The Next Christian Cook’s Questions

Q: I am a Middie/Attackman and I am trying to improve my crease offence game. I have been watching films with Bobby Benson, BJ Prager, and Buggs Combs and have learned a lot. But, I want to ask you what could help throw defenders off and get myself open and get a second or two to rip a
shot. So, from a defensive standpoint what do you hate to see crease attackmen do?

Christian Cook: Thanks for the question Dallas. I find that as I’m playing on the crease and trying to cover a crease attackman that the most difficult thing for me to defend against is a player who can find the seams and move around.

There is nothing more frustrating than an offensive player who is constantly moving because it forces his defensive counterpart to concentrate on both his man (the most dangerous person) and the ball (in case he is the slide man or part of the slide package). As an offensive player, you should always concentrate on overloading your defenseman and making him work as hard as possible – giving him more opportunities to make a mistake. In addition if you play a high crease it is more difficult to cover as a defensive player because you are spreading out the field.

Furthermore, as I’m sure you’ve picked up in my other columns, it is a great idea to watch as much film as possible. In addition, watching film with a great crease player like BJ Prager is an even better idea. There are few players who can finish as well as BJ – he is one of the best pure crease attackmen I have ever seen.

It is clear that he also concentrates on his stick-skills with a focus on inside play. What I mean is that he can catch a pass and get it off quicker than any crease attackman I’ve played against. You should do the same. Unfortunately there are a number of attackmen who can get open but can’t finish because their stick skills aren’t up to par. Don’t let that happen to you. Get yourself in the right position and have the stick skills to finish and goals will come. Best of luck to you.

Q: Dear Coach Cook,
My name is Michael and I’m a Defenseman from San Francisco. I’ve been playing only for 13 months, yet was invited to a big time recruiting camp in Maryland and actually did very well. I’ve had a lot of coaches from top D1 schools talk to me about playing for them and it’s been a very fun couple of weeks hearing from coaches. However, how can I reach some schools that have not shown interest in me that I know I could play for? Are films and letters the only way?
Michael Abou Jaoude

Christian Cook: Thanks for the question Michael. If you don’t have the resources or time to make it to any other camps out east or at schools you are interested in, then I find that videos and letters are the best way to get in touch with coaches who haven’t seen you play.

Coaches get recruiting tapes all of the time, so they are used to it. You may also find it useful to try to find someone who can speak to the college coach on your behalf. Coaches are not just looking for good players, but they are looking for good people who can contribute to their program as individuals, not just as lacrosse players. In addition, I wouldn’t downplay the effect of you calling yourself to speak to a coach.

Just realize that you need to be completely professional, as you are essentially selling yourself. Many young players out there are far too informal when they speak to coaches, which is inappropriate. You should always put your best foot forward and in the recruiting cycle, that starts with presenting yourself in a professional manner.

You don’t want there to be any doubt that you are mature enough to handle both the rigors of school and the time commitment of year-round lacrosse. Remember, in college, lacrosse players are student-athletes, not the other way around. Best of luck to you.

Q: Dear Christian,
I switched from attack to middie and I am sometimes having trouble defending the middies up top. Most of the time I just go on athleticism. What are some drills or tips to help me improve body position and stick checks?

Christian Cook: Thanks for the question. This is a problem many new midfielders have – learning how to play defense. Although defense may seem quite daunting at this stage, realize that it is very very simple. As a defensive player your only job is to keep your player away from the goal – you DO NOT NEED TO TAKE AWAY THE BALL. I’d speak at length to your coach about his defensive philosophy so that you’re on the same page. Aside from the team aspect, the most important thing to work on is footwork and having a good lacrosse shaft for defense is just as important.

Play as much basketball as you can – it is invaluable and teaches you the right technique in pushing a player down the side of the field. The reason we split the field in two and keep offensive players running down the side is that every step they take, their angle on the goal is smaller and it is an easier save for your goalie.

Footwork drills (football footwork drills are great), jumping rope, basketball, squash and racquetball are all great things you can do to help your footwork. However, that is only half the battle – the other half is understanding defense. Watch as much film as possible and if you can, watch film with your coach. I’m sure he has a sound philosophy that should make your job somewhat easier as a defensive player.

Last but not least, there is only one check you should ever throw as a short shaft midfielder (it isn’t really a check even): the “lift-check.” Watch film of Princeton and you’ll see it – it is the most under-utilized, most-effective check in lacrosse. Not only does it neutralize the offensive player by lifting his elbow so he can’t shoot or pass, but it allows you to keep moving your feet on defense. Learn it, love it, practice it. Best of luck.

Jeremy Noble: Mammoth Decision Maker

In settled situations, there aren’t many better shots than those produced by pick-and-rolls. Pick-and-roll operators are shooting 13.6% themselves; the shots they create for their teammates (either the roll man or a weak side spot up shooter) are buried 17.5% of the time. For context, that’s better than the league-wide powerplay shooting percentage.

Because of the physicality in box lacrosse, it takes a special type of player to turn a two-man game into an open shot for a teammate. Defenses often double the ball with vicious cross checks. They will drive the lacrosse stick away from his dominant hand, forcing tough passes. Some of the quicker forwards, like Jeremy Noble, can bounce or roll away from the pressure and catch defenses out of position.

Noble leads the NLL with six pick-and-roll assists. Surprisingly, five of those assists have been across the floor to either Ryan Benesch or Eli McLaughlin. It wasn’t until this week, with Stephen Keogh back in the lineup, that Noble assisted a right-handed teammate in the pick-and-roll.

Pick-and-Roll Passers (thru 2/7)

Keogh is a savvy off-ball player. He caught the aggressive Saskatchewan Rush defense sleeping early in the game with this slip pick.

Noble and Jacob Ruest worked that slip pick chemistry as well. Ruest got to the doorstep by picking his own man then slipping first; next, by picking and re-picking against a Rush defense playing with Mark Matthews trapped on the floor.

Noble baits defenders into flooding the ball side, but his footwork keeps him out of trouble. His eyes are always up, too. Watch him go through his progressions like a quarterback here. Both Rush defenders stalk him into the corner, and a third defender evacuates the weak side to tag the roll man, Ruest. Noble doesn’t force the feed to Ruest. Instead, he rolls back, pump fakes to Ruest to freeze the defense, and feeds a cutting Eli McLaughlin, whose man left him for Ruest.

The Rush defense is widely regarded as the best in the league. Their athleticism and chemistry allows them to pressure the ball without leaving shooters open. Pick-and-roll operators have shot 11.0% (third lowest in NLL); roll men have shot 10.0% (also third lowest in NLL). Off-ball players (i.e. cutters, spot up shooters, off-ball screens) are shooting a measly 12.4% against the Rush (lowest in NLL). The shots Noble managed to create against them – although not all were goals – were extremely high quality.

The Western Division seems destined to come down to this matchup: Colorado against Saskatchewan. If these two teams meet again in the playoffs, then the Mammoth’s best chance at an upset might be putting Noble in more pick-and-roll situations.

Beside Baseball, I really, really love Fastpitch Softball

Understand me, I really love softball, exactly fastpitch softball. Every winter, all I look forward to is spring – I love the daily rhythm of softball, the way it ebbs and flows and becomes a part of my everyday life in the summer. Once it becomes fall, I get excited because the playoffs are coming – I know that the M’s are not going to be involved, and that pretty much frees me up to be a fan of softball rather than rooting for one specific team. I usually find a playoff team to root for, but I just love the whole thing.

The 2019 softball season is coming so close. So I’m rushing to look best fastpitch softball bats for new season. My children will be excited if I notify that I’m doing this for them. It would be great if every new season we had new bat to play, and the children know that.

Beside, I’m not also forgot to find myself a men’s fastpitch softball bat. This reminds me is the new year is coming and I need to raise my softball game to a higher level.

But, that said, here’s my dirty little secret. Games like this Toronto series, a September series between two teams that have nothing to play for? I don’t even notice ‘em. I mean, I watched about five innings of last night’s game, and I’ll be damned if I can tell you specifics about what happened. Lessee, from the PI game recap, it looks like…wow. I can’t even get anything interesting out of the recap. That’s crazy.

Honestly, I didn’t even work the “hey let’s see what the kids can do” angle last night – I just flat-out didn’t care. Does this make me a bad fan? I don’t think so. There was a time in my life when I would have been all upset because nobody cared about a game in mid-September with nothing on the line, but now that I’m older and have more going on in my life I just don’t have the energy to care 162 times a year.

I’m sure that, in a few days, I’ll start to care again, and start to watch with interest for the last couple weeks of the season, but for now, meh. With the Royals coming to town later in the week, though, it doesn’t look like picking up, energy-wise, for a week or so. Sigh.

The Baseball Bat for Child: How to Choosing

Getting the the right bat can be a little confusing to parents out shopping for the first time with their child. A lot has changed since we were kids, but we’ll help you get a handle on what to look for.

1. First of all, make sure you understand your league rules for bats. They vary greatly so it’s important to know what your children are and are not allowed to use. Possible restrictions include materials, bat length, barrel size and length to weight ratio. Find out before you head to the store. but don’t worry I have small tip when you go to the store just asking the sellers you are looking for the usssa bats little league then they understand and pick the right bats for you. Because this type bat meet all rules of the leagues for kid.

2. Materials. For kids between six and 12-years old, nearly every bat you’ll find is either made out of aluminum or is a composite of different metals. Composite bats will typically cost more, but they also have more “pop.” They are also typically lighter which makes it easier for kids to control their swing and it increases bat speed.

3. Bat length. Here are some general guidelines to help you.
Age range Bat length range
5-7 24″-26″
8-9 26″-28″
10-11 28″-30″
11-12 30″-32″4.

4. Barrel size. In general, the larger the barrel size, the more forgiving the bat will be to young hitters who may not hit the ball directly in the center every time. Many bat sellers will refer to “big barrel” bats as those with a barrel diameter of 2 5/8″ or greater. Again, make sure you check with your league for any restrictions.

5. Weight drop. This may be a new measure for many of you. The weight drop is an indicator of the ratio of the bat length to it’s weight. As you can imagine, if you could choose between two bats of the same length, the lighter bat is advantageous. A weight drop is calculated by subtracting the weight of the bat (in ounces) from length of the bat (in inches). So, if you have a 28-inch bat that weighs 18 ounces, it is said to have a -10 weight drop. Once again, make sure you understand your league rules because there may be restrictions on weight drop.

The quality brands that you’ll see most often include Easton, Louisville Slugger, DeMarini, Rawlings and Worth.

Understanding Baseball Statistics: Hitting

It used to be simple, didn’t it? The only thing we ever cared about was batting average for hitters, and ERA for pitchers. Now you can’t turn on the TV or radio without hearing someone yammering on about WHIP, OPS and other exotic statistics. Not to worry, we’re here to help you understand the common baseball statistics. Part One will cover hitting stats. Part Two will cover pitching statistics.

Common Hitting Statistics

Plate Appearance (PA) – A Plate Appearance is credited any time a player completes a turn batting, no matter what the outcome. Compare this to an At Bat.

At Bats (AB) – Your hitter is scored an official At Bat when he reaches first base (or more) on a hit, reaches base on an error, there is a fielder’s choice, or is called out for any reason other than as part of a sacrifice. The most common reason an At Bat is NOT counted is a walk (base on balls).

Batting Average (BA or AVG) – Number of hits (of any kind) divided by the number of At Bats. Make sure to take the rules for counting At Bats into account for your calculation.

Runs Batted In (RBI) – An RBI is credited to a hitter when the outcome of the at-bat results in a run being scored. There are a few exceptions, such as being walked, hit-by-pitch, or catcher’s interference with the bases loaded (and thereby driving a run home), or an error on a play that should have resulted in an inning-ending double play.

Fielder’s Choice (FC) – A fielder’s choice is marked when a hitter reaches a base due to the defense’s attempt to put out another baserunner.

On Base Percentage (OBP) – On base percentage is meant to help a manager understand what percentage of the time a batter reaches base. Here’s the formula.

(Hits + Walks + Hit-By-Pitch) divided by (At Bats + Walks + Hit-By-Pitch + Sacrifices)
Slugging percentage (SLG or SA) – An indicator of a batter’s power since batting average doesn’t take extra base hits into account. Here’s the formula

(Singles + [2 x Doubles] + [ 3 x Triples] + [4 x Home Runs]) divided by At Bats
On Base + Slugging (OBPS or OPS) – OBPS is a measure of a player’s hitting ability, power and ability to reach first base. It can be calculated by simply adding a player’s OBP to SLG. When reported, the decimal point is sometimes dropped.

Discuss today: Are Wooden Baseball Bats Better and The Hit and Run in Baseball

If you’re new to baseball or you’ve been playing for a while, this is a question you might not have an answer to, but one that is important. To be honest, there are quite a few good things about wooden baseball bats, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better than aluminum baseball bats.

Are Wooden Baseball Bats Better?

It all comes down to what kind of player you are and what bat you perform better with. Luckily, with so many websites offering great discount baseball items and also full information for you to refer, you can afford to purchase an aluminum bat as well as a wooden bat so you can figure out for yourself which is better, and Around The Bats is one of these websites.

Wooden baseball bats have been around a lot longer than other types of bats, but the technology used to make them has changed quite a bit over the years.

This is good news for you, however, because you’re going to get a better wooden bat because of it. There’s also the question of what type of wood bat you want to get. There are many options available to you when you shop for discounted baseball equipment online. With a little research (or going by experience), you’re sure to find the best wooden baseball bat for you personally.

We still have our original question – are wooden baseball bats better? As mentioned, this is really going to come down to your personal preference.

There are people who will tell you that one is better than the other for this or that reason, but when it comes down to it, the choice is yours. Luckily, the Internet makes it easy to get great bbcor baseball bats, baseball shoes, baseball gloves and everything else you need!

The Hit and Run

The other night I was talking with another guy who has coached baseball for years, and the subject of the hit and run came up. We recalled times when it had worked to perfection and others when it failed, usually because the batter didn’t swing, leaving the runner from first to get thrown out at second.

The hit and run can keep a rally alive and avoid a double play like few other strategies. If well executed it even can put the batter on base while moving the runner past second and onto third.

It’s not a play you want to try at the younger levels. Hitters at that age lack the bat control to even attempt to put the ball where it needs to be. Also, catchers at that age usually can’t throw out a runner trying to steal second anyway so there’s no reason to possibly give up your hitter to advance the runner.

But at the upper levels of youth baseball, the hit and run can be an effective weapon. At worst, the runner advances to second and the hitter is out. But done well, the runner on third makes it all the way to third and the hitter is safe at first.

Here is a good article from that covers when and why to attempt the hit and run. As for how to do it, here’s a short video that demonstrates the process from start to finish. I wish they’d filmed on a sunnier day (the video is a little bit dark), but you can see exactly how the hit and run is supposed to work.

You’ll need to practice the strategy with your team a number of times before trying it in a game, and you’ll need a hitter with good bat control. But the kids love the opportunity to swing away at pretty much any pitch the catcher could catch, and they love the sort of clever strategy of the play itself. And when a rally continues and runs score, everyone likes the result.

Postseason awards

It’s postseason awards time again. I was going to do another version of the All-Jerk Team this year, but the jerks haven’t really shifted much from last year. I then turned my attention to creating an All-Scrappy team, but with David Eckstein and Willie Bloomquist on the team, who else do you need? Those two could pretty much singlehandedly tear apart any team in the league, so there’s really no need to flesh that concept out further.

Instead, what I decided to do was to take a look at the pre-season predictions of various “experts” (their words, not mine), to see how they did in relation to what really happened. I do this not as a gotcha, not to point out that the experts suck, but merely to demonstrate the relative folly of preseason predictions – most of these things, even with the most sophisticated analysis tools and numbers available, are a complete guess. 162 games is a long season, and anything can happen – so don’t get all upset when your favorite site picks the Yankees to win the Series. It’s not a foregone conclusion; in fact, picking the Yankees to win the Series is like being a weather forecaster in the PNW. If you say “Partly cloudy, chance of rain” in the winter and “Partly sunny, chance of rain” in the summer, you’ll be right about 30% of the time, so why bother doing, you know, actual work?

Anyway, on to the predictions.

First up, the Worldwide Leader. They put up a page which collects all their various preseason articles and analysis here, and quite handily compiled all their staff predictions here. What do we find there? That of the 16 prognosticators surveyed, not a single one had the Tigers even making the postseason, much less the World Series, and of the ten guys that picked the Cardinals to be in the World Series, only two (Alan Schwarz and John Shea) picked the Cards to win the whole thing. The Cards were, though, a near-unanimous pick to win the Centra, with only Mark Simon picking differently (the Astros).

On a rather astounding, if not world-altering, note, there was one guy that is employed by ESPN that got it right. Using what no doubt was a toolbox full of the most sophisticated analysis methodology available, numbers that would make Billy Beane salivate like a starving man at a buffet, this guy nailed it. He got the AL team wrong, but he flat out nailed the Cardinals. Ladies and gentlemen, Dick Vitale’s preseason picks. Yeah, I’m weirded out by it too.

Now, moving on to the good folks at the Hardball Times. First and foremost, I have to say this: David Gassko is a stud. The only division champ he missed was in the AL East (he had Boston over NY) and with a few exceptions, his order of finish was pretty damned accurate all the way across (at least compared to most of the other people I’ve taken a look at here…). As for postseason picks, again, nobody got the Tigers into October, and of the five guys that picked the Cards, none had them winning the Series. Honorable mention here goes to Dave Studeman, who picked the Cubs to win the Series this year. He must be that guy in the tree in the Lasorda commercial.

And, last but not least, it’s Baseball Prospectus turn. Their NL predictions are here, and the AL’s are here, here, and here. As for accuracy, at least in the NL BP (and when I say “BP”, I mean Joe Sheehan, who did all these…) did pretty good, getting all the division winners but missing the Padres, who BP had finishing third behind the Dodgers and D’Backs in the West. The AL West was pretty straightforward, but BP was off on the number of wins for the A’s by eight. the ALW preview did contain an interesting tidbit about the Mariners, though:

The Ms are an interesting team, but in the AL West , interesting isn’t enough. They could end up over .500–there’s a fairly wide range of possible outcomes for guys like Betancourt, Johjima, Jeremy Reed and Jose Lopez that makes prediction difficult–but there’s only a small chance that they’ll contend for a playoff spot.

Firefox’s new spell checker wanted me to replace Betancourt with “courtesan”, but whatever. That would be a great title for the Mariners’ season review DVD – “. Interesting just isn’t enough.”

In the Central, BP did OK – they got the Twins and the Royals right, but pegged the Tigers at 78-84. This line about the Tigers jumped out at me:

Still, the core talent here falls shy of impressive, and the surrounding parts aren’t difference makers.

While nobody predicted the Tigers’ run to the Series, this line comes as close as anyone to nailing why they didn’t actually win the thing once they got there.

Over there in the AL East, BP got the Yankees right, but missed the Jays’ second-place finish. See the above analogy re: weather forecasting for why everybody always picks Boston to finish second or first, interchangeably with the Yankees. This division rarely surprises anybody, at least at the top, and I don’t think anybody can be punished for missing the Blue Jay rise up the table.

As for October, BP doesn’t really do postseason predictions in March – Sheehan said it himself:

Picking the results of the postseason is hard enough, and silly enough, in October. Trying to guess them in March and April is six months’ moreso.

He then goes on to pick the A’s and Braves, but without much conviction, and has the A’s winning in six.

So what does this little exercise prove? Nothing, really, except what I stated earlier – the “experts” aren’t a whole lot better at the predictions game than, say, a three year old. When you read preseason predictions, remember that – season previews are interesting reading, sure, and if you read the individual team previews you can get some valuable information, but using that information to forecast what happens six months down the road is kinda nuts.

Justice delayed is still justice

I’m not going to write about how Willie Ballgame is apparently being given the second base job to lose; I prefer to be optimistic when spring training starts, and any team with a starter named Bloomquist will kill that optimism faster than anything you can imagine. So, no Willie for me today.

Which means it’s back to the Olympics, and the news that Michelle Kwan withdrew from competition after re-injuring her groin. This is the best news of the Olympics so far.

For those of you who don’t follow such things, the way US representatives to the Olympic figure skating team are chosen is via the national championships – the top three finishers at the nationals in an Olympic year get to go to the Olympics. This makes sense – you want your best skaters to represent your country, so take the medalists from your national championships, and there you go.

There was only one problem, this year – 26-year-old Michelle Kwan, two-time Olympian, previous silver and bronze medal winner, and one of the best American skaters ever, was hurt at the time of the nationals and could not compete. One would think, at the age of 26 (8 years older than the average skater), and with her record of accomplishment, Kwan would go gently into that good night, and let some other skaters go to the Olympics.

But no – Kwan petitioned the US Skating Federation to be allowed to compete in Turin anyway, even without competing at nationals, thus bumping one of the three women that earned a spot. Kwan was given a chance, at a closed skate, to show the federation that she was able to compete, and she did just that. She was subsequently given a spot, bumping Emily Hughes off the team and setting up her fairytale last Olympics and her last shot at a gold medal.

This is completely, totally, and blatantly unfair – the Olympics are, and always have been, about performance in the present, and they’re most definitely NOT a lifetime achievement award. If you can’t qualify via the normal means, you shouldn’t be allowed to go, plain and simple. It may sound harsh, but everyone else abides by the rules – why should Kwan be allowed to bump a qualifying skater, just because she’s Michelle Kwan?

Now, of course, the Media Pathos Machine is all over this story – poor heroic Michelle, denied her one last shot at a gold, as if she needed that to validate what has been a great career. It’s all crap – she never should have tried to be on this team in the first place, because SHE MISSED NATIONALS. It’s simple. You miss qualifying, you shouldn’t qualify. She’s not gutsy, she’s not brave, she’s not being denied an opportunity, she’s just another in the long line of athletes who held on too long, didn’t know when to let go, and just generally refuses to recognize that it’s time to go away.

I know very little about ice skating – like most Americans, I watch it once every four years and that’s about it – but I always liked Michelle Kwan; this episode made me lose a lot of respect for her, though.

I promise, sometime this week, there will be baseball content in this space. Pitchers and catchers report Wednesday. Thank effing goodness.

I’m big enough to admit I was wrong

The St. Louis Cardinals are your World Series champions. This is the outcome nobody expected, and the outcome nobody outside the 314 area code particularly wanted. I myself may have belittled the Cards once or twice, but for now if I were wearing a hat I’d tip it to the Cardinals.

I don’t really pay much attention to the whole stats v. scouts debate – it’s an artificial choice, both are necessary for success – but the outcome of this series is pretty much the anti-stats-guy result. The Cardinals, let’s face it, are a weak team – offensively, they’re Pujols and not much else, and pitching-wise, they’re Chris Carpenter and what’s left of Jeff “I’m not my brother, dammit” Weaver.

The Cardinals are the World Series champions not because of numerical superiority, or because they were consistently the better team than every team they faced. The Cardinals are the World Series champions almost solely because they did what they had to do when they had to do it. They realized, even as nobody else did, that the 162 games leading into October, while valuable, are utterly irrelevant once baseball narrows down to eight teams.

October baseball is mostly about things that can’t be quantified – momentum, chemistry, clutch performances, and managerial calmness/direction. Those things make a lot of people gnash their teeth in mid-summer, and rightfully so, but when it comes down to the business end of the season, they suddenly come into play. Baseball is a game played by human beings, and never is that more apparent than in late October – if you want an indication of how relevant the X factor of humanity is, look no further than Justin Verlander last night.

This is a kid who pretty much owned the regular season – 17-9, 3.63 ERA, and can hit 100mph with his pitches with seemingly no effort. This is understandable because he uses the best baseball gloves. The kind of guy, in other words, that you want pitching when your team’s facing elimination But, he’s a kid, and it showed last night – he was sitting on the bench before the game practically wetting his pants with tension. The look on his face, to me, was a look of barely contained terror – which I’m not blaming him for, that is what some would call a “high-leverage situation” and I’d be terrified too.

100mph pitches

When the game actually started, he had pretty serious control issues, bouncing several pitches in front of the plate and causing what seemed to be most of the team to come to the mound at various times, in an attempt to settle him down. Verlander didn’t singlehandedly lose the game for the Tigers, and once he settled down he pitched well. He did, however, throw away a ball that would have gotten So Taguchi out at third, instead allowing Taguchi to advance and then score on an Eckstein ground ball.

So what I’m trying to say is, in the playoffs, intangibles do matter. Here’s one of the better pitchers in the game, and he had a pretty bad game because he was nervous. That’s what makes the playoffs so interesting – the human factor matters a lot more when there’s only seven games to be played. Separating men from mice, nutting up, and all that.

So anyway, the Cardinals are the champs, and good for them. And, in an era when you see ultra-image-conscious athletes always celebrating with their kids or piously having prayer circles after a game, how refreshing is a picture like this? It’s nice to see Eckstein throw down (although I’m glad there’s no pictures of the aftermath of draining that bottle…), especially since he’ll probably have trouble seeing over the top of the MVP trophy he won.

That was a tough one

I can’t imagine what this morning must be like for Tigers fans. That game actually turned out to be pretty good, but the Tigers lost it by several plays that could be variously described as sloppy (Fernando Rodney’s bad throw to first), unlucky (Curtis Granderson slipping in pursuit of a ball) or just cruel (Craig Monroe really, really needs Ichiro’s fishnet of a glove). Games like this are excruciating in June, and in October they’re miserable – I’d almost rather see a team get blown out than to lose by a death of a thousand cuts like this.

Now it’s 3-1 to the Cardinals, and they’ve definitely got the advantage – but as any fan of the Red Sox can tell you, 3-1 is nothin’. The Tigers finally got their hitters to hit last night – at least Pudge, who went 3 for 4, and Granderson, who doubled in a run. Now, if Magglio Ordoñez would start hitting the ball, the Tigers may yet put up a fight.

I know this was just an idle discussion item on an off day, but I seriously hope this idea never gains traction. With all the bad weather in the last few days, the idea of a neutral-site world series has been floated – and this year isn’t the first time it’s been talked about. This is a bad idea for about a million reasons. It is, first and foremost, an overreaction brought on by the incessant 24/7 coverage of all things sports – there have been three rainouts so far this postseason. Prior to this season, there were three rainouts in the decade from 1995-2005. This is also the first time there have been three rainouts in a postseason since the 1975 World Series.

Does something that happens, on average, once a year every three years, and three times a year in 30, really constitute a problem? Doesn’t seem so to me.

The other problem with the neutral-site scenario is the fans. I’m not necessarily talking about the fans that go to one or two games a year, although they’re to be considered as well – I’m talking about the season-ticket and ticket-package holders, who hork up a big wad of cash every year to watch their team try to make it to the Series. If I’m that season ticket holder, I want a reward for sitting through 81 games a year, I want to know that my efforts will be paid off by sitting in the seat I’ve sat in all season, watching my team play for a nice shiny trophy, and looking at an out of town scoreboard in October and seeing no other games on the board because my team’s one of the last two playing.

What I don’t want, if I’m that guy, is to have to fly somewhere, make hotel reservations, and thus triple or quadruple my expenses – and probably not be able to stay for the entire Series, either – in order to satisfy Fox, MLB, and whoever else is responsible for such a crazy idea. So please, Bud Selig, if you were ever taking this idea seriously (which it doesn’t seem like you are), please put it out of your mind now, OK?

And, speaking of Bud Selig, when is it time to realize that, despite what we all want to believe, Selig’s reign has actually been (hold on) good for the game? I know, I know, there’s the whole head-in-the-sand-on-steroids-until-it-was-too-late thing, but even the traditionalist in me has to recognize that the wild card has been a success, interleague play didn’t cause gravity to reverse itself, and now a new labor agreement means there will be 16 consecutive years without a strike. This is a pretty amazing run of play, considering that there were more strikes from 1970 to 1995 than at any other time in baseball’s history (I think).

This new deal was done largely in secret, but it seems like both sides just looked at each other and said “hey, guys, there’s a big fat pile of money out there with both our names on it – we’re both fat, rich, and happy, let’s keep this train moving. The Cristal and hookers don’t pay for themselves!” and went ahead and did the deal. There is an obscene amount of money in professional sports, and for the first time, baseball seemed to realize that it can be shared in such a way that there’s no “loser” in negotiations any more. I mean, really, whether you accept a 20 foot tall pile of money or a 15 foot tall one is a nice dilemma to have, and it seems that both sides have finally decided to make nice so everyone gets their pile.

As a fan of what goes on between the lines, this is great news – it means I get to watch complete baseball seasons for 6 more years, at least. How can that be a bad thing?

Things that are certain in the baseball

There are many things that are certain in the world. The sun sets in the west, water flows downhill to find its level, and birds fly south for the winter. These things just are. There are also a few things that are certain in the baseball world. The teams that score more will win more, everybody will hate the Yankees, ballpark beer is way too expensive, and the A’s will always beat the Mariners.

Last night, I turned off the Mariner game when the score hit 9-3 Oakland, convinced that the world was secure in its routine, and that the M’s would drop their 600th straight game to the A’s this season. I went to bed last night and had a bizarre dream where a friend of mine was a freelance photographer and he hired me to save him seats at stadia where he was working, and in return he let me use his kitchen. Odd.

Anyway, I wake up this morning, and I seem to read that not only did the M’s come back to beat the A’s, they came back against the A’s. And not only that, but one William Paul Bloomquist broke the tie in the 10th with a single that scored Ichiro from second base, thus assuring that Willie Bloomquist’s celebrity status as Gritty Rockstar Superhero Who Just Needs A Chance To Play Every Day is assured. Sigh. Blind squirrels, broken clocks, whatever analogy you want to use, that’s Willie Bloomquist – he’s not all of a sudden some gritty clutch performer. One at bat isn’t even close to being a small sample size. But it’s one of the best USA bats 2021 and he got the win last night, and that’s a good thing.

It’s good for a couple reasons – the M’s finally broke the hoodoo against the A’s for the year, and because it prevented the A’s from celebrating a division championship at Safeco, at least for one more night. I would really like to see the Mariners prevent that entirely, but there’s two more games left against the A’s, and it’s probably too much to ask that the M’s sweep the series. But, with nothing else to play for, why not?

So the AL West is effectively set, even without the A’s officially clinching – it’s the Yankees, Twins, Tigers, and Oakland starting next week. This is a tough call for me – three of the four teams have something to recommend them, as far as postseason bona fides go. I think for me, Detroit gets the nod, solely because they were absolutely ass in 2003 – 43 wins, 119 losses. Eccccchhhhh.

Now, here we are, three short years later, and the Tigers are 94-62 as of today. They’ve struggled a bit lately, they were at one point walking away with the division but now are in a battle with the Twins for the Central title, but damned if that isn’t one of the better turnarounds in baseball, at least in the last 20 years. The Twins themselves went worst-to-first in 1990/91, finishing 7th in the AL West at 74-88 in 1990 and winning the whole thing in 1991, but (fortunately for the Mariners) it’s a loooong way from 74-88 to 43-119.

I’ve always liked the Twins, since the Kirby Puckett years, but this season the Tigers get my AL vote. I won’t be too sad if Oakland makes it to the Series, but, y’know, it’s Oakland, the Atlanta Braves of the AL. They make the first round, and that’s about it. Then there’s the Yankees. Yeah, right. So, go Tigers.

The NL, for me, is more cut and dried. Go Mets. They’re the only lock for the playoffs thus far in the NL – even given that the level of play is less in the NL, there’s something to be said for a good pennant race, and the NL has two of ‘em. After the four-straight-home-run thing, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Dodgers win, but ultimately I’d love to see the Mets get back to the Series. My dream World Series this year, then, is Tigers-Mets, with the Mets winning in seven. Which of course means it’ll be a Yankee-Cardinal world series, with a four-game NYY sweep, but it’s nice to dream.