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The Couch Report: A Non-Baseball Fan’s Guide to the 2015 MLB Season

Opening Day 2015 has come and gone.

As usual, it didn’t disappoint. There were home runs to win it, poor bullpens to lose it, and great starting pitching to dominate it. And yes, there was Dee Gordon, falling on his face while batting, providing the humor in it.

dee

Ah…it’s Opening Day!

Regardless if you are a diehard fan of baseball or not, there really is something special about the first day of baseball—and the night before, I guess. The history of it reflects a beauty in American culture, reminding us summer is almost here. It touches our senses, the smells we remember from our youth while watching games. Opening Day is where breakout stars can be born, old-timers re-born, and the always-fun, proverbial unknown, who makes us collectively say: “Sure didn’t see that comin’.”

It’s the catalyst to resurrecting old conversations, the same way it’s a catalyst for the new. It reminds us of the nuances.

  • Three hits out of 10 chances in baseball, failing 70 percent of the time is considered an incredible success.
  • Players run when they are walked; sometimes they walk at the beginning and end of a home run.
  • Baseball is a sport about stealing bases, though the evidence is always left behind.
  • It’s subtlety, but with in-your-face hand signals for the other teams to see.
  • Grab your nuts.
  • Grab your nuts again.
  • Hey, peanuts here!
  • Coke!

It’s the best.

However, there’s a reality to Opening Day: There’s 161 games to go after that. No question, with the attention spans shrinking and the TV channel options not shrinking, you’re asking a lot from the non-diehard fans.

Because, hey, Mad Men and shit.

But I get you, John T. Casual Fan. Even though I fall near the category of diehard baseball’er, that doesn’t mean I don’t understand this dilemma—far from it, actually.

The MLB season is…long. It’s a bunch of games, with 30 teams, played every day, at various times of the day, every week, all over the place. Baseball, like most sports, is covered heavily, 24/7. And over a seven-month period, stretching from April to October, that amount of talking head/Twitter/Instagram/Personal Blog (Yeah, I know)…it makes for a rather large book—it would make Infinite Jest blush.

Phew! Infinite Jest…

In baseball, there are music breaks, stretches and some minor gardening here and there. Hell, It’s like a bad Karaoke party in Jenny’s back yard—where Jenny is selling a beer and a hot dog for $26.50 and her only friends are Joe Buck impersonators.

#NoFun.

dees

Yep, it’s as clear to me as a failed Pepsi creation. You want the driver and the pitching wedge; not the entire set of clubs. You want the nostalgic glamour of Opening Day. Then, if the NFL isn’t on, maybe a game or two of the playoffs, followed by the World Series.

And that’s it—zero need for the oversaturation.

The problem is, though, there’s a lot of good stuff in between Chapter 1 (Opening Day) and the final pages (the World Series). Every year, it never fails. The storylines are often more intriguing in June than they are in September. Some of the drama that occurred during past MLB Julys and Augusts was epic. I mean, who can forget Disco Demolition Night, held at Comiskey Park in July of 1979.

Luckily, I think I’ve got you covered—with a happy-medium creation, where the non-and the diehard fans live in harmony for 162 games a year. Call it… the Cliff’s Notes for the 2015 MLB Season or Non-baseball Loving Hitchhiker’s Guide to the MLB.

It’s quick and simple, a brief look into each month, shaped and squeezed down to the attention-keeping minimum. It’s not THE most important things each month. It’s not just a merry-go-round snooze fest circling the bases, with a bunch of balls and strikes and outs, either.

Nope. We’re talking, stuff…interesting stuff.

So, sit back and grad a beer, grab some food, too. Hell, grab some Ballpark food. The calorie-packed coleuses—a bake sale, wrapped up in buns, smothered in ice cream, and covered in enough cheese to kill Fat Bastard—and, at least, seven bison.

Waitress! Menu, please:

raysastros brewers piratesdiamondbacks

Let me take you out, briefly, to the next 161 ballgames…

 

April

The day after Opening Day should be directed by Michael Bay. It’s chaos. Regardless if it’s good or bad, fan bases jump the gun in what can be considered one of the longest-running false starts in sports history.

This year is no different. However, this year is also 2015. The same year Back to Future 2 said the Cubs were going to win the World Series.

April fodder…commence.

There are several problems with this prediction. Let’s overlook the argument that the Cubs are still a few seasons from overtaking the Cardinals—and maybe even the Pirates?—and get right to cinematic reality. The Miami Marlins, the team that will supposedly lose to the Cubs, are also in the National League. (Real quick: There are two leagues—American League and National League. The winner from each league plays in the World Series.)

Steven Spielberg didn’t have that info in his back pocket—he has assistants to carry his stuff in their pockets, I bet.

Regardless, it cancels out any thought of Back to the Future’ 2’s prediction.

(There are also zero flying cars in 2015, too.)

But Chicago is desperate, as usual, and that will make for some serious emotional swings. Every win will be the juggernaut genius of Joe Maddon (the skipper) and Theo Epstein ( the GM), moving the franchise closer to the expected destiny. Every loss will be hell on earth—or, Chicago in the winter.

Richard?

dees5

Yep, that’s Chicago. And If the ups and downs don’t keep you entertained, try following several of the local sports-media folk (or just click here)  to  get a blow-by-blow, brick-by-brick update of the Wrigley Field renovations.

As the story goes… Wrigley Field has not been fully renovated, as of yet, leaving an interesting, fun-filled Bob the Builder-type Instgramming, Tweeting, and Facebooking of the progression.

Wrigley also had a problem with the shitters, which brings us to this:

Random Alex Rodriguez Record to Keep an Eye On: Yes, he’s back. PED-popping Alex Rodriguez is only five (he hit one already) homers away from tying Willie Mays. When A-Rod smacks No. 5 on the season, the clouds will open up, sending out a media-frenzied opinion storm that will be covered from every angle imaginable. It will be one of the most-hated players, tying one of the most-beloved players; doing so under the shroud of a steroid cheater’s cloak—of shame, I tell you.

All that should keep you entertained until…

 

May

The second month of baseball is just far enough removed from spring training to get the rumor mill back in full scenario-swinging mode. This is when fans—and yes, the organization—start to covet pieces of the puzzle that are clearly a current mess. Whether that is a strong mid-relief guy, or a platoon man off the bench, perhaps a starting pitcher (or three), May is when/where the whispers of the July Trade Deadline are born.

Where does this put you—the casual fan who doesn’t really care?

Well, it gives you a chance to play a game: MLB Bullshit. It’s like the card game, but with actual people, writers and talking heads, and every single genie-wielding fan out there.

Playing MLB Bullshit is simple, too. All that is needed is your favorite team—or teams—and the Internet/TV. To play, simply begin to jot down the team-specific rumors you see on the Internet/TV, or hear from other fans, their blogs, whatever. Once you have done that, decipher which rumors, at this early stage, are in fact bullshit. Or not.

Play it with your friends. Maybe turn it into a drinking game. Whatever works. The idea of the game is two-fold. One, it will keep in the loop with your favorite team—or teams—which makes you look super smart around the watercolor chit-chat.  And two, it will give you a comically fresh look at the pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey crossfire, that is sports (entertainment) journalism.

Yep…some people actually get paid to make shit up in the name of “predictions.”

Random Alex Rodriguez Record to Keep an Eye On: A-Rod only needs to reach first base 30 or so more times to surpass Cal Ripken for 24th All-time. Though the pass won’t rattle the baseball spectrum like others, it does make you remember the cheesy-ass, god-awful, one-on-one interactions Rodriguez had with Ripken during his final All-Star game. It started during pregame, when A-Rod told Ripken how much he meant to him, and Ripken asked something to the effect of “Like What” A-Rod had no answer for the “general” smoke he was blowing up Ripken’s ass.

It ended with this:

#R1SP3CT…

 

June

June is hot! The coach’s seats are hot…or getting hotter. It’s hot in Texas, so the balls are flying down there like they have wings. It’s hot, I tell you. Damn hot! Buster Poindexter…hot!

By now, your team is either rolling toward the All-Start break, or faltering like a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Who’s having a swell season versus a hell season also becomes clearer. June baseball is the beginning of one of the many beginnings during the MLB season.

Speaking of the All-Star break…the voting process will be in full swing in June. It’s history this year, too. The MLB will get the Participation Trophy as the last of the major sports to join the tree-saving efforts by not offering a paper ballot. You want to vote, go online. Yep, George, the Interwebs.

Of course, you’re asking: What the hell does this have to do with me—the casual fan?

Well, nothing—nothing at all.  I know, it’s only June. It’s hot. There is still a long way to go and the last thing you should be expected to do is take time from The Jinx reruns to go…vote.

You want drama. You need the drama.

So, you need Josh Hamilton and the Los Angeles Angels…

With the drug use, the long time off from baseball, the multiple relapses, and the fact his current team doesn’t seem to want him aside, Josh Hamilton is nearing a career milestone: 1000 games played. He is due back from a shoulder injury in May, which could net him the 23 games needed to reach 1000 sometime in June. However, the Soap Opera-esque development between Hamilton and the Angels’ front office leaves you to wonder: Will Hamilton play?

The MLB arbitrator decided Hamilton’s relapse didn’t warrant any suspension, and unexpectedly, the Angels were extremely vociferous in favor of the opposite.

This from GM Jerry Dipoto (h/t NBCSports.com):

The Angels have serious concerns about Josh’s conduct, health and behavior and we are disappointed that he has broken an important commitment which he made to himself, his family, his teammates and our fans. We are going to do everything possible to assure he receives proper help for himself and for the well-being of his family.

It’s that kind of whole-hearted determination, against your own player, that can make things interestingly uncomfortable, a must-see TV kind of dysfunction. And that’s the kind of uncomfortable drama that is fun to watch. Certainly the multiple sports media outlets will have it covered, giving you a front-row seat to all of it.

Random Alex Rodriguez Record to Keep an Eye On: A-Rod is only four doubles away from tying, once again, Willie Mays on the all-time list. By the end of June, when that hot weather makes the ball fly, hot, hot…I would expect A-Rod to have, at least, four chances to awkwardly motor around first base, stretching a long single into a surprise double.

Quick note: You should also be checking your MLB Bullshit game. Keep an eye on the rumors, as they really fucking heat up in June.

That will keep you going until…

 

July

It’s the All Star break. Like Opening Day, I would actually take a few moments away from whatever it is you’re doing and watch it. The fact the game is in Cincinnati, Ohio this year, where Pete Rose-MANIA will be on a national stage—HALL of Fame; No Hall of Fame; Life-time Suspension; Lift the Life-time Suspension—will make for compelling filler.

It’s Hot Damn Drama!

The rest festivities are interesting, too, with a Celebrity Softball game that usually pits Jenny Finch and her heater against some Hall of Fame bloke—Advantage Finch—and, of course, the Home Run Derby!!!

Even during the days of black and white television, the home run was sexy. From Babe Ruth to Mickey Mantel to Harmon Killebrew and Hank Aaron, the home run was the talent of the baseball Gods. Kids and adults and people who could care less—you, casual fan—where amazed at the long ball. And, to display this sexiness, the Home Run Derby was invented, broadcasted on TV from Wrigley Field in Los Angeles—yes, Los Angeles!!— with actor Mark Scott commentating.

The event was a huge success.

255px-Wrigley_Field_Los_Angeles_Opening_Day_LOW

Today, with the bigger, faster, stronger humans playing the game, the Home Run Derby is an amazing spectacle, where players hit balls into parts of stadiums most would be comfortable displaying their Fine China.

It’s, “Holy shit did you see where that landed!” at its finest.

No doubt, it’s worth a look.

Random Alex Rodriguez Record to Keep an Eye On: Speaking of Pete Rose…Sometimes, great players ground into double plays. Sometimes, great players surpass other great players for the amount of times they have grounded into double plays. And, yes, sometimes that great player is A-Rod. And the great player he’s passing is…Pete Rose. A-Rod averages around 15 GDP a year. He’s seven away from Rose, which should happen, if my math is correct, right at the end of July.

As you move on through the rest of the month, with the Derby providing a fun spark, don’t forget to really devote a few minutes each day to MLB Bullshit. By July 31, you and your friends will have a champion.

How? Well, the player with the most successful bullshit calls on all the rumors wins.

Fun, huh? You bet.

And, because it’s such a feel-good game, you most likely won’t realize you are checking these rumors past the July 31 dealings…that means you will actually be in…

 

August

If you believe in the Dog Days of Summer when it comes to the MLB, then August is the Rottweiler. Though things may seem calm, at first, without any notice, August can take a bite of your ass and never let go, stopping only to bite a completely different ass along the way.

Yep, August has seen many of the first-half studs turn into second-half duds. There monumental rises, think the 1969 New York Mets. There have been monumental collapses, think 1993 San Francisco Giants. It’s the final push before THE final push.

It’s a whirlwind time in the MLB.

Teams have to play smart in August, playing through injuries, and the stress that inevitably comes with such a long season. One wrong move, and the collective community can be finished for 2015, with nothing to show for it.

But what the hell do you care—the causal fan?

Well, August has the softer-side of the Rottweiler too. During the final summer month, MLB’s RBI program holds its World Series. This year, like 2014, the games will be in Arlington, Texas…home of the Rangers…and HOT, damn hot, weather.

The program is wonderful, now entering its 26th year. RBI stands for Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, an effort geared toward mentoring under-deserved youth by introducing America’s pastime to them. By spreading the fun of baseball and softball, with the levels and ages stretching from 5-18, RBI gives a different kind of hope—one that is not over-commercialized—and provides the experience of a team mentality many people never receive.

More importantly, it provides an education opportunity—usually scarce in those areas—to the willing participant.

It’s another example of sports meets reality…and sports wins. And that, regardless of your fan-ship or level of desire toward baseball in general, is worth a quick glance.

Random Alex Rodriguez Record to Keep an Eye On: Once again, A-Rod will have a chance to move into another top-25 category. This time, it’s for career plate appearances. Assuming his knees don’t fall off, ole’ Alex should be ahead of Reggie Jackson at this point, with Al Kaline set in his sights. He’s only around 250 away from Kaline, so look to see more history from No. 13.

 

September

The NFL is king. We know this.

It’s unmatched by any of the other sports, and that’s just the way it goes. It’s the NEW America’s pastime, with the attention domination beginning in September.

But you’ve come this far into the MLB season, so why, now, completely cancel baseball out of your life? After all, September baseball produces some of the best moments—in some of the shittiest weather out there.

Ever hit a baseball near the handle of the bat during a 40-degree night? It’s like smacking your hands on pavement, only the pavement is a block of dry ice.

Now, mix that in with some serious stress of the playoff push—THE playoff push—and you’ve got yourself September baseball; complete with the breath-filled cold air that rivals any of those iconic scenes from NFL Films.

Hopefully, with tad bit of the absolute, random luck that happens in baseball, your team will have won its share of the 162 by the end of September. Maybe they will have been in the division that was the easiest to win, or a league with a not-so-cumbersome Wild Card chase. Or, maybe your team just plain kicked ass.

However, if everything looks completely static-TV boring by the end of September, I would suggest watching this video instead. It’s from the last day of the 2011 MLB season—possibly the greatest finale ever:

Random Alex Rodriguez Record to Keep an Eye On: It’s hard to believe, but A-Rod is only a tad bit over 100 RBI away from moving into third place all-time. On his way to this astonishment, he will have also passed Lou Gehrig and Barry Bonds. If he is close to 80 or 90 by the start of September…hey, you never know with A-Rod.

So there you have it. You went through an entire MLB regular season…thanks to the Cliff’s Notes I provided, of course. As a fan of this game, I hope that I have piqued your interest.

Thank you, gang.

And now, you’ve made it to…

 

October

Hey, you’re seasoned, you know what to do.

Grab your nuts…

vees6

 

 

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