Like Barry Bonds, Baseball Widow hasn't retired; she's just not playing.
Enjoy the archives. . .

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Baseball Widow and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Baseball Widow has had a rough day.

We got back from Florida last night, and Baseball Widow tumbled into bed. When she awoke to the sound of the dog chasing the cat on the bed, she should have recognized the melee as a harbinger of the evil to come.

Baseball Widow needed to return the rental van, so she woke Hubby up to have him drive behind her. Here's what happened next:

Hubby's car had a flat.
The air compressor was dead.
We couldn't find the lug wrench.
The spare tire was flat.
Baseball Widow's sister car wouldn't start.
Baseball Widow's cousin's car was in the shop.

Cut to later. . .
The muffler fell off Hubby's car on the way to the repair shop.
Had to buy four new tires for a car with 190K miles on it.
Bought groceries. Got home with five broken eggs.

So, like Alexander, Baseball Widow and Hubby decided to start the day over again. They crawled into bed to watch the Braves game and take a nap. What happened? The Braves managed to blow a 3-0 lead, and Baseball Widow learned that the Braves had lost Adam LaRoche to a collar bone-type injury.

What's the point? Baseball Widow's day was a cakewalk compared to the Braves' woes this season. Injury after injury--only four games with the "regular" lineup. Somehow, the Bravos keep plugging away. They've won 7 of their last 10, and there's even talk of a short-term low-budget signing of semi-retired Andres Galarraga or Fred McGriff. Could be cool to see one of these vets return, but one of the bright spots of the season has been being able to get to know new young players. Nick Green is doing a bang-up job filling in for the injured Marcus Giles, and he's quickly establishing himself as one of the hot young prospects for the next generation of the Eye-Candies. Speaking of new (but not necessarily so young) Braves, Seth Stohs has an interview with left-handed reliever C.J. Nitkowski who happens to be a baseball writer as well.

Baseball Widow is going to stop typing now before the computer explodes or she manages to break the Internet.
Soon I hope to post some about balanced schedules and my latest "fantasy" lineup.

Monday, May 24, 2004

This used to be my playground

Another one of the gems Baseball Widow found when cleaning out the attic was a project from her 8th grade American History class. As I recall, we had several options for the assignment, but the project I chose was mapping all of the Major League Baseball parks in the United States.

Baseball Widow, who was quite handy with a jigsaw at the tender age of 13, had no way of knowing that her project would end up being a memorial. It's surprising to see how many of the parks are now gone.

There were 26 teams back then (24 in the U.S.). Out of those, these parks are no more:

Candlestick Park
Jack Murphy Stadium
The Astrodome
Fulton County Stadium
Comisky Park
Tiger Stadium
County Stadium (Milwaukee)
Municipal Stadium (Cleveland)
River Front Stadium
Three River Stadium
Veterans Stadium
Arlington Stadium

That's 13--over half in about 11 years. The newest park listed on my project was Camden Yards, which kicked off the current trend toward smaller, baseball-only stadiums that heralded the end of the municipal stadium.

Although it's always sad to see an old friend go, certainly the newer stadiums can be great ballgame experiences (see post "Not Exactly Disneyland, or What I did on My Husband's Summer Vacation").

Baseball Widow is looking for a lesson in all of this, but I think the real story here is that Baseball Widow has mad wood-working skills.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Going Yard--Sale, that is

Baseball Widow just finished a crazy week of cleaning out the attic, sorting through junk, and selling it at a yard sale.

Somewhere buried in the rubble, Baseball Hubby stumbled across his old collection of baseball cards. He collected from about 1988-1992, and we were surprised at some of the cards we found:
--Rookie Randy Johnson, about 15 years away from a perfect game
--Baseball Widow favorites Harold Reynolds and John Kruk
--A middle-aged Julio Franco
--Mike Maddux and Greg Maddux, looking like twins--identically poised in the windup with that patented Maddux tongue sticking out of the corner of the mouth. (Incidentally, Baseball Widow adopts much the same appearance when playing piano.)

Perhaps the most surprising thing about examining the collection was the sheer amount of players that we simply don't remember. Hubby had carefully placed his "favorites" in a couple of three ring binders, and he didn't even remember half of those--not to mention the hundreds of loose cards thrown in a cardboard box.

Often it seems like Major League Baseball is a game of superstars, of millionaire celebrities destined for greatness. But the lineups are comprised mostly by the work-horses or those with flash-in-the-pan moments--guys you don't remember ten years later, but who were there just the same. They're the home runs or the strikeouts or the hits allowed by the great pitchers that you do remember. In fact, without them, the greats couldn't be greats, for greatness consists of dominating the average.

So here's to you, Ken Oberkfell. . . you played for the Braves for four seasons in the late eighties and hit 16 of your career 29 home runs for my favorite team. I'm sure I watched you play, but I have no idea who you were. A 3.5 inch piece of cardboard,, and some clippings in your mom's attic are all that remain to tell your story. Well, at least you got more of Baseball Widow's column space than Randy Johnson's perfect game.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Doing My Duty

The Widow has asked me to take time out from the Braves game and start pulling my weight around here. So I had a tough choice to make: do the dishes or write a post.

Guess which one I chose.

The Braves are currently being shut down (no hits though 6 innings) by Randy Johnson, one of the Widow's least favorite ball players. In light of my beloved Braves' woes I thought I'd do a little early season review of my favorite club.

Let's start with a quick comparison of two of last year's stars with their replacements.

playerBatting AverageOn Base %Slugging %OPS
Gary Sheffield.273.396.409.805
JD Drew.305.430.6001.030
Javy Lopez.354.410.523.933
Johnny Estrada.342.397.532.928

If I had known in February that these would be the numbers as of March 18, well I'd be pretty happy. I'd probably tell you that the Braves' real weakness is pitching, but that they could compete with such serviceable (and cheap) replacements for Shefield and Lopez. And you know what, I would have been right. But what I didn't know is how many injuries the team would have. Chipper Jones, JD Drew, Rafael Furcal, Eli Marrero, and now Marcus Giles (we miss you already, Marcus) have missed time leaving the lineup pretty bare. The replacements have also done a poor job catching the ball, which doesn't help when you don't hit much.

So far this year I've been frustrated by these injuries, but still hopeful. The team is only 3.5 games out, so you figure that when they get healthy they should be able to make a run. Only I'm not sure that's going to happen now. Furcal is still hurting, and Giles will be out for about 2 months. Not even a great team can survive long without its starting middle infield, and the Braves aren't a great team to begin with.

I'm still enjoying watching the Braves this year. It's actually fun to cheer for a team that's not in first place for a change. But if the Braves don't turn things around at some point, and if they do (gasp) finish out of first place, it'll be a shame that injuries played such a big role.

Here's to modern medicine and a speedy recovery to Marcus Giles!


Randy Johnson just completed his first career perfect game by striking out Eddie Perez. Quite a feat, even if it is against a depleted Braves lineup. If, as Baseball Widow suspects, Randy Johnson has sold his soul to the devil (or possibly is the devil) at least he got his money's worth.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

And They Say You Can't Teach Great Baseball

Baseball Widow was in Borders today with Hubby browsing (what else?) the baseball section. There are some great baseball books out there, and there are some terrible baseball books as well. Baseball Widow isn't sure what makes a baseball book good, but she knows what makes one bad: a shallow understanding of baseball's interaction with society.

Baseball is one of the greatest lenses through which to study America. At Baseball Widow's college there was a very popular course on Baseball and American History. Baseball Widow never took the course, but she was inspired by it nonetheless. As a matter of fact, I've written my own course description for a class on baseball. Now if only I can find a school that will let me teach it. . .

Bats, Balls and Business: The History of Baseball and America
Politics, economics, international relations, race relations, labor relations, gender wars, World Wars, drug wars, business, literature, architecture, film, fashion, food. . . if it involves American history and culture, it involves baseball. This course will use baseball as a lens for examining and understanding America. We will explore all aspects of the game, studying its cultural significance rather than the history of teams or players. Through readings (fictional and non-fictional, contemporary and historical), films, fieldtrips, and class discussion, we’ll learn of baseball’s origins, its rise to national prominence and we’ll discuss its continuing significance to America. No prior baseball knowledge necessary.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Not Exactly Disneyland

Baseball Widow doesn't like to brag. She prefers to boast--it sounds much more dignified. And, as long as we're talking about how wonderful Baseball Widow is, Baseball Widow would like to share one of the many adventures she has had since becoming a widow almost three years ago.

I like to call this little story "What I Did on My Husband's Summer Vacation."

Last summer, Hubby and I set off on a road trip. The itinerary looked like this:

Day 1St. LouisReds v. Cardinals
Day 3ChicagoTour Wrigley Field
Day 5ClevelandA's v. Indians
Day 6PittsburghCubs v. Pirates
Day 8CincinnatiBraves v. Reds

We also managed to visit the St. Louis Zoo, the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Cedar Point and King's Island amusement parks, and see some events with the Chicago Comedy Festival.
Did I mention that we were camping and that it was 40 degrees?
Busy trip, here are the highlights. . .

Best ParkPNC - On the river, and everyone walks across the bridge en masse
Best Moment (Hubby)Catching a batting practice ball at PNC
Best Moment (Widow)You mean besides seeing Javy Lopez? Okay, seeing Javy Lopez hit two homers, and seeing the Braves win (a first for the Baseball Widow).
Best GameA’s v Indians - Our best seats and a nail biter to boot
Best FoodGino's East Pizza in Chicago or The Thurman Cafe in Columbus, OH

This year, Baseball Widow planned the vacation; we leave for Walt Disney World in ten days. Somehow, I'm sure I'll come back and tell you all about Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. . . you know, where the Braves train.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Songs in the Key of AA Minor League

Baseball Widow finally made it to her first Tennessee Smokies game of the season, and it was thoroughly enjoyable--especially since she was able to see her favorite minor league player, Papo Bolivar.

Baseball Widow first made Papo's acquaintance last year, and she was thrilled to discover he's still with the Smokies. (Okay, so that's not really a good sign for his career, but this is about me.) I'm not exactly sure why I like Papo so much, but I think it has something to do with the fact that his name sounds like "pop-up," and that's what he usually hits--four of them last Friday night.

Papo's at-bat music is a jazzy Latin tune that I haven't identified which consists of the lyrics "uh-oh." Funny on two counts. One, rhymes with Papo. Two, reflects his batting average. Baseball Widow also thinks that Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" would suit him well. Maybe in the majors, if he ever gets the call. (Even Grammar Gods use sentence fragments.)

In honor of Papo, Baseball Widow presents the top five songs she would like to hear as at-bat music.

1. "Mr. Excitement" by They Might Be Giants. If Baseball Widow ever plays professional baseball, this would be her choice. A close second would be another TMBG tune, "Wicked Little Critter."

2. "Endless Love" or "I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight"
Any player, any time. Pure laughs.

3. I'll pay someone to sneak into Shea and play "Natural Woman" when Piazza walks to the plate. This isn't related to the persistent rumors over his sexuality--it's more about his bleach job. I just can't get over it.

4. For Nomar Garciaparra, "Bohemian Rhapsody" or "Innagoddadavita" or perhaps Beethoven's Fifth--I don't think any of them are long enough to cover his pre-bat rituals.

5. "I Wish I Was a Girl (Going out with a Boy Like Me)" A great one by Australian group King Curly, and one Baseball Widow thinks is perfectly suited for Derek Bell.

Friday, May 07, 2004

There goes the Spider-Man

Five alternate titles for this post:
1. What a Tangled Web We Weave (too obvious)

2. There goes the Sell-Out, Man (possibly misleading--the sell-out still exists in some form. Also, this requires knowledge of the reference to the old theme song, and that might be a little dated. The title I went with makes sense even if the reader doesn't get the reference.)

3. Meltdown for Spidey Advertising Plan (this was good, but maybe too subtle--perhaps people aren't aware that Spidey is radioactive)

4. Back-up plan is to have "Be the next Spiderman" contest with the Albuquerque Isotopes (again, radioactivity joke too subtle, and it just doesn't read as funny as it should)

5. I just don't get it

And with the last alternative title, Baseball Widow approaches her topic. . .

I just don't get it. The uproar over the Spiderman advertising on the field seems bizarre to consider while I'm watching the Odor Eaters Fantastic Feat and the AFLAC Trivia Question during the Braves' away game at PETCO park or Coors field. The game is commercialized, and it's not going to change. As a matter of fact, I'd rather have more in-game advertising than 500 trajilliondy commercial breaks.

What's the big deal about putting something on the bases? Okay, aside from the fact that it's against the rules? I think it's much less intrusive than a screen graphic. Of course, there are even better alternatives. Baseball Hubby suggested an armpatch, but I think it would be disrespectful to the memories of those who have been honored by armpatches in the past, essentially equating their accomplishments with a movie. I've always thought that someone should utilize the grass and have an ad mowed in. (MIT took this step one further by seeding the Harvard football stadium so that the letters MIT grew as a patch across the field.)

Honestly, my real question for Spiderman 2 is, why bother? Seriously, this is a highly anticipated movie. It needs very little advertising. Some cool trailers, a few billboards, and you're good to go. Baseball Widow formerly worked in a large New York advertising firm, and if there's one thing she learned, it's nothing. . . No, really, I learned that no one really understands advertising. No one knows what works or why, or if anything works at all. Who knows? Maybe some new psychological studies have evidenced that advertising on baseball bases is the most highly effective form of coercive advertising. I doubt it, though. Besides, who watches baseball anyway? It has incredibly low TV viewership. Why not buy another commercial on the last Friends?

Which brings me to my last alternative title for this post:
Could I be any more apathetic?

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Puns for Titles are So Lame

Baseball Widow was devastated when Max Kellerman got the boot from Around the Horn and PTI's Stat Boy stole the gig. Baseball Widow likes Stat Boy--when he's running stats, not when he's ruining one of the most original sports shows on TV.

Kellerman's new show, I, Max, premieres May 10 on Fox Sports Net, and, despite the lame title, Baseball Widow will be happy to have Max back.

Here are three reasons you should be psyched, too:

1. Max Kellerman has an ego to rival Baseball Widow's. That's pretty impressive.

2. Max Kellerman knows his stuff, and he's an Ivy League grad to boot. (Max and Baseball Hubby share Columbia University in the City of New York as their alma mater.)

3. Max Kellerman has the same name as the resort owner in Dirty Dancing.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

I hope they at least bought them dinner first.

Today's headline from Slam! Sports says it all, "Jays Aquire Clapp from Indians."

Monday, May 03, 2004

PEDs, part IV (I think)

In the past, Baseball Widow has been quick to point out that the Performance Enhancing Drug ("PED") moniker is inadequate, especially to the extent that "performance enhancing" relates to competitive balance. I don't want to re-tread water under the bridge, but I've pointed out that the Yankees' payroll is an artificial advantage that smaller-market teams can never rival. We've talked about performance enhancing. Now let's talk about drugs.

Two recent events have caused Baseball Widow to think about drugs. No, neither of them involved law school finals.

1. Baseball Hubby's paternal grandmother recently had a terrible respiratory infection with some dangerous complications. She spent over a month in the hospital. At one point she was injected with steroids to keep her lungs open. The woman has incredible pluck--when visitors walked in, she asked, "Wonder if they'll finally let me in the big game?" She was, of course, referring to baseball. (Baseball Hubby's grandmother is a huge baseball fan, but that's another post.)

2. Baseball Widow recently spent an evening on a police ride-along. No, she wasn't arrested. Baseball Widow rode in the patrol car with a police officer for a ten hour shift, going on every call. The most eye-opening part of the experience was touring the slums and seeing how drugs permeate the community. Baseball Widow isn't saying anything new when she says that crack has devastating effects.

This is perhaps the most simplistic idea I've ever posted, but sometimes simple ideas need spelling out: drugs are neither inherently good nor inherently bad--they're just drugs. Sometimes drugs are essential to save lives. Sometimes drugs are instrumental in ruining lives. And, although people don't really like to think about it, sometimes drugs are just for the kick. We see all three instances in baseball.

Just for the kick: Maybe they work, maybe they don't. Sometimes they're legal, sometimes they're not. Creatine, Ephedra, Hgh, Steroids, Slim-Fast, Viagra, whatever.

Ruining lives: Steve Howe, Darryl Strawberry, Otis Nixon, Dwight Gooden.

Saving lives: Detroit Tigers pitcher Jason Johnson, wearing an insulin pump during games to keep his life-threatening diabetes in check.

It is inadequate to draw the illegal/legal distinction. First, there is a fundamental difference between Jose Canseco trying to hit a few more homers and Greasy Eddie the neighborhood crack dealer ripping off car stereos to support his habit. Second, the illegal/legal distinction is simply an arbitrary standard set by government officials who are susceptible to lobbying influence. Pop quiz: which is more dangerous, marijuana or tobacco? Well, if you grow it and roll it, you're gonna live a longer, healthier life smoking dope than buying Lucky Strikes. What's the difference between crack and powder cocaine? Chemically, pretty much nothing, but if you get busted for crack, you're gonna do at least twice the time as if you peddled cocaine. Look, I'm not making the case that anyone should be doing any of these, but I am saying that an intelligent conversation about drug policy--both nationally and in baseball--requires making finer distinctions than illegal/legal.

So, what is the standard that baseball should use? "Artificial Advantage" is about as slippery as "Performance Enhancing." What if I told you that some baseball players were abusing a prescription-only steroid injection in order to deaden themselves to pain so that they can play longer and harder? Outraged? Why should you be? It's just cortisone. Sure, excessive use can kill white blood cells, cause cataracts, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and cause tendons to explode, but, hey, if everybody uses it, it can't be a big deal, right?

Is it possible that the uproar over illegal steroids is just because they haven't gained widespread use or acceptance yet? And if this is the case, haven't we really worked ourselves back around to the issue of competitive balance?

Baseball Widow doesn't have an answer or a conclusion. This is a topic in progress. . .

Saturday, May 01, 2004

I'm back! (No Trimspa necessary.)
Baseball Widow is back. She would prefer that you not ask her about the Securities Act of 1934.

Wow. So much to catch up on. Let's start with the greatest thing to happen to Baseball Widow since grade inflation. As you might have noticed from the nifty button on the sidebar, Baseball Widow is now a member of the Rocky Top Brigade. What does that mean? Generally, it means that people in the blogosphere have too much time on their hands. Specifically, it means I belong to a loose confederacy of bloggers with a Tennessee connection. So, when Baseball Widow isn't updating, go check out some RTB sites!

Baseball Widow would like to thank Len Cleavlin for nominating Baseball Widow for the RTB slot. Len has been one of Baseball Widow's best supporters and frequent commentators. He has interesting stuff to say about politics and baseball, and he never holds back. Be sure to check out the Musings of a Philosophical Scrivener.

Baseball Widow is going to gather her thoughts and attempt to post more later. But, first, celebratory chocolate chip pancakes are in order.