Tag Archives: Los Angeles Dodgers

Setting the annual Baseball Solstice

IMG_5776With the temperature flirting with 70 degrees today here in New Jersey, I’m aching for baseball even as I acknowledge we must endure weeks of winter before we hear “Play ball!” again.

So it’s high time to announce the annual Baseball Solstice, that precise point between the final out of the World Series and the first pitch of exhibition games renewing America’s Pastime for the next season.

The 2015 series ended at 12:30 a.m. EDT on Nov. 2 in New York as Wilmer Flores of the Mets struck out and the Kansas City Royals celebrated the end of a 30-year championship drought.

Those of us pulling for the Mets must wait till next year, in humiliating fashion for me as my sisters-in-law in the Kansas City area expressed their love by sending me a box full of Royals duds and swag.

It will be March 1 when we again hear the crack of the bat in the first handful of Grapefruit League games in Florida and one in the Cactus League in Arizona. (Follow Countdown to Spring Training for a daily dose of encouragement.)

That makes for an interval of 119 days, and thus we must fix the solstice on January 1, 2016, the first day of the new year on the secular calendar observed by fans of football, hockey, basketball, soccer and squash.

But we baseball fans know the day belongs to us.

So get out there that day and play some catch with someone you love or like (yes, even somebody in Dodger blue). Read some Roger Angell. Or watch a DVD showing highlights (singular, if you’re a Phillies fan) of your team’s 2015 season.

As the offseason deals continue to scramble rosters and cruelly give hope to Cubs fans, there’s no need for speculating on which team will prevail in 2016. It’s an even year, and it’s bye, bye baby: The San Francisco Giants will take it all.

 

 

 

 

 

A farewell to the Freak? I hope not

Just yesterday morning, waking up and moping over the morning news that the Giants had fallen to the Dodgers for a second consecutive night, I got to thinking that it would do the world good to see Tim Lincecum back on the mound.

Today, I woke up here on the East Coast to the news that the Dodgers had swept the Giants, which was bad enough. But then came the cruel word via Twitter that Tim Lincecum is done for the season.  After arthroscopic surgery in Colorado, he may have thrown his last pitch for San Francisco.

Say it ain’t so!

I’ve followed the Giants for the last 20-plus years, all the more passionately in recent years since the bloated Barry Bonds left their employ. So many dynamic players have donned their orange, black and cream uniforms in recent years, it’s hard to pick one’s favorite: MadBum, Buster, B-Craw, Kung Fu Panda, the Baby Giraffe, Sergio Roma, Brian “Fear the Beard” Wilson, Cainer, Hunter Pence and the signs that tauntingly follow him.

As great as they all are (or have been), nobody tops Timmy.

With his long hair and slashing delivery, Lincecum packed overpowering stuff into his relatively slight frame. Each time he took the mound, particularly in his early years, timed perfectly with the arrival of Twitter as a fan-bonding vehicle, the atmosphere was electric. “Happy Lincecum Day!” we tweeted, and those strikeout-stuff starts were must-see events.

But Lincecum’s appeal went beyond his dominating performances. A free spirit, Timmy embodied the free-wheeling nature of San Francisco and San Franciscans. After getting busted for pot possession in his home state of Washington, Lincecum grew even more popular. Vendors sold lots of “Let Timmy Smoke” T-shirts around AT&T Park (wish I’d bought one!).

Even as we started seeing signs of the inevitable decline, Lincecum continued to impress. His relief appearances were critically important to the Giants’ 2012 World Series victory. He tossed no hitters in 2013 and last year.

I don’t know what the future holds for Tim Lincecum, but I do know the past.

As a man and a fan, I’m wistful, while the kid in me is crying.

My National League picks for the 2014 baseball season

These picks and $3 will get you a coffee and donut at Dunkin’ Donuts:

East

1. Atlanta – Top of a weak heap

2. Washington – They’ll make it interesting

3. New York – Struggle, they will

4. Philadelphia – It’ll be a long summer

5. Marlins – It’s always a long summer

Central

1. St. Louis – The team to beat in the NL

2. Piitsburgh – Another fine year

3. Cincinnati – Missing it by “this much”

4. Chicago – Friendly confines but little more

5. Milwaukee – It pains me to place them here

West

1. Los Angeles – It pains me to place them here

2. Diamondbacks – On the upswing

3. San Francisco – Rotation is beginning to fade

4. San Diego – This will be a tight race; they could go higher

5. Colorado – Another year or two of scraping bottom

At the risk of having all my fellow Giants fans bail forever, I’m picking the Dodgers to take the NL pennant and (brighten up, Bay Area!) lose to the Rangers in the World Series.

Baseball: The Winter Game

Yes, baseball is the summer game. But that is precisely why it resonates so warmly in the dead of winter for those of us in cold climes.

As I write this post on a Sunday morning from my home in  New Jersey, a good deal of snow still dominates the view through the picture window of our family room. A leonine storm is headed our way today on this second day of March, threatening to dump several inches of snow and probably a bit of ice on us once more. The forecast low temperature for Monday is 1 degree Fahrenheit.

Yet this afternoon I can turn on the transistor radio or, more accurately, fire up the MLB app on my iPhone or iPad and listen to a spring training game from Florida or Arizona. Yesterday, I tuned in to disappointment: the Indians and Giants were both rained out, and the Phillies had wrapped up. I thought I’d try the Brewers-Dodgers, but the only options were LA broadcasts (no thank you). So I managed to catch a couple innings of the Pirates and Rays before errands chased me off the couch and into the cold.

It’s been a long winter across much of the United States, and I’ve had little inspiration to post the last couple of months. But the sound of bat meeting ball coming through a tinny speaker from a distant Snowbird stadium does wonders for one’s mood. It is hope, springing eternal.

 

 

 

Fond memories of Candlestick Park

As the final curtain of fog is about to go down on Candlestick Park, I’m grateful for my memories of the place.

I went to a smattering of Giants games at the ‘Stick in the mid- to late 90s, the first of which as I recall was against the Montreal Expos. That was the second National League game I had ever seen in my life.

I arrived in San Francisco from Seattle in 1993, a few months after Barry Bonds came over from Pittsburgh. Those were, presumably, pre-steroids days for No. 25, before he got caught up in the home run chase with immortality — and notoriety.

One of the quirky things about the Giants in those days was that they signed Dallas Cowboys’ star Deion Sanders to play the outfield alongside Bonds. I actually got to see Sanders play and somewhere in a shoebox I have a photo of him on the field shot from the upper deck behind home plate.

I went to one Dodgers-Giants game at Candlestick, and although the results of the game have faded from memory, those of the weather have not. With my wife and in-laws and maybe a child or two, we sat in the bright sunshine during the early innings that summer afternoon. By late in the game, we were huddling under blankets once the fog brought in a blast of cold air from the coast.

Although I never saw a football game there in person, on TV I watched many a 49ers game from there during the Steve Young era. Banner-towing planes that would circle the ‘Stick took off from Oakland Airport not far from our home in Alameda, and they’d be droning overhead as I’d listen to the games on radio while doing yard work on Sunday afternoon.

My San Francisco years overlapped with the renaming of Candlestick to 3Comm Park, a marketing change that, to my memory, no one in the Bay Area liked or embraced.

San Franciscans have warmly embraced AT&T Park as the home of the Giants, and they’ll take quickly to the 49ers new home being built down the peninsula in Santa Clara.

The ‘Stick has served San Franciscans well, and it will be missed. Mays and McCovey and Marichal and Montana were in their heyday there, but ultimately, the place will be remembered for its strange weather more than anything else.

 

 

 

 

 

Cardinals and Red Sox in a World Series rematch

Ever since the Indians got knocked out (not to mention the Giants failing to make the playoffs altogether), I have sulked and turned my back on the baseball postseason. Oh, I caught a half inning here of the NLDS, a few outs there of the ALCS. Most mornings I woke up to check for the score of whatever game stretched well past bedtime with incessant late-inning pitching changes.

I tuned out nearly completely.

But the imminent arrival of the Red Sox and Cardinals facing off in the World Series will bring me back, not only to see two fine teams compete but also because of the memories this matchup will stir.

For this 50-something baseball fan, the 1967 series between Boston and St. Louis is usually what comes to mind when I think “World Series.”  (Yes, even ahead of the Amazin’ Mets in 1969 and the Giants finally prevailing in 2010.) I was 11 years old back then, in sixth grade and at the height of my boyhood baseball card collecting.

And, with apologies to the good sisters who taught me at St. Margaret Mary elementary school, Bob Gibson was God. Gibby was seemingly invincible on the mound, and I hung on every pitch appearing in grainy black and white on the Zenith TV in our dining room for whatever innings I could catch after dashing home from school.

A decade later as a college student, I’d visit the home of my roommate in Lowell, Mass., where we’d often find his father in the basement, playing a Red Sox ’67 highlights record album over and over. Even though Boston lost in seven games, for him it was worth reliving that season if only to know how close the Sox had come to ending the Curse of the Bambino.

A World Series is no longer a novelty for modern-day Red Sox fans, nor for a long time has it been for Cardinals fans. I will be tuning in, waiting for Gibson and Yaz and Jim Longborg and Curt Flood and all the others to come walking out of the long shadows.

I’m hoping for a classic.

 

 

 

The Mets honor Mariano, and then defeat him

The New York radio airwaves are abuzz over how the Mets did the improbable last night and scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning off Mariano Rivera to beat the Yankees 2-1.
It was a stunning victory — the second in as many nights at Citi Field — and even more amazin’ because the Metropolitans had honored Rivera at the start of the game and had him throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

While Rivera is unquestionably worthy of all laurels, I found the Mets’ decision to honor him during the Subway Series a curious one.

Rivera is a New York sports icon, but he’s a Yankee. He wears pinstripes. Always has. He has a fistful of World Series rings. He’s the anti-Met.

Would something like this happen elsewhere? I can’t see the Cubs or White Sox honoring anyone from the other Chicago nine, and the Dodgers would never be in the business of honoring Angles (or Giants!).

The Mets’ brass evidently decided honoring Rivera would be a classy move. But that’s where the class ended.

Jeff Wilpon, the Mets’ chief operating officer, told Rivera before the game that he didn’t expect the Mets to make the World Series this year. I don’t care what your team’s record is. You don’t publicly announce that you don’t expect your team to fail, certainly not this early in the season.

Maybe Wilpon was trying to mess with Rivera’s head, to distract him with an honor so that the Mets would force him to blow a save. That, however, would require a bit of baseball acumen at a level totally lacking from Mets leadership the last decade or two.