Category Archives: Baseball

It’s Starting to Feel Like Baseball Season

Padres' and Mariners' spring home in Peoria, AZ - taken on my cross-country trip to to California in November of 2009

It’s unseasonably cold and damp out here in Los Angeles, but somehow that makes it feel like baseball season is around the corner. Having lived on the East Coast up until late 2009, this is the type of weather I am used to in mid-February. This is the weather that makes spring training sites in Florida and Arizona feel like millions of miles away, but at the same time lets you know those chilly, dreary April days at the ballpark — in the Northeast anyway — are getting close.

While my transition from football to baseball has clearly gone into effect, I am not one of those fans who gets goose bumps from the now-cliched phrase, “pitchers and catchers.” Pitchers and catchers reporting to their teams’ spring training camps serves as the official start of the baseball season for some. For me, it’s one big tease. At the same time, knowing the players are starting to toss the ball around down south gets me thinking about baseball again; about how the Mets can avoid a bad season, and ditto for my fantasy team.

For sports fans like me, who put baseball and football at the top of their lists, there isn’t a whole lot going on right now. As a Knicks fan, I am enjoying their new-found success this season, but the playoffs are still two months away. I love college basketball, but the fact that my favorite team and alma mater, the UMass Minutemen, have floundered since a good start has tempered my excitement for the time being. So why not start thinking about baseball? Why not have some of those bar stool conversations about whether the Yankees or Red Sox win the AL East? or listen to your wife gloat about her Phillies?

For some reason, in baseball more than the other sports, every team thinks it has a chance when it arrives at spring training. At least that’s what you hear anyway. It’s strange how that philosophy seems to go along with baseball, since it’s the only one of the four major sports without a salary cap. I guess people in Pittsburgh and Kansas City don’t think their teams have a chance when spring comes. The notion of every team starting at 0-0 and being on equal footing before Opening Day might not be rooted in reality, but it has its merits; did anyone think the Tampa Bay Rays would be American League Champs in February of 2008?

While the time frame of the baseball season is actually shorter than that of basketball or hockey, it feels longer. In much of the country, the season begins with a nip in the air. It takes us through spring and into early summer. In July and August, we take the game with us to the beach or sweat through the heat and sometimes humidity at the ballpark. In September, baseball fights with football season for attention, and less kids show up for games, as the words “school night” re-enter their vocabularies. The playoffs in October take us right back to where we started, bundled up in everything from sweatshirts to winter coats.

Right now we’re in the exploratory stages of the 2011 baseball season, and even in typically warm and sunny LA, it’s a little cold and breezy.

It’s starting to feel like baseball season.


FullCountPitch Has Relaunched

Courtesy of FullCountPitch, LLC

I’m proud to say that FullCountPitch Magazine relaunched this morning after taking a four-month hiatus.

I had the privilege of writing for the site in the final month of its previous incarnation. I am once again part of the staff of writers for the current version.

The e-magazine is the brainchild of Gary Armida, the company’s president. The FullCountPitch of today includes a staff of 10 writers. The group comes from a variety of backgrounds: some have written professionally; some have broadcasting experience; some are stat geeks. The common thread, of course, is our collective love for baseball. Individually, we all offer something unique, and hopefully our readers will feel they’ve learned something new when they’re finished with our articles. As a whole, FullCountPitch.com will be a place where baseball fans can get insights, opinions, and well-researched articles that they cannot otherwise find.

While I certainly enjoy doing my own thing when it comes to writing—this site is a case in point—I am thrilled to be part of a talented, diverse group of guys.

My first article comes out on Thursday, but two stories have already hit the site as part of today’s relaunch.


Some Friday Links

Nothing specific to write about today, so why not point you in the direction of some sites of friends and colleagues?

The Talkin’ Sports with Balls Midday Show – My weekly sports talk radio show, cohosted by Mike Orzechowski and Scott Boutcher of The Sports Network. You can find podcasts and blog posts, most recently with our NFL playoff predictions and Power Rankings.

Baseball Assistance Team – My good friend, Erik Nilsen, is the Senior Coordinator of B.A.T. They do great work, helping former MLB players get through financial, physical, and emotional struggles. Erik has visited team clubhouses during spring training and during past All-Star game festivities spreading B.A.T.’s message.

FCP Baseball Report – Gary Armida’s FCP (Full Count Pitch) Baseball Report is a free subscription-based newsletter site where you can sign up to receive his articles (typically at least one per week) by email, in addition to being able to view them on the site itself. Being a fan and also having established friendships with baseball insiders, Gary brings multiple viewpoints to the table; from breaking-news analysis and stat-based articles to heart-felt opinion pieces.

Breaking In… – No, this isn’t a site teaching people how to be a burglar; it’s another project from Gary Armida. This blog details his journey as a baseball writer and the ups and downs that go along with it.

If you feel left out, I apologize. But feel free to post links to your sites in the comments section.

And now, since it’s Friday, here is what I’ll be watching this weekend:

  • NFL Playoffs
  • College Basketball
  • Worst Cooks in America
  • My weight, after eating way too much during my birthday yesterday

Bert Blyleven Gets Into Baseball Hall of Fame Despite Quiet 2010 Season

Bert Blyleven will join Ernie Banks plus 205 other former players in Cooperstown

Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven were voted in as the only two players in the 2011 National Baseball Hall of Fame class. Alomar made it in just his second year on the ballot, garnering 90 percent of the vote. Blyleven, on the other hand, had to wait until his 14th year of eligibility, picking up 79.7 percent of the vote.

I believe that both deserved the honor. If not for Alomar’s infamous spitting incident in 1996 he likely would have been a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. Blyleven, who threw his final major league pitch in 1992, joins the exclusive club with just one year to spare before his name would have been wiped off the ballot.

So while there was very little debate as to Alomar’s Hall-of-Fame worthiness, Blyleven had to play the waiting game for 14 years without actually doing  anything on a Major League diamond to sway the last few writers to put a check mark next to his name. In his first year of eligibility, back in 1998, he only received 17.5 percent of the vote. Somehow, 13 years later, that percentage more than quadrupled.

This isn’t the first time a former player has waited for over a decade for his vote totals to take baby steps toward the needed 75 percent, and it won’t be the last. And I just don’t get it.

The question isn’t whether you think Blyleven deserved to get in or not, but it’s about the unnecessarily long 15-year time frame a player remains on the ballot. Other than some of the new-age sabermetric statistics that can be applied to Blyleven’s career, his body of work can be looked at today in the same way it was looked at after his final game in 1992. Did it honestly take 14 years for some of the baseball writers to think, “Hey, maybe these really are Hall-of-Fame numbers after all.”?

In reality it probably didn’t go that way. Without being one of those writers or knowing any of them, I can only speculate, but it’s likely that two things pushed Blyleven into the Hall: 1) Other than Alomar, the 2011 ballot was littered with a bunch of known or suspected steroid users, so Blyleven seemed more appealing in comparison and 2) writers talk to each other and perhaps peer pressure and politicking by pro-Blyleven writers eventually pushed some of the anti-Blyleven camp to the other side.

I would argue that a lot of writers are ignoring one of the vital aspects of voting. Taken right from the Hall of Fame’s website:

Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

If the voters didn’t think Blyleven had Hall-of-Fame credentials in these areas when they voted in ’98, why do they think he had them during the 2011 vote?

If it sounds like I’m in favor of only allowing one year of eligibility, I’m not. In fact, now more than ever voters need more time. There are simply too many questions about many steroid-era players (Jeff Bagwell was hurt by this in this year’s vote) and the last thing a voter needs to do is make a split-second decision to vote for a player only to find that the player was on the juice for most of his career.

The problem is that you often hear from baseball writers and baseball people in general that the Hall of Fame is reserved for the true greats of the game, yet for someone like Bert Blyleven it apparently takes 14 years for some voters to realize his greatness. If it takes that long to decide, how great could the guy have been anyway?

Again, I’m glad Blyleven’s in. Although I didn’t watch him pitch during his prime, seeing his statistics and knowing the era he played in, I have always thought of him as a Hall-of-Famer. If someone can give me one good reason it took nearly a decade and a half for this to become a reality I would love to hear it.

Bert Blyleven wasn’t Tom Seaver. I understand that. I admit that a vote for Blyleven isn’t a no-brainer. But it’s as if the voters are creating a tier system. First-year induction has typically been reserved for the best of the best. Perhaps I’m being too simplistic, but I say that a Hall-of-Famer is a Hall-of-Famer. I’m pretty sure Rickey Henderson will be served the same dinner as Ryne Sandberg the night before the induction ceremony, even though Sandberg had to wait longer to get in. Despite the writers’ insistence on trying to divide the group into “legendary,” “great,” and “good enough,” every Hall-of-Famer has the same sized plaque and the same time allotted for his speech (as far as I know).

I heard baseball writers/Hall-of-Fame voters Jon Heyman and Tom Verducci on MLB Network yesterday talking about how Barry Larkin getting 62 percent of this year’s vote means he’s gaining momentum and he should get in within a year or two. Gaining momentum? Is this is a political campaign? Is Larkin doing more marketing for his Hall candidacy on Facebook these days? Baseball writers, you are allowed to vote in 10 players each year; if you think Larkin should be in, vote for him! Don’t worry about too many players making it in one year. Don’t categorize him as a player not good enough to get in on the first or second ballot. If you think he’s a Hall-of-Famer, give him a vote! If you truly don’t believe his career warrants his induction, don’t vote for him. But either way, stick to your guns!

If it weren’t for the steroid era, I’d be in favor of five years of eligibility. With the steroid era, I still don’t see why 10 years wouldn’t be long enough. That might help eliminate some of these issues I’ve mentioned.

I am well aware that some people will read this and think I’m being too harsh on the Hall-of-Fame voters. If that is the case for you, I ask that you please bookmark this article and read it once every year. Maybe by the 14th year you’ll come around.