Hello again Brushback faithful! It’s only been a few weeks since my Max Scherzer piece, but it feels thrice as long given the extent of things packed into my college graduation summer. And trust me, I’m not saying that with any complaint. In addition to a whole bevy of personal projects that of course includes this site, I’ve completed the first chapter of the book I’m writing for the Sacramento Historical Society about the history of baseball in my city. In a poignant end to that first step, I spent all night into the wee hours of the morning wrapping up this chapter, an assiduous approach that recalled my many all-nighters spent working on papers in college. (To further cement the moment, I wrote to the music of Kid Creole and the Coconuts on infinite loop just as I had in the same finals that Max Scherzer inspired me through.)
As I spent the weekend in Yosemite National Park immediately after the chapter was submitted to my boss, I was understandably feeling pretty triumphant. These good vibes led to a humorous train of thought about how my successes in baseball writing are the closest I’ll come to achieving glory in the national pastime. I may never turn on a fastball for a legendary game-winning home run, or pitch a perfect game, but hell: Why can’t we baseball writers receive some love too?
How about a great baseball movie of the “Moneyball”/”61*” ilk to chronicle our struggles and triumphs? I envision a tense scene of the writer at his laptop, struggling to come up with the right word. He types and erases a couple in frustration, just like a batter swinging and missing pathetically at the first two strikes. But then, he digs in and focuses on that next word even harder. “The Natural”-style music cues up, and in slow motion he types out the perfect word. The announcer intones: “Holy cow, what an adjective!” OK…not exactly stirring stuff, but allow me a little indulgence over my accomplishments here! None of my teams have won a World Series since we all had mullets and George Bush Sr. was in one of the two highest offices in the land, so I’ll celebrate my little victories as I please.
Now, to the actual teams and players outside my goofy ramblings, first things first: The Dodgers. I am criminally overdue on an Artful Dodgers column, so consider this a “quickie” capsule until I sit down to write a full one after the All-Star break. Like I said in my Scherzer piece, they were downright unwatchable as I reached graduation. Sloppy errors, inconsistent offense, whiny outfielders, a ghastly bullpen that betrayed arguably the best starting rotation in the game, and a yawning second place gap apart from the Giants melded into a True Blue shitstorm that tried not only my patience, but also Don Mattingly’s.
No sooner had I been jettisoned from the university machine with a fresh degree in hand, however, that LA quickly kicked off my dream baseball summer with a dizzying rush into first place. The linchpin of course was Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter, one of the most dominant pitching performances in baseball history. While Yasiel Puig’s sudden emergence last summer charted new territory of success in a year of new expectations, Kersh’s no-no is more befitting of what will hopefully their winning run this year. That is, in a season where the team is expected to go far with familiar strengths, clicking around the greatest strength – the best pitcher in baseball, no less – is just the way to go.
Next up is the All-Star Game. For a good many fans, this might be seen as the province of MLB.com puff pieces rather than truly serious baseball writing. I’ve heard all the views over the years, from its former meaninglessness for some to its enforced World Series relevance now for others. Someone from me and Brad’s Twins fan therapy group on Facebook said he attended the 2011 game in his native Arizona, only to leave well before the end less than enthused. The most accurate criticism year in and year out is of course that of the whole thing being a popularity contest, and only a complete rube could doubt this entirely. This isn’t to say it’s a wholly bad thing – what’s wrong with sending Derek Jeter off like Cal Ripken in 2001? – but if you truly want to have the optimal chance of commemorating the game’s finest, leaving the biggest decisions to biased fans indeed makes no sense.
Personally, I’m an unabashed supporter of the event, for a host of reasons. First, I love “best-of” events and likewise occurrences. Whether it’s in music, movies, sports, or any realm, I love seeing as many of the best in a given field gathered for a special occasion. Second, voting discrepancies aside, it’s a game for the fans, and I love seeing jerseys from all 30 clubs mingling in the stands. Third, it does indeed make for a nice break for teams to rest and for fans to enjoy a stress-free game. And lastly, it’s the source of one of my most cherished baseball memories: Torii Hunter robbing Barry Bonds of a home run in 2002 in Milwaukee.
While the contest would go on to be universally despised for Bud Selig’s party-pooper decision to let it end in a tie, the sight of Torii scaling the wall as Ichiro Suzuki looks on in amazement makes me feel like I’m 12 again, my time as a baseball fan still in its infancy and a fresh set of oversized history books in my lap ready for their first perusal.
Even if I lacked an innate appreciation for the midsummer classic, this year’s installment would still excite me like the opening of the World Series. Simply put, in a year where I’m living my dreams thanks to the great game, it’s as tailored to my favorite teams as can be. The Dodgers and A’s are represented sufficiently, with the former sending Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Yasiel Puig, and Dee Gordon, while the latter will douse Minneapolis in yellow and green with Sean Doolittle, Derek Norris, Yoenis Cespedes, Scott Kazmir, Josh Donaldson, and Brandon Moss.
And while I’m taking a hiatus from following my usual number one, the Twins (long story and we’ve bashed the organization enough here already), the fact that Target Field is hosting the game still brings great joy. The stadium is not only a hard-earned treat for Minnesota natives, but it’s solely the home of the Twins, unlike when the ASG first came to the Twin Cities in 1965 at Metropolitan Stadium and then again in 1985 at the Metrodome. More importantly, a display of elite players is truly befitting the state of Minnesota, a land that harbors years of rich but criminally underrated baseball history. Jim Caple’s wonderful piece over at ESPN does as much justice to that history as possible short of writing a full book.
Hell, maybe I could end up writing that book about the history of baseball in Minnesota someday. But for now, being the scribe for the pastime in Sacramento, as well as writing here at Brushbackpitch, suits me just fine.