Friday, February 28, 2014

Day 334: Dogs Like Balls of All Sizes

It's Friday... it's been an inordinately long week and I'm exhausted. I'm sure you're all pretty beat too and don't really need a long, thought provoking blog post tonight. You're probably hoping for some mindless video with cute animals. Well, since my brain has punched out for the weekend and refuses to form intelligent thoughts about sports, you might just be in luck.

My brain doesn't even give a shit that the Red Sox played the Twins in their first official Grapefruit League game today. Nor does it care that, despite losing 8-2, there were some bright spots like Bryce Brentz going yard and Mike Napoli going 2-for-2 and Anthony Renaudo pitching two innings of no hit ball. To put it simply, my brain has mutinied. It has extended the proverbial middle finger and skipped town. My brain is an asshole.

What my brain does care about is cute dogs and videos about cute dogs playing sports. Cute dogs don't take much actual thought or intelligence. All cute dogs require is for the brain to tell the mouth to make the sound, awwwwww. That's about the extent of what my brain is capable of right now.


Seriously? Why have my hounds never shown this kind of talent? I get stuck with dogs who chase their own tails, sleep 22 hours a day and eat poop. I got cheated! TGIF!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Day 333: Former Red Sox Players Making Spring Training News

Well, spring training play has officially begun with the Red Sox taking on Northeastern University and Boston College in a split-squad double header Thursday afternoon. The won the both contests 5-2. These games always make me nervous because, holy crap, what if they lose to a bunch of college kids? They start playing kids their own age tomorrow when they take on the Minnesota Twins at 1:05pm.

A couple of former Red Sox players made some headlines today in games of their own. Remember Josh Reddick? I always liked that guy and I was a little sad when the Red Sox traded him to the Oakland A's for pitcher Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney. It was a great trade... for the A's. Reddick also lucked out by managing to get out of town before the 2012 Bobby Valentine disaster. Bailey has been riddled with injuries, missing a lot of 2012 and really not doing anything special otherwise. Sweeney... I barely remember him. He spent just the 2012 season with the Sox.

Reddick has two solid seasons under his belt with Oakland and in 2012, hit a career high (by a lot) 32 home runs. But his offense is what truly stands out for this 27-year-old—he won a Gold Glove in '12 for his play in right field. And today, in a spring training game against the San Francisco Giants, he had not one, but two amazing catches to rob Mike Morse of home runs both times. Reddick scaled the outfield fence to make the spectacular catches and many say they've never seen anything like it.

Wanna see? It's worth the time. At first I thought they were just replaying the catch and then I realized it wasn't a replay, he just did it again! Click HERE for the video.

The other headline making former player is Carl Crawford who now plays for the LA Dodgers. I hate this guy. Even when he played for the Red Sox, I thought he was a whiny bitch. So it's fun to see him do stuff that makes him look even more douchey than he already is. He was attempting to steal a base but the ball was hit foul. In the meantime, he had already slid into second base in a rather awkward way. It appeared he belly-flopped his way to second and in the process smacked his chin on the ground which in turn sent his helmet flying off his head. And it was all for naught because it was a foul ball. It's not as exciting as Reddick's catch, but you can see the video HERE. It's good for a giggle.

I seriously don't miss that guy even one little speck, or the guys that were shipped off to LA with him. If that crew was still around last season, I don't think they win the World Series. I know... bold statement but there's something to be said about team chemistry and getting along. Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett did not play well with others. But I digress... (and I'm guessing you're nodding your heads in agreement at my digression?)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Day 332: Aaron Hernandez: Suspected Murderer and Jailhouse Bully

I'm patiently waiting for a male version of Orange is the New Black starring former New England Patriots' wide receiver and current murder suspect and jailhouse bully, Aaron Hernandez. Can someone tell me if that's in the works? It's been a long time since I've written anything about this A#1 dumbass. In case you have forgotten, the 24-year-old former Patriots' rising star with a $41 million contract was arrested in June and charged with murdering his so-called friend, Odin Lloyd. (I'd hate to see how he treats his enemies!)

We haven't heard much about Hernandez since he was incarcerated. Some mumblings here and there about what types of food he eats... if he was allowed to watch the NFL... how he's coping without the interwebs. You know, nothing too gripping. He seemed to be living a pretty uneventful and lonely existence. Hernandez has been kept from the general population and spends his time in the Bristol County Jail's solitary confinement. Booooo-ring. Supposedly it's for his own protection with some of the higher ups feeling like maybe this former NFL star might be seen as a "prize" by some of the other inmates.

So the other day he was allowed a little exercise in the hallway and happened upon a fellow inmate who had evidently been previously harassing Hernandez who took offense and apparently beat the living shit out of the instigator. It was stopped pretty quickly and neither inmate required medical attention although both will face discipline or criminal charges. This is an interesting turn of events considering that only one prisoner is supposed to be out of his cell at a time... so why was this guy out too? Sounds a bit fishy to me.

I know on the scale of prison scuffles, this one registers pretty low on the Richter scale, but my imagination had this ruckus reaching the heart-pounding levels of, say, a Sons-of-Anarchy-gang-Opie-beating so violent it could make you lose your lunch. But then I remembered this isn't television. Although I do wonder if anyone got that melee on video... {{runs to YouTube}} Shoot, no grainy cell phone videos posted.

Here's my feeling on this ordeal... Hernandez pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. Understandable since there still no murder weapon. But if you're truly innocent, wouldn't you do your best to keep your head down and be on your best behavior? But if you're really guilty, what's a measly assault charge on top of murder one? Chew on that for a while...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Day 331: Baseball for Beginners: Lesson #6 - Some Basic Rules

Ok, fans-to-be, so far Baseball for Beginners has covered the following areas: Pitchers, Catchers, Infielders, Outfielders and the Lineup. Be sure to catch up if you've missed any of the previous lessons. This week's lecture is going to cover a few basic rules that make you sound well-versed in the game of baseball even if you still don't fully understand the game.

The game of baseball is played between two teams who alternate between offense and defense. There are nine innings in a game and each inning is divided in half—each team gets three outs per half inning. The top of the inning is when the visiting team hits and the home team plays the field and then vice versa in the bottom of the inning. Each team fields nine players and the ultimate goal is to score more runs than the other team. A run is scored when a player runs completely around the bases back to home plate. The bases are 90 feet apart on the infield which is shaped like a diamond—what's not to like about this sport?

As with most sports, baseball has specific equipment that is used. When playing the field (defense), a glove is worn to catch the ball on the non-throwing hand. The baseball is roughly three inches in diameter and there's something beautiful about the stark whiteness of the leather covering with the red stitching. The offense uses a bat to hit the ball which, at the major league level, can only be made of wood—most often ash is used.

On offense, each team's batting order (the lineup) gets their turn at the plate to try and get on base. If the batter hits the ball into the field of play, they run to first base and beyond if they can get there without getting out. If a batter gets three strikes (a swing and a miss or a called strike by the umpire), they're called out. On the other hand, if there are four balls (a pitch not in the strike zone), that batter automatically takes first base. If the batter hits the ball over the outfield fence in fair territory, it's a home run and the batter can circle all four bases.

On defense, there are several ways the team can get an opposing player out. The pitcher can strike out the batter (which is the most fun way as far as I'm concerned!) There are force outs which occur when, after the ball is hit, the defensive player with the ball reaches the base before the runner. Fly outs generally happen in the outfield when the batter hits a fly ball that is caught before the ball hits the ground. Or the runner can be tagged out when the defensive player just touches that runner with the ball (or the glove with the ball in it.)

Baseball is the perfect sport for a lazy, hot summer day. The pace of the game is generally slower than most sports and, maybe this is what I love so much about it, it doesn't require your full attention every second of the game.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Day 330: Boston Bruins Find Success in Sochi

After a two and a half week break from their regular schedule for Winter Olympics action, the NHL teams are ready to get back into action this week. The Boston Bruins will travel to Buffalo on Wednesday night to play the Sabres. The B's had five players join their home countries for the Olympics in Sochi and three of those guys came home newly crowned medal winners.

Team Canada won the gold medal with impressive shutout wins over Team USA to make it to the gold medal game, and then a 3-0 win over Team Sweden to take the top prize. Patrice Bergeron stood atop the podium with his countrymen to collect his medal. When the Olympics began, Bergeron was a part of the fourth line for the Canadian team. But just like with his regular season play, he was so effective every time he stepped on the ice, he was moved to the top line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. Stats: Six games, two assists, plus-4, 16 shots on goal, 13:57 time on ice per game, 31-for-49 on face-offs (63 percent).

Team Sweden finished second in men's hockey taking home the silver medal after losing to Team Canada. Bruins winger Loui Eriksson, who has been slowed by injuries this year, came through for his country. He was a member of the top line playing with Nicklas Backstrom and Daniel Sedin and he ended up scoring a big goal in the semifinal game against Finland that tied the game, ultimately leading the way for a 2-1 Sweden win. Stats: Six games, two goals, one assist, 11 shots on goal, 19:01 time on ice per game.

Tuukka Rask played a huge role in Finland's path to the bronze medal including a big shutout over the luckless Team USA to ensure a spot on the podium. Although Rask got off to a shaky start in the Olympics, he soon settled down and went on to post a .938 save percentage. He was especially impressive in the Finland win that knocked Team Russia out of the tournament. Rask ended up getting sick and missing the semifinal game against Sweden so who knows, maybe if he had been in net, Finland would've had a chance to play for gold. Stats: Four games, 3-1, .938 save percentage, 1.73 goals against average.

Zdeno Chara (Slovakia) and David Krejci (Czech Republic) also both played in the Olympic tournament. Neither was really close to contending for a medal but Chara seemed to be quite a celebrity off the ice and had at least one picture taken with a really small person. He was also the tallest flag bearer and had to jimmy-rig his hotel bed to accommodate his 6-9 frame.

So... the Olympics are over... Looks like this is the time where I throw on that pink hat and hop on the Bruins' bandwagon to see what these guys can do down the stretch. I hope it's as exciting as last season! Don't Poke the Bear!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Day 329: Party's Over: Olympics End Tonight.

I'm not going to lie, I'm actually glad the Olympics are ending tonight. I don't know how much more of the excitement... the disappointment... and the emotion... I could handle. Plus, it's really starting to commandeer my life and I'm sort of missing my regular scheduled programming. I've spent more time with my ass parked on the couch than any one human should over the past two weeks.

This is usually what happens to me. I start out all hot and heavy with my commitment to the games but once the end of the second week starts to approach, I find myself losing interest in some of the events. When the USA Men's hockey team was knocked out of medal contention, I stopped watching. I know... I should be rooting on some of the Bruins on other teams but I just couldn't bring myself to devote the time. And honestly, I have no plans to watch the Closing Ceremony.

Team USA, in the end, finished second to the host country in the medal count with 28—nine gold, seven silver and twelve bronze. Congratulations to all the competitors and in case you missed it, here's a list of the American gold medal winners.

  • Joss Christensen, Freestyle Skiing, Men's Ski Slopestyle
  • David Wise, Freestyle Skiing, Men's Ski Halfpipe
  • Maddie Bowman, Freestyle Skiing, Ladies' Ski Halfpipe
  • Sage Kotsenburg, Snowboard, Men's Slopestyle
  • Jamie Anderson, Snowboard, Ladies' Slopestyle
  • Kaitlyn Farrington, Snowboard, Ladies' Halfpipe
  • Ted Ligety, Alpine Skiing, Men's Giant Slalom
  • Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine Skiing, Ladies' Slalom
  • Charlie White, Meryl Davis, Figure Skating, Ice Dancing

I do have to give applause to our neighbors to the north though. The Canadians finished with 25 medals, 10 of those gold. They swept the Curling with both men and women winning gold—the women's team was actually impressively undefeated throughout the entire tournament. Team Canada also took gold in both men's and women's Ice Hockey. I'm still a little bitter about that as it was Team USA who fell victim in both cases.

See you in four years for yet another time zone nightmare in South Korea.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Day 328: Red Sox Sign Massachusetts Native, Chris Capuano

I can't bear to discuss the Team USA Hockey mess so more baseball!! Yay!

Just prior to the start of Spring Training, Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster announced he would not be pitching in 2014. He voluntarily pulled himself out of the game and therefore, forfeited the $13.25 million he was to be paid under his current two-year contract. I admire Dempster for this move—unlike a lot of other major leaguers who would've started the season with the club and quickly claimed injury so, you know, they got paid.

Dempster had enough class to realize he would not be a help to the Red Sox this season and bowed out gracefully, giving up his salary. Somehow I think he'll be ok... I'm pretty sure his family won't have to start eating Ramen Noodles five times a week. If he's smart enough to sit himself out, I'm going to guess he's been smart enough to sock away some of those previously earned millions for when something like this happens. I don't think you'll see Ryan Dempster working at your local Home Depot trying to make ends meet.

So the Red Sox signed the perfect replacement—basically the same pitcher (except he's a lefty) that they just lost (if you look at their career stats.) West Springfield, Massachusetts native Chris Capuano passed his physical and has joined the Sox in Fort Meyers. But they got this guy for a fraction of what they would've paid Dempster, signing him to just a one-year deal worth $2.25 million.

Capuano spent his entire nine-year, major league career to this point in the National League having pitched for Arizona, Milwaukee, New York Mets and the LA Dodgers. Capuano is 73-83 in his career with an average ERA of 4.27. Maybe the whole not having to worry about hitting will improve his numbers just a little bit.

He spent his childhood rooting on the Boston Red Sox and even pitched at Fenway Park as a high school senior as part of a Massachusetts All-Star team. I imagine his head is about ready to explode right now. I always love when the hometown kids end up playing for the team they loved as boys.
"I was 8 years old in '86 when they lost to the Mets. I can remember being devastated as a kid," Capuano said. "I grew up watching the Sox and really following them. When I was out in the backyard playing Wiffle Ball with my friends, we'd always imagine ourselves on the mound at Fenway, so it's kind of cool to come back and maybe have a chance to be there."
Now he finally gets his chance... to pitch on the mound at Fenway... for real. And maybe, just maybe, he can help the team win the World Series again! Welcome, Chris Capuano, and good luck!

Friday, February 21, 2014


Sorry for the shouty caps but you know, sometimes they're just necessary. And this was definitely one of those times. Every year, right around the start of spring training, when I should be ecstatic that baseball is right around the corner, instead I feel this wave of disappointment that has me wondering why the hell I didn't plan a long weekend down to Fort Meyers to enjoy warm weather and baseball activities. And every year I say that next year will be the year that I make the trek south.

What makes it even worse is when you have a friend that happens to find themselves at JetBlue Park and they start torturing you with pictures and commentaries of what's happening. WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY?? Why must you be so evil? (Probably because before she left I said, hey, send me some pictures. Well that was stupid.)

In the meantime, I'm stuck here, in the cold, snowy, wet, damp, cold, dismal, cold north where there is absolutely NO baseball happening. But down in FLA...shit is happening at Fenway South! The pitchers are doing drills to hone their fielding skills. Big Papi is yucking it up with the fans and whining about his contract. Jackie Bradley Jr. is once again trying to win the centerfield job. And Mike Napoli is growing his beard.

But most importantly, this team has turned the page on last season and will embark once again on the mission of winning another World freaking Series!  The Red Sox have won back-to-back Championships just once in their long history—the 1915 and 1916 seasons. That was a long ass time ago. I think they're due for another repeat performance.

So because I'm such a nice person and I sort of want everyone to be as tortured as I have been today... I'm posting the pictures from JetBlue.

Happy Friday!!

PS: Thanks, Krista, for letting me live vicariously through you today, and for all the great photos!!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Day 326: If Only That Puck Went In...And Other Stuff. [SPOILER]

This post is chock full of spoilerific fun so if you're not up to date on the hours of Olympic coverage on your DVR, please come back another time.


With 1:24 left in the gold medal match between the US and Canadian women's hockey teams, the puck skittered down the ice towards the empty net the Canadian goalie had just vacated to give them an extra attacker. It clanged off the post. It will be the play I most remember when people talk about this tightly played game.

I'll also remember how the US team's defense sort of fell apart in the waning moments of the game as they surrendered a two goal lead with just under four minutes to go. The game-tying goal came a mere 30 seconds after the missed empty net shot—a miss that now loomed large as the teams finished regulation tied at two. Sudden death would decide who wins the biggest prize in women's hockey.

But penalties will kill you and that's exactly what they did to Team USA. Giving Team Canada a 5-on-3 advantage is just asking for trouble. Trouble revealed itself in the form of a 3-2 loss and a second straight silver medal for the Americans. Normally I'm happy with any color medal for my country, but this second place was just downright depressing.


Congratulations to Ted Ligety as the 29-year-old won his second Olympic gold medal in the Men's Giant Slalom on Wednesday. He pretty much made the rest of the field look like amateurs on the bunny hill since he had almost a full second lead after the first run. He probably could've skied down that course backwards and still won gold. Ok, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration—that was a seriously shitty course where one turn had Ligety almost pointing his skis back up the mountain in his second run. Evil conditions but nothing Ted couldn't handle. No big whoop.


The American women have made history in the two-man bobsled by earning two medals—a silver to Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams and a bronze to Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse. Elana Meyers also becomes the first US woman with two bobsled medals and her teammate, Lauryn Williams becomes just the fifth Olympian to medal in different events at the Summer and Winter Games. She also has a gold medal from the 4x100-meter relay in the 2012 London Olympics.

So the current medal count shows the USA in the lead... naturally... with 25 total medals. However, Norway leads the charge in the gold medal count with 10 first place finishes. Only a few more days left and then a long, four year wait for the Winter Games to return.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Day 325: Who Knew I Liked Ice Dancing? [SPOILER]

Wait... can I even discuss Ice Dancing on a sports blog? Is it actually a sport? I recently read online: "If your "sport" requires a dramatic musical score, then your "sport" is an art." Too bad. I'm still writing about it.

Of all the Olympic events, figure skating isn't high on my list of favorites. I'm not sure what it is about the event that turns me off—possibly the blindingly sparkly outfits that use all that nude-colored fabric that totally gives me the creeps. You know what I'm talking about, right? It's meant to give the illusion of half-naked skaters without them actually being half-naked. I especially hate it when the nude fabric is a darker shade than it should be, it just looks ridiculous. But I digress...

Despite my dislike of figure skating, I still watch it. I can't help myself. It's the Olympics. I feel un-American if I don't. So I suffer through the horrible outfits to support my country. I think maybe I should get a medal for that. And why on earth did the idiots in charge of the Olympics decide to add even more ice skating to the program? Team figure skating? Was that really necessary?

Then something really weird happened. The other night, as I was in and out of consciousness on the couch, I happened to see something that I found interesting. Something that made me smile. I discovered that I sort of love ice dancing. It's like Dancing with the Stars, but without the stars and on ice. Way more impressive and way more dangerous.

Plus, who doesn't love an event that has a move called the Twizzle? No, not Twizzler... there's no licorice candy involved in ice dancing. The Twizzle is simply defined as a multi-rotational, one-foot turn that when performed in ice dancing, must be perfectly synchronized. The closer the partners are and the more in synch the spin is, the more difficult the technique becomes and the higher the score will be. Evidently, Twizzles are hard and when they're not done correctly, it's really obvious and really ugly.

American ice dancers, Meryl Davis and Charlie White are sort of awesome at Twizzles. Actually, they're sort of awesome at every aspect of ice dancing. Probably why they won the gold medal—the first gold medal ever earned by the US in this event, by the way. Oh and with a World Record score. That's pretty cool and they totally made me a fan. It's too bad there has to be talk about the scores being fixed to ensure the Americans won. Why can't the losers just lose with dignity?

Not to worry though... my love of ice dancing does not have me planning to turn in my sweatpants and comfy couch for a rigorous training regimen and almost certain broken bones. Me in nude nylon outfits would not be pretty. Plus, my Olympic dreams would definitely lean more towards the curling sheet...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Day 324: Baseball for Beginners: Lesson #5 - The Lineup

While the snow is gently aggressively falling here in the northeast, Spring Training is in full swing down in sunny (un-snowy) Fort Meyers, Florida. I hate everyone who can comfortably wear shorts right now. I can't even comfortably wear shorts in my house—anything less than three layers and a fleece blanket is just not acceptable. I'm not bitter about winter or anything... nope.

Ok... here we are at Lesson #5 of Baseball for Beginners. I've realized that what I think in my head are very informative posts about baseball, are really just a bunch of gibberish that probably still don't actually teach stuff. Anywho... if you missed the previous "lessons", click here, here, here and here for your refresher. I've mostly talked about the defensive positions in baseball so this week I'm switching it up and discussing the offense—getting the hits and scoring the runs.

Often times conversations will revolve around a team's lineup—also known as the batting order. This is the order the nine players get their turn at the plate and it's the main component of a team's offensive strategy. The lineup is set by the team's manager before the game begins and must be followed exactly or it violates the rules and people get really mad and bad things can happen.

The batting order has some fun nicknames too. The first guy up to bat is called the "leadoff" hitter, the fourth guy is know as the "cleanup" because if the first, second and third guys get on base, he can clean up by driving them all in. The top two batters are often fairly quick and solid hitters—guys that have high on-base percentages and can get hits in front of the big guys.

The third, fourth and fifth batters are often called the "heart" of the lineup. These are generally the big bats, the guys who can hit for power and drive in runs. The remainder of the batting order are placed based on their lack of offensive abilities. The ninth or "last" batter usually isn't the best hitter on the team and with teams that don't utilize the designated hitter, this position in the lineup is reserved for the pitcher who is usually a pretty sucky hitter.

At the start of each inning, the batting order picks up where it left off in the previous inning. And because a game might end before the last cycle is complete, the #1 hitter might have one more at bat than the #9 hitter—another reason you want your strongest batters near the top of the order.

Also, in Major League Baseball, the designated hitter (DH) is a player who doesn't field a defensive position, but instead fills in for the pitcher in the batting order. The DH can only be used for the pitcher and only in the American League. The National League still requires the pitcher to hit for himself. In the past, teams normally would have employed a big, power hitter to hit in the "heart" of the order but times have changed and many organizations are unwilling to pay big bucks to a guy who only plays one side of the game.

My big question as we head into the 2014 baseball season is who the heck is going to bat leadoff for the Red Sox now that Jacoby Ellsbury has defected to the New York Yankees? Shane Victorino, perhaps? Or will Jackie Bradley Jr. prove himself enough offensively in spring training to earn that most important spot in the batting order? We shall see!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Day 323: Olympic Interviewer Makes Bode Cry. Twitter Explodes. [SPOILER]

I'm not going to lie... the Olympics make me emotional. Normally sports in general don't make me cry (except for when the Red Sox win the World Series) but there's just something about the athletes competing for their country and the stories of how they got there that get me all choked up. Or maybe it's because those competing often get so emotional too. And forget a medal ceremony when an American wins gold, that just wrecks me.

But last night after the Men's Super G final I wasn't really emotional—more pissed off.

Bode Miller skied early in the competition and posted the fastest time so he had to stand there an watch skier after skier hurtle down the mountain attempting to knock him from the top of the podium. It wasn't until the last half dozen competitors that he finally fell in the standings. Skiers that were favorites for medals skied off the course or finished just hundredths slower than Miller. It was nerve wracking for me... I can only imagine what poor Bode was feeling.

When all was said and done, Bode Miller managed to hold on for the bronze medal becoming the oldest Alpine medalist in Olympic history at 36 year 127 days. It was fantastic to watch. What wasn't fantastic to watch was the post race interview done by former World Cup and Olympic alpine ski racer, Christin Cooper. This is what pissed me off.

Ten months ago, Bode's 29-year-old brother Chelone, an Olympic hopeful himself, died of a seizure in his van while in California. Bode was clearly emotional about his bronze medal win and interviewer Cooper just had to keep pushing the envelope with her line of questioning about his late brother. The interview ended quickly as Bode broke down in tears while the camera remained trained on the grieving skier. You can see the interview here but trust me, you're just going to smack Cooper.

The interview was uncomfortable to watch. She continued to ask what seemed to be the same question worded differently until she made Bode cry. And then Twitter exploded. Needless to say, the internet immediately jumped to @MillerBode's defense calling for Cooper's head on a platter. I was one of those tweeters and I may or may not have called her a bad word. But Bode came to her defense saying she was just doing her job. Well if that was my job, I would've quit.

Congratulations to Bode Miller for his bronze medal in the Super G and for being a bigger person than me when it comes to tolerating stupid people.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Day 322: Red Sox Righty Dempster to Sit Out 2014 Season

Pitchers and catchers reported to JetBlue Park in Fort Meyers, Florida on Saturday signaling that spring is right around the corner. The piles and piles of snow in my yard say differently—and even more is expected early in the week. I actually think I heard our snowblower cry uncle at some point after the last heavy wet snow that blanketed the northeast. I'm close to crying uncle too.

One pitcher was clearly missing from the group. Ryan Dempster, the 36-year-old right-handed veteran has decided to sit out the 2014 season citing health reasons and the desire to spend more time with his family. Dempster has pitched 16 seasons in the major leagues with last season being his first with the Red Sox. His numbers were nothing to write home about (8-9, 4.57 ERA), and he never got a start during the post season. He hasn't officially retired just in case he decided to pitch in 2015.

The Red Sox had a pretty solid starting pitching staff and there was talk of possibly even having a six-man rotation with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront, John Lackey and Dempster. But with his decision to not pitch, I guess that's not going to happen. Fingers crossed everyone else stays healthy.
"I had an incredible run, a chance to play 16 years in the major leagues and be around a lot of great teammates, made a lot of good friendships, great friendships," Dempster said in a surprise announcement one day before the first formal spring training workout for pitchers and catchers. "I'm totally comfortable with it. I'm at peace with my decision." 
"The past few years have been tougher and tougher," he said. "As you get older, going through some things, some issues I have with my neck that have made it harder and harder to throw a baseball and throw it like I'm accustomed to throw it."
Neck issues? Sounds like Ryan Dempster must have fallen asleep holding Clay Buchholz's baby.

Boston signed Dempster to a two-year, $26.5 million deal before the 2013 season but they won't have to pay the pitcher the remaining $13.25 million with his decision to sit out. The team can put that money to good use filling any remaining holes they find as spring training gets underway. Still unsigned Stephen Drew, perhaps?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Day 321: Now THAT Was Some Hockey! [SPOILER]

I was 10 when a group of college and amateur hockey players stunned the mighty Soviets in the 1980 Winter Olympics. I was old enough to know it was a huge win, but too young to understand what the hell just happened and what it meant for the USA. That Miracle on Ice will always be my first vivid memory of the Olympics and it was probably the moment when I fell in love with winter games.

This year, the American and Russian teams are both favorites for gold and if/when they meet in the medal round, it won't be nearly as lopsided as it was in 1980. The Soviet National team from the 80's was a serious force and came into Lake Placid having won gold in six of the seven previous winter games. They rolled through exhibition games beating several NHL teams, routing the NHL All-star team and crushing the USA team just days before the Olympics began. Am I the only one who pictures a team consisting of 20 Ivan Dragos in hockey pads?

The two teams met early this morning in the preliminary round and considering the score was tied after regulation, I'm guessing they're pretty even in the talent category. These days, things are a little different with Olympic hockey with many countries staffing their teams with mainly NHL players—something they didn't do in the 80's. The game wasn't without its controversy... I mean really, how can you not have just a little when these teams battle each other. Many Russia supporters feel that the winning goal was wrongly waived off giving the USA a chance to come back. But the net was clearly off its supports and the referees were right to say no goal. (Of course I say they were right, I bleed stars and stripes!)

So the game went to overtime. Five minutes of sudden death overtime is enough to send your heart directly to your throat. There's not much in sports that makes me wring my hands like hockey sudden death. The teams went back and forth and the overtime period ended with the game still tied. And now we go to a shootout. International rules are a bit different in that the teams are allowed to use the same shooter after the first three rounds and the US team put their trust in young TJ Oshie who not only scored the first goal of the shootout round, but also three more times, including the game winning goal.

Final Score: USA 3 : Russia 2

My palms were sweaty, my heart was in my throat... if this is how the prelim rounds are going to be for me, I'm scared for the medal rounds. If USA faces Russia for a medal, I swear I won't it through the game. This morning's match took years off my life. USA-USA-USA!!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Day 320: Well, THIS Has Only Happened Three Times Ever [SPOILER]

Have you seen the Olympic Men's Slopestyle Skiing final? Yes? Ok... read on. Please vacate the premises if you haven't had a chance to watch it. Last chance...

Slopestyle Skiing is yet another inaugural event in this year's Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. It's basically exactly like the snowboarding side of slopestyle except on double-tipped skis and it is oh so much more exciting. The tricks are more technical and more dynamic in skiing because, you know, there's more equipment with which to contend. It's been one of my most favorite events to watch this year—mainly because as a former skier, I know I would never be able to do any of this stuff.

I would call myself a lazy skier. I was never interested in challenging myself and wanted nothing more to ski green circles and blue squares all day long. The longer and less challenging a trail, the more I wanted to ski it. There were no bumps or jumps in my world (at least on purpose) and the only time I ever found myself skiing backwards was purely by mistake. (And that was usually followed by a spectacular wipeout.)

So basically I'm just in awe of the skiers that act like it's no big whoop to go spiraling through the air and do it with such grace and confidence. Those graceful Americans came in to this event with a pretty good chance of cleaning house. Nick Goepper, who had just won gold in the Winter X Games, was the favorite to take gold in this high-flying contest. And Nick didn't disappoint posting a first run 92.40—but it was two of his teammates that took the podium by storm.

Joss Christensen, who finished 6th in the X Games, posted a first run score of 95.80 that no one could challenge. He was the final skier named to the Olympic team and he celebrated by throwing down four practically flawless runs over the course. Gus Kenworthy finished second and will take home the silver and hopefully some Sochi stray dogs too.

It's the first time the US has occupied the entire medal stand in an event since 2002 when the US men swept the halfpipe event, and only the third time ever (1956, men's figure skating.) The three medals gave the US five in a span of 15 hours with the women snowboarders taking gold and bronze in the halfpipe.

I'm excited for some more speedy alpine skiing tonight and have successfully managed to avoid spoilers all day. I've become an expert at dodging results—which should itself be an Olympic sport!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Day 319: Jonny Gomes... A Fresh Shave for a Fresh Season

Noooooooooooooooo! Not The Ironsides!!

Jonny Gomes was in New York this week for a special occasion (depending on how you look at it.) With the start of the 2014 season right around the corner, Gomes decided to get himself a fresh new look with a fresh shave. The superstitious fan in me is screaming: Are you nuts? That beard won a freaking World Series!

But since it was for a good cause, I'll let it slide. Gomes teamed up with Norelco and the Travis Roy Foundation to shave off his beard for charity. Norelco donated $10,000 with the funds earmarked for buying wheelchairs for those less fortunate. The foundation, set up by the former North Yarmouth Academy hockey star who was paralyzed on the ice just seconds into his first collegiate game with Boston University in 1995, helps spinal cord survivors and funds research for a cure.

Jonny let Fox & Friends host and New Englander, Elisabeth Hasselbeck do the honors of shaving off The Ironsides that had been Gomes' identity for the better part of the last year. Click HERE to see the video... I laughed right out loud at the way Elisabeth just dives into her task, and also Jonny's reaction to losing the fur. He truly looks frightened.

While in NYC, Gomes also had the honor of meeting newly crowned Westminster Best in Show champion Sky, and I think he's holding out hope that some more Championship charm rubs off on the Boston left fielder. Sky is no stranger to winning—in two years of competing, she has taken home 129 Best in Show titles. Something for the Red Sox to aspire to, perhaps?

BEFORE SHAVE: Jonny Gomes and Sky. Champions unite. Photo from HERE.
AFTER SHAVE: Time to start fresh. The Ironsides will be back. Photo from HERE.
So now, the lone holdout on the clean shave is Mike Napoli who has no plans to shave off The Siesta. That's ok though... all those furry faces will be back in no time. The season is pretty long, you know!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Day 318: So Long... Derek Jeter Announces Retirement.

There are baseball players that retire and you think to yourself, it's about damn time. There are some that retire and you never miss them. There are some that retire and you breathe a sigh of relief that you no longer have to face them again. And then there are some who will truly be missed. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Derek Jeter will be one player to miss.

I know I sound like a broken record when I talk about how much I hate the New York Yankees and how growing up a Red Sox fan, everything the Bronx Bombers did made me want to throw up. I hated how many times they thwarted chances and left Boston fans feeling empty and frustrated. But then I loved them in 2004... you know why.

Last year, the Yankees said good-bye to Hall of Fame closer and class act, Mariano Rivera. And after the upcoming 2014 season, they'll say farewell to another player destined for Cooperstown, shortstop Derek Jeter. If someone asked me how long I thought he's been around, I definitely would've guessed wrong. When he calls it quits this fall, Jeter will have turned 40 a few months earlier and will have logged 20 years of service with the same team. Impressive.

Jeter's list of accolades is long. He got off on the right foot when he took home the Rookie of the Year award in 1996. He was selected to the All-Star game 13 times and is a five-time Gold Glove winner. While Jeter has never been known as a power hitter, he is a consistent hitter with a 19-year average of .312 and he currently sits 10th on the all-time hits list with 3,316. He also has five World Series Championship rings to add to his collection of awards.

You can read his farewell statement HERE. And get ready for the good-bye tour of the American League and tributes at every ballpark.

The Yankees will end their 2014 regular season at Fenway Park the last weekend in September which means that if Jeter isn't injured, he could potentially play his last game at the home of his longtime rivals. If he can't finish at home, isn't Fenway the next best place?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Day 317: Baseball for Beginners: Lesson #4 - The Outfielders

What a relief it was when I realized today was a baseball lesson day. I'm absolutely petrified to go perusing around the interwebs for fear of spoiling whatever Olympic events are going to be airing tonight in primetime. Seriously... this nine hour time difference is not doing anything for my stress levels—even though I'm pretty sure I said I wasn't going to let it get to me just last week. So tonight we move on to week four of Baseball for Beginners where we'll learn about the outfielders. If you missed weeks one, two and three, you can click HERE, HERE and HERE for those lessons.

The outfield (not the band from the '80's) is that vast stretch of emerald green grass just beyond the dirt of the infield that covers all the way to the wall. It's a magnificent expanse that is defended by just three guys—the left fielder who covers the left side obviously, the center fielder and the right fielder. They're responsible for catching fly balls and fielding base hits quickly to hold the runner to as few bases as possible. These players have a lot of ground to cover so generally, they should have some speed.

Outfielders tend to be a fearless bunch, throwing themselves into and over walls to try and make the catch. And home field advantage is often most important for them defensively because no two baseball parks have the same outfield blueprint. Each ballpark has its own quirks and corners and bounces. For example, Boston's Fenway Park has a left field wall that, while it stands only 305-310-ish feet from home plate, it stretches just over 37 feet high and serves as a large target for right-handed hitters. Many a potential home run has been robbed by that wall and those left fielders with vast Fenway experience, have the ability to hold a runner to a single off a ball that could've been a home run in a different ballpark.

Some of the greatest players in baseball history played the outfield. Red Sox slugger, Ted Williams, patrolled left field in the '40s and '50s and was the last major leaguer to bat over .400 when he hit .406 in 1940.  Even if you're not a die hard baseball fan, you may have heard names like Joe DiMaggio, Carl Yastrzemski, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth—all famous, Hall of Fame outfielders.

Here's just a little hint of what some outfielders put themselves through to try and get the job done... and when you're on enemy territory, you don't get too much help from those around you. Oh and well, this clip is just full of awesome so at least watch the first 30 seconds or so.

If that doesn't get you pumped up for baseball season, I'm not sure what will!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Day 316: US Sweeps Gold Medals in...

[SPOILER ALERT:] If you haven't been keeping up with the Olympics for the past few days and you still have some stuff taking up valuable DVR space, you may not want to read this. Otherwise... read on.

This year, the Olympics debuted Slopestyle to the lineup of events. If you haven't been keeping up on this form of competition and you're still fuzzy on exactly what it is, I'll try to summarize it. Slopestyle is a winter sporting event where competitors perform the most difficult tricks on a specially built trail that include obstacles like steel rails and giant jumps ranging from 20 to 80 feet. This event can be done on a snowboard or special twin-tipped skis. And basically, these athletes are borderline crazy.

The snowboarding portion of Slopestyle concluded just yesterday. I have to say it was pretty rad. (See, I can talk the talk... even though I can't walk the walk... or jump the jump.) It's sort of like the half-pipe without the pipe. There are a lot of the same mind-blowing tricks that are performed so far off the ground, you wonder how someone could be so fearless. The quick spinning and flipping that ends with a successful and smooth landing is dizzying for the spectator.

USA swept the gold medals in both the men and women's events, dominating the field. Twenty-year-old Sage Kotsenburg handily beat Stale Sandbech of Norway (silver) and Mark McMorris of Canada (bronze). He literally put it all on the line with a sick 1620 Japan Air—a trick he had never tried before that final run. Kotsenburg also made history by becomong the first US athlete to win an Olympic medal on Russian soil, a great start for the Americans.

Jamie Anderson took home the gold on the women's side beating Enni Rukajarvi from Finland (silver) and Jenny Jones of Great Britain (bronze). The women's competition was not without its problems. After several competitors complained that some of the jumps were too steep, organizers made some modifications to the course. Even those updates didn't keep Czech snowboarder Sarka Pancochova from crashing so violently, she cracked her helmet. After smashing her head on the ground, she appeared to be out cold as she ragdolled down the slope. It was scary as she lay motionless on the snow, but was able make it off the course unassisted.

Next up on the schedule for the snowboarders is the Halfpipe. That should make for some gasps! Looking forward to see what types of crazy tricks Shaun White has up his sleeve this year.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Day 315: The Truck is On Its Way to Spring Training!

For non-baseball fans, the term Truck Day might elicit a "Huh?" But for many Red Sox fans, Truck Day is really the official start of Spring Training. And yes, that stupid rodent in Punxsutawney, PA is telling us that winter won't end for another six weeks up here in the north, but down in Fort Meyers, Florida, spring will abound with the sights and sounds of baseball season. *sigh*

Photo Credit: Krista Nordgren
Every year I pledge that this is the year I make it down for a look at the team before they head north in April. And every year, March at JetBlue Park passes by without me. I'll get the occasional text from a lucky friend or family member as they sit lazily in the Florida sunshine enjoying friendly Fenway South, but still I have never been to even one spring training game. I feel like my fan status should be downgraded or something. I suck, to put it simply.

I know, you're probably wondering what the big whoop is since pitchers and catchers don't report until Saturday. But how do you think all that equipment gets to Florida? One big-ass tractor trailer truck, that's how. So bright and early Saturday morning, the movers loaded box after box of equipment into the truck in front of a small but loyal gathering of fans who braved the cold to bid the truck a fond farewell.

The 18-wheeler would be hauling 20,400 baseballs, 1,100 bats, 400 pairs of socks and 60 cases of sunflower seeds to name just a few of the baseball necessities. There might even be some various player articles on that thing—like maybe some spikes belonging to Will Middlebrooks and Mike Carp and Jake Peavy's bag. The nearly 1,500-mile journey will be piloted by Milford native, Al Hartz, who is embarking on the trip south for the 16th straight year.

So it's really quite silly to get so excited about a truck full of equipment, but after the bitter cold and snowy winter we're experiencing here in New England, the thought of baseball makes spring seem right around the corner!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Day 314: Sochi Opening Ceremony Marred By One Stubborn Snowflake

So did you watch the Opening Ceremony last night? I'm not going to lie... I barely made it through the Parade of Nations before I was drooling on the couch. But that's really what my favorite part is... getting to see all of the nations march through the arena and hear little tidbits about some of the athletes that you might completely miss otherwise. I'm sure I wasn't the only one that was confused by the order in which they filed in—that damn Russian alphabet is puzzling.

I also always look forward to critiquing the outfits. I love that the Bermudans wear their shorts—although they were tagged for the "worst dressed" list. And it always makes me chuckle when warm weather countries try to tie in tropical garb with the winter games. Personally, I loved Belgium's duds the most. Oh and the USA outfits were HID-E-OUS!! Ralph Lauren deserves a throat punch for that disaster. Is he trying to get our athletes beaten up? No wonder the US team has been told not to wear their stuff outside of the venue...

Luckily, I didn't miss the best part of the show—the incredibly stubborn snowflake that refused to turn into an Olympic ring. I said, "Well, whoever's responsible for that is going to end up in the Gulag." But guess what? Russian President, Vladimir Putin, never saw the mishap—or at least not when it happened. With some quick thinking, a tape delay, and some previous lighting footage, Putin's and all of Russia's feed displayed all five rings. The show's artistic director blamed the malfunction on the stage manager. Talk about a bad day at work. Only millions of people saw your blunder.

I'm guessing that the faux pas wasn't kept secret from Putin for long since everyone, everywhere was talking about it. I wonder where that stage manager is right now? Packing his bags for Siberia? Hiding under his bed? I know how I feel when I make a mistake at work that only a couple people see... This poor guy had commentators actually pointing out the technical difficulty while it was happening.

But at least the gaffe could help to boost the economy. Leave it to a designer at a New York advertising agency to come up with the idea to put it on a t-shirt. You can buy one HERE for the low price of $22.95. The rogue ring also has its own Twitter account. Maybe you'd like to follow it? @ForgetfulRing is actively tweeting and trying to make light of its error. I hope its feed remains spoiler-free which is more than I can say for the rest of the world.

Maybe the people responsible for the recent Sochi hotel debacle paid this stage manager to flub something up to take the heat off of them?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Day 313: Red Sox Hall of Fame Class of 2014

The Boston Red Sox named its most recent Hall of Fame selections and I can honestly say one of those choices, I don't agree with at all. I understand this isn't Cooperstown, but the panel of 16 judges that include club executives, print and broadcast media members, booster club representatives, and historians, may need to get their heads out of their asses. The group elected Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra and Roger Clemens to the team's Hall of Fame.

Now do you see my problem? Roger Clemens? Really? Roid boy Roger? The cheater.

I'm sure they're all sticking to the argument that there was no proof that the Rocket was on the juice during his 13 seasons in Boston. If you're just looking at his accomplishments with the Red Sox, he was mostly likely already Cooperstown-bound. He is tied with Cy Young with the most career wins (192) and most career shutouts (38) as a member of the Red Sox. He is the all-time franchise leader in strikeouts with 2,590 and he won three Cy Young Awards. Clemens also had two 20-strikeout, no-walk games in 1986 and 1996.

Well, that's all well and good but the dude cheated. He most likely will never be voted into the national Hall of Fame because of this so why did this bunch of wind bags vote him in? And how much Pedro and Nomar be feeling about their classmate? Oh well... it's done and there's nothing I can do about it but be bitter and annoyed and I have no interest in discussing that jackass more than I have to.

Red Sox shortstop from 1996-2004, Nomar Garciaparra has the fourth-best career batting average (.323) and fifth-best slugging percentage (.553) in the team's history. In 1997, he led the AL with 209 hits and 684 at-bats, and a 30-game hit streak—the same year he won the Rookie of the Year award. He batted .372 in 2000 which was the fourth-highest for a single season in club history. It was such a big surprised when Nomar was traded mid-way through the 2004 season, but who knows if his presence would've changed the outcome of that season. Regardless of his absence from that Championship run, he deserves a spot in Red Sox history.

Pedro Martinez won two Cy Young Awards and was named an All-Star four times in his seven seasons with the Red Sox. He played a huge role in the World Series run in 2004—his last season in Boston. Pedro finished his time with the Sox with a 117-37 record making him the club's all-time leader with a .760 career winning percentage. He had 72 10-strikeout games and his ERA with the Sox was a stingy 2.52—the seventh lowest in team history, but the lowest since the early 1900s. There were few pitchers more dynamic and fun to watch than Pedro. I remember the one time I was supposed to see him pitch in person, he was scratched just minutes before the game started. I was crushed.

Red Sox radio broadcaster, Joe Castiglione, was also inducted. He has spent the last 31 season as their play-by-play announcer. Castiglione became a household name for his call of the 2004 World Series win where he said, "Can you believe it?" He's been my beach buddy for years because there's not much that makes me happier in the summertime than sitting on the beach with the Sox game on the radio.

So other than that one mistake, looks like a pretty solid and deserved Hall of Fame class for the Red Sox in 2014. I just feel bad that Nomar, Pedro and Joe have to share the stage with that douchebag.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Day 312: The Olympics are Here! The Olympics are Here!

Can you tell I'm just a little bit excited about the start of the Sochi Olympic Games? It's what will keep me going now that football is over. Well, the Olympics and the fact that pitchers and catchers report next Saturday, but mostly the Olympics. Hey... it's only happens once every four years, right? I can get excited if I want.

This year, those tricky Olympics organizers are throwing us a bit of a curve ball. While the official Opening Ceremonies for the games are Friday night, they've really already started with a few events on Thursday. There will be preliminary rounds of Slope Style Snowboarding Qualification (a new, and very dynamic event), Freestyle Skiing Qualification (women's moguls) and Team Figure Skating (huh? there wasn't enough skating already?)

Unfortunately, pretty much everything that NBC shows us will be tape-delayed because Sochi is nine hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, so that just makes it impossible for the events televised in primetime to actually be live. You know what this means, don't you? It means either you stream it over the interwebs (at work! gasp!) to see it when it happens, or you avoid all world wide web contact for the entire day so you don't see the results. Click HERE for the TV schedule.

It also means that every single news report about the Olympics will be prefaced with the whole "spoiler alert" speech and everyone will be diving for their remote control mute button. Or you can just do what I do—stick your fingers in your ears and start singing "la-la-la-la-la" as loud as you can so as not to hear anything those evil spoiler newspeople are trying to tell you.

NBC received tons 'o flack for its tape-delayed 2012 London games. The time difference that summer also forced the network to delay broadcasting events, but it also gave them the opportunity to edit the primetime programming and include all those feel good stories that usually have me sobbing uncontrollably. And even though many took to social media to complain about it, it didn't seem to hurt the viewership. The London Summer Olympics earned record numbers when 219.4 million people tuned in to watch.

Let's just hope there are no major flubs with the network giving away the results accidentally. Sort of like the Missy Franklin gold medal mishap when just seconds before her final in the 100-meter backstroke, NBC ran a promo featuring Franklin as a newly crowned gold medalist. D'oh. Major head-desk for the moron who let that happen.

I think what I need to do in order to remain stress-free throughout the next 17 days is to just accept that with the speed information travels these days, I'm going to get spoiled on some events. I'm pretty sure it won't be the end of the world. And while it sucks to know the results before the event, it will still be fun to watch.

Can someone please remind me of this new philosophy when I'm spouting off like a crazy person on Facebook in a couple days?


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Day 311: Curt Schilling Diagnosed with Cancer

Sad news from Curt Schilling today—the 47-year-old former Red Sox right-hander released a statement through ESPN that he has recently been diagnosed with cancer.
"I've always believed life is about embracing the gifts and rising up to meet the challenges. We've been presented with another challenge, as I've recently been diagnosed with cancer. Shonda and I want to send a sincere thank you and our appreciation to those who have called and sent prayers, and we ask that if you are so inclined, to keep the Schilling family in your prayers.  
"My father left me with a saying that I've carried my entire life and tried to pass on to our kids: ‘Tough times don't last, tough people do.' Over the years in Boston, the kids at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have shown us what that means. With my incredibly talented medical team I'm ready to try and win another big game. I've been so very blessed and I feel grateful for what God has allowed my family to have and experience, and I'll embrace this fight just like the rest of them, with resolute faith and head on."  
- Thank you, The Schillings
Schilling has not disclosed the type of cancer yet but will most certainly get the heaps of support from his cancer survivor spouse. His wife, Shonda, battled stage-2 melanoma back in 2001 and founded the Shade Foundation of America to promote sun safety awareness.

Curt Schilling pitched for the Red Sox from 2004 to 2007, playing a huge part in their World Series wins in both '04 and '07. He finished his four years in Boston with a record of 53-29, but he was best in the playoffs going 6-1 with a 3.28 ERA during those two championship series. Schilling will forever be solidified in Red Sox lore for his courageousness when he limped to the mound in game two of the 2004 World Series and pitched with a freshly stitched up ankle and bloody sock.

Get well soon, Mr. Schilling.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Day 310: Baseball for Beginners: Lesson #3 - The Infielders

Welcome to week three of becoming a baseball fan! We've learned about the Pitcher (here) and the Catcher (here) but these guys need some help in the field. They're the two that get the play started and the seven other guys in the field are there to try and keep that batter from getting on base. Tonight, we're going to discuss the infield. I love the infield. This is where I played in my years of softball—I've played third base, shortstop and second base. Even though I've never played first base, I've certainly Bill Bucknered my share of ground balls at the other positions.

The infield consists of four players who man the three bases—first, second and third—as well as the shortstop who patrols the area between second and third base. They're the first line of defense against the opposing batters.

First base is the first of four that a baserunner must touch in order to score a run. It lives at the right corner of the infield. The first baseman is the guy who plays the field nearest to that base and is responsible for the majority of the plays made there. This guy is normally a big guy with good flexibility and cat-like reflexes. He often needs to stretch, sometimes almost into a split, to field throws from the other infielders. If the first baseman catches the throw before the runner touches the base, that runner is out. If a runner reaches first base, this guy is also responsible for keeping them from stealing.

Second base is the next base that a runner will advance to. The second baseman, the guy guarding that base and patrolling the right side of the infield, has to be all-around quick. He needs quick hands and feet and needs to get rid of the ball quickly. If a second baseman finishes the game with a clean uniform, he most likely sucks. He's pivotal in a double play, often the guy who gets upended by the runner sliding into second to break up the play. Second basemen are rarely big guys and not really known for their power at the plate.

The shortstop is different because he has no base to protect. He is, however, responsible for protecting the left side of the infield. Baseball generally has more right-handed than left-handed hitters and since most batters have a tendency to pull the ball slightly, the shortstop is usually a busy guy. Because of where on the field the shortstop is positioned, he must have the strongest arm in the infield. And like the second baseman, he should be agile in order to field those balls hit hard to his position.

Lastly, is the hot corner or third base—the last infield base touched by a runner on their way to home plate. It's called the "hot corner" because the third baseman is generally closer to the batter and right-handed batters can scorch a ball in his direction. These players also must have quick reflexes due to that close proximity to the plate, and they must also have a strong throwing arm. This wasn't my favorite position mostly because I didn't want to get nailed in the face with a screaming line drive.

So there you have it. Some quick facts about the infield and the guys who patrol it. Balls hit out of the infield are the responsibility of the outfielders—we'll take a more in-depth look at those guys next Tuesday.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Day 309: The Most Watched Super Bowl Ever? Really?

So it's no secret I thought the Super Bowl sucked. If you weren't a Seattle Seahawks fan reveling in the beat down or a general Peyton Manning hater, it was a total yawn-fest. The fourth quarter was so incredibly painful to watch, I left it for the comfort of my latest read. I, for sure, would rather have my tonsils removed through my belly button than have to watch anyone on the Seahawks in an interview.

A lot of the late game uncomfortableness had to do with the Denver Broncos' lackadaisical approach to trying to make a comeback. Where was the hurry-up offense? Where was the sense of urgency? It was clearly all absent. The Broncos went fetal at the worst possible time. Did that football off the noggin on the first play of the game knock something loose in Peyton's brain? Or where they a bunch of impostors? A friend posted on Facebook: "Somewhere, all of the Broncos players are tied up in their underwear while the Raiders play in the Super Bowl wearing Broncos' uniforms." Yeah... it was just like that. (Thanks for the laugh, Jamie!) 

It's really unbelievable to me that this ridiculous 43-8 drubbing was the most watched Super Bowl ever. Seriously? I'll believe most mocked, but most watched? Get out of town. But it's true—111.5 million people watched this crap—the biggest blowout since Dallas clubbed Buffalo 52-17 in 1993. I'm assuming about 90 million of those people used the game as an excuse to eat absurdly large vats of food and wax poetic about the overpriced and mostly disappointing commercials. (Not Budweiser, they were my favorite.)

Five of the last six Super Bowls have been decided by less than a touchdown—two of those games featured my New England Patriots who lost both nail biters. I would've preferred one or both of those games ended a little differently... maybe with second stringers getting some snaps because the game was so far out of reach. I will say I was a bit envious of those 'Hawks fans just coasting to the presentation of the Lombardi Trophy without a care in the world.

I also have to wonder if any of the other 111,499,999 people noticed what I noticed. There's a common denominator in three of last seven Super Bowls for the losing team. There was a certain player that played in Super Bowl XLII, XLVI and XLVIII and lost all three. Yup, Wes Welker. I've come to the conclusion that this guy is bad news. He's a jinx, a curse and total hex. Someone very evil and very clever possesses a tiny little Wes Welker voodoo doll ensuring that any team he's a part of will never win the coveted Championship. Sorry, Peyton... you're stuck with him now.

I'm curious how many of those 111.5 million folks woke up this morning with no recollection of anything that happened after the muffed coin toss by one fur-cloaked (and possibly drunk) Joe Namath. Oh well... so long, football. See you next fall.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Day 308: All I Wanted was a Good Game. This Sucks.

I'm not a fan of sucky Super Bowls and this one is turning out to be just that for footballs fan who could care less about either team. I'm sure Seahawks fans are stoked (or toked *heehee*) and Denver fans are too stoned to realize their team is losing. I'm not going to lie, if the Patriots were playing and they were crushing their opponent like this, I'm be pretty pumped too.

All this hype of the best offensive team versus the best defensive team isn't boding so well for that high-flying offense. The defense is crazy tough and refuses to let Denver get into a rhythm. Peyton Manning has a serious case of the happy feet and just doesn't look comfortable. At all. But then again why would he after that horrific opening play of the game when the snap bounced off his helmet and into the wrong end zone for a safety.

Things just never could get on track for the bewildered Broncos. Also, the turnovers have absolutely detonated the Denver offense. There's no way you can turn the ball over three times against a defense of this caliber and get away with it. And because the Denver defense isn't nearly as tough as Seattle's, it's making the Seahawks offense look pretty good. Oh well, live and learn I guess...that's if Peyton ever makes it back to the Super Bowl again.

I imagine the half-time show was the most entertaining part of the night. And I missed it. I was in the car driving home to catch the second half at home and I missed it all. I probably would've been better off to have watched the damn half-time show and just missed the first half of the third quarter. I'm annoyed—mostly because I didn't think to at least set the DVR. D'oh.

Boredom is setting in. This game blows. I kinda just want to go to bed because I almost think sleep would be more exciting.

Well, at least this will quell all that talk about Peyton Manning being better than Tom Brady. For now, anyway.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Day 307: More Super Bowl Commercials... and Now for Some Funnies

It's no secret that I really could care less about the two teams playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday. I mean, I'm rooting for Denver but all I really want is a good game and some great commercials. It has to be a good game, right? Both Denver and Seattle led their respective divisions with 13 wins and were both top seeds going into the playoffs. And how often does the Super Bowl feature the best offense versus the best defense? I'll tell you... it has only happened six times.

If you go back and review each of those games, the best defense won five of the six. Those statistics don't bode well for the Denver Broncos. As a matter of fact, the only best defensive team that didn't win the Super Bowl just happened to be the Broncos when they lost to San Francisco 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV—the year Joe Montana won his fourth title. 

The other thing to keep in mind is that in four of those five wins for the best defense, that team also featured a future Hall of Fame quarterback driving the offense. Now that's just not fair. The best defense AND a kick ass quarterback—I imagine the shame factor would've been high had those teams not won it all. It's still too early to tell if Seattle's Russell Wilson is going to be that caliber of QB, but for now, let's just say he's not.

But I digress. The real purpose of this post is to talk about some more Super Bowl commercials. I recently stumbled across a couple of spots that totally cracked me up. One has a past tie to the Broncos and features former and brief NFL quarterback, Tim Tebow. Who knew the kid could pull this off? And considering I'm not a big fan of Tebow, this ad cracked me up.

The other commercial I found entertaining was also just a wee bit disturbing—but it also proves once again that dogs make everything better. Audi has historically been high on the list of best Super Bowl ads and they produced one of my favorites in 2012 called Vampire Party. But this year's spot is kitschy and somewhat troubling and completely not what I expected from the luxury car brand. And it made me totally guffaw.

Ok, I'm done with blog posts about commercials now. Maybe. I can't believe tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday and then football will be over. {{flails}} Deep breaths... in exactly two weeks, pitchers and catchers report for the Red Sox!