Saturday, May 30, 2015

2015 NBA Finals Preview

Danville, Kentucky- Two days before the 71st anniversary of 20,000 men storming the beaches of Northern France to liberate a people from the horrors of Nazi occupation, the most intriguing NBA finals in history begins.

LeBron James leads the Cavaliers. LeBron's a kid from Northeast Ohio and an Olympic Gold winner in Beijing and London. At his best, he's a kid from Northeast Ohio and Olympic Gold winner in Beijing and London. At his worst, he's a kid from Northeast Ohio and Olympic Gold winner in Beijing and London. Like a Fiddler on the Roof, LeBron James is playing some great music.

LeBron's journey hasn't gone as planned. Kevin Love's last moments as a Cav might be in a cast, and LeBron's dream of mentoring Dion Waiters gave way to J.R. "BOFA" Smith and Iman Shumpert. These gentlemen found out a truth not experienced since a foray by Liz Lemon, Cleveland might be a mistake on a lake, but that mistake is better than anything you'll find in the five Burroughs (for those that forgot Liz was just mad at her man in the GIF, she still loved Cleveland).

On the other side, the son of an NBA star makes me want to believe in something again. Truth be told folks, the lies of so many winters have led to a doctor's honest evaluation that I have serious liver damage. This diagnosis has left me fearful that I'll never see a shooter like Reggie Miller or Alex "80's man" English.

Enter Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Both of these kids should have had it easy. Steph's dad, Dell Curry, made it rain, while Klay's Pop's, Michael Thompson, was a player so great I'd often shout at my son that he'll never invent a player in "NBA Jams" as good as Michael Thompson. Yet, the promise of the 1% didn't lead to an easy basketball life. Virginia "NIT" Tech bypassed a scholarship offer for Steph, while Klay was relegated to the Washington State University. A weaker man, like myself, would have revolted against the nerds declaration their age 15 adjusted plus/minus ruled them out from ever being good. However, these players were what you actually need to be to be good players: good players.

The Warriors are more than a two man show. Harrison Barnes achieved the dream of everyone from Iowa and got out of the state. Now, Harrison rains 3's and does what I do when the bar pushes it a little past two, and fights bigger men. Andrew Bogut protects the rim like, well let's just say there's a joke about Castro street in there, folks.

And then there's Draymond Green. Like the height on my driver's license, Draymond lists himself as taller than he actually is. While the sheet says Dramond is 6'7, a trained basketball man like myself knows he's 6'2 on a good day. Despite his limited height, Draymond has a heart big enough to make Rudy apologize. Draymond makes 3's and battles PF's. He moves well against PG's and dunks on centers.

The true beauty of this series is that both teams have nothing to do with analytics. The Cavaliers are built around the traditional idea that you should try and get the best player. Nerds, like the 76ers, think the best way to win is to trade the rookie of the year. Folks, the Cavaliers didn't trade rookie of the year LeBron James. LeBron's a smart guy. He remembered that and decided to come home. Likewise, the Warriors are succeeding with a former player as coach in Steve Kerr. These are true basketball franchises, not excel sheets calculating at a p value of less than .01 what the statistics say matters.

The Warriors challenge will be resisting the urge to take too many 3's. Now, folks, I don't like the 3 point line. When I played, we didn't have some arbitrary line where different points were awarded. Instead, we just had things that made sense like a free throw line. At their best, the Warriors dunk and focus on good 2 point shots. At their worst, they fling a million 3's and risk death by the 3. Sometimes the worst thing to give a kid is a fast car. Sure, a fast car is awesome and will probably make the kid even cooler, but the kid will probably use the car wrong and drive like a little boy, afraid that speeding will cost him via a ticket. Likewise, the Warriors need to understand they have a fast car: their ability to make 2's. Instead, they risk becoming weak little boys and attempting 3's. Use the fast car Golden State, shoot some 2's.

The Cavaliers challenge will be avoiding the weight of 51 years. Cleveland has not won a title in a real sport since American wrongly selected Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater (not to be confused with my basset hound who is also named Barry Goldwater). LeBron and the Cavs need to address this mistake at some point. Johnson nearly ruined this country and Goldwater was my favorite candidate of all-time. LeBron and J.R. don't have an easy task, but sometimes we're given tasks we think are beyond ourselves to find out we can go beyond our self.

Image result for lil b james harden

However, there might be an additional curse. Lil B hasn't picked sides in this finals. After the Cavs celebration from thrashing the birds of Atlanta, Lil B responded in anger to the Cavs not crediting him for his dance, similar to what happened with James Harden. I'm not a Nylon Calculus guy, aka, I've watched a game this year, so I understand just how bad Lil B's curses can be. Some have incorrectly claimed Lil B has cursed the Cavs, but in reality, Lil B made up with the Cavs after some more heroics from Iman Shumpert. Folks, that may go down as the best trade since Daryl Morey robbed another nerd of James Harden. Ultimately, Lil B will have to pick sides, and whatever side he doesn't pick will hope his powerful curse remains away.

Don't discount home court. Oakland is a terrifying place. My brother once faced the horrors of a series of robberies in Oakland. The State of California claimed that he was the robber, and after 5 minutes of deliberation, the jury agreed. Luckily, my brother's job applications use the passive voice to hide his misdeeds. Cleveland won't be able to rely on the passive voice in Oakland. They will have to look deep and remember those days in Northeast Ohio or the pain of playing for the faltering Knicks to overcome the Warrior's passionate fans.

Image result for war of 1812

Another key factor is Cleveland's grit and hustle, or as I call it, gristle on the offensive glass. Tristan Thompson is the best thing to come out of Canada since our boys failed to conquer that wasteland following the horrors of 1812. Thompson has a knack for boxing out. He doesn't ball watch. He doesn't say, "Can't someone else do it." He's a blue collar man with a white collar paycheck coming this summer, but before that, he's a man that will look to change the series by giving Cleveland one second chance. 

The Warriors also need to keep their bench happy. Sometimes, like when I order 3 appetizers and 2 entrees at the Lexington Chili's, you can have too much of a good thing. David Lee has unbelievable veteran presence of mind, yet he's relegated to the bench. I understand why Steve Kerr is doing this, the Warriors have been great and Steve "Maximums" Kerr is a multi-time NBA champion, so I'm not going to question someone that's stood in the arena. Yet, sometimes the unsinkable ship sinks because there are too many rich people trying to get on a life boat, like in my second wife's second favorite movie, and my favorite movie, Titanic. In the Warrior's case, David Lee may not stay passive if Maurice Speights returns looking for minutes. Shaun Livingstone might balk if Kerr tries to play Curry more minutes in this series. Folks, hungry bears like to eat, and Steve Kerr will have a challenge ensuring they all get enough time to eat.

David Blatt's been ready to accept the challenge all year. Yes, mistakes were made when the last shot was not heading LeBron's way in game 4 of the Bulls series. However, unlike Bobby Petrino and his refusal to acknowledge that he snubbed me outside of a K-Mart when I confronted him at a Walmart, Blatt accepted his mistake. Blatt let LeBron decide he'd take the last shot, and for those of you that forgot, LeBron made that sucker. Blatt's willingness to have all of his idea squashed is important. When you're sitting on a plane next to a couple of monsters, you want to be a little guy. Blatt's been the perfect little guy for this team.

Furthermore, let's not discount the Cavaliers wonderful assistant coaches. The Cavaliers have my two favorite assistant coaches in Larry Drew and Tyronn Lue. I used to watch Kansas City high school basketball, and next to JaRon Rush, these were the two best players I ever saw(though I never got to witness Alec Burks getting buckets). The Hawks were decimated in the Eastern Conference finals when they relied on analytics and not the smooth hand of a basketball man from the heartland. Tyronn Lue also saved the Cavs in game 4 by pulling David Blatt back from calling a timeout he didn't have left. Don't discount these men in key situations.

Also, don't discount two wonderful Warriors assistants: Luke Walton and Alvin Gentry. Luke Walton's dad is Bill Walton, one of the best players ever. If the Warriors get in a bind during the series, Luke can call up his pops and get a timely bailout, unlike my father's refusal to engage in bailout related matters during my brother's run of currency manipulation, yet that's a story for another time. Then, there's Alvin Gentry. Unlike the hippies that waste their time painting garbage on the sidewalk, Alvin Gentry painted a masterpiece with the Phoenix Suns. The Suns were ungrateful morons and fired the man. Now, Alvin Gentry is the lead assistant and designing some beautiful sets for Golden State.

Let's also not discount the Klay Thompson injury. Klay Thompson has a concussion. Klay is a winner and came back in game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. Klay isn't worried about his long-term brain damage, he's worried about delivering some long-term brain damage on the fragile psyche of Cavaliers fans. Yet, Klay doesn't get to decide he can play. Instead, the regulatory state that is the National Basketball Association has a stupid concussion protocol. If I wanted to watch a sissy game where men couldn't fight for the ball out of concussion fears, I'd watch the NFL.

Kyrie Irving is injured, but doctor's can't stop a man with ankle pain from playing. Look for Kyrie to continue to get buckets.

Let's turn to how each game shakes out:

Game 1:
The Warriors get the victory. LeBron has a nice game, but J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert go cold, as the Warriors pull out a win.

Game 2: Klay Thompson starts feeling a little wobbly, and J.R. Smith reminds the world he's the best sixth man outside of a wedding with too many groomsmen. The Cavs shock the world and steal a game in Oakland.

Game 3: The Warriors storm back and find a way to win. Never doubt the resolve of Steph Curry and Alvin Gentry's magic.

Game 4: Home Court becomes too much. LeBron James is inspired and reminds Delly what the game means to him. A cold game by Steph Curry hurts the Warriors, as the series goes to 2-2.

Game 5: The Warriors strike back. Andre Iguadola tells the world the nerdgasm that is the 76ers made a horrendous mistake in trading him. Iggy is unleashed, and the Warriors blow out the Cavs.

Game 6: Cleveland calls up Memphis and borrows the title "Grind House" for the night as they barely edge the Warriors in game 6. Look for a brutal shooting night from both clubs, and a few key plays by Tristan Thompson down the stretch.

Game 7: A man impersonating Morgan Freeman, reading a letter from LeBron James as told to SI's Lee Jenkins once said:  "In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given, everything is earned. You work for what you have. I'm ready to accept the challenge, I'm coming home." Those words unleashed a thousand stories and changed the fate of a billion dollar game. Many stories in life have terrible endings, like my second marriage, my decision to buy a Toyota in 1987, or NAFTA. Yet, sometimes we remember why we fight through the pain that could lead to another NAFTA or Lyndon Johnson, and it's because some things are worth fighting for, Mr. Frodo. One of those things is home. LeBron said he was coming home last summer, but this summer, he's coming home a champion. After game 7 and a long-deserved parade, the fine folks of Northeast Ohio will celebrate a feeling they haven't felt in so long, not so long from now. The Cavs will take game 7, and we'll be left wondering after Bill Russell, if LeBron is the best player of all-time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen, your 1st Place Minnesota Twins

Danville, Kentucky – This past weekend, on my way back from visiting Kansas City, I found myself in a familiar situation: behind the wheels of my ’69 Ford, with the open road ahead of me and open bottles of alcohol all around me, due to the lax regulations governing open alcohol containers in the great state of Missouri. After about 7 hours of traversing the vast nothingness of the Mid West on my way back to the even greater state of Kentucky, I pulled into a truck-stop Arby’s reeking like Limearitas, feeling a sort of serenity that nerds strive for but never acquire. I was at peace with the world; a classic Beef & Cheddar sandwich in my hand, dripping grease and cheese on my Brayan Pena shirsey, surrounded by folks wearing camouflage and shirts they bought at the 1984 Ted Nugent tour. Everything was in its right place.

After discarding the remains of my Curly Fries and Horsey Sauce, I wiped my glistening fingers on my shirt and proceeded to utilize this Kentucky truck-stop’s showering facilities. As the hot water washed away the smell of cigarettes, Limearita, and roast beef, I thought only of returning home to my lovely abode in Danville, where I would sit on my favorite chair on my front porch with the Cincinnati Reds game on the radio, and my loyal companion Barry Goldwater by my side.

I am an utterly predictable man. I love chain restaurants and hate math; always have, always will. I’ve been a Reds fan since I first saw Jimmy Maloney pitch in 1966, and haven’t wavered since. On most summer afternoons you can find me either on the porch with the dog, or knocking back appetizer after appetizer at the Chili’s in Lexington. I’ve been married four times, and divorced four times, with all four marriages and divorces featuring the same, predictable plotline involving my wives trying to pressure my sons into learning Common Core, or whatever they call it.

Perhaps it is because I’m such a predictable man that I am drawn to baseball, which tends to be an unpredictable game. As I write this, the Cinderella story Minnesota Twins just conquered old game-163 nemesis Rick Porcello and the Boston Red Sox to claim a spot atop the AL Central in a first-place tie with the powerhouse, AL Champion Kansas City Royals. The Twins and Royals are currently a game ahead of the Detroit Tigers and 7 games ahead of the pre-season nerd favorites, the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox.

You really can’t exaggerate just how badly the so-called “experts” counted out the Twins. Just about every pre-season projection or prediction described the AL Central as a hotly contested, four-way battle, with the lowly Twins always on the outside looking in, like me as I make my annual pilgrimage to revisit the Kentucky farmhouse where my senior prom-date showed me true love and true heartbreak, robbing me of my child-like innocence. In the pre-season analysis of nerds like Jonah Keri, the Twins were always occupying the #5 spot in the AL Central, consigned to irrelevance and “rebuilding.”

Yet here we are, almost two months into the season, and the Twinkies have made the “experts” look about as foolish as myself that one time my third wife caught me weeping while watching The Rookie. However, the Twins did not catch me off guard. I knew this team would compete for a playoff spot. They are clearly a better team than the Indians or White Sox at this point. In fact, had the Twins not gone 2-7 vs. the Tigers thus far, they could very well have a comfortable first place lead in the AL Central.
Torii Going Yard on the AL Central Favorite Indians
What, you might ask, has made the Twins so good that the nerds failed to see? Several things:

1) Their starting rotation is stacked top to bottom with aces like Mike Pelfrey, Kyle Gibson, and Ricky Nolasco. Just the type of guys you’d want taking the mound for you in October.

2) Their closer, the wily veteran Glen Perkins, has the most saves in the league (18). Perkins has been more lights out than Pakistan during a fuel shortage.

3) They’re going completely bonkers in the early innings, scoring runs at a far greater clip than the average MLB team. This is a team that ambushes starters to knock in a few runs early, then confidently coasts to the finish line, giving their pitching staff more breathing room than those fancy movie theaters with luxury seating that serve food and alcohol, which I can’t afford since losing my job at the GM plant because of NAFTA. The team is among the most entertaining in baseball, especially when Torii graces the crowd with a signature old-man bat flip.

4) Above all else, the Twins have won because they’ve played like a team, not a stat-line. Pre-season projections love to focus on things you can quantify: the OBP of new position players, the xFIP of the probable rotation, and Pythagorean win expectancies. More often than not, they totally ignore the human element. When the Twins announced the signing of Torii Hunter, most “experts” rolled their eyes and chalked the move up to nostalgia for the glory days of the Twins AL Central reign earlier this millennium. Yet, the immortal and ageless Torii now stands tall with 7 HRs and 27 RBIs, super-charging the Twin’s offense like the 5-hour energy & Bourbon cocktail I drink every morning before taking Barry Goldwater on the walk and grabbing the newspaper.

However, looking at Hunter’s HRs and RBIs still wouldn’t tell the full story of his value to this team. Like I said he would, Torii has taught these boys how to compete and brought a winning culture back to Minneapolis. Nerds looked at the Twins roster and predicted a 5th place team, but looking at slash-lines without any context tells you very little about how a team will play on the field. These players are human beings; a veteran leader in the clubhouse can motivate flesh-and-blood players to out-perform their STEAMER projections, nerds be damned. Having Hunter on the team is the equivalent of having three managers, in addition to Paul Molitor and fellow player-manager and veteran, the mighty Joe Mauer. There simply isn’t a better environment for developing the young talent of this Minnesotan squad.

However, they still have a long way to go. To keep their playoff dreams alive, the Twins will have to best the division’s heavyweights, Detroit and Kansas City. The situation reminds me of a similar upstart Minnesota team that battled a Royals team led by Carlos Beltran in 2003. While Beltran hasn’t come home, having recently raked against his former team this past weekend in New York Yankees pinstripes, Hunter has come home and will now be tasked to lead his Twins past the Royals and the Tigers, another team he once cried and bled and fought for. The difficulty of Minnesota’s goal cannot be understated: unlike 2003, this year’s Royals have more than just former rookie of the year Beltran – they have a pennant. And, the last time Detroit didn’t win the division (2010), the Doritos Locos Taco was just a dream waiting to be realized by the master culinary artists at Yum! Foods.

I’m merely a humble man from Danville and have no idea what will happen next, but the Twins have already proven the Jonah Keris of the world wrong. Things will really get interesting if Ervin Santana solidifies the starting rotation, and if young talent like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are called up. If and when these game-changing moves occur, the Twins could very well leave the rest of the division in the dust, like I leave my troubled past in the dust every time a certain truck-stop Arby’s becomes smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirror of my ’69 Ford while I voyage across the Mid West.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Profiles in Yardage: TWTW's Preview of Tigers @ Athletics on Memorial Day

The Return of the Cespedes

Danville, Kentucky – These are dark times for the Cincinnati Reds. As I write this, the Red Legs are in the midst of an eight game losing streak, ushering in the darkest days the Lexington Chili’s has ever seen. The formerly ebullient atmosphere there now feels more like a funeral parlor than a family-oriented and affordable Tex-Mex experience. Like my third marriage, I was never optimistic about this year’s Reds team, but that won’t keep me from watching the games. Baseball is a game where endurance and perseverance are rewarded, and hope remains for my Reds, and all baseball teams, as long as the teammates hold true to each other.

Yoenis Cespedes is no stranger to the arduous ups and downs of the six-month long marathon that is the baseball season. Upon returning to the Coliseum for the first time since being traded at the deadline last summer, the 5' 10" Cuban sensation will experience a range of mixed emotions; like me as I roll-back the footage of my ’72 no-hitter, as is tradition in my house-hold every Thursday night. In a stadium that is (unfairly) most well-known for its prodigious plumbing issues, Yo will fondly recall dingers and outfield assists fired through the Bay Area breeze like bullets blasted through the barrel of an intoxicated east Kentucky woodsmen’s shotgun.

Unlike Yoenis, Athletics fans will also recall the bad times; the strikeouts swinging at pitches in the dirt, the wacky routes that made those displays of arm power necessary, and perennial disappointment in the playoffs, usually at the hands of one Justin Verlander.

But memories are memories, and the ability of baseball players to turn the page and forget about yesterday is second only to my own capacity for turning over a new leaf, a person who has constantly reinvented himself after each divorce and after each ban from a casual dining restaurant. Yoenis has a new team now, one where he feels a clubhouse chemistry he never achieved in Oakland, where he always felt like something of an outsider in the midst of bearded white dudes with great OBP’s. Amongst the Detroit Tigers, Yoenis feels at home, with fellow Cuban Jose Iglesias, and Latin phenoms Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez to pass the time with in the clubhouse and on plane rides.

The road that took Yoenis to Detroit was winding, and featured an unexpected detour to the Boston Red Sox. Yoenis did enjoy his time as an Oakland Athletic, feeling confused to have been traded to an irrelevant team for a player who would take the field once every five days. Yoenis has taken no satisfaction from the struggles of the Oakland Athletics since his departure. Yoenis is not a man that dwells on the past, or numbers. He doesn’t look at box scores, and he doesn’t pay attention to division standings, where the Tigers currently sit three games behind the powerhouse Kansas City Royals. Yoenis hates drawing walks like my second-wife hated my drinking and my war-stories about the glory days of baseball at Danville High; intensely and passionately. When he’s at the plate, he’s not thinking about OBP, OPS, or WRC+. He thinks about his bat, and hitting balls hard with it, with a single-minded determination matched only by the focus I exert when eating two full-orders of Chili’s baby-back ribs in one sitting; another weekly tradition of mine that costs me about $40 a pop.

To the delight of Bay Area baseball fans, Monday afternoon’s Memorial Day showdown will feature some vintage Cespedes. He will strike out twice on breaking balls that bounce up to home plate. He will make a spectacular running catch to rob a base hit, with his gargantuan silver medallion bearing the number “52” swinging majestically across his strapping chest. He will also remind the world why he was given the name La Potencia, Spanish for “the Power,” as he spanks a screaming line drive that drops in for a double while Billy Butler looks on helplessly in astonishment. Justin Verlander will be uncharacteristically quiet in the dugout during this series, as the former MVP/Cy Young half-watches the game while his mind wanders to the simulated game he will throw while visiting the city he dominated only two Octobers ago. Yoenis is a man who lives in the present, but Verlander is a man whose past is always with him, motivating him to rage against the inevitable passage of time and once again scale the mountain of pitching excellence to carry this Tigers team to glory and immortality.

Back at the hotel, La Potencia will socialize in Cabrera’s room, ordering Tequila and a peppery grilled pork tenderloin from room service, whose smoky flavor will conjure nostalgia for a certain back-yard family barbecue.

La Potencia, with powerful emotions swelling in his chest like a sweeping crescendo played at the Danville Philharmonic Orchestra, will feel a sudden urge to embrace his teammate and leader, Miguel Cabrera. Yoenis is a man who lives in the present, but is always looking at the horizon towards what lies ahead. What the future holds remains unclear; though he has formed deep bonds of fellowship in his new environment, his impending free agency promises to sow uncertainty where once was stability and predictability.

Meanwhile, in an un-disclosed location, Billy Beane will pour himself the stiffest drink Moneyball can buy, pondering the very metrics and statistics that La Potencia mentally occludes from his psyche.

Though baseball is a game marked by gradual evolution, some things never change. Cespedes will hit dingers and chase pitches, while Beane makes spreadsheets and calculates two-dimensional marginal distributions on his trusty TI-83+. In Danville, we will eat ribs and drink Kentucky Deluxe, as the Earth spins and time inexorably advances. In spite of his lack of plate discipline and his sometimes shaky OBP, intelligent and statistically-oriented Athletics fans will watch this series and yearn for the days when Cespedes sported green and yellow. All they can do now is hope that Tigers fans appreciate and savor this exciting, rare, and unique talent while they can.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

My First Kauffman Trip in 30 Years

Kansas City, Missouri- For the first time since George Brett and Frank White exchanged championship rings alongside Dick Howser, I entered Kauffman Stadium. 

My last 30 years have largely mirrored the Royals. As unqualified men manned the fields of Major League ballparks under the guise of a Royals uniform, I was an unqualified man roaming a series of jobs. The Royals had Betancourt at short, while the Walmart had me in the auto repair shop. Moreover, Kansas City kept Dan Reichert in the rotation for more days than the State of Kentucky took to realize I was unqualified to practice Dentistry. 

Yet, sometimes an old man realizes that it's time to return. I was enthralled watching my Reds play the Royals and knew that the beauty along I-70 could best be appreciated in person. Therefore, on Friday night I made the decision to head into my '69 Ford and begin a journey I once made so often so long ago. 

The simplicity of the road is frequently the best way to find yourself. On the way to America's easternmost Western city, I thought a lot about what this new team had. It has Yordano Ventura- a pitcher that can throw 100 and isn't afraid to fight. It has a pitcher in Luke Hochaver who refused to listen to the stat nerds that said his fly-ball rate implied he'd never be a successful pitcher, and a centerfielder in Lorenzo Cain who teaches people it’s never too late to find your place in life. 

Kansas City is an unusual place that represents America's difficult past. It's a city many people believe is in another state. It's a city where many of its best team's weren't allowed to play against what the country believed were the best teams of an era because of the color of its participants skin. And, it's a city that faced horrific floods in the 90's and political corruption mixed with organized crime. 

Image result for liberty memorial
Yet, Kansas City highlights what is wonderful about America. It's a city with BBQ that would be my last meal if headed to the Chair. It's a city that protects the memory of a forgotten league and a forgotten war, and it's a city that sold out more Garth Brook's shows than anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon Line. 

Embedded image permalink

St. Louis doesn't deserve a paragraph, and its despicable fans weren't worthy of the joys of protection from the rain. That town can't support a football team, yet try and claim they have the best fans in a different sport. Folks, St. Louis is good for one thing- collecting tax revenue so Kansas City's business climate is still amenable to Kansas City's wonderful shops.  

I arrived at Kauffman finding it different than 1985. The outfield experience in 1985 was nothing, while in 2015 I could and did buy a hot dog, ice cream, nachos, and 7 limearitas. About 3 limaritas in, I walked into a new fanshop and bought a wonderful Herrera shirsey for my Nephew. 

Embedded image permalink

The Royals allowed our tweet to reach the board. I was truly blessed to see the Kauffman kids cared enough to put a no-hitter throwing man from Danville on a board. 

Embedded image permalink

The Craft & Draft seats were phenomenal. I presented my ticket to a man at the door, and he handed me some wrist-band. I'm not used to the clubs because in Danville the Applebee's doesn't require a wristband to drink. Beyond this odd formality, I found a place that men and women from different generations enjoyed different crafts and food. The buffalo chicken sandwich I ordered was rivaled only by the Lexington Chili's food, and the padded-back on the bench seat gave me a range of movement with comfort. 

Still, the Kauffman of 2015 had all the best things about the then Royals Stadium of 1985. The people were friendly and the team was mean. Most importantly, I came away convinced I'd also seen something similar to 1985: a World Champion. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Ban Skip Bayless

Danville, Kentucky - In 2013 I thought I met the love of my life, again. I made a connection with someone on I was excited, folks. This woman was beautiful and grew the finest tobacco this side of Appomattox. I showed up to and found a beautiful woman who understood the 1974 Reds and refused to listen to anything defending Obamacare. Only as I went to confront the waiter about the injustice of a forced 15% gratuity did I find out she didn't like the class of 90's songs. It took hours, but I realized what was seemingly was the love of my life was the heartbreak of the moment.

In contrast, Skip Bayless is the horror of this and every other moment. Anyone with reason knows he is the epitome of awful. Yet, for those of us that watch the games and coverage, dismissing Skip is as easy as cancelling a subscription to U.S. News & World Report after they only listed schools with Statistics Department's in their top 100 schools.

However, it's important to occasionally remind ourselves about the horrors of the worst. This is a time for choosing, and it's important we all choose to remember the most recent evidence and come away with one truth: Skip Bayless must be banned.

Folks, I know many of you reading this think you are fancy and capable of reading things well. Well, I'm going to teach you how to really read what Skip's saying.

Enter foolishness:
Skip follows one person. If Skip didn't want his feed clogged with Tony Romo tweets he could follow literally anyone else. Skip's not going to do that because he wants to know everything Romo is doing. Skip probably isn't married because he's like these young people that go on dates with people they've seen every Facebook post about. In my day, a nice woman would tell you about her trip to Cancun or her favorite movies, and you'd be in awe as she told you about "The Godfather II." Now, these young bloods already know everything about their date so they are horrifically bored the whole date. Then, nobody gets married and we have modern America. Folks, it doesn't have to be that way. Look at everyone on your Androids and your Iphones and suddenly, there's no problem. However, Skip has just one person. He's sick of Romo. Follow someone else, like everyone else does, Skip.
My third wife once claimed she could drive a stick shift. I knew my third wife couldn't drive a stick shift. I knew my friend Wildcat was right when he said my wife couldn't drive a stick shift. As a result, Wildcat said he felt uncomfortable with her driving us back. Still, I told Wildcat my wife could do it because she was my wife. We were a team and Wildcat was wondering why I would lie. Yes, folks, my third wife crashed the car, blamed me, took my high school letterman's jacket, and broke my heart, but I had to say she was able to do something I knew she was lying about. She was my team. Brady is Kraft's team.
I once bought a second Netflix account because I was ashamed that my nephew would see my history and realize I watched a documentary about Christian Laettner. When I saw this tweet I created a second Twitter account because I was ashamed I needed to follow Skip Bayless to occasionally expose the idiotic tweets of the day.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

In Defense of Omar Infante

Danville, Kentucky -- OMAR COMING!!!! Some men are born winners. Other men, by the grace of God Almighty, learn how to win by making the most of the situations that come their way. Omar Infante, who gallantly patrols that ninety foot-long stretch of grass between 1st and 2nd base every night for the Kansas City Royals, falls under the latter category. In Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela, everything is earned. Nothing is given. Omar Infante is a man who has conquered adversity numerous times to get where he is today, by sheer willpower manning 2nd base even as his body fails him like a vigilante that jumps off a six-story building. Omar has suffered grievous injuries that would’ve hobbled a lesser man. Yet, every day he walks onto the field with his head held high, defying the cruel physical deterioration that the uncaring passage of time inevitably brings.

I’ve been watching his career from afar since his days in the Senior Circuit on the Florida Marlins when he’d pester my Cincinnati Reds. Let’s take a moment to reflect on the injuries that Mr. Infante has overcome. You thought Brett Lawrie’s slide at Alcides Escobar was dirty? Let’s flash back to 2013, when Colby Rasmus of the Toronto Blue Jays slid cleats up at Infante’s shins, taking the sturdy Omar out of commission for weeks:

And who, other than me when I black out after accidently mingling Robitussin® with Kentucky Deluxe, could forget the time Omar took an errant pitch to the face, just last year?

This is but a mere sample of the abuse his body has taken, abuse more unrelentingly painful than the time I missed Homer Bailey’s no-hitter because I got dragged to my step-daughter’s dance recital by my third wife. Yet, did Omar falter? Did he call it quits? No. A man’s got to have a code. Like me after the time I spent a night in prison for selling cassette tapes of my no-hitter in the parking lot of Danville’s Applebees, Omar persevered and is stronger for it. And thank goodness for the Kansas City Royals that he did.

I can’t remember seeing such a solid player more unfairly maligned than Omar Infante. Almost as bad as the physical abuse is the emotional abuse Omar suffers. Listening to most Royals fans, you’d think Omar Infante had cut them off in traffic or egged their houses:

Let’s not forget what Omar has already achieved in a Royals uniform.

This is a man who drove in 6 runs in the 2014 playoffs, including a 2-run jack that sealed the deal in Game 2 of the World Series vs the San Francisco Giants.

Yet, in spite of everything Mr. Infante has already contributed to their team, there are ungrateful nerds who grumble about replacing him with some kid named after the organ that stores waste material, referencing arcane statistics like WRC+ and WAR.

If the nerds want to talk numbers, I’ll give them a few numbers:

2011: The last time an American League Championship Series didn’t feature Omar Infante.

100%: The percentage of American League Championship Series that Omar has appeared in from 2012 to 2014.

2 out of 3: The number of World Series Omar Infante has appeared in since 2012.

3: The number of times Omar Infante has been an American League Champion, including his appearance in the 2006 World Series with the Detroit Tigers.

0%: The percent of the time you can miss if you come at the King. 

This whole debate reminds me why geniuses like Ned Yost and Dayton Moore call the shots, and not nerds. Ned and Dayton wouldn’t dream of benching a three-time American League Champion in favor of a utility infielder who probably needs to grind out a few more at-bats in the minor leagues. Telling the guy with the most playoff experience on your entire team to ride the bench would be suicidal, especially given the departure of James Shields and Raul Ibanez. The team cannot afford to take veteran players off the field or out of the clubhouse.

Before Omar Infante took his talents to Kansas City, the team had a revolving door of 2nd basemen, burning through a total of 6 in 2013. That year, the Royals went through 2nd basemen like I go through frozen Digiorno’s Pizzas when I feel too depressed to leave the house or use a phone. Omar has given the Royals stability at a crucial middle-infield position that was more chaotic than the time my second wife became my fourth wife at the TGI Fridays in Lexington.

Omar coming to Kansas City was destiny; just look at his last name, Infante, which is a title bestowed to Spanish Royal children. A time may come when Christian Colon is ready to assume the role of everyday 2nd baseman, but until then, you’ll want Omar Infante there to mentor him like some sort of line-drive slapping, double-play turning Obi-Wan Kenobi. Omar Infante is not a superstar; he was eclipsed by Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander on Detroit’s roster, just as Eric Hosmer and Yordano Ventura are beginning to cast a long shadow upon him, even as he reliably flips ground balls to his trusty double-play partner, Alcides Escobar. Yet, every team needs players like Omar, even if they don’t hit 20 dingers, and even if they sometimes do things like this:

Omar provides benefits to this team that WRC and fWAR can’t measure. And for that reason, he’s here to stay; like taxes, divorce, alcoholism and the A.M. Crunchwrap.