Wooden's World of Baseball

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spring Training Thoughts

Looking back at my post from this time a year ago, I can see some thoughts on spring training, so here are my takes on the Nationals and Red Sox...

...It's a whole new ballgame in Viera. Last year, the Smiley-gate fiasco hung in the air, with the eventual dismissal of Jim Bowden, who's now become the Michael Scott of GMs, past or present.
Now, it seems like a new attitude is pervading.

...Some of that, of course, is the virtual masturbation excitement surrounding #1 pick Stephen Strasburg who, for better or worse, has become the franchise's savior. I have mixed feelings about the prospect of him pitching in Potomac. Sure, it'll be great to see a blue-chip prospect that's on our team for once, but I'm concerned about having to fight off the crowd that seems certain to be there. That said, my seat is available for sale: asking price $840* per Strasburg start.
* Not coincidentally, the price for my entire season-ticket package

...As always, the Red Sox camp is more boring. Mostly, it's concern about the "distraction" about Mike Lowell, who's a man without a position after the acquisition of Adrian Beltre and is unlikely to split time with David Ortiz at DH. To a lesser extent, this is true of Tim Wakefield, too, but methinks that it's too soon to tell if both Dice-K and Clay Buchholz are healthy and effective.

...I'm liking the idea that defense has become the new on-base percentage. To the uninformed, "Moneyball" was all about that, despite Billy Beane's numerous reminders that it was about finding market inefficiencies — "the closer" is overvalued* for example. It's still amusing how many people still believe that there can only be one "closer," despite mountains of evidence that show historically (read: since 1901) a team with a lead in the 9th inning wins the game 95% of the time.
* My favorite take on this comes from the late Dick Radatz, who essentially said of his bullpen for the North Shore Spirit: Roles? Bullshit. Your job when you're on the mound is to throw strikes. Period. End of discussion.

Some of that "liking" of course comes from a brilliant insight from Joe Posnanski, who I believe is the best sportswriter in the business these days. The "Pozterisk" is his invention (the italics above) and I steal it in the spirit of plagiarism being the most sincere form of flattery. I couldn't find the link, but it's basically that people become fans of the players that are similar to themselves as a player. When I played baseball as a boy, I was a catcher. When I began playing softball in my mid-20s, I soon realized my strengths were hitting to the opposite field and utilizing my speed, which helps me get to more balls than most guys my age. Consequently, I have more of an affinity for catchers and defensive guys that can really run.

...MASN this year is actually going to show eight spring training games for the O's and Nats, all in HD, and none of the games are against each other. Of course, seven of those eight games involve the Red Sox and Yank-mes (the Braves are the outlier). Like most fans, I'll be happier when either MASN is broken up or the Nationals are given a dedicated channel, but it's still encouraging. Some people think that it's a function of their losing that keeps the ratings low, but making folks constantly have to guess which channel it's on cannot help.

...Otherwise, I'm in the best shape of my life

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Loudoun County Team Update

Earlier this week, the folks attempting to bring an Atlantic League team to Loudoun County revealed their finalists for the "Name That Team" contest:

  • Dulles Blue Heron
  • Loudoun Hounds
  • Virginia Silver Stars
My first take?


OK, now for some second takes...

Blue Heron isn't so bad, but the folks who whittled this down seem to forget that there is already a team in the Atlantic League with "Blue" in its name, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. Worst case scenario: Same colors as the Blue Crabs and a ripoff of the old Delmarva Shorebirds logo.

Loudoun Hounds certainly lends itself nicely to a "toyetic" mascot, which works well for selling merchandise. I, for one, stopped by the Carolina Mudcats last spring in part because I liked the logo, too. The woman there told me that 50% of all sales come from the Internet, so I'm not alone. And I could live with this logo being reborn.

Virginia Silver Stars doesn't have the mascot angle, but it does tap into the region's military ties. I think it's a strong contender for that reason, but I worry about tapping the patriotism well. As my friend put it when the Nashua Pride became the American Defenders of New Hampshire, it could be viewed as a means of cashing in on the current wars overseas.

Third take...

Initially, I thought the Silver Stars would be the odds-on favorite. But the more I think of it, the more I believe that the Loudoun Hounds would be the best choice -- there's no color scheme that has to go with it, there'd be a natural mascot angle, and let's face it: The team can run out onto the field with...

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A Small Victory For The Can-Am League

Last fall, things looked rather bleak for the Can-Am League. Brockton was locked out. Nashua was forced out. Six teams is minimum for a league to survive, and the prospect of dropping to four teams so far apart seemed like a death knell.

Then in December, Brockton paid off its bills and reorganized. This was what I was hoping for, and even though they didn't restructure their contract to get out from under the Shaw's Center, one has to hope that they'll focus this offseason on getting that facility filled year-round, like the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs do with events like this.

Yesterday, the other shoe dropped in Pittsfield.

While it's a shame that Holman Stadium, which I've held up as an example of how a great WPA ballpark can be refurbished, will likely lay dormant this summer, this is preferable to the last resort of trying to shoehorn into recently vacated Oneonta. Time will tell if the NECBL will move in to Nashua, which seems to be the pattern over the past five years.

# # #

On a different note, the Potomac Nationals will finally enter the 21st century and install an LED scoreboard, killing my annual joke to nearby spectators that the scoreboard is older than most of the players. It's also an encouraging sign (click here for sound effect) that Art Silber is committed to staying rather than selling, since he paid for this on his own dollar (though I also know these things can be easily dismantled and sold).