Friday, July 8, 2011

Mixed Emotions

This could get personal and may ramble on, but in the meantime, I'll try to be concise while struggling through the mixed emotions of joy, pain, sadness, sorrow, hope, and something extra.

Livan is getting larger...
Our beloved Chicago Cubs, yesterday, overcame an 8-run deficit to defeat the contstantly improving Washington Nationals. It was 8-0 in the 6th inning before Livan Hernandez fell apart, giving up an RBI single to Alfonso Soriano, a 2-run double to Darwin Barney, and a 3-run homerun to Blake DeWitt. Livan left the game with an 8-6 lead, but Todd Coffey, Sean Burnett, and Henry Rodriguez failed to preserve the Win. In regards to Cubs pitching, the bullpen deserves a steak dinner or sturdy pat on the back for giving up just 2 runs (1 earned) in 7 innings of relief for Matt Garza. Jeff Samardzija, James Russell, John Grabow, Sean Marshall, and Carlos Mármol haven't been heaped very much praise this season, so please forgive the list.

Pain, Sadness, and Sorrow
It has been a sad few weeks around baseball, with the recent passing of Nick Charles, Dick Williams, George Kimball, and yesterday's sickening death of the Rangers' fan who died in front of his young son, trying to catch a foul ball and falling out of the upper deck.

If you haven't seen the video of the man falling out of the first row, in fron of his son, don't. Repeat: DO NOT WATCH the VIDEO. I saw it this early this morning, at the gym, on a "highlight" show from the Worldwide Leader and promptly wanted to vomit. Keith Law expressed my shared feelings perfectly right here: "I'm sick over this Rangers fan death. That poor kid." MLB Advanced Media invariably will remove videos of beautiful highlights from the Internet, yet are allowing major media outlets to show the video straight out of Faces of Death. I just don't get it; there should be different, I don't know, just different.

Going backwards, remembering these remarkable men, and learning something about ourselves and each other along the way, Charles Pierce wrote an outstanding, brief, and personal piece on his friend and colleague George Kimball:
"On the day he quit, I was the only person in the office. He dragooned me to the Park Plaza at nine in the morning, bribed the guy to open the bar, and we stayed there until 3, when he walked down the hall, bought a ticket to Palm Beach, and went directly to the airport without telling me he was gone."
The stories we hear about Dick Williams grow more and more legendary with time:
"In Oakland, he stunned Charlie Finley by quitting on the spot, telling the owner to stick it, after winning a second consecutive World Series title in 1973. He was unhappy with Finley's interference, and with the way the owner publicly humiliated infielder Mike Andrews after Andrews' untimely fielding gaffes in the Series.

In 1976, he was fired by the Angels after a brief tenure that included Williams ordering his players to take batting practice in a hotel lobby using Wiffle bats and balls, driving home his point that the hitters couldn't break anything."
There are countless more Dick Williams stories that go on from there, stretching to the corners of the US. Not that anyone has asked for this, but the saddest, most heartfelt, of all of these obituaries has to be the one Posnanski wrote about his friend, Nick Charles. It's getting pretty dusty in here right now, as a reread it. Apologies, this is too much to copy and paste, but I can't help it. I just got through the 2nd half of the post, and yes, the crying has recommenced:
"We stood in his driveway in the fading New Mexico light, exchanging goodbyes, when Nick Charles said something I will never forget. He said: "I wish I knew you before." His eyes glassed over then, rain on a window pane, and that was the moment when I came closest to crying. There were numerous other moments of crying and near-crying throughout that day because we both knew exactly why I had come. Nick was dying. And I had come to write his obituary.
He wanted to give me a story to write. Nick was generous that way. "You came so far to see me," he kept saying. "You have so many other things you could be doing," he kept saying.
He knew then, knew as few of us ever know, that he was going to die in the next few days or weeks or months, but soon, too soon. He was not going to see his beautiful 5-year-old daughter Giovanna grow up. He was not going to grow old with his beautiful wife Cory. He was not going to see Paris again.

"But, no regrets," he said, the words just coming to him. "I've seen Paris."
He talked about being in bed and feeling like the blood had been drained from his body and knives stabbed at his brain and almost everything in him wished to be dead. But there was always something, a tiny something -- a light, he called it, or a splash of faith -- that pushed on. He wanted to see his daughter's smile again. He wanted to hear his wife's voice again. He wanted to listen to a song again. What song? That changed from time to time. But he wanted to hear it.

Nick: "Why did you become a writer?"
Me: "I'm not entirely sure how it happened."
Nick: "I know what you mean. I sometimes wonder how any of it happened."

We had not prepared a goodbye. There seemed no reason to prepare one -- I did not know Nick Charles before that day we spent together, and he did not know me. I had exchanged an email or two with him. We had talked on the phone twice. But we were not friends, not even acquaintances. I wanted to write about him because his story touched me. He allowed me to come because he was touched I cared enough to call. This business of storytelling is a curious one. The relationship between a writer and subject can be intense and involved. And then, generally, it ends.

Only, this turned out to be something more. Because we both kept noticing how similarly we felt about things. Little things. Big things. There were recognizable words in each other's sentences. There were corresponding twists in each other's stories. Nick kept saying how he felt this connection to me and we should have been friends years earlier. That was there, unquestionably, but it was not something guys often say to each other.
The day I had spent with Nick was not depressing -- I have had a hard time explaining that to people. There were moments of extreme sadness. Seeing his little girl, so much like my own little girl ... talking with Cory and seeing how strong she tried to be for him ... driving by a cemetery and hearing Nick talk about how he had considered being buried there ... yes, there were moments of overpowering heartache. But mostly, it was uplifting. It was inspiring. We laughed a lot. Nick Charles became my friend.

And then, before I left, he said those words: "I wish I knew you before."
Nick Charles died on Saturday. He was 64 years old. We had exchanged emails since that day we said goodbye. The last words he ever wrote to me were: 'Get home to your family and squeeze them tight.'"
Woah, sorry again, have to compose myself.

Thank Goodness for Hope
I'm not very religious,
but it's nice when the
Angels provide hope.
Baseball people looking for optimism always talk about hope. Spring Training is all about hope. Hey, even the Pirates can contend in July someitmes! Every team has a chance in Spring Training. We hear and read things like "If only the bullpen comes together...", or "This new guy could swat 30 homeruns!" One of my favorite cliche in the Spring is "He's in the best shape of his career." That one almost never works out.

Today, baseball fans, particularly fans in Southern California, can enjoy the ride of looking forward to Baseball's #2 prospect, Mike Trout, making his debut tonight, at home against the Seattle Mariners. He's only 19-years old, and has been putting up MVP numbers in Double-A: .324/.415/.534, with 12 doubles, 11 triples (!), 9 Homeruns, and 28 stolen bases in 341 plate appearances.

Fantasy players, especially in keeper leagues, make your move.

The Curiosity of Random Thoughts
We all have our moments. Some of the most common places where people actually think include the shower, at red lights, in front of the mirror (shaving, styling hair, flossing, etc), or maybe when other people are talking and we zone out when we should be listening. Over the past few days, I've had a couple of doozies...

First, has anyone else noticed that there are only two more days to celebrate DD/MM/YY continuity for a while*? We have 11/11/11 this year, and 12/12/12 next.

*If we bend the rules, we can have a Deuces Wild party on 2/2/22 or 2/22/22, or a Three's Company part on 3/3/33. Really, though, that is in a long time.

So, for those of you that want to party like everyone else who got down on 2/2/02, 3/3/03, April 4, 2004, celebrated the Ultimate Cinco de Mayo on 5/5/05, went berserk over 6/6/06, had a Lucky 7's or CrAzY 8's party on 7/7/07 and 8/8/08, respectively, and so on... Yes, if you want to party like that, I'd suggest making plans right now for this November 11th (hey it's a Friday!), and next December 12th.

Here's another random thought, maybe it'll become its own post one day: Who is the best 'bad' pitcher in baseball? I have to figure out what 'best' and 'bad' mean to accurately answer the question, but I think that could be fun.

You don't look like Royce Clayton
Last thought I'll expand upon, remember when Bill James was going to be portrayed like a spirit or Kazoo from The Flintstones in the film version of Moneyball? That was Steven Soderbergh's idea, and I thought it was really bad. Looking now at the IMDB cast and credits page, though, it looks like Bill James isn't even going to be in the movie. How can that be, especially when Paul Giamatti is perfect for the role. Speaking of Moneyball, Chris Pratt is playing Scott Hatteberg. I think that's terrific. Royce Clayton is playing Miguel Tejada, but that seems like it could be problematic.

A few more in list form: Can one make a proper homage to 'Fans, what are we going to do about Wally Bunting?'? Is My Blue Heaven a better mafia comedy than The Freshman? (I think so.) Is this the worst Cubs team of the past 35 years? How can Cubs' fans make the best out of having Mike Quade and Mark Riggins in charge of the Major League team? I think I could win a Pulitzer Prize if by taking the photograph of Ralph Macchio, Hilary Swank, and Jaden Smith. The photo below is about as close as I could find online, darn you Jackie Chan!!

Okay, I have to get out of here. Thanks to the few of you that got this point. Please feel free to bring anything up in conversation form, either online or if we see each other in person. Have a great Friday, and let's try to keep things in perspective.

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