Tag Archives: Major League Baseball

Celebrate the baseball solstice (and put a new equinox on your calendar)

Today, Dec. 28, 2017, marks the annual Baseball Solstice. That’s the mid-point day between the last out of the World Series and the first exhibition game or games of Spring Training.

The World Series ended the night of Nov. 1 in Los Angeles, with the Houston Astros defeating the Dodgers. I am still processing the idea of the Astros being the champions of the American League, let alone all of baseball, but I am happy for it nonetheless.

Cactus and Grapefruit league play starts up Feb. 23 in Arizona and Florida, respectively. Note that I do not count a handful of games a few days ahead of that in which various Major League teams will play college teams.

For those newcomers to the Ball Caps Blog, the idea for the Baseball Solstice came to me in a Druidical moment in 2011 balancing the despair of the long winter ahead with the hope of a new baseball season to come.

This year, again looking seeking celestial guidance to get through another long, cold winter, I’ve decided to add the Baseball Equinox — the mid-point between the end of the World Series and the beginning of the regular season on North American soil. For this winter, the equinox will fall on Jan. 14, which is 74 days after the series and 74 days ahead of Opening Day, which will be on March 29.

More than any other sport, baseball represents hope, renewal and the wonder of new possibilities. A happy 2018 to all!

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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.

My Amerian League picks for the 2014 baseball season

These picks and $4.50 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks:

East

1. Boston — Sizemore, win more

2. New York — A close second

3. Tampa Bay — Another “so close” season

4. Baltimore — One of these years, but not 2014

5. Toronto — Still the best team in Canada

Central

1. Detroit — Too much talent

2. Cleveland — Playoffs again, if briefly

3. Kansas City — Better, but not best

4. Chicago — Poor

5. Minnesota — Poorer

West

1. Rangers — Too many bats not to prevail

2. Oakland — All-around strength

3. Los Angeles — Persistent under-achievers

4. Houston — Wild hunch; I may be the only one on the planet not to pick them last

5. Mariners — Sorry and soggy year ahead

I predict the Rangers will make it to the World Series and win the whole shootin’ match, to use Texas phraseology.

This year’s spring training caps are hideous

Let me repeat that headline: This year’s spring training baseball caps are hideous.

As my long blogging layoff will attest, I’ve paid little heed to the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues these past few weeks. So what I saw on a television set in a neighborhood shop a short while ago hit me harder than it might have otherwise. On the tube was a Tigers-Mets game. When I saw the Mets’ caps, I blanched.

From a distance, they look like something for a beer league softball team. On closer inspection, there’s Mr. Met running the bases — in the wrong direction. (Yeah, it’s the Mets, so why should I be surprised?)

I was vaguely aware of the unveiling of these new cap models when they were announced a couple of months back but I didn’t pay attention. After doing a Google search for images of the new caps, I wish I’d skipped the spring altogether.

The white-billed Yankees’ caps may be the worst of the lot. Or maybe it’s the egg-splatter Tampa Bay Rays model. All in all, these caps look like they belong on sale by street vendors in the seedier sections of any number of Rust Belt cities.

I started this blog based on my love of baseball caps, but I have standards. Most of these spring training caps are devoid of artistic merit and devalue the brands of the teams they represent. The teams see this merchandising as a profit center, which is why there’s a continuous stream of new models.

Sorry, MLB. I ain’t buying.

 

 

Hits and misses: The new MLB batting practice caps

The fabulous Uni Watch blog has a great rundown on the new batting practice caps that major league teams will be wearing this year. The design comments by Paul Lukas are excellent, and I give him a tip of the cap for noting the unbalanced use of serifs in the “P” on the Pirates’ cap.

You’d think a guy running the Ball Caps Blog would be an enthusiast for these alternate caps, but I’m not. I see most of the designs as second-rate and cheap, designed primarily to extract even more dollars out of the fans’ pockets.

O Holy Cow: The Baseball Solstice coincides with Christmas

The high priests have looked to the sky and determined that the Baseball Solstice will coincide with Christmas this winter, to be celebrated from sundown on Christmas Eve to sundown Christmas Day.

The Baseball Solstice, noted in this blog a year ago, marks the midpoint of the long layoff in play between the final out of the World Series and the first exhibition game of Spring Training.

Sergio Romo struck out A.L. MVP Miguel Cabrera in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 4 of the series on Oct. 28 to complete a San Francisco sweep of the Detroit Tigers.

The next games between major league opponents begin Feb. 22 in Arizona and Florida.

As fate would have it, that makes the midpoint Dec. 25, the second most holy day in Christendom. (The first is Easter, which coincidentally marks the point at which fans of the Chicago Cubs traditionally abandon hope for the new season.)

It is a bit awkward for baseball’s midwinter ritual to come at Christmas, and we baseball fans mean no disrespect on such a sacred day that many of us will be observing. (We’re also a bit leery that fans in Philadelphia will boo Santa Claus.)

But there’s apt symbolism for the pairing: We baseball fans cherish the sport as one of the greatest gifts we have.

You can mark the days to the start of Cactus and Grapefruit league play on the terrific Countdown to Spring Training site on Facebook.

As for marking the solstice, we encourage all baseball fans to do so in a meaningful, fun way: break out the baseball cards and find your favorite players, get in touch with fellow baseball fans by phone or email or social networking or (and this may sound crazy in this era) around the dining room table. We encourage you to visit the nearest ballpark and look eagerly forward to warm, sunny days on the field or in the stands come spring (or July, if you’re a Brewers fan).

As a Giants fan, I’ll be savoring the memories of the 2012 season. As an Indians fan, I’ll be lighting a few candles. And as a baseball fan overall, I’ll be glad to know that the first cry of “Play Ball” is drawing nigh.

Who’s the more aggrieved Bay Area athlete – Alex Smith or Brian Wilson?

There’s nothing “tender” in the dispensing of major league contracts to baseball players. San Francisco last week declined to offer a contract to Brian Wilson, the fierce and funky closer who in 2010 helped the Giants win their first World Series since the franchise bolted New York for the West Coast.

Wilson has been rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.  He was grounded for the season after two early appearances in 2012, a year in which the Giants would again be champions. Although he wasn’t on the mound after April, he remained a spirited force in the dugout and clubhouse the entire season. His full bearded, goofy antics — playing organ on a teammate’s cap — were an integral part of the Giants’ personality for several seasons.

In the end, that meant bupkis.

Wilson reportedly is angry and ready to sign with another team, and who can blame him?

But is Wilson the most aggrieved athlete in the Bay Area? Consider Alex Smith, the 49ers quarterback who’s been benched after sustaining a concussion and having to watch Colin Kaepernick step in and lead the team to consecutive victories.

Wilson’s arm injury was serious and a second go-round, keeping him out of play essentially for a full season while Sergio Romo eventually took over as closer, was tested for weeks during the season and playoffs and was nearly flawless as the Giants swept the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

Not to diminish the impact of his injury, but Smith suffered a concussion and wasn’t able to play for just two games.

Kaepernick, in his second season, stepped in. He took the snaps in a game when the Rams and 49ers tied, then performed phenomenally as the 49ers stomped the Bears on Monday Night Football. He did well again last weekend against the Saints.

It’s Coach Jim Harbaugh’s call to make, but I think he owes Smith better treatment.

Under Harbaugh’s direction, Smith emerged as an excellent quarterback in the 2011 season, taking the team to the NFC championship game. The game was lost in overtime when an inexperienced 49ers player botched a punt return in overtime; the Giants got the ball and kicked the winning field goal.

The 49ers have treated Smith shabbily over the years, and demoting him is just another kick in the pants. I actually think he’s getting a rawer deal than Wilson is. Wilson’s situation evolved; Smith’s changed suddenly.

Either way, I wish both players nothing but success in 2013, when they’ll both be wearing new uniforms.