You, too, can defeat winter doldrums. Embrace baseball!

I usually hate Peanuts, but this is an entirely accurate representation of how I woke up.

Last night, Dad and I talked about how the winter slump was in full effect. On our way back to the car after a basketball game, a gust of frigid February wind carried a stinging shot of snow drift into our faces. “Enough is enough, I want this shit over with already,” the Old Man grumbled as we tucked our heads down to deflect as much as we could.

“Yeah, I just want a fuckin’ ballgame to watch, man,” I replied. We both chuckled, smiled a huge smile, and it wasn’t cold anymore. A lighthearted instrumental version of our theme song played, and the credits started to roll on the latest episode of our early 1990’s sitcom.

But no, seriously. Today I woke up to the distinctive sound of dripping water as the snow melted off the roof. I got up to go the bathroom and I was blinded by the powerful sun bouncing off the two feet of snow on the ground outside. I felt warm, so I went and turned down the heater, and cracked a window to get some fresh air into the dry house.

All players have made it to their team’s respective camp in Arizona or Florida, and full-team workouts are scheduled to take place this week. I expect all of this snow to be gone by Wednesday, and to have my office windows open during the day by the weekend.

Winter can kiss my ass, because baseball season is here.

Later, Zim.

Truth be told, when the Yankees hired Joe Torre and Don Zimmer in 1995, I didn’t know much about either guy. The extent of my knowledge came from my baseball card collection, and borrowing baseball almanacs from the library.

I quickly fell in love with both of their styles — Torre making more tactful, tacit comments, and Zim with his blunt, “old school” remarks. I’ve always tried to be a straight shooter, and Zimmer was the epitome of that.

In this republished Esquire article from 2001, Scott Raab has a great passage about him.

Zimmer managed Tom Yawkey’s Red Sox from 1976 to 1980. Between parties, the Boston media and fans roasted him without mercy.

“Every day,” Zim says. “I left the ballpark one night, and sittin’ right by the dugout is my wife and my daughter–she lives up in New Hampshire, but it’s only, like, forty-five minutes north, and I’m drivin’ her up to her house. My wife’s sittin’ in the front, and my daughter’s in the back and she’s cryin’. I turned around and said, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ She said, ‘Daddy, I’m so tired of people booin’ you in this town, and I’m worried that yer gonna get fired.’

“I said, ‘Don’t go to the game no more. Stay home. If it’s gonna bother ya, stay home.’

“Don’t tell me it didn’t hurt–day after day, hour after hour, the same shit. It’s gotta bother ya. But it’s baseball. If you don’t like it, get out. Get a job. That’s the way I looked at it. And that’s the way it was.”

There is old school as a slogan of self-advertisement and then there is old school as the baseball way of life Zimmer still loves too much to leave behind.

“Yeah. Yeah, or I wouldn’t go back. When last season was over, I got the goddamn flu, last day of the World Series. I was on my back for three weeks. I was sick, and my knee still wasn’t right, and I was ready to give it up. I got over the flu. My knee I can manipulate–” and I’ll be damned if Zim doesn’t roll up one pant leg to display a bony spur jutting just south of the ruined joint. It’s a tame phrase, “knee replacement,” but this looks ghastly. And painful.

“I can get by. I get by,” he says.

That’s how he always was. You play 162 games a year, and if you have a tough loss, it’s time to move on and look at tomorrow’s game. Something you planned didn’t work out? Tough shit, it happens, and you can’t let it bug you.

It’s refreshing to find a guy like him. Sometimes players don’t relate to the fact that they make a living playing a game, but Zim knew. He was humble about it too.

“I didn’t wanna make no big thing of it,” he explains. “I came in very quiet, and that’s the way I’d like ta go out.”

“Hey, it’s been a great ride for me, a great life. Everything I have I owe to baseball. Baseball owes me nothin’. Ain’t nobody has to give me nothin’. I would be embarrassed if I had a day somewhere. I don’t want no day. I want friends, to live my life the way I wanna live it.”

It’s great advice, isn’t it? Keep your head down, do your thing, and be happy with what you could accomplish.

I get melancholy when ballplayers pass away. I’ve never met the guys, but when you spend so much time involved with their professional lives, you feel really connected to them. One of the great things about baseball is that it’s perpetual, and the names live on forever.

That makes it so much harder when one of the guys you really cherished moves on.

I never understood booing players.

Look at all these douche bags.

I love how quickly they change their tune when he steps out from behind the picture. What a bunch of inconsistent babies. They’re the guys that watch a bar fight from across the room, and then carry on for half an hour about how those guys were lucky they didn’t come over here and start something with them. Oh yeah, you’re such a big man until the action actually comes to a head.

The bigger problem I have with it is the booing of Robinson Cano as a sellout. Let’s reflect on that for a moment. Yankees fans booing someone for being a sellout. Yankees fans. The Yanks are the team that always overpay to steal talent away from other teams. The one time someone does it to your guy, you flip shit? Get a grasp on reality, moron.

I love Robbie as a player, but the Yanks have signed so many bad contracts for that duration/amount of money for people on the wrong side of thirty. I applaud their discretion for once.

Ballpark Panoramas

I’ve got a pretty decent point and shoot camera that I picked up a couple years ago, so I made it a habit to bring it with me when I went on roadtrips following the ValleyCats around last summer.

This year, I’ll make a better effort to capture daylight and night time shots from the same spot, since I like the way the the dynamics of the field change in the lighting.

Here’s shots from Aberdeen, Connecticut, Brooklyn, State College, and Williamsport.

What a Bizarre Game

Tonight had so many quirky moments, and I’m pretty sure the ValleyCats paid off the umps, because there were a lot of favorable calls that fell the home team’s way.

In the top of the third, the first pitch Reynaldo Mateo saw was popped up over the pitcher’s mound. Ryan Dineen came in to make the play, and bobbled it a couple of times as he stumbled across the hill. Eventful, but it was still an out. You could see Bushue was struggling with his command, and he gave up a solid basehit and a walk to the next two batters. With runners on first and second with one out, Melvin Mercedes hit a sharp grounder toward second, and Boog Powell (no, not that Boog Powell) got in the way and was called out on interference. Austin Booker closed out the inning with a weak grounder to third. Crisis averted!

Tony Kemp led off the bottom of the third with a solo shot to right-center, but the game settled back down for the next six outs, so getting out of that jam wasn’t the momentum shift I was expecting.

James Ramsay — or Ramsey as his jersey says — led off the fourth with a solid line drive up the middle. He was absolutely dead to rights on a pick off; he was leaning, and stumbled trying to shift his weight back toward first, but the home plate ump decided to call a balk instead. None of us in our section saw anything obvious, so I can’t say for sure as to what he did wrong. He came set well enough, so I’m guessing he just didn’t step off the rubber satisfactorily. The next batter, Luis Alverez, hit a shallow fly ball to right, and again, Ramsay was dead to rights. He didn’t stop halfway to third, and the throw behind him beat him by at least two and a half steps. Somehow, he was called safe. I have no explanation for it. It’s not like there was a missed tag, it’s a force play, so maybe Mercedes just totally danced around the bag as he made the catch and never made contact with it… I’m assuming Ramsay’s expended all of his guardian angels and he’ll be unceremoniously put out in each of his at bats tomorrow.

From that point in the game, the pace slowed to a snail’s wiggle; the fielding grew sloppy, and the pitchers lost control. The glancing “blow” came unexpectedly in the home’s half of the sixth. With the bases loaded and two out, D’Andre Toney hit a routine fly ball to right, and Kelvin Rojas just muffed the play. He took a clean route to the ball and had his eyes on it all the way. He closed his glove too fast, and the ball scooted away from him. The bases cleared, and an erratic throw to third allowed D’Andre to reach safely.

The ‘Cats weren’t smooth in the field in the late innings, but at that point they’d built up enough of a cushion to hold on and win.

iScore Box | iScore Scorecard


Melvin Mercedes       4  1  3  1  Tony Kemp             3  2  1  1  
Austin Booker         4  0  1  1   Chan Moon            1  0  1  0  
Kelvin Rojas          4  1  2  2  D'Andre Toney         4  0  1  3  
Michael Soto          4  0  0  0  Conrad Gregor         4  1  0  0  
Josh Miller           4  0  1  1  Dan Gulbransen        5  1  1  2  
Luis Baez             4  1  1  0  James Ramsay          4  1  2  0  
Reynaldo Mateo        4  0  0  0  Luis Alvarez          3  1  2  1  
B.J. Boyd             4  2  3  1  Jon Kemmer            2  2  1  0  
Herschel Powell       3  1  1  0  Ryan Dineen           4  0  0  0  
                                  Thomas Lindauer       4  1  0  0  
TOTALS               35  6 12  6  TOTALS               34  9  9  7

VERMONT LAKE MONSTERS         000 020 040 -- 6  
TRI-CITY VALLEYCATS           011 023 20x -- 9  

ERR--Austin Booker, Kelvin Rojas (2), Ryan Dineen. 2B--Luis
Baez, Herschel Powell, Luis Alvarez, Jon Kemmer. HR--Tony
Kemp, Dan Gulbransen.

 VERMONT LAKE MONSTERS           IP    H    R   ER   BB   SO   HR
Deyvi Jimenez (L)              4.67    4    3    3    3    4    1
Derek Hansen                   1.33    2    4    1    2    0    1
Taylor Massey                  1.00    1    2    0    1    1    0
David Mota                     1.00    2    0    0    0    0    0
Tanner Bushue                  4.33    4    2    2    1    3    0
Albert Minnis (W)              0.67    1    0    0    0    0    0
Adrian Houser                  2.00    6    4    4    0    0    0
Pat Christensen                1.00    1    0    0    0    1    0
Chia-Jen Lo                    1.00    0    0    0    0    2    0

WP--Tanner Bushue (2). BALK--Deyvi Jimenez. SO--Josh Miller,
B.J. Boyd, Luis Baez, Reynaldo Mateo, Kelvin Rojas (2), Ryan
Dineen, Tony Kemp, D'Andre Toney, Dan Gulbransen (2).
BB--Herschel Powell, Luis Alvarez, Jon Kemmer (2), Tony
Kemp, D'Andre Toney, Conrad Gregor.

Offensive Highlights
2B Tony Kemp: 
3-4, BB, HR, 2 R — Kemp left the game in the top of the seventh, replaced by Chan Moon. Not sure what happened there.

DH Dan Gulbransen: 1-5, HR, R — Not the best night offensively, but he put a charge into the homerun he hit. It got out in a hurry, and was deep to right-center.

LF Jon Kemmer: 1-2, 2 BB, 2B, 2 R — Jon has shown a very good eye at the plate, and he earned a walk after a tough at bat in the sixth. He doesn’t seem overly speedy, but he runs the bases well.

Pitching Breakdown
Batters faced:
Bushue 17, Minnis 2, Houser 10, Christensen 4, Lo 3
Pitches-strikes: Bushue 57-36, Minnis 8-5, Houser 45-33, Christensen 11-8, Lo 13-11
Groundouts-Flyouts: Bushue 5-4, Minnis 1-0, Houser 4-0, Chistensen 2-0, Lo 0-1

Tanner Bushue (4.1 IP): Tanner seemed to have the Lake Monsters under control through the first four, but didn’t come out strong in the fifth. He had some extra time while the offense was chugging along, and it really affected his command. He showed a high-80s fastball, slider, curve, and changed velocity on the slider to wind up with something between a cutter and a changeup that got quite a few swings and misses. It had a really nice fade to it. Actually, thinking back on how it was moving, it’s likely it was a change and not a slower slider. I’ll keep a closer look the next time I see him.

Albert Minnis (0.2 IP): He was barely in the game long enough to show us a fastball and a curve. Release point felt inconsistent, but it was a really small sample size.

Adrian Houser (2.0+ IP): Houser attacked the zone and pitched to contact. His fastball (85-88) has a lot of cut to it, and he offsets it with a serviceable curve (76-78 with varying amounts of plane change). The problem with staying in the middle of the plate without dominant stuff is that eventually guys are going to get good wood on the ball, and that’s what did in Houser’s evening. There was a lot of solid contact on his flat curveballs in his third inning of work.

Pat Christensen (1.0 IP): Pat was a real trip to see. Every pitch felt slower than the last, and he had the Lake Monsters out of whack while he tried to clean up Houser’s mess. His fastball was peaking in the low-mid-80s, and he mixed in a true 12-6 curve in the mid-60s. It was like watching Bugs Bunny pitch.

Chia-Jen Lo (1.0 IP): Lo’s only here on a rehab stint from AA Corpus Christi, and he absolutely dominated the Lake Monsters in the ninth. His fastball was consistently in the mid-90s (92-96), and he offset it with a change that came in 12 MPH lower than that. The Lake Monsters were having some fun with being so overwhelmed, heading back to the bench with huge smiles on their faces after seeing someone that polished in the second game of the season. What an absolute treat it was to see him throw tonight.

Closing Notes
– The umps were definitely favoring the ValleyCats tonight, and if you wanted to say the fix was in, I’d have no right to go against you. There was a questionable balk overturning a pick off, a safe call on a throw back to the infield after a fly ball, a trapped fly ball in left by Kemmer, and inconsistent strike zones that happened to only hurt the Lake Monsters.

– While there were 15 runs and 21 hits tonight, it wasn’t a traditional slugfest. Sure, there were well hit balls, but the big rallies for both teams were among terrible fits of control and fielding miscues.

– Because of said miscues and control problems, the first four and a half innings took a mere hour and four minutes. The remaining four innings took almost two hours…