Let It Bleed, Bud

Good PR move, Bud Selig. And bless the fans in Chicago.

Bud has flung out suspensions for a dozen players who cheated the game, but he leaves Alex Rodriguez on the field to represent the absolute worst in baseball for the rest of the season.

Crisis management 101 — get everything out and get it behind you. Don’t let a wound slowly bleed.

A-Rod deserves to buried up to his nose in a vat of mustard for the rest of the season and the rest of his career — see how long his testosterone lasts treading mustard.

Baseball is busy congratulating itself for being tough on cheaters. Right. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who somehow missed that players like Bonds and Clemens and Sosa and McGwire were juicing and ruining the game’s grace and history and spirit, is trying to reclaim his reputation by being tough on the current crop of cheaters. Dozens of players have spoken out saying they’re tired of the cheaters winning pennants and MVP awards and lifetime records while honest players plug along. Fans are sick of it. Every exciting performance by a new home-run hitter or mow-em-down pitcher comes with the question — is he juicing?

Selig could have bounced A-Rod for life. Could have bounced him for the rest of this season and next, not letting him play while he appealed. But, apparently fearing a lawsuit or trouble with the union, Selig took the easiest way out and gave a suspension that allows the arrogant sniveling thief to still play, likely for the rest of the season, while a slow appeals process drips on.

You thought a lawsuit or union troubles would be bad for the game, Bud? How about the spectre of one of the most dishonest disgusting disingenuous hypocritical greedy bastards to ever pull on a jockstrap slouching into stadium after stadium modeling how well cheating works from now until October? How good is that for baseball?

Our only hope is that what the fans in Chicago started Monday, when they riotously booed every step Rodriguez took out of the dugout, will continue for every inning of every game the lying crook plays the rest of the season. Let’s take it upon ourselves to shame this creep under a rock.

Reach in your suit pants and find a pair, bud. Rid the game of this shameful imposter.

Or watch the great American game bleed to death. On your watch.

My brother David and I have watched Class A minor-league games the last two nights in gorgeous little ballparks in Iowa. Baseball remains a beautiful and amazingly difficult game to play. But when cheaters are chemically inflating their performances, there’s nothing on that field of dreams that we can trust. So we’ll turn away.

Unless you stop the bleeding.

— Bruce Benidt
(Image from epicurious.com)

Baseball In The Dome

Manic joyous crowd screaming and leaping and jabbing fists in the air. The cheers echoing off the Dome. I’m yelling “That’s just not possible.”

Metrodome ’87 or ’91? No, Tropicana Field on Tampa Bay last night. Lisa and I saw a baseball game any fan would go coronary over (and anyone who despises the Yankees, as I do, felt an extra moral pitterpat).

I think it’s in the Magna Carta and the UN Charter that one shouldn’t leave a baseball game early. Half the fans did. We did not. OMG.

As the Rays ($41-million payroll) came back from 7-0 against the CorporateYankees ($161-million payroll) I hit the decibel meter on my iPhone (yes of course there’s an app) and the cheers rolled between 90 and 100 dB. My memory of the 1987 World Series in the Metrodome is that the sound meter we borrowed (I was a reporter and my then-wife Sharon and friend John took turns reading the meter in the left field stands at peak moments) from the MPCA neared 130 dB on Kent Hrbek’s home run — that’s about the sound of a 737 landing on a speeding freight train in your back yard. The Trop rocked last night, but my eardrums didn’t vibrate out of phase as if they’d shred like torn sails in a hurricane as they did in the Dome in ’87. Remember how that felt? Literally your eardrums were thrumming like the blade of grass some kids can put between their thumbs and whistle through.

Tropicana Field is smaller than the Metrodome — ranges from 38,000 to 45,000 capacity, depending on what seats are covered with tarps — to begin with and the crowd was only 30,000 last night at high tide. By the time there was something to cheer about the stands were thin as a Pawlenty rally. Too bad. What a game.

Indoor baseball. Gotta have it down here — it was 91 yesterday (sorry, Minneapolis friends) and a bit steamy. July outdoor games here would need coroners more than umpires. Tropicana field is dissed by fans and sportscasters around the country. But those folks forget what baseball was like in the Metrodome. Except for the thunderclap cheering, the Dome (the Hump, the Dump) was an awful baseball stadium. The Trop is not awful. It’s small. Intimate. Good sight lines. Built for baseball. In a weird way, it’s cozier than Target Field. Really. It’s a decent place to see baseball.

The team, of course, wants a new stadium. This one is stuck down on the St. Petersburg peninsula, a bit hard to get to. Fan support here has been lousy — is it the stadium? The Rays have been a wonderful baseball team for several years, but the ballpark is seldom even half full. Almost half the fans last night were (shudder) Yankee fans. The Yankees’ spring training home is here, and George Steinbrenner was revered here (he bought favor, as any felon would, by funding hospitals and kids’ causes here — this hustler whose philosophy “winning is everything, win at any cost, buy what you don’t have the character to grow” should be shunned not celebrated), so it makes sense the place would be infested with pin-stripe fans. Even, under Christians’ pressure, taking the word “Devil” out of the team’s original name “Devil Rays” (for the huge majestic Manta Rays that sail in the Gulf of Mexico) didn’t improve attendance.

It’s a nice little ballpark and a fine team. Home-town Tampa product Matt Joyce stuck a three-run homer in the Yankees’ eye Tuesday night, and Evan Longoria, the Ray’s marquee player, homered twice last night to dispatch the forces of evil, the game-winner barely clearing the lowest part of the fence in the left-field corner, 315 feet down the line. Dan Johnson, two outs, two strikes, bottom of the ninth, down one run, homered to the right-field corner (322 feet, the ball barely out, barely fair) to tie the game. As hundreds of us stood near the field after the game, Johnson being interviewed was told people in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, were dancing in the street — Minnesota boy.

Watch these Rays. September Rays baseball was heavenly. Last night was ridiculously fun. There could be more. Twins fans — these Rays play the way Minnesota has until this year. Adopt a Ray.

— Bruce Benidt

Confession of a Bandwagon Fan

I mostly subscribe to the adage “a bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day anyplace else.” And I have been known to get too wrapped up in sports. For instance, I spent some quality time getting ulcer treatment at the George Washington University Hospital ER after Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

But I have a confession to make. Bless me, Father Gardenhire, for I have sinned. Please don’t tell the fellas I share season tickets with, but I’m not watching the Twins games much these days. I also haven’t been watching much of the slumping Wolves, Wild or Gophers. I must admit, I’ve evolved into what I once loathed – a bandwagon fan.

The face paintin’, tail gatin’, trash talkin’, blog readin’ Real Fans despise bandwagon fans. They view switching the channel to a movie while your team is getting thrashed as akin to cheating on your terminally ill spouse. The look Real Fans give you when you leave in the 8th inning with your team seven runs behind is the same look of contempt chicken hawks give flag burners. Real Fans call into sports talk radio shows to admonish bandwagoners to “man up!” They do what loyal fans do, stay and heckle your beloved team mercilessly!

Continue reading “Confession of a Bandwagon Fan”

Show, don’t tell

To hell with you, snow. The boys of summer are just around the corner.

Pitchers and catchers report in just two days, and the Twins’ home opener at glorious Target Field is less than two months away. Save your jokes about the potential for snow on opening day; if you think a little dusting is going to ruin this, you’re not fit to be Minnesotan.

And in that spirit, I’ll share this great piece of sports journalism with anyone who cares. Yes, its centered on one of my lost true loves, former Twins ace and future Hall of Famer Johan Santana. Yes, that he’s no longer kicking off the Twins’ starting rotation depresses and angers me. And yes (batten down the hatches!), I’m pretty sure I’d trade Mauer for Santana — straight up. But that’s probably an emotional trade, not a logical one.

On to the journalism.

A reporter for the New York Daily News spent a day with Johan, playing catcher for the ace in a simulated mow-down of the heart of the Philadelphia Phillies lineup.

“I like to visualize because I always want to picture something,” he said. “It’s never just throwing.”

With that in mind, Chris Correnti, the Mets’ conditioning coach working with Santana, places a wooden silhouette of a hitter in the righthanded batter’s box and says, “Victorino up first.”

And with that I’m suddenly thinking about trying to get Shane Victorino out, putting down fingers, calling for a fastball away, a changeup, a backdoor slider and an absolutely killer changeup for strike three.

Easy enough. Same for Rollins. Santana hits his spots, always on or just off the corner, in or out. Of the 40 or so pitches he threw, in fact, only one pitch leaked into the middle of the plate, and that brought a grunt of disgust from the lefty.

Rollins goes down on a 1-2 fastball on the inside corner, and Correnti moves the silhouette to the left side to simulate Chase Utley. This time Santana just misses the corners enough to walk Utley, to another grunt of disgust, and so now I’m envisioning Ryan Howard’s hulking frame in the lefty box.

Santana throws a fastball on the outside corner, a changeup down, and then, as promised, bounces a slider just off the outside corner that caroms off my arm, 15 feet away to my left.

I scramble to retrieve the ball, happy that I got a piece of it, not realizing until I turn to throw that Santana is staring me down.

“Utley’s at second,” he says. “What’d you think, I was going to throw (Howard) a cookie there? Now I’m in a tough spot.”

I know he’s kidding. Isn’t he? No smile this time. Santana is in work mode. He takes these simulated games seriously because he takes a thinking man’s approach with each hitter, watching the swings they take, trying to decide when they might be sitting on his changeup.

You get more than a sense for how great the pitcher is or how much his fastball stings. You see his jovial side. You see his ferocity. You see his utter joy at returning to his delivery of old, now that those pesky bone chips have been banished from his elbow.

A good writing teacher will always remind the student, “Show, don’t tell.” John Harper doesn’t tell us Johan is one of the most dominant pitchers the game has seen in years. He doesn’t need to.

[photo via NY Daily News]

The Paul: Go Vikes!

Oh, the Saints. St. Paul’s minor-league baseball team knows a thing or two about clever, humorous, opportunistic promotions. Among their best recently was a giveaway of 2,500 “bobblefoot” dolls, ostensibly as a nod to National Tap Dance Day but clearly a jab at former Senator Larry Craig.

Allow me to share some news from a recent alert from the team:

In support of a movement begun by KFAN’s morning show, the Power Trip, the minor league baseball team that plays its home games at Midway Stadium will remove the “S” word from both the beginning and end of its name and will be known simply as “The Paul” through Sunday. The Minnesota Vikings are in the midst of a run to the NFC Championship Game, and The Paul wouldn’t dare utter the name of this week’s opponent.

On Tuesday morning The Paul’s Executive Vice President Tom Whaley appeared on KFAN’s morning show, The Power Trip, with The Superstar Mike Morris, Chris Hawkey and Cory Cove. Whaley was asked by the trio to become the first in a long line of companies, cities and more to remove the “S” word from their name. Not only did Whaley agree to support the effort, but he and the club have also decided to incorporate the name change during their 2010 season.

KFAN called us Tuesday with an idea that was perfect,” said Executive Vice President Tom Whaley. “We’re thrilled they would think of us first. When you think about it, there are a lot of folks they could’ve called first: John, Thomas, Kate, Ben and Scholastica to name a few.”

The club will don jersey’s with the name “The Paul” across its chest during a regular season game in 2010. The team will align itself with other organizations with the “S” word in its name with a night full of fun for which The Paul is known.

For more information, contact “The Paul’” at 651-644-6659 or visit the website that has appeared in every previous press release by the team.

Michael Rand of the Star Tribune says it all: “It’s a shameless publicity grab, but as usual, it has worked for the St. Paul Saints … or should we say ‘The Paul.’ “

Our Streak of Consecutive Political Posts Ends at 78

Had to happen sometime.

So here we go. A gentleman named Paul Lukas runs a blog called Uni Watch, which he describes as “a media project that deconstructs the finer points of sports uniforms in obsessive and excruciating detail…. [F]or those who understand the pleasures of detail obsession, programmatic classificatmlb-logoion systems, information overload, and sports history, you’ve come to the right place.”

In a piece he contributes to ESPN.com, Lukas today considers the Major League Baseball logo, which just turned 40. If you like baseball, history, logo design and controversies (I’m 3 for 4), you’ll enjoy this.

An excerpt, in which Lukas interviews the guy, now 76,  who designed it in 1968:

UW: Did Major League Baseball accept the logo pretty much as you designed it, or did they ask you to make adjustments?

JD: Nope, no adjustments. I cleaned it up and that was it.

UW: What do you mean “cleaned it up”?

JD: You tighten it up so it can be reproduced. What I had originally created was just a Magic Marker sketch.

UW [incredulous again]: The original version that you created in one afternoon, and that was presented to Major League Baseball, was rendered in Magic Marker?

JD: Right.

Read the whole thing here.

Thanks to my pal Peter for the tip.

[Image credit: Major League Baseball] state tax help nice