Thursday, September 22, 2011

MY FAVORITE PLAYS OF 2011

Looking back at my favorite offensive and defensive plays of the 2011 season with the Syracuse Chiefs.

 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

SPORTS TALK RADIO

I have a strange hobby. Well, I guess it isn't technically a hobby, but it is something I do every single day. When I get in my car to start my morning I always turn the radio to 98.5 The Sports Hub, where there is none stop chatter about the Celtics, Bruins, Patriots, and Red Sox. There are certain guys I really enjoy listening to on there, who do a great job of breaking down games and give excellent insight into the upcoming schedule. There are also certain guys that I can't stand to listen to. These are the guys that find something negative to say about every game no matter the sport. If the Patriots win 45-0 they will find a way to make it seem like they are the worst team in the league. If the Red Sox go 22 and 6 for the month of June they will make a case for how disappointing it was because they should never have blown two of those games. My problem is, although I disagree with mostly everything they say and would love to beat the crap out of them, I can't turn it off.

Lucky for me, I've arrived home right at the perfect time. The Boston Red Sox are in the playoff hunt and over the last few weeks they have seen their lead in the Wild Card race dwindle to only two games. Every single day I drive to workout I get to hear all the reasons why the team is full of "bums", "losers", "stiffs", and "soft players", and how they should all empty their lockers, pack up their stuff, and choose a new profession. Obviously, if you don't come in first place by thirty games or clinch a playoff spot by August, it's time to back up the truck and turn Fenway "Pahk" into an actual parking lot, right?

Before I go on, let me say that I think Boston fans are some of the best in the world. Their level of passion and knowledge for their teams is matched by few cities around the country. But I also think people around here often times overreact to a lot of silly things, and I think right now is one of those times. All I've heard lately, whether I'm walking around the gym, eating at some wicked good restaurant, or stuck in traffic, is people talking about how shitty the Sox are.  Let's take a few minutes today and talk about why everyone seems to be going crazy in Beantown.

PERFECT BASEBALL

One thing I've learned after playing baseball for the last twenty years of my life is that in baseball, anything can happen. You can be the friggin' man one week and the goat the next. It's a game of ebbs and flows. As a player you don't judge yourself on one game or even one week, but instead learn to look at your performance over the long haul. If I were to go crazy every time I went  0 for 4 in a game, or each time I struck out, I would drive myself insane and be locked in a padded cell before I came anywhere close to the all-star break. You learn to put your last game, whether good or bad, in the rearview mirror as quick as possible, because there will be another game in less than twenty four hours. That's the way the season is played as a professional. 162 games, almost every night, for six months.

Now that the Sox are in the playoff hunt fans take a microscope to every little thing that happens in a game. Ortiz strikes out to end the first, people think the game is over. Gonzalez hits into a double play in the 3rd, "forget about it, this one's over!"  The game of baseball is not going to change just because its now the playoff race. Hitters will continue to hit into double plays during a playoff run, they will still strikeout with men in scoring position, and they will occasionally chase a curveball in the dirt. Pitchers will still let up home runs, throw wild pitches, and sometimes they won't make it out of the fourth.  I can't believe how many people I've heard call into the radio and say "how can Crawford hit into a double play right there?!?! We're in a playoff race!!!"

The bottom line is, the game of baseball doesn't change just because it's September. Infielders will still make errors, hitters will pop out, and pitchers will walk guys. Don't worry, the Yankees, Rays, and everyone else's guys will still make the same mistakes they've made all season too. I'm sorry, but if you think you're team is going to magically play perfect baseball every single night now that you think these games mean more than the 140+ others, it isn't going to happen. That's just baseball.

I understand, the Sox have't played their best baseball the last few weeks, but that doesn't mean they will suck forever. Like I said earlier, it's a game of ebbs and flows. They didn't play well in April, played great in the middle of summer, haven't played well in September, and could very well play unbelievable for the rest of the year. Baseball has a weird way of evening things out.

INJURIES

Ok, now that I'm starting to get worked up, lets get into what really grinds my gears so I can hopefully start to sleep better at night! Over the past few weeks the Red Sox have been bitten by the injury bug, and now all you hear is, "these guys just don't care anymore! If he was a real ballplayer he'd go out there and play with two broken legs! It's September!!!"  I can't understand why when a key player gets hurt late in the year he is now considered "soft" or a "pansy". Suddenly he doesn't care to win. He's a baby. He only cares about the money. It's ridiculous. Believe me, these guys do everything they can to be healthy enough to get out on the field every single day, especially when there is a playoff race. Do you think guys play every single day for six months through all types of ailments to just pack it in when a possible World Series trophy is within reach? Sometimes no matter what you do you can't get out there and play. Injuries are a part of the game, no matter the month.

And there's my rant. I'm sure most people will still say I'm full of shit and the Red Sox are still a bunch of choke artists and overpaid babies. Oh well, I tried.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

THAT'S ALL FOLKS

That's it. My 2011 season officially ended and I'm back home sitting on my sofa trying to find something to do. For the last six months I've basically been at work every single day from 2:00 PM to 11:00 PM, traveled on buses and planes for hours at a time, roamed from hotel to hotel, and eaten enough Chipotle to kill a small horse. Things will be a little different for me over the next six months, except for the Chipotle part. I'll probably only go four times a week instead of the usual seven. Life feels so different when you don't have somewhere to be every single day at a certain time. For now I will rest up my body from the grind of seven straight months of baseball, but as the weeks go by I will begin to work out more intensely and begin preparing for the 2012 season.

Since I've returned home many people have asked how my season went, what I thought about my performance, and what's in store for next year. Since I've got some spare time, I figured now would be a good time to sit down and reflect on the 2011 season.

To start things off, the year didn't begin the way I had originally envisioned when I arrived at Spring Training. With a week to go in camp I strained my left hamstring causing me to miss the first month of the year. After going through the last two years injured with San Diego this obviously wasn't the start I was hoping for with my new team, but it turned out only being a slight bump in the road along the way.

When I was healthy enough to return to the playing field around the beginning of May, I was sent to Double-A to play in the Eastern League for the Harrisburg Senators. It was going to be my first time playing in Double-A since 2007. When I first heard I was heading to AA instead of AAA I wasn't thrilled, but after being out of baseball for more than a year you never know exactly what's going to happen when you return. I was new to the organization and they didn't really know exactly what I was able to do on the field, so heading to AA and showing I could still be successful was what I needed to do. Turns out my stay in Pennsylvania was short. After playing four games I was called into our manager's office and told I was heading up to Syracuse, New York, to play for our Triple-A team.

My first two weeks in Syracuse I was rotating with a few players and basically starting about three to four games a week. Again, things didn't start exactly how I was hoping, but after a few weeks I started to hit well and eventually stuck in the starting lineup. One of my most exciting parts of the year came about two months after arriving in New York when I was named to the International League All-Star Team. It was my second time being named to an all-star team in my career, and the first time making it at the Triple-A level. Looking back at the way the season started for me I would never have guessed I would have the opportunity to be an all-star, but sometimes things turn out better than you expected.

The last two months of the season moved faster than any season I've ever experienced in the past. Two months honestly felt like two weeks, and before I know it the "dog days of August" were in the rear view mirror and my final game of the 2011 season was upon us. The end of this season was a little different for me from past years. Because I signed a one year contract with the Nationals the possibility of me being with a different team next Spring Training is much higher than in the past. Throughout my career I've been a part of many great teams and made friendships that will last much longer than my baseball career will. This year's team was one of my favorites to be a part of. Entering the year with a new organization for the first time in five years I wasn't sure what to expect, but I honestly couldn't have been luckier landing with the team that I did.

I'm not sure what this off-season will bring, but I am really excited to build on this past year and improve in all areas of my game. I was able to do a lot of things on the field this year that I wasn't given the opportunity to do in the past. For one, I played four positions throughout the year. The majority of my playing time came at third base where I really hadn't spent much time since my college days at Wake Forest. I played a decent amount of games at my natural position of second base and played about fifteen games at short stop. I hadn't played a game at short stop since high school back in 2003. I also had the chance to play the outfield for the first time in my life. I believe I played about five games or so in left field and I must say it's pretty damn fun. As far as the batting lineup goes I think I hit in every position, and I was able to finish the last week of the season hitting in the 3-hole, which was fun for my ego. I've always been an on-base type hitter who hits in the leadoff or 2-hole, so hitting in the third spot at least made me feel like I had some power, even if it was only for a week. This was another part of why I enjoyed myself so much this season. I was able to do so many things that I was never able to do during my five previous seasons. Playing a bunch of different positions and hitting all over the lineup kept things fresh and exciting throughout the year.

I want to thank everyone that kept up with the blog, came out to the stadium to watch us play, and wished me luck throughout the season. I'm not sure what uniform I will be in come March of next year but I know it will be another fun season full of unexpected twists and turns, and hopefully I will be able to achieve my goal of getting back in a Major League uniform. Thanks again!


Friday, September 2, 2011

HONESTLY, WHO THROWS A SHOE?

BOOOOOOOO!!!!! I must admit. I've never understood booing. I mean, I guess I kind of get it. A player from your favorite team just screwed up. He struck out, he fumbled, he missed a dunk, he tripped over the blue line, whatever it may be. Now you're pissed and you want him and everybody else to know about it. BOOOOOOOO!!!!!! I guess I just don't understand the objective behind booing. It's not really going to change anything. The guy screwed up. He knows he screwed up. He's the one playing the game. And no matter how mad you are as a fan about what just happened, believe me, he's more upset about it than you are.

We were playing a game a few nights ago in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania against the Iron Pigs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. One of their players missed a fly ball in the first inning and you know happened, the Boos started. I know what you're thinking. "Philly fans booing? No way!" As hard as it is to believe, yes it's true. I heard it with my own two ears. Anyways, when his name was announced over the loud speaker before his first at-bat it happened again. "BOOOOOOOO" As strike three hit the catchers mitt, you guessed it, "BOOOOOO!" Next at-bat same thing. "BOOOOOOO!" His third at-bat, yet again. "BOOOOOO!"

At this point the guy is 0-3 with three strikeouts. Now you know what Benjamin Franklin said about insanity right? He said its doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Now I'm no rocket scientist, but if you see the pattern that I'm seeing, I think it's time to try something else. Why not try clapping for him one time? How about you just laugh when he comes to the plate? Scream at him? I don't care if you take your shoe off and throw it towards home plate. Just try anything but booing. It's obviously not working. It's not beneficial for your blood pressure and it sure as hell doesn't seem to be helping his confidence. I'm sorry, but booing isn't going to make someone get a hit. Believe me, if it did, I'd make sure to tell everyone in the stadium to boo the shit out of me every time I stepped to the plate.