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I’m not a huge All-Star game fan. I appreciate what the contest used to be back when Hall of Famers played half or more of the game and they went all out in an effort to win for their league.

I’m less a fan these days when the bigger emphasis is on glitz and making sure almost everyone has an opportunity to play. There’s even been talk from Adam Wainwright that he grooved the first inning pitch that Derek Jeter lined for a double – much like the talk that the pitch Cal Ripken hit out of the yard against Chan Ho Park in the 2001 game was soft-tossed.

That wouldn’t have happened in the old days. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

On some Major League teams this year Tommy Milone, with his six wins and 3.55 ERA, would be approaching the level of Ace.  On this year’s Oakland Athletics squad, even with season-ending injuries to AJ Griffin and Jarrod Parker, he has been reduced,  to the role of Triple-A insurance policy.

The A’s have been the league’s most dominant team this year, at least according to winning percentage and run differential. And Billy Beane is going for a trophy, as evidenced by this weekend’s acquisition of Ace Jeff Samardzija and middle-of-the-rotation guy Jason Hammel.

The deal coincided with an agreement between the Athletics and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority (which still needs approval from the Oakland City Council) whereby the team will remain in what I guess is now called the Coliseum.

I love this. The market settles at least some of its differences with the team, agreeing to make some upgrades to the nearly 50-year-old venue by Opening Day 2015. The team makes a commitment to try to build on the strong first-half of the season by acquiring arguably the best starting pitcher available in this year’s trade market – giving up a stud shortstop prospect in the process of doing so. Continue reading

It was 1979 … my uncle was taking me to my first Twins game. It was also the first time I truly found a favorite player. The bad thing for my uncle is that his name was Eddie Murray. Murray went 3-5 with three homers and drove in seven RBI that day.

In 1983, my uncle promised to take me to a bunch of games because the previous year I’d broken my leg and wasn’t able to play or go to a single game. We ended up going to one game and then, for the rest of the games, he just paid for me to go on the bus. Why? Because we went to see the Baltimore Orioles and I was able to see Eddie Murray again. He was coming off of a monster year in 82, and sure enough he jacked another. I was just in heaven. All I could talk about was Eddie Murray. My friends were into Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Robin Yount, and Kent Hrbek. For me, it was Eddie Murray, George Foster, and Lance Parrish – but mostly Eddie Murray.

In 1985 I begged to get to go to the All-Star game, but my uncle said there was no way we were paying $45 for tickets to a baseball game.

I was pretty young, so I expected to get to go to another All-Star Game at some point. Side note… the game is here in Minnesota in 2014, and the average price is $450 for a ticket. Ugh.

I did get to go to a couple of games in 85 though. I saw the Brewers, the Red Sox, and I was able to see the Orioles again. Ken Schrom was pitching yet again for the Twins and Murray hit a Grand Slam. Continue reading

The reception that Tony Gwynn Jr. received upon his first at bat after the tragic loss of his father was beautiful. writes about it, but putting into context the passion that Phillies fans have for the game, it’s meaning, and the players that play for them and around the country make them my favorite fan base in the entire game.  Their reaction to Gwynn’s at bat last night was passion at its finest and respect for the loss of his father.

Devin Mesoraco has hit a homerun in five consecutive games played. I remember when Ken Griffey Jr and Don Mattingly had their great homerun streaks, and not to be mean to Devin, but they were superstars… . His stats are showing that he is riding the wave of his career.  Will it last?  His numbers are gargantuan compared to previous seasons… I for one hope he’s for real, and that we will not be seeing his name smirched for PEDS, but look what it’s come to!  Because he’s not Griffey Jr. or Mike Trout a person can’t help but have a seed of doubt sewn in. I wonder how long the tarnish will be on the game? Continue reading

First off, an apology for my long absence from this site. The past few weeks were a mind-numbing blitz of final schoolwork and graduation events, which left me without the time I need to write substantial pieces for the sites I contribute to (I only managed a quick article at Last Token Gaming). Luckily, in that time I landed my dream job, as I was commissioned by the Sacramento Historical Society to write a book about the history of baseball in the city (and my efforts here at Brushback were crucial to me getting it, as I sent my Clayton Kershaw contract extension article as one of three writing samples).

And, let’s be honest, I probably wouldn’t have had much enthusiasm to pump out an Artful Dodgers column during this recent juncture. Their mediocrity was so repetitious and unchanging it would have made for equally listless commentary. And while I’m new to enjoying hockey, I’ve gotta say watching the L.A. Kings grab their second Stanley Cup in three years in a white-knuckle 2 OT finale was a treat. Maybe when the winning goal was broadcast on the Dodger Stadium jumbotron it gave Dem Bums a modicum of inspiration to win a championship before we reach the 30th anniversary of the 1988 title. After Kershaw’s no-hitter, it seems it may have done just that…

Anyway, this piece isn’t about the Dodgers, but rather a single player I deeply admire, Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers. I’m glad to be writing this all the more after his first ever complete game recently against the Chicago White Sox, but that’s honestly irrelevant to the fact that even if I had had the time to write for Brushback in the past few weeks, I wouldn’t have been able to write this particular piece until only after I had graduated from UC Davis. That’s because, to put it simply, Mad Max helped inspire me to get to that point during my two years at university at a critical moment. But how does a Detroit Tigers pitcher inspire a lifelong Californian to finish his history degree, especially when I’m not a Tigers fan and the specific instance of inspiration came against my beloved Oakland Athletics? It sounds convoluted, but work with me here!

Continue reading

As you know Hall of Fame baseball player Tony Gwynn died Monday at the young age of 54. Most people who read my posts know that he’s the 19th ranked hitter in all time hits, and his career batting average of .338 left him tied at 18th all time, and that the only hitter from 1940 through the modern day ahead of him is Ted Williams. Incidentally, contemporary Hall of Fame hitters Wade Boggs and Rod Carew (to whom he is most often compared) rank 33rd and 34th respectively.

Photo credit: Galaksiafervojo via Wikipedia

Photo credit: Galaksiafervojo via Wikipedia

We know of the abundance of awards he won, the batting titles and the All-Star games. His stats are readily available at any myriad of sites, but Mr. Padre is and was far more than the sum of his statistics. He could easily have been Mr. Baseball, or Mr. San Diego, as a kid who grew up there, played high school ball there, played college baseball about two hours from home at Long Beach State, and then returned home and played his entire career with the Padres. He even went on to coach the San Diego State Baseball team after his playing days ended.

The Gwynn family is a baseball tradition. Tony is clearly its leader, but his brother Chris played several years and son Tony Jr. is currently playing with the Phillies. Sr.’s attention to detail and video taping of all of his at bats throughout his career revolutionized hitting, and the art of analyzing both hitters and pitchers for the entire future of the game.

In today’s world it’s easy to see a tribute via or Twitter, but with their force-fed information streams it can also be easier for those tributes to quickly become yesterday’s news.

I believe Tony deserves better than that. I want to leave a lasting record of what he meant to me and to some of his friends, colleagues, and other baseball and sports dignitaries. Here’s what they have said about Mr. Gwynn. Continue reading

It’s time again for the most important sporting event in the world — and I couldn’t care less, even if I was paid handsomely. This is Baseball season and this is America, and while I sound like Glenn Beck via The O’Reilly Factor for a moment I’m actually quite OK with that (for the only time in my life).

Padres fans tire of putrid play

The Padres are sick and tired of losing … at least the GM and the team owner are, but someone forgot to tell the Padres hitters. Note to Phil Plantier… your job is hanging by a thread that you might as well let go, and do the honorable thing and resign! I’ve had conversations with Padres fans on Facebook, and they are starting to resemble a group of Twins fans that I’ve grown to appreciate (and collect). They want manager Bud Black to be terminated as well. So expect big changes in SD because unlike here in Minnesota… winning matters!

One Mauer contract quietly ends

Speaking of Minnesota… Kemps Ice Cream has let its contract with Joltless Joe Mauer of the Bilateral Leg Weakness and .250-.260 batting average expire. It’s his first endorsement loss of his career that I could find online. If he keeps hitting like a backup middle infielder I suspect that this will not be his first celeb deal to go the way of the Great Auk.

Surprising Twins capitalize on lucky draw Continue reading

Simmer Down, Manny

Hey Manny Machado! You must be a fan. The feeling is mutual, but replay shows you were just a little over emotional my friend.

Mattingly wearing down?

The Dodgers are usually left to my friend and colleague Marshall, but something tells me that he’s too depressed to deal with the underachievers in Chavez Ravine. Plus I know he has a lot of other things going on. Don Mattingly, you are one of my all time favorite players in the history of the game. However, your assessment the other day that your team just isn’t very good was a cop out on par with “guns don’t kill people …” and “**** happens.”

Continue reading

When I first saw Evan Longoria play it was a defensive move at third base that reminded me a little of Carney Lansford, the old A’s and Red Sox 3rd baseman, and a little of Scott Rolen. He’s not quite that good defensively in my opinion, but he’s far above average, and, at 28, he’s still relatively young — just in the middle of his prime. His bat is much more like Eddie Matthews or Mike Schmidt at the hot corner however. Longoria has prodigious power required of any man that wears number 3 on his back.

Evan became a YouTube sensation after this video went viral a few years ago. For non-baseball fans that’s cool, but it was a commercial for Gillette as proved by Snopes. What makes him a favorite of mine goes deeper than just the numbers, or the glam video. For years Evan has been the most valuable player, when measured by salary, in all of baseball, thanks to his long-term, team friendly contract. His was the long-term contract that changed the way that all teams handle young players now. His dollar signs were far smaller than they are now, but his production per dollar set the new standard. Continue reading