food today took me to the garlic fries booth (The garlic fries were good, but not quite as good as San Francisco’s.), then to a burrito place, where I asked if I could get a burrito without meat. The concessionaire a) looked at me as if he had never heard that question, b) looked at me as if he couldn’t imagine why anyone would ask that question, c) looked at me as if maybe the burritos were just meat wrapped in a tortilla, and he was imagining a tortilla full of air, then d) said he guessed I could. I decided to press on, and press on I did, until I found a sushi booth. The vegetarian sushi combo was better and consisted of more, and more varied, pieces than the one at Skydome. But perhaps I should have kept searching, because later, Maura returned to our seats from a food run with a chocolate-ice-cream-covered crepe that, as Dan said, made everyone around her stare as if she’d just walked by topless.

Having decided, due to our Clevelandite hangers-on, to root for the Indians and reserve our Sox rooting for tomorrow’s game, we settled down in our seats along the first-base line to await what we expected would be a high-scoring affair. Neither the Indians starter, Scott Elarton, nor Jon Garland for the White Sox has been particularly distinguished this season, but apparently the full confidence of the BRPA 2004 team had a powerful effect on Elarton, who pitched brilliantly. He gave up a walk in the third,and a scratch hit on the infield in the fourth, but due to double plays, he faced the minimum all the way through the first eight innings.

Meanwhile, Jon Garland was giving up home run after home run after home run, as the Indians put up nine unanswered runs despite hitting into the best double play we’d ever seen. In the secondd inning,with Ben Broussard at second base, Ronnie Belliard grounded a ball back to Garland on the mound. He whirled and threw to shortstop Jose Valentin, catching Broussard too far off second. Broussard, knowing they had him dead to rights, headed for third, his only thought being to keep in the rundown long enough for Belliard to sneak up to second base safely. But third baseman Joe Crede forced Broussard back towards second, and, seeing that he had to stay alive a moment longer, Broussard headed that way; Crede hesitated a bit too long with the ball, and it looked as if Broussard might just make it back to second.

It was at that point that everyone in the stands and on the field realized that something extremely unusual might be about to happen. Broussard was sliding back into second, while Ronnie Belliard, running at top speed was dropping into his slide on the other side of second base. Shortstop Valentin, crouching on the third-base side of second, took the throw, slapped down a tag on Broussard, then swung his glove around and laid a tag on Belliard. The umpire, appearing to be as surprised as the rest of us, pointed to the left side of the bag and threw up a thumb, then pointed to the right side and threw it up again. The crowd erupted in a mix of surprise, awe, and laughter.

But it didn’t matter. Elarton just kept cruising along in the best start of his career. In the ninth, having faced the minimum, he hit a batter intentionally as payback for a beaning of Ben Broussard the previous inning, then gave up a sharp single, the second hit of the game for the Sox, but then he shut the door. His final line: 9 innings pitched, 2 hits, 1 walk, 1 hit batsman, 0 runs, 6 strikeouts, 101 pitches. And it was all over in 1:56, the fastest game I think I’ve ever seen, and too fast for the promised storms ever to make an appearance.

Oh, and the Cleveland scoreboard needs a quick mention. Between innings early in the game, it showed the shell game with a ball and caps, but rather than show an animated version like at most ballparks, the Indians sent an employee into the stands to play with a kid and real caps and ball. All that was lacking was a shill to lay down $20 and show the kid how easy the game was. Later, they featured a Slurpee-drinking contest among three young girls, each slurping a different flavor. The winner, drinking the red Slurpee, bleary-eyed and staggered from her sudden ice-cream headache, walked away with a DVD set of the Kubrick Collection, or something like that. It was hard to see from far away.

Now we’re on the road back home, about to hit I-94, the first doubling back of the trip. Tomorrow, we put our 9-0 record to the test, first at Comiskey, then at Milwaukee.

Original comments…

Dan: You forgot to mention the seventh-inning vocal chord stretch featuring William Hung.

Levi: And I forgot to mention the scabrous mascot of the Indians, some pink fuzzy nasty thing that looked like it had crawled out of the Cuyahoga back in its fiery days.