MONDAY, MAY 20, 2013
My Bologna Has a First Name - It's N-E-T-T-U-N-O
No more perfect season dreams for the boys from Bologna, who were cheesed over the weekend by a fearless Danese Caffe Nettuno. Game one was a lopsided 8-3 affair, while the series finale witnessed a dramatic, come-from-behind 6-4 victory. After being up by four runs and seemingly having put their first loss of the year behind them, Bologna's shoddy infield play and wobbly relief pitching aided in a late inning rally for the home team. Nettuno's Milvio Andreozzi starred with 3 2/3 innings of shut out relief, earning the big "W."
FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 2013
For all those still skeptical of the competitiveness of the World Baseball Classic, it is time to get over it. This tournament is real, exciting and full of passion.
Fielding players from the likes of Parma, Bologna and Rimini (and, to be fair, a bunch of State-side guys with distant ties to the homeland), le cuore azzurro embarrassed the star-studded Mexicans. Coming up in the clutch, Adrian Gonzalez and his $154 million LA Dodgers salary could only lean into a pitch to escape the pressure. Sergio Romo's weak political act was followed by an even weaker performance on the mound, where he blew the big time. Giants -- both those in this WBC and those playing on the Bay for the rest of the year -- best beware.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2012
The Dodgers: Fantasy Baseball Gone Wild
Within the scope of about twenty-four hours, two fundamental deals were closed on leading starting pitchers. The contrasting circumstances of the transactions symbolize the flaws and greatness of Major League Baseball.
Meanwhile, back in impoverished middle America, the Kansas City Royals pulled off a sensational trade for perennial Cy Young-finalist James Shields with the always over-achieving Tampa Bay Rays. The Royals, with whom Greinke so happened to have played through 2010 and who was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers in a decisive deal that took the Brewers to the playoffs for the first time in over 25 years in exchange for a group of high ceiling prospects, now have a contending team, with a rotation led by Shields and another smart pick-up in Ervin Santana. The Rays have rebuilt themselves with some of the best prospects in baseball. The Brewers still have a solid team led by home-grown star Ryan Braun and a fast maturing set of players who rose through the team’s minor league ranks. In short, three promising teams that have earned their keep the hard way, versus one that has not.
There is nothing wrong per se with money in baseball or in professional sports more generally. Money creates incentives to further excel, makes for exciting rosters and creates dynasties fans love to hate. But there needs to be some consequence to spending the money. The 17.5% luxury tax kicking in after a team payroll exceeds $178 million is an attempt, but does not cut it. NFL absolute spending caps create mediocrity and dumb down championships. “Designated player" rules like in the NBA are interesting, but baseball teams have much bigger rosters, and limited protections will not address the Dodgers-Yankees / Royals-Brewers imbalances.
More effective, in addition to tapping into local media money in the revenue share system, is for baseball to have a player ownership scheme along the lines of European football, wherein teams have a firmer hold over their players, and in turn are able to reap more significant returns when dealing away their players. This awards clubs with solid player development systems and acute scouting, shrinks the pool of contract-free players and helps avoid the instant team creation that free agency and a ton of money permits, all without the more brutish attempts at “competitive balance” of other North American sport leagues.
The Dodgers may well prove to be flops in 2013 like they were in 2012. They have a questionable line-up, and the egos and pressures that are part-and-parcel of such an outlandish experiment will wear on the team over 162 games. Experience shows that money alone does not buy championships, but it also cannot be denied that dollars have a major influence on chances of winning, and of losing.
For the sake of baseball, hopefully Dodger Blue will be the Dodger blues in 2013 and beyond.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2012
Brew Crew: Believe!
Coming into a season without its leading slugger in Prince Fielder, ripped off into accepting an $8 million arbitration with an aged middle reliever in K-Rod ("K" is for krappo), losing its just-acquired starting shortstop, Alex Gonzalez, and starting first baseman, Matt Gamel, to season-long injuries in the first month, it looked like it would be a rough ride for the Brewers in 2012. Add to that a collectively atrociousness bullpen, rubber-armed Randy Wolf, sub-par Shaun Marcum, whiffing Rickie Weeks, freak injury to hot-hitting Jonathon Lucroy, the off-loading of ace Zack Greinke, and the inevitable happened with a horrible Brew Crew through the end of July.
Then, maybe inspired by the Little League World Series, maybe by pride or maybe just because this is a very good team playing back toward its potential, the Brewers have roared back, and are in the thick of the National League playoff race, led not just by super-stars Ryan Braun, Yovanni Gallardo and Corey Hart, but also guys like Norichika Aoki, Mike Fiers and Travis Ishikawa. The road ahead remains a steep one, but aside maybe from the poor, fast-fading Pirates, every good-souled person should want to see this epic comeback by a self-made team. It definitely beats seeing more of the obnoxious and expensive Dodgers, Cardinals and Phillies.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 23, 2012
Clean Up Baseball
Whatever lame excuses are given for the the malleable MLB drug testing policy -- that it works because it has nabbed a few idiots already this season, that it is more complete than the inferior policies of inferior sports like football, basketball and hockey, that it protects alleged player privacy, etc. -- we deserve better. We deserve better because we deserve to know that the daily box scores and career statistics that we memorize are based on fair and legitimate performances. We deserve better because there is right and wrong in the world -- and baseball is most definitely right, when it is played right. We deserve better because we love baseball.
So get on with it, and clean the sport up, and do it now. Not after delaying discussions with the feeble players' union about the next collective bargaining agreement, not after the creation of committees to oversee committees to study the creation of other committees to examine how to increase the frequency and depth of testing, not after the conclusion of the next gigantic television auction. Now.
MONDAY, MAY 28, 2012
Ray, we hardly got to know you
Under mysterious circumstances, our slugger devastante Ray Sadler has gone AWOL from the boys of summer at Danesi Caffe, and just as Nettuno was just picking up the pieces from a stuttering start to the Campionato. How or why Ray would want to leave the fair shores of the Adriatic playing with the finalist of three of the last five Scudetti, to return to the drudgery of bus trips with the Kansas City T-Bones, is something we might never come to know.
MONDAY, MAY 14, 2012
Baseball on a sunny spring day in Italy. The home team -- with uno slugger devastante freshly signed from the Kansas City T-Bones -- crushed the Godo Knights. Forza Danesi Caffè Nettuno.
MONDAY, JUNE 13, 2011
Prince Shika: Wonder Twins ACTIVATE!
Brew Crew: First place with the world's best baseball player north, south, east or west of anywhere.
Forget about the fools in government, the desperate economic conditions and phantom revolutions...basta, kifaya, non ce la fa piu - we want the good news.
THURSDAY, MARCH 31, 2011
Baseball is Back!
Back at last. The perfect game, that allows the mind to simultaneously relax and be challenged. And this year, the Brew Crew are primed to be the best. Five hitters who can hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 RBIs. Three stud starters, and a solid number four. Base stealing threats up and down the order. This team will win.
And to the home boys of League 755, you are all toast. Yet again, without overpaying for single players, brilliant managerial tactics have assembled a balanced team of experienced stars, offensively and defensively. Closers for the best two teams in baseball (besides the Brewers), starting pitching that is proven and on winning teams, Dunn and A-Rod on the infield corners, and then a ton of stud hitters to fill out the roster.
It's going to be a great season.