Texas Rangers

Made of Stone

Sometimes I fantasize
When the streets are cold and lonely
And the cars, they burn below me
Don’t these times
Fill your eyes
When the streets are cold and lonely
And the cars, they burn below me
Are you all alone?
Are you made of stone

~ Made of Stone, Stone Roses

For a team whose motto is “Ya Gotta Believe,” I have to admit, I had a hard time believing what was happening in front of my eyes recently.

For those of you who follow this blog, you would know that in the last few years, I’ve had lots of disappointments in my life, not just sports-related, but in general.  And in early 2014, some fortunes began to change.  At least, sports-wise.  I saw a team that I had genuinely fallen in love with win a Super Bowl title, their franchise’s first ever.  In 2014, I had seen a hockey team win by guts and guile all the way to game five of the Stanley Cup Final.  Early on in 2015, though, it seemed to universe wanted to knock me down a few notches.  Oh hey, that football team you care about? Yeah, fuck you.  That hockey team you’ve been jonesing to see win a championship?  Yeah, they’re gonna fizzle.

And it never occurred to me that the Mets would even be a glimpse of my sports happiness, where I have been gleaning much of my happiness these days.  I still thought, probably like many others, that there may be a time in the near future I’d see them in a World Series…just not this year.

I tease my husband and many others for thinking about magic numbers and playoff options in April. For me, if I worried about all that shit, it would take away from my fandom, not add anything to it. I would barely be able to enjoy the season and how it unfolded. And boy did it.  I was on a podcast the day before the trade deadline.  The Mets had lost that day.  I said, look, I would not be surprised if the Mets stayed put at the deadline.  Once the Carlos Gomez deal was kaput, I didn’t think they’d make any move, and certainly not a move that got a player like Yoenis Cespedes. I was back on that podcast on Monday.  I said that it wouldn’t be like the Cubs (a team that owned the Mets in the regular season) to just roll over and not put up a fight.  Except that’s exactly what they did do. And after the last out was recorded and HOLY SHIT WE ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES, I stood at the television.  I held one of my Mets bears (Iggy, for those of you who know them), and I smiled. I remember in January 2014, my husband and I watched the Seahawks play the 49ers in the NFC Championship game.  Once that game was won, I expected Ed to be breakdancing or something.  After 30+ years of being a 12, and going to the Super Bowl for the second time in their franchise history, I’ll never forget how he looked.  He held his hands together, as he stood, with a big ass smile on his face. I felt like that would be my reaction for the Mets, and it was.  Maybe it was because for the very first time in my Mets fandom life, there was literally zero drama in this series.  The Cubs never even had a **lead** in the series, and the closest they got was tying the game in Game Three.  Jeurys Familia was the “Anti-Benitez” (h/t to Metstradamus for that one).  The closest we came to any kind of drama was the potential third out in the ninth inning got on base, and we had to wait for it.  OH SHUDDER THE THOUGHT! And I mean, it was all good drama, the type of shit we see happening to the Mets all the time (that **one** player killing you, see: Victorino, Shane or Burrell, Pat) is now happening to other teams.  I’ve always believed in Daniel Murphy and will probably cry if he’s no longer a Met after this year.  Yet now the whole world knows who he is, and quite frankly, I can’t be more pleased about it.

And let us not forget how bad ass Jacob deGrom is

And let us not forget how bad ass Jacob deGrom is

How this team transformed itself in a few years…it’s really amazing once you think about it.  When Frank Cashen took over at Mets GM in the 80s, he had some very good drafts, but one of his defining watermarks was the trade that sent fan favorite Lee Mazzilli to Texas for pitching prospects Walt Terrell and Ron Darling.  Terrell was traded for Mets fan favorite Howard Johnson.  Darling is still calling games for the Mets and is a part of the Mets lexicon.  What the trade was for the 86 team was probably what we will look at for trading R.A. Dickey at his peak value for Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud: the batter of the future.  Yes, I’m quite well aware that there were other players involved in that deal.  But who cares?! Those were the names, and those are the players that people come to me…Yankees fans, mind you…and are like, “Holy.  Shit. Who IS that Syndergaard kid?”

As for me?  I truly believed this NLCS would go at least six games, and that they’d bring the series back to CitiField.  I believed this so much so that my husband and I made the joint decision to sell the first two games of the NLCS (I also had a scheduling conflict…I will get to that in a minute).  But in a year where they clinched the NL East on the road and advanced to the NLDS as the road team, why did I think that was a possibility?

This year, 2015, has been a year of change for me.  Ed and I moved to a new neighborhood, and things have been getting better each day.  I got a new job as a full time pet caretaker and dog walker.  As an introvert, this is really the best job.  You deal with animals all day, and you communicate via text messaging.  And I can travel to each job and listen to my iPod as much as I want.  This is also my 40th year.  I came of age in the 80s, and I listen to a lot of new wave and British pop music from the 1980s and 1990s.  Walking the streets of New York City at different times of the day makes me very much in awe of my life.  Sometimes, the disappointments can be unbearable and the type that make you not want to get out of bed.  Then sometimes I want to slap myself and say, “COME ON! You’ve always wanted to live in New York City, and you fucking made that shit happen.  Get over yourself!”

Ruby watches the NLDS with me

Ruby watches the NLDS with me

And the scheduling conflict I had?  I had a client leave town for over a week and needed someone to stay with his dog.  Which in and of itself is not a bad thing.  It just meant that the Mets didn’t consult my calendar to see if I would be able to attend to these games.  Fret not, my schedule is ALL clear for the Series.  However, I’ve been spending a lot of time with a pit bull named Ruby who is just a mush whom I love very dearly.  And we spend a lot of time walking the streets of the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

We get up early in the morning and cross Amsterdam or Columbus or even Broadway, depending on where I decide to walk her that day.  And I’m always just amazed that in a city where there’s hustle and bustle, that the streets can be totally free of vehicles and cars.  It’s like being of clear mind, which is incredibly difficult to do in Manhattan.

And after game five of the NLDS, I met with Ed (I’m staying only a few blocks away with Ruby), and we saw many other Mets fans walking down the streets and we stopped to give them high fives.

Yet, here we go.  Even at midnight, walking the streets of Manhattan, they may not be busy, but there are people.  And most of all, there are people who think like you do and care like you do too.

Like the Stone Roses song, I’ve felt as though I was made of stone this postseason.  Because I was prepared for the Mets to let me down, like so many others have, like so many of my teams have…and especially because 2015 was as big of a shit sandwich as I’d ever seen with any of my teams.  It was different this time.  I was okay with the Mets not advancing to the NLCS because I knew they played their heart out and left everything on the field.  I knew that the Cubs would be a tough opponent so if they didn’t win game one, I’d be okay with that.  Except I realized something: I was constantly underestimating the Mets, like many others have this year.  I did have zero to little expectations this year.  Now it seems I will underestimate them all the way to the Commissioner’s Trophy.

If you told me that when I bought a small bottle of Prosecco back in January that I thought I’d be opening for the Super Bowl championship, that I could be using it for the Mets instead, I’d have laughed in your face.  But truly the last laugh is on me, and I can finally watch and relax with this team.  And I know I’m not alone in this one.

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A “Friend of Bill” Is A Friend Indeed

“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent, and the choices that you make will shape your life forever.” – “C” Anello, Bronx Tale

bronxtale2John Belushi needed a “bodyguard” to help him resist the temptations of the Sunset Strip.  When his bodyguard went on to other things, Belushi used this newfound “freedom” as an excuse to do 8-balls, and subsequently died of an overdose.

Belushi, and many other live-fast-die-young entertainers, were used as an example by Denis Leary when he joked about how the really super talented die young like Belushi, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.  Yet, Motley Crue could be locked in a room with two tons of crack, come out an hour later and record a double-live album.

Sure, I’m poking fun right now, but let’s be fair: addiction, particularly of alcohol and drug variety, is no laughing matter.  In baseball, we are seeing some of the ramifications of illegal drugs, namely with Josh Hamilton.

And this guy was a sad story from the get go.  Someone with oodles of natural baseball talent, just got tempted one too many times.  Here’s the other part though…many addicts, especially in the public element, don’t like to talk about it unless they are in their comfort zone.  Hamilton was to be the great redemption story.  He has won an MVP, and as a Texas Ranger participated in many playoff runs.

Being a sports fan, there’s that one guy you LOVE, and then there’s that guy you LOATHE.  Hamilton was a “good guy,” someone who admitted to his mistakes and seemed to have learned from them.  Someone like Alex Rodriguez though, did PEDs for personal gain (despite what his play did for the rest of the team), he’s in it for himself and does not deserve our sympathy.  Funny how that works, right?

Yet, in the offseason we hear about Hamilton and a relapse.  I’m not sure what kind of rehabilitation he underwent previously (whether it’s Alcoholics Anonymous or N.A. or just rehab and psychotherapy), but it’s been stated that he trusts himself so little that he won’t carry credit cards or cash.  In this last bender, he wrote a check out to himself and blew it on cocaine at a strip club.  I have no idea what kind of fight he and his wife might have had that led to this behavior.  My point of view?  He needed an excuse.

Despite the fact that the Texas Rangers held his hand all those years, even had “champagne celebrations” with ginger ale so that the team could celebrate together without upsetting him. Despite the fact that the Angels were not as public with their assistance of him, they did hold his hand as well.  Here is the problem with an addict and what no one else is saying: they have to WANT to change.

la-sp-sn-josh-hamilton-angels-arte-moreno-2015-002The Angels could have assigned bodyguards or literally called every restaurant in Orange County and warned them to remove alcohol off the premises because Josh Hamilton was coming.  He could have stayed in Texas where he had great success.  Something tells me though, especially since he chastised the Texas fans for liking football more and not “owing them anything,” he either did not want to stay or wanted the California star quality.

I can’t tell Hamilton what he needs to do. He has to figure that out himself. But I can give some advice: stop blaming others for your issues. Despite all of his money, despite all the redemption stories and forget about all the fame and accolades he has received from being an incredibly gifted baseball player, one thing is for sure: he likes drugs more.

The help he needs is probably not what he was getting in Texas or in Anaheim. Addicts will be the first to tell you that they need a support system. Hamilton has “thanked g*d” and given his praises multiple times. What about his AA sponsor? I know he or she cannot be named. Yet if Hamilton is not in the rooms now, this is where he should be. REAL people (not just millionaires who have more money than they know what to do with) who have hit rock bottom several times. People who can support him, not enable him.  Yet the success stories, the redemption stories are there too. Hamilton does not or did not speak for the regular people. Whatever policies his teams have put into place were NOT enough.

My unpopular feeling is that the Angels front office is frustrated and have every right to be. Does that mean Arte Moreno and the Angels needed to shame Hamilton in the Angels press release? Of course not. Empathy can go a long way. Yet I think all Hamilton’s empaths have inadvertently been enablers.  From his wife not giving him cash or he himself even believing that he cannot be trusted to carry cash…first line of defense is to trust someone.  Most of all, yourself.  If he can’t trust themselves around alcohol or drugs or strippers, perhaps the deep work has not yet occurred?  Ignoring the problems won’t make it go away.

The first step is to recognize he’ll always be an addict. He can recover, but it will never not be a struggle. From my point of view, unfortunately he does not want that right now.  Until this happens, expect to see more of these stories from Hamilton for many many years to come.

Is It Necessary?

I just want to state up front that I am not a fan of instant replay expanding to baseball.  Well, let me rephrase that.  I don’t mind it in certain circumstances.  Like arguing strikes/balls or swinging/holding, I think is dumb, a waste of time and takes away from the game.  The home run “instant replay” is good for now.  Maybe extend to fair and foul balls.

During the Cards and Rangers World Series game, on a nationally televised game, the first base umpire clearly let one get away, as he called a runner at first safe, after he had been tagged.   Unfortunately, the entire postseason has been marred with botched calls at one point or another.  That’s not to say it hasn’t been around baseball for-freaking-ever.  The Cardinals were on the bad end of a bad call in 1985, which directly related to the Kansas City Royals winning the World Series. How hard is it, though, for a first base umpire to make a call when he is standing RIGHT THERE as the play unfolds?  Perhaps at that point, it’s less of an instant replay thing, and a “better umpire” thing.  (Thanks to Senor Solly for posting that on the Gal For All Seasons page).

I’m all for improving the quality of the game, but I even said on a podcast for Living with Sportz that I didn’t like instant replay that “I’m a purist.”  Yet, I know there have been some give-and-take with that definition.  I mean, my dad has lived through generations that started with the starting pitching encouraged to not only finish nine innings, but go the distance in extra innings and now has specialty pitching.  I grew up with only two teams from each league making the postseason, and now four teams do, and there are two rounds before the World Series.  I mean, the game changes, for better or worse.  I think instant replay is a waste of time in certain circumstances.  There are some things that just beg for getting better umpires, and not nickel and dime everything in instant replay.  Look at football.  They have instant replay and they STILL sometimes fuck up calls!

I’m curious to think of what the readers here think about it.   Feel free to comment away.  In the meantime, I will state that I will be very upset if the Rangers lose to the Cardinals tonight because of a blown call (though they did mount a realistic comeback).  Whether instant replay would have come into play is inconsequential.  Where are the rulers coming down on the umpires for screwing up an easy call to begin with?  Not to mention, Matt Harrison COULD have pitched better and gotten his stuff together.

It’s never just one thing, just the visible one.  I’m sure Steve Bartman can tell us about that.

Dog and Pony Show

I know that I am flogging a dead horse, but may I ask what the hell does the All-Star Game in July have to do with the World Series?

Apparently, a lot, since home field advantage for the World Series, is decided by a game that has nothing to do with the outcome of the season or who goes to the game or what.  I’ve been on my soapbox on that quite a bit, so I won’t go into my “Bud Selig is a fucking moron” rant.

Yet as I am watching the opening game of a potential seven game series between a Wild Card winner and the AL West divisional champ…well I guess if you want to wax poetic about it, the fact that a Wild Card team is in the World Series is a testament to the Wild Card age.  I get that.

But am I crazy to think that there’s no way in hell that a Wild Card team should have home field advantage in the World Series UNLESS they have a better record than the other team?

If you think about it, Prince Fielder (first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers, whose team was beat by the National League Champion, St. Louis Cardinals) gave the NL home field advantage by hitting a rocket of a home run off CJ Wilson, the starting pitcher for the AL champion Texas Rangers tonight…and ultimately for what?  So that the team who beat Fielder’s team that didn’t have a better record in the regular season can have home field advantage.

I just want to state that I have no problem with how the teams got there…in fact, the Cardinals have had a pretty improbable run, a longshot for the Wild Card, and “backing in” on Game 162 day by the Atlanta Braves to the Philadelphia Phillies: the team the Cards beat to get to the NLCS.  Baseball is an amazing sport, one of great stories and dramatic themes.  The Cardinals are no exception to that.

Yet, when I think back to “great stories” or “dramatic themes,” I don’t go back to the All-Star Game and say, wow, wasn’t it great the NL won home field advantage for the World Series then?  No, I mean, even though Prince Fielder’s team had a chance to go to the big show and directly profit off that win, if Carlos Beltran had hit the home run to get the NL the win, it would make even LESS sense.

The All-Star Game is a dog and pony show, and I don’t even really care to watch it each year (I mostly do so because my husband likes it still…whatevs).  It’s hard to say that there wasn’t an “earning” of home field advantage because that would diminish the Cardinals’ run to the big show, that’s not what I’m saying.

But I can’t be the only person who thinks it’s ridick that a team with a worse record gets home field because of a game that means absolutely nothing three months earlier over a team that has a better record and may be used to their “advantage.”

You may return to your regularly scheduled programming.