Billy-Ball Daily: 2008-7-29

7/29/2008
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

Billy-Ball – From the diamond to your desktop…
By Baseball Newstalgist, Bill Chuck

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Top of the 1st
TV OR NOT TV – THAT IS THE QUESTION
Where’s the best place to watch a ballgame, in a seat at the ballpark or on your couch in front of your television? This query isn’t as sacrilegious as it sounds, there are really plusses and minuses of each and they are becoming more pronounced over time.

I was at fabulous Fenway Park Friday night to see the Sox lose to the Yankees and then again last night to watch Sox lose to the Angels. Hey, don’t blame me for the losses Sox fans, I was watching at home on Saturday as they lost to the Yanks and watching again on Sunday night when they won (although I will admit that ennui and the clock drove me to bed), these days the Sox just seem to lose (except when playing the Mariners).

Each night at Fenway, I was with good friends who enjoy baseball and each game at home I was with the missus who loves her Sox. So company is not a factor in my debate. So what is the key factor? As any good businessman can tell you it’s location, location, location.

Let’s get the at home factor out of the way. When I’m at home I watch games in three spots: on the couch, sitting at my home-office computer, or lying in bed with my laptop streaming the games. When I’m at the ballpark I sit where I’m brought. I’m lucky I have terrific friends who seek the company of people who love baseball and love intelligent repartee during a game. When they can find no one else, I fit the bill.

Now, for the most part, the only weakness there is for an evening at Fenway Park is the running short of superlatives to describe the experience. The operant phrase here is “for the most part.” While Larry Lucchino and company have done a magnificent job in their remodeling of baseball’s oldest park, even Larry would agree that if your first experience at Fenway was sitting in section 93, row UU, seat 24, your first desire would be to purchase a wrecking ball.

Game time temperature at 7:00 pm Friday evening was 74 balmy degrees, except in our section where the sun was still roasting and blinding. The seats are in foul territory about 30 rows directly behind the foul pole, they face the scoreboard in centerfield so you are always looking left to “see the action.”

But you can’t really see the action. First, you’re too far away. Some country and western superstar did an annoying job with the national anthem and my buddy Jack asked me where she was singing. When I told him behind home plate, he responded, “Where’s home plate?”

The bigger factor is that we had the four seats next to the aisle which had more traffic than the Long Island Expressway during Friday night rush hour. There was a constant stream of vendors who were trying to get through the constant stream of fans who were going up and down the aisle either on their way to get their two beers or on their way to return the rental of the beer. This steady flow would only be interrupted when the fans to my right in the aisle were seeking to break into aisle to depart only to be replaced by their friends who were seated who knows where else?

Fenway’s seats were not constructed with 21st century humans in mind, so every time someone wants to pass through your row people must stand, every time people stand other people need to stand in order to see, and before you know it, I’m sitting amidst a crowd of people standing while I’m looking through them at the scoreboard which will tell me how to score the play I have just missed.

Then there was the idiot behind me who was bellowing “Bobby! Bobby!” in the hope of distracting Yankee outfielder Bobby Abreu. That did not annoy Abreu nearly as much as it annoyed the guy sitting two rows ahead of us who threatened to engage in fisticuffs if the yeller didn’t shut up. If I want a fight, once again the missus is waiting for me at home. All I have told you is true about this experience including the fact that the friend to my left asked me two innings after the fact, “When did the Yankees score?”

Then again the alternative is watching the game at home, trying to figure out how many replays of that pitch that was outside are they going to show (often there are four replays of the same meaningless pitch)? Or, listening to the local color commentator use his airtime to self-promote his various product offerings or the play-by-play guy start giggling as the two them recount their dinners from the previous night.

I was thinking about all this last night as I sat with my buddy Burt, in section 18 not too far behind home plate, laughing, talking baseball and seeing the magnificence of great playoff-type baseball in the almost always terrific Fenway Park. Watching every play, enjoying every moment.

So here’s my conclusion, if you come to Boston and can get tickets to a game, go. But if those tickets are in section 93, find a TV, a comfortable couch and if you still need a in-park baseball experience, get someone behind you to periodically yell, “Bobby! Bobby!” at the top of his lungs and enjoy the game.

Top of the 2nd
THE RACES FACTOR
AL East
The top three teams all lost last night, Toronto tops the Rays, 3-1, the Sox falling to the Angels, 7-5; and the Yanks were clobbered by the O’s, 13-4.

AL Central
Minnesota crept 1.5 games behind the White Sox by shutting them out, 7-0. Cleveland puts another hurt on the Tigers, 5-0

NL East
The Marlins are just one back after they topped the Mets, 7-3. The Phils had the night off and are just a half-game behind.

NL Central
Cubs topped the Brewers, 6-4, and the Cardinals kept pace clobbering the Braves, 12-3.

NL Worst
Arizona lost, the Dodgers lost, Colorado lost. Can’t anybody here play this game?

Top of the 3rd
MADDUX FINALLY WINS
Greg Maddux broke a 14-start winless streak and picked up career victory #351 in what may be his final start as a Padre at Petco Park. With the trading deadline only three days away, Maddux allowed four runs on nine hits in six-plus innings and moved past Phil Niekro into 10th on the all-time strikeout list with his 3,343rd K.

It took six relievers to get the final 12 outs and protect the 8-5 victory over Arizona. Before last night, the Padres had averaged 2 1/3 runs while Maddux was in the game during his 14-start, 79 day drought.

Top of the 4th
IN CASE YOU WERE CURIOUS
Aegis Sciences Corp. in Nashville, TN (www.aegislabs.com), is an 18-year-old company that tests for drug use in the business and sports worlds, working with sports teams to prove drug abuse or clear an athlete’s name.

According to CEO and President, David Black, “We have a relationship with the Major League Baseball Players Association that goes back at least four years. Our role is to provide both the expertise … and a laboratory service when appropriate to determine whether or not a baseball player, who may be about to be charged with an infraction, has truly done something or whether there’s an explanation.

We provide a service to the players association so they may negotiate with the league and properly address the issue, as well as defend the rights of the players.

One problem is that there are many products on the market that can be purchased by you or me today that contain chemicals not identified on the label but which are on the banned list of almost every sport.

You could very innocently go into a supermarket or a health food store and buy a product you intend to use as a supplement … and without realizing it, it contains a chemical that will then show up as a banned drug.

Part of what we do is sort through the data to figure out if someone innocently purchased a product … and now they’re about to be publicly identified as a drug abuser and perhaps get suspended. Our role is to protect and defend.

We also review the work of the drug lab in Montreal, Canada, that has contracted with Major League Baseball to ensure that their tests are done properly.”

Top of the 5th
NOW YOU CAN WAIT FOR THE CUBS FOREVER
If it’s not enough for you Cubs fans that in the opener of a critical four-game set in Milwaukee, that the Cubs topped the Brewers, 6-4, maybe you can enjoy the Cubs in your after-life. Dennis Mascari of Fans Forever Inc., apparently has devised a fitting memorial for devoted Chicago Cubs fans.

Last night, Alfonso Soriano homered, doubled, and Derrek Lee had three hits, including the game-winning RBI double in the top of 9th as the Cubs took their second straight and stretched their lead in the NL Central to two games, while the Brewers lost their second straight after winning nine of 10. Now Mascari and the operators of Bohemian National Cemetery on Chicago’s North Side have their way, a victory like this can be enjoyed by Cubs fans even they are dead.

Mascari is planning to build a 24-foot ivy-covered wall, in the cemetery, designed to look like the center field barrier at Wrigley Field. The wall will include 280 niches for urns containing the ashes of deceased Cubbie supporters. The grounds will include a stained glass scoreboard and a bronze baseball card with a photo of the deceased placed beside each “eternal skybox.” There’s even talk of piping in radio broadcasts of Cubs games so no one alive or dead need miss a game.

Holy cow.

To learn more: http://www.beyondthevines.org/

Top of the 6th
BILLY-BALL-SITE-OF-THE-DAY
Fascinating article from the Jerusalem Post entitled “Field of Failed Dreams” describing the very brief history of the Israeli Baseball League – http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1215331082409&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

I guess that puts a crimp in my plan to set up an Iraqi Baseball League.

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
AL
Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees, 7:05 pm
(R) Daniel Cabrera (6-6) vs. (R) Darrell Rasner (5-7)
LA Angels of Anaheim at Boston Red Sox, 7:05 pm
(R) John Lackey (8-2) vs. (R) Clay Buchholz (2-5)
Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians, 7:05 pm
(R) Armando Galarraga (8-4) vs. (R) Matt Ginter (1-1)
Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays, 7:07 pm
(R) Matt Garza (8-6) vs. (R) Roy Halladay (12-7)
Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers, 8:05 pm
(R) Carlos Silva (4-12) vs. (R) Luis Mendoza (2-4)
Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins, 8:10 pm
(L) Clayton Richard (0-0) vs. (L) Glen Perkins (7-3)
Kansas City Royals at Oakland Athletics, 10:05 pm
(R) Gil Meche (8-9) vs. (L) Greg Smith (5-9)

NL
Colorado Rockies at Pittsburgh Pirates, 7:05 pm
(L) Glendon Rusch (4-3) vs. (R) Yoslan Herrera (1-1)
New York Mets at Florida Marlins, 7:10 pm
(L) Oliver Perez (6-6) vs. (L) Scott Olsen (6-5)
Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals, 7:10 pm
(R) Brett Myers (3-9) vs. (R) Collin Balester (1-2)
St. Louis Cardinals at Atlanta Braves, 7:10 pm
(R) Todd Wellemeyer (8-4) vs. (R) Jorge Campillo (5-4)
Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers, 8:05 pm
(R) Carlos Zambrano (11-4) vs. (R) Ben Sheets (10-3)
Cincinnati Reds at Houston Astros, 8:05 pm
(R) Bronson Arroyo (9-7) vs. (R) Brian Moehler (5-4)
Arizona Diamondbacks at San Diego Padres, 10:05 pm
(L) Doug Davis (3-5) vs. (R) Chris Young (4-4)
San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers, 10:10 pm
(R) Matt Cain (6-8) vs. (R) Jason Johnson (0-0)

Interesting game tonight in which Doug Davis, who underwent surgery for cancer this season, faces off against Chris Young who is returning to the pitcher’s mound nearly 10 weeks since an Albert Pujols line drive smashed him in the face.

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
With Grady Sizemore’s 25th stolen base of the season and his 25 homers, he joins former Cleveland outfielders Bobby Bonds and Joe Carter as the only two Indians players to accomplish the feat.

Top of the 9th
“THE TRADING DEADLINE IS GETTING CLOSE QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Last year in our division, the Phillies came back from seven down with 17 to play, right? The only problem is, we have three other teams in front of us. So if we’re going to make a run, we need to start chipping away pretty quick.” – Mark Teixeira, the Atlanta Braves first baseman who may find himself a member of the Diamondbacks by Friday.

Bottom of the 9th
BUY THE BOOK
Bill Chuck is the creator of Billy-Ball.com and, with Jim Kaplan, is the author of the book, “Walk-Offs, Last Licks, and Final Outs – Baseball’s Grand (and not so Grand) Finales,” with a Foreword by Jon Miller available now from ACTA Sports.

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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.