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Category Archives: Play Ball!

Why, Why, Why, Why, Why?

Why do I invest so much heart and emotion into the teams I root for?

I am a long-time fan of the Golden State Warriors … started rooting for them when I moved to the Bay Area in 1979.  Before that, I had rooted for the Knicks, a leftover from when I lived in New Jersey. But seeing as how basketball was somewhat down on the list of sports I cared about, it was a relatively easy switch to simply root for the “home” team.

For some reason, I got invested in them.  I tell you, there were years that they were so bad, I think that on any given night, they could have lost to Duke, North Carolina or Kansas, three perennial college powerhouses.  I lived through the “Run TMC” period, named for Timmy Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullen, the three stars of the team back in the early 90’s.  Those teams were fun to watch, but they had as much defense as Switzerland … it was nothing for them to score 125 points in a game, and then wind up losing by 10 points!

So the Dubs resurgence (“Dubs” as in “W” as in “Warriors”, for you non-basketball enthusiasts) over the past 3-4 years has provided a great deal of sports joy. Unfortunately, “sports joy” is fleeting. It’s like a sugar rush: when they win, especially a championship, the feeling is incredible. But it’s short-lived.  Not only that, it doesn’t translate over into the rest of your life.  A couple of days later, if you get a ticket, or if you get into an argument with your boss, you don’t really sit there afterwards and say, “Yeah, but man, those 49ers are Super Bowl champs!!!!”

What’s even worse, is that when they lose, it does seem to translate over to the rest of your world!  I’ve gone through times when, after one of my teams lost in the playoffs, it would affect my mood for weeks!  So that being the case, why, why, why, why, why do I invest so much heart and soul into rooting for a team?

Last night’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers sucked. Big time.  I mean, the Dubs were up three games to one!!!!  I was already celebrating, which was stupid, seeing as how I know “it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings!”  I experienced the other side of that “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” experience a dozen years ago, when the team I root for – the Boston Red Sox – came from four games down to sweep the hated New York Yankees in the AL championship series and then went on to win their first World Series in 86 years!  At a gut level, you know that anything’s possible … that having a commanding lead doesn’t mean squat.  That’s why they call them “upsets” or “miracles”.  But when your head says, “Jeff, you know they haven’t won it yet,”  your heart steps in and tells your head, “Shut the hell up, will you? I’m celebrating here!!!!”

After they lost last night, my Facebook post was, “Shit. Shit. Shit.  Wasted season.”  Here they had set a record for the most wins any team had ever had in a season.  They were now part of the, “Who’s the best team ever?” debate.  And then last night, they shit the bed!

Funny thing, though.  I woke up this morning … and the world hadn’t ended!  The sun was shining, Frank was licking my face, and the coffee tasted pretty damned good!  Huh.  What’s going on?  And that wasn’t meant as a rhetorical question, either?  After finishing my morning meditation, I really thought about it … “What’s going on?”  Why wasn’t I feeling the way I felt in 2003, after Grady “effing” Little left Pedro in too long and the Red Sox had yet another kick-in-the-gut loss?

My first thought was, “They won last year.”  As bad as last night’s loss was, they did win the NBA championship last year.  They’re part of what could go down as one of the top five “Game 7 of the Finals” of all time, albeit on the losing side.  They didn’t get blown out, being in it until the end. They had a record-breaking season this year and were one game away from a repeat.  Maybe this loss will give them reason to improve the team, perhaps go after free agent Kevin Durant in the off-season.  Either way, they’re set up for potentially being in the finals for the next 6-7 years, given the team’s talent.  Yeah, they lost, but it could be worse.

sonny and c

“Mickey Mantle don’t care ’bout youse … nobody cares!”

Then I thought about one of my favorite movies, A Bronx Tale. Everything in life can be explained in a movie … and I am one of the biggest movie buffs (literally and figuratively) of all time.  Here’s the scene I was thinking about – where young Calogero is heartbroken after Bill Mazeroski’s grand slam gives the Pittsburgh Pirates the World Series over his beloved New York Yankees …  and Sonny the gangster imparts his sports perspective. “If I can’t pay my health insurance next month, maybe I should go ask Steph Curry and see what he tells me.

Then I thought about the Cleveland fans and how they must be feeling right now.  Not only had the Cavaliers never won a championship, no sports team from Cleveland had won any championship for over 50 years!

I remember when the Red Sox won in 2004.  I sat on the end of my bed and cried.  I mean, I had both hands covering my face, with tears streaming out between my fingers!  How could I begrudge that feeling to some Cleveland fan who was stupid enough to invest as much into his teams as I had in the Red Sox?  And by the way … what I wrote about sports joy being fleeting at the beginning of this post?  The 2004 Red Sox championship is the exception that proves the rule.  That championship provided sports joy that will last me the rest of my life!

So, I’m cool.  I’m surprised as all hell that I am … but I am!  Only thing I can chalk that up to is the perspective of coming so far out of the valley I was in only 19 months ago. Of feeling an overriding sense of inner peace after being on the road for more than a year.  There’s a lot to be said for that.

I root for four teams:  the Boston Red Sox; the San Francisco Giants (out of deference to my grandfather, who introduced me to baseball – the greatest game ever invented;  the only time I ever saw the man cry was when the Giants left New York for the west coast); the San Jose Sharks; and the Golden State Warriors.  If I had to pick a football team – I’m a semi-interested New York Football Giants fan, so five teams.

Since the beginning of 2004, those five teams have won nine championships.  Nine championships … in twelve years!  Maybe I should go ask a San Diego sports fan if I have any right to be unhappy about the Warriors failing to make it ten last night.  What do you think he’d say?

Yeah, this “inner peace” thing is pretty cool!


Frank and I took a drive over to see the ocean yesterday.  I’m planning on taking him to the dog beach in Wildwood, NJ this afternoon, but it was nice day yesterday, and I’ve been missing the ocean ever since we left Charleston a year ago.

Avalon-by-the-Sea is the closest beach town. It’s right across the bay from where we’re staying, so that’s where we headed and drove a little ways north from there. The bay was on the left, the ocean on the right, and we were approaching a waterway connecting the two. We caught a break … just after crossing a tiny, two-lane drawbridge over the inlet, I noticed a cruiser approaching from the bay and knew they were going to have to raise the bridge to let him through. So I sped up a little and made a U-turn at the next chance to head back over the bridge in the direction from which we had come.  Sure thing, we were the first car in line as the bells started ringing, lights flashing, and the safety arm lowering.  I got out of the car and snapped a few shots.  What a great vantage point it was, being up over the water instead of at sea level.  Here they are:

A view looking towards the southeast, out into the Atlantic.  Lots of surf fishermen out today:

southeast

A view looking to the northeast. I was surprised there weren’t more folks out on the beach celebrating Father’s Day.  The weather was glorious!  By the way – check out the rust on the bridge.  Pretty scary, huh?  What do we need to do as a country to develop the will to address our failing infrastructure?  There are like, what … 70 thousand bridges that are structurally deficient in this country?  We’re waiting for a disaster before we do something about it?  Why can’t we get our elected officials in Congress to do their freaking jobs instead of focusing on bullshit??? (Hmmm … where’d that “inner peace” go?)  :o)

northeast

A view over the car looking due west, into the wetlands.  The NJ mainland is in the distance.

west

A view to the southwest and the “Great Bay” separating Seven Mile Island from the mainland.  The cruiser in the foreground was the reason we were sitting on the bridge.  All because of those outriggers!

southwest

Five years ago, if you would have bet me that I’d be happy sitting on a drawbridge waiting for a ship to pass underneath, I’d not only have taken the bet … I’d have given you odds!  Isn’t it funny what perspective can do for your psyche?  :o)

bridge.jpg

This last shot was taken after we crossed back over the bridge and were back on the island. The view is from behind a seawall in Avalon, looking north.  I’m pretty sure the buildings in the distance are the south side of Atlantic City, about 20 miles due north as the seagull flies.  By the way, if a seagull spends all his time on the sea, what would you call a bird that spends all his time on the bay?  Answer:  a bagel!!!  (Don’t shoot the messenger – I ran across that little dandy a few days ago.  Nothing in this world is as good as a bad pun!  And yes, I know – “bad pun” is redundant!)  :o)

ac

 

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Posted by on June 20, 2016 in Musings, Play Ball!, Travels

 

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I Am “Sirius(XM)ly” Ticked!

Pun intended! (With a special shout-out to “Girl on the Contrary“!)

redox

I’m expecting big things for my Red Sox this year – and MAN, look at how lean David Ortiz is!

A while ago, I mentioned needing to figure out how to follow my Boston Red Sox once I go mobile. My initial thought was to simply subscribe to mlb.tv, so I could watch games online. After reading a bit more about some of the campsite policies to which I’ll be subjected though, I realized the vast majority of them were going to throttle bandwidth to the point that the online approach to getting my Red Sox “fix” just wasn’t going to work (gee, and I had just put a USB-compatible intravenous syringe on my Amazon wish list)!

Someone … probably Larry, seeing as he is my most reliable source for good ideas … suggested that I look into satellite radio.  So I did.  Not only would I be able to listen to the Red Sox, I’d be able to catch virtually every MLB game, “live”.  Which means I’ll also be able to follow the San Francisco Giants as well. (I’ve been rooting for the Giants longer than I have the Sox, although not as ardently – that comes by way of Grandpa Tice, who was as big a New York / San Francisco Giants fan as they come and who I mentioned in a previous post as being the one who is most responsible for me becoming a baseball fanatic!)

Anyhow, I initially looked into it a little over a month ago and set it aside to concentrate on other things.  Larry called me the other day and said he found a unit that was selling on eBay and wanted to get it for my birthday … but then we started talking about options, so I told him to hold off and that I’d do some exploring.

That was when the pain began.

I reviewed information over at the SiriusXM site again and realized why I had set it aside – there are so many options that my eyes were crossing.  And they sure don’t make it easy for you … I think they hire pricing managers out of the cell phone and cable TV industries to put their packages together. And I think it’s all done so that you simply throw up your hands, buy the most expensive package they have and say, “I give up. Here, just take my money!”  That goes against my nature, though.

So I got on a chat with one of their representatives.  Explained what I wanted – MLB, NBA, NHL were the primary “wants”.  NFL was secondary … and I was sure that whatever music was available on their packages would be fine.  What transpired was what could only be described as a circle-jerk.  He kept recommending the most expensive “All Access” package, I kept asking if there were other, less expensive packages that would meet my need, after which he’d write, “well, you can check out the packages for yourself.”  Of course, they don’t offer a side-by-side comparison that shows you what channels are available in each bundle … and I said that, that it’s not easy to find what I’m looking for, which was why I was on this chat. And couldn’t you recommend a package that would meet my need?  And the answer would be, “Well, I recommend the top of the line package because you’re sure to get everything that you want.”  And there were three go-arounds of this insanity.

“And that’s when I killed him, Your Honor!”

I thanked him for being absolutely no help whatsoever and closed out the chat.  As an aside, I miss old-style phones.  The ones you could slam down when someone on the other end pissed you off.  There’s just zero satisfaction in angrily clicking on a mouse button!

After that, I took about an hour and did my own comparison, and found that the next lower tier – their “Select” package – had what I was looking for, for about $5 / month less. It doesn’t include NFL games, but that’s okay … I can’t see myself listening to football games on Sunday afternoon, especially since: A) I don’t really have a team that I follow; and B) any football “fix” I might need can be found via the college games that are broadcast on some of the other channels in the “Select” package. (Plus, I can always find a “Frank-friendly” bar come Super Bowl time where he and I can take in the game.)

About the time I was finishing that up, Larry emailed a link to a site with coupon codes for SiriusXM subscriptions.  But I decided to figure out my equipment needs first. The radios are all designed to play either via your car speakers, a home stereo system or a portable “boom box” that are designed specifically to interface with the different radios.  But here’s the kick – some are designed to receive “XM” channels, some are “Sirius” and still more can receive both (the result of the SiriusXM merger a while back).  I could see that more eye-crossing was in store.

XM Onyx Plus

The XM Onyx Plus is how I’ll be getting my Red Sox fix this summer!

I had more or less decided on the XM Onyx radio … I’d be able to get all the channels I was looking for and it wasn’t the most expensive one out there.  I called Larry to tell him what I had decided and he suggested I should go to the XM Onyx Plus because there were a couple of nice features that he thought would be worth the extra $30 – things like a “pause” capability and one-touch channel changes. That’s the one he has.  We think enough alike that I’m taking his advice.

With that decided,  I went back to the eBay item, but when I hunted around a bit more, I found another couple of deals, one of which I was able to successfully bid on (you gotta know how to do bid to win at eBay, right?) Just before starting this post, I bought a new, in-the-box Portable Docking Station (model SD2) for only $58, including shipping … one that retails for $120!  I’ve also found a couple of XM Onyx Plus units for sale over there as well. One new and one used.  The bids close on Saturday, and I’m going to see if I can do a better deal via eBay rather than getting one directly from SiriusXM.  That way, I won’t have to sign up for a long term subscription in order to get their special hardware pricing … I’ll be able to take advantage of one of those coupon codes instead.

But as I said in the beginning, the whole process has left me “Sirius(XM)ly” ticked off.  It just shouldn’t be that difficult.  And I’m not even out of the woods yet – I still have to deal with them when I negotiate the subscription price. Further, I’m going to have to go through a similar process again when I redo my phone plan before heading out in June.  At least I won’t have to worry about looking through all those cable TV packages anymore, right?

More posts to follow once I get everything ordered, delivered and go through the car installation process (which should be a hoot, because I’ve never been much of an electronics geek, let alone someone who’s installed peripheral equipment in his car before).

Do any of you readers have your own SiriusXM nightmare stories you want to share? Or do you have any advice on talking to them about their plans? I’m all ears!

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2015 in Planning, Play Ball!

 

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Getting Ready for Baseball

The weather hasn’t been that cooperative here in Charleston over the past couple of days. It’s been overcast as all get-out, so I’ve not been back out with the camera to try and retake that last shot I posted.

So, in the spirit of the New Year, I thought I’d post some of my favorite baseball links. If you’re a casual fan, I don’t know that these will be of much interest to you. But if you’re a hard core baseball fan like me, you might find these useful when you’re talking to your buddies about things like salary caps, potential trades your favorite team might consider and the like. I’ve also posted a few links to sites that might help when it comes to planning out your daily team over at FanDuel or some of the other gaming sites.

As an aside, I haven’t done rotisserie baseball in years … fifteen, to be exact. I was really into it at one time. Back in August, 2000, I even won ESPN’s Weekly Challenge – I beat out about 125,000 other baseball junkies that week to take first prize! It wasn’t easy – I spent about 50 hours planning out my team that week. Every night, from 5pm to midnight, I’d pore over the next day’s pitcher / batter matchups. I’d go through it position by position, seeing which batters had historically good performance against each pitcher. I’d rank ’em by position, and then put together the best team I could given the $50k in salary we were allotted to put together a “team”. And all that effort seemed worthwhile when I won. At least it did for a while …

You know what my prize was? A freaking ESPN baseball cap!!!! Oh, I was also put in a drawing for a $5,000 home entertainment package (big screen TV, stereo sound system, etc.), along with the other 12 weekly winners from the second half of the season. But my name wasn’t drawn, so all I had to show for my 50 hours of work was a freaking cap! At the time, I was doing consulting work at about $55/hour, and the realization that this particular baseball cap cost me over $2,700 just about did me in! I haven’t played rotisserie baseball since!

On to the links …

MLB Gameday BIP Location
http://katron.org/projects/baseball/hit-location/

This is a cool site. Their tool enables you to overlay a chart depicting the balls in play from one park onto another one. You can do this for all balls in play in a given park or a particular batter. You can even select a pitcher to see how they fared against opposing hitters in that park. For example, do you want to get a feel for how Hanley Ramirez might have fared in 2014 if he had played the majority of his games at Fenway instead of at Dodger Stadium? No problem! This’ll give you an idea as to how many long outs in left field would have been doubles off the Green Monster (hopefully it’s a harbinger of things to come in 2015!). The tool even allows you to filter out certain types of balls in play, i.e. you can eliminate ground outs, or popups. It’s become one of my favorite sides to look at when it comes to trade rumors.

Major League Baseball Free Agents by Year
http://www.spotrac.com/mlb/free-agents/2016/

Spotrac offers a sortable list of free agents, by year through 2018. You can filter it by position or by team and then sort it by player age. It also shows the amount of salary cap impact the player had in the previous year. By the way, there’s some other nice stuff on there as well, such as a list of current salaries by position and team. But I primarily use the free agent list from this site.

Cot’s Baseball Contracts
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/

Do you want to know when the Phillies are going to be rid of Ryan Howard’s contract? I’m sure Ruben Amaro has the date tattooed on his inner eyelids! Everyone else can visit this site. It not only shows the current salaries for each team (along with a rundown of each player’s contract), it allows you to see your team’s payroll obligations going out through the 2020 season! It only covers the 40-man roster and doesn’t list minor league commitments, fringe compensation, or AAV (annual average value), so it doesn’t help with luxury tax calculations. But it’s got just about everything else!

MLB Lineups from Baseball Press
http://www.baseballpress.com/lineups

Baseball Press publishes the daily lineups for each game as soon as they’ve been released by the team. You have to check back often during the day to get them all.

Batter vs. Pitcher Matchups
http://www.rotowire.com/baseball/matchup.htm

Remember the 50 hours of research I put in so that I could be a walking advertisement for ESPN? Well, if this site was around back then, I would have probably been able to do my work in about half that amount of time! Rotowire provides a complete rundown of all the batter / pitcher matchups for a given day … all you have to do is compare that against the daily lineups posted on Baseball Press to verify who’s in the lineup.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not
http://baseball.fantasysports.yahoo.com/b1/whoshot?pos=C

Yahoo Sports publishes a list of the players that are streaking … good and bad. It’s sortable by position. Back when I was doing this by hand, the tiebreaker for deciding between two good matchups was based on which player was riding a current hot streak.  These days, Yahoo Sports has done all the work for you!

MLB.com’s Sortable Player Stats
http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/sortable.jsp

For all you stat junkies out there, here are the standard run-of-the-mill baseball stats, offered directly from the source.

A Guide to Sabermetric Research
http://sabr.org/sabermetrics

Here’s some basic information about sabermetrics, from the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). If you want to know more about how to do your own research, and perhaps publish a paper on the subject, this tells you how. (I have to be honest, while I’m exceptional at math, my eyes cross when I read some of the formulae that’ve been published by these guys!)


That’s about it for now. Oh yeah, one last thing … here’s an April 2014 article that I just read and enjoyed so much, I thought I’d pass it along: Scout’s Honor. It tells the story about how “old school” scouting unearthed Xander Bogaerts for the Boston Red Sox. It’s a great read. Stories like these that are why I love baseball so much.
Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2015 in Play Ball!

 

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