Tag Archives: MLB

Former All-Star Jason Dickson reflects on his first Spring Training and Opening Day

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Andrew McGilligan | Out of WriteField

With fans around the world anticipating the start of the Major League Baseball season on Sunday, we at Out of WriteField decided to find out how a former Major League player viewed spring training and the start of a new season. We spoke with former MLB pitcher Jason Dickson about his first big-league spring training and the early days of his inaugural season in the big leagues.

 

Andrew McGilligan |Out of WriteField

It was the sixth inning of the second day of the Major League Baseball season when Jason Dickson felt that he could finally exhale and relax on the mound. To that point in the game on April 3, 1997, pitching at home for the California Angels against the Boston Red Sox, Dickson had been masterful, allowing only a pair of hits in what was then a scoreless game.

The start was the first of his rookie season – he had appeared in seven games the year before – but that day, that season, marked a series of first in his young career.

“That first game of the year, the first start, all I was really hoping for was nothing to be a disaster,” Dickson said. “By the time the fifth inning was over and nothing major had gone wrong, it was a sense of relief. I thought to myself, ‘You’ve proven you can do it, so just keep pegging away.”

He would surrender just three more hits the rest of the way in the Angels 2-0 win, tossing a complete-game shutout – the only one of his career. His final line for the day, nine innings, no runs, five hits, five strikeouts (including fanning Fenway slugger Mo Vaughan) and no walks. Not a bad debut for the rookie hurler from New Brunswick.

Coming into spring training, Dickson didn’t think he would crack the major league roster; not many players do their first time out. Despite having been called up the year before, ’97 was his first big-league camp.

“Every year, right around the time spring training starts, I still get the itch be down there, be around the guy and the atmosphere and that all stems back to that first camp,” he said. “You’re excited to be back on the field and in the warm weather.”

Arriving at camp, Dickson figured there were five or six pitchers ahead of him and he would probably return to AAA Vancouver to start the season. The starting pitchers in camp with him included Chuck Finley and Jim Abbott.

“I really had no expectation of making the team,” he said. “I just went out and threw. I was just excited to be there, but at the same time with no expectations, I was doing well, having a pretty good spring.”

As spring wore on, cuts started being made and Dickson was not among them.

“When you start to see the cuts and the guys that are cut are the ones you’re competing with, you start to think you might get the chance to start the season with the big club when spring training breaks.”

This spring training, his first, was also when he learned how tough the business of baseball can be. In order for him to make the starting rotation, a spot had to be opened up; a veteran pitcher would need to be released. Dickson had gotten to know Abbott throughout the spring and considered him a friend, which made it even more difficult when the Angels cut the iconic one-armed pitcher to make room.

“That’s so tough because on one hand, it’s a friend being released, but it also means you’re going to stay. I remember reading Jim’s book a few months ago and he wrote about how tough that was for him. It definitely was a hard situation.”

Making the roster, being part of Opening Day, his win in the second game of the opening series against the Red Sox and earning an All-Star berth was all part of his first full season in The Show. Despite having played baseball his whole life, Dickson said he wasn’t prepared for some of the things that come with being a major league player, things you can’t prepare for.

“Your teammates are guys you had on posters on your wall growing up,” he said. “Everything is bigger, from the clubhouse to the stadiums. You go from being anonymous to being known overnight.

“You go from walking out of the park with no one around in the minors to driving your car past a large group of fans waiting for you after the games. You learn not to use your own name in New York City hotels because you’ll either end up with autograph seekers waiting for you or people leaving you death threats.”

As for Opening Day 2013, Dickson said he’ll be watching, especially the Toronto Blue Jays to see how they handle the pressure given the headline-grabbing offseason. He’ll also think about that first start of 1997 against Boston, standing on the mound trying not to be overwhelmed by the realization he had achieved a life-long dream.

“For the first little while that season everything was awkward, I didn’t really know what I was supposed to be doing. The only time it felt normal was when I was on the mound making pitches.

“All I was trying to do was convince myself this was no fluke, that I belonged. Just pitch well enough to get four or five more starts.”

He would get 31 more chances that season, earning his way to an all-star game and third-place finish in Rookie of the Year voting.

 

 

 

 

 

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The 2013 Out Of WriteField Unscientific Guide to MLB

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Andrew McGiligan | Out of WriteField

With the Major League Baseball season set to kick-off on Sunday, it’s time for the second annual Out of WriteField Completely Unscientific Predictions for 2013.

 

As noted earlier this week, we hope to improve upon our 38 per cent success rate from last season which included accurate predictions of the AL Cy Young, AL MVP, several division winners and the two World Series teams (we incorrectly took the Tigers over the Giants) and a whole host of ones that were wrong.

 

So without further delay, here are the Out of WriteField picks for 2013:

 

American League

Division Winners

Al East – Tampa Bay Rays

Al Central – Detroit Tigers

Al West – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Wildcards – Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers

Analysis: Jays fans should get their first taste of postseason baseball in decades, but it will be through the wildcard. Early injuries and demotions to Brett Lawrie and Ricky Romero combined with some skepticism of how this team will gel makes the Rays a more appealing pick to win the East. The Tigers will continue to roll in the Central, but the potential for the Kansas City Royals to emerge and what looks to be – on paper anyways – a much improved Cleveland Indians squad should make for an interesting division. As for the West, it’s time for the free-spending and a full season of Mike Trout to result in a division win for the Angels with the Rangers playing well in enough to edge Oakland for the second wildcard.

 

AL MVP – Evan Longoria

AL Cy Young – Justin Verlander

AL Rookie of the Year – Wil Myers

Analysis: Not known for their offensive prowess, the Rays will churn out two awards this season. Longoria defines MVP when it comes to the Rays who were about a .500 club without him in the lineup and 20 games above that mark with him last season. If Longoria can play in 140 or more games, he will have the best season of his career and some new hardware. Bryce Harper started in the minors last year and it made us shy away from picking him as ROY. Big mistake and it won’t happen again. Myers won’t be playing on Opening Day, but he will be called up before the All-Star break and make the front office look even better for dealing away James Shields for the slugging prospect. Verlander is a perennial candidate for the Cy Young and entering a contract year makes him even more determined – if that’s possible – to be the best pitcher in the game.

 

National League

Division Winners

NL West – Washington Nationals

NL Central – Cincinnati Reds

NL West – San Francisco Giants

Wildcards – Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves

Analysis: The Nationals will once again be the class of the NL with a great pitching staff and solid lineup. Consider what Bruce Harper did at 19 and what he can do with that year of seasoning and adjusting behind him. The Reds should be able to ride a solid hitting, but potentially poor defensive lineup to the Central crown while the Giants pitching staff should make up for the offensive shortcomings of its lineup in taking the West. The Dodgers are similar to the Jays in that no one is sure what to expect from the ridiculous budget squad, but talent alone should carry them to a postseason spot. The Braves enjoyed a successful offseason and have the brothers Upton patrolling the outfield. They should beat up on everyone in the NL East not named the Nationals on the way to a wildcard berth.

 

NL MVP – Joey Votto

NL Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw

NL Rookie of the Year – Oscar Taveras

Analysis: Similar to Longoria, if Votto stays healthy there’s no one that can hold a candle to him with the bat (the exception being Miguel Cabrera). Votto has been described as a hitting savant and genius in the batters’ box. Kershaw is dominant and probably the best left-handed pitcher on the planet, he’ll reclaim his spot as the NL’s top arm after finishing second in the voting last year. Like everyone else, we were ready to pick Adam Eaton as a lock for the NL ROY, but an elbow injury will keep him out of the lineup for a few months. Because of this, Taveras is the new pick. Like Myers he will start in Triple A, but the hitting machine will eventually get called up to the St. Louis Cardinals and force one of their current outfielders to the bench.

 

World Series

Tigers over Nationals in six

Analysis: I think Detroit will finally get over the hump and win the World Series this year. The Nationals will continue their ascension to the top of the heap, but ultimately come up short….at least for this season.

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.388 – Good Batting Average, But Not Good Enough On Predictions

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Andrew McGilligan | Out of WriteField

If a player was coming into the 2013 Major League Baseball season with a .388 batting average, he would be a hot commodity. Give that same percentage to a person for their 2012 MLB predictions and it doesn’t seem as impressive.

However, with Opening Day less than a week away, we’re not shying away from our past here at Out of WriteField. We’re going to make predictions for 2013 later this week, but first we need to revisit 2012.

 

2012 Predictions and Actual 2012 Winners

 

American League Division and Wild Card teams

*actual winners in parentheses

Predictions:

AL East – NY Yankees (Yankees)

AL Central – Detroit Tigers (Tigers)

AL West – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Oakland Athletics)

Wildcard – Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox (Rangers, Baltimore Orioles)

Analysis: Predicted three of the five correctly, but so did most people. The big surprises of Oakland and Baltimore come out of nowhere. If you know someone who predicted both of those teams making the playoffs, you should heed their advice from now on.

National League Division and Wild Card Teams

*actual winners in parentheses

NL East – Philadelphia Phillies (Washington Nationals)

NL Central – Milwaukee Brewers (Cincinnati Reds)

NL West – San Francisco Giants (Giants)

NL Wildcards – Arizona Diamondbacks and Miami Marlins (Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals)

Analysis: Predicted one of five correctly, a brutal stat line. The Marlins imploded, the Phillies were awful and the Brewers never got it together.   

World Series

Detroit over San Francisco in six games (Giants over Tigers in four games)

Analysis: Got the teams’ right, but not the outcome. Really thought this would have been a much closer series, but the Tigers couldn’t get the bats going against the dominant pitching of the Giants. The guy with perhaps the best nickname in sports Pablo ‘Kung-Fu Panda’ Sandoval was named MVP.

Individual Winners

*actual winners in parentheses

Predictions:

American League

AL MVP – Miguel Cabrera (Cabrera)

AL Cy Young – David Price (Price)

AL Rookie of the Year – Matt Moore (Mike Trout)

Analysis: I was two for two and then Trout happened. The Angels rookie had a season for the ages and will be mentioned a lot when it comes to the 2013 predictions.

National League

NL MVP – Matt Kemp (Buster Posey)

NL Cy Young – Roy Halladay (R.A. Dickey)

NL Rookie of the Year – Yonder Alonso (Bryce Harper)

Analysis: Not one correct. Kemp got injured and Halladay just wasn’t himself. Looking back, I’m not sure why I was so bullish on the Phillies. No chance of me betting on Philadelphia this year.

So overall, it’s painfully obvious that I watch much more of the American League than the National given my correct guesses. We’ll see what happens this year when the 2013 predictions are posted later this week.

BONUS: Here’s a link to some other 2012 predictions to see what others thought would happen.

Yahoo: http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=ys-brown_henson_passan_season_predictions_040412

CBSSports: http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/blog/eye-on-baseball/18271059/2012-mlb-cbssportscom-expert-predictions

 

 

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The Trade Market

Albert Pujols certainly doesn’t look like the Albert of the past – but maybe it’s turning around for him. Fantasy buyers and sellers beware of the risk of picking up or trading the greatest hitter of the last decade.

McGILLIGAN:What exactly is Albert Pujols worth today?

It’s not a question many fantasy owners have asked over the years. Having been a perennial top three fantasy producer, Pujols was seen as off limits in trade talks and if he was in the discussion, the price was sky high.

That was until he struggled to find his American League stroke early this season.

What used to be a no-brainer – you can’t trade Pujols – is legitimately up for debate. The question becomes what is he worth and of course that depends on the team you’re dealing with. Does his terribly slow start mean you can offer less than premium players and expect the deal to happen? Or maybe he still commands a ridiculous, and therefore, prohibitive price.

Trading in fantasy baseball is always a fun, but risky proposition.

Trading one of the most consistent players in the history of fantasy baseball is even riskier. So which is the real Pujols? The guy who consistently puts up career averages of .326 with 42 homeruns and 125 RBI or the one hitting .213 with two homers and 17 RBI through 37 games in a new league.

If I had to bet, I would bet on the 32-year-old slugger figuring it out sooner rather than later.  Heading into play Thursday, he has a .310 average (9 for 29) and eight RBI over his past seven games.

If anyone can turn it around, it’s Pujols.

So now might be the time to roll the dice try and buy him at a discounted price. If it works out, you can call yourself a shrewd fantasy manager. If not, you can always blame Pujols for your miserable place in the standings.

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Josh Hamilton’s hot start: will Texas re-sign him?

Josh Hamilton, if he stays healthy, will put up a mammoth year going into a contract off-season. Question is: will the Rangers spend money to keep him?

LIVINGSTONE: We’re just about an eighth of the way through the season and the American League doesn’t look like the league preseason analysis expected it to be. Add Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, New York picked up Michael Pineda to solidify their pitching staff, Pujols and co. looked like the perennial favourite to win the AL and the World Series, and the AL East had the look of a four-team race.

Well, that, to this point, is all out the window. But what I really want to get at is Josh Hamilton. His story is well-known to everyone, how he rose from the darkness of drug and alcohol addiction to come back to professional baseball and become the elite hitter he was expected to be when drafted first overall in 1999 by the Tampa Bay Rays.

He never played a game for them and it wasn’t until 2007 that he made his debut for the Reds. It’s been all history from there. When healthy, Hamilton has been a force at the plate in four seasons with the Rangers (Cincy traded him for Edison Voloquez after the 2007 season – wonder who won that deal). He’s helped lead the team to back-to-back World Series appearances, and if all continues the way the season has started for the Rangers, it could be a third appearance.

Hamilton is in the last year of his contract and it’s unclear whether or not the Rangers will even attempt to sign him in the off-season. With big contracts just doled out to second baseman Ian Kinsler (five years, $75-million), catcher Mike Napoli (one year, $9.5 million, likely to turn into a multi-year if he continues to mash the ball like he has this season), Yu Darvish (six years, $60 milion, on top of the $50 million-plus they paid to negotiate with him), Nelson Cruz (2-years, $16 million) and Elvis Andrus (three years, $14.4 million) and third baseman Adrian Beltre (six years, $96 million) – you can obviously see it, is there even any money left to sign Hamilton?

The team seemingly has spent a lot of cash to lock up everyone but Hamilton. Sure, his health is always a question and has only played 133 games maximum in the last three seasons (121 in 2011 and a mere 89 in 2009). The off-field problem involving drinking this past off-season seems to have scared the Rangers a bit in their willingness to sign up to a long-term deal. To be able to become the player he has become, Hamilton has to work three, maybe even four times as hard as everyone else. Staying sober is no easy task, especially coming off the life he lived for four or five years.

So let’s look at why the Rangers would be insane to not re-sign this guy to a long-term deal.

2012 stats: 82 AB, 31 Hits, 3 doubles, 9 HRs, 22 RBI, .378 AVG, .418 OBP, .744 SLG and a sickly OPS of 1.161.

This is only 20 games into the season. While he’s on-pace to hit 75 HR and 180 RBI, it’s not likely he will keep it up to that impossible expectation – but if he stays healthy he could put up 45/140/.350 – a definite AL MVP season. The Rangers would be crazy not to re-sign him if he puts up a big year like he is on pace to do. However, they might not be able to afford what he’ll be asking for. It’s going to be one of the more intriguing story lines as the season progresses. If Hamilton continues to lead the red hot Rangers atop the American League, and he stays healthy, will he stay in Arlington, or will he move on to another team?

Nolan Ryan, don’t be crazy. Get that man a contract.

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A power bat? Where? I’m guessin’ left…

Subs outfielder Alfonso Soriano would be a good power bat addition to the Jays roster - however, the salary he is owed could be an issue.

STRADER: Does anybody get the feeling the Blue Jays aren’t happy with either left fielder?

I am.

One, because AA doesn’t make anything public, and his desire for an impact bat just became public. Two, because it’s not JP Arencibia that’s going to lose his job, I don’t care how many people want to focus on the low batting average.

How would the Baltimore Orioles feel if they’d given up on Matt Wieters?

Pretty dumb, I would imagine.

There’s way more to being a catcher than hitting and I don’t think the organization is as frustrated with Arencibia as some of the fans are.

(That damn debut is going to haunt this kid until he hits….)

No, there is a position on the field that doesn’t seem to be filled by that reliable, crushing, middle of the order bat, just yet.

So, with Anthopolous reportedly telling MLB network radio’s Jim Bowden that a middle of the order bat is his true desire, to “wear down” other teams, it appears that a trial run with a kid for a couple seasons is not what Anthopolous wants. And look around the diamond.

Do you move Rasmus? Nope. He’s looking confident and skilled again, and there’s a speedster in the wings.

Is it Escobar? Nope. Once again, not the power development that has been hyped, but there’s talent waiting on the depth chart there too in a young Cuban who’s looking all world.

No, left field, which I believe in two to three years will be occupied by Jake Marisnick could use a dominant, power-hitting, veteran.

So for fun, ‘cause speculation with the Blue Jays brass is always wrong, let’s take a look at Major League outfields and see if we can find a power-hitting veteran, that would come cheap, is on a team that wants to move him, and also a squad looking to add to their young talent.

Melky….I don’t know….Delmon….would Detroit trade anything right now?….Logan Morrison….is he proven enough?….Brennan Boesch…certainly a lot of talk about his ceiling….Jason Bay…I could only dream he becomes reliable again and lands in Canada….

Nope, I think I found the perfect hole filler. His team will absorb a lot of his contract. He would hit the snot out of the ball in Rogers Centre. And in a couple years, he would happily be replaced by a young outfielder, because he’s in his mid-30s.

Yep, I never thought I would say it, but I want to see Alfonso Soriano in a Blue Jay uniform.

Because of his critics, price tag, and lack of a market, I believe he would only require a couple mid-level prospects to get him.

His OPS is always above .700, this guy can simply hit the ball.

And without having to be the go-to guy in a lineup, he would be an unreal complement bat.

As I’ve said before, I’m patient. I’d rather see Travis Snider for a full season, leave him alone, let him play.

But if we’re going to see 24 and 25 year olds platooned with Rajai, replaced for defensive reasons, not playing against left-handed pitchers, then bring the vet, and wait for Marisnick and Gose.

Maybe Thames and a mid-level pitching prospect would get us Soriano?

And how wicked would he look sandwiched in there with Edwin, Brett, Adam and that dude in right field?

I’m thinking pretty good.

Of course, it looks like my Jenkins prediction was a little out of left field too….

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Timelessness and Jamie Moyer

Creeping closer to seniors discounts at local restaurants, Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher to win a game in the bigs, a 5-3 victory over the San Diego Padres. Cheers Jamie!

LIVINGSTONE: I’m beginning to look into my future a little bit more these days, especially when it comes to baseball. It coincides with life, maturity, professional desires, life, family, etc. It’s normal, I suppose, so it’s carried over into the ‘what-ifs’ of my sports passions. Will Ben Roethlisberger make it to another Super Bowl? Will The Flyers win a Stanley Cup in the next five years? Will the Leafs ever win one in my lifetime (or my hypothetical child…and their kids.)?

The question that popped into my head last night came on the heals of a new baseball record, now enshrined in the Hall of Fame: Will Jamie Moyer ever retire?

Moyer, at the young age of forty-nine, became the oldest pitcher in history to win a baseball game. Pitching now for the Colorado Rockies, after pitching for almost every team in baseball (that’s not true, but it seems like it, he’s only pitched for eight) he kept the San Diego Padres’ hitters at bay with his lightning-fast 79 mph fastball and his nasty cutter. The Rockies won 5-3.

Moyer, 49 years, 150 days old to be exact, takes the record held by Jack Quinn of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who was 49 years, 70 days old when he set the record.

Wait, the Brooklyn Dodgers? Yep, the record was set on Sept. 13, 1932 when a bottle of Coke was five cents and the Second World War was yet to happen.

It’s an incredible feat. To be able to pitch for 25 years, for eight clubs, play with Ryne Sandberg, Ken Griffey Jr., and Carlos Gonzalez (in three different decades mind you) amass 268 wins and over 2,400 Ks – it’s unreal. Moyer is the third oldest pitcher ever to play in a regular season game (behind Quinn and Satchel Paige who was, get this, 59(!!) when he played in 1965) and is tied for sixth on the oldest player, pitcher or position, to play (he’s tied with the likes of Julio Franco (2007) and Hughie Jennings (1918), among others).

It speaks a lot to not only the longevity of his ability to play – but to the fact he has been able to continue pitching, after 25 years and more than 4,000 innings, without his body, or love for the game, saying that’s enough.

Sure, he gets a paycheck, and a pretty decent one in the grand scheme of life, but at this point in his career, he just seems to want to keep playing the game he loves so dearly.

It’s beautiful.

 

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Dyin’ to see what Eric Thames can do – so let him do it.

Name: Eric Thames. Team: Toronto Blue Jays. Position: Starting(?) LF.

Strader: You know what the great thing is about Alex Anthopolous?

He sticks to his plan.

Did he dump a ton of money into Fielder or Pujols’ driveway?

Nope.

Did he go after CJ, ‘cause hey, he was the best of what was available?

Nope.

He’s patient. He’s calculated. He’s determined.

He’s deliberate.

I don’t get to know s—! And man, as a fan that can be really frustrating. But when Escobar for Gonzalez comes out of the blue, it can be really exciting.  So I deal.

I wanted Prince Fielder. I don’t care about the talk of albatross contracts in this town. I don’t care that Vernon Wells was overpaid. When his free agency was an issue, did I want him in Yankee pinstripes? Nope. Did I care what Rogers had to pay to keep him? Definitely not. Just keep him.

He regressed, he didn’t maintain his allstar status and that got frustrating, so Vernon had to go. Anthopolous has maintained he wants a superstar at every position, and I’m fully supportive of that. I get upset at players being vilified for performance, that I’m outspoken about. But I will cut a guy who’s not good enough, for the one who is. It’s all about winning.

And the guy who makes the show isn’t gonna hurt. He’s gonna be fine.

If they go bankrupt ala Warren Sapp, that’s their own problem.

So, I find myself really frustrated at watching Eric Thames.

Why? Because I’m patient. I don’t expect the Jays to contend this year. I’m happy to watch young players struggle, work, and hopefully grow.

So why does it seem that the organization already has their mind made up about Eric Thames?

Can he hit a lefty in the bottom of the seventh with two out and the Jays down by two?

I don’t know. ‘Cause he’ll get that shot once every two months.

Can he provide capable enough defence in the late evenings to be a consistent every day player?

I don’t know. ‘Cause the guy in left has Davis on his back.

If we’re building for the future, and we’re growing a superstar at every position, then I don’t want a guy out there, who at 24, is already being platooned, defensively replaced, pinch run for in every big situation…

That isn’t an everyday superstar. And if that determination is made, why am I not watching Travis Snider?

Dan Johnson’s name will live forever in Tampa Bay. You know why? Because he came through in a big moment. Johnson won’t ever be thought of as a superstar, but if you want to know if a guy is a superstar, doesn’t he have to be given the opportunity to show it?

There is the argument that Thames is being showcased, because trade value will grow more for a guy playing in the show, then a kid in the minors, no matter the numbers, but then what are the other GM’s watching?

Well, good fundamentals, but his team already believes he can’t play defence or hit lefties…so what are the Jays going to get for that???

I agree with the plan. And I will wait.

But I want to grow and nurture young players into everyday beasts, so that we can contend in the east.

Five tools is five tools. If you’ve already decided that a guy is three tools, then move on to the next tool. Play him in the big situations, and let’s see what this kid can do. Ok?

Or just dump the money. Albatross is a nice buzz word to criticize a GM, but if you’re sticking to your plan, and your team is winning, no fan is going to care how much money Rogers is spending.

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Don’t call it a comeback…He’s been here for years…but he won’t ’cause we will chase his lazy ass out of town.

The most-mannered guy - sadly, for two of us, is a Boston Red Sox - David Ortiz is loved by one Write Fielder. And he's not a Sox fan by any means.

STRADER: My colleague, McGilligan brought up Aaron Hill this week, and it brought a question to my mind.

I love April. It is arguably the best time of year for a sports fan. The Masters, baseball’s beginnings, hockey’s end, college basketball’s national championship, it all happens in April.

And this April had one of those moments that reminds us why we engage in this ultimate soap opera. Bubba Watson won the Masters. The everyman victory. Isn’t it one of the greatest moments in sports? The guy hasn’t looked at his swing on video. He hasn’t taken umpteen thousand hours of lessons. He doesn’t employ a swing coach. He goes up to the tee, he swings, and we as fans all get to think he prays a little bit too ­– even if we’re not spiritual, we all say a little, “please God…” after we hit that stupid ball.

And now, with McGilligan speaking about Aaron Hill, I’m reminded of one thing I’ve noticed we’re losing, something that used to be one of my favourite things in sports, and with my track record of homerism, may be a difficult thing to defend.

But I will try…

Why don’t we support hometown athletes anymore?

(And here’s where the homer cries start….back…back…back…Strader’s hugging the players again…) But really, I’m not. I’m talking about a moment that I miss. And I kind of want those moments back…

You know when you have a bad team. Numbers aren’t always needed to prove it. Last in the standings is definitely a precedent, but how many Minnesota Wild fans do you think looooooovvvvvvveeeedd that team in the Lemaire years.

Winning is awesome. Couple playoff victories are wicked. But man, those were boring games with really, only one electrifying player to watch.

So, your team sucks, but you love your guy (let’s go Gaborik here) and even though he has never lead the league, you talk about how he’s as good as anyone, he’s just inhibited by your system, the coaching, the style, choose your buzzword.

A player gets injured, falls apart, and we are quick to jump all over him.

I watched Joffrey Lupul get booed at the Jays game, and I, like many in the media have confessed, did have a moment of pause.

Why is this guy getting booed?

Lupul was injured when his team was still in the playoff race, and he was in the top five in scoring. He basically didn’t participate in the debacle, and he gets the same share of the blame.

Fair enough, whatever. But what happened to watching a guy come back?

Hill is my baseball example, because his freefall coincided with one of the greatest moments of fan support I’ve ever seen, and something I wish would have happened with my team, and him.

Hill didn’t get support. He got killed in the media, by the fans, by us all, wondering what had happened to the little guy with the big stick. It didn’t take 36 and 108 for us to fall in love with Hill. We all saw flashes of what he could do early in his career, and we always believed that with the stellar defense would come an offensive force. He delivered, on a few occasions, and we loved him. It took one year for that to fall apart.

No support for the guy who suffered a concussion and came back. Just, “What is up with this .205 average?”

Again, that’s fine. I do believe that if you get paid the dough, you get to live the dream of playing in the show, you get to deal with it. Let’s face it, even if you’re just some plug who fills a bench role for a year and never plays again, when you’re a 50-year old at men’s night with the boys, you’re still the subject of whispers, pointed fingers, and guys bragging that they know you. You’re the guy who made the show. You’re a hero.

So if you get trashed while you play, enjoy it, you’re still coming out a member of a certain elite.

But what I miss is giving our guys a chance to comeback. What I miss is loving the hometown hero, and watching the comeback.

That greatest moment I’ve ever seen? Well, here’s where I have to give it to my mortal enemies.

I hate the Red Sox. And it’s ‘cause they’re good, and I’m jealous. I’m a Jays fan, so they’re the enemy, but I’m also a baseball fan, so I love Pedroia, I wince when Youklis comes up in a big situation, Gonzalez is unreal, just unreal…

But I hate the team. That’s the joy of sports.

In 2010, they had one of theirs fall off.

Big Papi, the playoff hero, Mr. Clutch, the most dangerous man in the game, looked like a junior player….

He couldn’t hit the ball out. It came with talk of steroids, and the admission that he and Manny might have dipped the pen in the “I’m gonna break some records” ink that ruined an entire generation for us who are fans of the game, not just the highlights – people do love dingers….

But when you watched a Red Sox game, Papi didn’t get booed. There weren’t groans when he came to bat.

There were chants. Insane, loud, stadium rocking chants.

“Papi…Papi…Papi….”

I can’t remember the exact dates, but I turned on a Red Sox game in middle or late May. It was going on two months without a dinger for Big Papi. The steroid talk was out there. Were we watching one of the greats fall the media kept asking?

And the cathedral kept shaking.

“Papi…Papi…Papi….”

I was lucky enough to watch the first one go out. It was unreal. The joy on his face, on the fans faces, the energy was palpable even if you were sitting in your living room hundreds of miles from Fenway.

There it was. They had believed, and their hero had returned.

Papi went on to 28 and 99 that season. It wasn’t one of his best. But he hasn’t seriously declined. He remains a Boston god.

Their Papi.

If we lose those moments, do we lose having something tangible that’s ours?

If Jose Bautista continues to struggle and is hitting .209 by the all star break this season, is it time to boo him?

I don’t think it’s wrong. You pay the freight, they reap the benefits, booing is your right.

All I’m saying, is I like cheering more. And if one of my hometown heroes starts to struggle, I’m going to cheer his name and give him a chance at redemption, no matter how many times I get called a homer. I’m going to wish for the comeback.

Especially if he’s been here for years…

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Bobby Valentine’s (likely) end-of-season apology letter

On the eve of the Leafs apologizing to their fans, I finished this Bobby V apology letter to Red Sox fans for not making the playoffs in 2012….

Apology to Red Sox Fans

From your one and only, Bobby “V” baby,

I’d like to apologize for the performance, execution and conduct of the players this year. In which, by the way, I had a lot of fun – those guys just need to learn to listen and we’re aces kids.

Okay, so we didn’t make it again. And we even finished below the bird team from Canada (man, I’ve never figured out why so many baseball teams are named after birds? I’d name them after cars…) but hey, things are going to get better, right?

I mean, come on….we’re the Sox.

In my opinion, we lost for two reasons this year.

Our starting pitching fell apart, and some nasty blogger labeled poor Dustin the “rubber chicken” and that really got in his head. He’s a sensitive little guy you know. That stupid video game pointed out that he couldn’t hit a high inside fastball and it took him months to adjust.

I know the bullpen didn’t look that great either, but it’s a bullpen, we’ll buy some new pieces.

Starting pitching comes down to two things according to Bobby V, a winning attitude and work ethic, and our guys had neither.

Countless times I would be in the make up chair before the game, and I swear, I could hear the video games on in the clubhouse again. I’d send assistants back to check, but it’s difficult to bark out orders while you’re balancing cold tea bags and cucumbers on your lids. And that’s Bobby V time.

So I would leave it for the weekends, when the games don’t really matter, you know?

It’s Saturday, everybody’s having a good time, I’d bring in some kids from the junior leagues around the city and run drills on fundamentals, like starting the runners with a full count, blocking the plate, and looking good for the camera. The guys’ would love it, the kids would love it.

I know when I was a kid nothing made me happier than a free lunch and a chance to throw the seventh. What? I’m gonna make Jenks do it? Come on. Someone has to go pick up the chicken, we’re not abusing our assistant’s on Saturday’s – we gotta keep the bosses costs down and Bobby V’s salary up.

Why do you think we’re KFC guys?

Now, as for next year, let’s not worry. Buy your tickets, your hats, and your jerseys. Okay, maybe it’s not time to throw a name on the back of that new shirt, ‘cause who knows who’s gonna be here next year right? Who’s going to step up. We do have that Crawford guy for a long time, maybe him? (I’m still really excited to meet him, by the way, seems like a nice kid.)

Meanwhile, listen to my radio show in New York. I’ll tell you everything that’s wrong with the Sox, the audience there is just loving it. I get a rousing ovation everytime I show up for the little side job.

Must have something to do with the sweet sounds of Bobby V…

Until next year folks. Keep my seat warm, I’ll see you sometime around May.

It’s May, right?

 

Bobby V

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