Scenes from Spring Training: No, Marty Brennaman is not Bob Uecker


This morning’s fears of severe cloudiness notwithstanding, it ended up being a very nice day at the ballpark. A bit cool, but not too bad. And a ton of sun, so take that weatherman.

The game: OK. Not great, but OK, which is as good as we can hope this time of the year.  Early on there was some nice defense, particularly by the Indians, but then things got out of control. The early crispness was helped by the fact that both teams ran out what — apart from the absence of Shin-Soo Choo and the Reds’ use of the DH — could be Opening Day lineups.  Things turned into a hot mess by the seventh, but I was occupied with more important matters by then.  Random notes:

Before the game started there were no less than three scouts hanging out near me in the press box: one — Jim Fregosi’s son, Jim Jr. — is a Phillies scout. There were also scouts from the Rays and the Braves. Fregosi and the Braves guy seemed like old friends and talked about hotels and the way the game has changed and the kind of stuff that old friends might discuss.  As a human being I was quite happy to hear all of this niceness. As a Braves fan I was utterly disgusted at the fraternization.  When they left for lunch I stole Fregosi’s notebook and put it in the Braves scout’s bag. (Note: may have only happened in my mind).

Speaking of lunch, the media spread at Goodyear Ballpark was easily the best I’ve had covering this beat. Hot dogs, hamburgers and barbecue chicken. I think they realize here that, if the writers are gonna bail on the media spread, it will be in order to go get a hot dog down on the concourse. By serving hot dogs, they cut off the competition.  Also: when you’re trying to feed a lot of people, keep it simple, OK? None of this flaming scrambled eggs on a skewer crap.

I noticed a distinct deemphasis on Chief Wahoo around here.  The Indians have the block C on the scoreboard and the script I is used a lot as well.  I don’t think this is an accident. In fact, I suspect it’s part of the Indians’ long, long-term phasing out of Wahoo. Do it slowly and subtly like this and you never have to announce anything and you thereby cut off an ugly fight. Smart play, Cleveland.

In honor of the deemphasis of Wahoo, I purchased a navy block C Indians cap in the team store. Well, partially in honor of that. Partially because I really like that cap and have wanted one for a while.

There’s a microphone hung on the screen behind home plate and the sound of the game is piped in through the speakers here in the press box.  The crack of the bat and the crowd noise makes working in this box approximately 400% better than other press boxes that sometimes serve as sensory deprivation chambers.

When Austin Kearns came to bat a lone man in the stand booed him, and did so lustily.  How can anyone work up enough hate to boo Austin freakin’ Kearns? Oh, and Darryl Thompson got the win today, so I consider that to officially close the book on the highly controversial Kearns-Felipe Lopez trade. Well, highly-controversial, like four years ago, and only by weirdos like me who defended it from the Reds’ perspective.

In the middle of the game I took a stroll around the concourse. When I stopped for a minute a middle-aged man in a Dodgers cap started talking to me. After a while he noticed my press pass, after which the following conversation ensued:

Guy: [gesturing to the press box] You been up there?

Me: Yep.

Guy: See the guy in the 1 … 2 … 3… third window over?

Me: Yep.

Guy: Isn’t that the guy from the movie “Major League?”  The “Juuuust a bit outside” guy?

Me: No. That’s Marty Brennaman.

Guy: Huh. When did they change announcers?

Me: What? Brennaman has been the Reds’ announcer for over 30 years. He’s an institution.

Guy: So they used a Reds announcer to be the Indians announcer in that movie?

Me: … Hey, nice talkin’ to ya. Gotta go upstairs.

As I type this there are two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the Reds and Indians have decided to do the “everyone gets to play” game.  What is happening on the field right now is damn nigh a crime against humanity.

As I hit “post” and await for the game to end before I beat my retreat, I cast a glance over to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer and Jordan Bastain of who have to actually write up a story out of all of this nonsense.  Poor sods.

Talk to you from HoHoKam Stadium tomorrow!

Playoff Reset: The Cards and Dodgers have their backs against the wall

Clayton Kershaw

Historically speaking, the Cardinals and Dodgers are the class of the National League. A couple of organizations which have won a ton, have had a lot of classy alpha-types running their respective shows over the years, no shortage of glory, no shortage of history and enough evocative and grand footage in the can to make Ken Burns sepia with envy.

Meanwhile, the Cubs and Mets, while they’ve won some and have some wonderful history too, are far better known for their failures. For dubious achievements and fan bases which have, collectively, spent far more time smacking their own foreheads than high-fiving the guy in the seat next to them. Nevertheless, by the time we go to bed tonight it’s quite possible that the classy organizations with the long resumes of winning baseball will have been eliminated by the sad sacks and that we’re going to be treated to a Mets-Cubs NLCS.

In short: today’s NLDS contests are “the big game” sequences in any late-70s-mid-90s “slobs vs. snobs” comedy movie. Camp Mohawk vs. Camp Northstar. Lane Meyer vs. Roy Stalin skiing the K-12. Thornton Mellon vs. Chas in the diving meet. Once these things are over don’t be surprised to see someone on the Mets or Cubs kissing some girl way out of their league and to be asking yourself, “wait, why are there cheerleaders at a diving meet?”

Of course baseball isn’t as scripted as all of that and William Zabka is, according to IMDb, in pre-production on some Civil War project, so he can’t make it. I have no idea what that’s about. I can only assume he’s playing some stuck-up Confederate General who will lose to Curtis Armstrong’s disheveled Union general in The Big Battle, after which we cut to credits over some tossed-off Dave Edmunds song he wrote for the soundtrack just for the money.

Which is to say: we have to watch these games to see what happens:

The Game: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs
The Time: 4:37 p.m. ET
The Place: Wrigley Field
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: John Lackey vs. Jason Hammel
The Upshot: Wow, those were a lot of dingers given up by Michael Wacha and his friends last night, huh? The god news is that they’re running Lackey out there this afternoon and Lackey has owned the Cubs of late, going 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in four starts against them, including his gem in Game 1 on Friday night. The bad news: even a half dozen recent starts aren’t great predictively speaking, and Lackey is on short rest. TBS will show highlights of Lackey pitching on short rest in the 2002 World Series today, but think about what you were doing in 2002 and whether you’d be just as good at it today as then. Hammel has the ball for the Cubs. He has not fared well against the Cardinals this season (5.37 ERA) but the same small sample stuff applies.

Injuries could be a key consideration here, as Addison Russell may be on the shelf for the Cubs following his hamstring tweak in last night’s game. Likewise Yadier Molina left early, apparently having aggravated his thumb injury. Otherwise: wear a helmet if you’re in the Bleachers at Wrigley this afternoon. Balls may be flying out your way.

The Game: Los Angels Dodgers vs. New York Mets
The Time: 8:07 p.m. ET
The Place: Citi Field
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Clayton Kershaw vs. Steven Matz
The Upshot: The Clayton Kershaw Legacy Game. It’s not fair to Kershaw that, after eight years of completely dominating Major League Baseball people will deem him worthy or unworthy of, well, whatever, based on his 10th postseason start, but they will. If he falters today on short rest, with no reliable bullpen to bail him out, people will call him some sort of choke artist. If he dominates he’ll be considered redeemed, though he’s never been a guy in need of redemption. I don’t care much for that game, but it’s inevitable it will be played so let’s just silently roll our eyes and go with it. The Mets may have a bigger question mark on the mound in Steven Matz, who hasn’t pitched in a couple of weeks thanks to a tweak in his back in the last week of the season.

This should feel like a totally different game. The Utley drama has to subside now, especially given that he’s unlikely to get the start against a tough lefty. And that tough lefty is, with all due respect, no Brett Anderson. You can bet against Clayton Kershaw and win, but it’s not the sort of thing I’d make a habit of.

In any event, the Cubs and Mets should play this on a loop in the Clubhouse before today’s games. Because . . . it just doesn’t matter!

Yoenis Cespedes and his bat flip say good morning

Yoenis Cespedes

It was a late night last night. Especially for old farts like me. I turned on my TV at 12:30 yesterday afternoon and there was baseball on it for just about 12 hours straight. Not too shabby unless you happen to root for the Astros, Rangers, Cardinals or Dodgers. Oh well, today is another day. Or tomorrow if today is a travel day.

In the meantime, we have Yoenis Cespedes to keep us happy, alert and occupied. Again, unless you’re a Dodgers fan. Of course, if you are a Dodgers fan you got absolutely no right to be upset at a bat flip following a homer. And if I catch you complaining, you’re getting a time out.

The Mets break out the whuppin’ sticks, rout the Dodgers 13-7

Cespedes d'Arnaud

So often in life the anticipation of something outpaces its reality. For Mets fans tonight, it was the exact opposite. They had a grand old time. The Mets broke out the lumber and overwhelmed the Dodgers 13-4 to take a 2-1 lead in NLDS.

So much of that anticipation was about revenge, really. Hitting Chase Utley if he was in the lineup, perhaps, or at the very least sending some sort of retaliatory message the Dodgers’ way in response to Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg on Saturday. But with Utley out of the lineup — and the notion that base runners matter a whole heck of a lot in a playoff game — Matt Harvey just set out to pitch, not plunk. And Mets hitters set out to beat the living heck out of Brett Anderson and a couple Dodgers relievers. Living well is the best revenge, and for a major league team, winning baseball games is living well.

It didn’t start out so well for Harvey, as Yasmani Grandal singled in two runs in the top of the second with a third run scoring on a Curtis Granderson error on the same play. It was 3-0 Dodgers early and Mets’ fans sphincters’ clenched. But only momentarily.

The Mets came right back in the bottom of the second with four runs with a Travis d'Arnaud single and a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double from Curtis Granderson. In the next inning d’Arnaud hit a two-run shot. In the fourth Daniel Murphy singled in a run and Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run bomb to left to make it 10-3. The Dodgers got one back in the top of the seventh but New York scored three more of their own in the bottom half. It was never a ballgame after the third inning.

Brett Anderson was the author of the damage through three, Alex Wood gave up the four runs in the fourth and hung on in the fifth in what became mop-up duty. Harvey was done after five and took the win. He wasn’t necessarily sharp, but he did strike out seven and was good enough. Some late damage from the Dodgers, including a three-run homer in the ninth from Howie Kendrick, was too little, too late. Granderson and d’Arnaud did the damage for New York, driving in five and three runs, respectively.

Once the competitive portion of this game was over, the Mets’ crowd turned to more important matters. Chanting things like “We want Utley!” Don Mattingly didn’t give him to ’em, probably because there was no downside to smacking him after the game got out of hand. But no upside either. Because of that stuff about living well, remember?

Now it’s on Clayton Kershaw to save the Dodgers from elimination [looks at watch] tonight, technically. If he doesn’t, his detractors will write another page in their Big Book of Clayton Kershaw Playoff Failures. If he does, we get a Game 5 back in Los Angeles.

Maybe Chase Utley gets into one of those.