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.
An article appeared today in the Tampa Bay Times that was about people who park in handicap spaces illegally. It specifically dealt with the fraudulent use of handicap parking permits. It seems that there has been widespread abuse of these permits at the Rays games in St. Petersburg and the police have decided to crack down on the offenders. Good for them.
This situation reminds me of my brother-in-law who is a disabled Vietnam veteran. When he was 20 years old he sustained a head wound in the service of our country. After several surgeries and months of therapy he was discharged from the Army with a large piece of his skull missing and a partially paralyzed left arm and leg.
He is now 60 years old and still refuses to park in handicap spaces even though his car has DAV plates and he is well within his rights to do so. I have attended Rays games with him and he has never avoided those long, hot walks across the Trop’s parking lot. He would rather leave the restricted spaces to those who really need them, even though he still wears a metal brace on his left leg.
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of those who have sacrificed for our freedom. Let us remember that there are still heroes among us who continue to sacrifice in the name of honor and integrity.
Every once in a while a story comes along that restores my faith in mankind. One such story occured recently in of all places, a college golf tournament. Two young men from opposing schools were tied at the end of the final round and faced a playoff. The two collegiate golfers were vying for a spot in the NAIA National Championship. The way in which this came about was that the winning team and the individual winner would be invited to compete in the nationals. A young man by the name of Grant Whybark was a member of the winning team, so his spot in the nationals was secured. The other player was Seth Dorn, a senior from the opposing school, possibly playing in his last collegiate tournament. What happened next was so unique in the world of sports that I felt compelled to pass this story along to my fellow sports fans. As Grant stood over the tee of the first playoff hole, he glanced down the fairway and the proceeded to purposely drive the ball far off to the right and way out of bounds.
When he was asked why he did this he replied "We all know Seth and he's not only is a very good player, but a great person as well. He’s a senior and had never been to nationals. Somehow, it just wasn’t in my heart to try to knock him out. "It was one of those things where I couldn’t feel good taking something from him like this. My goal from the start was to get (to nationals) with my team. I had already done that."
In these days of the win at all cost attitude, it is very impressive to me to hear of a young guy that sacrificed personal glory to do something just because he felt it was the right thing to do.
The regular season hasn’t even started yet and the Rays are already doomed. I’m not talking about the injury to their best relieve pitcher J.P. Howell, although he will be sorely missed in April. It is the jinx that has been put on them by Sports Illustrated.
The publication’s prediction of a World Series appearance has cursed the team to failure as sure as Pat Burrell has been a bust.
In the past the Rays fans would have been excited for any kind of recognition for their team, but given the expectations for this year and S.I.’s track record it is about as welcome as an ABBA reunion tour.
I’ve decided something has to be done to break the curse, so if your ever in Tampa and you happen to see a middle aged man with a blue Mohawk stop and say hello to a brother.
As I contemplate attending my first spring training game of the year this weekend it occurs to me how different my team may look next year. Due to a lack of revenue the Tampa Bay Rays are probably facing their last season with all star left fielder Carl Crawford and American League homerun leader Carlos Pena. (I know Teixeira had the same number, but if fat boy hadn’t of beaned him he would have hit more) The good news is the present team has never looked better. They have signed a legitimate closer in Rafael Soriano which will solidify an already talented bullpen. The starting rotation is as tough top to bottom as they come. The infield features three members of last years all star roster in Pena, shortstop Jason Bartlett, and Evan Longoria. It will be four if they decide to play Ben Zobrist at second base instead of right field. Add to that what many to believe is the fastest outfield in the league and you have a team that can compete for a playoff spot. The Rays have a chance to do something special this year, but after 2010 it’s all downhill. Starting in 2011 they will lose Crawford, Pena, and probably Soriano. In the following years they will lose other top players to big market teams who treat organizations like Tampa Bay’s like their own farm system. I’ve decided not to worry about any of that and just try and enjoy the baseball season this year and hope the Rays can make it to the big show again, because it will be a long time before they have another team as good as the one they have now.