Baseball Stars, a peak in many ways…

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Merry Christmas.

It’s nice to be able to write that and know that a few thousand people might read it.  Or at least glance over it.  I hope you all had a safe and fun holiday.

I used to love Christmas.  I guess I still do, but I used to really love it. Presents. Presents. Presents.  It was all about waking up early and tearing into presents.

My family has never been overly wealthy.  My mother and stepfather are both educators and the most elaborate gift I received as a child was an original Nintendo Entertainment System with 12 games, including Tecmo Superbowl, Duck Hunt, Contra and the almighty Baseball Stars.  That was in 1998, 15 years after the NES came out and close 10 years after most of those games were first released.

But I didn’t care.  I was 11 years old and it was my first video game system.  I absolutely loved it.

You could create teams from scratch in Baseball Stars and run an entire club just like a real-life general manager, hiring and firing at will.  My older brothers Ryan and Evan kind of ran things back then and usually hogged the two controllers that we had with little fight from me.  They created the ’97 Braves, the ’97 Indians, the ’97 Orioles and the ’97 Mariners.  We had just moved to St. Louis, Missouri, so they probably made the ’97 Cardinals as well.  I don’t know, I don’t really remember.

What I do remember is playing game after game until our parents demanded that it was time for bed.  Then I remember sneaking out of bed and continuing the fun.  It wasn’t PlayStation, or Nintendo 64 or any of those other modern systems that my friends at school were playing, but it was a blast.

Now it’s 2010, almost 2011.  I still play video games all the time with friends and I love few things more than my PlayStation 3.  The graphics are stunning, Sony’s MLB: The Show features 120-year dynasties and you no longer have to spend a whole day creating accurate rosters.  The 2010 Cardinals are provided — with spot-on batting stances, stunningly lifelike pitching deliveries and even a deep farm system.

It’s great.  But it’s not the same.

My brother Evan lives in Chicago now (he writes for ProFootballTalk and Rotoworld) and my brother Ryan has called Kansas City home for the last few years.  We talk regularly and get together plenty, but I can’t remember the last time we all crammed on a two-man couch and beat the piss out of the Ninja Blacksox.

I heard Bobby Bowden suggest recently that ‘the good old days’ probably weren’t all that good.  Maybe he’s right.  Maybe this nostalgia nonsense is, well, nonsense.

Whatever the case, I’m glad I’ll always have those memories and I’m glad that the holidays force us to reunite at least once a year.  Now if I could just find that old NES…

Kris Bryant on Joey Votto: “He’s the best player ever … He’s a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

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The Cubs wrapped up a four-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 13-10 loss to split the set. They’ll match up again against the Reds next week for a three-game series in Cincinnati. That’s good news for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, because that means he’ll get to see Reds first baseman Joey Votto some more.

As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Bryant has grown quite fond of Votto. Bryant has already won a World Series ring, a Rookie of the Year Award, and an MVP Award, but he still looks up to Votto. According to Bryant, Votto is “the best player ever.” He added, ““He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain. He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches. But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”

Bryant said that Votto is “a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

Bryant also explained how his approach changed by watching Votto. He said that in his rookie season, he was “swinging at everything.” Votto, however, is “aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it.”

Indeed, in Bryant’s rookie season, he struck out in nearly 31 percent of his 650 plate appearances. This season, he has struck out in only 19 percent of his PA. His walk rate has also increased by more than 2.5 percent since his rookie campaign. Compared to last year, Bryant is down in HR and RBI, but his average is the same, his on-base percentage is markedly better, and his slugging percentage is only down by a minute amount.

Video: Daniel Descalso hits D-Backs’ third inside-the-park homer of the season

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Diamondbacks second baseman Daniel Descalso hit his team’s third inside-the-park home run of the season during Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Astros. In the top of the fourth inning, with the score 1-0 and the bases empty, Descalso ripped a 1-0, 83 MPH change-up to right-center field. The ball caromed off the wall, heading towards left field, which sent center Jake Marisnick on the chase. Marisnick tried to pick up the ball with his glove, but dropped it, which sealed Descalso’s destiny for an inside-the-parker.

It had only been five days since the Diamondbacks’ last inside-the-park home run. David Peralta hit one against the Cubs on August 12. Ketel Marte legged out his club’s first ITPHR on July 26 against the Braves.

As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the Diamondbacks have three as a team, which is amazing because the other 29 teams have hit seven combined.