Friday, November 21, 2014

Generations.

       Forty-five years ago today, Ken Griffey, Jr. was born in Donora PA. 
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As most folks my age are wont to do, I got suckered in to loving Junior early and that adoration never really went away.  All through the early and mid 90's, my Mets really sucked and didn't have many players worth rooting for, so Griffey was an out-of-town escape from my hometown doldrums.

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I always liked the way Griffey looked in a Reds uniform; oh how I wish things worked out better for him there.

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Griffey has some of the most iconic cards of all-time but one that slips through the cracks is that bubble gum 1995 Pinnacle shot.  Maybe because it isn't the best bubble card of all time?  I think it deserves more love, the look on his face is priceless.

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I have a bunch of Griffey inserts as well, but you will just have to be satisfied with the six(!) pages I have of him.  This was whittled down from many more years ago when I decided to not collect every single player I liked in mass quantities.  Of all the player collections I pared down, Junior's was probably the hardest one to do.  Six pages is the most I have of any player in either the retired or hall of fame binders. 

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And of course, here is the obligatory page with his dad, Ken Griffey, Sr.  Did you know at one point Ken Griffey, Jr. Lee May, Jr. and Pete Rose, Jr. (and Eduardo Perez, who is a combo-breaker) all played on the same traveling team?  That seems, um, unfair.

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       Ninety-four years ago today, Stan Musial was born in Donora PA. 
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Opinions obviously vary wildly about who the most basebally baseball player who ever baseballed is, but gun to my head, I'd have to go with Stan.  He looked the part, he acted the part, and he was, well, The Man.

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With apologies to Tom McCraw, Freddie Lindstrom, Dick Schofield, Bill Almon, Hank Blalock, Mark Eichhorn, and Tripp Cromer (amongst others) who never ever get mentioned as having a birthday today because they had the karmic misfortune to be born on the same day as two of the greatest baseball players of all time. 

Sixty-six years ago today, my mother was born in beautiful downtown Jersey City.  As far as I know, she has never been to Donora PA. 
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My mom has spent the last month or so in New Orleans, going to games and following the players around.  She is sort of a stalker who doesn't "stalk" or perhaps a groupie who doesn't actually sleep with the players - she is old enough to be the grandmother of some of them, after all.   But in between drinking and eating, she loves to go see the players in public (see above) and she does make the rounds, believe me.
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Since I can't be there to do it in person, here is Akiem Hicks to give you a great big hug.  Happy Birthday Mom!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Football '14 Week 11: Do or Die (Cut).

       The game in the NFL is one of inches.  This cliche has been ridden into the ground so far it has come out the other side of the earth.  But cliches are cliches for only one reason: they are true.  The Saints face this brutal fact right now: they have to start winning close games and must make the important plays.  Want to know the difference between being a 4-5 disappointment (and yet somehow in first place in a truly crappy division) and being an 8-1 juggernaut?  Four plays. 
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On opening night, the Saints led in the last minute of the game and let the Falcons convert a third down they should have stopped; they then lost in overtime.

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In week 2 it was literally deja vu: they led the Browns in the last minute and gave up a late third down conversion they should have stopped and lost in regulation on a last second field goal.

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Week 7 against the Lions, they led by 13 points with 4 minutes to go and somehow coughed up the lead, including an impossibly stupid cross-up on a third down that led to a 75-yard touchdown play.  I consider this play the most unforgivable of all.  When you have a lead late, you are playing the clock as much as the other team, let them have all the 6 yard pass plays down the middle they want, you cannot CANNOT go for the ball and let a man score.  Rob Ryan should have been fired after this game.

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And finally, last week.  Leading by a field goal in the last minute, the secondary somehow loses track of the best receiver on the 49ers on fourth down and allow a 50 yard completion that gets the Niners into field goal range.  The Saints lose in overtime.  I am not even going to bring up the ridiculous call of offensive pass interference on a completed hail mary at the end of regulation that would/should have won the game.  This and the Lions play still make me so mad I now have to get up and pace.

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Okay, I'm back.  So there it is, four plays.  The Saints are four plays from being 8-1 and are instead 4-5.  Sure, you can point to dumb turnovers and lost opportunities during the game but greatness can be measured best when the game is on the line.  Are the Saints an 8-1 team?  Obviously not.  Are they a 4-5 team?  Well, you are what your record says you are.

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I have a big batch of pulled pork and a sixer of Yuengling and I am ready to watch the Saints (hopefully) beat up on the Bengals - another team full of disappointment.  As you may have noticed from these posts, watching and enjoying football for me has not been easy this year.  If the Saints lose this one, you can look forward to a lot of hockey posts and longing for pitchers and catchers.  But I have faith that if this game comes down to one play, the Saints have learned their lessons and will make it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Trending Upward.

     When I logged into Facebook this morning I saw this.  It is rare and refreshing to see any positive story about the Mets trending, much less two of them.  First, the really good news, yesterday Jacob deGrom was named National League Rookie of the Year, the first Mets player to win the award since 1984 when some pitcher named Dwight Gooden won it. 
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I only have these three deGrom cards right now, but I am sure that will be remedied soon.





































I am gonna be 100% honest here, before he was called up, I wasn't even sure if Jacob deGrom was a lefty or a righty, he was that far off my radar.  But after his first 4 starts, when he was 0-2 with a miniscule 2.42 ERA, I was intrigued - never mind that the Mets anemic offense was doing him no favors; he easily could have been 4-0.  Though, after his first 8 starts, he was 0-4 and the ERA doubled and I was worried the league had already caught up to him.  Then starting when the calendar turned to July, in his last 14 starts, he was 9-2 with a 2.16 ERA and he just kept looking stronger and more confident with every start and deGrom became yet another great young pitching stud on a team that is just dripping with them. Having too much starting pitching is never ever a problem.  No offense to Kolten Wong or Billy Hamilton, but the writers picked the right player to be ROY, deGrom has a chance to be a good pitcher for a long time. 

Ah, but what of that anemic Mets offense?  Well, secondly, yesterday the Mets were the first team to dip into the free agent waters this year, pulling Michael Cuddyer out of the pond with a 2-year contract. 
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This signing makes a ton of sense.  Cuddyer is a professional hitter who plugs nicely into right field, moving Curtis Granderson to a more sensible left.  In fact, it parallels the Bartolo Colon signing from last year in that two of the Mets best prospects are outfielders (Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto) who aren't quite ready for prime time and Cuddyer is a safe bet to do a good job filling in until they are ready.  Plus, Cuddyer is old buddies with David Wright, so that should go to improve an already tight clubhouse.  And of course, if Cuddyer does end up breaking down, it is only a two year deal (unlike the horrific 4-year deals of Oliver Perez and Jason Bay) so if it all goes wrong, I won't be screaming about him in 2018.  Since very few players ever get to free agency in their prime anymore, this is the kind of player that gets out on the market that can make a difference (and it beats the pathetic Chris Young experiment).  While I sure as hell hope it isn't the only move the Mets make this off season, it is a very nice beginning and a decent sign that they are actually going to make serious moves to add real players and improve the offense so we don't lose every damn game 2-1.

And amongst all this positivity, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Juan Lagares won the Gold Glove last week becoming just the third outfielder ever to win one for the Mets (Tommy Agee and Carlos Beltran being the others).  No team ever won because of what happened in mid-November, but it's nice to see things might be looking up.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Football '14 Week 10: There's Something About Drew.

       You saw the title of this post and no doubt thought it was going to be yet another love note to Drew Brees.  Well, you couldn't be more wrong.  If you read this blog with any regularity, you may have noticed I have a slightly off-kilter sense of humor.  One of my favorite funny movies of all time is the origin of that title, There's Something About Mary, the seminal (and semen-al) 1998 Farrelly brother's comedy. Amongst the great gags in that film is that one of Mary's ex-boyfriends is quarterback Brett Favre. 
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What I found out this week is that Brett was the third choice to play the ex, which is hard to imagine since he fits the role so well (not to mention the brilliant murdering Ben Stiller does of his name).  Okay, so who was the second choice? 

Steve Young, whose Mormon upbringing wouldn't allow him to be in such a risque film.  No caffeine, weird underpants, and boring movies.  Wuss.  So who was the first choice? 
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Would you believe Drew Bledsoe?
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I mean, it makes sense in the grand scheme of things, the Farrelly brothers are New England born and bred after all.  Turns out one of the more ridiculous moments in Drew's turbulent Patriots history kept him from accepting the role, which is too bad because if anyone could have used a little joyful tidbit in his past, it is Drew.  As it is now all anyone remembers him for is failing miserably in the Super Bowl and for nearly getting killed (seriously) by Mo Lewis which led to the rise of Tom Brady.  Oh, what might have been. 

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Feel like some vintage baseball?  For nothing?  Head on over to my man Robert's $30 a Week Habit blog and enter his contest.  It is easy, I promise there is no math involved. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Three In Five.

       I wanted seven games and a ton of classic moments out of this World Series and I got it, even if the Royals didn't win in the end.  What a terrible time to realize I don't have any Madison Bumgarner cards.
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I guess Panda and Posey will have to do.

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It is impressive to win three titles in five years but I think that San Francisco should vacate this particular title because I am not sure that Madison Bumgarner is human.  He is 4-0 with a 0.25 ERA in 36 World Series innings; that pretty much puts even Bob Gibson to shame.  And now the long 113 day slog until pitchers and catchers begins.  I didn't want this game to end.