Wednesday, April 28, 2010

'The Franchise' Appears to be Back



Francisco Liriano was considered the potential X-Factor this year for the Twins chances to not only win another AL Central division title, but also to finally get out of the first round. After an exceptional winter ball and an impressive Spring, I was cautiously optimistic that Liriano could become a very good starter again. Of course, performing well against lesser players in both winter ball and spring training is nowhere close to actually going out and getting it done. That's why watching Liriano over the first month of the season has been so much fun.

After allowing three runs over six innings in his first start of the year, Liriano has been as close to untouchable as you could imagine. He's now gone three consecutive starts without allowing a run, 23 straight innings, and he's had a video game like 24:5 K/BB ratio over that time. Last night though seemed to be the surest sign yet that Liriano is back. His slider was absolutely sensational, his control was exceptional, and he allowed just four hits over eight shutout innings with ten strikeouts and just one walk.

Many fans will be talking about Liriano consistently lighting up the Radar Gun at 95-96 MPH, but that's probably a bit misleading as Detroit is well known for juicing up the gun by 2 or 3 MPH. For example, Rauch sits around 89-90 MPH consistently, but tonight his fastball was being clocked at 91-92 MPH for the most part. More impressive than the 'possible' return of Liriano's mid 90's fastball was the control and movement he had with the slider, undoubtedly his 'out' pitch during that magical 2006 run and when it's working like it was tonight Liriano is virtually unhittable.

Liriano is now 3-0 in four starts with a 0.93 ERA in 29 innings, 0.97 WHIP and a 27:10 K:BB ratio for the season. If he continues to pitch like the Liriano of old, and don't kid yourself, over his last three starts he has been just as dominant as he was in 2006, the Twins may be the World Series favorites. As crazy as that sounds, putting a clear ace at the top of this rotation with how deep the lineup is and the track record of Scott Baker, the Twins would be among the most dangerous teams in a short series playoff setup.

It'd be foolish to expect Liriano to pitch this well all season, obviously, but he's been even better than the most optimistic Twins fans would have hoped for and an eighteen to twenty win season with a sub 3.00 ERA doesn't only seem possible, it seems likely. That's how good 'The Franchise' has been, and as a Twins fan it is a treat to watch him dominate a Detroit lineup that has a lot of good offensive players in it. Enjoy the ride, Twins fans.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Span's Early Struggles



Yesterday, I took a look at Nick Blackburn's early season struggles and ultimately decided there's nothing to worry about just yet, because he's only had four starts. Working off of Blackburn's struggles, today I'll take a look at Denard Span's early season slump and if it's something the team should be worried about as well.

After hitting .294/.387/.432 in 93 games as a rookie, Span continued to excel atop the Twins lineup last year hitting .311/.392/.415 in 145 games. The Twins were impressed enough with Span's performance that they decided, much like with Nick Blackburn, get cost certainty and an option on Span's first free agent year. The extension was worth $14.45MM over five years, with a team option in year six that could make it a six-year, $23.45MM contract.

Much like Blackburn, since signing the extension Span has struggled at the plate, including a scary moment this spring in which he hit his own mother with a foul ball during a game. Span is hitting just .230/.356/.284 in 19 games so far this season, which obviously has fans worried that Span may be regressing to what his minor league track record suggested.

Span hit .287/.357/.358 in the minors, which would suggest about a .275/.345/.340 line in the bigs. Of course, Span's two major league seasons have been far better than that, and almost 1,200 Major League plate appearances are more than enough to create a baseline for one's expectations. It's worth mentioning that Span also had eye surgery prior to his rookie season, and that seems to have made a significant difference in both his approach and plate discipline.

So why is Span struggling so much early this season? While it's impossible to know for sure, if I had to venture a guess, I'd say it's a combination of bad luck and a slump. Over the first month, Span's BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) is just .258. For comparison's sake, Span had a .339 BABIP in 2008, and followed that up with a .353 BABIP in 2009. For someone with Span's patience, a .339 and .353 number are not flukes, although the number is very very good. It's certainly possible that Span isn't as good as his numbers have shown over the last two years, but at this point I tend to doubt that the last two years were a fluke.

The great thing about baseball is that the season is 162 games, so the law of averages will almost certainly even things out over time. Span can't seem to find a hole or catch a break right now, but I'm sure when June or July roll around Span will be getting bloop singles to drop. It's extremely unlikely that Span's BABIP will remain as low as it is all season, and in fact it's much more likely that it will finish the year somewhere between .340 and .350.

Span will more than likely be just fine, and the fact that the Twins are 13-6 with the second best record in baseball and are scoring bundles of runs despite getting poor production from their lead-off hitter shows just how good this team could be. If Span, Blackburn and even Jason Kubel can return to their average level of performance over the last two seasons, this Twins team could win 100 games rather easily. That sounds silly, saying a team could win 100 games 'easily' but as of now the Twins are on pace to win 106 games. If they can get more production from three players they planned on counting heavily on, 100 wins wouldn't be an unrealistic goal for this team to have.

Monday, April 26, 2010

What's Wrong with Nick Blackburn?



When the Twins agreed to a four-year, $14MM contract with a team option that could make it a five-year, $22MM contract, most fans and sportswriters were on board with the move. After all, cost certainty is a big plus for a team with a budget (AKA anyone besides the Yankees) and Blackburn had been remarkably consistent through two full seasons. I'm not going to debate whether the extension was a good idea or a bad idea, because Aaron Gleeman has done that a whole lot better than I ever could.

However, since signing the extension, Blackburn has a 6.85 ERA, including three straight starts in which he's allowed five runs. The Twins have said Blackburn is dealing with a sore arm, and even pushed his most recent start back a day to give him more rest. He's looked terrible over his last two starts, both against Kansas City, and if he struggles in his next start I think it's safe to say the Twins will be giving Blackburn some extended rest via the disabled list.

Of course, worrying about a pitcher's first month of the season can prove to be silly, and it's certainly possible that Blackburn figures things out and returns to his inning-eating, efficient ways. However, with the Twins looking simply fantastic over the first month of the season, there's simply not a lot to worry about so Blackburn's struggles top the list.

While Blackburn has been consistent with his 4ish ERA and .500 record, his minor league track record seemed to suggest more of a 4.60 ERA than a 4.00, so the worries this year seem to be from the doubts people had in his last two seasons. The Twins clearly didn't share in those doubts, as they handed Blackburn security for the rest of his life. Two full seasons should be enough of a sample size to feel confident in a player's expected performance, so I certainly don't fault Bill Smith and Co. for locking up Blackburn's salaries for the next four and possibly five seasons.

For example, Denard Span's minor league track record was even worse than Blackburn's. It was ultimately so bad that the Twins made sure to acquire a young potential center fielder of the future in any Johan Santana trade, and as we all know that landed them Carlos Gomez. Much like Blackburn, the Twins decided after two full years in the big leagues Span had shown them enough to lock him up, and also to trade Gomez across the border for J.J. Hardy. Nobody criticized the Twins for that extension, and nobody should have because Span has been an elite lead off hitter for those two seasons.

So what is going on with Blackburn? Ultimately, I think he's battling both a sore arm and a bit of bad luck. While the Royals offense doesn't bring back memories of the '27 Yankees by any means, they have some solid offensive players and Jose Guillen's revival has been a major reason for that. Being forced to start consecutive games against the same lineup when you don't have elite stuff oftentimes leads to poor results, and Blackburn is no exception.

Blackburn's next start is scheduled for April 30 on the road in Cleveland, and that should be a true sign of where Blackburn is exactly. If he continues to struggle against a Cleveland lineup that has struggled quite a bit this season, it might be time to actually start worrying. Until then, I'm going to continue to give Blackburn and the front office the benefit of the doubt. After all, the team does have the second best record in baseball at 13-6 and still is yet to lose a series. No reason to worry, yet.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Crazy First Round

Moving round 1 of the NFL Draft to primetime was simply a stroke of genius. Some people had complained, although I'm not even sure what they were complaining about because it seemed like a winning idea way before last night arrived. I loved that I was able to watch the first round, from start to finish, and when the round was over, it didn't matter if I was sick of watching Mel Kiper look like a moron. He wouldn't be back on my TV for another eighteen hours, and the 'burnout' factor that usually kicked in during the middle of round two in years past simply wasn't going to happen this year.

Now, there is at least one negative about having only the first round last night. When your favorite team decides they can trade back three spots, from the end of the first round the beginning of the second round, well you don't get to see them make a pick. A friend of mine is studying abroad in South Africa this semester, and he stayed up until 5 AM to see who the Vikings ended up with. Of course, the Vikings ended up trading that pick to the Detroit Lions, and will be picking second in the second round later tonight, so my friend ultimately stayed up for no reason. It's times like that it'd be nice to be able to predict the future.

There were a lot of surprises in the first round, including the Jags drafting Tyson Alalu at number 10 ahead of Derrick Morgan, Dan Williams and Jason Pierre Paul. More surprising was Adam Schefter tweeting immediately after CJ Spiller went off the board saying the Jags top player left was 'probably Alalu.' He's the best in the business, and it showed last night. Larry Fitzgerald told Schefter via Twitter that following him the night of the draft was like 'going to the movies with someone who had already seen the movie and wouldn't shut up.' It was hilarious, and true, but I kept checking anyways because I couldn't help myself. Kind of like when I found out where my Christmas presents were hidden when I was little.

I wasn't surprised to see Tebow go ahead of Clausen, and I wasn't surprised that Denver ultimately took two high character guys over players with character concerns. DeMaryius Thomas and Tim Tebow were two great picks in my opinion, and while a lot of misinformed and/or lazy sports writers are giving McDaniels a lot of grief for trading Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall for Tim Tebow and DeMaryius Thomas, that simply isn't true. The Broncos have been very creative with their draft picks, and having a lot of picks the last two years has helped them build their whole roster, something they wouldn't have been able to do without the ransom they acquired from the Bears for Cutler. They also still have a second round pick next year from the Dolphins, so they aren't done getting players back from those trades. I think Denver will emerge as the best team in their division over the next few years, and when Tebow is an all-pro, there's going to be an awful lot of talking heads eating crow.

A lot of teams made questionable moves, trading up a few spots when it didn't seem necessary. San Francisco going from 13 to 11 to take Anthony Davis when it seemed clear Miami was going to trade down with a team who wanted Ryan Mathews or Earl Thomas was strange. Denver moving up from #24 to #22 to draft DeMaryius Thomas with Dez Bryant still on the board and Green Bay the only team between themselves and New England was odd. Detroit probably could have sat at #34 and had Jahvid Best fall into their laps, but they were probably afraid a team would fall in love with Best tonight and make the Rams a great offer, so they took matters into their own hands.

I think it's clear the Vikings don't want Jimmy Clausen. I think they have him near the top of their board at the moment, probably with Sergio Kindle, Taylor Mays and Brian Price or Chris Cook. However, if they felt Clausen was the answer at QB long-term, there's no way they trade back with Detroit, knowing full well the Rams will be auctioning off that first pick in the second round to all the Clausen suitors. I hope the Rams ultimately keep the pick, and the Vikings take Clausen at 34, but it's looking more and more like Taylor Mays will be the choice. He's a boom or bust pick, as his athletic ability could make him an elite safety in this league, but his inconsistency and struggles at times could make him another disappointing safety for the Vikings. However, they need to replace Madieu Williams, so I won't be too upset if they take Mays. The Vikings under Childress have a great track record in the draft, so even if they take a Chris Cook or someone else, I will trust their choice. This isn't Mike Tice, thankfully. Be sure to vote in the poll to the right for who you want the Vikes to take.

*Mock contest update: Jenks is in the lead currently with 15 points, I'm in second with 12 and Wilsey is taking up the rear as usual with 11 points. It'll take a lot of luck for either Wilsey or myself to overtake Jenks, but if some of our first rounders go to the right teams in the second round, it's at least possible. I want Clausen or Mays for the Vikes, but Price would give me the best chance at catching Jenks...*

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Guest Blogger Mock: Wilsey

My friend Wilsey wanted in on the 'hypothetical' bet as well, so here's his mock for tonight's draft. In case you're too lazy to scroll down an extra half inch, we get 1 point for right player/right team and 1 point for right player/right position. 64 would be a perfect score.

1. STL- Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
2. DET- Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
3. TB- Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
4. WAS- Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
5. KC- Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
6. SEA- Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
7. CLE- Joe Hayden, CB, Florida
8. OAK- Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland
9. BUF- Dan Williams, NT, Tennessee
10. JAX- Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
11. DEN- Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama
12. PHI via trade w/ MIA- Earl Thomas, S, Texas
13. SF- Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
14. SEA- Charles Brown, OT, USC
15. NYG- C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
16. CIN via trade w/ TEN- Taylor Mays, S, USC
17. SF- Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
18. PIT- Dez Bryant, WR, School of Hard Knocks
19. ATL- Brandon Graham, DE/OLB, Michigan
20. HOU- Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
21. TEN- Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida
22. NE- Jared Odrick, DE/DT, Penn State
23. GB- Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers
24. MIA- Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU
25. BAL- Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers
26. ARI- Rodger Staffold, OT, Indiana
27. DAL- Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho
28. SD- Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State
29. NYJ- Linval Joseph, DT, East Carolina
30. MIN- Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama
31. IND- Maurkice Pouncey, OG, Florida
32. NO- Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Missouri

Guest Blogger Mock: Eric Jenks

With horse-racing season about to get underway in the frozen tundra that is Minnesota, my friend Jenks had an idea. We compare each other's mock drafts, and whoever gets more right gets their first bet paid for at Canterbury by the loser. If that's illegal, then this is all hypothetical.

The rules are simple, we get 1 point for the right player in the right spot and 1 point for the right player on the right team. For example, if Washington were to take Trent Williams but they traded down to do it, I'd get 1 point for having Williams in Washington, but wouldn't get the second point unless he was #4 overall.

Here's Jenks' Mock, and when he beats me, you can all tell me how he should be the one writing. I won't argue.

1. St. Louis - Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
2. Detroit - Suh, DT, Nebraska
3. Tampa Bay - Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
4. Washington - Russel Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
5. Kansas City - Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
6. Seattle - Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
7. Cleveland - Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
8. Oakland - Brian Bulaga, OT, Iowa
9. Buffalo - Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee
10. Jacksonville - Brandon Graham, DE/OLB, Michigan
11. Denver - Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama
12. Philly via trade w/ Miami - Earl Thomas, FS, Texas
13. San Francisco - Joe Haden, CB, Florida
14. Seattle - CJ Spiller, RB, Clemson
15. New York Giants - Jason Pierre Paul, DE, South Florida
16. Tennessee - Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
17. San Francisco - Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers
18. Pittsburgh - Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
19. Atlanta - Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Missouri
20. Houston - Ryan Matthews, RB, Fresno State
21. Cincinnati - Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
22. New England - Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
23. Green Bay - Jerry Hughes, DE/OLB, TCU
24. Miami via trade w/ Philly - Sergio Kindle, DE/OLB, Texas
25. Baltimore - Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama
26. Arizona - DeMaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech
27. Dallas - Jared Odrick, DE, Penn State
28. San Diego - Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers
29. New York Jets - Maurkice Pouncey, C/OG, Florida
30. Minnesota - Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho
31. Indianapolis - Roger Saffold, OT, Indiana
32. New Orleans - Brian Price, DT, UCLA


Let the games begin.

Back with a Mock

There's plenty of reasons I haven't written here in a few weeks, but since none of those reasons are interesting at all, I'll just say I'll be writing again more frequently, and with the first round of the NFL draft later tonight, here's my best guess at how it'll all play out. Commentary for the first 15 picks, and by then you should be sick of reading me so I'll just make the picks from 16-32 and spare you the commentary.

1. St. Louis - Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
After passing on Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez over the last two seasons, there's simply no way the Rams are passing on another potential franchise QB, regardless of how good those two defensive tackles are.

2. Detroit - Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
I understand why people think Detroit needs a franchise LT to help protect Stafford, but Suh is simply too good to pass up. He's a game changing DT with the potential to be the best all-around DT in football in a few years. As a Vikings fan, I don't look forward to watching this guy wreck havoc in the division for the next decade and a half.

3. Tampa Bay - Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
McCoy would have been the best defensive prospect in almost any draft over the last five years, but thanks to the presence of Suh and a franchise QB the Bucs get a gift with this kid falling to number three overall. He's got the potential to be better than Suh, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if McCoy becomes a star earlier than Suh. He's that good.

4. Washington - Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
Russel Okung has been the consensus top tackle in the draft for quite some time, but Williams has been gaining a lot of momentum lately. Williams is apparently a better fit for Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme because he's a better athlete than Okung. I think the Redskins would prefer to trade down, but I don't see anyone being interested enough to make a move.

5. Kansas City - Russel Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
The Chiefs reportedly would love to move down from this spot to a team looking to draft Eric Berry or Jimmy Clausen, but I think they'll ultimately be forced to keep the pick and if they do I think they'll take the best available tackle. Branden Albert has been very good but with Okung they'd be able to leave Albert on the right side and they'd have one of the best tackle combinations in football for years to come.

6. Seattle Seahawks - Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
There's no reason Eric Berry shouldn't be in the top six picks, but with Seattle having a huge need on their offensive line they need to take the best available tackle here. Bulaga isn't quite in the same tier as the two prior tackles, but he should be a very good left tackle or an elite right tackle fairly early in his career.

7. Cleveland Browns - Eric Berry, SS, Tennessee
The Browns would love to have arguably the most talented player in the draft fall to them at 7, and I don't think they'd have to think twice to pull the trigger here. With so many draft picks and even more needs, they can worry about who fits where later, for now they need to focus on taking the best player available.

*Trade: Oakland trades #8 overall and their 2011 3rd round draft pick to Pittsburgh for QB Ben Roethlisberger*

Oakland has the worst QB situation in the league, Al Davis will do anything to get in the headlines, and from a football standpoint this trade would make a lot of sense. I don't know if it will happen, obviously, but it seems like it has at least a good possibility of occurring.


8. Pittsburgh - Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
Clausen is considered by most scouts to be the most NFL-ready QB in the draft, and if Pittsburgh decides to move on from Big Ben they would undoubtedly be targeting Clausen with the pick they receive. Clausen could potentially start from day 1, something we know Big Ben won't be doing, and if Clausen needs more time Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch can try to keep the Steelers afloat.

9. Buffalo - Dan Williams, NT, Tennessee
I think this is way too early for Williams, but rumors persist the Bills are looking hard at Williams at #9 because of the lack of any kind of decent nose tackle for the 3-4 defense. The Bills could also look at Anthony Davis but rumors are he had poor interviews and the Bills have soured on him. With Clausen gone, Williams fills the teams biggest need and at least has the potential to be a very good nose tackle.

*Trade: Jacksonville trades #10 to New York Giants for #15, #76 and #147*

The Giants are in dire need of improving their linebackers and tackling on a defense that was a big disappointment last year, and if they wait until #15, they likely won't be able to land the linebacker they seem to be targeting. The Jaguars would love to move down here, and would be ecstatic to see the Giants willing to move up.


10. New York Giants - Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama
McClain would give the Giants a young, dynamic middle linebacker to help anchor their defense for years to come. Giving up a third and fifth round pick to get into position to take a player they seem to really like shouldn't be a big deal to the Giants decision makers.

11. Denver - Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho
Center Maurkice Pouncey seems to be a popular choice here, or with the Broncos trading down, but with Iupati gaining a lot of pre-draft steam I would be pretty surprised if the Broncos passed on him here. He's got the potential to possibly move to the outside if needed, but otherwise should become an elite guard for years to come.

*Trade: Miami trades #12 to Philadelphia for #24, #37 and #200*

With the Eagles reportedly in love with Earl Thomas and the 49ers lurking at 13, the Eagles realize they need to get up to 12 to be sure they land the player they love. With a lot of picks in the first three rounds, Philly can afford to make this kind of deal. The Dolphins appear to be targeting McClain or Dan Williams, and with both off the board I think Parcells would love to move down.


12. Philadelphia - Earl Thomas, FS, Texas
Thomas has the speed and play-making ability to be an elite safety, and if he continues to work as hard in the NFL as he did in college he should be a very good player. His size is a bit of a concern, as injuries may become a problem, but his combination of speed and hands makes him a rare safety in this draft class.

13. San Francisco - Joe Haden, CB, Florida
Haden fills one of the 49ers biggest needs, is arguably the top player left on the board, and was seen as a potential top 7 pick before his disappointing 40 time and average workouts. Haden is one of my favorite players in this draft after a great career at Florida, and looks like a steal at #13.

14. Seattle - C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
The Seahawks appear to be targeting Spiller with this pick, and it's possible they'll move up to the 10-12 range to make sure they land him. They would be pumped if Spiller just falls into their laps at 14, as they'd have filled arguably their two biggest needs with very very good prospects at each position.

15. Jacksonville - Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
Definitely the biggest surprise of the first round. With the top two DE prospects on the board still as well as Kyle Wilson, it would be shocking to see the Jags take Tebow here. It's possible the Jags would be able to trade down again if they can find a team that covets Wilson or a DE enough, but ultimately I think the Jags will stay put and be sure to land Tebow here.

16. Tennessee - Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
17. San Francisco - Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers
18. Pittsburgh - Maurkice Pouncey, C/OG, Florida
19. Atlanta - Jason Pierre Paul, DE, South Florida
20. Houston - Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
21. Cincinnati - Taylor Mays, S, USC
22. New England - Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
23. Green Bay - Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland
24. Miami - Jerry Hughes, OLB/DE, TCU
25. Baltimore - Jared Odrick, DE, Penn State
26. Arizona - Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Missouri
27. Dallas - Nate Allen, FS, South Florida
28. San Diego - Ryan Matthews, RB, Fresno State
29. New York Jets - Sergio Kindle, DE/OLB, Texas
30. Minnesota - Brian Price, DT, UCLA
31. Indianapolis - Roger Saffold, OT, Indiana
32. New Orleans - Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers


I'll be back Friday with some random thoughts and a look back at how many picks I got wrong.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Reasons I Love Baseball

I wrote this last year, but with opening day just a few days away, it seemed appropriate.

A few nights ago, I was talking to a friend about the upcoming baseball season when a complete stranger decided to intervene and ask me a question. “Young man, I must ask, why do you love baseball so much? It’s just a sport, after all.” This woman was at least 80, and seemed sweet enough where I didn’t feel any desire to be snarky or rude. I simply sat there for a few seconds, and gave her an extremely weak response: “I just do, ma’am.” I’ve had ample time over the last few days to think about what I should have said; the reasons I actually love baseball. Here’s what I’ve been able to come up with.

I love the smell of fresh cut grass on a beautiful summer evening, but even more on a rainy, cold afternoon. I love driving by a little league game and noticing the base lines are crooked. I love the fact that those lines are crooked because someone’s mother or father volunteered their time to bring together a community. I love the look on a player’s face after he gets robbed of a hit, but I love the look on the defensive player’s face even more. I love the way everyone on the team has a favorite helmet, and it fits their head just right. I love the way fans and players react when an umpire makes a terrible call, but I love the umpires face after this even more.

I love watching a pitcher hit the black, but I love the batter who can take it the other way. I love that something as small as a pebble can ultimately alter the result of not just one play or one game, but an entire season. I love that baseball doesn’t have cheerleaders or dance teams. I love the way my hands smell after trying on new batting gloves, but I love the smell of a freshly oiled glove even more. I love switch hitters. I love aggressive third base coaches, and I love the suicide squeeze. I love the crack of a wooden bat, and the ping of a metal one. I love game 7’s, but I love one-game playoffs even more. I love brushing back a hitter who’s leaning over the plate, but I love a hitter who will take one for the team more.

But, most of all, I love the fact that so many people love this game. Despite listing numerous things I love about this great game, anyone reading this will absolutely instantly mention or think of many, many things I didn’t. However, the next time an 80 year old woman on a Metro Transit Vehicle asks me why I love baseball as much as I do, I think this answer would be much better. I love so many things inside the game of baseball, it’s simply much easier to make a general statement. I love baseball.