Scenes from Spring Training: Wake me up when Kerry Wood comes in

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I’m not gonna lie to you: it was not the most riveting day at the ballpark.  Low energy game and a low energy crowd. It happens.  Random notes:

The Cubs took the field wearing their full-blown home whites with pinstripes. LOVED it. I’m not a big fan of the lazy looking spring training warmups some of these teams wear. Wanna be professional? Look professional.  Says the jeans-and-untucked-shirt-wearing sports writer.

Also: pitchers batted today. No DH sullying the proceedings. Excellent.

The Cubs played sloppy defense. Three errors as I type this, and the game is still going.  Some nice leather from an unexpected source, however: Ryan Braun.  In the first inning he ranged far to his right to snag a sinking line drive that would have dropped in front of a lot of guys. Then, a couple of batters later he gunned down Reed Johnson who was trying to tag up from third. Braun with the defense. Who knew?

Cubs GM Jim Hendry sauntered into the press box around the third inning and just sort of hung out for a bit.  I’ve been to about 12 spring training games between this year and last year and that’s the first time a GM has just bopped around like that. Fun fact: the number one rule of the press box is that you’re not allowed to cheer.  That rule does not apply to the guy who runs one of the teams involved. It made me quite happy, actually, that Hendry cheers and roots like some regular fan.

By dint of the Brewers playing the Cubs, this was easily the most Midwestern Day of spring training thus far.  Lots of Big Ten sweatshirts in the crowd. Lots of guys who looked like this.  I almost felt like I was at home.

Except that I would never, ever be allowed to eat that hellacious creation to the left if I were at home. My wife is gonna kill me. If my diet doesn’t kill me first.

HoHoKam Stadium features organ music. Honest to goodness organ music, not piped in rock or pop.  This gave me a happy.

I wandered the crowd during the fifth and sixth innings. There was a vendor yelling “Lemonade, lemonade, just like grandma made!”  I’m sure he’s not the only lemonade vendor on the planet that uses that one, but I liked it.  Another vendor yelled “Old Style! Ice-cold Old Style!” in an extreme Barry White basso profundo. Imagine my surprise, then, when I got a look at him and saw that he was a skinny white blond kid in his mid-20s.

Kerry Wood came into the game to pitch the top of the sixth. He got a standing ovation. A bigger round of applause than the team got taking the field to start the game. Too bad he gave up two runs on three hits and a wild pitch in his inning of work.

Late game substitutions for the Brewers: Cutter Dykstra, son of Lenny. He’s someone I’m rooting for.  Also in the game: number 94.  When he was announced no one in the press box could figure out who he was because his name wasn’t listed on the roster.  Finally someone figured out it was Reggie Keen. With a number that high and a name that hard to find, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that he doesn’t make the 25-man out of camp.

Oh, and when Keen came up to bat in the eighth he was wielding a skinny orange bat that looked like a fungo. He cracked it on a foul ball and substituted it with a new one that looked far more normal. Then he walked.

It’s 5-3 in the top of the eighth now, Keen on first and nobody out. I could wait until it’s officially over to post this update, but I’m guessing nothing terribly notable is going down.  I’ll stay here and watch it anyway. Wouldn’t you?

I was originally planning on seeing the White Sox tomorrow, but I may kick them until Thursday because they’re playing the Brewers tomorrow and I kind of want to see as many different teams as possible.  As I sit here, I’m thinking — surprise! — it will be Padres-Royals instead.

Seriously: the Royals play in Surprise so even if you weren’t expecting anything it is, technically speaking, a Surprise.

If the Tigers are sub-.500 at the end of June it’ll be fire sale time

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Jon Morosi reports that that the Detroit Tigers will make all veterans available via trade if they’re still under .500 by the end of June.

This was the position they entered the offseason with — everyone is available! — but they ended up gearing up for one more push with the core of veterans they currently employ. It was not a bad move, I don’t think. With the exception of the Indians, the AL Central is mostly down, or at least appeared to be over the winter, with the Royals in decline and the Twins and White Sox seemingly a few years away from contention. The Twins, however, have been fantastic and the Tigers have mostly underachieved.

So we’re back to this. Which veterans the Tigers can reasonably unload, however, is an open question. J.D. Martinez is in his walk year, so while tradable, he may not bring back a big return. Guys like Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera either have very large contracts or no-trade protection.

The end of June is still a while from now, of course, and while the Tigers are under .500, they’re only 4.5 games behind the Twins. But they had better turn it around or else it sounds like the front office is going to turn the page.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.