I left work early Friday and drove anxiously to my younger daughter's townhouse. I arrived before she was due home,so I spent my time nervously chain smoking while waiting for her and Jack.
Jack is my six year old grandson whom, given the events of the day, I sorely needed to be with.
As I lit another smoke I was thinking about the victim's families. I wondered if I could deal with the loss of a loved one without becoming completely unraveled? Probably not.
About that time my daughter's car appeared from around the corner. I could see a small figure in the back seat bouncing up and down and waving to me. That's my buddy. I crushed out the butt, opened the back door and caught him as he lept out.
Funny thing was that my daughter didn't seem suprised to see me. We did the usual how was work thing, but we both knew there was nothing usual about today.
I asked her if she could use a break from the little dork so she could get some Christmas shopping done. She readily agreed, although I suspect more as a favor to me than anything else.
As I drove out the gate the thought occured to me that I can't afford to waste anymore time. There are games to be played and adventures to be experienced. Not to mention the three other grandchildren we needed to pick up.
I had reconciled myself to the idea that the Rays were heading back to the cellar this upcoming season. My hopes dimmed with every defection. Gone now are Crawford, Pena, Bartlett, Garza, and half of the bullpen. Instead of maybe winning the division, my most optimistic wish was for the team to finish ahead of the Orioles. Little did I know that my bleak outlook was about to change. Saturday night as I was finishing off my last beer I heard the news that almost had me doing a spit take all over my television screen. The story that caused my near eruption was that not one but two of the players that were possible mid season acquisitions for the Rays playoff run last year are close to signing with the team for the upcoming season. According to the report Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon are expected to sign with Tampa Bay within a week. For me the season has gone from one of silent resignation to a year of wishful thinking. While it’s true that Damon and Ramirez are over the hill, there is a chance that they both have something left in the tank. The Rays offense left a lot to be desired last year. Manny may not be my favorite player, but he did have a higher OPS (870) than any of the Rays except Longoria. He will be the much needed upgrade at designated hitter. Damon’s on base percentage was only one point lower than that of Crawford, whom he will be replacing in leftfield. In my opinion this was a good move on the part of the management. They have brought in two very experienced hitters in an effort to boost attendance and to bridge the gap between the past and the future. And who knows, maybe make another run at a division title.
Ronde Barber has announced that he is returning for his 15th season as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. I was thinking that I would be posting something about his career in honor of his retirement, but once again I have underestimated the man. I pretty much wrote him off after the ’09 season just to see him comback this past season and have a very impressive year. Barber, whose contract is set to expire in March, has played his entire career with the Bucs as a third-round draft pick in 1997. A five-time Pro Bowl selection, Barber, 35, is the only player in NFL history to record 40 sacks and 25 interceptions, three of which came during the 2010 season. Ronde so impressed the coaching staff and General Manager Mark Dominik in the season finale that it led to Dominick to be quoted as saying "For the many years he's got in the National Football League and to play at that level and to feel like he knew what (Saints quarterback) Drew Brees was going to do on a majority of the plays was phenomenal. I was really impressed with the way he finished his 2010 season.'' I watched that game and Mark was right, Barber was as disruptive to the Saints game plan as a dinner bell during the taping of The World’s Biggest Loser. He was all over the field making tackles and breaking up passes. His knowledge of opposing offenses and leadership will be especially valuable considering the Bucs talented, but inexperienced secondary. I have been a Bucs fan from the beginning and I don’t think anyone has stayed with the team for 15 years. Ronde is the last player from the Super Bowl winning team, in fact it was his interception for a touchdown that sealed the deal at Philly in the conference championship game. He’s been here so long that he remembers when they wore the orange uniforms for all the home games. Coach Morris says it isn’t a question of if he’ll be back, but how much he’ll be making when he does. Considering his value to the team and the fans, he should do very well.
When I was a kid the Cincinnati Reds held their spring training in my hometown of Tampa. I became a fan because of my father who was a baseball fan, would take me to games as often as he could. When I was 12 the team hired a manager named Sparky Anderson. Now I don’t know about you, but I thought that Sparky was about the coolest name that I’ve ever heard for a manager. That year the Reds won 102 games and the pennant, but lost the series to the Orioles in 5 games. Cincinnati won the pennant again 2 years later, but were beaten in the series by a very good Oakland team. Finally in 1975, after cruising through the national league with 108 wins, the Reds defeated the Red Sox in 7 games to become world champions. They repeated the next year by winning 102 games and eventually sweeping the Yankees in the series. During this time Cincinnati won 8 straight playoff games and Sparky became known as “ Captain Hook” for his penchant of taking out the starting pitcher at the first sign of trouble and relying heavily on his set up man and closer. After finishing 2nd to the Dodgers the next 2 seasons, Sparky was fired. Man, talk about the “ what have you done for me lately” mentality. Anderson was hired by the Tigers in ’79 and had an immediate positive impact. He had winning seasons the next few years, but it took him until ’84 to get back to the world series, in which the Tigers beat the Padres in 5 games to capture his third championship ring. This was the year that Sparky was awarded the first of his 2 manager of the year awards. Sparky retired from managing after the 1995 season, reportedly disillusioned with league politics after the strike in ’94, which spilled over into the beginning of the ’95 season. It is widely believed that Anderson was forced out because of his refusal to manage replacement players during spring training in ’95. Sparky Anderson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000 as a manager. On his plaque in Cooperstown he wears a Cincinnati Reds cap in honor of Bob Howsman, the GM that gave Sparky his first chance at a major league managing job. The reason that I’m writing this is that Sparky is now in the care of Hospice because of complications due to dementia. My father passed away as a result of the same condition and it is for the both of them that I dedicate this post. Thanks for the memories guys.
I would like to thank the Boston Red Sox for preventing the Rays from claiming Johnny Damon off the waiver wire. He has decided to stay in Detroit and I wish him all the best.
Say goodbye to Mannywood. The Dodgers appear to be ready to part with the aging Ramirez. I don’t believe Tampa Bay would touch Manny and his fat contract unless the Dodgers were willing to eat a very big portion of his deal. The White Sox have the money and are just desperate enough to take on Manny and all his baggage. Good luck Chicago, you’re gonna need it.
With the Rays running out of options and money it would seem to me the answer is right in their own backyard. Rocco Baldelli is once again battling his way back in an attempt to rejoin Tampa Bay’s line up. Rocco is at the present time on rehab assignment with the Durham Bulls, where he is hitting .333 with 2 homers and 7 rbi’s in 27 plate appearances. Baldelli was diagnosed with mitochondrial disorder, a condition that causes chronic pain and fatigue midway through the ’07 season. Since then he has continued fighting his way back to the show. A bout with channelopathy disorder slowed his progress earlier this year, but the man has worked through the pain and now is on the threshold of making yet another comeback. According to Coach Maddon, calling up Rocco was the plan from the beginning and although nothing has been finalized, the Rays skipper remains confident that Baldelli will be an asset to the team as a leader in the clubhouse as well as against left handed pitching. I’m not sure how all this is going to work out, but if inspiration means anything in the game of baseball, the Yankees are in for a rough October.
I suppose that my mounting skepticism about the state of sports is caused by my advancing years. It’s not that I’m old, although I’m close, it’s just that there is so much more information to process. I think all the useless sports trivia is starting to push out some of the stuff that I really need. Worse than the trivia is all the controversy encouraged and exploited by a media machine gone mad. Steroids, unscrupulous agents, unscrupulous coaches, players that pack enough heat to start a fire fight and add to that the never ending hype and my mind begins to achieve critical mass. Do I need to hear that Brett Favre is undecided about returning to football for 4 months before the damn season even starts? Speaking of drama, since when did ESPN get in the reality show business? I rate “The Decision” right up there with “Jersey Shore”, but not quite as compelling. To add to my misery I must wake every morning to the A-roid count down to 600 home runs. Needless to say he is not my favorite player. The man is a cheat and a liar, but to be fair he is not the only juicer on the team. Mark my words, Andy Pettitte will come back from his injury with a nasty attitude and shrunken testicles. Damn Yankees! The truth of the matter is that I need to limit my exposure to all the nonsense that surrounds sports and get back to enjoying the events themselves. After all, there is more to life than listening to a bunch of media whores plying their trade.
Thank you. This rant was brought to you by Cruzan rum.
Just a few thoughts as I finish off the last of the rum. I took my vacation a little early this year in order to beat the oil to my favorite beach. The good news is that my wife and I had a great time on white, tar ball free beaches. The bad news is, well you know the bad news. Even though the oil has not reached my particular harbor yet, it is well on the way. There is more than enough blame to go around, so I won’t bore you with that aspect. I just need to get this off my chest and I can’t think of a better way than writing about this disaster. This catastrophe could have been averted if the proper safeguards would have been in place before the drilling commenced. The fact of the matter is that no company should have been allowed to operate anywhere without meeting that condition. I have read some quotes by those who say that this spill is not that big of a deal and that the ocean is so large that the amount of oil released is insignificant in comparison. That my friends, is the most ignorant thing I have heard in a long time. I understand our country’s energy needs and that deep water drilling is one way to fulfill those needs, but it must be done reasonably and safely. Oil continues to be pumped into the Gulf of Mexico at an alarming rate. The consensus of opinion is that it will take at least until August before the relief wells can be drilled and the oil diverted in order to stop the flow into the gulf. Experts have stated that the clean up will take at least 2 years. My hope is that we, as Americans can do something that is rarely heard of these days. That is to come together with a common purpose to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.