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The fault in our All-Stars

June 27, 2014

You put the killing thing in your mouth but you don’t give it the power to do its killing….

Okay, latony stanst night’s 1-0 defeat by the Dodgers wasn’t as bad as cancer or grown-ups who read nothing but young-adult literature, but it was one of the most excruciating losses of the season thus far, starring Adam Wainwright as the doomed Shakespearean protagonist amid a supporting cast of fatally flawed position players (et tu, Bourjos?). Thus I’m not going to write about it; I’m going to write, briefly and insufficiently, about Tony Gwynn.

Though I grew up as a Cardinal fan in St. Louis and I’ll never understand people who change teams when they change cities, I’ve lived in southern California for nearly 19 years, and the Padres have become my favorite of the three local teams I can find on my radio or my TV. There are different reasons for that: Accessibility (they have the prettiest and friendliest stadium of the three); pity (they don’t win much these days); and process of elimination (somehow, the Padres’ front-office offenses still aren’t as viscerally icky to me as those of the McCourt-era Dodgers and the Moreno-era Angels).

And they had Tony Gwynn. I’d watched him as a player when I was growing up, when San Diego to me was a faraway desert nation with an inexplicable chicken as its mascot, and Gwynn was an equally inexplicable combination of deep, true goodness in his everyday life and scientific, slump-proof production at the plate. His hitting and his kindness were both so automatic as to be underappreciated; he was a sabermetric darling before sabermetrics existed, and a scout’s (and fan’s) ideal blend of athletic talent, hard work, and inexhaustible goodwill. Year after year he delivered stats that were nearly unfathomable in their excellence and their consistency, even though he never had a “go crazy, folks”-caliber highlight to symbolize and immortalize his accomplishments for the baseball-watching public. He played for two decades in a city that the national media often overlooked, but he never tried to leave for a bigger payday, and he continued to make his home there after his playing career was finished.

Sound familiar? Yeah—he was San Diego’s Stan Musial, except that we got to enjoy and appreciate Stan for almost forty years more than the Padre faithful had Tony, thanks to the evil of tobacco and the dumb cruelty of fate.

Fabulously, the Sporting News had the foresight to put Tony and Stan in a room with each other in 1997 to talk about hitting and home life and humility, and as you’d expect, there’s an entire baseball education in this interview. It’s difficult to imagine that two one-team hitters of this stature will ever sit and talk shop again.

Tony Gwynn’s steady presence in the San Diego community and the Padre fan base, as both a reminder of better days and an ongoing source of charity and cheer, made a lot of other baseball pains more bearable for the folks around here. That he was lost so young, so soon after Jerry Coleman, and in the midst of a great deal of other Byrnes- and Black- and Lincecum-adjacent stresses feels especially unfair.

But Stans and Tonys never really go away. I’ve read a great many columns and blog posts and tweets about Gwynn’s legacy, about the standard of excellence he reminds the Padres to aspire to again someday, about the on-the-field feats and the off-the-field encounters people will most remember him for. My favorite story so far, though, comes from my friend Matt, a lifelong Padres fan whose three-year-old son is named Anthony (not a conscious tribute, he says, but at worst a happy coincidence). Last night, Matt began to try to explain to Anthony who Tony Gwynn was and why he mattered.

“Is he going to come to my house and play baseball?” Anthony asked excitedly.

As Matt said later: Yes, he probably would have loved to.

Let’s play Frustrated Cardinal Fan Bingo!

June 21, 2014

Bad baseball is miserable. Bad, boring baseball is much worse. This week, don’t just sit and stew as the Cardinals take turns grounding out against mediocre pitchers—make a game of it! Seriously, at this rate, it’s your best chance of logging any kind of win, so grab a cold frosty one and have fun.

[Disclaimer: Yes, I still love these guys. Yes, I know they do good things to go with the irritating ones. Yes, I've seen how Jon Jay's hitting lately, and no, I don't want to run Matt Holliday out of town.]

bingo

Follow A Blog of Their Own on Twitter! It’ll totally make my day.

Three things in the news this week that are still worse than the Cardinals

June 3, 2014

3) The Krispy Kreme triple cheeseburger. People, when the rest of the world talks about “American exceptionalism,” they’re not saying it as a compliment. They’re talking about things like this:

cheeseburger

That’s three patties of charbroiled factory-farm cruelty between innertubes of sugar and refined flour, not because it tastes good but because we can, all dreamed up by a woman who fantasizes about plantation-themed weddings. It’s gross, by any measure, from the cardiac to the psychospiritual. This is enough worse than the Cardinals that John Mozeliak could spend $250 million to sign Jeff Suppan and still not match the pointless excess consumption represented by this single food item.

 

2) Rihanna’s dress. The guy who designed Rihanna’s gown for the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s awards ceremony the other night said this about it: “The dress is just fishnet and crystals and a couple of fingers crossed.” Color me intrigued! Thing is, the dress is already completely transparent (NSFW, depending on where you W), so as long as she’s clutching that stole in front of her ladyparts, the crossed fingers really just represent the difference between an R-rated movie on VHS on your old TV and the same movie in HD on your flatscreen. Furthermore, and I say this as an Our-Bodies-Ourselves feminist who vociferously defends every woman’s right to wear whatever she wants, it’s fugly, and it seems to me that if you’re going to plaster 230,000 Swarovski crystals on your hide with no requirement that they cover anything up, then they should at least spell out “Eff you, Chris Brown” in script font or something. This is enough worse than the Cardinals that the entire pitching staff could replace their fraudulent titanium power necklaces with Swarovski chokers and the dress would still have a slight edge.

 

1) Todd Starnes’ new book, God Less America. Mr. Starnes is on Fox News, so I was aware of him in the way I’m aware of salmonella (I know they exist and I’m extremely vigilant about keeping them out of my home), but then my good friend Edwin sent me this image of the first page of his new book, and I think you’ll agree that it makes the opening of The Da Vinci Code look like “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” by comparison (click to embiggen):

starnes

Obviously the end of that thought is “chicken soup,” but you guessed that already; it’s only a shame that the picture cuts off before it gets to the sentence “It was a time when Doobie was a brother and hip-hop was something a bunny rabbit did.” I am not making this up. This is so much worse than the Cardinals that Jason Motte could add seven more inches to his beard, Jhonny Peralta could hit into four consecutive triple plays, Mike Matheny could name Daniel Descalso as the new hitting coach, and Ballpark Village could be revealed as a mafia-funded project made entirely of the sawdust of the team’s lucky 2013 bats, and it would STILL be worse than the Cardinals.

And they’re pretty awful.

Everything that’s happened in MLB so far in 2014. In verse.

April 22, 2014

insomnia hatWe started in Australia with the Dodgers and the Snakes,
Who came back home with jet lag and a lengthy list of aches,
Though Texas and Atlanta hold the early-season crown
For sheer number of players who’ve already been “shut down.”
A few guys changed their uniforms: Prince Fielder is a Ranger,
Cano’s now in Seattle, and the Yanks signed Carlos Danger;
McCann has made no citizen’s arrests in Gotham yet,
And down in Queens, the Grandy-Man….can’t do much as a Met.
The Cardinals are waiting for a jholt from Jhonny P.,
Who they hope can post a decent O.P.S. sans P.E.D.
The Marlins’ newest catcher’s name, alas, won’t fit the meter,
Which is just another reason he’s no Derek F***ing Jeter.
(And really, this whole season is a big retirement party
For the Yankees’ captain—well, unless you’re asking Joe Girardi.)
John Farrell and the replay system got into a fracas
About this call on Anna, and this “double” by Markakis.
The transfer rule is baffling and already in discussions,
But (knock on wood) so far we’ve seen no catchers with concussions.
In Anaheim, El Hombre seems like he’s no longer cursed….
Too bad he can’t talk Hammy out of sliding into first.
The Royals lack the power to put homers on the board;
George Brett could help, but he’s quite busy hanging out with Lorde.
Bryce Harper’s lazy hide is holding back the mighty Nats,
While the internet rejoices every time Bartolo bats.
The Brewers keep on winning with a staff of Nuke LaLouches
And a lineup full of icky, awful, execrable douches.
Three photos hit the internet and drew the public’s notice:
Chief Wahoo met his nemesis, Big Papi met the POTUS,
And farther south, America’s Team began the season right
By torching an American flag to honor Opening Night.
Bill Plaschke’s a concern troll when it comes to Puig’s defection,
And Boomer’s mad that Daniel Murphy’s wife had no C-section.
Hank Aaron hates Caucasian folk, or so the racists claim….
And now you’re all caught up, at least until your team’s next game.
(Hey, Cardinals? Your play this week’s been slovenly and amateur.
You’re why I’m getting drunk on crappy iambic septameter.)

[More poems here and here and here if you're a glutton for punishment.]

Let’s get a serial misogynist off the air

February 15, 2014

berenstain-bears-No-Girls-AllowedSo you’ve been fired from your sports-talk radio hosting job for being a repugnant bigot? Don’t worry—San Diego’s Mighty 1090 has a job for you! Live and play in one of America’s most beautiful cities while earning a generous paycheck to work loudly through your penis issues and vent your deep-rooted anger at women who don’t want to sleep with you…all for an admiring audience of tens of thousands!

[Note: Lots of people are reading this post, which is great, but only a few are clicking the links to DO SOMETHING about this jerk. If you're angry about this too, could you please take a moment to let the station know, since that's the only way anything will change? Skip to the end if you're already well aware of Mighty 1090's problems with women and you just want some ideas on how to tell them so!]

XPRS, or “The Mighty 1090,” is one of San Diego’s biggest sports radio stations as well as the flagship station for the Padres, and lately, it’s become one of southern California’s friendliest refuges for unrepentant and uncreative woman-haters. The station made news a few weeks ago when it removed a longtime morning host and replaced him with Dan Sileo, who had been suspended from his previous job after attacking Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews in a Twitter battle almost inconceivably pathetic in its unvarnished stop-cutting-off-my-balls panic. (Sileo was ultimately fired from his last position for offering a bounty on a college football player, and from the job before that for calling three African-American football players “monkeys.”) Relax, ladies and non-whites—according to the XPRS website, we’re all going to love Sileo’s “tell-it-like-it-is outspoken approach”!

But that personnel move wasn’t really a surprise, since XPRS has been harboring fugitive-from-decency Scott Kaplan on its airwaves for years now. Kaplan’s one of the most reliable misogynists in sports media: In 2001, after a woman had his illegally-parked car towed, he threatened to humiliate her on air—and proceeded to do just that, calling her a “skank” and devoting a fair chunk of air time to describing her lack of hotness. See, in Kaplan’s world, enforcing the parking code while not being sufficiently bangable is a crime worthy of public ridicule. The woman sued him and his employers; the case was settled.

In 2012, Kaplan was fired for making repellent misogynistic and transphobic comments about the appearance of a reporter and former WNBA player. (You can click the link if you want to see what he said; I’m not inclined to give his nastiness any more real estate on the internet than it’s already gotten.) But Scotty and his co-host filed—and won—a grievance against the station, alleging that the firing process had been handled improperly because he wasn’t given a chance to apologize before being axed. (Never mind that he actually was given that opportunity, apparently, and used it to say “I don’t apologize for the fact that we’re a ‘guy show,’ a locker room kind of show….There’s no apology for that.”)

Kaplan and his sidekick got their jobs back later that year. “There was a lot of embarrassment that came with the termination,” he said.

Oh, sure, definitely. A lot of embarrassment for him.

His most flagrant incidences of sexism have nabbed most of the headlines, but rest assured that Kaplan’s show is a hotbed of crude, casual sexism every day of the week. And yesterday, as I drove down the freeway and demonstrated exceedingly poor judgment by not changing the station when he came on, he hit a new low.

If you follow sports, you’ve probably heard about the damning report released yesterday about the culture of relentless bullying in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room, and the particular abuses inflicted by guard Richie Incognito on (among others) offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, which drove Martin to leave his job and consider suicide. While most members of the sports media, even many of the certified dudebro shock-jocks, have reacted with disgust and scorn to the story—you know, the way decent human beings would react—Kaplan has marked himself as an Incognito apologist in entirely predictable ways: He’s sad that Incognito, in whom he clearly recognizes a kindred spirit, has been singled out for criticism; he repeatedly characterized his abuses as “being mean to a guy….with words“; and, in the tradition of the best concern trolls, he wondered repeatedly whether Martin would be considered—not by him, of course, but by other people—as “too soft” to play in the NFL again.

But I expected all that. I didn’t expect that Kaplan would fixate on the incredibly filthy, base, savage remarks that Incognito had made about Jonathan Martin’s sister, and turn them into a series of boorish jokes of his own. Again, I’m not interested in repeating his remarks here. Read the highlights from the report if you want to, and know that Kaplan’s “humor” had to do with a particular brand of grapefruit soda.

There was no point to Kaplan’s remarks, except to degrade a woman who has already been humiliated in the media through absolutely none of her own doing, and to win the approval of other cruel bullies like himself.

I called the station while I was still driving to leave a lengthy message on the program director’s voicemail (after the receptionist reacted with a resigned sigh and a total lack of surprise to my friendly “Hi—is there anyone there who could help me understand why Scott Kaplan still has a job?”). In my message, I said “I’m a woman who knows a whole lot about sports and who relies on your station to listen to Padres games and stay up-to-date on San Diego sports news. It’s getting awfully hard, though, to justify listening to a station that doesn’t just ignore its female listeners, but seems actively hostile toward and contemptuous of us.” (I requested a phone call in return, and will update the blog if and when I get one.)

I understand, even if I don’t like it, that the target audience for sports-talk stations is guys. I object strenuously, though, when it begins to feel as though the target audience is misogynists.

If you’d like to help get Scott Kaplan off the air—again—here are a few easy ways to let the station know your feelings:

I have some reservations about potentially helping Kaplan spend more time at home with his three daughters—but it’s high time he got off the SoCal airwaves. Thanks for adding your voice.

Everything you need to know about Lance Berkman in five not-so-well-known photos

January 31, 2014

The Cardinals, over the past several decades, have benefitted richly from the services of out-of-town sluggers who arrive in St. Louis during the waning days of their careers to catch fire one more time. César Cedeño. Will Clark. Larry Walker. Carlos Beltrán (sniff). But has there ever been an import who transformed the fortunes of a Cardinal ballclub more dramatically than Lance Berkman in 2011? He hit like mad, he helped loosen up a team that by all accounts had been sourpussy and cliquish, and he is the best damned Google image search ever.

Here you go: Five Berkman photos that encapsulate why we love this guy so much.

#1: The young Elvis. He knows what’s up. That little lock of hair on the forehead? It works on both the “suave” and “ironic” levels. Even as a young thing, Berkman was always in on the joke.

lance berkman high school


#2: Berkman and Tito the dog.
My former career was in the world of animal sheltering, so I’m a sucker for any pro athlete who supports animal rescue, as Berkman is doing here by posing with an adoptable dog from the humane society. Extra points because it’s a plain brown dog of the sort that often gets overlooked in shelters. Extra extra points because the dog shares its name with one of my all-time favorite Cardinals.

Lance Berkman


#3: Berkman and the Obamas.
It’s probably best that Lance and I never talk about religion or politics, and I’d bet my signed Tito Landrum photo that he didn’t vote for our current President, but goddess bless him for being his jovial and respectful self anyway when the 2011 Cardinals visited the White House. Congress could learn a lot from this particular Puma.

berkman obama


#4: Berkmanohana.
Yeah, that’s Lance Berkman in a sumo suit during his 17-game tenure with the New Orleans Zephyrs. You know how everyone on Match.com says they’re “comfortable in their own skin”? Lance Berkman puts them all to shame. He’s the good-natured honey badger of the baseball world.

berkmanfat


#5: Sexy asparagus-munching cowboy Berkman.
In a bookstore few years ago, I happened upon a cookbook called Diamond Dishes that featured big-leaguers’ favorite recipes. It was full of softly-lit photos of earnest ballplayers in their HGTV-worthy kitchens—A-Rod leaning defiantly against a pile of greens, Adrian Gonzalez glancing up thoughtfully from a skillet, Albert Pujols brandishing a blowtorch (no, seriously)—but this glorious, ridiculous photo is why my mother got a copy of the book for Christmas that year. This is what would happen if the American Heart Association had a Marlboro Man. This is “Asparagus, I wish I knew how to quit you.” This is perfection.

berkman asparagus
Godspeed, Lance. You’re one of the good guys, and we’re lucky you stopped in St. Louis along your way.

The disgruntling Easter bunny and other Mike Shannonisms

January 13, 2014

mike_shannonIn honor of Mike Shannon’s contract extension, which will keep him behind the Cardinals’ microphone alongside John Rooney for at least a few more years, I thought I’d dip into the collection of Shannonisms that Julie and I have been scribbling down during games for the last several seasons. I can’t guarantee that these are all 100% verbatim, since many of them have been recorded via the time-honored leap-from-couch-and-dash-to-nearest-writing-device-before-forgetting-what-he-said method, but I promise you they’re pretty close, and I guarantee they’re good for a grin.

Mike: Did you enjoy the fireworks here last night?
John: No.
Mike: Did the 3-0 loss have something to do with that?
John: Yes.
Mike: Did that temper your fire?
John: Yes.
Mike: It’s bad when they temper your fire. It’s like the Easter bunny with no eggs. Just so disgruntling.

Mike on Ryan Howard: Well, Mr. Howard can put a dash to your trash, that’s for sure.

Seatbelt Safety Guy doing a guest spot in the broadcast booth: Seven out of ten traffic fatalities are people who are not wearing a seatbelt.
Mike: WOW!!! So what you’re saying is, if they would buckle up, it might not be ANY of out of the ten?

Mike on the slow-working home-plate umpire: This umpire looks like he has double-time disease. The other way.

Mike: Watch out because we’ve got the broadcast cops out today [gives the 'This broadcast may not be reproduced or disseminated' statement]. That’s a word you never hear in the dugout. ‘Disseminate.’
John: Thank you for that, Mike. I’m glad the fans were here to hear that bit of information.
Mike: That’s because of the broadcast cops. They’re like the fish cops.

Mike on then-Mets pitcher Oliver Perez: I always thought Oliver was a classy name. Especially in….poetry. And scripture. How about you?

Mike on umpire Tim McClelland: Just so you know, this guy won’t ever call a pitch. He takes four, five seconds every single time, so tell you what, we’re just going to call ‘em and then we’ll let you know if he disagrees with us or if he gets ‘em right. [a bit later] We get more calls right than he does. I guess he called that last pitch a ball, but you can’t tell with this guy. He only cares about himself.

Mike on Juan Pierre: Pierre is a pepper pot. If you turn him upside down, he’s a popper pet, and that’s what we want him to be tonight. There’s strike one and oh! that was definitely a popper pet.

Mike on a crazy game: This is the wild-pitch phase of the moon. It’s bad when that moon goes into wild-pitch phase.

Mike on the URL for the Cards’ website: There are a LOT of slashes in that Cardinals website, you know. Lots of different pages you can go to. There’s a slash for harmonicas, and a slash for….rain delays…..
John: I don’t think there’s a slash for rain delays.
Mike: There’s not? Oh. Well, you know what there should be a slash for that there isn’t? Pumpkins!

….And we’ve got lots more where these came from.

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