Jul 15, 2013, 7:46 AM EST
I hopped on a Delta Connection flight to New York yesterday morning. There were eight people on the flight, including me. I was asked to move up to first class, not because I am special, but because they needed to balance out the weight. No mistaking it, baby: this is the big time. My first All-Star Game. And I’m so excited for it that I’m willing to overlook the inconvenient fact that it’s in New York and actually enjoy myself.
Nothing personal against New York. I’ve enjoyed myself often here. And I have the utmost respect for the city and its people. It’s just not my cup of tea. I am reminded of this every time I get in cab leaving LaGuardia and almost die ten times before I get to the Queensboro Bridge. I am reminded of it every time something happens which makes me have to be defensive and on guard and all of those things that New Yorkers tell you you have to be so the city doesn’t eat you alive. I live in Ohio. In a near-rural part of it, for cryin’ out loud. I get by OK when I have to come to New York, but my natural state is not best described as “on guard.” Especially since I began working at home. Putting me in New York is like putting a dairy cow in the middle of the African savannah. The novelty of my presence here will likely keep me alive long enough, but it’s by no means a natural state.
And this is where baseball has taken me this week, so on we forge.
I am staying at the Library Hotel, which is a little boutique joint based on the Dewey Decimal System. Really. My room number’s digits correspond with the classification for 20th century history and so my room is 20th century history-themed, right down to a book about Hitler and Stalin on the shelf and picture of Neville Chamberlin on the wall above the bed. It’s as if the hotel read all of my work about A-Rod and Braun and decided that I needed to be in the “appeasement of history’s greatest monsters” suite. Well-played, Library Hotel.
There’s a media shuttle from Midtown to Citi Field, but I decided that, for my first trip to Citi, I’d do it up John Rocker-style and take the 7 train. I’m glad I did. I always assumed it was the case, but now I know for certain: John Rocker was probably the most disgusting thing on the 7 train. Beyond idiots like him, the 7 train consists of more or less normal people trying to go about their day. Including the drunk guy and the guy with purple hair and the guy who looked like he just got out of jail for the fourth time and whoever else Rocker decided to attack in that article all those years ago. They didn’t bug me, I didn’t bug them and that’s how non-sociopaths get on in this world, Mr. Rocker.
As for Citi Field: it’s OK. Kind of a mish-mosh of styles and a more fragmented route is required to get around it than a lot of new parks, but it’s nice enough once you get to your seat and watch the game. And the food selection is pretty fantastic. Maybe the best I’ve seen in a big league park. There are many parks I like better than Citi — including ones that don’t have a bunch of scary as hell looking chop shops right outside the park that look as though they chop up way more things than cars – but it’s a fine enough place to take in a game. Like The Futures Game, which is the reason I was there yesterday.
I’m not really a prospects guy and don’t pay as close attention to scouting analysis as some other writers do. I figure the big leagues is a lot to cover so I end up reading Keith Law and Jason Parks and all of those guys for that stuff just like all of you. But I went to the Futures Game because, well, why not? I’m really glad I did.
For one thing, it was a nice, relaxed way to see Citi Field for the first time. I figure it will be hard to move around the place at the Home Run Derby tonight and the actual All-Star Game tomorrow, but yesterday Citi Field was probably only half-full and it made it easy to get to know the place a little bit. Starting with the Rotunda:
When Citi Field opened this was the most obvious nod to Ebbets Field — an ire-inducing nod for those who thought Fred Wilpon was a little too taken with Dodgers history — but for someone who was born a long time after Ebbets was knocked down it’s hard to get too worked up about it. It’s essentially a Jackie Robinson memorial, and while he was a Dodger, he sort of belongs to all of baseball now. As it is, the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum and the team store is right off the Rotunda. It feels Metsy enough to me. I mean, check it out. The second edition of Mr. Met. With hands so uncomfortably human-like I at first thought it was a real person pretending to be a mannequin:
After a lap around the park I settled into the auxiliary press box (located behind the glass in the air conditioned Acela Club behind the left field foul pole). Good seats for the game, although it was a bit of a sensory deprivation tank, insulated as it was from the ballpark noise. I assume I’ll be out there for the Derby and for the game, so I’ll have to get used to it. If that’s the worst thing that happens this week, well, good for me.
The Futures Game itself wasn’t transcendent but there were some interesting points. I was upset that USA manager Mookie Wilson didn’t put Byron Buxton into the starting lineup, but then he came in late and struck out in his first two at bats so maybe Mookie knew something we didn’t. Diamondbacks prospect Chris Owings had at least three slicker-than-slick plays at short. He’s hitting .353 for Reno, but I could find no numbers about his GF (grit factor) so it’s hard to say when we might see him in Arizona.
Dodgers prospect Joc Pederson fielded a fly ball in deep left in the top of the fourth and attempted to throw out Xander Bogaerts. He didn’t get him — Bogaerts showed off a pretty slick arm’s-length slide — but Pederson’s throw was a laser. Kid’s got a hose. You can say that about prospects, by the way. Stuff like “kid’s got a hose.” Say that about some kid who isn’t a prospect and you could go to jail.
Something also cool about prospects: most of us haven’t seen them before. I know that sounds like a shallow statement, but when you watch something like the Futures Game, you realize just how large a percentage of the players we watch on a daily basis are known quantities. We don’t watch them to see what they’re capable of. We know what they’re capable of. We just want to see them perform. Later on that fourth inning Jesse Biddle came in to bail Anthony Ranaudo out of a jam. He bent off a crazy-good curveball. I heard someone say he had a good curveball once. I’ve never seen it. Seeing stuff like that or like Pederson’s arm for the first time is exciting and fun. Now imagine seeing that a couple of years before a guy is good enough to make it to the Futures Game. When he’s playing out in East Jesus, Texas or Bumfuccaracas, Venezuela before anyone has heard of him. That’s gotta be the thrill that keeps the fire alive inside a scout.
The U.S. team beat the international team 4-2. The results kind of don’t matter, of course, but if you care about them go here.
I took the media shuttle back after the game. Taking a big bus from Queens into Manhattan is different from taking a cab in that you still think you’re going to be involved in multiple collisions, but since you’re in a bus you view it all with a tad more detachment, thinking of everyone else’s impending death rather than your own. “Oh, I wouldn’t have changed lanes there, but I suppose I’ll get a good view of him being smashed from this vantage point.” That sort of thing.
Today: there will be a parade. Players will be made available for the media. Kay and I will have an HBT Daily for you from the ballpark. Then there will be a home run derby. My choice will be staying in my deprivation tank where I’ll likely have Chris Berman’s commentary piped in or else going out into the park, braving the crowd and hearing Mike and Mike do the play-by-play over the P.A. system. I’m thinking Mike and Mike will get the nod.
Follow me on Twitter for real-time updates and random photos. Keep coming back here to HardballTalk for posts as the day and evening wears on.
Mar 7, 2014, 7:05 PM EST
Deep into the off-season, Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Ervin Santana, and Kendrys Morales were still free agents despite being productive players last season. Jimenez and Cruz recently signed with the Orioles, but the latter three still remain unsigned with the regular season just weeks away. All five rejected $14.1 million qualifying offers from…
Mar 7, 2014, 6:00 PM EST
The Phillies are reeling after Cole Hamels suffered a setback, pushing his 2014 debut into May most likely. They’re thin on starting pitching depth even after adding A.J. Burnett last month. As a result, they have checked in with Ervin Santana according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Or maybe not. Matt Gelb of…
Mar 7, 2014, 4:17 PM EST
Oliver Perez is one of the best unsigned free agents and Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com says that’s about to change, reporting that the left-handed reliever is close to a multi-year deal with the Diamondbacks. Arizona had already invested an awful lot of resources into the bullpen even before bringing in Perez, who went from being…
Mar 7, 2014, 3:50 PM EST
Angels right-hander Dane De La Rosa went for an MRI exam after getting knocked around and being pulled from his appearance Thursday, but the initial news is good. Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com reports that the MRI exam showed no structural damage and De La Rosa is hopeful that he can avoid beginning the season on…
Mar 7, 2014, 2:44 PM EST
Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips isn’t talking to the Cincinnati media, but he’s willing to talk to the national media and willing to talk to the national media about why he’s not talking to the Cincinnati media. Case in point, this Phillips quote to Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com: I don’t have nothing to say to…
Mar 7, 2014, 2:00 PM EST
Bad news for Royals fans. And for Luke Hochevar, of course: Hochevar, the 30-year-old former No. 1 overall pick, felt a twinge in his elbow on Monday. On Tuesday, he felt soreness in the joint, and an MRI revealed his condition, which also includes strained muscles around the elbow. On Thursday, he was scheduled to…
Mar 7, 2014, 1:30 PM EST
Because of course he is: In Jeter’s retirement call, Hal Steinbrenner said he said, “I know everybody says this, but I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life.” — Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) March 7, 2014 Guess that means Brendan Ryan isn’t going to get as much playing time as he hoped.
Mar 7, 2014, 1:10 PM EST
Brad Penny‘s comeback attempt didn’t last very long, as the Royals just released the 35-year-old right-hander. Penny didn’t pitch in the majors at all last season and hasn’t been effective since 2010, when he made nine good starts before getting hurt. Since then he has a 5.41 ERA in 210 innings and Penny got knocked…
Mar 7, 2014, 12:30 PM EST
FORT MYERS — I have seen the future of spring training complexes, and its name is Jet Blue Park. Or maybe it’s not the future, because frankly, I’m not sure who else is going to shell out the kind of dough this place likely cost besides big money teams like the Red Sox (or the…
Mar 7, 2014, 11:50 AM EST
By now, most baseball fans know the story of Tommy John surgery. In 1974, John — a solid pitcher for a decade — blew out his elbow while pitching for Los Angeles against the Montreal Expos. “Blew out his elbow” is not a medical term, of course, but there was no need for medical terms…
Mar 7, 2014, 11:19 AM EST
A whole lot of people said a whole lot of good things about the Nationals’ trade to acquire Doug Fister from the Tigers, but now there’s this: Fister was scratched from today’s scheduled start and sent for an MRI exam after complaining of elbow soreness. No structural damage was found during the MRI exam and…
Mar 7, 2014, 10:47 AM EST
Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer checks in with an update on Carlos Santana‘s progress trying to transition from catcher to third base and … well, it ain’t going perfectly: Right now, Lonnie Chisenhall and every other third basemen in camp look better than Santana when it comes to defense. No.1 Santana hasn’t gotten…
Mar 7, 2014, 10:15 AM EST
Mariners third base coach John Stearns was expected to miss the early part of the season after undergoing hiatal hernia surgery last week, but instead he’s decided to step down from the job altogether. Stearns explained that he felt it would be unfair to the players and coaching staff to reclaim the position in mid-April…
Mar 7, 2014, 9:59 AM EST
A friend of mine once said that this profession is filled to the brim with unrealistic mother[expletives]. Mother[expletives] who thought their [expletive] would age like wine. If you mean it turns to vinegar, it does. If you mean it gets better with age, it don’t. Exhibit A, Manny Ramirez, who said this to Enrique Rojas of…
Mar 7, 2014, 9:42 AM EST
Just about every ballpark you go to plays that Blake Shelton song, “Boys ’round here” during warmups or batting practice: Yeah the boys ’round here Drinking that ice cold beer Talkin’ ’bout girls, talkin’ ’bout trucks Runnin’ them red dirt roads out, kicking up dust The boys ’round here Sending up a prayer to the…
Mar 7, 2014, 8:49 AM EST
CC Sabathia has a new trick in his bag: Andy Pettitte did more than simply watch CC Sabathia‘s bullpen session on Monday. The guest instructor actively instructed, primarily helping to teach Sabathia a cut fastball, something the Yankees’ ace hopes to add to his repertoire this season. “He was showing me a grip with the…
Mar 7, 2014, 8:12 AM EST
FORT MYERS — A day after we learned of the stink the Marlins are raising about the Red Sox not bringing a sufficient number of major leaguers on their long road trip to Jupiter, the Braves are traveling here to Fort Myers to face Boston. Here’s who is making the trip: #Braves travel roster for…
Mar 7, 2014, 7:25 AM EST
You’ve probably read about Hank the Dog, the Brewers’ unexpected spring training mascot who showed up as a stray at their camp in Maryvale. He’s been a big hit with the team and its fans, even racing in the sausage races last week while wearing a hot dog costume which, holy crap, is the cutest…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:28 PM EST
FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has hired Adam Katz and Andy Mota of Wasserman Media Group as his new agents. He was previously represented by Jaime Torres. Puig signed a six-year, $42 million contract with the Dodgers in June of 2012 and remains under contract through 2018, so there’s no…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:31 PM EST
Sad news to pass along this evening, as Tommy John surgery pioneer Dr. Frank Jobe has passed away at the age of 88. Jobe worked for the Dodgers for 50 years and is best known for performing the first-ever unlar collateral ligament reconstructive elbow surgery on left-handed pitcher Tommy John on September 25, 1974. While…
- Ian Kinsler hopes Rangers go 0-162, calls GM a “sleazeball” (132)
- Albert Pujols was insulted when someone asked him if he can put up Mike Trout numbers (100)
- The politics of “The Cardinal Way” (67)
- Robinson Cano wants the Mariners to bring in Kendrys Morales and Ervin Santana (64)
- Reporter calls Ian Kinsler as self-absorbed as A-Rod (60)