Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Weekend Rivalry

As the school year comes to a close, I find myself thinking more and more about our trip (when I'm not thinking about exams, mom, of course) and the experiences we will have.

For Craig, Owen and me, August 5th — the third day of our trip — will be a particularly important day. That evening we will be at Yankee Stadium for a 7 o'clock game between Craig's hometown Yankees and Owen's and my beloved Seattle Mariners (we have watched all 33 of their games so far this season).

While nearly three months stand between us and Yankee Stadium, the Mariners begin a weekend series in the Bronx this Friday, with Felix Hernandez taking the mound Friday night in what will be a blockbuster matchup. Felix loves pitching at Yankee Stadium and the Yankees have openly coveted Seattle's ace. Given the Mariners' general ineptitude (and that's putting it nicely) trade rumors about Felix to the Evil Empire are always swirling. As I wrote in a recent article for the Fan Manifesto (shameless plug: the Mariners as an organization can quell further rumors by building a winning team and devoting more of their resources to winning than accumulating revenue, but at the end of the day we must remember that these are the Mariners after all.

For now, though, Owen and I will happily send Craig taunting texts as Felix fans a litany of Yankee hitters on Friday night en route to a Mariners' victory and setting up a tense rematch between two competing clubs (I can still dream) on August 5th.

Sox PA Accouncer Dies

Carl Beane, the Public Address announcer for my beloved Red Sox died on Wednesday after suffering a heart attack. Although I did not know anything about him personally, I certainly knew and loved his voice, which was one of the many great things about the Fenway Park experience. The idea of the sounds of baseball has already been blogged about here, and it is a subject near and dear to baseball diehards. The most primal sounds of the game are the most beautiful (crack of the bat, smack of the mitt, etc.), but a good PA announcer can add a supplementary sound to a game without making it seem unnatural or impure. From the following excerpt from this article on Beane, it seems that he was a man who fully understood his role in the baseball experience:

But, like anything, there are those who think change is inevitable. You can’t blame them. Marketing people in all sports are trying to keep their games interesting and fast-paced. The Red Sox were no different. 
Just two weeks ago, Carl mentioned to me that some people tried to convince him to go a little more NBA in his presentation. With great disdain he used phrases like “spice it up,” “more energy,” and “uptempo.” 
“That’s not me,” Carl insisted. 
More to Carl’s point, that’s NOT Fenway either. 
“Mike, I know what Fenway is. It’s a baseball park, not a rock concert, not an amusement part, not an NBA game.”
Perfectly stated. That is why we are going to thirty major league ballparks, and not thirty amusement parks, or basketball arenas. Baseball is the most beautiful of all sports in its pure form. Here's to hoping that people in positions like Carl live on with that message close to their hearts.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Phillies-Nationals: The Rivalry of the Future

Every sports fan loves a good rivalry.  In baseball, the Red Sox-Yankees conflict is generally viewed as the most intense in the sport.  Some may argue for Giants-Dodgers or Cubs-Cardinals, but when it comes down to it most will agree that the feud in the Northeast is the best of them all.   Baseball fans from around the country can remember the Pedro “I call the Yankees my daddy” quote, the Aaron Boone homer in Game 7, the Varitek and ARod fight in Fenway, and the Red Sox comeback in the 2004 ALCS.  That’s the stuff out of a storybook.  These legendary tales will be told from generation to generation. 

As someone not from New York or Boston, I’m honestly very tired of all the focus on this rivalry.  I would love to see two other teams rise to the spotlight and so we can a new brand of epic conflict.  I believe we saw the opening salvo to such a rivalry this weekend:


The next big baseball rivalry is going to be between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Washington Nationals.  After Cole Hamels plunked Bryce Harper and then had the favor returned by Jordan Zimmerman, these two teams have all the makings to develop into serious rivals.  Lets examine the facts:
  • They both play in the same division so they are guaranteed 15 more games against each other this season.  That equates to approximately 12 more Hamels v. Harper at bats (barring injury for either one or demotion for Harper).  Each AB will absolutely be must-see television.
  • The next matchup will be only 2 weeks away in Philly.  Do you honestly think the fans from the City of Brotherly Love are going to forget about this incident that quickly?  Think Harper will back down or his teammates will fail to rally around the young phenom?  All I can say is please let that game be on Monday Night Baseball.
  • Even beyond this season, the storylines are there for a lasting hatred.  The Phillies are the establishment.  They are consistent winners and all pretty likable guys.  Their window for success is closing as household names like Halladay, Lee, Utley, and Howard are only getting older.  The Nationals are the up and comers.  After many lost years struggling with the tundra of Montreal and the bad attitudes of the likes of Nyjer Morgan and Elijah Dukes, this franchise finally has the talent and the leadership to contend.  They have the cocky swagger and us-against-the-world confidence that is inherent to any beloved underdog.  The stage for David-vs-Goliath drama is set.
  • Finally, both teams have shown in recent years that they have a strong desire to win at whatever financial cost.  As with the Yankees and Red Sox, this rivalry will continue year-round as both will be competing to sign top-dollar free agents.
A final note: These two teams end the season with a three game series in DC.  Will they be playing to decide the winner of the NL East?  If that is the case, it will propel this rivalry to legendary status in a heartbeat.