In the years since my temperamental adolescence, I’ve developed the unique ability to not get emotional over anything. Well, almost anything. For some reason, the majority of my adult life has been spent nurturing deep-seated and irrational emotional devotion to baseball. Does this mean I’m broken? Or does it mean that I’m functioning really, really properly?
Tonight, the (Devil) Rays lost their playoff series to the Texas Rangers. I can sit here and blame the absurdly terrible umpiring, the fact that our hitting coach is incapable, or the fact that we started Kelly Shoppach at catcher for this, the most important game of the year. And I did all of these things until five minutes ago. Five minutes ago, I shaved my playoff beard.
It wasn’t as gnarly as the 2008 incarnation, but it was there. I woke up with it, thought about how much it itched all day, and I went to sleep with it only to repeat the cycle again and again. When I scratched it, I thought about how much I love my team – twelve times every minute. I can’t be sure, but when we’d make an error or strike out looking or get hosed on an iffy call, I think I felt my follicles trying extra hard to push the strands out. I was so attached.
I shaved, and now I feel nothing but sadness.
The same thing happened in 2008: Eric Hinske struck out; Brad Lidge dropped to his knees; and I, feeling a whirlwind of emotions that ran the gamut from despair to pride to disbelief, walked to the bathroom and eliminated the facial project I had worked on for nearly a month. But after the whirlwind had died down, there was only one feeling left to feel. It’s the same one I feel now.
I realize that this is neither encouraged nor healthy, but I think that’s what’s so special about baseball. Five years ago, I was just a kid in high school who fooled himself into rooting for a ragtag bunch of losers. Today, I’m a kid in graduate school who fooled himself into rooting for a scrappy bunch of (almost) winners. And next year, I will fool myself into rooting for the boys – my boys – because that’s what needs to be done.
Maybe it’s not only sadness I feel. Maybe the time I spent shaving alone in the silence of my own locker room let me gain a bit of perspective. No, it’s not only sadness: it’s got a twist of hope with a dash of excitement and a whole lot of pride. Yeah, that’s it.
Go Rays.comments (2)
Ah, it has been four months too long. Not going to dwell on the splendor that Spring Training brings since I’m sure everyone knows my thoughts on that by now, but I just wanted to point out that this photo is awesome:comment (0)
I hate how this has largely become a photo blog. Hopefully I will find time to write more in the coming months.comment (1)
Okay, this is going to be my only post on this topic for two reasons. First, I hate politics and talking about them (perfect for a political science major, right?). Secondly, this topic is being covered extremely well at a multitude of other Web sites, like Aaron Sharockman’s blog at the St. Pete Times site.
But, here goes.
Recently, the Rays have proposed a new waterfront stadium in downtown St. Pete at the site of Al Lang Field, where innumerable baseball greats have played for almost a century. To me, this is an excellent thing. It will get rid of seriously outdated and ugly Tropicana Field and make St. Petersburg a popular destination again. However, there are quite a few dissidents to the idea. The movement against the idea of economic prosperity and all-around awesomeness that will arise from a new stadium is led by a certain group of old farts who will not be alive in a few years when the stadium becomes a reality who call themselves POWW (Preserve Our Wallets and Waterfront).
See, all of the members of POWW rely on misinformation and the art of crying loudest about the whole ordeal. Let’s look at some of the silly things they have to say:
They claim that building a new stadium would take money from the pockets of current residents of the county. It won’t. The Rays are fronting much of the money, and the remainder will be paid by existing hotel bed taxes that Pinellas residents do not pay and the sale and development of the land upon which Tropicana Field sits, which borders on slum land at present.
They claim that it is “too darn big.” To support this claim, they show us an image of how big the (awesome looking) stadium would be compared to the Bank of America building. Here it is (notice that there are absolutely no measurements nor sources on this image):
Now, look at a similar image I made, using their outline of the Bank of America building and a scale of 1 foot = 1 pixel (you will have to click to see this image full size):
Yes, it seems that in POWW’s image, the stadium is magically taller than in my measured and sourced image. Curious.
They claim that the whole new stadium would be a traffic and parking nightmare. It won’t be. The Rays have done copious studies and have discovered that there will be plenty of spaces around the stadium. And if we have to walk a few blocks to see the game, what of it? It’s Major League Baseball. Only 29 other cities in America have the privilege to watch this great sport, and I guarantee you that most of them require folks to walk a little bit to get to their stadiums. Lord. Quit your bellyaching, everyone.
As for traffic, has anyone thought that this new stadium will be only 15 blocks away from the current site of the Trop? I don’t know about everyone else’s experiences, but I have absolutely no trouble going to and from a baseball game currently, and I am sure 15 blocks will not suddenly cause me to sit in traffic for hours before and after a game. And even if traffic is worse, I would have no problem with it. Have you ever been to a major city like Chicago or New York during baseball season? Any traffic jams we might have in dinky little St. Petersburg will pale in comparison to the traffic jams baseball fans have been dealing with for a hundred years.
They claim that the new stadium would be bad for business. Yes, I understand fully how building a new stadium on the site of a completely vacant baseball field and attempting to redevelop 86 acres in an area that is in dire need of financial upbringing could be terrible for business. Wait, what?
POWW would like to have us believe that these promises of economic prosperity were made and never delivered upon when the Florida Suncoast Dome (now Tropicana Field) was built in the 1980s. Of course your economic revitalization will fail if you have an empty dome in the middle of the ghetto for half a decade. Jeez.
They claim that there would be terrible environmental damage if the stadium is built, since the plan calls for filling in .6 acres of Tampa Bay and turning it into land upon which the stadium can be built. Now, excuse me here, but Jesus Tapdancing Christ. This is the lamest excuse they have. It’s a little over half of an acre. And to save what? Manatees? Christ. What have manatees ever done for us? Oh, that’s right. Nothing. I’m not even going to go into the ridiculous hippie nature (no pun intended) of this argument. Moving on.
And of course, they claim that there are better alternatives. On their Web site, under this category, they have a photo of some little leaguers. Now, if that isn’t trying to appeal to people’s warm and fuzzy emotions, I don’t know what is. Sure, POWW can throw a bunch of alternatives up on the board that help their cause, but I have yet to see any solid redevelopment plans that go so far as to revitalize a dying cityscape.
Another thing I’m so sick of hearing about is the heat. People whining about the warm weather in Florida. I love it. Listen, Minor League Baseball has existed in Florida for decades upon decades. Those games occur at the same time of day and the same time of year as Major League Baseball games. I have never had a problem with them, and neither have all the folks who go out to see the Clearwater Threshers, Brevard County Manatees, Jacksonville Suns, or any other minor league affiliate in this state. There will be a sail to cut down on sun on particularly hot days and there will be air conditioning in the concourses. Quit your bellyaching. Heck, join me for a Gator game in the middle of September at 12:00 with body paint clogging your pores and sweat glands and then we can talk about heat. Gosh.
The final misconception about the stadium that is really bugging me is the notion that the Rays are threatening to leave the Tampa Bay area if they don’t get their stadium. They are not. Stuart Sternberg has clarified time and time again that they are not using this whole idea to hold the city hostage. They will stay in the Trop for the remainder of their lease (until 2027, I believe). For those that say they will buy out their lease and move elsewhere, where will they go? There is no market as large and potentially profitable as the one here in Tampa Bay. If you add the Orlando TV market, we would have the fourth-largest television market in the Majors. It would make no sense to leave the area. None.
Well, there you have it. All of the misconceptions and my responses thereto. Before this post ends, though, I would like to mention one thing that I found the other day.
The folks who want to “Preserve Our Wallets and Waterfront” have a page on their Web site about “Secrecy and Fairness.” I think this is ironic, because of the images located on their “About POWW!” page.
There, they have a photo of the Al Lang site as it is now, with green grass and water in the background. Below it, an image of the proposed stadium, which they credit to the Rays’ Web site. This is all well and good, but something struck me about the second image.
I opened it in Photoshop, and I opened the original Rays image. I was astonished to find two things:
1. The POWW image is 8 pixels narrower than the original image from the Rays. Is this a subtle way to highlight the height of the stadium (which, I might add, was misrepresented, as you saw earlier in this post).
2. Even worse, POWW actually darkened the original photo. Darker Skies, dimmer water, everything. Any high school journalism student could tell you that this is the pinnacle of unethical photo editing. I emailed the good folks at POWW about it (to their “Invite Us to Speak” email, since they have no other way to electronically correspond), and I have yet to get a response. As of today, the image is still up on their Web site.
Here are the two images (click the thumbnail for a larger version):
It’s interesting that a group so adamantly against the stadium that relies on “fact” would have to go so far as to subtly brainwash the public into thinking that the Rays proposal would be so terrible. They rely heavily on misinformation, conjecture, and unethical behavior.
Heck, I could yell really loud and be right, too.comments (7)
I am livid.
Recently, the Rays and Yankees have had sort of a feud because one of our guys came in hard to home plate in an attempt to make the catcher drop the ball (a completely normal and very exciting play in baseball, I might add). Well, long story short, the catcher broke his wrist and now Yankee nation (and only Yankee nation) has been whining about it for a week. You can see the story here.
Today, the Yankees retaliated by hitting our top prospect with a pitch and then sending a man to slide into second with his foot aimed directly at Aki’s balls. This did not sit well with Jonny Gomes, who is known to be absolutely insane, and a brawl started. The Rays won the game. Story here.
Well, I am angry. So angry, in fact, that I’m sending the Yankees a letter regarding my anger. We shall see if I get a response (I wouldn’t count on it):
Dear New York Yankees,
I’m writing today to address an issue that has recently come about between your Major League Franchise and my hometown team, the Tampa Bay Rays.
Recently, there has been much hubbub regarding a recent play at the plate involving Elliot Johnson and your now-injured catcher Francisco Cervelli. It escalated into a difference of opinion, with your beloved Joe Girardi saying that you should not play so hard in spring training and the rest of the world disagreeing with him. I guess it’s just a difference of opinion: one man says spring training is to get players in tune for the real season (because, you know, Francisco Cervelli is obviously an odds-on favorite to be the catcher for the New York Yankees on opening day), and another man says that spring training is a grounds upon which players can prove their worth to the organization and hope for a spot on the big-league club (I might point out that with Rocco Baldelli’s newfound illness, Mr. Johnson’s chances of joining the club have increased heftily).
If, as Mr. Girardi suggests, the proper spring training etiquette is to play spring training games with one’s starters in the beginning five innings of a game and just roll over and play some ill-conceived version of cricket for the remainder of the game, I move that the New York Yankees should reduce their ticket prices by 4/9. It’s only fair.
But then, I would rather violate a porcupine than subject myself to a stadium full of Yankees fans.
However, this is not the point I wish to write about today.
No, you can consider this letter a formal complaint about the actions of the spring training contest between these two teams that took place today, March 12, 2008. I will specifically list my grievances as follows:
1. The obvious attempt of Mr. Shelley Duncan (who, might I add, has an adorable name) to severely injure or otherwise hurt Mr. Akinori Iwamura while sliding into second base was classless and completely unnecessary. Outfielder Jonny Gomes retaliated, thus inciting a “brawl” on the field. (I use this term lightly because, frankly, baseball fights are outrageously relaxed. I say we should give them all knives or something and see who the stronger team is. I’ll give you a hint: it’s probably you guys – steroids, you know.)
2. It is crystal clear that this was a premeditated affront to Mr. Iwamura’s testicles. Fearing a brawl or possible suspension, Mr. Girardi did not have New York’s star players in the lineup. No Rodriguez, no Jeter, no Damon. What a pleasant coincidence that they didn’t make the trip to St. Petersburg!
3. Interestingly enough, pitcher Andy Pettite was scratched shortly before the game. And wouldn’t you know it – Evan Longoria was hit by a Heath Phillips pitch in the first inning. Curious, wouldn’t you say?
There you have it. As a personal note, my least favorite baseball team for a good while has been the Red Sox. Thanks to Mr. Duncan and Mr. Girardi, the Bronx Bombers have now taken that place in my heart. So, congratulations! I know how fond your organization is of being number one.
I hope you actually got to this point in my letter. I respectfully request that I be mailed with correspondence noting that someone has actually read this letter. An apology on behalf of your organization would be nice, as well. I don’t expect either, though; a classless organization such as yours should not be held to such rigorous standards of decency.
Heck, you can have Hank call me if you want. My phone is always on.
Thank you for your time, and please remember that while I severely dislike your team (and by association your fans, your players, your employees, and your city), they are welcome to Tropicana Field at any time. I love watching the Yankees lose.
Casey A. Peterson
You know, I’ve voluntarily subjected myself to quite a bit of disappointment in my life. I’ve been a Rays fan. However, this is their season.
If the Rays make the playoffs this year, Ian will personally take me on his back to every game that they play, home or away. Let this be proof of our binding verbal agreement.comments (3)
A couple of weeks ago, I sent Bud Selig a letter. It was done in magic marker and I used a fake name to make me sound more like a seven year old and basically asked if it were possible for me, despite my age to become a Major League Umpire. I promised him that I would never make a correct call at first base when officiating Devil Rays games and that I would completely rape the idea of strike zone consistency. I also drew him two pictures, one of a Rays baserunner’s foot on the bag and the first baseman nowhere near the base with me (dressed as an umpire) calling him out and another picture of an eyeball, heart, and Bud’s face (I <3 Bud Selig).
I was surprised when he wrote me back on official MLB letterhead and everything:
Thank you for your letter.
While I know you were a little sarcastic in your comments about umpires, I happen to think the umpires do an excellent job. Incidentally, we have an electronic system called Questec which rates umpires on every pitch in every game and they do remarkably well. Base decisions, for the most part, have been excellent. Umpires missing a call once in awhile have been part of our game for years, but I think the umpires overall have done a good job. I think you have to be a little more understanding about that. However, I liked the rest of your letter and all the pictures you drew. I was really impressed.
Thanks for taking the time to write to me.
Allan H. Selig,
Commissioner of Baseball
Best part: he signed in INK.
I think I’ll keep corresponding with my favorite wrinkly old pen pal in hopes of more gems like this.comment (0)