Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Second Annual Baseball Rant

I was beginning to think the baseball rant I put up last year in July was going to be a one-time only thing.

My friend Jennifer Miller, like me, a former news anchor and inveterate baseball fan, went to a Brewers game in late June last year and was annoyed by so many things that she spewed forth a great Facebook rant (the substance of which can be read at the link above) that prompted me to launch into my own rant, sort of riffing on the themes she laid out in her masterful rant.  Not exactly Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody On A Theme of Paganini, but on re-reading, I think I did a creditable job of ranting about my displeasures with the Great American Pastime, most of which had to do with the fans in the stands. Much of the material was hers; much was mine; and I threw in a couple of sage observations from my tuba-playing friend and student of the Game of Baseball, Tom Plummer.

That’s Tom’s smiling countenance at the top of this post, in a photo I stole without his permission from his Facebook page.  He’s holding up the Iowa Cubs t-shirt he caught (blasted from an air cannon) at an I-Cubs home game a few weeks ago, a game which featured back-to-back-to-back home runs (3 in a row) from the hometown Triple-A sluggers.  (Brief sidebar: the Iowa Cubs address is 1 Line Drive, Des Moines. I love that! Line Drive!  I suppose they couldn’t have gotten “1 Screaming Line Drive” past the Postal authorities.)

To me, that photo captures much of what’s great about the game.  Nice facility, attentive fans, fun and games (t-shirts shot from air cannons), and exciting, competitive baseball from guys who really hustle. Take a look at that crowd behind Tom: without trying too hard, you can see people from every stage of life, from children to teens to young adults to middle-aged folks to senior citizens, all drawn to the ball park on a beautiful evening to enjoy the game. America.

Finally, last week, after another of her many annual treks to Miller Park, Jennifer issued forth with another Facebook rant (the entire context of which I’ve copied and pasted below, at the end of this rant), in which she essentially taunts me to reprise last year’s rant with this year’s fresh material.

Shortly after publishing her rant, she sent me a private message, apologizing for attempting to bully me into “immortalizing” her latest rant by blogging about it, and let the record show that I was about to bully her into issuing forth with another rant this year.

Jennifer ranted about the ineptitude of this year’s Brewers efforts, culminating in the suspension of the man who was deemed the Face Of The Franchise, and the Brewers’ masterful stroke of PR in handing out ten-dollar vouchers to every fan through the turnstiles for several weeks, and a few nights ago, bringing back Brewers greats like Robin Yount, Rollie Fingers, Hank Aaron to observe the 20th anniversary (note to annoying broadcasters: it’s not “20-year Anniversary” as so many of you dweebs said) of retiring Yount’s jersey number.

She also ranted about some of the disgusting behavior displayed by fans seated near her (a huge theme in last year’s rant) and mentioned Zack Greinke’s quote about Ryan Braun: “The closer he got to anyone, the more he used them.”

I could rant about PED’s  and suspensions this year, but everyone else is doing that.  Instead, I’ll focus (although a true rant is unfocused) on three things: fans, announcers, and errors.  By the way, how can you be suspended from major league baseball (A-Rod) and still be in uniform, on the field, playing? We need a new word or phrase to describe the difference between the other players’ suspensions and A-Rod’s.  You ain’t suspended if you’re out there being booed at every at-bat at the Cell, baby.

Rant focus number one: the fans.  Far too many of them are entitled, boorish, sloppy, noisy a-holes.  People who spend the big bucks (as I do) to get the seats right behind home plate, and all they do is text or talk on their phone, or constantly wave and mug to the camera so their friends at home can see them exhibiting their self-absorbed childish behavior.  “Look at ME, look at MEEEEEE!!!!!”  Or the fans who must constantly impart their loud opinions to everyone in the section they’re seated in: “Me and 8 guys from the nearest bar could beat these bums!!!”  And the parentless children who have no interest whatsoever in the game, who race around the ball park annoying everyone.

I think a reasonable solution to the fan problem was suggested by an anonymous commenter on last year’s baseball rant on this blog, who suggested that there be in essence three types of seating at the ball park: the Baseball Fans Section, where presumably people who follow the game and truly enjoy the sport would be seated; the Family Section, where the undisciplined brats and their clueless parents could plant their behinds; and the General Admission Section, where the drunken riff-raff would be confined to entertain each other.

Rant focus number two: announcers.  I’ve been no fan of the late Jack Buck’s son, who for reasons which are not evident to me (talent is certainly not one of them) has ascended to the highest echelon of Fox Sports Announcers, and is the blatherer-in-chief at whatever game Fox has deemed most important. And this year I’ve also been hypercritical on social media posts of the Brewers own Brian Anderson, who says some of the dumbest things imaginable.  He’s a pleasant enough fellow, with certainly none of the obnoxiousness of Joe Buck, but he is wont to making crazy, thoughtless statements.  One of my favorites from a few years ago, which my baseball-fan wife and I have mimicked countless times, is BA’s pronouncement during the Ned Yost years that “once the game starts, the manager’s job is done. He might as well be a fan in the stands, because once the game starts it’s up to the players”. 

If there was a YouTube video of Anderson saying that, it would have gone viral because of the sheer idiocy of the comment.

He’s motor-mouthed scores of inane comments again this year, but none as laughable as the comment he made (wish I could remember the exact game and the player involved) about an on-field injury to one of the Brewers, when he said “You don’t want to speculate, but it looks like an ankle or lower leg injury”.  Thanks for not speculating, BA.

Most of the guys doing the announcing are really good at it. They don’t say stupid things, they freely speculate (without saying “I don’t want to speculate, but….”) but their speculation is based on experience and insight; they don’t shill for the home team, but are understandably partisan, without hyping; they love the game and respect it.  And there are a very select few – Vin Scully to name my favorite – who are great artists and their account of the game is nearly poetic.

The third and final focus of this year’s rant: errors.  They’ve largely disappeared from baseball.  Not because errors are not committed with less frequency than, say, 40 years ago; but because apparently scorers have decided that errors are bad for baseball: bad for the player who commits the error, bad for the batter, bad, bad, bad. Try to find out how many errors a fielder has, and you’ll have to go through a lot of web-pages before you find one that will actually tell you how many errors a player has committed.

 At my age (64) I’m really old-school: to me, a sharply-hit ball muffed by a fielder is not a hit, it’s an error.  My high school baseball coach, the great Russ Tiedemann, always said “if you can touch it, you can catch it”…and that’s still my mantra.

There was a play in Sunday’s Cubs game where the ball was sharply hit to Darwin Barney; he muffed it, even Len and JD seemed to think it was an error, but – the official scorer said “hit”.  Barney’s not prone to errors; last year he broke Ryne Sandberg's NL-record 123-game streak without an error at second base and was three outs from breaking Placido Polanco's major league record of 141 games without an error.  I’m not going to throw bricks at Barney, Sandberg, or Polanco.  All I’m sayin’ is, there are an awful lot of plays scored as hits now, which would have been recorded as errors a few decades ago.

That’s my rant; your comments are welcome.  Jennifer’s wonderful 2013 baseball rant is below.
The Second Annual Brewers Baseball Rant.
 (The first was immortalized in Tim Morrissey's blog. Will the gods be so kind this year?)
 1. Since they clearly can't/won't hold a clinic on the game of baseball this year, the Brewers nonetheless gave a tutorial in public relations this weekend. What do you do when your franchise player is suspended? Not only do you give the fans vouchers for free food, drinks, merchandise, you haul out the greats of yore: Robin Yount, Rollie Fingers, Hank Aaron. Ok, maybe it was a coincidence that it's the 20th anniversary of the retirement of Yount's number, but their appearances served as a reminder of what was great about this team, and what can be again.
 2. Speaking of the vouchers, I still think that is extremely gracious. What other owner/organization would do that? Now considering that the cheapest foodstuff is around 5 bucks, $10 dollars doesn't get you too far. But by combining our four vouchers, we ended up only spending $4.25 on food and beverages--plus we got a ticket for a free drink just for parking! Can't beat a deal like that.
 3. The girls and I were immortalized a second time on the video board. This time for our Bernie's Bongos prowess. (The first time was a few years ago when Summer fell asleep during the 7th inning stretch. The double-dose baseball loving gene completely passed over her.)
 4. The guy sitting next to me, who coincidentally also has a son who is a senior at UW-O, turned to me and said, "So, you're a Rickie Weeks fan?" I replied, "Yes. Sometimes it's just me and his mama." Then he went on to tell me that the Brewers were THIS CLOSE to trading Rickie to the Orioles just before the trading deadline, but the deal fell apart. I figure the guy had to be drunk or misinformed.
 5. Speaking of misinformed drunks, where do I begin with the group seated behind us? Besides one of them perpetually kicking my seat, and their racist mimicking of Carlos Gomez's accent, one of them repeatedly noted that he had seen the former Attorney General. He knew this, he said, because he came across his name while he was filing briefs last week. (This is where we're supposed to be impressed that he's a lawyer, I guess). I just happened to turn around while people watching, and lo and behold, seated in the box two rows behind us WAS the former Attorney General. Some people also know him as the former GOVERNOR, Jim Doyle.
 6. I don't care what your personal beliefs are, when the National Anthem is played, you will at least stand, remove your hat, and be quiet.
 7. I counted about a dozen people wearing Braun jerseys. (I also saw a few Weeks jerseys, a lot of Lucroy's, and one misguided Turnbow). It put me to wondering whether it's the only Brewers gear they own, or if they still support Braunie. I was in the "let's see the evidence" camp, until I read a terrific column by Michael Hunt in the Journal Sentinel. In it he quoted the pathologically stoic Zack Greinke, who stated: "The closer he (Braun) got to anyone, the more he used them." But, boy, didn't we want to believe that he was all that and a bag of chips!? By the way, Braun's restaurant is having a pizza special.

 8. You guys can't even score Rickie from third with one out! That's pathetic! As the pinhead lawyer behind me said, "I didn't spend $50 to watch a Triple-A team!" Triple-A? I've seen home talent teams play better. Mercifully, September is just around the corner.


  1. That was a good rant!

  2. Great rant, actually, great rants, both of them. Here's a couple of things I've observed over the years. 1. In some cases, the more successful a team is, the more the bandwagon jumpers show up at the ballpark. A lot of them have money and spend it on those good seats so they can be seen, which is all they are there for anyway. They just gotta be there even if they don't know their ass from a hole in the ground, and tend to show it with idiotic behavior. I'm fine with new fans trying to learn the game and asking questions, but the clueless boorish Know nothings should just shut up and for God's sakes stay sober. 2. As a follow up, since the Brewers suck this year, there should be fewer of these obnoxious types and more true fans next year at Miller Park, at least at the start of the season. If the Brewers start winning,the bandwagon jumpers will be back. 3. Price of ticket doesn't always mean quality of fan. A couple years ago I went to a game at Citi Field in NY and sat in a relatively cheap seat in the top deck in left field. A lot of these people were actually keeping score on scorecards, something seldom seen anymore. They talked intelligently about the game. I gained respect for New York baseball fans. 4. Braun is finished as the Face of teh Franchise, but someone will emerge. I predict it will be Jean Segura.

  3. Thank you for the great contribution, Anony.

  4. Hi Tim - You were due for a more curmudgeonly post. I'm the Anony who wants the three sections...and you're still on the hook to show up at my funeral and pronounce me "Dead."

    This rant applies to baseball, but also almost all other sports. Can we please, please go back to singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the 7th inning stretch? Enough of all the self indulgent, patriotic crap being shoved down our throats today. It will soon be the 12 anny. of 9-11, which started it all. Am I the only one who wonders how all the players and fans from other countries feel when they have to stand up and listen to "God Bless America?" I hope God blesses all countries and people. It's time for America to stop feeling sorry for itself and move on.

    And also can we please end all displays of military might at sporting events? Players dressing in camo, soldiers on the field, flyovers, humvees on the field. Don't we honor the military enough by spending more than the next about 15 countries combined. When did sporting events become the military's top recruitment stage? When American jets fly over many other countries, the everyday people think of death and destruction...I've been there. Maybe we should back off a bit.

    Thanks...I feel better.

    1. Your brilliant observations are welcome on this blog any time, anony. Couldn't agree more with every single point you made.