An Open Letter to VBL Fans

To my readers: Look! I’m un-hiatusing again. And I’m using non-existant words, just like old times. This post is an appeal (in the form of a letter) to supporters of the Valley Baseball League, the longtime love of my small-town summers. It isn’t very polished, but it’s from the heart.

Dear fellow VBL fans,

Following last night’s contest between my own beloved New Market Rebels and the Waynesboro Generals, I feel compelled to address a few issues. Even though the Rebels won the game (and in heart-gripping fashion… excellent job, boys) I was left with a feeling I can best describe as icky.

The sensation was all-the-stronger given the series we just completed against the Staunton Braves. This was an amazing three games. It was intense and fiercely competitive without any bitterness. I am sure that the Braves and their fans were disappointed by the result, but they had nothing whatever to be ashamed of. I would even venture to say that, if you have to lose, you want to lose like that. To be able to hold your head up and shake hands like men when it’s over. I was left with nothing but respect for the 2013 Staunton Braves.

My feelings towards our current opponent will not be so glowing, but I’m writing this before the outcome of this series has been determined so that no one can accuse me of being a sore loser, or a sore winner. Last night’s game was not a friendly one. Although it was embarrassing to see the Generals refuse to shake hands at the conclusion of it, I don’t have much more to say about what happens on the field. I’m not a player or a coach, and they have to be responsible for themselves. What I have to say, I say as a fan, to other fans.

We are not in Los Angeles or New York. We are not (thank the Lord) in Philadelphia. We are in the Shenandoah, my friends, and this is Valley League Baseball. It’s about competition and community. It’s about watching kids play their hearts out, and cheering them on with all of ours. It’s about baseball, pure and simple. So I hope you’ll forgive me for crying out when I see what ought to be a beautiful summer tradition sullied by contentious behavior.

I’m not trying to pick on any one individual, or even any one franchise. As distasteful as I’ve found certain displays of so-called fandom in others, it is ten times more disappointing when members of my own fan-base think it appropriate to dignify said displays with response/retaliation. I know it’s easy to feel rotten when other people are acting out (I know I sure did), but I would wish to believe that we are better than this. Thus, I implore everyone to give thought to their future actions, and to conduct themselves in a manner more befitting of Valley League fans.

In short: Watch the game. Enjoy it. And support your team without acting like a horse’s patoot.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask, do you?

Yours In Sisterly Fandom,
Lizzy

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Saying Goodbye: Matt Garza

Certain things are worth breaking out of self-imposed blogging hiatuses for, and the dealing of Matt Garza to the Rangers by the Cubs is one of them.

If I have one regret in the departure of Mr. Garza, it isn’t in losing a cool guy, or a quality pitcher (although those things are worth consideration, because he certainly fits into both categories). No… 99.9% of my sadness is based on the reality that we never learned whether Matt Garza was a man, or a muppet. A muppet of a man? Or a very manly muppet?

I would rather have this question answered than whether the chicken or the egg came first. I would rather have this mystery solved than to have determined (once and for all) whether the glass is half full, or half empty.

Alas, it is not to be. And so I must wish the enigmatic character that is Matt Garza adieu with a heavy heart.

If there is one thing I DO know, it’s that the following farewell song has never been dedicated to a more deserving or more appropriate recipient.

So long, Mr. Garza.

Saying Goodbye: Tony Campana

If The FBB has seemed even more than usually neglected as of late, you may chalk it up to the fact that it’s authoress has recently acquired a full-time job (I don’t know why I’m writing in the third person… hi there. It’s me, Lizzy.)

I haven’t abandoned ship, but it is probable that my blogging habits will continue to suffer in the coming months. Just a heads up.

THIS is one post that wild horses couldn’t keep me from writing. And even if they could, I don’t know why they would want to. I mean, what grudge could wild horses possibly have with Tony Campana? Unless he beat one of their own in a footrace. Which is possible.

Like many Cubs fans (and unlike many others, I don’t doubt), I was sad to hear of the departure of our resident speed demon. He may not have been the best at getting on base, but when he did… golly! There was nobody this side of the moon more fun to watch.

I wish Tony the greatest in Arizona and beyond. I shall remember him fondly. And I have no intentions of removing this photograph from my wall any time soon:

Tony & Me!

 

For the love of Craig Biggio

I have long had a borderline irrational admiration for Craig Biggio. He played for the Astros. He spent a lot of years making Cubs pitchers suffer. I shouldn’t like him, but I do. Can’t help it. I am inherently susceptible to rooting for sparkplug-type players, and Craig Biggio was certainly one of the sparkpluggiest sparkplugs in the history of the game.

With this in mind, you can imagine my displeasure upon learning that Mr. Biggio was not granted entrance into baseball’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Oh, I know he’ll get in eventually. But he deserved it on the first go. I can only surmise that none of the voters ever looked at the backside of one of his baseball cards.

I feel about as strongly on this subject as one could. Why? If you must know, it’s Bill James’ fault.

In 2001, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract was published. I consider this book to be the finest ever written on the subject of baseball. If this book says it, I will take it as the gospel truth. Which maybe isn’t a good thing, but that is a subject for another day.

In his Abstract, Bill James gives us a list of the 100 greatest baseball players of all time (up to that point. Which was 2001. Which you know already if you’ve been paying attention). Bill ranks Craig Biggio as the 35th greatest ballplayer in history. This is well ahead of many, many others who were shoo-in first-round hall-of-famers, and a few others who definitely will be, when their time comes (*cough-Maddux-cough-Griffey-coughcough*).

Rather than further barrage you with enumerations detailing my fondness for Mr. Biggio, I will leave you with a taste of what Bill James has to say about him. It is much more betterer.

Craig Biggio in 1997 was hit by 34 pitches, while grounding into zero double plays. Both of these figures were historic. He was the fifth player ever to play a full season without grounding into a double play, and missed the major league record for most plate appearance without grounding into a double play by only four. The 34 HBP was the highest total in the National League in 26 years, the second-highest of the twentieth century.

I have always linked these two stats together, long before Biggio, as “little stats.” There are half a dozen batting stats that get left out of USA Today, and left off baseball cards, because they’re not generally significant. The stats include sacrifice hits, sac flies, and intentional walks, but GIDP and hit batsmen are the most important of the group, the two which are most likely to change the way a player should be evaluated.

I have long wanted to make up a stat to summarize the impact of these categories, a “Little Stat Summary”, if you will. I have never actually created the formula, because I have already polluted the sport with quite a number of statistical inventions, and I’m afraid of slipping to a lower rung of the inferno if I make up any more. No, seriously, the reason I’ve never written such a formula is that it’s not clear what we would be measuring. For a statistic to have value, it has to be meaningful with reference to something other than it’s own formula.

Anyway, Biggio has the best “little stats” of any player in baseball history, this being one of the reasons that he has been tremendously underrated. If you compare him to, let’s say, Jim Rice in 1984, Biggio has a hidden advantage of 69 extra times on base, since he was hit by pitches 33 more times (34 to 1) and beat the throw to first on a double play attempt 36 more times (0 to 36). Those little stats that get left out of USA Today, in this comparison, have an impact roughly equivalent to 100 points of batting average.

Welcome To Chicago: Edwin Jackson

The Cubs rung in the new year by making their signing of 29-year-young RHP Edwin Jackson all officially official. The deal is for 4 years and $52 million. Yay.

In all sincerity, welcome to Chicago, Mr. Jackson. I hope the next four years will be full of magic and devoid of kitten-eating for you.

To you, my readers, I’d like to take this opportunity of saying a quick Happy New Year. Here’s to 2013 being our greatest 364-day journey around the sun YET! Cheers.

 

Merry Christmas!

Baby sloth hopes you all have the best Christmas ever, and so do I.

baby sloth christmas“Hail, the heaven-born Prince of peace!
Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.

Things That Need To Happen: A Baseball Christmas Movie

Several summers ago, whilst at a New Market Rebels game with my siblings, we got into a discussion about baseball movies. Not an uncommon topic for fans such as ourselves, of course, but somehow the conversation ended with the three of us deciding that what the world really needs is a baseball film with a Christmas motif. It would be a perfect thing… you could watch it during the baseball season to get a little of the Christmas spirit, or you could watch it during the Christmas season to get a little of the baseball spirit. A win-win if ever there was one, right?

Crafting a story that involves both Christmas and baseball heavily might present a bit of a challenge. But if there are Christmas movies about martians, and terrorists, and leprechauns, I see no reason why it could not be accomplished. Consider this my petition to Hollywood. You people need to get on it. In the meantime, I would settle for a hockey Christmas movie. Especially right now. Because there is no hockey, and I miss it.

To help get the ball rolling, I have concocted several ideas that would be totally feasible.

#1- “Dominican December”: A holiday-hating minor leaguer goes to play in a winter league in the Dominican Republic only to learn he can’t escape the true meaning of Christmas.

#2- “The Shortest Shortstop”: One of Santa’s helpers spends his life making mitts in the workshop while dreaming of one day being able to play baseball himself. His fellow elves help make his dream come true by organizing a surprise game on Christmas Day. (28 minutes long and in stop motion)

#3- “Deck The Hall of Fame”: A special hour-long documentary about how Cooperstown gets gussied up for the holidays.

#4- “It’s A Wonderful Baseball Christmas Carol”: A young ballplayer about to give up on his dream is visited by the spirits of three baseball legends on Christmas Eve. They restore his faith in the game, himself, AND Christmas.

#5- Homer For The Holidays: STARRING Sarah Chalke and James Roday, with David Ogden Stiers as Santa Claus. A stressed-yet-spirited single mom and a cocky major leaguer meet on Christmas Eve in Minneapolis and fall in love within 42 minutes of so doing (although it takes another 46 minutes and a number of hilarious holiday hijinks before either will admit it). For Lifetime or the Hallmark Channel. Obviously.

#6- “How Joe Mauer Saved Christmas”: I don’t know, but according to the first poll ever conducted at The FBB, 33.33% of you thought I should write this screenplay.

How ’bout it, readers? What are your excellent ideas for a holiday baseball film?