Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I apologize for not posting lately. I have been preparing the launch of my baseball academy and workout facility in the heart of San Diego county in Sorrento Valley.
Although I have been busy, I am very much excited to pass down what I have learned in baseball and training to young players, all of whom hope to be the stars of tomorrow.
Furthermore, I am convinced I have left you all in great hands during my absence.
Despite his political views, the Hall of Fame sportswriter that also posts on this site had some entertaining and insightful stuff. So, without further delay, here are some random thoughts from this past week.
Although the Yankees lead the majors in winning percentage and have only 32 losses on the season, the team sustained two huge setbacks while not even taking the field.
Over the all-star break, their beloved public address announcer Bob "the voice of God" Sheppard and George "the Boss" Steinbrenner passed away.
Both, had a huge impact on the organization as well as baseball in general.
I am thankful and grateful for the opportunity I had to play major league baseball.
Every kid dreams of the big leagues. Like most, I always wanted to play in Yankee Stadium, the "House that Ruth Built". The history, those monuments! It is a real treat to play on that field in front of those fans.
A huge part of that experience was Sheppard’s sweet elocution and enunciation of each players name and number as they walked up to the plate going all the way back to the debut of Mickey Mantle and beyond.
I feel honored that I was able to hear him announce my name as I dug into the batters box there. He was nicknamed the voice of God by Yankee fans because of his precise manner in which he addressed the crowd. Unlike many anothers of today, he was not raucous or flamboyant but rather expressed the eloquence of the speech teacher that he was. Sheppard will be missed. I like the fact that Derek Jeter had a recording made of how Sheppard introduced him so that he will have it played every time he goes to bat at home.
"Now batting, the shortstop, number 2, Derek Jeter, number 2."
His voice was distinct, pure and absolute Yankee tradition.
The second Yankee loss, of course, came the morning of the all-star game. Steinbrenner passed away from an apparent massive heart attack. Love him or hate him, and perhaps there was no middleground, he was a classic piece of Americana who restored greatness to the Yankee organization while maintaining class and tradition.
The Boss was fiery and confrontational. He often used the media as his microphone, getting players and staff members attention through the front or back page of the New York tabloids. He expected greatness and demanded the best. He changed the free agent market bargaining process, and if he was going to pay the most he expected the most! I can understand that.
He was a capitalist who took a poorly run Yankee team back to greatness. Steinbrenner has changed the landscape of baseball business and perhaps the entire world of professional sports
He learned to exploit the big market in which he operated in to bring the best talent to a city he believed was the best in order to reach the primary goal, as exemplified by seven World Series titles. In an era where so many organizations use limited payrolls and transferred revenue sharing funds to maximize their profit it is encouraging and refreshing to fans and players to know that your owner is in it to win it!
These two men, despite never donning a pair of spikes or the Yankee pinstripes, are Yankee greats just like all the other Yankee legends. I’m sure opposing players and fans will sit through batting practice sessions while listening and watching Yankeeography's honoring both men. I can only hope and pray that as both pass from this life, and what a thing to envision, that maybe Bob Sheppard is announcing the Boss’ name as they take roll call for our Lord!
One big topic lately is that there have been fewer home runs hit this season. It has been the least amount to this point in the season since 1993. The MLB leader has only 24 at the break.
I know the pitching is good, all you had to do was watch a terrific All-Star game, and that there are a number of guys dominating radar guns in the upper 90s, more and more young flame-throwers, but maybe that is not the only thing that is improving.
Perhaps, those drug tests are getting better and scaring enough players to get off of the phamaceutical sauce. Maybe now, it really is protein in those protein shakes and not testosterone.
I guess that not only are some of the new stadiums smaller, but the players are now a little less inflated as well. Hopefully the change will create a renaissance in how the game is played in which fundamentals are key. Emphasis will now be on those who can do more than one thing--the guys that run well, play defense, grind out at bats and have all around baseball instinct.
The all-star game is a great exhibition, if exhibition is still the right word.
Now that Bud Selig gave World Series home field advantage to the victorious league I guess its not so much an exhibition game, although I really don’t think that guys play harder now than in the past.
Let’s face it, nobody wants to get suited up and stink on national television when you are the only game in America. Maybe home field should go to the best record? Make too much sense? Anyways, the All-Star game is a wonderful celebration of celebrity and baseball. It has turned into an event that spans days with the insertion of the futures game, homerun derby and various parties and galas. It is a great event and the best of any of the major sports. Football’s pro bowl is too late and you can’t play 100% because of an injury fear. There is no defense in the NBA all star game. The NHL has the same injury concerns so they don’t play any defense either. Baseball is all out. Did you see Ryan Braun lay out last night? The guys are in the middle of the season and in great baseball shape. On another note, if you want a World Baseball Classic tournament, shut the season down now and have at it. This would be the best time to get the best "baseball".
I also think that a reason why the all-star game is so good is because baseball is so embedded into our culture. You know, "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet". It's in our blood. Fathers and sons having a catch. Generations enjoying a common thread rooting for their home team.
Even though baseball might be overpriced and Chevrolet may end up going bankrupt, they still are very much American. Timing of the game is also key. Only a week out from our Independence Day is a great time to celebrate an event featuring our national pasttime’s best players. Maybe all of this is corny and the money has spoiled some of the image, but the mid-summer classic remains a great showcase of our game and a wonderful celebration of Americana.