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T. J. Simers hates St. Louis, Cardinal fans, and probably this kitten too

October 13, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but T. J. Simers, formerly of the Los Angeles Times and recently of the Orange County Register, doesn’t like us Cardinal fans very much:

The feeling around the Cardinals is that they do everything right….The local newspaper calls it, “The Cardinals’ Way.”

Hey, I was just thinking that what this postseason definitely needed was a few more people bitching with poor punctuation skills about the Cardinals and their holier-than-thou straw-fans. Can we count on you to come through for us, T.J.? I THINK WE CAN:

Now I’m not the sort to take offense to another city’s attempt to come across as being superior. If the yokels here want to aggrandize a king-size croquet wicket and call it the Getaway Arch, so be it.

With T.J., you can never be sure if stuff like “Getaway Arch” is a mistake because he doesn’t know, a typo because he doesn’t care, or a failed attempt at humor because he isn’t funny. You should, however, be reassured that “yokels” is just as lazy a diss of the folks in flyover country as it appears to be. Don’t feel bad, St. Louisans—he hates Memphis too, and Philadelphia, and Nebraska, and baby pandas, and war widows, and Doctors Without Borders [citations needed].

But there is a certain smugness about this place. Folks like to say the people here are the smartest baseball fans in the whole world….If they are so smart why were they on their feet cheering for a hopped-up Mark McGwire all those years? Are they now pleading ignorance?

Oh, now he’s asking the tough questions! While I prepare my defense, I have a couple to ask him in return: Mr. Simers, by the time Manny Ramirez played for the Dodgers, you were a professional sportswriter and the steroid epidemic in baseball had already been out of the shadows for a number of years. Was it ignorance that prompted you to pen a series of drooling paeans—like this one and this one—to him? How about that time you said “Manny Ramirez was the best thing to hit Los Angeles. And nothing that has happened recently changes that”….after he’d been busted (twice) for PEDs and arrested for hitting his wife?

The answer, of course, is that T.J. couldn’t care less what Cardinal fans thought of Mark McGwire, just as he doesn’t really have any particular animosity toward St. Louis. But he does have a deadline, and syntactically-challenged, internally inconsistent stream-of-consciousness taunting is his shtick, so doggone it, that’s what he’s going to do.

Back to baseball:

I’m not here to defend our well-paid mercenaries. They got clubs in their hands and they’ll do just fine.

Just my two cents, but maybe T.J. should worry less about what the Dodgers do in the visiting team’s restroom and more about the fact that they don’t seem to be hitting.

Right now all the smart folks are on their feet clapping and screaming for eight horses pulling a wagon filled with cases of beer around the park. Apparently they are also the easiest fans in the whole word to entertain. I’m guessing many of them still have their pet rocks.

….Someone has to work for what it costs to get into Disneyland these days, and so if the Register will have me for another month or so, that should take care of it.

Some might say that a guy who pays $100 to see a dude in a mouse costume isn’t in a position to call other people “easily entertained.”

(Those two excerpts are a few paragraphs apart in the column, but don’t worry, they make just as little sense in context as out of it.)

You can understand now why there was a county fair-like frenzy in the bottom of the seventh inning in a 2-2 game when the locals started chanting, “Yady, Yady.” Of course I can remember a time when Dodger fans were chanting, “Hee-Seop Choi, Hee-Seop Choi.”

T.J. spells “Yadi” two different ways in this column, and neither one is the right one. That’s because he doesn’t actually follow baseball. If he did, he would know that Hee-Seop Choi (career WAR: 2.6) is to Yadier Molina (career WAR: 26.8) as Simers is to Roger Angell.

But I worry about folks who are urged to scream as loud as they can and do so because TBS is going live to the rest of the country. Why would the smartest baseball fans in the world agree to be used as TV props? Maybe it’s a Midwestern thing, folks living much of their lives in anonymity and thrilled to see a camera pointed their way. Can you just imagine the collective swoon if Alex Trebek showed up for Game 2?

“I’ll take ‘Professional Trolls’ for $400, Alex.”

“Answer: Some say the douchiest sports-scribe west of Joe Strauss is this lazy dolt who was recently fired by the Los Angeles Times.”

[Buzz] “Umm…who is Bill Plaschke?”

“Oooh, I’m sorry. The key words here were ‘douchiest’ and ‘fired.’ Obviously the correct response is T.J. Simers. Simers.”

Now you would think I wouldn’t be enamored with the millionaires who get paid for playing baseball in Los Angeles, while I work to pay off Mickey. It’s true that six of our eight position players get paid more than their Cardinals’ counterparts. Our starting pitcher makes $16 million more to get batters out than St. Louis’ starter. But halleluiah, I say, that’s the Dodgers’ Way. It beats the days when the money went to Jamie McCourt’s spiritual healer. The Dodgers paid Juan Uribe $21 million over the past three years, and that’s just the going rate for a NLDS clinching home run. Unfortunately he just hit into a double play, the fans going wild here as if they just witnessed something never done before. And people say they are the smartest fans in baseball.

ibbu blo90nhhhhhhhhhhhhhh offfffffffffffof3tr44676

Whoops, Carlos the foster kitten (pictured above) just walked across the computer keyboard. I’m leaving it because I want to offer T.J. a standard of journalism to aspire to.

The Cardinals win with a Beltran hit, a millionaire of their own doing the damage and I guess that’s the Cardinals’ Way, any old way just fine by them.

Oh, for crying out loud. Here’s the thing: I can handle criticism of the Cardinals, or their fans, or St. Louis, and I can even enjoy it if it’s smart and/or funny. But I can’t handle sentences like this one, which is constructed about as well as the Angels’ 2013 roster. I can’t handle sluggish, hackneyed jokes about Midwestern hayseeds, which are about as fresh as Yaddy’s knees must have felt after 22 innings of baseball in 25 hours. I can’t handle knowing that I have at least five un- or under-employed friends who write better and know more about sports than Simers.

I can’t blame him for the fact that major newspapers keep paying him to be a troll. I can, however, blame him for being absolutely terrible at it.

And that’s coming from someone who’s entertained by a bunch of draft horses pulling a wagon of crappy beer.

Yadi and Waino: We honestly love them

October 10, 2013

Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina: The video. (I’ll have more to say when I’m finished grinning about last night’s game and/or treating the ulcers I’m developing over tomorrow’s. For now, enjoy.)

Follow ABOTO on Twitter!

Know what you need? A Yadi-Waino hug.

October 4, 2013

[Update: If you're a Yadi/Waino fan, be sure to see the latest post for more of them!]

Rough loss today, huh? After dominating the Pirates yesterday, the Cards played an uninspired game this afternoon, marked by miserable defense, shaky pitching, and near-complete helplessness at the plate against Gerrit Cole, the latest in the neverending string of rookies who have managed to make this otherwise fearsome team look small and timid.

Let’s cheer ourselves up with photos of Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright hugging each other.

I know it’s fashionable to root against the Cardinals right now, but really, how can anyone root against this smile and these dimples and those big tattooed cannons wrapped around that high-altitude neck?

yadi waino

That’s the traditional version of the Yadi-Waino hug, but there’s also the hand-on-top-of-hat variation, which conveys more of an “Attaboy, I knew you could do it, you big adorable dude” message, I think. You’ll note by looking at Wainwright’s right hand in these photos that this is no “bro-hug,” no rapid series of fist-pounds followed by a “no homo” disclaimer, but a real embrace. I assume they teach proper hugging technique in the minors, because that’s The Cardinal Way, but clearly these two have (as they say on reality TV) taken it to the next level.

Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina

I have no idea if these two are buddies outside the park, but I like to imagine them getting lunch in the off-season and greeting each other like this before ordering three different entrees and eating off each other’s plates:

Atlanta Braves vs St. Louis Cardinals

Remember when they were just young exuberant things and their hugs had takeoffs and landings?

yadi waino 5

These days they’re less rowdy and more quietly affectionate, less fireworks-display and more evening-by-the-fireplace.

yadi waino 7

The original caption on this next one says that Yadi and Waino are “celebrating,” but celebrating is when you pump your fist and pop a champagne cork. This? This is love. This is I’m never more myself than when I am in your arms. This is It’s totally cool that your blog post is turning into bad gay erotica because we’re just that comfortable with how much we adore each other.

yadi waino 4

“Wait, which arms are yours and which are mine?” “Does it really matter?” “No. No, it doesn’t. Never leave me.”

yadi waino 6

I feel better already.

yadi waino 8

Three ways to pass an off-day

September 26, 2013

wainoAn off-day? What kind of cruel joke is this? Just when the Cardinals are whipping up some Mike-Shannon-grade momentum and the Reds and Pirates are trending in the other direction, just when the magic number’s finally been shaved down to 1, all three teams are grinding to a halt for one barren and excruciating Thursday. What’s a Redbird fan to do? Here are a few humble suggestions to get us through to mid-morning, at least….

Instead of….
Tying ourselves into knots over the possible postseason match-ups ahead

How about we….
Have a dance party with the Cardinals! Click right here; that’s the page of results you get from searching “St. Louis Cardinals dancing” on Youtube. Watch a few of the clips. Watch the rest of the clips. Fall even more deeply in love with this utterly lovable team.

Instead of….
Grieving over Michael Wacha’s oh-so-close-to-a-no-hitter on Wednesday evening

How about we….
Take a few moments to marvel at how young this guy really is, and how many years he’ll have ahead of him, assuming he stays healthy, to get that 27th out. Seriously: Wacha was born on July 1, 1991, one day before Axl Rose trashed St. Louis’s Riverport Amphitheater and five weeks after Thelma and Louise first visited the Grand Canyon. This is his Little League picture, and it was taken after the turn of the millennium. These are his parents, and they aren’t in costume—they were actually children of the 1980s. Wacha figures to be around for a while, and there’s a better-than-average chance that we still haven’t seen the best of him. (If you need something else to marvel at, how about the fact that Wacha’s brilliant performance was only the second-best start we’ve seen from a Cardinal rookie pitcher this season?)

Instead of….
Fretting over the long and ever-shifting list of injured Cardinals

How about we….
Read this beautiful article by Derrick Goold about how Jason Motte lost his season to Tommy John surgery but found a whole new calling, helping kids with cancer. This isn’t your standard-issue heartwarming story, and Motte isn’t your standard-issue celebrity do-gooder. If you’re not sufficiently verklempt after that one, check out this sweet piece about a Cardinal fan club whose members, all suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, still enjoy connecting with one another over their memories of Redbird highs and lows from decades past.

Make your 2013 Cardinal postseason survival kit now!

September 21, 2013

pepto squirrelPostseason-baseball-induced stress claims thousands of victims every year, but the first step to surviving it is preparation. You may not be able to predict the exact moment when the anxiety, rage, and/or nausea associated with Cardinal playoff baseball will strike, but you can be ready for it by assembling a Postseason Survival Kit ahead of time.

You’ve still got a few shopping days left, so ABOTO has compiled a list of must-haves that should get you through the next few weeks:

1) Rescue Remedy

bach-flower-rescue-remedy-drops-20mlRescue Remedy is a gentle herbal formula designed to help ease stressful or traumatic situations. Pipe a few drops onto your novelty foam finger before you wave your hands wildly in the air, and let its calming energy diffuse throughout your den or sports bar! Note that the patented blend includes clematis, which, according to the manufacturer, helps re-center those who “withdraw into fantasy worlds,” so keep some on hand to spray in the face of your irritating friend who says things like “Normally I wouldn’t root for the Reds, but I just drafted Neftali Soto last week!”

2) Pepto-Bismol


You’ll want a powerful anti-nausea aid available for those times when Pete Kozma grounds into a 15th-inning double play or Lance Lynn gets to first base with all the speed of an adolescent comic-book collector who hasn’t discovered mouthwash. There are plenty of options on the market, but Pepto-Bismol is the obvious choice for Cardinal fans, since they already have a Rally Squirrel right there on their Facebook page! (User comment: “Why a squirrel?” Pepto response: “The better question is why not a squirrel?”)

3) The You-Doo Doll


Certain situations—for example, when Mike Matheny lets his beleaguered closer talk his way back into a game when he’s getting lit up and there’s a lefty warmed and ready in the pen and sweet mother of mercy I’m getting mad again just thinking about it—demand something a bit stronger. Enter the You-Doo, a do-it-yourself voodoo doll that you can customize by ironing on the face of a deserving Cardinal before sticking it with pins. You can’t do that with a bobblehead! Hint: Keep an extra You-Doo around; you never know when the next Don Denkinger or Jeffrey Leonard will come along.

4) The SwatComm


There’s lots to shout about, good and bad, when October rolls around, and you shouldn’t have to mute your expostulations just because not everyone on your street or cell block wants to hear them. The Swatcomm is a high-tech selective-listening device developed for use by SWAT teams and other specialized tactical forces, but we’re confident it can be adapted for postseason purposes as well! Now, only your chosen comrades will hear your screams of “WHY IN THE NAME OF JOHN McCAIN’S TWITTER ACCOUNT IS CARLOS BELTRAN BUNTING??” while your neighbors, pets, or fellow churchgoers are spared. Gosh, if only Tony La Russa had had one of these instead of a wonky bullpen phone in Game 5 of the 2011 ohgodpassthepeptoagainit’sallcomingbacktome.

5) The HeartStart Home Defibrillator


Sure, we joke about the “Cardiac Cardinals,” but seriously, how confident are you that you won’t have a heart attack if there’s another Game 6 in St. Louis’s future? (SEE? You had a little one just thinking about it.) Be safe, not sorry, by keeping a HeartStart Home Defibrillator charged and ready this October. This portable cardiac device, complete with Cardinal-red carrying case, makes it easy to revive your fellow fans after a blown save or a devastating TOOTBLAN. (Don’t forget to pass around some blank DNR forms with the Doritos!) (NO REALLY I’M NOT KIDDING WHERE IS MY FORM I CAN’T DO THIS AGAIN.)

6) Cardinal caskets


And if all else fails and your feeble flesh is no match for the rigors of October baseball, you’ll be glad you pre-invested in a custom Cardinal casket. These snazzy coffins are velvet-lined, long enough to fit all but the tallest big-leaguers, and emblazoned with the MLB logo lest you forget that Bud Selig is still calling the shots even after you leave this mortal coil. Don’t wait until you’re faced with a long fly ball to Nelson Cruz or a near-riot by tomahawk-wielding Braves fans to ask “Will my loved ones and drinking buddies know my wishes in case THIS is the game I don’t survive?” Plan ahead.

No way, dude. This one's mine.

No way, dude. This one’s mine.

Dear John (Axford)….

September 3, 2013

[An open letter to the newest and potentially coolest Cardinal]

There’s so very much I need to say to you, Mr. Axford, and I probably ought to start with an apology for the fact that I used to think you were yucky back when you were a Brewer who was mowing down my team and making Duck-Dynasty-foreshadowing grooming choices, before this happened and I realized that you and I would probably get along just fine.

But my prose, like your hair, is better short than long, so I’ll let bygones be bygones and keep this brief.

I know you like art, since you tweeted about it yesterday and you had a fairly awesome 80-second stint as an unofficial docent at the National Gallery. So, as a gesture of welcome, and as my way of letting you know that I’m already pretty attached to your Simpsons-quoting, film-festival-supporting, hair-donating, Jason-Motte’s-pants-wearing self, I made you this. I call it “Axford in the Leaping Laird’s Den”:

laird axford

I hope you like it.

Yours truly,

P.S. Peter Paul Rubens helped but I did most of it.

Matt Carpenter, honorary Jew

August 21, 2013

babycarpOn the grand scale of historic tribulations faced by the Jews, the 2013 MLB season probably doesn’t rank all that high, but it’s been a tough time nonetheless for those of us who enjoy seeing the occasional Chosen Person succeed on the baseball field. (I include myself on that list, even though I’m technically only half-Jewish, and my Presbyterian mother is the one who makes the challah that’s to die for.) It’s been one test after another: Ike Davis couldn’t hang onto his spot in the Mets’ lineup. Jason Marquis was lost to Tommy John surgery. Max Scherzer has a fantastic Jewish-sounding name to go with his fantastic 18-1 record, but alas, he’s a goy. And Ryan Braun….just feh.

So I think it’s time for us to appoint an honorary Jew, and I’d like to nominate Matt Carpenter for the job. Yes, the very first thing his Twitter profile tells us is that he’s a Christian, and I want to be clear that I completely respect that choice and understand that he’s probably not going to change his mind and get Bar Mitzvahed based on one blog post. Don’t worry, Matt—Judaism isn’t an evangelical faith and I’m not out to convert you. But I can’t help noticing that you’re the Jewish baseball icon we’ve been waiting for. Here’s a half-decalogue of reasons why:

1. Matt’s a mensch. What’s a mensch, you ask? A person of integrity and character, with a strong work ethic, a clear sense of right and wrong, and a deep sense of responsibility—and, usually, someone who doesn’t call attention to those aspects of him- or herself. That’s a perfect description of how Matt does his job. He cheerfully accepted a reassignment to second base, worked doggedly with Jose Oquendo to become an extremely solid fielder at his new position, and scooted back to third when Kolten Wong was called up from Memphis. As a leadoff hitter, he takes patient, scholarly at-bats, working counts and studying a pitcher’s offerings in addition to getting on base at a rate that puts him among the best in the league. He’s so reliably early to the park that Mike Matheny had to threaten him with a fine in order to keep him away and get him some rest during a recent mini-slump. And remember last week, when he came to bat in the 12th inning with a second chance to finish a natural cycle with a walk-off homer? He didn’t swing wildly for the fences—he took a six-pitch walk and came around to score the winning run a few minutes later. That’s the definition of mensch-hood, right there.

2. He looks the part. The dark features, the Milhouse-esque eyebrows, the thick brown hair that I feel confident would blossom into a Jewfro given the chance, even the rugged hands bare of batting gloves: it all fits. (Oh, you didn’t know he didn’t wear batting gloves? Sorry! You must have missed the eight million times the Cardinals’ broadcasters have mentioned it!) (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

3. He appreciates a good meal. By his own admission, he had to ditch a junk-food diet and shed some weight in order to evolve from college prospect to big-league threat, but he still tweets out requests for restaurant recommendations and appreciations of good grub. (I was disappointed when he asked for dining suggestions in New York City and didn’t take me up on my idea of forgoing the restaurants and just eating knishes from the street carts, but maybe next time.)

4. His childhood hero was another faux-Jew. That’s right: Matt’s idol was Lance Berkman, a Christian who has so often been confused for a Jew that a baseball writer once flew a thousand miles to write a feature on the supposedly Semitic slugger, only to discover his misconception when he got to the stadium.

5. I have the T-shirts all ready. You’d buy a “My MVP is a Jewish Carpenter” shirt, wouldn’t you? I’ll make you a good deal on it.

The Hebrew saying “Ad me’ah v’esrim shana” literally means “May you live to be 120″; figuratively, it’s a statement of appreciation and a hearty wish for long and healthy life. I’d like to amend that and apply it to Matt Carpenter, in the hope that he remains a Cardinal and a marvelous mensch till the bitter end…whether or not he actually decides to swap his baseball cap for a yarmulke.

P.S. Check out this great interview with Matt, and this profile from a few months back.
P.P.S. I meant what I said about respecting his Christian faith, but he’s already tweeting about retirees in Florida, so I think maybe I’m onto something here.


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