Bad news for a great guy

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I lost contact with baseball for many years in the mid-to-late 90s. I followed it, generally, but I didn’t obsess. I rooted for my team, but it was fairly shallow. It happens to a lot of people in their 20s, even if they were hardcore fans when they were kids. Some of us find our way back. Some of us don’t.

One of the biggest reasons I found my way back was Mac Thomason. Mac is the proprietor of Braves Journal.  As Gleeman put it a few minutes ago, he’s one of the OG bloggers. Hell, he’s been around since before anyone was calling these things blogs. And it was by going to his site every day for Braves updates, analysis and fan chatter that I was able to make it all the way back from near-casual fan to the obsessive I am today.

Maybe worse than an obsessive for a while. Like a lot of people who find themselves reborn in some way, I was a bit too zealous for a little while there. By virtue of Mac’s comments section I let my vitriol regarding the late stages of the Braves quasi-dynasty run a bit too hot at times.  For example, after they traded Kevin Millwood for Johnny Estrada, I said that I wouldn’t watch the Braves anymore until John Schuerholz was “either fired or dead.” Oh, the things one says to a message board no one reads!

Except, people read Mac’s message board.  Important people. People like John Schuerholz, who actually quoted my comment verbatim, and the comments of several other Braves Journal readers, several years later when he wrote his autobiography. He quotes my intemperate words on page 71 in a section talking about how insane fans can be sometimes.  I apologized for that several years ago, but it still embarrasses me.

That whole episode is a testament to just how important and influential a great team-specific blog can be.  It can make and perpetuate fandom.  It can ruffle an organization’s feathers. Apart from wanting to get crappy players out of the lineup, Mac has never been one for crusades — and he has never been the type of team blogger who seeks to curry favor with the organization or get access — but he’s a smart, discerning fan who provides smart discerning (and often grumpy) commentary about his team’s travails on a day-to-day basis and that’s the kind of thing that institutions really don’t much care for. If I worked for the Braves I’d probably consider him a pain in the ass.  If I was Mac, I’d probably take tremendous joy from this.

I’m writing about Mac because today he shared some bad news with Braves Journal readers.  He’s been battling cancer for a while, but things have taken a bad turn.  He had surgery last week, but it was aborted due to the cancer having spread.  Here are Mac’s words from this morning:

From all appearances, the remaining cancer has entered a virulent stage. It is not likely to kill me directly; instead it will decrease the effectiveness of my organs by taking away the space they need to operate. The time frame is unclear, but basically I was told that the best measure if they don’t find a treatment is months rather than years.

We’re not giving up. We are, if we can, going to talk to the doctor in Indianapolis with whom I talked last year, and see if he has any ideas. There is a protocol in trials in Philadelphia which looks promising and applicable to my case. And dammit, a lot of people (including a great-uncle of mine) have lived for a long time with cancer hanging over them. Maybe it’s just the drugs talking, but I don’t expect to go any time soon. I fully expect to celebrate when the Braves lift the 2012 World Series trophy over their heads.

Great. The world’s foremost Braves blogger is depending on Philadelphia for treatment. And people wonder why I don’t believe in God.

OK, sorry. Humor and vitriol are how I deal with sad news, and this is pretty damn sad.  But, as Mac says, it’s not hopeless. And even if it was, I’m not going to give up hope because sometimes all we can do to keep our sanity in this world is to hold on to irrational hope. If not because it will make the situation better, then because it really, really pisses off the fates and dark spirits that seek to hurt us so. They want us broken. Don’t break. Ever.

If you pray, please think of doing so for Mac.  If you don’t, hold a good thought in your heart and mind.  If you’re able, please donate to Mac’s tip jar, on the right hand sidebar of the front page.  If none of those things work for you, at least consider starting ugly rumors about Fredi Gonzalez which may cause him to lose his job so that Mac doesn’t have to embark on his epic final showdown with cancer while annoyances like Fredi Gonzalez running his team float about.

I’m rooting for you, Mac.  Treat cancer like Chipper treats the Mets. Make it your bitch and then name your kid after the place it lives.

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Rays 6, Marlins 4: A pinch-hit, walkoff grand slam from Daniel Robertson completed a stunning last-inning comeback for the Rays, who trailed 4-1 from the second inning all the way until the ninth. The blast, in addition to being cool as hell, salvaged a win in the series for the Rays, denying the Marlins the sweep. Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer struck out 13 in six innings, but he allowed four runs — three earned — on eight hits.

Diamondbacks 6, Rockies 1: Zack Greinke was outstanding, striking out 13 and allowing only one run on two hits over eight innings of work. Backing him up was a two-run triple and a bases-loaded walk from Nick Ahmed, a two-run single from Jeff Mathis and an RBI double from Steven Souza, not necessarily in that order. Not in that order at all, in fact. I just listed them that way because that’s the order in which they interested me. Beware of unreliable narrators, dudes. It’s a classic trope, but one which still snookers the noobs.

Padres 10, Phillies 2; Phillies 5, Padres 0: In the first game Freddy Galvis had his second straight three-hit game against his old club in a row, Travis Jankowski and Wil Myers each had two RBI and the Padres rattled off 15 hits. In the second game Vince Velasquez took a no-hitter into the sixth and ended up allowing only two hits over seven shutout innings as the Phillies earn the split in the twin bill.

Fun Padres note: yesterday, for whatever reason, some random Padres fan went back and found a tweet I made two years ago about Padres general manager A.J. Preller. The tweet came in the wake of that scandal in which Preller was caught hiding players’ medical information from other clubs in the course of transactions.  In it I said that it may be difficult for other GMs to trust Preller in deals in the future and that because of that the Padres should fire him. For what it’s worth, I thought they should’ve fired him for dishonesty regardless, though they obviously did not.

Anyway, the person who found my tweet retweeted it and several other Padres fans responded back to me yesterday afternoon with mockery, noting that Preller subsequently received a contract extension and that the Padres have a great deal of top prospects in their system. Nowhere, however, did any of those people note that the Padres currently have the worst record in the National League and are working on their eighth straight losing season and their ninth in their last ten. And that it isn’t even close, as they have not won even 80 games in any of those losing seasons and aren’t likely to this year either. But yep, they sure got me with that tweet. I feel totally owned.

Pirates 9, Reds 2: It was 6-0 Buccos after two and 8-0 after four and by then the Pirates were thinking about their super short flight up to Cleveland and the Reds were thinking about catching up on whatever Sunday night prestige TV everyone is into at the moment. I don’t watch much of that and I lose track of that stuff, but “Better Call Saul” is coming back in a couple of weeks and that’s my jam. Anyway, Corey Dickerson homered for the fourth time in three days — he was 4-for-5 on the afternoon — and Starlin Marte went back-to-back with him during Pittsburgh’s four-run second frame. Gregory Polanco and Sean Rodriguez also went deep as the Pirates sweep the Reds for the first time in nearly five years which does not seem like it should be right at all but, yep, it is.

Royals 5, Twins 3: Here’s something Vegas was not taking prop bets on: Drew Butera hitting an inside-the-park homer. A tiebreaking, three-run inside-the-park home run, that is. Which, yes, was given a HUGE assist by an ill-advised attempt to make a diving catch by the center fielder and some backup by the right fielder that was apparently called in via regular U.S. Mail, but let’s not take this away from Butera:

The Royals took three in a row from the Twins and in doing so completed their first series sweep in just under a year, which does not seem like it should be right at all but, yep, it is.

Blue Jays 5, Orioles 4: The O’s led 4-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth but a pair of two-run homers — from Randal Grichuk and Yangervis Solarte — changed that pretty quickly. J.A. Happ‘s latest audition for would-be trade partners went well (5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 9K). John Axford‘s did not (1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 1 BB), but hey, he vultured a win.

Red Sox 9, Tigers 1: Red Sox recaps feel the same every day. They won. They scored a lot of runs. They got a great pitching performance. Yawn. It’s, like, the banality of dominance or something. Sure, they lost on Saturday and only scored one run in a 1-0 win on Friday, but I didn’t recap those. Perception is everything. Anyway, Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a three-run homer and Chris Sale cruised through six, striking out nine Tigers and not allowing a run. Andrew Benintendi and Eduardo Nunez each knocked in a couple.

Rangers 5, Indians 0: It was the Rougned Odor show as the Rangers’ second baseball knocked in the first three runs of the game via a single, a sac fly and a homer. Ryan Rua‘s two-run homer accounted for the other two Texas runs as Yovani Gallardo tossed six shutout innings and the pen covered the rest. Also: first pitch temperature was 102 degrees and it went up to 108 as the game wore on. I’m firmly on the record thinking that the Rangers are ripping taxpayers off in getting them to build them a new ballpark when they have a pretty new one already, but boy howdy do they need that air conditioned one to get finished because this is simply ridiculous.

Dodgers 11, Brewers 2: Matt Kemp smacked two solo homers and had three hits and scored three runs in all and Chris Taylor drove in three as L.A. blows out Milwaukee to take two of three in the series. Manny Machado had a couple of hits and drove in his first run as a Dodger. He finished his first weekend in blue 5-for-13 with a double and a couple of walks. The Brewers played atrocious defense too. Maybe Ryan Braun isn’t a first baseman? Just a thought.

Cubs 7, Cardinals 2: Jose Quintana allowed two runs on six hits and, most significantly, did not allow a home run to Matt Carpenter, and that’s more than opposing pitchers from the last six games against the Cardinals could say. Really, the dude has been on fire. So on fire that the Cubs played a three-man infield against him in the first, moving Kris Bryant to the outfield out of respect for Carpenter’s 12-at-bat streak of hitting for extras bases. My dude laid down a bunt single. Respect:

That was it for the Cards, though. It was competitive for most of the game but Kyle Schwarber hit a tiebreaking homer with two out in the sixth inning and the Chicago broke it wide open with three runs in the eighth, helping them take three of five from the Cards.

Mariners 8, White Sox 2: Ryon Healy hit two three-run homers in this one — one in the first inning, one in the eighth — as the Mariners win in a romp. The other two runs came in the course of a five-run first inning via a bases-loaded walk drawn by Kyle Seager and a Denard Span sac fly. Healy is far from a complete player — he has 20 homers on the season but he hits for poor contact and seems to hate walks like de Havilland hates Fontaine — but it sure was a hell of an afternoon for the big lug.

Angels 14, Astros 5: Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler and Kole Calhoun all went deep, with Calhoun driving in three as the Angels salvage the final game of a three-game set with Houston. Trout’s first inning single ended a streak of 16 plate appearances without a hit. Trout slumping is . . . weird and unsettling. Andrew Heaney allowed one run over six.

Athletics 6, Giants 5: Matt Chapman singled in Marcus Semien in the bottom of the 10th for a walkoff win. The win also gave Jeurys Familia his first win in his first game as an Oakland Athletic after he pitched two scoreless innings. This after only arriving in Oakland about an hour before the game began after catching a 7 a.m. flight from New York. Between that and no longer having to be a New York Met, things are looking pretty good for him these days.

Nationals 6, Braves 2: Anthony Rendon doubled in two in the first and Bryce Harper homered and drove in two as the Nats split two games with the Braves in a rain-shortened series. Saturday’s game was postponed and this one was delayed almost two hours at the outset and featured an hour and a half delay in the middle of it. Nothing like a steamy late July day in Washington. Besides, as Nats manager Dave Martinez noted after the game, they made the most of it:

“It’s part of it. We play outdoors. But the boys hung in there. They were all pretty loose in the clubhouse, honestly. Watching Shark Week. So, it was good.”

Live every week like it’s shark week.

Mets vs. Yankees — POSTPONED:

Another rainy day in New York City
Softly sweet, so silently it falls
As crosstown traffic crawls

Memories in my way in New York City
Tender, tough, too tragic to be true
And nothing i can do

City workers cheer
The taxis disappear
Another rainy day in New York City