Monthly Archives: July 2005

The Rick Rages

(Why do I suck so hard?)

Let’s say I’m watching the game. And let’s say the umpire – any umpire – makes a ridiculous call. I can pretty much countdown from ten and by the time I arrive at one, my dad will have called. Crappy umpiring is one of my dad’s pet peeves. He rants and raves like Carl Everett at an archeologist’s convention. Below, he takes on umpires, in a remarkably coherent way.

The Rick Rages:

So here’s my issue with baseball umpires, Major League umpires in particular. It’s my contention that umpiring baseball is so much different, and hence easier, than other sports and yet many, many umpires are still horrible. Why is that?

In baseball, let’s say that 90% of the calls are predetermined – that is to say the umpire has to make a decision, be it fair or foul, strike or ball, safe or out. In virtually all those cases he gets to see it coming, and at least with balls/strikes and safe/out he knows precisely where the event will take place so he can better focus on that spot. And because there are umps at every base he should almost always be in a proper position to make the right call. Plus the players tend to be more stationary than the other team sports, again making it easier to determine where the call is going to be.

Obviously there are other calls that are required such as balks, interference/obstruction, foul tips, check swings, etc. that require unanticipated judgment but the vast majority of calls are served up to the umpires in a predetermined fashion.

Now compare that to football, basketball, and hockey where fouls/penalties are a big part of the calls. In any given game there are an infinite number of call/non-call decisions to be made. “Was that holding?” “Was that traveling?” “Slashing?” “Did he step out of bounds?” And so on. As an official you never know when there is going to be a call/non-call event so you have to be on top of it at all times. And because those games are so fast paced with players moving all over the playing surface, it must be very challenging to stay abreast of everyone.

Now, I’m not trying to say that Major League Umpires aren’t good at there jobs, well, some of them aren’t. But I do say that their job is relatively easy when compared to their peers in other sports. And yet they still manage to screw it up a remarkable percentage of the time.

Granted, trying to determine whether a Wakefield knuckler or Wells curveball or a Randy Johnson fastball caught the corner can be challenging. But at least they know it’s coming so they should be prepared for that moment of decision. But often they still miss the call, and balls and strikes are often notoriously inconsistent from umpire to umpire and even pitch to pitch by the same umpire in the same game. No wonder pitchers often get upset.

So while I’m on umpires, I’m glad they’re finally getting one thing right. They are now huddling on controversial calls to try and get it right, so that self-righteous arrogance they used to display in those situations is gone. Mostly. ‘Bout time, football has been doing it for years.

Finally, I pose one last question: When a batter check-swings, the catcher can appeal to either the third base (when a lefthander is at bat) or first base (when a right-hander is at bat) umpire to see if that ump will over rule the home plate ump and call the swing a strike. So why can’t the batter make the same appeal when the home plate umpire rules that the batter didn’t hold up his swing and hence calls a strike? You never see that! Why not?

That’s The Rick, y’all. And his thoughts for today. In the future, I assume we’ll be arguing back and forth more often on certain things but I happen to agree with him on this one. However, I offer you a transcript of a voicemail I received from him last night shortly after Olerud’s grand slam:

“What’s wrong with you? You don’t have your phone on during such a pivotal moment? I’m disappointed! Sent you some stuff to post but dammit, get back on the job!”

Such pressure.

Speaking of pressure, the trading deadline has got me chewing my fingernails down to bloody nubs and alternately whimpering and raging. Aside from the fact that the Yankees have just signed Alan Embree which, frankly, I cannot bring myself to talk about yet, there’s nothing big to report. More later, I’m sure, assuming I survive the impending ulcer.


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Pinch Hitter

(Like father, like daughter)

Okay, so, some of y’all have met my dad. For those of you who haven’t, that’s him up there. On this blog, he’s often referred to as “The Rick.” He’s a good sort, and completely responsible for my own sports-related psychosis.

As such, he’s become a bit of a cult figure on this here blog and Amy (sans nuts) floated the idea the other day that The Rick should have a recurring guest spot on Basegirl. He’s agreed, if you all think it’s a good idea, because if there’s one thing my dad has, it’s an opinion.

And so, I leave it to you, dear readers. Do you all want to hear from The Rick? I’m thinking maybe once a week or so we’ll just grab a sports related topic and yak about it, argue over it or fight to the death. Thoughts?

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Goodbye is the Hardest Word

(Photo from

In a rather stunning development, Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson has just announced his retirement after ten seasons with the New England Patriots. has the story.

Most notable is the quote from Johnson:

“It is with deep regret that I have decided to retire from football. The decision was not an easy one, but life sometimes has a timetable all its own. I can no longer ignore the severe short- and long-term complications of the concussive head injuries I have sustained over the years.”

This comes on the heels of Tedy Bruschi’s announcement that he’ll take at least a year-long hiatus from football.

I think sometimes we forget just how much of themselves these guys leave on the field. Sometimes it isn’t just their blood, sweat and tears. Sometimes it’s their actual health and well-being. Football is a brutal game. We all know that. No one more so than the players. But it often takes a staple of your team retiring to bring it home.

I’ll miss referring to the havoc-wreaking D-line as “Big Willie and the Teds” but I wish Johnson all the best.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that in his era of Belichickian New England Patriots football, those that are part of the championship teams never really go very far away.

Good luck, Ted!

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Red Sox Catcher Blood Feud Update

Phone message from Kevin during the 5th inning of yesterday’s Sox/Devil Rays game: I demand a six pack for every base that Dougie steals. That is worth some beer. I will take a six pack of Coors Light.

Return phone call: You can’t retroactively request beer.

Kev’s response: Damn right I can. Dad says a Dougie stolen base is worth at least a six pack.

Rebuttal: Which would put you at two…total…career. The last time he stole a base was over five years ago.

Kev: Don’t care. He’s a speed demon today. I want beer.

Me: Okay, listen, you can have a six pack every time Dougie steals a base if I get one every time Varitek…throws out a runner trying to steal.

Kev: *prolonged silence* Deal.

Me: You’re on.

Later in the evening, I relayed this exchange to Annette when I asked her to confirm that Dougie did, in fact steal a base.

Annette: He totally did. It’s all anyone will talk about.

Me: What possesses him to do that?

Annette: I bet he just woke up today and thought, “I feel fast.”

Me: Yikes. But still, a six pack for Dougie’s steals vs. a six pack for Varitek’s runners thrown out? I totally win.

Annette: You totally do.

However, I watched the replay of the game last night at 7:00 on NESN and was dismayed to see that Tampa Bay’s lone run scored on a Doug Mirabelli passed ball. I quickly shot off an email to my brother:

“Now see, you neglected to tell me that the only Tampa Bay run that scored did so on a DOUG MIRABELLI PASSED BALL! This is pertinent information. But I’ll let it slide…this time.

“Also, have you ever noticed that Dougie is completely square-shaped?* He’s perfectly geometric. I hereby dub him, ‘Dougie Mira-Squarepants.'”**

Still waiting for a response.

*observation courtesy of Amy and her dad.
**nicknamed invented by Marianne.

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Turning Point?

(Yahoo! Sports)

I hate to quote myself but…half an hour ago I wrote this:

“Obviously, I want the Sox to win this game. I want this to turn into one of those “Moments” that we come back to, like last year’s brawl game, where the team metaphorically kicks itself in the ass and comes back to win and to turn the season around.”

I guess time will tell.

As for me…

*collapses on the floor in a sobbing heap*


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To Hear a Pin Drop

(photo from Yahoo! Sports)

The game is not over yet – it’s currently the top of the 8th inning and the Sox are down 8-6, but I can’t seem to think about anything other than Carl Crawford’s line drive that dropped Matty Clement like a sack of fertilizer. And, like Beth, I found that as I stared at the television, my face a rictus of horror, there were tears forming in the corners of my eyes. Because, no matter how much time you spend making fun of a player’s imagined penchant for Cat Fancy magazine or his alleged peanut allergy, you realize that you really do love the guy. And you don’t want anything bad to happen to him. You realize that through the wins and losses ERA and WHIP and BB/K ratio, there is one thought repeated over and over like a manta in your head, “Be okay, Matty, be okay, Matty, be okay, Matty, be okay…”

The Sox are playing lackluster baseball right now and honestly, I can’t blame them. For as much money as they make and as many trade rumors as litter the sports pages every day, they do spend most of their waking hours together and they are a family. And they have to care right now. Not about the game, so much as they want it to be over, but about their fallen teammate.

The worst part was how quiet it was. I’ve been to the Trop and it’s not a loud place, in and of itself, but the faces of the fans in the stands after Matty went down – Devil Rays and Sox fans alike – said it all. There was nothing to say. Remy and Don-O didn’t know anything more than we did. They were watching right along with us. We’re so used to them being the voices of reason, or insanity, but we’re used to looking to them for explanation. For me, they’ve always had an uncanny way of answering my questions immediately after I voiced them, either to someone in the room or to the empty room at large. But this time, they had nothing to say.

Then there was Millar’s face. For as long as he’s been on this team, Millar has always had at least a semi-smile on his face. Even being down 0-3 to the Yankees in last year’s ALCS, he couldn’t stop smiling and joking around. But as he stood over Matty, his body curled into a loose fetal position, his face was stony with no hint of smile. Millar’s face, combined with Varitek’s slow, determined walk away from the mound, made it clear that this was bad.

The inevitable comparisons to Bryce Florie popped up after mere minutes. “No,” I said to the TV, as there was no one here, “No, Matty, be okay.” I called my dad. It was all I knew to do.

“Are you watching the game?” I asked.

“No,” he said, “We’re in the car. But I’ve got it on the radio.”

“It’s bad,” I said, my voice shaking a bit.

“WEEI says he’s alert and aware of what happened,” Dad reassured me, “He’s going to be okay.”

“Okay,” I said, pacing the kitchen, “Okay.”

“Everything else okay?” Dad asked.

“Um,” I said, “Yeah, I guess so.” I paused, “Dad, that was really bad.”

“It’s going to be okay. He’s going to be fine.”

Sometimes, that’s just what you need to hear.

According to Eric Frede’s in-game updates, Matty is alert, concious and “in good spirits.” These are all good things. Nevertheless, this kind of stuff is so scary. I’m a hockey fan so it’s not like I’m not used to violence. I love football and celebrate a bone-crunching sack with the best of ’em, but there’s just something different when it’s baseball. Or when it’s so unexpected. Hockey and football players know they’re going to get hit. They prepare for it. It’s part of the game. But baseball is not a contact sport. When the ball comes back to the pitcher, a lightning-quick screaming liner, there is no time to react. And that’s what makes it so terrifying.

In the game, Varitek has just hit a 9th-inning home run to bring the Sox within a run and Millar has singled to put the tying run on base. Obviously, I want the Sox to win this game. I want this to turn into one of those “Moments” that we come back to, like last year’s brawl game, where the team metaphorically kicks itself in the ass and comes back to win and to turn the season around. But right now, my thoughts are still with Matty.

Be okay, Matty, be okay, Matty, be okay…

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Nerds Bite Bullies

(photo from Yahoo! Sports)

No, no, no, no, no. Just…no. We don’t lose one run, extra inning games to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Or rather, we do, I guess, but I’d really prefer it if we didn’t. Look, if the Devil Rays had an online dating profile, it would read like this:

Being assholes, making people cry, wearing stupid vests.

You, Me, laughter, sunshine, kittens, fun.

Unacceptable. The entire team lives in constant fear of their manager short-circuiting and eating the shortstop or a utility infielder. Carl Crawford is probably safe because I don’t think Sweet Lou’s gonna run him down without the aid of a motorized Sequeway. But as for the rest of ’em, how can you focus when you might become Lou’s lunch at any second?

I love Mike Timlin. I really do. Despite all his blustery “I’m a big, huntin’, Nascar watchin’, god-fearin’, Southern baseball player” business, I really kind of love him. But it is not necessary for him to let eleventy billion inherited runners score. Just because someone happens to be on the basepaths does not mean they’re allowed to touch home plate. This is not a manifest destiny situation, Big Fitty. You can do that snarl thing you do, turn to spit on the grass and say, “Screw you. You’re staying right there. This land of ‘home’ you’ve heard tell ’bout ain’t nothin’ but a legend for you.” I don’t know why Timlin speaks like a 1940s gold prospector in my mind but just go with it. I’m starting a new campaign right now. “I Heart Wins. I Hate Inherited Runners.” Who’s with me?

As for Manny, well, he’s Manny and as Beth so brilliantly pointed out, when people get on him, I get really defensive because I think of him as a small child who doesn’t know any better. And so, to that end, if last night’s 9th inning with the bases loaded and two outs was a third grade report card, Manny would get As in “Attitude,” “Skill Level” and “Plays well with others,” but he’d be rockin’ Fs in “Follows directions” and “Performs according to potential.” A pop out to right with the bases loaded in a tie game is not what I ordered, Manuel. Not what I ordered at all.

Also? There was that business where Olerud got a hit and yet the ball somehow nails Trotter who is then called out for “interfering with a ball in play.” Not intentionally, mind you. But still. That happened and I typed to no fewer than four people who I was conversing with at the time, “What other team does that happen to? None other team is the answer.” And yet does it really surprise any of us that the Red Sox were able to pull that off? Call me a prophet.

But what can we do? The trading deadline is rapidly approaching and there are rumors that everyone from Bro-Yo to the bat boy are getting swapped. What we need is pitching, clearly, but name me a team who doesn’t need another arm. All faith in Theo but for the next week, I wear my fingernails down to bloody nubs waiting for the announcement that my favorite binky has been shipped out of town. And when you get right down to it, aren’t they all my favorite binkies?

So tonight we go with Matty against that poor devil Mark Hendrickson who didn’t make it out of the first inning last time we faced him. In fact, the Sox scored six runs before he made an out which, if I’m doing my math correctly, puts his ERA for that last game at infinity. That’s gotta be a wee bit demoralizing. And well, I’m sure he’s a nice kid and all but I’m going to need to Sox to hit him like he owes them money tonight. I want a win!

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